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A few more Asides about B-sides.

This is a subject that could, in the eyes and ears of 45 aficianados, run and run. To that end, here are a few more examples which I think are worthy of merit and discussion.

Aretha Franklin "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone"

The A-side of this red Atlantic issue from 1968 (catalogue #584172), "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone", was composed by Aretha and her then husband, Ted White. A very nice record it is too, with top class instrumentation from the likes of King Curtis and Spooner Oldham and backing vocals from The Sweet Inspirations. However, this side is eclipsed, in my view, by the B-side (also from the "Lady Soul" album), "Ain't No Way". This gem was written by Aretha's younger sister Carolyn and backing vocals were again provided by The Sweet Inspirations, with Myrna Smith, Estelle Brown and the real star of the show on this side, Cissy Houston, whose extraordinary soprano adds a heavenly layer of sound behind Aretha's expressive but beautifully understated vocals.

With Jerry Wexler's production and Tom Dowd at the controls this is truly a little masterpiece, well worth seeking out.

Lee Hazlewood "Sand"

The louche, sonorous baritone of Mr. Hazlewood enriched many a record and "Sand" exemplified what was once referred to as 'Cowboy Psychedelia'. An easy and relaxed tempo, but positively upbeat compared to the B-side "My Autumn's Done Come". This beautiful, elegiac ode to growing old would, if it was any slower, come to a complete stop. Reflecting on how fashion and peer group pressure disappear with the onset of age, it is an ideal vehicle for Hazlewood's world-weary delivery. An absolute gem.

The Syndicats "On The Horizon"

Referred to in a previous article on B-sides, "On The Horizon" was a cover of the B-side of Ben E. King's 1961 smash hit "Spanish Harlem". It is an extremely respectful version and follows the subdued tone of the original Lieber & Stoller composition throughout. The B-side of this 1965 issue from The Syndicats is a very different beast, being the Jeff Williams / Ray Fenwick composition "Crawdaddy Simone". With snarling vocals from Johnny Lamb and Fenwick's wild guitar, this is a freakbeat classic and no mistake. The notably unpolished production was straight out of the 304 Holloway Road text book, Joe Meek having produced all 3 of the band's 45's. Indeed , "Simone" plays out over the closing credits of "Telstar", the 2009 Meek bio-pic. This 45 was bootlegged (500 copies) by a French outfit a few years ago.

 

David Bowie R.I.P.

Not much that I can add to the many fulsome (and several hysterical) tributes to The Thin White Duke. Indeed, I almost feel like something of a fraud writing about a performer I hadn't seen live since 1973. That notwithstanding, I was privileged to have seen him in something of a purple patch, in 1971, 72 and 73.

The first occasion was at Manchester Free Trade Hall as he toured 'Hunky Dory'. I understand that very few tickets were sold and even fewer people actually turned up to see him play - just 60 in a 2,500 seat venue. As part of the gig he played piano, guitar and, memorably saxophone on a version of 'Hot Pants' by James Brown.

The following year I was at the Hard Rock for (what I think was) the opening night of the Ziggy Stardust tour - an extraordinary show.

Lastly, the following year back at The Free Trade hall (now a luxury hotel, if you didn't know), for Aladdin Sane. So popular had he become that I could only get tickets for the 'first house' gig, dusing which he said "When I last played here there were only 60 people in the audience. If you were one of them, this one's for you", before launching into a blistering version of 'White Light, White Heat'. Cue clenched victory fist by your author.

My love for his music reached another apogee around the period of the 'Low' and 'Heroes' albums. There were some wonderful, bleak, thought-provoking tunes which always stopped me in my tracks.

 

Who else, of that stature, inventiveness and creativity is left now? Nick Cave? Discuss (amongst yourselves).

Ian McFee, 26.01.2015

Groove-y

THE 45 RPM SINGLE

Aaaahhhh, the 7" single. To me, THE definitive art form of the second half of the 20th century. The sleeve, whether with company logo, or just plain brown, or with pictures. The slight resistance as the record is slid out of its cover, to reveal the label, usually with details of the recording, but sometimes just with a graphic design. Then, held up under a light, the vinyl, sometimes coloured but generally black, showing its beautifully symmetrical pencil-thin grooves and the gloss of the run-in and run-out areas. The record is placed gently upon the slip mat covering the wheel of steel, the sense of anticipation is heightened as the needle is applied to give a slight hiss, before your senses are given a jolt as the music starts. I generally - not always - stick to the adage that if the record can't get its message across in 3" or less, my time is being wasted. Since its introduction by RCA in the USA in 1949, millions of memories have been created by the release of the 7" single (never 18cm, no matter how young or used to metric measurements you are!). Vinyl making a comeback? For those in the know, it never went away.

Read more: Groove-y

A few asides about b-sides

The B-side was often regarded as something to justify charging 6/11d for a 7" single. Very often when a record company thought they were onto a dead cert chart entry the budget would all be spent on promoting the A-side and the flip would just be a piece of filler to use up the allotted studio time.  I remain convinced to this day that many record-buying youngsters in the 1960's and 1970's rarely, if ever, played the B-side of their 45's, such was the importance attached to the A-side and its impact on the charts. Of course a charting single gave much greater opportunity to also see the artists on television, be it Top Of The Pops, Ready Steady Go, Dick Clark's American Bandstand, or whatever.

However, those of a more open-minded and inquisitive nature knew that there were often treasures to be had on the 'dark side'. Bands would produce very interesting, sometimes experimental and often very enjoyable pieces for the B-side of their 45's. Here are a few examples below and this is a theme to which I will return; your own suggestions and favourites will be welcomed!

 

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich - Zabadak!

Away from the A-side nonsense (literally - it didn't mean anything, having just sprung from the imaginations of the by then, well-established and highly successful songwriting team of Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley) was the far more interesting 'The Sun Goes Down', written by Harman (Dave Dee), Diamond (Beaky) and Davies (Dozy). Fuzz and wah-wah guitars, interesting time signatures, top-class bass guitar work (R.I.P. Trevor Ward-Davies who passed away on January 15th 2015) and singing that doesn't sound like Dave Dee (perhaps it was another band member?) all contributed to a fascinating alternative to the light-hearted fayre usually produced by the band. Zabadak! sold heavily, reaching #3 in the UK chart and should therefore be easily picked up for a couple of quid or so - well worth it; alternatively 'The Sun Goes Down' also appeared on a compilation album of sorts 'DDBMT' (not to be confused with their first album of the same title) which, again, can be bought cheaply.

Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity - Take me to the water

Leaving aside the rather dubious commercial prospects for a gospel tune A-side in 1969 - though 'T.M.T.T.W.' is a pleasant tune very well-delivered - I can't see what compelled the band or the Marmalade record company executives to give that preference over the B-side 'Indian Rope Man'. This Richie Havens-penned piece was turned into a sublime example of Hammond-driven grooviness and absolutely rocks from start to finish, unlike the A-side, which has a traditional, slow tempo for the first 90 seconds. The record failed to trouble the charts, to put it mildly, sinking without trace and as a result copies change hands for £50 and more these days. One to look out for  - satisfaction guaranteed!

Ben E. King - Stand by me

One of countless records out of the Atlantic studios which went on to become classics (there are at least 400 cover versions), 'Stand by me' was penned by King and the legendary composers Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, though the record label credits King and 'Glick', the latter name being an occasional pseudonym for Lieber and Stoller. Though obviously recognising the many great qualities of the tune, I have heard it so many times over the years that my interest in it has waned considerably. However, I am seriously smitten by the flipside 'On the horizon', correctly credited to Lieber and Stoller. Beautiful orchestration complements King's perfectly pitched and weighted vocals and the lyrics conjure up visions and dreams of ships at sea and the return of a lost love. This minor masterpiece deserves greater acclaim and I hope you will all do your duty and, when visiting your next record fair, you will buy several copies each. Go to it - do your duty!

An Unsung Partnership

Back in the dim and distant 1970's (1971 to be precise) I heard a singer hitherto unknown to me called Pete Atkin. Annie Nightingale, long-revered Radio One DJ, brought Atkin to my notice. She played the title track of Atkin's second album 'Driving Through Mythical America', an uptempo allegory of a journey through the life and times of the United States. The album's 11 tracks were driven by top class instrumentalists and session men of the day such as Chris Spedding (previously axeman with Pete Brown's Battered ornaments, later to find solo chart success with 'Motor Bikin'), legendary jazz drummer Kenny Clare and saxophonist Alan Wakeman (cousin of Rick) who later recorded with Soft Machine.

So taken was I by this album that I sought out his previous LP, 'Beware Of The Beautiful Stranger' issued, as was 'America' in the U.K. on Philips. The standard of songs on that debut commercially released album was equally as good as the 2nd. I make such a specification because Atkin had issued 2 privately pressed albums prior to 'Stranger' - 'While The Music Lasts' (1967, 160 copies) and 'The Party's moving On' (1969, 99 copies).

Read more: An Unsung Partnership

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