Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Jameson’

Saturday Single No. 564

November 11, 2017

The Texas Gal is in Texas this weekend, visiting her family. So I slept late before running her car down to the nearby tire shop for a routine tire check.

All was well, so I’m home and half the day is over.

November always brings with it thoughts of those gone from my life, making me a little subdued for the first half of the month. One of the folks I miss is Bobby Jameson, who entered my life after I shared some of his music here. One of my favorites among Bobby’s work is “Big Spoke Wheel,” recorded with Crazy Horse, Red Rhodes and Gib Gilbeau. Bobby told me that the sessions – unreleased until Bobby put many of his tunes up at YouTube – took place in either 1970 or 1971.

And “Big Spoke Wheel” – with its slender connection to my taking care of the tires on the Texas Gal’s car – is today’s Saturday Single.

Goodbye To Bobby J.

May 21, 2015

The murmurs started at Facebook Monday or maybe over the weekend. No one had heard from Bobby Jameson for a while. Was he okay?

Jameson, the mercurial musician whose 1960s music I’d written about during the first year or so of this blog, had a habit of deleting his Facebook page and going away for a while. Someone would say something that offended him, and he’d walk away from FB for a while. But in a day or two, he’d start up again, sending friend requests to me and the hundreds of other people who were his FB friends and who read his poetry and his blog posts and listened to the hours of music – most of it never previously released – that he put up at YouTube.

There were good reasons for his getting annoyed and offended. He suffered from horrible headaches, and that gave him a short fuse. In recent months, both his brother Bill and his mother had passed on, and he was still grieving. And as anyone who spends even a small amount of time online knows, the world is full of idiots and vipers, people who find their satisfaction in either telling people what they should do or in putting other folks down in utterly cruel ways.

Having survived the 1960s craziness of Hollywood/Los Angeles and the strain of life on the streets, and being in recovery from substance abuse for more than forty years, Bobby knew that sometimes the best thing one can do when confronted by idiots and vipers is to walk away. So he often cut ties with his friends and came back a few days later, mending most of those ruptures and starting over again.

But when folks in Bobby’s collection of friends online noticed that he hadn’t posted a thought, a poem or a tune for a while, the questions started and the murmurs grew louder. And two days ago, on Tuesday, the word spread from friend to friend, from page to page: Bobby Jameson was gone. It happened a week earlier, on Tuesday, May 12.

Bobby’s brother Quentin posted yesterday on Bobby’s page: “I especially want all to know that Bob did not harm himself. He had an aneurism in his descending aorta. He was clear headed to the end. He made (I think) a good choice not to opt for a risky surgery, which would, at best, have left him disabled in a nursing home for a few more years. He died true to his own rules of sobriety, honesty, and independence; a warrior’s death.”

From what I understand, it was my 2007 commentary on Bobby’s 1969 album, Working!, that spurred him to join the online world. A couple of people at Bobby’s FB page and at mine have mentioned that in the past few days. One of his friends noted, “[A]lthough he cursed that decision many times, I’m not sure he would have ever done it any differently. I am glad he had the chance to speak up about the past, write his own blog, and begin working through the feelings of all that had happened to him.”

It was through Bobby’s online presence – his blog, his YouTube channels (here and here) and his Facebook page – that I’ve become friends over the years with a large number of people, some of whom knew him in his Los Angeles days, some of whom knew him during the darker days of the early 1970s, and some who’ve met him since. And we’re all grieving.

I never met Bobby Jameson in person, but in the way that the world works today, our online connection made him my friend and my brother. I’m going to miss him, sharp corners and all.

One of the things that pleased me most during the early days of our friendship was that shortly after my piece on Working! brought us together, he shipped me an mp3 of his cover of Bob Dylan’s “To Ramona,” a 1968 track that had been recorded for Working! but was ultimately trimmed from the 1969 album. I was touched that he’d trust me with it and allow me to share it with readers in this space. Here’s one of the two videos he made over the past few years for the track.

A Few Videos By Bobby Jameson

July 13, 2011

Originally posted June 12, 2008

Instead of delving into YouTube for videos related to Monday’s Baker’s Dozen today, I thought I’d do something else. My friend Bobby Jameson has been creating videos to go with his songs – some of them unreleased and unheard for about forty years, so I thought I’d share a few of those.*

Here’s my favorite, for the song “Right By My Side” from the album Color Him In.

Here’s the video for “Gotta Find My Roogalator,” which Bobby recorded with Frank Zappa and released on the Penthouse label in 1966.

And here’s a video for “Life of Crime,” an unreleased song, this one from 1985, not from 1979, as I originally posted.

The newest video he’s put together is for a song called “When’s It Gonna Be Tomorrow,” an acoustic performance from 1980.  It’s a spare and haunting song. It’s currently up at YouTube, and will no doubt soon be at Bobby’s blog, Bobby Jameson.

*The videos I featured here in 2008 are gone, replaced by new versions Bobby has put together over the past three years, so I’ve updated the videos embedded and linked here. Note added June 13, 2011.

Roogalators, Quetzals & More

July 5, 2011

Today’s a good day to follow up on a few bits and pieces, most of them from Friday’s post.

As I wrote Friday, one of the things that caught my eye when I dug into Johnny Rivers’ “(I Washed My Hands In) Muddy Water” was that it had a tune called “Roogalator” as its B-side. I wondered in that post about the connection between Rivers’ B-side – a jam punctuated with shouts of “Roogalator” – and the record that Bobby Jameson made with Frank Zappa, “Gotta Find My Roogalator.”

I got a chance to ask Bobby about it Monday, and he told me: “I got the name ‘roogalator’ from Johnny when we were riding motorcycles in ’66. . . . Don’t know where he got it from.”

I noticed as I was digging that there was also a mid-70s band named Roogalator with several videos posted on YouTube. The persistence of “roogalator” reminds me of the fascination that musicians – mostly on the West Coast, I think – had during the late 1940s and early 1950s with the word “voot.” My collection of mp3s, which doesn’t focus too much on that era, has six songs that use the word in their titles, one of which is “No Voot, No Boot” by Dinah Washington with Lucky Thompson’s All Stars.

In the midst of my thinking about all that over the weekend, I got an email from my pal Yah Shure, who wanted to know if I was aware of WXYG, the new album rock radio station in the St. Cloud market. I wasn’t, but I followed Yah Shure’s lead and checked it out.

The actual radio signal is 250 watts, which is pretty slender, and it turns out that we can’t get it on our radios inside the house because of the presence of WJON less than a block away. But it comes in fine through its website (click the blue “Play” button), and it’s great fun. I looked at the station’s playlist as I’m writing this, and the last five tunes the station has played are “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” by George Harrison, “Tommy Can You Hear Me” by the Who, “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC, “Star” by David Bowie and “Empty Sky” by Elton John. And if I heard correctly over the weekend, the station is commercial-free all summer.

I found WXYG’s Facebook page and left a note saying that the station reminded me of the now-gone show titled “Beaker Street” that aired on KAAY out of Little Rock, Arkansas. And whoever takes care of the station’s Facebook page responded, saying “We like to think of it as ‘Beaker Street’ on steroids.”

“Give It To Me” by the J. Geils band was one of the tunes I listed last Friday, and I mentioned the single edit of the track, a version that edited out Magic Dick’s superb harp solo. In our exchange of emails over this past weekend, Yah Shure recalled that when he went to his local record store to purchase the single back in 1973, he found that some of the singles had the edited version of the track and some had the full-length version of the track. The two versions, Yah Shure said, were the products of two separate pressing plants. I wonder how often that’s happened.

And while Yah Shure told me he had no insight into the above-mentioned “roogalator” question, he said that he’d similarly wondered about the origin of Sonny Bono’s fascination with the word “quetzal.” (According to Wikipedia, “quetzal” refers to “a group of colourful birds of the trogon family found in the Americas. Quetzal is also often used to refer to one particular species, the Resplendent Quetzal.”) Yah Shure listed three titles in which Bono, as producer, used the word. Sadly – having deleted our email exchange – I can only recall one of them this morning. But here’s “Walkin’ the Quetzal,” a brief instrumental that was on the B-side of “Baby Don’t Go” both when it was released and went nowhere in 1964 (as Reprise 0309) and in 1965, when “Baby Don’t Go/Walkin’ the Quetzal” was released as Reprise 0392 and went to No. 8.

Continuing the quetzal quest, I found an interesting site called Probe is Turning-On the People! – evidently a catalog of webcasts, podcasts or actual broadcasts – and an entry there lists eight separate Sonny Bono “quetzal” records and says:

The so-called Quetzal records were a series of B-side instrumental throwaways created by Sonny Bono and his arranger Harold Battiste, in cooperation with Sonny & Cher’s managers Brian Stone and Charlie Greene. Quickly recorded and musically skeletal, the records were designed (in the manner of Bono’s mentor, Phil Spector) to compel radio attention to their respective A-sides. Although the songwriting was invariably credited to Bono, Greene and Stone, the general concensus is that the Quetzal sides were written (to the extent they were written at all) by Battiste.

The note adds, “[T]he word quetzal was an in-joke among Sonny and his friends, chosen most likely simply because they liked the sound of it.”

Happy Birthday, Mr. Dylan!

May 24, 2011

Whenever a pop culture icon reaches an age of, oh, fifty or greater that ends with a zero, the mass media finds itself cluttered for a few days with rethought biographies, appreciations, and assessments of said icon’s influence on our popular culture. The zero rule has held true again in the past few weeks regarding Bob Dylan, who turns seventy today: I’ve seen numerous magazine pieces and book reviews in the past weeks re-examining the life, music and impact of the Bard of Hibbing, and I expect that if I watch one of the national newscasts tonight – I generally watch CBS – I’ll see a piece that looks at all of those things and adds to it a commentary on the aging of the Baby Boom generation.

(I should note that there was not long ago a similar appreciation and assessment of a pop culture icon for a birthday that did not end in zero: In June of 2006, Paul McCartney was, quite appropriately, thus feted and assessed as he turned sixty-four.)

I’ve written and presented at this blog over the years a fair amount of my own assessments and appreciations of Mr. Dylan’s work. I think it’s almost enough to say this morning that Bob Dylan’s music is one of the foundations on which my own life in music comfortably rests. He wasn’t the first artist whose music captivated me – those honors, such as they might be, go to Al Hirt, John Barry and the Beatles, with Dylan coming along shortly thereafter. But, as he did for the culture at large, it was Dylan who taught me that the music I listened to – and the music I wrote – could be lyrically and topically challenging.

(That lyrical liberation brought with it its own burden, one that has been hefted by creative people around the world, many of them better at their crafts than I: It’s all too easy for writers to lapse into Dylanese while crafting lyrics, with the resulting product coming off more as pale imitation than influenced creation. That can happen, of course, with any artist and in the context of any art-form. I’ve discarded many a lyric because it comes off as faux Dylan or stale Springsteen, and I assume – as an example – that many screen writers have reread their works in progress and mourned the presence of limp Scorsese.)

So, rather than assess, analyze or rehash Bob Dylan’s career and influence here this morning, I thought I’d just stack up a set of six cover versions of his work that I enjoy or admire. My favorite among the cover versions of Dylan’s tunes is not listed among them; I’ve written before about Eric Clapton’s bluesy reconstruction of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” during the 1992 celebration of Dylan’s career. But the cover versions that follow rank high on my list.

The album Tangled Up In Blues: Songs of Bob Dylan was released by the House of Blues in 1999, pairing a selection of twelve Dylan tunes with performers steeped in the blues, rock or R&B traditions. Among the performers and tunes paired on Tangled Up In Blues were Taj Mahal with “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry,” Leon Russell with “Watching the River Flow,” Mavis Staples with “Gotta Serve Somebody” and R.L. Burnside with “Everything Is Broken.” But one of my favorite tracks on the CD is “Ballad of a Thin Man” as interpreted by James Solberg. Solberg, whose band spent much of the 1990s backing bluesman Luther Allison, delivers a biting performance, instrumentally and vocally, of Dylan’s long-ago shredding – if legend is to be believed – of a New York Times reporter.

Covers of “Blowin’ In The Wind” are not scarce, of course. I’m not going to even try to estimate how many there might have been, but four of them reached the Billboard Hot 100 (or bubbled under): Peter, Paul & Mary in 1963, Stan Getz in 1964, Stevie Wonder in 1966 and the Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1969. The version that soul performer O.V. Wright released in early 1970 wound up as the B-Side to a tune titled “Love The Way You Love,” which made neither the Billboard Hot 100 nor the magazine’s R&B Top 40. I found Wright’s version of the Dylan tune on a 2010 collection on the Ace label titled How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan.

Maria Muldaur has moved in and out of public view for years, often performing in a folk-roots vein since growing up – according to All-Music Guide – in New York’s Greenwich Village and then joining, in the mid-1960s, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Likely best-known for her 1974 hit, “Midnight at the Oasis,” she’s released in recent years a series of bluesy, rootsy albums, one of which was the 2006 CD Heart Of Mine (Love Songs Of Bob Dylan). That’s where I found her very good cover of “Buckets of Rain” from Dylan’s 1975 classic album Blood on the Tracks.

Of all of the folks who’ve covered a Dylan tune, one of the least likely names I’ve come across is that of Julie London, the late 1950s and early 1960s chanteuse. Described by AMG as a “sultry, smoky-voiced master of understatement,” London shone on titles like “Cry Me A River,” “September In The Rain” and “Black Coffee.” That’s why her turn on “Mighty Quinn (Quinn, The Eskimo)” seems at first thought to be a mismatch and at second thought to be surreal. But the understatement that AMG cites makes the tune work for London. At least it works for me. The track comes from London’s 1969 album Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, on which she also takes on – among other things – the title tune (which was a No. 4 hit for the Ohio Express; London’s version, released in 1968, bubbled under at No. 125) and the venerable “Louie Louie.”

Odd pairings are, it seems, easy to find when one is digging into covers of Bob Dylan tunes. “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” remains one of Dylan’s most cryptic and most bitter songs, a seeming stream-of-consciousness epic that timed out at 7:33 on his 1965 masterpiece, Bringing It All Back Home. So seeing the tune listed with a running time of 3:49 on an album by R&B master and one-time gospel prodigy Billy Preston can bring all sorts of cognitive dissonance to the fore. But through either the song’s durability or Preston’s skill and talent, the cover version works (and I’d vote for a combination of the attributes of the song and the singer). The track comes from Preston’s 1973 album, Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music.

And I’ve saved one of my personal favorites for the last spot. During the first iteration of this blog, I wrote about the three albums released in the 1960s by Bobby Jameson. (Those posts have now been archived and are available here.) The first Jameson album I posted was 1969’s Working!, and after I wrote about it, Bobby got in touch with me. During those first few months of our friendship, he offered me a track from those 1969 sessions that had been pulled from the album and had never been widely heard. Even after a few years, I find Bobby’s take on Dylan’s “To Ramona” to be world-weary, almost desolate and utterly lovely:

Boettcher Produces Jameson

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 30, 2007

When Bobby Jameson went into the studio to record his second album in 1967 – his first that would be released entirely under his own name – he was teamed up with producer Curt Boettcher.

It seems an odd combination, given Bobby’s recordings to that point: the folk-rock that he recorded as Chris Lucey on Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest and the few pop-rock and folk rock singles that had come out on Mira and a few other smaller labels. The best of that string of singles had been “Gotta Find My Roogalator,” produced by Frank Zappa and released on the Penthouse label; like the others, it got little airplay and went nowhere.

Boettcher, on the other hand, was coming off a series of successes, having produced the singles “Along Comes Mary” and “Cherish” for the Association, as well as the group’s first album, And Then . . . Along Comes The Association.* About the same time as he went into the studio with Bobby Jameson, Boettcher worked with Gary Usher’s group, Sagittarius, doing vocals and some production work on 1967’s Present Tense and – later – 1969’s Big Blue Marble, two albums of sweet and mystical California pop that are now collector’s items.

In retrospect, for anyone who’s listened to Jameson’s 1969 album, Working!, the pairing seems even more odd. Jameson was in the process of finding that later persona, the world-weary wanderer who lives in the grooves of Working!, trying to, in the words of that album’s opening track, find his way “back to Palo Alto.” And Color Him In, the result of Jameson’s time in the studio with Boettcher, seems like a fascinating detour but a detour nevertheless.

There’s no doubt that Boettcher knew his way around the studio. His work with the Association – superb radio pop that it was (“Cherish” is one of my all-time favorite singles) – shows that. But I get the sense from listening to Color Him In that Boettcher had no idea what to do with Bobby Jameson and his music, with the combination of acerbic wit, romance and – this was 1967, after all – hippie mysticism, southern California style. So it seems as if Boettcher tried a little bit of everything.

Several of the tracks on Color Him In would not have sounded out of place on an Association album: “Know Yourself,” “Right By My Side,” “See Dawn,” “Do You Believe in Yesterday? and “Who’s Putting Who On?” although the vocal on that last track is far too intense for anything ever recorded by the Association. Still, the production is familiar, with its horns and the wordless backing vocals, including the “bum, bum” sequences that come right from the introduction to “Cherish.”

Other tracks on the record sound like they come from other places, as far as the production goes. Maybe it’s just my ears, but I keep hearing echoes of other performers – from a wide range of styles – as I listen to Boettcher’s work on Color Him In.

The opener, “Jamie,” has a touch of the style that Johnny Rivers would find about the same time with Rewind, the second in his sequence of great albums. “Windows and Doors” has a touch of British pop to it, maybe the Hollies? “The New Age” sounds as if Cyrkle, the group that hit with “Red Rubber Ball” and “Turn-Down Day,” could have recorded it.

Heading to the second side of the record, “Jenny” is an ultra-mellow piece that somehow anticipates the solo work of Jesse Colin Young. “I Love You More Than You Know” puts me in mind of the Casinos and “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” from the same year. “Candy Colored Dragon” is a slice of sunshine pop, and “Places, Times and the People,” the record’s closer, has echoes of some of Roy Orbison’s better singles.

I dunno. Maybe I’m hearing things. But it seems as if Boettcher had no idea what to do with Bobby Jameson and his songs, so he threw a little bit of everything out there, resulting in an album that has no identifiable center. Most of the songs are pretty good, and Boettcher’s production is nothing if not capable. Jameson’s vocals are good, but they’re not nearly as good here as they were on parts of the Chris Lucey album or as they would be two years later on Working. But the bigger flaw, I think, is that there’s no unity to the record, and in 1967 listeners were just beginning to look for albums that had some sort of unity, if not an overall concept.

I don’t know what time of the year the album came out, but it’s worth recalling that on June 1 of that year, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the third album – following Rubber Soul and Revolver – in a series that changed listeners’ expectations forever. Up until then, an album could be a collection of unconnected, stylistically different tracks, as long as it had a couple of hit singles. But after those three albums, and especially after Sgt. Pepper, listeners were looking not for just good music but for music that had if not a concept then at least a coherent vision. And Color Him In, as good as many of the songs are and as capable as Boettcher’s production was, did not have that coherence.

Add to that the fact that Verve – a label more known for jazz – evidently did little to promote the album and likely had little idea how to do so anyway, and Color Him In got lost in the flood of albums that were crowding the marketplace in 1967. It’s not a lost masterpiece, but it is an interesting listen.

I’ve included in the zip file six singles from Jameson: “I’m So Lonely,” “Okey Fanokey Baby” and “All Alone” from 1964, “Gotta Find My Roogalator” from 1966 and “Vietnam” and “Metropolitan Man” from 1967. (When I posted the Chris Lucey album, I included a track that the CD release had labeled as “Metro Man.” The track was actually an acoustic version of “Vietnam” most likely recorded in 1967.)

Color Him In
Jamie
Know Yourself
Windows and Doors
Right By My Side
Who’s Putting Who On?
The New Age
Jenny
Do You Believe In Yesterday?
I Love You More Than You Know
See Dawn
Candy Colored Dragon
Places, Times and the People

Single tracks:
All Alone
Metropolitan Man
Gotta Find My Roogalator
I’m So Lonely
Okey Fanokey Baby
Vietnam

Bobby Jameson – Color Him In [1967] & Asst. Singles

*I think my chronology is off here concerning the timing of Boettcher’s work. I think Bobby Jameson left a note at the original post site with a correction, but that note is either lost or buried in an email box, so I cannot correct any errors here. Note added May 22, 2011.

The Mystery Of Chris Lucey

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 16, 2007

When I first started wandering the world of music blogs – about eighteen months ago, I guess – I kept coming across a name that supposedly had a great mystery behind it.

The name Chris Lucey kept popping up in the corner of the blogging world that focuses on mid-1960s folk-rock and pop-psych music, the sounds of the Byrds and the Seeds and the Leaves and – at the far end of the block, under the umbrella of AM radio – the Association and The Mamas & The Papas. And behind those well-known groups were lined up hundreds (thousands?) of groups banging their way around the L.A. basin, playing the clubs, living the mid-1960s California Dream, hoping to get a record on the radio and – for the guys, at least – working at staying away from uniformed service and the resulting trip to a land of jungles and rice paddies.

The tales that surface from the survivors of that time and place can be fascinating – one of the best websites to dig into the history and personalities of the time is The Great Hollywood Hangover. And the music that came out of L.A. at the time was great listening, from the Top 40 I heard in the Upper Midwest at the time to the more serious (and sometimes seriously self-indulgent) stuff I dug into in later years. A third part of the musical landscape of the time has come to bright light in recent years, as blogs and CD reissues have resurrected the efforts of many of the little known groups and fringe performers of the time.

And, as I say, as I wandered through Blogworld, I kept seeing occasional references to Chris Lucey and an album called Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest that was, if not legendary, at least well-known. And every mention of the record contained a caveat that Chris Lucey might have been someone else. After all, the performer pictured on the cover looked a lot like Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. (It should have; that’s who it was.)

As I dug further, it became clear that Chris Lucey was the pseudonym of Bobby Jameson, and that quickened my pulse, as Bobby Jameson was listed on a website devoted to The Band as one of the performers who had recorded a version of “The Weight.” I found an ripped copy of Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest and enjoyed it, but still, the story eluded me. I read tales filled with logical conclusions, suppositions, wild-ass guesses, wishful fantasies and plain old lies, I now know. Because shortly after I posted Bobby Jameson’s album, Working, Bobby got in touch with me and urged me to post the rest of his catalog, the Chris Lucey album and Color Him In, an album he released in 1967.

Bobby became Chris Lucey in 1965, after recording and releasing a couple of singles in the U.S. and then heading to England for a year. In England, he worked with Andrew Loog Oldham, the manager at the time of the Rolling Stones. Another single followed there, and then Bobby left the U.K.

Back in the U.S. after almost a year, Bobby says on his MySpace page, “I met a girl named Pam Burns who was Randy Woods’ secretary at Mira Records. Mira had a budget label that they put stuff on that they weren’t sure what to do with.” And one of the recordings set for release in Europe was an album called Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest by a performer named Chris Ducey.

Mira and Ducey had some contractual issues, and the singer bailed on the project, which left Mira with thousands of album jackets already printed and, Bobby notes, a European release date to meet. “They figured out that they could alter the album covers to say Chris Lucey instead of Chris Ducey,” Bobby says. And Pam Burns persuaded Randy Wood to let Bobby Jameson become Chris Lucey. So in a very short time, Bobby Jameson took Chris Ducey’s songs titles, wrote new songs for them and then recorded them. Marshall Lieb, a one-time member of the Teddy Bears in the 1950s with Phil Spector, produced the record.

The record, Bobby said, turned out better than anyone expected, and Randy Wood tried to sign Bobby to a long-term contract. Bobby refused: “I had been hired to rewrite Ducey’s songs and sing them, that’s all.” But Wood had promised Bobby that if the album did well, Mira would record and release a Bobby Jameson single. The track “Vietnam,” backed with “Metropolitan Man” was the result. (You can hear it, and a few other tracks, at Bobby Jameson’s MySpace Music page.) Deejays in L.A. refused to play the record because, Bobby says, it was considered too political and anti-American. He notes that the song was used in the soundtrack to the cult film Mondo Hollywood.

Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest did not sell well, in Europe, in the U.S. or in England, where it was released under Bobby Jameson’s name as Too Many Mornings. Those who did hear it heard what All-Music Guide calls “a deeply idiosyncratic psych-folk opus resembling the classic early LPs by Arthur Lee and Love.”

If you’re going to be pigeon-holed, at least that an interesting place to be stuck. And it’s not inaccurate. There are hints of Arthur Lee’s whimsy and sense of melody and filigree. To me, the stand-out tracks on Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest are the gloomy “I’ll Remember Them,” “I Got The Blues,” which has a Byrds-ish feel, the haunting “That’s The Way The World Has Got To Be (Part 2),” and “Girl From The East,” a lovely tune that was covered on a single by the Leaves.

The copy of the album I found – from a CD on Rev-Ola that’s available only as an import here in the U.S. – has four bonus tracks. One of those, listed as “Metro Man,” has to be the B-side to “Vietnam.” It and the other three bonus tracks, also likely recorded later – “There’s A War Going On,” “Insecure Little Person” and “World War 3” – have a distinct Bob Dylan vibe that’s at odds with the Chris Lucey material. (I neglected to ask Bobby about them; if I’m wrong about their provenance, I’m sure he’ll let me know.)*

Tracks:
That’s The Way The World Has Got To Be (Part 1)
I’ll Remember Them
Girl From Vernon Mountain
I Got The Blues
Saline
That’s The Way The World Has Got To Be (Part 2)
With Pity, But It’s Too Late
You Came, You Saw, But You Didn’t Conquer Me
Girl From The East
Don’t Come Looking
Metro Man
There’s A War Going On
Insecure Little Person
World War 3

Chris Lucey (Bobby Jameson) – Songs of Protest & Anti-Protest [1965]

*Even after several years,  I’m not certain that the four bonus tunes are correctly identified. Since I wrote this post, Bobby has been posting his music – released and unreleased alike – at several YouTube pages. His current YouTube page is here. Note added May 22, 2011.

‘Shut Softly Your Watery Eyes . . .’

May 18, 2011

Originally posted October 30, 2007

Not quite two months ago, I wrote about Bobby Jameson and his version of “The Weight,” the Robbie Robertson song that sits high in my list of favorite songs. At the same time, I shared Bobby’s 1969 album Working!, on which he released his version of the song.

A friend of his left a comment and a link to a MySpace page set up for Bobby. I was a little concerned about Bobby’s reaction to my having shared his album, especially considering that his two earlier albums were in print on CD and – from what I read – Bobby hasn’t been getting any compensation for that. Bobby’s friend promised to check with him, and a few days later, the singer himself left a very complimentary comment here and then sent me a link to his own MySpace page.

Since then, every couple of weeks or so, I get a note from Bobby, and I stop by his page once a week or so. And shortly after we connected, he offered to send me his version of Bob Dylan’s “To Ramona,” an unreleased song from his 1969 sessions for Working!

He did so last evening, and I’ve been listening to it ever since.

It’s very clear from the general sound that it’s from the Working! sessions. Bobby said that GRT pulled it from the record because of its length of 4:04. That may have seemed excessive in 1969, but listening now, it hardly seems to get started before it’s over.

Amid the swirling strings and the soft punctuation provided by the horns, Bobby’s voice – as world-weary as it was on the tracks that were released on Working! – comes sliding out of the speakers, the vocal becoming a little more intense, but no less weary, as the song goes on. Finally, the song ends with what sounds like a combination of anguish and resignation:

“And someday, maybe,
“Who knows, baby,
“I’ll come a-crying to you.”

Although I’m sure Bobby has played it for friends over the years, his version of “To Ramona” has, for the most part, been waiting thirty-eight years. I’m honored and touched that he sent it to me so I could share it here.

Thanks, Bobby.

Bobby Jameson – “To Ramona” [1969]

Bobby Jameson Carries ‘The Weight’

May 6, 2011

Originally posted September 3, 2007

For about the last twenty years – with the pace accelerating in the last seven, since I’ve been online – I’ve been collecting versions of the song “The Weight,” written by Robbie Robertson and first released on Music From Big Pink, the 1968 debut album by The Band.

It’s long been a favorite of mine, and I keep my eyes and ears open as I wander the ’Net, looking for word of cover versions of the tune that I might not have heard about. Thus far, I have nineteen versions of the song, with three by The Band and one by The Band with the Staple Singers (from The Last Waltz).

I also have a version by The Band’s Levon Helm and Rick Danko backed by the members of Ringo Starr’s first All-Starr Band in 1989, and a version that Helm recorded with John Hiatt and country singers Radney Foster and Mark Collie for a 1994 CD titled Red Hot & Country.

Other than those five versions – which all feature at least one of the original vocalists – I have covers of “The Weight” by Hoyt Axton, Joe Cocker, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Smith, the Staple Singers, the Staple Singers & Marty Stuart, Cassandra Wilson, Lee Ann Womack, Al Kooper & Mike Bloomfield, Spooky Tooth, the Ventures and Bobby Jameson.

Probably the least-known name in that list is the last, Bobby Jameson, a 1960s recording artist born Robert Parker James in Tucson, Arizona. I became aware a few years ago that he’d recorded the song when I read an entry in an extensive website about The Band and its music. When I entered the world of music blogs a little more than a year ago, I looked for Jameson’s album, Working!, on occasion. I knew it was rare, and according to everything I could find, had never been released on CD.

About nine months ago, I think it was, just before this I started this blog, I ran across the album at Play It Again, Max. I gave it a few listens, and then stored it away.

I’ve dabbled with the idea of finding Jameson’s other work from the Sixties. He recorded a 1966 album titled Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest that was released on the Surrey label (I think) in the U.S. under the pseudonym of Chris Lucey. (It was released under his real name in the U.K., with the title changed to Too Many Mornings.) He also recorded Color Him In for the Verve label in 1967 before recording Working! for the GRT label in 1969.

His first album, the Chris Lucey recordings are fairly easy to find, having been released on CD by the Rev-Ola label. Color Him In is also available on CD, with some copies listed at GEMM for between $16 and $20. (An LP copy of the first album under its U.K. title of Too Many Mornings is listed there as I write this for $16.28.) The real kick in the catalog, of course, is Working! One copy of the LP is listed at GEMM with a price of $120.75; in the past six months or so, I’ve checked various places fairly regularly, and that’s the only copy of Working! I’ve seen offered.

Bobby Jameson – Working! [1969]

A few listens, and one can understand why this album is one for which collectors hunt. As well as being rare, it’s a pretty good country/country rock record.

Three of the tracks are Jameson’s originals. The album opener, “Palo Alto,” is a great song, carrying with it a feel of the work that Glen Campbell was doing with Jimmy Webb’s compositions – “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman” – around the same time. “Broken Window” is a fairly standard country effort musically, and the lost love metaphor of the lyrics is nothing remarkable; it’s a pretty song, though. The third original, “ ’Bout Being Young,” closes the album, and like the opener, “Palo Alto,” puts the listener in mind – with its subject matter, its vocal and its arrangement – of a Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb collaboration. (From some writers, that would not be a compliment; here at Echoes In The Wind, it is.)

Some of the cover versions that make up the rest of the album fare less well. Jameson’s world-weary voice doesn’t carry nearly enough of the irony necessary to succeed with John Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood.” Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” both are a little spare, not helped by slower tempos than one might consider for the songs. But Jameson seems to at least battle the Dylan songs to draws.

Jameson’s work on “The Weight,” the reason – as noted above – that I first sought out the record – is good, if not spectacular. Many of the song’s interprers – including Levon Helm and Rick Danko of The Band in their original version on Music From Big Pink – relate the lyrics’ mystifying and foreboding tales in matter-of-fact voices. Jameson—his voice telling us he is nearly exhausted – adds a new element to the familiar song: The narrator is weary and wants to rest, but there is no one in this surreal town who will ease his burden.

And the rest of the album is fine, if not extraordinary: If I have a quibble, it’s that the tempo never seems to vary from song to song, leaving the record better heard as a series of ten tracks that might work better as entries in a random playlist than as an album heard in sequence. Of the remainder of the covers on the record, the best might be “Gentle On My Mind,” which benefits from a vocal intensity that this time belies the more matter-of-fact approach that Glen Campbell took with the song not that many years before Jameson recorded it.

The other two tracks on the album are “Singing The Blues,” which Guy Mitchell took to No. 1 in 1956, and “Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby,” the Jimmy Reed-penned bluesy standard that’s been covered by artists ranging from blues matriarch Etta James and the Everly Brothers to Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, Sly & The Family Stone and Rod Stewart. Jameson’s version of “Singing The Blues” drags a little bit, but the expressiveness in his voice keeps the track from being a drag itself, and he does a good job with the Jimmy Reed tune.

The Road To ‘Palo Alto’

March 23, 2010

In my early days online, years before I knew there were such things as blogs, much less blogs about music, and long before I had an inkling that I would write such a blog, I was looking for information about The Band. These days, even after learning about hundreds of other musicians and absorbing their work, The Band remains my favorite all-time group. (The Beatles rank second, and I’m not going to figure out who comes third right now.)

And I found myself, probably sometime in 2001, at a pretty extensive website about The Band, covering not only the group’s history and music as The Band but the group members’ history and music before the group formed in the late 1950s and after the original group split up in 1976. The website also had an extensive list of folks who’d covered songs by the band over the years, and I began to dig into the performers listed there who’d covered “The Weight.” One name baffled me: Bobby Jameson.

I’d never heard of the man, never knew – as I know now – that he’d once been promoted as pop-rock music’s next big thing, never knew that he’d worked in studios with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, with Frank Zappa, with Crazy Horse and with others who would become household names (at least in those households that loved pop-rock music). As I got better at navigating the ’Net, I learned that Working! – the album on which Bobby’s version of “The Weight” appears – commanded prices ranging from $40 to $100 on the used LP market. I also learned that his other two albums – Color Him In, which was released under the name of just Jameson, and Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest, released under the name of Chris Lucey – were nearly just as rare on vinyl.

Sometimes being slow, I didn’t discover music blogs until the summer of 2007 2006, and – like a starving shopper on sampling day at the supermarket – I gobbled up lots of music new to me. Among that music I found Bobby’s three albums, starting with Working!  As it was utterly out of print, I shared it and soon found myself in an email and message conversation with Bobby Jameson, who was living in California. He was pleased with my assessment of the album, and a long-distance friendship developed that’s still growing today. (I later found a copy of Working! online for the ridiculously low price of $10 and sent it to Bobby for an autograph. He happily complied.)

All of this is a long way to get around to the fact that “Palo Alto” from Working! is one of the records I’ve put into my Ultimate Jukebox. It was an easy choice. It’s not like I sat down and thought, “Boy, I need to get one of Bobby’s songs in there. Which one should it be?”

No, it was more simple than that. The first time I scrolled through the songs in my collection from 1969, I typed in “Palo Alto” without hesitation. Why? Well, first, I like it. There won’t be any music I don’t like on some level in the jukebox. By itself, though, that’s not enough. I like the Pipkins’ “Gimme Dat Ding” plenty, too, but it’s not going to show up in these posts. There needs to be an attachment of some sort: historical, intellectual, emotional. With “Palo Alto,” it’s the latter. There is such a sense of yearning, of regret in the song. Here’s a video Bobby put together for the song since he’s become a presence on the ’Net in the past few years.

When I shared Working! in late 2007, I simply said that Palo Alto sounded to me like the early work that Jimmy Webb was doing with Glen Campbell a few years earlier, songs like “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston.” Bobby never said a thing about that, and I thought I’d missed the point entirely of what he’d been trying to do. But not long ago, when he posted his video for “Palo Alto” (he’s since removed it and then reposted it so the comment is gone), he mentioned that he and the crew he was recording with had been aiming for a “Jimmy Webb, Glen Campbell kind of sound.”

Sometimes I get one right.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 9
“Stagger Lee” by Lloyd Price, ABC-Paramount 9972 [1959]
“Palo Alto” by Bobby Jameson from Working! [1969]
“What About Me” by Quicksilver Messenger Service, Capitol 3046 [1971]
“Taxi” by Harry Chapin, Elektra 45770 [1972]
“When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees, Philadelphia International 3550 [1973]
“Here Come Those Tears Again” by Jackson Browne, Asylum 45379 [1977]

“Stagger Lee,” the tale of a craps game gone bad and the pissed-off player who won’t let it rest, has one of the more compelling introductions in early rock ’n’ roll (or maybe in all of rock ’n’ roll), with Lloyd Price singing atop a vocal chorus with just a tinkling of piano: “The night was clear and the moon was yellow, and the leaves came tumbling down.” And the drums bomp in (Earl Palmer, perhaps?) and we’re off into the tale of Stagger Lee, Billy Lyons, a Stetson hat, Billy’s sickly wife and the bullet that broke the bartender’s glass. The story of Stagger Lee came to Price and his collaborator Harold Logan from an old folk song – there are hundreds of verses to the song – that itself evolved from tales of a Nineteenth Century Memphis waterfront gambler named James “Stacker” Lee. (The tale of the song is told in Greil Marcus’ book Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock & Roll Music [1975].) The song’s genesis is fascinating, as is the fact that Dick Clark insisted that Price record a bowdlerized version of the record – in which Billy Lyons’ life is spared – before Clark would allow Price to perform on American Bandstand. But none of that seems to matter if you’re ever out on the dance floor while the original record is playing.

My data banks were pretty empty when I first got Quicksilver Messenger Service’s 1970 album What About Me at a flea market in North Dakota in 1989. I knew the band had sprung up in the San Francisco area in the late 1960s, the same period that has produced the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & the Holding Company and many others. But I don’t know that I’d heard much of Quicksilver before. Digging into first What About Me and then the rest of the group’s catalog was rewarding. There was some aimless noodling, but there was also some brilliant playing, more of the latter than the former, I thought (and still think). And, getting back to the first album I found, there was “What About Me” with its straightforward message of environmental damage and social revolution and its nearly perfect hook of a chorus. The record was released as a single, but I don’t recall hearing it and don’t know how well it did.

The first few times I heard Harry Chapin’s “Taxi” in early 1972, I felt like I was listening to a movie, one studded with details that emerged bit by bit with each successive listening/viewing. The layers of detail and the strength of the story-telling fascinated me (and as I was beginning to write song lyrics at the time, humbled and inspired me at the same time), and over the years, I’ve lost myself in the story of Harry and Sue time and again. There has always been one portion of the record that’s confused me, though: I’ve never been able to understand the high female vocal in the middle of the song. I finally looked it up this morning. The words are:

Baby’s so high that she’s skying,
Yes she’s flying, afraid to fall.
I’ll tell you why baby’s crying,
Cause she’s dying, aren’t we all.

And as 1972 wandered on and “Taxi” went to No. 24, I thought I’d be perfectly happy to let the story of Harry and Sue end with Harry driving away with his twenty-dollar bill. But eight years later, Chapin released “Sequel,” a record that takes the couple’s story further. It’s maybe not quite as good a record, which is why it was one of those I trimmed as I was filling my jukebox, but it was still fine to catch up with those old friends Harry Chapin had introduced us to eight years earlier. (“Sequel” went to No. 23.) There are many reasons to mourn Chapin’s death in 1981, but one of them for me is that I tend to think he had a song planned for 1990, one called “Finale,” in which he’d let us know where Harry and Sue finally landed.

(The video I found for “Taxi” at YouTube is the original video made by Elektra to promote Chapin in 1972; the backing track is slightly different than the one that was released on the Heads & Tales album, and the video ends with a promotional message from Jac Holzman, at the time the head of Elektra Records.)

 

The sweet Philly soul of the Three Degrees’ “When Will I See You Again” has always carried a riddle of time for me. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits tells me that the record was released as a single in the autumn of 1974, peaking at No. 2, where it spent two weeks. That doesn’t jibe with my memory at all: To me, “When Will I See You Again” is the autumn of 1975, as it showed up on the radio about the same time as I met a young lady with whom I spent more than a decade. It was, for a brief time during that first season, “our song.” And I know for certain that we met in 1975. Did the record get ignored by Minnesota radio stations and jukebox jobbers for more than a year? Or did I just miss it? I don’t know the answers (I’m sure someone does), but I do know that the record is a lovely piece of music, and whenever I hear it, I remember the way the record would make the college-aged whiteray smile, and I smile back.

I wrote a while back about hearing “Here Come Those Tears Again” on the radio in February 1977, noting that it was one of the first recordings I ever owned that showed up after that on radio playlists: “Wow, I have that song already!” (The record went to No. 23.) Why is it in the Ultimate Jukebox? Because so many things are so good about it: Jackson Browne’s measured – for a while – vocal; the extraordinary foundation provided by the rhythm section of Bob Glaub and Jim Gordon; the guitar solo from John Hall (then of Orleans, now a U.S. Congressman), and, among more, the final couplet before the chorus repeats:

I’m going back inside and turning out the light,
And I’ll be in the dark, but you’ll be out of sight.