19 December, 2013

Through A Glass, Darkly I

I was stuck at home for the whole of November. It was down to a mild heart attack suffered while playing cricket, and yes, I held the catch I was diving backwards for when it happened. A trip to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in an ambulance, a stent inserted into a non-major artery, a few days in bed there and I'm fine now, thanks for asking. Just a couple of minor tweaks to the lifestyle as it stood (smokes, diet) and I'll probably be better off.

Anyway, that isn't the point of this series of three or maybe four posts. Heaven knows I toyed with the idea of making it all about the epiphany I'd experienced and how I was going to live each day as if it were my last with new, exciting goals I was going to set for myself now that I'd had a serious wake-up call. How important family was, etc etc. And then I thought, naaahhh, I'd much rather tell you about some TV shows I watched.

Because that was how the vast majority of my recovery time was to be spent. And I decided to use this enforced viewing time to answer one of life's big questions: how might some of the TV shows I either loved or was intrigued by as a child stand up when viewed today? I'd rather not spend the hours required to answer that question on YouTube in front of a computer. So because we have a Playstation 3 hooked up to our flat screen TV, I was able to do it all in relative comfort, albeit after a little technical tuition from one of our young lads.

So I researched. Makes a nice change for this pissy blog. And I'm confident the next three posts will answer some intriguing questions.

The Adventures of Superman was a ubiquitous part of many childhoods. So much so that it was still being repeated on Australian television right up into the mid-1970s. I thought I remembered pretty much everything about the series but was surprised to find that there was little that looked familiar when the many full episodes available on YouTube appeared at the end of my search.

Scripts for the series did not borrow terribly heavily from the comic book stories, despite featuring the main ensemble characters Lois Lane, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen. There was no Lex Luthor nor any of the DC Comic's Superman's more flamboyant villains. Instead, narratives tended to revolved around gangsters and conmen, with some quite interesting plotlines for the Man of Steel to resolve once he'd ducked into the Daily Planet's storeroom and jumped onto his take-off trampoline just below camera range.

However, Superman's origin was shown pretty much as we've come to understand it.
I recalled seeing this Series 1 Episode 1 origin episode Superman On Earth only once before in c.1968 and was as keen as mustard to catch up with it again. The sequences on Krypton follow the comic depiction of Kal-El's early life fairly closely. I also have to admit to some chuckling during the Kryptonian sequence where Superman's scientist father Jor-El is dismissed as a quack by the self-interested ruling elite for predicting Krypton's imminent destruction. Global warming anyone?

Series 6 Episode 9 Superman's Wife starred 50s pin-up Joi Lansing as an undercover detective who poses as Superman's wife in order to draw some crooks out into the open. Needless to say, Noel Neill's flame-haired Lois Lane is upset about the Man of Steel's new status.

It is all a bit jeepers-Mr-Kent but stood up a lot better than I thought it would, with some quite dark storylines and great cinematography. Some of the episodes were even quite a bit, well, spooky. To explore that further, you might want to have a look at The Haunted Lighthouse and Lady in Black. 

Just as an aside, the life story of star George Reeves was featured in the excellent biopic Hollywoodland (2006), with Ben Affleck in the title role.

Bat Masterson 
I had only the vaguest recollection of this western series as a childhood favourite of mine, screened on US network TV between 1958 and 1961, in which Gene Barry played the derby-clad, dandyish title role.

In an era where each TV western hero had to have his own iconic, highly individualized weaponry, Bat's signature gimmick involved some very deft moves with his ever-present cane. As appealing as it may have been, Bat Masterson wasn't repeated on Australian television after the very early 60s.

I watched S1 Ep5 The Fighter and I'd have to say that it wasn't a bad show at all. Bat put a stop to a rigged brutal bare-knuckle fight contest in the town where he was sheriff. And how else could he do that except by stepping into the ring himself? Marie Windsor played the feisty saloon-keeper who had her eye on Bat but he moved on at the end of the episode, as he would have done even if she could have been trusted, which she couldn't.

Beany and Cecil 
This is another US TV show from the early 60s that was  being screened on Australian TV right up until the late 70s. And there's a lot to like about it. Beany is the totally adorable cute kid sporting the propeller-topped cap and Cecil is his wonderful big, dumb good-natured sea-serpent friend and protector. Providing the villainy is Dishonest John, with his "Nyah-ah ahhh!" catch-cry making him one of the most memorable of cartoon evil-doers.

Each episode is filled with witty sight gags: my favourite is in the episode where they sail up a canal in Venice and Cecil bumps his head on the Low-Low-Bridgida. Geddit? Another cack-fest revolved around a Pacific voyage that ended at the radioactive No Bikini Atoll.

In So What and the Seven Whatnots the crew visit a gambling city, Lost Wages - where Bob New-heartburn is headlining at the Quick-Sands. Dishonest John is trying to entice punters away from So What's hot jazz combo So What and the Seven What Nots.

Wildman of Wildsville is about a beatnik living on a desert island, and he's like, crazy, man. I love beatniks, at least I love the way they are always depicted in the TV shows of the 60s: "I'm so hip, I wouldn't even eat a square meal, daddy-o."

This is a great cartoon series and I can't for the life of me figure out why Beany and Cecil wasn't repeated beyond the early 70s on Australian TV. I'd watch it now, and I think a whole lot of kids would like it too.

Burke's Law
The main character in this 1963-64 series is an extension of the character that star Gene Barry played in Bat Masterson and even earlier in a small part in Our Miss Brooks - a suave ladies man with expensive tastes.

Amos Burke is a wealthy LAPD detective lieutenant who travels to crime scenes in his chauffer-driven Rolls-Royce. There is at least one absolute babe (sometimes a bevy of them!) in each episode, including Elizabeth Montgomery, Barbara Eden, Francine York, Tina Louise and Juliet Prowse, among others.

In the episode I watched, Who Killed Cassandra Cass?, there was even a sequence involving bored housewives taking hallucinogens! However, I found Barry's particular brand of smart-aleckery trying to pass itself off as urbane wit pretty lame and somewhat annoying. And then the end credits explained why. Burke's Law was produced by Aaron Spelling, FFS! Everything with Spelling's name on it is always, inevitably, inexorably, complete shite. The guy has a perfect strike rate, so much so he even leaves Irwin Allen for dead. Burke's Law rises above this, but only slightly.

When the series returned for 1965, it was a whole 'nother TV show, a ham-fisted attempt to belatedly cash in on the spy-craze: Amos Burke: Secret Agent!

Dennis The Menace
I was expecting Dennis the Menace to wear very thin very quickly. Especially Jay North's fingernails-down-a-blackboard portrayal of Hank Ketchum's likeable comic book mischief-maker. But somehow, it all hung together very nicely and I found myself chuckling at the many ways Dennis' good intentions spelt trouble for the hapless Mr Wilson.

In S1 Ep 18 Dennis and the Duck Dennis' pet duck is playing havoc in Mr Wilson's garden. There's a very funny sequence where Mr Wilson goes for a sixer on Dennis' roller skate twice and a later scene where Dennis turns Mr Wilson's darkroom light on while he's developing some photos - to help him see better, of course. Even after all that, Denis gets to keep the duck.

That was all a bit of a hodge podge, wasn't it? Never mind, in upcoming posts in this series, we can discuss some of the brilliant, timeless TV shows that I discovered and rediscovered, and others that might make you feel a bit less nostalgic.

01 December, 2013

Rolling Stones Live at the BBC 1963-1964-1965

Oh dear. I seem to have become something of a bootlegger. I didn't mean for things to turn out this way.

You might recall a recent post of mine about using YouTube to track down clips of little-known Rolling Stones songs and unreleased live performances. These were then converted into MP3 audio files to enable the compilation of what I called The Rolling Stones Anthology.

The last song I added to the collection was a great live version of Satisfaction, filmed during a 1965 appearance on the US TV show Shindig! This clip really showcased the Stones at their very best and even featured Brian Jones blowing some harp during the last verse.

However, a couple of then-contentious lines from the song were edited out: "I can't get no-oh, girl re-AC-tion", and "tryin' to make some girl". Considering the quality of this particular Stones live performance, it's quite a tragedy.

Undaunted, I wondered if there might be an uncensored version of that clip floating around somewhere else out on YouTube so I typed Rolling Stones Satisfaction 1965 into the search box and hoped for the best. Alas, there was no other version of that Shindig! clip. But I did stumble across another live rendition of Satisfaction of similar performance quality that would enable a very nice spin-off of the anthology project.

This particular sound clip was from a BBC Saturday Club radio program. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I had spent years believing that The Rolling Stones never appeared live on the BBC like so many of their contemporaries (The Beatles; The Kinks; The Who; The Small Faces; Cream; The Jimi Hendrix Experience; and Led Zeppelin) because they'd failed their audition! And that's why there wasn't an album release of the Stones live at the BBC.

I do love it when urban myths are blown away. Encouraged to press on, a further search produced another 16 songs, broadcast during several BBC Saturday Club and Top Gear appearances.

Overall, the sound quality is on a par with other BBC Sessions recordings that I've heard. Meaning it varies a bit, but is a lot better than the bootlegs I used to purchase unwarily back in the 1970s. And really, this variability is more than compensated for by the performance quality put out by the Stones. They really did turn it on for the Beeb.

The other major revelation concerns the set-list: 6 songs that I had no idea the Rolling Stones had ever performed or recorded (Memphis Tennessee; Roll Over Beethoven; Crackin' Up; Cops and Robbers; Beautiful Delilah; and Fannie Mae), and three that I didn't know had ever formed part of their live act (Come On; 2120 South Michigan Avenue; and Walking The Dog).

So why isn't this stuff available? Well, it's difficult to even speculate but one reason could be that the Stones have somehow acquired the rights and are sitting on the material for a future blockbuster release. As they did with Rock and Roll Circus and Ladies and Gentlemen the Rolling Stones and as they're currently doing with 25 x 5 and the film version of Stripped, neither of which have ever been released on DVD. Or if the BBC still has sole rights, they might be waiting for a significant anniversary, although most of the Rolling Stones' significant beginnings have recently celebrated 50 years. Staying with the rights issue for the moment, the BBC might have joint custody, as it were, and are unable to successfully negotiate release arrangements. It all ends with a Spanish-style shrug - quien sabe?

I could amaze you with the stuff I don't know, truly. But here is the track listing for the latest personal-use-only CD to join my collection, Rolling Stones Live at the BBC.

         1. Come On  (Berry) 
         2. Memphis Tennessee (Berry)
         3. Roll Over Beethoven (Berry) 
         4. Crackin' Up (McDaniel)
5. Cops and Robbers (McDaniel)

6. Route 66 (Troup)
7. You Better Move On (Alexander)
8. 2120 South Michigan Avenue (Nanker-Phelge)
9. Walking the Dog (Thomas)
10. Beautiful Delilah (Berry)
11. Mona (McDaniel)

12. Mercy Mercy (Covay-Miller)
13. Everybody Needs Somebody To Love (Berns-Burke-Wexler)
14. Cry To Me (Russell)
15. Fanny Mae (Brown)
16. The Last Time (Jagger-Richard)
17. Satisfaction (Jagger-Richard)

11 November, 2013

Rolling Stones Anthology

You might want to sit down, fanboys. Lad Litter has been busy with a little exercise in wish fulfillment. The result? Well, I like to call it The Rolling Stones Anthology. Not Lad Litter Presents! The Rolling Stones Anthology, mind you. It isn't about me. I'd only get in the way.

Alright, maybe it is about me a little bit. I'd reserved the TV and imposed a complete ban on ambient sound for the 1995 worldwide debut of the television documentary series The Beatles Anthology. We had just the two boys back then: a toddler and a newborn who, bless their little hearts, agreed to go off to bed early over the three nights of the Beatles Anthology's screening so as not to cause any distractions. Panadol may have been administered, but only under the strictest supervision.
It was a great documentary on the Fab Four, exhaustively put together, including song clips in their entirety. And the DVD-box set which I now own contains even more material, so it's as comprehensive a history as you can get.

However, the 3 x 2CD simultaneous release sets that make up the Beatles Anthology's audio component take a slightly different path: they're pitched more as an alternative history of the Beatles' recordings. Maybe it does make me a trainspotting kind of enthusiast, but I think there are some terrific inclusions across those three sets, Anthology 1; Anthology 2; and Anthology 3. 
All together, the Anthologies contain delightful demo recordings of early live standards like That'll Be The Day, Three Cool Cats and Besame Mucho. And interspersed throughout are prototypical versions of songs that sound intriguingly different from their final releases, such as I'll Be Back in 3/4 time, an up-tempo O Bla Di O Bla Da and an acoustic While My Guitar Gently Weeps, to name just a few. There are also several sparkling live performances, including The Beatles' appearance at the Royal Command Variety Performance of 1964.

You do have to be something of a devotee to be into the Beatles Anthology but it is very illuminating and good listening. Which set me wondering.

Would it be possible to compile an equivalent collection for The Rolling Stones during the same period as that covered by The Beatles Anthology? Maybe it would. Certainly, there are numerous compilations and US versions of Stones albums that offer B-sides or unreleased recordings from the Decca years between 1963 and 1969. And if I could find some live recordings and then throw in a few unheralded album tracks as well, it might just fit together nicely.
But where to source them all from? I have quite a few CD releases for the Stones and could make up the differences from LP conversions. Live recordings might get a bit tricky. The only contemporaneous live material released during that 1963-69 period was the execrable US LP Got Live If You Want It! (1966) and three live tracks filling out the studio albums Out of Our Heads (1965) and December's Children (1965). And the 1996 release of Rock and Roll Circus, a TV special they produced in 1968. Luckily for me, our good friends at YouTube were able to do more than just help out.

As it happens, pretty much everything the Stones ever released in one form or another is up on YouTube. And there are more than a few live TV and concert performances uploaded as well. That's all very well, you say, but how could I convert those clips into sound files to make The Rolling Stones Anthology? Fortunately, the newborn who was bundled off to bed so hurriedly before the screening of The Beatles Anthology in 1995 is now 18 and told me of a website where you can paste the URL from a YouTube clip and convert it into a downloadable MP3 file.
Okay, technical problems solved. But do the Stones have enough sidelined material sufficiently available to make a Rolling Stones Anthology any good? I've got to be honest with you - I had my doubts. But that qualitative question wasn't going to be answered until the whole thing was put together and could be listened to as a complete collection.

And I experienced quite a few revelations as I worked my way through what became a huge number of songs. So I had to set some ground rules. With many more songs than I'd anticipated, there was no need for album tracks at all. So no songs previously on Australian-released studio albums would feature. I had to assume that the target audience for this collection would already be on top of all of that material.

It's easy to forget these days that The Stones' intention in the beginning was to play blues and RandB to please themselves and a select few devotees. They were almost evangelical about it. So the early recordings are dominated by blues and RandB songs. Or songs that they've injected a bluesy feel into.
And then the early live performances turned out to be of a surprisingly good standard. Most of you would be aware that the Stones' live reputation is patchy at best, particularly pre-Mick Taylor, so this was a bonus.

You'll probably also appreciate the chance to hear Bill Wyman's bass playing achieve a rare prominence on quite a few of the early tracks, and many of the songs from that 1963-64 period feature Brian Jones on backing vocals instead of Keith Richard.

The split-up between the sources for the collection is as follows:
1) B-sides and compilations of unreleased songs;
2) Live performances;
3) Studio outtakes;
4) Early demo versions.

Genuinely unreleased material is limited as, let's face it, the Stones previous managements did their best to exploit any stuff that had been left lying around. And I should stress, this is by no means exhaustive. Plenty of tunes didn't make the cut.

Anyway, here is the track listing, with a link to the YouTube clip in a few instances and some brief notes on each song. Let me know what you think.

The Rolling Stones Anthology

1.            I Want To Be Loved (Dixon) 1963
A playful Willy Dixon original and the B-side of the Stones first single Come On.
2.            Baby, What's Wrong? (Reed) 1963
All of the Stones and Keith in particular were Jimmy Reed admirers.
3.            I Can't Be Satisfied (Morganfield) 1963
This Muddy Waters cover features excellent slide guitar and harmonica.Unreleased prior to its appearance on More Hot Rocks (Big Hits and Fazed Cookies).
4.           High Heel Sneakers (Tucker) 1963
Not surprised that the Stones covered this one at some stage. Everyone else did!
5.            Stoned (Nanker-Phelge) Nov 1963
The moody instrumental B-Side of I Wanna Be Your Man.
6.            Fortune Teller (Neville) 1963
Originally released on Got Live If You Want It! with screams overdubbed. This is the scream-free version from More Hot Rocks (Big Hits and Fazed Cookies)
7.            I Wanna Be Your Man (Lennon-McCartney) Live UK TV Feb 1964 
Their second single release, suggested by Lennon and McCartney. Brian Jones plays slide guitar, its first ever appearance on an English record. This was the Stones' first TV appearance.
8.            You Better Move On (Alexander) Live UK TV Feb 1964
Another song from their first TV appearance, on the Arthur Askey Show.
9.            Look What You’ve Done (Morganfield) Feb 1964
From the 1965 US-only LP release December's Children (and Everybody's)
10.          Confessin’ The Blues (Jacobs) Feb 1964
A Little Walter cover from the EP Five By Five.
11.          Rice Krispies Radio Jingle (Jones) 1964
An extraordinarily bluesy radio jingle for a breakfast cereal and Brian Jones' only individual songwriting credit.
12.          Poison Ivy (Version 1) (Leiber-Stoller) 1964
Intended as their second single release but withdrawn in favour of I Wanna Be Your Man. Unreleased until More Hot Rocks (Big Hits and Fazed Cookies).
13.          Poison Ivy (Version 2) (Leiber-Stoller) 1964
An alternate take included on their self-titled EP.
14.          Money (Gordy-Bradford) 1964
Probably the standout track of the whole collection. Showcases the early Stones style at its best.
15.          2120 South Michigan Ave (Nanker-Phelge) Aug 1964
An instrumental from the EP Five By Five.
16.          Bye Bye Johnny (Berry) Sep 1964
Included on their self-titled EP. 
17.          Carol (Berry) Live US TV 1964 Live US TV Oct 1964
From an appearance on The Mike Douglas Show.
18.          Not Fade Away (Petty-Holly) Live US TV Oct 1964
The Hollywood Palace appearance that contained energetic performances and so much disparaging commentary from host Dean Martin. 
19.          I Just Wanna Make Love To You (Dixon) US TV Oct 1964
From the same Hollywood Palace appearance. 
20.          Around and Around (Berry) Live US TAMI Show Oct 64
A vibrant performance of early live staples at this seminal Santa Monica gig where they would appear on the same bill as numerous RnB giants such as James Brown and the Supremes.
21.          Off The Hook Live US TAMI Show Oct 64
From the same TAMI show gig.
22.          Time Is On My Side (Meade) Live US TAMI Show Oct 64
From the same TAMI show gig.
23.          It’s All Over Now (Womack) Live US TAMI Show Oct 64
From the same TAMI show gig.
24.          It’s Alright (Nanker-Phelge) Live US TAMI Show Oct 64
From the same TAMI show gig.
25.          Little Red Rooster (Dixon) Live US TV Oct 64
Not the Ed Sullivan Show appearance from 1965, this unknown TV appearance places the song amid a Halloween theme.
26.          Empty Heart (Nanker-Phelge) Nov 1964
Although short, this album track from 12 x 5 (oh, alright smartarse, there's ONE track from a studio LP) plays like a good-time jam.
27.          I'm Moving On (Snow) Live Camden Concert Mar 1965
From the 1965 US-only LP release December's Children (and Everybody's), a solid live performance with standout slide guitar.
28.          Route 66 (Troup) Live Camden Concert Mar 1965
From the 1965 US-only LP release December's Children (and Everybody's).
29.          The Last Time Live US TV 1965
From an Ed Sullivan Show appearance.
30.          Interview Canadian TV 1965
Brian Jones does most of the talking here.
31.          Satisfaction Live US TV 1965
Without doubt their best ever live performance of this song - and a great film-clip too. Brian Jones plays harmonica over the last verse and fade-out. The lines "I can't get no, girl re-ACtion", and "tryin' ta make some girl" have unfortunately been edited out by the Shindig producers.
32.          The Singer Not The Song Sep 1965
A ballad-y album track from the 1965 US-only LP release December's Children (and Everybody's)
33.          Talkin’ Bout You (Berry) Sep 1965
From the 1965 US-only LP release December's Children (and Everybody's)
34.          Looking Tired Outtake Sep 1965
Studio outtake.
35.          Announcer Intro Live Melbourne Concert Feb 66
A great find this. The Stones really rocked Melbourne's Palais Theatre on their second Australian tour in two years. 
36.          Mercy Mercy (Covay-Miller) Live Melbourne Concert Feb 66
37.          Play With Fire (Nanker-Phelge) Live Melbourne Concert Feb 66
38.          Get Off Of My Cloud Live Melbourne Concert Feb 66
39.          Sad Day Feb 66
The B-Side of the 19th Nervous Breakdown single.
40.          Long, Long While May 1966
The UK B-side of Paint It Black.
41.          The Last Time – The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra Jul 66
Later sampled by the Verve for their Bittersweet Symphony - and promptly sued by the Stones for sampling too much!
42.          Mother’s Little Helper Live Honolulu Concert Jul 1966
Performance quality varies a bit but the between songs patter is very typical of their shows on tour during 1965-66.
43.          Lady Jane Live Honolulu Concert Jul 1966
44.          Paint It Black Live Honolulu Concert Jul 1966
45.          Who's Driving Your Plane? Sep 1966
The bluesy B-side of Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby? 
46.          Dandelion Demo 1966
Keith sings on this delightful demo, aka Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Blue
47.          Under My Thumb Live Paris Concert Feb 1967
No marimbas but a reasonable performance.
48.          Ruby Tuesday Live Paris Concert 1967
This European Tour would be their last stint on the road until their US tour in 1969.
49.           Let's Spend Some Time Together Live US TV Feb 67
The infamous Ed Sullivan Show appearance where they changed the lyrics so as not to offend. Only the vocals are live.
50.           Interview Brian Jones Monterey Jun 1967
Brian discusses future directions for the Stones while holding court at the Monterey Pop Festival.
51.          The Last Time – The Who Jul 1967
Not a Stone in sight here. The Who would rush-release this and Under My Thumb as a gesture of solidarity for the Stones during their 1967 drug bust cause celebre. 
52.          We Love You Instrumental Demo Aug 1967
An early version of the single designed to be a thank you to loyal fans during the drug bust cause celebre.
53.          Citadel Instrumental Demo Aug 1967
Early demo of the underrated album track from Their Satanic Majesties' Request.
54.          Interview Brian Jones London Jan 1968
Brian opens up about Their Satanic Majesties Request.
55.          Jumping Jack Flash Live In Studio 1968
Great performance of their new hit. The only time the original studio intro was played on a live rendition.
56.          Child of the Moon 1968
Atmospheric B-side of Jumping Jack Flash. 
57.          Family Outtake1968
A Dylanesque outtake from the Beggars' Banquet sessions.
58.          Blood Red Wine Outtake 1968 
Meandering ballad outtake from the Beggars' Banquet sessions.
59.          Stuck Out All Alone Outtake 1968
Outtake from the Beggars' Banquet sessions.
60.          Sympathy for the Devil Live in Studio 1968
Tracking the evolution of the song's development - from Jean Luc Godard's documentary film One Plus One. 
61.          Jumping Jack Flash Live UK TV Dec 1968
From The Rolling Stones' Rock n Roll Circus TV Special. Their last gig with Brian Jones. This creditable performance of Jumpin' Jack Flash has a more laid back vibe than any other live version I've heard.
62.          Parachute Woman Live UK TV Dec 1968
Also from The Rolling Stones' Rock n Roll Circus TV Special. More guitar-oriented than the studio version. 
63.          No Expectations Live UK TV Dec 1968
Another from The Rolling Stones' Rock n Roll Circus TV Special. Jones plays slide guitar and Jagger sings a varied melody from the studio version.
64.          Memo From Turner - Mick Jagger solo single 1970
Ry Cooder plays the coolest slide guitar on this 1968 recording for the film Performance, later released as a 1970 Jagger solo single.
65.          Sister Morphine (Jagger-Richard-Faithfull) Demo 1968
Early demo of this haunting collaboration with Marianne Faithfull that would not appear until Sticky Fingers (1971).
66.          It Hurts Me Too (James-London) Jamming With Edward 1969
Jagger, Wyman and Watts jam with Ry Cooder while Keith is otherwise occupied during the Let It Bleed sessions. 
67.          Blow With Ry Jamming With Edward 1969
Jagger, Wyman and Watts jam with Ry Cooder while Keith is otherwise occupied during the Let It Bleed sessions. 
68.          The Boudoir Stomp Jamming With Edward 1969
Jagger, Wyman and Watts jam with Ry Cooder while Keith is otherwise occupied during the Let It Bleed sessions.
69.          I Don't Know Why Outtake Jul 1969
This is what was being recorded when the Stones were notified of Brian Jones' death.
70.          Brian Jones Tribute Speech Live Hyde Park Concert Jul 1969
Mick reads Shelley's Adonais to the hushed Hyde Park crowd of 200000. 
71.          I’m Yours and She’s Mine (Winter) Live Hyde Park Concert Jul 1969
None of the songs from the Hyde Park setlist had ever been played live before and this one wouldn't be again.
72.          I’m Free Live Hyde Park Concert Jul 1969
This album track from the 1965 US-only release December's Children was a counter-intuitive choice for their first live set in nearly three years.
73.          Midnight Rambler Live Hyde Park Concert Jul 1969
Just a fragment really, from the quiet middle bit onwards, but Mick Taylor was obviously very keen to make a good impression at his first gig as a Rolling Stone - loads of slide guitar.
74.          Love In Vain (Payne) Live Hyde Park Concert Jul 1969
Mick Taylor really cuts loose on this one. Provides an interesting counterpoint to the Get Yer Ya-Yas Out live version.
75.           Jiving Sister Fanny Outtake Aug 1969
An outtake from the Let It Bleed sessions.
76.           I'm Going Down Outtake Sep 1969 
Another Let It Bleed Outtake - this one sounds a bit like a demo for Soul Survivor, the closing track on Exile on Main Street.
77.            Loving Cup - Outtake 1969
Much slower than the version that would appear on Exile On Main Street three years later, this outtake showcases Mick Taylor.
78.            Brown Sugar - Outtake 1970
With Keith on bass, Eric Clapton on guitar and Mick Taylor on slide guitar, this outtake has a great groove to it.

That's enough material to make The Rolling Stones Anthology a 4-CD set. Now, what to do about the packaging?

22 September, 2013

Rock Revelations I: The Byrds

This is the first in a series of posts that will describe significant musical epiphanies I've experienced. It covers the 1965-67 period of The Byrds' original lineup.

Now, I'd love to be able to say that I saw The Byrds live at the Whiskey a Go-Go in LA back in '65 or on their hugely successful British tour later that year. But no such luck. I was only six and my parents were pretty strict. No, the closest I ever got to an actual Byrd was the 1995 email reply I received from Roger McGuinn after politely enquiring when he'd be touring Australia again. I don't know when, but I shall return, was his delightfully MacArthur-esque answer.

And sure, I'd noted the 1978 Australian tour of McGuinn, Clark and Hillman alright, but not enough to go to any of their gigs. Regrets? I've had a few. You see, at that time, The Byrds were very much on the periphery of my musical interests.

It would be 2005 before I'd catch a terrific Sydney solo gig of McGuinn's on the excellent ABC-TV program Live at the Basement, but you can't say he didn't keep his word.

I'd originally come to The Byrds via some earnest teenage over-enthusiasm for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young back in 1976. I wanted to explore the earlier work of the members of the first American supergroup, and I thought purchasing The Byrds Greatest Hits would do the job nicely. My 17 year old self liked it enough but thought all those Dylan covers were a little on the insubstantial side.
To be fair, I rated The Byrds much more highly than those other CSNY precursors Buffalo Springfield and of course, The Hollies, and I could see how they must have been very influential - how later groups like Poco, America and the Eagles clearly owed a debt to The Byrds' country-folk-rock stylings. But under my somewhat injudicious scrutiny, their mid-60s incarnation came out looking like a pre-Monkees attempt to cash in on the British mop-top phenomenon.

It was The Byrds' appearance on Dancing in the Street, BBC-TV's brilliant 1995 documentary series on the history of rock and roll, that made me want to explore their catalogue in more detail through fresh, better-informed eyes. You could call it a Damascene convyrsion. I had become a Nyrd, having learned enough from that series to develop a heightened appreciation of the pivotal nature of The Byrds' influence - how they weren't just a group that sounded a bit like later country rock bands - that they'd laid all of the groundwork for subsequent artists who would make a lot more money than The Byrds ever did.

The Byrds featured in two episodes of Dancing in the Street: Episode 3: So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star, which covered folk rock; and Episode 6: Eight Miles High, on psychedelic rock. As you've  probably realized, both of those episodes carry the titles of emblematic Byrds' songs.

So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star features the Byrds from the 20:20 mark (I would highly recommend watching the entire episode if you haven't seen it) and the narrative puts a compelling case for The Beatles, Dylan and The Byrds as a triumvirate of bridges between folk music, as it then was, and rock and roll.
McGuinn in particular talks about how he found considerable synergy between his folk roots and the kind of structures present in most Beatles songs. How George Harrison's use of the Rickenbacker 360/12, a 12-string electric guitar during the movie A Hard Day's Night inspired McGuinn to meld those key influences into a distinctive new sound that would be very much The Byrds' own.
Dylan had already done all of the groundwork re-defining and revolutionizing folk music, so McGuinn took Bob's recent composition Mr Tambourine Man, changed its time signature from 2/4 to 4/4 and tacked on the now-iconic Bach-derived intro. Producer Terry Melcher's lack of confidence in The Byrds' musicianship meant that all instrumentation except for McGuinn's Rickenbacker were provided by the Wrecking Crew. But there was no doubt rock music had reached a significant watershed.

With a Number One hit on their hands, The Byrds' jangling proved to be profoundly influential, all at once accelerating and validating Dylan's move to electric instrumentation and providing the most distinctive motif running through this new genre of folk-rock during 1965-66. Simon and Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence would have electric 12-string guitars added in post-production and I Can't Explain, The Who's first single, would also be driven by the Rickenbacker 360/12.

But The Byrds weren't finished pushing boundaries.

They come on pretty early at 2:13 during Episode 6: Eight Miles High. And why not? Their haunting January 1966 single pretty much started the whole psychedelic phenomenon. Again, I urge watching the whole thing if you've got time - it's well worth it.
After the immense success of Mr Tambourine Man and immediate follow-up hits such as Turn, Turn, Turn, McGuinn found himself looking for a way to further explore the potential of his ever-present electric 12-string guitar. He found it in an unlikely place.

McGuinn had become fascinated with the music of jazz-saxophonist John Coltrane, and felt that the Rickenbacker 360/12 might provide a means of paying homage to Coltrane's stylings. A Byrds composition, Eight Miles High would feature double-entendre lyrics (aeroplane flight or drug-induced trip? You decide.), an eerie melody from Gene Clark, some exciting rhythmic contributions from David Crosby and superb vocals.

Despite being unofficially blacklisted from radio airplay due to moralistic pressure group influence, Eight Miles High would prove just as influential as Mr Tambourine Man, almost eighteen months before the Summer of Love. 

After watching this series, I couldn't get enough of the song Eight Miles High and listened to it incessantly. I played The Byrds Greatest Hits again and again to make sure I hadn't missed anything. And I thought it was worth betting that non-compilation studio albums by the Byrds could well contain some great unheralded material. To the record shops!

First priority was getting a hold of the album that featured Eight Miles High, 5th Dimension. And my timing was impeccable, because Columbia had just released the re-mastered Legacy reissue versions of the Byrds' back catalogue with bonus tracks. On 5th Dimension, their third album and the first without the recently-departed Gene Clark, bonus tracks included an earlier version of Eight Miles High recorded at RCA. Crosby preferred this slower, moodier alternate take but I'm inclined to favour the final Columbia version.

Other standout tracks are the folky Wild Mountain Thyme, the underrated Hey Mr Spaceman, Crosby's I See You and two other bonus tracks: I Know My Rider and Why. Overall, 5th Dimension hangs together pretty well as an album without being spectacular.
Next on the shopping list was The Byrds' second album, Turn, Turn, Turn, the title track of which was their biggest hit. The only other really good song on the original track listing is It Won't Be Wrong, but there are two dynamite bonus tracks in She Don't Care About Time, one of Gene Clark's finest compositions and featuring a great drum pattern reminiscent of Ticket to Ride from Michael Clarke, plus a lovely cover version of Dylan's It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.

The Byrds' first album, which took its title from their hit single Mr Tambourine Man, made the cash register ring next. This album is studded with entries from The Byrds' Greatest Hits including the Gene Clark penned I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better, The Bells of Rhymney, All I Really Want To Do and Chimes of Freedom.

Another Gene Clark composition, the poignant Here Without You, is a great unsung Byrds album track that deserves a higher place in the Byrds' canon, even if only because it is an obvious melodic precursor to Eight Miles High.

The Byrds' fourth album, Younger Than Yesterday, seems to follow logically from 5th Dimension and it is here that David Crosby's dreamy compositions Everybody's Been Burned, Mind Gardens and the bonus track It Happens Each Day arguably represent an early peak for his songwriting. I've always loved So You Wanna Be A Rock and Roll Star with its counter-intuitive trumpet from Hugh Masekela and My Back Pages is another significant Dylan cover.

There's also a more eastern-influenced version of Why and a catchy first-up songwriting credit for bass player Chris Hillman in Have You Seen Her Face.

I know a lot of Nyrds regard this album highly but I couldn't find too many redeeming features on The Notorious Byrd Brothers apart from I Wasn't Born To Follow, a song that would later appear on the Easy Rider soundtrack. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out it was a Goffin-King composition.

Internal tensions ran rife through the sessions and David Crosby would either leave or be fired (depending on whose version of events you believe) during the recording of The Notorious Byrd Brothers.

It's a shame that The Byrds didn't produce an album of the quality that would have done justice to their talent and influence from their first five attempts. Maybe if some of the outstanding bonus tracks had replaced the lesser album tracks. That said, you probably need to be mindful of the fact that rock music wasn't album-oriented during The Byrds' peak period during 1965-67 - it would take the Beatles' Rubber Soul (1966) to start to alter the industry's emphasis on albums over singles, and that wouldn't be fully realized until 1968, the first year that albums outsold singles.

That said, I would highly recommend the Legacy reissues of The Byrds' albums for their enhanced production values and bonus tracks of unusually high quality.

You may have gleaned from all the prose north of here that although I'm a fan of The Byrds, it's not unconditional. My view of the Byrds could best be summed up by one of the bonus tracks on Sweetheart of the Rodeo: the bluesy Reputation. I think it's a terrific song, a folk-country-blues-rock 12-bar that seems to have everything. But the bass drops out during  the second verse, causing the song to lose a fair bit of momentum. It kicks back in fairly promptly, but the damage has been done and that's probably why it didn't make it onto the original album.

And that's pretty much an encapsulation of their career for me: I love and admire them for the peaks in their output and all they inspired, but that intangible nagging feeling of how much better they might have been is inescapable.