If you’ve read any of my previous posts you know I don’t write much on new artists, but recently a young Brit by the name of Jake Bugg has caught my attention. Jake has said that he didn’t really have much interest in playing music until, believe it or not, he was watching The Simpsons and they used “Vincent” by Don McLean to set the mood of the scene. He was 12 at the time.
Bugg doesn’t know why, but the song had a strong impact on him and he began to dig through McLean’s work as well as artists including Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Hendrix, and Donovan. Around this time his uncle brought him an acoustic guitar and taught him a few chords. Not long after this, he joined his cousin’s band as a bass player, but soon started writing some songs of his own.
A couple of years ago, at the age of 16, Bugg decided to try his luck and send two of his songs to the BBC. His risk paid off and opened doors to large venues and even a deal with Mercury records. At 18 years of age his debut album went to #1 in the European charts and knocked heavy hitters Mumford and Sons off the top of the charts. He also toured the States with Noel Gallagher and opened for the Stone Roses! Not bad for someone who isn’t old enough to hang out in most of the venues he plays.
On Jake’s debut album he wears his influences on his sleeve without losing himself in the process. With hints of Oasis and touches of the The La’s, this album is great and will appeal to both fans of singer-songwriters and Brit Pop alike.
Here are a couple of my favorite songs from Bugg’s self-titled debut:
One of the best things about the recent vinyl surge, beside supporting your local record store, is that more out of print records are being reissued!
One of my favorite reissue labels is Last Laugh. They pick out some of the best killed by death and powerpop artists and bring them to us with their original artwork and great sound quality; not to mention saving you an arm and a leg, because original issues of these records don’t come cheap!
We love this label so much, we gave them a label card at the end of the punk singles section. Here are a few of my top picks from Last Laugh!!!
We all know that American rhythm and blues artists such as Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters were a big influence on British bands like the Kinks and the Stones. And any fan of rock ‘n’ roll knows that the Kinks and Stones, along with the Beatles, led the British Invasion that swept the States in the ’60s. That being said, what about other countries? What effect did these artists have on the rest of the world? Well, a whole book can be written on that answer, but in the Netherlands it gave birth to the Nederbeat sound, and the Q65 were a big part of that scene.
In early ’65 in the Netherlands, five young men, Joop Roleofs, Frank Nuyens, Willem Bieler, Peter Vink and Jay Baar, formed a band and began playing shows. They were noticed by Peter Koelewijn during a performance at a roller rink. Koelewijn was a producer and had the band record two original songs. One of them, “You’re the Victor,” made the Dutch top 40 at number 11. The success of their first single led to a series of great 7”s released on Decca and Phillips in the Netherlands between ’65 and ’68.
The Q65 had a successful career and played through various lineup changes all the way up to the early ’90s. Sadly, in 1990 original drummer Jay Baar passed away.
Recently the Dutch label OP ART released a singles collection called The Life I Live. The LP is available at Streetlight Records. Here are two of my favourite cuts.
Hello everyone! As any of you who read my posts know, I’m a big fan of the Light in the Attic label! I’m very excited that Streetlight is featuring four titles for the ridiculously low price of $9.98! Are you kidding me? That’s dirt cheap! If ever there was a time to check this label out, it’s now!!!
First on the list is the classic Rodriguez title Cold Fact. Sixto Diaz Rodriguez was born in 1942 in Detroit to Mexican immigrant parents who named him Sixto because he was their sixth child. In 1970 he recorded Cold Fact on the Sussex label which was subsidiary to the Buddah label with a second record to follow in ‘71. After low sales and no recognition he was dropped from the label and he left the music business. Strangely enough, and not to his knowledge for sometime, his records became huge in other countries such as South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
Here is a clip from Cold Fact
Next, is none other than singer, songwriter and producer, Mr. Lee Hazlewood. Light in the Attic has put together a collection of all the LHI singles with an amazing cover shot of Lee looking dapper, as usual, and surrounded by naked women, and they plan on rolling on with a few more Hazlewood titles. Lucky Us!!!!
Here is a clip of one of my favorite cuts from this amazing collection!!!
Third on our list is the Emerson Brothers, Donnie and Joe. Pacific Northwest farm boys who made music in a home studio built and funded by their father in the mid ‘70s, who also built them a concert hall fit for about 300 people with a ticket booth and concession stand on the agreement that they would only focus on original material.
Here is a taste of what came out of these two brothers who had very little influence of any popular ‘70s music.
Last but not least is our good friend Sixto. Album number two, Coming From Reality was recorded a year after Cold Fact and was Sixto’s last release for Sussex.
Born Steven Quincy Reeder Jr., Esquerita was a self-taught piano player who stood out in a crowd with his huge pompadour and bedazzled sunglasses. It’s unclear who came first, Esquerita or Little Richard, but they did cross paths and work together during their music careers. What is clear is that Esquerita was a mad man on the piano and had an amazing eye for fashion.
His first recordings were done by Paul Peek of Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps. With Peek already having a professional relationship with Capitol Records, he was able to get Esquerita a record deal. It was on Capitol that Esquerita recorded and released Esquerita, his only true full length LP in 1959.
During his time with Capitol he rubbed elbows and recorded with some of the who’s who of both producers and artists of the time such as Allen Toussaint, and Dr. John. In the Early ’60s he recorded some tracks for Motown’s founder Berry Gordy, but they were never released. By the late ’60s Esquerita’s relationship with Capitol ended.
He signed to the Brunswick label and by the mid ’70s disappeared into the New York club scene.
Not much was heard from Esquerita until the mid-’80s when Norton Record’s founder Billy Miller found Esquerita and interviewed him for Miller’s Kicks Magazine. Sadly a few years later the high-pomp-wearing rock ‘n’ roller passed due to contracting AIDS.
Thanks to Norton Records he will not be forgotten.
In ’97 Norton released Vintage Voola a collection of early recordings, and recently on the same label Sinner Man was released which contains 10 unissued sessions from 1966. Both are available at Streetlight Records.
Here are a couple of tunes to hold you over.
One of the most under-appreciated bands of the ’60s British invasion has to be the Pretty Things! How does a band that can hold their own with the Kinks and the Stones not make a big noise in the States?!
The Pretty Things were formed in the early ’60s by Dick Taylor and Phil May. Taylor had just left an early rendition of the Rolling Stones as their bass player due to being accepted into art school. It was there that he met May. They started their long standing career off with a sound not unlike the Stones. Playing blues influenced rock ‘n’ roll, but with a raw, punkier edge.
Their first three singles, “Rosalyn,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” and “Honey I Need” all charted in the the U.K. and were successful in Germany, Australia, and the Netherlands, but they never had a hit in the States.
I got my first taste of this amazing band with a reputation for being trouble makers from an older friend who shopped in the local record store I worked in during my last year in high school. Not paying attention to song credits and thinking Bowie’s version was great, my mind was blown when I first heard the Pretty Things’ “Rosalyn.” I had to have it and thanks to Norton Records you can have it along with other singles and their first three LPs.
With some help from YouTube, I’m gonna do you the same favor that was done for me. If you’ve never heard the Pretty Things, you’re welcome. If you’re already a fan, thank you!
One of the best things about working in a record store is meeting people who share your interests; not only co-workers, but customers as well.
The other day, the sweetest woman came in and asked if we’d be interested in buying some records. She said she was a Bowie fan and she had a box of LPs in her car. I told her I would be happy to take a look. When she went to get the records from her car I thought to myself, ‘There will probably be a couple of Bowie titles in a box full of filler records.’ Well, I was wrong. It was definitely a box of Bowie records. A series of picture discs, interview LPs and singles, along with die-cut records and soundtracks, every one in excellent condition. Needless to say, she made my day.
When I paid her for her records, she informed me that she was a huge Bowie fan. I asked her how she got into him and she told me she rented Cat People (on VHS), heard the Bowie track and was hooked. She’s been collecting Bowie records ever since. She was pleased with our offer and said she’d be back with more.
A week later, she returned with another box of LPs and a box of 7”s. I very excitedly jumped into the boxes and was blown away. These boxes trumped the last batch and proved her love and dedication to the Thin White Duke. To prove it even further she showed me pictures of her and the man himself. Needless to say, we bought everything and now we’re making this treasure available to you. I’m not gonna tell you what titles she brought, but I will tease with pictures of a small sample of the goods.
Happy hunting and don’t lag ’cause they will go fast!
Related post: Hunky Dory Revisited
No doubt David Bowie is far from short of amazing and influential albums, but for this rock ‘n’ roller my desert island Bowie record is hands-down Hunky Dory, released in 1971 on the RCA label which would be Bowie’s label for the rest of the decade.
Hunky Dory introduced the world to the incredible guitar work of Mick Ronson, and the band that would come to be known as the Spiders From Mars also featured Rick Wakeman on piano. From the cover art inspired by the German singer/actress Marlene Dietrich to the solid track list of folk-influenced rock songs and the glam that would give life to Ziggy Stardust a year later, this album does not disappoint it’s listeners.
Bowie added songs to honor his influences such as “Song For Bob Dylan” and “Andy Warhol” and he even shows off his love for the Velvet Underground with with “Queen Bitch” (listen to “Sweet Jane” if you don’t believe me). Every song on this album, in my opinion should have been a hit, but there are two songs from Hunky Dory that I hold dear to my heart: “Life On Mars” and “Quicksand.”
“Life On Mars” has the amazing piano work of Rick Wakeman and the beautiful string arrangements of Mick Ronson, combined with Bowie’s amazing vocals which bring you front stage to what seems to be best described by BBC Radio 2 as a cross between a Broadway musical and a Dali painting.
“Quicksand” hides Bowie’s interest in the occult with the perfectly layered acoustic guitars and string arrangements of Ronson and piano playing of Wakeman. Swirled into the beautiful melody of this song are lyrics influenced by the writings of Aleister Crowley and Friedrich Nietzsche, and I’m not the only one who thinks highly of this track; Dinosaur Jr. has a great version of “Quicksand” on their “Wagon” single.
Though receiving great reviews from Melody Maker, NME, and Rolling Stone, and supported by the single “Changes,” Hunky Dory didn’t really get much fan response until the release of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars which pushed Hunky Dory to #3 on the UK charts in 1973.
Come in to Streetlight and give Hunky Dory a listen, it’s in our listening post. Until then check out the following clip.
One band in the the late 70s punk scene who in my opinion didn’t get the attention they deserved were the Zeros. Often referred to as “the Mexican Ramones” the Zeros were a band made up of four young Mexican-Americans from Chula Vista, Ca. who took their influence of 60s rock ‘n’ roll and gave it a dash of the punk rock scene that was popular in L.A. at the time.
The four piece is made up of Robert Lopez who continued his career as Elvez the Mexican Elvis, Javier Escovedo younger brother of Alejandro Escovedo, Hector Penalosa and Baba Chenelle. The Zeros got their start as the Main Street Brats. They later changed their name to the Zeros before they played their first show. They played around the L.A. scene with popular bands at the time such as the Weirdos, the Nerves and Black Flag. They even gave the Germs their first gig as an opening act.
A little more rock ‘n’ roll than their peers, Greg Shaw of the famous Bomp Records released their first two singles, “Wimp” and “Wild Weekend.” After a few line-up changes and various releases the Zeros stayed quiet through the 80s with few shows here and there in the 90s.
In 2007 the Zeros reunited to tour Spain, then again in 2009 to tour the West Coast, and the East Coast in 2010. With the success of the tours the Zeros have put themselves on the rock scene again.
If you’ve never heard of the Zeros or forgot about this amazing California band I highly recommend “Don’t Push Me Around” on Bomp. To get a taste of what they’re all about, check out this clip (the footage is a bit rough…but well worth it).
Can Light In The Attic Records do no wrong? They brought it hard to the folk-rock fans with Jim Sullivan’s U.F.O. and now they bring us the Vagrants.
Who are the Vagrants you ask? Is the band that lit the rock ‘n’ roll fire for the Ramones a good answer? The New York-based band was popular in their home state for their soul-influenced rock and heavy use of the Hammond organ. One of the few rock bands signed to the Vanguard label that was known for folk artists, they were later signed to Atco where they had a semi-hit with a cover Otis Redding’s “Respect.” Unfortunately Aretha Franklin’s version was released around the same time and kept The Vagrants’ version from reaching the rest of the U.S.
Luckily it also ended up on the famous Nuggets collection which introduced the Vagrants to garage-rockers outside of the east coast. After a couple more Atco singles they called it quits due to guitarist Leslie West forming Mountain, known for their hit “Mississippi Queen,” but thanks to Light In The Attic Records we can enjoy the Vagrants with the release of I Can’t Find A Friend: 1965-68, available on both CD and LP and filled with extensive liner notes by Mike Stax of Ugly Things magazine, an interview with Johnny Ramone and unseen photos of the band.
Thanks again Light In The Attic!