Beatles 'Rock 'n' Roll Music' (1976)

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Illustration by Ignacio Gomez

There’s no doubting the fine rockin’ sounds on this 1976 compilation, though mono is to be preferred to these stereo cuts, but that sleeve is something which would disgrace the cheapest of mid-1970s rock ‘n’ roll compendiums. Apparently the Fab Four hated it, and Lennon even offered to redesign it himself, but Capital in the US and Parlophone in the UK stood firm on a sleeve that said nothing about The Beatles and a great deal about how cliched the 50s into the 70s had become when lit by the tail lights of American Graffiti.

The poster for the album, I quite like, in so much as it looks British, and there is at least some attempt at art direction . . . The expresso machine dominates like an engine block from a hot rod placed on a gallery pedestal. The Rockola jukebox provides warm illumination, and the girl looks like Jordan, if she worked at Let It Rock before Sex. The boy in his leather jacket and pants, knit tie and cigarette, looking directly into the camera, is both surly and camp. Not as cool as The Beatles in leather in Hamburg, but then who is . . .

Addendum: that is Jordan and the story of the shoot can be found here on Paul Gorman’s essential blog

Philip Castle's Airbrushed Retro-fitted 1950s

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1974 Dutch only collection of R ‘n’ R hits on the Arcade label, as seen on TV or ‘Van de Radio en TV-Reklame.’ Clearly an attempt to ride on the back of the American Graffiti phenomenon, which is more than a guess because lead track, side 2, Flash Cadillac’s ‘At The Hop’ is tagged as ‘Featured in the Universal Picture American Graffiti.’ The album’s pulling power is boosted by two commissioned Philip Castle illustrations placed on the inside and the outside of the gatefold.

The originals, unadorned with graphic and track information, are reproduced in his 1980 collection Airflow (Paper Tiger).

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Castle remains best known for the work he did on Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange publicity materials, where his clear affinity with the fetish pieces of Pop artist Allen Jones was put into play [here]. When he wasn’t taking adolescent delight in rendering phallic objects, jets and cars, threatening full penetration with a fifties styled pin-up airbrushed into a hard chrome sheen, he specialised in retro-fitting the decade’s icons, James Dean, Johnny Cash and Elvis, as man-machine conflations for the 1970s. The women, Monroe, Hayworth, Fawcett-Majors, Dolly Parton are offered to the male gaze as android fuck machines.

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Mott the Hoople’s essential 1972 collection of Island era recordings, Rock and Roll Queen, is wrapped in one Castle’s illustrations. The repeating mirror images of Monroe reducing Pop Art iconography to a set of fast-dry, hard, scratch-proof textures that reflects back only its own vacuous surface qualities.

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When the first UK paperback edition of Cohn’s Pop from the Beginning was being readied in 1970, Castle must have looked like the perfect choice to render the flash of the pop moment, five years later with the cover for George Tremlett’s cut n’ paste job, The Who, his work had become all formula.

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Nik Cohn - Alan Aldridge - David King - Track Records

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In his pop column for Queen, Cohn was a tireless booster of Track Records. Not only for The Who, but for near anybody who appeared on the label, though he had less than kind things to say about John’s Children. Label and author also shared graphic designers and illustrators. Above Alan Aldridge and below David King. Neither book design has subsequently been reused and, hence, each new edition has lost a little of the original’s frisson.

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Greil Marcus on Nik Cohn

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Greil Marcus’ webpages recently uploaded his introduction to Cohn’s AWopBopALooBopLopBamBoom (aka Pop From the Beginning) that hitherto had only been available in a 1999 French edition. It should have been included in all subsequent editions, and in any yet to come . . .

Reading, you can at any time feel as if you’ve slipped out of this book and into Treasure Island, out of the late twentieth century and into the eighteenth—here managers are pirates and singers are cutthroats, beggars, and whores impersonating aristocrats when they’re not nice middle-class people impersonating cutthroats, beggars and whores. Business is plunder when it isn’t pedophilia; art is appetite when it isn’t a decent way to kill time. The result is not a diminution of the pop romance but, really, its literary invention. As Cohn moves his story through the years, a sense of loss and corruption takes over: the corruption in which predictability replaces ignorance, expectation replaces chance, a forty-year career replaces saying your piece and disappearing whence you came, craft replaces inspiration, and rationality replaces stupidity. Even before Cohn gets to 1966, the golden days always seem somewhere back over that last hill. And, as this book ends, it was all over more than a quarter century ago.

click here to read the introduction in its entirety.

This Is Not A Soundtrack (part 6)

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This 1970 German compilation comes close to what I imagine a biker movie soundtrack might be like if its producers had access to Atlantic and Elektra artistes . . . It’s rock ’n’ roll as filtered through Rock, so Clapton, Delaney & Bonnie on a live medley of Little Richard numbers, followed by Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse chugging through de blues, Ray Charles caught in performance with ‘What’d I Say’, and Al Kooper closing the side with another piano led tune. Side 2 gets going in style with the MC5 kicking out the jams, followed by the Stooges telling it like it was in ‘1969.’ The Danish Matadors stay in keeping with the musical theme of R ’n’ R with their cover of Chuck’s ‘Memphis Tennessee’, but they are otherwise out of time with this 1965 recording. The MC5 return with their homage to Richard Penniman on ‘Tutti Frutti.’ Bobby Darin supplies the only genuine slice of fifties sound with ‘Splish Splash’, before Jody Grind get hard ‘n heavy on their cover of ‘Paint It Black.’ I believe this is the only contemporaneous album to feature both the Stooges and The MC5, ain’t that something?

The cover features members of the Nederlands Harley-Davidson Club - rockers to the max. Now you know what I meant about those caps [see Feb 12 entry].

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Good Old Rock 'n Roll

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Various, Good Old Rock ’n Roll (Coral: COPS-6219)

A 1972 German double-album. Each side features Bill Haley, Johnny Burnette, Brenda Lee, Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings and Carl Perkins, and that order is fixed across all four sides. Now that’s what I call the art of curation. Audio is a particularly bad example of reprocessed stereo. But then I didn’t buy this for the music but for its cover art . . .

In the same way UK rock ’n’ roll revival compilations always betray their county of origin, like the ton up boys on the front of Johnnie Burnette’s Tear It Up, Continental comps also say something about their version of America’s 1950s into Europe’s 1970s. The figure in the portrait looks Gallic to me, and the way his hair is piled up on top is rather unique. I like too the hint of a moustache, the ruby and emerald rings, the extra long cig and the gentle way he holds the oversized transistor radio. He looks to me like an aesthete dreaming of Rimbaud channeled through Gene Vincent, or Jim Jarmusch before the colour drained from his hair

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Sylvia Pitcher and Neat Change - Who?pix

After posting the shot of the ‘Johnnie Burnette’ Tear It Up cover, I went looking for more of Sylvia Pitcher’s images. Lots of her great pix of the Animals and, most impressively photos of The Action I’d not previously seen, can be found in the Getty Images archive here

I like the mirrored images of the fags, left hand right hand.

I like the mirrored images of the fags, left hand right hand.

But as arresting as those images of the boys from Kentish Town are, they’re nothing compared to this pic of hers of a band hitherto unknown to me, Neat Change

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The listing dates this circa 1967, my first thought was the skinhead look and pose is more likely 1969, but the shoes are all wrong. What they actually look like is late period The Birds, so I’d say 1966.

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45cat lists only one Neat Change 45 , which has a Peter Frampton connection. It’s okay, soft psyche with strings which fits well with their new primped hair. One of the band later helped form Yes (Peter Brockbanks aka Banks). The singer, Jimmy Edwards went on to work with Bruce Foxton after the death of The Jam. Stewart Home gives the lowdown on his career here. I dunno if there are any recordings by the band in their late Mod, proto-skinhead phase ,but I hope they sound like they looked.

Neat Change after a vist to the hairdressers, 1968 (uploaded by freakbeatjames on 45Cat)

Neat Change after a vist to the hairdressers, 1968 (uploaded by freakbeatjames on 45Cat)

Johnny Burnette & the R ’n’ R Trio - Tear It Up

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Johnnie Burnette, Tear It Up (Coral: CP10, 1969)

Forget the mis-spelling of Johnny, this UK album pulls together for the first time 12 of the 13 masters not used on the band’s album from 1956, which was reissued around this time, only ‘Butterfingers’ remained in storage. No great loss there. An utterly essential compilation that is made all the more irresistible by having a line of ton up boys on the front. Photograph is by Sylvia Pitcher.

The audio on Tear It Up is terrific, MONO!!! And makes for a great pairing with Bear Family’s recent pressing of the first album. You need go nowhere else for a copy. 180gms of the purest rockabilly. Their 1989 cd, one of the first I bought, has 28 tracks, all the masters and three alternates. Cool sleeve notes by Colin Escott and shots of Gene Vincent, on tour with the Trio, with his shirt off and leg in cast. . . not a good look.

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Ian Penman on Mean Streets (Sight and Sound)

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A superb essay from Ian Penman, he captures the film better than any other critic and he’s so good on the music.   Sight and Sound  (April 1993)

A superb essay from Ian Penman, he captures the film better than any other critic and he’s so good on the music.

Sight and Sound (April 1993)

Howard Hampton, is pretty good on the film too, just not as fine as Penman.

NEARLY A QUARTER of a century has passed since Martin Scorsese opened Mean Streets (73) with the fated beat of "Be My Baby." The film stands as the most enduring, not to mention thrilling, union of film and rock sensibilities. It's an infinitely seductive vision of a world where human and musical passions are one, the soundtrack elaborating and intensifying the movie's meanings. . . This was the first film to truly integrate rock into its narrative, transforming Kenneth Anger's iconographic abstractions (which bordered on camp) into a new form of heightened, pop-operatic naturalism. Scorsese's images were extensions of - and commentaries on the music. . . . Mean Streets has a funky city-of-night sheen that echoes rock's synthesis of the mythic and the quotidian; it reinvents film in terms of rock as much as the contemporaneous early works of Bruce Springsteen reimagined rock in terms of Kazan, Dean, and Brando, of West Side Story as Scorpio Rising

Howard Hampton, ‘Rock’n’ Roll Movies’ Film Comment 33:2 (1997)

This Is Not A Soundtrack (part 3)

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Donnie Fritts never looked so good as he did in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, which is why he put a picture of himself in the film on the cover of his debut long player, Prone to Lean (Atlantic 1974) … In Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia he and sidekick Kris Kristofferson have bellies that look like over-gorged water sacks. Those images didn’t appear on either singer songwriters’ albums …

This Is Not A Soundtrack (part 2)

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Despite the cover shot from Cisco Pike (1972) and the inclusion of three tracks used in the film’s soundtrack there is no direct reference to the film on Kristofferson's The Silver Tongued Devil and I… 

Songs on album and film are:

“Loving Her Was Easier,”  "The Pilgrim: Chapter 33" and “Breakdown." 

A forth song, "I’d Rather Be Sorry" was not included on the albumIt was sang as a duet in the film with Karen Black and later recorded with Rita Coolidge. It’s the former that breaks my heart … Someone has put the two versions together here

That cigarette, suede jean jacket over denim shirt sure looks good … Did he swipe Dennis’ belt?

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Not so much a soundtrack album as a 3 track EP, UK only I think.

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And Introducing Kris Kristofferson: Cisco Pike (1971)

A class act: from Betsy introducing Travis Bickle to his music in Taxi Driver, back through his role in Scorsese’s earlier Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, wandering minstrel cameos in Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie and Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, a starring role in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, soundtrack highlights on John Huston’s Fat City and Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop, right on down to his feature introduction in Cisco Pike … a film CV unmatched by any of his (country) rock royalty contemporaries I’ll wager … and all this with eyes that look like two pissholes.

This Is Not A Soundtrack (part 1)

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John Buck Wilkin, In Search Of Food Clothing Shelter And Sex (Liberty, 1970)

Liberty spared no expense on packaging Wilkin’s album, gatefold with lyric and portrait inner. Hopper gets a thank you in the acknowledgements. I’m guessing there wasn’t enough original material to produce a soundtrack for The Last Movie, which used music recorded in performance and on location, so this is as close as we have to one, with ‘Bobbie McGee’ and ‘My God and I’ shared between album and film.

Wilkin appears to be wearing the poncho Hopper wore in the movie, and the locations mimic the desert junkyard theme at the beginning of Easy Rider and in countless biker movies.

Wilkin had once played in Ronny and the Daytonas and made one more album after this.

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Dennis Hopper - American Dreamer OST

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With the release of The Last Movie on blu-ray, I’ve been listening again to the OST of American Dreamer . Both soundtracks feature John Buck Wilkin, who appears in a cameo with Kris Kristofferson singing ‘Me & Bobby McGee.’ Wilkin’s mum was the Nashville songwriter and publisher Marijohn Wilkin, by this short route John Buck got hold of KK’s most famous song and delivered the first recording of it on his debut long player, In Search of Food Clothing Shelter and Sex (Liberty 1970). That album also contained ‘My God and I’, another song that found a home on The Last Movie.

John Buck is playing guitar (sitting) to Hopper’s right, to his left is Peter Fonda and Kris Kristofferson

John Buck is playing guitar (sitting) to Hopper’s right, to his left is Peter Fonda and Kris Kristofferson

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Clive Hodgson’s review in Frendz #30 is pretty dismissive of American Dreamer and takes particular aim at the film’s producer, Lawrence Schiller, due to his exploitation of the Tate murder.

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Schiller though was a good photographer and many of his images of Hopper provide the booklet illustrations that accompany the recent Light In The Attic re-issue of the OST. The vinyl edition is limited to 1000 copies, you can probably get the original (w/ poster) for less than it is selling on eBay.

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Despite the wonderful packaging and that essential poster, the bottom line is that OST is feeble, only Gene Clark shines (of course he does).

Mick Gold 'Rock on the Road' 1976

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Mick Gold, Rock on the Road (Futura, 1976)

This oversized paperback, 24 x 18 cm, is something of a forgotten book, it collects together Gold’s reportage and photos of bands on tour, Faces, Slade, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, but if for nothing else it should be recalled for his document of the Feelgoods on the Naughty Rhythm tour in the spring of 1975. Iconic just about sums it up

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Gold and Brilleaux plot the route to the next gig . . .

Gold and Brilleaux plot the route to the next gig . . .

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Responding to a question about the band backing Heinz at the London Rock and Roll Show, Wilko said:

‘Teddy boys convinced us we didn’t want nothing to do with classical rock ’n’ roll.’ Wilko reminisced. ‘It was so mindless . . . it was based on a fiction . . . they wanted to hear a kind of music that never really existed. They thought if you didn’t wear a drape suit, it wasn’t classical rock ’n’ roll., but no singers ever dressed like that. Chuck Berry never wore a drape suit. I used to love playing the old classics, but after a couple of gigs with teds I didn’t want to know. We shied away from calling our music rock ’n’ roll  . . . we called it rhythm and blues instead.’

Budget Line Revivalists

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Three revivalist albums all on the budget Contour label. All examples of the rushed low-cost recording aesthetic that plagued purveyors of the greasy rockin’ beat. You gotta love the hand coloured photograph of the Houseshakers. Only singer Graham Fenton has bothered to turn up in his drape. The others look like they are on loan from some heavy psych-band. Demolition Rock’s track list of covers, which includes Vince Taylor’s ‘Brand New Cadillac’, is the more interesting of the three. Two years after its release, in 1974, Fenton and guitarist Terry Clemson recorded with the Hellraisers and didn’t even get their picture on the sleeve. Remember When?’s track list is miserable, ‘Peggy Sue’, ‘Shakin’ All Over’, ‘Let’s Twist Again’ and so on..

Shakin’ Stevens manager, Paul ‘Legs’ Barrett is scathing about Donny Marchand’s ‘production’ on Rockin’ and Shakin’ . . . He is not wrong.

Budget label Teddy Boy R 'n' Revival

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Two collections from the Contour label drawing on the Philips catalogue, mostly 60s recordings in reprocessed stereo.

The same three Teds are featured on both sleeves - jackets on and off. They have the look of the authentic. No photographer credit.

They are posing in front of a cinema for the Crazy Rock sleeve, Horror of Frankenstein is playing and Abbot & Costello’s In The Navy (1941) is also on the programme. The Hammer horror was released in November 1970, so I’d guess these two discs hit the shops in the following year.

Reader's Digest boxes up the Rock Revival

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Six albums of electronically reprocessed for stereo recordings drawn from the Philips catalogue, circa 1975. looks like a Harley Duo-Glide to me, though I wouldn’t be embarrassed if you told me it was an Electra Glide. I bet the rider is French (or maybe Dutch), something about that cap says he is . . . Sixties pop art lettering and psychedelic ink suggest the designer was more than a little unsure of his signifiers.

Sleeve notes on artistes and songs is by Stan Britt, who I think was a jazz journalist. The set cost £5 inc. shipping courtesy of eBay

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