dimanche 15 février 2004

Soft Explosives

I first encountered The Gordian Knot on a random dig through the cheapo bins at a hippy record store. That day, I was in search of records with interesting covers that i could destroy for a school art project (although when it came down to it, I never had the heart to do any such thing) and the row of black-clad men bound with rope adorning the cover of Tones, their first and last album, definitely qualified it as interesting.

Beyond the 'they're-obviously-not-getting-it' vibe of the record's imagery and sleevenotes, Tones revealed itself to be, against all odds, a fantastic record. The feel of the album can be more or less summed up in what is for me its defining moment: at the end of "If Only I Could Fly," a southern-accented voice announces, "If I don't get myself some wings, I'm gon' lay right down and die!" Amen.

The band was formed in 1964 by a quintet of University of Mississippi students who took their dream and dragged it all the way to California, where they were lucky enough to prick up the ears of none other than Nancy Sinatra. They were invited to accompany her on a USO trip to Vietnam(!) and, upon returning, the Gordian Knot managed to win over the "celebrity-studded" audience at ultra-hip nightclub The Factory. Somewhere during these fifteen minutes of fame, Tones was recorded, released on Verve, and promptly forgotten.

It's a damn shame, though, because their glorious hybrid of the just-emerging style of country-rock with the soft-pop sounds of the Association et. al. should have been more than enough to stretch their fame out to at least thirty minutes. Like the Sir Douglas Quintet taking codeine with the byrds, they have the whole kooky southerners doing gorgeous bizarro harmonies routine down to a science. guitarist/singer/songwriter Jim Weatherly did go on to record several solo records as well as writing Gladys Knight and the Pips' #1 smash "Midnight Train To Georgia."

At any rate, the music of the Gordian Knot remains undeservedly obscure, even with the massive flood of reissues in the past decade. Somebody get Sundazed on the phone! If anyone wants to hear this record, I would be happy to rip the whole thing from vinyl.

Edit: The good people at Rev-Ola/Cherry Red, thee best reissue label in the world, have now reissued Tones!

mercredi 11 février 2004

international girl

(because i didn't get a chance to update yesterday, this is a special double shot entry. shazam!)

was there life before the british invasion? i don't even wanna think about it most of the time. before internationalism, before the rolling stones, before psych was more than a twinkle in the cia's eye. it's a disturbing thought.

but it wasn't all so bad, because this was the heyday of the bilingual british pop princess louise cordet. something of a less cute (but no less talented) sandie shaw that time forgot, louise burst onto the scene in 1962, reaching #13 in the uk charts with the spunky girl-pop classic "i'm just a baby." vocally, she resembles nothing so much as an english-language version of the best of the yé-yé girls. as her excellent french-language singles attest, yé-yé ingènues like stella, eileen, and gillian hills ain't got nothin' on ms. cordet.

louise had a somewhat unusual pedigree for a pop singer. the daughter of tv presenter and actress hélène cordet (the family name was boisot, but louise adopted her mother's stage name) and goddaughter of the queen's husband prince philip, she traded in her life as a convent schoolgirl for pop stardom at the age of seventeen. after her initial success with "i'm just a baby," she appeared in the british popfest movies just for you in 1962 and just for fun in 1963 alongside other uk stars like peter and gordon, freddie and the dreamers, and the merseybeats.

sadly, after that first kiss, louise failed to chart another big hit. although she recorded quite a few french and english singles between 1962 and 1964, she dropped off the pop radar, and it is unknown what she has been up to since. "que m'a-t-il fait" appears on ultra chicks vol. 2 and "i'm just a baby" on ultra chicks vol. 4 (both sadly out of print but usually available on slsk and what have you), while her cover of mary wells' "two lovers" is on the jimmy page session comp this guitar kills. we can only hope that someday louise's music gets the deluxe reissue treatment it so deserves.

louise cordet bio
louise on yé-yé girls (excellent discography)

while i was looking for information on movie star and elvis girl tuesday weld's lone 1960 single, "are you the boy"/"all through spring and summer," i detected a lot of hate from many of the people who deigned to mention it. "another entry in the 'actors who never should have' sung" category," sneered one such playa hata. well, y'all hataz can kiss my black ass, because "are you the boy" is one of the most charming girlpop singles ever made. it can only be surmised that those bitches are jealous that they're nowhere near as pretty. it's a damn shame that she never continued her recording career.

she may not be a vocal tour de force, but tuesday's phrasing and badass attitude are nothing to be messed with, especially on the a-side.

"are you the boy" mp3
"all through spring and summer" mp3
tuesday weld fan page

lundi 9 février 2004

One Toke Over The Line

It's 1967 and you're a high school senior in suburban New York. Homework's a drag and you're sick of being stuck in the middle of nowhere miles away from where the action is. What to do? C'mon, man, you start a baroque pop band. It ain't exactly rocket science.

Fortunately for those of us stuck in less sensible times (today they'd be a hardcore band called the Charred Grass Clippings On A Bleeding Godless River of Death) the Blades of Grass had their shit together. They even had a minor hit with "Happy," which reached #87 on the charts but was cock-blocked by the Sunshine Company's higher-charting version. To their great dismay, the same thing happened with second single "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas" when Harper's Bizarre beat them to the punch.

Young as they were, members Mark Black (guitar/vocals), Bruce Ames (guitar/vocals), Frank Dichiara (bass/vocals), and David Gordon (drums/organ) managed to create a sound that in its best moments is on par with the creations of soft-pop genius producer Curt Boettcher. The striking vocal harmonies the Blades so prided themselves on invite comparisons to the Association's classic Boettcher-penned singles as well as fellow New Yorkers the Critters and the Left Banke (they even released a cover of the baroque pop giants' #1 hit "Walk Away Renee").

The Blades' lone album,
...Are Not For Smoking, is not completely free of filler, but highlights like "Just Ah," "Satin Slipper," "If You Love Her, Cherish Her, And Such," and "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas" make it an extremely worthwhile purchase for sixties pop fans, especially if you're lucky enough to find a copy on vinyl.