Tag Archives: AWB

Desert Island Distractions (The Music)

Paul Fitzpatrick: June 2022, London.

You’re stranded on a desert island and you’ve found a washed up solar-chargeable iPod that contains 3 albums in the audio section.

As luck would have it, they’re your three favourite albums…
What are they?

(NB – no ‘Best Of’s, ‘Compilations’ or Box Sets allowed).

Three albums

My criteria was to choose albums that I rarely get tired of listening to, that include a selection of songs with thought provoking lyrics, mood enhancing melodies and good grooves.

On top of that they need to be ‘all killer and no filler’.
I ain’t got no time to be skipping songs, I’ve got fish to catch, stars to gaze at and a raft to construct….. which is gonna take a bit of time because I was crap at woodwork at school!

Album #1 – Songs in The Key Of Life: Stevie Wonder

For a start, it’s a double album (with a bonus EP) so I’m getting more bang for my buck, but if quantity rather than quality’s your thing, you can always choose ELP’s six-sided ‘Welcome Back My Friends’…. particularly if you’re partial to the excruciating sound of a wounded Moog synthesiser and you’re a fan of a drum solo or six.

Two years in the making, Stevie’s 1976 opus is the perfect union of quality & quantity and represents his finest moment, which is saying something when you consider his run of albums leading up to ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ –
‘Talking Book’, ‘Innervisions’ & ‘Fulfillingness First Finale’.

In the mid 70’s Wonder was awash with ideas and was producing material not only for himself but for artists like Rufus, Minnie Ripperton, Syreeta, The Supremes and Roberta Flack.
Due to his copious output ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ soon developed into a double album.

Including the bonus EP there are 21 tracks on ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ and apart from the saccharine sweet ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ I could happily play the album on a loop.
It helps that there are a host of musical styles on the record… from the big-band funk of ‘Sir Duke’ to the hypnotic orchestration on ‘Pastime Paradise’.

I’ve always been blown-away by the fact that Stevie played most of the instruments on his 70’s albums himself, (particularly the drums, check out Superstition), but he breaks with tradition here and it unquestionably works.

You’ll find Herbie Hancock displaying his ubiquitous keyboard talents on ‘As’, whilst George Benson exhibits his distinctive guitar and scat vocal style on ‘Another Star’….. memorable cameos that elevate the album to another level.  

Stevie never recaptured the magic of ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ which I’m not sure was humanly possible anyway. The album won four grammy’s, sold ten million copies in the US alone and was a number one album across the globe.



Album #2 – Aja: Steely Dan

When I listen to Steely Dan I often think of a quote credited to the late, great music journalist Ian McDonald who made the following introduction on reviewing the ‘Gaucho‘ album….

Crassness is contagious. Fortunately, so is intelligence – which is why listening to Steely Dan is good for you”.

In truth I could easily have picked three Steely Dan albums, therefore narrowing it down to one is something of a ‘Sophies choice’.

Sonically it doesn’t get much better than Aja and it’s no coincidence that the album is consistently favoured by audiophiles, who still use it to check out the latest audio equipment on the scene.

Despite their excellent canon of work it can be argued that this was the bands pinnacle…. an example of the final product being greater than the sum of its parts, and the sum of its parts in this case were pretty awesome.

Also, if you’re looking for thought provoking lyrics then Steely Dan’s cryptic, ironic themes are a big part of their schtick, having a bit of down-time on this island will enable me to work some of them out at last.

Aja consists of seven great tracks, including the immaculate ‘Deacon Blue’ and the pertinent ‘Home at Last’, a song about exile inspired by Homer’s Odyssey.

Well the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last
Home at last

Home at Last, featuring the famous Purdie Shuffle


Album #3 – AWB by The Average White Band

By autumn 1974 my record collection was starting to look a bit different- The album section was still dominated by white blokes with long hair like Zep, The Who, Bad Company, etc but the singles section was reflecting what I was hearing in nightclubs and bars – Barry White, Gil Scot-Heron, the Philly Sound, etc.

It’s somewhat ironic then that one of my favourite bands turned out to be a bunch of white blokes with long hair who just happened to be soul and funk masters from down the road.

Like most people, when I first heard ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ I assumed it was The JB’s or another American funk band, so it came as a shock to discover that there was a Hamish, a Molly and an Onnie in the group.

I bought the AWB ‘white album’ as much for the provocatively brilliant cover art as anything else…. then I got home put it on my trusty Sanyo music centre and played it so much that it had to be industrially removed from the turntable.

In truth it was like nothing I’d heard before, the music defied definition, white blokes from Scotland just weren’t supposed to sound as good as The Ohio Players or The Isley Brothers.

The sessions for the album were marshalled by Arif Mardin, the legendary Aretha Franklin producer whose deft touch was all over the record.

On reflection, it was a perfect storm…. a hungry band with great songs, immense talent and a master at the helm.

AWB would go on to make many more fine albums but the ‘white album’ is undoubtedly their masterpiece.


So that’s my three albums…. well today anyway!

Of course I could wake up tomorrow and add Court & Spark by Joni Mitchell or Dark Side of the Moon or Bowie’s Station to Station, depending on what mood I’m in, but I’m pretty happy with the three I chose… well today anyway!

Next time we’ll check out the video section of the iPod….

Keep Me From The Gallus Poll.

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, May 2022

In the analogue era, weekly music publications were a big deal.

My music-mag allegiances tended to reflect my musical tastes so along the way I was an avid, NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Blues & Soul reader.

I’d get these publications the day they came out from my local newsagent, and devour every inch of copy from cover to cover.
Every column, every review, every chart, every letter and even the adverts… usually in a single sitting

Apart from attending gigs, being a devotee of a particular music-mag was as close as it got to being part of a musical community back then.

Whatever your publication of choice was, you’d have your favourite journalists, you’d trust their reviews and you’d have faith that the publication would feature and promote the right bands.

An edition I always looked forward to was the annual Poll Winners issue.

First of all who didn’t love a poll, plus it was a way to sense-check whether this was a community you wanted to be part of.

Looking back, I think the 72/73 NME poll (excerpt above) where Gilbert O’Sullivan’s vocal talents were rated ahead of Plant, Rodgers, Gillan and Daltrey in the ‘Best Male Vocalist’ category, may well have been the tipping point for me to move on to another publication at the time.

Back in the day, these music-mag polls were a huge deal, often supported by live events to anoint the winners.
Assembling ELP, Wishbone Ash, Focus, Genesis, Argent and ahem FUDD to share a stage for the Melody Maker poll concert in 1972 would have been quite an event.

Anyone remember FUDD??

If those were the halcyon days for polls then it’s all a bit different today. Nowadays we have polls for the Greatest Album Of All Time rather than ‘Disc Jockey of the year’.
The current bible is Rolling Stone magazine who update their Top 500 albums annually, supported by a glossy edition that tends to feature the usual suspects in the Top 10 – Marvin, Joni, Stevie, Bob, etc.

Given its wide scope the Rolling Stone poll is a decent reflection of critical and popular tastes, and despite differing opinions and musical leanings, most of us can still appreciate quality when we hear it, after all you don’t have to be a Beatles or Beach Boys fan to acknowledge that they produced classic albums that stand the test of time.

But of course polls can polarise…. they can offer affirmation or they can infuriate, based on individual opinions.

To focus on the latter, I spoke to a good pal recently who was incandescent with rage about a recent Scottish newspaper poll that invited its readers to vote for the best Scottish musical acts of all time.

Like me this guy is a big fan of the Average White Band (AWB) and after all they’ve achieved, he expected to see them in the top 10 alongside the usual suspects – Simple Minds, Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB) and The Blue Nile.

Sure enough Simple Minds were placed at number 2 but as he started looking down the list for AWB he got to number 50 and thought he must have missed them, unfortunately he hadn’t, AWB were voted the 85th best Scottish band of all time.

AWB

AWB, a band with platinum albums, number one singles and global recognition were positioned behind acts like Arab Strap and Horse (no, me neither!), and to add salt to the wound, Rod Stewart (who’s not even Scottish) was ensconced at number 8.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band didn’t fare much better at number 60, well behind Caledonian stalwarts, Gerry Cinnamon and Jim Diamond, and the sublime Blue Nile were stranded at 17.

SAHB

Apart from differing musical tastes a big driver of these ‘Best Of All Time’ polls is generational.
Whilst Gen Z’s want to listen to 21 year olds singing about heartbreak and Millennials understandably have different musical tastes to someone born in the 50’s, it doesn’t explain why the Bay City Rollers and Pilot were rated higher than SAHB & AWB, as they’re all from the same era.

A couple of my other favourite Scottish bands, Hipsway and Love & Money, were well down the pecking order at number 81 & 82 which I can accept on the basis that they had relatively short careers, and another, Cado Belle wasn’t even listed, for that matter neither were Nazareth, but AWB at number 85… come on!

The list of Scottish artists that have had number one singles in America is a relatively short one.
AWB with ‘Pick Up The Pieces’, a funky instrumental that confused the hell out of America in 1975 when the general public came to realise that they were grooving to six pasty white boys from Scotland rather than James Brown’s backing band, are one of the few Scottish bands who made it to the top of the US charts.

The success of the song catapulted the band to instant stardom and as Hamish Stuart put it, ‘we literally went from rehearsing in a house with blankets over the windows to sharing a studio with Aretha Franklyn and attending parties with Cher, and Jack Nicholson‘.

So Tabby, my good friend, I’m with you 100%…. polls aint what they used to be!

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/scotland-now/poll-site-names-scotlands-top-26527498

18 With A Bullet – She’s Gone by Hall & Oates

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

Selected 70s hits from across the pond

She’s Gone by Daryl Hall & John Oates

I can remember the first time I heard this song….

It was on an overnight coach journey from Glasgow to Blackpool for the September weekend in 1974. The lights on the coach were dimmed and the sax solo and wah-wah guitar seeped into my consciousness as I was entering that transitional stage from wakefulness to sleep

I went to buy the single as soon as I could but on the advice of the record store I ended up buying the album, ‘Abandoned Luncheonette,’ as it featured an unedited version of the song.

That turned out to be one of my smarter decision as it’s still a favourite to this day.

Despite high hopes the single and album sank without trace and Hall & Oates disappeared from the scene.
You can’t keep a good duo down however, and they came storming back in 76 with a stunning blue-eyed soul classic called ‘Sara Smile’ which would become a mega hit for them in the US.

On the back of this new found success, ‘She’s Gone’ was dusted down and re-released, and started to get the airplay and credit it deserved, becoming their next big hit.

The song, co-written by the duo was inspired by a New Years Eve date that never happened when John Oates got stood up and returned to his New York apartment alone and despondent, but with an idea for a song.


The resultant track and album was produced by the legendary Atlantic producer, Arif Mardin who’s credits include Aretha Franklyn, The Average White Band, George Benson, Chaka Khan, Carly Simon, Donny Hathaway and The Bee Gees.

If the song deserves high praise then it’s fair to say that the home-made promotional clip they made to support it in 1973 is not in the same league.

To put it in context the video was the duo’s two-finger response to their home town Philadelphia’s version of Top Of The Pops, and a request by them to lip-synch to the song during a live studio performance.

Aggrieved at the thought, Hall & Oates made their excuses, cut the home made video in an afternoon and sent the clip to the show.


On viewing the video the show refused to play it and were so offended by its content that they banned Philly natives, Hall & Oates from ever appearing on the show again, whilst also trying their damnedest to get the song banned from every radio station in Philly.

The video features Hall & Oates, their road manager and Sara Allen, Hall’s girlfriend at the time and the very same Sara from ‘Sara Smile’.

There are a few decent covers of ‘She’s Gone’, including a Lou Rawls version, but the best known is by the American soul/disco band, Tavares who’s version provided them with their big breakthrough hit in 1974.

In fact, when Hall & Oates re-released their original version of ‘She’s Gone’ two years later in 1976, most people complimented them on a great cover of a Tavares song!

Hall and Oates never looked back and would go on to become the most successful duo of all time with six number ones, eclipsing Simon and Garfunkel and the Carpenters.