Saturday, 27 October 2012

Saturday Scratch #14

I had quite a different tune in mind for this week's Saturday Scratch, but instead here's Winston Wright & the Upsetters with a a sweet little organ-led groove from 1972 in tribute to the biblical storm that hit us an hour or so ago, 'Hail Stone'.

Stay warm and dry this weekend.


Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Version City

For the first time in nearly three years, I have a deck set-up and I'm playing through my records, rediscovering forgotten gems and reacquainting myself with old favourites, such as these unlikely versions of 'The Surrey With the Fringe on Top'.

The Rodgers & Hammerstein show tune has been covered well and faithfully on many occasions over the years, by jazz artists such as Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal and Wes Montgomery, but I've mentioned before how much I enjoy a well chosen cover version that confounds expectations and these tunes fit that bill to a tee.

The first is indeed a jazz version, by Sonny Rollins, but not the sedate respectful run-through favoured by some of his previously mentioned contemporaries. It captures Rollins and drummer Philly Joe Jones duoing (or should that read duelling?) on a hard bop arrangement that twists and turns it's way to an exhausted conclusion. Genius.

Then there's Dennis Bovell (a.k.a. Blackbeard) - member of Matumbi, UK dub pioneer, creator of Lover's Rock and producer of such varied artists as Linton Kwesi Johnson, Fela Kuti, The Thompson Twins and Bananarama! He uses 'Surrey' as a starting point for 'Ska-Be-Doo-Za' from 1978's 'Strictly Dub Wize'. Absolutely inspired, but how did he get away with not giving Rodgers & Hammerstein a partial writing credit?


Saturday, 13 October 2012

Saturday Scratch #13

When Frank Dowding embraced Rastafarianism in the early 1970s, he amended his name to Kiddus I, Amharic for 'blessed one', and between 1971 and 1978 was a member of a band previously featured on Saturday Scratch, Ras Michael's Sons of Negus.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s Kiddus recorded a number of solo singles, among them 'Graduation in Zion', which featured in the film 'Rockers'. During 1978 a handful of tunes were cut with Lee Perry at the controls, the best known of which is 'Security in the Streets', an appreciation of a recent peace treaty between political gang-leaders. Great tunes both, and well worth checking out.

After his brief period at the Black Ark, Kiddus continued to record for a number of other producers, before slipping from view at the beginning of the 1980s. The results of these sessions belatedly seeing the light of day as 'Graduation in Zion 1978-80' in 2007, a worthy addition to any collection.

Here's my personal favourite of those precious few Scratch produced tunes, 'Crying Wolf'.

Enjoy your weekend.


Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Saturday Scratch #12

I've been out and about today, getting home just in time to prevent the need for an inaugural Sunday Scratch. So, as the midnight hour approaches, here's George Faith's 1977 psychedelic Jamaican soul version of the Wilson Pickett classic, complete with additional Lee Dorsey references.

Enjoy it - and the rest of your weekend.


Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

John Otway at 60

In the summer of 1980 Otway & Barrett released their third album 'Way & Bar' and commenced 'The Tent Tour' to promote it. The gimmick was that admittance to the gigs was by the purchase of the album's second single, 'DK 50/80', only. So with no actual door money coming in, John & Wild Willy pitched a tent in a campsite near each evening's venue and spent the night under canvas, before moving on to the next town the following morning.

A couple of weeks into the tour, they arrived in my town and before that evening's gig at a local nightclub, they spent a good deal of the afternoon meeting and greeting fans, signing albums and generally hanging out, in the local record shop. I'd been working at that record shop for just a few months and it was my first experience of an 'in-store', as these events were invariably called by record company types.

Otway and Barrett had one of their many partings of the way at the end of the tour (perhaps not so surprising considering the hardships they no doubt had to endure with the unconventional accommodation involved), but together behind the counter that day, they entertained all and sundry like the seasoned double act they undoubtedly were. It was an extension of their stage show - Barrett the straight man and the gangly, flailing Otway, mad and funny with the ever-present danger of personal injury!

As the afternoon drifted on, their road manager tapped his watch to indicate that it was time for the duo to head off for a soundcheck. Customers were satisfied and all our stock had been signed, but we asked for something a little more personal to keep at the shop. Otway scratched his head and excused himself to use the toilet, grabbing a magic marker on the way. No sooner had he returned than the pair were whisked away leaving us to clear up the debris left behind.

(Otway & Barrett only had one real chart hit, 'Really Free', in 1977 and appeared endearingly and chaotically, on both TOTP and the OGWT at around the same time. The b-side (sadly nowhere to be found in it's original form on YouTube) was the epic, fan favourite, 'Beware of the Flowers 'cos I'm Sure They're Gonna Get You, Yeah', which contained a much-loved spoken intro from our hero, Mr Otway.)

A short while after the duo had left the shop, I had occasion to visit the loo myself and discovered Otway's parting shot. On the inside of the toilet door, in huge magic marker print he'd transcribed that spoken intro. So if you happened to find yourself seated, concentrating on the business at hand, you'd read, 'OK, LET'S MAKE THIS THE BIG ONE, FOR OTWAY'!

Many happy returns to John Otway, singer, songwriter and death-defying entertainer, who turns 60 today.

Here's the Hairy Cornflake introducing 'Really Free' on TOTP in 1977 and the concert ticket to the 'Tent Tour', 'DK 50/80', from 1980.


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