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Monday, 29 May 2017

Revisiting Brain Drain - Ramones (Sire/Chrysalis 1989)

 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Brain Drain - Ramones
Sire/Chrysalis
Produced by Bill Laswell (Jean Beauvoir and Daniel Rey proudced two tracks)
Released 18th May 1989*
US Chart #122
UK Chart #75

* I have also seen a date for release of this as 23rd March 1989. I'm not sure if that was the American release date!

Brain Drain (Full Album Playlist)


Side 1

Side 2
Personnel
Ramones
    Joey Ramone – Lead vocals (All tracks apart from Punishment Fits The Crime)
    Johnny Ramone – Lead guitar
    Dee Dee Ramone –Bass guitar (credited, but did not record bass), backing and lead (Punishment Fits The Crime) vocals, synthesizer
    Marky Ramone – Drums


Additional musicians
    Daniel Rey – bass guitar
    Jean Beauvoir - bass guitar (performed on at least "Pet Semetary")
    Andy Shernoff – bass guitar (performed on at least "All Screwed Up" and "Ignorance Is Bliss")
    Artie Smith – additional guitars
    Robert Musso – additional guitars

Singles on Brain Drain
Beggars Banquet
Released November 1987

*was a Double A-Side with I Wanna Live.

A-Side: Pet Sematary
B-Side: All Screwed Up / Zero Zero UFO
Chrysalis 12"
Released June 1989 (US)*, September 1989 (UK)**
Did Not Chart

*US version of the single contained Sheena Is A Punk Rocker as the B-Side and on the 12" played at 33⅓ RPM, it included Life Goes On as an extra track.

**On the 7" Single All Screwed Up was the B-Side on its original release but the single was reissued in December 1989 adding Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight) as the B-Side on the 7". It was also released as a 12" that also included the two songs that had been on the original 12" release.

A-Side: Pet Sematary
B-Side: Palisades Park
Liberation Records (Australia)
Released 14th May 1990

The German release of the single included Don't Bust My Chops as the B-Side.


B-Side: All Screwed Up


German Promo 7"

*********************

There are a bucketload of links below so click on them to listen to more music from the Ramones and the various projects since the band folded.

There's nothing stable when it comes to Ramones World and for their 11th Studio Album, Brain Drain,  there were a few major shifts in the atmosphere that would have a momentus effect upon the band but even amid the dysfunction they continued to make some fine music.

Firstly, Richie Ramone was no longer in the band, his last album with them had been Halfway To Sanity in April 1987. He had departed the band in August 1987 after five years, apparently upset that he was still not being given a share of sales of T-Shirts! Richie is of course still out playing shows and recording and still using the name Ramone! He has released a couple of albums, Entitled (2013) and the latest album (2016) is called Cellophane.

Secondly, with Richie's departure that meant they needed to get a new drummer. They actually tried out Clem Burke of Blondie (under the name Elvis Ramone). He actually only lasted two shows in August 1987 (here's the first one from Providence, Rhode Island on the 28th August, the second show was the night after in Trenton, New Jersey). According to Johnny Ramone the performances were a disaster because Clem couldn't keep up with the band!

Thirdly, the Prodigal Drummer Marky Ramone returned to the fold in September 1987, clean and sober. Remember he had been ousted from the band after the release of Subterranean Jungle in 1983 due to his alcoholism!

Marky continues to play live shows these days (Check out Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg in Argentina in 2016) and to release albums from time to time: Marky Ramone and The Intruders - Don't Blame Me (1999), Start of The Century (2006),  Teenage Head with Marky Ramone (2008) and also a couple with The Speed Kings.

Fourthly, Dee Dee, although present on the back cover of the album, credited with a number of co-writes, and offering the lead vocal on one track, he does not actually play bass on the album at all! His final live show with the band would be 5th July 1989 at Santa Clara, California (Listen to Indian Giver/Palisades Park from the show on the 3rd July 1989). He would of course continue to provide songs for the band.

Fifthly, with Dee Dee's departure that meant a new bassist was needed. Enter Christopher Joseph Ward (who of course became C.J. Ramone). C.J.'s live debut had been on a TV Telethon, 4th September 1989 and his live Concert Debut would be the opening night of the UK tour in Leicester (listen to C.J. singing Warthog from the show and you can also listen to the full show here).

C.J. continues touring and releasing music: Bad Chopper (2007), Reconquista (1st released in 2012 and then again in 2015), Last Chance To Dance (2014) and his latest American Beauty (2017). You can watch him in action here from 2016 in Paris, and in Houston back in April of this year.

(Ramones 1989 - 1996: Johnny, Marky, Joey and C.J.)

Back to the album for a moment a two. After mentioning that Something To Believe In was my absolute favourite Ramones song in a previous blogpost on the Animal Boy album, the opening track to Brain Drain is also very high on the list of Ramones Favourites. I Believe In Miracles is another fantastic tune from the pen of Dee Dee Ramone and Daniel Rey. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam would record it for a Tribute To the Ramones album and it would also be a part of Pearl Jam live sets.

Ramones always chose some interesting Cover Versions down through the years and the inclusion of Palisades Park, the 1962 tune originally released by Freddy Cannon was a great choice and they totally made it their own.

Pet Sematary was written for the Stephen King movie and became one of the bands top radio hits and always a staple of their live shows.

All Screwed Up (co-written with former member of The Dictators Andy Shernoff, Daniel Rey and Marky Ramone) starts off sounding like a Slade song and was one of three songs that Joey co-wrote and there was a further three songs he penned himself (I Can't Get You Outta My Mind - which has that nice sixties pop feel to it that was so typical of Joey's writing; Come back, Baby and Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight) - which would also be included on Joey's second album Ya' Know in 2012). 

Six of the songs on the album were Dee Dee co-writes along with Daniel Rey, Joey Ramone, Richie Stotts (one of the founding members of The Plasmatics), Johnny and Marky Ramone.

Whilst it's not the best Ramones ever made there are enough songs on it for it to be considered a pretty decent release I think.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

From The Vault: This Is Clarence Carter - Clarence Carter (Atlantic 1968)

This Is Clarence Carter - Clarence Carter
Atlantic
Produced by Rick Hall
Released 1968

(Turkish Release 1968)

This Is Clarence Carter
(Whoever uploaded this to You Tube added a couple of extra tracks at the end that were not on the original album or one the CD Reissue from 1996)



Side 1

Side 2


Singles on This Is Clarence Carter
Fame Records
Released April 1967
US Pop Charts #98
US R&B Chart #38

Atlantic
Released December 1967
US Pop Chart #62
US R&B Chart #20

Atlantic 
Released April 1968
US Pop Chart #6
US R&B Chart #2

*When the single was released in the UK in June 1968 Funky Fever was the A-Side and Slip Away the B-Side.

*************

Way back in 1970, when I was a little seven year old lad there was a song I heard on the radio that I really liked called Patches by a fella called Clarence Carter.
The song was actually his only ever hit in the UK reaching #2 on the Charts and in America it reached #4 on the Pop Charts (#2 on the R&B Chart). Patches was co-written by Ron Dunbar (who had worked closely with that brilliant team of writers Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland formerly of Motown Records) and General Norman Johnson (lead vocalist of the group Chairman of the Board). 


The song had appeared as a B-side to the Chairman of the Board single Everything's Tuesday, their third hit single and had been on their Debut Album Chairman of the Board (released in 1970 on Invictus).

I didn't really know much about Clarence Carter at all back then, and I'm not so sure I know a whole lot more about him now!

I was thinking about him this morning as I was reflecting upon the sad news of the passing of Greg Allman, because in 1988 The Greg Allman Band had released as a single a cover of Slip Away which had been a hit in 1968 for Clarence.

That in turn led me to go and dig out the Debut Album from Clarence Carter on which Slip Away was included and hence this post.

Clarence Carter was born blind in Alabama way back in 1936 and received his education at the Alabama School For The Blind (today known as the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind) and Alabama State College (now known as Alabama State University) graduating in 1960 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Music. The Alabama School for The Blind by the way is the same school that the vocal group The Blind Boys of Alabama hailed from (back then it was called Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind) and had begun singing together from the age of nine!
In 1961 he released his first single with his friend Calvin Scott called I Wanna Dance (But I Don't Know How) on the Fairline label, followed that up in 1962 with Goodnight Irene before moving over to Duke Records in 1963 and releasing I Like It and then a few other singles that went nowhere before joining  ATCO in 1965 with Step By Step. None of the singles charted.

Calvin Scott was seriously injured in a car accident and Clarence Carter decided to continue as a Solo Artist recording for the Fame label in November 1966 I Stayed Away Too Long (Tell Daddy, the B-side that was a hit on the R&B Chart), then in 1967 Thread The Needle (was a minor hit on the Pop Chart #98) and She Ain't Gonna Do Right.

Then in 1968 came the Debut Album and a further two hit singles (as well as a Christmas Hit Single with Back Door Santa). More charting singles would follow but none made the Top Thirty until Patches was released in 1970 which of course was his biggest success of his career.

He is still around having celebrated his 81st birthday in January this year and still plays live from time to time.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

40 Years of Punk & New Wave 1977: In The City - The Jam (Debut Album)

🌟🌟🌟🌟½
In The City - The Jam
Polydor
Produced by Vic Smith and Chris Parry
Released 20th May 1977
UK Chart #20



Personnel
The Jam
    Paul Weller - vocals, guitars
    Bruce Foxton - bass, vocals
    Rick Buckler - drums

Single on In The City

In The City / Takin' My Love
Polydor
Produced by Vic Smith and Chris Parry
Released April 1977
UK Chart #40

        
*****************

Just as Paul Weller was releasing his 13th Studio Solo Album in 2017 - A Kind Revolution - it was a reminder afresh that he has been around a long time and has undergone some interesting image changes down through the years and yet basically remaining himself!

Seven days after its release was the 40th Anniversary of the Debut Album from his former band The Jam

Like Dr. Feelgood, who I posted about a couple of days ago, The Jam were not really a Punk band as such but were very much considered as part of the ever growing scene in 1977. Where Dr. Feelgood looked like they had been dragged through a hedge backwards with their suits, The Jam actually looked pretty smart and nothing like an angry rock and roll band! If you saw a picture of them not knowing anything about them you might have assumed it was a band from the 1960s rather than 1977.

(The Jam in 1975 prior to Foxton joining - Brookes , Buckler and Weller)

The band had actually formed five years before when Weller and Co. were still at secondary school but the line-up did not become a stable one until the mid 70's when it consisted of Paul Weller (Bass), Steve Brookes (guitar), Bruce Foxton (guitar he joined in late 1975) and Rick Buckler (drums). In the early days the band were playing American rock and roll covers by the likes of Chuck Berry and Little Richard and it was only on discovering the My Generation album by The Who that a fascination with Mod culture began to take root within the band. Brookes left the band in 1976 and he was not replaced. Weller moved over to guitar and Foxton to bass and thus established the Classic three piece line-up of the band.

Coming from outside of London the band were treated with some suspicion among "the Punk Elite" but they worked hard to build an audience for themselves with a residency at the Red Cow in Hammersmith and The Nashville Rooms in West Kensington that drew more and more people each time they played. This no doubt drew the attention of Polydor Records who offered them a deal in February 1977. Paul Weller was 18 years old, still living with his folks on a Woking Council Estate.

The Jam were heavily influenced of course by bands like The Who, The Beatles, The Kinks and The Small Faces as well as Dr. Feelgood. Also add to that the Soul Music of Stax and Motown and clearly you could see they were very different to the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned.


Those influences would come out in their live performances and even as they begun recording their Debut Single and Album. Their Debut would be entitled In The City (which strangely enough was also the title of a song by The Who which had originally appeared as a B-Side to I'm A Boy released in 1966).

Included on the album was the Batman Theme which The Who had released on their Ready Steady Who EP in November 1966 (they would also later go back to this EP and take Disguises and record it for the B-Side of Funeral Pyre in 1981). The other cover on the album was Larry Williams' Slow Down (which The Beatles also used to perform).

Added to those two cover versions were ten songs from the pen of the young Paul Weller

The goal was to record the band and try and capture a little something of what they were doing in a live setting and these were the songs that they were playing night in and night out around the Capital and when they ventured further afield.
 
So, let's break the album down track by track.

Side 1


From the opening chords of Art School you just knew that you were listening to something that was rooted in the past but at the same time was totally a thing of the present day. Lyrically it was saying similar things to what the Sex Pistols were saying in their song I Wanna Be Me and showing the new sense of liberty that was to be found in the current scene and how in some ways it was similar to the art culture of the 1960s:

 "Anything that you wanna do, anyplace that you wanna go
Don't need permission for everything that you want
Any taste that you feel is right
Wear any clothes just as long as they're bright
Say what you want,
'cos this is a new art school
Do what you want, 'cos this is the new art school"

The R 'n' B feel of I've Changed My Address with the young Weller declaring "Couldn't see me settling down with a mortgage and a kid" must seem quite funny to him now that he's a father of seven kids! The guitar work on it though is outstanding even if the lyrics are a bit naff.


The cover of Slow Down is more akin to The Beatles cover that they recorded for their BBC Sessions than the original Larry Williams version. It was setting out their stall despite the fact that some in the scene around them were dismissing The Beatles (The Boys were one of the only other bands I knew of at the time who spoke of their great fondness for The Fab Four).

I Got By In Time was Weller writing about his best friend when he was younger, former member of the band Steve Brookes. I'm sure many of us can testify to having a similar experience with former friends! Things don't always go the way we wish them to go and all you can do is get on with living..."I Got By In Time":

"Saw a guy that I used to know
Man he'd changed so much
I think it hurt him to say 'hello',
'Cause he hardly opened his mouth
Yeah well he was my best friend a few years ago
Truly inseperable
We were young and full of ideals
We were gonna rule this whole world
But something happened I didn't know why
But that's the way that it goes"

By the way, on this one I really love Rick Buckler's drumming.

Away From The Numbers is one of my all-time favourite songs by The Jam. The song is about Weller's disatisfaction with his surroundings and the crowd ("the numbers") he was hanging about with and how he needed to "break away and gain control" of his life "so this link's breaking away from the chain":

"I was sick and tired of my little niche
Well gonna break away and find where life is
And all those fools I thought were my friends
(coaching is easy)
They now stare at me and don't see a thing
(reality's so hard)
Till their life is over and they start to moan
How they never had the chance to make good"

The Batman Theme as I mentioned above was a clear influence from The Who, and The Jam version is clearly on a different level as it is way faster and manic sounding and in step with the times.

Side 2

Side 2 kicks off with the title track and single In The City. Although not as big a hit as they would have liked, getting on Top of the Pops was huge for them (one of the first Punk/New Wave bands to appear) and that was the day before the album was released! The NME when reviewing the single had declared:

"'In The City' is the most convincing British penned teenage anthem I've heard in a Very Long Time - perhaps since the halycon days of the '60s."

Sounds from the Street was like a declaration and a defence of who he and his band were:

"I know I come from Woking and you say I'm a fraud
But my heart's in the city, where it belongs" 

It was Weller being honest about himself and about the music of The Jam: "It's something new, it's something young for a change". And there were harmonies on it! You wouldn't get that on a Pistols or Clash record! 😏

 "Sounds from the street, they sound so sweet
They gotta take notice
Why should they stop us? We don't need them
We're never gonna change a thing
And the situation's rapidly decreasing
But what can I do?
I'm trying to be true
That's more than you, at least I'm doing something"

I liked that about Weller, "I'm trying to be true". I don't know why he felt the need to try and justify himself and his place in the scene. The music the band were playing clearly showed that they had something to say and that it was finding a place within the hearts and minds who were becoming fans. Sometimes with the likes of The Pistols and The Clash you got the feeling that they were trying to be what Malcom and Bernie, their managers, wanted them to be rather than being themselves (of course I'm sure they would deny that). 


Non-Stop Dancing - Weller's ode to Northern Soul All-Nighters:

 "Cause when you're dancing all night long
It gives you the feeling that you belong"

Belonging was something that many of us were looking for back then, and whilst I have to confess that Northern Soul was not something I listened to then (in the past couple of decades or so I have heard a lot that I do like though), and I have never been to such an All-Nighter. I did know a little something of how casting your lot in with a particular style of music gave you that sense of belonging though and that was what I took out of the song for me!

Time For Truth - politics was something Weller even in his younger days never shyed away from and here he tackles the incompetence of the Labour Party ("Uncle Jimmy" being James Callaghan the leader of the party and Prime Minister at the time) and also the drifting towards  "a police state /So you can rule our body and minds" and the Police brutality that led to the Murder of Liddle Towers (a theme that was current in a number of bands at the time and the following years - see this post from last month where I talk a little about the whole Liddle Towers situation). Weller made it abundantly clear what his whole perspective of the situation and the remedy was!:

"I bet you sleep at night with silk sheets and a clean mind
While killers roam the streets in numbers dressed in blue
And you're trying to hide it from us
But you know what I mean
Bring forward those six pigs
We wanna see them swing sod high"


Takin' My Love - was the B-Side to the Debut single and is actually an older song, written in 1973 (a co-write with Steve Brookes - though he is uncredited for one reason or another) though you'd never guess it was four years old! There is a little touch of Dr. Feelgood about it only more energetic!

The album ends with Bricks and Mortar. Another speaking of the disaffection of the times when the Government was "pulling down houses and build(ing) car parks" and "While hundreds are homeless they're constructing a parking space" - seen in today's light you could say things haven't changed that much as they are still "pulling down houses" to build high speed railways or demolishing villages in order to put a new runway in at the airport. Bricks and Mortar over people who are struggling with real needs and having their benefits cut, or being homeless and a lack of Social Affordable Housing for them to go and live in, or a declining National Health Service that is badly in need of serious help but the Government can find money to fund the building of Nuclear Submarines or pay millions for the restoration of the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, it's like they are saying, "hey what's a few thousand starving people who can rely on a food bank to help them as long as we can bring in the tourists and fill the coffers! Bricks and Mortar"...I tend to be in agreement with Weller on this one, the Government needs a right perspective. People matter more than buildings and people's health, education and personal security of a home are far more vital than spending millions tarting up a Palace! ..."Knock 'em down!"

Monday, 22 May 2017

40 Years Old: Sneakin' Suspicion - Dr. Feelgood (May 1977)

  

🌟🌟🌟🌟 ½
Sneakin' Suspicion - Dr. Feelgood
United Artists
Produced by Bert de Coteaux
Released May 1977
UK Chart #10



Side 1

Side 2

Personnel
Dr. Feelgood
    Lee Brilleaux - vocals, guitar, harmonica, slide guitar
    Wilko Johnson - guitar, backing vocals
    John B. Sparks - bass guitar, backing vocals
    The Big Figure - drums, percusison, backing vocals


Additional Musician:
    Tim Hinkley - keyboards

Single on Sneakin' Suspicion
A-Side

B-Side:
Lights Out

Sneakin' Suspicion
United Artists
Produced by Bert de Coteaux
Released 6th May 1977
UK Chart #47

****************

In 1976 two albums were released that came from bands hailing from Canvey Island that both had a huge impact upon me. The first was Teenage Depression by Eddie and The Hot Rods and the second, a live album called Stupidity by Dr. Feelgood. Both of these albums led the way for me to listening to Punk and New Wave. Neither of course were a Punk band but they had enough attitude between them to put the young Punks in their place!

Teenage Depression (November 1976) only made it to #43 which was not too bad I guess for a Debut Album.

Stupidity was a #1 album...okay, only for a week, but still a #1! That was 16 places better than their previous album Malpractice (#16 - October 1975) and a whole lot more places than their debut album Down By The Jetty (Did not Chart - January 1975).

Sneakin' Suspicion was the Feelgoods third Studio Album and sadly it would be the last to feature the Iconic Guitarist (yep, even back then!) Mr Wilko Johnson. After six years with the band, he left (according to the band, though Wilko himself says he was kicked out) after a disagreement about what tracks were to be included on the album (not totally sure of the truth that it was the inclusion of the Lew Lewis track Lucky Seven that caused the rift but I did hear that ages ago and cannot confirm whether it is true or not as both Lew and Wilko would later do some work together) and was replaced temporarily with Henry McCullough (who had been in Wings - though he left prior to the recording sessions for Band on The Run - and The Frankie Miller Band) before the permanant replacement by Gypie Mayo (who would serve with the band until 1981).

Half of the songs on the album were written by Wilko and Sneakin' Suspicion as well as Paradise are still regarded as two of his finest tunes (along with a truckload from the first two albums!). 



The remaining five tracks were covers: Nothin' Shakin' (But The Leaves On The Trees) was first released in 1958 by Eddie Fontaine on the Sunbeam label. 


Lights Out is another originally released in 1958 by Jerry Byrne on the Specialty label. The song has been recorded by loads of other artists (Shakin' Stevens and The Sunsets had released a version of it in 1970 on the Debut Album A Legend - Parlaphone. Pre-Motors' Nick Garvey released it as a B-Side to the Debut and only single by The Snakes). I didn't connect it until a few years ago that one of the writers, Mac Rebennack, was actually the famous New Orleans Blues, Jazz and Zydeco Musician Dr John!



Lucky Seven was written by fellow Canvey Islander Lew Lewis (he had played with Eddie and the Hot Rods before going on to form his own bands). He would release the song himself a year later on Stiff Records - LEW1).


You'll Be Mine was written by the great Willie Dixon and was released on Chess Records in 1962 by Howlin' Wolf .


The last cover, and indeed the final track on the album is a Bo Diddley song that was released on the Checker label in 1964. The song had also been covered by Georgie Fame and The Harry South Big Band (1966), The Ugly Ducklings (1966), The Pretty Things, Rory Gallagher, The Missing Links (Aussie Garage Band from the 60's), Paul and Barry Ryan, and no doubt by many more folks also.

Wilko Johnson Playing His Songs From Sneakin' Suspicion

Sneakin' Suspicion - Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey (Live at Shepherds Bush Emprire 2014).

Sneakin' Suspicion - Wilko Johnson Band (Live at Ripley Town Hall 2007).

Paradise - Wilko Johnson (from the 1991 album
Don't Let Your Daddy Know)


Paradise - Wilko Johnson Band (Live Barcelona 2016).



At a time when voices within the Punk Scene were decrying anything from the past (though those that seemed to be shouting the loudest drew quite a few tracks from the past to beef up their live sets, mentioning no names at all...ahem...the Sex Pistols! 😏) Dr. Feelgood drew upon it to bring fresh life to what are actually some brilliant songs. It's funny because although Dr. Feelgood were not a Punk band I actually knew loads of Punks who loved them.

I have a lot to thank bands like Dr. Feelgood, The Blues Band and 9 Below Zero for, as they were partly responsible for my tracking down a lot of Blues material I might never have heard of had they not been covering it, and to this day I still love listening to the Blues.

So 40 years down the road from its release it is actually an album I still have a lot of love for and cannot even imagine how many times I have played it (or how many copies of it I have had in one format or another) down through the years. Playing it earlier today as I begun putting this together was a real delight. It still sounds great and is worth a spin or two more in the coming weeks.


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