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The Greatest Record Ever Made : Lies


Jimmy Walker
 of The Knickerbockers passed away last week. This is a chapter from my forthcoming book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1).
An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, 
this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

THE KNICKERBOCKERS: “Lies”Imitation and inspiration are two very different things. We generally have less regard for the former, but recognize that nothing worthwhile can be sparked without the latter. And some imitations are inspired. Many Beatles fans adore The Rutles, and also Utopia‘s Deface The Music, both of which are able and engaging tributes, copying familiar Beatles songs, rewriting them, and reframing them as something almost new. The result is sincere flattery, but compellingand interesting sincere flattery. 
The Beatles inspired more than just imitation, though. The Beatles certainly drew from their own gumbo of influences–Chuck BerryLittle RichardBuddy HollyCarl PerkinsThe Everly BrothersThe ShirellesArthur Alexander–and evolved from imitation to divine inspiration. Some acts set out to imitate The Beatles in some way and became inspired to be more than imitation: to become The Byrds, to craft the sublime majesty of Pet Sounds, to invent ’70s punk rock as simply as a rapid-fire count-off of 1-2-3-4!  Let’s be The Beatles, lads. And then let’s be something we can call our own.
Most would think of “Lies” by The Knickerbockers as imitation, a greed-driven attempt to recreate the sound of The Beatles, maybe even to fool the gullible into thinking it is The Beatles. When I first heard it, my immediate reaction was that it sounded more like The Beatles than The Beatles did. So yeah (yeah yeah), I guess it is imitation. But it’s imitation with a vision, and it is still so much more than just that.

At first glance, The Knickerbockers would seem an unlikely source for rockin’ pop transcendence. I don’t mean to be disrespectful when I say that The Knickerbockers never looked cool, because–let’s face it!–I’ve never looked cool either. The group started out in Bergenfield, New Jersey in 1962, and they were not in any way ahead of their time. They were a cover band. They imitated. They got people to dance, which is good, but they could make no claim to greatness. 
Until, suddenly, they could make that claim.

Founding members Beau Charles and John Charles–brothers, on guitar and bass respectively–were joined by newer Knicks Buddy Randell (sax) and Jimmy Walker (drums) in 1964. They were still primarily a covers act. Their first two albums, Lloyd Thaxton Presents The Knickerbockers and Jerk And Twine Time (both from ’64), were without distinction. Either or both could be erased from history without affecting the time-space continuum in the slightest.
Given that: where the hell did “Lies” come from…?!

The Beatles were pop music in ’64 and ’65. There were lots and lots of other great stuff happening, from James Brown to Paul Revere & the RaidersMotown to girl groups, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass to Wilson PickettThe Rolling StonesThe KinksStax, and Louis Armstrong, even. But The Beatles ruled, by perception and acclaim, their fab reign and domain reflected in influence, imitation, and inspiration. Beatlemania inspired The Knickerbockers.
“Lies” was written by Buddy Randell and Beau Charles. The Knickerbockers’ previous records had been competent and bland, bordering on the anonymous. Coming after those forgettable works, “Lies” seemed to scream with moptopped frenzy, Let’s be The Beatles! Was it a conscious ambition? Man, it must have been.  What working rock or pop performer in 1965 didn’t want to be The Beatles? Maybe Quincy Jones didn’t want to be The Beatles. Everyone else did.
It’s one thing to want; it’s quite another to achieve. “Lies” magically distills everything–everything–great about Beatles ’65 into one single 45 side. Originally, it was the wrong 45 side; Challenge Records, The Knickerbockers’ demonstrably clueless label, stupidly relegated “Lies” to the B-side of “The Coming Generation,” an earnest and boring track not destined to ever trouble the Top 40. Clearer heads prevailed when DJs turned the record over. “Lies” was a hit. And you know that can’t be bad.
The track’s obvious debt to The Beatles makes it tempting to dismiss “Lies” as ersatz Merseybeat, a copy and nothing more. Except that it’s not a copy, and it is more. “Lies” is not a ripoff of any Beatle record. There are general elements taken from Lennon and McCartney, but really more in terms of a general feel, an accomplished and successful attempt to channel Meet The Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night and “Thank You, Girl” without resorting to thievery. It didn’t hurt that Beau Charles’ lead vocals were so damned convincingly reminiscent of John Lennon. “Lies” doesn’t sound like any one Beatles record. It sounds like all of them. Audaciously, triumphantly, a band from Jersey had pulled it off. For one shining moment, The Knickerbockers had effectively become The Beatles.
Released in late ’65–pop music’s best year ever–“Lies” should have been a # 1 smash. It peaked at # 20 in ’66, and it was The Knickerbockers’ only big hit. They deserved better. After the dull banality of their earliest records, The Knickerbockers willed themselves into becoming a dynamic beat combo, capable of having a rave-up and having a wild weekend eight days a week, right alongside the best of the British Invasion. In 1966, they released their third and final album Lies (credited to “The Fabulous Knickerbockers”). The album was schizophrenic. Side Two was awash with big balladry, a pseudo Righteous Brothers sequence that squandered the fab rush of “Lies” (and presaged Jimmy Walker’s subsequent departure from the Knickerbockers to replace Bill Medley in the actual Righteous Brothers). But Side One? “I Can Do It Better,” “Can’t You See I’m Trying,” “Please Don’t Fight It,” and especially “Just One Girl” demonstrated that The Knickerbockers should not have been merely one-hit wonders, their lack of follow-up chart success notwithstanding.

n 1994, I picked up a Knickerbockers compilation CD called A Rave Up With The Knickerbockers. I already owned a handful of Knickerbockers discs (including reissues of Lies and Jerk And Twine Time), but this was the first to really demand my attention. A Rave Up With The Knickerbockers eschewed the ballads, ignored the early covers, and concentrated on The Knickerbockers’ uptempo gems. Well, fine, it did include “Coming Generation,” but that was okay in context. I already knew and adored “Lies,” of course, as well as its terrific non-LP follow-up “One Track Mind,” a great cut called “She Said Goodbye,” and the other tracks from Side One of Lies. Putting all of that (minus the Lies track “Please Don’t Fight It”) on one disc, combined with unfamiliar treats like “My Feet Are Off The Ground,” “Rumors, Gossip, Words Untrue,” “High On Love,” and the flat-out amazing “They Ran For Their Lives,” served to provide a fresh revelation. Knickerbockermania!
“One-hit wonder” is often taken as a pejorative term. I never intend it that way. To me, it refers to a missed opportunity, a chance the public didn’t get or never took to hear more from a great act that dazzled the country once, and was probably capable of dazzling yet again. Some one-hit wonders merited much greater notoriety than they received, more praise, more adulation, more airplay, more hits. The Bobby Fuller Four should not have been just a one-hit wonder. The Knickerbockers shouldn’t have been that either. Still, even if “Lies” had been the only track The Knickerbockers ever recorded, its transcendent celebration of an American Beatlemania delivered on its own self-assured terms…well, that would be reason enough for idolatry, cause enough to worship the group that created this essential work of wonder. Someday I’m gonna be happy, but I don’t know when just now.Because it’s no lie: imitation can lead to inspiration. Inspiration is timeless. And it sounds fabulous.

A tip of the hat toBruce Gordon, whose own Let’s Be The Beatles studies have gone in far greater depth than I could ever manage.TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!
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Categories
Pop Sunday

The Vapour Trails / Golden Sunshine

The Vapour Trails

Golden Sunshine (Futureman Records) 

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/golden-sunshine

The Vapour Trails hit the jackpot right from the start, as the Scottish band’s debut album, See You In The Next World, was an instant smash, both artistically and sales-wise. Needless to say, expectations run high for the follow-up effort, and I am happy to report Golden Sunshine soars above and beyond the call of duty. 

Suitably christened, the album emits endless rays of warmth and vitality. Positive energy abounds, producing songs of a spiritual nature that transcend space and time. The band’s mastery of sonic innovation also supplies additional layers of spellbinding beauty to their superbly-scripted material. 

The paired pursuits of folk rock and psychedelic experimentation are strongly emphasized throughout Golden Sunshine, particularly on the title cut, which begins on mellow footing, prior to expanding into a mountain of crunchy acid-dusted jamming that reflects a head-on collision between The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield.

Assembled of honey-coated vocals, angelic harmony and rich melodies, Dr. Barnes, Lonely Man and Different Girl, kick in as subsequent stunners, as well as the hauntingly gorgeous Seabird that sweeps and swoons with a Beach Boys flavor, and appropriately concludes to a choir of chirpy feathered friends. A rougher edge guides the meaty, beaty, bouncy Strange, which provides the bluesy toot of a harmonica, while an exotic belly-dancing vibe anchors The Conversation, that includes a burst of blaring trumpets. 

Pulsing with vibrant contours and a groove that energizes the soul, Golden Sunshine revisits Southern California sixties sounds with a here and now mentality. Blending discipline with spontaneity, The Vapour Trails keep their songs consistently fresh and exciting. Chock full of magical moments, Golden Sunshine catches The Vapour Trails singing and playing the kind of music they love and believe in. Such enthusiasm is infectious, which is yet another aspect that makes the band and their new album so special.

Categories
Pop Sunday

10 Feel-Good Pop Songs!

It has been scientifically proven that music is a great healer. That said – especially now, when the world as we know it has literally collapsed – we need music more than ever to maintain a positive outlook. Here are ten pop songs that never fail to put a smile on my face, and are bound to  brighten your day as well. 

“And Your Bird Can Sing” (1966) The Beatles. Although the lyrics are cut of a cryptic nature, explosive harmonies, combined with chiming guitars spinning and tumbling with velocity, furnish “And Your Bird Can Sing” with a joyous tenor that grips the both the mind and the body.



“Precious To Me” (1980) Phil Seymour. From the sweet and shiny Buddy Holly influenced vocals to the clutching hooks to the neat and tidy instrumentation, “Precious To Me” not only serves as the quintessential pop song, but a superbly-articulated sonic sentiment. Precious indeed.

“Let’s Go To San Francisco” (1967) The Flower Pot Men. Lushly textured and bursting at the seams with dazzling Beach Boys styled vocal exercises, “Let’s Go To San Francisco”  checks in as a charming ode to the beautiful city by the Bay. Subtle drug references led the song to be banned from many American playlists, but topped the charts in England. 

“I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” (1988) The Moody Blues. Shimmering with spirituality, “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” sends a telepathic SOS to a long lost love with the certanity they will meet again. Ethereal vocals, accompanied by sweeping synthesizer slopes and a nice mix of acoustic and electic guitars, supply the gorgeously-groomed song with equal amounts of yearning and hope.

“She Don’t Care About Time” (1965) The Byrds. Authored by Byrds founder, vocalist and tambourine man Gene Clark, “She Don’t Care About Time”  sparkles and swirls to the legendary band’s signature stance of jangling riffs and heavenly choruses. As the cherry on the sundae, the song adds a classical touch to the proceedings in the form of a Bach inspired passage.

“Not Alone Anymore” (1988) The Traveling Wilburys. Guided by Roy Orbison’s soaring lung power that invariably produces goosepimples from head to toe, “Not Alone Anymore” is a booming ballad, promising love, comfort and security. Fellow Traveling Wilburys George Harrison and Jeff Lynne also lend their assistance to the heart-swelling presentation.

“I Hear A Symphony” (1966) The Supremes. Stepping in as yet another solid gold hit from the Motown factory, “I Hear A Symphony” begins on a rather soft note before gradually ballooning into a super-sized symphony of bellowing brass arrangements, glossy melodies and supremely Supreme harmonies.

“Summerlove Sensation” (1974) The Bay City Rollers. Reflecting a cross between The Beach Boys and Raspberries, “Summerlove Sensation” smacks of carefree happiness. Sprinkled with twinkling sleigh bells, the invigorating song pours a premium on sunny singing and a bubbly beat all in the name of teen romance.  

“I Can Hear The Grass Grow” (1967) The Move. Designed of psychedelic impressions, “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” favors a quick and effective pace, humming with stirring licks, galloping rhythms, skyscraper choruses, pulsating percussion and bracing breaks. Hammering hard rock currents to pop sensibilities, the technicolor tune allows the imagination to run wild. The line – “My head’s attracted to a magnetic wave of sound” –  drives the point home.

“Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” (1971) The Fortunes. Despite the sad prose involving a guy who apparently only sees his girlfriend on Sunday, and therefore, dreads Monday, “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” possesses a pretty and punchy tone that immediately energizes the soul. Smartly structured and  polished with precision, the tasty tune is doubly highlighted by the exceptional harmony prowess The Fortunes are recognized for.

Categories
Pop Sunday

New Column By Beverly Paterson!

The Clock Watchers / The Clock Watchers (Gear Fab Records 2020)

Those not familiar with the background of The Clock Watchers will be forgiven thinking they were one of those obscure sixties bands heard on compilation albums like “Pebbles”, “Green Crystal Ties” or “Teenage Shutdown.” But the truth is, these guys existed a few decades after the musical era they mined. 1992 and 1993 saw the Northwest Pacific band cutting a cache of songs, which appeared on a self-titled album in 1999 distributed by the Gear Fab label. The Colorado based imprint  has not only recently revived the collection on compact disc, but attached a slew of previously unreleased material to the package.

Ron Kleim – who has played with notable bands such as The Surf Trio and Marble Orchard – held the role of songwriter, singer and organist of The Clock Watchers. The other members of the band were bassist Don Beckner and Jayson Breeton on drums, vocals, bass and guitar. 

Dining on a diet of jingly jangly chords, squealing Farfisa figures, choppy drum beats and gnawing breaks, The Clock Watchers mainly operated under the dual influences of West Coast folk pop and reedy garage rock. Moody vocals, coupled with aching melodies ringing with expression, add a sense of longing and loneliness to the catchy tunes that call to mind certain aspects of The Rising Storm, The Beau Brummels, The E-Types and The Gestures. 

Providing just the right measure of raw energy and snappy hook lines, “Drop In The Bucket,” “The Girl With Tears In Her Eyes,” “You Can Run,” “This Could Be Love,” “Mad Girl,” “Dirty Shame,” “When I Dream” and “Hey Little Girl” recreate the sound, style and spirit of 1965 to utter perfection. 

A taunting edge marks the aggressive thrust of “I’d Rather Laugh” and the comparably tough and toxic “No Tears For You” is spiked with the crying pitch of a bluesy harp. “Free Soul,” “Gone For Good” and “Shadows” further appropriate a rough and rugged finish, while “Goodbye” crackles with twanging country aspirations.

Powered by a bouncy kick, “Kiss Of Death” races and rolls with surf inspired rhythms before concluding to a round of trippy sitar riffs, and “It’s Your Life” is threaded with zoomy space age guitars reminiscent of the kind of stuff The Byrds were doing during their psychedelic phase. 

Comprised of twenty-two songs, The Clock Watchers makes for a consistently enjoyable listen. Period- piece lyrics, a swinging vibe and vintage equipment are the winning ingredients behind the amazing authenticity of The Clock Watchers. Here’s a band that really knew how to compose and perform the music they adored, and how nice it is their efforts have been rescued from the vaults. Perhaps now that The Clock Watchers has been reissued, the band will be motivated to reunite and record more groovy nuggets.

http://gearfab.swiftsite.com/

https://www.discogs.com/artist/691127-Ron-Kleim

*****

Richard Turgeon / The Journey (2020)

Shortly after his third and most recent album, Go Deep, was released last August, Richard Turgeon wasted nary a second working on new material. Since then, the San Francisco based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has unfolded a series of singles, which are available in digital download mode, and are scheduled to appear on his forthcoming album.

Turgeon’s latest single, “The Journey,” addresses the sensitive subject of supporting and encouraging a loved one grappling with challenging changes and situations in their life. 

Ebbing and flowing with captivating curves, the track is firmly grounded in folk rock soil. Drafts of stinging guitars, fizzing with sweeping melodies, lend “The Journey” a tone modeled on the likes of Neil Young, Tom Petty and Teenage Fanclub. But Turgeon’s smart tunesmith tactics, partnered with his robust vocals that have the ability and inflection to communicate clearly, rise  above the copycat category.

Turgeon is truly one of the finest contemporary artists composing and playing roots styled pop rock. The quality of his output remains amazingly high, with “The Journey” clocking in as yet another stone cold clarification of his worth.

https://richardturgeon.bandcamp.com/track/the-journey

https://www.facebook.com/rturgeonfans/

https://www.richardturgeon.com/