Development of the British Blues and Rhythm--- show 16 --- 10-8-2014
Savoy Brown Blues Band 1966/7
Rolling Stones 1966/7
Mayall with Clapton 1966
What is there to say about the Rolling Stones that has not already been said over and over ad infinitum? Well, maybe this: they disgust me. When their December 1969 free concert scheduled for San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park fell through because the city decided they could not provide adequate support for the gargantuan number of attendees expected, the band rescheduled it at the last minute to a racecar track named Altamont Speedway with no concern that San Francisco’s assumption just might be correct and sufficient resources would not be available, especially with minimal planning and to an area way out in the boonies. But no, the Stones were closing a highly successful tour with this concert and were counting on getting the free publicity and a docu-movie to compare to Woodstock out of their great benevolent act. Camera and sound crews were all committed and the band and / or their management were not about to allow this opportunity to slip through their fingers. And why care about the consequences? After all, this was a continent away from their homes, just a place they show up every so often to take the money and run.The absolute worst decision in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll was to choose the Hell’s Angels as the security force. Think about it. It was totally predictable. Ask yourself why I would opt not to go to a free concert featuring some of the best talent to come out of the Bay Area, AND the band that had the most influence on bringing Blues and R&B to the world stage, AND was less than three hours from my home. Why? Because from 1968 to 1972 I had a leather shop in downtown San Jose’s hippie district just blocks away from the San Jose State University campus and a portion of our clientele were motorcycle riders wanting pants or vests or just appreciative of quality leather work. I had a good working relationship with them with a couple of exceptions, not to the point of real friendship but certainly pleasant as far as it went. This time span encompassed a period when the Hell’s Angels had a war with the San Jose-based Gypsy Jokers and established a new chapter of their own in San Jose. Essentially, any Jokers had to stop flying their colors, with the option to join the new chapter, or wind up dead.
Going back a step in time, Vic, the guy I apprenticed under was, shall we say, a unique character. He professed a belief which, once I later found out details of Charlie Manson’s beliefs, bore some resemblance in that the end was coming and if you were not a part in making it happen, you would be swept up in the holocaust rather than reap the benefits. This appealed to some of the Gypsy Jokers and he proceeded to hold occasional meetings with them in the basement of the shop after hours. Not able to survive on what he was paying me, I had opened my own shop in a corner of The Weightless Albatross, a hippie variety store a few blocks away. Somehow, Vic had a falling out with someone in the club and had to leave town, offering me his business including a heavy duty treadle sewing machine and all the workbenches and display tables, etc., at a very reasonable price which the jewelry maker upstairs loaned me to basically get rid of the guy. This all happening before I had turned nineteen.
As I said, my dealings with my customers were almost entirely amiable, and this included the Hell’s Angels. One memory is of a member who would come in and I would turn him on to a joint and he would give me a couple of “reds”, a favorite downer of the time that I never took except once when I had a toothache. I used to keep my bass amp behind and under the display tables and the president of the new San Jose chapter, Rick, took note of my playing and asked if I wanted to jam with him and a couple of other Angels. I went over to someone’s house one night and after the session someone said, “Let’s go over to Santa Cruz and beat up some niggers.” Anyway, I might have jammed another time or two, but I did join them on stage as the sole entertainment for a significant number of Hell’s Angels and their ol’ ladies at San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach in front of the most people in my limited musical career. Actually, it was as tight a group as I had been a part of, doing basic three chord stuff like Blues and Chuck Berry / Little Richard-type Rock ‘n’ Roll.
At some point they offered me membership, but combining my lack of any desire to put myself at risk on a motorcycle and having a totally different mindset, I jokingly declined saying, “No thanks, I can get in enough trouble on my own.” I am still proud to call myself a hippie, but in my younger days I was often mistaken for a biker. I had a later experience when I again played with the band at their Mountain View clubhouse. My now ex-wife had brought along a friend who was about eight and a half months pregnant but, sitting down and wearing a poncho, she attracted the attention of one of the two guitarists (he, like guitarist / president Rick, was an H.A. as was the drummer’s cousin, as I recall). At the end of the performance, I packed up my guitar and was outside about to gather everyone to leave when this member I had never seen before said I had to pack up the amp in an attempt to give his buddy more time to pick up on our friend, who was actually kinda going for it. I went back in and told Rick that was not our agreement and he kindly walked us outside and we were off. So there were definitely some Angels whose company I enjoyed, but not the group mentality. I also got a courtesy card from one of the San Francisco chapter members which I really wish I still had for both the memory and the artwork. It was a very good looking plastic card, hard to describe but much thinner than a credit card while much more durable than your basic paper business card. If I were ever in some kind of a scrape, showing it to any member was supposed to give me credibility and assistance. Because of our dealings, I fell into their category of “good people”.
And I did see upsetting things like a couple of prospects (one for the Jokers and one for the Angels) whom they felt they had to accept because the person was not stable enough to be let out in the world alone after what their prospect testing put them through, but in retrospect I guess that might be somehow considered taking responsible action.
So, why I did not go to Altamont was because I had seen enough belligerent attitudes to know what very well could happen. Even before my shop days, I had seen Angels harassing us hippies at anti-war rallies and musical gatherings. And that was without the free reign of “enforcing” security. To be fair, I do recall one time some Angels I knew brought in a visiting member, maybe more than one, from an English chapter and the demeanor was entirely different, totally British and seemingly almost gay. If this is what Jagger & company expected, they were sorely mistaken. So, while Crosby Stills Nash and Young were bemoaning four dead in Ohio, the Stones were singing about sympathy for the devil, street fighting men and creating a crowd in chaos with someone requesting “gimme shelter”.
We had a local hippie newspaper that I carried in the shop, the San Jose Red Eye, which printed several photos of the Angels as they were beating up musicians on stage and, as I looked at them, I could recognize almost all the participants as from the San Jose chapter and having been in the shop as customers, many of them multiple times. When some of the Angels next came in and glanced through the paper, their reaction was to talk about how they were going to go down to the newspaper and tear the place apart. I spoke to someone from the Red Eye a couple of years back and, to my surprise, the Angels never made it that far, but they were very serious about it at the time.
If this sounds like a putdown of the Hell’s Angels, that is not my intention. They were just being who they were, a known commodity. If there is a hornet’s nest in your neighborhood, you learn to take precautions. This was not the Rolling Stones’ neighborhood so precautions be damned if it distracted from their purpose of acquiring more press coverage. This is a putdown of their greediness.
This was written with the assumption that Altamont is a piece of history indelible on the minds of more than just one generation and, since I was not there, there would be many better sources available to become informed of the facts. It has also been suggested to me that there is a book by Sam Cutler, the tour manager for the Stones, which has a different take on this issue. Anyway, a simple Google search should provide plenty of interesting reading on the subject. And, of course, there is the docu-movie that the Stones just could not do without, Gimme Shelter. Although today’s show ends up a few years before Altamont, their style changed and I see no need to play any of their music that goes beyond today’s show.
***********************************Savoy Brown was one of the most prolific bands of the British Blues Boom and, unlike many we have read about in recent posts, they were more popular in North America than in their homeland. Now, I am sure they must have had some success on the local club scenes to have stayed together long enough to acquire a recording contract, but staying together is something that does not immediately come to mind with this band. In fact, personnel turnover might be the trademark of the Kim Simmonds-led groups.
Although I don’t consider Wikipedia the most reliable source of information, they do have a very easy to understand list of the varying members in a timeline style that even includes a couple of names that I was unaware of, so I think that would be a good place to start even though we will only be presenting the first iteration on today’s show.
They were assembled in 1965 and initially went as the Savoy Brown Blues Band in which lead guitarist Simmonds was backed up by drummer Leo Manning, bassist Ray Chappell, harmonicist John O’Leary and fronted by lead vocalist Brice Portius. Apparently, they had a keyboardist named Trevor Jeavons, but by the time of their first recording sessions for the Immediate label pianist Bob Hall had taken over. The sets opening tunes, I Tried and I Can’t Quit You Baby, came from those four released sides while the rest of the set came from the Shake Down LP. By the time they got signed up with Decca and recorded that 1967 LP, which appeared only in the UK, they had brought in Martin Stone, a second guitarist to supplement Simmonds’ playing. Stone would be on his way shortly to form Stone’s Masonry, whose instrumental Flapjacks was included in the Immediate various artists discs that also provided the aforementioned singles (as well as the earliest recordings by John Mayall and Eric Clapton) and just might find its way to the end of the show in the unlikely situation that I find I have a little more time left over than I expected.
Stone was not the only member not found on the band’s second release. Bob Hall would remain an on again, off again participant in the recording sessions, but I’m not sure whether he routinely performed with the group live. Other than he and Simmonds, the band was entirely revamped for the 1968 Getting to the Point LP, with Roger Earl on drums, Rivers Jobe on bass, “Lonesome” Dave Peverett playing second guitar and Chris Youlden front and center on vocals. Jobe would only play on two tracks of the 1969 album, Blue Matter, being replaced by Tone Stevens. This assemblage would remain together through A Step Further, after which Youlden would embark on a solo career prior to the recording of Looking In. Blue Matter and A Step Further (both taped in 1969) each had one studio side and one live side. Youlden was down with the flu for the Blue Matter live taping so Peverett put in a fine performance in his stead, but Chris was back on Further’s live side which consisted entirely of the medley Savoy Brown Boogie.
Okay, three albums by the same group (with Youlden missing from the last and Peverett again taking the vocals) doesn’t sound like that frequent an amount of changes, but that is my lasting impression. Wikipedia also notes that the cast also included bass player Bob Brunning, later to create the Brunning – (Bob) Hall Sunflower Band and right about the time he was holding down the bottom for Fleetwood Mac before John McVie felt comfortable leaving Mayall, drummer Hughie Flint (whom we will hear in our Bluesbreakers segment and much later in the aptly-named Blues Band) and his replacement Bill Bruford (later the drummer for Yes, or so Wiki tells me) between the bands first two albums.
As Peverett, Stevens and Earl all went off to join Rod Price in forming Foghat, Simmonds was perhaps in need of putting a cohesive unit together hastily and he fell upon just such a trio from the embers of the band Chicken Shack. I think this is my favorite grouping which includes drummer Dave Bidwell, bassist Andy Silvester and keyboardist Paul Raymond. I’m not sure of Dave Walker’s background, but he came on board also for 1971’s excellent album Street Corner Talking. Hellbound Train was a disappointment not only for its duration of just a little over a half hour, but their other 1972 release Lion’s Share brought back the band’s legitimacy not only time-wise but with a musical quality throughout the album and culminating with what is probably my favorite Savoy Brown track, a rousing version of Little Walter Jacobs’ Hate to See You Go. This band would span 1971 to 1974 with the exception of Andy Pyle taking over the bass duties beginning with either the Train or Lion’s album.
I have enjoyed all of these albums through the years enough that over the years I have replaced each vinyl edition with CDs, but I dug out the LPs just for the feel in my hands as I was confirming the lineups. There is a certain tactile quality to holding the original issues but, boy, are those flimsy little CD liner notes a lot less cumbersome. Anyway, that is as far as I will present the music of Savoy Brown in future shows, but I do have three more of their LPs. I could not find Jack the Toad to see who was on it but Raymond and Bidwell were still around for the 1975 Wire Fire but not 1974’s Boogie Brothers. That strikes me as strange because their guitarist from Chicken Shack, Stan Webb, shares vocals with guitarist Miller Anderson on the album. Oh well, that covers the decade of 1965-1975 as far as albums and personnel go, so let’s move along and enjoy their earliest music.
Actually, there is one story I would like to repeat so I went back to a posting from 2009 when I first tried this blogging thing, and I quote, “I do recall one early morning getting a cab dispatch to pick up at a party around Camden and 17 and finding out that the three or four guys I was transporting to a hotel way out on Lawrence past 237 were members of a band that was on tour and playing at the Keystone in Palo Alto. Of course we talked about music and somehow I found out that one of them claimed to be Paul Raymond. Now, I can be gullible sometimes, but the real Paul Raymond has a unique, somewhat youthful face that I had seen on at least three Savoy Brown albums plus the one Shack album I had, so when he got out of the cab (I couldn't really see him before because he was seated directly behind me), it became obvious that he was .... yeah, the real guy. Of course, or else why would I be mentioning this? When I read the liner notes for the Chicken Shack CD, I assumed it must have been UFO that he was with at the time. Anyway, it was some band I'd never heard of. The only other "celebrity" I have given a ride was when I got a call from JJ's because they knew I would treat Junior Walker and a couple of his All Stars properly.”
***********************************Perhaps it wasn’t Savoy Brown after all, but instead it just might have been John Mayall that I thought required a scorecard to know the players, although I think we’ve already addressed that pretty well on our twelfth show from August 14th should you care to go back.
Our show opens up with some of the earliest recordings of Mayall and / or Clapton, all preceding the “Beano” album. I believe I’ve already played the opening tune in our series, but I have yet to hear a version of Pretty Girls Everywhere that I haven’t enjoyed and, being the first version I ever heard, this version with Eric sitting in with Muddy Waters’ band backing Otis Spann’s vocal is still my favorite so it puts the show on the good foot right from the start. It appeared on a compilation LP (Raw Blues) as did the piano / guitar duet Bernard Jenkins and Mayall’s piano solo Milkman Strut. Sandwiched in between these three tracks are a couple of sides from the Immediate singles put out before Mayall signed on with Decca Records.
Also released on Immediate are three of a group of jams that Eric recorded for Jimmy Page, originally not for release until anything Clapton brought in big sales, but I have to admit they sound better than the scratchy old LPs I used to play on my beat up old 1960s turntable. The set winds up with a live Bluesbreakers performance of the Sonny Boy Williamson classic Bye Bye Bird, another tune that never fails to appeal to me. This was recorded when Jack Bruce had some off time with Manfred Mann so it was he and drummer Hughie Flint backing up Mayall and Clapton, and the last set contains Double Crossing Time, a tune we’ve mentioned before because it was Mayall’s response to Mann poaching Bruce from the Bluesbreakers.
Pretty Girls EverywhereOtis Spann with Eric Clapton
Sitting on Top of the World
I’m Your Witchdoctor
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
John Mayall and Eric Clapton
West Coast Idea
Tribute to Elmore
Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page
Bye Bye Bird
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
She Said YeahTalkin’ ‘Bout You
You Better Move On
The Singer Not the Song
Get Off My Cloud
Gotta Get Away
19th Nervous Breakdown
Paint It Black
Mother’s Little Helper
Under My Thumb
Doncha Bother Me
High and Dry
Out of Time
It’s Not Easy
Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby,
Standing in the Shadows
The Rolling Stones
I Can’t Quit You Baby
I Ain’t Superstitious
Let Me Love You Baby
Rock Me Baby
I Smell Trouble
The Doormouse Rides the Rails
Shake ‘em on Down
The Savoy Brown Blues Band
All Your Love
Double Crossing Time
Key to Love
Ramblin’ on my Mind
It Ain’t Right
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
The Rolling Stones