Part 18: The British Invasion (specifically: Nanker Phelge)

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 18: The British Invasion (specifically: Nanker Phelge)

Postby Brian Lord » Sun Nov 22, 2009 7:14 am

Brian Lord's Radio Stories

The British Invasion (specifically: Nanker Phelge)

In the 20th Century every pop-music icon had at least one or, in some cases, several vocalists or groups who broke into the circle of massive popularity, following their lead -- not quite as big but close. Al Jolson had Eddie Cantor; Russ Columbo was a near carbon copy of Bing Crosby; Sinatra had Tony Bennett; Elvis brought a raft of them: Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis; Buddy Holly; Little Richard, Fats Domino and a few others who all shot to star-status after Presley paved the way for the new phenomenon dubbed by Cleveland DJ Alan Freed as "Rock 'n' Roll".

The Beatles, whose incredible success I have chronicled in the last three postings were followed by The Rolling Stones. However in this case, the two bands were far from mirror images of each other. While the Beatles early recordings were written by American rock and blues composers, Mick Jagger and company were better known in the beginning as a white blues band. They drew a somewhat different group of fans who, although into rock 'n' roll, preferred a sound that was more shaped along the lines of Rythym and Blues than that delivered by the Beatles. Although the latter also sang American blues music, the Stones were, in the eyes of some British fans more suited to convert black, Delta blues into the modern format than any other group of the day.

At the station where I worked we had made a kind of urban legend out of a one-time Beatles pal in the person of the mystical, Goth treasure, Wendy Nicholas who had a prodigious knowledge of Britain's pop music culture and had given us the 45 RPM single: the Stones fourth United Kingdom release but first certified hit, Not Fade Away, the old Buddy Holly tune. They had released two American blues/rock songs previously, as well as covering the Lennon McCartney-penned I Wanna Be you Man. None did all that well but Not Fade Away was a smash hit in England, peaking at #3. The requests we received for our copy of the song prompted me to order the group's new LP release, the eponymous "The Rolling Stones" from our London music store.

Our PD, Bill Watson, was a blues fan, loved the Stones and lay heavily on the LP's 14 selections. This had a trickle-down effect with the result that we were now playing the Stones almost as much as the Beatles. In late spring of 1964 the Stones began an American tour and Bill, backed by the radio station's manager, wangled a deal to get the group to play their first concert in San Bernardino at the 17,000 seat Swing Auditorium.

In order to capitalize on this new budding phenomenon, three of K/Men's DJ's, including myself and Bill, drove into Los Angeles (55 miles west of San Bernardino) and met the Stones in person. We went aboard the plane to escort them off and slammed straight into an attack of teenage femininity, screaming and clawing, trying to touch all five members of the group. Most of the 200 or so teen-agers we recognized as coming from our area of the LA basin 'cause not many stations were playing their music... yet. I can remember distinctly grabbing Brian Jones in a head lock and battered my way through this melee into a glass enclosed room across the walk way opposite the aircraft's exit passage. When safely inside, Decca Records personnel led the group to a waiting limousine by a back exit while Keith Richard stayed with us in our car and we interviewd him on the way to the hotel. No doubt Richard became a little concerned when Bill Watson became lost in the LA labyrinth. One could hardly blame Keith -- here he was alone in Los Angeles with three complete strangers who didn't seem to know where they were going.

A side-bar: the all-time favorite Stones song, Satisfaction, released a year later in 1965 featured on the B side The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man -- a spoof on Decca's Promotion dude who fit the description in the song to a "T". However the guy took it as a compliment -- it's anything but. (That was the B side of the US release only, it being of a parochial nature.)

The Swing Auditorium was packed, a sell-out. Bill emceed the show and for awhile it was bedlam. The audience threw jelly beans on the stage, (a Beatles audience trip begun in England) also panties, chocolate bars and balled up notes proclaiming love. It was vicious in the early going but the police came on stage and took charge... calming down the frenzy. The K/Men DJ's assisted by tackling crazed girls who had clambered onto the stage and were making a beeline for Jagger We carried them to the back door and sent them packing. It wasn't easy, I got a wicked scratch an my neck. To their credit, the Rolling Stones at no time stopped playing.

As 1964 came to an end, most music released by the Beatles was composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, perhaps the best known composers of the century, although later LP's usually featured one or two cuts written by George Harrison. The Rolling Stones discography was mostly composed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richard however several of their tunes were credited to all five members of the band including Brian Jones, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. Rather than list each band member on the record, the Stones came up with the name Nanker Phelge. Phelge was a real name, Jimmy Phelge, an early room-mate of the group and a composer in his own right. Nanker was a reference to the grotesquely contorted face Brian Jones used to pull on occasion. Jones is credited with inventing the name.

Once the Beatles, followed by the Rolling Stones, opened the flood gates, the US and Canada became entranced by the music emanating from the UK. It was dubbed "The British Invasion". The songs bore an unmistakable sound, and radio station playlists were featuring, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Moody Blues, The Searchers, Herman's Hermits, Billy J. Kramer, The Hollies and a few other groups from England. The early stuff was seminal in the way Elvis Presley and his contemporaries had been seminal. Basic rock 'n' roll. These groups were the first wave from overseas. The US rushed to compete, and did to some extent. Sonny and Cher, Phil Spector's girl groups --The Crystals and Ronettes --and most of all, the Motown Sound of The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations et al had gold records but it wasn't until Bob Dylan arrived on the scene that America could trump the Brit sound successfully. At that point, the Atlantic ocean became the proverbial river and Rock music was finally universal.

Next time: A C-FUN Flashback
Brian Lord
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Re: Part 18: The British Invasion (specifically: Nanker Phelge)

Postby Glen Livingstone » Sun Nov 22, 2009 8:14 am

Another great story Brian.

On the topic of the Stones and the frenzy they caused during their first American visit, fans should check out the T.A.M.I. Show, recorded live at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and released in December, 1964.

Billed as 'The Greatest, Grooviest, Wildest, Most Exciting Beat Blast Ever to Pound the Screen,' the film features appearances by The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Supremes, Jan and Dean, Chuck Berry, James Brown, The Barbarians, Marvin Gaye, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Lesley Gore.

The Stones (who closed the show) had to follow James Brown onstage.

Keith Richards later claimed that the decision was 'the biggest mistake of their career,' and it must have been tough for them, but they rose to the occasion and performed admirably.
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Re: Part 18: The British Invasion (specifically: Nanker Phelge)

Postby Neumann Sennheiser » Sun Nov 22, 2009 9:25 am

A quality copy of the TAMI show is a pretty difficult thing to obtain as the only current source are various bootlegs (not released on DVD).
I have one on VHS that I lifted myself from a Canadian premium cable channel in 1984.
Recorded in low-speed mode in on one of those ubiquitous RCA top loaders, the quality is horrible but the performances are outstanding (mostly); James Brown, Marvin Gaye, The Miracles being the stand outs.

List of Performers:
* The Barbarians
* Chuck Berry
* James Brown and The Famous Flames
* Marvin Gaye
* Gerry & The Pacemakers
* Lesley Gore
* Jan and Dean
* Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas
* Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
* The Rolling Stones
* The Supremes

Never heard of The Barbarians? Not surprising. A minor league,one hit wonder group from Boston, they must've been amazed to have been included with this lineup of legends. Notable for one-armed drummer Victor "Moulty" Moulton who used a prosthetic hook on his left arm, having at age 14 lost part of it in an explosion. Moulty was able to play drums using the prosthesis to hold a drum stick and, on the TAMI performance, you really have to look closely to even notice it.

The Beach Boys only appeared in the theatrical release and, due to legals and lawyers, were edited out of any and all subsequent incarnations. If you have a copy with them performing, well, that would be very rare!
"You don't know man! I was in radio man! I've seen things you wouldn't believe!"
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Re: Part 18: The British Invasion (specifically: Nanker Phelge)

Postby skyvalleyradio » Sun Nov 22, 2009 9:29 am

Brian - thank you, as always for the GREAT DO need to put this all in a book. Thanks also for enlightening me (and others) about "The West Coast Under Assistant Promotions Man' - I had always wondered what the real tale was behind this song 8-)
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Re: Part 18: The British Invasion (specifically: Nanker Phelge)

Postby Steve Sanderson » Sun Nov 22, 2009 11:32 am

WOW!!...Like skyvalleyradio, I also want to thank-you again for another great story!
What an exciting time and place it must have been, and to be a part of
Rock and Roll history in the making!....Keep writing them down my friend!
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Re: Part 18: The British Invasion (specifically: Nanker Phelge)

Postby BossRadio » Sun Nov 22, 2009 2:36 pm

Earwormed!!! "Are You a Boy or are You a Girl?" stuck in head....must set it free... *click* ... re=related
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Re: Part 18: The British Invasion (specifically: Nanker Phelge)

Postby jawbone » Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:08 pm

For my first comment on this amazing series, I would just like to thank Brian for his stories. You have a gem here on RadioWest!
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