June 22, 1974: David Bowie, Brownsville Station, Kiss, Razzy, The Commodores

Stateside Newies

BOWIE: Rebel Rebel (RCA ABP0 0287).
Although the label credits its source as “Diamond Dogs” (which, coincidentally, at 19 in just two weeks, seems set to be Darling David’s US best yet), this is neither the British single nor album version!!! Totally different, it starts with a bang straight into “Hot tramp, I love you so” before the much altered backing becomes heavily phased and a reverse-running tape (which seems to be playing “la-la-la-la-la” backwards) confuses the sound even more. Whether by intent or otherwise, when run in reverse the “rebel rebel” parts also seem to come out with undertones of “woman woman”!! Heavy! Is this one of those cryptic Beatles-like “hidden messages”?? When played in the right direction, the whole effect is indeed much more exciting than the original Stones-styled sound to which we have become accustomed here, and the single – following this (exclusive?) revelation – is obviously destined to become a much imported collector’s item overnight. But, what’s it all about, Bowie? And is the American album the same as the British?

BROWNSVILLE STATION: I’m The Leader Of The Gang (Big Tree BT 15005).
Here’s something else that’s different: instead of Gary Glitter’s motorbikes, this US hit cover-version (at 52) by the “Boy’s Room” guys starts out with the pounding beat and some power chords before stomping raucously along at a faster lick than Gary’s. Without the gimmicks and flash, it becomes just another noisy rocker.

KISS: Kissin’ Time (Casablanca NEB 0011).
The subject of a massive publicity campaign, this rather ugly updating of the Bobby Rydell oldie is still moving awfully slowly (83 after five weeks) for the Neil Bogart-owned label, which specialised only in easy-to-promote products . . . and to which Marc Bolan and T. Rex are now signed for the US! However, Kiss are still the leaders of America’s own mini Rock Revival trend, as they’re above FANNY’s updating of the Bellnotes’ “I’ve Had It” (also on Casablanca, NEB 0009), JOHNNY T. ANGEL’s of Ray Peterson’s “Tell Laura I Love Her” (Bell 45,472) and WEDNESDAY’s of Mark Dinning’s “Teen Angel”. The guys who you might expect to be leading the Rock Revival movement, FLASH CADILLAC & THE CONTINENTAL KIDS, have in fact (and quite sensibly) done a cover-version of Barry Blue’s old-style yet new “Dancin’ On A Saturday Night” (Epic 5-11102).

RAZZY: I Hate Hate (MGM M 14728).
Evidently called Razzy Bailey, this fella’s at 67 with his soulful message song, a smooth temp rhythmic semi-slowie which reminds me of the Winstons’ “Color Him Father” (and veteran readers may remember how much I loved that!). There are also traces of the Classics IV, which is nice too. He’s not hit the R&B Charts yet but sounds more black than blue-eyed. Mmmm, very nice!

THE COMMODORES: Machine Gun (Motown M 1307F).
Despite the title of this almost completely synthetic instrumental dancer – of the Billy Preston type, and good of its sort – the sound of gunfire is neither present nor even hinted at. However, the whole thing is very choppy and staccato, with a few synthesizer runs that resemble the rapidity of machine-gun fire. Billboard can’t be beat when it says, “Skitter-chunking guitars and effervescent synthesizer fills over a boulder-solid beat”. Dancers will dig! It’s at 66 Pop, 34 R&B . . . both, suitably enough, with bullets!

THE HUES CORPORATION: Rock The Boat (RCA ABP0 0232).
Running away up the Charts like a finally freed stallion (12 Pop, 16 R&B), this cool medium-beater brings the girls in the group to the fore and shows why they’ve been likened to the Friends Of Distinction. The title line provides a catchily rhythmic repetitive chorus while the rest of the tune is eased along by a bouncy bass and snikkety cymbal behind the smooth singing. Sophisticated Soul, with MoR pretensions . . . and vice versa!

MANDRILL: Positive Thing (Polydor PD 14235).
When this great and exciting “get down” funker came bursting onto the R&B Chart six weeks ago, I must say that I expected it would be a lot higher than its slow-moving 37 by now. Practically the ultimate in wah-wah funk – and pretty hot as a chanter too – it is created by an incredibly complex meshwork of twangs, wukka-wuks, clucks, thonks, brassy blasts and (most important of all) little gaps between them. Uh, ooh, yeah – get down, y’all – UNHHH!

CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARD: Everybody Party All Night (Invictus ZS7 1268).
Speaking of which, here are the CoB (at 84 R&B) with an almost Hendrix wah-wah intro to their energetic new and fairly funky dancer. The yowling and scrubbing guitar remains in there all through, while the pitch builds via a synthetic blast as the guys power along in the middle of what can only be described as a hustling tempo. Almost a tribal chant in effect, it too is exciting and recommended.


American Singles

Pick of the week

JIM STAFFORD: My Girl Bill; L.A. Mamma (MGM 2006423).
For once, though good, the flip is not the funny side: nothing could beat the sheer outrageous jaw-dropping unexpectedness of “My Girl Bill”, a delightfully witty ditty which leads you well and truly up the garden path as the tale of its two male protagonists unfolds . . . are they, or aren’t they? . . . only to reveal that, with the addition of a comma in the title line, their love affair is indeed “straight” and above board! Jim confirmed the superstar potential I claimed for him a while ago when he made an engagingly funny yet virtuoso guest appearance on Capital Radio last week. This guy is truly great, so do please try his records.

NEW YORK DOLLS: Stranded In The Jungle; Who Are The Mystery Girls? (Mercury 6052615).
No, seriously, this honestly is surprisingly good . . . and commendably close to the Cadets’ and the Jayhawks’ 1956 versions. Produced by Shadow (Shangri-Las) Morton, which explains much, it’s updatedly noisy but with great sound FX meanwhile back in the jungle, while the enunciation of “States” in “meanwhile back in the States” is the subtlest evocation of today’s New York scene that you’re likely to hear. Rock Revivalism comes of age! The Dolls’ own flip is straightahead aggressive modern (and more mundane) noise, with a “live performance” intensity that has been well captured on wax. ’56 IN ’74 PICK.

FRANKIE & THE CLASSICALS: What Shall I Do; Goodbye Love, Hello Sadness (Pye Disco Demand DDS 101).
That’s the Pye “Disco Kid” pictured above, the .45-wielding figurehead for the label’s new Disco Demand series of Northern-style dancers, and he’s aiming to stamp out the illegal “pressings” market Up North by issuing legally all the most-pressed Northern classics. Speaking of which, the Classicals’ clomper could in fact hit nationally thanks to its effete Rubettes-type squeaky singing and some lovely background gypsy fiddling. With an unabashedly Smokey Robinson-copying flip, it’s recommended down South, too. The rest of the series, so far, are WALLY COX: This Man (DDS 105), the surprisingly recent (and female) FUZZ: I’m So Glad (DDS 104), and JERRY WILLIAMS: If You Ask Me (Because I Love You) (DDS 102). PRESSING PICKS.

THE CHEQUERS: Two Minds (Rhino RNO 126).
This is British, and a B-side (to “Angie Girl”), but it’s also the best new R&B record of the week. With a touch of “Shaft” about the rhythm and lots of Barry White in the melody, it wukka-wuks and sizzles along in a fine ‘n infectious fashion. R&B PICK.

BUZZY LINHART: You Don’t Have To Tell Me Goodbye; A Tear Outweighs A Smile (Atlantic K 10455).
Having previously been unimpressed by Buzzy’s much touted New York work, I’ve fallen totally for this Muscle Shoals-recorded doo-wop rocker. Full of deep bass vocal rumblings in the chorus and a lovely lightly skipping rhythm, it’s an aural delight not to be missed. Interestingly bluesy Ray Charles-ish slow flip. Boz Scaggs is brought to mind by both. MUSIC PICK.

STEVE MILLER BAND: Living In The USA; Kow Kow Calqulator (Capitol CL 15786).
Strange (but nice) to see six years later this Spencer Davis-ish classic back in the US Charts. Sandwiched between sound FX of a motor race, the frantic choppy rhythm, squawking harmonica and chanted vocals remain as restless and angular as ever. Gradually building moody slow flip (not the original). OLDIE PICK (HA!)

THE JAMES GANG: Must Be Love (Atlantic K 10432).
Purposefully and wittily copping their every lick from other easily recognised famous sources (mainly Hendrix, but including Sly Stone and early Elvis), the James boys have created a masterly pastiche of invigorating noises which makes one of the few really convincing “Hard Rock” singles to come out of America in ages. ROCK PICK.

TODD RUNDGREN: A Dream Goes On Forever; Heavy Metal Kids (Bearsville K 15515).
Gorgeous sounds (of a slightly Beach Boys nature) wash over the True Star’s latest ace production, a multi-multi-tracked slow confection which floats away like candyfloss. ‘Ard an’ ‘umble, the flip’s a raucous and messy Dolls-house trip. Get his albums for the full MUSIC PICK.

THE JACKSON FIVE: Dancing Machine; It’s Too Late To Change The Time (Tamla Motown TMG 904).
Their first real US smash in yonks, the 5’s brittle “funky” production probably hit for its fashionable “get down” quality . . . an ingredient which has yet to make many hits here, no matter how popular it may be in Southern discos. The attractive flip, a complex rhythm switcher, is much more interesting. R&B PICK.

GWEN McCRAE: It’s Worth The Hurt; 90 Per Cent Of Me Is You (President PT 416).
Wife of George McCrae, whose incredible “Rock Your Baby” is poised to repeat its runaway Stateside success over here, Gwen is a grittily wailing Soulstress and she practically throttles herself as she wrenches her larynx around this bouncily-backed brassy Deep Soul screamer. Ooh my soul! The nicely titled flip is slower, with squeaky “strings” and a bubbling effect, and is just as Deep. SOUL PICK.

VERN PULLENS: (She’s My) Bop Crazy Baby; Would You Be Happy (Injun 111).
This, the best of the latest batch of Rock-A-Billy releases from the inestimable Injun Diskery, is a wild hiccupping slab of vintage raw Rock ‘n Roll as well as an excellent introduction to the much-mentioned but little-heard (unless you’re a Londoner tuned to “Cruising” on Capital) Rockabilly-cum-“Sun” Sound originated by Elvis and others in Memphis twenty years ago. The rest of the batch, in rough order of musical interest, are TOOTER BOATMAN: Thunder & Lightning; The Will Of Love (108), ROYCE PORTER: A Woman Can Make You Blue; EDDIE BELL: Johnny B. Goode In Hollywood (109), GENE LA MARR & HIS BLUE FLAMES: You Don’t Love Me Anymore; That Crazy Little House On The Hill (112), and ALVIS WAYNE: Lay Your Head On My Shoulder; I Gottum (113). In fact, they’re all just about equally good, and until now collectors have had to pay lotsa lolly (many, many pounds) for ‘em. ROCKABILLY PICKS.

DOLLY PARTON: Jolene (RCA ABP0 0145).
Country-singing Dolly’s self-penned perky plea to “the other woman” not to take her man is Victor Trumper’s favourite record. A story song for girls, and Vic, it’s irritating enough to hit.

SEALS & CROFTS: Summer Breeze (Warner Bros K 16197).
A bit late on the scene but welcome nevertheless, here’s a re-issue of the extremely pleasant and not that dis-similar original of the Isley Brothers’ fuzzy guitar-enhanced hit.

6 thoughts on “June 22, 1974: David Bowie, Brownsville Station, Kiss, Razzy, The Commodores”

  1. I still have James’s copy of Razzy “I Hate Hate”, and I regularly play it out in the warm-up section of my set – it’s a wonderful record, which accrued added resonance during last year’s increasingly divisive Brexit debacle.

    The Pye Disco Demand label rarely seems to have hit the mark, but the release that James omits from this review (DDS 103) was actually one of its strongest selections for re-issue: The Casualeers “Dance, Dance, Dance”.

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  2. Another of the original disco hits reaches our shores- The Hues Corporation Rock The Boat which has since achieved legendary status. Dolly Parton’s Jolene would fail in 74 but became a top 10 hit in 76, her biggest UK solo hit. The J5’s Dancing Machine would fail to reignite their careers in the UK but would be a massive No2 hit in the US. James once again singing the praises of Jim Stafford touting him as the next superstar- a record that was a bit naughty and “oo er missus” in 74 sounds rather crass today. The past certainly is another country!

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  3. I don’t know much about house music after about 1989 bit I seem to remember a house type record that hit a lot of airplay on Kiss in the early 90s called ‘I Hate Hate‘ I wonder if that was a cover version.

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    1. It was indeed a cover – although barely recognisable as such – by a Danny Rampling project called The Sound Of Shoom. I bought it at the time, but didn’t think much of it!

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  4. JH mentioned that back in 1969 he had really loved “colour him father” which was the aside of “amen brother” whose famous drum break is the most sampled few seconds in the whole of music. I wonder what he thought in the early 90s when it took on a life of its own with hardcore and then gave birth to jungle.

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