dinsdag 21 juli 2020

I Am The Walrus. Spooky Tooth, The Beatles. A digital conversation

The new digital conversation between three gentlemen starts with a mention of a cover version of a famous The Beatles song and stays fairly close to the topic, which is quite a-typical to be frank.

Gary, 6 July:
I was going though my albums and looked at an old Spooky Tooth record and found this 1970’s cover track: "I Am the Walrus”, I don’t know what you think but listening to it I thought it was a really ‘cool' version?… checking it out online I found it also charted in the Netherlands at no 38!

Mark, 7 July:
I've got this on a Best of Spooky Tooth cd. Quite a formidable challenge for any band to take on a psychedelic opus like I Am The Walrus but I agree they did a pretty good job with a slower, heavier sound than the original with its more exotic flourishes. Others have dared tried it too: it fell to Leo Sayer to take it on for the "All this and World War II" soundtrack comprising entirely Beatles songs if you remember that extravaganza from the mid-70s. Oasis performed it very noisily in concert with Liam giving it like Lennon very effectively: there's a live recording on one of their B-sides. And of course Wout will testify how The Analogues recreated it with extraordinary precision.  Although one authoritative source at the time said "the Walrus was Paul", a Wings recording has yet to surface however......  

Photo: Mark
My Spooky Tooth cd is a Japanese one and typically the booklet has all the lyrics - and more, because it seems the Tokyo transcribers struggled to get fully on Lennon's wavelength - see attached for the additional subliminal references to "holy magic penguins," "submarine infiltrators" while Shakespeare was taking a bath. Maybe they were taking an extra puff when they sat down to write the lyrics. The Shakespearean reference is quite understandable actually. I remember vividly being at a party in Chester in about 1972 while I was still at school when somebody put on the hi-fi I Am The Walrus - the original meisterwerk - and proceeded to dissect its content, with a group of us sitting right by the speaker straining to hear the excerpt from a radio performance of King Lear which dips in and out of the mushy mix of found sound at the end of the song. This all resonated well and studiously so: King Lear just happened to be one of our O-level English texts that year:  "I know thee well: a serviceable villain; As duteous to the vices of thy mistress As badness would desire. What, is he dead? Sit you down father, rest you....."

Photo: Mark
Spooky Tooth were not quite up there with the likes of Procol Harum in the heavy psychedelia stakes but they were certainly an interesting band with very talented players. And The Beatles connections continued into the 70s: Henry McCullough who was in the original line-up that recorded Walrus would join Wings around the time of Red Rose Speedway and My Love features his wonderful guitar solo. Gary Wright became a close friend of George and played keyboards on All Things Must Pass and several of his later albums as well as some of Ringo's songs including It Don't Come Easy. Mike Harrison was no relation though!  

Which Spooky Tooth record do you have, Gary? You don't often come across their records in second hand record shops and I see original Island pink label copies of The Last Puff which Walrus is on go for between £30-£50 on ebay depending on condition of vinyl and sleeve. Later pressings on the A&M label go for much less - maybe a tenner at most. Depends what you have exactly.

Wout, 8 July:
Spooky Tooth. Several years back I ran a series on the blog with a specific angle. I discovered the Veronica top 40 chart list in the fall of 1968 and became an avid reader and listened to it on Saturday afternoons. Hence I got to know a lot of isolated hit singles that in many cases I never got to know the album behind. I decided to check out the albums that I never got to know. So from Bee Gees to Barry Ryan and Golden Earrings.

I started listening on Spotify to those albums. Some were great others pretty average, like Blue Cheer's. One of those albums was Spooky II. I immediately liked it and found it for a reasonable price, to my surprise, (in the same store we were in this winter, Mark) as it must be fairly obscure and have played it several times since.

The hit, top 20 at best I think to recollect, was 'That Was Only Yesterday'. At the time, before writing, I had no more than a faint recollection of the chorus. The other small hit was indeed 'I Am The Walrus'. That I had no recollection of. After we moved to a provincial village the reception of Veronica, a pirate station laying off the coast at Scheveningen, was horrible and there was no Top 40 in the village to be found until somewhere in 1971 (and they charged money for it as well!, 0,05).

I just listened to 'I Am The Walrus' and find it a bit of a difficult affair. A bit too strained I think to make it into something more, but with some great moments.

The Oasis version I saw on Jules Holland's programme years ago. It sounded very impressive as the band turned it into a Phil Spector Wall of Sound experience with a huge string section as I remember it. It is indeed on a b-side of one of the earlier singles. In as far as cd singles have a b-side of course. Oasis was good at that as they included some really good songs to the singles. Sometimes better than on the actual albums. I collected them at some point but in the end missed a few, so I'm not complete here.

BTW, Spotify automatically started to play something else after playing I Am The Walrus for me. Hawkwind is blasting out of my computer speakers. 'Assault And Battery' is quite the song, something to go into deeper for sure.

Mark, 8 July:
I hope you both got the twist of Lennon with his devious Walrus quip in Glass Onion. Later in the song God on the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band lp he did set the record straight. So later at the Garden Party when Rick(y) Nelson recounts how "Yoko brought her walrus" she did have the right Beatle on her arm after all. 

However, Paul did have the last word:

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
   "To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
   Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot— 

   And whether pigs have WINGS." 

I know what you're thinking: it's time for Mark to take a walk along the briny beach.....

Wout, 8 July:
I'm still curious which Spooky Tooth albums you have in your collection and what you think of them now, 50 odd years down the line.

Talking about the walrus, Mark. I never quite got that discussion. I know what John sings in 'Glass onion', but never got quite why. I suppose it has to do with Paul having died in in a car incident in 1966 and since being taking over by a look alike. Who is at least as creative and good as the original Paul was. Is that correct? BTW, talking about conspiracy theories. Also in the mid 60 they were there alright.

On creativity and Paul. We have played 'I saw Her Standing There' a few times in our front garden and play it with our band (and my previous band) as well. This is a sort of rock and roll song, but just listen what The Beatles do with it. Don't forget, it's the first song on the first LP. The "I'll never dance with another" part is nowhere in earshot in any rock and roll song and there's the "And my heart went boom ..." part as well. Utter brilliance that we can still play to the joy of many and they sing along too, to an album track none the less. I once read that Paul wrote the song already in late 1950s. In hindsight it is easy to state that this was the announcement of great things to come.

Nothing to do with Spooky Tooth of course. I just found out that I have some Spooky Tooth albums as MP3s, from the time is was still legal to download music in NL, including 'The Last Puff', so I will start giving it a listen later today. Never got around to it before. Downloading music is not such a smart thing to do in the end. Now there's Spotify of course.

Gary, 8 July:
I have got the first Spooky Tooth Album "It's All About"... but sadly it isn't a first pressing which I understand is very rare indeed? Probably brought new in 74-75? I also have 'The Last Puff' album which has got 'Walrus' on it which again isn’t a first pressing but I recall I bought it off a mate in the late 70s? I am sure I had a third album but I can’t remember what it was (Spooky Two?) and it is no longer in my collection so no idea if I am dreaming about this or not?

And yes… Spotify seems to have the full bibliography for Spooky Tooth… so easy to access and listen to now before buying… of course if you are ever lucky enough to find one at a record fair?

Mark, 8 July:
Spooky Tooth's first album with the pink Island label featuring the original "eye" logo (rather than the later "i" logo) in excellent vinyl and sleeve condition:  you're talking £100+. Some early copies are also on the Fontana label which I think may be French, Dutch or German copies - also quite valuable. Generally this album is pretty rare whatever label so if yours is in good condition as I'm sure it is, then I expect it would still be an interesting item for collectors to bid on. 

The second album Spooky Two can also command high prices - I see there are eye label copies on ebay going for well over £200.

I must check if Spitalfields market is now back open: there's a big  record fair  there on the first and third Friday every month. Great for singles, Wout!

Gary, 8 July:
Interesting… but mine have catalogue numbers (It’s All About) ILPS 9080 1975 - (The Last Puff) A&M Records Cat: SP 4266 which is bizarrely a US import!

I don’t really want to sell them though… at least not until I have to?

Wout, 8 July:
I have no clue whether I have singles or albums of any value and do not care basically. All I'm interested in is what is on them. That would be different if you're a real collector, which I am not. Thinking about it, the most interesting thing I may own is, if I remember correctly, is an Andrew Gold album that turned out to be an Eagles album, the third one. Everything on and around it is Andrew Gold. The album must have slipped through the quality control and that no one in the record store wanted it until I bought it at a steep discount, for the two famous singles from ca. 1977.

The lyrics to Spooky Tooth's 'I Am The Walrus' "in Japanese" are hilarious, Mark. John Lennon could not have dreamed them up in his wildest LSD induced fevers. For a Japanese employee listening to it and writing down the lyrics such an easy thing to do it seems 😂.

In general it is amazing that we all three own a Spooky Tooth album and all a different one at that. Let's face it, it is a rather semi-obscure band from around 1970. There is an album that is older than 'It's All About'. The band at the time was called Art and the album 'Supernatural Fairy Tales'. It is in the same MP3 collection and never played. The cause of our new conversation is playing once again. 'Last Puff' will follow soon. The first "new" song actually sounds pretty good if not groovy. Something to look out for 2nd hand.

Looking up the band Art on Wikipedia, it contained Mike Harrison and Greg Ridley. It must have been an unhealthy experience as they are the Spooky Tooth members who are longer among us. The other three are. Art existed only for half a year before turning into Spooky Tooth, with the other three members coming from other bands.

Photo: Mark
Mark, 9 July:
Of course you're right, Wout: what is down in the groove is the most important thing but records of this vintage inevitably raise the question of value and even investment, if only for the purpose of legacy. I don't want Hiroko, Julia and Sara to lose out by handing over to an unscrupulous dealer or wide-eyed charity shop, buried in a house-clearance job lot, my original mono White Album worth nigh on £300, my limited edition Dylan bootleg series box sets, my Japanese Oasis albums and my autographed Francoise Hardy and Jam lps. Soon I'm going to have to catalogue and value everything I've got in investment terms as well as cultural significance! I expect Gary will need to do that as well. 

Pressing errors are weird: it must have been bloody annoying when you bought it but like stamp printing errors they attract eccentric collector interest and the rarity value goes up accordingly. I spotted with my beady beatley eye an early pressing of  Abbey Road in a shop in v.good condition which had the Apple logo-shift to the left printing error on the back - see attached. This is quite well known to serious Beatle collectors. A minor detail you might think.  Anyway I snapped it up for about £10. I see there is currently a copy going for £700 on ebay......To quote from one of John Lennon's poems in Spaniard in the Works, maybe I need to mention this in "my last will and testicle".

Speaking of ageing, Beatles and Eagles, if you play Ringo's 80th birthday party video in amongst Joe Walsh and others doing various birthday renditions, there is topically a very interesting piece of Fabs history recounted when The Beatles insisted they would not play to segregated audiences during their US tour in 1964. How times have changed - or rather, still not enough. Joe Walsh plays Ringo's innocently gender-confused concert favourite Boys with some impressive slide playing on what looks like Glenn Frey's guitar. I hope I can be as extrovert as Ringo still is in fifteen years' time!

Wout, 10-7:
Yes, certainly, if you have these exceptional printings, I'd be very careful of them. Being a collector means you also know what to be on the lookout for and always hoping to run into the person who just sees "a" 'Abbey Road' instead of that special one. I do not and am simply happy with "a".

Long ago I collected stamps and was always looking in the catalogue to what this and that stamp was worth. What I learned fast is that there is a huge difference what a stamp trader pays the hapless collector for stamps and what he charges the next collector for that same stamp. My late uncle collected since boyhood and expected to have a part of his pension this way. Was he disappointed. The trader offered him a few hundred guilders for the lot he had paid thousands for.

This is of course the same in record collections. The trader buys whole stacks for a few pounds/euros and reaps the profits.

Now that is where the internet came in. Ebay and such gives every one the opportunity to trade his or her wares for themselves and charge a fair price. The internet also does things good. So cataloguing is a good idea to assist the hapless in the family.

Mark, 14-7:
I975 pressing so that'll have the palm tree Island label. Any other unusual and interesting records in your pile, Gary?

Gary, 14-7:
When you say “interesting” Mark?🤣

I think the best thing would be for me to catalogue my collection and let you see… may take me a few weeks though? 

Wout, 15-07:
Cataloguing records? Yes, I did that until somewhere in the early 80s. Since then I can only hope that the records are in their unique order: alphabetic on the artists and chronological per artist. If not, I have a real problem 😱.  Next to that, I used to know the unique order and certainly still know from when I was young(er). Nowadays with more modern bands, I haven't got a clue often, let alone know what a song is called, who the bass player is, etc. On the other hand I am also less interested in these details. The music comes absolutely first. And if its really good I'll still buy it. The order for the new The Beths album has just gone out - A perfect blend of alternative rock and pop. The duration of the delivery time suggests that it is coming from New Zealand by rowing boat though.

Gary, 15-7:
So are you using Discogs as your database Mark (and Wout)? It does seem to be a very useful application for a desktop and allows you to identify and fill those slots in your collection? https://blog.discogs.com/en/discogs-101/

Although I haven’t explored it yet, they seem to have a smartphone App that allows you to check your database, prices etc on the go?

Mark, 15-7:
I do dip into the Discogs database occasionally, Gary, usually when I can't see much choice for a specific item on ebay or to check how their fixed prices compare with what's on offer on ebay - including when competitive bidding on ebay is escalating (I avoid bidding wars and usually drop out early if my early lead bid has been overtaken). Unlike ebay where you can make savings on new unused releases because of the number of sellers trying to undercut each other. For vintage and unusual records, I prefer ebay because the sellers are often genuine individuals who you can contact directly with questions about condition etc. I don't think Discogs which is a large, mainly fixed price online business can match that personal contact. Shipping prices seem to be higher as well. Generally am a bit wary of them.

Wout, 15-7:
I always wondered what that website was for (and didn't bother to check it out either). What I use it for is to establish a track order if for some reason iTunes doesn't have the album I'm MP3-ing.

I have never bought an album on eBay as well. I prefer to find things by chance in my favourite record store in Leiden. Usually albums from the 70s that I didn't have the opportunity to buy then or changed my mind about because my taste changed.

Spooky Tooth is on the list alright should I run into the first album or The Last Puff.

Gary, 15-7:
What I like about this is that you can coordinate your collection catalogue with the Discogs database (which is probably the best-in-class) and thus identify possible future acquisitions etc?

Mark, 15-7:
Conceptually it sounds great. Gary - very much in synch with the digital era we live in, even if the target objects are thoroughly analogue in nature. So I do appreciate your bringing it to my attention. However, as you will recall, I do tend to adopt a hesitant hybrid approach when it comes to personally transformative technologies. So what I do is maintain, in miniscule manuscript on a durable card in my wallet, a wants-list of lps, singles and cds. When the mood takes me (as it often does) and my domestic financial allowance is sufficiently in the black (as it rarely is), I peruse the list and then proceed to chase down a few choice items online, starting usually on ebay. As Wout will bear witness to, I also extract this inevitably dog-eared list from said hard-pressed wallet when hitting the bricks and mortar to rifle the racks of vinyl. I fear that if I were to adopt a more digitally systematic, 21st century approach in coordination with Discogs, I'd doubtless render the Carvell family household bankrupt within the week. That's my pathetic excuse.

Wout, 15-7:
I feel for you, Mark. Financial limitations. There were days that I could afford to buy any record I wanted and days that I could hardly afford anything. Right now I'm somewhere in between. There's another limitation approaching fast though. "This is the room your collection is getting in the home and not one centimetre more". This was the message I got when I moved in. What happens after, there's no telling. Height is the only room left in a little while. All these choices in life.

Mark, 17-7:
Yes space is a problem for me too, Wout: records, books, models, photo albums, Council of Europe papers..... Although Sara moved into her flat in south London earlier this year, she still has a lot of stuff in her bedroom here. Once that has been sorted out, I intend to expand my lebensraum.

How's it going with White Rabbit? I hope Gillian Welch's spirited rendition may have been an inspiration for feeding your head. I don't think Echo and The Bunnymen did a version which perhaps they should have...... They did do a live version of All You Need Is Love though. Which reminds me that I found a Paul Weller single - Out of the Sinking from his 1994 album Stanley Road in a charity shop recently which as a B-side (sort of) has an impressive cover of Sexy Sadie (the sleeve features an image of the Maharishi).  The sleeve of Stanley Road was designed by the artist Peter Blake who did the Sgt. Pepper sleeve (and also the Oasis compilation Stop the Clocks and one of the recent Who albums - he is a true pop artist). According to The Guardian, following the release of his latest album On Sunset (haven't got it yet), Paul Weller has joined John and Paul as the only artists to top the UK album chart in five consecutive decades - which is pretty amazing.

Another wonderful songwriter who like Gillian Welch has been incomprehensibly quiet for the last 10 years or so is Tracy Chapman. Her last release of original songs was Our Bright Future released in November 2008. I think one of her greatest songs with truly profound lyrics is All That You Have Is Your Soul (with Neil Young on acoustic guitar) on the album Crossroads. Happily her cds are very cheap secondhand and quite often turn up in charity shops for a quid or so. Another of her songs - The Promise from her New Beginning album - is on the soundtrack to last year's Tom Hanks film A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood which we've just watched. It's a wonderfully quirky biographical film based on a hugely popular American children's TV host (who is totally unknown in the UK). Nick Drake's Northern Sky (from Bryter Layter) is also on the soundtrack. Brad Pitt is a surprising champion of Nick Drake: he narrated a biography for BBC Radio a few years ago: https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/r2music/documentaries/nickdrake/index.shtml

Wout, 19-7:
I was re-reading our conversation on I Am The Walrus. Mark, you wrote about sitting around the speakers listening to the fade out part. I remembered something similar. When there was a birthday party in the late 60s at my eldest aunt's family, my 8 years and a little older cousin, who designed the WoNo logo by the way, would play me her latest singles. One of them was 'Hello Goodbye' / 'I'm The Walrus'. I remember us listening intensely to the fade out because John was supposed to say "hello" in Dutch, so "hallo". I never heard it though, not even close. Not even with The Analogues, so I must conclude it was just a rumour.

Mark, 19-7:
Aloha Wout!

I think what you are referring to is known in Beatledom as Hello Goodbye's so-called "Maori finale" (should be "Hawaiian..." as in the sequence with the hula dancing girls filmed for Magical Mystery Tour) with its "hela-heba-hello-a" (I think.....) extended catchy coda to the incredibly catchy word-play lyric of the main part of the song. A double dose of McCartney's pop genius firing on all echo-drenched cylinders. 

The combination of these two totally different but equally amazing songs on that one incredible 45 rpm single must have stunned the fans when it was released - and it is still stunning over 50 years later.

Wout, 20-07:
Hawaiian? I'm never to old to learn. I never knew that and still have never seen the dismally reviewed Magical Mystery Tour movie.

Sticking to our original start, we were listening to the long outro of I Am The Walrus. Putting it louder and louder as it faded away on the little pick up of my cousin.

I'm too young to remember the single being released, but did know how important The Beatles were to girls but not much later also for guys. The release of 'Abbey Road' was quite a thing I remember. I remember us sitting in the living room of our downstairs neighbours as the eldest brother had the album, although I am in doubt whether he played the album or a recording. What I do distinctly remember was losing interest very soon as I did not know any of the songs. Albums take time and as a nine year old there were so many other interesting things to do.

The duo single 'Hello Goodbye'/ 'I'm The Walrus' is one of those double a-sides that are legendary. It shows all sides of The Beatles in two songs. 'Hello Goodbye' appears to be a regular love song, until I start paying real attention. There's so much going on in just a few minutes. A work of pure genius. Turn the single around and a work of great imagination is revealed. And all as part of a continuous stream of brilliance. Yes, The Beatles have once again become my absolute favourite band of all time.

Gary, 20-07:
I thought I would find out more about this and found this interesting online article from "The Daily Beatle”! It is thought that the inspiration came from a visit the Beatles made to Wellington, New Zealand on June 21st 1964. It also includes a Maori translation of “hela, hebe helloah, hela, hebe helloah”… “Kushi hela” = “glad”; “Purna Heba” = “a desire fulfilled”; “Dukh, sukha Helu” = “discussing many things, good and bad”….

Of course, it would have to be Ringo to represent the Beatles for the nose rub! (Photo that can't be shown due to copyright issues, but Google and you will find, Wo..)

Gary, 20-7:
Looking at the video… I note the wonderful toy drum kit that Ringo is playing! Also poor George didn’t get a Hula girl assigned to him😉! Did you know that The Beatles throughout their formation were contracted to be ‘seen' using Vox guitar amps made in my local town of Dartford? I understand that Vox amp designer Dick Denney (and local legend!) designed beefed up amps for them to play large halls and stadiums, probably those you see in the video? In the studio they could use whatever they liked of course!

Vox ad
Mark, 20-7:
I knew Dartford must have made its mark on civilisation somehow. I only think of it as a place to cross the Thames. The attached Vox ad is a play on the name of a BBC radio show they did at the height of Beatlemania:  "Pop Go The Beatles".

Do they still make amps and speakers in the UK? I read they had outsourced their manufacturing to China and Vietnam but planned to set up production again in the UK, not sure if they were thinking of Dartford.

Mark, 20-7:
Looks like McCartney is still bound by that contract, Gary....  (Picture shown of Paul McCartney we cannot show due to copyright reasons with a stack of Vox amps behind him.)

Mark, 20-07:
So "Maori finale" is actually right. A phrase McCartney may have stored in his memory from that tour in New Zealand. I wonder if he realised and mentions it when he now does concerts there. The girls in the grass skirts are doing hula dancing in the video though - well, sort of.

I'm not sure this is actually in the Magical Mystery Tour but it was filmed around that time and in the same "anything goes" spirit. MMT is a quirky experimental made-for-TV film, very much of its heady time, awash with psychedelic colours (when the BBC still broadcast in black and white...), lots of British cultural references, in-jokes and bizarre segues which is probably why the critics slammed it at the time despite the wonderful music and extraordinary visual sequences such as the one for I Am The Walrus. Dali loved its surreal flourishes and Steven Spielberg said they studied it at film school. Monty Python gopt the idea for their famous sketch with the enormous exploding Mr Creosote in a restaurant from a sequence in MMT with Lennon playing a restaurant waiter feeding spaghetti on a shovel to an obese woman. The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band with Viv Stanshall turn up to perform for one sequence as well (while Lennon ogles a stripper). I think you would enjoy it, Wout - it's The Beatles doing their own thing, warts, flaws and all. Only about an hour in length.

Gary, 20-07:
Of course, Dartford is now recognised by experts as being the cradle of civilisation (whole episode devoted by Kenneth Clark…. episode 14 I believe… rarely seen these days?). If you should ever wish to visit, passports, visas and a letter of accreditation are required as we can’t just let any riff-raff in!

Wout, 20-7:
Remarkable, I note, that Vox never sponsored the two lads that actually came from Dartford and went on to conquer the world with their own brand of R&B. Never support the competition the makers must have thought at the time and had already signed-up to absolute front runners of beat music.

Mark, 20-07:
Oh yeah - forgot about the Stones as local boys! They did use Vox as well and did promotions like  this ad.

Wout, 20-07:
I stand corrected. 


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