Sunday, 4 December 2016

Average White Band (AWB)




Alan Edward Gorrie was born in 1946, in Perth, Scotland. He went to Dundee Art School and played bass guitar. Alan loved the blues and in 1966 co-founded the Blue Workshop in Perth as a place where musicians could interchange line-ups and explore the free form side of jazz, blues and soul. The Blue Workshop was held at The County Hotel, in County Place, Perth in their upstairs function suite. It was also the home of Perth Folk Club.



There was limited opportunity for like-minded musicians to play together outside paid gigs, which were mostly mainstream. The Blue Workshop allowed them to jam and listen to new albums, not commonly available in the UK or played on the radio. Regulars included Alan’s college mates, Malcolm ‘Molly’ Duncan and Roger Ball, (later dubbed the Dundee Horns by Maggie Bell); Jim Mullen (double bass); and a 17 year old Robbie McIntosh (1950 - 1974) on drums. Sixty miles away in Glasgow, Onnie McIntyre and Hamish Stuart played at the late night, blues /soul venue, the Picasso Club, Glasgow.



By 1967, Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre had joined forces in the Scots of St James, and worked mainly as backing for visiting American soul artists. They also toured Germany playing clubs and US military bases but failed to catch attention with their vinyl releases.



In 1970, Roger Ball and Molly Duncan joined a jazz rock band called Mogul Thrash and released and album and single, "Sleeping in the Kitchen.” Neither attracted much attention in the UK but sold respectably well in Europe. Mogul Thrash disband shortly after the record's release.



Robbie McIntosh had joined the white soul band, the Senate, and backed touring acts like Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Big Maybelle, and Garnet Mimms. He left to join The Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express with Jim Mullen, The initial Brian Auger's Oblivion Express album was released in 1971, listening to it you can begin to hear the genesis of the AWB.







Meantime, Alan Gorrie (bass guitar, piano, vocals), Onnie McIntyre (guitar and vocals) and Stuart Francis (drums) formed Hopscotch and the line-up was completed with Hamish Stuart (vocals) and Graham Maitland (piano/vocalist). Hopscotch released two singles but neither would chart. Hamish Stuart left to form Dream Police in Glasgow.



Dream Police quickly became one of Scotland's bigger crowd pullers along with Chris McClure Section, the Poets, the Stoics, Tear Gas and the Bay City Rollers. Despite their obvious appeal the band had little or no commercial success with their singles and gradually began to break up. Hamish quit to form Berserk Crocodiles with Matt Irvine (keyboard and vocals), drummer, Wullie Munro (Tear Gas) and Frazer Watson (Trash) in late 1970/1971.



After Hopscotch disbanded, Gorrie, McIntyre and Francis formed Forever More, with Mick Strode (aka Mick Travis) on guitar. The progressive rock band was based in London, under the management of managed by International Artists. They toured extensively both UK and Europe. When not on tour, their contracts allowed them to work at pubs, clubs, concert halls, and festivals; and as session musicians in various studios in London. In 1972, McIntyre and McIntosh record live with Chuck Berry at The Lanchester Arts Festival and it was released as The London Sessions featuring Chuck’s fist and only UK No.1 single 'My Ding-A-Ling'.



The group appeared as a band pursued by groupies in Lindsay Shonteff's cult hippie movie. Permissive (1970) and produced two RCA albums: "Yours" (1970) and "Words on Black Plastic" (1971). The former made the lower end of the American Billboard Charts.







The band briefly became Glencoe, but Alan Gorrie started working in the studio with the Dundee Horns, McIntyre and McIntosh had become almost a permanent fixture at Island Studios working individually and/or together on various sessions, including Johnny Nash's 'I Can See Clearly Now' (1972). They Scots lads earned the nickname “the Team,.”



Gorrie and co were so happy with the results they decided to form a band. The new line was : Alan Gorrie (singer and bass), Onnie McIntyre (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Roger Ball (sax, horn arrangements, keyboards), Malcolm “Molly” Duncan (tenor sax) and Mike Rosen (trumpet), and Robbie McIntosh (drums). Michael Rosen was quickly replaced by Hamish (Black Throat) Stuart. Robert Stigwood suggested Robin Turner as their manager and actor (Sir) Stanley Baker financed the project. It was Alan’s idea to bring the band together but unmistakably Robbie drove their sound and they were soon catching attention with a tight, soulful sound. The band literally introduced The Metropolis to white soul music but were lacking a name. The band appeared at The Great Western Express Festival. Bardney. Lincolnshire in 1972, as the Average White Band. The name had started as an ‘in joke’ but just stuck.



Bruce McCaskill (Eric Clapton’s tour manager) acquired a recording of the band rehearsing and played it to Bonnie Bramlett, who was looking for funky band to back her on her debut solo album, Sweet Bonnie Bramlett. She had the band fly out to out to Los Angeles for six weeks in the summer of 1972. Once in LA, the band indulged themselves in the music culture and made some very influential friends. They arrived back in London full of ideas and armloads of potential new material.



In 1973, AWB were invited to be the support for Eric Clapton's comeback concert at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park, London. The band earned rave reviews and were immediately signed to MCA records. Bruce McCaskill, agreed to become their manager and their first album, Show Your Hand was released later the same year.



After the album failed to catch much attention, Bruce McCaskill borrowed money and took the group to the LA, where they started to record their follow up album. When MCA turned it down, Jerry Wexler heard the tapes, and signed them to Atlantic Records. He allocated producer, Arif Mardin to oversee them in Miami's Criteria Studios. The album was finished at Atlantic Studios in N.Y., where Gene Paul was assigned as the engineer best equipped to capture their sound. They adopted the abbreviated moniker AWB and The White Album (AWB) was released in October, 1974. The single, “Pick up the Pieces,” an instrumental, went to #1 on the Billboard Pop chart, but this would be a bittersweet moment for the band, for just prior to its release, on the last night of a triumphant week at The Troubadour, Robbie McIntosh died of a drug related incident at a celebratory Hollywood party in September 1974. The single had been released in the UK in July 1974, but failed to charted, when if was re-released a year later, it climbed to number six.



Scotland’s blue eyed soul boys had arrived in America and as both a tribute to their knowledge of funk and a tongue-in-cheek play on the Scottish band's name, The J.B.'s, (James Brown’s backup band), released "Pick Up the Pieces, One by One", under the name AABB (Above Average Black Band). What a tribute.



For their third album, ‘Cut the Cake’, Steve Ferrone (Bloodstone and Brian Auger's Oblivion Express) replaced Robbie McIntosh. It was never going to be an easy job to complete this album as naturally feelings were high and progress was plagued by creative and artistic differences. After several members of the band walked out of the studio Arif Mardin considered pulling the plug on the project, but presevered and the final album was dedicated to Robbie’s memory. ‘Cut the Cake,’ topped the Billboard R&B Chart and reached Number 4 in the US Album charts. The title track reached #10 on the Billboard pop singles chart and “Schoolboy Crush,” and “If I Ever Lose This Heaven,” also charted. Until they appeared on Soul Train many people thought they were an African American soul band.











The record company issued’ ‘Put It Where You Want It’ in 1975 , but this was a repackaged Show Your Hand . "How Can You Go Home" replaced Jugglers in the reissue and the album peaked at #39 on the Billboard Top 200.



“Soul Searching” was released in 1976 and went to Number 9 in the US album charts as well as going platinum. The singles did less well, with "Queen of My Soul," reaching number 21, and the other stand out track "A Love of Your Own," failed to make the Top 100.











In 1976, the group released a live album entitled “Person to Person” to showcase their live abilities. The following year, they were invited to join the Atlantic All-Stars at the highly-regarded Montreaux Jazz festival in Switzerland. Benny & Us, was a collaboration with soul legend Ben E. King, in 1977. They met while the band were on vocation in Miami and decided to combine their talents. The album is both soulful and funky and became Ben E King’s best selling album, rising to number 33 in the US charts. The double A side, "A Star in the Ghetto"/"Keepin' It to Myself" made respectable showings on the R&B singles charts, Unfortunately the joint tour which had been tentatively planned fell through but Ben E King and The AWB did appear at some live performances.







“Warmer Communications” was released in 1978 and reached 28 in the US album charts. The title was wordplay on Warner Communications, the parent company of AWB's Atlantic Records label. It is considered by many fans, to be the last great album the group produced. “Your Love’s a Miracle,” was the single from the album and made a respectable 33 in the Billboard's R&B singles chart.



By the time “Feel No Fret,” was released in 1979 AWB were beginning to loose their poularity in the US, as musical tastes changed. None the less the album reached 32 in the US charts and peaked at No. 15 in the UK charts. Singles, “Walk on by,” and “"When Will You Be Mine, " made it to the lower end of the Top 50 singles and “Atlantic Avenue” (sic. my personal favourite) failed to chart, Stateside.











When Shine (1980) then Cupid’s in fashion (1982), failed to recapture the full energy of their previous work, it looked as if the group had peaked. Shine saw the band in jazz mood but this had less appeal to their funk/soul fans. "Let's Go Round Again, " was released as a disco single and reached #12 in the UK charts (US Pop #53, US R&B #33). The album only gets better with age and contains several memorable tracks. Cupid’s in fashion is a well-crafted album appealing more to disco than soul , but came at a time when trends times in music were changing,















The group dissolved in 1982 and band members went onto pursue solo careers. Steve Ferrone joined Duran Duran, Hamish Stuart joind Paul McCartney and Alan Gorrie released a solo album, Sleepless Nights in 1985.











Alan Gorrie, Roger Ball, and Onnie McIntyre, did reform the AWB in 1989 and the line up was completed with Alex Ligertwood (Santana , Jeff Beck Group and Brian Auger's Oblivion Express) who replaced Hamish Stuart on vocals, and Eliot Lewis (keyboards, drums and programming). Together with invited guests, Chaka Khan and the Ohio Players, they recorded Aftershock. Ligertwood left after the album's recording and drummer Tiger McNeil (1989–1994) joined the reunited band for their live shows. Average White Band continued to tour and record: Soul Tattoo (1997), and Face to Face (1999) without rekindling their earlier successes. Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre are the only remaining original members of the band, but as of 2016, forty years after their formation, they continue to perform.











AWB became arguably the most successful Scottish band of the 20th century. Not only did they master the soul sound of contemporary North American music they developed their own blend of funk and soul which made them one of the few white groups to credibly cross the colour line. In achieving this spectacular goal they have influenced countless others, and have been sampled by many musicians in the late 80’s and early 90s, making them the fifteenth most sampled act in history. ‘The Team,’ from their humble beginnings in Scotland, were well above, the Average White Band.



Sunday, 9 October 2016

Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits)




Mark Freuder Knopfler was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1949. His father was an architect and a chess player and his mother was a teacher. David was born in 1952. The family re-settled in Blyth, Northumberland, in North East England in 1954 and eventually both brothers went to Gosforth Grammar School. Mark was initially influenced musically by his uncle who played both harmonica and boogie-woogie piano. By the time he got his first guitar a twin-pick-up Höfner Super Solid, he could play and soon joined schoolboy bands. Mark (aged)16, made his television debut as part of a harmony duo, with his classmate Sue Hercombe. The aspiring fingerstyle guitarist listened to Scotty Moore, B.B King, Django Reinhardt, and James Burton among others.















Mark left school to study journalism and got his first job as a junior reporter at the Yorkshire Evening Post. Later he decided to further his studies, and completed a degree in English at the University of Leeds. Still keen on music and writing songs he recorded a demo disk of "Summer's Coming My Way" in 1970 with Silverheels. He moved to London in 1973 and joined the band, Brewers Droop, appearing on the album The Booze Brothers. During this time the acoustic guitars available to him were of inferior quality and in order to play them, he perfected his unique finger-picking style.



When Mark left Brewers Droop, he took a day job teaching music at Loughton Collegein Essex but continued gigging with local pub bands including the Café Racers. He formed a duo with Steve Phillips called The Duolian String Pickers then in 1977, invited bass guitarist, John Illsley to join the Café Racers, later the same year Mark (lead guitar) and David (rhythm guitar) formed Dire Strait with John Illsley (bass), and Pick Withers (drums). The group were all working at the time but the band’s name was and attempt at irony. They borrowed enough money to record a five-song demo tape, which included the song "Sultans of Swing." They took the tape to disc jockey Charlie Gillett, (BBC Radio London.) and he [played it on his radio show. Two months later, Dire Straits signed with the Vertigo Records and their first album, Dire Straits , which was produced by Muff Winwood, was released in 1978 .



At first reception in the UK was look warm but when the single was released in the US it jumped into the top five. The album had sold well in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe but was slow to chart in the UK. The group's second album, Communiqué,(produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett), followed and went to Number One in France, Germany, Sweden and New Zealand in the album charts. The single, "Lady Writer", did less well in the singles charts although album went on to sell over 7 million copies worldwide: in Europe it sold 3.6 million copies, and in the United States it reached gold status.



David Knopfler left Dire Straits in 1980 during the recording of Making Movies. Sibling strain had left a rift between the brothers and whilst he had completed the guitar tracks for the album, Mark re-recorded them.



Making Movies, the band’s third album was released in in 1980 and included more complex arrangements and production. Making Movies was recorded at the Power Station in New York and the title was taken from a line in the song "Skateaway" and from the outtake "Making Movies". Jimmy Iovine joined Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler produced the album. The album included many of Mark Knopfler's most personal compositions, most notably "Romeo and Juliet" and "Tunnel of Love." The album topped the Italian and Norwegian album charts whilst selling well throughout the world.







Following the end of the On Location Tour in 1981, Mark Knopfler began writing the songs for their fourth album, Love Over Gold. It was co-produced with engineeer, Neil Dorfsman and released in 1982. The lead single "Private Investigations" reached number 2 in the UK chart and the album topped the charts in many countries.



With Love Over Gold still in the albums charts, the band released a four-song EP titled ExtendedancEPlay in early 1983. The hit single "Twisting by the Pool", featured Terry Williams, (Rockpile), who had replaced Pick Withers on drums.



The band completed an eight-month-long world tour which culminated with two sell-out concerts at London's Hammersmith Odeon. The double album, Alchemy Live was released in 1984. During this time Mark Knopfler pursued other projects including writing and producing musical scores for films: Local Her (1983); Cal (1984); Comfort and Joy (1984). The soundtrack for Local Hero included "The Way It Always Starts" which had originally been intended for Love over gold album, but instead was sung by Gerry Rafferty. David Knopfler released his first solo album, Release, in 1983, which featured both Mark Knopfler and John Illsley. The album had only modest success.











Mark Knopfler also worked as a session musician and recorded and performed with many prominent musicians, including B.B.King, Chet Atkins, Chris Botti, John Anderson, the Chieftains, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Bryan Ferry, George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Jools Holland, Sonny Landreth, Phil Lynott, Van Morrison, Steely Dan, Sting, and James Taylor.



In the early 80s, he produced albums for Aztec Camera, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman and Tina Turner . "Private Dancer" was originally planned for Love over Gold, with all but the vocal tracks being recorded. Knopfler then decided a female voice would be more appropriate and handed the song to Tina Turner for her comeback album, Private Dancer.



Brothers in Arms, was the band’s fifth album and was recorded at Air Studios Montserrat When it was released in 1985 it became an international blockbuster selling more than 30 million copies worldwide. It was also released on compact disc format and sold over one million copies. "Money for Nothing", was the first video played on MTV in Britain and topped the US singles charts The album included several successful singles including: "So Far Away": "Walk of Life", and the title track, Brother in Arms. A very successful world tour to promote the album followed in 1985–86.















Dire Straits stopped working together for a time after the incredible success of Brothers in Arms and Mark concentrated his efforts into scoring the soundtrack for The Princess Bride, (1987). The band got together a year later and topped the bill at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert at Wembley Stadium. Terry Williams (drums) left the band, and Mark Knopfler announced the official dissolution of Dire Straits. The compilation album, Money for Nothing, was released and reached number one in the United Kingdom. The band did regroup and recorded On Every Street (1991) which sold well despite meeting with mixed critical reviews. The band embarked on an enormous world tour, but the schedule proved too gruelling and the performances were not well received by fans. Dire Straits released, two more live albums, On the Night (1993) , and Live at the BBC (1995). This album had been previously recorded in 1978 at BBC Studios in London. Tired of touring and keen to pursue other projects Mark eventually dissolved Dire Straits in 1995.











Saturday, 18 June 2016

Rod Stewart




Roderick David Stewart was born in Highgate, North London in 1945, the youngest of five children of Robert Stewart and Elsie Gilbart. His father, a master builder was from Edinburgh and moved the family to London. The youngest of the family, Roderick had a happy childhood if unremarkable scholastic career at Hornsey’s William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School. His two loves were football and music and Roderick played centre half for Middlesex Schoolboys. The family loved Al Jolson and young Roderick watched his movies and played his records. As a young teenager he went to see Bill Haley and his Comets, listened to Little Richard before he bought his first record, Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody".











Roderick got his first guitar in 1959 and quickly learned to play "It Takes a Worried Man to Sing a Worried Song" within a year he was in a school skiffle group called the Kool Kats. He left school aged 15 started working as an apprentice silk screen printer, but harboured the idea he would become a professional footballer. Supported his father he had a trial for Brentford F.C. but failed to make the grade. Plan B swung into action and Roderick decided to become a professional musician. Working in a series of menial jobs including delivering papers from his father’s paper shop, casual labourer for Highgate Cemetery, aid at a funeral parlour, fence erector and sign writer, he joined several different bands including The Raiders. When the group went for an audition with Joe Meek, the famous produced took an instant dislike to Roderick and stooped the session before asking him to leave. Stewart became attracted to bohemian attitudes and left-wing politics and for a short time lived as a beatnik on a houseboat at Shoreham-by-Sea. He started to listen to folk music and became influence by American folkies like Woody Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Derroll Adams and the young Bob Dylan.















Keen to blend in with the music Roderick learned to play harmonica (harp) and started busking with Wizz Jones. Together they travelled to Brighton, Paris, and finally to Barcelona. Sleeping rough wherever they Roderick was deported from Spain for vagrancy in 1963. Back in London, Roderick moved back home and worked for his brother in his painting and picture frame shop. His musical tastes changed after seeing Otis Redding perform in concert and listening to Sam Cooke Rod (the Mod) became fascinated by rhythm and blues and American soul music.











He joined the Dimensions as a harmonica player and part-time vocalist. Jimmy Powell hired the group as his backing band and Rod Stewart was relegated to harmonica player. The group became residents at the Studio 51 club on Great Newport Street in London but Rod and Jimmy Powell were soon at loggerheads. Rod left the band to join Long John Baldry and the All Stars in 1964 after Baldry heard him playing "Smokestack Lightnin'" on his harmonica. Long John Baldry and the All Stars became the Hoochie Coochie Men and Rod became a singer. His stage presence with spiked hair and mod attire got him a loyal following and soon he was billed with the band as "Rod the Mod" Stewart. The Hoochie Coochie Men became the resident band at the Marquee Club and released a version of Willie Dixon’s “You'll Be Mine” with Rod’s vocals featured in duet with Baldy on the B-side with "Up Above My Head." While still with the group and somewhat unusually Rod Stewart embarked on a simultaneous solo career and signed with Decca in 1964. He released "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," but it failed to enter the charts. Not long after Rod left the band after a fall out with Long John Baldy.











In 1965, Giorgio Gomelsky impresario and manager put together Steampacket as a white soul review live act. Long John Baldry and Rod Stewart had patched up their differences and at Baldry’s insistence Rod was included in the line-up , which was completed with , Brian Auger (organ) , Julie Driscoll (vocals) , Micky Waller (drums), Vic Briggs (guitar) and on bass Ricky Fenson (Richard Brown), Due to contractual difficulties, they did not release any recordings during their lifetime but some demos and bootlegs do exists. Steampacket played at various clubs, theatres and student unions around the country, including supporting the Rolling Stones on their 1965 British tour. Rod Stewart left in 1966, and the group disbanded soon after.



In 1965, Rod Stewart was featured in a 30-minute television documentary called "An Easter with Rod" (London Rediffusion). He also released "The Day Will Come" (1965) but it failed to chart. In 1966, Rod Stewart joined Shotgun Express as co-lead vocalist with Beryl Marsden. The line-up included Mick Fleetwood (drums) and Peter Green (guitar), Dave Ambrose (bass) and Peter Bardens (keyboards) . The band released one single "I Could Feel The Whole World Turn Round", and Rod had another attempt at solo success with "Shake", with the Brian Auger Trinity Both failed commercially. Rod Stewart then left to join the Jeff Beck Group at the start of 1967.











After Jeff Beck left the Yardbirds, he recruited Rod Stewart as vocalist and songwriter for his new band the Jeff Beck Group . The line-up included Ronnie Wood (rhythm guitar), Jet Harris (bass) and Dave Ambrose (bass), with Clem Cattini and Viv Prince trying out on drums. The band went through months of personnel changes, notably no fewer than four drummers before settling on Aynsley Dunbar and switching Ron Wood to bass. Beck signed a personal management contract with record producer and manager Mickie Most who had no interest in the group. During 1967 the band released three singles with only "Hi Ho Silver Lining" reaching the UK top twenty single charts. Frustrated that the band was not playing strict blues, drummer Dunbar left and was replaced by Roy Cook for one show, before Stewart recommended an old bandmate of his from Steampacket, Micky Waller went on to be their longest-lasting drummer. For the first year the grouped toured the UK and then went on to tour Western Europe in 1968. Almost broke the group recorded the album Truth before setting out on a make or break tour of the US which proved to be their breakthrough. Truth, which included three songs written by Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart (credited as reached Jeffrey Rod)went to No. 15 in the US charts and its success ignited new interest from Mickie Most. Beck-Ola was recorded at De Lane Lea Studios and engineered by Martin Birch and reached No. 15 on The Billboard Charts.



Meantime Rod’s solo career continued with another flop entitled, "Little Miss Understood" on Immediate Records. Rod Stewart recorded his first album An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down for Mercury Records and this met with critical acclaim. However, rising tension within the band and on their fifth US tour in July 1969 and appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival. Jeff Beck broke up the band on the eve of the Woodstock Music Festival, at which they had been scheduled to perform, a decision Beck later stated that he regretted.























In 1969, guitarist and lead singer Steve Marriott left The Small Faces. Ron Wood replaced him as guitarist and Rod Stewart joined them as their new singer. The band line-up was complete with original Small Faces, Ronnie Lane (guitar), Ian McLagan (keyboard), and Kenney Jones (drums). Their début album First Step came out in 1970 and was a modest success in the UK. The Faces became a popular live act and soon had a strong festival following. Their second album, Long Player, was released in early 1971 and enjoyed greater chart success. Towards the end of the year, their third album A Nod Is as Good as a Wink...To a Blind Horse contained a hit single with "Stay With Me," and the album reached the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic.











Lou Reizner (A&R man Mercury records) signed Rod to a solo contract in 1968 but contractual complexities delayed Stewart's recording for him until 1969. He sang guest vocals for the Australian group Python Lee Jackson on "In a Broken Dream", recorded in 1969 but not released until 1970. When it was re-released in 1972 to become a worldwide hit. Rod’s second solo album Gasoline Alley was also released in 1970 and came out to critical acclaim. His third album, Every Picture Tells A Story, featured the hit single "Maggie May" in 1971 and together album and single hit number one in both the US and the UK simultaneously and made Rod Stewart a household name. He then launched a US tour with the Faces.















As the tour progressed growing tensions within the band followed over Stewart's solo career enjoying more success than Faces’. Rod Stewart released Never a Dull Moment in 1972 and it reached number two on the US album charts and number one in the UK. "You Wear It Well" was a runaway hit single. The Faces released their final album Ooh La La, which reached number one in the UK and number 21 in the US in 1973. By the time of the recording Stewart was in daily dispute with the rest of the band but did tour Australasia, Japan, Europe and the UK in 1974 to support the album and the single "Pool Hall Richard". The following year the Faces toured the US twice before Stewart announced the Faces' break-up at the end of the year.











Rod’s Smiler album (Mercury) was released in 1974 and topped the UK album charts. The singles "Farewell" and "Mine for Me" had mixed fortune in the US. He switched labels to Warner Bros and moved to Los Angeles in 1975. Tom Dowd produced the next album Atlantic Crossing with a different sound based on the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Atlantic Crossing with its fast and slow sides was a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic and the single "Sailing", was a UK number-one, and remains his biggest-selling single in the UK. His version of "This Old Heart of Mine" was also a Top 100 hit in 1976.















The next album, A Night on the Town album was Rod’s seventh and went to number two on the Billboard album charts as well as going platinum. "Tonight's the Night" was a chart topper internationally; and "The First Cut Is the Deepest", a cover of a Cat Stevens song, went number one in the UK in 1977, and top 30 in the US. "The Killing of Georgie (Part 1 and 2)", about the murder of a gay man, was also a Top 40 hit for Stewart during 1977











Foot Loose & Fancy Free (1977) was the eighth album and featured Rod’s own band: Carmine Appice, Phil Chen, Jim Cregan, Billy Peek, Gary Grainger and John Jarvis. It contained another hit with "You're in my Heart” which reached the US top five. Both "Hot Legs" and “I Was Only Joking" also got a lot of radio airplay ". In 1978, Blondes Have More Fun, gave him another successful album with the smash hit single "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" Now more disco orientated Stewart's look evolved to include a glam element, including make-up and spandex clothes. After a court case it was shown the song's refrain was identical to Brazilian Jorge Ben Jor's earlier "Taj Mahal" and a lawsuit ensued. Stewart donated his royalties to UNICEF, and he performed it with his band at the Music for UNICEF Concert at the United Nations General Assembly in 1979.















By comparison the 80s were quiet for Rod Stewart with only a few hits. He did however, transcend musical changes and moved smoothly in to the hi-tech disco genre starting with "Passion," from Foolish Behaviour; and Tonight I'm Yours album (1981) had two hit singles, the title track "Tonight I'm Yours (Don't Hurt Me)" and "Young Turks." In 1983, "Baby Jane" (1983) was the lead single from his Body Wishes album and became number one in the UK and reached No. 14 in the US. Rod Stewart had four US Top 10 singles between 1984 and 1988, "Some Guys Have All the Luck" (1984), "Infatuation" (1984) and "Love Touch" (1986). In the UK, "Every Beat of My Heart" reached number two in 1986. In 1988, Out of Order, produced four top 15 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. These were "Lost in You", "Forever Young", "Crazy About Her", and "My Heart Can't Tell You No." He ended the decade on a positive note, when a remake of the Tom Waits song "Downtown Train" received a lot of radio play in 1989.



























Whilst still instantly recognisable, Rod’s voice was changing and the 90s saw less aggressive singing. Vagabond Heart (1991) featured five singles, with the two most successful "Rhythm of My Heart “ and "The Motown Song" . "It Takes Two" with Tina Turner, was released in 1990 in advance of the full album's release, and reached number five on the UK charts, but did not chart in the US. A few years later, he released Unplugged and Seated (1993), which was recorded at MTV Unplugged concert and featured the hit "Have I Told You Lately." In 1995, Stewart released A Spanner in the Works containing a single written by Tom Petty, "Leave Virginia Alone", which charted but the latter half of the 1990s was not as commercially successful though the 1996 album If We Fall in Love Tonight managed to go gold and hit No. 19 on the Billboard album chart. When We Were the New Boys, his final album on the Warner Bros. label was released in 1998, it reached number two on the UK album charts.



















It had been previously reported Rod was suffering from a benign vocal cord nodule, then in 2000 it was diagnosed he had thyroid cancer. Resulting surgery threatened his voice, and he had to re-learn how to sing. Meantime he left Warner Bros. and moved to Atlantic Records and in 2001 released Human with the single "I Can't Deny It. "

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As a complete change in 2002, Rod embarked on a series four albums featuring great 1930s and 1940s pop standards written by great American song writers entitled The Great American Songbook. These were an outstanding success and spurned many chart entries. In late 2006, Rod Stewart made his return to rock music with the release of Still the Same... Great Rock Classics of Our Time, a featuring rock and southern rock milestones from the last four decades. The album reached the top of the pop charts. To complete his homage to classic pop Rod released the studio album Soulbook (2009) which was composed of covers of soul and Motown songs.











Rod Stewart signed on to a two-year residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas and released a Christmas album in 2012. In the next year he returned to rock and song-writing with Time, his twenty-eighth studio album, which he co-produced. The album entered the UK Albums Chart at No. 1, setting a new British record for the longest gap between chart-topping albums by an artist. The gravel voiced rocker come crooner continues to appear live and touring arenas and concert halls worldwide.















Rod has been a life-long Scottish fan and supports Celtic Football Club.







Further Reading
Stewart R (2012) Rod: The Autobiography Three Rivers Press

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Annie Lennox (Tourists and Eurythmics)




Ann Lennox was born in 1954 in Aberdeen, the daughter of Dorothy (née Ferguson) and Thomas Allison Lennox.



Aged 16, she won a place at the Royal Academy of Music in London and studied the flute, piano and harpsichord before she dropped out to pursue her ambitions in pop music. Living on a student grant required her to supplement her income working part-time. She soon joined a folk band called Windsong, playing flute and singing. Later she became a member of Dragon's Playground. In 1975 Annie joined The Catch (Pete Combes Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox). They released one single, Borderline in 1977. The single was released in the UK, The Netherlands, Spain and Portugal but was not a commercial success. The band evolved into a new wave band called The Tourists.



Peet Coombes (guitarist and singer-songwriter), Dave Stewart (guitar), Annie Lennox (vocals and keyboards) were joined by Eddie Chin (bass) and drummer Jim Toomey. They released three albums: The Tourists(1979), Reality Effect (1979) and Luminous Basement (1980), as well as half a dozen singles, including "Blind Among the Flowers" (1979), "The Loneliest Man in the World" (1979), "Don't Say I Told You So" (1980) and two hits, the Dusty Springfield cover "I Only Want to Be with You" (1979) and "So Good to Be Back Home Again" (1980), both of which reached the top 10 in the UK.







Sadly, despite some chart success the group were critically savaged by the UK music press and when they became bogged down with legal wrangling with the band's management, publishers and record labels combined with personal tensions within the band, they decided to call it a day in late 1980. Lennox and Stewart felt constrained and wanted freedom to experiment with electronics and the avant-garde. Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were in a hotel in Wagga Wagga, Australia, playing around with a portable mini-synthesizer, when they decided to become a duo. The name Eurythmics came from a musical exercise Annie was taught as a child. The pair decided to keep themselves as the only permanent members and songwriters, and involve other musicians in collaborations based on mutual compatibility and availability. The duo signed to RCA Records. Their first album In the Garden was recorded in Cologne and produced by Conny Plank and released in 1981. Two singles were released from the album in the UK, "Never Gonna Cry Again" and "Belinda". Neither the album nor the singles achieved much commercial success, although "Never Gonna Cry Again" charted at #63 in the UK singles chart.



The Eurythmics were a visual band and feast for the eyes with Annie Lennox known for her androgyny, sometimes wearing suits cut in a man’s style on stage. Dave Stewart was not only a gifted musician but he too had a flair for the visual. They got their first break opening on tour for Roxy Music



If a band was made for the video age, then it had to be Eurythmics. They had a long line of singles in the 1980s, including "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" (a US number one and UK number two), "There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart)" (UK number one), "Love Is A Stranger", "Here Comes the Rain Again", "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves", "Who's That Girl?", "Would I Lie to You?", "Missionary Man", "You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart", "Thorn in My Side", "The Miracle of Love" and "Don't Ask Me Why".











The group had a decade of international success before Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart finally broke up musically. The group never officially disbanded. In 1990, Annie Lennox recorded a version of Cole Porter's "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" for the Cole Porter tribute album Red Hot + Blue, a benefit for AIDS awareness.



By 1992 Annie Lennox had released her debut album, Diva, which produced several hit singles including "Why" and "Walking on Broken Glass". Diva was a commercial and critical success, charting No. 1 in the UK.



Annie Lennox went onto released six solo studio albums. Despite taking time out to bring up her two children outside of the media's glare, she continued to record. Her second album, Medusa, was released in March 1995 and consisted of cover songs originally recorded by male artists. The album charted at No. 1 in the UK and peaked in the US at number 11. The album yielded four UK singles: "No More I Love You's" (which entered the UK singles chart at No. 2, Lennox's highest ever solo peak), "A Whiter Shade of Pale", "Waiting in Vain" and "Something So Right".







In 1998, following the death of Peet Coombes, Eurythmics reformed to write and record Peace, their first album of new material in ten years. The single "I Saved the World Today" reached number 11 in the UK singles charts, and a remix of "17 Again" gave the duo their first chart-topper on the U.S. Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. The band also embarked on a world tour, dubbed the "Peacetour", to support the album. The tour started at Cologne's Kölnarena and ended at the London Docklands Arena. All proceeds from the tour went to Greenpeace and Amnesty International.







Annie Lennox released her third solo album in 2003. Bare was a top 5 hit in the UK and the US, with three tracks reaching the top of the US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.



Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were together again in 2005 on a collaboration on two new songs for their Eurythmics compilation album, Ultimate Collection, of which "I've Got a Life" was released as a single. The single peaked at number fourteen in the UK Singles Chart and was a number-one US Dance hit.



In addition to her career as a musician, Annie Lennox became a political and social activist, notable for raising money and awareness for HIV/ AIDS as it affects women and children in Africa. To promote Songs of Mass Destruction, she embarked on a North American tour called Annie Lennox Sing. "Sing" was born out of her involvement with Nelson Mandela's 46664 campaign and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), both of which are human rights groups which seek education and health care for those affected by HIV.



In 2010, she released a Christmas album entitled A Christmas Cornucopia featuring a collection of traditional festive songs. The album included one new composition, "Universal Child" with a second single "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen".







Annie Lennox released her sixth solo album Nostalgia which features a collection of her childhood favourite soul, jazz and blues songs. The lead single from the album was "I Put a Spell On You"



Annie Lennox continues to write and perform and has become not just one of the world’s greatest pop singers of the 20th and 21st centuries but also a much respected person who works for many charities and worthwhile causes.



Sunday, 28 February 2016

BA Robertson




Brian Alexander Robertson was born in 1948 in Glasgow. He attended Allan Glen's School, Glasgow before graduating from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music. At 21, he signed a publishing deal with Steve Morris and in 1973 released his debut album entitled, Wringing Applause. The album had and impressive line-up of musicians including Herbie Flowers (Bass), Paul Beer & Stephen Saunders (Euphonium) and Barry Morgan (Drums) but it attracted little attention. BA meantime worked as a session musician and played keyboards on recording for other bands including Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s (1976) Another Journey (B-Side of Come up and make me smile).



The same year Alexander Robertson released his second album, "Shadow Of A Thin Man", which featured George Fenton, Tony Hymas (keyboards), Frank Ricotti, Terry Britten (guitarist), Herbie Flowers (bass), Chris Spedding (guitar) and Simon Philips on drums. BA and Terry Britten formed an ongoing song writing partnership and in 1978, they wrote “Start all over again” for Cliff Richard which was released on his Green Light album.



Robertson and Britten wrote many more songs for Cliff Richard including "Wired for Sound" for Cliff (1979) was released on the Rock 'n' Roll Juvenile album and “Carrie" (1980).







BA Robertson enjoyed chart success as a solo artist with six hit singles, starting with "Bang Bang" in 1979 which written and produced by Terry Britten.



In 1980, his third album Initial Success was released credited to BA Robertson and contained his next three follow up singles "Knocked It Off", "Kool in the Kaftan" and "To Be Or Not To Be" which reached chart positions 8, 17 and 9 respectively. The album also sold well and sat outside the top thirty albums in the UK.











His next album Bully For You (1981) contained another hit single Flight 19.



The "R&BA" album contained his last Top 40 hit which was a duet with Maggie Bell and cover version of P J Proby’s "Hold Me" which reached number 11 in the UK Singles Charts.



During the early 80s Robertson combined his career as an artist in a writing and production partnership with bassist Herbie Flowers. They wrote and produced with an eclectic crowd, including Lionel Bart, Joe Brown, Jim Cregan, Ray Cooper, Micky Dolenz, Gillian Gregory, Georg Kajanus, Harry Nilsson, Phil Pickett, Annie Ross, Sandie Shaw, and Chris Spedding. BA also recorded with Frida (Anni Frid Lyngstad) from Abba, 83, and Lulu in 84. But by this time his music tastes had changed and BA started to develop his career in other areas.



He penned and sang the theme music to the BBC television series Maggie and Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (Hello, Hello) and Brown Sauce's "I Wanna Be a Winner".







Robertson wrote and sang "We Have a Dream" for the 1982 World Cup Scotland squad (with John Sinclair Clarke) .



BA Robertson branched into acting and played the lead in the movie Living Apart Together (1982), directed by Charlie Gormley. He also wrote the score.



In 1985 BA Robertson started a song writing collaboration with Mike Rutherford (Genesis). Together they wrote "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)" for Genesis and Mike and the Mechanics’s "The Living Years". The latter was written after Robertson's father died twelve weeks before the birth of his own son, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1990.







In 1987 Robertson wrote (and produced) some of tracks on the Eddie and the Tide album Looking For Adventure.



He continued to write music for films and briefly became a television presenter. Jock 'n' Roll Parts I & II charted the history of pop music in Scotland and B. A. in Music featured contributions from contemporary musical guests. The show was made for Channel 4 but only had a short run. On air Robertson had a confrontation with Bow Wow Wow singer, Annabella Lwin during which she called the program a 'pretty shit show' and stormed off.



BA conducted the last on camera interview with Alex Harvey before Alex died in 1982.



Throughout the 80's and 90's he continued to write and work in the studio with an even more diverse group of artists, including Sam Brown, Roger Daltrey, Lonnie Donegan, Dave Edmunds, Bernard Edwards, Peter Frampton, Alan Gorrie, John Jarvis, Maz + Kilgore, Joe Sample, Helena Springs, Andy Taylor (Duran Duran) and Chaka Khan.



He wrote the theme for the Wogan Show and in 1986 he was commissioned to compose the music for The Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.



From the 90s on wards BA has continued to work both in the UK and the US writing, producing and more recently performing again.

Worth a listen
Brian Alexander Roberstson
Moira's Hand

Alexander Robertson
All the Thin Men (1976)
Goosebumps (1979)

BA Robertson
Bang Bang (1979)
Knocked it Off (1979)
Kool in the Kaftan (1980)
To Be or Not to Be (1980)
Flight 19 (1980)
We Have a Dream (1982)
Ceud Mìle Failte (A Hundred Thousand Welcomes) (1986)

Duet with Maggie Bell

Hold Me (1981)