Single of the week

Morning Dew (Bonnie Dobson)

Bonnie 2 - Thumb

There are probably not too many songs that have been covered hundreds of times yet not one version ever made the UK chart. But a lot of the artists who’ve covered it probably won’t actually know who wrote it. How come? Read on.

Morning Dew is an anti-war song, that was inspired by Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film On The Beach which starred Anthony Perkins, Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire, and told the chilling story about survivors of a nuclear holocaust and then tried to make their way to Australia. The songs writer Bonnie Dobson was so deeply moved after seeing it that she decided to write this song as a response. She recalled, “I wrote Morning Dew during my second or third engagement at the Ash Grove (the famous LA folk club) in 1961. When I’d go to Los Angeles, I’d usually stay with a friend, and it was in her apartment that I wrote the song. I can’t give you the specific dates, but I do remember the circumstances. There had been a gathering of friends and towards the end of the evening a discussion had ensued about the possibilities and the outcome of a nuclear war. It was all very depressing and upsetting. The following day I sat down and started putting together the song. I had never written or even attempted to write a song before. It took the form of a conversation between the last man and woman – post-apocalypse – one trying to comfort the other while knowing there’s absolutely nothing left.”

Bonnie, who has a haunting voice that is a cross between Joni Mitchell and Julianna Regan from All About Eve, first released her version on a live album recorded in Gerde’s Folk City, New York, and called Hootenanny With Bonnie Dobson. The song was originally published as Take Me For A Walk and before long cover versions started to appear. The song had the same sentiments as another song from the mid 60s called Come Away Melinda and originally recorded by Harry Belafonte although Barry St. John’s minor charting version from 1965 is quite chilling to listen to.

Dobson was born in Toronto, Canada in 1940 and moved to England in 1969 where she still lives. The first cover version of the song came in 1964. Bonnie, in a 1993 interview explained how it happened, “In 1964 I was contacted by Jac Holzman of Elektra Records, who told me that Fred Neil wanted to record Morning Dew and that as I’d not published it, would I like to do so with his company, Nina music. I signed a contract and Neil recorded the song. His is the original cover, on Tear Down the Walls by Vince Martin and Fred Neil. His singing of it differed from mine in that he altered the lyric slightly, changing ‘take me for a walk in the morning dew’ to ‘Walk me out in the morning dew.’ He was also the first person to rock it.”

More covers followed in 1967 by Human Beans (with Dave Edmunds), Episode Six, Grateful Dead and Tim Rose. From Tim’s version onwards you will notice he has credited himself as co-writer. Bonnie continued, “In 1967 while I was living in Toronto, I had a call from Manny Greenhill, my agent, saying that Tim Rose wanted to record Morning Dew, but he wanted to change the lyric. I duly signed a new contract and Rose was written in as co-lyricist on the basis of his new lyric. Unfortunately, it wasn’t till after the signing that I heard his ‘changed’ version. You can imagine that I was somewhat dismayed to discover that his new lyric was precisely the one that Fred Neil had recorded in 1964. So if anyone is entitled to be co-lyricist, it is Neil and not Rose. You may be wondering why I signed the contract in the first place – some mistakes are only made once, and I guess I was pretty naïve.”

In 1968 another version was released that made the US singles chart, but Bonnie again remembered the disappointment and eventual bitterness that accompanied it, “When Lulu released her version a full-page ad was placed in Billboard referring to it as ‘Tim Rose’s Great Hit’ – no mention of me at all. From that time till now -particularly here in England – people still don’t believe that I had anything to do with the writing of Morning Dew.” Because of a loophole in US copyright law, Rose was able to claim royalties. “Even Nazareth’s single from 1981 had only him listed as the composer. It has caused me a lot of aggravation and unhappiness. The worst part was when I came to England in 1969 and I gave my debut concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall everybody had thought that Tim Rose had written that song because he had never ever given me any credit at any time for anything to do with that song. I’ve written songs with other people and I have never claimed them for my own. I just think it was really a dreadfully dishonest thing to do. Even though I have and still do receive substantial royalties (75 percent as opposed to his 25 percent), it doesn’t make up for the man’s behaviour.”

In the 1980 Bonnie stopped performing live for a while but in 1989 gave a concert for the Canadian Club of Chicago in the ballroom of the Drake Hotel. She recalled, “It was really a very nice evening, just me and my guitar. At that point I just thought ‘No, I think this is it’. There were a lot of things that happened, my marriage broke up and I just didn’t feel much like singing for a couple of years after that and then I sort of got back into it yet again.”

Rose died in 2002 from bowel cancer and after that Dobson was advised to contact ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) to have the royalty situation corrected but she decided it was too much hassle as she would now have to fight his estate.

Many versions continue to be recorded which will obviously keep the money coming in. In the 80s Long John Baldry  and Blackfoot did it, in the 90s Devo and the Screaming Trees tackled it and in the 21st century Mungo Jerry and Theaudience gave it a good shot. Robert Plant did a moving rendition at the 2002 Isle Of Wight Festival and in 2011, ex-Smokie singer Chris Norman placed a version on his cover version album Time Traveller which also included Chasing Cars, Back For Good and Wake Me Up When September Ends.

Ten years after Rose’s death Dobson is not bitter. She is happily married to an architect and has two children. She still performs occasionally for the BBC and undertakes the occasional concert in Europe. When asked if she has any regrets in her life, she thought of just one, “I always liked the Grateful Dead’s version of Morning Dew and my one regret is that when they first appeared in Toronto at the O’Keefe Centre in 1968 they didn’t sing Morning Dew in the concert that I attended. I also regret that I was too shy to go backstage and meet them. I make that two regrets then!

Please follow and like us:

Lawnchairs (Our Daughter’s Wedding)

lawn chair - thumb

Our Daughter’s Wedding began as a guitar band, split up, reformed as an electro band, the press classed them as New Wave but they considered themselves as a rock band, so perhaps it’s not surprising they weren’t around long!

Member Layne Rico explained their beginnings, “We also started off as friends in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1977 we had a band that was similar to the Cars, a rock-style guitar band, we had no synthesizers at the time, but finally we incorporated a couple of keyboard players – Scott Simon and someone else. Then we got tired of that guitar-drum line up, so we all moved to New York, I traded my drum kit for the new percussion synthesizers, and Keith Silva, the lead vocalist, dropped his guitars and learned to play keyboards. We thought that would be more interesting, because most of the music we were listening to at the time was more or less electronic, European things that American bands weren’t playing.”

Most of the New Wave / electro acts of the day, like Depeche Mode, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Gary Numan and Ultravox were English, so for an American band to fit in was always going to be fairly tough although the whole thing was inspired by a Germany group – Kraftwerk.

On their own Design record label, Our Daughter’s Wedding, who took their name from the section divider in a greeting card display stand, made their debut in the summer of 1980 with a track called Nightlife which was a three-song single. In November they released they’re second single, Lawnchairs, which quickly gained attention on college radio and in the dance clubs in major US cities. Silva recalled, “We started playing at the Hurrah club as supporting act to James Chance and Mi-Sex. At that time people did not like us and shouted ‘where the fuck are the drums, why don’t you use any guitars’ and that kind of crap. But after a few years it became a fad, so it came as a surprise to us that it all of a sudden was okay to use synths.”

This led to a recording contract with EMI records with their songs being released on the EMI-America subsidiary including a re-recorded version of Lawnchairs. It was promotion manager Malcolm Hill at EMI who gave them a slot supporting Classix Nouveaux on tour which brought them to the UK and in-turn led them to record their debut album, Moving Windows in London.

Lawnchairs only just made it into the Top 50 in the UK singles despite much play on Radio 1 and London’s local station Capital Radio. The label wasn’t entirely clear as to whether the group or the song was called Our Daughter’s Wedding and indeed on one occasion Radio 1’s lunchtime presenter Paul Burnett back-announced the song as Our Daughter’s Wedding by Lawnchairs. Mind you, given Paul’s record I’m surprised more B sides didn’t chart in their own right.

Lawnchairs missed the Billboard chart completely although it did reach number 31 on their disco chart. They relocated to California where they still remain today and continued to release singles, Digital Cowboy and Target For Life later in 1981 and Auto Music and Elevate Her in 1982 but they all failed to make any impact and that debut album also didn’t trouble the record buying public. When the album stiffed Silva commented, “Sometimes it feels pointless recording albums. It feels like you’re only doing it for your own pleasure.”

In a Melody Maker interview in 1981, Layne explained drolly, “We were watching a TV show, and it showed this cassette thing you can get now on your tombstone, so before you die you can record something like, ‘Hi! I’m glad you dropped by’,” “It’s cold down here,” adds Keith with impeccable bad taste. Layne continued: “So if people come along and think ‘well let’s hear what Layne had to say’, you can pop in the cassette and it just has Lawnchairs on it.” “Yeah,” Keith adds. “We were thinking that one our tombstones we’d just put Lawnchairs.”

In 1983, Silva remembered, “Here at home we are greeted as something completely new and different while this thing has already been exposed and established in Europe. There, they have a hard time understanding that we are actually from the United States. It does not cling to their associations about American rock. In the USA we are greeted more like a rock band, like any rock band actually. In Europe we are immediately directed to the same genre as the Human League, Depeche Mode and OMD. But we don’t think we have too much in common with these bands. These are good bands, I can’t take that away from them, but we are not doing the same kind of thing. We are more like a rock band using synthesizers and rhythm machines. Our main influences come from The Rolling Stones, and even from Van Halen.”

They started 1984 touring the US with the Psychedelic Furs and releasing one further single, Take Me, but decided that enough was enough and finally split up for good.

Please follow and like us:

Doot Doot (Freur)

Doot Doot - thumb

A group shrouded in mystery, even a glance at the back of the 7″ single sleeve looks like the shot was taken underwater to obscure the band. So who were they? Well all will become clear…..

In 1983 a review in Record Mirror described the sound as The Buggles meets Landscape at an OMD gig where Thomas Dolby turned up too. They began in 1979 as The Screen Gemz in their home town of Splott in south Cardiff. The following year, following no success, they changed direction and their name.

Moving into the electronica era they decided that a new name was needed. So they came up with a daft looking zig-zag, snail-like symbol  which looked like this   long before it crossed Prince’s mind. The line up now consisted of Karl Hyde (vocals & guitar), Rick Smith (keyboards), Alfie Thomas (keyboards), John Warwicker (also keyboards) and the recently recruited ex-Fabulous Poodles drummer Bryn Burrows.

So why the symbol? The group’s founder Karl Hyde explained, “Because we were fed up with the names that were going around – a lot of them had very political leanings or sounded heavy and pretentious and we just wanted a foot in the door with the record companies. We wanted them to look at our tape amongst the mould of others. The name was the ‘in’. It actually came first but then we thought, oh you can’t really spell that, you’ve got to have a pictograph. It was just a toy, something to brighten up our little existences. “They stuck with Freur which was pronounced Frrrreurrgh.

By their own admission, they didn’t have a lot to say so left the music to say it for them. Doot Doot was their only UK hit which petered out at number 59 in the April 1983. The song’s opens with:, ‘What’s in a name? Face on a stage, where are you now? Memory fades, you take a bow. Here in the dark watching the screen, look at them fall, the final scene and we go doot doot doot. Hmmm- you see what they mean! Maybe it was their sound rather than their lyrics. So how would one describe their sound? Karl again tried to explain, “That’s a tough one! We sounded totally different from our demos. We had so many influences because one minute we’re thinking reggae and then we’ll hear something in a film and have an idea for an atmosphere then we’ll have a heavy metal thought and out a bit of that in too. We had worked with reggae giants Dennis Bovell and Conny Plank, but our ultimate hero band is Motorhead.

The band decided not to release any information about themselves at the time which seemed to backfire because the music press wrote pointless things like ‘they have these instruments called Pole and The Suit’ which as Alfie said, “became the main feature and it seemed like we were trying to make a statement. There were umpteen others too like The Tortoise and The Handbag, but they were just toys there to make playing live a bit more exciting.”

They had the very New Romantic look complete with multi-coloured trousers, tops and socks with masses of frizzy or crimped hair. “We liked the plastic look as it appealed to our sick sense of humour”, Karl added, “It was all made for us by Tracy of Lizard Life in Cardiff.”  The parent album of the same name failed to make any impact although one track, Theme from the Film of the Same Name features Pino Palladino on fretless bass who was a member of Paul Young’s band and also Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend’s first choice to replace John Entwistle in The Who.

Five further singles, Matters of the Heart, Runaway, Riders in the Night, The Devil and Darkness and Look in the Back for Answers all failed to chart and it was a further three years until the next album arrived, but was only released in Germany and the Netherlands, but following its relative failure, they called it a day.

Warwicker is now a video artist in the graphic design collective Tomato based in east London whilst the other four members signed to Sire records under the new name Underworld. They had minimal success although one of their tracks, Underneath the Radar in 1988 made the top 5 in Australia. In 1990 they split up only to reform the following year under the same name with Thomas and Burrows being replaced by Darren Emerson and this time with much more success. In 1995 they recorded Born Slippy, the name of a greyhound, ‘for a joke’ but that only made number 52 in the chart. The following year it was remixed and given and a pounding rhythm as well as the repeating chorus of lager, lager, lager. It was picked up for the movie Trainspotting and eventually gave them the success was wanted when it reached number two in the UK chart.

Please follow and like us:

Prime Time (Tubes)

tubes - thumb   The-Tubes-Prime-Time---Whit-418130 - thumb

At least six years before Frankie goes To Hollywood’s hit Relax with its simulated sex video, The Tubes did it bigger, better and live on stage.

In 1977 they achieved the almost unique feat of selling out a whole week at Hammersmith Odeon without even having a hit single. That was probably in part attributed to their highly risque stage show which, apart from simulated sex, exploding televisions, mock bondage habits, semi nude dancers, a chainsaw and a lead singer on stilts standing 12 foot high.

They began as a bunch of school friends in two different areas of Arizona. They were in two different bands called The Beans and The Red, White & Blues band who in 1969 relocated to San Francisco and merged to become the Tubes. The line up consisted of lead singer Fee Waybee (b: John Waybill), guitarist Bill Spooner, another guitarist Roger Steen, Michael Cotten on synthesizer, Rick Anderson on bass, Vince Welnick on piano and Praire Prince (b: Charles Prince) on drums.

They released their eponymous first album in 1975 which was produced by Al Kooper and contained the song White Punks on Dope which eventually charted in the UK in 1977. It failed to make the Billboard Hot 100 album chart, but the 1976 follow-up Young and Rich made number 46. Their 1978 release What Do You Want From Live became their first UK hit album. This was followed by the 1979 album Remote Control which contained the melodic Prime Time. It was produced by the Todd Rundgren and was a concept album about a television-addicted idiot savant which was based on the Jerzy Kosinski book Being There.

The cover of the album showed a baby sitting in a carry chair watching Celebrity Squares (or Hollywood Squares as it was originally called in the US) on a novelty television set. The Celebrity Squares image was replicated for the Prime Time single which also came in yellow, blue, green, red, white, black and multicoloured vinyl. In the 1970s, Waybill, Spooner and Steen actually were invited to appear on the show.

Around the time Prime Time was released, the band had just finished headlining with Frank Zappa and Peter Gabriel at the Knebworth Festival of 1978. They had also performed in the Cher Special, a TV musical and comedy revue and  in another show which included Cher, Dolly Parton, and Rod Stewart, The Tubes were in the part where the forces of good and evil were battling for Cher’s soul. Dolly Parton appeared as an angel with a backing choir who tried to steer Cher to Heaven.

After the Tubes split, Fee moved to L.A to start an acting career, but hated it, he said, “To the film industry, you’re just a piece of meat.” He had a small part in the 1989 film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure playing one of ‘The Three Most Important People In The World’ alongside Martha Davis and the E-Street Band’s Clarence Clemons. Later the same year, he became a staff writer for Warner Chappell and was teamed with the then-unknown Richard Marx where together they wrote Edge Of A Broken Heart for the all-girl group Vixen as well as Marx’s own early singles. Spooner now teaches song writing at the San Francisco Blue Bear School Of Music. Prince and Cotten both run an art business and have worked with Bonnie Raitt and Gloria Estefan. Steen continued as lead singer with the Tubes and is still out touring and releasing pretty much an album a year with their latest being 2009s Mondo Birthmark.

Please follow and like us:

New Year’s Day (U2)

u2 - Thumb

As part of one of the questions in last week’s on-line quiz, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s Souvenir was a taped loop of a choir rehearsing, U2’s intro to New Year’s Day also came about by accident when bass player Adam Clayton was trying to figure out the chord structure of Visage’s hit Fade To Grey.

They began in 1976 as Feedback after drummer Larry Mullen Jnr posted a note on a school notice board for musicians wanted to form a new band. Only six people replied. They were originally a seven piece band which included The Edge’s brother Dik, but the following year, and a name change to The Hype and then U2, they were whittled down to the quartet we now know.

In 1978 they won a talent show in Limerick and the prize was £500 and an hour’s studio time to record a demo. They recorded two songs, one of which was a cover of Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit Baker Street. It was enough to get them a Deal with Island records in Ireland in March 1980. Their first single, 11 O’clock Tick Tock was released but received little response.

Fire, Gloria and A Celebration were all UK hits but failed to make the top 30. It took until January 1983 for them to attain their first UK top 10 hit – New Year’s Day. After Adam had come up with the initial tune, The Edge developed it on the piano, they had nearly completed the music but Bono still hadn’t come up with any lyrics. He finally got round to it and was initially a love song from Bono to his new wife Ali, but with the emergence of the Solidarity movement in Poland from 1980 this seemed to be more appropriate. Adam recalled, “It was an unsettled time because you looked around and there were conflicts everywhere. We saw a lot of unrest on TV and in the media so we focused on these but turning some of those themes into song was another matter altogether.”

Eventually Bono began to make up lyrics on the spot, Adam remembered, “He’d sing and whatever came out would be the starting point.” The late Kirsty MacColl’s ex-husband, Steve Lillywhite, was the producer and he recalled, “Bono had a set of images in his head that he felt would fit the mood of the piece, doing different versions and refining them as he went along. Everyone was under strain, there were arguments about the vocals and at one stage the track was in danger of being left off the album. In the pressure to get the record finished, some of the lyrical seams were left showing.” Nevertheless, the song zoomed into the top ten and was their first of 33 songs to do so.

Solidarity became a proscribed organisation and its leader were arrested, among them Lech Walesa. “Subconsciously I must have been thinking about Lech Walesa”, suggested Bono, “Then when we’d recorded the song, they announced that marital law would be lifted in Poland, on New Year’s Day. credible!”

The video, which debuted on The Tube in 1982, was one of their first to receive heavy rotation on MTV. It was filmed in Sälen, Sweden and directed by Meiert Avis. The band only appeared in the performance scenes of the video as it was filmed in the harsh Swedish winter. The Edge revealed in the official U2 biography that the four people riding on horseback were in fact four Swedish teenage girls disguised as the members of U2 with masks over their faces. This was done because the band were completely frozen in sub-freezing temperatures the day before. Their biography states that Bono refused to wear any headgear despite the cold weather and had a lot of trouble mouthing the lyrics.

U2 allowed this song to be used free of charge in a spot prepared by the European Commission. The clip on YouTube shows a transformation of Poland in last 20 years mixed with short scenes from today’s Warsaw seen from a perspective of a 20-year-old woman.

Please follow and like us: