Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Divine Madness-Bill Amesbury

Quick now what was the first album released on Casablanca?  If you said KISS.  WRONG.  According to Larry Harris tell all book And Party Every Day-The Inside Story Of Casablanca Records, although KISS S/T album was NB 9001, it was Bill Amesbury-Jes A Taste Of The Kid that was the first record released on the upstart label, at that time distributed by Warner Brothers.   Harris didn't think much of Bill's album, nor the hit single Virginia (Touch Me Like You Do) but in my youth, I found a 50 cent 8 track of Bill's album to help me through the trying times of high school.  And would find the LP for a dollar later on.

I have ...The Kid in my top 10 all time favorite albums of all time, not that it matters to you but the songs were easy to sing along and basically told my life story as well.....BUT I never knew by the lyrics themselves that Bill was a woman trapped in a man's body and the song titles speak for themselves, Bill's Song in particular or That Close To Me which was wronged love songs in themselves.  Bill in the mid 70s was a capable producer that produced a few other minor bands in Canada but for the most part he was the main producer and songwriter on his albums.  And Virginia which reached number 59 on the charts (No 27 on the local station here) and is credited as the first Casablanca single NEB-0001.  Followup single, the delightful Rock My Roll failed to chart and Amesbury was cut loose from the label, signing to Capitol for the forgotten but perhaps better put together Can You Feel It, to which the telling A Thrill's A Thrill (later covered by Mitch Ryder and Marianne Faithful in 1983)  actually reveals more of a lesbian slant, (I know a boy growing tits, is he referring to himself?).  I never knew this record existed till I found it at a big dollar sale in Target in 1980.  It's more polished and a bit more professional sounding.  On a side note: Lucky Day was playing in my cassette player when I saw my ex high school sweetheart walking with a new love interest sometime in 1980 so it actually has some meaning in my life.  Unlike yours.  Can You Feel It kinda lose it's momentum on side 2, to me it's slightly less better than Taste Of The Kid. And a bit more toward disco, as witness to the title track. Nevertheless after the failure of Can You Feel It, Capitol dropped him and  Amesbury dropped out of sight and became the most famous transsexual in Canada and becoming a she. And retiring from music to go into artwork.  Even with Google, there hasn't been any pictures of Barbra (Bill) Amesbury online anywhere although I'm sure with a more aggressive search they might be found.

Nevertheless it's a moot point anyway, and Amesbury although a  minor artist, did made a major impact in my listening tastes in the late 70s with the goodtime sound of Virigina.  He may have been very early in the party in terms of camp and bisexuality that would play a big role in the disco sounds of Casablanca, you could probably consider him as outrageous as the Village People although his was very low key.  I wish I could piece together a much more concise picture between the then and now but there's really not much out there to go upon.   But his albums told more to the story about him and nowadays I have a  different viewpoint of listening to A Thrill's A Thrill or Every Women In The World Tonight.  Maybe he was a true lesbian in a man's body.

Jes A Taste Of The Kid (Casablanca 1974)  A-
Can You Feel It (Capitol 1976) B+

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