Originally posted April 6, 2007
It was all because of Bertie Higgins.
The RealPlayer was rolling on random the other night while I played some tabletop baseball (another one of my passions, which I refer to at times on my other blog, the horribly neglected Whiteray’s Musings). Along came Bertie Higgins and his 1982 hit, “Key Largo.” But the introduction sounded off. So I played it again.
And it was off. I’m not at all sure where I got the mp3 of the song, but it was missing the first three notes. So I finished the game I was playing and headed for the stacks, planning to pull Higgins’ LP out and fire up the ION USB turntable. The records in the H section went from “Hiatt, John” to “High Cotton.” No “Higgins, Bertie.”
I stood there rubbing my beard for a moment, certain that I owned a copy of Higgins’ album, Just Another Day in Paradise. I could see the cover in my mind. So I went to a couple of crates where I keep LPs I’ve logged but have not yet played. Some Steve Forbert and Lamont Cranston. A collection of Russian folk songs. Amy Grant. Frank Sinatra. Chilliwack. Some musicals and classical. A Ronco disco collection. Lots of other stuff.
But no Bertie Higgins.
Utterly confused, I went to the computer and pulled up the LP Log. No listing for “Higgins, Bertie.” Despite my certainty, I don’t own the album. So I took a deep breath and looked at the three-foot long shelf that contains my various anthologies, including a lot of Ronco and K-Tel products. I don’t have them indexed by song. If I had “Key Largo” on one of them, I would have to find it by pulling each record out and scanning first for dates of 1982 or later and then for the individual title.
Were the first three notes of the introduction really that important to me?
Well, yes. So I began pulling records off the shelf. About twenty minutes later, I found a record called If We Knew Then . . . produced in 1986 to, oddly enough, promote a drug to reduce high blood pressure. It first side – the “Then” side – had five songs from the 1950s: Vic Damone’s “On The Street Where You Live” and Doris Day’s “Secret Love” among them. Side Two, the “Now” side, had, among its five songs, “Key Largo.”
Ten minutes later, I had an mp3 with those three notes whose absence had annoyed me an hour earlier. And I began to dig through the other collections to see what other single cuts I could find that I might want to add to the mp3 collection. And I pulled out a record titled Rock Generation, Vol. 5, subtitled “The First Rhythm & Blues Festival in England (Birmingham Town Hall, 28th February 1964).”
I stared at it and at the list of performers: Spencer Davies, spelled just like that. Long John Baldry. Rod Stewart. Stevie Winwood. Eric Clapton. Sonny Boy Williamson.
When did I get this? I turned it over. “February 25, 1999,” said the date. The location was clear from the price tag on the front: Cheapo’s, on Lake Street in South Minneapolis.
Back at the computer, I opened a new file for recording, cleaned the record and put it on the ION. As it played, I looked over the cover, noting that it was released (evidently in 1965) on the French BYG label with liner notes by one Giorgio Gomelsky. I listened closely. Not bad. Except for the fact that Steve Winwood’s mike failed during the first cut by the Spencer Davies R&B Quartet (as the group was billed), the recording was pretty good.
And clearly, even if the recording were mediocre, its historical import is large enough to excuse some audio flaws. What a lineup! And how was it I didn’t know I had this? Had I been distracted that day, looking forward to listening to some other LP I’d found that day in pristine condition? (Looking at the LP Log, if other acquisitions distracted me that day, it was likely the two Al Green LPs. Other buys that day were LPs by Roy Buchanan, Donovan, Buddy Guy, T-Bone Burnett, Graham Central Station and Otis Rush. A pretty good haul for one day!)
The first side ended. I paused the recording, cleaned Side Two and started it and the recorder again, and I tried to figure out how I could have slid this treasure in with the Roncos. I try to separate the anthologies to some degree on that shelf, with the more valuable ones – in terms of rarity of content – clustered together at one end. As Sonny Boy blew his harp in front of the Yardbirds, all I could figure out was that on that Thursday evening in 1999, I just hadn’t been paying attention.
Then I realized I likely didn’t play any of those records on that day. Back then, when I lived in Minneapolis, Thursday evening was band practice, a weekly get-together with friends for the sake of the music and camaraderie. I’d no doubt grabbed the records during a quick stop on my way home from work and then headed off to practice.
But as Sonny Boy closed his set with a solo turn on “Bye-Bye Bird” and all the performers began a long version of “Got My Mojo Working,” I realized that I still had no idea why I’d seemingly not realized the value of the record when I got it. Well, sometimes, I guess, I’m just asleep at the switch. And I evidently played the record and shoved in between the Roncos without thinking.
Posting the record here should rectify that poor decision of eight years ago. Most of the performers on the record are well known, though some of the group memberships changed between the time of this recording in February 1964 and the time the groups became more well known to music fans in general and certainly to those on the American side of the big pond.
Spencer Davies R&B Quartet was made of, at the time, Davies himself, of course, on guitar; Stevie Winwood on guitar, vocals and organ; Muff Winwood on bass; and Peter York on drums.
Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men were: Baldry on vocals; Rod Stewart on vocals; Jeff Bradford on lead guitar; Cliff Barton on bass; Ian Armit on piano; and Billy Law on drums.
The Yardbirds were: Eric Clapton on lead guitar; Paul Samwell-Smith on bass; Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar; and Jim McCarty on drums.
The members of the Liverpool Roadrunners were not listed on the back of the record. Their current website is here.
The track listing is:
“Dimples” by the Spencer Davies R&B Quartet
“You Gonna Make It If You Try” by the Liverpool Roadrunners
“Mary Ann” by the Liverpool Roadrunners
“Bright Lights Big City” by Rod Stewart
“The Two Nineteen” by Long John Baldry
“Night Time Is The Right Time” by the Spencer Davies R&B Quartet
“Slows Walk” by Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds
“Highway 69” by Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds
“My Little Cabin” by Sonny Boy Williamson and the Yardbirds
“Bye-Bye Bird” by Sonny Boy Williamson
“Got My Mojo Working” [listed simply as “Mojo”] by everyone.
All-Music Guide indicates that the album was released on CD in 2000 on the Spalax label. GEMM has a couple of listings for the CD through U.S.-based shops that specialize in imports, with prices ranging right around $25. Several copies of the LP are listed there as well, with prices as low as about $5 and as high as $90, with most of the copies being priced between $10 and $30.
Rock Generation, Vol. 5