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A Billy Nicholls LP recently sold for $10,000, so, um, who the hell IS this guy???
06.13.2017
03:01 pm
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I have a pretty strict rule for record shopping. Anything that catches my fancy can go in the bag for any reason, but there’s a $30 per platter limit. Not $31.99, not $30.01, $30, period. This applies to new AND used vinyl, and it’s kept me on the terra firma side of some potentially stupid financial cliffs. The specific figure was a compromise I devised to let me possess an original copy of PiL’s 3X12” Metal Box so long as I got one VG+ for $90 or less (which wasn’t so difficult—in fact I landed one on a routine dig for $75), but to keep me from impulse-spending idiotic cash on rarities I would probably barely listen to and only keep around as useless trophies of successful hunts.

Hence, I find the very idea of a record worth thousands of dollars utterly absurd and even a bit sickening, especially when the CD version can be had for a buck or two—sorry “connoisseurs,” but if you care $1,000 more about the format than the song, you’re not a music lover, you’re a baseball card collector—but the obsession still fascinates me, because I know I’m a part of the pathology. The main difference is in the degree of restraint to which I hold myself, and not because I’ve such a strong and resolute character, but because I know I don’t.

So I’m always interested to read the blog posts on discogs.com running down the highest sale prices logged in its music media marketplace. Oftentimes such sought-after items are deep obscurities of genuine archival interest, but a lot of the time it’s some asshole who unaccountably blew over $1,600 (actual recent sale price) on an O.G. copy of Earth A.D. just because he could (and it’s invariably a “he”), even though multiple subsequent pressings are plentifully available in the $5-10 ballpark. But recently a staggering $10,300 became the new going rate for Would You Believe, the 1968 debut album by a British songwriter named Billy Nicholls.

Part of this is accounted for by the particular copy’s condition (excellent), and part by extreme scarcity—it was never actually released, so only about 100 copies exist, all of them promos, and one went for £7,312 (ballpark of $9,000 USD) in 2009. Nicholls himself isn’t exactly an unknown figure, in fact his decades-long career is still going. His “I Can’t Stop Loving You (Though I Try)” had been a hit in the ‘70s, ‘80s AND ‘oughts by artists as head-swimmingly diverse as Leo Sayer, The Outlaws, Phil Collins, and Keith Urban, and Nicholls has often collaborated with Pete Townshend.
 

 
But enough about his behind-the-scenes bona fides, the story of Would You Believe is a quite captivating one. Nicholls’ talents were singled out by erstwhile Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham after his falling-out with that band, and like Chas Chandler going all in on Jimi Hendrix, Oldham devoted significant energies to making Nicholls a very big deal. From The Rising Storm:

The single [“Would You Believe”] has been described as “the most over-produced record of the sixties”, and with reason; a modest psych-pop love song, it’s swathed in overblown orchestration including baroque strings, harpsichord, banjo (!), tuba (!!), and demented answer-back vocals from Steve Marriott. A trifle late for the high tide of UK psych, it failed to trouble the charts. Unfazed, Oldham and Nicholls pressed on with the album, Nicholls providing a steady stream of similarly well-crafted ditties and a bevy of top-rated London session men providing the backings, thankfully with somewhat more subtlety than on the prototype cut. The album was ready for pressing just as the revelation of Oldham’s reckless financial overstretch brought about Immediate’s overnight demise, and only about a hundred copies ever made it to wax, most of which somehow surfaced in Sweden. The album became one of the mythical lost albums of the sixties, and original copies now fetch over a grand in GBP.

The record was intended by Oldham to be an acutely British answer to Pet Sounds—evidently nobody told him about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—and a look at the session details confirms that Oldham was NOT fucking around. Studio musicians for the sessions included members and future members of bands like The Small Faces, Humble Pie, and Led Zeppelin, plus Stones/Kinks pianist Nicky Hopkins. But not unlike The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, its Edwardian harpsichord whimsy, sunshiney loopiness, and baroque production saw a release date just a hair too late for the initial psych moment, after rock music had moved on to harder stuff, so it’s hard to say it would have done well even if it had been released (Village Green is rightly regarded as a classic NOW, but remember, it totally tanked in its day).

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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06.13.2017
03:01 pm
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Attention rock snobs: New Holy Sons single will burrow its way into your brain like an earworm
08.23.2016
11:37 am
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Photo of Emil Amos by Eliza Sohn

I’ve probably played this new Holy Sons’ track, “It’s My Feeling”—a stunning cover of a song originally recorded in 1967 by the great Del Shannon and produced by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham—about 600 times since I first heard it last week. About 300 of these plays were in my head.

And so I must duly warn you: Unless you want to have an absolutely gorgeous, shimmering pop song take up residency between your ears, stop what you are doing now and click off the page. Just fuck off now, okay?

If you’re still with me, Holy Sons is the one-man band project of Emil Amos (who also plays with Om, Lilacs and Champagne and Grails) and “It’s My Feeling” is the lead off single from his upcoming album In The Garden which comes out on October 21st on the Partisan Records label. In The Garden was produced by John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile, Phosphorescent, Sonic Youth) with the aim of adopting “the authentic mindset of a 60s era artist.”

Amos explains:

In The Garden is essentially John Agnello and I carving out the sound of a classic 70’s record if it had been made by a band with all its players being very focused in the hey-day of their career… but we ‘faked’ that vibe using one player. That’s basically how I learned 4-tracking in the 90’s… how to replicate live-sounding recordings where a band is reacting and playing off of each other in real-time.”

This is something Amos can do frighteningly well. If you didn’t already know it was the same guy, multitracked, playing everything, there’s no way you could tell this from listening.

The original “It’s My Feeling” was recorded by Del Shannon in London with musicians assembled by Andrew Loog Oldham that included stellar session pros like John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins and Jimmy Page. It was written by Dave Skinner and Andrew Rose, a Peter and Gordon-esque songwriting and singing duo who went by the name of Twice as Much. Oldham’s Immediate Records signings P.P. Arnold and Madeline Bell provided backup vocals for Shannon. The Immediate sessions were shelved for many years before being remixed and coming out in the late 1970’s as And The Music Plays On. In 2006, nearly 40 years after they were recorded, Capitol Records would finally release the London sessions as Home & Away, the originally intended title.

I was already nuts about the original Del Shannon number, but have a listen to the Holy Sons’ version of “It’s My Feeling” –which I think is far superior and, to my ears, has elements reminiscent of both The Zombies and even John Barry. It’s crazy good stuff, but I’ll warn you: One listen and you’re going to be hearing this in your head for… weeks.

Listen to “It’s My Feeling” after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.23.2016
11:37 am
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The Rolling Stones, Phil Spector and Gene Pitney get drunk and record the X-rated ‘Andrew’s Blues’

Boozing it up
Boozing it up (L-R): Phil Spector, Gene Pitney, Brian Jones, Andrew Loog Oldham, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and Mick Jagger

On February 4th, 1964, the Rolling Stones entered Regent Sound Studios in London for a session. The group had released a couple of singles at this point, and the studio was quickly becoming their go-to spot. For this recording, the band was joined by some special guests: singer/songwriter Gene Pitney, Graham Nash and Allan Clarke from the Hollies, as well as genius record producer Phil Spector. By night’s end their combined efforts resulted in a few completed tracks, including one called “Andrew’s Blues,” which is quite possibly the raunchiest song the Stones have ever committed to tape—yes, rivaling even this infamous number.

In his autobiography, Stone Alone: The Story of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Band, bassist Bill Wyman wrote about the wild session, which was produced by their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, the subject of “Andrew’s Blues”:

We’d become friendly with Phil Spector and attended a star-studded party in his honour thrown by Decca a week earlier; so he continued the friendship by dropping in our recording. Graham Nash and Allan Clarke of the Hollies also came and later Gene Pitney arrived direct from the airport, with duty-free cognac. It was his birthday, and his family custom was that everyone had to drink a whole glass. Pitney played piano while Spector and the Hollies played tambourine and maracas and banged coins on empty bottles. We recorded three songs, ‘Little by Little,’ ‘Can I Get a Witness’ and ‘Now I’ve Got a Witness,’ which we invented on the spot. The session then degenerated into silliness, but everybody had a great time cutting ‘Andrew’s Blues’ and ‘Spector and Pitney Came Too’-—both of which were very rude.

Though officially unreleased, “Andrew’s Blues” changed hands for years before the Internet and is now readily available via YouTube. The tune is a twelve-bar blues and very much resembles another number with the same structure, Tommy Tucker’s “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” which had been released just weeks earlier (the song was part of the Stones’ live sets for a time, and a studio take has been leaked).

The main vocalist on the track is Gene Pitney, who became the first artist to cover a Jagger/Richards composition when his version of “That Girl Belongs to Yesterday” was released as a 45 in January of ‘64. Pitney was introduced to the Stones by Oldham the previous November and promptly demoed the song with the band. Oldham, in addition to his duties managing the Stones, would soon become Pitney’s publicist.

The boys lovingly take the piss out of Oldham in “Andrew’s Blues,” but they also mock the hell out of Sir Edward Lewis, the founder and chairman of Decca Records—the Stones’ label—and the track as a whole can be seen as a commentary on the music business. Or just a drunken lark.

Here’s a lyrical sample:

Yes now Andrew Oldham sittin’ on a hill with Jack and Jill (Jack and Jill)
Fucked all night and sucked all night and taste that pussy till it taste just right
Oh Andrew (yes Andrew), oh Andrew (yes Andrew)
Oh suck it Andrew (go on Andrew), fuck it Andrew (go on Andrew)
Oh Andrew Oldham (yeah), a guy who really know his way around (down down down down)

In his book Phil Spector: Out Of His Head, author Richard Williams called the track “startlingly obscene,” and fifty years on it still manages to shock. This is partly to due the fact that the lead vocals are largely handled by Pitney, who had a very straight-laced public image.

As for “Spector and Pitney Came Too,” a song with that title has been bootlegged, but is essentially an instrumental version of “Andrew’s Blues” with some hot lead guitar added.

Okay, escort your mom out of the room, ‘cause here comes “Andrew’s Blues”:
 

Posted by Bart Bealmear
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01.15.2015
12:21 pm
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