Stays On My Mind (Soul July 31st 1971)

The Top 10 records on the Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations for 50 years ago this week were the same as the week before only in a slightly reshuffled order. Gladys Knight & her Pips had enjoyed just one week at #1 with “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong” & was now replaced by the impressively double bracketed “Hot Pants (Part 1) (She Got To Use What She Got To Get What She Wants), the 11th time that James Brown had hit the top spot. The most recent release of these 10 was a song that was initially slated to be a single for the Temptations but the departure of lead vocalist Eddie Kendricks for a solo career in March 1971 meant that a Plan B was required. Producer Norman Whitfield took his song “Smiling Faces Sometimes”, cut from over 12 minutes to under 4, re-recorded it with his Psychedelic Soul proteges, the Undisputed Truth & made the hit it was always going to be. Anyways, we looked at these big hits in the last post & there are other great artists & records, some of my favourites, further down the listing so let’s get to that.

Barbara Lynn | Letterpress poster, Vintage music art, Jazz poster

Way back when I first invited the World Wide Web into the house it brought along a Y-tube clip from 1966 of Barbara Lynn performing “You’ll Lose A Good Thing”, her hit from four years earlier. I was convinced that me & this new e-world would be getting along just fine. An R&B prime cut, filmed in colour an elegant young woman singing her own song, playing her guitar left-handed just like Jimi, the whole package just seemed so assured, so modern. Barbara was just 20 when she made the 265 mile journey to New Orleans to record with Huey P Meaux, “the Crazy Cajun”. “…Good Thing”, her debut, was such a success that she was able to record regularly in the next few years. One of her songs “Oh Baby (We’ve Got a Good Thing Goin’)” was covered by the Rolling Stones in 1965. It was Meaux’ connections in the music business that got Barbara signed to Atlantic in 1967 & in the following year “Here Is Barbara Lynn”, an album recorded in Mississippi with Meaux was released.

Barbara Lynn | Sheila B | Page 2

“(Until Then) I’ll Suffer”, rising from #52 to #46 on this week chart is a 1971 release lifted from that three year old album. It appears to have been the b-side of “Take Your Love and Run”, another cut from a record that seemed to point Barbara towards sub-Motown Soul stompers which were good enough but it was the five songs she wrote, where the Blues was added to her Gulf Coast Soul that stood out. It is no surprise that “(Until Then) I’ll Suffer” in the style of “…Good Thing”, recognisably a Barbara Lynn joint, was the side preferred by radio stations. Any plans for new material from her were stalled by the imprisonment of Huey Meaux after a conviction under the Mann Act for transporting an underage female across state line for immoral purposes (later things got worse for Huey). Barbara, a new wife & mother, stepped away & took 20 years off to raise her kids before returning to recording & touring, still looking, singing & playing just fine. There were plenty of people pleased to see her.

Denise LaSalle Lyrics, Song Meanings, Videos, Full Albums & Bios | SonicHits

I hope that you are able to spare three minutes to listen to a new entry at #58 to the Cash Box chart because “Trapped By A Thing Called Love” by Denise LaSalle is a wonderful thing. Denise had relocated from Mississippi to Chicago when she was a teenager. She was into her thirties before she began to record. It was perhaps this maturity showing when she & her husband Bill Jones set up their independent Crajon Enterprises company & negotiated a deal with Detroit’s Westbound label. It was certainly an astute move to go to Royal Studios in Memphis where producer Willie Mitchell was finessing a signature sound combining the melodic groove of his rhythm section with bright punchy interjections by the Memphis Horns. In 1971 Mitchell was establishing Al Green as a new force on the Soul scene & his arrangements for “Trapped By A Thing…” & Denise’s subsequent LP provided the same freshness. Eight of the eleven songs were written by Denise herself, she & her husband produced an album that is a fine, individual example of the way Southern Soul was heading. Incidentally the track “If You Should Loose Me” (sic) is a cover of Barbara Lynn’s “You’ll Lose A Good Thing”. Denise continued to write & record into the 21st century, her reputation as a “Blues Queen” fully justified.

In Jim Jarmusch’s fine Rock & Roll vampire movie “Only Lovers Left Alive” (2013) Eve (Tilda Swinton, that’s the great…) is listening to Adam (Loki Hiddleston), her husband over many centuries, whinge on about the drawbacks of immortality, of waiting round to never die. She walks across the room to the turntable, selects “Trapped By This Thing Called Love” & says “How can you have lived for so long and still not get it? This self obsession is a waste of living, It could be spent surviving things, appreciating nature, nurturing kindness and friendship, and dancing”. Life affirming words & music indeed.

The Dells - The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind) / Freedom Means - Cadet -  USA - CA 5683 - 45cat

Ah, the mighty, mighty Dells, at #53 with their latest 45 “The Love We Had Stays On My Mind”. The quintet came together in 1953 as high school friends in Harvey, Illinois, just south of Chicago. “Oh What A Nite”, hit big in 1956, Johnny Carter (the new guy!) joined in 1962 & he, Marvin Junior, Chuck Barksdale, Michael McGill & Verne Allison were still together 50 years later. When, in 1966, their record company Vee-Jay declared bankruptcy a move across town to Chess Records led to a string of R&B hits with standards or material provided by producer Bobby Miller, finely tuned by ace arranger Charles Stepney. With the departure of Miller to Motown in 1969 Stepney took over production duties, continuing the ambitious, imaginative, urbane Soul vision he had pursued with the group Rotary Connection. In 1971, with the release of the “Freedom Means” album the Dells, already regarded as the most senior of the vocal groups, around since the days of Doo-Wop, were pushing the boundaries of melodic, harmonious Soul.

“Freedom Means” had its covers of well known songs along with six of the ten, including the title track & “The Love We Had…” written by Terry Callier, a Chicagoan friend of Curtis Mayfield & Jerry Butler. His mid-60s album “The New Folk of…” was embellished with Jazzy idiosyncrasy & now, as a Stepney protege, he was bringing a distinctiveness to the Dells. “The Dells Sing Dionne Warwicke’s Greatest Hits” (1972) sounds a little more mainstream but blimey Bacharach & David’s modern classics are only enhanced by the vocals & arrangements. “Sweet As Funk Can Be” (also 1972), seven Callier/Wade compositions & one cover, is an almost-concept album, tracks linked by spoken segues & as far out as the Dells ever got. It is perhaps a taste to be acquired but the album does exactly what it says on the cover &, for what it’s worth, my one-word review is “Magnificent”.

The Dells – Sweet As Funk Can Be (1972, Vinyl) - Discogs

The Dells were by no means Stepney’s surrogates. Chuck’s bass added texture while Michael & Verne had been doing their harmony thing for so long now that they absolutely had it down. The powerful baritone voice of Marvin Junior really is a special thing. You hear that, it’s the Dells. While Marvin came with the thunder he was set up & perfectly, uniquely complemented by the lightning of Johnny Carter’s range from tenor to falsetto. There’s much more to the group than sheer durability. As tastes in music changed the Dells made slight adjustments, always classy, elegant & relevant, ensuring their longevity. My good e-friend Jennifer Hannah Cocozza, a woman of immaculate taste, will tell anyone who cares to listen that Marvin Junior is the outstanding voice in a talented, crowded Soul field. I’m the guy stood behind her saying “Yeah, that’s right!”

This week’s live clip is from the same 1972 performance by the Dells on the landmark but short-lived “Soul” TV series. “Stay In My Corner” was a hit in 1965 the re-recorded three year later, becoming the group’s biggest R&B and Pop hit of the 1960s. Developed into an expanded onstage showstopper it showcases the amalgamated talents of the five while featuring the quite extraordinary alignment & blessing that Marvin & Johnny had refined. It does not get better than this.

We Got The !!!! Beat

In 1966 TV shows in colour were a new thing. The Nashville stations (waiting to see if it would catch on ?) had no facilities for the new technology so a local production company went to WFAA in Dallas to record their Rhythm & Blues  and Soul show. They took Bill “Hoss” Allen, a local DJ with them, hired a band led by bluesman Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown & made 26 episodes of The !!!! Beat. The available footage warrants a couple more exclamation marks.It captures some of the great soul artists of the era in unmatched, deserved quality.

First up, Joe Tex, in the middle of 6 R&B Top 40 hits in 1965 & 5 more in 1966 after nearly 10 years of little success. “The Love You Save May Be Your Own” is part of that winning run, recorded at Fame Studios & released on Dial Records. Joe, like many other singers, started the decade in thrall to Sam Cooke. When he found his own voice he wrote & recorded some great Southern Soul tunes. There were the funny homespun wisdom, story song, almost proto-rap, ones (“Skinny Legs & All”) & the soul classics (“Show Me”). His collected singles are all hits, still fresh & a couple of them have been used in Tarantino movies.

Joe had a preacher’s touch about him & became a Muslim. He died from a heart attack at just 47. He said to Peter Guaralnick in “Sweet Soul Music”…”It’s been nice here, man. A lot of ups and downs, the way life is, but I’ve enjoyed this life. I was glad that I was able to come up out of creation and look all around and see a little bit, grass and trees and cars, fish and steaks, potatoes.And I thank God for that. I’m thankful that he let me get up and walk around and take a look around here. Cause this is nice.”…Top man !

I have just found this wonderful clip. Robert Parker started out in New Orleans & played with most of the luminaries of the 1950s from that city. He hit big with “Barefootin” in 1966 but was never able to repeat the success. In the UK this was a major Mod anthem, an absolute dance floor filler. More attention was paid to Robert over here & he often toured over the next years. The self-composed “Barefootin” is irresistible & if you are going to be a one hit wonder then let your hit be this good. It has been covered many times & here is a version by Pete Townshend.

One of the first posts I ever made on this thing featured the other clip of Barbara Lynn on The !!!! Beat. Her performance of the 1962 #1 R&B hit “You’ll Lose A Good Thing”, recorded when she was just 20, is a sublime thing. “It’s Better To Have It”, a hit in 1965, is not as good a song but Ms Lynn is beautiful, elegant, singing & playing like she means it here. In 1965 the Rolling Stones recorded her song “Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin’)” & Keef seems to love playing it. man, I love Barbara Lynn.

These clips are scattered around the Y-tube & are not easy to find. The 26 episodes are on DVD in the US &, as you can see, are of a quality that is found nowhere else. Otis Redding came along for one show, Esther Phillips & Little Milton almost made the cut here. If Google can help me with a complete track listing then my search will continue.

That girl could sing

The music I have included in this blog has been a little phallocentric. A bunch of men playing with their instruments and whining how their girl/woman/baby has done them wrong. There will be a lot more of that in the future but I want to do a couple of pieces about the wonderful female singers & players who have made music I have loved for so long. I am not the biggest fan of sensitive women with acoustic guitars. A young woman recently asked my opinion of Joni Mitchell. I said that men pretended to like her music so they could sleep with women who did like it. I do not believe this at all…it was a joke. I was shocked that I had even thought such a thing never mind said it out loud.

The music in these first two is mainly from the 60s, a period in music which seems to be a gift that keeps on giving…Man, I thought I had my first three & I around five more have jumped to the front of my mind. OK let’s see where this leads me.

How much do you love this clip ? Barbara Lynn, young (just 20), beautiful, elegant & confident. This is her first single, a song of her own. It takes elements from the blues, church & country. Barbara is contributing to the invention of the sound and the look of a phenomenon…soul music. Tamla Motown employed people to show their artists how to present themselves in public.They would have probably advised their young ladies from Detroit that toting around a big old Fender Esquire would be inappropriate. Ms Lynn’s personal guitar style is wonderful,The instrumental break, leading the best Texan musicians money could hire, is still amazing. Ms Lynn don’t need no charm school. When she sang in D.C. she dropped by the White House & gave Jackie Kennedy some tips. Big crush here, I’ll admit it.

The arrival of rock and roll seriously affected the ability of blues artists to make a living from their music. The new generation of young black Americans wanted a new sound less rooted in the painful experience of the generations before them. In Chicago, the home of urban blues, Chess Records (with producer Willie Dixon) continued to make fine blues records throughout the early 60s. In 1965 (three years after the modernity of Barbara Lynn) this Koko Taylor classic,written by Dixon, became an R&B hit.

Koko was in her 30s when she had her hit. She stuck to the blues as the other female star at Chess, Etta James, moved towards soul. As this clip, taped in 1967, shows she got to have Chicago’s finest musicians in her band. The harmonica player is Little Walter (Jacobs), his run of hit records in the 50s are essential records. The rock and roll Hall of Fame originated a “sideman” category to accommodate Walter. An alcoholic with a temper,  his playing helped define the template of Chicago blues. Guitarist, Hound Dog Taylor, seems to be a man who is not easily pleased. His sliver of a smile at the end of the song indicates his opinion that Koko and the band had represented for Chicago and the music. They certainly have.

Koko recorded a wild duet with Willie Dixon, “Insane Asylum”, which can still shock with it’s raw power. It is a pity that it was her death, two years ago, that brought her back into the public’s ears.

Well, it had to be Ms Simone. She was the “High Priestess of Soul” but her artistry meant that her music was beyond categories. In her best work she obtained such depth and purity of emotion that it can still shock. She had a reputation as a difficult person to work with and as a erratic performer. Those of us who only know her records recognise a seeker of truth even perfection and we love her for it.

Her involvement in the civil rights movement was often reflected in her choice of material. She was never didactic but always forthright, always intense. “Ain’t Got No…I Got Life”, a hit from the hippie musical “Hair”, has never been my favourite tune of hers though this makes me reconsider. This version of a song of affirmation and hope was recorded in 1969 at the Harlem Community Festival. Simone is a beautiful, aristocratic African queen. Her dashiki- clad band cook up a fine groove and she sings the hell out of the song.

I don’t know if the Harlem Festival is still held. I think they have Dave Chappelle’s Block Party instead !