Monthly Archives: March 2009

The other guy

Rockabilly singer Robert Gordon, backed by legendary session guitarist Chris Spedding, played the lounge at our local casino earlier this week. I went to see Spedding, not Gordon. He did not disappoint.

I came to know Spedding as a session man in the early ’70s, when he played guitar and bouzouki on Harry Nilsson’s “Nilsson Schmilsson” and “Son of Schmilsson” albums, two of my faves.

I came to know Spedding as a solo performer in the mid-’80s, when “Motor Bikin’,” a hit single in the UK in 1975, got some airplay on our indie radio station in Madison, Wisconsin. That airplay came as “Ready Spedding Go,” a compilation of his UK hits, was released in the States.

When he played here, Spedding did a song I’d not heard in a long time — “Guitar Jamboree.” In it, Spedding shows off his considerable skills by playing in the style of almost a dozen different guitarists.

Here’s what Spedding says about “Guitar Jamboree” on his web site:

“That’s just a one-off track that I thought of. … I figured that I ought to give all the people who know me as a guitar player a bit of flash guitar — which I don’t know why they expect flash guitar from me because I’ve never, ever done it, but I get the distinct impression that people expect me to be a flash guitarist. The reason I don’t normally do it is because I find it incredibly boring and unfulfilling. So what I did was to construct ‘Guitar Jamboree,’ an interesting song about lots of interesting things, around a few flash guitar solos.”

Indeed, Spedding is laid back on stage. His guitar does the talking.

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Spedding as solo performer:

“Guitar Jamboree,” Chris Spedding, from “Ready Spedding Go,” 1984. Originally released in the UK on “Chris Spedding,” 1975.

“Hurt By Love” Chris Spedding, from “Ready Spedding Go,” 1984. Originally released in the UK on “Hurt,” 1977. Chrissie Hynde sings backup vocals on this one.

“Ready Spedding Go” is out of print, but both of these tunes are available on “The Very Best of Chris Spedding,” a 2007 import. The UK album links also are to import CDs.

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Spedding as duet performer:

“Hey Little Boy (Little Girl),” Chris Spedding and Chrissie Hynde, from “Brace Yourself! A Tribute To Otis Blackwell,” 1994. Spedding plays on several cuts on this record. It’s out of print, but is available digitally.

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Spedding as session man:

“Jump Into The Fire,” Harry Nilsson, from “Nilsson Schmilsson,” 1971. Plenty of flash solos on this familiar one, all as Spedding and Klaus Voorman quietly play rhythm guitar.

“At My Front Door,” Harry Nilsson, from “Son of Schmilsson,” 1972. A rollicking cover of the tune also known as “Crazy Little Mama,” a No. 1 hit on the R&B charts for the El Dorados in 1955. That’s Spedding and Peter Frampton on the electric guitars.

Want to hear more Nilsson? Head over to our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, to hear the rest of Side 2 of “Son of Schmilsson.”

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Filed under March 2009, Sounds

North by Midwest, Day 4

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We’re starting to wind down on NXMW 2009, the little festival celebrating music from our corner of America.

We’ve had new stuff and old stuff, and tonight it’s more of the old stuff. This one is special.

If you’re a regular reader of AM, Then FM, you know we occasionally champion the cause of Clicker, a much-loved rock/glam/cover/show band that played throughout Wisconsin in the ’70s.

Often requested — especially by our friend Shark, who grew up in southwestern Wisconsin around some of the guys from Clicker — is this tune from Clicker’s first album, released in 1973.

It’s a long, trippy instrumental jam, clocking in at 15:22. The first minute and 40 seconds is a spoken intro, with guitarist Bob Schmidtke explaining that it’s about “a sinister pile of masonry,” a massage parlor with “a terrible reputation,” experienced only by the band’s drummer. It’s one of those tales you file under “Good Story If True.”

“Since none of us have been there and our drummer, whose name you’ll conveniently find somewhere on the album jacket, is still too shaken up to talk about it, this tune is pure conjecture. It’s in rondo sonata allegro form and features tricky parts by all.”

Dig it, if you dare. It used to freak me out, especially if I listened to it late at night after partaking in too much … ah, never mind.

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“Du Monde’s Back Room,” Clicker, from “Clicker,” 1973. It’s out of print. This tune was written by Schmidtke, brothers Steve and Jerry Tracy (the bass player and drummer, respectively) and guitarist Dick Wiegel.

Be sure to check out the comments, where Shark and Bill describe what it was like to see and hear “Du Monde’s Back Room” played live.

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Filed under March 2009, Sounds

North by Midwest, Day 3

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Glad you’re back for Day 3 of NXMW 2009, our little festival celebrating music from our corner of America.

(If you’re wondering why Day 2 was on Thursday and Day 3 is on Saturday, well, that’s just how we roll. Friday was lost to an evening with Emily Hurd, whom we featured on Day 1.)

As with Emily, we’re long overdue in introducing you to Copper Box.

Straight outta Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and fronted by the husband-and-wife team of Danny and Michelle Jerabek, this band takes a lot of influences, tosses them into the blender and comes up with a distinctive sound. It’s mostly rock, Zydeco and polka, but there’s also some blues, country and Tejano.

The Jerabeks are veteran performers. Their considerable skills were honed in their families’ polka bands, which they joined as kids. Think of the accordian replacing the Hammond organ, yet sounding a bit like it, and you get an idea of Danny’s skills. Michelle plays sax, flute and guitar and is a terrific singer. They’re flanked by bass player Kevin Junemann and drummer Jason Van Ryzin, and it’s tight.

Copper Box — CBx for short — is no novelty act. It’s been around for seven years and four albums. Tonight, CBx is headlining at Shank Hall, one of Milwaukee’s best clubs for Americana/roots music. Two weeks from tonight, CBx opens for kindred spirits Brave Combo at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn, Illinois, another great club in the same vein.

Summer in Wisconsin, of course, brings plenty of outdoor gigs. They’ll be as busy this summer as last summer, when their publicist sent me some mp3s. They offered the whole CD, but I said, nah, I’ll just get it at one of their shows in Green Bay. And then, of course, I never saw them. I hope to make up for that this summer.

No reason for you to miss out. Enjoy a little bit of Copper Box, a delight from our corner of Wisconsin.

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“Need A Little Squeezin'” and “Apple Of Your Eye,” Copper Box, from “Need A Little Squeezin’,” 2008. (Also available on iTunes.)

The title tune is a slide blues-rocker written and sung by Michelle. The latter is a Zydeco-meets-jazz number written and sung by Danny. It reminds me a lot of the Iguanas.

These are the first two of 15 cuts on the CD, which was released about a year ago and by all accounts gets pretty close to their live sound.

Speaking of which, enjoy this video. Copper Box covers Creedence’s “Born on the Bayou,” recorded last July 4 at the Sawdust City Days festival in their hometown, Oshkosh.

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Filed under March 2009, Sounds

North by Midwest, Day 2

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Delighted to see you again on this, Day 2 of NXMW 2009.

Tonight, we have some old stuff for you from our corner of America.

I only vaguely remember Tongue as one of those bands making the rounds of bars, colleges and roadhouses of Wisconsin during the early ’70s. I don’t think I ever saw them, but I know I heard their name on the radio as their gigs were advertised.

Here is Tongue’s story, as told by Steve Seymour over at his fine (mostly Michigan) music blog Rock n Roll Graffiti:

“Founded in 1967 at the University of Wisconsin-Stout by singer/guitarist Paul Rabbitt and bass player Bob ‘Hippie’ Collins, the group was originally known as the Tennis Shoe Tongue Band. … (The band) quickly became student body favorites for its blues-based hard rock sound and ferocious live shows. …

“Tongue toured extensively with another Wisconsin band, Soup, and opened shows for many headliners on the Midwest concert circuit. Tongue toured with the Cleveland-based rock band James Gang, featuring Joe Walsh, and played with Chuck Berry, Cheap Trick, Michigan’s own Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper. … After gigging around the Midwest for a decade, the Tongue called it quits in 1976.”

Tonight on the NXMW turntable are a couple of tunes from Tongue’s 1969 album, “Keep On Truckin’.” Steve Seymour is right. This certainly is a heavy “blues-based hard rock sound,” and it was popular.

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“The Tongue was lucky as our audiences accepted our original material even though we did not have Top 40 radio airplay,” Paul Rabbitt told Steve Seymour.

My copy of “Keep On Truckin'” is a dollar record found under the tents in my friend Jim’s back yard last fall. Enjoy these originals.

“Homely Man Blues” — Written by Rabbitt, but keyboard player Mick Larsen gives the Hammond organ quite a thorough workout. This one really must have cooked when played live.

“The Earth Song” — Written by Rabbitt and Bob Collins, whose guitars grind away. This one must have been pretty nasty live, too.

Both by Tongue, from “Keep On Truckin’,” 1969. It was recorded at Scott Sound Studios in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and released on Hemisphere Records out of Madison, Wisconsin. The album link is to a 2000 re-release on Fab Gear Records, a European label. It has three songs not on the original record.

Readers’ note: My excerpt of Steve’s fine post is just the tip of the iceberg. Head over to Rock n Roll Graffiti to read more about Tongue, and to see some vintage photos of the band. You also may dig the embedded jukebox full of vintage rock from the Michigan music scene.

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Filed under March 2009, Sounds

The other music festival

Does it seem to you as if all the cool kids are at SXSW in Austin?

If so, feel free to soak in the vibe for the next few nights here at …

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Yeah, we spent hours on the logo.

Welcome to NXMW — North by Midwest — 2009.

We’ll celebrate music from our part of America here at NXMW 2009. Some old, some new. Might as well start in that indie spirit.

We’re long overdue in introducing you to Emily Hurd.

She e-mailed me last fall, saying a friend had pointed her my way. She hails from Rockford, Illinois, where we have a mutual friend in my old pal Meat.

Hurd is a songwriter who isn’t shy about billing herself as a soul singer. Among her influences: Hoagy Carmichael, Solomon Burke, Kris Kristofferson, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Ray Charles and Mavis Staples. She’s working on her sixth album, due out this year.

She sent along a video and a couple of mp3s. You’ll certainly hear those influences.

Video: “The Likes of You.”

Tunes: “Give It Time” and “Make A Bed,” all by Emily Hurd, from “A Cache in the Warehouse Floor,” 2008.

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This is what Hurd says about this record:

“Some of these songs sound like Aretha Franklin singing Tom Waits and others dip into the same well that fed Cooke, Redding, Charles, Witherspoon and Sykes. With the help of the organ and electric guitar, the sounds on this record are as huge as the lyrics.”

“Make A Bed” uses that organ and guitar to deliver a bit of a gospel sound. “Give It Time” works a little harder, with a nice horn chart that sounds like it came from Muscle Shoals.

I hope to hear more on Friday night, when she plays a gig at a coffee house not too far from us.

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Filed under March 2008, Sounds