Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Now Playing: The Kinks - The Forgotten Sides - 'It's Really Good to See You Rocking Out'

Positively the most underrated of the major 1960s British rock bands, the Kinks catalog continues to reveal inspiring melodies, revolutionary lyrics and clandestine musical magic.
Unfortunately, the Kinks’ deep wealth of compositional genius was often missed even when served on the veritable silver platter of a single release. They remained respected by their contemporaries but often obscured by the ignorance of critical analysis. Here are five such overlooked U.S./UK Kinks singles, all of which should be recognized as “klassics” in the Kinks songbook …

“SLEEPWALKER,” (1977): Only Ray Davies could take such creepy stalker content and package it into a bounding syncopated musical bundle. It’s a shame that this song, the title track off of 1977’s Sleepwalker is not recognized as a classic — excepting ardent followers of the Kinks. The song barely slipped into the U.S. Top 50, before quickly before disappearing into the shadows. The crisp drum introduction, anything but sleepy, is quickly blanketed by orchestrated Kink guitars and perfectly popping and contrasting Ray Davies vocals.

“WONDERBOY,” (1968): Soaked with the aesthetic of the Kinks’ contemporaneous Village Green Preservation Society, “Wonderboy” was apparently lauded by John Lennon — but yet still missed by the listening public at large. The song spins like a psychedelic music-hall show tune, containing airy “la-la” backing vocals, jack-in-the-box piano and harpsichord coloring. Davies’ wry vocal approach underlies the positive lyrical directive and breezy overlapping melodies. Definitely a song of its time, the tune retains its attractiveness and influence even after 40-plus years.

[WISH I COULD FLY LIKE] SUPERMAN,” (1979): This disco-based single soars in on splashy drums, thick skyscraper bass and the addictive mantra of Dave Davies’ rhythmic and muted guitar trills. An attempt to stay relevant in the messy musical climate of the late 1970s, the Kinks were successful — using a then-contemporary approach that combined distorted guitars with a pulsing mirror-ball groove. Davies’ lyrical content in the song is, as always, a unique glimpse into the psyche of a man wishing to be. The song tugged the public’s cape briefly, but made only a brief appearance in the U.S. charts — only to be found on the dusty shelves of record collections and cut out bins.

“MONEY TALKS,” (1974): Gritty, fuzzy and inflated with fat horns, “Money Talks” is a swinging, bubbly tonic, especially for listeners starved for straight rock with no chaser. Tucked away on Preservation Act 2, one of the Kinks most criticized albums of the 1970s, “Money Talks” cashed out early with barely a search of the pockets by the public. Still, irresistible Davies bothers harmonies are intermingled with female backing vocalists in a bombastic and assertive diatribe about the evils and troubles associated with cash.

“BETTER THINGS,” (1981): A song that once again enjoyed only moderate success on both sides of the Atlantic, this remains an anthem of endless possibility and hopefulness. Much later, “Better Things” gain belated recognition when unearthed by Ray Davies and Bruce Springsteen for the 2012 tribute album to Davies, See My Friends. The original version begins with a percussive piano, then expands into a motion-picture soundtrack of positivity and glory — a trait sorely missing from current rock compositions. Davies’ vocals quake and shake, the hopefulness of the song stained with the emotion of loss that often accompanies the best wishes for a long time friend.
The above tracks are just a small example of the depth and strength of the Kinks Katalog. While not always lighting up the charts the quality of even their most clandestine kuts never wavered. I hope you enjoy a few of the tracks that bobbed just below the surface of the mainstream but are nonetheless some of their finest moments committed to tape.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Now Playing: The Worst Songs of the Grateful Dead - "If You Ask Me Like I Know You Wont"

Today’s edition of Talk from the Rock Room, may cause a bit of a stir. Over the course of 30 years, 13 studio albums, and countless live releases and compilations, the Grateful Dead curated an impressive and deep collection of original compositions composed by Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter and other band members. Along the way, they also nurtured and developed one of the most rabid fan bases in all of rock; one brimming with intrepid travelers, musical jesters and Dead statisticians.

Like any band with that kind of longevity and success, there have been some musical blunders along the way. Whether it is an error in creative judgment or a miss in the quality control department, these revealing moments of weakness by the band can make their fans appreciate them even more in their fallibility. With such a depth of quality tunes and improvisational magic at their disposal, we will allow the band these few instances of missing their musical mark. This list is no way definitive, only a starting point to explore the strangest and perhaps weakest corners of the Grateful Dead’s catalog….

“FRANCE,”(SHAKEDOWN STREET, 1978): This number is someone’s favorite song somewhere, but the banal lyrics and at-the-time contemporary disco production (talking to you Lowell George!) give the track a sterile MOR feel that the Dead constantly tried to avoid. Bob Weir gets to fulfill his slick rock-star fantasies, but it’s hard to believe this is the same band that created Live/Dead. Co-writer Mickey Hart’s enthusiastic steel drums and the groovy instrumental fadeout are not enough to save this one from the circular file.

“KEEP YOUR DAY JOB,”(concert performances, 1982-86): A Hunter/Garcia song that was eventually removed from the band’s set lists at the request and angst of their fans, “Day Job” would allow the band to flex their rock and roll muscles if played well, but not much more. Deadheads took the not-so-cloak-and-dagger advice of the song to heart and considered it an unneeded buzz kill when performed live in concert. The combination of a precarious melody previously mined on “US Blues” and below average lyrics made this song disappear after only 50 performances.

“TIL THE MORNING COMES,” (AMERICAN BEAUTY, 1970): Nebulous and uncharacteristically juvenile rhyming couplets are one of the issues with the one weak track from American Beauty. What sounds like a stale Crosby Stills and Nash reject must not have set well with the band as they performed it only a few times in concert, probably based on the difficulty in replicating the three-part harmonies. Taken in the context of the classic songs making up American Beauty, the song feels out of place because of its cardboard cutout construction that no other track on the album has. It’s not that this song is totally horrible, but more of a reflection of the powerful and classic songs that surround it.

“SAMBA IN THE RAIN”(concert performances, 1994-95): While it took years for Brent Mydland’s compositions to make second-set status with the Grateful Dead, Vince Welnick’s numbers were often featured in the band’s last two years of existence. “Samba in the Rain,” however, was often too soaked and bloated to fly, as it seemed the melody was not strong enough to inspire — not to mention that it seemed some band members never bothered to properly learn the song. Welnick’s festive on-mic asides and childish exclamations were often uncomfortable and unneeded, contributing to the sinking feeling of the track.

“WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE,”(IN THE DARK, 1987): When compared to other Hunter/Garcia creations from the same era, this track is a weak facsimile of past glories that most if not all contained stronger melodic ideas. The song had a short shelf life as it was retired from the stage after 1989, having more success as LP filler. The bland repetition of the melody and unconvincing studio reading add up to making this number just another song.

While it seems strange to call this list definitive, what it truly does express is how strong the Grateful Dead’s repertoire was while developed over 30 years. Astonishingly enough, the collected songs of that era are still paying dividends as countless numbers of former members and a humorous amount cover bands still dip deeply into the well of Garcia/Hunter, Weir/Barlow and other band member writes and co-writes. Their catalog speaks for itself and we will forgive or even enjoy a few of the missteps along the way.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Michael Bloomfield – Live at the Old Waldorf - 'Guitar King'

Pulled off the CD shelves in the ‘rock room’ today is a curated 1998 CD release of Michael Bloomfield and Friends titled Live at the Old Waldorf. The collection is pulled from varying performances by Bloomfield and his various associates held in the San Francisco (except for the first track) area throughout the 1970’s. By the mid 1970’s Mike Bloomfield had returned to his penchant for playing clubs, jukes, and small theaters close to wherever his transient bones decided to call home. A true bluesman, all Bloomfield needed was his guitar and the clothes on his back. He had touched international fame and was known as one of the best guitarist’s in the world, but his only love was playing the blues. Michael would rather play for a small crowd of appreciative blues fans than an arena full of ticket buyers. Dating back to his decline of joining Bob Dylan’s band in 1965, Bloomfield wanted things on his terms. He was a purist and stayed true to his beliefs and the blues. Playing venues close to home became Michael’s M.O. toward the last years of his life, but these venues also highlight his most loose and honest playing. While drugs would also initiate Michael's defection from fame so would his personality traits and his life long battle with insomnia. When Bloomers was on, there was no one better. While the ‘rock room’ feels the aforementioned collection is wonderful, it is a shame it has not or could not have been expanded on.

The CD begins with the one track that is an outlier, a blues medley hailing from a ‘Record Plant’ session in Sausalito, CA on November 10, 1974. The medley is comprised of ‘Sweet Little Angel” and “Jelly Jelly”. Backed with his usual cohorts, Barry Goldberg and Mark Naftalin on organ and piano respectively, Bloomfield’s band here also assembles Roger Troy on bass and vocals, George Rains on drums and Mark Adams on blues harp. Bloomfield opens the track sword drawn for a beautiful opening duel with Naftalin. Troy asks for ‘one more’ round the changes prior to the vocals to which Bloomfield answers with a searing series of lyrics. Jelly Roll Troy, feels it and is kneeling in front of his ‘Sweet Little Angel” waiting for her to spread her wings. The first break features Adams harp blowing a soft beg to which Bloomfield tastefully trills. Mike then peels off layer upon layer of licks, hitting up on a classic climb up the next reminiscent of the central riff of, ‘The Same Thing” that pushes the band to take off. Once Troy quotes ‘Jelly, Jelly’ the band corners into a substantial Chicago swing. Off mic hollers of excitement are heard and Bloomfield soars up the neck gloriously. The band congeals into a hard blues orchestra moving collaboratively in one big sound.

‘Feel So Bad’, a stellar Lightning Hopkins cover begins on a watery ascending slide lick and a pulsing yet gentle funking groove. Here the four piece line up is Bloomfield, Naftalin, Troy and Bob Jones on drums and vocal duties. A delectable vamp is entered as this selection from March 14, 1977 plays out. The rest of the selections to follow ‘Feel So Bad’ all hail from the Old Waldorf. Bloomfield plays an endless waterfall of shimmering slide work under Jones vocals that reaches the first break where he locks in. Mike takes multiple rounds of dizzying slide work here underpinned by Naftalin’s thumping keys. The ‘rock room’ has an affinity for this cut and asserts it’s one of the best of the collection.
A sinister reading of the Nick Gravenites (who also sings) original ‘Bad Luck Baby’ hailing from May of 77 follows and brings a sludgy foreboding to the proceedings. Bloomfield keeps the slide on his digit and draws in dark black inky lines. Under the vocals and on top of the chugging rhythm section Michael squiggles and squawks a stunning mid song solo spot. This is Bloomfield unchained from the porch and going after it. Naftalin plays some honky keys as a bed, but its Bloomfield’s steely strings that lend the evil to Gravenites hearty vocals.

A blues standard, Elmore James ‘The Sky Is Cryin’ continues the heat of Bloomfield’s slide playing while he pays tribute the slide master. Coming from the same performance as ‘Bad Luck Baby’ Bloomfield is on and here his playing over the intro drips down windows in big delicious drops as the musical storm gathers. After who I believe to be Bob Jones singing the first verse, Bloomfield loses the slide and fingers some absolutely burning counter riffs to the verse melody. The sky then opens up in a torrent as Michael briskly unleashes a watery vibrato filled solo that in my mind only cements the fact that this guy had to be from another planet.

‘Dancin Fool’ follows, a contagious 12 bar shuffle composed by Nick Gravenites. The cut is another welcome opportunity to swing with Michael on slippery slide. This cut comes from February of 1977 and heats up quickly as the ass shaking wiggles away the blues. Honky tonk black and whites press hips with Bloomers resplendent soloing. Gravenites free forms some burly vocals, but once again just as Bloomfield turns on the gas the track fades to black.

Another ‘rock room’ highlight comes next while helping to take the sting out of the previous songs early fade. “Buried Alive in the Blues’, another Gravenites composition, is also known as a track Janis Joplin had planned for her final LP Pearl, but unfortunately passed away before she could lay down her vocals. The song was left on the album as an instrumental tribute to Joplin. Here in late 1976 it is given a gruff and funky reading with Bloomers slide work again being a focal point. Like a hand reaching through the mud piled on a fresh grave, Bloomfield breaks through the gritty melody with frisky counter licks during the verses, before singing a beautifully sliver solo that shines warm rays of sun across the musical soil. As the heads toward its conclusion Bloomfield contributes a series horny counter melodies to Gravenites scatting.

The famed ‘Further on up the Road’ gets a substantial reading next. Played by a multitude of players ranging from jukes to arenas, this blues shuffle is always a welcome appearance in live set lists. Michael forgoes his slide here for some straight up fingering. Stringy and stellar, Bloomfield illustrates through the blues changes his encyclopedic knowledge, quoting Chuck Berry, Albert King blended with his own distinctive fingerprint. Brisk and brief, this three minute rendition flames like a sparkler then concludes.
The next to last track on the album hails from December 19, 1976 being a straight up, no chaser blues. ‘Your Friends’ writing credit is given to Deadric Malone (music publisher Don Robey), but this is debatable as back in the day writing credits were sketchy, often given to  producers, DJ’s, or management. Regardless, this straight up beer light and pool table blues is played by the four piece of Bloomfield, Naftalin, Troy, and Roger Jones. Alley dark and street lady loose, ‘Your Friend’s becomes a clinic, with rattling keys and switchblade string bending by Bloomers.

A Nick Gravenites original concludes the album with ‘Bye Bye’. Coming from the same run of shows as the stellar ‘Feel So Bad’ in 1977. Built upon a rolling and tumbling tom-tom groove, and a jive rhythm ‘Bye Bye’ again spotlights a stunning Bloomfield slide clinic, a plethora of sterling blues work is drizzled over the syncopated rhythm.  The faucet is on full for Bloomers but for some reason the track fades before its natural conclusion. Ugh, I guess in this case we take the good with the bad.

The 1998 compact disc release of Michael Bloomfield Live at the Old Waldorf is both stunning and frustrating. What makes it amazing is the aural documentation of Bloomfield in a time where he had purposely taken a lower profile. On the flip side of that coin is the editing decisions and quick fades are disappointing. Seeing that the release is now over 20 years old it does not appear that we could get a complete release from one of the shows or alternatively a deluxe edition. But, what is available is fine, Bloomfield is focused and crisp and his ‘friends’ are fully invested in the jams. Thankfully, up through current times Bloomfield’s playing is still respected, influential and looked to for an example of how to play real prime guitar blues. Toward the conclusion of his life Michael became what he always wanted be, a straight up ‘blues man’, and we are the lucky recipients of his success in meeting his goal.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Take One: Eddie Cochran – The 1958 Single “C’mon Everybody” – ‘You Can’t Sit Still’

Currently jamming in the ‘rock room’ is a highly influential early ‘rock and roll’ classic. Nobody encapsulated the angst and attitude of the ‘rockers’ in the late 1950’s more than rockabilly and guitar legend Eddie Cochran. The perfectly dressed guitar wielding ladies’ man was also adept at guitar, bass, drums, and piano and was one of the first musicians to dabble in multitrack recording. What is even more amazing is that Cochran accomplished his popularity all before the age of 21. This guy was a rocker before it was fashionable; he wore makeup, composed music, lived fast and died young. His songs have become the head cornerstones of rock, and his wide ranging influence touching the “Beatles, “Kinks”, “Who”, “White Stripes”, “Springsteen”, “Van Halen”  and a host of other musicians too numerous to name.  The famed cuts, “Twenty Flight Rock”, “Somethin Else” and the subject of this rock rant, “C’mon Everybody” still retain the power and grace from the day they were birthed. As an addendum, not that it matters, but for those who dig this sort of thing, Rolling Stone listed “C’mon Everybody” as #403 on the list of their top 500 rock and roll songs.

Filling the huge void left behind in rock music by Elvis Presley joining the military, in more ways than one Cochran may have been a bit more Elvis than the king was. “C’mon Everybody” originally appeared as the ‘B’ side to “Don’t Ever Let Me Go” on Liberty single F51166 released in October 1958. The song was composed by Cochran and Jerry Capehart who also co-write “Summertime Blues” with Eddie. Between March 1957 and August 1959 Cochran had seven Top 100 records; one of his biggest smashes being the aforementioned "Summertime Blues", which peaked at #8 {for 1 week} on September 29th, 1958. “C’mon Everybody” upon its release peaked in the UK at #6 and in the US at #35. Posthumously the song became a towering influence on the next generation of UK and US musicians who were coming of age during ‘rock’s’ formative years. Groups of note who covered the song include ‘Humble Pie’, Sex Pistols and Led Zeppelin. Cochran was also a major influence on the musical approach of ‘The Who’ in both style and groove.

‘C’mon Everybody’ plays like a tightly wound pack of explosives, a silvery spaceship trailing across the conservative musical night sky of the late 1950’s. Lasting just under two minutes, there is a lot of excitement in a small package. The song opens with a jittery popcorn crack of bass and a closely following thumping tic toc drum groove supported by tambourine. Cochran’s lush acoustic brush strokes enter and lather colored chord changes over the sensual rhythm.
The collaboration of instruments is delicious, with Cochran’s cavernous vocals rhythmically dueling with the crisp snare strikes and syncopated bass strikes. Lyrically the song is an invitation to adolescents of the era to let loose and party. A perfect example of why ‘rock and roll’ was such a threat to the adults of the period, as well as why rock/rockabilly was such an integral part of the artistic revolution and expression of teen angst that would peak by the mid to late 1960’s.

The track doesn’t contain a wild guitar solo, nor does it need to. Just raw emotion, an ass shaking groove and an invitation to everybody to get it on while they can. It is sometimes difficult to understand the importance of song, books, or paintings in the context of history, especially through the thick mists and faded memories of time. The ‘rock room’ sometimes contemplates what were the reactions of art created during times of change and upheaval? What did these hypothetical artistic creations change or affect, if anything? Regardless, in the case of “C’mon Everybody”, similarly to Berry, Perkins, Cash and Presley the music being created was simply a way to avoid the often difficult life their families had lived as well as a way into their own creative minds. The music instituted change both internally and externally and offered escape for both the creator and recipients.

Back to the song at hand, the beat starts and stops like a pimped out caddy in heavy traffic. Cochran’s vocals elicits other singers of the time but contains his own unique rasp and earnest sentiment. The verses focus on Eddie’s vocals with his guitar strings palm muted and the substantial harp like guitar strums returning with each “C’mon Everybody” statement. The song runs through the changes breathlessly, leaving only cigarette smoke behind. Following the final verse Cochran sums up the fun being had in the tune with:

Well we'll really have a party but we gotta put a guard outside
If the folks come home I'm afraid they're gonna have my hide
They'll be no more movies for a week or two
No more runnin' round with the usual crew
Who cares, c'mon everybody!”

Unfortunately only a year and a half after the release of “C’mon Everybody” Cochran would die in a tragic car accident in the UK. Not unlike his contemporaries, Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, Cochran’s talent would be grounded before reaching proper cruising altitude. 
What cannot be denied nor understated is he influence of “C’mon Everybody” on rock music then or now. It may be stating the obvious, but the song sounds as fresh and vital as it did in 1958 and its sonic’s have the same effect on the body and mind, at least in the ‘rock room’! The live version I have included here from Hadley’s Town Hall Party 1959, is absolutely insane. While the single version is amazing, and the focus of this rant, the live version quivers with a kinetic energy. Cochran plays his signature Gretsch G 6120 electric hollow body, there is a jingle jangle piano with a heavy left hand not audible on the studio recording, and the rhythm section has filled up with high octane. Cochran shimmies and shakes, while throwing his shoulder into each verse. Gone in a blink of an eye, just like Cochran this black and white live cut will leave historians of rock wondering what could have been.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Richard Thompson- 'The Night We Steal Away' - Live Solo Acoustic January 25, 2020 Harrisburg, PA

On January 25, 2020, the ‘rock room’ was lucky enough to attend an intimate solo acoustic performance by the one and only Richard Thompson at Whitaker Center for the Arts in Harrisburg, PA.  Thompson has been moving around the Northeast for a series of winter shows and my anticipation was high for what was sure to be a varied and virtuosic concert. The Whitaker Center contains inside of its walls the quaint Sunoco Center which holds 700 patrons while no seat is more than 60 feet from the performer.

I sat 7 rows back and dead center as Thompson entered the stage lights promptly at 8:00 PM. Seated right in the sweet spot where performer and attendee meet. At some points in my amazed consciousness I met glances with Thompson only intensifying the effect of the music. The succinct and percussive introduction of ‘I Misunderstood’ initiated the proceedings. The song originates from Thompson’s 1991 LP Rumor and Sigh and was a proper opening to stretch out his vocal chords and energize cold fingers. Different from its layered studio counterpart, here light shines through the empty spaces leaving nowhere to hide for song or performer. Thompson stands stoically center stage, dressed in black and grey denim with guitar and glass of water and trademark beret planted on top of his head. The sound of the concert is enveloping, like glacier water, a special type of pristine, Thompson’s guitar notes shimmer through the collective silence of the theater taking on a tangible form. Thompson mentioned that he was surprised at the crowd attending the show seeing that it was Saturday night. He revealed that he thought folks could find something much more ‘positive’ to do than listen to his dark compositions in  his typical self-deprecating fashion.

The first ‘movement’ of the concert spotlighted a cross section of Thompson’s career with every rendition a stunning highlight. The perfection of Thompson’s playing in addition to his unparalleled songwriting left the collected crowd in stunned silence for the duration of the two hour set. A spectrally delicate ‘A Ghost of You Walks’ followed the opener, prepping for the first stunner of the evening. ‘Valerie’ from 1985’s Daring Adventures came next and left the room breathless. During the mid-song spotlight Thompson slurred strings, chicken picked and bent strings like they had been heated. Thompson played showman for a moment hitting on a pleasing lick that brought a smile across his face and caused his shoe leathers to stomp on the stage. During the songs peak and the marked scream that leads back to the verse, the crowd put their hands up for the big roller coaster dip prior to landing in major applause. Thompson remarked at the songs conclusion, ‘That was easy, the hard stuff comes later’.

Thompson always likes to throw for lack of a better term, a novelty, or slyly humorous compositions in the midst of his collected dark sarcasm and shaded honesty. The song, ‘Crocodile Tears’ fits that droll bill as a wry folk song comparing a jilted lover to that of a reptile. The crowd loved it and chuckled along to each line as Thompson flashed a grin from the corner of his mouth for some of the best lyrics.

In total and extreme contrast, one of Thompson’s most beloved songs and in the ‘rock room’s humble opinion one of the finest songs in the annals of music followed with ‘Beeswing’. A classically stunning melody and heart tugging narrative, ‘Beeswing’ when birthed sat unassumingly on Thompson’s 1994 Mirror Blue. Since it has grown into a concert standard, and this evening it was given a crystalline reading, one only to be handled by white gloved hands. Thompson, eyes tightly closed,  sang a tale he has told numerous times previous, yet here as important as any ever. Perfection, and as the song concluded Thompson stayed in trance until the last remnants of stringed sound reached the apex of the theater. 
Before I could recover emotionally from what I had just witnessed, Thompson hit me again with another stratospheric melody and classic from the deep reaches of his catalog, ‘Walking on a Wire’ from Richard and Linda Thompson’s final LP, 1982’s Shoot Out the Lights. This evening the ballad was given a more aggressive edge, the taught tight rope becoming a silvery knife blade to which Thompson used large strums and gruff vocals to keep his balance. The concert was climbing into the clouds toward a musical summit that it would not return from until the final song.

‘Walking the Long Miles Home’ followed and returned the concert attendees and myself to firmer ground. Richard introduced the song by saying he wished he had composed it as a youth to help him with the miles he had to traverse to school as a child. Supported by a delectable and danceable jaunt of finger picking, the song provided a brief respite from the ‘heavier’ aspects of Thompson’s performance.

Following a discussion/introduction about Thompson’s former band mate and friend Sandy Denny, Thompson poured himself into a timeless tribute to both Denny and his Fairport Convention band mates, with a towering version of ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes’. In contrast to Denny’s original vocals, Thompson sings with a deep amber, dotted with precious lacy filigrees of acoustic guitar. Rare is the concert I attend where there is complete silence by the assembled crowd. This evening there was nary a labored breath or squirm in the seat. Again, before I could soak in what I witnessed, Thompson throttled into what could be his most famous number, ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’.The crowd yelled its approval as Thompson Travis picked out the songs well known opening. Speeding through the narrative, cruising around hairpin musical corners and enunciating each syllable, Thompson played a quintessential version (which probably happens every night!). When Red Molly finally received the keys to her lovers Vincent the crowd responded with a standing ovation (which would happen on more than a few occasions over the evening).

With its reference to dancing on a Saturday night, we were next treated to a somewhat rare reading of ‘The Night They Tore the Hippodrome Down’. The tale of an older man who is stunned by the changes to the things that have dotted and effected his life is the perfect bring down following ‘Vincent’. Here, Thompson shows off his ‘jazz’ chops during the verses and then changes to waltz time when the protagonist remembers his lost love.

Hot on the ‘Hippodrome’s’ heels follows the high speed ‘Cooksferry Queen’ which opened RT’s Mock Tudor LP. Normally a burning electric number, in Harrisburg Thompson blew on collected woody embers until a blazing hot to the touch acoustic version brought the house down. Dynamic strumming patterns brought the tune from soft folk to big brash triplet strums. Richard growled, howled, and stomped his way through this ‘rock room’ favorite! Closing what I referred to as the ‘first movement’ of the show (prior to RT’s partner joining the proceedings) was the song, ‘If I Could Live My Life Again’. Now admittedly I am embarrassed to say I am not familiar with this song. Please feel free to drop the knowledge on me if have info about this tune. It was introspective and typically wonderful and could be a new song? Hmmm.

It was at this time Richard invited his partner and a wonderful singer in her own right, Zara Phillips to join him on a series of songs from Thompson’s more current releases. But before diving into the recent catalog the duo played a stunning version of the Richard and Linda Thompson classic, ‘Jet Plane In A Rocking Chair’ from 1975’s Pour Down Like Silver. This was a cut that the ‘rock room’ had hoped for and I was not disappointed. Zara and Richard’s vocals nestled closely together and their enjoyment was palpable. They soared the friendly melodic skies of the chorus and settled down easy for the verses. A personal concert highlight for me, because I love the song so much.
Like the entire set list, Thompson was deftly and successfully maneuvering his way through 50 years of songwriting. He had used a beloved deep cut to set the stage for this next collection of his current work while also letting Zara lend her welcome voice to the proceedings. ‘Dry My Tears and Move On’ was a welcome appearance and a second song from 1999’s Mock Tudor. Played with a gentle back porch sway and delicate resignation, Zara joined on the repeated title lyric lending the track an early rock and roll doo-wop feel. The main body of the concert then concluded properly with the trifecta of ‘The Storm Won’t Come’, The Rattle Within’, and ‘My Enemy’ all hailing from Thompson’s most current album, 2018’s 13 Rivers.

It’s a testament to Thompson’s longevity and talent that these following three songs were in my opinion as strong as the compositions covering the 50 years previous. While 'The Storm Won't Come' was better in my opinion than the studio reading, ‘The Rattle Within’ was particularly menacing with a deep musical warning and daring self-analysis. Containing an undulating primal thump the song chugged aggressively under Thompson’s percussive vocal lines.

The crowd reacted rapturously as ‘My Enemy’ concluded and Thompson quickly waved to the darkened venue before heading off stage. The expected encore followed the anticipatory silence as Thompson returned solo and coaxed out the introductory notes to ‘Persuasion’. What a deft choice for an excited crowd I thought. Master of the stage. The song was composed by Thompson and Tim Finn and was used as an instrumental in the film Street Walker. Later, Richard recorded a version with his son Teddy who appeared on vocals. Tonight, Richard stands alone and plays a chill inducing and flawless version.

Keeping the vibe mellow and the emotion serious Thompson then sings the introduction to ‘Dimming of the Day’. Covered by a plethora of artists including David Gilmour and Bonnie Raitt, ‘Dimming’ is one of those special songs that defies description’ its music box picking and sensual verses expressing the deep internal longing we feel for those we love. In typical fashion Thompson, disseminates human emotion in ways not yet figured by ‘normal’ artists. Seated at the show, the melody drew tears from my eyes and unfurled the strings of my heart. Stunning.

Following the introspective portion of the encore Thompson returned to the stage with Zara to send us on our way appropriately for a Saturday evening. The somewhat expected ‘I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight’ comes first with the crowd mouthing the words of the Richard and Linda classic and clapping to RT’s syncopated and celebratory riffing. Then for a proper surprise, Thompson then gifts the crowd with a yet to be unreleased song (hopefully from an upcoming LP) called ‘When the Saints Rise out of Their Graves’. The high tempo track was a unique but typical Thompson commentary on our current times (both politically and personally) with the lyrics flying buy in teletype fashion. Both Zara and Richard moved around the stage joyously as the song reached a rolling conclusion.

And…..just like that it was over. Two hours of the most soul inspiring, intellectually stimulating and musically stunning concert experiences I have ever had in over 300 concerts. I cannot believe it took me so long to experience the live magic that is Richard Thompson. The performance left me wanting more and I cannot wait to go again. A purer and more honest evening of diverse musical alchemy  will be hard to find. In addition, its a pleasure to witness a spectacular fifty year career that seems to just be hitting yet another peak, don’t miss it.

Richard Thompson Acoustic Classics

RT Live In Studio 13 Rivers Songs

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Put The Boot In: Janis Joplin and Jorma Kaukonen - The Typewriter Tape 1964 - "Candy When I'm Good"

Today in the ‘rock room’ plays a legendary and unique recording, famed in the ‘bootleg’ world for both its rarity and performance. On July 25th 1964, smack dab in the middle of the turbulent musical madness sweeping across the United States two folkies from different worlds met in an apartment in Santa Clara, California for a practice/jam session prior to both of their respective performances at San Francisco’s ‘Coffee Gallery. That afternoon Jorma Kaukonen turned on his tape recorder to capture both his and fellow vocalist from Port Arthur, Texas Janis Joplin’s 20 plus minute rehearsal capturing in the ‘rock room’s humble opinion one of the most important aural rock documents to ever circulate. The ‘Typewriter Tape’ as it would become known, found these two giants of the San Francisco scene and rock history exploring their influences, abilities in the privacy of Jorma’s apartment. In the close background Jorma’s Swedish wife Margareta types a percussive letter home in the electric ambiance. Six songs circulate on the recording Kaukonen made that summer day, Jorma has stated that there were other songs taped, but they have not made it out to the general listening public as of the writing of this rant. 

San Francisco in 1964 was home to a number of traveling musicians and wayward youth like Jorma and Janis, looking for direction and driven by their art. Names like Jerry Garcia, who was a well-known banjo player and guitar teacher and Paul Kantner (who would soon meet and team up with Jorma in Jefferson Airplane) were filling the folk clubs and playing jug band melodies. Within a year from the aforementioned “Typewriter Tape”, the folkies mentioned previously, in addition to groups like the ‘Byrds’ and Bob Dylan himself would plug in electric instruments and the sepia toned folk musical landscape would be decorated with a sunrise of a thousand colors and visions only previously witnessed in dreams.

Back to the recording at hand, at this time both Jorma and Janis as well as a host of other musicians made their way to the ‘left coast’ for a way out of the straight edged expectations of the ‘American Dream’. These talented musicians had made the decision that they were not going to live the life of their parents. Janis left her deeply conservative live in Texas where here separatist vibe made here an obvious candidate for defection. Jorma, moved many times as a youth as a child in a military family, and learned a appreciation for the blues early in life. By the time he attended college out west he was quite the purist in the ways of folk and country blues. Both musicians had acquired a deep understanding of the blues aesthetic even during their formative times, but what is more than obvious from the vibe of the tape is that it is clear that both are destined for greatness.

Kaukonen plays what sounds like a hollow bodied electric guitar and Janis sings the shit out of the five covers and one original on the tape. The recording plays like an Alan Lomax field recording from a back porch in the South. The attitude is so substantial and the talent so undeniable, this is one of those tapes that is so good I feel guilty listening to it. The quality is more than reasonable with the guitar and voice audible as well as the typewriter and Jorma’s boots on the hardwood floor.

The cassette/reel opens with the blues vaudeville standard, “Trouble In Mind” (this song was officially released on the 1993 boxset Janis) following some tuning and Jorma mentioning to Janis that the typewriter may be going while they play and maybe it will keep time. Kaukonen pops the opening licks in serpentine fashion as Janis enters with the first verse in stunningly. Joplin, just 21 sings with a husky jubilance. Influenced by Etta James, Tina Turner and Big Mama Thorton Joplin even at this early age howls with a bawdy throat. Kaukonen is also stunning in his already exceptional guitar abilities after quite a bit of practice during his college days. The music has already seeped between their floorboards into their bones. It’s the only explanation for such a deep internalization and dissemination of a timeless music created well before each respective musician’s time.

A 12 bar blues, “Long Black Train” follows and spotlights a malleable Kaukonen solo spot that features a series of dark blue elastic string bends. Again, Janis illustrates her stunning understanding of the blues idiom and a deft ability to sink herself into the lyrics. Jorma, shifts his picking and strumming approach throughout to keep things interesting with Janis close behind at every corner. At the song’s conclusion Jorma and Janis meet on vocals and guitar for the concluding lick which elicits a giggle from Janis.

Another blues/rag starts,  hailing from 1927 comes next with “Kansas City Blues”. Janis and Jorma had met in 1962 so it’s a fascinating look into their musical relationship by deciphering their repertoire through songs like this. Their bonding and eventual musical ‘freakness’ was rooted in these early sessions. Kaukonen starts the “Kansas City” opening lick with a practice run through before stomping out the tempo and jumping in with both feet. For a fan of these musicians this may be one of the greatest things you will ever here. Jorma picks out a groove that jumps like a cricket in a pricker patch, his signature guitar work instantly recognizable. Janis scats matter of factly, and when she says she’s going to Kansas City, you believe her, she aint never coming back. Kaukonen is a well spring of ideas, his string work constantly moving while Joplin keeps the melody grounded like a fence post in gravel. For the ‘rock room’ this reading of ‘Kansas City’ foreshadows what is yet to come for both Jorma and Janis while also encapsulating their deep running respect for influences of the past.
Jorma comments about the typewriter again before lobbing some riffs about and beginning the traditional cut, “Hesitation Blues” (Also featured on the 1993 box set Janis ). In just a few years the song would be a favorite of ‘Hot Tuna’ fans as it would feature on their debut LP, as it continues to be a favorite for Jorma and Jack of  right through today. Here, Kaukonen’s guitar parts twist and knot their way around his thumping boot heel while Janis leans waaaaaaaaay into the verses. This is one of the moments where the typewriter moves in and out of tempo lending a surreal alternative percussion to the jam. Kaukonen’s guitar has a snug and cozy softness in its tone and slips delicately through the rhythmic changes. The ease in which Joplin sings her part is comforting and menacing at the same time. She has already mastered her gruff sensuality, and it’s just not playing a part for her. “Hesitation Blues”, like “Uncle Sam Blues” would be co-pted and become a career song for Jorma and the cause of that just may be the way Janis sung it back in 1964.

“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” is another 1920’s blues classic that was made popular by Joplin idol Bessie Smith. Classic rock fans are well familiar with Eric Clapton’s cover of the song on 1970’s: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Here, years prior Kaukonen and Joplin stay tight to Bessie Smith’s reading with Jorma finger picking out the brassy melody of the indigo horns of the Smith recording. Joplin mirrors Smith's asthetic in some ways, but leaves her unique and substantial stamp all over the recording. Airy and spacious, Jorma will exhale a stringy lick and Joplin will undulate her voice in kind. Crisp as a Golden Gate morning Joplin’s perfect dictation pulls emotions out of the blues that make you wonder how someone so young could sing as if they have lived it. She croons so effortlessly, whenever her voice raises slightly the ambiance of the room amplifies it to a stunning effect. There is one small stumble toward the end where both Jorma and Janis’s understanding of the ending of the song differs, to which Jorma agrees he like Janis’s way better and they conclude the song together.
The final song available on the circulating recording is an original Janis Joplin composition and the only one available from this session. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy” is a 12 bar blues that begins with some straight and exciting rock riffing by Kaukonen. This early Janis original uses the theme of the ‘Daddy’ figure and how the protagonist does not want her “Daddy” whether of the sugar variety or biological kind to be taken away, while the subject states what she can do to keep him happy. While basic in its construction, Jorma lets an aggressive solo out of the bag in the songs framework to which Janis can be heard digging on. Again, to the point of redundancy, Janis is blues vocal perfection.

The cassette ends there and what we are left with is a brief yet exceptional capture of two rock legends learning, playing, practicing and honing their craft in a laid back and natural environment. At the time of this sonic document neither knew what the future would hold for their abilities. The magic contained on the “Typewriter Tape” is a small glimpse of the impetus that would soon start a multicolored and hallucinatory journey to the stars for Jorma and Janis via their stunning musical talents. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Take One: Howlin' Wolf - 1951 Single ‘How Many More Years’ – If Anybody Ask About Me

Revolving in the ‘rock room’ today is what many folks including myself refer to as the first ‘rock and roll’ cut. Obviously this is a highly debatable statement, but in the case of Howlin' Wolf’s September 1951 single, ‘How Many More Years’ it may be true. Recorded in July of 1951, the song is a frightful, distorted and cutting slab of blues that does everything a good rock cut should do including menace the listener. The Wolf blew deep train whistle harp and moaned the dangerous vocals while being supported musically by (not confirmed)  Ike Turner on piano, Willie Steele on drums and Willie Johnson on the revolutionary electric guitar. Yes, that is the Ike Turner you think it is, he was actually instrumental in getting Mr. Chester Burnett to record his songs after his departure from the military. Now as an aside, it has been stated that Billy ‘Red’ Love is the piano player on this recording as well. Unfortunately with a number of formative blues recordings like this it is often difficult to confirm or deny the musicians involved.

Released by Chess Records, the September 1951 single featured ‘Moanin At Midnight’ as the ‘A’ side with ‘How Many More Years’ as the flip. Following its release, ‘How Many More Year’s caught the ears of listeners and became the more track that received more spins. Eventually ‘How Many More Years’ began its ascent up the R and B charts and eventually landed at number 4. Both sides of the record were composed by Chester Burnett aka Howlin' Wolf. You may ask why copies of the original 45 say ‘Carl Germany’ as the composer? This has since been changed, but originally songwriting was a funny business and as favors to the DJ’s who played the songs they were thanked with credits!
Years before the accepted ‘birth’ of rock, Howlin' Wolf was laying down a weighty blues groove with bricklayers hands. Taken in conjunction with the able production efforts of Sam Phillips, ‘How Many More Year’s was a stunning slice of electric blues and a heavy duty recording that blues players in modern times can only look at with glazed eyes and stunned amazement.

The needle drops and the song begins with series of heavy knocking on a woody piano and a hard left hand. Soon, the first fuzzy edged guitar lick by Willie Johnson begins and just kicks down the damn door. Right away there is something going on with the ambiance of these monstrous instrumentalists. Presumably, Johnson's guitar tone was born from an overdriven tube amp and Johnson’s introductory licks send a graveyard shiver up the listener’s spine. When Wolf’s voice enters it contains the same serrated quality. What sounds like a voice coming from under muck dirt over a fresh grave Wolf asks, actually demands of his woman, ‘How many more years have I got to let you dog me around’, I’d soon rather be dead, sleeping six feet in the ground’. With a vocal as substantial as Wolf’s 6’6 frame, the band enters the break with a melodic Wolf harmonica break while the rhythm section chugs along while wielding rhythmic blades.

At the turnaround Johnson dices up a descending lick to which Wolf again gusts his blues horn. Turner/Red dances around the black and whites while Johnson answers by playing perfectly timed sliding 9th chords. The back beat is stomping work boots on a wooden floor hoping for an evening of hip shaking. It’s no wonder that these early blues recordings were looked at with a side eye. This stuff cooks with liquid white heat and I can witness how easily it would have got the juke's hopping and initiated the listeners into getting it on! Wolf returns for the final verse where he goes upstairs to pack his clothes and leaves with a concluding warning that ‘If anybody ask about me, just tell em I walked out that door’. While the verses descend the rickety staircase to the front stoop, the music swings with just a touch more aggressiveness led by Johnson’s shadowy licks. In under 3 minutes the track concludes, but offers a lifetime of wonder and influence.

‘How Many More Years’ importance cannot be understated, The song would be dissected by a number of aspiring musicians over the years, from all walks of life and corners of the globe, with its individual elements influencing composition, aesthetic, attitude, and abilities. Musicians aspired to tap into the deeply rutted roots of this formative music. This song represents a hearty well spring that many future ‘rock’ musicians tried to emulate and replicate but could only hope to touch. Like anything, it would eventually be co-opted and homogenized with a gentler and admittedly ‘whiter’ presentation.

In the 1950’s the blues would be pressed into the mainstream by artists like Elvis and in the mid-60’s by the Stones and Butterfield Blues Band. By the late 1960’s bands like Led Zeppelin and the ‘heavy’ blues bands were unabashedly borrowing and covering songs from the musical giants like Howlin’ Wolf, (see ‘How Many More Times’ from Zeppelin's 1969 debut) But we know the truth. Thankfully the musical magic is documented,the topography can be traced and its bloodlines confirmed. The later rock bands who followed the original blues masters must be thanked, as without their deep archaeology, the giants may have become instinct. In 2018 famed purveyor of blues, Jack White reissued Wolf’s 1951 single on his own Third Man Records label confirming  not only his own influences but insuring a new generation of blues fans can listen for the reverberating call of the Howlin’ Wolf.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Put the Boot In: The High Numbers/The Who - October 20, 1964 - No Tellin' What We Might Do

Are you a Mod or a Rocker? That is the question posed by the the ‘rock room’ today. Now playing, I have a recording that started to circulate in 2005 on a CD called The High Numbers –Live 1964 by famous Japanese bootleg label ‘Yellow Dog’. The performance featured on this silver disc is by none other than ‘The Who’, at the Railway Hotel and Lounge located in Wealdstone, UK on October 20, 1964. The Railway was run by Pete's college roommate Richard Barnes and was nothing more than a basement pub. Less than a couple of weeks from this evening the band would become the ‘Who’ but for this concert they were still known as the ‘High Numbers’, an exciting Mod cover band. Earlier in the month the band would audition at Abbey Road Studios for EMI but walk away with the knowledge that they required more original numbers in order to stir up interest. In November, ‘The Who’ would record the Pete Townsend original “I Can’t Explain” and in January of 1965, the song about an amphetamine teen trying to properly express his love would start a large career ascent for the newly christened ‘Who’. This recording is a welcome window into the formative days of one of the world’s greatest rock and roll bands.

Back to the recording the ‘rock room’ is focused on, the Railway Hotel featured a number of early Who performances like the one here, as well as some stunning black and white footage which was recently unearthed and shot just a couple of months before the performance on October 20th.The eleven tracks available on the Yellow Dog boot are from a more than adequate soundboard recording (or possibly a close audience document), with what sounds like some brief losses of fidelity and unfortunate cuts and missing music to the original source. But for the most part all of the levels are balanced and the band is audible. Moon and Entwistle are giants. The rhythm section is the focus on this tape as both Ox and Moon slam around triumphantly like a bunch of furniture dropped down a flight of steps. Daltrey has yet to find his voice, and still uses his best blues man aesthetic, eliciting guttural growls and moans that sometimes border on the comedic. Townsend blends in at some points in time, but by the conclusion you can feel the exploration in his fingers and the land mines in his mind. Only a month prior to this show is reportedly when PT first demolished his guitar (on accident) at the Railway, but by the conclusion of this show, I feel that his Rickenbacker was probably lying in a smoldering heap. The band’s eventual world domination is tangible on this recording.
The tape begins with the first of three versions (all cut) of “I Got Dance to Keep from Crying”, a groovy soul number by the “Miracles”. Moon begins things with a rotund drum introduction to which the band falls in behind. A swinging cover, the band grooves triumphantly featuring collaborative vocals and brisk playing. The band’s feels like a dance hall band here, but as the recording escalates the hallmarks of the ‘Who’ begin to surface.
What follows next is an explosive instrumental snippet of the ‘Kinks’, “You Really Got Me” which had been released in the UK as a single in August. While only a short clip, shades of the later ‘Who’ appear in this sludgy cover version. Moon and Entwistle join in giant lock step as the band plays with the syncopation of the famous rock lick. Moon sprays volatile ordnance from his kit in between the riffs which the boys slow down for musical effectiveness.

A major highlight of later Who performances and especially from the Live at Leeds era is the Mose Allison tune, “Young Man Blues”. Here, in its infantile state, Townsend uses a crisp Rickenbacker tone and Moon plays a calypso groove while tapping on the bell of his ride cymbal. While the intent remains the same, later Who readings would soak the song in petrol, whereas here it simmers with a danceable groove. Yet to be cracked open, the song stays true to Allison’s vision.
While listening to this concert, I am reminded of early ‘Levon and the Hawks’ concerts where in spite of their later metamorphosis, in their formative stages they were more or less a dance band, cutting their teeth on the music they loved. All the while leaving their future finger prints on the musical glass. No more is this relevant than the band’s destructive rendition of the famed Booker T and the MG’s single “Green Onions”.  While only another short reading, here the band lay big thick brush stroke of power chords and fuzz. Townsend plays some strangled notes buried in earthy distortion while also lending a formative expression of his famous serrated tremolo. In October of 1964, the power of the early ‘Who’ was definitely an alien thing to the music world.

On the Yellow Dog bootleg there are a few repeats with the next song being another rendition of the opening “I Gotta Dance to Keep from Crying”. This one begins with a stage whistle and some dialog.  I will make the assumption that there were multiple sets played on this evening hence the blended tracks and missing music. Again, an additional instrumental of “You Really Got Me” follows, this one has Daltrey blowing some mean harp while the band slams the Davies lick repeatedly and dynamically against the wall. Another unfortunate cut places us in the middle of a third performance of “I Gotta Dance to Keep from Crying”. This time Moon does circles around his tom-tom’s while Daltrey groans in bluesy colors. An additional cut places us further in the song and finds Daltrey and Entwistle doing a call and response of, ‘a little bit higher’ while Moon cooks behind them.

A delicious “Long Tall Shorty” follows closely on the tape, another song picked up from the ‘Kinks” who covered the song on their first album. Moon again sets the tempo with a heavy thumping on the ‘High Number’s’ musical chamber door seeing “Who” will answer. Daltrey does his best blues man with a superior gritty and throaty vocal. So much so that you may be hard pressed to believe the singer is Roger! Entwistle holds it all down with a busy bottom end that even at this early stage shifts the foundation of the song. Then you have Townsend aggressively coaxing perfectly timed and over driven licks. The solo break is a house on fire as Townsend’s slashing riffs are picked up by Moon and Entwistle and held up for the small assembled crown to stand in rapt amazement. Pete takes a second solo break that circular saws through the recording leaving the 'rock room' slack jawed at this early display of stringed aggression!

An atmospheric taste of the vibe of the crowd precedes the next cut “Pretty Thing”, which like the aforementioned “Long Tall Shorty” spotlights Daltrey groaning the Willie Dixon classic in between harmonica blasts. Following an introductory wall of sound, Moon lays town a thunderous ‘Bo Diddley” beat to which Townsend and Entwistle join in. Pete lays down a disorienting solo that wraps around Rog's harp who gets the crowd going with off beat, 'Hey's'! Flashing waves of Townsend's guitar downpour over the band as the tribal thump drives the crowd into a high octane trance. As things really start to coagulate, the tape cuts. Pfffffft.

‘Smokestack Lightning’ comes next and is already in progress and features a substantial helping of heavy early ‘Who’ improv. Daltrey weaves in lyrics from ‘Money (That’s What I Want) while they band kicks holes in the song proper. A number of roller coaster ‘rave up’s’ dot the landscape. Entwistle jumps into some slippery chrome neck work, alternating with Moon in keeping a stuttering metallic groove. Roger sings with a whisky and cigarettes throat while alternating harp moans. While keeping it all together Townsend quotes the central ‘Smokestack’ lick. Once Roger quotes lyrics from ‘Money’ the band begins to increase the tension.  Daltrey then dynamically brings the band down and sings, ‘My needle in ya, feels so good’, to which the group gallantly responds and erupts in rapture.

Glass breaks, colorful buttons fall from coats and a thick wave of feedback Washes over the crowd. A specter of a fully mature ‘Who’ silhouettes against the stage curtain ads Townsend begins to shovel large chunks of sound into the musical kiln. Smoke rises as the band deconstructs the scene, this is for real. Townsend scrapes silvery scrubs from his guitar breaking the song apart which only prods Moon and Entwistle into greater chaos. These heavy footed hipsters stomp around the hotel causing everyone to go mad. The final three minutes before ‘Smokestack’s” untimely cut contain the remains of a battlefield.  Sizzling feedback pours from the amps while Moon slams stuttering snare hits. The only connection to an earthly realm are Daltrey’s still puffing harmonica wails. The jams begins to level off before the listener is placed right at the beginning of the concluding song, “Here Tis”. Wow.

“Here Tis”, a Bo Diddley track (actually recorded by the High Numbers when they recorded their first single) concludes the available recording. The beginning is chopped as we enter a version already in progress. The band like is usual for the performance is cooking, Moon’s drums again in the forefront. Townsend and Entwistle share the backing vocals and Daltrey takes over harp duties again. Pete plays clean tone while strumming the chord changes and the band plays a compact tight reading of a Bo Diddley classic.

It’s rare field recordings/bootlegs like this ‘High Numbers’ tape that make rock and roll archaeology such a fantastic way to invest your time. Especially if you are a geek like the ‘rock room’. What’s amazing about this particular document is that it finds the famed ‘Who’ in their formative days. Unfortunately there are a number of cuts and missing music, but we can consider ourselves lucky that what we do have is so amazing and vital. All of the essential elements that would prompt their worldwide popularity exist here and are gaining a thin knife edge by constant musical sharpening. Each bit of their influences can also be discerned by a unique recording like this. Weather the mutual respect and influence shared between the ‘High Numbers’ and the ‘Kinks’, the hearty blues and soul backdrop of their music, or the development of a bombastic and unique stage show are all on display. Throw this one in one and transport yourself to pre-swinging London where pop, art, blues, pills, birds and rock and roll were the ingredients mixed and developed into a primordial rock and roll stew.

Who Live at the Railway Hotel 1964