Jay Traynor once of Jay and the Americans sadly passed away a couple of days ago aged 70. The group never had much success in the UK but one of Jay’s solo singles, “Up And Over” became very popular and much sought after on the northern soul circuit. Jay, whose given name was John started the Americans with Kenny Vance and Sandy Yaguda. His replacement in the group was called David Blatt but agreed to use the name Jay Black. Traynor went on to work more behind the scenes in the music industry. He worked in some capacity with many bands including the Who and Ten Years After. My thoughts go to his family, friends and fans. RIP Jay Traynor.
“If a day could last forever you might like your ivory tower” December 22, 2011
We’re easing down that Christmas road pretty fast now, it’s December 22nd and we’re at the letter V on my ABC of Motown Advent Calendar. I have a confession to make before I tell you what the song is. It doesn’t begin with V, it was so difficult to find a V song. So for today I have opted for an artist whose surname starts with a V. It is the one and only Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons with the Northern Soul classic, “The Night”
In 1970 the group signed to Motown subsidiary label Mowest and the single was originally released in 1971 in the UK with no success it was never issued in the US. When it was re-released in the UK in 1975 following a lot of interest in Northern Soul clubs it reached number 7 in the UK charts.
When the band left Motown in 1974 Frankie Valli wanted to buy the master tapes of everything they had recorded for the label. However when he heard the price he decided to buy just one song for $4,000. That song was “My Eyes Adored You” which Valli took to Private Stock records who wanted to release it as a Frankie Valli solo single. They did and it became a massive hit reaching number one on the US Billboard charts and number 5 in the UK.
I also found a couple of strange covers while looking for this song; firstly Pulp (sorry Jarvis it really isn’t very good mate) then Lene Lovich (a little weird) and finally Soft Cell (a faithful rendition). I prefer the original to all of these though. How about you?
“It’s not safe loving you this way but from your arms I can’t stay” December 17, 2011
Today is the 17th December which means we need to open the cardboard door marked number 17 on my ABC of Motown Advent Calendar. Wow, time really has flown since the Jackson 5 on 1st December hasn’t it?As it’s day 17 that must mean it is the letter Q. That has been quite a tough letter for the calendar. How many Motown songs do you know that begin with Q? Well there is at least one and it’s the fabulous Northern Soul stomper “Quicksand” from Martha and the Vandellas.
It is yet another classic written by the Holland Dozier Holland team. Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier produced the song which was released on the Gordy label in the US in 1963, it was actually only their third US hit. It was once again the fabulous Funk Brothers who provided the music track. The song was a follow-up to the girls previous big hit “(Love Is Like A) Heatwave”. I think it is quite reminiscent of that song too.
Martha Reeves unsurprisingly sang lead vocal and was backed by the Vandellas who at that time were Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard. The song never charted in the UK but reached number 8 in the USA. Martha turned 70 this year and she has also been quite prominent in the local politics in the home city of Motown; Detroit. She served as a Council Woman for the city from 2005 to 2009. She is the third child in a family of 11. There were two groups featuring her before she came to be a big part of Martha and the Vandellas. Those groups were the Sabre-Ettes and the Fascinations.
Now take a listen to a bonus track “(Love Is Like A) Heatwave” and then tell me whether you think it bears any similarity to “Quicksand” which follows it here.
“Here I am on bended knees I lay my heart down at your feet” December 4, 2011
Day 4 of this years advent calendar is upon us and we’re up to D in the ABC of Motown. Todays song is perhaps a little less known than some of the others. It is “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” by Frank Wilson. The song became a rare sought after disc on the Northern Soul circuit in the UK. It was originally set to be released in 1965 on Motown’s Soul label in the US. But Wilson decided he would rather be a producer than a singer and supposedly Berry Gordy didn’t rate the vocal very highly.
Only 250 copies were pressed and rumour has it that no more than five of those have survived, including one that is apparently in Berry Gordy’s collection. An original copy sold for more than £25,000 in 2009. Motown reissued the song in 1979 following the interest emanating from Northern Soul clubs. It was reissued again in 2004 after it had been used to (sadly in my opinion) soundtrack a KFC TV advert. Tomorrow is Frank Wilson’s 71st birthday.
“Then you take my mind and you play with it all night” July 15, 2010
So if illegal free downloading is killing music, what is legal free downloading to it? Just ask UK Grime Star aka the Godfather of Grime aka Richard Cowie. Last Thursday he gave away 203 unreleased songs, it was such a big giveaway with such a big response that it caused a temporary meltdown on his web forum. But the fans seem to have loved it. Personally I think it’s a brilliant idea, although I suspect that his record company and management might not be so pleased. read the Wiley story in the Guardian by clicking here. This of course is in the same week that Prince gave away his new album for free with UK tabloid the Daily Mirror. Before you ask yes I did lower my standards and buy the tabloid simply to get a hold of the purple one’s new album, 20Ten. It’s actually rather good, especially as it just cost me the price of a tabloid and of course the shame of buying said tabloid. As for giving the album away free I’m sure Prince was paid a more than princely sum by the Mirror. Incidentally the Daily Mirror gave the album a five-star rating, hmmmmmmm I wonder why that was?
This year also sees the 5oth birthday of the Etch-A-Sketch. So why is that in a music blog I hear you ask? Well simply because a number of artists have created some excellent art on them including some music related works including Elvis and the Beatles which you can see below. Click here to read the Guardian story on this topic. The most well-known of these artists are Americans George Vlosich and Geoff Gagliardi. It’s quite amazing that this toy is that old and has hardly changed at all in that time.
Finally for today’s post I have to wish a very happy birthday to one of my favourite female singers of all time, the supremely talented Millie Jackson, she is 66 today. The first song of hers I ever owned was “My Man A Sweet Man” which I brought on 7 inch vinyl when I was about 12 years old. The song was quite a hit on the Northern Soul circuit in the UK. Later I really got into her albums, especially ‘Caught Up’ and ‘Still Caught Up’ If these had been recorded by a rock act they would have been even more highly acclaimed concept albums. The stories revolve around affairs and break-ups. I have seen her live just once, back in 1978 at the Victoria Apollo in London with my good mate Glen Voisey. If you’re reading this do you remember that show?
Millie is short for Mildred and I definitely prefer Millie, obviously no disrespect for any Mildreds reading this of course. Her first really big hit in the US was “Hurts So Good” in 1973 and was featured in the blaxploitation movie ‘Cleopatra Jones’. There was also a great reggae cover of the song from Susan Cadogan in 1975. The ‘Caught Up’ album came out in 1974 and featured Millie’s superb cover of Luther Ingram’s “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Wanna Be Right” which became a million selling single and earned a grammy nomination too. In 1979 she recorded an album of duets with Isaac Hayes, ‘Royal Rappins’ which for me was ok but a long way from classic. She also recorded a hit duet with Elton John in 1985, the song was “Act Of War“. She has covered songs by artists as diverse as Merle Haggard (“If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday“), Boney M (“Never Change Lovers In The Middle Of The Night“) and Exile (“Kiss You All Over“). Unsurprisingly this is the first and possibly last mention of Boney M in this blog.
Millie was also a forerunner in the early days of rap, which was nothing like todays rap, but more like talking in the rhythm of the song and was normally a featured part of an album or song. One of the classic Millie raps was “Logs And Thangs“. She now has her own record label, Weird Wreckuds and was a radio presenter for many years in Atlanta. Some her album covers often appear in the worst ever covers lists, notably ‘Back To The Shit”. But forget the album covers, for me Millie always will be one of the greatest soul voices the world has ever seen. I hope you had a great birthday Millie!