Today’s the birthday of multi-instrumentalist Mike Vickers, a musician who gave the gift of guitar, alto saxophone, and flute to the Manfred Mann sound during the band’s early years.
Born in 1940 in Southampton, Hampshire in England, Vickers came into the band in 1962, when it was still called Manfred Mann & the Manfreds (the name change reportedly came at the behest of producer John Burgess, doubtlessly because it was one Manfred too many), and stuck around until 1965. Although Vickers left before the band recorded their soon-to-be second #1 UK single, “Pretty Flamingo,” he was there for the first chart-topper – the unforgettable “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” which also topped the charts in the US – as well as several UK top-10 hits, including “5-4-3-2-1,” “Sha-La-La,” “Come Tomorrow,” and, somewhat ironically, “If You Gotta Go, Go Now.”
Vickers’ departure from the ranks of Manfred Mann was a decision predominantly made because of his ambitions to work on the orchestral side of music, and it paid off handsomely: the next time you watch the Beatles’ famous 1967 TV performance of “All You Need is Love,” take a gander at who’s conducting the orchestra. (Here’s a hint: his name rhymes with “Bike Knickers.”) Vickers has another Beatles connection as well, having arranged the strings for Cilla Black’s “Step Inside Love,” a Lennon & McCartney composition.
I JUST WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU
The Willie Dixon cover that got no love in the "sophisticated" New York market.
I learned about this track from my college buddy John Hughes, it was all over the radio in his hometown of Kansas City during the summer of '72. That's the way it used to be, music was local, before the Internet truly turned us into a global village.
I didn't know and I didn't care. Savoy Brown never flew on my radar, did I really need to pay attention to the remnants?
Then the band released three more albums, none of which gained much traction, despite the second, "Rock and Roll," featuring a brilliant literal cover photograph by Robert Downey (Senior, not Junior, you know, the man responsible for "Putney Swope"!)
Then, on their fifth LP, "Fool For The City," the band hit pay dirt.
TAKE IT EASY!
For anyone who didn’t discover ZZ Top until their exposure level jumped exponentially with the videos that accompanied the release of their 1983 album, Eliminator, today’s anniversary may be a bit surprising, but – hold onto your hats – it’s been 39 years since the band released the half-live, half-studio extravaganza known as Fandango!
Today would’ve been Don Kirshner’s 80th birthday, a fellow who was often called “The Man with the Golden Ear” for his ability to hear a hit, and while he could be as fallible as the next guy on that front, there’s a mountain of evidence available – or certainly a jukebox’s worth, anyway – to support the validity of his nickname.
Born in the Bronx in 1934, Kirshner’s career found him bouncing through different aspects of the music business, including management, production, and songwriting, even hosting his own TV series (Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert), but it was his work as a publisher that gained him the most fame over the years, thanks to the part he played in the so-called Brill Building scene. Granted, the company he founded with Al Nevins, Aldon Music, actually started out a block away and across the street from the building in question, but with songwriters like Neil Sedaka, Howard Greenfield, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamon, Paul Simon, Phil Spector, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Jack Keller all part of the mix at some point or other, there’s no question that Kirshner recognized talent.
Kirshner had a hand in a trio of record labels over the years (Chairman, Calendar, and Dimension) and also spent time as president of COLGEMS as well, but – to use that as a tie-in – here at Rhino, he’ll always be most fondly remembered for his part in the story of the Monkees, namely helping to provide the material that started them on the road to chart success.
This Saturday is Record Store Day, but it’s highly unlikely that this information is any sort of revelation to you, since we suspect that most folks who’d frequent a record label’s website are the same sort of folks who’d have circled the third Saturday of April on their calendar the day they bought their calendar. But, hey, just in case you’re one of the few who’ve been steered this way by a friend and have no clue what we’re on about, we’ll go ahead and offer a few paragraphs from the event’s official website – and, yes, it is www.recordstoreday.com – to fill you in:
Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1000 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally. There are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica.
This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities.
Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, DJs spinning records, and on and on.
It’s Dusty Springfield’s birthday today, which is certainly a cause for celebration, even if it’s also an occasion to be sad that she’s not here to share it with us.
Born in West Hempstead, London in 1939, Dusty started life quite some distance away from being a Springfield: her birth name was actually Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien. The new moniker came about several years down the line, when, after having spent some time as part of the Lana Sisters, she started a pop-folk trio with her brother, Tom O’Brien, and Tim Feild. After christening the group The Springfields, all three members adopted the band’s name as their surname, with Mary O’Brien giving herself a new first name as well and transforming into – you guessed it – Dusty Springfield.
The Springfields had quite a run in the early 1960s, being honored as the Top British Vocal Group by NME in both ’61 and ’62 and earning two top-five hits in the UK with “Island of Dreams” and “Say I Won’t Be There.” (Somewhere in there, Tim left and was replaced by Mike Hurst.) By the end of ’63, Dusty decided to leave the group in favor of pursuing a solo career. It proved to be a wise move for all parties concerned, since Mike became a successful producer, Tom wrote songs for the New Seekers, including “I’ll Never Find Another You,” “The Carnival is Over,” and “Georgy Girl,” and Dusty…well, she did all right for herself, too.