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Que Sera, Sera Resurrected – Johnny Thunders

FREUDLP 129

Que Sera, Sera was a good record following a great one. Thunders first solo LP So Alone (1978) featured a strong songs from a lengthy back-catalogue, plus impressive performances from a stellar line up of famous friends. By the time the ten tracks on Que Sera, Sera appeared in 1985 the post-punk world was less receptive to Thunders raucous guitar. Jungle Records mainman Alan Hauser noting that this time “the mood was not to let Johnny’s guitar be rampant”. Thirty-four years later Thunders is celebrated precisely for his guitar being rampant.

Released in time for Record Store day this new version is a 23 track double vinyl LP, one disc purple, one disc clear. Purple Disc One begins with Alone In A Crowd and straight away the benefits of Pat Collier’s remix are obvious. There is certainly now a lot more raunch in the riffs, and the rather polite original mix is now replaced by the highly audible dual guitars of Thunders and guest John Perry. MIA goes back to Gang War days and has a nice poppy feel. Short Lives features a concise arrangement, fine backing vocals on the chorus from Patti Palladin and more Thunders / Perry interplay. Wilko Johnson joins in on the NY Dolls remnant Endless Party where Perry’s piano is key. The instrumental Billy Boy totally rocks, in much the same way that Pipeline kicked off So Alone with such elan. The song is a tribute to original Dolls drummer Billy Murcia and whilst lyrics for the song are reproduced here it is hard to see how they would have fitted this firecracker.

 

The clearer sound can be a mixed blessing as it also serves to highlight some less impressive material. Blame It On Mom is Leave Me Alone Part II, albeit with a nifty sax solo from Mike Monroe. Talk About You is Green Onions with some not very good lyrics. Cool Operator benefits only rhythm section Keith Yon and Tony St. Helene. Thunders’ misogyny drips from There’s A Little Bit Of Whore In Every Girl and only John Perry’s piano redeems the mawkish I Only Wrote This Song For You. Finally the title track sees Thunders crooning over J-C Carolls accordion and mandolin to slightly queasy effect.

Clear Disc Two contains a further 11 tracks, six studio and five recorded live in Lyons at an unspecified date. Of the new songs Copy Cat has some fine 1950’s pop backing vocals but Taking You Up Avenue D is dull. The other outtakes add little to existing versions. Tie Me Up from the original LP is inexplicably absent, this country-punk-sleaze duet with Patti would have fitted in well. The live set is a well recorded soundboard in front of an enthusiastic audience. Just Another Girl is a notable addition and Thunders is in good form throughout.

If you liked the original Que Sera, Sera you’re going to love this new version. If like me you thought it was just OK, you will be impressed by the improved sound and the difference this makes to the stronger songs. Even on the weaker tracks such as Countdown Love there is always a nifty guitar solo and the remix brings out Thunders’ characteristic guitar sound in a way that has not been heard before. The double gatefold presentation with new sleeve notes from Nina Antonia, a printed insert and coloured vinyl is exceptionally well done. Congratulations to Alan and Nina for bringing this project to fruition.

 

Further information

www.ninaantoniaauthor.com

https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/music/johnny-thunders-que-sera-sera-resurrected

https://onlyrockandroll.london/?s=johnny+thunders

 

 

 

 

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Six Strings Good, Twelve Strings Better!

Jangled up in blue

Mini LP CD

The Lucys

The Lucys started off as a labour of love, when long-term Flamin’ Groovies uber-fan and Bucketful of Brains contributor John Bottomley wanted something to do with his new 12-string Rickenbacker. Telecaster / Epiphone player Vince Cory suggested a recording project and these seven cover versions are the result. John and Vince are joined by Mike Moran on simple (but not simplistic) drums. Choice of songs goes from the well known (Love Is All Around, When You Walk In The Room, Here Without You) through semi obscure  – Hearts In Her Eyes by John Wicks and Will Birch, September Gurls by Alex Chilton – to totally obscure such as Until You Came Along (Gary Louris for Golden Smog) and Love That Never Dies, a little known Roger McGuinn/Stan Lynch co-write.  Throughout the record lives up to its name with John jangling away to great effect. When Hollywood finally gets round to making the Bucketful of Brains story – and it must be any day now – The Lucys will be a shoe-in for Band In Bar.

This release is a strictly limited edition but I believe there are still some copies left. Contact jbottomley@hotmail.co.uk for more information.

The Second Coming: The Rolling Stones Live 1966-7

 

Following the success of Volume One, 1960s Records are delighted to announce the release of

Let The Airwaves Flow 2 : Melbourne, Paris and London 1966-67 – The Rolling Stones

Side One

  1. Introduction / The Last Time (Jagger, Richard)
  2. Mercy, Mercy (Covay, Miller)
  3. She Said Yeah (Jackson, Christy)
  4. Play With Fire (Jagger, Richard)
  5. Not Fade Away (Hardin, Petty)
  6. That’s How Strong My Love Is (Jamison)
  7. Get Off My Cloud (Jagger, Richard)
  8. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Jagger, Richard)
  9. She Smiled Sweetly (Jagger, Richard)

 

Side Two

  1. Paint It, Black (Jagger, Richard)
  2. 19th Nervous Breakdown (Jagger, Richard)
  3. Lady Jane (Jagger, Richard)
  4. Get Off My Cloud (Jagger, Richard) / Yesterday’s Papers (Jagger, Richard)
  5. Ruby Tuesday (Jagger, Richard)
  6. Let’s Spend The Night Together (Jagger, Richard)

 

Side One

Tracks 1 – 8 recorded live at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne for Radio 3 UZ on February 24th 1966

Track 9 recorded live for the Eamonn Andrews Show, ABC TV, February 5th 1967

 

Side Two

Recorded live at the Olympia, Paris for RTL Radio on April 11th 1967

 

Mick Jagger – lead vocals, harmonica

Brian Jones – guitar

Keith Richard – guitar, backing vocals

Bill Wyman – bass

Charlie Watts – drums

 

Following on from Let The Airwaves Flow 1 this second volume continues to highlight the live prowess of The Rolling Stones during the Brian Jones-era. As we move towards 1967 we see the Stones dispensing with the r’n’b and soul classics they had been playing since 1962, replacing them with increasingly commercial original material written by Jagger/Richard.

The absence of Brian Jones in the writing credits is highly significant, and although he remained the focus of attention in live shows, Brian Jones central position within the Stones was fatally undermined by his inability to write songs. By 1965 tough pop classics such as The Last Time, Heart Of Stone, Get Off My Cloud and Satisfaction were rolling off the Jagger/Richard pop production line. However Jones still had a major part to play live, as shown by his intricate guitar part on Play With Fire from Melbourne in 1966. With immense lyrical irony the version of Satisfaction from this session is interrupted by an advert for Salco shirts “for the young man who agrees to pay less for the best.”

1967 saw the Stones return in triumph to the Olympia in Paris where they delivered a swaggering set of self-penned pop classics, with not a cover version in sight. Jagger’s every utterance provoked extensive screaming. The Wyman / Watts rhythm section exhibited remarkable versatility, from driving neo-psyche thumpers such as 19th Nervous Breakdown and Paint It Black, to framing the quiet ballads of Ruby Tuesday and Lady Jane with elegance and restraint. Jones was again in his element on these numbers, adding intricate woodwind to Ruby Tuesday. Yesterday’s Papers received a rare live outing, combined here with a Get Off My Cloud that featured highly complementary guitars from Richard and Jones.

Finally an added bonus track: the Stones live on British television in early 1967 performing the rarely-heard She Smiled Sweetly for (of all people) Eamonn Andrews.

Sadly this was as good as it got for the initial version of the band. Throughout the summer of 1967 sustained police activity broke Brian Jones and incarcerated Jagger and Richard, resulting in the deeply sarcastic single We Love You. The remainder of 1967 was spent in Olympic very slowly recording Their Satanic Majesties Request, an LP that is best be described as of its time.

When the Stones returned to the live arena in November 1969 it would be without Jones. This new version of the Stones would eventually assume the mantle of “the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world” but not without considerable cost, both personal and artistic. No band has yet matched the live Rolling Stones of 1965-1967. That combination of road-hardened raunch and total pop sensibility was unique and irresistible. This collection demonstrates just how good they sounded.

 

Sleeve notes: Flowerboy Venus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Cale & Chris Spedding: Stockholm 1975

I have just written a letter to Record Collector defending bootlegs as providing music that could and should have been officially released. This recording is a prime example.

The all-encompassing Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend website has full details of the recording here. It was made for Swedish Radio from a live concert at Jarlateatern, Stockholm on November 3 and broadcast two days later when some enterprising soul recorded the gig on a cassette, which subsequently formed the basis for the Massive Attack bootleg. As of today you can download the gig from Mega using this link

I first came across these tracks when five were released on the vinyl bootleg Down At the End Of Lonely Street…Hard Rock Cafe (details here ) together with a grab bag of other Cale live tracks. So it is great to have the whole gig in one place, albeit without the encore Baby What You Want Me To Do (does anyone have this ?).

The brilliant touring band that Cale put together in 1975 to promote his Helen Of Troy LP is woefully under documented. There are a couple of tracks from the June 1975 Crystal Palace Garden Party on YouTube. There was also a first rate session for John Peel, accessible from the always reliable Aquarium Drunkard blog

Stockholm is the only live gig I have found in listenable quality. The Pat Donaldson / Timmi Donald rhythm section were by now used to following Cale’s live detours. Record producer Chris Thomas had been seduced away from his safe studio environment for the first and last time to play keyboards. “Touring with Cale was great fun and I enjoyed it a lot. When we started off that tour, it was insane, because we didn’t know the songs, we didn’t know the keys, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing, so there were a lot of theatrics in the hope audience wouldn’t spot what was going on”.

And on lead and slide guitar – the Very Great Chris Spedding. “The Cale band of 1975 was perhaps the most exciting live band I’ve ever played with. John was very challenging and inspiring to play with. I learned a great deal from him. He works very hit and miss, though. You don’t get a chance to craft a finished thing. It’s a bit like painting a picture by throwing paint against the wall and seeing what sticks – his way of working. It was interesting. Very effective on stage, but quite frustrating in the studio.”

It is the interplay between Spedding and Cale that makes this such a great listen. On the quieter tracks such as Child’s Christmas In Wales Spedding has to invent a guitar part to complement Cale’s vocal and piano, which he does with characteristic restraint. Then Pablo Picasso shows Spedding’s more raucous side. Throughout Cale allows Spedding plenty of space to embellish and solo and at no point does Spedding abuse this freedom with overlong or overplayed parts.

Cale admits in his autobiography that one of his major career mistakes was to disband this band when he moved to New York at the end of the tour. Spedding would follow, and the two would continue to play together on an occasional basis, both live and in the studio. Highly recommended is their sprint through Jim Carroll’s People Who Died from the soundtrack of the film Antartida (hear it here ). But playing together every night brought out the best in both Cale and Spedding and they would never be as good again, together or apart. We are fortunate to have this record of their collaboration at its peak.

And let us not forget what this band achieved in the studio. All three of Cale’s studio LPs recorded for Island have been combined with the surviving outtakes to give The Island Years, a definitive 2CD compilation. Buy it now, if only to see where Nick Cave got it all from.

 

 

 

 

Why The First Clash LP Could Have Been So Much Better

The first time I saw the Clash live they were a five piece with Keith Levine, and I followed closely their development via gigs at the 100 Club and the Screen On The Green through 1976 and into March 1977, when CBS released their debut, self-titled LP. The previous month had seen the release of debut single White Riot, whose poppy catchiness had been remarked upon by Nick Kent in the NME.

I wore that LP out. It was a flat out raver, the only non-amphetamined track being the cover of Juniour Marvin’s Police and Thieves. At 8m 56s this was about four times longer than the other tracks and was more Hawkwind than Bob Marley. Eventually I got to see the Clash on a proper stage with a decent PA (Guildford Civic, May 1st 1977)  and I bought all their records and went to every gig I could , right up to the London Calling  Tour (Manchester Apollo, February 3rd 1980). I loved both Give’ Em Enough Rope and London Calling but rarely played the debut . Compared to what followed, the songs on The Clash sounded one-paced, Mickey Foote’s production was flat and the drumming was unimaginative – the explosive Topper Headon only took over the drum stool after the first LP was recorded.

Eventually during one of my periodic purges I sold the Clash LP to free up some shelf-space and didn’t miss it. After all, if I wanted to play White Riot or Police And Thieves they were on my 3CD Broadway Clash box set.

And yet it felt wrong not to have a vinyl version of Police And Thieves. So this year I thought about rebuying that first LP, but the thought did not fill me with much enthusiasm. If only Police & Thieves had been released as a 12” single…

But what I had forgotten about was the US version of the first Clash LP. Issued by Epic in 1979 it combined the best tracks from the1977 UK release with the A and B sides of the amazing singles the Clash released around this time.  So Side One includes Clash City Rockers, the immaculate Complete Control, White Man In Hammersmith Palais, and their rocked-up version of I Fought The Law plus a version of White Riot different to the single. Side Two includes Police and Thieves (yeh!) and the groovy Jail Guitar Doors. The album I found on Discogs was a Japanese copy called Pearl Harbour ’79, which came with a free single Groovy Times / Gates Of The West and a fold out triple booklet with a pretty fair stab at Strummer’s lyrics.

It is a great record, The two minute wonders from the initial LP like Janie Jones and I’m So Bored With The USA are tempered by the more varied tracks that followed, lending the LP a little more light and shade whilst still remaining ridiculously exciting.

Around the time of Bankrobber the Clash announced they were not releasing LPs any more, they were only going to release single after single. The plan was curtailed after an unnamed CBS exec described Bankrobber as sounding like David Bowie backwards (no, me neither). When the Clash should have pursued this strategy was in 1977 and 1978. They would have unleashed a series of five stunning singles – let’s leave Remote Control out of this – all of which could have and should have been included on their debut LP. The only way the US version of The Clash could have been improved was by adding the original version of Capital Radio, sent out free to NME readers who sent in a red sticker contained inside early copies of the UK  LP.

But that is my only criticism. Buy the US version of The Clash and show Never Mind The Bollocks who’s the boss…

The Greatest Hits (That Aren’t)

Record companies, why do you do it ?

If the record is called Greatest Hits why do you put on a track that was rejected as no good / issued as a B side / only available in Argentina ? Surely a Greatest Hit is a track that has been a Hit i.e. issued as single and made it into the charts ? I realise with some bands that means their Greatest Hits would actually be an EP or maybe even a double A-side single but surely that’s what the term means.

Let’s get specific. The Eagles Greatest Hits. Best selling record in the history of the Universe. Ten tracks, all released as singles. I can hum every song, and I loathe the Eagles. Target audience; people who don’t like music much, people who like songs that are in the charts  but don’t buy singles because they are too fiddly, hipsters who like the Eagles ironically, Joe Walsh so he could learn the songs.

Contrast this with the new Tom Petty 2CD compilation The Best Of Everything “featuring 38 of Tom Petty’s best and definitive hits culled from his career”. Amazingly one of these “best and definitive hits” turns out to be a song called For Real that no-one has ever heard before. Also included is a version of the (brilliant) ballad Southern Accents with new lyrics. This compilation was announced the week after American Treasure, another “definitive” compilation which had plenty of room for these two tracks. And there is a perfectly serviceable Tom Petty Greatest Hits still in the catalogue, 18 tracks released in 2008, all singles, all hits.

So who is the target audience for The Best Of Everything? It’s us. The collectors (ie suckers) who shell out for 36 tracks we have got just to buy the two that we have not. And it sucks.

I have been buying music for 43 years and in that time have repeatedly bought compilations that have just one or two unreleased tracks. My most recent example is the Guts compilation LP by John Cale, which contains the single B-side Mary Lou plus eight other tracks I already have on Cale’s three essential Island LP’s (recently praised and rightly so by Luke Haines in Record Collector mag).

Next time you figure the market can stand another compilation from one of your heritage artists don’t call it a Greatest Hits unless every tracks has been issued as a single. Ideally they would also have all featured in the upper echelons of the singles chart but in a world where ‘Another Girl Another Planet’ never charted this may not be possible.

If however you are going to issue a compilation of 95% previously released material with one or two rare tracks chucked in to tempt the collector then please have the honesty to title your release “Special Collectors Fleecing Edition”. And then we would all know where we stood.

 

Live On WLIR – Big Star

Omnivore CD/LP

I am looking at my 1992 copy of BIG STAR Live. It came in one of Ryko’s distinctive sea green cases, packed in a wildly environmentally-unfriendly “long box”. Three CDs were released at the same time – Live, Third/Sister Lovers and Chris Bell’s I Am The Cosmos. For me this was a significant expansion of Big Star, since all I had heard thus far was #1 Record and Radio City.

Today we are all a lot better informed about the whole Big Star Thing. Third is now regularly feted as a ground-breaking and influential LP and Chris Bell’s contribution to the artistic success of Big Star is now well established.

So that leaves Live as the runt of the litter. Certainly it was an unsophisticated recording , done direct to two track in front of an invited audience in New York’s Ultrasonic Studios in March 1974. There are fourteen tracks and a revealing interview with Alex Chilton: listen to the relish with which he describes touring conditions as ‘pretty scummy’. Whilst original drummer Jody Stephens was still in the band his colleague in rhythm Andy Hummell had gone back to college and was replaced by John Lightman on bass. The mix underplays Alex’s guitar until the third track Mod Lang.

Big Star were always an erratic proposition in performance. No live tapes exist of the original Chlton/Bell/Stephens/Hummell line up, although their live-in-the-studio take of In The Street done for a promo single is impressive. So all extant live recordings are of the three-piece band, which in no way resembled other power trios such as Cream or the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Jody is a powerful drummer, but Lightman is tentative and Alex is also economical with his guitar parts: no lengthy jamming here. I am reminded of the Kinks, who had a similar endearingly uncertain live sound before they tightened up and went balls-out professional after signing to Arista in the late 70s.

Omnivore have remastered the original WLIR recording. Compared to the original Ryko disc this new version is more of a Rock sound, louder and heavier. It is probably more commercial and may even be better suited to modern playback devices but I prefer my lighter, poppier Ryko version. Robert Gordon has upgraded his original liner notes and there is an interesting interview with John Lightman. Recommended if you do not have the Rykodisc original.

Also recommended but harder to find is Beale Street Green , a CD which contains 8 tracks recorded at rehearsals for the WLIR performance with a looser and more punchy sound. These tracks are also available on the official Norton Records release Nobody Can Dance. And watch out for a recording from the same tour made in Cambridge on 31/3/74 : lesser sound quality but interesting covers of Baby Strange, Candy Says, Til The End Of The Day and We Gotta Go.