... your heart out
... with the times
The Men in Sports Jackets Talent shows: there‟s nothing new there. I am not interested now, but I was once. I watched religiously. And what I really remember are the men in sports jackets, the judges. No one questioned their right to be there, but how many of us knew why they were there? But there they were, judging, giving marks for presentation, star quality, content, often far from content. One was known as the hatchet man, a hatchet-faced man hatching a plan. T. Hatch, thatch, hatchback, the Hatch is back. New Faces: oh well, say whatever you want but it had its moments. Sweet Sensation, a young Manchester soul group, were memorable winners. Named after the Melodians‟ hit? Always wondered that. Well, not always, but you know. So, Sweet Sensation. One of the men in sports jackets took them under his wing: “You're a star, superstar. On you go, it's your finest hour. And I know that you'll go far”. With a push and a shove from Tony Hatch they did go far, right to the top, in late 1974, performing Sad Sweet Dreamer, a song written by David Parton, who would have his own hit a couple of years later with a cover of Stevie‟s Isn‟t She Lovely. And for maybe the first time the UK came up with a group that made music as sweet as the Philly sound, with strings and harmonies and hooks and barbs, vocalists with the clothes and the moves and a frontman who seemed just a kid acting out an adult‟s role, twisting the Michael Jackson thing by mixing that unbelievably sweet and tender voice with an almost scholarly smart demeanour. Another Hatch/Parton production, Purely By Coincidence, tickled the Top 10, but the tougher Mr Cool slipped through the net. And that pretty much was that. Except that the kid, the singer, the scholar, Marcel King re-emerged ten years on, reaching for love, surrounded by different dancers, different dances.
New Faces: you have to hand it to them in a way. There have not been too many British black soul groups that have made it. There have not been enough. Sheer Elegance were another vocal outfit that made it through the New Faces minefield and hit the charts for a brief spell in 1976. Were they under the wing of Tony Hatch? Well, they produced poppy Pye soul sides. And then there was Patti Boulaye whose success on New Faces is cited by some as a factor in the
emergence of a new wave of disco-influenced female singers in Nigeria like Christy Essien-Igbokwe and Theadora Ifudu. But it‟s the sports jackets rather than the performances on the show that stick in the mind. There is something about sports jackets, particularly sports jackets back then. They were a statement, about dressing up without being too formal or too casual. A good sports jacket would suggest, say, a certain urbane air, a bit of sophistication without being too flash. So, yeah, the look suited the New Faces panel, or at least seemed appropriate. On other people it could be a disastrous choice of clothing. Look at photographs of footballers from the „70s, for example. Watch any number of films from that era. It‟s why punk had to happen, you might say. And yet, you‟d see a photo of Mark E. Smith in a checked sports jacket, or Peter Hook in one with his beard like he was getting dressed for a school‟s parents‟ evening. Vic Godard carried off the look, in an old Harris tweed sports jacket. Secondhand salvaged threads were fine, but generally a new sports jacket really wasn‟t worn. And yet Lawrence when Felt were first featured in Sounds, and Dave McCullough had travelled up to the West Mids to shine a light on the new pop hopefuls with Paul Slattery there to take snaps, in the accompanying photos seemed to be wearing a sports jacket, dark, flecked pattern, obviously new, and what was once called Sunday best. It was an early indication that Lawrence‟s mind was never going to work the same way as everyone else‟s.
Beatles, Bach, Bacharach Go Bossa If there is one record that captures perfectly a particular moment it is Beatles – Bach – Bacharach Go Bossa. Alan Moorhouse‟s bossa nova arrangements of three Bach, four Beatles and five Bacharach songs with its cover featuring three shots of a handsome couple, dressed up and dancing intimately, implicitly in their own living room, the very picture of elegant, suburban sophistication. But which moment does it capture so wonderfully? The record which ended up in so many suburban living rooms was issued by MFP in 1971. The Beatles were gone, The Toys‟ Lover‟s Concerto which is mentioned in the sleeve notes was a
hit back in 1965. The bossa boom had been and gone. And the heyday of Bacharach & David, Dionne, Dusty, the Walker Brothers and so on, was over. So, surely the moment was passed? The early 1970s were strange times, though. Budget labels like MFP or Music For Pleasure played a massive role in revolutionising the consumption of long playing records. MFP titles were available in high street stores at relatively low prices. They were attractive products for the casual consumer, but attracted the disdain of many other music fans. The seemingly haphazard plundering of artists‟ archives was one aspect of the game. The curious commissioning of perhaps exploitative titles like Beatles – Bach – Bacharach Go Bossa was something else. The premise may have been questionable, but the singers and players were nearly always top drawer and usually anonymous. And these records, often themed sets, sold well. Many homes had a strange selection of easy listening and light orchestral works, and were all the better off for it. The UK‟s singles charts at the very start of the „70s were just as fascinating. Motown memories and old soul sounds generally were particularly prominent, and this could not all be down to the denizens of clubs in the North West and Midlands. Similarly the strong showing of reggae and Trojan sounds in the charts would not all be down to teenage skinheads‟ spending power. This period was also a fruitful one for adult contemporary, easy listening, middle of the road sounds. And Bacharach was back. The Carpenters reached the Top 10 with Close To You, and Sacha Distel had the big hit with Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. It had to be the suave, easy going Gallic elegance of Sacha. Alan Moorhouse wasn‟t the only one mixing up the Beatles, Bach and Bacharach at the start of the „70s. The Ted Heath Orchestra recorded big band (another defiantly thriving form) versions of compositions by The Beatles, Bach and Bacharach, with arrangements by Johnny Keating, for Decca‟s Phase 4 Stereo label. And for Pye Tony Hatch and his Orchestra recorded What The World Needs Now! – a set of wonderful arrangements of Burt Bacharach and Hal David‟s greatest hits, including the then recent hits Close To You and Raindrops. Then a little later Charles Stepney and The Dells reworked the greatest hits of Dionne Warwicke in a revolutionary way. The Tony Hatch tribute to Bacharach and David is particularly intriguing. After all, the historical shorthand is that Hatch was the British Bacharach, albeit a rather dumpier, frumpier model. It would be understandable if Hatch were to have steered well clear of the duo‟s work. But this explicit celebration of their compositions came at a time between Hatch‟s run of hits and his new life on New Faces. And it‟s quite endearing really for Hatch to pay homage in this way, openly acknowledging his debt to the Bacharach style of songwriting. But there are plenty who would point out there was much more to the Hatch sound and his work as an arranger, composer, conductor and producer. There were plenty of other elements at work, from his light orchestral roots to features of rhythm „n‟ blues, and in his resumé punchier productions from the Breakaways, Mally Page, Baker Twins, Sandra Barry, Tammy St. John, Julie Grant, not to mention The Searchers and Bowie‟s London Boys.
Everything’s Waiting For You
The Tony Hatch composition Downtown, performed by Petula Clark, is a very familiar, almost too obvious, symbol of urbane pop sophistication. Something plucked out of the parents‟ record collection when I was a kid as an exceptional example of inventive easy listening. And there was always something closer to home, about Petula herself, for my mum, evacuated to south Wales, both whisked away from the Blitz, she knew Pet there, had a pet name for her, Petchew-la rather than Per-choo-la, but then „ang on, how old does that make her when she recorded this, this, this classic piece of pop? But isn‟t that at the heart of Downtown‟s appeal? The adult element. Mature and worldly-wise. Beyond the teenage thing. The words don‟t bear too close an analysis, and maybe The Jazzateer quoted above was right. After all, downtown should have been uptown, and all that. But there is something there in the words, nevertheless. The sisterly advice. Sororal. Lose yourself in the city, escape, and you might find something, find someone, or perhaps find yourself. And then there‟s that line: “Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova ...”. When that song started exerting its influence and I was in its sway bossa nova was suddenly once again an impossibly glamorous concept, with Weekend and the Pale Fountains and the Jazzateers. But for the UK audience in 1964 how big a thing was bossa nova? For Tony Hatch an interest in bossa nova and more generally Brazilian and Latin sounds seems to have run pretty deep, certainly beyond the Bacharach thing. This passion underpins many of his own compositions and arrangements of other people‟s work. And formed the foundation for a series of LPs: The Cool Latin Sound (of Antonio Pedro Hatch), Latin Velvet and Other Warm Sensations, A Latin Happening, Brasilia Mission. Before the glorious KPM library series, who else was doing that in the UK on a consistent basis? This series of Hatch recordings could easily have appeared on the Verve label in the US, with Creed Taylor‟s seal of approval.
I Know A Place Where do you go next after you‟ve been downtown or uptown, and seen the bright lights and heard the big city soul sound? Well, you‟ve got to dive into a cellarful of noise, a cellar of soul, and lose yourself all over again. I know a place. Finger on the pulse. Finger on the trigger. A blast of a single. Beat blare. Strings on fire. Bold as brass. I Know a Place. March 1965. Tony Hatch had got Pet daringly dancing in Dusty‟s domain, a new wave crashing on Sandie‟s shores. In its French version, Viens Avec Moi, Pet‟s put in a cellar, amused, detached from proceedings, an object of curiosity for the crowd, fascinated following the singer through the premises. Pet and the young mods follow the retreating camera cinéma vérité style of Ready Steady Go!, extras from Masculin Feminin, but there‟s also older guys, in dinner dress, predators and philosophers. Society and the Spectacle.
And the accompanying LP? Long players of the era were notoriously perilous affairs, poly-fillerous, churned out remorselessly. But, but, but. Beat, beat, beat. You‟ve got me beat girl. Can‟t you my heart beat, beat, beat? Le coeur qui
bât. A revelation. At times. Upwardly mobile Motown. Foggy Day transformed spectacularly, soulfully, in the same way Billy Davis and Billy Stewart would later teach old standards new tricks. But it‟s two songs on the LP that have true significance. Two songs that would become cornerstones of so many entertainers‟ sets. Call Me, a Tony Hatch composition, given its first outing by Petula, but which would in no time become a pop standard. Chris Montez, in his new easy listening guise, under the wing of Herb Alpert at A&M, started the charge, making the most of it with his gorgeous and eerie softness, but it was never a hit in the UK. The other song was Goin‟ Out of My Head, the Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein composition for Little Anthony & the Imperials, which was a very minor hit in the UK for Dodie West at the start of 1965 and subsequently covered by so many others. Better Use Your Head
There‟s a clip of Frank Sinatra performing Goin‟ Out of My Head, airily acknowledging the composer Teddy Randazzo before the singing starts, an air of you need to know this name. The song‟s been sung by everyone from Ella to the Zombies. They‟ve all done it. Randazzo as a composer, arranger, producer, visionary. It‟s a Bronx tale you couldn‟t make up: teen idol turns into the architect of sophisticated soul. Doo Wop‟s revenge. Writing with Bobby Weinstein, Victoria Pike, or others, Randazzo put together an incredible songbook. Little Anthony & the Imperials are the act he is most closely associated with, and they worked together over a long period of time. Goin‟ Out of My Head, Hurt So Bad, Better Use Your Head, Gonna Fix You Good, Love is a Rainbow are among the songs the group are loved for, particularly among the Northern Soul community, with Anthony‟s earth angel falsetto soaring over the Randazzo sound, the voice of someone who feels everything a thousand times more intensely than he should. The Randazzo sound oozed class, but there was always the hardcore foundation of rhythm „n‟ blues. Teddy could make strings zing and soar and swoop and swell and build and build and build up dramatically to incredible crescendos and climaxes, so it‟s no wonder he adored angelic eerie voices. The other act he is
most closely associated with are The Royalettes, with the astonishing sound of Sheila Ross‟ singing right up front and the girls‟ incredible harmonies fighting it out with the ostentatiously ornate orchestrations. This is heard perfectly on the group‟s cover of Watch What Happens, from Michel Legrand‟s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Though it is the Randazzo/Pike number It‟s Gonna Take a Miracle that The Royalettes are most closely associated with, a song that Laura Nyro understood the magical powers of so perfectly. But there‟s plenty of special moments Teddy and The Royalettes produced: Poor Boy, You Bring Me Down, I Don‟t Want To Be The One, and so on. There is something fascinating about formulas, and the way visionaries work at refining the details of a formula, adding or subtracting elements, exaggeration and amplification here, reductions and redactions there. The voices of Sheila Ross and Anthony merge into the mind to become indistinguishable, beyond anything as everyday as human, and the elegant, swish, sophisticated productions invite tags like velvet, satin, but everyone involved could get tough if needed, grrritty and hard-boiled as befits anyone who makes their way in a mean old business. It‟s intriguing that someone like Randazzo who came up with something like Goin‟ Out of My Head, a staple of so many cabaret singers‟ repertoires, should have so many compositions clutched close to the heart of the fickle, finicky and wonderfully snobbish soul community. The numbers keep popping up: Derek Martin‟s Sly Girl and You Better Go, Lonely Girl by Annabelle Fox, Howard Guyton‟s I Watched You Slowly Slip Away, Georgia Gibbs‟ Let Me Dream, Al Hibbler‟s Good For a Lifetime, Baby Are You Putting Me On by Linda Carr, Sammy Turner‟s Our Love Will Grow and Grow, Porgy & the Monarchs‟ If It‟s For Real, Bobby Hart‟s Cry My Eyes Out, Teddy‟s own You Don‟t Need a Heart and You‟re Not That Girl Anymore. Closer to home there‟s Kiki‟s cover of Teddy‟s dancer On a Magic Carpet Ride. Then there was the time Teddy met Timi. Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. This was, what, 1965, the volcanic Timi Yuro in her brief Mercury phase, at her mercurial best. She was paired with Teddy for a single. The lead track was Teddy‟s Get Out of My Life, while the flip was the Randazzo/Weinstein composition Can‟t Stop Running Away, and it‟s hard to think of any recordings more emotionally draining, the listener is beaten into submission, and this is not just a virtuoso display of vocal pyrotechnics because the passion seems so real, uncomfortably real, frighteningly intense, at times controlled, the mask slipping and the furious ferocity revealed, destructively. There was a follow-up, Big Mistake. The world‟s big mistake was not making this one of the biggest selling singles of all time. And then just when you think you‟ve got Teddy tagged you remember The Third Bardo. That astonishing psychedelic garage punk roar – I‟m Five Years Ahead of My Time/Rainbow Life, produced by Teddy Randazzo , written by Teddy‟s partner Victoria Pike with the very great Rusty Evans, known in some circles for The Deep (Psychedelic Moods) and The Freak Scene (Psychedelic Psoul).
The Search for ‘Pet’ Clark
Pierre Bourdieu - Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. There are always exceptions, so it really is not worth making sweeping generalisations. But here‟s one: words are worth more than anything. And the way some people use words is astonishing. Glenn Gould, the celebrated Canadian classical pianist and great eccentric could use words as well as he could use chords and notes. After he retired from live performances he made many broadcasts for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. One of these was a 1967 radio essay, later published in print form but it‟s the spoken words that count, ostensibly about Gould‟s affection for the work of Petula Clark. A lot of people loved Pet‟s sounds at the time, but Gould really was not a fan of pop music, so his passion is peculiar, and his passion burns peculiarly fiercely. For the first five minutes or so Gould sets the scene, describing parts of the province of Ontario, the landscape, Queen‟s Highway, Highway 17 revisited. From the very start it is intoxicating stuff, like Kerouac at his very best reading his own words. Gradually Gould creates a sense of driving up and down highways, hoping to catch the pop radio stations playing Petula Clark‟s Who Am I? pretty much each hour on the hour until as he says he knows it better than the musicians involved in the recording. Then after driving for several hundred miles he books into a motel in Marathon “to contemplate Petula”. Who Am I? according to Gould‟s view was the fourth in a remarkable series of songs released over a 23 month period, beginning with the ubiquitous Downtown, followed by Sign of the Times and My Love, culminating in Who Am I? The series proving that the Tony Hatch composition Downtown wasn‟t a fluke. Gould makes the case eloquently for each song in the series describing an adjacent plateau of experience, and for Petula, herself, having survived a number of transformations, from anticipating Annette Funicello to subdued chanteuse in Paris nighteries to someone whose appeal transcends generations and shows post-teenage survival is possible. There is no doubt Gould uses Pet as a vehicle to air some of his own pet hates, and he rails against The Beatles gloriously, dismissing their guerrilla tactics and happy Cockney belligerently resourceless brand of harmonic primitiveness.
Petula however he has nothing but praise for, and he openly admires the structure of Hatch‟s composition. Who Am I? fascinates him, perhaps because the prevailing euphoria of the earlier songs is replaced by a document of despair. The song for Gould oozes disenchantment and ennui. Interestingly he doesn‟t mention the lyricist Jackie Trent, but that‟s an aside. Gould, however, would be intrigued by the fact Jackie wrote the song after her first visit to New York, just as the Big City had inspired the words Tony Hatch put together for Downtown. Gould does note that Who Am I? is reverse Downtownism. The singer‟s confidence is shattered, escape becomes anonymity, triggering an identity crisis that is peculiarly metropolitan, one of the coffee house laments of the secret sippers of suburbia. Though as he acknowledges the very idea of suburbia is meaningless in Marathon, Ontario, which is where he ends.
Once More With Feeling “I have long suspected that imaginative working-class women are the evolutionary spearhead of society, since the narrowness of their lives imparts an intensity to their daydreams that middle- and upper-class women, lacking the desperation, find it harder to achieve.” Colin Wilson, The Angry Years
Oh that voice. It‟s overly emotional but avoids the cartoon caricatures of the more overblown. It is grand elegance rather than grandiose. The battling blonde who was never going to be a cute waif. The secret thinker whose life could have so easily turned into a sub-plot in The Small World of Sammy Lee. The coal-miner‟s daughter who became pop royalty. She‟d been round the block several times, but became part of a winning team, Mr & Mrs Music, one of them. Music by Tony Hatch. Words by Jackie Trent. Jackie. The Jackie who had her own number one in May 1965 against tough opposition with Where Are You Now My Love? A song that on this occasion owed more to Michel Legrand and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg perhaps, rather than Bacharach and Dionne. A TV theme. Mr & Mrs Music‟s metier. Adult entertainment. A captive audience. Small screen dreams. Escape. Gotta Get Away sang Jackie later as Danny Wilde and Lord Brett Sinclair raced in their respective Ferrari and Aston Martin sports cars in The Persuaders! Jackie could belt them out with the best of them, roll up her sleeves and do battle with the ballads and big bands, Judy Garland style. Her style was perhaps almost anachronistic in the later „60s pop context, closer to the American Vikki Carr or even Timi Yuro, even perhaps the Italian dramatists like Mina and Milva. Jackie‟s voice was nevertheless perfectly suited to the sort of industrial-strength productions beloved by the Northern Soul community – You Baby, Take Me Away, Send Her Away, I Heard Somebody Say – haymakers – packing a hell of a punch – perfect for the dancefloor. But maybe just maybe Jackie was at her best on the softer, gentler songs, the more intimate numbers, Faces, Lazy Day,
Beautiful in the Rain, While The City Sleeps, Don‟t Stop Now, and the Hatch variations on new pop standards, like the Brazilian style arrangement for Anthony Newley‟s The Joker and the exceptional tweaks Tony made for The Look of Love where the two of them outdo Dusty. And there was Jackie the writer, the private poet, pen and notebook at the ready to take down ideas, shrugging off the irony of hearing her best words sung by someone else when she‟s singing another person‟s best, playing with the clichés of the pop song, sometimes stepping outside of what was expected, like on Who Am I?, Cranes Flying South, Don‟t Sleep in the Subway: “You try to be smart then you take it to heart. 'Cause it hurts when your ego is deflated. You don't realize that it's all compromise. And the problems are so overrated”. A perfect example of Jackie‟s occasional off-beat approach is the beloved b-side 7.10 From Suburbia for which Tony takes an everything but the kitchen sink approach to the production, and Jackie adopts a kitchen sink dramatic theme, albeit a twisted one. Jackie doesn‟t take the easy option: the counter-culture‟s mockery of the semi-detached suburban commuter conformism. Instead she tells a tale, coloured with details of the daily migration, people crushing to get on, doing the crossword every day to pass the time, and so on, but somewhere in that throng is a hopeless dreamer, hoping to catch the eye of the object of their affections: “But you never notice me there. Won‟t you look my way? I‟m here every day”. The Idea of Glenn Gould
“After she had eaten, Alice sat in the dark of the drawing room floor, leaning against the front of an armchair and stroking the dog‟s soft head. The solitude was blissful: Bach‟s Goldberg Variations were playing and she was familiar with the recording, anticipating each note on the piano and Glenn Gould‟s strange, dissonant moans.” – Gillian Galbraith, The Road to Hell In the late „80s and early „90s I used to scour magazines and papers to pick up free tickets for film previews. That way I got to see all sorts of films I would
probably not have known about, in cinemas I would not ordinarily have gone to. Ones that stick in the mind are Da, Backbeat, High Spirits, Celia, and A Bronx Tale. And then there was Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. This must have been 1993. I had tickets to go and see it. I didn‟t have a clue then who Glenn Gould was or why anyone would want to make 32 short films about him. I wasn‟t even sure he was real. It worked not knowing anything about Glenn Gould. I suspect, I‟m guessing of course, but I like to imagine Glenn Gould would only have allowed people who didn‟t know the first thing about him to go and see the film. His fans, his disciples, the critics, all of the experts, oh he would have hated them picking the film to bits. So, knowing nothing, there wasn‟t any issues about Colm Feore‟s portrayal. It wasn‟t a betrayal, or inaccurate, or anything really. Instead it was fascinating entertainment. And some scenes stuck in the mind. The Hamburg sequence where Gould is in his hotel room and he forces a maid to listen to an LP of his recording, Beethoven I think, and initially she is terrified and confused but gradually, almost involuntarily relaxes, feels the music, feels the music move her, moves her head ever so slightly, almost reluctantly at first, and maybe smiles. It says so much. And there is the sequence in the recording studio, Gould alone conducting along to the music, lost in the music, enveloped in the music. And better still, the scene where he is doing one of his radio broadcasts and interviewing this guy and he starts to conduct the poor chap as he‟s talking like he‟s a soloist in a symphony orchestra. Then there‟s the diner, where Gould is a regular, and Pet‟s Downtown is playing in this sequence, and Gould absorbs the sound of voices, overheard dialogue, snatches of gossip, as though it‟s a concerto of conversation. Put Yourself in my Shoes “I was out of work. But any day I expected to hear from up north. I lay on the sofa and listened to the rain. Now and then I‟d lift up and look through the curtain for the mailman. There was no one on the street, nothing.” Raymond Carver, Collectors
1993. Another film based on fragments. By Robert Altman. One of the untouchables. And yet. Short Cuts? A mosaic, a masterpiece. Of course. And yet? It still feels uncomfortable. The idea of messing with the short stories of Raymond Carver. You don‟t mess with the short stories of Raymond Carver. They are exquisite entities. They are the ones that take liberties. They are not for taking liberties with. But Altman took a selection of these stories and made a mess of it, missed the extraordinary everyday sadness, fundamental sadness, the gradually losing a grip, past caring, past trying, past trying to hold it all together for the sake of appearances, because it‟s what you do, what you‟re expected to do, but the descent, from decent, the dissent, the descent is seemingly inevitable. But you have got to give Altman credit. Short Cuts is bold. And if it made just one person go and read Carver, then great. One great thing about Short Cuts is actually nothing at all to do with Raymond Carver, and that is Annie Ross‟
performance as Tess Trainer the night club singer. Altman was a fan, but not in the Bruce Weber Chop Suey/Frances Faye long, long time sense. As a fan he shoe-horned in a role for Annie, and she ran away with it. There is one great scene where Annie is singing in The Low Note and Tom Waits is at the bar listening. This is Tom Waits as Earl, but for a moment he has reverted and he is Tom Waits as Tom Waits the singer who could not even make up tales to match Annie‟s story. What a life! Annie was not quite born on the stage. She was born in Mitcham, Surrey, but she was born into a show business family. As a kid she lived out in Hollywood, trying to get a break. A twisted upbringing. It‟s what she sang in those incredible words of hers, those words she wrote for Wardell Grey‟s Twisted tune: “They say as a child I appeared a little bit wild With all my crazy ideas But I knew what was happenin', I knew I was a genius What's so strange when you know that you're a wizard at three? I knew that this was meant to be Well I heard little children were supposed to sleep tight That's why I drank a fifth of vodka one night My parents got frantic, didn't know what to do But I saw some crazy scenes before I came to Now do you think I was crazy? I may have been only three but I was swingin'” She was, what, 20 odd when she wrote those words back in 1952? She‟d already been to Paris, the city of exiles, at the end of the „40s, hanging out with writers like James Baldwin and singing with the jazz musicians who escaped there, James Moody and Kenny Clarke etc. This was the time of the Old Europe as Alfie and Robert put it, when Juliette fell in love with Miles and Annie loved Kenny, the time of the existentialists, when be-bop was king, the Club St Germain where Boris Vian held court and the Mars Club where Annie sang, and you expect Annie to be lurking in the background of some of the photos in Boris Vian‟s Manual of Saint Germain Des Peres, on the Rue St. Benoit and in the Club Tabou.
Ten years later Annie was a real star, one third of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, the hottest new group in jazz, urbane and sophisticated and enlightened and cool. Vocalese? Vocal easy listening? Easy? Just try it. That trick of putting words to jazz compositions, the art of doing all that surrealistic pillow talk, straightfaced scatting deeboopdiboppowwah dibdahday shooboppadidah skweebadee. It‟s hard work, incredibly disciplined, all those layers, all those words and notes. But they were successful, living the high life, the jazz life, hanging out with Lenny and everyone. Then in 1962 Annie was gone. Ten years later and Annie the great internationalist is home in London, hosting her own Late Night Show which features a strange selection of songs, ranging from Jobim‟s Wave and Luiz Bonfa‟s The Gentle Rain to Laura‟s Stoned Soul Picnic and King Crimson‟s Cat Food via the Beach Boys‟ Vegetables performed in the character of Simone Signoret. Then her husband, the actor Sean Lynch, joins her on jews harp for Bob Dylan‟s Country Pie. Sign of the Times
“In 1967, in the aftermath of the British Invasion, Penn turned out At the Dark End of the Street, a collaboration with his friend Chips Moman. Pilled up at a music convention in Nashville, they took a break from a poker game, went to a piano, and hammered out the song in less than an hour, returning to play another hand.” Robert Gordon, It Came From Memphis It‟s the end of „60s and Petula is moving with the times. Dusty had been to Memphis. Lulu went to Memphis. Lots of people were heading for Memphis. Pet went there as well. She was paired with Chips Moman. Lots of people were keen to work with Chips Moman. He was big news. Record company executives wanted Chips. Petula starred in Goodbye, Mr Chips and in the same year said hello Chips let‟s make a record.
There‟s nothing obvious about Petula‟s Memphis. What Pet and Chips came up with was curiously low-key, strange, sexy, subtle. It could be years before the full impact of the record hits home. Some records are like that. The hare and the tortoise thing. You get a sense this Pet project was not simply a marriage of convenience. Pet‟s a professional, of course, but it sounds like she‟s having fun here, kicking back, letting her hair down, happy not to be too polished, happy not having to try too hard, when actually probably the opposite was true initially and it was one hell of a culture clash, a scary and uncomfortable challenge. Pet‟s Memphis is a little bit country, a little bit soul, but mostly pop and lot of unexpected fun. The choice of material continues to intrigue. It‟s biased very much towards Chips‟ extended circle of American Sound studios staff and friends. There are a couple of songs by Bobby Weinstein and Jon Stroll: the gorgeous Goodnight Sweet Dreams and How We Gonna Live To Be A Hundred Years Old Together, the latter of which is given a bit of a Cockney & Western knees-up music hall treatment. Weinstein was Teddy Randazzo‟s old songwriting partner, and with Jon Stroll he would write songs like Sweet Cream Ladies Forward March for The Box Tops, and others for Ronnie Milsap and B.J. Thomas would sing their songs. They came up with some odd songs, it has to be said. There are a couple of songs by Toni Wine and Irwin Levine, and the opener I Wanna See Morning With You is particularly beautiful. Toni and Irwin had been writing together and with others since they were kids, as part of Don Kirshner‟s stable on Broadway. Pet had sung A Groovy Kind of Love, which Toni wrote with Carole Bayer Sager back in the mid-„60s. Toni and Irwin‟s credits included Candida for Dawn and Black Pearl for The Checkmates, ltd. which was a hit for Horace Faith in the UK. Another featured songwriter was the guitarist Johnny Christopher, who contributed the lovely Nothing‟s As Good As It Used To Be, which Ronnie Milsap also sang. Johnny is best known for writing Always On My Mind, with Mark James (Suspicious Minds, Moody Blue, etc.) and Wayne Carson (Thompson). Carson‟s song Neon Rainbow, another Box Tops hit, is also covered on Memphis by Petula , as is another Mark James song When The World Was Round which he wrote with Red West and which at first seems almost too perky to be true but as it works its way into the soul it takes on all sorts of new meanings and displays strange depths.
There are a couple of better known songs on the LP, Petula‟s cover of Bread‟s It Don‟t Matter To Me and Curtis‟ People Get Ready. Both work a treat. But perhaps the most curious song on the LP is Petula‟s own Right On, a state of the nation address in which Petula puts the case very reasonably that to be a good person, doing the right things, you don‟t have to march down a street with a banner in your hand, or tramp around in a rock „n‟ roll band, dress like a freak, smoke a weed, grow your hair, nope, all you need do is say what you mean and mean what you say, let it show in the sound of your voice and in the touch of your hand. Touch of your hand? Like when Petula met Harry Belafonte on prime time TV, and sang her own anti-war song On The Path of Glory: “Why should man be forced to kill? Why should they be made to die, Shattered on some peaceful hill Torn and bleeding where they lie?” In 1975 Pet and Chips were reunited. Chips was working in Nashville at the time, and it was a great opportunity for Pet to try something different, escape for a moment from the Las Vegas/cabaret treadmill. Ridiculously the results were left on the shelf somewhere for 20-odd years, but these Nashville sessions are among the favourites of many Pet devotees. Again some of the songs come from within Chips‟ inner circle, courtesy of Toni Wine and Bobby Emmons. A couple of pop standards work far better than might be imagined, in Bacharach & David‟s Don‟t Make Me Over and a version of The Twelfth of Never which is just Pet and piano and is perfectly exquisite. An unexpected highlight is Pet performing the Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn song If You Think You Know How To Love Me which must have been a very, very recent hit for Smokie. Pet steals her own show again with Blue Lady, her own song and maybe her best.
Paul Stump, The Whole Goddam Mutha's Gonna Blow
If It Sounds Country ...
By stealth country music became the popular choice for singers in the 1970s. Pretty much everyone made a country record: from Vikki Carr to Bobby Womack. The country influence was felt all over the place: from the London pub rock underground to reggae recording studios in Kingston. And while country music did not dominate the UK singles chart there was nevertheless a growing appetite as the „70s developed: from Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers to Glen Campbell and Bobbie Gentry, to Lynn Anderson and Faron Young, Dr. Hook and The Eagles, Charlie Rich and John Denver, Tammy Wynette and Billie Jo Spears, Don Williams and Dolly Parton, Jim Stafford and Ray Stevens. Anne Murray and Olivia Newton John were among those who had surprise success with country recordings. As the pop audience matured, settled down, trading in Faces 45s for Charley Pride LPs, country music in the UK had a growing working-class audience in the UK. Ray Davies doffed his cap to it on Muswell Hillbillies. Mike Harding affectionately poked fun at the country faithful on his hit Rochdale Cowboy. And for the singers, it gradually became the default setting pre-disco and postBeatles, Bacharach, bossa. It‟s easy to see the appeal for a singer. They could lose themselves in a song, get lost in a melody and a story, acting out the drama, seeking refuge in an age of glam rock racket. Scott Walker was among the many who embraced country music as the ‟70s progressed. By the time he released Stretch in 1973 the country influence was strong. He wasn't singing his own songs at that time. He was singing Mickey Newbury, Tom T. Hall and Randy Newman songs. Mickey Newbury‟s songs in particular were perfect fits for Scott. He should have sung more Mickey Newbury songs. They were made for him, maybe more so than Jacques Brel‟s if that is not blasphemy. The Mickey Newbury songs were ones he could lose himself in, or sleepwalk through. By 1974‟s We Had It All Scott had immersed himself in the outlaw movement, covering four of the Billie Joe Shaver songs Waylon Jennings recorded for Honky Tonk Heroes. It‟s tempting to imagine Scott‟s daily routine of darts down the pub, The Times crossword, a Clive Egleton thriller, and a close listen to Waylon‟s
records. He had the Waylon voice. And it‟s no coincidence that the born again Walker Brothers‟ hit single in 1976 was a cover of No Regrets which Waylon had sung on Singer of Sad Songs. The Retreat “Simon, the mainman began to retreat. He retreated behind the trumpet and then behind the timbales and then behind a girl singer called Tilly. He just retreated till there was less even than the smile of a Lewis Carroll cat.” Tony Wilson, 24 Hour Party People Scott Walker retreated to a point where in the 1970s for half-a-dozen or so years he didn‟t sing his own songs. So Scott the singer interpreted the songs of others, occasionally brilliantly, sometimes just going through the motions. Why not? The songs were often brilliant. It is hard to fault the choice of material: Jimmy Webb, Morricone and Baez, Henry Mancini, Caetano Veloso, Bill Withers, and all those country numbers. What‟s wrong with a great singer singing great songs? Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, people like that, they never got hung up about singing other people‟s songs. They could take a jazz or pop standard and turn it inside out to make it seem like new. Waylon didn‟t worry about the words not being his own. And nor did his fans. What is really worrying, really odd, is how other singers steered clear of Scott‟s songs. Did that bother him? Did that hurt? Was he relieved? Was he protective of his own? Did the songs just not appeal? They were hardly unknown. He topped the album charts. But his songs weren‟t covered in the way, say, Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, Tim Hardin, Laura Nyro, and so on, had their songs recorded time and again. There are people who will know more about all this. Maybe some of his songs were not for everyone, all the Samuel Beckett bits, but some of them were glorious pop, like Montague Terrace, Always Coming Back To You, It‟s Raining Today, The Bridge, Angels of Ashes, We Came Through, etc. It seems so strange. Why didn‟t more people sing Scott Walker‟s songs? Jackie Trent did, thank god, cover Such a Small Love on her 1969 LP The Look of Love, and she sang it magnificently. She may have left a few lines out, but the slight tweak to the words, the one dress badly pressed and worn, gives a real Jean Rhys feel which adds a whole new dimension to the song. The arrangement is by Bob Leaper, and he creates an imposing orchestral edifice. Jackie is perfectly suited to battle against the tsunami of sound created by the Tony Hatch Orchestra. It‟s an astonishing performance all round. The almost dangerous swell of sound may well be a Bob Leaper trademark, but there is not enough documented about his work. He was a jazz trumpeter and band leader, did a lot with Tony Hatch, and quite a bit with Miki Dallon (Neil Christian, Salamander, Don Fardon), played with Neil Ardley‟s New Jazz Orchestra and that circle. In 1964 Leaper oversaw a set of big band Beatles covers for the Phase 4 Stereo label, while in 1970 his orchestra did a similar project of jazzy big band versions of Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch songs, Try This On For Size. He also did the brass arrangements on Sandy Denny‟s Like an Old Fashioned Waltz. But after that?
Somewhere in between Bob Leaper worked his magic with Long John Baldry, putting together sort of gloriously over-the-top arrangements along similar lines to Such A Small Love, as featured on his exceptional Looking For Long John LP, which fuses the New York big city soul sound with the British big band approach at its all guns blazing best, and is heard most effectively and movingly on Long John‟s rendition of The Drifter, which is as glorious and as moving as Ray Pollard‟s. A Taste of Honey “One eccentric found another” – James Gavin‟s sleeve notes for Esther Ofarim in New York with Bobby Scott and his Orchestra What about Scott the writer? Did he want to write specifically for other performers? Surely that would have had an audience. Why didn‟t it happen? Esther Ofarim singing Long About Now on „Til The Band Comes In springs to mind as the exception. And people tend to be less than gracious about that, all too precious about their dear Scotty. How dare she? Who does she think she is? It gets written off as a favour; they share a manager, nudge, nudge. Por favour. To hell with that. That song needs a feminine voice. It works that way. The LP itself, it works. Scott‟s songs on that LP are great. It‟s like he‟s been listening to Watertown or David Ackles, and gone off and put together these little Raymond Carver type stories, or rather what we would come to know as Raymond Carver style stories. “Outside they sing the war is over”. Like Phil Ochs sang, I believe the war is over. It would have been brilliant if he‟d written more stories for others to enact, but he stopped writing, the songs all gone, for a while. Like Phil Ochs sang. It happens. It happens to us all. Can‟t do it anymore. Can‟t. Like a Raymond Carver character sitting staring out at the rain. So, if Esther and Scott‟s shared manager was so pushy, how come he didn‟t get Esther to sing more Scott songs? After all it‟s suggested that they were lovers. Two beautiful people together. Perfect. Esther is incredibly beautiful: those looks, that voice, the way she used those looks and that voice. There was nothing of her, but there was so much to her. It‟s easy to imagine Scott being in awe of what Esther could do with a song, in English, in Hebrew, in German, in French. She was as hip, as strange, talented, mysterious and gifted as anyone in pop. She sang folk songs exquisitely, for example. She covered Ewan MacColl‟s Dirty Old Town back in 1963 in a voice as pure as Joan Baez or Judy Collins at their revivifying best. In 1965 Esther worked with Bobby Scott on an LP called Is It Really Me? Bobby took her outside of her comfort zone, making an elaborately orchestrated record mainly made up of jazzy pop standards. The record would in 2006 be reissued by Bureau B as Esther Ofarim in New York with Bobby Scott and his Orchestra, and it is very dramatic, very beautiful stuff. Bobby and Esther really gelled together, and came up with an astonishing record. It starts with the old Nat King Cole number To The Ends of the Earth which Tony Middleton would also cover around the same time. There are a number of show tunes and film themes, a couple of Kurt Weill songs, and Bobby‟s own signature tune A Taste of Honey is performed beautifully.
A Taste of Honey, with words added later by Ric Marlow, became a pop standard. But it started out as incidental music by Bobby Scott composed for the Broadway production of Shelagh Delaney‟s play in 1960, starring Angela Lansbury. It‟s tempting to imagine Bobby Scott, Bronx blood and Irish heart, carousing in New York with Shelagh and Brendan Behan, worrying the hell out of Joan Littlewood. That may never have happened. But Bobby seems to have been one hell of a character. He was composing and recording intricate jazz for Bethlehem Records as a kid, following Creed Taylor to ABC-Paramount and Verve, doing a lot with Quincy Jones too, over the years. He was an exceptionally gifted pianist, and sang too, developing a Ray Charles growl, and some of his old recordings have become mod jazz favourites, like his version of Moanin‟, and Don‟t Pay Them No Mind, I Had A Lover, and I Gotta Run Now. Among the compositions he was involved in was In My Tenement, the big city soul classic recorded by Jackie Shane and Roosevelt Grier. What a song! Bobby seems to have had a thing about very special voices. He worked with some big names, sure, Aretha and Bobby Darin, but some of the others are just so special. There was The Song is Paris!, the Jackie Paris 1962 outing for Impulse! Bobby‟s arrangements on that record are truly sublime, and this should have been the record that catapulted Jackie into the big time, it really is that good but it just disappeared and so did Jackie. Then Bobby brought the folk singer Bonnie Dobson to work with him at Mercury, and together they made the 1964 LP For The Love of Him. Mostly Bobby keeps the recordings down to the very bare essentials on this lovely record, which is just Bonnie, her voice and her guitar or what Bobby poetically called her “innate enchantment”. Also in 1964 for Mercury Bobby did the arrangements for The Amazing Timi Yuro, and if ever an LP was aptly titled it is this one. There is something about Bobby‟s arrangements where he manages the make the sound work in 3D or more with the orchestral extravagances operating way behind Timi so there is no danger of her being swept away. It really is wonderful stuff. Bobby‟s also did a fantastic job producing the soundtrack for The Gentle Rain, working with Luiz Bonfa and Eumir Deodato. Bobby also worked on Braziliance, the remarkably beautiful LP Luiz Bonfa made with his wife Maria Toledo in New York in 1965. Maria‟s was another astonishing voice Bobby delighted in working
with, enthusing that she was “a singer of much singularity”. At the time he wrote: “It is difficult to imagine any other singer creating the atmosphere of intimacy as she can. Her soft warm voice literally embraces the listener, and her ease of execution is still wonderment to me.” Unfortunately Bobby Scott and Esther Ofarim did not make another record together. Esther unexpectedly had international success in 1968 which was no doubt horribly unwelcome for a reclusive and very serious singer. At the same time she made a remarkable LP, with Wally Stott among the arrangers, featuring some fascinating selections, including Leonard Cohen songs, God Bless The Child, Moon of Alabama, and Go „Way From My Window. Bobby Scott had some unexpected success of his own at this time when The Hollies had a big hit with He Ain‟t Heavy, He‟s My Brother, a song Bobby had written with the lyricist Bob Russell. The UK hit is positively tame to the Kelly Gordon original (on his Defunked LP) which is surely closer to Bobby Scott's vision, and of course it‟s made better because this is the Kelly Gordon who discovered Bobbie Gentry, produced her, co-wrote That‟s Life which Frank Sinatra got hip to, and produced Bobby Paris‟ I Walked Away and the ridiculously wonderful exaggerated swamp soul LP Bobby Paris made, Let Me Show You The Way. The success of He Ain‟t Heavy must have opened some doors for Bobby Scott. He made an LP as Robert William Scott, wrote a couple of film soundtracks, Slaves (starring Dionne Warwick) and Joe (with a Norman Wexler script) with Jerry Butler doing the singing. He also somehow found himself paired with Sue and Sunny, the exceptionally soulful British-based singing sisters, spectacularly demonstrating that you really do not need to go to Memphis to make a progressive southern soul record. Scott, perhaps characteristically, took things to extremes, exaggerating the gospel elements with numbers like Let Us Break Bread Together and After St. Francis, but in some ways he was tapping into a certain mood, which can be tracked through Ian Green‟s Revelation, the original studio recording of Jesus Christ Superstar, and so on.
Bobby was back in London in 1971 to oversee the recording of Catherine Howe‟s What a Beautiful Place. Again it was a case of two soulmates destined to find one another. Lost at the time, after the record label Reflection folded, but more
recently Catherine‟s debut LP has been revealed as the great recording of the folk rock era following a delightful salvage operation by the excellent Numero Group. The strength of Catherine‟s compositions and the quality of her singing are exceptional, and Bobby‟s orchestral arrangements provide the perfect setting, with his jazzy piano motifs. A moving interview with Catherine on Marc Myers‟ excellent JazzWax site gives a lovely sense of the chemistry that was there between her and Bobby. Unfortunately they didn‟t record together again. Ironically, in London, around the same time, Esther Ofarim was recording an LP with Bob Johnston, a move which showed there was a real belief in what she was doing. Bob, after all, was someone associated with classic recordings by Bob Dylan, Aretha, Simon & Garfunkel, Johnny Cash, Lindisfarne, and so on. The record he made with Esther is, almost inevitably, exquisite, the arrangements just perfect. Her covers of Leonard Cohen songs, as familiar as Suzanne and Hey, That‟s No Way To Say Goodbye may be, are perhaps the best there are. But maybe the highlight of the record is her singing of Gnostic Serenade, the beautiful words of Canadian poet William Hawkins surely taking on their own significance for Esther, the electric guitar sounding curiously Lee Underwood-ish: “And finally we are as the times are, We meet to part & go our separate ways. But I am trapped on this crazy star, I‟ve been a prisoner all of my days.” Some people are known for a particular thing. They are not known for the right reasons. Adult Entertainment “I put on an uptempo disc of the Jazz Messengers with Mr Blakey pushing the others for all he was worth, but she told me to change it because she wasn‟t in the mood for races at that time of night and to put on a pile of LPs that were on the table by the box. I noticed that they were all dreamy vocals by Anita and Miss Christie and a few others of that clan.” Terry Taylor, Baron‟s Court, All Change
I have a weakness for imagining characters from a film or a book taking on a life of their own, beyond the screen or page. Daft, I know, but great fun. So Ian Holm‟s portrayal of Desmond Cussen in Mike Newell‟s Dance With A Stranger. Aw, I love that film. I really do. Shelagh Delaney‟s script is just perfect. And Holm‟s acting, for me, just steals the show, no matter how wonderful Miranda Richardson‟s Ruth Ellis and Rupert Everett‟s David Blakeley are. I imagine Ian as Cussen a year or so after Ruth‟s execution, sitting alone in a London mews flat, sitting there late into the night, the lights off, staring out of the window, unseeing, oblivious to the city lights, working his way through a good bottle of brandy, trying to make sense of what he‟d been involved in, mixed up with, wondering about the damage done, if only, if only, if only. And on the radiogram one record on repeat, playing softly, matching the mood, it is Lita Roza‟s LP, Love is the Answer. Love is the answer? The answer to what? A lot to answer for, more like. Love is the Answer: L.I.T.A. Lita. Love in the Afternoon. That could have been another L.I.T.A. title. But Love is the Answer is the best L.I.T.A. record. The best Lita record. Lita at her smokiest, smouldering, sultry best. Intimate. Oh so intimate. Intimating. Into. To you. To memories. The songs on this L.I.T.A. are not too obvious, but not too esoteric. And Lita‟s taking it slowly, sleepily, lingering, meditative. The true torch touch. Turning the listener inside out, wreaking havoc with the emotions, rubbing salt into the wounds, then applying soothing balm. Lita makes you believe she is hurting, feels things too much, and understands, feels for all those who are hurting too. This is THE Lita record. I‟m with Ian Holm on this one. Or Desmond Cussen. It‟s a record to lose yourself in. Wrap yourself up in.
There was another L.I.T.A. record, slightly earlier and slightly perkier, and not quite sustaining the same mood, so not quite what she sings on Love is the Answer about Can‟t Get Out of This Mood. The other L.I.T.A. record, from 1955, Listening in the After-Hours, was a bit more jazz. It was recorded with the Tony Kinsey Quartet, Bill Le Sage on vibes and piano, Joe Harriott on alto sax. Yeah. That Joe. Freeform, abstract Joe. But here he plays softly, discreetly, often beautifully. It‟s a great record really. The sort of great record that really the Brits weren‟t
supposed to make, as in never really got the hang of making this sort of jazz music. But it‟s beautiful. It could easily be on Bethlehem. It could be part of the Cool School. And yet this was 1955, monochrome set-in-its ways England, and Lita was a popular vocalist, not necessarily a jazz singer. She‟d topped the charts, involuntarily. She‟d fronted the Ted Heath Orchestra, avec élan. She could sing with the best, Jo Stafford or Doris Day. She was as glamorous and exotic as it got in the „50s. She could play it straight, family entertainment, but she could be as moody as Miss Peggy Lee, as misty as Miss Christy, and if need be she could rock as fiercely as Ella Mae Morse. But actually she didn‟t want to sing rock „n‟ roll. She didn‟t want to move with the times. She was about dramatic ballads, The Man in a Raincoat, tales of tough luck, pop noir, involved with the wrong types, up-to-no-good types. Listening to Lita sing torch songs in the after-hours seems an adult form of entertainment. Like Ian Holm or Desmond Cussen. It‟s just not something that the teenage thing would get. And that‟s only fair. The older generation needs something. Something of its own. This is underlined by Jeffrey Kruger, the man behind the Flamingo, the oh so important jazz venue in the heart of London, who‟d almost accidentally expanded into releasing records through his Ember label which he succeeded in getting John Barry to head up for a while. If you own a record company you have a right to indulge yourself, and so Jeffrey persuaded Lita Roza to resume recording in 1963 and make an LP for Ember: Lita Roza Sings Love Songs for Night People. Love Songs for Night People. The title echoes June Christy‟s 1959 set Ballads for Night People, but it is actually the perfect partner to the record June made in 1963, The Intimate Miss Christy, where she is accompanied by guitar, bass, and Bud Shank on flute. On her glowing Ember set Lita was accompanied by Brian Dee and a small jazz group, just piano, guitar, bass and drums playing softly. On these records both singers sound as though they‟re somehow with you in the very same room, singing just for you, and you alone. Both sing Misty for us. Both were out of fashion. But there would always be tough men with soft centres who need to hear records like these. The highlight of Lita‟s record is a particularly desolate rendition of In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning , a song so closely associated with Sinatra, but Lita purloins it, lives it. It‟s easy to imagine Lita‟s life, time alone, listening to one of Sinatra‟s themed LPs, sitting alone in a London flat, sitting there late into the night, the lights off, staring out of the window, unseeing, oblivious to the city lights, softly singing along: “While the world is fast asleep, you lie awake ...”
Gipsy in my Soul “Anything you might want to know about Annie can be heard in her singing save for possibly related facts that she cooks divine pork chops with apple sauce, is incapable of arriving anywhere on time, can go through desperate bouts of feeling utterly unsure of herself, loves London, particularly the part by the quiet churchyard of St Anne‟s, Soho, comes from a family of Scottish music-hall troupers, smokes rasping French Gitane cigarettes, adores black Wedgwood, was born in Surrey in 1930 and is always looking for recipes that include a wide deployment of garlic.” Daniel Halperin‟s sleevenotes for Annie Ross Sings a Song with Mulligan, 1958 Details. Details. Details. The devil is in the detail. Bedevilled by detail. Drawn to the small print, the footnotes. So, Daniel Halperin? Danny Halperin? Was this the same Danny Halperin that pops up in White Bicycles? The dapper gentleman showing Joe Boyd where to get the best espresso in Soho? Is this the same Danny Halperin who as a critic wrote so enthusiastically about Chris McGregor‟s Blue Notes soon after they moved to London? Tell me about Danny. In Christopher Logue‟s memoir Prince Charming he describes returning from Paris in 1956, walking through Soho and being hailed from a window by Danny Halperin, a Canadian journalist and friend from Café de Tournon days a few years earlier. The flat Danny was in was where Annie Ross lived (presumably the one she shared with modern jazz man Tony Crombie on Old Compton Street, as mentioned in Pip Granger‟s Up West). Also with Danny and Annie in the flat that day was Kenneth Tynan. For Colin Wilson, writing in The Angry Years, the significance of this episode was the sparks struck as Tynan met Logue for the first time. He may be right. He may not be. Danny Halperin and Kenneth Tynan, intriguingly, both wrote sleevnotes for recordings by Annie Ross. Halperin described Annie as “the consistently Merlinesque Miss Ross”. Merlin, coincidentally or not, was the literary magazine Christopher Logue contributed to in Paris, with Alexander Trocchi, Samuel Beckett, and many other writers of the time. Tynan wrote the sleevenotes for Annie‟s 1956 LP, Annie by Candlelight, recorded with Tony Crombie‟s 4-Tet. It features The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, something of a signature tune for Annie, as she recorded it back in 1952 with what would be MJQ personnel and Blossom Dearie on piano, and in 1957 with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. Tynan wrote: “At her best she sings the way Franḉoise Sagan writes, in a fallen and angelic manner which is at once her trademark and her secret. Nobody in Britain is likelier to change the course of modern jazz.” Annie by Candlelight is a great record. Crombie is excellent at the piano, and Annie is looser, more raw, more black sounding than the UK jazz norm of the time. Around the same time Annie acquired a certain amount of fame as part of the cast of the West End revue Cranks, alongside Anthony Newley, Hugh Bryant, and Gilbert Vernon. It was a very unconventional production for the time, new wave in a way, put together by choreographer John Cranko, with music by John
Addison who would later compose for John Osborne‟s The Entertainer and films such as A Taste of Honey and Smashing Time.
Cranks‟ abstract approach must have been a bit of a shock to the system at the time, a breath of fresh air, a show that was smart, sophisticated, irreverent, and daring. It‟s easy to see how it would have influenced Newley‟s later thinking for Stop The World I Want To Get Off and Gurney Slade. Among the factors that make it seem hip now are the clothes the cast wore, slimline slacks and shirts from Vince, the men‟s outfitters run by Bill Green in Newburgh Street, just off Carnaby Street, predating that particular boom by several years, a shop that has a special place in Nik Cohn‟s 1971 book Today There Are No Gentleman: The Changes in Englishmen‟s Clothes Since the War. In November 1956 Cranks transferred briefly to New York, where it wasn‟t a success despite Ed Sullivan enthusing about the show and presenting a preview of a few numbers on his TV programme. Thankfully that piece of film has been preserved, and allows us a glimpse of the cool pleasures Cranks offered. The Sepia label has also issued the original London cast recording on CD, highlighting how offbeat and jazz-influenced the production was. That Sepia CD also collects together some stray Annie Ross recordings from the same era, some of which were with the Tony Crombie Orchestra in 1955. These include a fantastic rendition of Cry Me a River, and some more rockin‟ jumpin‟ bluesy material, including The Fish, which Big Mama Thornton recorded, and Ruth Brown‟s Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean, the song that changed Dave Godin‟s life in 1953 when he heard it on a jukebox in south east London as a kid. Crombie would later record a stunningly savage version with Lita Roza for Jeffrey Kruger‟s Ember label in 1962 which by all accounts she hated. Another song Annie sang with Tony Crombie back in 1955 was the Jon Hendricks number I Want You To Be My Baby which Louis Jordan popularised in 1953 and Billie Davis would have a minor UK hit with much later, in 1968. Ironically within a few years Annie Ross would be singing with Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert.
Time Gentlemen Please! On 4 May 1960 Lita Roza recorded a live LP at the Prospect of Whitby, a Thameside public house in Wapping. She was backed by a top drawer jazz lineup, led by Johnny Keating, and featuring Lita‟s husband Ronnie Hughes on trumpet, Ronnie Ross on sax, Kenny Napper on bass, and Dave Lee on piano. Despite the dreadful title (Drinka Lita Roza Day) and the terrible sleeve, it is an exceptional record. Lita leans heavily on the Great American Songbook. Ellington, Berlin, Wilder, Gershwin, Strayhorn, Porter, Arlen, and Harburg all feature among the credits. And this time Lita sings the ballads with gusto, brio, and the band plays jazz, the audience applauds politely, and it‟s wonderful, delightful, as good as Peggy Lee, June Christy, Chris Connor, that good, that classy. This was not Queenie Watts ripping it up in Sparrows Can‟t Sing. And there‟s no concession to pop. But who was there? Probably no one who just happened to wander in, presumably not curious locals. Probably more the sort of crowd who might venture out to Joan Littlewood‟s Theatre Workshop productions at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. Cultural tourists. Maybe some of the Theatre Workshop singers and players were actually there? There surely would have been some of the old Soho jazz crowd present. The older, more sophisticated jazz crowd. Generally, the crowd would have been well-dressed, ties, suits, pearls, bouffants, shift dresses. Urbane. Smoking heavily. Drinking shorts. High spirits. A sense of occasion. I‟m making this up.. You can tell.
Some people you would hope were there. Some people you would really rather hope were not there. It is tempting to imagine among the audience Stanley Baker, Lionel Bart, Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine, James Booth, Barbara Windsor and Dan Farson, but that probably says more about me. Maybe Troy, the police inspector out of John Lawton‟s excellent books was there, back on his old patch, keeping an eye on the lowlife living the high life, irredeemably mesmerised by Lita singing What is There to Say? And Lita, the lovely Lita, she was what in her mid-30s when she made this recording? This was what she liked doing. She didn‟t feel the need to adapt. She didn‟t want to be a chameleon like Petula. She was prepared to opt out. And maybe I‟m dreaming, making up my own fantasies, but I seem to recall someone writing about visiting Lita years later in her Mayfair flat, or somewhere like that, somewhere elegant, and she is so elegant too, surrounded by canvases, abstract art that she had painted to amuse herself. I hope that‟s true.
Loneliness is Like a Disease “Loneliness is the disease of lady singers.” - Annie Ross, Glasgow Herald, 1979
When in 1962 Annie Ross needed to escape from the limelight, life in Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, she came back to London. That same year she made an LP for Transatlantic of songs that were being performed in cabaret at The Establishment Club, Peter Cook‟s and Nicholas Luard‟s place on Greek Street, by Carole Simpson with the Brian Dee Trio. Annie was backed on her record by the Tony Kinsey Quartet, and the lyrics were written by Christopher Logue. Logue credits Danny Halperin for introducing him to jazz while in Paris. In his memoir Logue mentions how later he heard the Jazz Canto LP, overseen by Lawrence Lipton and William Claxton, and was very taken with Bob Dorough‟s treatment of the Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem Dog. Excited by the idea of combining jazz and poetry he put to the BBC the idea of doing a radio programme which they agreed to. Together with the Tony Kinsey Quintet he put together a selection of poetry and jazz, Red Bird Dancing on Ivory, and then George Martin followed this up with the idea of doing an EP on Parlophone. Logue‟s poem Be Not Too Hard would also later be sung by Donovan in the film Poor Cow and by Joan Baez. Be not too hard, for life is short, And nothing is given to man; Be not too hard when he is sold and bought, And he must manage as best he can; Be not too hard when he blindly dies Fighting for things he does not own; And be not too hard when he tells lies, Or his heart is sometimes like a stone; Be not too hard, for soon he'll die, Often no wiser than he began; Be not too hard, for life is short, And nothing is given to man. In 1963 Annie Ross recorded an LP, A Handful of Songs, for Jeffrey Kruger‟s Ember label. It was produced by John Barry, and featured a stunning Gered Mankowitz
photo on the cover. Accompaniment was by the Johnny Spence Orchestra. This was the same team that worked with Matt Monro on From Russia with Love. And it‟s tempting to imagine this LP of Annie‟s the late-night listening choice of a Bond style character, mixing another Martini, contemplating life, or closer to home the choice of a Jeffrey Kruger, escaping from the music being played down at the Flamingo under Rik Gunnell‟s management. The highlight of this LP is Annie‟s steamy Love For Sale, delivered in a voice that feels suitably lived-in, but which still has a lot of living to do. On this record Annie sings it straight, no detours, no scatting, no tricks, just songs from the heart. By 1964 Annie was fronting a supper club/cabaret venture in Russell Street, Covent Garden, called Annie‟s Room. She ran it with her new husband, the actor Sean Lynch who delivers the commentary on the Jean Luc Godard/Rolling Stones film One Plus One (or Sympathy for the Devil). It was a sort of after-hours club which was open for around eighteen months before becoming a gambling establishment. Lots of the top performers appeared there, including Timi Yuro. There is a great piece by Michael Walters in the Glasgow Herald from February 1965 which describes a night in Annie‟s Room: “Most of the faces in the audience seem familiar from some time on television or films”. Alan Haven on organ and Tony Crombie on drums start off the evening‟s entertainment, then the Tony Kinsey Quintet perform “serving punchy modern jazz”. And then the jazz singer Mark Murphy appears, and this would have been not too long after he had released his LP Mark Time! which featured arrangements by Johnny Dankworth, Tubby Hayes and Les Reed all trying to outdo one another. The description of him in his crew-neck jumper suggests the cover of his Immediate LP a little later.
London. Jazz. 1960. The trad. boom. Modernists. Different camps. Different threads. History has dwelt more on the costumes than the singers and players. Elaine Delmar was a young British jazz singer making her recording debut in 1960. She made an EP, supervised by the great Denis Preston in his Lansdowne studios, with the Dill Jones Trio, and Victor Feldman guesting on vibes while on a fleeting visit back to London after making a name for himself in the States. Elaine was born into British jazz royalty, which may have opened a few doors and made it tough for her in other ways. Her father was Lesley „Jiver‟ Henderson, who became a firm family favourite having been one of the earliest of jazz musicians to move to the UK from the Caribbean. Elaine‟s debut EP was released on the Metronome label, as part of the Lansdowne Jazz Series. It didn‟t make her a star. But she stuck at it, working the clubs, doing some stage work, making more records. A 1963 single featuring Elaine with the Ken Jones Orchestra performing Oscar Brown Jr‟s Hum Drum Blues is one of the very greatest examples of British mod jazz ever made. Elaine also sang with Ken Jones‟ big band on a 1964 jazz tribute to William Shakespeare, Strike Up The Bard, which prominently featured Shake Keane. 1964 marked Shakespeare‟s 400th birthday, and there was a more famous Shakespeare jazz set released that year, the exceptional Shakespeare and All That Jazz by Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine who in fairness had been playing with similar ideas over the preceding decade or so.
Sticking with Denis Preston and the Lansdowne Jazz Series, Elaine made a couple of LPs very firmly rooted in the jazz world. One was a collection of songs from the
Alec Wilder songbook, while the other, La Belle Elaine, was perhaps even more perverse, being simply Elaine singing with the piano accompaniment of Colin Beaton. It is for its time quite shockingly stark, very much out of step with the late „60s musical climate, but perhaps all the better for being so bold. It was on moving to CBS and working with Geoff Heath that Elaine got to make an LP more in keeping with the times, Sneakin‟ Up On You. It was the sort of sophisticated pop record you would expect: stylish, elegant, classy. It featured modern pop compositions, show tunes, and film themes. Pretty much what you might expect. But, but, but. There was no Beatles or Bacharach. There was no Tony Hatch or Teddy Randazzo. No Anthony Newley or Michel Legrand. There, however, was a bit of Bart and bossa, a lovely Where is Love? and a beautiful version of Jobim‟s Come For a Dream with lyrics reinvented by Norma Tanega, which Dusty did too. The title track is a Chip Taylor modern classic, and his Shadow of the Evening is featured too. And among the more unexpected selections is Calvin Floyd‟s film theme Champagne Rose, and for those bothered by details this is presumably the film maker Cal Floyd mentioned in connection with the voices used on George Russell‟s Electric Sonata Loved By Nature. Herbert Kretzmer features among the credits a couple of times. The seductive What Love Can Do comes from the musical The Four Musketeers by Kretzmer and the very great Laurie Johnson. Kretzmer is one of those fascinating figures that makes exploring musical history so rewarding. He is a theatre critic, journalist, now best known for writing the English lyrics for Les Miserables. But he‟s done so much more. With Dave Lee he wrote Goodness Gracious Me and Bangers and Mash for Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren, and they wrote topical material ondemand for That Was The Week That Was too, came up with Kinky Boots. Kretzmer also wrote the lyrics for Anthony Newley‟s fantastic fin-de-„60s folly Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? Recently released recordings of Newley‟s demos for Heironymous Merkin highlight how, stripped of context, the songs from the film really are of the highest quality, particularly numbers like Lullaby and Chalk and Cheese. Kretzmer remained friends with Newley until the end. Someone else he has maintained close connections is Charles Aznavour, for whom he has „reinvented‟ English lyrics for many years, including She and Yesterday When I Was Young. Kretzmer was playing piano in Paris bars when he met Aznavour, which is rather perfect when you think of Shoot The Pianist.
After Sneakin‟ Up On You there were further attempts at cracking the singles charts. A 1970 single with the great Ian Green doing the arrangements was followed by one with Alan Hawkshaw. This paired a great slinky cover of the Teddy Randazzo song Hurt So Bad with a version of The Train from Frank Sinatra‟s then very recent Watertown. And though Elaine did not hit the top of the charts she did at least become a familiar face on television variety shows, the archives of which reveal treasures like Elaine singing Michel Legrand‟s What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life? on The Two Ronnies in 1972 and Esther Ofarim singing Long About Now on The Rolf Harris Show in 1971. Elaine also appeared in the Ken Russell film, Mahler, and has continued determinedly to carve out a unique niche for herself in the jazz world, often appearing and performing with Brian Dee.
She’s Not a Replacement “Asked about audience reaction to Yolande, who chanced to meet the trio during their recent London engagement, Hendricks comments: „We‟re getting the same enthusiastic response we got when we first started – even more so. She (Yolande) not only saved our career, but gave it a boost. She‟s not a replacement, she‟s a star.” - Jet, 31 May 1962 The Moondog and Suncat Suites by Kenny Graham and his Satellites, featuring a great line-up including Stan Tracey, Phil Seamen, Danny Moss, Vic Ash and Martin Slavin, when it was released on CD by the Trunk label turned many people‟s ideas about British jazz on their head. There was nothing stiff and starchy about this recording. And the more that could be pieced together about Kenny Graham, his Afro-Cubists, his score for The Small World of Sammy Lee, his Australian Suite composed for Ted Heath‟s Orchestra, and so on, the more he seemed to have been a force for good in the British jazz world. Also featured on The Moondog and Suncat Suites is the “instrumentalising voice of Ceylonese singer Yolanda”. I love “instrumentalising” vocals. Wordless singing. Interestingly Esther Ofarim talking about her record with Bobby Scott says how she hated that style, and didn‟t want to come over all Yma Sumac-esque singing Earthquake, but he helpfully threatened to break her neck if she didn‟t. She sang it. Thank goodness. But who was Yolanda?
Is it being too bold to assume this was the same Yolanda who recorded With This Kiss for Joe Meek on the Triumph label in 1960? Joe was, after all, working for Denis Preston at Lansdowne studios and engineered The Moondog and Suncat Suites. So there was a connection between Joe and Yolanda. In that case, it is then safe to assume this was the same Yolanda that was part of the original London cast of the New Cranks revue in 1960 which John Cranko put together, with music by Dave Lee and Bernard Cribbins among those taking part. And if it this Yolanda then we are talking about the singer who would become known as Yolande Bavan and who in 1962 was invited to take on Annie Ross‟ role in singing with Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert, much to her surprise. She sang as part of Lambert, Hendricks and Bavan for a few years, often singing numbers where Jon had fitted words to jazz instrumentals, like Yeh Yeh in the form which Georgie Fame would go on to popularise. There are clips and photos in circulation of Yolande singing in LH&B, wearing her trademark sari, giving a sense that the guys made a very right decision in asking her to join. There is a fantastic interview with Yolande Bavan on the JazzWax site where she tells her story, about growing up in Ceylon/Sri Lanka, discovering jazz through her father, becoming a singer, moving to London, getting involved with the progressives on the modern jazz scene like Tubby Hayes, hanging out in Paris with Marpessa Dawn before she appeared in Black Orpheus with that unforgettable soundtrack by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa. Yolande was also befriended by Billie Holiday, and some of her stories about Billie‟s final days are among the most insightful and moving you will find. There is a wonderful photo of Billie and Yolande taken at The Lyttelton Club (100 Club) in 1959, the evening after a TV performance Billie recorded. Yolande had acted as Billie‟s chaperone all through that day, helping her get through the recording. A few months later Billie was dead.
Yolande did quite a bit of acting while she was in London, on TV, on radio, and on the stage. She was in the 1962 Tony Richardson production of A Midsummer‟s Night Dream at the Royal Court Theatre, along with Colin Blakely, Rita Tushingham, Lynn Redgrave, Ronnie Barker, James Bolam and Samantha Eggar. John Addison provided the music for that. Yolande also appeared at the Royal Court in 1961 in Jean Genet‟s The Blacks, with the programme notes describing how she likes to read Eastern philosophy and Chinese verse in her spare time.
Among Yolande‟s TV appearances was the 1961 ATV drama The Day of the Fox by Guyanese writer Jan Carew, which had Sammy Davis Jr among its cast. Sadly there seem to be no surviving prints of this production. Despite being much loved within the jazz community Yolande does not seem to have recorded often after leaving LH&B. Her crowning glory, however, is as the featured vocalist on the extraordinary record by Peter Ivers‟ Band, Knight of the Blue Communion, which came out in 1969 and was produced by the legendary Sandy Linzer who was part of the 4 Seasons‟ circle. This was a one-off collaboration where Yolande is showcased among a wonderful mix of progressive jazz and blues-influenced rock elements, at times echoing what Karin Krog was doing with Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal and other young Nordic jazz musicians. Yolande sounds quite alarmingly Eartha Kitt-enish at times on this record, and completely steals the show, without resorting to Tim Buckley style squawks and wails for dramatic effect. She doesn‟t need to. Tony Ackerman‟s guitar on this record is also fantastic, and interestingly he would later play quite a bit in Europe, particularly in Czechoslovakia with Martin Kratochvil who had been involved in similar experiments where progressive rock met free jazz when his group Jazz Q recorded with Blue Effect.
Symbiosis Cleo Laine was undoubtedly the modern queen, the empress of British jazz who became a national treasure, conquering all media, from the high brow to the light entertainment variety shows. But oddly she has had little success on the hit parade. Her first hit, Let‟s Slip Away, only just tickled the Top 40 in December 1960. The song itself, composed by Johnny Dankworth with David Dearlove, was from the film of Alan Sillitoe‟s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, directed by Karel Reisz and produced by Tony Richardson. Richardson used a snippet of the song again in the film of A Taste of Honey which he directed. The flipside of Let‟s Slip Away, was another film theme, Thieving Boy, which Dankworth co-wrote with Alun Owen. It was from the 1960 Joseph Losey film The Criminal, starring Stanley Baker, for which Alun had written the tough script. His metier was really writing social realism for television, but he diversified, writing the libretto for Lionel Bart‟s musical Maggie May and the script for A Hard Day‟s Night.
Cleo sang All Gone, another of Johnny Dankworth‟s haunting compositions (the words provided by Harold Pinter) for Losey‟s 1964 masterpiece The Servant. Between The Criminal and The Servant there had been Eva, Losey‟s astonishing work starring Jeanne Moreau and Stanley Baker. The score was by Michel Legrand, another of Losey‟s favoured composers. The accent is very much on jazz, fittingly so for a film where one of the many memorable scenes is Jeanne Moreau as Eva with a portable record player and Billie Holiday singing Willow Weep For Me. It is Jeanne as Eva who torments a Welsh writer played by Stanley Baker, another of Losey‟s favourite, appearing in The Criminal and Accident too. Baker is fascinating. He could have been Bond but is really too tough, too scary, too intense. He was also a committed socialist. Details matter.
The theme song from Eva is Tony Middleton singing Adam and Eve, a very dramatic bluesy number. Middleton was exiled in Paris at the time, trying to get a break, working with another escapee Mickey Baker among other things. He has since been claimed by the Northern Soul community where some of his „60s recordings are rightly revered. John Anderson‟s Grapevine label gave some of Middleton‟s soul sides a new lease of life. Many of us will have discovered Tony‟s recording of the old Nat King Cole hit To The Ends of the Earth via the Grapevine compilation, This is Northern Soul. The label also put out Tony‟s classic Paris Blues on a single. This was not a song connected with the 1961 film starring Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier, an exemplary study in cool, but it was a perfectly apt number for Tony to sing. He was a highly-rated singer, too. Burt Bacharach was a fan, and got him in to sing My Little Red Book. Tony was versatile: “You want me to do a Ben E King or a Ray Charles? Boogaloo or ballad? Fine.” But it is these two mid-„60s soul 45s on which he really excelled: To The Ends of the Earth coupled with Don‟t Ever Leave Me, and Paris Blues coupled with Out of This World. Both 45s were arranged and produced by Claus Ogerman, and they are spectacular examples of what Kent Records codified as the Big City Soul Sound of NYC on one of their incredible mid-„60s collections, soul sides as wonderful as Jimmy Radcliffe‟s Long After Tonight is All Over and Ray Pollard‟s The Drifter. Claus Ogerman is yet another of those fascinating figures active within the New York music scene of the „60s. He moved to the States at the end of the „50s, got involved with Creed Taylor, worked on many Verve recordings. He also arranged Mel Tormé‟s hit and very hip version of the Bob Dorough/Ben Tucker number I‟m Coming Home, which rapidly became a new pop standard. He worked on so many records, things like Shawn Elliott‟s version of Anthony Newley‟s The Joker which became another Northern Soul favourite. He made records of his own, tapping into whatever was going on and adding his own twist. His Latin Rock LP is great fun for fans of hip, easy listening big band latin excursions, possibly a byproduct of working with Cal Tjader and Eddie Palmieri.
The opening track on Latin Rock is a boogaloo take on Tequila. Tequila also opened an LP Claus scored for Wes Montgomery for Creed Taylor at Verve. That Wes set follows the very useful formula of the time, which was take a jazz virtuoso, get them to perform some of the more appealing new pop standards, add a sympathetic orchestral setting, and put the LP out there for the urban sophisticates to use as background sounds. And Ogerman had a fantastic, unusually light touch with his orchestral arrangements. Another classic Verve recording from that era that Ogerman directed was Voices by Stan Getz from the end of 1966. A great small group is featured with Getz, featuring Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall, Ron Carter and Grady Tate, and in the place of strings on this occasion a choir is used as an orchestra by Claus to add colour and depth. He does a similar conjuring trick on a gorgeous version of The Look of Love on an LP made in 1967 of Getz playing songs from the Bacharach and David songbook. Richard Evans did most of the arrangements on that particular record. Ogerman also provided fantastic orchestral arrangements for a 1965 LP with the Bill Evans Trio which divides fans of the great pianist‟s work. The feel is not too far removed from the light music that arrangers like Wally Stott and Ron Goodwin were grounded in, with Evans‟ trio playing perfectly to make a wonderful whole. And it is a gorgeous recording. Ogerman‟s symphonic setting is suitably sympathetic, and Evans was said to be very fond of this work. He did, after all, work with Ogerman again on the 1974 LP Symbiosis which is extraordinary. It‟s very much of its time, with intricate compositions, ambitious arrangements, elements of free jazz and funk, electric piano mixed with the traditional instrument form. That phrase about the “elimination of anything unnecessary”, it could
almost be a definition of what the early boss nova revolution was supposed to be about in Brazil. Almost inevitably, working on so many titles for Verve, Claus Ogerman got involved with the recording of some of the Brazilian greats. He worked with Antonio Carlos Jobim on Wave and A Certain Mr Jobim, then best of all he did the arrangements for the monumental Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, which was recorded early in 1967, and those sessions were recorded quite perfectly. Ogerman‟s role on these sessions was pivotal, both as arranger and conductor, and he could so easily
have ruined the whole thing, but his musical setting is spot-on, very restrained, elegantly understated, like the singers‟ own performances. Ogerman seems to have understood exactly what to leave out. Back to that again.
I don‟t know if Ogerman ever worked with Tony Middleton again. Tony did work with Burt Bacharach again, duetting with Cissy Houston on I Come To You, on Burt‟s 1973 LP Living Together. The song was a version of a number from the Bacharach & David soundtrack for Lost Horizon, which was not their most rapturously received work and marked the end of the road for the partnership and in many ways the end of an era. Unravelling In the early „70s Michel Legrand was big news. His soundtracks were successes, in every sense: Ice Station Zebra, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Go-Between, Le Mans, Summer of ‟42, etc. Some of his songs were rapidly becoming contemporary pop standards. Most popular singers would feature selections from the Legrand songbook in their repertoire. Bobby Scott said that as a composer and arranger Legrand was up there with him and Quincy Jones. People took to his songs. Scott Walker was among those that sang Legrand. He sang Legrand beautifully. With the Walker Brothers he sang I Will Wait For You. And later he sang the love theme from The Go-Between, I Still See You, and put it out as a single. And Scott sang Bergman. People get excited about that. Ooh Bergman. The Seventh Seal. All of that jazz. But he sang the Bergmans‟ words too. On 1970‟s „Til The Band Comes In. Words by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Music by Michel Legrand. What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life? from The Happy Ending. Then on The Moviegoer (and was that title a nod to Walker Percy?) the song choices include two Legrand/Bergman collaborations, The Summer Knows and A Face in the Crowd. Legrand at the start of the „70s seems to have been incredibly productive. Beyond the film scores he actually took part in some intriguing projects. He directed, arranged and conducted a couple of LPs where he explored the Legrand songbook. One, in 1971, was by Jack Jones. The other, in 1972, was by Sarah Vaughan. Both are fascinating and utterly fantastic records. They are very odd records in their way. Legrand‟s own take on his compositions was more daring, but then that‟s why he wrote what he did. Those LPs. They are special. There‟s no I Will Wait For You or Watch What Happens, neither of which were hits in the UK but both songs became so well-known, almost by osmosis, as if they were carried on the breeze and breathed in. The Jack Jones record is strange. It‟s pretty desolate for the most part, disconsolate, downbeat, non-demonstrative. But then it was the start of the „70s. The party‟s over. The hangover begins. There is a sense of vicious melancholy about this record, something it shares with a lot of films and books of the time. Jerry Ross tells a tale of how around that time he got given the job of producing
Jack Jones for RCA. He got Claus Ogerman in to do the arrangements, chose the songs, including the Randazzo/Pike number I Didn‟t Count on Love. But Jack came in, all disheartened, walked through a couple of takes, and left. That was that. But with the Legrand project he seems to be really into what‟s going on. Maybe it was the honour of being the first person to record a set of Legrand songs in this way.
When Jack Jones sings Michel Legrand he sounds peculiarly like Scott Walker, which is ironic as Jack Jones is often cited as a major influence on Scott‟s style of singing. Jack was five years older, the epitome of easy listening elegance. A perfect snapshot is Jack Jones in a tuxedo and bow tie singing Bacharach & David‟s Wives and Lovers, clicking his fingers, self-assured, suavely crooning. Easy on the eye. Easy on the ear. A particular favourite of suburban sophisticates. The guys want to be like him. The ladies want him. The whirl of light entertainment, from The Sands in Las Vegas to The Talk of the Town in London. Jack didn‟t have any hit singles in the UK, but in the early „70s his LPs sold well (but not the Legrand one) and he was often on TV. With Jack on the box there was always a sense of amusement. Jack Jones as in cockney rhyming slang for alone, on your ownsome. And Jack Jones as in the trades union leader, the feared head of the Transport & General Workers, one of the most powerful people in Britain, a one-time anti-fascist fighter. Into the „70s Jack the singer was perhaps straining at the leash, keen to loosen-up, grow his hair, go casual, put on a denim shirt and jeans, try some new material, do something different. The Legrand LP was the first in a series of themed LPs Jack recorded. He also recorded sets of Bread songs and Charles Aznavour ones. So, yes, Scott and Jack. Scott even wrote a song about Jack‟s dad. Sort of. Jolson and Jones. Al Jolson and Allan Jones. You can understand the link between the way Scott sings and Jack‟s approach. Sort of. Walker and Jones. They were always more modern day crooners than, say, jazz singers like Mark Murphy. Matt Monro and Andy Williams were crooners, too, of course. Great singers. But they were more homely. They didn‟t have the exoticism of Walker and Jones. They didn‟t have the strangeness of Mark Murphy, come to that. Of the songs Jack Jones sang on his Legrand set The Windmills of my Mind was the well-known number, but generally it was not a radio-friendly collection. But
then again it wasn‟t overtly experimental, arthouse fodder. It was a consummately professional performance, and if Legrand set the tone then Jack caught the mood perfectly, and was prepared to play it downbeat, beaten down. Sinatra had issued Watertown, a weary set of sketches, it had been released a little bit earlier, and if it‟s true hardly anyone bought it then you can at least be sure his fellow singers gave it a good listen. And if Sinatra could do conceptual works again, then it‟s worth a go. Bet that is what Jack thought.
The Sarah Vaughan sings Legrand set is a very different affair. Naturally it has more of a big band cinemascope production, and Michel Legrand the jazz man indulges himself. Sarah was enjoying a new lease of life in the early „70s. Her „60s were probably not much fun. But at the start of the „70s she was reinvented, reinvigorated, and reunited with Bob Shad whom she knew from the „50s and her imperious days at Mercury/EmArcy. Shad was by then running his own Mainstream label, and he released a series of LPs by the born-again Sarah, with hip material, adventurous arrangements, and a new look for Sarah, Afro, robes and kaftans, beads and psychedelic colours. The look suited her. For the LP A Time In My Life, the first in this series, Sarah was paired with Ernie Wilkins, who also oversaw the amazing Alice Clark LP for Mainstream around the same time. Sarah‟s song selections included Marvin‟s Inner City Life, Cat Stevens‟ Trouble, Bob Dylan‟s If Not For You, John Sebastian‟s Magical Connection, and Universal Prisoner which was written by the Lewis Sisters and recorded by Eddie Harris and Les McCann. What a great selection that is. That LP also included a version of Sweet Gingerbread Man, the playful number by Michel Legrand and the Bergmans, at once charmingly child-like and very adult in its theme, adopted by Sammy Davis Jr. along with its twin, the Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse composition, The Candy Man. Sweet Gingerbread Man also appears right at the end of the Jack Jones/Michel Legrand set, out of step with the rest of the LP, making it seem redemptive: “Can‟t think of rainy weather now, finally got myself together now”. And thus the listener is ultimately spared the embarrassing spectacle of unexpected depression: “Hey, playboy, get back to your ring-a-ding-dinging”. Of the ten songs on Jack‟s record, four recur on Sarah‟s: What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?, I Will Say Goodbye, Pieces of Dreams, and Blue, Green, Grey
and Gone. Sarah‟s Legrand set, however, really is a contrast to Jack‟s. It‟s far more flamboyant and opulent. The sound is all-enveloping. The mood is dramatic, outrageously operatic, with Sarah swooping, pouncing: “Now I‟m an eagle, a panther, a gazelle, a grizzly”. The performance of Hands of Time from Brian‟s Song is exceptional, with the choral vocal support being a beautiful touch. And on Pieces of Dreams Sarah is sensational, one moment massaging with a velvet touch then turning dangerously volcanic. It‟s easy to imagine Legrand in the studio, conducting, vigorously, manicly, dancing like a dervish as he listens back to the recordings. And then what? An LP with Stan Getz. Yeah. And his piece-de-resistance, his own orchestral reinventions of his compositions on the exceptional Themes and Variations. But first there‟s a plane to catch, down to Rio, to appear in a TV spectacular with Elis Regina ...
She Sang Songs in French “And the songs. "Existential"?? Nick: „That song is about arty Europe and capitalist America, and it's done tongue-in-cheek French detective style. The reason it was done in French though was because of the sound of the music ... a bass riff. Our bass player was listening to Ornette Coleman ... and I was watching French detective movies - raincoats and beatniks. I'd also stolen a tape from the bookshop where I worked - a tape of a Francoise Sagan book, A Certain Smile - the true existentialist love affairs!‟" – pragVec interviewed by Ian Penman, October 1978
A book. A film. A song. Or two. Give us a clue. The song. Thirteen syllables. Not counting quotation and exclamation marks. The syrupy, strangely funky Metal Postcard harshness. The mysterious story. Like several Scars songs. They told good stories. Edinburgh mon amour. Closer to Paris than Glasgow. Those old State Arts t-shirts. The lady with a gun. That was for their Love Song. Another story. This one, though. Where did it come from? An abandoned book? A French film blurred late at night on BBC2? Who knows? Wouldn‟t want to ask, anyway. Fifteen or so years later. A lifetime, it seems. A paperback in a Harvill edition. Sebastien Japrisot‟s 1966 novel. La Dame dans l‟auto avec des lunettes et un fusil. An entertainment by the French Graham Greene who did J.D. Salinger translations. The book that became a 1970 Anatole Litvak film, starring Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed. I‟ve still not seen it all. The sort of film they don‟t show on TV anymore. But I bet the way things are now many are familiar with the Michel Legrand score, one of his jazzy, swinging best, with Petula Clark singing Je Roule, the killer theme. She sings it in English too, but somehow that doesn‟t connect in quite the same way. There is just something about Petula singing in French. The story goes, and it‟s one told so often, that Pet was on the verge of giving up singing for English-speaking audiences, happy to concentrate on her thriving French market, when Tony Hatch reluctantly pulled an unfinished Downtown out of his hat. The whole thing about the love affair between Petula and France is fascinating. She‟s great doing an early French reinterpretation of what would become the Bacharach & David standard Anyone Who Had a Heart, and her Needles And Pins in French is as sexy as anything. And there are so many examples like that, going back to the start of the decade where she‟s recording far more beat or rhythm & blues oriented material than she would have been „allowed‟ to put out in the UK. The whole French experience must have been really liberating for Petula. A chance to do more daring material, shake off a staid image, write some things of her own, perform with people like Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg and have them write specifically for her. And this is the great bit, because with her new lease of life after stopping the traffic Downtown she kept on recording songs specifically for the French audience, ones she would not have got away with elsewhere, like her own Secret Agent spy send-up, and Serge‟s Les Incorruptibles. Who else from England was singing Serge‟s songs at the time?
... your heart out
... with the times