Frank Gutch Jr: And You Thought Purple Was Deep: Only the Vinylly Religious Caught These… Plus Notes…
I am going to send everyone a “He went to the computer shop and all I got was this lousy column” button because most of you will have little clue as to whom I am writing about and also because Bill Gates and his shit company has sent my other computer to the repair shop courtesy of their “this will be a snap and your files will be right where you left them” update hypocrisy. I am only assuming that my files are where I left them because when I tried to get into my computer the day after the update all I got was this little circle of swirling dots on a pale blue screen and while I used to like pale blue, it fast became a color of doom.
Fact was, I am locked out and unable to resume what I had hoped would be this weeks column, one on two books which add important insights regarding rock history: Getting Nowhere Fast by Ray Brandes, a San Diego dude responsible for a long string of bands which terrorized that area not all that long ago, and Circumstantial Evidence by one Frank Secich of Blue Ash and Dead Boys fame (and other bands as well). I was a ways into the column but what really stopped me cold is the inability to access the digital versions of the books themselves. Sigh.
So I am moving to a parallel universe, hopefully, until next week when the computer (fingers crossed) can cough up those books. Few of you have probably heard of The Tell-Tale Hearts or Blue Ash but they were there being buried outside of their local areas and venues. They certainly weren’t The Beatles or The Yardbirds or even The Raiders, at least not in terms of public acceptance, but they were more than worthy of attention. With a nod to Ray and Frank, then, I am delving into the depths— and by depths I mean focusing on artists you more than likely missed completely, unless you had the dreaded vinyl disease or happened to live in an area close by. No worries. Some will have stories and there will be music. So, once again, strap on your helmets, sports fans, and get set to learn something.
Back in the late-sixties, I was crossing the freeway (or was it a bridge?) into Albany when a song came on the radio which almost had me driving off the road, it was so good— Sean & The Brandywines‘ She Ain’t No Good. I smelled hit and when it didn’t become one I smelled a rat, but I bought it anyway. It was a folk-rock gem with a pop flair which still makes me smile. Cool thing was, it was a double-sider (which usually means that both sides were hits— think The Beatles’ Paperback Writer and Rain). In this case, they weren’t but that didn’t make me stop thinking it. The flip turned out to be a solid folk tune which was covered almost as much as Hey Joe— Codine. Not only was it a standard for many rock bands, it had been for many of the folk acts during the Hootenanny years. Tell me this isn’t a beauty. And dig the videography!
Brandes kicked off his book with the Glory story. I made it to San Diego in the late seventies and the band was in hiatus when Jerry Raney walked in the record store I was working at and asked for me. I’m the guitarist for Glory, he said, and proceeded to regale me with the story of the band and their inability to get the labels interested. I told him I didn’t have much influence but he wouldn’t accept it, forcing a trashed copy of a High School Letter into my hands and asking me to do what I could do. If nothing, no big deal. But it was a big deal. I talked with my one connection who told me that they knew of Glory but were not interested and that was that. I dig that 45 and have it today and even play it once in awhile. It still sounds like it was pressed on cow dung and a building was burning while they were recording but, man, that music! Wish I could have seen them live. Raney, by the way, would a few years later join forces with Dan McLain to form The Beat Farmers. You can read about it, with luck, in Brandes’ book. Right now, though, let us take a listen to Glory.
Batteaux was brothers Robin Batteau and David Batteau in band setting. Robin had previously spent time in virtual obscurity with rock band Appaloosa and Compton and Batteau, joined with David for one album, after which David recorded a solo LP himself. After hearing Tell Her She’s Lovely, I tried to follow the careers of both Batteaus (or would that be Batteaux), but the Internet did not exist back then, youngsters, and information was at a premium. One album. One single. Good stuff. Kind of a Hall & Oates feel on this one.
Pacific Northwesterners and dinosaurs might know a bit about The Liverpool Five but money says that not many had ever heard them. They had come to the US in the sixties in search of fame and somehow ended up in Seattle, from which they launched their attempt. They played mainly the armory circuit, teen dances in places like Newport and Albany, Oregon and Long Beach and Kelso, Washington. While they made a bit of a dent in Washington, they gained a lot of airplay in Oregon before moving south to Los Angeles. Their first single, Heart, landed on the Top 20 of many a radio stations playlist. Somehow, despite the airplay, they live in obscurity. If you live and breathe the sixties, though, the chances are good that you not only know them but love them. This is a cover of a Petula Clark song but she never made it sound this good.
I know I talk a lot about Nick Holmes (who more than warrants the attention) but only a little about White Elephant. White Elephant was a musical experiment, if you will, and spawned a string of musicians who later became very successful in the music world— Michael Mainieri, The Brecker Brothers, Hugh McCracken and Tony Levin, to name a few. The musicians would meet in a rehearsal hall set up by Mainieri and they would play. Mainieri recorded some of the sessions, out of which came a fine double-album set. The band’s structure morphed from track to track, a number of them penned and sung by Holmes. I got into them early, thanks to this outstanding tune:
Talk about bad timing! Portland band Sand signed a deal with Andy Williams’ Barnaby Records back in the early seventies which ended up pretty much sinking the band. After recording a stellar album of soft-rocking tunes, it was decided to release the album as two discs— “One record on two discs for free flowing sand.” Get it? Chances are, you didn’t. Swear to God, the record hit right after the big oil crunch— you remember— cars backed up for miles to get gas at any station which might have some. It could have been the music but I would rather believe that the ad campaign backfired on the label. The result was stacks of albums sitting in warehouses and none on the shelves outside of the Pac NW, the band’s territory. Still and all it was an outstanding release, right down to the one-sided discs. This is one of the bands I mention when I say “these guys shoulda made it.”
I walk into this little cubbyhole of a record store on 11th in Eugene back around ’68 or so and pick up three or four albums while I’m looking through the meager amount of records they had and this guy grabs them out of my hands and says you don’t want those, you want these and proceeded to put three or four others in their place. I almost knocked the guy down. Turns out he was Ron Prindle, owner of what was to become Chrystalship, one of the coolest record stores to ever grace the streets of Portland and Eugene, Oregon. Also turns out that he really knew his stuff. Fuve minutes talking and he had me pegged. One of those albums was by a band out of Chicago called Illinois Speed Press which I ended up not only listening to incessantly but talking about ever since. The two guitarists in the band were Paul Cotton who would later surface with a later version of Poco and Kal David who later formed The Fabulous Rhinestones. I had a chance to see them live once at the Eagles Auditorium in Seattle with Chicago but they stopped the line right at us, the dirty rat bastards! No harm no foul, though. We just headed out to what I believe was the Lake City Roller Rink to catch Cold Blood (hell of a dance/show). Anyway, I learned to trust Prindle. He turned me on to many a band I might not have heard (or heard of) and I owe him bigtime. The amazing part of this track for me are the dual leads. Cotton and David had this uncanny ability to adapt to each others styles. Listen all the way through.
I brought home a lot of records when I lived in Eugene and mostly they were ignored by my friends and people who visited. The guitarist from my old band, though, Lee Eide by name, always found something to listen to. He was the first one to pick up on Glass Harp and would look through the albums on a regular basis. He found Ratchell and after listening to it a few times said that this was one of the best tracks he had heard that summer (’72, I think). I dig the groove. They later morphed into Couchois and as far as I can tell, are still playing as The Couchois Brothers. That bass is being played by Larry Byrom in case you’re interested.
I never cared much for Sopwith Camel too much. I heard Hello Hello until I was ready to end a life— mine or someone elses— and figured that’s all they were. I was in the House of Records one day, though, and heard some really fine music coming out of the speakers and asked who it was. Sopwith Camel, they said. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I was stunned! No way the guys who did Hello Hello could be producing music that good. But they did. The album was The Miraculous Hump Returns From the Moon and if it had been a bat or a stuffed bear, I would have slept with that album. Even today it gives me a pure thrill to hear them.
Did I mention that I hate covers? Must not be true, though, because I stumbled on this cover version of The Ronettes‘ (The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up and couldn’t stop listening. Ladies & Gentlemen, from the UK, The Seashells!
Boy, am I getting away from the “bet-you-have-never-heard-this” mantra. I was looking through YouTube and stumbled upon a man after my own mind. Back in the late seventies, The Viceroys— the band which spawned Jim Valley upon the world (Jim would go on to Don & The Goodtimes and then Paul Revere & The Raiders (he was Harpo) put out what was to me one of the best tracks to ever come out of the Pac NW— That Sound. Not long after, the band signed with Columbia Records and went into the studio with Terry Melcher and cut an inferior version of the song after re-titling it Out of My Mind. The dude who placed this on the Net put them back-to-back. The choice is yours.
Columbia followed up with the Jerry Fuller-produced East Side, West Side. Don’t tell me these guys did not have the talent.
I’m getting tired. I need to end this so I can make it into the computer hospital first thing in the morning. Hopefully it will be well enough to take home and continue reading the books by Brandes’ and Secich’s books. To close out the regular section of the column, though, let us look forward to next week with my favorite Ray Brandes’ track. Kinda makes me want to dance…
Notes… There are Valentine’s Day songs and then there are Valentine’s Day songs, but there aren’t many Valentine’s Day songs which equal this from No Small Children… I listen to this song and am amazed that they could pull this off live, but they do.
Kelly Flint is a favorite from awhile ago. She played awhile with Dave’s True Story in New York and then put out what I thought was a very fine solo album and then pretty much disappeared. Well, she’s back and hitting the bookshelves for inspiration. Sometimes all you need is right in front of you. New album imminent. (Yay!)
Here is a track from Kelly’s last album, Drive All Night. This, along with a song titled Cartoon, made me a fan.
David Celia has lately been promoting a very talented musician he had the fortune to produce, a lady named Marla. I was quite taken by this video in which she explains her approach to the music and the process of recording. This is another example of not just sitting down, writing the songs and going into the studio. The good stuff is organic. And this is good stuff.
There is a book in the life that Terry Manning has led. Rather than go into it all, let me say that I discovered him through his work at Ardent Studios in the early seventies. Oh, and a solo album I happened to pick up— Home Sweet Home. But what really did it for me was his production job on the Cargoe album. He is recording again— or maybe it is just that he is recording for release. This is a cover of Brian Wilson‘s God Only Knows from I assume his upcoming album, Heaven Knows.
And speaking of Manning, take a look at this issue of a previously-unreleased-in-the-States Booker T & The MGs album… Click here.
I was thrilled to see this Youngbloods video of the first track I ever heard from them. Obviously lip-synched, but I don’t care. These guys were one of my favorites!
Frank’s column appears every Wednesday
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“Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”