Archive for June, 2011

Thank You For The Days – Happy 71st Birthday, Ray Davies

Posted in Uncategorized on June 21, 2011 by pulmyears

NOTE: This post was originally published in 2011, on Ray’s 67th birthday. I have updated it for his 71st.

And now a quick birthday post about Raymond Douglas Davies, the original Muswell Hillbilly, who was born on  21 June 1944, making him 71 today!

Forever “Ray” to us Kinks fans, this is a man who has cheated death (he was shot in the leg in New Orleans after a botched robbery on the street), and who (with his brother Dave) probably defined UK rock star sibling rivalry  for a whole generation, pre-Oasis, anyway.

Quintessentially English, Ray Davies is considered, by musicians and songwriters like myself, to be a master storyteller (lyric-wise) and an expert melodicist. Unlike many of his contemporaries, save for Pete Townshend of The Who, what set Davies apart from his British Invasion compatriots was that, while all of the bands looked to American (and Black) R&B for their predominant influence, Ray (and to some extent Pete) put not just a London accent on it, he put a London essence into it.

Arguably, Ray is descended more directly from the cheeky chappy Music Hall stars of his parents, the George Formby types, but clearly, his decidedly more earthy, worldly approach was more direct and less prone to sexless innuendo. The Kinks were a little dirty, but in that naughty way that Brit bands seem to understand better than North American bands. Of course the Kinks influence continued and continues through later bands like XTC and Blur, while even Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker has more than a touch of the Ray in him.

Here are only a few of my favourite Ray Davies songs with The Kinks. There are plenty more.

Waterloo Sunset

Victoria

Days

Sunny Afternoon

Well Respected Man


This next one was used in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore to great effect, and Beck even covered it,

Nothing In This World (Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl)

Apeman

And yes, how can I not play…

Lola

I want to recommend that you read Ray Davies’ book

X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography

(both hardback and paperback covers shown)

X-Ray is part biography and part made-up storytelling. In fact it may be the first autobiography to warrant filing in the Fiction AND Non-Fiction sections.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Ray! I will now post all three episodes of this Kinks documentary from 1994.

The Kinks (Part 1 of 3)

The Kinks (Part 2 of 3)

The Kinks (Part 3 of 3)

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NOTE TO SHELF: Surf Put The Camera Into A Solo Frame.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14, 2011 by pulmyears

Today I’m starting a new feature on the Pulmyears Music Blog: Note To Shelf, where I recommend or just blather on about a recording that’s on my shelf that I feel you should know about. I won’t do this everyday but when I do, it will be about recordings that “glow” or scream “play me” when I walk by the shelf (or the virtual iTunes shelf).

Today I want to recommend Surf (2002), the second solo album by Aztec Camera mainstay, Roddy Frame.

I had first become acquainted with Roddy’s songs shortly after Aztec Camera released their 1983 album High Land, Hard Rain, which featured such memorable tracks as “Walk Out To Winter” and “Oblivious”:

Aztec Camera followed that up with the Mark Knopfler produced album Knife (198 ), which quickly became one of my fave albums of that era, for the popular songs “Still On Fire” and “All I Want Is Everything”,  but particularly for the acoustic deep cut “The Birth Of The True” which remains one of the Songs I Wish I’d Written Myself™

You see, what I liked about that acoustic song was that, removed from the frigid 80s production which frankly dates the Aztec Camera albums (hardly diminishing their songwriterly appeal, FYI), “Birth…” announced that Frame was a true Elvis Costello protégé, the lad could back it up with nothing but six strings and an affable Scottish lilt.

I stayed true to Aztec Camera and dutifully bought all their recordings, Love (1987), Stray (1990), Dreamland (1993) and Frestonia (1995), and I particularly dug the singles from Stray, “The Crying Scene” and Roddy’s duet with B.A.D.’s Mick Jones, “Good Morning Britain” which neatly combined  Jones’s post-hip-hop of  with Frame’s anthemic melodicism:

Shortly after Frestonia, I stopped hearing from Roddy Frame. Rumours abounded that he was sick or dying or that the music business had turned off another great songwriter, flattened under the “star-making machinery”.

What I didn’t realize was that in 1998, Frame had done his first proper solo album, The North Star, which I never even heard about until later. What a shame, because when I finally heard it, I realized that my boy was fine, thriving in fact. Here’s Frame doing a song from that record, “Bigger, Brighter, Better” from Jools Holland’s Later:

For me, though, the first signs that Roddy was alive came in 2002 when I read some UK magazines making exciting noises about Surf.

After the studio excesses of London and L.A., Roddy was ready, emotionally and economically, to just grab a guitar, a good mic and a recording unit then press play and go for it.

Sitting in his front room, Frame made an intimate recording that could well be to his own career what Blue was to Joni Mitchell, or possibly what Nebraska was in the context of the entire Springsteen discography.

Described in various media sources as a “break-up album” , critic Jon Horsley wrote in Q magazine of Surf‘s “Simplicity… displaying Frame’s deft hand with a lyric and mastery of direct songwriting. Best of all is Frame’s now beautifully mature voice.”

Critical praise was pretty much across the board on both sides of the Atlantic.

Critic Andy Gill, in The Independent’s spotlighted “Frame’s slightly sour vocals” which he compared to a young Jesse Winchester, yet ultimately seemed to be put-off by the album’s personal intensity. Personally, I felt like it was like taking a personal submarine into the depths of a troubled sea, safe in the hands of an adroit mariner.

Since Surf, Roddy has continued to make solid, distinctive original music and I could recommend the subsequent Western Skies (Redemption, 2006), Live at Ronnie Scott’s (2006), and Live at The Blue Note, Osaka (2007).

But for me, the solo Frame CD that jumps off my shelf most often seems to be Surf. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

And that’s today’s Note To Shelf™

I Know I Know: Talking With Jules Shear about Todd Rundgren

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13, 2011 by pulmyears

I conducted about 100 interviews for my book about Todd Rundgren’s record production career, including practically everyone he’d ever worked with. Some folks, like Splender and 12 Rods, I didn’t find info on until after the book was being published, and others, like Jill Sobule, Levon Helm and Max Weinberg, wouldn’t return my calls.  And there were other favourites, like Jules Shear, who only received the briefest of coverage in the final word count, owing to the embarrassment of riches in terms of artists who DID talk to me.

More’s the pity, as I am a huge Jules Shear fan. If you’re not initiated – and frankly it seems only fellow songwriters seem to really know him – Jules Shear is a songwriter’s songwriter.

He came to prominence in a band called Jules And The Polar Bears, along with Stephen Hague (who later became a star producer in his own right) who made a string of albums from 1978 to 1980,  including my favourite: Got No Breeding, which featured the single “You Just Don’t Wanna Know”.

You may also know Jules from his own amazing solo albums, and for the songs he wrote which became hits for…

The Bangles “If She Knew What She Wants”:

And Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through The Night”:

He also worked with my good friend Blair Packham and his band The Jitters, on a really great record called Louder Than Words. Jules produced the record with the band and co-wrote material on it, including “The Bridge Is Burning”:

And Jules also worked with Aimee Mann on the Til Tuesday album Everything’s Different Now

Which featured the single  “(Believed You Were) Lucky” co-written by Aimee and Jules:

As you may know if you read my book about Todd, Jules and (and Stephen  Hague) made a great unsung album with TR  called Watch Dog.

Blair helped me track down Jules, who was willing to talk about the album. (if a little hesitant to really elaborate on anything). Here are some highlights from my chat with Jules.

PM: The Polar Bears had broken up but you still had Stephen Hague with you on Watch Dog. Did he sort of co-produce the album then?

JULES: “Stephen had been in the Polar Bears with me, but we’d broken up the band by then. Since Stephen and I had actually produced the last couple of Polar Bears records, we just did the demos for Watch Dog at his place just outside Boston, and I wanted Stephen to come along and play on the sessions and Todd agreed. Stephen was also a huge Todd fan.”

PM: Were you a Todd fan before this? How did you end up working with him?

JULES: “Apparently Todd was getting a lot of offers to produce stuff, but he didn’t like any of the stuff he’d heard. But he like my demos and said that he wanted to do it. I came up to Woodstock and met with him before hand. At that point, I wasn’t used to working with producers but I thought, ‘It’s Todd Rundgren, so we’ll give it a try.’ “I really liked Todd, as a guy,” “and he obviously knows a lot about making records, but should he be MY producer? He didn’t seem like a natural choice, to me, but Gary Gersh at Capitol really thought so.”

PM: What did the process teach you about Todd or about record making?

JULES: “I didn’t really get to know him that well, because it was such a brief recording period. I did notice that he wore the same clothes every day, this blue and white striped sweatshirt thing.”

PM: I’ve read in various places that you weren’t sure if Todd was so “into it” when he did the album, what was the deal there?

JULES: “Sometimes I think that he should have been a producer on certain things, because the parts of the process that he wasn’t interested in, he just didn’t do. That was fine with me, but I wonder if record companies knew that when they gave him these gigs. There were many times when you could tell Todd just wanted to get the thing done, it seemed to me. It was like, ‘Here’s some work I gotta get done.’”

PM: Elaborate on that, are you saying he was an “absent producer”?

JULES: “Like when I was singing a vocal, I might feel that I needed to try it one more time. He’d just say, ‘Really, why?’ Most producers would want to work on it more than me, but Todd was more interested in getting it done with, and didn’t really want to do more takes unless I could come up with a compelling reason why.”

PM: The Watch Dog album still sounds great to me, despite what sounds like a mundane time making it.

JULES: “The aspects that he was interested in were fun for him, I should think, like mixing it and stuff. He probably had a lot of fun producing himself, though, but no so much producing other people. We didn’t really have any run-ins with him, or anything, and because me and Stephen had produced those Polar Bears albums before that, I knew that it was Todd’s production. That was the decision I’d made, so at that point, I was gonna let Todd do it his way. I was trying to be strictly ‘the artist’ and let Todd do his thing.” Elliot Easton was on it too. And Todd played acoustic guitar on it and he played a lot of stuff on it. He played the solo on “I Need It” and lots of sounds and keyboards on it.”

PM: Cyndi had a big hit for herself, and for you I suppose (!!) with “All Through The Night”, which began on Watch Dog. And Alison Moyet covered “Whispering Your Name” to great effect. Are there any other songs on there that were highlights for you personally?

JULES: “The Longest Drink,” was pretty close to the vibe that Stephen and I had done on the demo and Todd was pretty amenable to that. Todd added the sound of water going into a glass that he’d miked up; that was purely a Todd idea.”

PM: You moved to Woodstock eventually, so working with Todd must have had a lasting impact on you in that way.

JULES: “I actually first discovered Woodstock when I came here to work with Todd. I was living in Boston at the time and I wasn’t really digging it all that much, so I thought maybe I could try living here, being close to New York. I’ve lived here, on and off, ever since.

Finishing up our look at Jules Shear, let’s go out with a song he recorded years after the Todd sessions, from The Great Puzzle, “The Sad Sound Of The Wind”:

UPDATE:
Almost forgot Jules’ band The Reckless Sleepers (with Jimmy Vivino), and this great song “If We Never Meet Again” from Big Boss Sounds:

Click here to order A Wizard A True Star: Todd Rundgren In The Studio from Amazon.

Happy Birthday Les Paul, The Man Who Asked: “How Can I Make My Guitar Louder?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 9, 2011 by pulmyears


With this simple desire, Les Paul revolutionized the way guitarists play the instrument. But in truth, Les Paul, who would have been 96 today had he not passed away in 2009 of complications from Pneumonia, changed more than that. Les Paul changed the way music was recorded, with his pioneering experiments in overdubbing, and the way musicians approach the very nature of “documentation” of their works. Before Les Paul, recording was like a snapshot of a “true” moment, “Here son, play your trumpet into this here microphone and we’ll make a record.” After Les Paul, the concept of a recording artist as an “aural sculptor” became commonplace, with artists like Prince, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Todd Rundgren taking up the torch with albums of material played entirely themselves on numerous overdubbed tracks.

To celebrate Les’s birthday, today, Google famously made their “Google Doodle” into a recording “guitar” (link here, but note it will  only work for the duration of Google’s promotion)..

Who was Les Paul. Allow me to paraphrase Wikipedia for you!

Lester William Polsfuss was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on June 9, 1915 and became obsessed with music by the age of 8. After being drawn to the banjo, Les moved on to guitar and even then pioneered the “neck-worn harmonica holder”, a hands-free brace which allowed one to play and sing as Bob Dylan and Neil Young would later demonstrate.

“And I thought, ‘How can I make my guitar louder?'”

Even more importantly, when he was a teenage guitar player in various Wisconsin dance bands, he had become frustrated by not being heard over the band. He rigged a phonograph needle to a radio speaker and amplified the sound of his acoustic guitar. Ladies and gentlemen, the pickup and the amplifier.

But Les wasn’t done innovating.

By the early 1930s, he was living in Chicago in 1934, he was recording and playing on the radio, sometimes as the hillbilly singer,  “Rhubarb Red” but mainly, by this time as “Les Paul”, a Django Reinhardt obsessed jazzbo and proud owner of a genuine Selmer Maccaferri guitar, alleged to be a gift from Reinhardt’s widow. In 1939, he had moved to New York with his jazz trio who were frequent guests on the Fred Waring radio show.

The Log

Living in Queens, Les tinkered with innovations on the electrified guitar, sometimes coming precariously close to frying himself in the process.  and his most well known early project was called, quite simply, “The Log”, a block of lumber with a pickup and strings (and a cosmetic shell to make it look more like a “normal” guitar.) In 1940, he nearly died of electrocution, and moved to L.A. for a time before joining the fight (WWII) and playing in the backing bands of Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters. Crosby began to underwrite many of  Paul’s recording experiments and they collaborated on a few recordings, including the 1945 single, “It’s Been a Long, Long Time.”  After a near-fatal car crash in 1948, Paul suffered permanent damage to his right arm and, famously, he had the surgeons set his damaged arm at a 90 degree angles so he could still pick at the guitar.

Along with Leo Fender and Adolph Rickenbacker, Les Paul was a pioneer of commercially available electric guitar, and began working with the Gibson Guitar Corporation until around 1961.  On January 30, 1962, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Paul a patent, Patent No. 3,018,680, for an “Electrical Music Instrument.”

Overdubbing

Les Paul began to explore multi-track, or sound-on-sound, recording in his home studio in Hollywood and by 1948, one of his experiments “Lover, When You’re Near Me” was issued on Capitol Records. He wasn’t even working with tape to tape yet, instead cutting acetate discs (cut on a machine he built himself)  for each overdub and tracking that as the basis of the next overdub. Eventually, he found a way to do this using magnetic tape.

Les Paul & Mary Ford

In 1945, he met Colleen Summers, better known as Mary Ford and began multi-tracking her unique voice on a series of duo recordings including “How High the Moon”, “Bye Bye Blues”, “Tiger Rag”, “Don’cha Hear Them Bells”, and “Vaya con Dios”.

Okay, I know I’m skipping a lot, so there’s some links below to get the full story.

Skipping to the end, Les Paul died on August 12, 2009 and was buried a few days later in Waukesha.

In life, Paul had been inducted to the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, by his friend and admirer Jeff Beck. After his death, of course, more accolades continue to stream in. In 2005, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his development of the solid-body electric guitar. In 2006, Paul was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He was named an honorary member of the Audio Engineering Society.

LEGACY

“I’ve copied more licks from Les Paul than I’d like to admit.” Jeff Beck.

“He could burn the frets right off a guitar” – Steve Miller

“He put the tools in our hands” – Keith Richards

 “Les Paul is the Boss!” – B.B. King

Of course, there’s “more to explore” and allow me to make some recommendations.

The Wizard of Waukesha (1980)

From NY Times: “Les Paul “and his band of renown” are shortened to simply the renowned Les Paul in this entertaining and informative documentary on one of the long-lasting talents in the music business. Excerpts from Les Paul’s popular performances on radio in the 1930s highlight his quick rise to fame. His years with Fred Waring and recordings with his wife Mary Ford are balanced against his successes in designing electric guitars and one of his better-known inventions, the eight-track recording system. As urbane and versatile in person as his accomplishments suggest, Les Paul’s own accounting of his past and snippets at the guitar round out this excellent documentary.”~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

Chasing Sound: Les Paul at 90

I highly recommend this award-winning documentary, often called the “Definitive portrait of Les Paul, musician, inventor, and American legend.” It features a privileged behind-the-scenes tour of his museum-like New Jersey home and footage from his last dates of his long-standing Monday night gig at Iridium in downtown Manhattan.

Jeff Beck Rock ‘n’ Roll Party: Honoring Les Paul

Recorded on June 9, 2010, which would have been Les’s 95th birthday starring Beck, Imelda May and Brian Setzer, at the Iridium Jazz Club where Les played nearly every week almost to the end of his life.

In August, 2009, Paul was named one of the ten best electric guitar players of all-time by Time magazine.
Here’s a nice link to New York Times thing about Les Paul, Happy Birthday to the Wizard of Waukesha!

. http://video.nytimes.com/video/2009/08/13/obituaries/1247463983106/last-word-les-paul.html

Remembering Producer Martin Rushent: Gone To The “Mixing Desk In The Sky…”

Posted in Uncategorized on June 6, 2011 by pulmyears

One more classic figure of music passed away this weekend, Martin Rushent died at 63 on Saturday. Rushent was the man at the mixing desk for landmark albums by The Stranglers, The Human League, XTC, 999, Generation X, Altered Images, The Go-Go’s and even Fleetwood Mac.

Before I make a plate of select platters produced and or engineered by the studio maven, a bit of biographical information.  His career began, arguably, when he got to cut a demo with his own band down the EMI Studios in Manchester Square, London. Then, after noodling around with 4-track machine and studying for various fall-back careers, he followed his bliss into Advision Studios and eventually scored a great job as a tape operator for producer Tony Visconti, which got him into the room with  T-Rex, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and even a UK session with Jerry Lee Lewis.

Later, Rushent was hired by United Artists, where he worked with Martin Davies, and worked on records with The Buzzcocks, and signed The Stranglers as his own project. Rushent produced Stranglers’ albums, Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes and Black And White.

Martin Rushent in 1985 print ad for Korg sequencer.

After that, Rushent became a synth-pop trailblazer, working on ex-Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley‘s Homosapien sessions, and the success of these Linn Drum flavoured tracks was noted by the revamped Human League, who relied on him to guide them into their International breakthrough album Dare (1981). Even 30 years later, “Don’t You Want Me Baby” is as memorable a song as any in rock’s rich history.

After decades away from the mixing console, Rushent started making records again in the 2000’s and worked on albums by The Pipettes, Killa Kela, Hazel O’Connor and his son’s band Does It Offend You, Yeah? Apparently when he died, this Saturday, he was busying himself with a 30th anniversary remake of  Human League’s Dare, featuring non-synth instruments.

On the Shapers of the 80s blog, Stranglers’ Hugh Cornwell is quoted:

“It is with great sadness that I hear of Martin Rushent’s passing. He was a vibrant and gifted individual who was able to extract the essence of what The Stranglers began with, and translate it into something that could be played on radios across the UK. It was obviously no one-off success, as he was later to show with The Human League. I remember him fondly. ”

A statement from his son James’s band Does It Offend You, Yeah?, ended with “Rest in peace, sitting at your mixing desk in the sky.”

Rushent is survived by his wife Ceri, sons James and Tim and daughters Amy and Joanne.

A MARTIN RUSHENT SAMPLER: By no means a complete discography, but a few highlights I put together for ya!

The Buzzcocks: “Orgasm Addict”

XTC: “Are You Receiving Me?”

The Stranglers: “(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)”

999: “Homicide”

Human League “Sound Of The Crowd”

Pete Shelley: “Homosapien”

Human League: “Don’t You Want Me?”

Leisure Process: “Love Cascade”

Dr. Feelgood: “Every Kind Of Vice”

Ian Gomm: “Hold On” (often mis-credited to Nick Lowe)

Altered Images: “Happy Birthday”

The Associates: “Waiting For The Love Boat”

READ UP ON MARTIN RUSHENT: Here’s a great article from Sound On Sound magazine

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul10/articles/classictracks_0710.htm

R.I.P. Andrew Gold: “My Hat Is Off, Won’t You Stand Up And Take A Bow”

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2011 by pulmyears

Saturday morning, I woke up, checked my Facebook and Twitter messages and found out that L.A. songwriter and session legend Andrew Gold had passed away at the age of 59 after suffering a heart attack in Los Angeles.

The casual music listener or TV watcher might know Mr. Gold from a couple of landmark hit singles, staples of 70s AM radio “Lonely Boy”, and “Thank You For Being a Friend”, the latter, rather Beach Boys-esque tune was of course also used as the theme from The Golden Girls sitcom. Gold also supplied the song “Final Frontier” as the theme for the Paul Reiser / Helen Hunt hit sitcom Mad About You.

But ask a pop-savvy musician or deep listening music fan and you’ll discover that Andrew Gold was not only L.A.’s “Mr. Nice Guy” but a key ingredient on many records by others, in addition to being the progeny of two Hollywood music legends.

His mother, Marni Nixon, was the “ghost vocalist” for film actresses Natalie Wood (that’s Nixon voicing Maria’s songs in West Side Story), Deborah Kerr (Anna in The King and I) and she sang all of  Audrey Hepburn’s parts in the Rex Harrison hit musical  My Fair Lady. Andrew’s dad, Ernest Gold, wrote the score for the landmark film Exodus, for which he won an Oscar. Surely, this explains why the younger Gold is said to have spent many lonely hours happily pouring out his pre-adolescent emotions into his earliest songs at the age of 13. It was a family business. Gold by name, Gold by reputation.

His first band, the L.A. folk rock collective Bryndle, featured fellow noteworthy songwriters Wendy Waldman, Kenny Edwards, and Karla Bonoff. As his legend grew in the Hollywood music community, he was invited to work with Linda Ronstadt in 1973. One of their best collaborations was her breakthrough album, Heart Like a Wheel (1974).

I happen to think that his Abbey Road-like guitar arrangement on “You’re No Good” is as thrilling as any moment in recorded history. I was just saying this to my wife  last week in fact!

Gold was also a major factor in other Ronstadt hits like “When Will I Be Loved” and “Heatwave” and he was a core member of her live band throughout the seventies.

And now he’s gone.

In my own childhood, I was touched by Gold’s first solo singles under his own name. I’ll never forget the effect of “Lonely Boy” had on me, a pimply, emotionally wallowing teenager when I first heard it on my AM radio back in Toronto, as I stared out a cold window and wondered if I’d ever have a girlfriend. Never underestimate the suicide-preventative factor in a good tear jerking pop song. It’s no overstatement to say that “Lonely Boy” felt like a beacon in the fog of my adolescent gloom. Thanks Andrew.

“Thank You For Being A Friend” felt like a long lost Carl Wilson song, and by the time I heard it I was starting to leave the AM radio behind, but it still made it into my consciousness. I consider it a blessing that I never watched a single episode of The Golden Girls so the song is still just a great song to me.

What I just learned in reading a few things today, and forgive me UK readers, is that he had a huge hit over there called “Never Let Her Slip Away”, a top #5 hit on TWO SEPARATE OCCASIONS. I also learned today that Freddie Mercury helped Gold arrange the vocals on it.

His Golden touch was felt by many others in the business, and again, today I read that Gold played every note of Art Garfunkel‘s cover version of “I Only Have Eyes For You”, in 1977, and is all over Garfunkel’s  Breakaway LP.  He backed ex-Raspberries singer Eric Carmen on Boats Against the Current, notably playing guitar AND drums on the Carmen hit “She Did It”.

A cursory glance of his credits includes working on solo albums with every Beatle except Harrison, and stints with Brian Wilson, Don Henley, Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time album and on Stephen Bishop‘s hit single,“On and On.”

He worked in country music, wrote hit singles there too, and also toured and recorded with James Taylor, The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and – I just read this, and I haven’t had time to verify it – apparently Gold assistant engineered some tracks on Joni Mitchell’s Blue  (!!), one of my all-time favourite albums.

He also worked with another of my all-time fave bands, 10cc, and is featured on their Ten Out of 10 album (1981). On the song “We’ve Heard It All Before” it’s clear that Gold, and 10cc’s Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart, were parodying the very music industry that they had mastered by then. This video clip is rather silly, but the song is there.

Gold later teamed up with  Gouldman in a band they called Wax. That band lasted for half a decade and actually did quite well, mainly outside North America. Here’s “Ball & Chain”, a kind of AOR friendlier version of Tears For Fears (or something).

He briefly reunited with Bryndle in the first half of the ’90s, before making a the novelty album Halloween Howls,

and a 60’s retro solo album called Greetings From Planet Love under the name The Fraternal Order Of The All. Here’s a Dylan / Lennon pastiche from that one, “Mr Plastic Business Man”:

He did a lot, and was a super nice guy too. I friended him on Facebook three years ago and was thrilled to send him the message “Thank you for being a Facebook friend” Ha, ha, ha, I’m sure he got that all the time.

This morning, I was on Facebook and noticed a few of my other friends saying nice things about Mr. Gold.
Brian Curtis (singer/songwriter/musician from underground pop band The Oohs) told me that “far more than the supposed one (or two) hit wonder most would think. Aside from his work under his own name, there’s the Ronstadt connection, the singer-songwriter collective Bryndle, tons of sessions, a handful of collaborations with latter-day 10cc which led to his Wax UK duo with Graham Gouldman. More than the couple of sentences that will likely sum up most remembrances, so do yourself a favor and explore his extensive career.”

My friend Jaimie Vernon, the President of indie label Bullseye Records of Canada, told me “Andrew lived for music. He gave freely of his time and wanted to participate regardless of compensation. There was no ego. Just a love for the projects he was involved in.”  Jaimie’s label worked with Gold on a Beatles tribute compilation entitled “It Was 40 Years Ago Today: A Tribute To The Beatles”.

“He sent me 12 Beatles tracks he’d already recorded on his own and told me to pick one,” Vernon told me today. “I used his spot-on rendition of ‘Lady Madonna’. But he also sent along an unfinished dub of “Got To Get You Into My Life”. I had Michael White from Led Zeppelin tribute act The White overdub a lead vocal and mix it. We credited the song as WHITE & GOLD.”

As I was scouring the web looking for shreds of clues about Andrew Gold’s inspirations, I found this on a website called Voices & Visions:

Gold wrote: “My basic, original inspirations, when I was a kid, was The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Motown, Simon And Garfunkle, Bob Dylan, Burt Bacharach (especially the Dionne Warwick hits; The Stones, Stevie Wonder; and Musicals like West Side Story, My Fair Lady etc…Later The Police got to me, Prince…”

There’s a blogger named Bob Lefsetz who I sometimes read. Sometimes I disagree with him, sometimes I’m fascinated with his pompous pronunciations. But often, he writes like a passionate music fan, and I can relate to his writing. Yesterday, Bob wrote about Andrew Gold, and I particularly enjoyed this passage:

“You think people last forever,” Lefsetz wrote. “Or at least longer than you.  When they predecease you, die before their time, you just can’t understand it, especially when they were not sick, when there’s no advance warning.  They were here yesterday, and…now?”
Then Lefsetz quoted Andrew Gold’s “One Of Them Is Me”.
“Oh look into my eyes
Tell me what you see
One of them is me
And I don’t know who”

Lefsetz closed with s a link to that song, “One Of Them Is Me”:

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I’ll close there too.

Thank you Andrew Gold for being a music guy. And since music is my life long friend, thank you for being one of those, too. My hat is off, won’t you stand up and take a bow.

Anarchy In The Ukulele (based on a suggestion by Karla Kane)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 2, 2011 by pulmyears

WELCOME back to my blog. Hope you had a nice hiatus, I know I’ve been all over the place, literally all over the world. But as I am deep into research for my next book (details at a later date), I have been getting requests (thank you readers!) for some new blog entries. While I always grumble “hey there’s a huge searchable archive”, I agree that if one is going to have a blog then one had better damn well write some new entries.

Yesterday I came up with an idea to kick-start my brain, I went on my Facebook page and asked some of my friends for suggestions. I was overwhelmed by the smart responses, there was literally over 70 great ideas. I told my friends that, if I used their suggestion, I would put their name in the title. That’s why I have put the name Karla Kane in this title. Karla suggested “Why ukulele is the best instrument.” Perhaps there was an element of self-interest, as she’s the lead singer and ukulele player for the Bay Area band The Corner Laughers. Anyway, true to my word, here it is. Oh and keep your eyes peeled to the Pulmyears Music Blog, I plan to use many more of the suggestions. And thank you all, again.

Memories of my errant uke…

As I have written here many times before, my parents were from Liverpool, England, although me and my two brothers were born after they emigrated to Toronto, Canada. My Merseyside bloodline probably explains a lot about my interest in songwriting, funny things and my need to live near large bodies of water. One ethnic delight I recall, was my parents listening to a radio program on CFRB in Toronto, called Calling All Britons, a kind of support group for Ex-Pat Anglos and Anglophiles in the hostile new world. The program was hosted by a man named Ray Sonin, who also hosted a similar show called Down Memory Lane. It is down that lane where I first discovered the ukulele.

Uke can’t always get what you want…

His name was George Formby, a song and dance man from Wigan, Lancashire,  and (according to Wikipedia), the son of George Formby, Sr., who was also a song and dance man. Curiously, both he and his father were actually named Booth and both adopted the stage names for reasons I haven’t even time to read up on. George the younger was very popular in the U.K. during WWII.  The thing was, this guy had cheeky, double-entendre laden songs and they all featured the four stringed “mini-guitar” (to my eyes) the Ukulele. Actually it was a Banjo Ukulele, but that didn’t matter to me then.  He was very vaudeville, what the Brits called dance hall, and had a variety of catch phrases, including “It’s turned out nice again!”, and “Ooh, mother!” and song titles like “Sitting On The Ice” and “When I’m Cleaning Windows” and this one, “Leaning On A Lamp Post”, which he sang in the film Feather Your Nest (1937).

Dude looks like a ukelady…

The next time I heard the ukulele was when I discovered the phenomenon known as Tiny Tim, born Herbert Khaury, who appeared countless times on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and was even married (to a woman) on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Resembling a disheveled Russell Brand, and with a warbly high-pitched falsetto, Tiny Tim was a cause celebre back when there weren’t that many channels and any national TV appearance meant instant (and international) fame. Here’s one such appearance on Laugh-In.

I Want To Hold Your Uke…


Of course, being of Liverpool heritage, I grew up Beatle. We now know just how influential that Formby music was on the Fabs, and when the Beatles Anthology TV series came out in the mid-90s, we saw this odd like uke picnic:

Within Uke, Without Uke…

When George Harrison had a place in  Hawaii, later in life, he always had the ukes around, as you can see at 2:25 in this clip from the EPK for his final album Brainwashed:

And when George finally succumbed to Cancer, the ukes were out again at The Concert For George. Here, Paul McCartney, movingly, tributes the quiet one with a ukulele rendition of Harrison’s “Something” (the song I bet McCartney wishes he’d written himself):

And of course Joe Brown closed that Concert For George with “not a dry eye in the house” uke performance of “I’ll See You In My Dreams”:

And speaking of the George/Uke Continuum, everyone seems to have sent me this clip of ukelele prodigy Jake Shimabukuro doing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at one point or another over the last year…

Uke Might Think…

Here’s something cool by Greg Hawkes, keyboardist for The Cars, but a very strong proponent of the uke movement, doing “Eleanor Rigby”:

Yes Uke Can

Back when Barack Obama was running for President, I got together with writer Sylvie Simmons and we recorded her song “Million Ukelele March” you can hear it on her Myspace page. http://www.myspace.com/millionukulelemarch and while you’re there, yes that’s me doing “Obama-aa-yah”.
Which brings us to today’s sponsor, Karla Kane and her group The Corner Laughers.

They feature ukulele prominently, but not in a stunty way, it’s not a big deal, it’s just the rhythm “guitar” in their tunes. Here’s one, produced by the mighty Allen Clapp, where you can’t see the band, but you can see the cat, and here the uke. “For The Sake Of The Cat”:

Oh and being in the Bay Area, I really dug their recent ode to the Transamerica Pyramid:

Couldn’t I Just Tell Uke…

Even Todd Rundgren, who lives in the 50th State, Hawaii, has become a major uke-thusiast. Here, he invites Daryl Hall to his home on Kauai, to remake “Bang On The Drum All Day” as a uke jam.

Seattle Sonic Uke…

And finally, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder has just released his own Ukulele Songs album

And we’ll leave with this clip of Vedder’s new uke jams, “Longing To Belong”

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