I began to thinking the other day about someone who was quite big in 1966, infact he outsold the Beatles and the Stones, well, for one week anyway.
That man was the singing postman AKA Alan Smethurst. He really was a postman. He lived in and loved Norfolk, its people, its dialect and its ‘not quite of this world’ quality.
He was born in 1927 and moved with his mother to Norfolk when he was a young lad. Later when she moved away he could not bring himself to leave. After trying several jobs he became a postman. On his round he hummed his hums, sang his songs and was happy (as far as we know). In 1959 he sent a tape of his songs to a local BBC radio station and then began performing on a Wednesday morning show hosted by Ralph Tuck.
His songs were written and sung in a broad Norfolk accent using dialect that was disappearing even then. He celebrated a time that was also disappearing as the all the country became bland and the same. As they were written in dialect many people (including me at the time) wrote them off as novelty songs of no value. Like many others I missed their true worth.
Several years later he recorded some songs on a small (very small) local record label and there began to be interest in his work outside of Norfolk. Eventually he was signed by Parlaphone (who also had The Beatles on their books). Fame beckoned as ‘Hev Yew Got a Loight Boy’ became a hit. The future was bright (perhaps even bright enough to wear shades – a reference to another one hit wonder, get it?).
However, Alan hated performing live, a chronic case of stage fright stopped him performing in the pop tours that were so popular, and well paid. He could play and sing in front of 20 people, but 200, 2,000? No way.
Gradually, not that gradually actually, he fell from view. A drink habit began to grow, he had tried to use alcohol to help with stage fright but thatb had not worked. Without gigs that needed dutch courage all he had left was the dutch courage. Various run ins with the law followed. I seem to remember reading about an incident that had Alan attacking his stepfather with a cooking pot, perhaps a frying pan. In any event the decline was well advanmced.
Eventually, he moved into the Salvation Army hostel in Grimsby. He stayed there foe 20 years dieing in December 2000 aged 73.
The world moves on. He is hardly remembered now, a part of the past, as is the Norfolk dialect he loved and the long gone old ways of a very distinctive English county.
On this day in 1965 The Byrds began recording “Turn! Turn! Turn!”.
The main differenece between this recording and their first hit “Mr Tambourine Man” is that they all p[layed on the abysmal “Turn! Turn! Turn!”. On their first single only Jim Guinn had played all the other instruments being played by session men. At about this time I femember saying to my best friend that if we paid someone else to play and sing on it we too could have a hit single and solive the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. For some reason he thought that would be cheating.
Later in their career The Byrds would record the reasonable “Eight MIles High” and the satyrical “So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star” released on the “Younger Than Today” album. “So you Want to be….” was an attack on manufactured bands, principally, the Monkees. (Not just on bands that don’t play on their own records, then?)
At Least The Byrds gave Patti Smith material for one the best covers ever recorded. Actually Patti did not so much cover “So You Want to be…” at grab it, devour it and make totally her own.
On this day in 1978 Keith Moon died. He overdosed on a drug called Heminevrin. Ironically this had been prescribed to help him over alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
“Moon the Loon” joined The Who in 1964 after Doug Samden left and played on all their albums from “My Generation” (1865) to “Who Are You” released just 2 weeks before his death. His style was not conventional, eschewing the traditional focus on back beats in favour of dramatic fast rolls across tom toms and cymbals. He was never still behind the drum kit, always looking to add drama and urgency into the songs.
Although a rock drummer of distinction it is for his destructive tendencies that Keith Moon seems to be mainly remembered. he had a fascination with destroying toilets. He used to blow them up with explosives starting with penny bangers (cherry bombs) and graduating to dynamite. So obsessed was he with blowing up toilets that he and the band were banned from several hotel chains and named hotels.
His most famous escapade, however, involved a car, not explosives. On the occasion of his 21st birthday (he was actually 20 but wanted to be able to drink in all the states in the USA, so, naturally he said it was his 21st). Moon was drunk and decided that what he really needed to do was to drive a car into a swimming pool. Variously said to be either a Cadillac or a Lincoln Continental it was this act, as well as serial toilet destruction incidents, that led Moon to be banned from the Holiday Inn chain, for life.
Keith Moon died after spending an evening with Paul and Linda McCartney. They had been to a preview of the film The Buddy Holly Story and then to dinner. After returning to their flat Moon and his girlfriend went to bed. Before going to bed Moon took 32 tablets of Clomethiazole (Heminevrin). This was prescribed drug to help Moon with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. He had been told by his doctor never to take more than 3 tablets in any 24 hour period.
On This Day, 4th September, 1962, the Beatles entered EMI Studios at Abbey Road for the group’s first proper recording session
Or perhaps not, according to your perspective.
They were there to record two songs for their debut single. The band was John, Paul, George, and Ringo – Ringo is the key to the ‘perhaps not’ comment.
Ringo had recently replaced Pete Best on drums. On June 6th The Beatles, with Pete Best, had been to the EMI studios at 3 Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, London. On that day they recorded a number of songs including; Love Me Do, PS I Love You and Ask Me Why.
On 4th September they rehearsed a number of songs before going into studio 2 to record some songs, including the 3 from 6th June. One interesting aspect of that day was that Geroge Martin, producer, was not convinced about the Fab Four’s (or rather the dynamic duos) songwriting ability. A self penned song for a B side was one thing, but he felt that they needed a ‘proper’ song for the A side. With that in mind he handed them “How Do You Do It,” was which was written by a proven written by song writer Mitch Murray. The lads were not happy, and eventually Love Me Do was released as the A side.
The recording of Martin’s choice went well, quite probably done in just one take, but no one seems to quite remember. They do remember the “new” Beatles recording “Love Me Do”, however. Ringo Starr took more that 15 takes to get the drum part right. (Years later Paul would when asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world said that Ringo was not even the best drummer in the Beatles! Ringo eventually quit the band in a fit of pique when he discovered Paul going back into the studio at night to re-record Ringo’s parts. With friends like that…..)
Anyway, after this first, or second, recording session the rest has become history, and music was changed forever!
On this day in 1968 Ringo came back and rejoined the Beatles to finish recording The White Album.
What you never knew he left? Few people did.
He discovered that McCartney had bee re-recording the drum parts on to of Ringo’s when he was not looking. Mr Starkey was not best pleased, as you can imagine and stormed off. He went on a Mediterranean cruise and after a couple of weeks he went back.
You can only surmise why he came back. No one else wanted a not very good drummer? The money was too good to resist? No pride? No matter, the Fab Four were back together (well Fab three and the other one).
In case you are wondering these are the tracks from The White Album that Ringo did not play on;
Back in The USSR (all the other 3 played drums on this…..)
Dear Prudence (much loved by Gordon Brown apparently, but he’s gone off it recently)
Wild Honey Pie
Julia (equally obviously)
Mother’s Nature Son
All a bit of a storm in a teacup really. In fact there were lots of tensions within the band. Perhaps the biggest source of tension was the way that the royalties and touring profits were divided between the band. Ringo and George 1.5% John and Paul 15 – 30%. Even given that J&P wrote most of the songs it seems very unfair.
Ringo was not the only Beatle to quit. Harrison left on January 10th, 1969. He was upset that while he had a growing number of songs that remained unrecorded The Beatles were concentrating John and Paul’s songs. he was also miffed that John no longer really spoke to the others preferring Yoko to to attend band meetings. John wanted to replace George with either Hendrix or Clapton (surely that was joke?). He also wanted to break the news to the press. No need, Harrison himself did that. However after a few days he was back in the fold.
On this day in 1971 The Grateful dead released their live masterpiece ‘Grateful Dead’. Originally the band wanted to call it ‘Skull Fuck’ (or ‘Starfuck’ if you read Rolling Stone) but the record company had a couple of objections to the idea. No idea why. The record went on to be their first to make the top 25 in the States.
2nd September 1971 was quite a day for the Dead. Their former drummer and manager Lenny Hart was arrested in San Diego on charges that he embezzled $70,000 from the band, although other estimates make that amount $155,000. He was arrested while baptizing people. He was calling himself Rev Lenny B Hart at the time. Whether or not he was ordained I do not know but have not come across anything to suggest that he was.
On a personal note I used to really like the Dead when I was younger. Then when CDs came out I went out, and as with lots of other bands I liked, I began to buy CDs to replace the Vinyl. Having bought some 15 or so CDs when I listened to them I was really disappointed they were not the band I remembered and so the CDs went onto the shelf, not to be played again. A few years later I began selling them on eBay. They went like hot cakes, particularly The Dick’s Picks series. Just as I was listing the last one I put it on the player. Inevitably I fell in love with the Dead again…… and began to re-buy the same CDs that I had sold. Story of my life.
On this day in 1956 Jerry Lee lewis turned up at Sun records wanting to an audition, financed by his father selling 30 dozen eggs to raise the money for the trip! This was not the first time his parents had helped Jerry Lee with his musical ambitions. When he was 8 he showed such promise playing the piano that his parents mortgaged their house to buy him his own piano.
Unfortunately, when Jerry Lee turned up to ask for an audition Sam Phillips was on holiday. Jack Clemment who was the resident producer at Sun Records agreed to let him record 2 demos. One was ‘Crazy Arms’. When Sam Phillips returned from holiday in Florida he was impressed. ‘Crazy Arms’ sold 300,000 copies locally.
Jerry Lee became a studio musician for Sun Records appearing on records by Carl Perkins (‘Your True Love’ & ‘Matchbox’). Back in the recording studio in his own right 1957 became a huge year for Jerry Lee. He recorded and released ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’, ‘Great Balls of Fire’, ‘Breathless’, and ‘High School Confidential’.
‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ was recorded in one take and the vibrancy of the track shows that. It’s vitality took the world by storm. In 1957 Jerry Lee outsold Elvis, he was that big. His career took a nose dive a year later, however, when during a UK tour the British press revealed his marriage to his young second cousin.
‘Revealed’ is not really what happened. The details of the marriage to Myra Gale Brown were not secret. Marrying second cousins was not unusual in the South. The fact that she was 14 scandalised the British press. They did not like rock ‘n’ roll, it was seen as a threat to the natural order of things in society. In any event the scandal forced the end of the tour and nearly ruined Jerry Lee’s career.
Jerry Lee was always a bit loose with the rules about marriage. That his first divorce had not come through did not stop him from marrying Jane Mitcham in September 1953. He was still married to Jane when he married Myra.
Noel G has walked out of Oasis, this time for good, perhaps. In their time both Noel and Liam have left and returned to the Manchurian Beatle tribute band.
Oasis was formed in 1991. Originally the band was called The Rain but changed its name when Liam joined. Liam was inspired to rename the band after seeing a poster featuring The Oasis Swindon, a small music venue in Wiltshire, UK. How inspired.
The band was of limited musical ability with no finesse, but it was loud. Noel had been writing songs for some time but had no band. The answer was to put the two together. It would seem that Noel needed to be leader and sole writer if he was going to join and let them play his songs. (How old were they at the time 12?)
The rest as they say is history. That Oasis is not my favourite band is not a secret, from the Beatle-esque songs to the banal and boring rock and roll life of the principals they leave me cold. They were doomed in my eyes when they started out by copying a coke advert. They were sued by The New Seakers for plagiarism over Shakemaker. All the swaggering and posturing should be reserved for real rock gods, and the Gallaghers aint them.
29th August 1976, Jimmy Reed died after an epileptic seizure at the age of 50. Jimmy Reed influenced many later guitarists with his distinctive sound. He also wrote many songs, perhaps the most noticeable was “Bright Lights, Big City” (a personal favourite of mine).
He did not manage to get signed by Chess records but was signed by Vee-Jay and scored a number of hits. However, his problems with alcohol and his epilepsy prevented him from becoming as big a star as some of his contemporaries. Never the less many artists have quoted JR as being a large influence on their work. The Rolling Stones cited JR as being a large influence on their early material and their sound. Compare “Not fade Away” and “Shame, Shame, Shame” and the influence is obvious.
“Bright Lights, Big City” has been covered by Van Morrison, amongst others while The Grateful Dead covered “Big Boss Man”. Elvis covered a number of his songs.
Two of his recordings “Big Boss Man” and Bright Lights, Big City” were voted onto Eock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll”