Song of the Week – I’m Not in Love, 10cc & She’s Gone, Hall & Oates

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

When I was in college there was a running battle between my roommates and me regarding our tastes, or lack thereof, in music.  They called me a wimp for liking the art-pop of 10cc and I criticized their lack of musical sophistication because one of their favorite bands was Black Sabbath.  Today I better understand there’s room for both — no shaming necessary

One of today’s SotW is “I’m Not in Love,” by 10cc.  While this isn’t a typical SotW selection – it was 10cc’s most popular hit – I’ve selected it because it is part of a segue I played a couple of times when I had a radio show at WZBC.

“I’m No in Love” in anchored by the “heartbeat” that starts the song.  But it is most notable for the multitracked vocals that give it its unique character.  Wikipedia has a vivid description of the process:

Stewart spent three weeks recording Gouldman, Godley and Creme singing “ahhh” 16 times for each note of the chromatic scale, building up a “choir” of 48 voices for each note of the scale. The main problem facing the band was how to keep the vocal notes going for an infinite length of time, but Creme suggested that they could get around this issue by using tape loops. Stewart created loops of about 12 feet in length by feeding the loop at one end though the tape heads of the stereo recorder in the studio, and at the other end through a capstan roller fixed to the top of a microphone stand, and tensioned the tape. By creating long loops the ‘blip’ caused by the splice in each tape loop could be drowned out by the rest of the backing track, providing that the blips in each loop did not coincide with each other. Having created twelve tape loops for each of the 12 notes of the chromatic scale, Stewart played each loop through a separate channel of the mixing desk. This effectively turned the mixing desk into a musical instrument complete with all the notes of the chromatic scale, which the four members together then “played”, fading up three or four channels at a time to create “chords” for the song’s melody. Stewart had put gaffer’s tape across the bottom of each channel so that it was impossible to completely fade down the tracks for each note, resulting in the constant background hiss of vocals heard throughout the song.

Lyrically, the singer says “I’m not in love” but goes on to make it clear that he couldn’t live without his lover:

I’m not in love, no no, it’s because

I like to see you
But then again
That doesn’t mean you mean that much to me
So if I call you
Don’t make a fuss
Don’t tell your friends about the two of us

Now imagine as the song is ending, and the voices and “heartbeat” swell to a climax, it fades into “She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates.

“She’s Gone” also begins with an instrumental introduction that has a pulsating heartbeat and “oohs” sung in harmony.

“She’s Gone” is one of the best examples of blue eyed soul ever recorded.  It is right up there with the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” and anything by the Rascals.

Much credit should be given to Arif Mardin for his stellar production work and the string and horn arrangements he devised to complement the song.  Joe Farrell’s tenor sax solo is a thing of beauty.

Musically, “I’m Not in Love” and “She’s Gone” mix as perfectly as gin and tonic.  But thematically they are also similar.  “She’s Gone” is also a heartbreak song.  The singer is trying to figure out how he’s going to be able to carry on now that it’s clear his woman has left him for good.

Everybody’s high on consolation
Everybody’s trying to tell me what is right for me, yeah
My daddy tried to bore me with a sermon
But it’s plain to see that they can’t comfort me

Sorry, Charlie, for the imposition
I think I got it (got it), I got the strength to carry on, oh yeah
I need a drink and a quick decision
Now it’s up to me, ooh, what will be

If you can find a way to play these two songs together, with a fade out between (I think you can do that on iTunes), you’ll never hear them the same way again!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Melody, Serge Gainsbourg

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Serge Gainsbourg was a French Renaissance man.  He made his mark in music (singer, composer, pianist, guitarist) and film (screenwriter, director, actor) but he was also a writer, poet and artist.

In the music world, his most renowned work was the 1971 concept album, Histoire de Melody Nelson.  In seven tracks over about 28 minutes, the album tells the story of a middle-aged man that crashes his car into a 15 year old girl, Melody Nelson, on her bicycle. The accident leads to seduction and an affair.  Eventually Melody meets her demise in a plane crash.

Today’s SotW is the album’s opener, “Melody.”

This is an astounding piece of music.  It combines a rock guitar with a funky bass and an orchestral string arrangement.  Gainsbourg’s vocal is more spoken than sung, like many of Leonard Cohen’s recordings.  The track as a whole is simply mesmerizing.

The link below to a blog post by YellowOnline provides more detail about the album and handy translations of the French lyrics into English.

YellowOnline – Histoire de Melody Nelson

Histoire de Melody Nelson has influenced many other musicians, including Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), Portishead and Stereolab.  Beck found inspiration from Histoire… for his own “Paper Tiger” on his breakup album, Sea ChangeHistoire… was also cited by Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys as an inspiration for their recent album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – My Pledge of Love, The Joe Jeffrey Group

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Today’s SotW is squarely in the category of “restored” songs.

I recently picked up a very large box of 45’s of rock and soul music from the ‘60s, gifted to me by my second cousin Donna.  I had as blast looking through them, organizing them, and playing a few as I went along.

I picked up a 7 incher on the Wand label called “My Pledge of Love” by The Joe Jeffrey Group.  What is this, I thought to myself.  I dropped the needle and recognized it immediately.  I have to admit, I don’t think I ever knew who the artist was, but the song I couldn’t forget!

So I did some research for you and here’s what I found:

The Joe Jeffrey (born Joseph Stafford Jr.) Group was an R&B outfit based in Cleveland, Ohio and took “My Pledge of Love” to #14 in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969.

The song is driven by a relentless rhythm guitar and, of course, Jeffrey’s powerful vocal performance.

Partway through (at about 1:35) Jeffrey starts to riff on the Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Loving,” a song that had hit the charts 5 years earlier, in 1964.  But making a musical reference to a Motown hit could never hurt.

Despite that reference, this song strikes me as more of a rock song than soul number.  The buying public in 1969 must have felt the same way.  “My Pledge of Love” failed place on the Billboard soul chart!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Understand Your Man, Johnny Cash

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

I’m posting today from Newburgh, New York – my hometown – which makes today’s SotW especially appropriate.

When I was a kid, growing up in Newburgh, my dad owned and operated a roller skating rink called the Avalon.  Occasionally the building would be used to promote special events like professional wrestling (I remember Bruno Sammartino, Haystacks Calhoun and Gorilla Monsoon) and concerts.

The most famous person to perform at the Avalon was Johnny Cash.  In my adult life I was able to find references to his gig there on November 13, 1964, but I’ve never been able to find any memorabilia from the event.  I’ve scoured the internet for a poster, a bill or a newspaper ad for the show and always came up empty.  But I recently found these:

It turns out Cash did two shows that night – 7:00 and 9:30. In November ’64, he would have been at the tail end of promoting his I Walk the Line album (released in May 1964) and starting to promote Bitter Tears (October 1964).

One of the songs he must have played would have been “Understand Your Man” which held the #1 spot on the Billboard Country Charts for six weeks in the spring of ‘64.

As you listen to “Understand…” you will undoubtedly hear the resemblance to Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”  This should be no surprise.  Cash and Dylan were connected from the earliest days.  They both listened to and respected each other’s music.  They first met at the Gaslight in 1963 and again at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964.

Cash openly admitted morphing “Don’t’ Think Twice…” into “Understand…”  He kept most of the melody, and lyrically turned another one of Dylan’s many put down songs into a Cash styled “my way or the highway” rant.

But the story goes even further.  Dylan’s song is itself a variation of a folk song by Paul Clayton called “Who´s Gonna Buy You Ribbons When I´m Gone” from 1960.  If you have any doubt about it listen to the lyrics to Clayton’s recording that contains the lines “T’ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, darlin” and “So I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road/You’re the one that made me travel on.”

And you can take that a step further – Clayton’s recording was an adaptation of a public domain folk song called “Who’s Gonna Buy You Chickens When I’m Gone,”

You can check them out on to decide for yourself if the lineage holds up.

Apparently there is a recording of a medley Cash and Dylan did of their two songs.  I have a bootleg of their session together but it doesn’t include the medley.  Darn!

“Understand Your Man” was the last song Cash ever performed in public, at the Carter Family Fold, Hiltons, VA on July 5, 2003.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Blackbird, Piggies, Rocky Raccoon, The Beatles

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

As I write this I’m aware the 50 years ago today, the Beatles were in Abbey Road Studios recording The Beatles, better known as the White Album.  Recording of The Beatles would eventually be completed on October 14th and it would be released on November 22, 1968, just in time to be placed under the Christmas tree for millions of adoring fans.

I love the White Album and will probably post about it again before the end of the year.  But I’ll start with today’s observation that it is the Beatles’ animals album.  Well what the hell does that mean?

There are four songs on the album that specifically mention an animal in the title:

Blackbird

Piggies

Rocky Raccoon

Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey

Martha My Dear was written about Paul’s sheep dog, but does not explicitly mention it in the lyrics.  However, there are several other songs that do mention animals in the lyrics.  “He went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun…”  “She’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane…”  And several more.  Go find them.

Today’s SotW are the three that were presented all in a row on Side 2.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Onion, Shannon and the Clams

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Shannon and the Clams is a band based out of Oakland, CA that played the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco last night.  Next, they’re off to Europe.

The band is shaped around songwriters Shannon Shaw (bass/vocals) and Cody Blanchard (guitar/vocals), and supported by Nate Mahan (drums) and Will Sprott (keyboards), 

Their latest album, Onion, was released last February.  I’ve been listening to it a lot.  If you think you would enjoy a modern take on ‘60s girl group music, you need to check them out.

Onion was partially inspired by the December 2016 fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse in their hometown that took the lives of 36 people.  This touched the group deeply because the Ghost Ship was a haven for local artists and musicians – and was a place that Shannon and the Clams had performed.

It was hard to decide which cut to feature as today’s SotW, but I settled on the title track.

“Onion” contains all of the elements that make me a fan of Shannon and the Clams’ music.  It’s part Del Shannon, part garage rock (fuzzed guitar), part soul, with a power pop twist.  It straddles the space between the campiness of The Cramps and the oldies covers recorded by Blondie (“Denis Denis” and “I’m Gonna Love You Too”).

The lyrics to “Onion” are simple, but interesting – dealing with the “layers” of personality of those afflicted with mental illness.

Well I’m working on it
Holy shit I avoid so many problems
Holy shit this isn’t it
No one told me I was just an onion
I’m just a kid oh so I thought
Please doc, make it stop
Let me go home
I’ll keep working on it
But I’ll be gone before I peel this old onion

But the music keeps the tragic lyrics from becoming depressing.  You may still want to dance to it.

Onion was produced by the omnipresent Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), at his Nashville headquarters.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – I Love You, People

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

“I Love You” was a great British Invasion influenced song by the San Jose based group, People. This song gets filed in my “restored” category. I heard it on the radio recently and said to myself “Damn, I like that song and haven’t heard it for years!” So I present it to you today.

It was written by Chris White, who was the bass player for The Zombies. In fact, it was originally released by The Zombies in 1965 as the B-side to “Whenever You’re Ready.” Coincidentally, the cover version by People was also intended as the B-side to their single “Somebody Tell Me My Name.” But the DJs, audience and record buyers felt differently about it and pushed the B-side onto the charts.

“I Love You” reached #14 in the US in mid-1968. Wow, 50 years ago!

Larry Norman, often credited as a pioneer in the genre of Christian Rock, was a lead singer in People.

Hopefully you have the reaction as I when you hear this song.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Street Fighting Man, Rolling Stones; Peace Frog, The Doors; Peace Dog, The Cult

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Did anyone watch the four-part series on CNN called 1968 – The Year that Changed America? It was very good and highlighted the turmoil that gripped the country the same year that saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy as well as marches against the Viet Nam War, the violent clashes at the Democratic National Convention and the civil rights protests by American athletes at the Summer Olympics.

And the strife wasn’t confined within the borders of the US. Events that took place in the summer of ’68 converged in rock music.

“Street Fighting Man” by the Rolling Stones was written about Tariq Ali, a British Pakistani political activist, after he marched on the American embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square in 1968 in a demonstration against the Vietnam war.

Keith Richards guitar part on “Street Fighting Man” was famously recorded using an acoustic guitar overloaded onto a cassette tape. No electric guitars are on the cut.

It took another 18 months for the Doors to weigh in, but they contributed “Peace Frog” from their Morrison Hotel album.

Wikipedia says the “lyrics were adapted from a couple of Morrison’s poems, one being entitled “Abortion Stories”. Guitarist Robby Krieger has told the story of writing (and then recording) the music for “Peace Frog,” and then working with Morrison to look through his notebooks of poetry until the lyrics came to the song.”

But many listeners interpreted the song as a response to the Chicago Convention protests or to Morrison’s arrest in New Haven for lewd behavior onstage. (He does refer to New Haven in the lyrics.)

I’m all in on the Chicago Convention theory because the first and last verse say:

There’s blood in the streets, it’s up to my ankles (She came)
Blood in the streets, it’s up to my knee (She came)
Blood in the streets in the town of Chicago (She came)
Blood on the rise, it’s following me
Think about the break of day
She came and then she drove away
Sunlight in her hair

We could use more of this 50 years later, in 2018!

I don’t really know if The Cult’s “Peace Dog” has anything to do with The Doors recording but the stylistic and title similarities will forever connect these two songs in my mind. So I’ll throw that one in here too, for good measure

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Avenging Annie, Andy Pratt

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Today’s SotW was written by guest contributor, Debbie Doherty. Debbie has been a lover of rock music since her childhood and has extensive knowledge of the subject. She’s always been partial to men that have some connection to the music world – though she’s no groupie. And not only does she know how to properly handle a vinyl album, she’s my wife!

“Stairway to Heaven,” “Jungleland,” “Free Bird.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” all epic rock songs for the ages. In my humble opinion, “Avenging Annie” by Andy Pratt should have achieved status in this elevated playlist.

Written in ’72 by Pratt, a recent Harvard graduate and a skilled studio engineer, “Avenging Annie” combines passionate piano with a strong bass line throughout. A colorful ballad loosely based on a “Pretty Boy Floyd” story line. Pratt’s alternating falsetto and tenor voices provide a strong female narrative in the telling of Annie’s love for Floyd, “the avenger from Oklahoma,” her decision to join up with her outlaw, and the terrible consequences that lay ahead. You feel Annie’s emotions and passion thru Pratt’s in-character voice.

I’m not a musician so I can’t speak to how the song was created. You do hear a mix of very intricate play, a western flavor, lots of complicated piano, not unlike similar sounds by ELP and Rick Derringer from that time period.

In 1973 I was a sophomore at a Catholic high school – we listened to WGTR a small, kilowatt, daytime station in Natick, Massachusetts. “Avenging Annie” was recorded in part, in nearby Southboro. Maybe they dropped a copy off at the station? All I know is that when I heard this song I thought it rocked and I loved the emotional roller coaster it took me on. It initially became popular when a bootleg copy was aired on WBRU at Brown University. Columbia records got wind of the song and signed Pratt. “Avenging Annie” only made it to #78 on The Billboard 100 but it did reach #1 in Providence and New Orleans.

Fun fact, guess what appeared on the B side of “Avenging Annie” on a 1973 Columbia promo disc? “Blinded by the Light” by Bruce Springsteen. Anyone have a copy of that? Ten minutes of music bliss.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Good Times, The Jay-Bees

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

In late 1964 the Rolling Stones released their second album in the US, 12 x 5. It included a couple of their early hits — “Time Is on My Side” and “It’s All Over Now,” both covers of American R&B songs. But by this time Jagger and Richards were already dipping their toes into the songwriting waters.

One of the originals on 12 x 5 was “Good Times, Bad Times.” It’s a decent slow, country blues. It may remind you of their version of Fred McDowell and Gary Davis’ “You Gotta Move” from Sticky Fingers.

In 1968 a garage band from West Virginia called the Jay-Bees took the song, converted it to a minor key and created a proto punk classic. (They also shortened the title to “Good Times.”)

The creepy laugh that continues throughout the song adds to the haunted house effect of the cut.

Why this track never made it onto one of the Nuggets compilations is a mystery to me. Someone needs to contact archivist Lenny Kaye to try to get the answer.

But no matter… I’d guess the Stones — the original punks — would approve of the Jay-Bees treatment.

Enjoy… until next week.