Talk From The Rock Room: January 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Put the Boot In: John Lennon 'All That I Know'- 'Clock' St. Regis Hotel 1971

       Today in the 'rock room' I am digging on a movie soundtrack performed by John Lennon and recorded in September of 1971 at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. Yoko Ono had recently developed the idea for the movie ''Clock' which would feature the changing face of a clock for one hour. Expanding on previous ideas and influence from Andy Warhol the movie was made with musical assistance and moral support from Lennon. The movie is hard to find and possibly even harder to watch, but the interesting sound track available has John Lennon running through a set of rock and roll standards as well as a couple of originals on his acoustic guitar as accompaniment to the film. The recording I am listening to has compiled the most complete assembly of these songs which totals to under a half an hour, meaning there is still many songs yet to circulate among collectors. Some of the songs are out of their original running order of Lennon's performance but are at least available for our enjoyment. Recorded the same day (probably on the same cassette) but not as part of the soundtrack, are early takes of Lennon's Aisumasen (I'm Sorry), which at this point was titled 'Call Your Name'
     The recording begins with Lennon channeling Duane Eddy by busking his way through an instrumental (except for some mouth trumpet) version of 'Shazam'. The closely miked and intimate nature of this recording shines through with the following version of Carl Perkins 'Honey Don't' which Lennon obviously knows well, moving flawlessly through its rock and roll changes. Yoko can be heard in the background intermittently speaking, and Lennon stops in the middle of 'Honey Don't and replies, "Exactly twenty two he lit her cigarette', obviously meaning they must already have shot that much film at this point in the recording. A  fragment of 'Glad All Over' comes next with Lennon picking some crisp lines and starting to get into it before unfortunately breaking it off prematurely.
My personal favorite track on the recording appears next with Lennon moving his way smoothly through a tight and groovy performance of Carl Perkin's 'Lend Me Your Comb'. The laid back vocals in addition to his striding guitar work make this a must have performance for all Lennon fans. The Beatles would often play this in their club days, and this 'blast from the past' by Lennon is a pleasure. His love of the melody and investment in the performance is evident.
     The sound quality then improves slightly with an early version of Lennon's own 'New York City' coming next on the recording. Many of the lyrics are made up or mumbled but the feeling is there and its a nice insight into the artist at work, seeing the Lennon's had just recently arrived in the city. The excitement and influence of New York inspired the work and this recording is a nice insight into Lennon's compositional directives.
      A bluesy version of the Everly's 'Wake Up Little Susie' is interrupted by a phone call from a fan trying to get through to John and Yoko to which Lennon seems slightly irritated. This audio verite' moment is a wonderful exchange.   Afterwards, Chuck Berry's 'Vacation Time' then gets a nostalgic reading and includes Lennon doing some rudimentary 'Plastic Ono' soloing.

     Lennon's idol Buddy Holly is represented with readings of 'Peggy Sue' complete with hiccups, and a striding 'Not Fade Away'. Campfire singalong style, these closely recorded performances are windows into the influences that Lennon carried with him until the day he passed. These standard pieces of rock gold provided the basis and influence for Lennon's songwriting and art throughout his career. These intimate recordings should be treasured.

     Getting two birds with one stone, Lennon continues by playing 'Baby You're So Square' a track recorded by both Holly and Presley. Lennon channels both of them through his endearing and slightly goofy vocals. Prior to the opening riff something is heard breaking and smashing on the floor loudly, to which Lennon replies, 'That's what happens at a quarter to', followed by chuckles from Yoko.

     Keeping the Holly theme going Lennon explores his fretboard for the correct notes before embarking on a version of 'Heartbeat' that then segues into 'Peggy Sue Got Married', and then into 'Peggy Sue' for an acoustic trifecta of Holly. Lennon is again interrupted mid jam by the phone ringing, but the following exchange between an accented Lennon and the caller is well worth it.

     Lennon then jumps into 'Maybe Baby' with a vocal smooth as a hot knife through butter, similar to the aforementioned 'Lend Me Your Comb' the listener can visualize Lennon getting lost in covering the songs of his idols. No phone interruptions here, Lennon even vocalizes the tracks original backing vocals over the middle eight to his own delight.
      Lennon apologizes for something unknown before the tape is paused and then picks up with a soft version 'Mailman Bring Me No More Blues' while Yoko talks on the phone over the top, amidst car horns and ambient street noise. This is definitely a classic moment pulling back the curtain on life with the Lennon's.

     After Ono's phone call is terminated Lennon replies, 'Right on', before jumping with both feet into a swinging rendition of 'Rave On'. A smile immediately crosses my lips with this one which appears then disappears quickly but is played very well. Lennon pauses briefly before vamping on a blues groove while counting out the conclusion of the soundtrack and stopping the cassette. A unique and remarkable recording that not only lets us share Lennon's love for early rock and roll, but lets us eavesdrop on a private and intimate performance.

     Three versions of 'Call Your Name' are featured at the end of the 'oldies' performance, with the early version featuring Lennon's guitar melody intact, but Lennon still working on filling in the lyrics with wordless vocals. This composing sequence is again interrupted by a ringing phone call, with John sounding slightly more annoyed. He picks back up and continues running through the songs changes, with Ono heard joining in with some vocalizations from the background. Lennon toys with the tempo slightly, right before the available sequence ends. Thus ends the available recordings from this session.

     The available September 1971 home recordings from the filming of Yoko Ono's 'Clock' are a valuable piece of the picture when looking at Lennon's entire body of work. The tape reveals his influences, his humor, and his love of rock and roll, through a clandestine glimpse of historical crack in the door. The recording represents a period piece from early in the Lennon's New York City life often underrepresented and forgotten in the context of his career. Any and all fans of Lennon's 1970's output owe it too themselves to check this one out.

Maybe Baby-Clock

Peggy Sue Got Married/Peggy Sue-Clock


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Put The Boot In: The Rolling Stones-It's Only Goats Head Soup.....But I Like It

      A collection hailing from one of my favorite eras in Rolling Stones history is spinning in the rock room today at full volume. The set It's Only Goats Head Soup, But I Like It is made up of assorted tracks originating from the 1972-1974 time frame. Made up of alternate mixes, unreleased tracks, and deep cuts, this collection is a superior representation of the rare goods available from the era. The compilation features a blend of the edgy rock and roll days explored since the release of Exile and foreshadows the glamorous stadium rock the band would enjoy from 1975 and on.

     The CD begins with an early rough mix from acetate of 'It's Only Rock and Roll' with surprisingly warm sound quality. To my ears the guitar sounds a bit more up front, and the backing vocals are more pronounced. Slight differences to the officially released version. The next track is another alternate mix, this time of The Temptations ‘Aint to Proud to Beg’ hailing from It’s Only Rock and Roll, and to these ears sounds like the vocals are a bit more upfront, and there are some slight instrumental differences. This track is also an alternate mix. Nice opening to the collection.

     Keeping with the theme of the release, a Goats Head Soup song follows with the terribly underrated track 'Winter'. Keith Richards does not even appear on the song, but do not fret, Mick Taylor decorates the tune in expressive and syrupy sweet guitar dressings. Again, this is an alternative mix with slight variations in the orchestration and guitar work.

     Again, an alternative mix follows, this time the classic Stones stomp of 'Silver Train'. The song opens side two of Goats Head Soup and is presented here in what sounds like an early rough mix.
     The first 'unreleased' song of the collection follows with the Stones covering 'Drift Away', a song first made famous by Dobie Gray. The version here sounds to me like a Mick Jagger solo record, it plays nice enough, but ends up coming across stiff and sterile to this listener. Unique for the rarity factor, but lacking the Stones 'sting'.

     The fantastically groovy and deep Stones cut, 'Time Waits For No One' follows and is the full extended version containing Mick Taylor's sensual guitar excursion. The songs effortless melody and picturesque instrumentation make this version of the It's Only Rock and Roll track a must have for any serious rock fan. Taylor's string journey begins and ends with the songs central ascending riff from which he develops multiple melodic statements. The song would be one of the reasons for Taylor's eventual exit from the band for his lack of songwriting credit on it and other songs he contributed to. Sincere Jagger vocals and a swirling climatic jam spun from piano and guitar are notable highlights. A stand out track both musically and historically.

     Richards ringing guitar makes a jolting statement in the introduction to the next unreleased track, 'Criss Cross Man' aka 'Save Me'. "Criss Cross Man' stumbles and struts with squishy keyboards by Nicky Hopkins and breathy vocals by Mick. The so-so lyrics may be the reason for this one being left in the can, but there is no denying the grimy groove being laid down by the band and in particular in the pocket, Charlie Watts.

     'Through the Lonely Nights' appears and descends like dusk, for years only available on the 7' 'B' side to 'It's Only Rock and Roll'. The song is a wah-wah drenched lament containing the quintessential boozy Stones vocal blend. Worth noting are Keef's perfectly placed and always emotive backing vocals.

      A wonderful unreleased track, 'Living At the Heart of Love' hailing from the January 1974 Munich sessions makes an appearance and is a surprisingly mature song, with all the Stones hallmarks present. The melody and groove are strong and the band puts forth a muscular performance. This version sounds like a rough mix, regardless, the barrel house piano and slashing Richards guitar come through loud and clear. I am curious to why this one was left to languish in the vaults. The meaty central section of this bootleg release provides a substantial sampling of unreleased goods.

     The 'legendary' lost  Mick Jagger track 'Too Many Cooks' (Spoil the Soup) nestles nicely on this collection. The song remained unreleased until 2007. The Willie Dixon cover also has the distinction of being produced by John Lennon and features a host of  rock royalty making up the band. Jack Bruce, Jim Keltner, Jessie Ed Davis, Bobby Keys and Danny Kootch all contribute to the funky and horn bedazzled number. The song carries many of the hallmarks of Lennon's Harry Nilsson produced numbers for Harry's upcoming LP Pussycats. A substantial track with a party vibe, another one left to languish, a testament to the quality and depth of material available to Jagger and the Stones.
     The remainder of the disc features multiple alternate mixes and one exceptional extended piece closing the set. 'Angie' starts the run and is a dry mix also lacking an additional keyboard overdub. A pleasing and different listen with the missing effects on the vocals. The concluding four numbers are all roughs from preparations for the It's Only Rock and Roll LP, 'Dance Little Sister', 'Til the Next Goodbye', 'If You Can't Rock Me', and 'Fingerprint File'.

     'Fingerprint File' is not only an alternate mix but a longer version of one of the Stones finest deep cuts. An additional thirty seconds is added to one of the Stones funkiest moments on record. Bill Wyman's understated bass cements the multiple layers of musical strata. The track slips and slides for a bit over seven minutes through thick riffs, squishy keyboards, ans soulful street smart vocals. A fine and fitting conclusion to the set.

     While somewhat dated due to the relatively recent release of a couple of the songs in this set, It's Only Goats Head Soup But I Like It is an exceptional collection for compiling these songs in one place.  If you love this era of the Stones like I do, having these alternates as well as some 'deeper cuts' in a pleasing running order specific to the era is fantastic. Take a listen, enjoy!

Fingerprint File (Studio Version)

Too Many Cooks


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Now Playing: The Jimi Hendrix Experience-'A Happening For Lulu' 1/4/1969

     Spinning today in the 'rock room' is a eight minute black and white performance captured to tape, of the Jimi Hendrix Experience's performance on A Happening With Lulu, for BBC television January 4th 1969. This week is the 45th anniversary of this historic and stimulating television appearance which I will discuss here.

A few days after this show the band would embark on their 1969 European tour, which would contain more incendiary performances, but would also unfortunately expose the developing fractures creatively and personally in the band. The Experience's three song set here contains 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return), 'Hey Joe',  and the 'surprise' version of 'Sunshine of Your Love', which was played as a tribute to the Cream who had disbanded that very day. Another reason for the songs appearance is that, rumor has it Lulu was to join the band on 'Hey Joe' to which Hendrix was not excited about at all. Hence the detour from verse two of 'Hey Joe' into uncharted musical waters, and the ensuing panic by the live television staff . I have included a link below to the entire uncut version of this performance for your review.

     Hendrix in baggy sleeves and his glorious electric blues man Afro starts off 'Voodoo Child' with a flourish, unexpected for television. The group is enjoying their delivery of these songs to the British audience, the vibe is palpable. Redding bass is crisp and bouncy and the band seems locked in from the beginning. The first solo break contains a nice collaboration between Redding and Hendrix intertwining their scales, oscillating together, a musical pinwheel. The second solo finds Mitchell, Redding and Hendrix thrashing and then soaring together, reaching an impressive peak then stopping much to soon, constrained by the confines of television.
After an introduction by Lulu is humorously interrupted by a shrill squeal from Hendrix's rig, the Experience begin the prelude to 'Hey Joe'. Paisley, but brash Hendrix lays out the introduction of the song thick. Mischievous smirks are shared between band members as they enter into the tune proper. Waaaay out of tune Hendrix fixes up during the first verse, again chuckling. Also listen for the guitar quote from the Beatles 'I Feel Fine', found in many live versions of 'Hey Joe'. Before the second verse of 'Hey Joe' is reached Jimi ends the song, then steps to the microphone and states, 'Let's stop this rubbish', then makes a remark regarding the disbanding of the Cream and furiously scratches out the intro to 'Sunshine of Your Love'. Sending the live television broadcast crew into disarray with this unexpected detour, Hendrix remarks mid song that, 'We're about to be taken off the air', then directs the brief rendition to a gentle conclusion. Classic stuff. Noel Redding later was quoted as saying director Stanley Dorfman came over to the band following the display and said, 'That was brilliant!'

     While not an expansive concert display, or containing a 'lost' rare track, the circulating video from Hendrix's appearance on the Lulu show in 1969 is a period piece that is fully worthy of inspection. Hendrix's humor and unwillingness to compromise artistically are on full display, and a joy to behold. As always, thanks for reading, and please follow my blog if you dig it.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience-A Happening For Lulu

High Quality Version of Hey Joe/Sunshine