Saturday, August 15, 2015

Week In Review: Bob Johnston, Dogs On Skis, Jolly What!

The short term disability is coming to an end and I'll be back at work next week.  Since my belly button hernia being fixed, I have been at home with no paycheck in hand and a fucking sense of dread due to getting 500 dollar hospital bills for a 10 minute CT scan.  I hate going to hospitals as is in the first place and had I known this little in and out CT session was going to run a half grand even with insurance I would have passed on the spot.   Outside of the fact that 600 dollars is due for car insurance as well as 300 dollars on a Discover Card bill, 100 dollars for electric, 350 for rent and 375 for car payments totaled 2250 for bills.  A way bit excessive especially when the only paycheck was for 514 dollars for working the first week.  Makes me glad that I didn't do Arizona, otherwise I'd be more in the poorhouse.  This also means to live on  about 160 dollars till the end of the month when a steady paycheck comes in.  I probably should have held back on buying all those 45s when I was in Ragged Records a week ago.  But the savings account should cover the overflow of bills this month. Not sure about next month though.

So for the most part, I've been busy wasting precious time on the internet, trying to piece together The Townedgers Discography as well as maintaining this weekly blog of things going on. So far the only fun thing I have been doing has been jam sessions at Wrigleyville on Thursday Nights and at Rumor's Sunday Afternoon.  I have managed to jam with some of the finest musicians here in town and even got to see one of transgender singers hit the stage Thursday Night.  Jeorgia Robison really had a husky voice sounding on some of the blues songs that was sung, from Redhouse Blues to Jesus Just Left Chicago, it was the smooth bass sound of  Jay Carl that made things swing quite well.  They are part of Blue Scratch.

Music still exists in the live venues like Parlor City and New Bo, and having time off nights has enabled me to actually hear some of the new sounds and play in jam sessions.  Dogs On Skis, the legendary Iowa City covers band was there Friday Night entertaining the masses with their music.  They could be one of the better Beatles cover bands out there, after all, they did about 15 songs from the Fab Four that night and the surprises were good covers of Bus Stop and To Love Somebody, I didn't think much of the Mumford and Sons Hey Ho, or Men At Work Down Under but you can't please the old Crabb most of the time anyway.  Still, Nick Stika and company always put on a very tight and rocking show and that night was no exception.  I did managed to take a walk to downtown Cedar Rapids and caught part of a open air country show across the river but I could only take so much of bad Zac Brown Band cover and went back to New Bo and returned to the front area.

While up front and jamming to the tunes, a woman came up to chat awhile with me.  First thing she said that she thought that I looked to be an interesting man.  That's something that I haven't heard in quite a while.   I tend to hang in the background and shy away from most folks.  A long time ago, her and ex husband used to own the General Stone in Stone City but eventually sold that and moved into town.   But we chatted about the upcoming of New Bo and she mentioned about moving into that area, since one of her adopted daughters was going to the U of I and was looking for a much smaller house.  We exchanged pleasantries and promised to keep in touch next time we ran into each other.  Damned if I could remember her name though.  However if she's reading this, I'll be found at Rumor's on jam session Sunday Afternoon (till fall takes over and I'm back out on the trails again).

Progress is being made on the new building at the Indian Creek Nature Center, which means part of the walking trail that used to be one of my daily romps is now history.  I suppose all good things come to an end when it comes to such things, open trail walking before you hit the woods, but it kinda takes away the beauty of the prairie grasses that are out there, as well watching trains pass on through.  I do recall the times of when the ex and I went out there in the fall, walking the doggie and her taking many pictures of myself.  Sometimes I miss that or the occasional trek out to the bowling alley.  After the breakup, I went back into my shell and reported things on the Record Blog and did nothing else besides hanging on the internet.  The jams sessions of the past month has gotten me out in the open and interacting with people more and it's nice to chat and talk and play music.  But I believe that I embraced this type of living, of coming and going and doing my own thing.  I've gotten used to be the old hoarder record collecting dude living in a clutterhouse that would scare away anybody with a remote interest of dating or coming over.  After a night of jamming to some rock and roll, I'm more inclined to say goodbye to everybody, head over to Wally World for late night grocery shopping and off to home.   Or listen to a band at New Bo and then hit the walking trails around town before going back home.  I'm sure strange things have happened before but the way I look at things, living a loner life has worked better for me.  I'm open to strictly being friends, and leave it at that.

My mom turns 71 Saturday.  So basically I had nothing planned so we went out to a dinner and a movie.   So we went to see the movie Max, which is about a specialized dog in the Afgan war whose owner got killed,  Eventually the owner had a younger brother to which Max takes a liking too and while I won't give the details, it involves a so called friend that Max doesn't like and a illegal arms trading that involved a corrupt cop.  I think it's the first movie I've seen in about four years and it kinda cute and everybody got misty eyed when Max went to the funeral of his slain comrade who trained him.   Usually movies like Max, are taken to second run theaters the next month and the crowds are less and less, although my mom had a few choice words about people wanting to seat themselves in front of us and the chatty hens  next to us, but thankfully everybody was quiet and no cellphones were used in the showing of the movie.  Which is why I like going to Collins Road Cinemas, they will tell you to take it outside if you decide to chat up or use your cellphone.  Plus they're the only place that gives you a two dollar bill for change.  Go figure. I was proud that Mom did keep a civil tone, and she did not mention at all about how my car inside was too dirty.  That was a first.
Happy Birthday Ma, the object of my affections.

After this year, I will not be reviewing any new music.  Of course I have said that since God knows when but this year, there's simply haven't been anything worth hearing twice except for the new Blackberry Smoke album.  It's basically simple, the major labels are releasing shit rap and shit pop and shit country and basically instead if me bitching about how terrible the new stuff is, I ignore it.  That gives folks like Farce The Music the time to bash a FGL or the latest pop single from The Band Perry and me talking a listen to something else from the past.  Let's face it, the Major labels are interested in the profit line and to hell with developing any band with talent.  You might cringe at this thought but Miley Cyrus might be the closest thing to rock and roll with her live shows.  It doesn't make me want to go buy her music but at least she has the rock and roll spirit.  Unlike Mr. Kayne West.  Strange how new albums get hyped up till the release date and then after that they all sink like a stone.  But with fall coming up, there might some things to look at, but since Best Buy don't have the good stuff (Richard Thompson's latest yet to be found) and I quit caring, the guess is that I'll review about 50 albums for the whole year.  Forthcoming surprises is my best albums of 2000 and 2001, I found the original blog of those best albums (the original website got taken down years ago) and they may or may not be worth a read.  I don't know yet.  Another Singles Going Steady Series will be coming to celebrate the one year anniversary of the big Davenport finds.  We'll see if the return trip there a year later will have the same results.  I doubt it but it should be another fun read. 

If I'm to believed of the rumors about The Chargers returning to Los Angeles aka Carson California, chances are that I'll be rooting for a different team.  Once upon a time, they were based in Los Angeles in the debut AFL season and games played at the Coliseum had record crowds of about 2 to 5 thousand folks.  For the past decade or two, Los Angeles has not had a NFL team since the Rams left for St. Louis to which they're also rumored to return back to Cally.  I started rooting for the Chargers during the Don Coryell era and the mad bomber Dan Fouts throwing TD passes to Wes Chandler and many others, I still have that prized Dan Fouts jersey of the early 80s which doesn't fit no more.  Except for a ill fated trip to a super bowl which San Francisco ran them out of town, San Diego hasn't done much since and probably won't since they locked Phillip Rivers to a four year extension to his contract. Which means we're stuck with him till at least 2018.  San Diego's inept owner Alex Spanos continues to find ways to make me want to root for other teams, including going to a mutant white helmet and shirt that's not a throwback to yesterday but rather another endless cloning of subpar uniforms, at least the yellow whites of the late 70s and early 80s was much better. But in good faith, if Spanos thinks the money will be better in a overpriced stadium that is breaking the California Taxpayer's back so be it.  But I do believe I might just say the hell with it and root for a outdoor team closer to home.  Kansas City perhaps?

The creepy Col. Sanders guy played by Darrell Hammond has been replaced by Norm McDonald.  That still won't replace me going to Popeye's for my chicken fix.  I suppose McDonald is a slight improvement but it's still more Norm than Harlan Sanders. 

Bob Johnston passed away Friday.  He was 83.  You know him as staff producer for Columbia and Blonde On Blonde by Bob Dylan, but Johnston also produced Leonard Cohen, Simon And Garfunkel, Johnny Cash and The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, both on Columbia and MCA.  When he produced Moby Grape's Truly Fine Citizen, he pretty much told the guys that they had a couple days to get their act together and get the record done.  A no nonsense producer, Bob also revealed a lighter side. A long forgotten 1966 album called Golden Moldies he re-imagines some of the hits of the 60s with a Rainy Day Woman type of songs arrangement.  Released under the name of Col. Jubilation B Johnston and his Mystic Knights and Street Singers (Columbia 9532) it has never been issued on CD. Hell I didn't know it till I stumbled upon it on You Tube.  If you haven't heard it before, it's new to you. 

Record Porn:  Englands' Greatest Recording Stars The Beatles & Frank Ifield On Stage (Vee Jay 1964)

Photos: Tom Dehler (Front and back LP pictures)

Vee Jay kinda knew they had some of the finest Beatles songs before Capitol EMI roped everything in and they promoted the same couple songs on a variety of albums.  Basically a screw job of an album, to get people to buy the same songs over and over again, they were not on stage recordings for sure, but those who did buy the this album got the advantage of having From Me To You on a LP before the 1962-1966 Best of came out.  However those who thought they got screwed out of paying for this album are laughing all the way to the bank as this record has been known be sold for around 300 to 500 dollars and for Beatles collectibles it's one of the most haves, even in any condition (within reason of course, as long as the vinyl is VG playable).  If you're lucky enough to find the stereo version of this album, you might live off the profits very well, one sold for 22 thousand dollars in 1995! One of the key valuables is the misspelling of this little tidbit when they reissued this under the title Jolly What!  "It is with a good deal of pride and pleasure that this copulation has been presented".  The Vee Jay folks were so hell bent to rush it all one more time that they didn't bother to proofread. Copulation or Compilation regardless, the former word (screw job) would tend to be the overall assessment of this record.  But who knew that this would be a highly sought after copulation album? 

I actually found From Me To You/Please Please Me Vee Jay 45 a couple weeks ago from my favorite record store Ragged Records for about 8 dollars in fairly good shape.   I came across an cracked 45 of it at a Madison Savers store of the same name.  As for Jolly What? (or On Stage) this is more of a showcase for the easy listening/country singer Frank Ifield, who's big hit I Remember You is here as well as 7 other songs of note.  Ifield basically reminds me of Slim Whitman and I never did like I Remember You at all, even to a point of bypassing pristine copies of his Vee Jay single and a couple others. Even as a copulation album it really made no logical sense to hook the fab four with an asphalt version of a Slim Whitman.  On historical values in screwing the public, it rates an A, but taken as a whole, I can't give this record anymore than a B minus grade.  But if you have a decent copy, hold on to it anyway.

Vee Jay, once one of the better blues and R and B labels in Chicago, ended up getting their reputation shot down by all the poorly put together Beatles products in the year of 1963 to 1965, except perhaps Introducing The Beatles, which did tie in the missing pieces after Capitol issued Meet The Beatles.  They would released the Introducing The Beatles LP along with an album by The Four Season, who did record for Vee Jay in the early 60s before moving over to Phillips. The Beatles Vs The Four Seasons, a 2 LP battle of the bands series, does have some of the hits from the Four Seasons (Sherry, Walk Like A Man, Big Girls Don't Cry). Transglobal Music finally put a stop on Vee Jay issuing a cease and desist telegram.  Both The Beatles and Frank Ifield would head over to Capitol.  While The Beatles got bigger, Ifield enjoyed a lesser cluttered career, leaving Capitol for Hickory Records in 1966 where Ifield would record for the next four years.  Ifield did have a ear for great Nashville songwriters, he covered Don Gibson's Oh Such A Stranger (Hickory 1486) and John Loudermilk's It's My Time (Hickory 1550) in 1969 before dropping out of the US market till 1979 when Warner Brothers released Crystal (WB 8853), co produced with Wesley Rose, who was once part of Hickory Records.  Vee Jay would get two more attempts to get into the Beatles money with a dull interview record Hear The Beatles Tell All, and in 1965, had a cover band The Mersey Boys do a complete collection of Beatles songs The 15 Greatest Songs Of The Beatles-all composed by John, Paul And George as sung by The Merseyboys, which by then the general public knew better and didn't buy at all, like the Jolly What! album it does commend a few hundred dollars for record scavengers who are interested in all things Beatles and Beatles related.

The Merseyboys were actually The Brumbeats, who recorded a single I Don't Understand for Decca UK in 1964 and had a sound close to the Beatles although when I hear them I think more of Gerry And The Pacemakers. Mike Leander (later of Gary Glitter fame) produced their single and I'm guessing he had something to do with the making of the John Paul George album that Vee Jay released (VJ-1101). Soon afterwards The Brumbeats broke up.

Still in that short history of 1963 to 1965, Vee Jay did their best to get their foot in the door of Beatlemania and any original albums still are on want lists of many collectors around.  Their historical value is more so than the music itself, better best ofs and albums are out there. And if you're looking for more behind the scenes actions behind Vee Jay and their downfall, this link provides that highway to ruin.

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