Tag Archives: 1966

Rocks In The Attic #689: Percy Sledge – ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ (1966)

RITA#689If there was ever a song that was made to be played in a funeral parlour, it’s When A Man Loves A Woman by Percy Sledge. Not only does it feature a morbid – but beautiful – Farfisa organ intro played by Spooner Oldham, the mood of the song is one of heartbreak – the perfect fodder to soundtrack a casket advancing into the flames of the cremation chamber.

The rest of the record is of a similar theme, with Sledge’s lyrics recounting the loves he’s lost – all driven by that wonderful organ. Spooner’s organ that it, not Sledge’s problematic member.

Quite a few of these ‘60s soul albums by male artists feature a generic female model on the cover; a couple of Otis Redding’s spring to mind. I wonder how many children saw Sledge’s debut record in their parents’ collections and figured that this pretty white lady was called Percy, or that the blonde lady on the cover of Otis Blue / Otis Sings Soul was named Otis.

Not only did Percy Sledge live to the ripe old age of 74 (passing away just a few years ago in 2015), he had no less than twelve children – three of which went on to become singers in their own right.

Hit: When A Man Loves A Woman

Hidden Gem: Thief In The Night

Rocks In The Attic #651: David Bowie – ‘1966’ (2016)

RITA#651.jpgIt’s interesting that Bowie emerged from such run-of-the-mill ‘60s beat-pop into something so relevant and unique. For me, aside from standout singles Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold The World, he doesn’t really become interesting until Hunky Dory – and then all of a sudden he’s very interesting.

This LP – a collection of his 1966 singles recorded for the Pye label – could have been recorded by any number of London-based mod singers from the mid-‘60s. It’s not a million miles from the likes of the Kinks, except that it’s a million miles from them at the same time. You can hear that it’s Bowie – that strange, almost pained delivery of vocals is hard to miss – but the material is second-rate. Where Ray Davies made ordinary sound interesting, here Bowie makes ordinary sound, well, ordinary.

Still, it’s a nice little time-capsule of where he started, and at least it’s not as bad as The Laughing Gnome.

Hit: I’m Not Losing Sleep

Hidden Gem: Do Anything You Say

Rocks In The Attic #601: John Barry – ‘The Great Movie Sounds Of John Barry’ (1966)

RITA#601I recently watched a double-bill of The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only at the cinema. The two films – scored by Marvin Hamlish and Bill Conti respectively – are both missing something, a key vital ingredient that makes them feel in some way that they’re lesser Bonds. Even The Spy Who Loved Me, undoubtedly one of the stronger films in the Bond canon, feels a touch unfinished. That missing ingredient, of course, is the work of the great John Barry.

Drafted in to re-arrange and record Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme for Dr. No, Barry went onto become the de facto in-house composer of the Bond films, eventually scoring eleven of the next fourteen films.

Those non-Barry films are always interesting for their non-Barry-ness, but his absence is always to the film’s detriment. I don’t know what Live And Let Die would sound like without George Martin’s score. Would Barry’s brassy sludge have evoked the same calypso feel as Martin’s orchestration of the wind section? In The Spy Who Loved Me, what would Bond have sounded like skiing down the mountain in the pre-credits sequence soundtracked by Barry instead of the disco beats of Hamlisch’s Bond’77?

In working with other composers instead of Barry – unavailable due to his falling out with producer Harry Saltzman (Live And Let Die) or for tax reasons (The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only) – it seems the Bond producers used the opportunity to do something different. They worked with the Academy Award-winning fifth Beatle (Martin), the Academy Award-winning composer/adapter of The Sting (Hamlisch), and the Academy Award-nominated composer of the Rocky films (Conti), with varying degrees of success.

John Barry, like a lot of composers, regularly re-uses his own work. Like John Williams, it’s easy to hear snippets of minor sections of his scores re-used as more major themes in later films. Sometimes, just the feel of a score can lend itself to re-appropriation. I recently heard Barry’s score to 1985’s Out Of Africa and couldn’t help but spot the likeness to his earlier score for the Moonraker soundtrack.

This LP from 1966, is a nice little taster of Barry’s Bond scores up to that point – From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and of course, the ever-ubiquitous James Bond Theme. The second side features some lesser-known works, themes from films I’m very unlikely to ever see – The Chase, King Rat, The Knack, and Seance On A Wet Afternoon. However, the final two tracks – themes from The Ipcress File and Born Free – really show that Barry was untouchable around 1965-1966.

Hit: The James Bond Theme

Hidden Gem: The Knack

Rocks In The Attic #565: Kiri Te Kanawa – ‘Kiri’ (1966)

rita565In New Zealand, Kiri Te Kanawa is more than a national treasure. She’s practically Kiwi royalty, if such a thing existed. This makes it all the more amusing to see her interviewed by satirist Jeremy Wells.

In his 2011 documentary The Grand Tour, Wells follows the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra as they tour across Europe. Wells treats the members of the orchestra with the respect they deserve, reacting to their accomplishments with wonder and good-natured ribbing. The culmination of the film is an interview with Dame Te Kanawa – or Claire Rawstron as she was born.

I can’t quite remember why she becomes such a target for Wells, but I seem to remember him trying to secure the interview with her throughout the tour, and it keeps getting delayed. By the time he’s finally granted an audience with her, he’s in fine form, acting all flustered to be in her company. She comes across as a total diva, and tries to step in, steering Wells in the direction she believes he should be taking with his questioning.

As with the best of Sasha Baron Cohen’s early interviews, Wells lets Te Kanawa dig her own hole, and by the end of the interview she is dripping in ego, self-importance and an intolerant attitude to her interviewer.

The establishment isn’t questioned enough in Kiwi culture. New Zealand needs people like Wells; he’s as good as anybody in holding a mirror up to someone like Te Kanawa to show how ridiculous and out of touch she’s become.

Hit: My Favourite Things

Hidden Gem: Climb Ev’ry Mountain

Rocks In The Attic #447: The Who – ‘A Quick One’ (1966)

RITA#447I think the first song I heard off this record was Boris The Spider, selected as the b-side to a mid-‘90s re-release of My Generation – used on a TV ad for ice cream if I remember correctly. That single led me to buy a CD compilation, which was more than enough Who for me at the time.

I’ve never been into bands where the vocalist isn’t the songwriter. I’m not sure why – it just feels a little bit fake. Strangely though, I don’t really notice it for some bands. Take the Kaiser Chiefs for example. As far as I know, original drummer Nick Hodgson was the primary lyricist for the band – yet I don’t really think anything less of them.

This album has two highlights for me – the studio version of A Quick One, While He’s Away, gloriously performed on the Live At Leeds album, and the band’s stunning cover of Heat Wave. I like to think that if I was in a band in the ‘60s, I would have pushed to do a cover of Heat Wave – it’s such a great song, with an eternally cool groove.

Hit: A Quick One, While He’s Away

Hidden Gem: Heat Wave

Rocks In The Attic #406: The Dave Brubeck Quartet – ‘Dave Brubeck’s Greatest Hits’ (1966)

RITA#406I know jazz purists don’t approve of compilations, but hey, who cares about those squares, I’m choosing the records!

If there’s one thing I don’t like about the vinyl-buying community, it’s the ‘holier than thou’ types who force their interests and priorities on you. The very first time I posted this record in the Facebook group I’m a member of (On The Turntable Right Now), it attracted a comment from a self-righteous jazz fan who posted a photo of Brubeck’s Time Out album and a remark about my ‘lesser’ choice of record.

Take Five and Unsquare Dance are two of favourite jazz tracks, and it doesn’t really matter whether I have them on a compilation or on a studio album. What matters is that I have them.

It always seems to be jazz fans too – although that could just be a coincidence and a vast over-generalisation – but the last time I posted a photo of Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and asked, rhetorically, whether there was any better record to play on a Sunday morning, somebody posted a comment along the lines of ‘well, yes, a UK original pressing on Columbia actually.’ Ugh – who cares? It’s like Christians judging each other on how early their bibles were printed. Wait – that’s not a thing… is it?

Hit: Take Five

Hidden Gem: In Your Own Sweet Way

Rocks In The Attic #180: Bob Dylan – ‘Greatest Hits’ (1966)

RITA#180I was listening to Neil Young the other day, and suddenly realised that I’m much more in tune with Young’s brand of folk music. It’s not that I hate Dylan – I’ve recently become a convert (to his earlier material at least) – but his music seems completely devoid of humour. I’m sure if I took the time to decipher some of his lyrics, I’d find plenty of humour, but I really don’t have the time.

Neil Young, in comparison, comes across as more of a dangerous entity – all vague traces of threat and darkness. I sometimes wonder if North America got it wrong putting Dylan into the (unwanted) position as spokesman for the generation – perhaps they should have searched further North, over the border.

I’ve written before about my inability to remember (and in many cases, hear) lyrics. For me the music is far more important – regardless of how much credit is accorded to a songwriter purely for the words written down on paper. I find it much more satisfying to listen out for hidden things in the music – like the fact that Clapton is playing the melody of Blue Moon in the guitar solo of Sunshine Of Your Love, or the way Andy Summers strums chords to symbolise crashing waves in the post-chorus ‘breaks’ of The Police’s Message In A Bottle. This beats a handful of vague verses involving tambourines or the blowing wind any day.

Hit: Blowin’ In The Wind

Hidden Gem: She Belongs To Me