Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

Ray Wilson Propaganda Man (Update)

 

Today I received by e-mail the final mix versions of the eleven songs which will make up the “Propaganda Man” album, obviously these must remain under wraps until released and Ray expects this to be in about two weeks.

I can assure you it will be well worth the wait, here is the track listing:-

01. Bless Me

02.  Lately

03.  The Brakes Are Gone

04.  Razorlite

05.  Propaganda Man

06.  Frequency

07.  Modern Day Miracle

08.  Cosmic Baby

09.  Things Don’t Stop

10.  More Propaganda

11.  On The Other Side

October 19, 2008 Posted by | News, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Quadrophenia 35 Years On

35 years ago today my all time favourite album was released, it is an album that has been part of my life ever since, when I feel particularily low or good I will return to it and it remains one of the few albums I will gladly listen to from start to finish which is even more remarkable given it is a double album.

The abum was the soundtrack of my transistion from boy to man and is a truely remarkable piece of work.

I stumbled on the album by chance as during the school October week holiday in 1975 we spent much of the hoiday indoors in a friends parents lounge due to the usual October weather listening to albums.

By this time my musical grail had developed from listening to such as “She Loves You” on my mum’s transistor radio, a permament fixture in the kitchen, through novely pop on my Bush style Dansette such as Gilbert O’Sullivan and school playground favourites such as Slade and T-Rex.

Being an only child I had been relatively closetted from the wider world of music having no older brother or sister to influence me, however by late 1972 I had a new friend at the big school who’s older sister was dating a rock drummer through this I was introduced to what could now be termed classic rock.

For the next few years I was driven by the music of Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher and surprisingly Wishbone Ash and Uriah Heep. During this time I missed out on The Who until that fateful week in October 1975.

By then I was getting a bit bored with “live albums” and “air guitar” and was desperate for someting different. A friend of ours attended Kelvinside Academy a famous fee paying school in Glasgow where their lessons were augumentd by theme related films, it was during one such film used as part of a physics lesson that he heard a piece of music which he discovered was the track “Quadrophenia”

He went out and bought the album only to find that it was only the instrumental title track that he liked, as such he gave another friend the album and that week we decided to give it a spin and from there we didn’t look back.

I had found what i was looking for an album that eflected my inner feelings and sounded like nothing else, until Christmas I ived off a taped copy of the album and of course went on to discover all the other great and varied music that The Who produced.

We were too late to see them live at The Glasgow Apollo that October but did see them the following June at Celtic Park which was the one and only time I saw the four members together.

Quadrophenia will forever be with me and even Pete Townshend himself now recognises that it is this body of work that is his crowning achievement.

As it turns out we were not alone as you can see from this extract from one of the many Quadrophenia web pages.

Introduction by Brian Cady from www.quadrophenia.net

I was sixteen and had been a Who fan for about a year when the Quadrophenia album came out. It seemed huge, gray and heavy with its two records and black-and-white photo album. Remember this was when rock music was all bright colors and glitter. Ziggy Stardust was still Lord of Britain even after his recent abdication and in the States it was Alice Cooper and his Billion Dollar Babies. So this bleak cover stood out in that day-glo era. This was not just another rock record.

Every page of the booklet seemed an affront to pop showmanship. Who spends all this money to make a booklet of pictures of a kid hauling trash and a plate of half-eaten eggs? If the booklet was harsh and spare, the music was something else entirely. No Tommy thinness here. This was rich, layered rock both in sound and words. Plot songs were gone as The Who dove headlong into the mind of this angry, hurting teen.

At the time The Who were rightly concerned about whether Americans would understand the subtext. I was given a head start on the meaning of Mods by Gary Herman’s recently published book titled The Who.  But even without it, I doubt many teenagers anywhere in the world had trouble understanding Jimmy. His obsession with seersucker suits might seem a little strange but what teenager hasn’t been the lonely kid in his room (“I’m One”), angry at the injustice of the world (“Helpless Dancer”), left behind by the in crowd (“Cut My Hair”), searching for a way out of the pain of growing up (“Love Reign O’er Me”).

The generation that had grown up with The Who were uncomfortable with Quadrophenia. It was too daring, too complex. Where was the master crafter of pop ditties in this gigantic work? There was no Happy Jack, only lonely, crazy Jimmy. But Quadrophenia took hold of The Who’s new young fans, those who were just then old enough to go to rock concerts. Here was a work made for them. No pop-silliness to while away the time, no empty-headed power chords to get drunk to. These were songs that cut to the core of what you were. Songs like “The Real Me” and “Dr. Jimmy” understood how deep the pain went and how dangerous you could get if the pressure didn’t let up soon. And at the end there was a way out. A hope for your future. Maybe you could grow up and be a wiser person.

It took time for everyone to realize what this work meant, even The Who. Designed to replace Tommy on stage, it turned out too technically challenging for The Who to perform live. Even if the backing tapes worked, they were locked into playing the songs the same way every night, killing any chance of letting the songs grow into new meanings as Tommy’s had.  AndPete and Roger were so concerned that the audience might not understand every little nuance of Mod culture that Quadrophenia turned into half rock show/half lecture. Bootlegs of those live shows disguise the fact that Pete and Roger’s explanations were rarely understandable beyond the first few rows. Up in the cavernous regions of the arenas The Who now had to play, kids would pass joints while someone in the band droned on unintelligibly. Why don’t they just shut up and play?

After that disaster, The Who abandoned Quadrophenia for years. Written off as a failure and disliked by the old Who fans who bombarded Pete with their opinions, Quadrophenia seemed best forgotten. But underneath it all word spread. And that familiar gray cover popped up in many a teenager’s bedroom, played over and over at top volume, making a sonic wall between the listener and the world that didn’t understand. Didn’t understand except for this one rock band from England.

The Real Me is perhaps my all time favourite track and forms part of the album opening.

My dear wife was converted to The Who when we net in 1997 and the closing track Love Reign O’er Me is a particular favourite we hope and pray she get’s to see it played live again.

 

When it was announced that a film was to be made based on the album I had major reservations as like with a book you read the film interpretaion never marries with your own.

Fortunately the film expanded the story and themes and was an enjoyable experience in it’s own right but I can still listen to the original album and experience my own memories and feeings without interference from the movie script and visuals.

Do yourself a favour and buy the original album you will not be disappointed.

“a beach is a place where a man can feel he is the only soul in the world that’s real”

Helpless Dancer ………….you stop dancing

 

October 19, 2008 Posted by | Old Music | , | Leave a comment

Tears For Levi Stubbs

Levi Stubbs, who died yesterday aged 72, was one of the most distinguished soul singers of his generation and, as lead singer with the Four Tops, a pioneer of the Motown sound that dominated the pop charts in the 1960s.

Between 1964 and 1968 the Tops enjoyed 12 Top 20 American hits, including I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honeybunch), It’s The Same Old Song and Bernadette. But perhaps the group’s – and Stubbs’s – finest moment was Reach Out I’ll Be There, a number one record in 1966 which characterised the Motown sound at its most sublime, with its galloping rhythm and symphonic orchestrations, and Stubbs’s soulful, beseeching baritone pitched somewhere between a cry for help and a prayer against the silken harmonies of the other Tops.

Like most of the group’s greatest hits, that song was written and produced by the team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, the most consistently inventive and successful partnership at the Motown “factory”. H-D-H also produced five consecutive number ones for the Supremes, as well as hits for Martha and the Vandellas, the Isley Brothers and Marvin Gaye.

For the Four Tops they produced songs that were perfectly measured to Stubbs’s declamatory, pleading style – love songs tinted with desperation and melodrama in which Stubbs was usually cast as a wounded lover, begging for release or redemption. “He would feel that type of thing, and he’d be able to sell it because he’s basically a dynamic singer anyway,” Eddie Holland once recalled. “He’s very forceful in his attitude. We knew that, so we wouldn’t give those songs to someone else to sing.”

The English songwriter Billy Bragg would pay tribute to the emotional force of Stubbs’s voice in his 1986 song Levi Stubbs’ Tears: “She takes off the Four Tops tape and puts it back in its case/When the world falls apart some things stay in place/Levi Stubbs’ tears… ”

Levi Stubbs was born in Detroit on June 6 1936 into a family with a strong musical tradition. The soul singer Jackie Wilson was a cousin, and his brother Joe Stubbs sang with the Detroit R&B group the Falcons.

Stubbs’s singing career began in 1954, when he started performing with three other high-school students, Lawrence Payton, Abdul “Duke” Fakir and Renaldo “Obie” Benson, as the Four Aims. Two years later the group signed to Chess records, changing their name to the Four Tops, supposedly to avoid confusion with another popular vocal group, the Ames Brothers.

Drawing on a repertoire comprised mostly of showtunes and standards, and singing in a close-harmony jazz style, the Tops performed in supper-clubs and lounges, and made records for Red Top, Riverside and Columbia, with no great success.

They had recently completed a tour with Billy Eckstine when, in 1961, they were approached by a young entrepreneur named Berry Gordy. An erstwhile boxer, Ford production-line worker and songwriter, Gordy had recently founded his own record label, Motown, gathering around him a crop of fresh young local talent that included Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells and the Temptations.

By comparison, the Four Tops were seasoned veterans, but Gordy was determined to bring them to the label. “Smooth, classy and polished, they were big stuff,” Gordy remembered. “I wanted them bad. I could see how loyal they were to each other, and I knew they would be the same to me and Motown.”

The Tops were initially sceptical, particularly when they learned of Gordy’s policy of not allowing his putative signings to take contracts away from the office and study them at their leisure. They persuaded Gordy to make an exception in their case.

It was two years before they came back, explaining that while the contract was satisfactory they had doubts that a small, black-owned label like Motown would be able to survive.

Their first Motown recording, a vocal jazz album, Breakin’ Through, on a dedicated label, Jazz Workshop, disappeared without trace, and for a while the group marked time providing backing vocals for other Motown acts, including the Supremes.

It was not until they were teamed with Holland, Dozier and Holland that they abandoned their jazz stylings, adopting the Motown “house style”. Their first H-D-H production, Baby I Need Your Loving, in 1964, reached number 11 in the American charts, and they enjoyed their first number one, I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch), the following year. The group would become particularly popular in Britain, where for a while they enjoyed the distinction of being Motown’s biggest-selling act.

Like Eddie Kendricks with the Temptations, and Diana Ross with the Supremes, Stubbs might easily have elected to leave the group and pursue a solo career. But he remained loyal to his friends, arguing that the group could never break up – “We’d be lost, babye_SLps lost without each other turning up for a game of cards or a sing-through.” The group would retain the same personnel until 1990, with the death of Lawrence Payton.

In 1967 Holland, Dozier and Holland fell out with Berry Gordy over profit-sharing and royalties, leading to an acrimonious lawsuit and their departure from the company. Deprived of their reliable supply-line of hits, the Four Tops’ fortunes suffered, and in 1972 they too left Motown following a contractual dispute.

Over the following years, recording for ABC and Casablanca, they enjoyed hits with Keeper of The Castle, Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got) and When She Was My Girl, all of which displayed the group’s customary polish without ever reaching the heights of their Motown work. A glowing exception was the duet which Stubbs recorded with Aretha Franklin, I Want To Make It Up To You, in 1982 for her album Jump To It – a smouldering call-and-response in which Stubbs’s voice had never sounded richer, smoother or more seductive.

In 1983 the Four Tops returned to Motown, where they were briefly reunited with Holland, Dozier and Holland for one side of a come-back album, Back Where We Belong, and where they shared the stage with a host of Motown artists for a refulgently sentimental television special celebrating the label’s 25th anniversary, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, which drew an audience of 47 million viewers. But the homecoming was shortlived, and they moved on to Arista, for which they recorded the grating novelty song Loco In Acapulco, which gave the group their last British Top 10 hit, in 1988.

Their recording career effectively over, the Four Tops continued to tour and perform, often in conjunction with another group of Motown veterans, the Temptations, the shows culminating in a “battle of the bands” in which the two groups would trade their greatest hits. Ill health finally led to Stubbs retiring from the group in 2000.

Levi Stubbs is survived by his wife, Clineice, whom he married in 1960, and five children.

From www.telegraph.co.uk

October 19, 2008 Posted by | Old Music, Video | , , | Leave a comment

   

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