Tag Archives: The Beatles

Rocks In The Attic #696: Pink Floyd – ‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ (1967)

RITA#696Is there a more important year in music than 1967? It seems to exist as a pivot between then and now, the old and new, the past and the future. Thanks to that year’s rebooted technicolour of the Beatles, and similarly colourful debuts by (the) Cream and (the) Pink Floyd, the floodgates were opened and the rules were rewritten.

Pink Floyd must have been some whacky sight to behold around this time. Who would have thought that such a pretentious bunch of architecture and art students playing freak-out music in front of a trippy light show would become one of the world’s biggest stadium rock bands? At this point, it’s still very much Syd Barrett’s band – his off-kilter rhymes and childlike lyrics drive the record along, with very little of the form and function that would characterise the band after Roger Waters took control.

Compared to the comparatively conventional beat music that had peppered the charts over the previous five years, the primitive and experimental feel to Floyd’s early music is almost proto-punk, a pre-echo of that other seminal year in music a decade later.

RITA#696aHearing a Pink Floyd song on the soundtrack to a film is thankfully a rare thing, but I appreciated the appearance of the brilliant Interstellar Overdrive on the otherwise dull Doctor Strange a couple of years ago. The outlandish asking price for last year’s Record Store Day 12” live version of the song was too much for me, but for this year’s Record Store Day I hunted down this mono reissue of the album, in a lovely redesigned outer sleeve by Aubrey Powell at Hipgnosis.

Far out, man.

Hit: Astronomy Domine

Hidden Gem: Lucifer Sam

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Rocks In The Attic #695: Joe Cocker – ‘Cocker Happy’ (1971)

RITA#695Amongst its many highlights, Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock film contains a groundbreaking performance by Joe Cocker and the Grease Band. Cocker almost looks possessed as he tears through his version of the Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends. For a pained eight minutes, he looks like he’s about to die singing the song.

The studio recording of Cocker’s most famous Beatles cover, with more than a little help from session guitarist Jimmy Page, appears on this compilation, Cocker Happy. Released only in Spain, Australia and New Zealand, it features a number of singles and album tracks recorded between 1968 and 1970.

Watching that Woodstock performance, you’d be forgiven for thinking it would provide the springboard for a stellar career. But his subsequent solo career failed to match the intensity of these early hits. Twenty-two studio albums later, and he’s really most famous for the duet with Jennifer Warnes which soundtracked a dress-whites besuited Richard Gere in An Officer And A Gentleman.

He’s not the only English soul singer with such a lob-sided career. Rod Stewart, Steve Winwood and, to an extent, Van Morrison also failed to follow through on their early promises and went in unexpected directions. In a parallel universe, maybe Cocker could have been the singer in Led Zeppelin, and maybe Rod Stewart could have held on to Ron Wood and kept the Faces together.

Hit: With A Little Help From My Friends

Hidden Gem: Delta Lady

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Rocks In The Attic #690: Acker Bilk – ‘Stranger On The Shore’ (1961)

RITA#690Playing the clarinet: the musical equivalent of smoking a pipe.

Rock star clarinettist Acker Bilk – or ACKER BILK ESQUIRE as this record credits him – came to become a household name with Stranger On The Shore, the best-selling UK single of 1962.

The song might just represent the last vestiges of a music industry dominated by adults. October of that year introduced the Beatles to the world, and spotty young people would ride the charts forever after.

Hit: Stranger On The Shore

Hidden Gem: Sentimental Journey

Rocks In The Attic #685: ABBA – ‘ABBA’ (1975)

RITA#685Some things you just never expect to happen. You never expect to find out the identity of the second gunman on the grassy knoll, the whereabouts of Lord Lucan, or whether pavlova was really invented by Australians or Kiwis.

The news out of the blue on Friday morning is that ABBA are back in the studio writing new material. This came as such a shock, I turned around and repeated the news to a total stranger at work.

ABBA have been famously reserved around any idea of a reunion. All four members – Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – are alive and well, and so it’s been nice that up to this point, they haven’t reformed and tainted the memory and music of their younger selves. Their musical output in the ten years between 1972 and 1982 stands as a time-capsule of great songwriting, production and performance.

So what will these two new songs deliver? One song, entitled I Still Have Faith In You, will be performed by digital avatars of themselves on a TV special to be broadcast by the BBC and NBC in December 2018. Presumably the other song will also be released with fanfare – either as a standalone single, or to soundtrack some other key event. Sweden might have a cracker of a Eurovision entry in 2019.

I hope that the two resulting songs sound like ABBA. I don’t want them to sound like they could have come from the same producers of today’s awful stripper pop. Hopefully bandleaders Benny and Björn will remain as authentic as possible in the recording and production of the song. There’s a real danger that the output will echo the otherness of Free As A Bird and Real Love, the singles recorded and released by the reunited Beatles for the Anthology project.

ABBA is the band’s third studio record, and the second to be released internationally. The album came exactly a year after the band’s success at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo. Any thoughts about the band being a one-hit wonder would have been discounted as soon as the singles Mamma Mia and S.O.S. hit the charts. I’ll probably never watch it, but isn’t the title of the soon-to-be-released sequel to the Mamma Mia musical – Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again – just a lovely bit of serendipitous naming?

By the way, pavlova is probably as Kiwi as kiwifruit. Or Chinese Gooseberries, as they were originally known.

Hit: Mamma Mia

Hidden Gem: Hey, Hey Helen

Rocks In The Attic #683: Various Artists – ‘Spectacular Sound Effects In Stereo’ (1967)

RITA#683Somebody somewhere walked into a record store in 1967 and purchased this together with Sgt. Pepper’s.

Here’s hoping they got the records mixed up in the wrong sleeves, took some strong acid and settled down to listen to the Beatles’ latest.

Hit: DC-8 Engines Starting Up

Hidden Gem: Orchestra Tuning Up

Rocks In The Attic #670: Alan Moorhouse – ‘Beatles, Bach, Bacharach Go Bossa’ (1971)

RITA#670This is a lovely little slice of lounge music, not a million miles away from the camp shtick you might find on the first Austin Powers soundtrack. My wife finds records like these in the charity shop, and 9 times out of 10 they’re always worth a listen to.

The liner notes for this MFP release, by Bill Wellings, promise that ‘The four Beatles numbers (including George Harrison’s Something) are already well known to you, but they sound really fresh and inviting in their smart new Brazilian style.’ I guess you know you’ve made it when your songs are reworked into a musical style from another continent.

‘So, if your party ever looks like sagging in the middle, switch on to the Beatles, Bach & Bacharach in Bossa Beat – and give the party a swingin’ new lease of life!’

Hit: Yesterday

Hidden Gem: Air On A G String

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Rocks In The Attic #669: Various Artists – ‘Stand By Me (O.S.T.)’ (1986)

RITA#669There were a number of films released through the 1980s which went some way in redefining the seminal singles of the 1950s and 1960s. Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill kicked off the nostalgia in 1983, before Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me and Oliver Stone’s Platoon landed in 1986. By the time of 1988’s Good Morning Vietnam, it was almost commonplace for a Hollywood film to feature a ‘golden oldies’ soundtrack.

Along the more obvious hits on this soundtrack – Buddy Holly’s Everyday, Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls Of Fire, and of course, Ben E. King’s Stand By Me – there’s one very interesting addition. The Del-Viking’s Come Go With Me might sound like any other late-‘50s R&B, but it was actually the song that a teenage Paul McCartney first saw (a teenage) John Lennon playing with the Quarrymen on the fateful day that they met (July 6th 1957) in Liverpool.

RITA#669aIt’s hard not to like Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me. Adapted from a Stephen King short-story, it has an impressive young cast (Wil Wheaton, River Pheonix, Corey Feldman and Kiefer Sutherland) and a lovely, wry narration by Richard Dreyfuss. Reiner’s film almost perfectly balances nostalgia with the thrill of youth. The script’s perspective might be of an older man looking backwards, but instead the film is driven by the optimism of the young leads looking forward to the future.

Hit: Stand By Me – Ben E. King

Hidden Gem: Come Go With Me – The Del-Vikings