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Category Archives: Vinyl

Golden Shower of Hits

I’ll admit it. This Summer mix, all 96 minutes of it, isn’t for every taste. Don’t Make Me Over delves into the scourge of “Golden Oldies” covers that took over the pop charts in the late ’70s and early ’80s. While the vapid California Soft Rock typified by Linda Ronstadt is well-represented here, there’s an intriguing eclecticism here that gives a little insight on the music scene (and its audience) in 1978-83.

It all begs the question: why? The obvious answer? Baby Boomers who couldn’t let go of their childhoods made up a huge portion of the record buying public back then. When Carole King included a couple of mellow covers of ’60s hits she co-wrote with Gerry Goffin on her mega-selling 1971 album Tapestry, it unwittingly set off the trend that continued well into the end of the ’80s. Re-imagining a familiar hit from the recent past was a sure-fire move, for both the artists who enjoyed the creative challenge and the labels who could bank on radio play from deejays seeing a familiar title on a 45 record or long-player. The practice reached critical mass in 1980-81 with a rash of updated oldies hitting the lower rungs of the Billboard Hot 100 – some whitewashed and wimpified, some given a more soulful spin, others with a New Wave twist.

The twenty eight tunes that comprise Don’t Make Me Over can be grooved to in the embedded playlists below, divided into two sections. Shout-out to the ’70s California airbrush artists whose evocative work adorns the covers for this mix: Dave Williardson (above) and Peter Palombi (below). Occasional episodes of cheesiness aside, I find this mix fascinating and hope you will, too.

Don’t Make Me Over- Summer 2013 Mix 20130515 1547 1

1. Linda Ronstadt – Just One Look (#44, 1979)
2. Yipes!! – Darlin’ (#68, 1980)
3. Josie Cotton – Tell Him (1982)
4. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down (1980)
5. Phil Seymour – Let Her Dance (1980)
6. Nicolette Larson – I Only Want To Be With You (#53, 1982)
7. Carole King – One Fine Day (#12, 1980)
8. Jennifer Warnes – Don’t Make Me Over (#67, 1980)
9. Deniece Williams – It’s Gonna Take A Miracle (#10, 1982)
10. A Taste Of Honey – I’ll Try Something New (#41, 1982)
11. Eric Hine – Not Fade Away (#73, 1981)
12. Devo – Working In The Coal Mine (#43, 1981)
13. Gentle Persuasion – Please Mr. Postman (#82, 1983)
14. Sandy Posey – Love, Love, Love/Chapel Of Love (1978)
15. Chris Christian and Amy Holland – Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing/You’re All I Need To Get By (#88, 1982)

Don’t Make Me Over- Summer 2013 Mix Pt 2 20130516 1558

16. Amii Stewart and Johnny Bristol – My Guy/My Girl (#63, 1980)
17. The Spinners – Cupid/I’ve Loved You For A Long Time (#4, 1980)
18. Melissa Manchester – My Boyfriend’s Back/Runaway (1983)
19. The Tourists – I Only Want To Be With You (#83, 1980)
20. Robert John – Sherry (#70, 1980)
21. The Reddings – (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay (#55, 1982)
22. Daryl Hall and John Oates – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling (#12, 1980)
23. Gary O’ – Pay You Back With Interest (#70, 1981)
24. Garland Jeffreys – 96 Tears (#66, 1981)
25. Kim Carnes – Cry Like A Baby (#44, 1980)
26. Heart – Unchained Melody (#83, 1981)
27. Andy Gibb and Victoria Principal – All I Have To Do Is Dream (#51, 1981)
28. Bernadette Peters – Dedicated To The One I Love (#65, 1981)

Too Good to Be Bad

Since we’ve entered a fresh new year and avoided getting destroyed in a Mayan-predicted apocalypse, I believe it’s time for a new mix. Ladies and gents, He Doesn’t Love Me: Girl Pop 1964-66.

Female-sung pop from the ’60s counts as one of my favorite musical genres, but I haven’t had a mix that focuses exclusively on it until putting together He Doesn’t Love Me, a 31-track set that represents a bumper crop of under-appreciated gems from the years 1964-66. Having it focus on those three years is important – conventional pop history wisdom says that this period happened when the “Girl Group” sound was on the wane, steamrolled by The Beatles and a more aggressive Rock sound. The energetic, sometimes goofy, always fun tunes on this mix clearly show, however, that Girl Pop was mutating into something special (especially in England, where the Fab Four’s influence is more evident). Who cares that it wasn’t as popular? I’d even venture to say that much of this stuff can hold its own against The Beatles and their guy-group contemporaries. The passionately sung, impeccably arranged songs here betray the fact that most of them are b-sides, album cuts and failed singles.

This time, I decided to have the download as separate mp3 and m4a files, instead of the continuous mixes offered previously. Simply download, drag all the files into a playlist and enjoy.

Download He Doesn’t Love Me: Winter 2013 Mix (116 MB Zip file)

He Doesn’t Love Me is also available here (with a few substitutions) on Spotify.

Track listing:
1. Sharon Tandy – “Now That You’ve Gone” (Pye UK single, 1965)
2. Petula Clark – “Life and Soul of the Party” (My Love LP cut, 1966)
3. The Supremes – “Mother Dear” (More Hits By The Supremes LP cut, 1965)
4. Jan Panter – “Put Yourself in My Place” (Pye UK single b-side, 1966)
5. Lulu Porter – “Nobody Hurt But Me” (Pep single, 1965)
6. Skeeter Davis – “Don’t Let Me Stand in Your Way” (RCA Victor single b-side, 1964)
7. Reparata & The Delrons – “Bye Bye Baby” (Whenever A Teenager Cries LP cut, 1965)
8. The Rag Dolls – “Society Girl” (Parkway single, 1964)
9. Denise Germaine – “He’s a Strange One” (ABC Paramount single, 1964)
10. The Lewis Sisters – “He’s an Oddball” (V.I.P. single, 1965)
11. Molly Bee – “He Doesn’t Want You” (Liberty single, 1964)
12. Jeanne Thomas – “Too Good to Be Bad” (New Voice single b-side, 1965)
13. Gerri Thomas – “Look What I Got” (World Artists single, 1965)
14. Piccola Pupa – “Put Two Extra Candles on My Cake” (Warner Bros. single b-side, 1965)
15. Yvonne Prenosilova – “Come On Home” (Pye UK single b-side, 1965)
16. Tina Britt – “The Real Thing” (Eastern single, 1965)
17. Martha & The Vandellas – “Never Leave Your Baby’s Side” (Gordy single b-side, 1966)
18. Julie Grant – “As Long as I Know He’s Mine” (Pye UK single b-side, 1965)
19. Sandra Barry – “You Can Take It from Me” (Pye UK single b-side, 1965)
20. The Essex featuring Anita Humes – “Don’t Fight It Baby” (Roulette single, 1964)
21. Cathy Carroll – “Where the Roses Are Growing” (Rotate single, circa 1964)
22. Connie Haines – “What’s Easy for Two Is Hard for One” (Motown single, 1966)
23. The Marvelettes – “Little Girls Grow Up” (Tamla recording session outtake, 1965)
24. Tracey Dey – “I Won’t Tell” (Amy single, 1964)
25. The Breakaways – “He Doesn’t Love Me” (Pye UK single b-side, 1964)
26. The Royalettes – “It’s a Big Mistake” (MGM single, 1966)
27. Toni Carroll – “Welcome Home Baby” (MGM single, 1965)
28. The Sherry Sisters – “Sailor Boy” (Epic single, 1964)
29. Christine Cooper – “S.O.S. (Heart in Distress)” (Parkway single, 1966)
30. Jackie DeShannon – “So Long Johnny” (Imperial single b-side, 1966)
31. Lesley Gore – “I Just Don’t Know if I Can” (Mercury single b-side, 1966)

The Hippie Rock Paradigm

Grin – All Out (Spindizzy, 1972)

I’ve been a paying member of Spotify for about four months now. While I mostly use it to furnish some unobtrusive yet stimulating instrumental backing while writing, it also serves as a great vehicle for music I’d enjoy but not actually buy/download (whether it’s current mainstream pop or something ephemeral/fascinating like Barry Gray’s Stand By For Adverts). Sure, Spotify makes it easy for people to upload what’s already on their hard drives so they can hear their old faves on their smart phones/tablets/whatever, but you know I’m not interested in that. Weird crap stuck off in the corners fascinates me the most, and in that respect Spotify’s playlist assembling aspect serves as a fabulous way to explore the unknown.

Just for fun, I did some playlists drawn from rock critic Robert Christgau’s year-by-year listings of his favorite albums, as listed in the back of his book Rock Albums of the ’70s: A Critical Guide. Although a few of the albums he mentions in the lists are out of print, I was able to locate most of them and include from each a sample track (a song Christgau mentioned in his original review, a hit single, or even a quirky title that jumped out at me). Taste-wise, Christgau is definitely one of those typical rock-crit types who think music is somehow more meaningful if it’s played a) on real instruments, b) live, or c) by a grizzled old black man. Even so, he recommended some refreshingly off-beat, eclectic choices within these years, especially once the heavy-handed Jimi/Janis/Doors ’60s rock he favors gives way to more organic, worthwhile musical styles. Miles Davis’ meandering jazz-rock of this era is well-represented (dissonant and not too easy on the ears, but interesting at least), along with lots of homey hippie-rock by overlooked artists like Delaney & Bonnie, Joy Of Cooking, Grin and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. I found myself grooving along with the Soul/Funk, Country and Blues he selected as well – especially in 1973, a year that one wouldn’t normally think of as a musically outstanding one.

If you have Spotify installed, clicking the links below will take you on a one-way trip to hippie-rock nirvana:

While listening to these, try to resist the urge to roll a joint and say “heavy, man” – and enjoy a sampling of the imagery from these years’ album covers (a very orange and brown era in LP design, I might add).

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends with Eric Clapton – On Tour (Atco, 1970)

Charlie Rich – The Fabulous Charlie Rich (Epic, 1970)

Mott The Hoople – Mott (Columbia, 1973)

Ann Peebles – Part Time Love (Hi, 1970)

Dr. John – Dr. John’s Gumbo (Atco, 1972)

Harry Nilsson and Spotify

John Scheinfeld’s terrific 2010 documentary on Harry Nilsson, Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talking About Him?), counts as one of the films I watched last week (which would have been included in the m.i.a. Flick Clique; sorry). I got a ton of insight into Nilsson’s life and music from the film, since I’d only known him as an eccentric songwriter, John Lennon buddy and singer of “Without You” and the theme from The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. I’m also surprised that nobody’s done a film on him until recently, given the dramatic arc of Nilsson’s life. He was a brilliant talent in the ’60s, becoming a go-to songwriter of the day (like Jimmy Webb, who speaks about him in the doc) – but also being vocally talented enough on his own to score huge hits like 1968’s “Everybody’s Talkin'” (which ironically wasn’t a Nilsson-penned song). He also did entire albums devoted to Randy Newman, the American Songbook, and a children’s cartoon soundtrack (1971’s The Point!). There was a rampant self-destructive streak in him, however, which led to ever-more eccentric albums in the ’70s and alarming drug and alcohol abuse. It was nice to see him finally get some stability later on in his life (he died in 1994) being a loving husband and stay-at-home dad.

The timing of this came right when I decided to sign up for the basic plan with Spotify, which allows me to check out his albums one by one. Of course, Spotify’s vast music library only derives from what is currently in print from most major and some indie labels, but even then the selection is impressive. For Harry, they had three or four compilations and most of his ’60s-’70s LPs (except 1969’s Harry, for some reason). It seems to me that something like Spotify is more conducive to listening to albums as opposed to buying a CD and copying to your hard drive (where Greatest Hits, singles and compilations are more welcome). Sure, Spotify’s program is clunky and a big memory hog (I have to remember to pause it when opening other programs), and their integration with Facebook is something I don’t particularly care for, but so far I’m enjoying it enough to scale back my eMusic subscription. Having zillions of albums on hand to dig through is quite a joy. I’m not even done with Harry yet.

What else have I been listening to there? Expanded reissues from Blur and Aretha Franklin. Soundtracks to obscure old Broadway musicals like Seventeen and New Faces of 1952. Vintage Brazilian music by Chico Buarque and Quarteto Em Cy. Live albums by The Supremes and Firehouse Five Plus Two. Daryl Hall and John Oates’ folksy sounding first album. A newer release by British indie pop group Allo Darlin’. And a lot of playlists set up by friends and other Spotify users.

Here’s a couple of Nilsson tunes, for your enjoyment:

A Summer Mix: I Just Want To Be Your Friend

This sweet, sticky summer mix has been in the planning for several weeks now, but it seems appropriate to post it today in honor of International Friendship Day. I Just Want To Be Your Friend started out as just another group of songs from albums gotten recently, but the theme kinda grew out of it after noticing that there was more than one “friend” song in the playlist. The mix has a lot of melodic, happy pop (several of which came from CDs bought at the local Goodwill store) which I grouped together in pairs or threes with similar feels. For instance, the 1982 Soft Rock gem “Don’t Talk” by Larry Lee is paired with a tune by Julian Velard, a current musician whose upbeat style draws heavily from the time when the Atari 2600 was hot.

This was a blast to put together and I hope you enjoy it. Bert and Ernie were a no-brainer to feature on the mix cover. By the way, this and the previous three mixes have been uploaded to SendSpace as permanent files. Feel free to check them all out as well:

The download version below is a continuous mix, done as a single 74-minute file. Enjoy the tuneage!

Download I Just Want To Be Your Friend: Summer 2012 Mix (64.5 MB Zip file)

Track listing:
1. Electric Light Orchestra — “Confusion” (Discovery, 1979)
2. The Shins — “Simple Song” (Port Of Morrow, 2012)
3. Sambassadeur — “Days” (European, 2010)
4. The School — “Where Does Your Heart Belong?” (Reading Too Much Into Things Like Everything, 2012)
5. Mayer Hawthorne — “Dreaming” (How Do You Do, 2011)
6. Nick DeCaro — “Getting Mighty Crowded” (Italian Graffiti, 1974)
7. Phyllis Hyman — “This Feeling Must Be Love” (You Know How To Love Me, 1979)
8. Howard Melvin & The Blue Notes — “Where Are All My Friends” (To Be True, 1974)
9. Larry Lee — “Don’t Talk” (Marooned, 1982)
10. Julian Velard — “No Wrong” (Mr. Saturday Night, 2011)
11. Acid House Kings — “Are We Lovers Or Are We Friends?” (Music Sounds Better With You, 2011)
12. The Primitives — “Panic” (Echoes And Rhymes, 2012)
13. Linda Lloyd — “I’m Gonna Love That Guy (Like He’s Never Been Loved Before)” (Columbia single, 1964)
14. Jackie DeShannon — “Oh, Boy!” (Breakin’ It Up With The Beatles On Tour, 1964)
15. The Paris Sisters — “All Through The Night” (Gregmark single b-side, 1961)
16. Elvis Presley — “Guitar Man” (Clambake soundtrack, 1967)
17. Punch — “Peace Of Mind” (Punch, 1969)
18. Liz Damon’s Orient Express — “Walkin’ Backwards Down The Road” (Try A Little Tenderness, 1971)
19. The Brady Bunch — “I Just Want To Be Your Friend” (Meet The Brady Bunch, 1972)
20. Ben Folds — “Learn To Live With What You Are” (Supersunnyspeedgraphic EP, 2003)
21. Diana Lee and Jerry Whitman — “I Might Frighten Her Away” (Lost Horizon soundtrack, 1973)
22/23. Bobbie Gentry – “Jessye’ Lisabeth/Refractions” (The Delta Sweete, 1968)
24. Diana Ross – “When We Grow Up” (Free To Be… You And Me soundtrack, 1972)
25. Pearl Bailey – “Best Of Friends” (The Fox And The Hound soundtrack, 1981)
26. Burt Bacharach – “Where Knowledge Ends, Faith Begins” (early ’70s demo recording for Lost Horizon soundtrack)
27. The Tokens – “Some People Sleep” (Both Sides Now, 1970)

The Lost Garden of Forgotten ’80s Hits

“Kiss You (When It’s Dangerous)” by Canadian group Eight Seconds is the latest in my efforts to catch up with all of the tunes that charted in the Hot 100 but didn’t make it into Billboard‘s Top 40 in the 1980s (I’m working my way through alphabetically and have thus reached the “E” artists – having just completed an avalanche of non-hits from Earth, Wind & Fire and Sheena Easton). I chose to spotlight it here because it’s typical of the kind of mid-level, vaguely enjoyable but generally forgettable stuff that has come as part of this project. This particular tune, a knock-off of the mellower side of The Fixx, peaked at #72 in early 1987. Considering that I was all over pop music both famous and obscure in 1985-87, it came as something of a shock that I don’t remember this one (that’s happened often, actually).

Collecting these songs has become quite the learning experience. Generally speaking, about 80% of ’80s pop music is still in print and easily obtainable either through iTunes, Amazon, eMusic or – for the cheapskates among us – via bittorrent/illegal downloading. Another 15% is rare and out of print, but decent quality mp3s of those can be obtained through sites like mp3skull or 4shared. If the song by itself can’t be found, I can usually uncover the album it came from with keen detective work. The remaining 5% are the real buggers – usually one-hit-wonders or last charting songs by older artists from the ’60s and ’70s. One godsend that I came across last year in this regard was a massive bittorrent file containing the top 500 singles from the year 1980, which contains many of these extreme rarities (The Doolittle Band’s “Who Were You Thinkin’ Of”, anyone?). The weblog Grumpy’s Golden Oldies also contains a lot of obscurities from 1980-83, although the sound quality varies. Strangely enough, the tunes that are the hardest to find (for free, that is) belong to soft-rockers like Crosby, Stills & Nash and Neil Diamond – guess the kiddies aren’t trading up on the old fogey music these days! In very rare instances (maybe 8 or 9 songs out of hundreds), I’ve recorded the song off YouTube with yucky sound.

In a nutshell, that’s part of what I’ve been up to – unearthing sometimes cool, sometimes embarrassing but never uninteresting lost tunes from the ’80s.