Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Faces BBC Sessions - 5 Guys Walk Into The BBC...

In the early 70s there was always great debate about who really was "The Greatest Live Rock 'n' Roll Band In The World". Most claimed the title for the Rolling Stones, many said Led Zeppelin and some said The Who. Also equal contenders were the Faces. The Faces brand of lurching raunch'n'roll rivaled the Stones on a good night and with alcohol fueled cheeky good time cheeriness probably inspired greater levels of audience participation than Mick and Keef, Page and Plant or Daltry and Townshend ever managed to achieve. The best evidence for their live greatness can be heard on their still officially unreleased BBC sessions.


Stewart, McLagen, Wood, Jones and Lane - The Faces

The Faces
The name of the group was The Faces. Not Rod Stewart and the Faces. The Faces. It was a band. Rod Stewart was the lead singer. Ronnie Wood played the guitar and had a sound that rivaled, and arguably surpassed, Keith Richard's for rusty bucket raunchiness. Ronnie Lane played a funky, melodic, chunky bass and also sang and wrote a few songs. Ian McLagan provided a snaky classic Hammond organ sound and Kenny Jones played some of the most propulsive drums in British rock.

The band had grown out of the Small Faces. Singer / guitarist Steve Marriott had decided that the Small Faces weren't serious enough for him and he wanted to put some hair on his chest, play boogie rock and hit it big in the USA. So off he went off to form Humble Pie with his mate Peter Frampton. With the lead singer / guitarist having left them in the lurch, the three remaining Small Faces teamed up with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, both of whom had just left the Jeff Beck Group and were looking for a band. Stewart was the last to join as the wary and unconvinced Ronnie Lane, already let down by one lead singer, had an inkling that Stewart, who already had a promising solo career on the go, probably wouldn't stick around for long once fame struck. Which is pretty much what happened.


The BBC sessions
The band never really recorded a classic album and after Rod Stewart's solo success they seemed to be cast further and further into his shadow. There are some great singles but the band are best remembered live. Unfortunately the official live album "Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners", recorded at the end of their career after Ronnie Lane had left, completely fails to do them justice. The evidence for their true live greatness is to be found on many of the strangely still unreleased BBC sessions from the period. The band recorded quite a large number of live sessions from 1969 to 1973 - probably as a result of their being BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel's favourite band - and they are dynamite. A list of songs and session dates can be seen at the bottom of this post.

Proof? Listen to this mammoth 12 minute version of Ike and Tina Turner's "You're My Girl (I Don't Want To Discuss It)" from a concert recorded at the Paris Theatre in London for a John Peel's Sunday Concert radio show on May 13th 1971. It shows how stunning the band really were live. Ron Wood intros the song with an agitated Meters / James Brown style hard funk guitar riff - kind of punk funk - McLagan's keyboards respond to Wood's riffing, and rhythm section Lane and Jones anchor the heavy funk while Stewart goes into his best soul man mode. Around 4 to 5 minutes in it starts to get almost unbearably intense. And loud. Stewart is lost in the sheer power of a band possibly somewhat overawed at the flow of events themselves. The band go way beyond whatever the sum of their individual parts is to achieve glorious funkified musical transcendence. This is the longest recorded version of this song and is far superior to the version released on the Five Guys Walked Into A Bar 4CD Box. It's far more powerful than anything the Stones were doing at the time and it's classic 70s British rock at its best. Why is it still unreleased?
Listen.

You're My Girl (I Don't Want To Discuss It)



In fact, as far as I'm concerned, the best and most enjoyable Faces music is actually to be heard on these BBC sessions. Here is where you hear the true soul of the band. Their official albums are all dry patchy affairs and it's only on these sessions that you experience what the band really had to offer. Especially on the May '71 gig. That would make a classic live album all by itself. It's 40 minutes of  R'n'B drenched supercharged rock'n'roll and includes versions of Bad N' Ruin, Bobby Womack's It's All Over Now, Had Me A Real Good Time and the Temptations' (I Know) I'm Losing You. The tempo, pace and power just don't let up. And of course these are far better versions than the officially released ones.

Here are some more BBC session highlights from youtube

Devotion (from the 19/11/1970 session).
Rod Stewart and Ronnie Lane giving it some nice vocalizing. Stewart really did have one of the great white soul voices of the era.




Too Bad
"Gimme the moonlight...". The entire band sounding three sheets to the wind then... Mac intros, a frenzied riff from Ron Wood and everyone is off like the clappers. The last one to finish buys the next round.




Had Me A Real Good Time
The band's live appeal summed up in one song.




Memphis
An extremely muscular cover of the Chuck Berry song. Almost verging on punk at times. Stewart is overwhelmed by a band going at it like a battalion of tanks.





Underrated
It has been said over the years that the Faces were sloppy and a bit of a mess live. So drunk they couldn't keep it together etc. Rod Stewart, at the end of the band's career, was wont to cast a few aspersions in interviews about their musical prowess but then he had his own agenda going on and anyway was probably being led astray towards the 70s superstar high life by then girlfriend Britt Ekland. Like Steve Marriott, the poor old Faces were simply not good enough for him anymore either.

The recorded evidence on these BBC sessions and other live performances suggests completely the opposite. At least as long as Ronnie Lane was in the band (he quit in mid 73 to go solo) they were easily one of the best live acts around. True, after he left things did seem to slide a bit as they headed off into musical boogieland and played Rod Stewart's more successful solo material. However when they were good they were truly great and the alcohol fueled merry-making was very much a part of the act. Even on a rough night they'd be guaranteed to put a smile on your face.


Sounds for Saturday
Here's a show they recorded for BBC2 TV on 26th October 1971 which gives an idea of them at their peak. Recorded before a television audience it doesn't have the sheer rapturous punk energy of the May '71 radio concert but it does show them off in all their raunch'n'roll glory. Rod Stewart was one of the great front men of the era and Ronnie Wood, even if his lead work, especially on Love In Vain is er... somewhat clueless, can be seen here as a demon rhythm guitarist.

Three Button Hand Me Down / Maybe I’m Amazed / Too Much Woman-Street Fighting Man-Too Much Woman / Miss Judy’s Farm / Love In Vain / Stay With Me / I’m Losing You 





The End - Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind...
The band pretty much fell apart after Ronnie Lane left. Lane jumped ship when Stewart started to focus more on his solo career and he was never happy about the "Rod Stewart and The Faces" billing they got in the US. They weren't a backing band after all. They struggled on for a year or so with Tetsu Yamauchi as a replacement but Stewart could now barely summon up the interest and they only managed to record a couple more singles.  

Ron Wood eventually went off to join the Rolling Stones in their declining years. Kenney Jones joined the Who for a while after Keith Moon died and Ian McLagan formed his own band, worked with the Stones and Dylan, and is still gigging. There is talk of a reunion in the next year or so but relations between certain members still seem somewhat fragile. It's a pity they can't all make up and be friendly as good time mateyness was one of the things the band managed to conjure up so well on stage and was so much a part of their appeal.

If there is a reunion it will be without poor old Ronnie Lane who died in 1997 after many years of suffering multiple sclerosis. However a reunion and a BBC sessions release would be good news indeed. As Kenney Jones said earlier this year when talking about reunion possibilities, "the Faces never finished on a good note, so it would be nice to finish on a good note, and that would be that."

And that, on the back of an official release for these BBC sessions, would complete the legacy of the Faces - one the greatest Rock 'n' Roll bands of the classic rock era.




Bonus clip - London Rock
Faces clip from 1970 TV documentary London Rock
The band are interviewed and seen rehearsing. Kenney Jones talks about his childhood “where we grew up and used to play on bombsites” and the two Rons discuss life and philosophy down by the river with their girlfriends in tow. "What's needed now is a revolution in the nut" says one Ron. "I just came for the ice cream" says the other.
What a wonderful bunch of lads they were.






A list of the Faces BBC Sessions
This is just a list I compiled myself from internet sources over the years. It is not definitive and I don't claim complete trustworthiness for it..
If anyone can see any mistakes or can improve on it let me know.

15 tracks appear on Five Guys Walked Into A Bar 4CD Box.
Still plenty left for an official release

1) 9th March 1970 BBC Top Gear
01 Shake, Shudder, Shiver  2:45
02 Love In Vain  7:12
03 Wicked Messenger (Brian Matthew intro) 2:55
04 Maybe I'm Amazed  5:19

2) 10th March 1970  ‘Dave Lee Travis’,
London, Camden Theatre. Host: Dave Lee Travis.
01 Three Button Hand Me Down
02 Flying
03 Wicked Messenger
Note: Broadcast on the 15th March 70.

3) 28th March 1970, Top Gear, Playhouse Theatre, London
 01 Wicked Messenger
02 Devotion
03 Pineapple and the Monkey
04 Shake Shudder Shiver
 

4) August 27 1970 "Mike Harding Show", Aeolian Hall, Studio 2, London
01 All Over Now
02 Three Button
03 Around The Plynth
Broadcast 1st September 1970

5) 15th September 1970 ‘Top Gear’, Maida Vale, Studio #4, London
Host: John Peel.
01 Had Me A Real Good Time
02 Around The Plynth
03 Country Comfort
Note: Broadcast on the 19th September 1970.

6) 19th November 1970, Paris Theatre, London
1 You're My Girl (I Don't Want To Discuss It)
2 Wicked Messenger
3 Devotion
4 It's All Over Now
5 I Feel So Good
34:02

7) 20th April 1971 ‘Sounds Of The Seventies’ Kensington House, Studio T1, London
Host: Bob Harris.
01 Oh Lord I’m Browned Off
02 Love In Vain
03 Maybe I’m Amazed
04 Had Me A Real Good Time
Note: Broadcast on the 3rd May 71.

8)  29th April 1971 ‘Top Of The Pops’ TV show, London.
01 Richmond
02 Bad’n Ruin

9) 13th May 1971 Sunday Concert, Paris Theater, London,
01 I Don't Want To Discuss It  13:18
02 Bad & Ruin 5:06
03 It's All Over Now  6:35
04 Had Me A Real Good Time  6:15
05 Losing You  6:21

10)  28th September 1971 ‘Top Gear’  Maida Vale, Studio #4, London
Host: John Peel.
01 Stay With Me
02 Too Bad  3:42
03 That's All You Need/Plynth 8:03
04 Miss Judy’s Farm
05 Maggie May
Note: Broadcast on the 6th October.

11) 26th October 1971  ‘Sounds For Saturday - The Music Of The Faces’, TV (BBC2)
01 Three Button Hand Me Down
02 Maybe I’m Amazed
03 Too Much Woman-Street Fighting Man-Too Much Woman
04 Miss Judy’s Farm
05 Love In Vain
06 Stay With Me
07 I’m Losing You
Note: Broadcast 1st April 1972.
Total 43m.17s.

12) 17th February 1972 "In Concert", Paris Theater, London
01 Three Button Hand Me Down 5:00
02 Miss Judy's Farm 4:04
03 Last Orders Please 2:54
04 Devotion  6:32
05 Too Bad  3:42
06 That's All You Need/Plynth 8:03
07 Stay With Me  4:18

13) 8th February 1973 "In Concert", Paris Theatre, London
01. Silicone Grown 2:54
02. Cindy Incidentally 2:45
03. Angel 4:39
04. Memphis, Tennessee 4:11
05. True Blue 4:25
06. I'd Rather Go Blind 5:15
07. You're My Girl (I Don't Want To Discuss It) 5:27
08. Twistin' The Night Away 4:30
09. It's All Over Now 3:48
10. Miss Judy's Farm 4:03
11. Maybe I'm Amazed 5:24
12. Three Button Hand Me Down 5:17
13. I'm Losing You 6:25

14) 12th February 1973 'Radio 1 Club', Paris Theatre, London
01 Cindy Incidentally
02 My Fault
03 Borstal Boys
Note: Broadcast 1st March 1973
Total 9m.10s.

15) 1st April 1973 ‘In Concert’*, Paris Theatre, London
Host: John Peel.
01 Silicone Grown
02 Cindy Incidentally
03 Memphis, Tennessee
04 If I’m On The Late Side
05 My Fault
06 The Stealer
07 Borstal Boys
08 True Blue
09 Twistin’ The Night Away
10 Miss Judy’s Farm
11 Bad 'N' Ruin
12 Too Bad
Note: Broadcast on the 21st April.
Total 48m.05s.


This post is dedicated to the great John Peel. The Faces were Peel's favourite band in the early 70s and he features as MC on so many of these concert sessions.





More on stranger than known
Led Zeppelin at Southampton University 1973

Parallax - The Pink Floyd BBC Sessions

Ry Cooder and Little Feat live - Rampant Slide Zone Syncopation 

The Rolling Stones' finest hour - "Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out"

 

Friday, 18 April 2014

Tony Bennett - Music "controlled by corporations who think the public are ignorant"


Tony Bennett and Judy Garland, 1963



Mind The Gap
I grew up on the crooners when I was a kid and, of course, did not appreciate them at all at the time. Their music was not rock and it was not cool. How could it be? It was my parents' music. However, with the passing of time, I have come to appreciate the grace, sensuality, lyricism and wonderful jazz timing of Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the other crooners who were ever present on TV. I can now see the artistry my 15-year-old self was blind to.

But then I grew up in a time when there seemed to be a massive cultural and generational gap between those of us born after the war and those born before. My parents' generation hated what I listened to and couldn't see any merit in it at all. It was all an awful racket that was always too loud and very definitely needed to be turned down.

I don't think that massive gap exists any more. After all, modern festivals have become family affairs and parents take their kids to see the Rolling Stones. However I must admit that in my advancing years I also, on occasion, take a rather jaded view of contemporary music. There does seem to have been a triumph of marketing over soul in recent years but maybe it's just me.

In fact that generation gap seems strange to me now as I can see that the golden age of American music is not just the 60s or the 70s, it's a period of unrestrained musical expansion which runs from the jazz age of the mid 20s right through to the punk / reggae / rap era of the late 70s / early 80s after which, for me, popular music became corporate, predictable and bland. The beast had been tamed. But that's half a century's wealth of music which surprises, fascinates, thrills and also seems to react with and reflect the times which created it. Blues, Folk, Jazz and Rock are the art forms which dominated 20th Century culture (along with the cinema of course) and it is no surprise that as the USA grew and found a confidence in itself the best of its popular music reflected that. It was also a time when each generation seemed to have its own soundtrack, fashion and philosophy. Beats, Hippies, Punks... Each new decade brought new heroes and new surprises. There didn't seem to be a script. If there was, it was being written as we went along.

 
Tony Bennett 

In this interview for the BBC Tony Bennett starts talking about his signature tune, his favourite song,"I left my heart in San Francisco" and then goes on to express strong views about the state of contemporary music. "The songs written today are terrible" he says. The music business is "controlled by corporations who think the public are ignorant" and just focuses on the young. I'm not sure that hasn't always been true, certainly since Elvis and the invention of the "teenager" in the 50s but then who knows... sometimes when I turn on the radio I wonder if he doesn't have a point. The surprises, once so common, now seem few and far between.


Take a listen







More on stranger than known
"Cool" - BBC Arena documentary

Gregory Porter - The Gijon Jazz Festival 

The Cool Sound of Asturian Jazz - Carlos Pizarro...

What is Bebop? - The Subject is Jazz 



Thursday, 17 April 2014

1970 Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival Documentary


A short Woodstock style documentary on the 1970 Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival.

The program for the 1970 festival included headliners Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King, Bobby Blue Bland, Otis Rush and Son House - unfortunately none of them are included here. Were they even filmed?

The first festival was in 1969 and both festivals lost money. The all-blues program couldn't bring in enough people to break even and, like Woodstock and the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, many crashed the fences and got in for free.

Funnily enough after a quick look on google I can't even find a poster or program for the 1970 festival so one wonders how well publicized it was and whether that also contributed to its financial shortcomings.

It's a great little documentary resonant of its time. A time when large scale festival organization was still in its infancy. If only there were more music. 



More on the festival here
The Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival – A Brief History by Michael Erlewine (official historian for the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz festival) http://michaelerlewine.com/viewtopic.php?f=148&t=148

Michael Erlewine's video history of the first two festivals  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NZL_KDI59s

The Ann Arbor Chronicle -  Singin’ the Ann Arbor Blues. 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival was Midwest's Woodstock
http://annarborchronicle.com/2009/08/27/column-singin-the-ann-arbor-blues/




More on stranger than known
Cream live at the Spalding Bar-B-Que, 29th May 1967

Freddie King live on POP2 - September 1973

Texas International Pop Festival with Led Zeppelin...