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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.

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.

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

Not Friday on my Mind 62: I’m a Man – RIP Spencer Davis

Spencer Davis, leader of his eponymous group and discoverer of Stevie Winwood (who played keyboards and sang on all the group’s big hits) died earlier this week.

The top ten hits Keep on Running, Somebody Help Me, Gimme Some Lovin’, I’m a Man all came in the years 1965-1967 and were split by the No 12 When I Come Home (which I confess I do not remember at all but of which there’s a film clip on You Tube featuring Nicholas Parsons!)

When Winwood left to form Traffic the group’s sound changed to something more heavy and psychedelic – I featured Time Seller here – but only that song touched the top 30 and that at no 30. Its follow-up Mr Second Class was a no 35.

Davis later moved into the record business as a promoter.

This was the last of the top ten hits:-

The Spencer Davis Group: I’m a Man

Spencer David Nelson Davies (Spencer Davis): 17/7/1939 – 19/10/20. So it goes.

Friday on my Mind 194: A Whiter Shade of Pale

I suppose this track really ought to have been much higher up this list. However, I didn’t want the category to contain any obvious songs from the 60s (hence no Beatles, no Rolling Stones) nor – certainly after a few weeks – repeats of the same artist. When I posted the band’s Shine on Brightly I thought I had already featured Homburg here. (I had, but before I started the Friday on my Mind category.)

A Whiter Shade of Pale is so quintessentially 60s that it’s a bit clichéd as an exemplar from the decade.

But this still sounds so fresh, possibly because of its source material, Bach’s Air on the G String.

The original video/film was surely in black and white. That’s certainly how I remember it. This one must have been colourised.

Anyway here’s where Prog Rock might be said to have begun – at least in the public’s mind.

Procol Harum: A Whiter Shade of Pale

Friday on my Mind 193: Um, Um, Um, Um, Um and Pamela, Pamela. RIP Wayne Fontana

Another name from the 1960s, Wayne Fontana, died last week. He first came to public attention when fronting Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders with whom he had the unusually named hit Um, Um, Um, Um, Um (though, given the way the band pronounced it, it would be better rendered as “Mm, Mm, Mm, Mm, Mm.”)

Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders: Um, Um, Um, Um, Um

After splitting with the Mindbenders, Fontana had several hits of his own, of which this was the biggest.

Wayne Fontana: Pamela, Pamela

Glyn Geoffrey Ellis (Wayne Fontana:) 28/10/1945 – 6/8/ 2020. So it goes.

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