Nobody’s Fool And It’s Cool (UK Pop Psych October 1969)

The timeline provided by the interesting & entertaining Marmalade Skies website has been the basis for irregular posts on the British underground music scene of 50 years ago. Their listings for October 1969 included “Five Leaves Left”, the wonderfully poetic debut album by singer-songwriter Nick Drake. Terrific, it was 1971 when I became aware of this record & many pleasant evenings were enhanced by its company. Pick a track, any track, two maybe three paragraphs extolling its & its creator’s virtues…job’s a good ‘un. Unfortunately my “research” showed that the album, named after the run out slip from a pack of rolling papers, was released in July of 1969! Now I’ve been doing this Internet thing for 40-odd years & I haven’t lied to you yet so that’s out. The lesson here is “never trust a Hippie” but you good folk knew that already. Right, what music did have its actual Golden Anniversary in this month.

 

 

Image result for family no mule's fool"Family, a five-piece group from Leicester had released their second LP in March 1969. “Family Entertainment” consolidated the reputation they had made with their debut “Music in a Doll’s House”, produced by Dave Mason off of Traffic, as one of the most interesting, innovative new groups. Not as experimental as the likes of Pink Floyd or Soft Machine, the imaginative instrumentation they brought to their varied, agile psychedelia & the raspy vocals of Roger Chapman gave Family a distinct & recognisable sound. They were a formidable live act, making new fans with every appearance & “…Entertainment” found a place in the Top 10 of the UK album chart.  “No Mule’s Fool”, written, like most of their songs, by Chappo & guitarist Charlie Whitney, was surely the 45 that would put the band on TV’s Top of the Pops. Well, I thought so when I bought it.

 

Image result for family band 1970s"Family’s first hiccup of 1969 came when bassist/violinist Rick Grech left the group to become the least well known of new “supergroup” Blind Faith. John Weider off of Eric Burdon & the Animals could play both of those instruments & was quickly drafted in. His violin break on the pastoral, mellow “No Mule’s Fool” moves the song up a gear for the race to the end. While recording the next LP multi-instrumentalist Jim King was the second member to split. King added nuance to many of Family’s tunes, there’s a John Peel session where his saxophone replaces the violin on the single & it’s most effective. Poli Palmer stepped in, “A Song For Me” proved to be the group’s most successful LP & that elusive hit single “The Weaver’s Answer”, was there on “Family Entertainment” all the time. Family never enjoyed the international acclaim of many of their contemporaries, were perhaps never as distinct as they had been on those first two records. Looking back to changing times in British music they deserve a wider hearing.

 

 

Image result for slade wild winds are blowing"Earlier in 1969 Ambrose Slade (formerly the ‘N Betweens), Wolverhampton’s premier live band, had released their debut LP “Beginnings”. A varied selection from their onstage setlist the diverse covers included two from Steppenwolf, the Fabs’ “Martha My Dear”, Marvin Gaye & even Frank Zappa. The record & the single “Genesis” made little impression. By this time the group were managed by Chas Chandler, former bassist of the Animals with plenty of money from his time with Jimi Hendrix. Chas’ big idea was to abbreviate the name to Slade, get the quartet to to crop their hair & adopt the boots & braces of the current Skinhead youth. “But Chas, Skinhead music is Reggae not Rock” said, apparently, no-one.

 

Image result for slade magazine cover"“Wild Winds Are Blowing” was the first 45 for the group with the shorter name & hair. The image did generate a deal of press & Chandler persuaded his old Animal mate Alan Price to include them on his TV show. The song, written by Saker & Windley, two guys who wrote little else, is given a rowdy enough treatment, not as aggressive as you might expect from a bunch of “bovver boys” & was, like the next two singles, not a success. Encouraged to write their own material, leather-lunged singer Noddy Holder & bassist Jim Lea proved to be an effective team. The skinhead thing was ditched, Doc Martens replaced by a platform booted stomp, Ben Shermans by glitter & glam. An album, “Play It Loud”, had no hit single & it was an old Little Richard song that finally put Slade into the UK Top 20. In October 1971 “Coz I Luv You” hit #1, the first of a string of eccentrically spelled records that made them a permanent fixture in the Top 10, eminent in the British Glam Pop Explosion & Noddy Holder, deservedly, a national treasure.

 

 

It says here, on the Marmalade Skies register of this month’s releases that Terry Reid had a new album called “Superlungs”. I’m sure that the folk at “The Home of British Psychedelia” were adhering to a pretty strict drug regimen to keep their minds, you know, limber but there was no LP of that title until 2004. A 45 of  “Superlungs My Supergirl”, a Donovan song was released in 1969 along with a self-titled LP. OK, because I think Terry Reid is a lovely man who should have been a huge star, I’m going to go with that. October 1969? Possibly!

 

Image result for terry reid superlungs my supergirl"How about that band? 19 year old Terry, brimming with confidence, backed by Keith Webb on drums, keyboard player Pete Solley &, bringing the groove to the Blues-Rock, bassist Lee Miles, formerly of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. “Terry Reid” the album was the second he made with producer Mickie Most whose extraordinary success in the British Beat Boom confirmed an undoubted Pop acumen which was now meeting resistance from artists, the Animals, Yardbirds, Donovan, looking beyond the three minute single. Both albums showcase Reid’s extraordinary voice & range from Blues shouter to a more restrained, still soulful  intimacy. The grandstanding cover versions of familiar songs, “Season of the Witch”, “Stay With Me Baby”, are less successful than the fine moments provided by Terry’s developing talent as a songwriter.

 

Image result for terry reid 1969"

Terry with B.B. King

Of course turning down the Led Zeppelin gig still hangs around. Peter Grant, manager of the Yardbirds/Led Zep, was Most’s business partner but Terry had his own thing, committed to an extensive touring schedule in the US where his reputation was growing. His absence from the UK didn’t help with promotion of the LP. Surely if the magnificent “Silver White Light”, a joyous rocker, had found its way on to the playlist of Britain’s only music station things would have been different. It sure sounded like a hit to me but then, what do I know?

 

Reid wanted away from Most & it became a prolonged legal matter. With a new stellar band, Miles still hanging out, drummer Alan White off of the Plastic Ono Band & master guitarist David Lindley, his music had a looser, rootsier feel (think the Black Crowes only better) but they were unable to record. It would be 1973 before “The River”, his best collection, was finally available. That one’s for another time & I’m not leaving without including the delicate beauty that is “Mayfly”. If you need something to warm you as Autumn turns to Winter & the nights get longer then here it is. Good man Terry Reid.

 

Loan Me Your Funky Mind (Soul October 1969)

Tamla Motown started 1969  with Marvin Gaye at the top of the US R&B chart &  the Hitsville studios in Detroit kept the number ones coming throughout the year. Diana Ross & the Supremes, Marvin again & Jr Walker & the All Stars all, according to Cash Box, reached that pinnacle & in October, for the whole of the month, it was the turn of the Temptations. Since a breakout hit in 1964 with “The Way You Do the Things You Do” the Tempts being top of the R&B pops came around almost every year.

 

 

Image result for temptations 1969In 1968 the Temptations had parted company with David Ruffin, a charismatic performer whose delectable baritone had come to predominate on a string of outstanding 45’s. The group knew that you gotta walk & don’t look back & while for many the music made by the “Classic Five” line up remains their best there was no dip in popularity when Ruffin was replaced by Dennis Edwards. The three LPs released in 1969 (two more with the Supremes) were all successful. “Cloud Nine” was producer Norman Whitfield’s big new idea, a heavily arranged/orchestrated take on the Psychedelic Soul of Sly & the Family Stone. Most of the LP was familiar Temptations fare but the title track won the Tempts a Best R&B Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental Grammy. The future was freaky & Funky. “The Temptations Show” is a mix of the old, the new & slick show biz, the soundtrack to their very own TV special, that’s how big a deal the Temptations were.

 

Related imageOn “Puzzle People” there were still cover versions (“Hey Jude”, “It’s Your Thing”, even “Little Green Apples”) but Whitfield & Motown stalwart Barrett Strong provided more original material. This new sound used all five voices on lead, Edwards was recruited for his strong vocals, Eddie Kendricks (that’s the great…) sang lead on many of their hits, it had been some time since Otis Williams, Paul Williams & Melvin Franklin had been stood at the front for the singles. “I Can’t Get Next to You” doesn’t have the social commentary of some of these new epic songs, it’s an urgent, brilliant slab of Funk but I’m telling you something you already know here. A massive hit, their second Pop #1, the ninth time at the top of the R&B chart, the Temptations were the leading vocal group of the time, a new face, a new phase but taking care of business as usual with so much more fine music yet to come.

 

 

 

Funkadelic…the clue is in the name. The highest new entry on the chart of October 18thImage result for funkadelic  1970 was the second single from a new group. It could have been luck, more likely it was George Clinton’s judgement that, when he needed instrumental backing for his vocal group the Parliaments, assembled a young talented crew whose innovative lysergic fuelled jams on a framework provided by Sly Stone & Jimi Hendrix placed them in the vanguard of the new breed of Funk groups. George had mislaid the rights to the name of his own group so the expanded collective signed a new contract as Funkadelic. “I’ll Bet You” reached back to Clinton’s times around the Detroit music scene. In 1966 the song had been recorded as an uptempo dead-stone floor filling Soul stomper by Theresa Lindsey. Funkadelicised, with a little help from some of Motown’s Funk Brothers, the song is a raw, dense, insistent blend of Rock & Soul, one of the first tracks you play to those less versed in the ways of Parliament-Funkadelic.

 

Image result for funkadelic  1970The self-titled LP, a landmark record, did not appear until the following year. Guitarist Eddie Hazel, Billy “Bass” Nelson & drummer “Tiki” Fulwood were given plenty of scope by producer Clinton to blow our funky minds. On tracks like the opener “Mommy, What’s a Funkadelic?” & “What is Soul?” George laid the foundations of the P-Funk lore which, after extensive recording, exciting live shows & tweaks in personnel, finally saw the group recognised as one of the foremost African-American units of the time. (Soul is apparently “a ham hock in your corn flakes” or “a joint rolled in toilet paper”, your choice!). Funkadelic were signed to Armen Boladian’s Westbound Records & Boladian later gained control of all Funkadelic’s publishing rights by allegedly forging George’s signature. A litigious man he sued every artist who used a sample of their music, that’s like over 50% of the US Rap scene. Screw the “allegedly” let him sue me, I’ve got no money. Fly on baby, fly on.

 

 

Image result for lee dorsey give it upFurther down the Cash Box chart, a newcomer at #46, was an artist who had experienced success over the past decade. Lee Dorsey, a former boxer turned singer out of New Orleans had his first million seller in 1961 with “Ya Ya”, later covered by John off of the Beatles, but similar nursery rhyme based lyrics probably deservedly failed to connect. In 1965 a partnership with the Big Easy’s master songwriter/producer/arranger Allen Toussaint created a string of 45’s which re-established him in the US & made him a firm favourite on the UK Mod scene. It’s an impressive list, good enough to make a “Best of…” collection essential. Everyone knows the jaunty, irresistible “Working in a Coal Mine”, a Top 10 hit in the Pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1980 the Clash invited the still spry Lee Dorsey to open on their US tour.

 

Image result for clash lee dorsey

Lee & the Clash

The Dorsey/Toussaint connection continued to make fine singles which met with less commercial success. Lee always had his auto repair shop to fall back on when he was less in demand. In 1969 the team’s statement record was “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)” & “Give It Up” showed that they walked it like they talked it. This was a mature New Orleans take on the New Groove. Toussaint’s songs were stronger, his horn arrangement on “Give It Up” sensational. (When the Band needed charts for a brass section they knew who to call). The studio band, the Meters, confidence high from their own success, provided diamond-sharp backing for their city’s premier vocalist.

 

The singles, issued on the small Amy label, made little impact but in 1970 Lee got to make his first LP for 4 years, a proper one not a compilation of past releases. There were some great R&B LP’s coming round & “Yes We Can”, not a big seller, was among them. The title track endured as a political slogan for young Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “Who’s Gonna Help a Brother Go Further” is another example of a growing modernity & social awareness of the lyrics. “Riverboat” was picked up by Little Feat, “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” by Robert Palmer. Now the record has the highest of reputations, back then Lee Dorsey was regarded as being from the old school. That’s a pity because a lot of people missed out on something very good.