Single of the week

The Clairvoyant (Iron Maiden)

the clairvoyant - thumb

Iron Maiden are one of rock’s formidable bands but success wasn’t instant. They were formed on Christmas Day 1975 by bass player and primary songwriter Steve Harris. They also became known as the pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and although their chart career began in 1980, they had to wait eight years before they received commercial recognition, by which time come of their hardcore fans moved on.

Harris attributes the band’s name to a film version of The Man in the Iron Mask which he’d recently seen and the dialogue referenced the iron maiden torture device. The early line up had Paul DiAnno on vocal duties and in December 1979 they landed a record deal with EMI and the same time added a second guitarist Adrian Smith.

Their eponymous debut album arrived in 1980 and contained the hit singles Running Free and Sanctuary. In 1981, former Samson singer Bruce Dickinson replaced DiAnno and were immediately rewarded with their first top 10 hit Run to the Hills.

Six years and six albums later they hit the big time. This might have something to do with the inclusion of keyboards for the first time. Bruce Dickinson recalled, “When the 1987 Somewhere in Time tour finished we were genuinely looking forward to the next album. I must say, when we got to Seventh Son of A Seventh Son and I was quite optimistic about it. I think it was the last really good record the band made and it was a record where everybody was really trying hard to come up with directions, but it was so slow developing that record and it took such a long time to record it. But it was a pretty good record.” It was a concept album which was based on Orson Scott Card’s series of books called The Tales of Alvin Maker.

The first song written for it was The Clairvoyant which Bruce really liked the idea of and the band was quite keen on doing the entire album based around this character with the gift of clairvoyance. According to the song’s writer, Steve Harris, it was inspired by the death of the media psychic Doris Stokes, and he wondered if she were truly able to see the future, wouldn’t she have been able to foresee her own demise. The song starts in the first young person, from the main character’s point of view, runs through the second and ends in the third person, after they’re dead.

It became their 19th UK hit and the third single from the album following the number three hit Can I Play with Madness and the number five hit The Evil That Men Do. The Clairvoyant reached number six and thus gave them three back to back top ten hits for the first time.

In the summer of 1988 Maiden headlined the Donnington Park rock festival and played to a crowd of 110,000 people. Also on the bill were Guns N’ Roses, Kiss and Megadeth among others. The video that accompanied The Clairvoyant was clips from the Donnington show although the sound was the studio recording. It’s one of the lighter songs on this album, the verses are quite sad whereas the chorus is quite happy.

In 38 years they have amassed 36 albums and 35 UK hit singles, but their apex came in 1991 when there was some clever marketing by EMI when they released Bring Your Daughter…To The Slaughter, a song originally recorded by Bruce as a solo artist, on the first week of January 1991. It’s a time when generally sales are at their lowest, which is bizarre because in those days you’d think that everyone would rush out after Christmas and spend their gift vouchers, but with multiple formats including a ‘brain’ shaped pack, it entered the chart at the summit and spent two weeks there.

In 1993 Bruce Dickinson left for a solo career and was replaced by ex-Wolfsbane singer Blaze Bailey and they had further top 20 hits with Man on the Edge, Virus and The Angel & The Gambler. Bruce Dickinson, now with full pilot’s license returned to the band and to this day flies the band around the world on tour.

In May 2012 Bruce, who also heads Cardiff Aviation Ltd, which is based at the Twin Peaks Hangar at the Vale of Glamorgan, announced that he was opening his own aircraft maintenance business where he hopes to create hundreds of jobs. In his spare time, he helps others, for example, in 2010 he flew the Liverpool football squad to Naples for a Europa League clash.

Please follow and like us:

Stay With Me Till Dawn (Judie Tzuke)

Judie tzuke - thumb

Many people get into the music business by lying their way in. There was a certain producer in the 70s (who shall remain nameless) who lied about having been a producer for years yet he’d never produced a song in his life. He went on to be very successful. Judie Tzuke told a fib in the early days which paid off in the end.

Judie was born Judie Myers in London in 1956. She attended the now defunct London Ballet and Drama School in Piccadilly from which Judie was expelled on several occasions for smoking and bad behaviour. Eventually at the age of 15 she was expelled one final time. She began writing songs and poems and even tried her hand at singing which she did well. She was probably trying to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Jean Silverside who had appeared in many editions of the Marty Feldman show, a few episodes of the Goodies and even a small part in The Fall and Rise Of Reginald Perrin.

When she was eight years old she found out the story of her real name. Judie’s grandparents, who were Polish-born, had moved to Yorkshire in the 1920s and changed their name from Tzuke to Myers in an attempt to blend in. Myers was a common name in Yorkshire at that time.

In 1974 Judie met up with a drummer called Mike Paxman and he was supposed to arrange for her to join the band he was drummer with, but Mike ended up joining Judie instead. They started writing together, These are the Laws and It’s Only Fantasies were the first two songs penned together. They approached Jonathan King’s UK Record Label and although he was interested nothing really happened. Soon after they approached the Good Earth recordsl who signed them up. These are the Laws was released as a single in 1977 with It’s Only Fantasies on the flip side.

In the mid-70s she contacted Elton John’s Rocket records and played them a couple of her songs. They were impressed and asked her how many she had. She replied 20 – which was a lie, in fact she only had the two. The A&R manager asked her to come back the following week to record a whole batch of songs. She didn’t have the nerve to go back probably because she couldn’t write another 18-odd songs in a week. She continued singing in folk clubs but realised that because the record company were interested in her she might well have a career in music.

In 1977 a friend suggested she go back to Rocket. Their motto was ‘A label for artists’ and so she went to see the managing director David Croker and played him a few songs, one of them being Stay With Me Till Dawn and was immediately signed to the label. Mike brought two of the musicians from Good Earth, Paul Muggleton and Bob Noble with him and they all spent the next six months recording her first album Welcome to the Cruise at Air Studios in London, with the producer John Punter.

The first single, For You, was released in the summer of 1978 and received substantial airplay and was met with great critical acclaim. It was an acapella track which showcased Judie’s ability to sing complicated harmonies which were then cleverly multitracked, but it failed to make the chart. It was decided that the next single should be Stay With Me Till Dawn, a song that Judie wrote after she and a ‘friend’ stayed up the whole night chatting. The song peaked at number 16 and spent 10 weeks on the chart. The album peaked two placed higher and on the strength of the hit, For You was re-released and again received much airplay and again failed to chart.

In 1980, Judie and her band toured America for three months supporting Elton John and although it was well received Elton, during the tour, decided to change the US distribution for his Rocket label from MCA to the newly-formed Geffen label. MCA consequently decided to stop all tour support and promotion for the acts on the that label, which meant, although Judie was playing to huge audiences no-one knew who she was and her records were not available in the shops.

Paxman brought in two new musicians; John Edwards and Jeff Rich, whom both had just joined Status Quo, were also part of the new Judie Tzuke group. Over the next couple of years they recorded two albums, Sportscar and I am the Phoenix, the former becoming here biggest UK success when it peaked at number seven. Although there were no more hits, one track on the latter, Come Hell Or Waters High was a minor UK hit for Dee C. Lee in 1986. Following I Am The Phoenix she embarked on a lengthy tour which culminated in appearances headlining the Glastonbury CND Festival. Some of these concerts were recorded and used to form the live album, Road Noise – The Official Bootleg.

She left rocket records and signed with Chrysalis. In 1983 her album Ritmo was released but Judie was not happy with Chrysalis and decided she would have more joy with a smaller record company. Two years later she joined Legacy Records. They really tried to push Judie and released the three album versions in three different covers. The CD, vinyl and tape all had their own unique sleeve. That didn’t bring much success so she decided to set up her own record label.

Muggleton and Judie became an item and in 1987 their daughter Bailey was born. When she grew up she would sing backing vocals for her mum but has gone on to have her own success when her vocals were featured on the Freemasons cover of the Alanis Morissette track Uninvited which reached number eight in 2007. Their second daughter, Tullula, was born in 1994.

Judie decided the only way to succeed was to take complete control and this meant recording and releasing the albums herself. That sense of satisfaction was reached in 1999 when Elton John handed back the copyright on her first three albums

Throughout a career that she regards as lucky in everything but its business aspects, Tzuke has always been able to write songs. She still does it almost every day and sees it as an exercise to clear her mind. “I write about what’s going on in my life,” she says. “It’s not just when I’m miserable, although those are the times when you tend to be on your own and you actually have time to sit and work on songs. When you’re happy, you don’t want to spend time cooped up by yourself working, but I do write happy songs as well as sad songs and songs where I’m angry about something.” The songs don’t always have the desired effect she remembered, Sportscar, for instance, was directed at someone who had really got on my nerves , ‘an arrogant idiot’, and when I told him I’d written a song about him, he got all excited – and never noticed that it was far from a song of praise.”

In 1999 a dance version of Stay With Me Till Dawn by Lucid made number 25, but the 2000s saw her having more success as a songwriter. Dance DJ’s BT with Dreaming and Tiesto with Just be were moderate hits and she championed Lucie Silvas when three of her songs, all co-written by Judie charted with Breathe In being the most successful reaching number 12. The boy band Phixx and the Fame Academy contestant Alex Parks both charted with Judie’s songs.

In 2012 Judie is back after four years of silence. She says, “I don’t mind looking back at the old songs but I find that when I go out on tour, I generally enjoy the newer ones. The newer songs are easier, although I’m no judge of what works best. I remember my manager looking at the set-list last time and talking about the boring bit – and these were the songs I really liked. I just hope other people like them too.”

Please follow and like us:

The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Tokens/Tight Fit)

The Lion Sleeps Tonight - Thumb

Looking at the writing credits on many versions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight you will see the names Hugo Peretti / Luigi Creatore / George David Weiss / Solomon Linda / Paul Campbell and may wonder how it took five people write a fairly simple song. The answer is, it didn’t. But over the years people have added their own name through their own different interpretations of the song.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight started life in 1939 as Mbube (pronounced Eem-boom-beh), and was first recorded by Solomon Linda’s Original Evening Birds. The same year Solomon, who was born Solomon Linda Ntsele and worked as a cleaner and record packer for Gallo records, sold the song to record producer and label owner Eric Gallo for 10 shillings and hence received no royalties for the song. It is a Zulu song created in Ladysmith in Zululand, which is now called Swaziland. All Zulu choral music was even labelled Mbube Music. Linda called it ‘a song for girls’ because of the high vocals required.

Musical instruments were forbidden for black workers in the townships as they might be used as weapons. Singing was their only way to express themselves musically, so that’s what they did. Township jive became a whole movement, nurturing famous exponents as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, known for their contribution on Paul Simon’s Graceland album. That whole evolution started with Linda’s Mbube.

Around 1948, the South African record company sent a copy to Decca Records in the US, hoping to get it distributed there. Folk singer Pete Seeger got a hold of it and started working on an English version. He thought they were saying Wimoweh on the original, and that’s what he wrote down and how it was recorded in English. They were actually saying Uyimbube, which means ‘you’re a Lion’.

Miriam Makeba recorded a version in the 50s, followed by the America folk group The Weavers which were led by Seeger. Their version was based on Makeba’s, but changed the title to Wimoweh after what Seeger said he had heard it as. In doing so, they added their collective pen name, Paul Campbell to the credits. Wimoweh is what the refrain sounded like to a non-native, but it has no meaning and is the English equivalent to shooby-dooby-doo’s.

In 1960 the American doo-wop group, The Tokens, auditioned for producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore at RCA Records and did so with Wimoweh. Hugo & Luigi liked the song but decided it needed new lyrics so, with George David Weiss, who had written songs for Elvis, they added a 16-word translation and copyrighted it as a new composition, The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The Tokens’ version topped the US chart for three weeks and made number 11 in the UK. British singer, Karl Denver, under the title, Wimoweh, made the top five in 1962 and Dave Newman, who decided to use both titles, had a minor hit in 1972.

Tight Fit were originally a group of session musicians, formed in 1981. Their first single, Back to the 60s was a medley of 60s hits and reached number four. The follow-up was another medley, the imaginatively titled, Back to the 60s – Part II but that missed the Top 30 altogether. For the next single, they needed a new image and so recruited Steve Grant, Julie Harris and Denise Gyngell. Denise had failed an audition for Bucks Fizz, but all three were good looking and were employed for that purpose. However, none of them sang on the records – the vocals on The Lion Sleeps Tonight were provided by former City Boy drummer Roy Ward.

In 1994 the song was featured in the award winning Disney film, The Lion King, for which Tim Rice and Elton John supplied the rest of the music. To complete its appearance in every decade, the Baha Men sampled Tight Fit’s version in their 2001 Top 20 hit You All Dat.

Solomon Linda died in poverty from kidney disease in 1962 at age 53. Fortunately a provision in a 1911 British imperial copyright law states that all rights to a song revert to the composer’s estate 25 years after their death. Under Apartheid, the rule was simple: Blacks are not allowed to have royalties but the Supreme Court in Pretoria appointed an executor to Linda’s estate and eventually more than 60 years after the song’s conception, Gallo Records finally agreed to make Linda’s only surviving daughter, who had been living in poverty in Johannesberg, part of the deal.

In 2004 Disney found themselves being sued for £900,000 for using the song in both the film and the stage show versions of The Lion King without permission. “We intend going after anyone who is using the song. We started with Disney because they are the most active of the users,” said Owen Dean, the South African lawyer leading the action, after a press conference in Johannesburg.

In 2008 Denise Gyngell and Julie Harris reformed Tight Fit with new male member Silvio Gigante as a touring band and called their show Back to the Eighties performing many well-known songs from the 1980s as well as their own hits.

Please follow and like us:

Right Back Where We Started From (Maxine Nightingale)

right back where we started from - thumb

In this day and age there are reality television shows to find stars for the London stage, but up until a few years ago it was the other way round where many singers cut their teeth on the stage before finding themselves in the chart, Paul Nicholas, Michael Ball, Marsha Hunt and Maxine Nightingale are just some of the names, with both the latter two starring in the stage production of Hair.

Maxine Nightingale was born in November 1952, in Wembley and when she was 16 years old she began singing in her school band. Enjoying the spotlight so much, she swiftly made the transition to singing in a more professional capacity, appearing in a handful of local clubs and quickly coming to the attention of Pye Records which she signed with and recorded a handful of singles, including Do Not Push Me Baby and the 1971 track Love on Borrowed Time. When neither song became a commercial successful she turned her attention to the West End.

As well as Hair, Maxine spent the early 70s exploring her vocal development through roles in the era’s hottest musical stage shows, including Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, and the well-received London play Savages. She was spotted by the songwriter/production team of J. Vincent Edwards and Pierre Tubbs. In early 1975 they were writing a song called Fool (not to be confused with the Elvis Presley song of two years earlier) for a new signing called Al Matthews and were looking for a backing singer and so enlisted the help of Ms Nightingale.

Vincent’s first burst of fame came as one of the original cast members of the London production of Hair singing and recording the hit song Aquarius. He played the part of Vince, which he performed almost 2.000 times at the Shaftesbury Theatre London. Tubbs had been a songwriter in the 60s and had success with the Pretty Things’ Come See Me.

Tubbs and Edwards wrote Right Back Where We Started From in about seven minutes while driving to the hospital where Tubbs’ wife was about to give birth. The song heavily reflects Edwards’ admiration for the Motown songwriting team of Holland–Dozier–Holland. A rough demo featuring Edwards’ vocal was cut the next day and it was Edwards who approached Nightingale with an offer for her to record the song.

Nightingale initially refused but was eventually persuaded by Edwards on the understanding it be released under a pseudonym. Edwards also had to convince her to accept a royalty payment rather than a one-time session fee equivalent to $45. Right Back Where We Started From was eventually released under her real name and she was also awarded a more substantial royalty than she’d originally agreed to.

According to Edwards consideration was given to the song being recorded as a duet between him and Nightingale, but this possibility ended when Private Stock Records recruited Edwards to record a remake of the song The Worst That Could Happen. Nightingale herself had opined to Rolling Stone magazine that Edwards’ vocal on the demo was pretty horrendous. He stuck to writing and has since written for other movie scores including Down and out in Beverly Hills, The World is Full of Married Men, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?, and the Disney Movie Cleopatra.

The track was laid down at Central Sound Studio in Camden. The musicians on the track were two former members of the Electric Light Orchestra, Mike de Albuquerque on bass and Wilf Gibson on violin, Ex Status Quo member Pete Kircher played drums and the keyboardist was Dave Rowberry of the Animals. Additionally Tubbs played guitar and Edwards provided some percussion. Nightingale said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, “I disliked Tubbs’ utilisation of both a crashing keyboard arrangement and heavy handclaps and I also wasn’t comfortable singing in a higher key than I was accustomed to.”

Mike de Albuquerque recalled: “We were doing one of those demo sessions where everybody goes and sits down with music in front of you and you try and get through as many tunes as possible. I remember Pierre Tubbs saying, listen guys, ‘I want to record it in its entirety, the four pieces in this three hour session’ and we recorded two pieces with Maxine and two with somebody else.

Although Tubbs and Edwards are credited as the sole writers, the intro bears more than a passing resemblance to the 1974 northern soul track Goodbye Nothin’ To Say by The Javells featuring Nosmo King. It seems that no action was taken by Nosmo – alias writer Stephen Jameson and John Doctors.

Later that same year she was paired with Jimmy Ruffin for the beautiful duet Turn to Me. The song failed to make the UK or US singles chart but did gave her her first US R&B Top 20 debut. In 1977 her follow up UK hit was Love Hit Me which was written and originally recorded by Edwards and just fell short of the top ten. In 1989 Sinitta recorded a version of Right Back Where We Started From and took the song to number four in the UK – four places higher than the original.

Edwards is still in great demand for TV shows throughout Europe and also performed last year at the Café Royal in London with his good friend and songwriter Jimmy Webb. Vincent is also host of the American TV show Buskers which was filmed in New York. He is currently in Chicago recording with the Bluesman singer Boogie Bob.

Maxine continues to perform live but her focus shifted in the 1980s and 1990s from disco and pop to sultry laidback jazz. But as her real fans continue to catch her live shows she always includes the old favourites.

Please follow and like us:

Beyond The Sea (Bobby Darin)

Beyond The Sea - Thumb

Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and George and Ira Gershwin’s are some of the biggest and most successful names in songwriting history, but there are stacks more, almost unknown names, who wrote equally as popular, everlasting and memorable songs. Jack Lawrence is one such name.

Among his penned credits you will find songs like Tenderely (Nat King Cole), Hold My Hand (UK number one for Don Cornell), No One But You (Billy Eckstein), Yes My Darling Daughter (Eydie Gorme) and La Mer (Beyond The Sea) (Bobby Darin).

The original title, La Mer (which means ‘The sea’), with its French lyric was written by Charles Trenet on a train with musician Léo Chauliac in 1943 while travelling along the French Mediterranean coast on his way back to Narbonne after holidaying in Paris. It is also said that he wrote it in 15 minutes on a piece of railway toilet paper. It was an evocative song about seaside resorts where he imagined white horses and heavenly angels coming out of the changing moods of the sea and then comments on what he sees in its reflection. It would be three years until Trenet actually recorded the song. Trenet explained in an interview that he was told that it was not swing enough to be a hit and for this reason it sat in a drawer for three years, but when he did it became an unexpected hit. It was made even more popular when it was used in the 1948 movie Every Girl Should Be Married which starred Cary Grant. The song wasn’t quite so imaginative when it was given an English lyric interpretation by Jack Lawrence, but none the less it earned Bobby Darin a gold disc.

Jack Lawrence was born Jacob Louis Schwartz in Brooklyn, New York on 7th April 1912 and grew up an orthodox Jew as the third of four sons. With practically no musical training he began writing songs at the age of eight. Due to parental pressure after he graduated he enrolled in the First Institute of Podiatry and matriculated with a doctorate in 1932, the same year that saw the publication of his first song Play Fiddle Play.

During World War II, Jack served in the Coast Guards and later, at his request, was transferred to the United States merchant marine. After the war, he went to Hollywood, where he began writing songs for a number of movies.

In 1947 he wrote a song called Linda which was notably recorded by Ray Noble and his Orchestra and went to number one in America. The Linda in question was his lawyer’s daughter Linda Eastman who later became Mrs Paul McCartney. Alongside Sammy Fain, Lawrence wrote Once Upon a Dream as performed in Disney’s 1959 film Sleeping Beauty and although uncredited, he said that he collaborated with Frank Churchill to write Never Smile at a Crocodile and with Victor Young and Oliver Wallace composed the title tune for 1953 film Peter Pan.

Jack wrote the English lyric to La Mer but originally without success. Michael Feinstein, a close friend of Lawrence’s said, “After the first lyric failed to impress, Jack wrote a new English lyric, it was more successful with an anthemic sort of lyric that matched the majesty of the tune. But when Bobby Darin found the song and swung it, it became an instant classic, and people only perform it a la Bobby Darin.” The new lyrics written in 1948 bore no relation to the original ones but by adding the word ‘Beyond’ it turned the meaning of the song into a story about a lover pining for their lost love. Benny Goodman recorded a version in 1948 and Roger Williams charted in the USA in 1955.

Other notable versions among the 4000 that have been recorded are George Benson in 1985 who briefly graced the lower end of the UK chart and Robbie Williams included it on his 2001 album Swing When You’re Winning and it was his version that was used over the closing credits of the 2003 movie Finding Nemo. In 2005 it was used in a French TV commercial for Carnival Cruises. additionally Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz sang it in the film A Life Less Ordinary, Kevin Spacey sang it in the wonderful Bobby Darin biopic in 2004 and Moby did a techo remix which featured on the soundtrack to the 2007 video game Bioshock.

Lawrence was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 1975. In the 80’s, he was actively engaged as a Broadway producer and the owner of two theatres in the Broadway district which were named the Jack Lawrence and the Audrey Wood. He was co-producer of off-Broadway’s long running success, Other People’s Money and on Broadway with Lena Horne, The Lady and Her Music. Lawrence. He had worked with Quincy Jones in the 60s on the film The Pawnbroker and was writing new songs for him at the time of his death in 2009 at the age of 96. Bobby Darin died in 1973 after failing to take his medication for a weak heart before attending a dental appointment and Charles Trenet died in 2001 after suffering complications following a stroke.

Please follow and like us: