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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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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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)

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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Teddy Boys at The Black Raven (1972)

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A James Gray photograph of the Black Raven pub that is described in the Rolling Stone piece from a previous posting. Below is one of his portraits from 1973, this one features the same geezer who was supping back a pint in Roger Perry’s pic that accompanied Jerry Hopkins observations. He’s got himself a new hair cut . .

The two photos are from this Evening Standard  file

The two photos are from this Evening Standard file

There’s a public Facebook page on the pub here which features lots of snaps. The guys in the banner photograph can all be seen in the 1970 BBC documentary of Gene Vincent’s last tour of the UK having a pop at skinheads, more of which anon.

'Awopbopaloobop: The Teds are back and greased for action' (Rolling Stone 1972)

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Jerry Hopkins, ‘Beatle Loathers Return: Britain’s Teddy Boys’ Rolling Stone (March 2, 1972) gets in on the UK’s Rock’n’ Roil revival scene. Here’s my favorite observation by Elvis’ first rock biographer:

All you can see is hair.

Plumes and cascades and whirlpools of hair, all of it greased and obsidian-black, thumbing its nose at gravity as it stretches four inches from the brow, wobbling, glistening: the classic Elephant’s Trunk; sweeping back in shiny sheets past earringed ears to plunge into a perfect D.A. or splash over the velvet collars in hirsute waterfalls. Towers and arches and walls of hair. This isn’t just extraordinary styling—it’s architecture.

Unless you’ve got good eyesight you might want to check out the piece here, which for reasons known only to the magazine’s on-line editors uses a pic of Teds from 1954 rather than Roger Perry’s photographs

Paul 'Legs' Barrett RIP

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Sadly, Paul ‘Legs’ Barrett died on 20 January 2019, 78 years old. His presence and voice is all over The Sunsets 1969 debut album A Legend (Parlophone, PCS 7112), including a dedication to Karl Marx. It is easily their best sounding disc, Dave Edmunds production gives it a depth and a dynamic that was never matched on their subsequent, rushed, recordings. ‘This album contains what was the most progressive music in the history of recorded sound’ writes Edmunds in his sleeve notes, while fans of Colosseum may dispute this fact, and his use of the past tense qualifies the idea somewhat, 50 years later it still sounds good n’ rockin’ to me.

Pop Pulp: Paul Barrett on Shakin' Stevens

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I’m on a Sunsets kick this morning as Paul Gorman has laid out a great spread on the band and their Let It Rock t-shirts on his blog here.

Paul Barrett with Hilary Hayward, Shakin’ Stevens (Star, 1983).

On cover and format alone this looks to be just another exploitation title, a George Tremlett style cut n’ paste job to capitalise on Shaky’s chart success, but it is so much more than that. The first 3/4 are a first hand account of the Sunsets’ story written by their card-carrying Communist manager, Paul ‘Legs’ Barrett. It is a terrific account of the early 1970s rockin’ scene, the gigs and the band’s high expectations and low returns as they endless tour the UK and Europe taking their message to the people. And if you wanna know why so many of the revivalist discs suck, you’ll get the real dope here - no advance, no royalties, minimal recording time in cheap shit studios, and producers who were good at harvesting a fast buck and hopeless at the task they were paid to carry out.

When the band confront Lionel Burge, head of Contour Records (who released some Sunsets sides and LPs by The Houseshakers and Hellraisers), about getting paid directly rather than their funds being channelled through producer Donny Marchand, he tells them to agree to his way or he’ll get the Hellraisers in to make the album. What could you do? asks Barrett. In the end, the records helped them get gigs and that was where the money was and, eventually, good money too.

After 7 years of playing the circuit the band come to an end, killed not by Shaky jumping ship for the Elvis Musical in 1977 but by a new generation of rockers. Barrett tries to sell the band to Island Records’ A&R man, Richard Williams, but tells him, ‘Sorry I think you’re too old. I’m gonna sign Eddie and the Hot Rods instead.’ He then tries Danny Seconda at Track records, who are excited about having The Heartbreakers (if you don’t stare too long you can kinda see a potential synergy between the two bands), and tells the Sunsets to get some new clothes at the expense of the company. off they go to a King’s Road emporium, reserving themselves suede jackets, cowboy boots and fancy shirts’ and then they wait on the company to stump up. . . it never does. Tapes are made with Charlie Gillett, Vic Maile, and Mike Hurst, none are ever released. By the time Track does do something with Shaky he’s gone solo are the Sunsets are long gone . . . and that synergy with Johnny Thunders no longer looks so good.

Barrett stories are worth the price of admission alone, but it’s his depiction of Shaky that is the real draw. He paints him as naive, vain, semi-literate, overly sensitive and just plain dumb. Payback is a motherfucker, as they say, and Legs gets in a bank vault full. Is he bitter? The book’s final sentence:

To quote Paul Barrett, who has been watching Shaky’s career with the caring, concerned interest of a colleague who has been a friend, ‘he’s got what he always wanted, but he’s almost certainly lost what he had.’

'The Golden Years of Rock 'n' Roll' - 6 disc set (1975)

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Was this the final 1970s compilation by Alan Warner of golden oldies from the UA, Liberty and Imperial catalogues? This was billed as a World Records release, part of the EMI group, and probably sold through mail order like a Reader’s Digest set. 102 tracks are played out in chronological order from 1948 to 1964. Another MONO release.

Clive Richardson from Shout magazine provided the notes, design by anonymous . . . you can tell.

'Rock 'n' Roll Jamboree' 4 disc boxed set UA (1974)

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UMO 4000 . . . at some point in 1974 UA repacked the first 2 volumes of the Many Sides of Rock ’n’ Roll and put them in a box with a booklet that reproduced the notes from inside the gatefold sleeves. The one significant difference was that these four discs are all in MONO . . . all three volumes and the four single disc sets were all ‘electronically enhanced to simulate a stereo effect.’ The mono purists were out there pushing their agenda . . . and Alan Warner and UA were now working their side of the road.

16 Golden Oldies, From the Vaults - volumes 1-3

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Each volume offers ‘16 Golden Oldies’ from the usual catalogue culprits, the first two are on the Liberty label and the final one on UA. All put together by the estimable Alan Warner

LBS 83278 . . . Photography Mike Hasted, motorcycle courtesy of Raymond Way Motors Ltd, Kilburn. Rings and chains courtesy of Adrien Mann

LBS 83278 . . . Photography Mike Hasted, motorcycle courtesy of Raymond Way Motors Ltd, Kilburn. Rings and chains courtesy of Adrien Mann

LBS 83377 . . . cover photograph by Red Saunders. This one goes full topless and seems to have escaped from the store room of Tommy Roberts’ emporium, Mr. Freedom. It makes no sense in this context whatsoever, but I think it is great.

LBS 83377 . . . cover photograph by Red Saunders. This one goes full topless and seems to have escaped from the store room of Tommy Roberts’ emporium, Mr. Freedom. It makes no sense in this context whatsoever, but I think it is great.

UAS 29153 . . . design is credited to ‘Painted Lady, London.’ I can’t make out signature beneath the car.

UAS 29153 . . . design is credited to ‘Painted Lady, London.’ I can’t make out signature beneath the car.

Rock 'n' Roll Is Here To Stay UA 1973

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UAS29336 is the catalogue number and the fourth volume, I think, of Alan Warner compilations. The usual United Artist/Liberty/Imperial contractees are all here along side a licensed Jerry Lee Lewis Sun cut, but the real interest is with the ‘70s sleaze: the Bardot lookalike model and the Ted in full drape mode, cutthroat razor and cheroot. And the chopper, the ultimate period prop . . . cliche on cliche . . . Nice.

Photography by Bryce Attwell