Part 33: The Music and The Musicians Pt II

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 33: The Music and The Musicians Pt II

Postby Brian Lord » Fri Nov 05, 2010 10:11 am

Brian Lord Radio Stories
Music and Musicians Part 2

Soul, Hair and the full on 60's

I notice where Solomon Burke died recently and it brought back to me some of the great stuff he sang and we played on the radio even though we were not a soul station. Otis Redding was another one and Janis Joplin. Ray Charles and What'd I Say. Tony Joe White and Polk Salad Annie, Sam and Dave, Joe Tex. Eddie Floyd , Rock radio allowed such side-bars into other styles of music, thank God.. Even Marty Robbins, a country singer, had a huge hit with El Paso. (except DJ's got sick of it after a week). These people and a lot more were around in the early 60's. Janis had to be the greatest white soul artist ever. She was lead singer for "Big Brother and the Holding Company" which produced an LP called Cheap Thrills that set a new high for the era. Another white singer, Grace Slick joined Jefferson Airplane and her looks alone sold records.. The early 60's was a period of mix. When the Brits began topping Billboard charts everything that had been began to change. Even the Beach Boys took a back seat to the Beatles and that gang from the Brian Epstein stable plus a wad more. The soul stayed and the side-bars but by mid decade, emphasis was placed on quality and Freddie Cannon got what he deserved.

Every Super Star, it seems has another quality artist standing at his shoulder. Jolson had Eddie Cantor, Crosby had Russ Columbo (who died in an auto accident at 26), Tony Bennett was huge but stood in Sinatra's shadow, Elvis had a whole flock of male singers when Rock 'n' Roll hit but believe it or not, his main rival back in the mid 50's was Pat Boone. The Beatles sold more records and set more trends but, in England, there was a large following for the Rolling Stones. First, they were British, second they sang blues which almost everybody likes whether they know it or not.and third they were as charismatic as any group ever was or would be. I've written about them in an earlier chapter. Wendy Nicholas left us a copy of their latest LP and also a cover of Buddy Holly's tune Not Fade Away. We hung that on a nail and I'm sure we were the only station who played it in Southern California. The Stones lead guitar was, in the beginning, Brian Jones and as my friend Bob Bell pointed out one time: Jones gave the band their sound. (Bob Bell is a friend I met who plays a guitar. He played it so well that many consider him the best guitar in Canada. He and I became fast friends in the 1970's and during the time of our friendship--I left the country in 1995--he taught me as much about new music as Dave McCormick taught me about old. Bob was nowhere near the radio business. He sold records for a couple of big chains, formed his own band, Necropolis, and plays his own music which is not anything like what we were playing on the radio, then or now. It is basically jazz-funk. Some would say avant-guarde but he wouldn't. He's got a sizeable following, and has produced several CD's. That's not a plug, it's background)

The early sound of Rock 'n' Roll was fun while it lasted and has stood the test of time but after what I called a "mix" of music in the early 60's, things changed dramatically. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were still around of course but all across the world Rock 'n' Roll died out as such and was replaced by just plain Rock. Terminology. The true bands began to emerge. Americans were about finished with having their music taking second fiddle to the English and DJ's in North America began to pick up on what was coming out of, well... California mostly. Jimi Hendrix starred at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 along with Otis Redding, Janis, The British group The Who and others. And from somewhere buried down in the folk world, came the man who is arguably the greatest modern American musician ever to appear on record shelves. Of course I'm talking about Bob Dylan. He wasn't alone. On an LA beach Jim Morrison met Ray Manzarek and they formed The Doors probably the most honest band in musical history. It's worth noting that The Doors, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix were basically culture heroes who all died young.

It was a matter of U.S. Record labels getting smart and recognizing what kind of music was in vogue. During the time when the British groups were topping charts it was only the black-pop music industry that made any great strides in North America and their number was limited. Motown topped the list with the Supremes and Marvin Gaye; Phil Spector's girl groups played to sold out houses. Both were cross-over artists appealing to both black and white audiences, live and on-air. Chicago, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, also the Byrds, the Velvet Underground and Captain Beefheart (who got little if any airplay) sold a lot of albums. Then Britain weighed in for round two. Led Zepplin with lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page lead the new sound from overseas. The Who, Joe Cocker, Pink Floyd and the Kinks turned out startling rock that was compared (by some) as the true classical music of the 20th Century. Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce along with Ginger Baker put together Cream. The Zombies These bands were based on R&B and the musicians were, many of them trained in classics. The Rolling Stones and the Beatles were still making records although Brian Jones who'd always been an all-star druggie up and died. That put an end to any repeat effort of Aftermath the Stones best album. The Beatles, meanwhile created what many termed their masterpiece Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band .and then flopped for the first time in their career when they tried to make a film with no script, no director, no actors and only a handful of songs--Magical Mystery Tour. The group had taken on a new member, or at least Lennon had: Yoko Ono From the time of her entry into the inner sanctum of the group, things began to turn sour as John paid her more attention than the music and the other three. Next, they opened novelty shops and sold paraphernalia. They also tried to make a go of it in the clothing business--both initiatives failed. Without Brian Epstein around (died by suicide) they were leaderless and everything eventually went to shit. Matter of fact a thorough study of the group shows that even Epstein failed miserably in keeping track of the accounting. The Beatles were the epitome of Rock money makers but they could have made three times what they did had Epstein done a few less drugs, dropped his constant worry about his love for John Lennon and had his wits about him.

Near the end of the 60's and into the 70's music the "new" rock poured out of both sides of the Atlantic until, like all musical trends, it stalled to be replaced by, well, something different. Maybe the music was too progressive. Virtually unknown to most North American radio DJ's were the English psychedelic groups of the late 60's and through the 70's. This movement included Gentle Giant, Yes, Gong, King Crimson, Egg, and Soft Machine with whom Kevin Ayers Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge were associated and who eventually went all over Europe creating great combos of jazz-rock fusion. What took over on the air was certainly different. The Beatles switched labels to their own--Apple--label and produced three more LP's. The White Album which was partly silly and partly just plain stupid although it did have moments. Abbey Road was well accepted but the group was in it's end throes and shortly after they disbanded, released Let It Be which at least showed some good work by George Harrison. They all went on to successful (at first) individual careers. Even Ringo. By that time The magnificent music of the 60's had faded. Rock was all but over and standing waiting for the fall was a plump, short-haired nearly blind shrimp who played great keyboards but insisted on singing. His initial LP's, the first two at least, had some merit to them but by the time he got famous he started to turn out Romper Room songs. A lot of people reading this may be Elton John fans and take umbrage. Sorry, that's the way I remember it. It may be said in his defense that he called his own music "dispensable". The 70's followed the greatest decade in modern history--for good and bad--and there was just no way the message music could way would it survive the drastic upheaval called the Vietnam War. Rock music and it's messages of common sense and peace, based on the songs which had been sung by Solomon Burke gave way to David Bowie glitter and poop-lyrics.

Elton John did not hog the radio dials, he was accompanied by Disco which was universally hated by everyone who loved the music of the 1960's. A younger generation had emerged and brought the big ball of glass and the non-stop, one beat, one hit artists front and center at plush Go-Go clubs. The jeans and tank-tops of the 60's gave way to Pretty. Clean (under the make-up) and vibrant young kids were about to have the time of their life. Instead of trying to make a plea to the world, they turned inward. Look at me, am I not beautiful? And radio had no chance to fight the music that most of the DJ's hated. Some of it was black-pop but not the kind George Clinton or Parliament would produce. It was fast, fun and here to claim it's ten year allotted trend period.. KC and the Sunshine Band, Hues Corporation, Donna Summer, and Blondie segued at the clubs and DJ's began segueing them on air. It was not depressing unless you hated it, It sold millions of LP's (singles were dying like flies) and it blatantly ignored it's roots--largely because it didn't really have any. Disco brought a huge shift in radio programming in that a lot of DJ's hit the road...either by choice or not and voice over was born. "This is ___ that was____ and Disco Dave says have a good time", all on tape.

Rather than listen to Cherchez la Flame I changed. Went to Victoria.
Brian Lord
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Re: Part 33: The Music and The Musicians Pt II

Postby Mike Cleaver » Fri Nov 05, 2010 3:47 pm

Another great chapter in the on-going story of life in radio by Brian.
I'm glad I was a jock through the sixties, when the music WAS great and you were able to choose what you wanted to play on your show.
By the time I decided to ditch the jock part of the business, it was 1969 and things had changed in the music world, including the introduction of the mandatory must play list.
I became a news person full-time then because the music on radio was no longer much fun.
That and CanCrap and all the paperwork that went with being on-air, CanCrap lists, Capac/BMI and logs killed off any desire to continue playing what the now incoming consultants called "music" was more than enough to encourage me to make the change.
Music on radio has never since compared to what it was in the sixties and the vast variety of what was available for airplay, mixed the way you thought it should be presented.
Mike Cleaver Broadcast Services
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Vancouver, BC, Canada

54 years experience at some of Canada's Premier Broadcasting Stations
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Re: Part 33: The Music and The Musicians Pt II

Postby Steve Sanderson » Fri Nov 05, 2010 4:39 pm

Great perspective of the 60's!!
Keep the stories coming my friend!!
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Re: Part 33: The Music and The Musicians Pt II

Postby CubbyCam » Fri Nov 05, 2010 8:41 pm

My gawd Brian... I've known you for so many years, and am still constantly amazed at the many sides of you I didn't know. :-) Great stuff... and a great memory. Keep it up pal!
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Re: Part 33: The Music and The Musicians Pt II

Postby RationalKeith » Fri Feb 25, 2011 7:47 am

Speaking of white soul female performers, was Chris Clark much good? (Motown for a few years, went on to produce the movie about Billy Holliday for Motown). A Clark story is that she opened a few people’s eyes, and hopefully mind, when she first appeared on TV – they’d heard her but did not imagine six feet tall platinum blonde.

As for Beattles sales, I understand that Cliff Richards outsold them in the UK.

I agree with your terminology of Rock and Roll which lasted for ten years, but wonder if everything following needs an adjective (is Heavy Metal unique or just a flavour like Doo-Wop, Elvis, etc. were of Rock and Roll).

“The Beatles, .... then flopped for the first time in their career when they tried to make a film with no script, no director, no actors and only a handful of songs....”
- many many performers crashed and burned because of behaviour problems (e.g. the Teen Queens crashed early due intoxicants) or bad business decisions (Mary Wells took bad advice from her husband, she and later the Holland-Dozier-Holland writing-producing trio presumed they could easily do well without Motown’s capability behind them).
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