The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: Cream

Pulse: Thanks For Thinking Of Me …

by on Feb.18, 2013, under Music



Thanks For Thinking Of Me But It’s Alright is the closing track of Side 1 from the self-titled Pulse album from 1969. After it was written and we arranged it in late 1968, it was also almost always Pulse’s opening tune in concert.

The group Pulse was based in New Haven, Connecticut, more specifically Wallingford at Syncron Studios soon to become Trod Nossel, which is still operating, and managed and produced by Doc Cavalier. The first version of the band was a six-piece. We started rehearsing in January, 1968 and were together until almost mid-1970. There was a four-piece group for the remainder of 1970.

The personnel: Carl Donnell (Augusto), vocals, guitar; Peter Neri, lead guitar, vocals; Beau Segal, drums; Paul Rosano, bass, background vocals; Jeff Potter, harp, percussion; Rich Bednarzcyk, keyboards.

The album was recorded in 1968 and early 1969, this track as stated probably late ’68. It was written by our drummer Beau Segal. We were huge fans of the Butterfield Blues Band, one of our main influences at the time, and we had seen them a number of times at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York and the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston as well as the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford.

Beau has said he took the lead line from a Butterfield tune he heard live. I know the one. Actually he embellished it a bit. If you listen to a live version of the tune by Butter it doesn’t have the chromatic ascent or the closing phrase that bounces off a minor third. And in fact, it’s not a Butterfield composition.

Butter was covering a Little Walter tune. Everything’s Gonna To Be Alright (1959). Butter’s version changed several times over the years. The only studio track I’ve heard is from an early session on the Original Lost Elecktra Sessions, which pre-dates the first Butterfield Band album.

It didn’t start with Little Walter either. The line was used by Elmore James in his Dust My Blues from 1955 as his closing solo. There are probably other examples from that time frame.

If you dig deeper you’ll hear the line as a part of the vocal melody on the bridge of Robert Johnson’s Kind Hearted Woman Blues, and the line is the basis for the main melody in Johnson’s Sweet Home Chicago. Wonder where he heard it if he didn’t originate it himself.

This stuff is fascinating, the Blues tradition. It’s reminiscent of the folk tradition in which entire chord structures and melodies of existing tunes were continually updated with new lyrics, particularly in the ’50s and early ’60s.

Going forward, it pops up in a number of other unusual places. In 1970, Atco Records released Live Cream, which included a studio outtake Lawdy Mama. The original Cream version of this song was a shuffle and included the same lead line. The outtake on Live Cream sees the track changed to a straight rock feel with the line still used but stretched out a bit.

However, many of us have heard this line hundreds of times on a slightly different track. The group ditched the Lawdy Mama version of the song when Felix Pappalardi was brought in to produce and his wife, Gail Evans, wrote new lyrics creating the tune Strange Brew. I never recognized the similarity until I heard the shuffle version of Lawdy Mama by Cream on a grey market item.

Eric Clapton would use the line again to good effect in his outstanding version of Sweet Home Chicago on the Sessions For Robert J album (2004). And so it goes.

The Butterfield Band was and remains one of my favorite groups of all-time and is sorely underappreciated. Thanks For Thinking Of Me was our tip of the hat to them, one of our major influences.

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Concerts Vol. 14: Led Zeppelin

by on Dec.29, 2011, under Music


Led Zeppelin in Paris Smaller Size
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In early August, 1969, there was quite a buzz about Woodstock. I don’t believe anyone, even at that late date, anticipated how big it was going to be. At least not among my friends.

Most of us were not planning on a trip to upstate New York though. On Sunday the 17th during the festival weekend, a concert was scheduled at the original Oakdale Music Theatre, with its theatre-in-the-round stage, in Wallingford, Conn., that was not to be missed, Led Zeppelin.

We’d seen Cream there the previous summer and myriad other mid-to-late ’60s acts: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Lovin’ Spoonful, Ray Charles. Shows I didn’t get to see included The Who, The Doors and Chicago. One of my bands, The Bram Rigg Set opened for The Dave Clark Five in late summer, 1967. It was an almost-perfect venue to get an up-close look at performers. Seating was perhaps no more than about 2,000, the closest within about 15 to 20 feet of the musicians, sometimes even closer when they came to the edge of stage, which was only a few feet off the ground.

Zeppelin’s first album was released in early 1969 and it made quite an impact. Surprising really. Jimmy Page was well known and I’d seen him with the last version of The Yardbirds in 1967 at the Village Theater in New York. But Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, where did they come from? (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 13: Jimi Hendrix

by on Feb.21, 2011, under Music


By the fall of 1968, I had seen Cream four times, another of my favorite artists The Paul Butterfield Band five times, The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield, Traffic, The Stones, The Beach Boys, among a host of other artists, but I had yet to see Jimi Hendrix.

Jim Hendrix at Woolsey Hall, Yale, Nov. 1968. Photo by Joe Sela. Courtesy of Wolfgang's Vault.

Jim Hendrix at Woolsey Hall, Yale, Nov. 1968. Photo by Joe Sela. Courtesy of Wolfgang’s Vault.

Two members of the Bram Rigg Set, Peter Neri and Rich Bednarzyk along with the group’s road manager Mike Geremia had met Hendrix on the street in Greenwich Village in the summer of ’67. The three had ventured into the city after the first night of a weekend engagement in Brewster, N.Y. The group’s drummer, Beau Segal, and I had driven back home after the gig and our lead singer Bobby Schlosser had also opted for his long trek back to Rhode Island.

The boys had run into Hendrix at about 3 a.m. on Bleecker Street I believe opposite the Cafe Au Go Go and he was affable, friendly and wished them well.

Beau got to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience by accident that same year in the fall. He traveled into the city to the Cafe Au Go Go to see a show billed as Eric Burdon and The New Animals and found when he arrived that The Experience had replaced them on the bill. Nice surprise. And, of course, Beau raved about them.

Hendrix was still a bit of an unknown quantity at the time here in the States as opposed to the United Kingdom, where he was a sensation with a string of single releases and his first album.

Notwithstanding the bizarre ads in Billboard during the summer that showed the three Afro-adorned musicians on the inside cover of the industry magazine and the buzz in musicians’ circles, the album Are You Experienced? had just been released and there was no single from it running up the charts. It was probably getting the majority of its play on the new FM radio stations, particularly the college stations, which were just starting to play what became known as Album Rock programming.

When I had played the first track of the album for guys in my dorm at Boston University in Sept. 1967, before I transferred to Berklee School of Music, some of them thought there was something wrong with their record players. True. Those same guys would come to love Hendrix in a few months. (continue reading…)

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Cream at the Psychedelic Supermarket, 1967 & more

by on Sep.29, 2010, under Music


Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton live at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, Boston, September, 1967.

Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton live at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, Boston, September, 1967.

About six months after writing a series of pieces in 2009 on Cream concerts I’ve been to, I was contacted by Ken Melville. Ken was in the band Catharsis in Boston in September, 1967 and opened for Cream for their one-week run of concerts at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, just a stone’s throw from Fenway Park.

I went to see Cream on a Sunday, the first night of the engagement, which was supposed to last two weeks but only survived the one. A detailed description of the concert, a particularly memorable one, is available here.

I do recall an opening act, but don’t remember much about the band. To my amazement, Ken sent me some photos from that week after leaving a comment on one of the posts. Taken by his girlfriend with a Kodak instamatic, as I recall, the photos above and on the following page show the band on stage and in the dressing room with Ken and some of his friends.

It’s all quite remarkable really that more than 40 years later, we’re viewing photos from that week.

Also on the page, you will see two shots from their June, 1968 date at the original Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. A piece on the two shows at Oakdale and the last concert I saw of Cream during this stretch in the fall of 1968 at the New Haven Arena during the Farewell Tour is available here.

It took a jury of people to identify the Oakdale shots, which I’ve come across through an astute friend on the Internet. A fellow who worked at Oakdale and another similar summer tent theater in Rhode Island identified it by the lighting grid you see above Clapton’s head. Also the shot with Jack Bruce sitting on the edge of the orchestra pit includes Rich Bednarczyk in the foreground of the pit, surfer blond hair, who played keyboards for my band Pulse.

There is also a piece on this site describing the April, 1968 concert at Woolsey Hall at Yale in New Haven here.

If you’re an avid Cream fan, it’s likely you’ve already come across these. The only place I’ve seen them is in a few of Ken’s posts to a music forum. The subject, of all things, started out as a discussion of whether Clapton used a Gibson ES-335 on the classic cut Crossroads from Wheels Of Fire. I don’t think that was ever resolved but some of the discussion is interesting and, of course, Ken’s photos are the highlight.

All quite heady. Click on continue reading for the other shots. (continue reading…)

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Concerts, Vol. 12: Jack Bruce and Friends

by on May.23, 2010, under Music


Jack Bruce & Friends. From left, Bruce, guitarist Larry Coryell, keyboardist Mike Mandel and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

Jack Bruce & Friends. From left, Bruce, guitarist Larry Coryell, keyboardist Mike Mandel and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

After the breakup of Cream in 1968, it became a point of fascination to see what was next for the three members.

Eric Clapton got together with Steve Winwood to form Blind Faith, which lasted from late 1968 to the end of the summer of ’69, producing one album and an ill-fated tour. He then took up with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett in their touring band, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. That led to Clapton’s first self-titled solo album, produced by Delaney, which still stands as one of Clapton’s very best.

Ginger Baker quickly formed an all-star band of sorts after Blind Faith, dubbed Air Force and recorded a double live and a studio album under the name. It was short-lived. He went through many other musical vehicles in the ’70s and ’80s but always seemed to produce his best work when recording what we now call World Music, then in the ’90s recorded two extraordinary jazz albums with Bill Frisell and Charlie Haden.

As for Bruce, he had already recorded a straight jazz album, which bordered on free jazz, in August of ’68, Things We Like, even before the Farewell Cream tour of that fall.

That was followed by Songs For A Tailor (September, 1969), a truly amazing mix of R&B, soul, blues, folk and rock blended with his Celtic sensibilities, particularly in his vocals, and the enigmatic yet compelling lyrics of his writing partner from Cream days, Peter Brown.

After Songs For A Tailor, probably his most successful commercial album, he has continued to blaze his own path with a string of artistic achievements in his solo career and with others, particularly Kip Hanrahan in the ’80s and ’90s, that has in most cases escaped the music world at large and especially the rock press. That notwithstanding, it can be easily argued Bruce has been the most creative and successful artistically of the three members from Cream.

Jack Bruce & Friends poster 3 SmallIn early 1970 Bruce put an intriguing and accomplished band together to tour in support of Songs For A Tailor. Called Jack Bruce & Friends, I noticed they were to play at the Fillmore East the weekend of January 30-31 as the opening act for Mountain! Leslie West’s group, at the time, was of course doing very well commercially in the wake left by Cream, but it startled and somewhat annoyed me that Bruce would actually be opening for them.

Nonetheless, my girlfriend and I secured tickets and went to one of the early shows. As I recall it was the Saturday night performance, although it’s possible it was Friday. In the 1990s, I became aware of a recording of one of the shows from that weekend. That kind of stunned me at the time, but it’s now happened more often than you would think possible. At first I believed it was the actual show we attended but I have seen it variously listed as either early show Jan. 30 or late show Jan. 31. So it’s impossible to pin down.

Suffice to say, the setlist is the same as the show we saw. And the recorded document confirms that although this band had not been together that long, it was producing dynamic and intricate versions of Bruce’s tunes, mainly from Songs For A Tailor. (continue reading…)

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Vulture sighting

by on Feb.12, 2010, under Music


Them Crooked Vultures is a very heavy band. Not heavy as in heavy metal, heavy as in heavy hard rock.

Them Crooked Vultures Album CoverFeaturing three hard rock virtuosos in Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl, from Foo Fighters, who switches from guitar back to drums, his spot in Nirvana, and Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age on guitar and lead vocals, the group exhibits a competency and energy rarely found in the genre today.

Their self-titled debut album consists of songs that are virtually all guitar riff driven over a furious and powerful rhythm section, adorned with dark, devilish, often impenetrable (sometimes penetrable) lyrics. With titles such as No One Loves Me & Neither Do I, Dead End Friends, Reptiles, Warsaw Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up and Caligulove, it’s hard to imagine anything else.

The grinding, churning rhythm section not only shows how adept Grohl is back on the drums, but also gives a strong indication of Jones’ contribution to Zeppelin, which was often lost or overlooked during that band’s heyday.

Homme is fully capable of handling the vocal and lead guitar duties, although they did add a second guitarist, Alain Johannes, on their recent Saturday Night Live appearance, during which they played Mind Eraser, No Chaser, a tune that might be termed their most accessible or commercial to crossover audiences, although nothing on the album really falls entirely in that vein, and New Fang, the group’s first single, with its complicated guitar rhythm over which Homme sings a completely different melodic structure, something always to take note of.

The group hits a three-song streak in the middle of their the album that is really quite brilliant in Elephants, Scumbag Blues and Bandoliers. In fact, by the fifth track, Elephants, the listener starts to realize how much Homme can sound like Jim Morrison. And this likens the overall sound of the band to The Doors as a power trio, minus Ray Manzarek’s keyboards. (continue reading…)

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Winwood, Clapton after all these years

by on Jun.03, 2009, under Music


From the opening double guitar lines of the Blind Faith classic Had To Cry Today, Steve Winwood’s and Eric Clapton’s performance on their recently released CD/DVD Live From Madison Square Garden is electrifying.

clapton-winwood-dvd2Not electrifying in a showy, glitzy, glamorous sense, but in a musical sense. The two giants whose careers started in the 1960s and have paralleled each other, intersecting once for an extended period in 1969, show they are still fully capable of producing inspring and creative performances on their own material and covers of some of their contemporaries.

It seems fitting that the duo begins their MSG show, which was recorded in February, 2008 over three nights, with the opening track from their only album together, Blind Faith.

It also shows off Winwood as an extraordinary and somewhat overlooked guitarist, who is Clapton’s perfect foil, particularly when they solo simultaneously at the end of the tune.

The track, always overshadowed by two others on that 1969 album, Cant’ Find My Way Home and Presence Of The Lord, also gets its due, as a riff-driven vehicle but with some very unconventional chord changes for a guitar-slinging number. (continue reading…)

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Concerts, Vol. 5: Farewell Cream

by on May.12, 2009, under Music


A little more than two months after seeing Cream at Yale’s Woolsey Hall in New Haven, the second time I had seen them live in about six months, the group was booked to play two shows — afternoon and evening — at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Connecticut on June 15. It was the next-to-last show of an exhausting five-month tour of the States that started in February and turned the group into mega-stars.

Eric Clapton plays a Gibson ES-335 during Cream's Farewell Tour, 1968.

Eric Clapton plays a Gibson ES-335 during Cream's Farewell Tour, 1968.

The Oakdale was a summer theatre in-the-round with a circular stage and a canvas roof. Where the theatre stood is now the lobby of the new Oakdale (now named the Chevrolet Theater, sacrilege!). It booked mostly summer stock, traveling Broadway musical companies and shows of that ilk along with traditional singers from Tony Bennett and Engelbert Humperdink to Ray Charles and many more. I even saw the figure skater Perry Fleming perform there once, when they flooded the stage area with ice. She was actually quite good.

But by 1966, it was also booking rock acts. Because of its size — it was quite small by today’s standards with a seating capacity of no more than about 2,000 if that — and intimacy, it was an outrageous place to see bands such as Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Doors and The Who, all of whom played there, among many others.

Because my friend and band mate in Pulse, Beau Segal, had an in there, we scored excellent seats in the front row for the evening show. I turned up for the afternoon concert as well, which didn’t appear to be sold out, and stood in the area between the theatre and dressing rooms, which was an open-air walkway. (continue reading…)

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A few new pages at the top

by on Apr.26, 2009, under Music


At the top of this home page you’ll notice three links to new pages on the site. Two are photo pages of classic rock bands Cream and Blind Faith. The Cream page has actually been up for about a week. The third page is labeled The Trick Is aStore, short for The Trick Is To Keep Going Associates Store, a referral page for Amazon.com.

blind-faith-tour-programme-backI’m a big fan of Amazon. I should be, I’ve spent quite a bit of money there, mostly on CDs, vinyl, electronics and computer gear in the past five or six years. I’m an even bigger fan of their Marketplace, where you can buy almost anything for less than what Amazon sells an item for from, in my experience, reputable sellers.

Here’s how the Associates Store works. If you go to that page you’ll find listings for these categories: Music, Musical Instruments, MP3 Downloads, DVD, Electronics, Computers, Cameras and Photo, Kindle Store, Books, Software and Video Games. There is a search engine and anything you can find on Amazon you can find on this new page. A details page with customer reviews for each item that comes up on a search is available by clicking on the item. You can place items in a shopping cart and if you decide to buy anything and hit checkout, you will be transported to Amazon.com, where you can approve putting those items in your cart there and go through their checkout process. There is also a handy link back to The Trick Is To Keep Going on the page.

So what’s the difference? Not much really. Although when you search at The Trick Is aStore, it’s probably going to be faster because you’re not dealing with some of the long load times for the Amazon pages. And you can stay here at the site. The Trick Is receives a very modest referral fee if you decide to purchase something this way. You may find it convenient.

So that’s it. Hope you like the photo pages and the aStore. Thanks for all the support for The Trick Is To Keep Going from new and old friends.

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Concerts Vol. 4: Heavy Cream

by on Apr.23, 2009, under Music


cream-woolsey-tix-light

In Concerts Vol. 3, I wrote about the single concert performance that was probably the best out of hundreds I’ve attended and certainly the most influential: Cream at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston, September, 1967.

That wouldn’t be the only time I would see this amazing trio. I was lucky enough to see them three more times in a little more than a year. The second opportunity came in April, 1968. I was still going to school in Boston at Berklee School of Music and coming home on weekends to rehearse and/or play the Connecticut club scene with Pulse.

cream-another-portraitCream was scheduled to play at Boston’s Back Bay Theatre in April, but they were also going to play near my hometown in New Haven at Yale’s Woolsey Hall on April 10th and I decided to come home for that, mainly because I had a new girlfriend who was still in school in New Haven. This would be our first big concert date. That made sense.

The intact ticket above is from that date. I didn’t  hold on to many tickets or stubs from that period, but I kept this one tucked away in an old wallet. I’m glad I did. The reason it’s intact is that the Yale students didn’t take or rip any tickets, they just looked at them. Thank you, Yalies.

After playing for a week of a scheduled two-week engagement in Boston in September, 1967, Cream cut short its stay there over money problems with the owner of the Psychedelic Supermarket, not to mention they disliked Boston because of the discrimination and derogatory comments on the streets they endured, and moved on to play New York at several venues, including the Cafe Au Go Go and Village Theatre (later Fillmore East).

They also played two shows in Michigan, the second at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in a much booted performance with fairly decent sound, a pretty good example of what they sounded like that fall. From there, they toured Europe fairly extensively, leading up to the release of their second album, Disraeli Gears (November, U.K., December, U.S.), the record that really started to break them as a big act. (continue reading…)

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