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Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Rubinoos Turn 45!


It's nothing less than mind-boggling to comprehend, but those lovable rascals the Rubinoos are currently celebrating their 45th year as a working unit.  And although only singer Jon Rubin and guitarist/main songwriter Tommy Dunbar still remain from the original pre-teen line-up (bassist Al Chan is also a longish serving/suffering member), it's pretty darn impressive to have stayed together this long, never mind sustained a career out of it (the band enjoys especially loyal following in both Japan and Spain), but to be still issuing albums of new and original material truly tops it all.
Admittedly, although primarily a big fan of their first two albums, 1977's "The Rubinoos", and 1979's "Back to the Drawing Board" (and the career-spanning "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About The Rubinoos" CD box set from a few years back is also a must), I haven't been keeping up much with the Rubes recently.  So, the other day, after reading a favorable review of their latest outing, the simply and aptly titled "45", I found myself inclined to improve on that sad situation.  And, upon heading straight to www.rubinoos.com I dutifully ordered their two latest CD's, the aforementioned "45", as well as 2010's Spanish-import "Automatic Toaster" - not to mention, for good measure, an XL-sized T-shirt.
In 2010 the Rubinoos teamed up with Power Pop legend and former child actor (I'm not even going to mention cousin Oliver here!) Robbie Rist, who not only produced the "Automatic Toaster" album, but also played drums on it.  Clocking in at just under the half hour mark, it's a sparse and to the point effort.  It's also ample in energy and sheer power...pop, as opener "Two Guitars, Bass, And Drums" very ably demonstrates, like this live version from Spanish television perfectly proves.

 
The Rubinoos' goofy, Monkees-like humor is also never too far from the precedings, which might be one of the reasons why "Earth #1" was also recorded for their children's album(!) "Biff-Boff-Boing!" (2010).
 

 
All in all, "Automatic Toaster" is an enjoyable and hook-heavy Power Pop primer from true masters of the genre.  The wheel isn't exactly being invented here but who cares.  Only unnecessary cover "Black is Black" and novelty (children's?) songs "Zombie Night in Madrid" and "Cave Girls" test this listener's patience.
*** (3 out of 5)
 
 
Four years later and we're up to date with the brand-spanking-new Rubinoos album "45".  Off the bat,  it's obviously not quite as energy-driven as its predecessor.  The guitars have been turned down a tad, there's balladry a plenty and the Rubes' love of early pop styles such as Doo Wop is very well served indeed - especially in the sole cover here which comes in the form of Lou Christie's "Rhapsody in the Rain" (their cover of Christie's "If My Car Could Only Speak" from a good decade back is excellent and far exceeds the original IMHO).  Their love of Richard Berry's Garage Rock classic "Louie Louie" is even addressed in, well, "I Love Louie Louie".  But it wouldn't be a proper Rubinoos album without the pure pop hooks and here they are in abundance.
Unfortunately there don't seem to be any videos to songs from the album on the otherwise almighty YouTube, so you, much like I did, just have to head over to www.rubinoos.com and order the ACTUAL CD - you won't be sorry.
**** (4 out of 5)   
And yes, the T-shirt's very comfy.  ***** out of 5, as a matter of fact :-)
 
And just in case you aren't entirely convinced of the Rubinoos proper '70s Teen Pop credentials, here are a few minor, near and non-hits they scored during the latter part of that fabulous decade.  Enjoy...



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Alvin Stardust R.I.P.

 
A chart maker in three consecutive decades, Alvin Stardust first emerged as "moody guy" Shane Fenton during the mid '60s, although he is undoubtly most fondly remembered for his early to mid '70s Gene Vincent-inspired Glam Rock persona responsible for top flight U.K. hits such as "Jealous Mind" (#1, 1974), and "My Coo Ca Choo" (#2, 1973).


And, as if that wasn't enough, he made an unlikely second comeback a decade later with hits such as "Pretend" (U.K.#4, 1981), and "I Feel Like Buddy Holly" (U.K. #4, 1984).

 
Well, to make a long story short, we lost Alvin this past week.  And, according to all accounts, he was an all around professional and a nice guy to boot.  He will be sorely missed.  R.I.P., Alvin Stardust/Shane Fenton...
 


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Nobby Clark - The Lost Roller



It's quite remarkable how many major acts have a Pete Best-type lurking about as footnotes in their biographies - i.e. someone who left or was sacked from the group at the cusp of their success. 
I am not entirely certain that the man himself would agree with that label, but whether he likes it or not, Gordon "Nobby" Clark is the Bay City Rollers' very own Pete Best. 
A founding member and the Rollers' lead singer for seven years of blood, sweat and tears, fed up with life on the road and Tam Paton's dubious managerial practises among other things, Nobby left the band just as their breakthrough hit "Remember" was climbing the U.K. charts in January 1974.  I'd like to say he never looked back, but that's not exactly true and now he has written a book about it all. 
The aptly titled "The Lost Roller" (Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., 2014) chronicles Nobby's life and times, from growing up dirt-poor in Edinburgh with an abusive and alcoholic father, through his time with the Rollers as a teen-aged minor pop star, and onto his own troubles of being addicted to both alcohol and gambling.  It's a tough and turbulent life but in the end our hero prevails, having beaten - hopefully for good - his disease, albeit not all of his demons.
The first-hand account of those very early Roller years fascinate the most since other books on the band have come up somewhat short on the subject.  At long last, actual personalities and minor character traits can be applied to names such as Archie Marr and Dave "The Rave" Pettigrew, both early members of the band, as were David Paton and Billy Lyall who later found mid '70s chart success with Pilot ("Magic", "January").
However, I do have some gripes with some details of the story at times.  In particular regarding certain errors and inaccuracies when it comes to the Rollers' recorded and released output.  For instance, it is truly puzzling why Nobby insists that the 1976 No. 1 U.S. hit version of "Saturday Night" is "his" version of the song, when, in fact, the original 1973 Nobby Clark-sung flop version of the song is an altogether different recording to the Les McKeown-sung hit version of the song, which was recorded in 1974 for the debut Rollers album "Rollin'".  Why anyone - and a musician at that - is unable to tell the difference between this (the Nobby Clark '73 version):

 
And this (the Les McKeown '74/'76 version):
 

 
...is beyond me.  They sound like two entirely different recordings to me at least, although I am willing to leave room for the possibility that the original recording was so severely remixed and Nobby's BACKING vocal may be buried in the mix there somewhere along with all the other Rollers' voices.  But it most certainly isn't his LEAD vocal as he states numerous times in the book.
That being said, I am 100% on Nobby's side that he deserves some of the famous "Rollers millions", since songs containing his lead vocals (The original versions of "Keep on Dancing", "Saturday Night" and "Remember" in particular), not to mentioned a song written by him ("Because I Love You", the B-side of third single "Manana") have been issued and reissued countless of times during the past forty years without him earning a single cent from it, and that is just plain wrong.
However, still more errors occur when Nobby lists the records "his" recordings are reportedly on, and he is therefore allegedly owed money for.  There he lists, among other things, an obscure Taiwanese bootleg which, of course, has nothing at all to do with Arista or Sony.  Also he claims "his" songs, such as single B-sides "Bye Bye Barbara" and "Hey! C.B." are included on the 1974 version of the "Rollin'" L.P.  That is incorrect.  These songs first appeared as bonus tracks on the U.K. CD re-issue of said album in 2004.  And that's just one example off the top of my head.
Unfortunately, as a result, poor research like that lessens the overall credibility of the work, which is as I stated before, fascinating at times.  Also, Nobby's nasty jabs at Eric Faulkner ("An unclean person"; "A nervous wreck") seem uncalled for and do little to support the statement to the effect that he doesn't hate anyone; he just wants his fair share of the pie.  
In any event, the book is a must for any self-respecting Roller fan and a very welcomed, although flawed, addition to the published printed material already available on the band, especially regarding its early history.
 
*** (3 out of 5)
 


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bobby Sherman - Easy Come, Easy Go...

Poor old Bobby Sherman.  People are being hard on him these days.  Way too hard if you ask moi.  Quoting at least one comment made about the man on the almighty world wide web, he apparently is/was the "Poor man's Davidy Cassidy".  Dear, oh dear.
But to be absolutely fair to the guy, he enjoyed a handful of memorable hits in the late '60s/early '70s, was a regular presence on our T.V. screens, and, as a result, became a bona-fide Teen Pop idol to be reckoned with.

 
As much as an actor as a singer (He guest-starred on The Monkees' T.V. show in the late '60s), Bobby Sherman's both main talents were equally utilized on the T.V. series "Here Come the Brides" (The title track "Seattle" was sung by Bobby), co-starring another actor/singer David Soul, who later in the '70s found further fame in "Starsky and Hutch", as well as with a parallel, lucrative singing career ("Don't Give Up on Us", "Silver Lady", "Let's Have a Quiet Night in").
 
 
 
Bobby Sherman's fortunes were furthered with a #3 U.S. hit "Little Woman" in 1969.
 

 
However, a couple of his best remembered and more enduring hits came in 1970: "Julie Do Ya Love Me" (U.S. #5) and "Easy Come, Easy Go" (U.S. #9).
 

 
But Bobby Sherman's star was already rapidly diminishing.  The aforementioned David Cassidy, not to mention the Osmonds and/or the Jackson Five, appeared on the scene and somewhat stole Bobby's thunder.  Ironically, Bobby guest-starred on Cassidy's the Partridge Family T.V. show and was even cast as a lead in a short-lived spin-off from that very show, "Getting Together".  David Cassidy, in his autobiography a couple of decades later, perhaps also unwittingly commenting on his own teen idol demise, described Bobby by that time as merely "Sad".
 
  
 
So, understandably perhaps, singing took a back seat to acting in Bobby Sherman's life over the next few years.  However, in the mid '70s he apparently found his true calling as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with the Los Angeles police department, which is, as far as I know, a position he has held ever since.  But ever so often he has part-taken in the odd teen idols type package tour as well as appeared on the T.V. talk show circuit of the Oprah/Rosie O'Donnell variety.
 
  
Recommended listening: "The Very Best of" Bobby Sherman (1991 Restless Records/Bobby Sherman Enterprises)
 
 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Voice Behind The Bump.


Barry Palmer is a session singer with decades of experience in the business behind him.  Most people won't know his name though since he rarely receives much credit for his work.
I just recently came across this blog of his where he describes the events which led up to him lending his voice to that very well known '70s Teen Pop classic "The Bump", written & recorded by the team of Martin & Coulter and issued under the group name Kenny.
It is an interesting and enjoyable read which you can access HERE.



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Child - The VERY First Album.

 
While researching the Child discography a couple of years ago I made the personally unnerving  discovery that their (apparently misleadingly entitled) "The First Album" was in fact their second. 
Disturbing as that was, it wasn't the first time I had come across such blatant....pardon my French...bullshit.  And even more astoundingly, in both cases the reputable German Hansa Records label was at fault.  You see, ex-Bay City Roller Les McKeown released his "It's a Game - The First Album" through that very company in 1989 - a good decade after the Child debacle - in spite of the fact that it was his SEVENTH solo album (counting a compilation and a live album, albeit issued only in Japan).  And to add insult to injury it was the second album of his to bear the title "It's a Game", the first one being the BCR's 1977 magnum opus.  Hmmm...
But let's get back to that "lost" very first, eponymous Child album.  Issued only in Germany in 1977 by a little something called Honeybee Records, but manufactured and distributed by the small European giant Bellaphon.  And having previously only heard the other two Child albums, the aforementioned "The First Album" (1978), as well as "Total Recall" (1979), it's nothing short of a revelation!
At the time Child consisted of Graham Bilbrough (Vocals); Dave Cooper (Guitar) and twins Keith (Bass) and Tim (Drums) Atack. 
Having had their first couple of singles in the U.K. issued on the indie label BUK Records in 1976, and a third one on Pentagon Records in '77, chart success at home eluded Child.  Which seems to have brought them in search of something bigger and better abroad.  And seemingly very rightly so, since "Child" surpasses its successors on all artistic fronts, thank-you-very-much!  It's grittier, better produced, better played and has better songs on it.  From all that I can only assume guitar player Dave Cooper's departure was something of a loss to the band.  Afterwards, bass player Keith Atack took over on guitar while ex-Scottie Mike McKenzie was brought in on bass.  With that, in my opinion, the band lost their heart and soul while gaining what little commercial success eventually came their way with, primarily, covers "It's Only Make Believe" (UK #10, 1978) and "Only You (And You Alone)" (U.K. #33, 1979).
Opening with Child's most exciting and probably best track ever, the inexplicably German-only single "Public Enemy Number One", the very first album is up for a good start.  The pulsating, heavy drums are decorated with a clean and powerful guitar riff worthy of Martin & Coulter circa "The Bump".  A clean and dynamic production, not to mention what is probably Graham Bilbrough's best vocal performance on record.  Phew!  A lost '70s teenpop classic indeed.  Mabel's "Hey! I Love You" also springs to mind.
A nice enough cover of The Association's "Never My Love" is another highlight of Side 1, while the Beatles B-side "I'm Down" is done no favours here.
Side 2 opens with third single "What's a Nice Girl Like You".  Another nice and crisp production with subtle keyboard flourishes.  Now, why was this never a hit?
And yet another decent cover follows, this time Betty ("It's in His Kiss") Everett's "You're No Good" (also recorded by Linda Ronstadt, a year or two earlier than Child's version). 
The self-penned "Love and Let Go" sports a nice guitar riff although it lacks something resembling a strong chorus, while the infectious "Hurdy Gurdy" is reminiscent of a late '60s fare from the Kasenetz-Katz school of bubblegum music (A couple of years later the old KK stalwart "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" became one of Child's last single releases).  And that's a compliment.
The album closes with a credible cover of Alex Harvey's "River of Love", which was also Child's debut single on BUK in June 1976.  
Well, in conclusion, and after becoming belatedly acquainted with the truly first Child album, the other two subsequent LP's are rendered somewhat unessential soft, sell-out samples of what should-never-have-been.  And although not entirely bad, the first, real Child album is just so much better....  IMHO, as always. 
 
 
See also: CHILD.
 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The King of U.K.


Like it or not but disgraced former pop impresario Jonathan King does warrant his chapter in the history of '70s Teen Pop.  Not only did he produce - and appear on - the first couple of the Rollers 45s, as well as providing similar services for Rosetta Stone's 1978 single "Sheila", but through his remarkable early to mid '70s indie label U.K. Records he did launch the careers of a handful of minor Teen Pop acts, to boot - not to mention a couple of pop-rock groups called Genesis and 10 cc.


Ricky Wilde is Marty's son and Kim's older brother.
In the era of Cassidy and Osmond, Jonathan King wasn't alone in the assumption that the time was ripe for a homegrown British teen idol or two.  Having previously produced the Rollers' first hit "Keep on Dancing"  for Bell Records in 1971, he clearly knew a thing or two about such things.  Nonetheless, Ricky Wilde had to wait until the early '80s for his time to truly come.  And then as a backing musician and a co-writer, with his dad Marty, of his sister Kim's most enduring hits such as "Kids in America" and "Chequered Love".  However, Ricky recorded several non-charting singles for Jonathan King's U.K. label from the early to mid '70s; the best of which is probably the Glam-sounding "Teen Wave" from 1974...

     
Actor/singer Simon Turner was another early '70s Jonathan King discovery.  And another flop as far as chart (non) action went.  "17" though is quite good, while an opportunistic and lacklustre cover of David Bowie's "The Prettiest Star" probably got the most attention at the time... 

 
During the late '80s Simon released a pair of records as The King of Luxembourg.  The Japanese were somewhat impressed.  And perhaps rightfully so.  "The Picture of Dorian Grey" is a lost '80s indie gem for sure...
 

 
Brendon, yet another JK protegee, fared a bit better than both Wilde and Turner, since at least he managed to score a sole, belated Top 20 U.K. hit in 1977 (Via Magnet Records) with 1976's "Gimme Some" - a Glam-ified cover of U.S. soul singer's Jimmy "Bo" Horne 1975 Disco hit, originally done by K.C. & the Sunshine Band, no less.  
 

 
Further single releases, such as a cover of a strong ABBA album track "Rock Me", failed to ignite interest and Brendon inevitably faded back into obscurity...
 
 
Of Brendon, Jonathan King himself has this to say:
,,We made the mistake of getting him to do many covers, and he hit the Top 20 with Gimme Some, but we should have encouraged his writing skills." 
 
Recommended JK listening:
 
"Bubblepop - 20 U.K. Pop Oddities"/Various Artists (RPM CD 288, 2005)
 
 
Or, if you're feeling especially adventurous...