... your heart out
The Man Who Walked Away
The Story of Bobby Paris. That‟s what I would love to read. Something different for a change. Something to set the imagination racing. And words, words, words. I want words that punch me in the solar plexus and stay with me forever. Words to savour and words to intoxify. Words that make you dizzy and words that make you dream. The kind of words that you have to scribble down while you still feel strongly, strangely, about them. I would love to read a Robert Stone or Joseph Conrad style story about the life of Bobby Paris or the search for Bobby Paris. That sort of thing. Who would write it though? Who would publish it, even? Maybe I should have a go. But how the hell could I write about Bobby Paris? I hardly know anything about him. He‟s a voice, an idea, and little more. A singer I love. A singer I have ideas about. Oh, there are biographical details out there about Bobby, but why bother recycling what you can easily find on the internet? It could all be wrong anyway. But then so many things that are published are inaccurate that it probably wouldn‟t matter anyway. I don‟t want to write about Bobby Paris, though. I want to read about him. I want to become obsessed by the mysterious story of Bobby Paris. I want a sense of history being thrown up in the air, smashed apart, rearranged drastically and dramatically. I want to be told tales about The Man Who Walked Away. ---THE MAN WHO WALKED AWAY “And suddenly I left all this. I left it in that, to us, inconsequential manner in which a bird flies away from a comfortable branch. It was as though all unknowing I had heard a whisper or seen something. Well – perhaps! One day I was perfectly right and the next everything was gone – glamour, favour, interest, contentment – everything. It was one of those moments, you know.” - Joseph Conrad, The Shadow-Line “I‟m walking down this lonely avenue. The picture of your face keeps coming through. I know I won‟t forget what I did today, yeah. I walked away. The look of sad surprise in your eyes ...” - Bobby Paris, I Walked Away I‟ve been thinking about Bobby Paris a lot. I‟ve particularly been thinking about Bobby Paris singing I Walked Away. It‟s one of the most perfect performances in popular music. One of the most passionate too. I would love to say I first heard it while out on a dancefloor as the sun came up over the sea and a beautiful blackeyed girl danced comradely by my side. The reality is, however, I heard it first 30odd years ago in a south London bedroom when it featured on an LP called Capitol Soul Casino. This was a record very much heard at the right time, that strange period between youth and maturity, when things take on special meanings and significance. It‟s possible to date it to the early „80s because it was around the time The Jam‟s final studio LP The Gift was released, and there was the strange similarity between Trans-Global Unity Express and The World Column‟s So is the Sun, one of the tracks
on that treasured compilation. The LP featured 16 fantastic selections from the Capitol vaults, and was a blatant attempt at belatedly cashing-in on the Northern Soul phenomenon. There were no biographical sleeve notes, just a collection of classic recordings, starting with Nancy Wilson‟s The End of Our Love and Jay D. Martin‟s By Yourself. This was an LP I bought cheaply, at a time when I had relatively few records, and everything got listened to more intently, more often, perhaps, and with less context provided you create your own. Bobby Paris singing about how he walked away was one of the real highlights of Capitol Soul Casino. The opening bass motif, startlingly simplistic, even more minimal than Tina Weymouth‟s exceptional Psycho Killer magnificence, just dumdum-dum-dum-dum, one note repeated, then punctuated by chiming strings, builds up the drama perfectly at the beginning before Bobby enters the fray and the whole song builds to an uncomfortable intensity. The song itself resurfaced two-or-three years later on one of the early Kent compilations, Leapers, Sleepers & Creepers (Kent 031), and a number of other tracks from the Capitol Soul Casino reappeared on a range of Kent LPs. They‟ve also turned up on numerous CDs, where over time product has become too plentiful, the songs too familiar, and there is so much else to explore.
Bobby Paris‟ recording of I Walked Away was released as a single on Capitol Records as a single sometime around June 1967, in the US with the distinctive swirl design on the label. The Smiths and Rough Trade appropriated the Capitol logo for the original pressing of This Charming Man, but this was probably not a tribute to I Walked Away. Around the same time Television Personalities used the Kama Sutra label design for their far superior A Sense of Belonging single on Rough Trade. I Walked Away was Bobby Paris‟ first release on Capitol. Before that he‟d been a bit of a wanderer, oddly like others with similar adopted names like Jackie Paris and Dean Parrish. The common biographical details state Bobby Paris had a New York Puerto Rican background, and that he was a graduate of the doo wop scene, who proceeded to release a series of singles before being signed to Capitol. Perhaps most notable of these was Night Owl on Cameo Parkway, which became a massive favourite of the Northern Soul community. But there had also been a couple of singles on Ruth Conte‟s Hollywood-based Chattahoochee label,
for whom he also produced and arranged the Drake Sisters‟ Smoke From Your Cigarette/What Did You Do Last Night? He probably did other production work, too, at the time. As for the single itself, it raises plenty of questions. And not just about what happened after Bobby walked away. But more practical questions, like who played on I Walked Away. It‟s tempting to imagine Carol Kay playing the bass, but that‟s purely guessing. Was it played on the radio? Did it sell? Did it make any of the specialist charts? Bobby has, apparently, mentioned topping the rhythm „n‟ blues charts and then being thrown off when it emerged he was not black. One thing that is known is that the single was coproduced by Kelly Gordon. So who was Kelly Gordon? Well, putting this and that together, it seems Kelly joined Capitol as an A&R man at the start of 1967. His recruitment may just have had a lot to do with Kelly cowriting That‟s Life with Dean Kay which became a big hit for Frank Sinatra in late 1966. The r„n‟b/Ray Charles type feel of the song gave Frank a hip veneer, and he was perfectly suited to snarling the witty lyrics: “I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king. I've been up and down and over and out. But I know one thing: Each time I find myself flat on my face”. Where was Kelly from? What was his background? I‟ve no idea, really. He was devilishly good looking, he released three or four singles on Mercury in the early „60s, and for four years or so according to Billboard he ran Four Star TV Music and Valiant Records. He may have worked for Reprise for a while, too. Biographical details are sketchy, reports of his age vary, and I have no idea how he hooked up with Bobby Paris. Kelly is better known for his associations with Bobbie Gentry, and he had the honour of hearing her demo recordings and signing her to Capitol. And, yes, the immortal Ode To Billie Joe/ Mississippi Delta debut 45 was recorded in Studio C of Capitol Tower, with Kelly Gordon and Bobby Paris credited as producers. That‟s another thing. Bobby Paris is known to many as The Man Who Sued Bobbie Gentry. And won. He was granted $32,000 in July 1973 after a Superior Court jury upheld his claim that he was entitled to 1% of what Bobbie made on record sales
after the pair agreed verbally a pact in 1967 that each would give the other that percentage on whatever they made. The story is normally told to reveal what a high earner Bobbie was at the time. Somehow that masks the tragedy of Bobby‟s story. When that agreement was made he had just released I Walked Away, and if you‟ve done that you must feel like you can take on the world. And when things worked out the way they did you must feel pretty mad at the world and want some kind of justice. I don‟t know. I‟m making that up. But you know. Kelly Gordon produced the early Bobbie Gentry LPs. What exactly his involvement was in the recording process I don‟t know. He was certainly intimately involved with Bobbie on a personal level. Holly George-Warren in her excellent essay on Bobbie mentions that the singer took Kelly in when he was dying of cancer and cared for him until the end. Holly states he was 35 when he died. I‟m not even sure when that was. 1973-ish, I believe. But it makes the words of one of Bobbie‟s early songs seem eerily prescient: “Oh I stood there and cried. And watched love fade away. I saw an angel die. My heart died too that day”. The world would have been a darker place perhaps if Kelly Gordon hadn‟t been played demos by Bobbie Gentry. But do we really know what he thought of the songs? Ode to Billie Joe of course is amazing, one of the great examples of storytelling in popular music. It‟s interesting because this is something that rarely seems to get picked up on, but Bobbie‟s first break seems to have been to record with the rockabilly provocateur Jody Reynolds on a couple of songs in 1963, Stranger in the Mirror and Requiem for Love, for a single on the Titan label. Jody was a Joseph Conrad fan and one of the great pop storytellers on haunted, menacing songs such as Endless Sleep, The Fire of Love, The Whipping Post, A Tear for Jesse. Is that a coincidence?
What happened when Jody met Bobbie? We really don‟t know enough about this. Was it an arbitrary encounter, a simple marriage of convenience over in a matter of minutes or something deeper, destined? He had, after all, a few years earlier sung about the girl with the coal black raven hair whom he flew to like a moth to a flame. Jody is such a fascinating figure. Oh the records are great, but the more you look the more intriguing he gets. I don‟t just mean the Lee Hazlewood connections, either. His early singles for the Los Angeles-based Demon label feature fascinating names like jazz men Max Roach and Red Callender, and his group The Storms seems to have featured Al Casey and Howard Roberts on
guitar and Plas Johnson on sax, players who became cornerstones of the West Coast session crew that appeared on so many great recordings in the „60s. And the label itself, Demon, one of the owners was Joe Greene who for the sake of this story it has to be assumed was the songwriter Joe Greene about whom I really don‟t know enough, but I love some words Eugene Chadbourne wrote about him: “By writing songs that were both clever and unusually appealing, Greene enjoyed the benefit of his material moving around through a variety of genres. The finest singers and bands gravitated toward his material, and not only in the '30s and '40s when vocal artists were recording prolifically and needed to be on the receiving end of an expressway full Tin Pan Alley material. In later years, performers such as Ray Charles would sniff through the Greene songbook in order to find a song perceived to have overwhelming emotional impact, and usually correctly so.” I bet Kelly Gordon was a big, big Ray Charles fan, particularly when the great man got dirty and bluesy and let rip. It‟s tempting to imagine Kelly‟s ideal job would have been as an A&R man for Atlantic, closer to the heart of the music he loved. Perhaps. But then he wouldn‟t have met Bobbie Gentry. It‟s tempting to imagine Kelly‟s delight when he heard Bobbie for the first time growling “Em-eye-doubleess-eye” and to picture him jumping up and punching the air. People go on about Ode to Billie Joe, and rightly so, but Mississippi Delta with its growling vocals and dirty guitar licks, that I bet was the way Kelly liked his music. The first thing Kelly seems to have done at Capitol was put a single out as Joe Bananas featuring Banana Head on one side and Gimme Gimme Gimme on the other. The songs are throwaway nonsense numbers, but the sound is bluesy and grrritty and it‟s all great fun. Then there came I Walked Away, which presumably didn‟t set the world alight in the way it should have. So perhaps it‟s understandable the Capitol executives were a little wary when Kelly wanted to sign Bobbie, and David Axelrod had to be roped in as an ally. Another act Kelly brought with him to Capitol to produce was The Mac Truque, a Kansas City group who played wild rhythm „n‟ blues. Their debut, and I think only, single on Capitol was a Kelly Gordon composition, Along Came Love, a fantastic slice of raw red-hot blue-eyed soul, with an electrifying version of Mickey‟s Monkey on the flipside. It was part of a sequence of singles in the Capitol catalogue that ran from The Action‟s Never Ever, to Bobbie‟s Ode to Billie Joe, then to the Mac Truque. 1967 was a very good year. Further proof of Kelly‟s musical leanings can be found in the John W. Anderson presents KaSandra single, Don‟t Pat Me On The Back and Call Me Brother, from 1968 which he produced. In an interesting twist KaSandra would go on to record for the Stax subsidiary Respect. But that ‟68 single fits in oh so perfectly with the pure swampy funky swingin‟ sound I imagine Kelly Gordon loving.
I guess that with the success of Bobbie Gentry, and with The Lettermen having success with their medley of Goin‟ Out of My Baby/Can‟t Take My Eyes Off You which Kelly produced, he had earned the right to indulge himself with an LP of his own in 1969 for Capitol. The wonderfully titled Defunked with its strapline of Big Blues Party generated a couple of singles which are particularly interesting. One is the original version of He Ain‟t Heavy He‟s My Brother. It‟s documented how Tony Clarke of The Hollies came to hear Kelly‟s version while hanging around the music publishers in Denmark Street, but it‟s not clear how Kelly came to record the original. The song was written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell. I guess it‟s possible Kelly knew Bobby Scott from when they were at Mercury. There‟s certainly some similarities between the two, with the Ray Charles thing, the raspy vocals, and so on. But they were on different coasts, so I don‟t know. And then again it was Johnny Mercer that introduced Bobby Scott and Bob Russell, and he was one of the Capitol founding fathers, so maybe there‟s a link there. Kelly‟s version certainly leaves The Hollies‟ standing still, and is far more fierce and dramatic and desperate, almost in Bobby Paris territory. The flipside of Kelly‟s He Ain‟t Heavy was his rendition of That‟s Life which he takes very slowly, very moody and bluesy. And then there‟s the other single which paired Kelly‟s Some Old Funky Blues Thang with the fantastic Independently Poor which he wrote with Mike McKinley and which contains some cracking lines: “If opportunity should knock I‟ll slam the door and jam the lock”. Independently Poor has in recent times turned up on one the Mojo Dancefloor compilations, and is a perfect example of what‟s on Kelly‟s LP, making it hard to resist reaching for adjectives like swampy and southern-fried. And Kelly covers Joe South‟s Games People Play from his then recent Introspect LP on Capitol. And that‟s Joe South doing that unforgettable guitar thing on Aretha‟s Chain of Fools. So you take all this, together with what Kelly Gordon was recording with Bobbie Gentry, particularly on The Delta Sweete and it‟s easy to suggest Kelly was moving with the times very smartly. Indeed, one song that was part of the Big Blues Party was the elegantly titled Love Took My Heart and Mashed That Sucker Flat which featured Kelly singing with Bobbie, possibly returning the favour from The Delta Sweete. I‟m guessing. You might have guessed that.
But then if you look for references to the records Kelly made for Mercury you might find on the Ampnoise site mention of the song Tears Tears which is described as: “Very funky up-tempo R&B with a nice short burst of fuzz guitar making an untimely appearance. This song actually comes from a November 1963 episode of the TV show Burke's Law where the popstar who sings this tune is killed at the record release party”. Spookily the pop star in question was called Billy Jo Tate. That episode of the show starred David Niven and Ida Lupino, two of the founders of Four Star Productions, for whom Kelly worked indirectly. Incidentally the arrangements on that 1963 single were by Shorty Rogers who also worked with Kelly on Defunked. This wasn‟t the only record they made together in 1969(ish). They also recorded the incredible Bug-In! LP as the Gordon „n‟ Rogers Inter-Urban Electric A&E Pit Crew and Rhythm Band which came out on Capitol around September 1969. And that‟s an amazing record. I have no idea if it‟s an actual soundtrack, but it‟s a series of very funky, jazzy instrumentals that sound like a big band version of The Meters. Each track has a beach buggy themed title, and there are all sorts of added sound effects of beach buggies racing as per the craze of the time which people like Steve McQueen indulged in, circa The Thomas Crown Affair.
Among other Shorty Rogers and Kelly Gordon collaborations is Growing Up, the theme tune from Gidget Grows Up, which is sung by Jean King, presumably of The Blossoms. Typically, I have to confess I don‟t know how Shorty and Kelly got together again in the late „60s. If Shorty‟s name is familiar and you‟re not a big jazz fan, then it may be from the soundtracks of The Man With The Golden Arm or The Wild One. If you know your jazz then it‟s likely you will have a view on Shorty‟s West Coast recordings. People seem to have been a bit snooty about some of the records Shorty made or the people he worked with, but without being overly familiar with what he did Shorty‟s arrangements seem to have been wonderfully dynamic. If you listen to many of his „50s recordings then, like one of the titles, the chances are they swing. And some of the collaborations the jazz purists sniff at like St Louis Blues with Eartha Kitt are genuinely fantastic.
In the early „60s Shorty drifted more into TV and film work, and I guess this is how he got involved with The Monkees, doing the arrangements for The Birds and Bees and The Monkees, and for Michael Nesmith‟s Wichita Train Whistle Sings, from 1968. Kelly also enlisted Shorty‟s help with arrangements for Bobbie Gentry, notably on The Delta Suite and Local Gentry.
BY ARRANGEMENT When Kelly met Bobbie it was Jimmie Haskell they turned to for arrangements on their recordings. Jimmie‟s strings on Ode to Billie Joe are just about perfect, and have an awful lot to do with the song‟s enduring success. I guess the song helped make Jimmie‟s reputation, too. As Capitol sought to exploit its new asset the Bobbie Gentry product was relentlessly churned out over the next few years Jimmie was pretty important to the recording process. Jimmie went on to work on big things, getting a Grammy for his involvement with Bridge Over Troubled Waters, doing arrangements for Chicago, Steely Dan, Blondie, and so on. But what is really intriguing is a record he made under his own name in 1971 called California 99. It‟s a crazy conceptual affair, based on a fantastic far-fetched futuristic/science fiction-style story by Tom Gamache, who presumably is the guy better known as a landscape photographer nowadays. California 99 is wonderfully of its time. At the start of the 1970s large record companies were sanctioning wildly ambitious recording projects, put together with top players in the best studios, which were then released with extravagant packaging by artists who seemed to show little interest in promotional activity. Supposedly shrewd business men were sinking capital into record labels, thinking that there was money to be made out of these long-haired freaks. And some hitherto seemingly straight seasoned session musicians were happy to go along for some crazy rides. California 99 is a perfect example of what was happening at the time. There‟s great fun to be had looking it up online, and enjoying the awe of people like Larry Grogan of the reliably excellent Funky 16 Corners/Iron Leg sites as they get to grips with the lavish sleeve design and the story behind the record. Leaving the
concept to one side, the music itself is great, some of it composed by Haskell, and some of it an intriguing selection of covers including a great gospel arrangement of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down with Jimmy Witherspoon taking the vocal lead, and spectacular support from Clydie King and Merry Clayton. There are also a couple of songs from The Millennium‟s Begin, intriguingly, Prelude and To Claudia on Thursday. Denny Doherty takes the lead singing on Claudia. And if you want to trace connections then California 99 was produced by Bill Szymczyk, who also produced Denny‟s 1971 solo LP Watcha Gonna Do. It would be tempting to get very distracted by the presence of Szymczyk. And it seems certain his presence would have had a lot to do with the craziness of California 99. If you look up Szymczyk in the history books you‟ll find references to him becoming The Eagles‟ producer for On The Border and how previously he‟d worked with Joe Walsh and the J. Geils Band, or something like that. And that‟s exactly why such books, by respected writers, published by the big publishing houses, make you slump down in despair. You yearn for them to shatter the prevailing narrative, and get distracted, put things together illogically in a way that will surprise and stimulate. Szymczyk is genuinely a fascinating figure, a real conundrum. Only a few years before he produced The Eagles he was up to all sorts. He was an executive at ABC Dunhill at the end of the „60s, and the label was closely aligned with Impulse! at the time. Szymczyk formed a bond with Ed Michel across the corridor at Impulse! and, for example, they co-produced the incredible beauty and terror of Pharoah Sanders‟ mighty Thembi. Another Impulse! title they worked together on was Howard Roberts‟ incredible Antelope Freeway, from 1971, where the great session guitarist fully immersed himself in the madness, providing some great electric bluesy, jazzy instrumental passages which were mixed up with all sorts of odd collages of traffic noise, truckers talking, random sidewalk conversations, and so on.
It wasn‟t unusual to find Jimmie Haskell involved with a record Bill Szymczyk produced at the start of the „70s. A great example of this would be the soundtrack for the 1971 film Zachariah, which was partly composed by Jimmie and co-ordinated and produced by Bill. Zachariah itself is just about my favourite film ever, an „electric western‟ with guns and rock „n‟ roll, craziness and incredible tenderness. Any film that casts Elvin Jones as a gunslinger has got to be great. Country Joe and the Fish as incompetent bank robbers is a pretty nice bonus.
There are some brilliant scenes in this film. And it may well be a hippy-era update of Herman Hesse‟s Siddhartha, but the book it reminds me of most is Nik Cohn‟s I Am Still The Greatest Says Johnny Angelo. It‟s that good. Sometime around 1971 Bill Szymczyk got involved with running the Tumbleweed label, his madcap activities generously funded by the Gulf-Western conglomerate. There‟s a great story behind the short existence of Tumbleweed, the life those involved led out in Denver, the records they made expensively back in L.A. Jimmie Haskell seems to have been involved with the recording of most of the Tumbleweed catalogue, which included titles by Danny Holien, Robb Kunkel and the best one I‟ve heard which is The Chief by Dewey Terry. Dewey had been half of the great r‟n‟b duo Don & Dewey who recorded for Specialty, wrote Farmer John, were wonderfully crazy, way ahead of their time, a massive influence on the Righteous Brothers, and the crazier hippies who knew their roots embraced the duo. The Chief is therefore fantastic funky, stoned electric r‟n‟b, and if you are going to write about what Bill Szymczyk did before he met The Eagles this one has to be mentioned.
While we may ostensibly be searching for the spirit of Bobby Paris we are nevertheless haunted by the ghost of Kelly Gordon. Looking for clues about his spectral presence in this story, Tommy Oliver‟s name crops up occasionally. Tony Asher has mentioned that, before he came across Brian Wilson or Roger Nichols, when he was still at college (UCLA), he started writing songs with Kelly Gordon and with Tommy Oliver who he says was a great arranger. Tommy certainly worked with some great artists: Joanie Sommers, Jefferson Airplane, Julie London, Joey Heatherton, and that‟s just some people whose name starts with a J. Among Tommy‟s other credits are a couple of gorgeous Melinda Marx 45s on Vee Jay in the mid „60s, one side of which featured the languid original of the H.B. Barnum number What, which is normally associated with Judy Street.
Kelly Gordon naturally enough got Tommy Oliver involved with some of the things he was doing in the studio with Bobbie Gentry. Tommy did a couple of arrangements on the Fancy LP and on the record Bobbie made with Glen Campbell as Capitol tried to make the most of two of their prized assets. Tommy‟s arrangement of Bobbie and Glen performing Margo Guryan‟s Sunday Mornin‟ is particularly gorgeous. That Bobbie and Glen LP was co-produced by Kelly Gordon and Al DeLory. And if Bobbie was Kelly‟s girl then Glen was Al DeLory‟s man in the sense of making his reputation once the breakthrough finally came with By The Time I Get To Phoenix and so on. Al DeLory‟s name, however, will forever be associated in my mind with the instrumental Right On! This was the third track on the Capitol Soul Casino, the song just before Bobby Paris‟ I Walked Away, setting the scene very nicely. It‟s a brilliantly atmospheric instrumental from 1971, one of a few on the LP itself, alongside Teddy Vann‟s Theme From Colored Man and the Pat Williams Orchestra‟s Theme From Police Story. Right On! Is credited to Al DeLory and Mandango. I confess I can add little about Mandango, but assume they are not to be confused with Geoff Love‟s wondrous Mandingo alter ego, or are they? The flipside of Right On! intriguingly, incidentally, is a fantastic funky version of Jesus Cristo, written by Roberto and Erasmo Carlos. How did that happen? As an aside the phrase Right On! I guess is very much a reflection of the times in which the song was recorded. Do people still use the phrase, except perhaps in the pejorative sense in an editorial? It was a phrase pretty close to the soul community for a while, and in the 1970s Dave Godin used it for a short-lived label, which was connected to Pye and put out some real gems like The Crow‟s Your Autumn of Tomorrow psychedelic soul masterpiece. Right On! was written by Al DeLory with I think Phil Wright. That would make sense. They were both pianists, and the song is very much piano-driven in the very best Ramsey Lewis manner. Al DeLory played on many sessions for Capitol, he played with Phil Spector, the Beach Boys and so on. And Phil Wright, assuming I‟m writing about the right Wright, came from a jazz background, playing piano on, for example, Abbey Lincoln‟s great Abbey is Blue LP in 1959. He was later brought into the Chess/Checker organisation by A&R director Billy Davis who found him working in a Chicago nightclub doing the arrangements. While working at Chess/Checker Phil was responsible for the arrangements on such classic recordings as The Radiants‟ Voice Your Choice, Billy Stewart‟s Sittin‟ in the Park, Tony Clarke‟s The
Entertainer, Fontella Bass‟ Rescue Me and Recovery. He also arranged material for Sugar Pie De Santo, Little Milton, Mitty Collier, The Dells and Jan Bradley, among others. It doesn‟t get better than that does it? In his classic book on Chicago Soul Robert Pruter wrote: “Indeed, if anything typifies the Chess sound of the 1960s it is Wright‟s full-blooded arrangements that superbly enhanced the soulful vocals of the performers.” I believe Phil Wright was recruited by Capitol in late 1968 as a rhythm „n‟ blues expert for its A&R team. While with the label Phil no doubt found the term A&R man gave him plenty of scope, and among the people he worked with at Capitol were Nancy Wilson and Bettye Swann. He also oversaw some of the fantastic recordings Patti Drew made for the label in the late „60s. A little more unexpectedly he did some production work for Peggy Lee, notably the 1969 Natural Woman LP where the great singer got something of a rhythm „n‟ blues makeover, covering hits like Dock of the Bay and Everyday People and the Goffin/King title track. Also on the LP was a lovely version of Can I Change My Mind? which Tyrone Davis was singing at the time. I have vivid memories of first hearing Tyrone singing this wonderful song when Paul Weller played it on the radio when The Jam were big news and I was musically proverbially kee-high. Peggy‟s Natural Woman LP closes with a gorgeous cover of Randy Newman‟s I Think It‟s Going To Rain. Randy produced Peggy‟s next LP, appropriately enough, and this was the one that gave us Is That All There Is? I would not want even suggest I have anything near an understanding of all the records Al DeLory or Phil Wright were involved with at Capitol. I do know Al produced the exceptionally soulful and pretty fierce Walk Tall (Baby That‟s What I Need) by Lottie Joe Jones, which has writing credits for Joe Zawinul and Esther Marrow, and I think I‟m right in saying it first appeared on the brilliant live Cannonball Adderley LP, 74 Miles Away, produced by David Axelrod in 1967. Another Capitol soul classic produced by Al was Bobby Sheen‟s Dr Love, which was arranged by Gene Page, and which I first heard on one of the early Kent compilations On The Soul Side (Kent 006). Among Bobby‟s other Capitol singles was the excellent 1969 release I Don‟t Have To Dream/She Taught Me What Love Really Is. which was produced by Kelly Gordon. ON THE PRODUCTION LINE Kelly Gordon produced a single for The Checkmates LTD. in 1967. One side of this was Walk in the Sunshine which he gave the full Phil Spector Wall of Sound treatment, with Bobby Stevens I think as the lead vocalist coming across as a very Righteous Brother on this unbelievably wonderful three-minute symphony with perfect use of background choir adding to the drama. This was one of I believe four singles The Checkmates LTD. made for Capitol. Nancy Wilson co-produced a couple, having discovered the group, and David Axelrod produced the other one, Kissing Her & Crying For You, employing his trademark dynamics, with brilliant vocal interplay between Bobby Stevens‟ deep and easy baritone voice and fellow frontman Sonny Charles who had a more conventional grrritty and boisterous soulful voice.
The Checkmates LTD. recorded a live LP at Caesar‟s Palace, in 1967, which Kelly Gordon produced. It came with ringing celebrity endorsements from Nancy Wilson, Sammy Davis Jr., Bill Cosby and Shelley Berman. It featured hardworking, high-octane, highly-entertaining rhythm & blues, drawing on the modern classics, dressed up for the Las Vegas crowd. Kelly would oversee another live LP, Get Truqued, by his protégés Garry Mac and the Mac Truque, which showcases their take on r‟n‟b with a garage band enthusiasm. Short on originality, perhaps, but it certainly rocks with some wild sax and some very funky drumming. The Checkmates LTD. went on after their spell at Capitol to record with Phil Spector for A&M, pushing Sonny Charles to the front, and getting hits with Black Pearl in the States and Proud Mary in the UK. A decade-or-so later, in 1982, Sonny Charles was back in the US charts briefly with his single Put It In A Magazine, which was produced, directed and co-written by his old Capitol label-mate Bobby Paris in Los Angeles for the independent label Highrise. There was an LP, too, The Sun Still Shines, with most of the songs written by Sonny and Bobby, and Bobby handling production duties on that as well. The album included a reworking of Bobby‟s PerSo-Nal-Ly, the original of which had by that time become a massive favourite on the Northern Soul scene. I have no idea if Bobby had been involved in studio or production work over the preceding decade. It certainly wasn‟t the first record he‟d produced. Looking for clues, here and there, Bobby had previously produced an LP for folk singer Hamilton Camp in 1969. He also produced a single for Mariano called The Bitter and The Sweet for Kapp in 1971. This presumably was Mariano Moreno of Mariano and the Unbelievables who had recorded gorgeous baroque harpsichord-led covers of modern pop classics for Capitol with Al DeLory. There were singles Bobby produced for Paul Hampton and former Deep Purple singer Rod Evans, and there were probably plenty of others. Who knows? I don‟t even know how involved Bobby was with the Highrise label, or whether he did other production work for them. It seems quite an intriguing set-up, deliberately setting out to promote new recordings by experienced soul artists. One of the people behind the label was Mike Lushka who used to work for Motown. As well as Sonny Charles, they released LPs by Tyrone Davis and Maxine Nightingale. They also put out an LP by drummer Alphonse Mouzon who had a strong following on the funk scene.
Looking around for more background information on Highrise, I came across a fascinating article by Ron Wynn in The Boston Phoenix from February 1983 on the success of the label: “Perhaps what the company‟s triumph reflects is the rise of the right in „80s black pop – the resurgence of a constituency indifferent to the glitter of crossover and even less impressed by the obsession with youth, electricity, and spewed vocalism that pollutes (in the resurgents‟ opinion) the bulk of black pop nowadays. This audience buys hard-to-find albums like Jerry Butler‟s Ice „N Hot (on his own Fountain label) and singles like William De Vaughn‟s Crème de Crème (on HCRC) and the Gene Chandler/Jamie Lynn duet You‟re The One (on NY International Records). It will go for an occasional club-oriented dance number like Margie Joseph‟s Knockout on HCRC, but it inclines to ballads rather than stompers, messages rather than chatter, and melodies rather than jousts. This group also turns up its nose at slick, insincere fodder by upwardly mobile mavens like Quincy Jones and his various high-tech menials in favour of singers who reflect the strain of a lifetime on the edge. Highrise is now the champion of the culturally dispossessed but its smart enough to avoid the sort of idiomatic warfare (such as hard blues or anti-club/disco songs) that alienate those potential fans who enjoy progressive modes.”
The arrangements on the Sonny Charles LP were done by Gene Page, another one of the greats of American popular music, and very much like with Phil Wright there is a nagging feeling that he deserves some very closely detailed work chronicling his achievements. Per-so-nal-ly I have a suspicion that I am only aware of the tip of the iceberg, but his credits are incredibly impressive: The In Crowd, Harlem Shuffle, You‟ve Lost That Lovin‟ Feeling, Merrie Clayton‟s Gimme Shelter, for starters. He worked with The Apollas at Loma, he arranged for Mirwood, worked with Nancy Wilson, helped create the Barry White/Love Unlimited empire. He did
the arrangements for those Kenny Nolan bubblegum soul hits: Jim Gilstrap‟s Swing Your Daddy, Linda Carr‟s Highwire, Dee Clark‟s Ride a Wild Horse. And so on. If I had to choose one particular Gene Page arrangement that really captures what was special about his work it would have to be Al Wilson singing The Dolphins. It‟s one of those magical recordings where all the ingredients are just perfect: the choice of material, the singer, the arrangement, the production, the creative environment. You can immerse yourself in Gene‟s arrangement on this track: the strings that soar beautifully, the prominent flute, the organ that comes in after nearly two minutes. Fred Neil‟s beautiful song is sung exquisitely by Al, initially very smoothly, very straight, then around the three-minute mark he gets very spiritual, very gospel briefly, without ever overdoing it. And credit has to be given to Johnny Rivers at Soul City for creating the right climate for making such a special recording. Another brilliant example of Gene‟s artistry is Lou Adler‟s 1971 Dylan‟s Gospel project, by The Brothers and Sisters of Los Angeles, which featured some of the most wonderful voices of the time: Merry Clayton, Patrice Holloway, Gloria Jones, Clydie King, Sherlie Matthews and Edna Wright among them. It‟s well documented that Black America sang the songs of Bob Dylan particularly well, and Kent has put out a particularly impressive CD to demonstrate this very effectively. But this idea of Adler‟s to do a complete LP in full-blown gospel fashion was a stroke of genius. The instrumentation on the record is sparse. It doesn‟t need to be more ornate when there is such a wealth of vocal prowess available. Again, Gene‟s arrangements work perfectly. The record is also a perfect response to those who think it‟s clever to question, quibble, cavil and carp about the genius of Bob Dylan.
It was no coincidence that Bobby Paris got Gene Page to help out with the arrangements on the Sonny Charles LP in 1982, as he acknowledged on the back cover with a dedication: “To Gene Page for being the Godfather of my lady music for all these fifteen years”. When Bobby Paris had recorded his own LP in, I assume, 1968 it was Gene that did the arrangements. And what a record they put together between them with Let Me Show You The Way.
It was released in the States on the Tetragrammaton label, a record company set up by a consortium of Hollywood entertainment industry insiders including Bill Cosby. I don‟t know why Capitol didn‟t go for it. I have my suspicions, but that‟s all they are. A curious concern, Tetragrammaton put out the early Deep Purple titles in the US, some comedy, some psychedelia, some folk rock. Its name always makes me think immediately of the fantastic song by Sudden Sway, Alleluia! The Psychic Sons: “Crazy crazy Tetragrammaton. Secrets, secrets, hey cats it‟s a big one ...” And in the case of the Bobby Paris LP they were very right: “A moment worth waiting for”. This, as far as I know, is the only LP Bobby Paris has ever made, and it‟s fair to say he put more into this than most artists would deem wise. Credit also has to be given to Gene Page for coming up with arrangements that fit the mood perfectly. The excellent historian Doug Payne has mentioned that the eighttrack cassette edition of Let Me Show You The Way credits Gary McFarland as producer. That makes my head spin, but I can find no further mentions of connections between Bobby and Gary, so who knows? The rear sleeve of Let Me Show You The Way describes Bobby thus: “Bobby Paris is crazy. Music feeds him. It‟s like adrenaline. Put the needle down ... watch him grow and swell and swing and move ... and he‟s alive. Really moving, giving everything. He makes you want to sing. Not many people can do that. He‟s waited a long time to put this album together. Watch him move”. And, yeah, it‟s a moving record. Four of the songs are written solely by Bobby, and four are songs he composed with Jill Jones. They wrote I Walked Away together. They wrote other songs together, too, like Don‟t Come A Knocking by Mary Lee Whitney, a fantastic soul single on Loma from 1966. Bobby arranged and produced that, too. I think he also arranged or produced a lovely single by Jill for Era in 1964 – Help Me/Don‟t Be Mad – which intriguingly is available as a digital download single. There are no commercial concessions on Let Me Show You The Way. It is pure „heart of darkness‟ territory: fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage – all of that. The first side is one of the most startling documents of disintegration captured on record, and could be uneasy listening as Bobby acts out in an unrestrained manner his unravelling. Per-so-nal-ly I find it incredibly compelling in the same way, say, a David Goodis novel or Mario Puzo‟s The Fortunate Pilgrim can tear you
apart. And throughout the music drives the intensity up degree-by-degree. It really is astonishing and really quite disorientating stuff. The opener Out of Key starts with Bobby sitting in his lonely room, staring at an empty wall, locking his door, ignoring the „phone, losing track of time, waking up crying each day, wondering why he‟s going on. The intensity almost from the off is quite ridiculous, with the female gospel choir adding to the drama, but somehow straight away Bobby avoids the absurdities, the phoney-ness of, say, Tom Jones or Joe Cocker straining their tonsils for the sake of it. Perhaps it‟s because you have to believe Bobby is really coming apart at the seams. Like a great actor he makes us believe, and so much great pop is about drama, Roy Orbison, Barry Ryan, Sinatra, so much deep soul, country, torch songs. And on and on. If there is any doubt about the depths of Bobby‟s trauma then the way the second song, I‟m So Lonely, roars in dispels any suspicions. Here Bobby is haunted by a particular song on the radio that is tearing him apart: “If I hear that song just one more time I‟ll swear I‟m going to lose my mind ...” It‟s easy to envisage Bobby head in hands, Edward Munch style, as the DJ spins the Dave Clark Five‟s Bits and Pieces yet again, taunting him in his loneliness, reminding him. My god, the scenes in the studio when this was being recorded must have been quite something, with the sisters‟ choir singing the Bits and Pieces refrain, mocking Bobby in his torment. Then, then, then Bobby has pulled himself together. He is able to admit that it‟s over. He can dismiss her: “You go find yourself another man, if you can, because per-so-nal-ly I don‟t give a hang”. I can cope. I can start anew. I don‟t need you. This is a song that will be familiar to many. The third part of Bobby‟s Northern Soul holy trinity, alongside Night Owl and I Walked Away. It will instantly evoke special dancefloor memories for many people in many places, and it gives a great indication of where LP is at mu-si-cal-ly, though not much is quite so directly aimed at the dancers, not much this straight forward. By the next song, No No No Girl, the tables have turned, and she has come crying but Bobby is able to resist such entreaties. Things have changed since she left. He‟s now able to say: “You always said I wasn‟t strong enough but I think that I‟ve been trying long enough to stand like a man and say I don‟t want you to stay. Please go away ...” Then woosh, we‟re into I‟m Not That That Kind of Man, where it‟s time to move on, find someone else, somewhere else, gotta roam, like a rolling stone, no place called home, catch me if you can, tag along for the ride if you can stand the life. Bobby is up and moving, maybe wildly, maybe on the lam, off on an adventure, and suddenly it‟s all very Robert Stone, where in his books someone is always hiding from someone, something, coming apart as we watch. Then to finish off Side One comes Going Out The Way I Came In, which musically is the most adventurous track on the LP. The bass at the beginning and the drums is just so sublime, one of the best things ever in pop, and Bobby is like Joe Strummer at his grrruffest best. Bobby is going out the way he came in, never going back where he‟s been, wise now, he always knew what loving her would bring the minute he threw his heart in the ring. The song gets increasingly intense, a touch of the psychedelics, some handclaps to give it a latin tango tough touch, upping the
drama, ending in a gospel rave-up with the sisters testifying, and we can only speculate who sang on that. Side One of Bobby Paris‟ LP feels like a suite of songs, a story unfolding, and this approachnis made more explicit on the second side which is a song cycle with the songs joined together by a spoken narrative about giving love a go, the joys of love, drifting apart, the pain of separation, coming to terms with loss, getting on with living alone again. It‟s a bit reminiscent of the Shangri-Las‟ Past, Present and Future or Telly Savalas doing If, in the best possible way. These interludes are a little distracting on repeated listens but they remain nevertheless a smart attempt at doing something different in the LP format. The first song on the second side is the title track, a tender number where Bobby is trying to convince his new girl to trust him, he knows she‟s been hurt before, we‟re all damaged in some way, he acknowledges, but love is out there, so “let me show you the way”. It‟s got a real what we would come to call Philly feel, and it‟s the sort of big ballad you could imagine Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes doing a few years later. Or am I just being plain stupid, for isn‟t this Barry White territory, the spoken intro and all that, with Gene Page in there of course? But getting back to the Philly connection, it‟s difficult to listen to Billy singing this song and not find yourself slipping into The Jacksons‟ Show You The Way To Go, their greatest moment, and that was a Gamble & Huff song, oddly enough. The next song is simply entitled You. It is a celebration of being together, being in love, and it‟s incredible. If you‟d only ever read about Bruce Springsteen you‟d swear this was him, singing a blue-collar love song, all about putting yourself through the back-breaking 9-to-5 hassle and the daily grind, punching the clock one more time rather than the boss, minding your Ps and Qs „cos this is one job you really can‟t afford to lose, how you‟ve got your reasons why you‟ll go through it, „cos at the end of the day you‟ll be going back home to her - and a warm embrace, her smiling face. It‟s all worth it. And that opening guitar motif? It‟s worth it just for that. It‟s hard not to think of the Jackson 5‟s I Want You Back, oddly. Then what happened? Why? What was it all about? You wouldn‟t throw away everything would you, could you? Oh yes. It‟s over. And the final four tracks in the song cycle are Bobby singing old numbers. I don‟t know if this was planned to symbolise the songs Bobby turned to for solace, highlighting the redemptive power of music. I presume these were songs that had particular significance for Bobby, perhaps as reminders of happier times, perhaps they are songs that help him articulate what he‟s feeling inside. Some of this may seem familiar. Or to keep it simple, Bobby hadn‟t always sung his own material. His much loved song Night Owl, which in its way inspired much of the enduring Northern Soul imagery, was a swinging soul update of the Tony Allen doo wop hit which has been covered by quite a few people from Horace Andy to Frank Zappa. But I do think there is a definite significance to Bobby‟s choices of songs to sing at the end of his LP. The first of these is Please Mr Sun, which Johnny Ray sang in the early „50s: “Whisper to her, Mr Wind. Sing to her, Miss Robin. And Mrs Moonlight put in a word for me. Tell her how I feel it shouldn't end this way ...” There were other versions of course,
but there is something horribly appropriate about a link between Johnny Ray and Bobby Paris. Both gentlemen were shall we say rather openly emotional in their approach to singing, and you‟ve got to love them for it.
The next song is, appropriately, Tragedy, which was a 1959 hit for Thomas Wayne and the Delons on Scotty Moore‟s Fernwood label. It‟s a beautiful, dramatic, haunted song, which The Fleetwoods and Brenda Lee also recorded beautifully: “Blown by wind, kissed by snow, all that's left is the dark below ...” Then as Bobby, once again, comes to terms with things, it‟s the Joe Greene song Don‟t Let The Sun Catch You Crying, quite jazzy, with some beautiful flute and soaring strings. And it‟s the perfect excuse to nod adoringly in the direction of the genius of Ray Charles, who seems like a spectral presence on this record. The closing track, to symbolise the reawakening, is the old standard Bye Bye Blackbird. It is a song that unnerves me in this context simply because it‟s one of the first things I ever remember being sung to me as a kid. Joe Cocker recorded it around the same time, coincidentally or not, and compared to Bobby‟s version Joe seems positively subdued and pedestrian. Bobby really does wring every last drop of emotion out of the song. If I was Bobby Paris I think I would have hated Joe Cocker. THE WRITERS‟ PART ... Jill Jones deserves enormous credit for her part in the Bobby Paris story. And if her name seems familiar that makes sense. She was signed up by Four Star Publishing in the mid-„60s as a songwriter, and among the people she composed with was Annette Tucker. Together Annette and Jill wrote for The Electric Prunes, contributing Get Me To The World on Time and Try My Love On For Size for the Prunes‟ classic debut. Annette played a vital role in launching The Electric Prunes, helping to get them signed, and with another Four Star songwriting partner Nancie Mantz she wrote a further half-a-dozen songs for the Prunes‟ debut (including the classics I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night and Are You Loving Me More?) and a further three for the follow-up Underground. While The Electric Prunes may have been straining at the leash to do their own thing there is no doubt that their enduring appeal, way beyond Nuggets and the
garage/punk scene, has a lot to do with the quality and boldness of their hit songs. Nancie and Annette were behind another classic „60s punk number, I Ain‟t No Miracle Worker, which was recorded by The Brogues before The Chocolate Watchband covered it. The girls also wrote for The Knickerbockers, with Annette and Jill writing Your Kind of Lovin‟ which Ricky Nelson also recorded as a b-side in 1966. Rick‟s name keeps popping up in the margins of this story. Jimmie Haskell did the arrangements on that single, and for a lot of other records by Ricky. As an aside, Jimmie‟s associations with Ricky at Imperial meant he had the opportunity to work with Laura Lee Perkins in 1958 on what have become a couple of highlydesirable rockabilly 45s with some wonderful fierce singing and grrrowling from Laura who was at the time billed as the female Jerry Lee Lewis. One song Annette Tucker, Nancie Mantz and Jill Jones wrote as a team was The Coming Generation, which again The Knickerbockers recorded. It was a classic teenage punk anthem: “We hold the future in our hands”. Another Knickerbockers number Annette co-wrote was High on Love. This was composed with Keith and Linda Colley. Keith and Linda also wrote One Track Mind, another classic Knickerbockers recording. Keith was a fairly frequent collaborator with Annette, Nancie and Jill at Four Star. One song, for example, Keith and Jill co-wrote was Walk With A Winner which Gene McDaniels recorded and Jack Nietzsche arranged. This stunning song was another highlight of the early Kent compilation Leapers, Sleepers and Creepers (Kent 031), alongside Bobby Paris‟ I Walked Away, another song featuring a Jill Jones credit.
Someone else Jill Jones and Keith Colley collaborated with as songwriters was Sandy Salisbury, and there are some lovely links to his own work and wider connections with Curt Boettcher and The Millennium and so on. Jill wrote Oh Don‟t Come Crying Back To Me, which Something Young recorded early on in the story. She wrote Here Comes That Feeling with Keith and Sandy. Keith and Sandy wrote the phenomenal Do Unto Others, and so on. Joe Foster and his various record labels have done such a great job shedding light on some of these lost sunshine pop sounds, though that is one hell of a limiting label as the music reaches out in so many directions. Exploiting the loose ties with The Millennium Joe Foster‟s Revola set-up put together a very useful Keith Colley collection around 2004 which drew on demos he had made for Four Star Publishing. It is striking that these recordings are of a particularly high quality, more complete than many actual released records. Among the songs featured is a Keith Colley/Annette Tucker
composition, What I Don‟t Know Can‟t Hurt Me, which Al DeLory heard and got The Four Preps to record in 1967 as the b-side to their original version of Love of the Common People. The group also covered Phil Ochs‟ Draft Dodger Rag around the same time on another single arranged and produced by Al DeLory. The Four Preps story is a strange one. They started out as a close harmony group, clean-cut guys, caught on film in the original Gidget movie. Ed Cobb was one of the original members, and Lincoln Mayorga became unofficially the fifth Prep by acting as the group‟s arranger. Cobb and Mayorga would at the start of the „60s branch off to do their own projects, putting together rock „n‟ roll instrumental groups, initially as The Piltdown Men who had a fair bit of international success, and then as The Link-Eddy Combo who did a great cover of The Man With The Golden Arm theme. Ed Cobb and Lincoln Mayorga then had great success in 1962 with their protégée Ketty Lester and her big hit Love Letters with the distinctive stark piano-led arrangement. With Lincoln as arranger and Ed as composer the duo would have a real impact on the way music developed in the „60s. Going back to the massive symbolism of that old Capitol Soul Casino LP one of the many highlights was Gloria Jones‟ recording of Heartbeat which used to scare the hell out of me. That was arranged by Lincoln Mayorga and it was written and produced by Ed Cobb. It really is one of the most startling tracks ever recorded: it‟s ridiculously frantic, the opening pounding drums and bass, the brass fanfare, the swirling organ, Gloria‟s testifying, the gospel choir responding vigorously, the intensity being gradually cranked up. It really is astonishing, and a track that never ceases to surprise and invigorate. Another collaboration between Gloria, Ed and Lincoln is rather better known, and their Tainted Love needs no further comment.
The work of Ed Cobb and Lincoln Mayorga continues to delight. I confess I have only recently heard Ketty Lester‟s West Coast single from 1965, but it is an absolute treasure. And Ketty‟s When A Woman Loves a Man LP from 1966 is remarkable, with Lincoln and Ed coming up with a really curious twist on the popular soul sound that is in its own way positively avant-garde in the manner the piano and drums lead the way. I don‟t think this particular LP was anywhere near to being a commercial success. I know that around the same time Lincoln drifted off into session work, and perhaps most significantly he worked with Phil Ochs over an extended period of time, from Pleasures of the Harbour through Tape from
California, Rehearsals for Retirement, Greatest Hits and the Gunfight at Carnegie Hall, sticking by Phil‟s side. For that alone I would love Lincoln. In the early 1970s Lincoln put together a series of LPs with some of the top players of the day as Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues. Lincoln had got involved with producing direct-to-disc audiophile recordings for his own Sheffield Lab. Imprint, and these LPs were part of this project. The records were made up of pop hits, classical pieces and new compositions recorded live with musicians such as Larry Knechtel, Victor Feldman, and Plas Johnson taking part. For fans of jazzy, easy listening sets these LPs are highly recommended. As for Ed Cobb. Well, what can you say? The revelation that the man behind Gloria Jones‟ Heartbeat and Tainted Love was also the same person behind The Standells and Chocolate Watchband was incredibly important. At the time that the early Kent soul compilations were appearing the parent company Ace through another subsidiary were putting out a vitally important Chocolate Watchband compilation. And it all fitted perfectly. You‟d play one of the Kent LPs or the Chocolate Watchband while getting ready to go out dancing at a Jasmine Minks gig where the talk might be of Pebbles collections or Bettye Swann. That‟s the way it was. And it should be impossible to put together any narrative about independent labels in the UK without referring explicitly to the Ace family. What at the time seemed a perfectly natural fascination with „60s soul and garage punk/psychedelia had, for me, been nurtured by the on-going obsession with that Capitol Soul Casino LP. There was a definite crossover in terms of garage bands and r‟n‟b sounds. Among the groups featured were David and the Giants, Human Beinz, and in particular The Outsiders with Lonely Man. The Outsiders were a garage band from Cleveland, but they had a very definite idea about what they wanted to do which was to fuse the Motown soul sound with the driving beat group sound, and it was their own idea to add brass embellishments. They had their classic track Time Won‟t Let Me all recorded when Capitol came calling, and so it wasn‟t a case of a Svengali telling the group which direction to take. They were there first. In some ways they were similar to The Action, both singers Reggie King and Sonny Geraci had that sweet unforced way of singing, and appropriately enough both groups covered Since I Lost My Baby.
The Outsiders‟ big hit from 1966 Time Won‟t Let Me turned up on another early Kent compilation, 1985‟s Right Back Where We Started From (Kent 039), which took its name from the 1975 Maxine Nightingale hit. Four tracks from the precious Capitol Soul Casino set resurfaced on that particular Kent collection: Nancy Wilson‟s End of Our Love, Thelma Houston‟s Baby Mine, Human Beinz‟s Nobody But Me, and The World Column‟s So is the Sun. Gradually over time information emerged, and it was possible to fit together what Ed Cobb had achieved in pop as a svengali, producer and songwriter: Dirty Water, Rani, Sometimes Good Guys Don‟t Wear White, Why Pick On Me, She Weaves a Tender Trap, No Way Out, Barracuda, Sweet Young Thing – it‟s no wonder The Standells and Chocolate Watchband are still held in such high esteem. Then there was Every Little Bit Hurts and I‟ll Always Love You for Brenda Holloway, Breakaway for Toni Basil (Antonia Christina Basilotta) as featured in the fantastic Bruce O‟Connor short film of the same name, as well as The Touch of Venus and Love Belongs To Everyone for Sandy Wynns who would be better known as Edna Wright and later sang with the Honey Cone.
A Touch of Venus is another song that has been given the gift of immortality by the Northern Soul community. But what many of us didn‟t realise was that before Sandy Wynns sang it Patrice Holloway recorded the song for Motown, only for it to languish in the label‟s cellars for the best part of 40 years. Indeed, the suggestion is that Ed Cobb was so frustrated at Motown‟s behaviour that he had Sandy Wynn‟s record the song as it was too good to waste, which seems reasonable. Patrice Holloway didn‟t have a lot of luck with her recordings, really, but they were all so special. Her 1966 track Love and Desire was the song that followed on after Bobby Paris‟ I Walked Away on the Capitol Soul Casino LP. And in a weird way the fact that the record was stripped of information sort of added to the romance. I almost feel that looking back on that record now it has taken on a mystic significance, and as I contemplate each track I feel a little like Max Bygraves or Prince Far I with their deck of cards. Another couple of Patrice Holloway songs appeared on the Kent compilation Leapers, Sleepers & Creepers (Kent 031), again alongside Bobby Paris‟ I Walked Away and indeed Gene McDaniels‟ Walk With A Winner. These two additional glimpses of what Patrice could do, Ecstasy and Stay With Your Own Kind, were revelatory and perfect examples of what pop music could be, the emotional power it could possess, the beauty it could harness as an uplifting and liberating force. But still I didn‟t know anything about Patrice. Of course, over time, information about Patrice did begin to emerge, about how she was the younger sister of
Motown‟s Brenda Holloway, about how the girls wrote You‟ve Made Me So Very Happy (which Bobbie Gentry did my favourite version of), about how they moonlighted for Mirwood with Sherlie Matthews as The Belles, and about the session singer work Patrice did – that‟s her on with David Clayton-Thomas on a gorgeous cover of Gram‟s She? And, yeah, Patrice sure could sing. Gradually more of Patrice‟s recordings began to emerge on CD, with Dean Rudland‟s Talcum Soul series salvaging two more of her Capitol sides, Stolen Hours and Black Mother Goose. And finally, sadly after Patrice‟s death, Kent Records succeeded in putting together an anthology of Patrice‟s recordings which is an absolutely essential item, particularly as it collects together Patrice‟s Capitol sides in one place.
What are not on that Kent anthology are the recordings Patrice made as part of Josie & the Pussycats, when in 1970 she was recruited by Danny Jannsen as the human incarnation of Valerie Brown in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series. The bubblegum soul recordings made for and to complement the cartoons is surprisingly wonderful, and Patrice is on great form throughout. This may have something to do with the story Danny tells about how he met with opposition after selecting Patrice but nevertheless stuck to his guns, and his stance attracted support from some of the best session players in L.A. who turned up to show solidarity and play on the recordings as a point of principle. In some ways, though, it is no surprise that the series featured quality music. Think of the big TV series and the family groups that came out of America from The Monkees onwards: The Archies, Cowsills, Jackson 5, The Partridge Family, The Osmonds, Josie & the Pussycats. There were some top, top people involved with the music. Gene Page and Tommy Oliver worked with The Osmonds, Jimmie Haskell did music for Josie & the Pussycats in Outer Space, Shorty Rogers did music for The Partridge Family, and if you look up a performance of The Partridge Family performing the fantastic sunshine pop of Together (Havin‟ a Ball) you will note the songwriting credits are for Shorty Rogers and Kelly Gordon. In fact Kelly tried to find a similar sort of success with the Primo People.
While many people recorded more often and more commercially successfully than Patrice it is hard to think of art more beautifully realised than the three songs from her Capitol sessions that featured on the Capitol Soul Casino and Leapers Sleepers & Creepers LPs. Love and Desire and Ecstasy were the two sides of a single Capitol put out in 1966, and it seems absurd that Patrice was just a kid of 15 when she sang these two songs when you think of the lyrical content and the perfectly professional performance Patrice puts in. The songs were arranged by Gene Page, so it‟s not really a surprise they sound so sensational. Gene‟s brother Billy composed the two songs, and again it‟s no surprise they‟re of such a high quality as he also wrote The „In‟ Crowd for Dobie Gay, Pretty Red Balloons for The Apollas and Johnny Raven for Kiki Dee. The David Axelrod-produced b-side Stay With Your Own Kind from 1967 had Patrice tackling the theme of inter-racial relationships quite spectaculalrly and very dramatically. The song itself was written by The Lewis Sisters, who quite probably knew Patrice and her sister from Motown. David‟s production, naturally, is wonderful but it is Patrice‟s emotion-drenched performance that captures all the drama of the situation, and it‟s a wonderful twist on the theme Janis Ian had brilliantly raised on Society‟s Child a short time before. As an aside, in 1967 The Lewis Sisters wrote and produced another brilliant single for Sandy Wynns, How Can Something Be So Wrong (And Always Feel So Good)/Love‟s Like Quicksand, on the Canterbury label. The success of Josie & the Pussycats and the persistence of Danny Jannsen meant Patrice got another chance with Capitol, putting out another couple of excellent singles, Evidence and Black Mother Goose, in the early „70s. They didn‟t connect. They didn‟t sell. And these were the last recordings she seems to have made as a solo artist. Oh she did plenty of session work, and seems to have made good money for a while. But it just doesn‟t seem right somehow that someone as wonderful as Patrice didn‟t even get to make a solo LP. There is an eerie symmetry here with Bobby Paris. He was given another chance to make it with Capitol in the early „70s, recording tracks for a couple of singles which were released in 1973. Gene Page did the arrangements for these again. And these sides were produced by Bobby with Jeffrey Cheen. I guess Bobby and Jeff knew one another from when they were both with Tetragrammaton. I guess also Cheen was working with Kim Fowley on International Heroes at Capitol around this
time, too, and doing a no-expenses-spared LP with Ultra Violet, interestingly. I‟ve no idea if these records fared better commercially than the Bobby Paris singles. The first of these two 1973 singles had on one side Bobby Paris covering Mac Davis‟ Baby Spread Your Love On Me, which on paper makes perfect sense and in practice works perfectly too. And it was interesting with the success of people like Tony Joe White and Mac Davis, following on from the music Bobbie Gentry and Joe South had been making, somehow the world seemed to be catching up with Kelly Gordon‟s idea of what pop should be. The other side of the single was You‟re A Friend which was something of a departure for Bobby. Or was it? Underneath the country soul of the Mac Davis cover there seemed to be a jazzy latin percussive influence at work, and this was accentuated strongly on the swinging ballad You‟re A Friend, which could easily feature on one of those wonderful old Jazzman compilations. It is fantastic in the same way Mark Murphy‟s Sconsolato is fantastic. And it would be brilliant to hear more of Bobby Paris in this lazy, jazzy Latin mode. But then perhaps there is more? A favourite among fans of mod jazz/latin soul is the instrumental Dark Continent by one Bobby Paris, who plays all the instruments on this Magenta Records release from 1961. The Magenta label, out of Hollywood, was a subsidiary of the short-lived Indigo imprint, who had some national success with Kathy Young & the Innocents, and over the space of a couple of years released some great doo wop and rock „n‟ roll 45s, including Jody Reynolds‟ Thunder/Tarantula and a single by a very young Skip Battin. Bobby Paris is said to have released his first single, Rockin‟ Concerto, on Indigo in 1960, but I am always worried someone will say “oh that was another Bobby Paris ...”. And maybe throughout all this I‟ve got several singers called Bobby Paris mixed up. I don‟t know. I do know Indigo and Magenta was run (to some extent, at least) by Jim Lee who would go on to discover Chris Montez and write Let‟s Dance for him. He also paired his proteges Chris and Kathy Young together for a while
The other single by Bobby Paris from 1973 was probably aimed more at the easy listening market, and featured a charming version of Daydreamer which was a massive hit for David Cassidy that same year. I have no idea about the chronology of this, but it would probably be just Bobby‟s luck to have a recording overshadowed by a young pup. Daydreamer, incidentally, was composed by
Terry Dempsey, and another of his songs Butchers and Bakers was recorded by the Fleur-de-Lys as Chocolate Frog in 1968. There may well have been a South African connection via Sharon Tandy there. And as far as I know Bobby Paris never made another record under his name after 1973. I could very well be wrong. But if it is true, how did that feel? Did Bobby become persona non grata after he sued Bobbie Gentry? Did he just think: “Oh forget it, there are other things to do”? Was he active behind the scenes? Or did he just disappear for a while? LIE DREAM OF A CASINO SOUL Oddly, around the time Bobby Paris disappeared after that last Capitol single some of his old songs were being given a new lease of life on the dancefloors of the Northern Soul scene in England. Musically, the scene was notoriously openminded. If a track had that driving beat then it might get played and be accepted approvingly by the dancers. Right on! But there are always limits, and one thing that is inclined to irritate the Northern Soul community is a tailor-made side from the „70s made specifically to cash-in on the Casino soul scene, which is a little bit ironic when you consider the provenance of many of the records recorded in America in the 1960s. So Wigan‟s Ovation is a group that can test the tolerance of many Northern Soul fans. People can get remarkably precious about the audacity of a group covering some of the revered dancefloor favourites and crossing over into the charts. But the funny thing is that as a kid seeing Wigan‟s Ovation perform Skiing in the Snow on Top of the Pops was tremendously exciting, and I liked the look of the group in photos wearing their Star jumpers and Oxford Bags. I didn‟t have a clue about The Invitations‟ original, didn‟t really understand what the Northern Soul scene was, couldn‟t give a hang about authenticity, but I liked the sound very much. I still do. The follow-up single for Wigan‟s Ovation was a cover of Bobby Paris‟ Per-so-nal-ly and that was even better, but it wasn‟t a big hit. I didn‟t have a clue then who Bobby Paris was, but I have to say these days I feel very kindly disposed to whoever decided it would be a great idea for Wigan‟s Ovation to cover this song. I still think their rendition is great. And I‟ve got to say I still don‟t understand why people get hot under the collar about what Wigan‟s Ovation did. Jim McClusky had a good blue-eyed soul voice, seems to have genuinely liked his soul music, the band was good, and the production work from Barry Kingston was great. So, okay, they dared to use synths on some of their tracks, but now if Denim or Go-Kart Mozart go for the same sound as Wigan‟s Ovation got on Northern Soul Dancer people think it‟s grrreat. I suspect that with Barry Kingston and his success with the tailor-made Northern Soul exploitation recordings there was an element of justice having some years before produced classics like Gene Latter‟s Sign on the Dotted Line and The Mighty Dodos‟ Honey I Need Your Love for the Spark label. I have to say I have had a particular weakness for the Spark label ever since I fell for Pepper Box by The
Peppers, which ironically was a very unauthentic, highly synthesized recording that found favour with some of the Northern Soul community. Work that one out! There is a case to be made for the Spark label capturing something very specific about the nature of British pop music in that decade from the late 1960s to the late „70s. I think I‟m right in saying that Bob Kingston started the label in 1968 as an extension of his Southern Music publishing company. His son Barry did a lot of the production work for the label. And the catalogue that it built up contains a number of gems that belong in that strange hinterland between psychedelia and glam from the likes of A New Generation, The Eggy, The Fruit Machine, Velvet Opera, The Baby, Iron Cross and the wonderfully eccentric Stavely Makepeace. You just can‟t generalise with Spark, though. It put out great soul/pop from Val McKenna that really should have been successful, but then had hits with the Band of the Black Watch. There were comedy records, M.O.R. ones, and novelty rock. And there was the astonishingly beautiful Transmigration Macabre soundtrack LP from Ravi Shankar. There was the wonderful Sentimental Eartha (Kitt) LP from 1970 where she covered three Donovan songs. There was a posthumous Gene Vincent single, The Story of the Rockers, and a Kim Fowley punk rock cash-in project Venus and the Razorblades. And somewhere along the way there was a wonderful LP from Tramp featuring a number of Fleetwood Mac personnel and on a few tracks the astonishing vocals of Jo Ann Kelly, including ton he incredible blue-eyed soul perfection of Put A Record On which was produced by Barry Kingston. As well as Wigan‟s Ovation Spark sought to exploit the Northern Soul scene with a cover of Tainted Love which was credited to Ruth Swann, and produced by Barry Kingston. It‟s another recording that polarises people. There is also a certain mystery about the true identity of Ruth. It‟s been stated that she was Diana Foster, and the assumption would be this is the same Diana Foster that recorded I‟m Going To Share It With You which was released in 1979 on the Casino Classics label, another venture started by Bob and Barry Kingston. It‟s said that this Diana Foster was actually Jill Saward, which makes sense as the song was written by Les McCutcheon who was involved with Shakatak with whom Jill sang. She had previously sung and played flute with the progressive rock outfit Fusion Orchestra, and one atypical brass-driven track on their 1973 Skeleton in Armour LP was the raunchy soul of When My Mama‟s Not At Home. So it makes sense that she might have been drafted in to sing on a version of Tainted Love. But that‟s guesswork. The Casino Classics label used the Night Owl imagery for its appealing artwork, but it seemed pretty unconcerned about notions of authenticity in its choice of releases, both old and new. I can imagine lots of people being snooty about the label‟s motives, but it has a special place in my heart for introducing me to the likes of Gerri Grainger‟s I Go To Pieces, Lorraine Silver‟s Lost Summer Love and Panic by Reparata & the Delrons. I still have enormous affection too for the Ron Grainer Orchestra re-workings of A Touch of Velvet A Sting of Brass and the Joe 90 Theme which Barry Kingston produced. The underlying message seems to have been great danceable pop is great danceable pop, full stop, as Soft Cell proved when they topped the charts with their cover of Tainted Love in 1981.
As someone whose interest in old soul music was stimulated by the likes of The Jam, Vic Godard, Dexys and Orange Juice I have never really been in a position to understand all the internal politics of the Northern Soul scene. I can remember first hearing the Robert Knight singles, Love On A Mountain Top and Everlasting Love, when they were hits in „73/‟74, plus other things like Jimmy Ruffin‟s What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, and thinking this is the sound for me, but it wouldn‟t be until much later that I realised the significance of instinctively loving the old soul
records. Nowadays I can go through periods when all I want to listen to are old soul sounds, but at other times I can get irritated with people who are stuck firmly in a Northern Soul rut when there are so many different forms of music out there to explore. So Northern Soul sounds are part of my life, but I am not part of the Northern Soul life. Nevertheless, as an outsider it is always interesting to read about the original Northern Soul scene, and marvel at the factions and all the in-fighting that went on. Ian Levine, for example, is a person who is madly divisive, and I love reading about him. The whole Blackpool Mecca thing Ian was part of seems one of the more enlightened features of the Northern Soul scene, and I can see the appeal of its „progressive‟ music policy. But with some of Ian‟s other activities it‟s easy to understand purists‟ horror. One of his projects was a quest to track down so many of the original artists who made the soul records he loved, and film them performing the old songs. That was an impressive venture, and hats off to him for showing such determination, as the great Dean Parrish put it so well. Those performances by the original artists were collected for the 1999 film The Strange World of Northern Soul. Among the singers Ian tracked down during his quest was Bobby Paris, and a quick search on YouTube will reveal clips of him performing his signature tunes Night Owl and I Walked Away in a strikingly emotional manner. He looks a lot like Al Pacino as Serpico, the best part of 30 years on, heavier perhaps but still crazy after all these years, more than able to throw some punches and make the right moves, if you know what I mean.
Of course Bobby‟s performances as caught on film mean Ian Levine was successful in his search for Bobby Paris, and I am certain he and no doubt others on the Northern Soul scene would be able to fill in a lot of the blanks here, and give a sense of Bobby as a person. There must be interviews out there somewhere that will provide more background information on what Bobby has done. But in a weird way the fact that there are unanswered questions has a certain appeal. I have to confess to feeling a sense of comradeship when I come across other people who throw questions out there which remain unanswered. Like the guy on a forum for fans of The Fall who asked if the group ever covered Bobby Paris‟ Night Owl at a festival in Clitheroe in the early to mid „90s. I love the idea of someone
being bothered by this remaining unsolved. I also love the idea of Mark E. Smith singing Night Owl. The tradition of the cover version is very much a part of The Fall story. Ace Records have even issued a compilation collecting some of the original versions of songs The Fall have performed, from Gene Vincent to Sister Sledge to The Groundhogs to Tommy Blake to R. Dean Taylor to The Saints to The Searchers to Hank Mizell. It‟s a collection that even prompted Ace‟s Ady Croasdell (a.k.a. my childhood hero Harboro Horace who did the sleevenotes for the important early Kent compilations) to write: “What sort of group has this breadth of taste and depth of knowledge?” I‟ve been thinking about The Fall a lot. I‟ve particularly been thinking about Mark E. Smith singing Lie Dream of a Casino Soul. It‟s one of the most perfect performances in popular music. It‟s the best thing The Fall have ever done. I can remember buying that as a single I guess at the end of 1981, with the Savage Pencil sleeve, appropriately as the cartoonist had been mentioned in another, earlier, song by The Fall (that one! Our one!). I played that single over and over, not really knowing what Mark was singing about, making sense of certain lines though: “Cause Sunday morning dancing I had an awake dream”. I‟ve always liked the fact that I‟ve never really been sure what Mark‟s singing about. That‟s his prerogative. But with the Lie Dream the words, Mark‟s definitive rant, almost didn‟t matter because of the classic casino clatter, The Fall‟s big pop moment, the new wave of Northern Soul footstompin‟ sounds, which for me very much fitted in perfectly with the thrill of hearing recordings like Bobby Paris‟ I Walked Away for the first time, and listening to all this music very intently, searching for the secrets it could reveal. I still do. I‟ve read books about The Fall. I‟m not sure they have revealed any secrets. Now I would love to read a book about Bobby Paris. Somebody please bring me the soul of Bobby Paris.
“‟Impact? He‟s magic. In my opinion, he possesses the very greatest gift that any artist can ever be blessed with.‟ „Which is?‟ „Sensation,‟ said the Englishman. „He has the power to make people feel.‟” - Nik Cohn, King Death