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Plain and Fancy

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

P.J. Proby - Three Weeks Hero (1969 us, quadrophrenic orchestrated psychedelic sunshine country folk blues rock)



It was a cruel joke. P.J.Proby had his run of hits and had wrecked his career by ripping his velvet trousers, perhaps deliberately, on stage. By 1969, he was reaching the end of his fiveyear contract with Liberty Records and the new album was called 'Three Week Hero'. It opens with a blues riff, rather like Chris Smither now, and then P.J. in a cod country voice sings, "I'm a three week hero, I started with a zero, And I sold a million records on my own." Surprisingly, no-one has written a book on P.J.Proby although his colourful life could make a best-selling book, a play and a film. 

He was born James Marcus Smith in Houston, Texas on 6th November 1938 and he attributes his wild behaviour as a reaction to the discipline he endured in a military school. He moved to Hollywood and hung out with Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson and Eddie Cochran. He cut scores of demos and wrote 'Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya', which was the lead track on a hit EP by the Searchers, and 'Clown Shoes' for Johnny Burnette. He had had problems with the police and the Revenue in the US and he was gratified when Jack Good offered him a guest spot in his UK TV spectacular, 'Around The Beatles', which was screened in May 1964. Eddie Cochran's fiancee, Sharon Sheeley, gave him a new name for the show - P.J.Proby, but apart from that, "I created P.J.Proby totally alone. 

The  ponytail, the buckle shoes, the big-sleeved shirts were all me and if I'd had good management, I'd have taken out copyright on them." The TV special drew 8 millions viewers and “Hold Me” wich Proby had cut in the UK with noted sessionman Jimmy Page on lead Guitar , soared to N.3. Page played a distinctive Guitar solo on his follow-up hit, “Together” and he can be heard on several other Proby recordings – “Zing!  Went The Strings Of My Heart', 'Stagger Lee’, 'Linda Lu', 'Rockin' Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu', 'Let The Water Run Down' and 'Hanging From Your Loving Tree'. 

Proby's Billy Eckstine-inspired but mickey-taking 'Somewhere' was another Top 10 hit and then came the problems with his skin-tight trousers. Proby says that the campaign against him was spearheaded by Mary Whitehouse and that showbusiness moguls _ wanted him deported as he was an American earning good English money. P.J.Proby's conspiracy theories are second only to those following Kennedy's assassination. 

Whatever, he continued to have hits and what could be more appropriate than 'I Apologise'? 'Maria', from Back Side Story (?), made the Top 10 but his sales tailed off because he recorded a tuneless Ben E.King B side, 'Let The Water Run Down', a lacklustre Lennon and McCartney song 'That Means A Lot' and some middle-of-the-road schlock, 'It's Your Day Today'. 'Niki Hoeky', a fabulous slice of cajun rock'n'roll, was too strange for the UK market. It became his only Top 30 hit in America. Tom Jones, who took much from Proby, was becoming a millionaire superstar and Proby was drinking hard to alleviate the boredom of performing on the chicken-in-a-basket circuit. 

In 1967 he was declared a bankrupt in America and in February 1968 he was a UK bankrupt with liabilities of £84,309 against assets of 12 shillings. Jimmy Page cut down on his session work to become a Yardbird and he befriended bassist John Paul Jones. By October 1968, the Yardbirds were in disarray but Page and Jones wanted to continue together and invited vocalist Terry Reid to join them. 

He couldn't escape from a contract but he recommended Robert Plant who was singing with Alexis Korner's blues band. B.J.Wilson wanted to continue as a drummer with Procol Harum and so they accepted Plant's recommendation of John Bonham. This was the personnel of Led Zeppelin: the name came when Keith Moon joked they would go down like a lead Zeppelin. Steve Rowland was an actor, singer and producer, having hits with Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick And Tich and the Herd. He formed a group with session singers and musicians including Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood and called them the Family Dogg. 

They had a Top 10 hit in 1969 with 'A Way Of Life'. Rowland, an American in England like Proby, became friendly with him and agreed to produce his next album, a daunting task as his albums had veered from straight rock'n'roll to standards. He asked the Family Dogg to be backing vocalists (excellent on the gospel-slanted 'Won't Be Long' and 'I Have A Dream') and two members of the group, Hammond and Hazelwood, wrote 'Empty Bottles' and 'New Directions'. Steve Rowland recruited Jimmy Page (lead guitar), John Paul Jones (bass, piano, organ) and their new friends, Robert Plant (harmonica) and John Bonham (drums, congas) to accompany him. 

Sometimes though the drums are played by Clem Cattini of the Tornados. John Paul Jones wrote most of the arrangements. Although the album is now regarded as P.J.Proby backed by Led Zeppelin, the only track on which they really sound like that is 'Jim's Blues'.  'Three Week Hero' is a schizophrenic, even quadrophrenic, album. It has no idea of its market, which is what makes it so interesting. One minute Jim is singing about a dead dog ('Little Friend'), the next he's lamenting the death of a soldier (Today I Killed A Man') and what did anyone in 1969 make of 'It's So Hard To Be A Nigger'? (Proby has since recorded 'I Was Born A Poor White Boy In Niggertown' and 'Elvis Was Not The White Nigger - I Was', but I don't know whether he is intending to shock or whether this is a product of his Southern upbringing.) 

The best song on the album is Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway's Today I Killed A Man'. Although it is ostensibly about the Civil War, the implication is that it is really about Vietnam. It was issued as a single with 'It's Too Good To Last'. 'Empty Bottles' was used as B-side of another single, while 'The Day That Lorraine Came Down' was tried as a single. The B-side of that single was an informal studio jam, 'Mery Hopkins Never Had Days Like This', which parodied the Bonzo Dog Band's 'The Intro And The Outro' and included namechecks for Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. 

Three Week Hero' was released in October 1969 and sold miserably. So much so that original copies now pass hands at £60. Led Zeppelin became the heavy metal band of the 70s, which Proby takes credit for: "I told them to go to the hippies in America and that's what they did." In 1970 P.J.Proby was featured in Jack Good's West End production of 'Othello', now called 'Catch My Soul', but it wasn't long before the gremlins got to work and he was sacked from the production. 

The 70s and 80s are a long, drunken haze with occasional highlights, such as another West End show, 'Elvis', in 1977. In recent years, he has given up drinking, had success in further West End musicals and recorded with Marc Almond. When I met P.J.Proby in 1994. I asked him to sign a copy of Three Week Hero'. He looked at the title and wrote across it, 'Wanta bet'. There's still a place for Jim somewhere.
by Spencer Leigh, Presenter, BBC Radio Merseyside


Tracks
1. Three Week Hero (John Stewart) - 2:56
2. The Day That Lorraine Came Down (Young) - 3:15
3. Little Friend (Robin Gair, Peter Mason) - 4:01
4. Empty Bottles (Albert Hammond, Mike Hazlewood) - 2:53
5. Reflections (Of Your Face) (Amory Kane) - 5:14
6. Won't Be Long (J. Leslie McFarland) - 3:41
7. Sugar Mama (Woodley, Young) - 2:50
8. I Have A Dream (Terry Hensley, Alec Wilder) - 4:45
9. It's Too Good To Last (Baker, Stephens) - 3:14
10.New Directions (Albert Hammond, Mike Hazlewood) - 3:46
11.Today I Killed A Man (Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway) - 3:24
12.Medley: It's So Hard To Be A Nigger/Jim's Blues/George Wallace Is Rollin' In This Mornin' (Hillery/Traditional) - 7:38

Musicians
*P.J. Proby - Vocals
*John Paul Jones - Bass, Piano, Organ
*Jimmy Page - Electric Guitar
*Clem Cattini - Drums
*Alan  'The Hawk' Hawkshaw - Piano, Organ
*Alan Parker - Guitars
*Robert Plant - Harmonica
*Dennis Lopez,  Stan Barrett - Various Percussion
*John Bonham - Drums, Congas
*Amory Kane - Acoustic Guitar, Strings
*The Family Dogg & Bob Henry Alias The Jericho - Backing Vocal

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The Id - Inner Sounds Of The Id (1967 us, acid garage psych, World In Sound issue)



Οn hand for the Pet Sounds sessions was Jerry Cole, an exceptional guitar talent who paid the rent working for Phil Spector and did his own thing as the leader of Jerry Cole and His Spacemen. Between 1963 and 1964, Cole abused his whammy bar throughout several surf albums on Capitol that merged hot-rod abandon with ultrapro chops. One of the best players in this genre, Cole punched in solos for Carl Wilson on early Beach Boys’ records.

A quick study, Cole also scored a prominent place in the development of rock, performing on The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” when the band proved too inexperienced to make their own rock and roll history. Shortly after, Cole was playing on Pet Sounds. An ambitious man with a sixth sense for pop music trends, he pulled together some L.A. session colleagues and cut his own album: the result was The Inner Sounds of the Id, by The Id.

Recorded between 1965 and ‘66 (according to drummer Don Dexter), a massive collection of tracks was paired down to ten cuts and released by RCA in January 1967, the same month as that other Oedipal manifesto, The Doors. The album is a cornucopia of posthypnotic poetry, sitar obliggatos and, best of all, Yardbirds guitar flash blasting across a Booker T and the MGs groove with a dash of the visionary in its unexpected, deftly executed key and time changes. Cole sings in a murmuring drawl, and his riffs and solos are ear candy a go-go.

The Inner Sounds of the Id features fret board excursions that are too sweaty for sit-ins or be-ins. Freaky as Cole’s runs are, the album never strays far from the spirit of tube amps and last calls from which it was spawned. From Syd Barrett’s “Bike” to Grace Slick’s “Lather,” psychedelic is pampered and inorganic; to Cole’s credit, the Id trips in real time.
by Barry Stoller


Tracks
1. The Rake - 2:01
2. Wild Times - 3:06
3. Don't Think Twice - 2:46
4. Stone And Steel - 3:40
5. Baby Eyes - 2:51
6. Boil The Kettle, Mother - 3:01
7. Butterfly Kiss - 2:34
8. Short Circut - 3:01
9. Just Who - 2:44
10.The Inner Sound Of The Id - 10:29
11.Wild Times - 2:17
12.Don't Think Twice - 2:52
13.Kimeaa - 2:50
14.Our Man Hendrix - 3:10
15.Tune Out Of That Place - 2:26
16.Give Me Some Lovin' (S. Winwood, S. Davies) - 2:33
17.Boil The Kettle (Instr.) - 3:08
18.What Else? - 2:18
19.Uh Uh Uh - 3:16
20.I Can't Stand It Baby - 2:24
All songs by The Id except where noted.

The Id
*Jerry Cole - Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals, Sitar
*Glenn Cass - Bass
*Don Dexter - Drums
*Norman Cass - Rhythm Guitar

Other Jerry Cole Releases
1967-68  With The Animated Egg - Guitar Freakout
1968  T. Swift And The Electric Bag - Are You Experienced?

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Salem Mass - Witch Burning (1971 us, heavy prog rock, Gear Fab edition)



Salem Mass spanned the 70's from 71 till 77 playing mainly in the Northwest and Canada. During this time the band went through numerous members and techs. All of which I shall remember as "The Kind" or the best of the best. One of our first breaks was meeting Doug Brown, now of GMA, in Sun Valley Idaho. He later booked us into the best cljbs the Big Sky country had to offer. 

On three occasions Salem Mass, sometimes a five piece, lived in Portland. The first time was because we had just signed an exclusive contract with Headwater Rooking Agency, which promptly went beily up like a rotting carp in Lake Lowell. Fortunately we landed in the capable hands of Andy Gilbert with a new booking agency in the Pacific Northwest called Pacific Talent. Thanks to Andy, Salem Mass played everything that was happening in Portland and surrounding area clubs and grand openings. 

The Treasure Valley, in southwest Idaho was where we paid our dues It was where most of us grew up, where we wrote, played, partied and evolved, and it was worth every cent. Thanks Freddy, Can I have a draw? The album was recorded in a beer bar in Caldwell Idaho called The Red Barn, under the watchful eye of it's owner Steve Moore and was engineered by Lance Parker a mutual friend and Caldwell High alumni of Steve, Mike, and myself. And of course there was the special kind of help that could only be offered by the Big Three. 

Original band member Steve Towcry, stiil resides in Caidwell, Idaho and can be found at the family business Printcraft. Matt Wilson is teaching and producing from his home studio in Nampa, Idaho. Mike Snead is in Brookings Oregon playing with various lounge lizards and doing some studio work with me at Madfingers Music.
by Jim Klahr


Tracks
1 Witch Burning - 10:26
2 My Sweet Jane - 4:35
3 Why - 2:44
4 You Can't Run My Life - 3:50
5 You're Just a Dream - 3:42
6 Bare Tree - 6:53
7 The Drifter - 3:14
All compositions by Jim Klahr, Mike Snead, Steve Towery and Matt Wilson.

Salem Mass
*Jim Klahr - Keyboards
*Mike Snead - Guitar, Vocals
*Steve Towery - Drums, Vocals
*Matt Wilson - Bass, Vocals

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