Posts Tagged ‘Yardbirds’

‘What’

Friday, August 25th, 2017

We resume our tour this morning through the five W’s and one H of basic journalism, a trek we’re calling Journalism 101, during which we’ll highlight tunes with titles that include the words “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how.” We started with a post titled “Who” last month. Today, we move on to “what.”

Our initial search through the 96,000 or so tracks in the RealPlayer brings us 1,476 candidates. There’s winnowing required, and we lose entire albums (except, in some cases, the title track) from William Vaughn, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Jimmy Smith, Bobby Womack, Koko Taylor, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Janiva Magness, Catherine Howe, the Decemberists, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jackie Lomax, Gloria Scott, Pat Green, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, and a fair number more. We also lose a few tracks from Michael McDonald, a couple tracks from the Staples, one track from the Dynamics, two tracks from Dinah Washington, a track from Rodney Crowell and a few others.

But there are plenty of tracks remaining for our needs this morning, and instead of trying to sort through the remainder with any sort of criteria, I’m going to let the RealPlayer do the work randomly. I’ll intervene for spoken word tracks, tracks shorter than two minutes, and anything before, oh, let’s say 1945. So here we go:

First up in our trek today is “What Do You Want” by the Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds. The track showed up in the U.K. on the 1966 album Yardbirds. In the U.S., it was on Over Under Sideways Down. It’s your basic garage rocker with a slight Brit twist, at least until the last third or so, when Beck takes things over. It’s not near the top of the Yardbirds’ oeuvre, but mediocre Yardbirds is a lot better than a lot of other things we might hear as we wander among the digital shelves here.

We move on to a record about which I know next to nothing, “What More Can I Say” by Jeffrey Clay & The Diggers. It was released by MGM in 1965 but went nowhere; it came to our attention in the massive Lost Jukebox collection that was available online a while back. It’s not in any of the chart books or files I have, the Airheads Radio Survey Archive finds no mention of the single in its vast collection of surveys, and it’s the only single for Mr. Clay and his pals listed at Discogs. It’s not a bad record, just a little boring, with one odd thing: Producer Gene Nash tacked the sound of an audience of screaming girls to the beginning and the end of the record, in what I’d guess was an attempt to make the listeners think the group was overwhelmingly popular. I just wonder who it was those young ladies were actually screaming for.

And we hit some traditional country with “What’ll You Do About Me” by Randy Travis. I suppose that back in 1987, when the tune was an album track on Travis’ Always & Forever, the tale of a spurned lover who won’t give up seemed like a good topic. But listening thirty years later, in a world that’s become much more attuned to the traits of domestic abuse, I hear the story of a stalker who’s likely dangerous (especially in the verse where he’s got his hands on a two-by-two):

All you wanted was a one-night stand
The fire and the wine and the touch of a man
But I fell in love and ruined all your plans
Now what’ll you do about me?

Imagine the faces on your high-class friends
When I beat on the door and I beg to come in
Screamin’ “Come on, love me again!”
Now what’ll you do about me?

Well, you can change your number, you can change your name
You can ride like hell on the midnight train
That’s alright, Momma, that’s okay
But what’ll you do about me?

Picture your neighbors when you try to explain
That good ol’ boy standin’ out in the rain
With his nose on the window pane
Now what’ll you do about me?

What in the world are you planning to do
When a man comes over just to visit with you
And I’m on the porch with a two-by-two?
Lady, what’ll you do about me?

Well, you can call your lawyer, you can call the fuzz
You can sound the alarm, wake the neighbors up
Ain’t no way to stop a man in love
Now what’ll you do about me?

All you wanted was a one night stand
The fire and the wine and the touch of a man
But I fell in love and baby, here I am
Now what’ll you do about me?

Well, you can change your number, you can change your name
You can ride like hell on the midnight train
That’s alright, Momma, that’s okay
Now what’ll you do about me?

And we close our four-tune sample with the combination from 2008 of a long-familiar name with a long-familiar tune: Bonnie Bramlett taking on “For What It’s Worth.” Bramlett, of course, was the Bonnie of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, the powerhouse group of the late 1960s and early 1970s that offered a wicked stew of rock, blues, R&B and gospel; and the song, of course, is the one that Stephen Stills wrote when he was member of Buffalo Springfield that became an anthem for the counter-culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s. A cynic could say, “Hey! It’s Double-Nostalgia Day!” But the song, slightly cryptic as it is, still sounds right today, and Bramlett’s supple and bluesy voice still sounds good on what is – so far – her most recent album, Beautiful.

‘Mister, You’re A Better Man . . .’

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Sometime last week, as I was sifting through the Billboard Hot 100 for April 16, 1966, the title of the last record on the chart caught my eye: Nestling at the bottom of the Bubbling Under section, at No. 125, was “Better Man Than I” by Terry Knight and The Pack.

The title rang bells, so I did a quick YouTube search, and as I checked the rest of my files for other versions of the song, here’s what I heard:

Already sitting in the RealPlayer were two other versions of the tune: The version by the Paragons features a vocal that can only be descried as “uncertain.” It came out on the Bobbi label in 1967. The other version in my files was by a group called the Growing Concern, which released the tune as a decent album track on its 1968 self-titled album. But something was nagging at me. The song was vaguely familiar, but only vaguely. After some digging, I found out why that was.

The song is a cautionary call for personal tolerance, written around 1965, I’m going to guess, by Brian and Mike Hugg, who were members of Manfred Mann:

Can you judge a man
By the way he wears his hair?
Can you read his mind
By the clothes that he wears?
Can you see a bad man
By the pattern on his tie?

Well then, mister, you’re a better man than I.
Yeah, mister, you’re a better man than I.
Oh, mister, you’re a better man than I.
Yeah, mister, you’re a better man than I.

Could you tell a wise man
By the way he speaks or spells?
Is this more important
Than the stories that he tells?
And call a man a fool
If for wealth he doesn’t strive?

Well then, mister, you’re a better man than I.
Yeah, mister, you’re a better man than I.

And what was nagging at my brain, of course, was that the song had been recorded by the Yardbirds at about the time it was written. In the U.S., it was released as a track on the 1965 album Having a Rave Up. In Britain, however, the track went on the B-side of the “Shapes of Things” single. The Yardbirds’ version is pretty straight-forward, made more interesting by a snarling guitar solo from, I believe, Jeff Beck.

 Finding the tune listed as a 1965 album track in the Yardbirds’ discography explained why my internal files were pretty empty when I thought about the song. It came from my own pre-pop/rock era. Through osmosis, simply by hearing what others kids were listening to on the radio, I knew the Yardbirds’ hits of 1965 – “Heart Full Of Soul,” “For Your Love,” “I’m A Man” – but not the group’s album tracks. And despite my relentless digging into the music of the 1960s during years since, I’ve not dipped too far into the Yardbirds’ body of work.

Of course, having found what seems to be the original version of the tune, I then felt obligated to dig for other cover versions. The search was complicated by the title: Some groups called the tune simply “A Better Man Than I.” Some dropped the “A” from that. Others called it “Mister, You’re A Better Man Than I.” And some dropped the comma after the word “Mister.” That made hunting difficult.

But I found a few. The New Colony Six, a Chicago-based group, recorded the song twice, putting together a pop-rock version on its 1966 album, Breakthrough and then putting together a longer and trippier take a year later on Colonization. Both of those were pretty good. On the other hand, I didn’t care much for the version put forward by the Shadows – without Cliff Richard – on their 1967 album From Hank, Bruce, Brian And John.

The British band Sham 69 – whose music is tagged as punk/new wave by All-Music Guide – released a cover of the tune in 1979 on its The Adventures of the Hersham Boys. That version, however, sounds nothing like 1979; complete with Beckian guitar solo, it sounds much more like 1967.

But the most interesting version – not necessarily the best, but most interesting – of the tune came from a later version of Manfred Mann, called on its records Manfred Mann Chapter Three. The group, with Mike Hugg taking the vocal (but with his brother Brian evidently absent), put together a jazzy version of “Mister, You’re A Better Man Than I” on the 1969 album Chapter Three, Vol. 1.

Just to tie up loose ends, after the week of April 16, 1966, Terry Knight & The Pack’s version of “Better Man Than I” fell out of the Bubbling Under section for a week, then popped back in during the week of April 30, sitting at No. 133. After being gone for another week, the record made its last appearance during the week of May 14, sitting once more at No. 125 before fading from the charts entirely. It seems to have been the only version of the song to even get near the Billboard Hot 100.

Back In Seventh Grade For A Moment

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

There are several records from the mid-1960s that – no matter where I am or what I am doing – grab me by the shoulders and drop me back in the hallways of South Junior High School here in St. Cloud. They do so just long enough for me to say “Oh yeah,” as I recall some little snippet or another of junior high life. And then I come back to wherever I was.

One of those records is the Yardbirds’ second-biggest hit, “Heart Full Of Soul,” which was at No. 14 on the chart – two weeks away from its peak at No. 9 – the day I walked through the doors at South to begin seventh grade. And unless I’ve missed one, “Heart Full Of Soul” is the only record from seventh grade that puts me back in those hallways. There are others – maybe four or five – that take me back to South, as I said above – but they were popular when I was in eighth and ninth grades.

So what comes back when I think of walking the halls of South with a heart full of soul? I remember – as I wrote about once – playing the character of Faversham Lightly, Jr., in the school play in spring. I recall spelling bees in English class, my absolute mechanical incompetence in shop and being tabbed to help other kids with their current events questions in social studies. I remember several crushes, none of which came to anything more than a wounded heart. And in the spring, I got a five-stitch scar at the corner of my mouth.

That was the day I stepped on a kid’s foot as I got on a school bus. It was March 31, 1966, and I was heading over to my friend Brad’s house after school. We were going to hang around with his little brother, talk about James Bond and model cars and stuff, and then Mom was going to come pick me up. Since Brad no longer lived on the East Side, that meant taking a different bus than I normally did. And as Brad and I got on the bus, I accidently stepped on another seventh-grader’s foot. And his friend took offense.

When Brad and I got off the bus, so did Foot and Friend, and they blocked our way to Brad’s house. They were a little larger and more athletic that we were. I shrugged and said I was sorry for stepping on Foot’s foot. That wasn’t enough, and they moved closer, crowding Brad and me. I kicked one of them in the shin – not hard, just a “Get the hell out of my way” tap. And Foot’s Friend launched a kick to my face, cutting me just outside the left corner of my mouth. As the blood flowed, Foot and Friend fled.

I called my mom from Brad’s, and she took me to the doctor, who closed the wound with five stitches. I don’t know if Mom called the school, but early the next day, I was called down to the office, and the assistant principal – the guy in charge of discipline – asked me who did it. I told him, acknowledging my “get the hell out of my way” kick as part of the confrontation. The kid who kicked me was called in, we both got a lecture and we were told to shake hands. And that was that.

Except . . .

There is a German word, schadenfreude, defined by Wikipedia as “pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.” If I’ve even indulged in schadenfreude, it’s generally been on the innocent level of being a sports fan. I love to see Ohio State’s football team lose, and the same holds true for the University of North Dakota’s hockey team. And the Dallas Cowboys. For things in the everyday world, however, I’ve generally not delighted in the misfortunes of others.

But sometime after my stitches came out, Foot’s Friend came to school with two silver teeth where his upper incisors should have been. The tale spread that he and Foot had been messing around with a tent in one of their backyards and some kind of chase had ensued. Foot’s Friend had tripped over a tent rope and had his front teeth knocked out by a tent peg. He’d have the silver teeth until adulthood, when he’d get permanent replacements. I never said anything to anyone, but I admit that I was quietly pleased.

Then sometime during my college days, about ten years after all those things took place, I was wandering through the bar called the Grand Mantel on a Saturday afternoon. I happened to see Foot’s Friend sitting alone at a table. I nodded and waved – it had been a long time since seventh grade – and he waved back and motioned to a chair. I sat down, noticing that he was drinking a beer with a straw. “How you doing?” I asked as I settled myself at the table.

“Not so good,” he said through clenched teeth. “I broke my jaw in a fight, and it’s wired shut for another month.”

We talked for a few more minutes, and then I moved on, once more quietly pleased and feeling only the tiniest bit guilty about it.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 16
“Heart Full of Soul” by the Yardbirds, Epic 9823 [1965]
“Incense & Peppermints” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, Uni 55018 [1967]
“On The Way Home” by the Buffalo Springfield from Last Time Around [1968]
“Get Together” by the Youngbloods, RCA Victor 9752 [1969]
“Hold Your Head Up” by Argent from All Together Now [1972]
“September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, ARC 19854 [1978]

I mentioned records from eighth and ninth grade that plop me back at South? “Incense & Peppermints” is one of those. I’m on the edge of the gym, watching the girls as they dance away the last minutes of lunch hour. One of the dancers is wearing a silver skirt – short for the time – along with silver boots and chartreuse hose. The song – which spent one week at No. 1 – plays on, and we guys watch. Now, more than forty years later, “Incense & Peppermints” is one of those records that can loop in my head as a persistent earworm, and it sometimes takes an act of will to turn it off. Nevertheless, I still like the song – atmospheric and a little spooky yet – a great deal.

I have no contemporary memory of Buffalo Springfield’s “On The Way Home.” It was the lead track on Last Time Around, an album put together as the band was fragmenting, according to All-Music Guide. But I first heard it, as far as I know, in the autumn of 1972, when a copy of Retrospective, a Buffalo Springfield anthology, came to my house from my record club. The song closes the first side of Retrospective, and the driving music, the bittersweet lyric and the “woo-ooo” that opens the record all got my attention. Even now, having delved into the Springfield’s diverse – if slender – catalog over the years, I think that “On The Way Home” is the best thing that talented but short-lived band ever recorded.

I’m not sure whether this actually happened or whether it’s a construct from several sources, but it’s an evening in late September or early October 1969. I’m propped up on my bed, pillows behind me, reading. The only light in the room is the lamp on my nightstand, pointed at my book. Just a few feet away, the windows are open, and the sounds of an early autumn evening come through the screens: leaves about to fall rustle in a light breeze; the footfalls and laughter of kids heading home echo in the quiet of Eighth Street; a car makes its way down Kilian Boulevard, tires whirring on pavement; from the southeast comes the rumble of a train approaching the nearby crossing, its horn cutting through the twilight. And from my old RCA radio on the nightstand, I hear the Youngbloods’ “Get Together,” and it remains for me an autumnal song if ever there was one. (The record was originally released in1967, when it went to No. 67; it was re-released in 1969 and went to No. 5.)

As a member of the Zombies, Rod Argent wrote – and helped record – some of the best songs of the British Invasion. Two of the Zombie’s three hits – “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There” – came from his pen entirely, and he co-wrote the third hit, “Time of the Season,” with his bandmates. In 1972, Argent had a hit with a track from his self-titled band’s first album. With its swirling, thumping sound, Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up” might not have been in the same league with those earlier compositions and records, but it wasn’t far off. An edit of the album track was released as a single and went to No. 5 during the summer of 1972; the album All Together Now went to No. 23 that fall. In the spring of 1973, I saw Argent in concert when the band opened for the Doobie Brothers in St. Paul, and “Hold Your Head Up” had turned into a long jam that went on for nearly twenty minutes.

There are no associations for me with Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.” I only vaguely remember hearing it on the radio. But it’s lively and it shows off the group’s talents well, I think. And there’s nothing wrong with sliding a record in the jukebox just because it sounds good. They don’t all have to carry a story. “September” went to No. 8 (No. 1 on the R&B chart) during the winter of 1978-79.