Leaping Ahead Project 2016 #321: 161116
[A song about dogs]
Vinegar Joe were a British R&B band which, although only together between 1971 and 1974, was notable for launching the solo careers of Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer
Formed from the remains of ‘Dada’, a 12-piece Stax influenced jazz-rock fusion band, Vinegar Joe was formed in 1971 with Elkie and Robert sharing joint lead vocals, Pete Gage on guitars, Dave Thompson on keys and Steve York on bass. The band had no drummer at first but used the likes of Conrad Isidore and Rob Tait up until the release of their debut self-titled album in April 1972.
A second album – ‘Rock n roll gypsies’ – followed later in 1972 when drummer Pete Gavin joined for the start of a US tour. This gave rise to what would be the band’s final album – ‘Six Star General’ – released in 1973. The band split in the spring of the following year.
Subsequently, Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer enjoyed hugely successful solo careers and Pete Gage became a record producer. By April 2012, Brooks had released more albums that had reached the top 75 of the UK album charts than any other British female artist. Sadly, Robert Palmer passed away in September 2003 at the age of 54.
The first Pirates line-up came together in the late 1950’s as the backing band for Johnny Kidd, one of the first wave of British Rock n Rollers. Classics from this period include ‘Please Don’t Touch’, ‘Restless’ and the Number 1 single ‘Shakin all over’ which, although since covered numerous time, first became a landmark in British rock n roll on its June 1960 release.
Some momentum was lost when the original Pirates jumped ship and became the nucleus of The Tornados of ‘Telstar’ fame. But the recruitment of school friends Mick Green (guitar), Johnny Spence (bass) and Frank Farley (drums) complete with their hard rock sensibilities gave Kidd the ammunition he needed to keep Merseybeat at bay. The top 20 hits ‘I’ll never get over you’ and ‘Hungry for Love’ gave due proof of that, while the three Pirates even produced a solo single – ‘My Babe/Casting Spell’ which, due to later shenanigans, has since become a cult hit.
The success came to an untimely end in October 1966 when Johnny Kidd killed himself in a car crash and everything went a bit quiet for a decade. But in the mid-70s when Dr Feelgood and sundry other stripped down bluesy combos began lighting fires under the rise of punk, the call went out for Green, Spence and Farley to give their acolytes a masterclass in no frills rock n roll, and ‘The Pirates Mark II’ was born.
‘Skull Wars’ was the band’s second outing on the mighty Warner Bros record label. Released in 1978, the album features three live tracks recorded at London’s ‘The Hope and Anchor’ and epitomise the classic pub rock the latter day Pirates proved their worth with over and over again.
At the time of its release I was working as a kitchen porter and sharing accommodation with a number of others on a corner of a large university campus in the Midlands. No less than four of us owned a copy of this album and not a day went by in the autumn of 1978 without it getting at least one airing. Once we even (more or less successfully) synchronised the playing of ‘Johnny B Goode’ on four separate record players at the same time – all at top volume. That track still floats the boat 37 years later. And, as you can see, I still have the album.
Mentioned in the same sentence, what do Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse, Alan ‘Blind Dog’ Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Richey Edwards and Jim Morrison all have in common? Sadly, they’re all posthumously part of the infamous ’27 Club’.
Of course, each will always be remembered first for their incredible contributions to the music industry and the gifts they’ve left which we all love and listen to time and time again years and years after their passing. But, as the ’27 club’ has been coined, sadly, you can’t really think of each now without also thinking about that.
The reason it’s cropped up now is that I’ve been asked (as part of an ice-breaker for a conference I’m attending at the end of the month) to pick three people (living, deceased or fictitious) who I’d invite for a TV chat-show I’m hosting.
Jimi Hendrix is my first choice and I think I’d ask him two key things. Firstly what tune is currently the favourite of the ’27 club’ and secondly, what genre he’d be embracing now had he lived beyond 18 September 1970.
Given similar opportunity, who would you invite and what two questions would you ask?
Meantime and whilst you have a think about that, here’s the excellent Isle of Wight version of ‘Foxy Lady’ performed on 31 August 1970 just three weeks before Jimi died.
Born in March 1949 in Ballyshannon, Donegal, Ireland, Rory Gallagher started his musical career in a series of school bands in Cork before forming his first true band – The Fontana Showband. A little later they changed this to The Impact and by 1965 had secured a residency in Hamburg mostly playing Chuck Berry covers.
In 1966, just as the British blues revival was gathering steam, Rory disbanded The Impact to form ‘Taste’ with Norman Damery and Eric Kitteringham. Although the band’s debut album failed to break through, Taste persevered and hit the top 20 with the 1970 release of the follow-up ‘On the Boards’.
The album established Rory Gallagher as Ireland’s ambassador of the blues guitar and set the stage for his forthcoming solo career. Releasing a self-titled debut which made the top 40 in 1971, Rory continued to build his audience base with an exhausting touring schedule. Described as ‘the working man’s guitarist’, mainly due to his non-conformist attire of checked shirts, jeans and ruffled hair, he followed the debut with ‘Deuce’ later in 1971. But it was the massive top 10 success of ‘Live in Europe’ released in 1972 that catapulted him to super-stardom.
For me though, excellent as ‘Live in Europe’ is, there are several other albums which are unjustifiably under-rated. ‘Blueprint’ (1972), ‘Tattoo’ (1973), ‘The story so far’ (1976) and ‘Fresh Evidence’ (1990) stand amongst his most overlooked.
Moving to Chrysalis records shortly after the release of the double live album ‘Irish Tour 74’, sadly his form began to slump a little faced with the pressure of a new, leaner breed of up and coming guitar acts. But, although his commercial appeal subsided a little with each subsequent album release, his live performances never waned.
Ultimately death was the only thing that could prise Rory Gallagher away from his guitar. He passed away in June 1995 after suffering complications following a liver transplant. However, even though it’s now almost twenty years, the excitement and sheer brilliance that sealed his entry into the ‘Rock n Roll hall of fame’ lives on in this electrifying version of ‘Bullfrog Blues’ from a French gig in 1980.
Fat Freddy’s Drop are a 7-piece outfit hailing from Wellington, New Zealand where they formed in 1999. They play a multi-genre style including diversities from Techno to Rhythm & Blues, Reggae to Jazz and Dub to Soul along with anything else that just happens to slip into the mix.
Here’s ‘Wandering Eye’ from 2006 to give you a taster…