Monthly Archives: February 2019

Over 12 years, a musical education

When this blog debuted 12 years ago this week, I knew plenty about Peter Tork and I knew nothing about Harvey Scales.

Fellow music bloggers hepped me to Harvey Scales, who was an underappreciated Wisconsin treasure. He’s well known to soul enthusiasts and to those who saw him 50 years ago on a Midwest circuit of clubs, college rathskellers, frat houses, roadhouses and beer bars. He died on Feb. 11. He was 77, maybe 78. When I posted word of his death in a couple of local history Facebook groups, the memories poured in from that long-gone scene:

“I remember being at the teen beer bar, Jack’s Point Bar on the Beach Road, Twistin’ Harvey singing and standing on the tabletops while twistin’ a white towel over his head. He was very good and got the place rockin’!” … “Threw me his sweaty shirt!” … “Twistin’ Harv was legendary and always drew a big crowd. They were so much fun!” … “First good R&B band I had ever heard. They really opened my eyes to a complete different style of music.” … “Twistin’ Harvey and the Seven Sounds blew my mind in the late ’60’s at some outdoor event in Appleton.”

I’m too young to have seen Harvey Scales in his prime, but I was fortunate to see latter-day versions of Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds at a small outdoor show in 2010 and then in a steamy tent on the Fourth of July in 2013. Kinda felt like I was seeing one of the last of the soul and R&B revues.

Peter Tork’s passing on Feb. 21 was not unexpected. He also was 77. When Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz announced the most recent Monkees tour, I immediately got the sense that Tork sat it out because he didn’t feel up to touring. Whether that’s so, only those closest to him know.

“I have in general made no secret of the fact that all these recent years of Monkees-related projects, as fun as they’ve been, have taken up a lot of my time and energy,” Tork said a year ago, preferring to work on a blues record instead. “So, I’m shifting gears for now, but I wish the boys well.”

I’ve loved the Monkees since I was a kid in the ’60s. Truth be told, I don’t write about them enough. Wish I still had my Monkees cards and my Monkeemobile model. I still vividly remember the day my Monkeemobile’s roof got smooshed beyond repair. However, we still have all the records.

We were fortunate to see the Monkees in three different settings, in three wonderful shows. We started with Davy Jones solo in 2010, then the Davy-Micky-Peter lineup in 2011, then the Mike-Micky-Peter lineup in 2014. That’s Peter playing the red guitar at right in the latter show. Each time we saw Peter, he was the coolest, most relaxed guy on the stage.

When this blog debuted 12 years ago this week, I knew nothing about Mongo Santamaria, either.

It wasn’t all that long ago that my friend Larry Grogan — the proprietor of the mighty Funky 16 Corners blog and the host of WFMU’s “Testify!” — hepped me to him, too. Still exploring, still learning.

The record you see below is one recently found while digging and recently ripped on the turntable that sits just to my right in AM, Then FM world headquarters.

“I Thank You,” Mongo Santamaria, from “All Strung Out,” 1970.

Thanks for reading all these years, everyone, and thanks for hepping me to cool music like this. More to come!

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under February 2019, Sounds

Taking stock of The Corporation

50 years ago, as January turned to February in the winter of 1969, a Milwaukee band was playing at Club Sahara, a popular place on the east side of Green Bay.

Lots of Milwaukee and Chicago bands made the rounds of Midwest clubs and roadhouses back then, and Club Sahara was one of those stops.

That week, that band was The Corporation. That week was quite a week for The Corporation, a six-piece group.

50 years ago this week, in the first week of February 1969, Capitol Records released The Corporation’s self-titled first album without the benefit of a single.

As The Corporation played Green Bay, some of the band members sat down with a writer from the local paper to talk about it all.

“Originality and experimentation are the marks of the 8-month-old group’s music. A high decibel count is also one of its telling points on stage,” my friend Warren Gerds wrote in his Night Beat column, trying to explain it all to the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s mostly older readers.

“The emphasis is on sound, loud and relying on complex harmonies. The music could be called electric jazz at certain points and underground at others.”

Uh, yeah, well …

“We don’t like to define our music in any special class. We’re not strictly an underground group. We like to appeal to everybody,” drummer Nick Kondos said.

“We just want to do our own thing,” bass player Ken Berdoll said.

Gerds continued …

“The Corporation is unique. That’s probably why Capitol, a record producer and song publisher, likes it. It slams out original songs, and when it does play other groups’ hits, the songs are altered to match its involved style. Not everyone will like the music of The Corporation. Guy Lombardo lovers would cringe at its way-out approach.”

Well, this was 1969. Conventional newspapers struggled to bridge the generation gap. My friend Warren, just a couple of years out of college, was assigned that thankless task.

The second side of “The Corporation” is taken up by one song, a cover of John Coltrane’s “India.” It’s an epic bit of psych and jazz rock, a trip that goes on for 19 minutes, 27 seconds.

“It’s a very free song,” Berdoll said.

“Because of this ‘freeness,’ The Corporation reaches for the hip in most songs,” Gerds wrote.

So dig the hip.

Here’s “India” by The Corporation, from “The Corporation,” 1969.

And here’s the entire album, released 50 years ago this week.

The band members, from left on the album cover: Danny Peil (vocals), Patrick McCarthy (organ and trombone), Gerard Smith (lead guitar and vocals), Ken Berdoll (bass and vocals), Nick Kondos (drums and vocals) and his brother John Kondos (guitar, flute, harp, piano and vocals).

Some accounts incorrectly identify The Corporation as a Detroit band. That’s because Detroit producer John Rhys heard them at a Milwaukee club and pitched them to Capitol Records, who signed them. “The Corporation” was recorded at Tera Shirma Studios in Detroit.

It was a regional hit, reaching No. 3 on the charts in Milwaukee in March 1969. However, it reached only No. 197 on the Billboard Hot LPs chart. Capitol also released “I Want To Get Out Of My Grave” b/w “Highway” as a single in 1969.

After that debut album, The Corporation had a falling-out with Capitol Records, which dropped them.

In 1970, the group released two more albums — “Get On Our Swing” and “Hassels In My Mind” — and a single on Age of Aquarius, a custom label pressed by Wisconsin’s Cuca Records. Not long after that, The Corporation dissolved.

(As always, a hat tip to Gary Myers for his indispensable research books on Wisconsin bands.)

Leave a comment

Filed under February 2019, Sounds