Friday, November 27, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles_Cassette to MP3

Dirt City Chronicles_ Cassette to MP3
The Best of The Standells_ Rhino Records_ 1984

Another exemplary compilation from Rhino Records. As I've mentioned before, nobody does it better. Audio quality, liner notes, track selection... it's the bees knees. Not everyone feels the same way about Rhino's efforts. Larry Tambyln, who coined the name “Standells” and co founded the band has voiced his displeasure with Rhino's description of the band as “a clean living fun bunch of bananas” Larry likes to point out that The Standells were indeed hip and happening. They were after all, the first SoCal band in the 1960s to have long hair (which they promptly cut in order to land a gig at PJ's, notorious for its “no long hair” and matching suits dress code) Larry doth protest too much, the band's pre-Dirty Water recordings and publicity shots do present a clean cut, albeit lame bunch of bananas.

Larry Tambyln especially had a bone to pick with Harold Bronson, who researched and composed the liner notes. Stating that Bronson never met with him or any members of the band to verify any biographical info. Bronson noted that “The band included one guy who spoke with a very unhip broken Italian accent” That would be Tony Valentino, fresh off a pasta boat and as evidenced by Dick Clark's interview after The Standells performed “Help Yourself” Valentino spoke in a monosyllabic manner that brought Balki Bartokomous, Bronson Pinchot's immigrant character on the television sitcom, Perfect Strangers to mind. Harold Bronson also pokes at them for having “a Mouseketeer in the band... that's Dick Dodd, though Dick was cool, upping the band's “cool” quotation by a 100%

Let's face it, before Ed Cobb and “Dirty Water” The Standells were destined for the cut-out bin. Their legacy of failed singles and lame cameo appearances in b-movies and television sitcoms preceded them. Harold Bronson was right “Perhaps the years of growing up squeaky clean had suppressed a lot of angst that unleashed itself in the group's new found personality” “Oooh, that's a bingo. Is that the way you say it, "That's a bingo?” “The Best of The Standells” is an excellent and comprehensive collection of the band's best music during their “Dirty Water” period. There's nothing on here recorded before 1965, it's strictly Ed Cobb produced, Tower Records material. For earlier recordings go to my previous post

We're Your Children. Don't Destroy Us

*My primary research source for this section is “Wild Streets: American Graffiti versus the Cold War”
author: Mike Davis, International Socialism Archive

In 1966 the Sunset Strip was seething with young club patrons, milling about doing what bored white punks with too much time on their hands tend to do... disrupt things. To combat this trend, annoyed residents and merchants in the district pushed for the passage of a 10 pm curfew and loitering law to reduce the traffic congestion. The curfew was passed and went into effect in late 1966. In response, fliers were distributed along the strip inviting people to demonstrate. Hours before the protest, KRLA , a “rock” station, announced there would be a rally at Pandora's Box, a club located at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights Blvds. (owned by radio deejay and Shindig host Jimmy O'Neill) It was the opening salvo in what came to be known as “Sunset Strip Curfew” or “Hippie” riots.

“Hippie” was a misnomer, as the Sunset Strip protest riots kicked off, the hippie movement was in its infancy and still centered primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area. Of the “thousand people in the street, singing songs and carrying signs” some were decked out in proto hippie gear, but the majority were clean cut kids driven by a powerful revulsion against arbitrary authority and perceived repressive enforcement of laws invoked specifically to curtail their movement and behavior. For white youths, this wasn't an entirely new phenomena. The roots of the Sunset Strip riots could be traced back to a series of riots that took place during the summers of 1960-61. The El Cajon Blvd. riot in San Diego, which involved thousands of white youths, erupted during a protest over the closing of a popular drag strip.

Subsequent clashes, Griffith Park (African Americans youth challenging de facto segregation that denied them access to the park) As the LAPD rushed in en-mass, black youths were heard chanting “This is not Alabama” Zuma Beach, exploded in violence during KRLA's “grunion derby” when police attempted to clear the beach at closing time. A crowd estimated at 25k, battled police, armed with beer cans stuffed full of sand and beer bottles. Almost simultaneously a second uprising broke out in Rosemead and a wedding reception in Bell resulted in a mob of 300 teenagers fighting in the street. Veteran cops accustomed to teenage deference were shocked by the crowd's angry defiance. They were “at a loss to identify a root cause for these white riots”

Sheriff Peter Pitchess observed that “defiance of authority, had moved beyond the point where blame can be placed solely on juveniles or adults, minority or majority groups” There's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear. Following the initial riot, the Los Angeles City Council voted to acquire and demolish Pandora's Box, which was indeed demolished in Aug. of 1967. This ill advised action did little to quell the protests. The Sunset Strip wasn't wracked by a single riot, but rather by a series of counterculture clashes over an extended period (1966-69) thousands of youthful demonstrators joined by at times by celebrities (Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Sonny & Cher etc.) which ensured that the national media paid attention.

As Mike Davis points out: radicalized by the anti-war movement, the white youth battling police on the Strip started to see themselves as a secondary front in the struggle being waged by The Black Panther in South Central Los Angeles. Which led to a strange phenomena, the culminating showdown between thousands of white kids and the sheriffs in 1969 was mobilized by a a leaflet demanding “Free the Strip, Free Huey” Davis: “The battle over the urban night had joined forces with the revolution” It was however, a war of attrition. The urban night gave way to the neon nights and heshers of the late 1970s. The revolution petered out but not before it provided a shit load of fodder for exploitation movie producers

"The marketplace sold adolescent society its banners"

The struggle against curfews and crowd control on the Sunset Strip in the late 1960s was ripe for parody and “Riot on the Sunset Strip” Sam Katzman's teen exploitation film, released in 1967, directed by Arthur Dreifuss for American Pictures International did not disappoint. The Standells landed a coveted spot on the soundtrack album. They were joined by The Chocolate Watch Band (Dave Aguilar = Mick Jagger with maracas) and The Mugwumps (Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty, John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky, pre- Mamas and the Papas, Lovin' Spoonful fame) The title track“Riot on Sunset Strip” written by John Fleck and Tony Valentino, almost overcomes some laughable lyrics, “I'm going down to the strip tonight, I'm not on a stay home trip tonight” not even Dodd's snarly vocals can save it.

The movie is part exploitation film, part cautionary tale. No actual riot is depicted, unless you count the ensuing laugh-riot brought about by Mimsy Farmer's LSD induced dance number, which I can only describe as Tina Turner playing The Acid Queen doing an impression of Linda Blair in The Exorcist. The acid trip scene is worth the price of admission alone. What we do get is a morality tale of what happens when a square girl hooks up with a bad crowd. Mimsy Farmer (who went on to appear in a series of Giallo films, i.e. Italian thriller or slasher movies) is Andy, short for Andrea, the new kid in town. The product of a broken home, her mother is an unbearable lush and her father is a police detective, too busy busting heads to notice that the times-they-are-a-changing.

Andy meets up with a crowd of Hollywood stereotypes, led by Herby (Schuyler Haydn) who has all the leadership qualities of Charles Manson but none of his charisma. His henchman, Grady is played by Tim Rooney, the son of Mickey Rooney. Tim was another of the ill-fated original Mousketeers. Both Tim and brother Mickey Jr. were dismissed from the show after just one season when they got into the paint shop at Walt Disney Studios and ruined hundreds of gallons of paint. He was stricken with polio shortly after he left the show and was paralyzed for two years. Ironically enough, Tim Rooney was replaced on The Mickey Mouse Club by none other than Dickie Dodd of The Standells. Tim's acting skills were limited and his limitations are in full display in this cinematic dumpster fire.

Let's cut to the chase... Andy is lured to a “freak-out” Her diet soda is spiked with LSD, she gulps it down exclaiming “I was thirsty” an almost instant identity transformation begins, one that produces instant licentiousness. Andy performs a cringe inducing raunchy dance, meant to imply that she is indeed asking for it. Herby slings Andy over his shoulder carrying her upstairs for the inevitable gang rape, declaring “Grass is fast, but acid is like lightning” Andy's father gets wind of the goings-on and shows up to find Andy somewhat catatonic as she declares “Five boys have been here” this causes him (played by raspy voiced, ex-Navy frogman, Aldo Ray) to punch out Herby, Grady and a few random punks at the hospital in a rather anti-climatic ending. 

I'm gonna tell you a big bad story, baby

“Dirty Water” written by Ed Cobb, was the song that launched The Standells to everlasting fame. It's since been adopted by Boston pro sports teams as an anthem of sorts. Which is silly, the song paints a less than attractive picture of the city, implying that it's crime ridden and that its men can't get the job done. “Frustrated Women (I mean they're frustrated) have to be in by twelve o'clock” Cobb also appears to mock the bean eaters for cowering in the face of a serial killer. “Have you heard about the Strangler? I'm the man I'm the man” As the story goes, it was with due cause, Cobb was the victim of a mugging while strolling along the Charles River with his girlfriend. “Dirty Water” was the first of a handful of songs authored by Ed Cobb, recorded by The Standells and hands down, the most successful.

“Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White” also penned by Ed Cobb was the followup single to “Dirty Water” it failed to crack the top forty (Dirty Water peaked at #11 U.S.) Cobb was adept at emulating the musical trends of the day, thus “Rari” and “Barracuda” sound derivative and yet it's hard to pin down how and why. “Why Pick on Me” is the best Sonny Bono song that Sonny never wrote. “Have You Ever Spent the Night in Jail?” replete with jail guitar doors and references to refried beans and lumpy beds, establishes once and for all that Ed Cobb was indeed the Shel Silverstein of 60s garage punk. “Mr. Nobody” written by Larry Tamblyn combines fuzz buster guitar with an angst fueled melody reminiscent of Bang era Neil Diamond.... which is to say, the best Neil Diamond.

The Standells were versatile if they were anything... “Mainline” is a throwback to the band's earlier frat rock days. A carefree jaunt that sorta brings their contemporaries, The Bobby Fuller Four to mind. “Medication” The Standells most overtly “psychedelic” song was actually written by Minette Alton and jazz pianist Ben Di Tosti. “She do what a good girl should she do what she do good” (The Chocolate Watch Band's version, also on Tower Records, gives the song a “Vanilla Fudge” treatment) Ben Di Tosti is a rather square guy who nurtures a Dixieland jazz fetish. It's easy to see that Ed Cobb and his studio hack, Lincoln Mayorga took some major liberties with the arrangement on both versions. “Dropped the pills like a maniac shaken bad like a walking sack of little pills”

“Try It” was The Standells “banned” song... written by Joey Levine and Marc Bellack, it never got off the ground due to Gordon McLendon's pious grandstanding. The Ohio Express, who at that point in time were actually Sir Timothy and The Royals out of Mansfield, o-HI-o covered the song for Super K Productions. In fact, “Beg, Borrow & Steal” the debut album by The Ohio Express, features The Royals, The Rare Breed and The Measles, a band from Kent, Oh. led by none other than Joe Walsh. The Super K version almost cracked the Top Forty. Joey Levine who would go on to fame as lead singer for The Ohio Express, wasn't yet involved with The Ohio Express, though he was working for Super K Productions. The lead vocal on “Try It” a song Levine co-wrote, was out sourced to Dale Powers of Sir Timothy and The Royals.

With “Can't Help But Love You” The Standells venture into Stax/blue eyed soul territory. I'm amazed the British “Northern Soul” crowd didn't pick up on this song. It met all their prerequisites, a big beat, soulful vocals, driving horns all released on a relatively obscure regional label. “All Fall Down” a rare collaboration between Dick Dodd and John Fleck is innovative psychedelia, it's a shame the band didn't get to showcase their songwriting skills more often.... the self penned tracks they did record are pretty damn good. “Animal Girl” a plaintive ballad totally inspired by The Rolling Stones “Aftermath”  album. The song is credited to Slim Harpo, though for the life of me I can't find his version and I can't even begin to imagine what Slim's original may have sounded like. Perhaps it's a typo. 

Dirty Water
Riot on Sunset Strip
Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White
Why Pick on Me
Mr. Nobody
Have You Ever Spent the Night in Jail?
Try It
Can't Help But Love You
All Fall Down
Animal Girl

Monday, November 16, 2015

Your Ever Loving Punks_The Standells

You Don't Dig This Long Hair, Get Yourself A Crew-Cut Baby

Though touted as the “Godfathers of 60s punk” The Standells lineage stretches well beyond the “garage rock” era. For starters, though The Standells helped launch a thousand garage bands, they weren't a “garage band” at all. By the time “Dirty Water” hit the charts and made them the standard bearers for U.S. 60s punks, The Standells had put in work and were in fact, accomplished professional musicians who knew their way around a studio. The band clearly went through two phases during their prime, the pre-Dirty Water period and the post Dirty Water, 60s punk period. Almost overnight, The Standells went from being a talented plug 'n' play rock & roll combo to snarly trend setting raconteurs. Though in truth, their punk persona was as fake as the hippies & beatniks on “Far Out Munsters”

Larry Tamblyn, co-founder of the band is the younger brother of actor Russ Tamblyn. Russ had worked in movies since 1948, he was nominated for an Academy Award in 1957 for his work in “Peyton Place” He's the father of actress Amber Tamblyn and is still active, having appeared in relatively recent movies, “Drive” and “Django Unchained” Larry had been active in music since 1958, having released a string of doo wop singles on Faro and Linda records. In 1962 he formed The Standels along with Tony Valentino (Emilio Bellissimo, who had arrived in the US from Italy in 1958) bass player Jody Rich and drummer Benny King (aka Hernandez) Larry came up with the name “Standels” as a tongue in cheek take on the long hours spent standing around waiting for auditions at record companies.

The band's first break was a residency at The Oasis Club in Honolulu... not a bad way to kick start a career. Except Jody Rich turned out to be a total prick. After three months in Hawaii, they returned to L.A. and ditched Rich (King had already quit) Bass player Gary Lane and drummer Gary Leeds came on board for the band's first recording effort “Shake” Though it garnered some airplay on KFWB, it wasn't officially released until 1964 (as the b-side to “Peppermint Beatle”) Somewhere along the way, another “L” is added to their name. They release their debut single “You'll Be Mine Someday/ Girl in My Heart” for Linda Records as Larry Tamblyn & The Standells. Over the years, “Girl in My Heart” evolved into a Low Rider favorite and can be found on several Chicano Oldies compilations.

As 1964 rolled around, Gary Leeds left the band to play with Johnny Rivers and PJ Proby (with whom he toured the UK) Upon his return to the states, he met up with Scott Engel and John (Maus) Walker in Los Angeles, convincing them that their fledgling musical collaboration would go over well in England. In February '65, now called The Walker Brothers (Leeds and Engel adopted the Walker surname) they left for the UK and as the idiom goes: the rest is history. The Walker Brothers scored two #1 hits in England (Make it Easy on Yourself and The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore) Scott Walker, noted for his baritone voice, would crossover from schlock pop ballads to avant-garde music. A UK citizen since 1970, Scott continues to push the envelope, much to the dismay of his old fans. 

Dick Dodd who replaced Gary Leeds was not only a drummer, but he brought an entirely new vocal dynamic to the band. Born in Hermosa Beach, Ca. Dick's father (who was in the Army) had abandoned the family shortly after he was born. His mother Florinda Murillo supported her son working as a store clerk. Growing up, Dickie was looked after by his Mexican born grandmother. He grew up bilingual and learned to play the accordion and tap dance at any early age. By the time he joined The Standells, Dodd was a show biz veteran having pulled a three year stint as one of the original Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club. He also landed a gig on The Gisele McKenzie Show during its one year run on NBC television and had a bit part in the movie, Bye Bye Birdie w/ Ann Margaret.

Dick was also a member of pioneering surf bands The Bel-Airs (best known for the hit single, Mr. Moto, which they had already recorded when Dodd joined) and Eddie & The Showmen (w/ Eddie Bertrand) He joined The Standells for their debut at PJ's in Hollywood and the subsequent release of their first album “In Person at PJ's” From which Liberty Records would draw a number of singles. “I'll Go Crazy” an excellent James Brown cover flopped, while the moderate success of “Help Yourself” (a Jimmy Reed cover released as the a-side in the UK) helped established Dick Dodd as The Standells lead singer, supplanting Larry Tambyln, who had handled all the leads prior to that. “So Fine” a Johnny Otis song was also plucked from the album, but it stalled well short of the Top 100.

Following a cameo appearance on the MGM motion picture “Get Yourself A College Girl” The Standells signed with Vee Jay Records. This led to recording sessions at Gold Star Studios. Produced and arranged by Sonny Bono “Don't Say Goodbye” and “The Boy Next Door” (with Cher on backing vocals) feature Sonny's low budget take on Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. “The Boy Next Door” stalled at #102 on US charts. The Standells then recorded “Zebra in the Kitchen” for the MGM movie of the same name starring Jay North (Dennis the Menace) It's a turgid turd of a song which MGM insisted on releasing as the a-side, relegating the vastly superior “Someday You'll Cry” to the b-side. To the amazement of no one, “Zebra in the Kitchen” tanked spectacularly.

To The Standells credit, some of the movies and television shows they appeared on would have been career killers for most other bands. These guys however were proficient at turning lemons into weak watered down lemonade. As evidenced by their appearance on The Munsters television show (Far Out Munsters) Shamelessly milking Beatlemania for all it was worth, The Standells rollick through “Do the Ringo” and a revved up version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” in less time than it takes to heat up a TV dinner in the microwave (3:30 minutes) Al Lewis hams it up by blowing a cloud of smoke out of his ears and Zalman King, schlock erotica director (Red Shoes Diary) plays a bearded beatnik with an uncanny resemblance to Ringo Starr. “Life's a gass.... Life's a wild Fellini movie”

Riding a crest of failed singles, cameos in shitty movies and just four months prior to recording the 60s punk classic “Dirty Water” The Standells, still sporting their lame, faux fab four matching suits and growing their hair out following their residency at P.J.s (which had a strict no long hair dress code) made an appearance on Bing Crosby's short lived sitcom “The Bing Crosby Show” (there would be no second season, Bing, though basically playing himself quickly lost interest) The episode “Bugged By The Love Bugs” is 60s television sitcom drivel at its worst, complete with man servant (ala Uncle Charlie from My Three Sons) and a subversively subservient wife seemingly hopped up on happy pills. (Beverly Garland) in contrast to Crosby's menacing psychotic in a fedora schtick.

Cavorting as the “Love Bugs” The Standells start out doing the running man while showered in shrieks from a gaggle of teenage girls (The Break Song) Bing steps in, cracks wise to his daughter's vacant eyed BFF “Are you promoting this mob?” Later that evening, The Standells serenade Bing and his clan with an impromptu set that includes “The Break Song” segueing into “Someday You'll Cry” and after a quick interlude, finish up with “Come Here” During a break, Bing orders his man servant to prepare a round of root beer for the group and something a little stronger for the senior citizens. A studio version of “Come Here” was never recorded, which is truly a shame for it features some of Larry's best vocal work. As mentioned before, “Someday You'll Cry” was the b-side to “Zebra in the Kitchen”

“Who's giving a party?... it looks like I'm hosting a riot!” exclaims Crosby as a mob of aggressive teenage girls bum rush the proceedings. The premise of the show has Crosby playing the part of a college professor who also happens to have a background in the music biz.... which of course leads to the crowd imploring Bing to join The Standells for a song. Bing obliges, only because “it might just be the thing to drive them out” Der Binger and the boys than proceed to deliver a bad ass version of that old Leiber & Stoller warhorse “Kansas City” No denying Crosby's singing prowess as he firmly puts his trademark vocal mannerisms and zombie like dance moves to effective use. The Standells would follow up their Crosby experience with an appearance on the hip medical drama, Ben Casey.

The Standells were about to take a musical left turn, thanks to an unexpected source. Ed Cobb, a freelance producer and songwriter had written a song “Dirty Water” inspired by an attempted mugging that occurred while he was in Boston. Having shopped around for the right band to record his opus, he chose The Standells, offering to become their manager and producer as an extra added bonus. A member of the hugely successful vocal quartet, The Four Preps. Ed Cobb used his business connections to land The Standells a record deal with Tower Records (a subsidiary of Capitol, not the music store) “Dirty Water” was released as a single in Nov. '65 and quickly stalled on the US charts. Dick Dodd who didn't like the song and was unhappy with their new musical direction, quit the band.

Dickie was replaced by the Forrest Gump of 60s rock.... Canadian drummer & vocalist, Dewey Martin. Best known for being fired from practically every band he played with, Martin was coming off a run with Sir Raleigh & The Coupons in the Pacific Northwest when he got the call from Cobb. Dewey was more of a band-aid solution than a permanent replacement and once “Dirty Water” broke into the Top 40, Dick Dodd decided he loved the song and rejoined the band. Dewey Martin was dismissed, though as a consolation he got to record a single “I Don't Want to Cry” for Tower Records. Dewey moved on to The Modern Folk Quartet and The Dillards before joining Buffalo Springfield. He later milked his association with Buffalo Springfield by forming The New Buffalo Springfield..... twice.

“Dirty Water” finally peaked at #11 in the US in July '66, Liberty Records exploited the band's new found success by reissuing their first album as “Live And Out of Sight” The Standells second Tower single (also written by Ed Cobb) “Good Guys Don't Wear White” crawled its way up the charts, topping out at #43. The Standells album “Dirty Water” peaked at #52. While on tour opening for The Rolling Stones, bass player Gary Lane quits the band in Florida, he's replaced by Dave Burke. A second album is rushed out by Tower “Why Pick on Me- Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White” it fails to chart... perhaps the title was too damn long. Not to be deterred, Tower pushes out yet another album “Hot Ones” made up entirely of cover songs... it quickly drops out of sight.

The Standells were in danger of becoming the 60s punk version of The Ventures. They did have one thing in their favor, the honeys loved Dickie. The SoCal gals would come out in droves, shrieking enthusiastically at his every move. Channeling his inner punk, Dick Dodd also gave a snarling voice to disaffected young punks facing an uncertain future as the Vietnam War escalated into an inevitable quagmire. The “punk” thing was all posturing of course, The Standells were safe as mother's milk. “Riot on Sunset Strip” wasn't a call to arms, it was a marketing scheme. An attempt to exploit a series of clashes between LAPD and young people, not over the Vietnam War, but over enforcement of a 10pm curfew. All of which inspired Stephen Stills to write “For What It's Worth”

1967 saw a new bass player come on board, John Fleck (Fleckenstein) an original member of Love. Ed Cobb was still feeding the group songs, though none amounted to much after “Good Guys Don't Wear White” Rapidly sliding towards irrelevancy, the band needed a little controversy to stir the pot. They found it with “Try It” written by Joey Levine and Marc Bellack for bubblegum punk peddlers, Super K Productions (Jerry Kasenetz & Jeffrey Katz) The Ohio Express covered the song a year later with Dale Powers on lead vocals.  (I prefer The Morfomen's version myself) If you're at all familiar with 60s radio in the US, then you're well aware of just how influential “The Radio Maverick” Gordon McLendon's stations were to the hit making process. “By the way you look I can tell you want some action” Try It's mildly suggestive lyrics rubbed Gordon McLendon the wrong way.

McLendon, a powerful Texas radio mogul owned a number of Top 40 radio stations across the country (KLIF-Dallas, KNUS-Dallas, KOST-Los Angeles, KEEL-Shreveport, WAKY- Louisville, KABL-Oakland, KILT-Houston KTSA-San Antonio and KELP-El Paso) “The Old Scotsman” is credited with tweaking Todd Storz's Top Forty radio format to near perfection. For one reason or another, Gordo took umbrage with the sexual innuendo and double entendres that he somehow imagined were implied in lines like: “I'll serve a feverish pitch that's headed straight for your heart” Already a regional hit on the West Coast “Try It” was banned from all McLendon's stations. “You look excited and you figure that it's just a bluff, Huh?.. Hey don't you dare walk away”

Ed Cobb worked this to The Standells advantage slapping a big old “Banned” sticker on the album cover. He then set up a debate between the band and McLendon on Art Linklater's House Party. By most accounts The Standells held their own against McLendon, who was heckled during the proceedings by some of the younger audience members. McLendon issued an open letter to the music industry: “Frankly, we are tired. We want to be fair. But our success, after all, is often dependent on your success as record producers, but conversely, your success is predicated on radio airplay of your product. Clean things up before some unnecessary regulatory action is taken” Old Scotch & Gin's veiled threats had their intended effect as program directors pulled “Try It” from rotation.

The Standells were all but finished. Ed Cobb turned his focus from the band to advancing Dick Dodd's solo career. He gathered some studio musicians and recorded “Guilty” for a movie soundtrack with Dick on vocals, telling Larry that “these guys sound more like The Standells than The Standells do” “Animal Girl” the final single for Tower bombed (the song featured guitar legend, Richie Podolor on sitar) Dick Dodd left shortly after that. The band cut its ties with Ed Cobb and brought in Bill Daffern to replace Dodd. John Fleck parted ways with them soon after. With shows pending, The Standells hired Lowell George (Little Feat) Though a SoCal native and his previous band, Factory, had followed a similar career trajectory as The Standells, George was not a good fit.

George would later describe his experience with The Standells “I replaced Dickie Dodds, he quit because he couldn't stand it and I finally quit because I couldn't stand it either” He held his band mates in contempt, constantly reminding them how he had studied sitar with Ravi Shankar. He guffawed at their practice of packing hair dryers for every show. Dick Dodd had been the band's sex symbol... George, already on the pudgy side, didn't fit the bill. Dick's legion of bee hived honeys hated Lowell, blaming him for Dick's departure from the band “They were rough gals, real mean... some of them carried razor blades” he recalled. Lowell George was only with the band for two months, no recordings or photographs exist from this time period.

Larry Tambyln recalls that the turning point in the band's already shaky relationship with Lowell George came while traveling to a SoCal show. As he was prone to do, Lowell was driving his VW bus rather erratically. He took a sharp turn causing Larry to lean against George's sitar, the tumbaa snapped right off. Lowell was livid even though Larry apologized profusely. “I think that began our adversarial relationship” said Larry. During a show at Pierce College in Canoga Park, Lowell sat down on stage in his bare feet while he played the sitar and sang. “It was quite a departure from the group's sound” Larry smirked. Lowell had worn out his welcome. Disgusted, he packed up his broken sitar and went on to join Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention before forming Little Feat w/ Bill Payne in 1969.

Dick Dodd didn't fare much better in his attempt to establish himself as a solo artist. His first solo single “Fanny” was forgettable, the second “Little Sister” released on Tower, did nothing. His solo album “The First Evolution of Dick Dodd” produced by Ed Cobb and released on Tower Records, flew well under the radar. A radical departure from The Standells sound, it veered off into a vortex of conflicting musical styles, none of which were in mode at the time. Dick dropped out of music for a spell and then resurfaced with a band called Joshua, which released an album “Willie and The Hand Jive” in 1975 (produced by Ed Cobb) Eventually he went to work for a construction equipment company and became a limo driver. Dick Dodd passed away from cancer in Nov. of 2013.

The Standells drifted apart in early 1969. Larry Tamblyn and Bill Daffern put together Chakras (with Tony Valentino as their manager) they recorded a single for Reprise Records then broke up. Tamblyn and Valentino then reformed The Standells w/ Bill Daffern, Tim Smyser and Paul Downing. This version stuck together until 1970. The Standells never really went away. Starting in 1982 they worked the “oldies” circuit, culminating with an appearance in Boston prior to Game Two of the World Series in 2004. “Dirty Water” has become an anthem of sorts for Boston pro sports teams and The Standells get treated as royalty in Beantown. Nowadays, Larry Tamblyn can be found patrolling the trolls on the internet, correcting and informing fans on all matters concerning the band. 

Your Ever Loving Punks_The Standells

The Girl In My Heart
So Fine
I'll Go Crazy
Help Yourself (American Bandstand, intro by Dick Clark)
Someday You'll Cry (studio version)
The Peppermint Beatle
Don't Say Goodbye
The Boy Next Door
Do The Ringo (Far Out Munsters)
I Wanna Hold Your Hand (Far Out Munsters)
Someday You'll Cry (Bing Crosby Show)
Come Here (Bing Crosby Show)
Kansas City w/ Bing Crosby (Bing Crosby Show)
Dirty Water (live television version)
Hey Joe
My Little Red Book
Black Hearted Woman
Girl and the Moon
Did You Ever Have That Feeling
Ninety Nine & a Half

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles_Cassette to MP3

Cassette to MP3: The Bobby Fuller Four_Best Of_Rhino Records_ Golden Archive Series 1981

Nobody does reissues like Rhino Records and this “Best Of “ compilation, released in 1981 meets the Rhino standard for excellence. An 18-track compilation from the Mustang archives, described by Richie Unterberger of All Music Review as “truly all killer, no filler” It's loaded with hits "I Fought the Law," "Let Her Dance," "The Magic Touch," "Love's Made a Fool of You," "Fool of Love," "My True Love," and some lesser-known but requisite tracks, “Baby My Heart” “It's Love Come What May” “Another Sad and Lonely Night” “Don't Ever Let Me Know” As with all Rhino retrospectives, the insert notes are detailed, extensive and informative. That's wasn't always the case with cassette releases. Just one of the many reasons Rhino releases are bitchin'.

Founded by Richard Foos in 1973, from its austere start Rhino grew into a national record distributor specializing primarily in novelty records. (Wild Man Fischer “Go to Rhino Records” Temple City Kazoo Orchestra, The Plastic Rhino Band etc.) The early releases were imprinted with “Rocky the Rhino, a leather clad 50s greaser. The recording label was launched in 1978 and the shift towards re-issues began with the acquisition of licensing rights to the White Whale Records catalog (A Los Angeles indie label best known for The Turtles... Warren Zevon was once a staff songwriter) A landmark six year distribution deal with Capitol Records, allowed Rhino to re-issue Capitol recordings (and those of its subsidiaries such as Roulette Records, acquired by Capitol's parent company EMI)

A subsequent deal with Atlantic Records and Time Warner further enhanced the Rhino catalog and resulted in Time Warner acquiring 50% of Rhino Records (re-branded as Rhino Entertainment) Rocky the Rhino fell by the wayside, replaced by a trademarked red & white “Rhino” corporate logo. The one constant at Rhino records was always the superior sound quality. The work of music engineer and producer Bill Inglot, known for his unmatched ability to remaster older recordings to meet high quality digital standards. Rhino's superb research staff (Harold Bronson, Gary Stewart and a host of others) compiled music and composed sleeve (liner) notes. Bronson one of the original store managers is credited with moving the record stores towards distribution.

“The Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four” fittingly kicks off with a pair of Sonny Curtis compositions. Bobby Fuller went to the “In Style With The Crickets” wellspring many a time. It's probably safe to say that he either recorded or performed every single song on The Crickets iconic album at one point or another (including the “I Fought The Law” “Baby My Heart” and “Love's Made a Fool of You” all included on this compilation) In any case, Bobby wasn't alone, numerous musicians cite “In Style With The Crickets” as a major influence, including The Beatles. In the U.K. They were considered major artists on par with Buddy Holly. The British, being excellent judges of American musical talent were certainly on to something. Buddy received the laurels but The Crickets were no slouches either.

Jerry Allison had a distinct style of playing drums. Not content to just sit back and keep the beat, he was one of rock music's most innovative drummers. His modal cymbal drumming and rolling toms were as recognizable as Buddy Holly's distinctive vocals. Allison as “Ivan” scored a minor chart hit with his version of the rock classic “Real Wild Child” having heard Johnny O'Keefe's original while touring Australia with The Crickets in 1958. Sonny Curtis (one half of the Buddy Holly & The Two Tones, Don Guess being the other) joined The Crickets after Buddy's death. Sonny's best known songs include: “I Fought The Law” (Bobby Fuller, The Clash) “More Than I Can Say” (Bobby Vee, Leo Sayer) “Walk Right Back” (The Everly Bros.) Love is All Around (Mary Tyler Moore theme song)

Throughout the Mustang recording sessions Bobby Fuller agonized over what was becoming of his music. Accustomed to calling the shots, he found himself butting heads with Bob Keane. This ate away at Bobby's self confidence. The egocentric Fuller had always plotted his own course, now it dawned on him that by signing with Bob Keane, he had conceded that right. The most glaring example of this was the band's new name “The Bobby Fuller Four” changed at Keane's insistence. “Let Her Dance” the band's near breakout single was also a source of friction. Bobby felt that Keane had taken liberties with his original composition “Keep on Dancing” when in fact Bob Keane had transformed Fuller's clunky original into a pulsating, bass propelled radio friendly ditty.

Next, Keane's A&R man, session musician, arranger, producer Barry White (the make-out music maestro) was brought in to work the sessions for “The Magic Touch” and “I'm A Lucky Guy”, John Barbata (of The Turtles) sat in on drums, replacing DeWayne Quirico who had been unceremoniously shit canned. Bob Keane felt that lacking a strong follow-up to “Let Her Dance” song mills such as The Brill Building were his only viable option. Written by Brill Building veteran Ted Daryll, “The Magic Touch” was an Motown-esque number that should have been a big hit. It failed to launch. Bobby was unhappy with the final mix, which he deemed as “too thin, with not enough oomph” He bitterly vented to his brother Randy "It doesn't even sound like one of our songs"
It was a classic disconnect between “the artist” who wanted to see his “artistic vision” come to fruition and the hit maker who just wanted to see a profit on his investment. The focus on Bobby was straining relationships within the band. Bobby and Randy were at odds, DeWayne Quirico had been fired and as Bob Keane recalled: “The other guitarist (Jim Reese) was a real asshole, he caused a lot of problems” Under the gun to produce a “hit” Bobby had turned to his tried and true El Paso songbook. The success of “I Fought The Law” may have exacerbated the stress Bobby was feeling. The gigs Bob Keane had them working amounted to long hours of playing to unappreciative partygoers. Which Bobby resented to no end. “It might as well have been a juke box playing up there, for all the difference it made. They don't need us”

They had become provincial hot shots struggling to stand out in the crowd, rubes reduced to playing in square clubs where the music merely provided a soundtrack for celebrity gawkers. The Beatles had released “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver” The Beach Boys were coming out with “Pet Sounds” Bob Dylan was ready to drop “Blonde on Blonde” on the masses. Music was changing rapidly, The Bobby Fuller Four were falling hopelessly out of fashion. The band's final tour (just a few months prior to his death) was met by small apathetic crowds, unfamiliar with the band or their music. That tour came to an ugly end at the start of a four day run in San Francisco, when Bobby and Randy came to blows. Bobby immediately canceled the band's remaining appearances and returned to Los Angeles.

All these factors combined to foil Fuller's muse and stunt his creative progression. Desperately seeking artistic inspiration, Bobby had started experimenting with LSD” telling Randy "The way that LSD works, if you're really intelligent, if doesn't affect you" We would never see the fruits of Bobby's acid inspired revelations. A sense of malfeasance was slowly enveloping the band. Frustration and bitterness hung in the air like a fog. Thing is... chart success was just around the corner. In early 1966, a new version of “I Fought The Law” was working its way up the charts (written by Sonny Curtis and originally recorded on Exeter Records, Fuller's own label) It would peak at #9, a few months after Bobby Fuller had been laid to rest. (the song had just cracked the Top 100, at the time of his death)

The Bobby Fuller Four     KRLA King of the Wheels     Mustang 1965

And now on to the bonus round of Cassette to MP3. “KRLA King of the Wheels”, was the Bobby Fuller Four's first official album release. Issued in November, 1965 it was “sponsored” by KRLA-AM. The station was going through a turbulent period. Previous owner Jack Kent Cooke (future owner of the Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings) had been stripped of ownership by the FCC for contest fraud and foreign control of a US radio station. A non-profit group had been appointed to run the station until a new owner could be found. As a result KRLA operated within a bare bones budget. This led to some creative forms of advertising. It's generally acknowledged that Bob Keane slapped KRLA's call letters on the cover in exchange for radio play.

Since the advent of Top 40 radio, KRLA had been locked in a ratings war with KFWB and KHJ. By the mid-60s it was battling KFWB for the “ Top Rocker” spot, though KHJ with the introduction of “Boss Radio” in 1965 quickly left both stations in the dust. KHJ ran a heavy rotation of promotions and contest. KRLA was forced to keep pace. With “hot rod” music all the rage, the station took on sponsorship of Doug Robinson's KRLA Horse Power Engineering top fuel dragster. That's how the iconic cover shot of The Bobby Fuller Four and Doug Robinson's rail dragster came about. (With Bobby at the wheel, of course) Bob Keane's primeval version of Kick Starter paid off. Randy Fuller recalled: “Bob told us, you boys listen to KRLA at one o'clock today. Your record's gonna be on there”

At the prescribed time “Let Her Dance” came pulsating from the car speakers throughout Los Angeles. Side one is solid, with the exception of the throwaway “She's My Girl” which is more of an idea than a fully realized song (Hey!, let's do something that sorta sounds like what the Beach Boys were doing last year) “Never to be Forgotten” “Another Sad and Lonely Night” “Fool of Love” are Bobby Fuller classics. With better promotion, the infectious “Let Her Dance” would have been a huge hit. Mustang botched the release, releasing it twice, then licensing the song to Liberty Records which released it again, confused the hell out of distributors. “Take my Word” an excellent song, is Bobby's take on The Beatles' sound before “Rubber Soul”

“King of the Wheels” is Bobby's surf anthem “King of the Beach” enhanced with dragster lingo and sound effects. “The Lonely Dragster” is “Wolfman” stripped of wolf howls and Bobby's hilariously bad Wolfman Jack impersonation. The wolf howls do make an appearance on “KRLA Top Eliminator” which shamelessly rips off Long John Hunter's “El Paso Rock” without giving him so much as a songwriting credit. Not Cool! “The Phantom Dragster” is a hokey, “how does this guy keep showing up everywhere I go” hot rod saga, that ends with the chief of police a mangled heap of meat. “Little Annie Lou” is an old fashioned rave-up that somehow ended up as the b-side of “I Fought The Law” “ The Old El Paso warhorse “Saturday Night” gets a makeover and still sounds hopelessly dated.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.... I mean tires and not cigarettes. My copy of “KRLA King of the Wheels” appears to be of Mexican or Argentine origin, “Discos Astro S.A. Serie Cassette” Could be a pirated copy or an attempt to tap into that lucrative market “south of the border” by Bob Keane. I plucked it from a table of cassette tapes at Big Louie's Flea Market in Las Cruces years ago. The vendor claimed he bought them in bulk from Casa de Musica De Luxe in Juarez. Who am I to say otherwise. For a cassette tape of fuzzy origin and unknown age, the audio quality was above par. Although I did apply a bit of audio normalization to eliminate some volume drop offs. I tweaked the stereo mix and cut out the silence between songs, some of which seemed inordinately long.

I Fought the Law
Baby My Heart
The Magic Touch
It's Love, Come What May
Only When I Dream
Love's Made a Fool of You
Let Her Dance
King of the Wheels
Little Annie Lou
Another Sad and Lonely Night
My True Love
Don't Ever Let Me Know
I'm A Lucky Guy
Saturday Night
Fool of Love
A New Shade of Blue
Never to Be Forgotten

Never to be Forgotten
Another Sad and Lonely Night
She's My Girl
Take My Word
Fool of Love
Let Her Dance
King of the Wheels
Little Annie Lou
The Phantom Dragster
Saturday Night
KRLA Top Eliminator