Last weekend I met my friend Edwardo for breakfast at the Easy Street record store and cafe in West Seattle. There's usually a pretty long wait for a table there on weekends, and there really isn't much to do in the meantime besides dig through old records. This 1984 Canadian repressing of Dorothy Ashby's 1968 "Afro-Harping" LP is one of the things I picked up before our meal. Originally from Detroit, Dorothy was a pioneering advocate for using the harp in jazz and R&B music. You can read about the life and career of Dorothy Ashby here, where you'll also find a list of other popular musicians she recorded with, and there's more information in the LP liner notes below.
[ Dorothy Ashby: August 6, 1932 — April 13, 1986 ]
Along with all the embarrassing stuff I've uncovered while weeding through my singles these past few weeks, I've also re-discovered a few lost treasures. For instance, I couldn't remember anything about this terrific King Trigger single when I found it tucked away amongst the 'K's the other day. You can read about King Trigger here, click here to download the songs from their 1982 "Screaming" LP, and go here to read Ian Cleverly's tribute to King Trigger guitarist Martyn Clapson, who died in September of 2009 at age 48. The sleeve for "River" folds out into a neat poster, as you can see below, and you can watch a blurry version of the "River" music video here:
While further weeding through my 45s this week, I reached the 'M's and found this cheesy Glenn Medeiros single. A certain part of my anatomy must have purchased this one while the rest of my body wasn't paying attention. (My ears certainly didn't have any say.) But if you look through the eyes (or maybe the erection) of a closeted Mormon gay boy in rural Washington circa 1987, the allure of the swarthy young Mr. Medeiros in a stylish white denim bathrobe open to the naval is undeniable. According to Wikipedia, Glenn is now married, has two children named Lyric and Chord (!), and he's back in his home state of Hawaii, where he performs at the Hale Koa Hotel and teaches Social Studies at the Maryknoll School in Honolulu.
Originally formed as The Roosters by natives of Chattanooga, Tennessee, this talented group relocated to Chicago, added Jerry Butler to their ranks, and renamed themselves The Impressions. When Butler left in 1960 to pursue a solo career, Curtis Mayfield stepped into his shoes as the group's lead vocalist. With Mayfield aboard, The Impressions became one of the windy city's most popular singing groups in the 1960s, releasing a string of hits that climbed the national pop and R&B charts—including "Keep on Pushing," a top ten hit in 1964. You can read all about The Impressions on Wikipedia here, and go here to visit their official website, where you can listen to some of their latest songs and purchase their new Christmas CD.
Here's a little something in honor of the Gay Pride festivities and celebration that will be taking place in downtown Seattle later on today. Though Sam Harris' rendition of the Judy-Garland-classic-turned-gay-anthem is probably one of the most headache-inducing you're ever likely to hear (Harris goes way, way over the rainbow, after which he turns around and strangles the rainbow, and then he blasts the rainbow to smithereens), it's evidently considered to be the flamboyant Star Search champion's signature tune. Personally, I prefer Harris' 1984 top-40 hit "Sugar Don't Bite," partly because the song is a lot more fun and partly because the cover of the single shows off Harris' sexy arms and legs. You can read about the life and career of Sam Harris on Wikipedia here, and go here to read Sam's musings about being a new father after he and husband Danny Jacobsen adopted a baby boy in April of 2008.
Rubettes capitalized on society's nostalgia for the innocence of the sock-hop era to land a string of '50s-influenced pop hits in the UK and throughout Europe in the disco-laden and sexually-liberated mid-1970s. Though I usually tend to prefer the real thing over nostalgic reproductions, I do like the way "Sha Na Na Song" combines '50s hair grease with the glam pop sound of the 1970s. Also, I just learned on Wikipedia here that Rubettes were way ahead of their time regarding gay activism, recording songs ("Under One Roof" and "The Killing of Georgie") as early as 1976 that dealt with the topic of violence against homosexuals. You can see the group perform one of their hit songs using the link below, after which you'll find notes and a picture from the self-titled 1975 Rubettes LP, their first to be released in the USA.
Born in Indian Hills, Colorado in 1955, Randy VanWarmer moved to Cornwall, England with his mother in 1970 a few years after his father died in a car crash. Randy began writing songs and performing in folk music clubs in southern England until the b-side of his first flop single started getting played on the radio in the USA. The song, "Just When I Needed You Most," went on to become his one and only top ten hit, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts in 1979—you can sing along with it here. VanWarmer's 1980 followup album, "Terraform," left pop ballads behind in favor of darker, more interesting material—including a song that relates the post-death ruminations of a paranoid drowned man, and another about the destruction of Earth and humankind's uncertain attempts to survive. Needless to say, these songs were not pop hits, though I think the jaunty "I Discovered Love" could have been, but it never got released as a single. "Terraform" flopped in the USA, but evidently sold fairly well in places where people have better taste in music, like in Australia and Japan. VanWarmer had a moderate hit in 1981 with the song "Suzi Found a Weapon," which reached #55 on the Billboard singles charts, and went all the way to #1 in Alaska. Switching his focus to country music in the mid-1980s, Randy wrote chart-topping hits for groups like The Oak Ridge Boys and Alabama and even had a couple of minor country hits himself in 1988. Sadly, Randy died of leukemia in 2004 when he was just 48 years old; his cremated remains were sent into outer-space three years later. You can read more about the life and career of Randy VanWarmer here, and the pictures and notes from "Terraform" are included below.
[ Randy VanWarmer: March 30, 1955 — January 12, 2004 ]
Born in the picturesque village of La Trinité-sur-Mer in northwest France in 1935, Alain Barrière had his first big hit with "Elle Était Si Jolie (She Was So Pretty)" when the song placed 5th out of 16 entries in the Eurovision song contest in 1963. Barrière's popularity peaked in the late 1960s, but when a collection of remastered versions of his past hits was released on CD in 1997, it put the handsome singer squarely back into the limelight. You can read more about the debonair Monsieur Barrière on Wikipedia here, visit his official website here, listen to more of his music while watching a provocative-but-inexplicable slideshow here, and see the covers for his 1961 to 1983 record releases here. Photos of the open gatefold cover of Alain Barrière's self-titled 1968 LP are included below.
Here's a playful little ditty from organist and Watertown, SD native Ramona Gerhard. (I visited Watertown on my road trip through the Dakotas in July of 2009! See photos below.) I would love to see the tall, willowy, and striking Ms. Gerhard in action—with the bun on her head bobbing in all directions and her feathered boa writhing as she fervidly works her musical magic on the mighty Wurlitzer theater organ. But sadly it never will be, since Ramona passed away in Laguna Niguel, California on February 5, 1997, as you can read here. Go here and here to see covers of other neat-looking Ramona Gerhard albums, and the "Intermission Time" liner notes are included below.
[ Watertown, South Dakota — hometown of Ramona Gerhard ]
If you've been wondering whatever happened to Lebanese-Canadian pop sensation Andy Kim, the notes below will put your mind at ease. Basically, after having a string of hit singles in the USA and Canada in the late '60s and early '70s and co-writing "Sugar Sugar" with Jeff Barry, the talented young Andy Kim went through a period of transition. He disposed of his teeny-bopper persona and his perfectly-fine-sounding name—and a few years later Baron Longfellow was born, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Longfellow's uncanny resemblance to another pop star of the same era has me wondering why he didn't just call himself something like "Neil Sapphire" instead. You can read about Andy Kim/Baron Longfellow on Wikipedia here, and visit his official website here for more info, photos, and to find out where he'll be performing next. This is another one of the 45s I found while weeding through my singles bins.
Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if Sammy Hagar recorded an album full of hits by Otis Redding and Rick Springfield? This 1979 single should give you an idea. I've been going through my 45s lately to get rid of records I don't want so I can make room for new stuff. I really can't remember how this Sammy Hagar single ended up in my collection, but I was probably drawn in by the fact that Sammy actually had a photographer accompany him to the dock of a bay to take pictures of him sitting on it. I also enjoy the electric guitar seagull effects, was impressed that the single was produced by the 39th President of the United States of America, and I was curious to hear Hagar's version of "I've Done Everything For You," which he actually wrote and recorded before Rick Springfield made it a hit in 1981.
What better to listen to first thing in the morning than a pair of German identical twin brothers singing old western-American cowboy ballads? This 1968 LP by Heinrich and Oskar Kröher that I found at 2nd Avenue Records down in Portland, Oregon back in February also features a nice rendition of "Streets of Lardeo." You can read about Hein & Oss here, where the oddly-translated text will inform you that, in addition to singing, "the brothers also operate a writer" and that the twins have performed all over Europe, as well as throughout the USA—"from California to the New York Iceland." The album's liner notes in English and German are included below.
[ Heinrich & Oskar—or maybe Oskar & Heinrich—in 2007 ]
Overheard when:9:46pm on Monday, June 13, 2011 Overheard where:at the next table atSkillet Diner at 1400 East Union Street in Seattle, WA [map] Overheard who: a lanky, sorta' nerdy blond gay guy in his late 20s or early 30s, talking to his older gay buddy over dinner. Overheard what: "He was a great-looking guy and really popular with the women—a heartthrob, I guess you'd call him. He was always lots of fun and liked to horse around and stuff... but one night we ended up alone in the parking lot, just him and me, and he was horsing around again... We'd been in this situation lots of times before, but this time he was horsing around and suddenly he totally just jumped me! He was grabbing my face and pulling it towards him. At first I tried to fight him off, but after a while I got tired of fighting, because he seemed determined to do this thing, so I figured I'd just let it take its course. But the second I stopped fighting him off, something in him clicked and he totally changed. He suddenly pushed me away and started yelling, 'Dude! You were trying to kiss me! What the fuck!?' (pause) Now he's married, and his wife has really big boobs."
At some point last year I was buying records at Jive Time in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood and was informed that I might as well grab another $3 record, since I had three, and they're 4 for $10. Never one to turn down a bargain, I flipped through the bins and quickly chose this Ohio Knox LP, because I liked the looks of it. When I got home, I was pleased to find that the record sounded just as good as it looked. Led by singer/songwriter Peter Gallway, Los Angeles-based group Ohio Knox released this self-titled LP in 1971, though the record is listed as one of Gallway's early solo albums in the discography on his website here, where you'll also find his biography, his contact info, and you can purchase more of his music. You can get your own copy of this album for $20 here, or go here to pay $100 for a sealed copy instead.