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Reelin’ in the Years 185: Nathan Jones

I was so sad to hear of the death of Mary Wilson of The Supremes. The group had one of the signature sounds of the 60s more or less introducing Motown to British audiences.

Though she started the group Wilson was not given the post of lead singer, perhaps because Diana Ross began a relationship with Motown boss Berry Gordy. Ross was pushed so much to the fore that the group’s name was altered to feature her. When she left singing duties were shared more fairly.

This is one of those later post-Ross hits, where all three members took the lead.

The Supremes: Nathan Jones

Mary Wilson: 6/3/1944 – 8/2/2021. So it goes.

Friday on my Mind 200: House of the Rising Sun – RIP Hilton Valentine

I heard on the radio news on Sunday that Hilton Valentine, guitar player in the Animals, one of the signature mid-1960s British bands, has died.

The group’s arrangement of an old folk song, to which Valentine made no mean contribution with his guitar arpeggio introduction, was their breakthrough single, reaching no 1 on both sides of the Atlantic. (As I recall, though, the record label attributed the song to Trad: arr Price.)

The Animals: The House of the Rising Sun

Hilton Stewart Paterson Valentine: 21/5/ 1943 – 29/1/2021. So it goes.

Friday on my Mind 199: Baby I Love You

That he committed a murder is the main fact that ought to be remembered about Phil Spector, who died last weekend.

His death would not have made the headlines, however – murderers are not usually accorded such notice – had he not, as a record producer, been the main architect of the sound of mid-60s US pop music with his ‘wall of sound.’ A sound characterised by heavy drums, layered vocals, strings and highlighted percussion. As typified in the song below, recorded by The Ronettes.

Spector’s life was always likely to come to some sort of horrific event. He had a disturbed childhood, subjected to bullying by his mother and schoolmates and further traumatised by his father’s suicide. His behaviour in adulthood could be described euphemistically as erratic or, more emphatically, as demented. He treated his second wife, Ronnie, abominably and had a history of pulling guns on people in the recording studio. He was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Without him the Sixties would have sounded very different.

The Ronettes: Baby I Love You

Harvey Phillip (Phil) Spector: 26/12/1939 – 16/1/2021. So it goes.

Let us not forget his victim, whose young life he ended tragically abruptly.

Lana Clarkson: 5/4/1962 – 3/2/2003. So it goes.

Friday on my Mind 198: Ferry Cross the Mersey. RIP Gerry Marsden

2021 is carrying on from where 2020 left off. Last Sunday Gerry Marsden died.

He is of course best known as lead singer and guitarist of Gerry and the Pacemakers, a group which had the distinction of their first three hits reaching no 1 in the UK charts, something his contemporaries The Beatles did not achieve. (To be fair they had many more hits in total.)

It was the third of these number 1 songs, a cover of You’ll Never Walk Alone from the musical Carousel, which will be Gerry’s lasting legacy, a song adopted as a theme tune by the supporters of both Liverpool FC and Celtic FC, but because of Marsden’s Liverpudlian upbringing will now forever be associated with the city.

It was the following song though that was the first single I ever bought. The clip is from Top of the Pops but is either mimed or the record has been dubbed over the video.

Gerry and the Pacemakers: Ferry Cross the Mersey

Ferry Cross the Mersey was also the title song from the film the group made in 1965, a film I went to see but of which I can only remember this one scene, shot on one of the eponymous ferries with the group on its deck – complete with drum kit! – and an exchange with some woman saying, “Hello, Gerry.”

Gerard (Gerry) Marsden: 24/12/1942 – 3/1/2021. So it goes.

Colin Bell

Manchester City’s best team may have been the one of the very recent past. Certainly in terms of trophies won it is the most successful. However City’s last great side, the one of the late 60s and early 70s, is worth mentioning in the same breath.

That side’s outstanding performer, one of the greatest players Manchester City ever had, if not the greatest, Colin Bell, has died. The only one of City’s players ever to be dubbed ‘the King’, in his case ‘King of the Kippax’, after the Kippax Street Stand at City’s old Maine Road Ground. He was also nicknamed Nijinsky after a famous race-horse of the time due to the seemingly effortless way he covered the ground. The team was an attacking force to be reckoned with and Bell was its driving creative hub.

His stature at the club was such that one of the stands at City’s new ground, the Manchester City Stadium, aka the Etihad, was named for him.

There was a fine appreciation by Simon Hattenstone of what the man meant to City supporters in yesterday’s Guardian.

By all accounts he was a decent man as well as a great footballer.

Colin Bell: 26/2/1946 – 5/1/2021. So it goes.

Happy New Year (Friday on my Mind 197)

Happy New Year, one and all.

I’ve been saving this one up for several years to wait for the next time Jan 1st fell on a Friday.

It’s the first ever single released on Decca’s Deram label – designated DM 101 – sung by Beverley (Kutner – later Martin) and featured Jimmy Page on guitar. Guitar is not the first thing that strikes you about the song, though. That would be the ringing piano chords at its start.

Beverley: Happy New Year

Deram’s releases were a curious blend of the commercial and the much less so. The label was originally set up to demonstrate a breakthrough Decca’s engineers had made in representing sound stereophonically on record.

This release was not a bad opening statement even if Happy New Year wasn’t a hit.

Howver DM 102 was; I Love My Dog by Cat Stevens which reached no 28 in the UK charts. He outdid that feat later in the year with Matthew and Son (DM 110) equalling the highest position (no 2) reached by DM 109, The Move’s Night of Fear. The oddest hit on Deram though was surely I Was Kaiser’s Bill’s Batman by the immortal Whistling Jack Smith.

Happy New Year was written by Randy Newman who is due a commendation for not adding an apostrophe ‘s’ as most USians do when talking about the day when the calendar flips. To my mind that makes it a felicitation for one day only (as in Happy Birthday! or Merry Christmas!) rather than the desire for good fortune to be with you for a full 365 (or 366) days.

Here’s Newman’s demo version – with a picture of Beverley’s single version cover sleeve.

Randy Newman: Happy New Year

Not Friday on my Mind 64: Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James – RIP Geoff Stephens

Song writer Geoff Stephens has died. The obituaries all mentioned Winchester Cathedral which was a hit for the group he set up, The New Vaudeville Band, no 1 in the US but no 4 in the UK. His song-writing CV is impressive (see link above.)

Co-written with John Carter, this was the third Manfred Mann single to feature Mike d’Abo on lead vocals and a no 2 UK hit. The lyric kind of prefigures the line, “She settled for suburbia and a little patch of land” in Albert Hammond’s The Free Electric Band.

The sound and vision in this Top of the Pops appearance aren’t in synch. (They are in this clip but the vision quality is poorer. Filmed off a TV screen I suppose.)

Manfred Mann: Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James

Geoffrey (Geoff) Stephens: 1/10/1934 – 24/12/2020. So it goes.

Some Good News (and Reelin’ in the Years 183: Here Comes the Sun)

Something cheerful this week. In celebration.

One day last week we were woken up by a phone call where my and the good lady’s very happy eldest son told us of the birth, a little earlier than expected, of his baby daughter, our first grandchild, Isobel Skye, 6 lb, 6 oz. (All those years, over 50, of nothing but the metric system being taught in Scottish schools and we still announce birth weights in Imperial units!) Mother and child are both doing well.

A welcome good thing arriving in what has been a dismal year. Sadly due to Covid restrictions we have not met Isobel in person. Soon, we hope.

This song was a hit for Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel in 1976 (Richie Havens had also recorded it in 1971) but it was first heard on The Beatles album Abbey Road in 1969.

Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel: Here Comes the Sun

And the original:-

The Beatles: Here Comes the Sun

Not Friday on my Mind 63: If I Were a Carpenter

A beautiful song written by the singer here. It wasn’t a hit for him in the UK but it was for the Four Tops (see here) and Bobby Darin.

I of course applaud the use of the conditional in the title and in each of the verses.

Tim Hardin: If I Were a Carpenter

Friday on my Mind 196: Fire

A piece of utter craziness from 1968. On the face of it Arthur Brown was just a little bit mad what with wearing a helmet of burning fuel on his head. Catchy, unforgettable and a world-wide hit but not easy to follow-up.

As seen on Top of the Pops. (The video looks like someone filmed it off a TV screen.)

Crazy World of Arthur Brown: Fire

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