Just wandering around the net one day – Discogs in particular – I stumbled upon this song Woman Of Soul by the Rhead Brothers (from the album Dedicate). One of those songs you put on repeat for a proper week only to find out their other stuff is great too. It sounded to me – and to others too apparently – as if I found a forgotten gem from the Laurel Canyon scene of the seventies. Also Steely Dan popped into mind. Now, I couldn’t be more wrong…what we’re dealing with here is British as tea my friend. Not too much – close to nothing – can be found about this lovely piece of music. Their Second album Black Shaheen was shelved by EMI at the time – we’re talking late seventies here – for no particular reason. As having talked to other artists from that era with similar stories, I’d say the big record labels were a bit confused back then – to put it lightly. Norwegian label Preservation Records did a reissue of the album in 2016, which was by the way recorded in the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama. I figured we need to know more about the story behind the wonderfully smooth music of the Rhead Brothers and so I contacted them to hear them out. I spoke to John Rhead, who answered all my questions in this nice read.
Both Steve and I got into music at a young age. Being five years older than Steve I was first to own a guitar of any kind. It was a ‘starter’ acoustic instrument and virtually unplayable. I still remember doing major surgery on it in an attempt to reduce it to a semi acoustic…..with drastic consequences! I got my first electric for Christmas and the only criteria I gave my parents was that it had to look like Buddy Holly’s. It did but was a Vox rather than a Fender….not that I noticed at the time! Steve started with a better quality instrument from the outset and I still use that fact as an explanation (excuse) for his continued superiority on the instrument!!! (LOL) Undoubtedly, we owe our initial love of music to a neighbour named Phil Cuthbertson. He was a few years older and we would wait with no little anticipation for Phil to pass our house on his way back from work. In particular, we were looking for the trademark ‘pat’ on his sandwich bag which indicated to the initiated the presence of a new 45 single. An hour later, we were in his garage listening to the latest addition to his collection. It was, almost without exception either Buddy Holly or the Everly’s (occasionally Elvis or Eddie) and we loved it. I suppose this was where our love for American music began…..although I doubt that we knew it then. As time moved on we got more and more into music from the US. Not consciously but most of the music we were into emanated from that continent. Further influences on our musical direction came from two older cousins. One was an accomplished guitarist (Paul) with a great collection of LP’s top heavy with recordings by the likes of Big Bill Bronzy, Jackson Frank, Davy Graham. Bert Jansch, John Renbourne and Robert Johnson etc. Steve really got into these kind of players whereas the first of Paul’s records that blew me away was by Bob Dylan….his first album, hot off the press. No idea why….it just had that certain something. Our other cousin, Arthur, was into Jazz and R&B. He was a fine player who became the first keyboard player in Climax Chicago Blues band. That of course meant more American music….not that we were complaining. The first music we discovered for ourselves was probably the early stuff recorded by the Stones and Beatles. British yes…..but heavily influenced by American artists. At that time my preference was for the Stones but they were very definitely knocked into second place the day Mr. Tambourine Man hit the British airwaves. Already familiar with Dylan’s version the Byrds knocked us musically sideways …..and along with their musical offshoots (e.g CSN) and individual projects continued to do so until they were no more. It would be easier to say which musical path they didn’t take us down and Eight Miles High still gives us goosebumps! Of course we listened to other West Coast groups of the time but to our ears they were always light years behind the Byrds. Any band or artist (Joni in particular) involved with a former Byrd became compulsory listening and so we got into the latin jazz flavourings of Manassas and from there into recordings by Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Airto, George Duke and Santana etc. The Band also became a staple part of our musical diet and a back stage pass to see Steely Dan (with Mike McD) and Little Feat (in Manchester) meant yet more great music to digest. The above artists are what I laughingly call our day time listening because at night a local club schooled me in the musical delights of Motown and Stax artists and so Otis, Stevie, Marvin, Donny and Al became essential listening for both of us. All these influences were audible in the local bands we began playing in where set lists included Eight Miles High followed by Knock on Wood and Black Magic Woman.
So, these were some of our early influences and may go someway to explaining why our own music sounds the way it does. Dedicate came about via our friend John Darnley. Before signing with EMI we had had prolonged and frustrating contractual connections with WEA and Anchor Records. Neither company had furthered our ambition to record an album but both had delivered highly memorable moments in our stalling musical career. As Byrds fans we had read the liner notes on the Turn, Turn, Turn album endless times so were well aware of Derek Taylor, one time Beatles and Byrds P.R man. To cut a long story short, Derek signed us to WEA and it still ranks as one of the highlights of our adventures in the music industry. Suffice to say, we have yet to meet a person who knew Derek that didn’t love him, a highly gifted, generous and gentle man. Through him we met JD and although we parted company with him when we left for the fledgling Anchor Records he, unknown to ourselves, was keeping tabs on our progress. Sometime later, John Darnley left WEA, become an A&R man at EMI and within weeks of him suggesting we should join him there, planning for Dedicate was underway. Months later we were in Air studios alongside some of our favourite British musicians. The rest as they say……! Dedicate was one of the first EMI albums to be accepted by all its territories and was released worldwide in 77. How well did it do? Well, it became a Billboard breakout album in the States, became popular in Japan….but apart from that I honestly wouldn’t know. I’m not sure we even thought about it much as we were already contemplating a visit to Muscle Shoals and had no management company to keep us informed of business. Indeed, EMI sent us to the States to remedy that situation and we still remember sitting around a pool in LA and being asked how much we wanted to be stars! The answer we gave was obviously the wrong one as said management instantly abandoned any further questioning. Being stars did not figure high in our priorities, we had already recorded with musicians that we greatly admired and were about to head for Muscle Shoals to record with other great players. That was the dream and it was coming true. Naive? Probably! Anyway, several meetings later we departed the US with no management……. there was no meeting of minds! As for touring after Dedicate we did one brief tour of Holland (with an amazing band) the highlight being a night at the famed Paradiso and then the priority became album number two and Muscle Shoals. What happened with Black Shaheen? The truth is we can only guess. From Muscle Shoals EMI flew us down to Nashville for a holiday. We got back and did an EMI convention with some of the players from both albums and then headed for a holiday with the Muscle Shoals contingent for a week on a Scottish island. Where it went wrong after that only EMI know. There were a few issues with the first cut of BS and a few murmurs about lack of management and then both single and album (no idea how many were pressed) leaked out.
The first time I ever heard the Remains, was while I was listening to the 1976 compilation Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 (compiled by Lenny Kaye, guitarist for the Patti Smith Group). The song was Don’t Look Back and it sounded ridiculously tight for a ‘garage’ act. At the point singer Barry Tashian starts preaching over the drum breaks and that bass kicks in, that’s when you realize you’re going to have to put this song on repeat for a day or two. The Remains were no small players. Even before the band released their first (and only) album they were assigned to go on (the last) tour with the Beatles. They were traveling along with fab four as ‘the backup band’ – in Barry’s own words “a small price to pay for the national recognition we would gain” – amongst other supporting artists such as Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and – Ronnie wasn’t there though – The Ronettes. How’s that for a debut tour? Right! Unfortunately, but probably unavoidably, the band was disbanded by the time the first album came out and they never really toured again until the early 90′s. As we speak there is still a live album from 1969 on the shelves and even a fully finished documentary about the band, that has been postponed due to legal issues. Why were the Remains so tight, was it because of a blue circle of light? Find out below in the questioning I did with Barry, a real friendly and inspiring artist.
So I always start somewhere at the beginning. What are your first musical memories? What stuff got you going as a kid?
I liked Bill Haley very much when i was about seven or eight years old. He was the only “rock n’ roller” visible on TV and in movies. I liked his band…and lead guitarist Frannie Beecher. Soon many other great R & R artists arrived on the scene, such as Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. I really dug these artists. I was fortunate to see two “Alan Freed Rock n’ Roll shows” at a young age. First I went to the State Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut (I grew up in Connecticut) to see Fats Domino, Frankie Lyman, The Cleftones, and other “Doo Wop” acts from the New York City area. The second show I attended was a Christmas Show at the New York Paramount in Times Square, where I was saw and heard The Everly Brothers, Jackie Wilson, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and Fats Domino perform. I was young but I had a neighborhood band at the time. We performed at local dances, the YMCA, and eventually High School Dances when I was old enough. My band was called “The Schemers.” By the way I checked out your link and it seems that your musical tastes are quite wide. That’s nice because so are mine.
How did you get from The Schemers to The Remains, or am I skipping a big part here?
Speaking of ranges of musical tastes, I wanted to tell you about my first musical experience. It made a huge impression on me and happened when I was around eight years old. It happened at a Clambake…which is a traditional method of cooking clams, lobsters, corn, and making a party of it on the beach. The method is to heat rocks over a wood fire, on the beach, until they’re good and hot. Then the clams, lobsters, chickens and corn on the cob are placed on the hot rocks, covered with wet seaweed, then covered by a large tarpaulin, until the all is cooked.
So, there I was at this Clambake with my parents and lots of other mothers and fathers celebrating the once a year party in honor of the “Fathers Club” of my local school. After everyone had dinner and the sun began to set, the band mounted a make shift stage under a tent lit by a couple of simple light bulbs hanging over the stage. I had no idea what I was about to hear…….the musicians had traveled up from New York City where they played in the New York scene at the time. These guys were some of the finest jazz musicians who emulated the music that traveled from New Orleans to New York.
Jasper, when they started playing I could not believe how great they sounded. I had never heard anything like this. I sat next to the drummer (George Wettling) and watched them carry on. These were legendary instrumentalists: Trombone, Vic Dickenson; Trumpet, Max Kaminsky; Clarinet, Pee Wee Russell; with an unknown pianist and bassist. They sounded fabulous as the music drifted out over the waters of the Long Island Sound. I don’t know how late my parents let me stay, but no matter…the seed was well planted!
All these years later one of the things you can find me doing today is taking a jazz ensemble class at the Nashville Jazz Workshop. My wife, Holly, plays bass fiddle. It’s such fun to play the great songs of the 20th Century that our parents knew. Louis Armstrong’s music was what these guys were emulating. So there you have it.
This track is from a Columbia album titled Jam Session Coast to Coast
This was probably cut in New York around 1955 and some of the musicians are different
but with the same drummer and vibe happening. Some of these guys played with Louis Armstrong.
Have a listen…are these guys having fun?
It sure sounds like they’re having fun! Great story too. So I guess I could say this happening was a big influence to you? How did you get into rock though?
What follows is a quick and dirty history of The Remains.
I made a trip to The U.K. and Europe with my friend Bert in the summer of 1964 when the Stones and the Kinks were just blooming in England. They were known in the States but had not really erupted in a big way yet. I saw the Kinks doing “You Really Got Me” on BBC TV and heard some great live groups in London covering songs like “Oh Carol”, doing their own versions of Keith Richard’s great Chuck Berry guitar. I said to myself “I can do that!”
But I did not yet appreciate some other important qualities needed to make a life-long career of Rock n’ Roll.
I went to the Continent and visited southern France. It was there I had my first experience with cannabis, while partying with some Spanish gypsy Flamenco players one night on the beach in Cannes.
Returning to England I went to hear a British band at the Cafe Des Artistes on Earl’s Court Road. It was a pretty hip little cavern type place with vaulted ceilings. I had a toke before I went in. The band was very good. There was a blue spot light aimed at the stage that cast a blue circle of light in the middle of the platform. Suddenly I had an inspiration. The four members of the band were not just wanging away at their instruments; they were engaged in a musical conversation! The focal point of their conversation was a blue circle of light on the center of the stage. This way they kept in touch with each other constantly and, as a result, they were a really tight band.
On my return to Boston University in September of 1964 I rounded up my musical mates in the dormitory and related my story about this magical “Blue Light Experience” with the band in London.
I explained that if we followed my inspiration about paying close attention to each other
all the time while we played, having a “conversation” if you will, we could be an incredibly tight band.
My mates went for it and The Remains were born! We were a four piece band: guitar, vocal, elec. piano, elec. bass and drums. Within two months we had a manager, booking agency and two record labels interested in signing us. Although there was interest from Capital Records, we ended up going with Columbia for release on their sister label, Epic Records. Our friend, Don Law, had helped us connect with Columbia. Don’s father was running Columbia Records’ Nashville branch.
In the following months we finished up our sophomore year in college, dropped out of school at the end of the our second year. We played nearly every college in New England. In early January of 1965 we recorded “Why Do I Cry” at Columbia’s studio in Manhattan. It turned out to be our first single, released in March 1965. It got a lot of radio play in New England.
We did a six week stint in New York City at a club in Greenwich Village and ended up on The Ed Sullivan Show, a Network program viewed by 14 million people. Two months later we also did the NBC Network show, Hullabaloo. We played “Diddy Wah Diddy” on that show. The Remains also continued the college performances, playing at Harvard, Yale and it seemed like every college in the six states in the New England region. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Another Remains single was released later that year; “Diddy Wah Diddy”: that had a lot of radio play as well. It was great to ride down the road and hear our band on the radio. It was a big thrill. “Diddy Wah Diddy” was recorded on one of ours trips to Nashville. We recorded in the famous “Quonset Hut”, established by Owen and Harold Bradley. (Owen Bradley produced Patsy Cline!). I believe it was the first studio on Nashville’s famed “Music Row.” The studio had been bought by Columbia/Epic and we were produced by the legendary Billy Sherrill, who produced lots of hits during his time, including Ray Charles and Country stars Tammy Wynette and George Jones.
Billy helped us a lot and I love the tracks we cut in Nashville. He got a great sound on us.
We did eight tracks there that later appeared on our CDs on Sundazed Records.
In early 1966 we moved to New York City and connected with a new manager called John Kurland. Sometime in June we were asked to go on The Beatles U.S. Tour of fourteen cities planned for August, 1966. Of course we accepted the offer. To hang out with The Fabs was an unforgettable experience! I was twenty-one at the time. For many reasons the Beatles Tour turned out to be a swan song for The Remains.
However, our recording of “Don’t Look Back” was picked up for inclusion in the Box Set “NUGGETS” and a few years later our first release, “Why Do I Cry” was also included in the box.
In 2007 our recording of “Why Do I Cry” was featured in the Judd Apatow teen comedy, SUPERBAD.
The band did not play again until a reunion concert at The Boston Tea Party, the most popular venue at that time. The show was recorded on a quarter track tape and presently is in the works to be released as a vinyl album in October or November of this year, on Sundazed Records. The working title is The Remains Live In 1969.
We re-established The Remains in the early 90’s. Our first gig was at the Purple Weekend, in Leon, Spain. Since then we have played in Spain, France, Germany, the UK, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and of course, Boston!
There was a documentary film made about the band titled America’s Lost Band which made the rounds of Film Festivals the year it was completed. However it has not gone into Theatrical Distribution due to licensing issues. We hope the film will be released to the public one day but there needs to be some financial backing in order for that to happen.
In 1996 my book Ticket To Ride was published by Dowling Press. It is a day by day, city by city re-creation of the Beatles last tour.
In 2002 The Remains cut a new album titled: “Movin On” that garnered some pretty nice reviews.
We still have a few copies of this available on our web site www.theremains.com
We last played about 18 months ago in the Boston area.
Traveling is not the attraction that it used to be but we plan to play again later this year.
Wow what an immersive story to read! Of course I’m very curious about the film and the book. I’m ordering the book through amazon as we speak, as I’m very eager to read all about what went down there. Please let me know when this film will ever be released to the public…I was just on Discogs by the way and saw your name credited on a release by a band named Chirco, one song in specific named Mister Sunshine, is that you? I like it!
The Chirco album contains my first
cover as a song writer, after the songs I wrote for The Remains. I wrote Mr. Sunshine in, like, 1970.
I did not perform on the album in any way. It was written as a more bouncy, up tempo song.
I could probably dig up a demo of my version somewhere on an old reel to reel tape.
I think I was paid $50 for the song. At this point it looks like we’ll wait a long time before that film is released to the public.
- TIME PASSES WHILE I”M READING BARRY”S BEATLES TOUR BOOK -
I just read – almost all of it – your Beatles book…What a very nice read and experience. I especially enjoyed your daily diary/journal. Still I wonder – as you were such a youngster – how do you look back on this period now? Did you actually ever met them afterwards? Sorry I’m just curious.
I don’t think too much about The Beatles nowadays.
They were of course very creative people with bright sensibilities.
The entire phenomenon was back-lit by the Era itself. They were a few years older
than me… John and Paul seemed light years ahead. They were everywhere
you looked. It was a “Beatle World” for a lot of young people in the mid 60’s.
George was the only one I saw again, at Carl Perkins’ memorial service in Jackson, Tenessee, about 150 miles west of Nashville. I had a feeling he might be there so I drove the 150 miles to attend. I was honored to be in the church among those paying tribute to Carl.
As a boy I remember buying the 45rpm of Blue Suede Shoes/Honey Don’t on Sun Records.
I was sitting in the choir section of the church, where the pews are at right angles to the
regular pews. I was lucky to get a seat there. There were some famous (to me) people in that short pew … Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, George Harrison, Olivia Harrison, Garth Brooks, Garth’s wife, and me. Johnny Rivers was leading the the service. And Jerry Lee Lewis was sitting in the back.
I wanted to give George a copy of my book (Ticket To Ride) and had one with me just in case. When the service ended I exited into the rear hallway of the church, where I spoke with George for maybe five minutes. I gave him the book. I remember that he flipped through it, and said to Olivia “these guys opened for us”… then it was time for him to go…so that was it. My mission was accomplished and I drove back to Nashville. the year was 1998.
It was a different world in the Sixties. I was a college drop out and thought I’d get rich and famous through rock n’ roll. But there were a lot more qualities needed to do that, and I soon learned that I was not one of those who could stay the course. But I’m happy that I’ve played music for most of my life. I play every day now. Music is like magic. The Remains’ records are still selling and playing on digital channels, etc. There’s a new release coming out in Oct or November titled The Remain Live in 1969 on Sundazed Records. It’s been an exciting adventure negotiating life. I have a wife and two grown sons. One, Daniel Tashian, is a songwriter and just had his first Number One record on a song he co-wrote called “Hometown Girl” by Josh Turner. Number two son, Carl, is tech savvy, lives in San Francisco, and is writing a book. Everyone has their own path to take.
I’m happy about the fact that you never gave up on music (takes some perseverance I guess) and even passed it on to your children. Your path might have been a meandering one, but you always maintained your ambition for music and that’s worth a lot…it inspires me. Looking forward to that release. In just case I didn’t say so, I think that blue circle theory is really interesting. Could you perhaps tell me a little more about it, I can imagine it’s not really explainable.
The Blue Light theory. How to explain?
I was in a London club called the Cafe Des Artistes on Earl’s Court Road, it was late Summer, 1964.
I don’t recall the band but they were very good. Very tight.
After the band began to play I noticed a spot of blue light shining down on the stage. A spotlight was focused on the center of the stage, in the middle of the band, and formed a blue circle there. I imagined the blue circle as a point of communication between the four musicians, the focal point of a musical conversation they were having with their instruments.
By turns each player added their musical statement to the conversation. In this way the music knitted together strongly and created a very tight groove. Of course I imagined this, but the blue light and the band were real.
When I got back to Boston University, I told my future band mates about the “Blue Light Experience” I had. They liked the idea…
That was the moment we formed what was to be The Remains.
Ned Doheny must be – or rather have been (it’s hot at the moment) – one of the most underrated musicians of 1970′s California, Laurel Canyon in particular. It puzzled me enough to reach out and contact the man. I was then unaware of the fact that his work was going to be reissued (read: is reissued, on Be With Records and even earlier compiled on Numero Group) and also somehow managed to not see the comprehensive article Wax Poetics dedicated to the man. Nevertheless there are always new or other questions to be asked surrounding the wonderful sounds of Ned. 1976′s Hard Candy is a much sought after LP by collectors of all ages, especially in the middle of this Balaeric, AOR, Yacht Rock hype we live in at the moment (which I think is superb by the way). It was produced by Steve Cropper – of Booker T and Stax fame – and backed by the horn section of Tower Of Power. Although the album was perfectly balanced between the – at that time charting – disco and say…the Eagles (who were friends of his), it just didn’t have a lot success. Boz Scaggs went platinum with Lowdown, you’d think people who were into that would definitely dig Ned’s grooves. Sad story tho’ is that the record labels called the shots and hindered the opportunities a lot for upcoming artists. Anyhow, let’s cut to the chase, Ned was so kind to help me out answering some of the impulsive questions asked by me.
I always like to hear about the early musical development. What record reminds you of your youth? What – for example – was the first record you remember buying?
Memphis by Lonnie Mack
Your music is hard to simply lump into one category. It’s being described as (blue eyed) soul, funk, yacht rock, AOR and so on. How would you describe your music?
Personal. My music was the byproduct of everything I loved listening to: my father’s love of jazz, my mother’s love of musicals, and the amazing variety of music on AM radio in the 50s and 60s – no two tunes were alike. Plus, I started playing guitar as a child and that made me listen that much harder.
You were/are very popular in Japan and from what I’ve heard you even had your own radioshow there? Do you have any noteworthy anecdote about your travels to Japan?
We had just finished our show in Osaka. When we arrived at the hotel, there were all these kids on the street. I turned to our translator and muttered, “I wonder who they’re waiting for?” – turns out it was us. We had to be rescued by the doorman, who obviously had some experience in these matters. Three days earlier we were just tourists getting off a plane in a foreign country. The Japanese were the first to fall for my music. I have loved them ever since.
A spaceship is descending above your house, a friendly stranger gets out and approaches you to ask whether he may take one record (could be any record) from your collection back into space, to play it for an extra terrestrial population. What record would you hand the stranger?
I would probably choose something from classical music – anything by Bach.
I’ve been digging through a lot of records, but never – Hard Candy comes close though – found one that really suits a proper hangover. Do you have a suggestion?
Not really. Loud noise and hangovers don’t really have much in common. Food is another matter.
Might be true. What food do you suggest then?
A fried egg sandwich: two pieces whole wheat toasted, mayo top and bottom, fried ham, fried egg (sunny side up), thinly sliced tomato, sprouts or lettuce, avocado optional. Voila!
Did you ever play in The Netherlands – or even more specifically – in my hometown Amsterdam? If yes, can you tell me something about it.
I played in Stockholm with Jay Graydon, after which a few of us went to Amsterdam. I have never returned, but I would love to. There are some dedicated groove- meisters in that part of the world.
About the success of your three 70′s albums you’ve suggested “it was not my time”. Recently your work has been reissued, gained lot of popularity among youngsters – and unaware contemporaries – and even remixes/edits are being released on vinyl. Do you regret that, or would you rather say that maybe now is your time? Or none of both?
Love the attention so late in the game. We always knew we were doing good work; better late than never.
Your work has been covered quite a lot, can you pick a fave?
It will be very unlikely that you are going to get a hold on an original copy of D.R. Hooker’s album The Truth. This privately pressed – often described as psych/folk – album only counts 99 copies and is heavily sought after. Of course people bootlegged and reissued the shit out of it and you can easily find on of these editions, for example on the belgium label Veals & Geeks. Anyway, I’m not the first person to be interested in the mysterious aura that surrounds this gem. The Guardian featured it in their ’101 strangest records on Spotify’ and Vinyl Me, Please also featured this album in their “”Lost” album of the week” section. Nice reads, though I was still curious to hear the story from someone involved in the making of this nice piece of music. I spoke to bass player George Sheck (who also played bass with Edgar Winter’s White Trash) and percussionist/vibraphonist Ken Lovelett about their memories and experiences concerning The Truth.
KEN LOVELETT, PERCUSSIONS/VIBES
How did you end up playing on this record?
DR asked me to.
How did you guys know each other? What are your memories of making that record.
I was working at a music store that he frequented. The owner must have told him about me. I got back from Memphis, where I was part of a rhythm section called the Dixie Flyers, and when I got back continued to teach there. I didn’t like Memphis much at that time because of all the riots, so I came back to NY. DR, as I recall, told me he was working on an album and asked me to play in it with them. He had George Sheck, from the Edgar Winter band, on bass, Haywood Sheck on drums and the rest of the people listed on the back of the album. I decided to play vibes and conga as well as other percussion instruments. We rehearsed at his mother’s house in the basement as I recall and later went into a studio, I think it was called Scolvill Sound or something or other, and put down the tracks. I had no Idea of the impact that album would have. I started getting calls in the 80″s from different people around the world to purchase one on the albums that I had. I finally gave in a couple of years ago and sold one of the albums that I had to a guy from Belgium.
I still wonder, why such a limited amount of 99 copies back then? Was that – for example – from an artistic perspective or was there not enough budget?
Probably not enough budget.
Did you guys ever perform somewhere?
No, at least I didn’t. The band was put together for this album specifically.
Alright, did – or do – you like the album yourself?
It’s hard not to like something that has garnered so much recognition. The fidelity for the time was very good and I enjoyed doing the project.
GEORGE SHECK, BASS
Let me tell you my story and I will answer questions. I’m a bass player with 50 years experience. From 1965 on I played with a variety of music groups. From a beach boy cover band to jazz rock horn bands. In 1969 I landed a big job playing in Edgar Winter’s White Trash Band. We recorded an album in the Columbia Records studio. We toured extensively with the best bands of the day: Allman Brothers, J Geils, The Band, BB King, ELP, Tull, Airplane, Mountain, and many more. After the group disbanded, l spend time in LA and New York with other projects and recording opportunities. In the early 70s my brother drummer Haywood Sheck asked if I could play on a record DR Hooker was making. We both went to school with DR. He had a very unique, different, talent. I think he was decades ahead of his time with Jesus/Christian message songs with psychedelic distorted guitar solos. I recorded the basic tracks with DR and Haywood and percussionist Ken Lovelett. Then we added the best local musicians to add the background parts. We spent 2 months of long sessions and mixing marathons till the album was done. Everyone donated their time to the project and in a few months the album was printed. We never played again. In the early 2000s Haywood told me that he was contacted by someone in Europe saying the The Truth was a big hit decades of years after it was recorded. I found a copy in my attic and listened to it for the first time in 30 years. I was amazed how well it sounded. The 4 track recorder was so primitive and the bounce down mixing of the very complex background of brass, strings and choir could have impressed George Martin. This year I found out that DR passed on. Haywood also passed last year. I moved to South Carolina 12 years ago still playing music of many styles.
What was DR’s real of full name?
It was a long time ago but his first name might have been Donald?
Why was there such a limited amount of copies printed at the time? Apparently only 99 copies?
He lived with his mother and wasn’t the working type. He probably couldn’t afford more than 99 at a time.
Did you guys ever perform outside of the studio?
He was a unusual guy. There were times that the band was more interested in making a good recording than he was. I heard that sometime after the recording he had a group that performed live but not with the musicians on the recording. Haywood was my younger brother an knew him more than I did.
So just some other small things I wondered…was Donald really a religious guy? And it also implied he was a heavy user of alcohol and drugs. I figured these things are all being said based upon analyses of the lyrics. What do you remember about this?
At that point in time I believe he thought he was religious. A Jehovah’s Witness I recall but I’m not 100% at that. Drugs and Alcohol would not surprise me at all.
Check out some of George Sheck’s other bass playing recordings below, lovely stuff!
It was not until recently I found out that the guy responsible for that Blockheads groove (say Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) is the same guy that made fantastic boogie tunes like Glad To Know You or 3.000.000 Synths. Mr Jankel, who goes by the name of Chas or Chaz, was so very kind to answer some questions about his musical taste and development. Now here’s a reason to be cheerful!
Is there any specific record or musician you heard at a young age that inspired you to pick up an instrument?
I remember seeing a picture of Lonnie Donegan, I was probably about 6 years old and I thought that the piece of wood (his guitar I later found out) hanging horizontal to his body..looked cool. I then managed to get a spanish guitar as a present from my parents. I seem to remember my earliest influences were Cliff Richard and the Shadows, moving on to the Beatles. When I got to 14 my attention was drawn to a single by Lee Dorsey (Working In A Coalmine/GET OUT MY LIFE WOMAN) by a cousin of mine, that’s when i discovered the power of black music and I’ve never looked back.
You’ve worked with a lot of artists, did a lot of solo stuff, wrote a lot of music. I’m curious whether there is one record or song you’ve worked on that you consider your favorite, for whatever reason?
Not necessarily my favourite track that I’ve written but often the first tune i think of when I’m asked this question…Inbetweenies, on the album Do It Yourself. It’s the opening track and.the Blockheads have been performing it for many years live and it keeps on developing. When i first showed the demo to Ian Dury he said “what am I, a piece of furniture in the room?”. What he was referring to was the fact that the melody starts on beat 2 of the bar. Up until that point in our writing collaboration, Ian always started on beat ! Which is the way a lyricist would normally write a rhyming couplet…but in this case I wrote the melody ahead of him, and he had to adapt-which he did brilliantly. I also really like the shape which is totally idiosyncratic and allows me to stretch my piano improvisational skills.
I’ve been digging through a lot of records, but never – or barely – found one that really suits a proper hangover. Do you have a suggestion?
A song suitable for hangovers-well over the years I’ve become increasingly enchanted by jazz and romantic classical music-so I’d say on a jazzy tip = My foolish heart – Bill Evans, or What’s New? Clifford Brown And Strings. On a classical tip I’d say Mozart’s clarinet concerto or on a soulful tip After The Love has gone by Earth Wind and Fire.
One of my fave tunes by you and Ian Dury is Spasticus Autisticus. (I love to play the extended version on a party, since the silent breaks in the intro really confuses the drunk crowd). I only recently found out about the fact it was quite controversial and even banned by BBC? Do you have any noteworthy anecdote about this?
We recorded the song at Compass point in the Bahamas with Sly and Robbie as our rhythm section, the engineer was Steven Stanley who was quite fronty. He was a bit sarcy with me until he heard me play guitar and then he lightened up and realized we were on the same page. There are other stories none of which are suitable to print right now, I also got bitten 99 times by mosquitoes on the first night we got to the bahamas, the next day Ian and I wrote Spasticus Autisticus.
If your house was to be on fire and you could escape safely bringing only one record, which one would that be?
One record i would save would definitely be Surf’s Up by the Beach Boys, and I’d sneak Sly And The Family Stone’s Greatest Hits into my pocket as i fled the scene!
I live in Amsterdam. Did you ever play here and could you share an interesting memory about it?
In 1979 we played the Paradiso in amsterdam. After the gig we went back to the Hotel Americain where Ian And The Blocks were staying. Quite possibly fired up by a young lady whom I’d met at the gig, who had accompanied me back to my hotel room. The melody for Ai No Corrida popped into my head, the rest of the evening was magical also.
Imagine you’d want to play frisbee on a nice summer’s day, only to find out you don’t own a frisbee. What record would you suggest using as a frisbee instead? And Why?
That’s tough as there are quite a few. Last night i saw a video of Duke Ellington playing a medley of Beatles hits, I had to turn it off. How sad that Duke, a man of such genius, should go out like this. It was directly after that he informed the orchestra that they were being disbanded, they never played again.
What project are you currently working on?
The project I’m currently working on is the new Blockheads album that i cowrote and arranged, I’m also writing for myself and collaborations outside of Blockhead duty, this music is on a soulful tip. A few years back I made an album called The Submarine Has Surfaced, where I featured 6 different singers including myself. This album along with many of my other works is available for sale on my website chazjankel.com. I think my new work is a continuation of the work and potential expressed in that album.
Every once in a while you have a tune that occupies your mind in a way that you get addicted to it, resulting in pushing the repeat button repeatedly. I recently had this with Brian Protheroe’s song Pinball. So fresh. As soon as I went out to buy the record, I found out there’s more to this man than just this song. He made a lot of great tunes and also happens to be a well known actor. Also, he was so very kind to help me out with my questions.
What – as far as you remember – was the first music you were into as a youngster?
First music? Holst’s Mars the Bringer of War from the Planet Suit introduced to me by my father. The Hymn “Ah holy jesus how hast thou offended” arranged by JS Bach (I sang the alto part as a choirboy). The Rock Island Line by Lonnie Donegan. Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis (The first record I ever bought). Move It by Cliff Richard. A Josh White Live album with Jack Fallon on bass. The Everly Brothers. Ray Charles – What’d I Say. The Shadows – Apache. Take Five by Dave Brubeck. Then of course…The Beatles
So you started singing early. Pinball was your first solo album, did you do any – or played on any – records before?
I was in a Folk group called Folk Blues Incorporated (FBI) in the mid 60’s. We recorded a single on Eyemark Records – When The Ship Comes In.
From what I’ve read, your first single – Pinball – arose through a Chrysalis representative hearing you perform your self-penned song for the Death On Demand play. How did this go down?
The author of the play I was in called Death on Demand in the early 70’s wrote the lyrics to a song I had to sing in the play (I was playing a pop star). I wrote the music and recorded a demo of the song that the author took to a couple of record companies.
Nigel Haynes at Chrysalis Music invited me to submit anything else I’d written. Pinball was one of four songs that I then sent him. The record Company signed me on the basis of these songs.
Then I guess what happened next is that you went into the studio, how much influence did you have on picking the musicians to accompany you?
I’d worked with Del Newman, who produced all 3 albums, in the theatre. He MD’d a production of Guys and Dolls that I was in at Exeter in 1972. I recommended him to Chrysalis as producer which they agreed to. So Del chose the session musicians for the albums.
Was there – apart from the music you named earlier – any music/musician that inspired you around the time you were making these albums. Basically, what where you into in the early 70′s?
In the early 70’s I was mourning the Beatles break up (“Hey Jude, you were all right. I could’ve grooved with you all night…”). John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Album dominated that time (“Mother”). And Bowie’s Hunky Dory. Alice Cooper – School’s Out. Slade. Sha Na Na. On the whole not such a great time for music!
I like Mccartney’s & Harrison’s first solo albums too. Somehow in the beginning of a decade there’s always a transition in music, or maybe we just tend to think that. Anyway. I know both your debut album and single charted, so I guess it was really well received. What were your own feelings about the album, were you proud? Any favorite aspects or songs?
My one regret about the Pinball album is that the rhythm section – Drums and Bass were not recorded at the same time as my guitar or piano tracks. All tracks would have benefited musically if they had been. This was remedied on the other two albums. Favourite tracks – Monkey and Clog Dancer (and Pinball). Most of the other tracks have aspects that I’m uncomfortable with now – e.g. the end of Mickey Dollar Dreams. I did a better vocal arrangement later of Moon Over Malibu. But overall – yes proud!
You’ve made a few more albums after Pinball, which piece of your own music do you cherish the most?
I’m really proud of Enjoy It. Of the later songs – Venice was a favourite. City Song. And No Snow Blues.
You’re both actor and musician, is one of these disciplines more important than the other for you?
I’m and actor first and it’s how I earn my living. I just feel completely at home in that world. But I cherish my musical life greatly as well.
What music are you currently into?
I’ve always loved Paul Simon and a couple of years ago I discovered an album of his called You’re the One from 2002 (I think). A Masterpiece from beginning to end. I’m thinking of revisiting the old Wings catalogue. Adele. Kate Bush. R Kelly. Stevie Wonder forever!!
Now for a sudden switch of speakers, I also talked to Richard Dodd the Engineer of the Pinball Record. He informed about some of the more technical aspects of the record. Also I’ve exchanged some words with legendary Saxophonist Tony Coe, who doesn’t remember playing on Pinball
In another interview (on Yuzu Melodies, a cool French site), Protheroe once said “Great working relationships with Del and Richard. Long vocal sessions with my medicinal bottle of port. The thrill of hearing a finished track on big speakers. It would have been a lot easier to accomplish some effects if we’d had digital recording then. On the other hand, it made certain tracks epic little adventures, requiring a great deal of imaginative problem solving. Richard Dodd, the engineer, was at the forefront there.” When I first heard the song Pinball it took me 37 seconds to decide to save to my favorites. At that particular moment a little background noise/effect is heard, which dragged me out of my stand-by music listening mode. I listened to the song till the end to find out – apart from the fact that the song itself is already brilliant – that I really like the production (also the layered samples near the end). It has something very fresh to it. When I later bought the record and found out the whole piece is woven with some very fresh engineering. Though let’s focus on the song Pinball for a sec. Could you tell me something about your work on this song. What inspired you, what techniques did you use?
I recorded the track using a then new ‘tape noise reduction system’ called DBX (not Dolby). Putting it simply (so that I can understand), the DBX system, unlike the then popular Dolby A system, relied heavily on overall frequency response to achieve encode / decode, (the dolby was more about frequency bands and level). In our case, the tape and machine combination didn’t, to my ear at least, consistently decode properly. When using the Dolby A system, I would often choose to not decode at all or as it was primarily level sensitive, only partially decode the playback to taste. The DBX system , by design, didn’t usually support either option, in so much as the encoded signal was very extreme, it usually made a non decoded signal unlistenable. As I didn’t like either the DBX decoded or non decoded sound for our mix, I created a compromise** that gave the entire track, to varying degrees, a unique sonic ‘vibe’. The resulting ‘sound / effect’ required (in those days), a total commitment, control and faith in the outcome to ever employ again.
Probably the coolest uncle out there. His voice cuts through your butter softly and makes your yacht float. His swag has lasted for a couple of generations already and still does. Whether it’s your old AOR radio station, your 90′s hiphop collection or just a new Pitchfork-glorified release …his groove will find your ears sooner or later. I’m talking – of course – about Bobby Caldwell, who was so very kind to answer my questions.
I’m always curious about the early years’ musical development. What music got you going as a kid? What influence did your parents have music-wise?
My childhood home was always filled with music. From Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald to Broadway tunes to Big Band. My parents were both singers/actors. In fact, they hosted one of the first variety shows on the old Dumont Television Network in Pittsburgh, PA. I took piano lessons as a kid, and got my first guitar at age 12. The Beatles were my favorite. I think I taught myself every single Beatles song ever recorded. To this day I listen to the Beatles often, along with Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and many more.
What made you pick up an instrument yourself?
My mom and dad kind of force the piano lessons, but I mowed a lot of lawns to buy my first guitar. My passion for The Beatles and all of the songs played on top 40 A.M. radio set me in the direction I wanted to pursue. I wanted to play, sing and write songs.
I’ve read something about a pre-1978 release named Katmandu, but I can’t find any info about really. Could you tell me something about this? Is there any other stuff you recorded or were involved with before releasing your first solo album on T.K. (schoolbands, backing vocals, anything)?
My friends and I formed our own band in middle school. We played at school dances, and of course, the garages at our family homes. Eventually, Katmandu was formed. We actually recorded an album. In fact, I still have a copy of that LP. We played the clubs in the Miami, FL area, and eventually packed up our van and moved to Los Angeles. We played clubs all over California, and at the same time, I started writing songs. For several years I tried to hawk my songs, but I couldn’t get a record deal. I went back home to Miami feeling a bit beaten and dejected. Then my mom brought me a newspaper article about TK Records in Hialeah. She suggested I pay them a visit, so I did. I came out of the meeting with my first record deal. That first album included, “What You Won’t Do for Love.”
I personally first go to know your music because I bought the single of 2Pac’s Do For Love as a kid and then suddenly heard your song on the radio. Then I recently found out that that 2Pac production is considered to be ripped from an earlier J Dilla production….To cut a long story short, your music has been sampled over and over. Were you aware of it being sampled at the time? What was, or is, your opinion on the whole sampling industry?
Quite frankly, I’m flattered to have my songs sampled, or covered. 2Pac’s “Do For Love” brought my original song to the attention of a whole new generation, just as Common’s sample of “Open Your Eyes” in his release called, “The Light,” and Notorius B.I.G.’s “Sky’s the Limit” breathed some new life into “My Flame,” also off my first album.
Your work has been defined as smooth jazz, blue eyed soul, AOR, yacht rock and so on, the list is long. What’s your favorite description/how would you describe your music?
I like them all. I suppose certain songs can be placed into a variety of categories. I have also released a number of big band/standard albums, which basically fit into the POP music of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. My most recent big band album called, “After Dark” was released in 2014. I had a fantastic band behind me, and had a lot of fun in the studio. In fact, I plan on doing another album like this very soon.
Your album covers – at least a lot of them – seem to have a recurring style/theme. Could you tell me something about this?
I do tend to write a lot of songs about broken hearts and unrequited love. Let’s face it, it’s a universal theme, and something we all can relate to.
What do you consider one of your favorite songs by yourself?
Although the song went virtually unnoticed, I wrote a song in an attempt to emulate the sound of the 1940’s. The song is called, “April Moon”off my “Come Rain or Come Shine album. I love the song. I poured my heart out into that one. Please give it a listen sometime.
What do you consider one of your favorite songs by somebody else?
I am a huge fan of Donald Fagen. I.G.Y. is an incredible song!
I can have trouble finding a song that suits my hangover, do you have any?
Check out my latest release with Jack Splash. The album is called, “Cool Uncle.” Put on a cut called, “End of Days” and crank it up, during a hangover.
A lot of people have thought that you were a black singer. Do you have any noteworthy anecdote about this?
A lot of people still think that. My wife used to think that.
Did you ever perform in Amsterdam (my hometown)? And how was that?
I never was invited to perform in Amsterdam, but I sure would love to do so.
Your latest album Cool Uncle was – justly – well received. What are you working on at the moment?
Shortly, Jack Splash and I are going to get back at it for the next Cool Uncle release. This time we’ll be writing and recording in my old stomping ground, Los Angeles.