The sound of ’66
The portrait painted in 1966: 50 Years Ago Today, the BBC4 Arena documentary directed by Paul Tickell and based on Jon Savage’s recent book, was full of interesting things (notably a reminder of Jonathan Miller’s sensational quasi-psychedelic TV version of Alice in Wonderland). The mood Tickell strove to evoke, concentrating on a dour, monochrome paranoia, wasn’t the way I remember 1966 — a year only half a notch below its immediate predecessor in terms of cultural stimuli and general euphoria — but at least his programme had a point of view. And it also had, towards the end, a snatch of one of the greatest of all cover versions of a Lennon & McCartney song.
J.J. Barnes would eventually become a Northern Soul hero through tracks such as “Real Humdinger”, “Please Let Me In” and “Our Love (Is in the Pocket)”. His version of “Day Tripper” precedes and surpasses them, in my view. It was arranged and co-produced for Detroit’s Ric-Tic label by Andrew “Mike” Terry, a Motown studio regular whose fruity baritone saxophone solos could be heard on “Heat Wave”, “Where Did Our Love Go”, “This Old Heart of Mine” and many others. I love the way Terry takes on the riff from the Beatles’ original and, while keeping the driving 4/4 rhythm and the fuzz guitar, hardens up the groove, those trumpet stabs and flourishes adding an extra dimension behind Barnes’s Wilson Pickettish vocal. And presumably that’s James Jamerson, Paul McCartney’s bass-guitar hero, moonlighting from Hitsville USA to dig into the riff.
What gives the record its special immediacy is the grainy low-fi sound that would never have made it past Berry Gordy Jr’s quality control department. It was there on the original UK Polydor version I bought the week it came out in 1966, and it’s still there today, proudly resistant to any kind of digital clean-up technology.
Since we’re on the subject, there’s another favourite I’d like to mention. It’s Roy Redmond’s soulful version of “Good Day Sunshine”, arranged and produced by Jerry Ragovoy for the Loma label, Warner Bros’ soul subsidiary, in 1967. It has the lot: great laconic guitar intro, heat-drugged slow-drag beat, greasy southern horns, gospel-style female back-up choir, and an excellent lead vocal from another obscure soul-music hero. I believe McCartney himself had nice things to say about it, and no wonder.
* Ace Records have just announced the September release of Let It Be, the second volume in their Black America Sings Lennon & McCartney series. Vol 1 (titled Come Together) included Roy Redmond’s “Good Day Sunshine” among a quantity of other good stuff. J.J. Barnes’s “Day Tripper” isn’t on either volume, sadly. For that reason alone, there is bound to be a Vol 3.
I have this on “The Complete Ric Tic Story vol 1 CD 1” but to my shame I don’t specifically recall it. Must remedy.
On the subject of good Beatles covers , “Why don`t we do it in the road” by Lowell Fulsom excels.
I would also add Al Green’s version of “Get Back” to the roll call of great Beatles covers
Richard, Thanks for your comments on the film and even more so for your chapter and verse on JJ Barnes. In an earlier cut of the film I’d chosen the Otis Redding ‘Day Tripper’. But Jon Savage suggested the Barnes which immediately worked much better with the film.
Thanks for the link, Richard. I notice free improvisation doesn’t get a mention in the film, despite starting in that year. Did you ever get round to reading the book I sent you, ‘Beyond Jazz’?
I very much enjoyed your book, Trevor. I think it must have appeared around the same time as my McLaughlin book. I noticed your comment in it bemoaning/wondering why the London free improv scene never seemed to get mentioned in mainstream histories of music in Britain/on London (I can’t exactly recall how you phrased it). I remember thinking, ‘Ah, I couldn’t agree more!’ If you get a chance to read the McL book – insofar as that can ever be a mainstream book – I hope you’ll find that pretty substantially addressed! (Plenty of MM John Stevens/Little Theatre-related reportage and interviews with Howard Riley, Trevor Watts, Gunter Hampel and so on.)
You may already know this one, but…Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain by George McKay, an Academic and “a leading chronicler of British countercultures” has a chapter titled “The politics and performance of improvisation in Jazz in the 1960s and 1970s” (Well he is an academic). I’ve not read it but it may cover some of the things you are interested in. The Amazon blurb also says “McKay reveals the connections of the music, its players, and its subcultures to black and antiracist activism, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, feminism, and the New Left. In the process, he provides the first detailed cultural history of jazz in Britain. McKay explores the music in relation to issues of whiteness, blackness, and masculinity-all against a backdrop of shifting imperial identities, postcolonialism, and the Cold War… Circular Breathing is enriched by McKay’s original interviews with activists, musicians, and fans…”
Thanks Paul. I’ve read about George’s book online and will no doubt buy it eventually. To be honest, my heart sinks when I see these sort of books loaded up with sociology and the like. Speaking personally, I like books with academic rigour but by and large I don’t like academic books – they’re often written to impress other academics, not to engage readers. One of the prime motivations for writing the J McL book was that I bought an academic book on jazz-rock that, it seemed to me on reading it, was full of wilfull disregard of actuality: it contained no original interviews (despite four of its five main subjects of analysis being alive and well and not that difficult to contact) and the author had cherry-picked previously published quotes to shore up his thesis about a ‘broken middle’ in something or other – suggesting certain purposes and motivations for the protagonists that, certainly in McL’s case, were simply not true, and which other period quotes would have shown to be the case. I was annoyed about that book, which I won’t name (and didn’t name or reference in my own). Ultimately, for people who play music and become significant I have a feeling that it’s just who they are, what they have to do – it’s not to be explained by their experiences of gender, race, politics, sexuality, what school they went to, blah blah blah. It’s just music.
Like the Jon Savage book which inspired it, the ’66 Arena was led by the pop music of that year and the very idea of what pop could be. Going ‘beyond Jazz’, as it were, would have been a very different kind of film and probably not one you’d get commissioned by the BBC – unfortunately. However, I would love to see – or even make – such a film!
I understand that one of your senior colleagues has been trying to get a jazz-rock doc commissioned for ages, Paul, without any luck. That doesn’t make a free improv doc terribly hopeful, does it! It’s a real shame: we see endless recycling of pretty much the same OGWT ‘classic’ clips (Tiny Dancer, Stir It Up, Roxette, SAHB’s Delilah, etc etc) and yet there are plenty of tantalising extant performances from even that one show that we never ever see – a studio session from Isotope, studio sessions from Bread men James Griffin and David Gates, etc. And then there are all the wonderful surviving bits and pieces from other shows – the 20 minute Rendell-Carr doc from 1967, Norma Winstone/Mike Westbrook on ‘Release’ in 1968 performing ‘Original Peter’, Pentangle’s ‘Songs From A Country Church’ from 1970 (thought lost, but I saw a glimpse of it in some recent doc, so obviously not…), Andy Roberts’ episode of ‘Three In Ten’ in 1971, performing ‘Nina & The Dream Tree’ songs… One could go on!
Colin, SAHB – now you’re talking! So much gets written out of history – in this case because it is ‘written’ by the commissioners. Also, lots of stuff gets wiped. Believe it or not only about two Top of the Pops survive from ’66. The TOTP performance of 19th Nervous Breakdown only survives because it was used in a documentary about depression.
Indeed, and I believe that the Judith Pieppe documentary with the wonderful Les Cousins footage (which you used in the Arena doc, unless my memory’s playing tricks and it was in some other recent doc [my recent memory iis terrible!]) only survived because it was misfiled as a railway documentary – so I heard from Jan Leman, who used the brief Jackson Frank moment in ‘Acoustic Routes’ on BBC2 in 1993 (recently re-edited/expanded on a 2DVD/2CD set).
I had long thought one of the great tragedies of celluloid happenstance was that not a moment of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates survived, but I noticed in another recent-ish BBC4 (or 2) doc – not a specifically music doc but one on the era – that there WAS some brief B&W verite-style film, probably from a European station, of the chaps seemingly performing ‘Shakin’ All Over’, albeit it looked like the studio recording had been dubbed in. Still, quite a revalation. Wish my memory for what docs these things appear in was better!
The documentary about Judith Piepe and Soho (Outcasts and Outsiders) might have survived because it had a name reporter – Tom Mangold. But who knows? I don’t think that there were any precise guidelines about what was or wasn’t to be safely archived away.
Apologies – the reporter was in fact Tom Salmon.
You were okay the first time – I wouldn’t have known there was anything fishy…
There are presumably some episodes still extant of the Joe Melia fronted Saturday night BBC 2 arts show (from circa 72/3 – title escapes) judging from the very occasional showing of Soft Machine(circa “6”) appearing on it and also Jeff Beck (backed by his protégées Upp). The same show memorably had a performance of Westbrook’s somewhat misfiring jazz rock foray Solid Gold Cadillac.
I can also dimly recall some arts show (again on BBC 2) in the late 60s where there was a heated debate between some music “academic” and members of the Battered Ornaments (who had just performed) with the estimable George Khan putting down the academic who was denouncing their use of odd key changes/time signatures with a line something like “Well you’ve just read the wrong books mate”.
The Holy Grail has to be the “Jazz 625” episode with Albert Ayler which was deemed too disturbing(or something like it) to be broadcast….
Tim – I too forget the name of the Melia (something to do with ‘House’ wasn’t it? Open House? Full House?) One occasionally sees the terrific live Roxy Music tracks from it – Grey Lagoons and Ladytron (Richard – were you involved in getting them on this show?) and a ludicrously overamplified Humble Pie clip from it turned up on one of those ‘Totally British Rock’n’Roll’ shows on BBC4 a year or so back. But the Beck + Upp clips are from a one-off called ‘Fave Faces of Guitar’, with a rather langourous Scottish hipster presenting Beck, John Renbourn, Julian Bream, Paco Pena and Barney Kessell. Fantastic! I understand Bream and Renbourn became quite friendly as a result, and Bream used Pena in his Channel 4 series on the guitar in the 80s, so possibly this show was the connection there.
The Ayler show at the LSE in late 1966 was filmed for a follow-up seies to Jazz 625 called Jazz Goes To College’ or something like that. I don’t think anything from that series survives (unlike most of Jazz 625) because it was shot on video, then reused. The Ayler show was wiped before broadcast. Humphrey Lyttelton, who was at it, and who was usually admirably supportive of all forms of jazz, thought the show was ‘a disgrace’ – I think because the playing was so primitive and the band’s behaviour was deemed unpleasant. (I happened to be skimming over some contemporaneous print coverage of it last week – it’s all fascinating stuff.)
Sorry, typo: FIVE Faces of Guitar..
Colin- it was indeed “Full House” and the “langourous Scottish hipster” was the other Mike Harding the one who introduced in the early 70s the Tuesday evening episode of “Sounds Of The 70s” on Radio One – a show which also introduced many of us(who were out of the pirates’ reach) to Whispering Bob….Harding memorably once criticized Juicy Lucy (a band name redolent of an era if ever there was one) for producing what he perceived as a lack lustre session for his show. Harding was a guitarist himself but disappeared from view by the mid 70s….
I recall postings on the BBC Jazz Messageboard back in the day from folk who claimed to have been at the Ayler broadcast which I think was the improv world’s equivalent to that Pistols appearance in Manchester
Ha! Except you’ll find the Pistols’ Manchester show now on a 4LP box set and the Ayler show probably not! I was born in 1968, so all this is pure history to me – I wasn’t ‘there’ first time around. You mention Solid Gold Cadillac – funnily enough, I only yesterday managed to acquire an affordable secondhand copy of the two LPs on CD (BGO, 1999). That seems to happen to a lot of vintage Brit jazz CDs – a thousand copies sold, slips out of print, impossible to get for sensible money 10 (or 5!) years later. You might as well seek out an original vinyl copy some of the time…
“Full House”, probably not named after the Wes Montgomerey album, seemed a pretty daring concept at the time. Musical highlights I can recall were the Softs and a quite hirsute Cannonball Adderley, here’s a bit more info.
Fascinating, Mick – and there’s that man Bream again!
Eh, do you not think you have strayed somewhat from the point ?
Well to get back to the 66 documentary it was nice to see footage of a 16 year old Caroline “The Face Of 1966” Munro (the inspiration behind Colin Blunstone’s “Caroline Goodbye” and the Lamb’s Navy Rum Girl) from that show that Barry Fantoni IMS co hosted. It was pretty astonishing to then hear, seemingly with Miss Munro present, the view being expressed that she wasn’t The Face Of 1966 (Twiggy was in the view of the presenter/voiveover) and her looks were passé. My astonishment was not at the opinion expressed but that it was said without any apparent consideration of the 16 year old’s feelings although maybe she’d already got the steel models need even by that age….