January 19, 2007 –Denny Doherty was born on November 29th 1940 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1960, aged 19, Doherty started his musical career in Halifax in 1956 with a band called the Hepsters. With friends Richard Sheehan, Eddie Thibodeau and Mike O’Connell, the Hepsters played at clubs in the Halifax area.
The band lasted about two years. Sheehan recalls that they drew crowds wherever they went due to Denny’s incredible voice. In 1960, at the age of 19, Doherty, along with Pat LaCroix and Richard Byrne, began a folk group called The Colonials in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When they got a record deal with Columbia Records, they changed their name to The Halifax Three. The band recorded two LPs and had a minor hit, “The Man Who Wouldn’t Sing Along With Mitch”, but broke up in 1963. Coincidentally, they separated at a hotel called “The Colonial” in Los Angeles.
In 1963, Doherty established a friendship with Cass Elliot when she was with a band called “The Big 3.” While on tour with “The Halifax III”, Doherty met John Phillips and his new wife, model Michelle Gilliam.
A few months later, The Halifax III dissolved, and Doherty and their accompanist, Zal Yanovsky, were left broke in Hollywood. Elliot heard of their troubles and convinced her manager to hire them. Thus, Doherty and Yanovsky joined the Big 3 (increasing the number of band members to four). Soon after adding even more band members, they changed their name to “The Mugwumps”. The Mugwumps soon broke up also due to insolvency. The Mamas & the Papas song “Creeque Alley” briefly outlines this history. Yanovsky went on to join The Lovin’ Spoonful with John Sebastian. Doherty then joined John Phillips’ new band, “The New Journeymen.”
“The New Journeymen,” needed a replacement for tenor Marshall Brickman. Brickman had left the folk trio to pursue a career in television writing, and the group needed a quick replacement for their remaining tour dates. Doherty, then unemployed, filled the opening. After the New Journeymen called it quits as a band in early 1965, Elliot was invited into the formation of a new band, which became “The Magic Cyrcle.” Six months later in September 1965, the group signed a recording contract with Dunhill Records. Changing their name to The Mamas & the Papas, the band soon began to record their debut album, “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears“. The group burst on the national scene in 1966 with the top 10 smash “California Dreamin’.” The Mamas and the Papas broke new ground by having women and men in one group at a time when most singing groups were unisex.
In late 1965 however, Doherty and Michelle Phillips started an affair. They were able to keep it secret during the early days of the band’s new-found success. When the affair was discovered, John and Michelle Phillips moved to their own residence (they had been sharing a house with Doherty), and the band continued recording together. Eventually the group signed a statement in June 1966 with their record label’s full support, firing Michelle from the band. She was quickly replaced by Jill Gibson, girlfriend of the band’s producer Lou Adler. Gibson’s stint as a “Mama” lasted two and a half months.
Due to fan demand, Michelle Phillips was allowed to rejoin the band in August 1966, while Gibson was given a lump sum for her efforts. The band completed their second album (titled simply, The Mamas and the Papas) by re-recording, replacing, or overlaying new vocal parts by Michelle Phillips over Jill Gibson’s studio vocals.
After a continuing string of hit singles, many television appearances (including a notable and critically well-received TV special featuring the music of Rodgers and Hart), a successful third studio album (The Mamas and the Papas Deliver in March 1967), and the groundbreaking sociological impact of the Monterey International Pop Festival (which had been organized by John Phillips and Lou Adler) in June 1967, an ill-fated trip to England in October 1967 fragmented the already damaged group dynamic. Cass Elliot quit, after a stinging insult from John Phillips, but returned to complete her parts for the group’s overdue fourth album The Papas and the Mamas, which was finally released in May 1968. By then, Michelle Phillips had given birth to Chynna Phillips (in February 1968) and a formal statement had been released, announcing the group’s demise.
“Monday, Monday” won the band a Grammy for best contemporary group performance. Cass Elliot left the band in 1968 for a solo career, which brought an end to this amazing band.
Cass Elliot and Doherty remained friends. After the band’s breakup, Elliot had a hit solo show. She eventually asked Doherty to marry her, but he declined. Doherty released a few solo LPs and singles. Of note are 1971’s Watcha Gonna Do? and 1974’s Waiting for a Song. The latter LP went unreleased in the U.S. and featured both Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot on background vocals. The recordings would be Elliot’s last, as she died a few months after the record was finished. Doherty was stunned and saddened to hear about her death in 1974 at age 32. He and John and Michelle Phillips of the group attended her funeral.
In 1982, Denny joined a reconstitution of the Mamas and the Papas consisting of John Phillips, his daughter Mackenzie Phillips and Elaine Spanky McFarlane, which toured and performed old standards and new tunes written by John Phillips.
In 1993, Doherty played the part of Harbour Master, as well as the voice-overs of the characters, in Theodore Tugboat, a CBC Television children’s show chronicling the “lives” of vessels in a busy harbour loosely based upon Halifax Harbour. This program is based an the villages & coves around were Denny was born; the big harbour itself is modeled after Halifax Harbour, in Nova Scotia, Canada.
In 1999, Doherty also played “Charley McGinnis” in 22 episodes of the CBC Television series Pit Pony.
In 2003, Doherty was co-author and performer in the well recieved Broadway show called “Dream a Little Dream: The Mamas and the Papas Musical,” which traced the band’s early years, its dizzying fame and breakup. It was well received and garnered favorable reviews. The show was in part a response to John’s PBS documentary Straight Shooter: The True Story of John Phillips and The Mamas and the Papas. It featured music from the group and focused on his relationship with Mama Cass. It was, he said, to “set the record straight”.
In 2004, Doherty appeared on Sharon, Lois & Bram’s 25th Anniversary Concert special titled “25 Years of Skinnamarink” that aired on CBC on January 1, 2004 at 7:00pm. He sang two songs with the trio: “California Dreamin'” and “Who Put the Bomp?”.
Doherty appeared in the Canadian TV series Trailer Park Boys, Season 7 Episode 10 (season finale) as FBI Special Agent Ryan Shockneck. Filming was completed just shortly before his death in early 2007. The episode ended with “This episode is dedicated to the memory of DENNY DOHERTY.”
Denny Doherty died on 19 January 2007 at his home in Mississauga, a city just west of Toronto, of kidney failure following surgery on a abdominal aneurysm. He was 66.
December 9, 2006 – Frederick John Freddie Marsden was born on October 21, 1940 in Liverpool England’s Dingle area. His brother, Gerry, followed two years later. Their father, Fred, was a railway clerk who entertained the neighbours by playing the ukulele. With the vogue for skiffle music in the mid-Fifties, he took the skin off one of his instruments, put it over a tin of Quality Street and said to Freddie, “There’s your first snare drum, son.”
In 1957 the brothers appeared in the show Dublin to Dingle at the Pavilion Theatre in Lodge Lane. Studies meant little to either of them – Freddie left school with one O-level and worked for a candlemaker earning £4 a week, and Gerry’s job was as a delivery boy for the railways. Their parents did not mind and encouraged their musical ambitions. On leaving Francis Xavier grammar school, Freddie bought a full kit from his earnings as a candle maker.
June 26, 2006 – Johnny Jenkins was born the son of a day laborer on March 5, 1939 east of Macon, Georgia in a rural area called Swift Creek. On the battery powered radio, he was drawn to hillbilly music and first heard the sounds of blues and classic R&B artists like Bill Doggett, Bullmoose Jackson, and others.
Jenkins built his first guitar out of a cigar box and rubber bands when he was nine, and began playing at a gas station for tips. He played it left-handed and upside down (like Hendrix), and this practice continued after his older sister bought him a real guitar a couple of years later. He left school in seventh grade to take care of his ailing mother and by 16 had turned to music full time.
He started out with a small blues band called the Pinetoppers that played the college circuit and first heard Redding at a talent show at a Macon theater. At one college event with the Pinetoppers, he met Walden, a white student at Macon’s Mercer University who was attracted to black rhythm-and-blues music. Besides working as Mr. Jenkins’s manager, Walden co-founded the legendary Southern rock label Capricorn Records, which produced Jenkins two albums “Ton-Ton Macoute!” and “Blessed Blues.”
November 5, 2005 –Link Wray (Frederic Lincoln) was born in Dunn, North Carolina on May 2nd, 1929. Link’s family was very poor. As Link has said, “Elvis came from welfare, I came from below welfare.” Link’s mom was Shawnee Indian sporting his interest in music when Link was 8. He was sitting on the porch trying to play guitar when an old black guitar player named HAMBONE walked by and taught him the sound of the blues. Link has said as soon as HAMBONE started playing bottleneck slide guitar, he was hooked. He knew what he wanted to do. At age 13, Link’s family moved to Portsmouth, Virginia.
Link’s first band was in the late 40’s with his brothers Vernon and Doug, playing Western Swing. As Link put it, “rock and roll before it was rock and roll.”
August 6, 2005 – Carlo Little aka Carl O’Neil Little was born on December 17, 1938 in Shepherd’s Bush, London and raised in Wembley, Middlesex where some of his townpeeps were Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and Charlie Watts. Apparently the town was a breeding ground for famous drummers.
In 1960 after coming out of the service, he met David Sutch and they formed The Savages with amongst others Nicky Hopkins who lived locally. Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages toured the UK and became known for their unique British rock and roll shows. The bulk of the band members, including Little, left in 1962 to join the Cyril Davies All Stars, and recorded a single “Country Line Special”, an instrumental track which influenced Keith Richards and Ray Davies in their guitar playing. He also played a few gigs with the young Rolling Stones and was asked by Brian Jones to join permanently before they hired Charlie Watts as their official drummer in January 1963. In 1998, during the Stones’ European tour, he was invited as an official guest backstage at one of their Paris concerts.
July 21, 2005 – Long John Baldry was born on January 12th 1941 in London*, England. (*Conflicting evidence exists about Baldry’s birthplace. Some say he was born in the village of Haddon. VH1’s profile of Baldry states he was born in the village of East Maddon, while Allmusic.com states he was born in London. The documentary Long John Baldry: In the Shadow of the Blues states that his mother escaped London during The Blitz to give birth in Northampton, making East Haddon his most likely birthplace.)
Long John begun his career playing folk and jazz in the late 50s, he toured with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott before moving into R&B.
July 6, 2005 – Dennis D’Ell (the Honeycombs)was born Denis James Dalziel on October 14, 1943 in Whitecapel, London, England. His father was the son of a lorry driver, in Stepney, east London and Dennis trained as a signalman for British Railways. He was also a plumber before joining the Sheratons which became later the Honeycombs.
Encouraged by his railroad co-workers he entered and won a talent contest in 1963. A number of news articles imply that the talent contest led directly to Denis joining the Honeycombs, however it was a chance conversation between Martin Murray and a mutual friend which led to them hooking up.
Martin Murray and Alan Ward on guitars, John Lantree on bass, and his sister Anne Lantree on drums had a local semi-pro band called the Sheratons. Shortly afterwards the band auditioned with maverick producer Joe Meek, agreed on a management deal with new songwriters Howard and Blaikley, signed to Pye records, and changed their name to The Honeycombs. As Anne’s nickname was “Honey” and she and Murray were hairdressers (that is, combers), they became “the Honeycombs”, as suggested by Louis Benjamin (1922–1994), Pye’s later chairman, a pun on the drummer’s name and her job as a hairdresser’s assistant.
BBC employees and budding songwriters Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley recorded some demonstration records of their songs, including “Have I the Right?” with the Honeycombs.
Joe Meek offered to record them but went into a tantrum when they arrived late to meet him due to London traffic. Howard and Blaikley won him round and “Have I the Right?” was recorded in three parts – the backing musicians, the vocals and then the stomping on the stairs. While they were jumping up and down, the cleaning lady called and told them to hurry up.
Conspicuous in “Have I the Right?” is the prominence of the drums, whose effect was enhanced by members of the group stamping their feet on the wooden stairs to the studio. Meek recorded the effect with five microphones he had fixed to the banisters with bicycle clips. For the finishing touch someone beat a tambourine directly onto a microphone. The recording was also somewhat sped up.
Leased to Pye Records, “Have I the Right?” was promoted by the pirate station Radio Caroline and the publicity surrounding a group with a girl drummer was enormous. The sales started slowly, but by the end of July the record started to climb in the UK Singles Chart. Honey Lantree’s status as a female drummer in a top band wasn’t just a visual novelty, she genuinely could play drums. At the end of August the record reached No. 1. “Have I the Right?” was also a big success outside the UK, hitting No. 1 in Australia and Canada, No. 3 in Ireland, No. 5 in the US and No. 2 in the Netherlands. Overall sales of the record reached a million.
The group toured Europe, The Far East, Japan and Australia soon after the song had become a hit. They went on tour to the Far East and Australia, and were not able to promote their later records at home. The tour gained them a long-lasting popularity in Japan, however. Especially for the Japanese market the group produced a live album and a single, “Love in Tokyo”. The group also made a lasting impression in Sweden, where they scored two No. 1 singles.
The Honeycombs had further success with “Is It Because?” and made the album It’s the Honeycombs (1964), but D’Ell was uncomfortable with Meek’s speeded-up trickery and criticized him in an interview with New Musical Express. Meek then recorded the Ray Davies song “Something Better Beginning” at standard speed, admittedly with some distortion, but the record only nudged into the Top Forty. When Meek resorted to his regular activities, the Honeycombs had another Top Twenty hit, with “That’s the Way”, and made the album All Systems Go!
In August 1965 the group released, “That’s the Way”, with Honey Lantree sharing vocals with D’Ell (when on tour, Viv Prince of The Pretty Things took over the drumming). This record became their fourth British hit and reached No. 12. Its successor, “This Year Next Year”, again with Lantree and D’Ell sharing vocals, did not reach the UK chart. The group floundered after Meek’s suicide in 1967. They split up and did not reform until 1994.
D’Ell sang and played harmonica on all but the last single the group recorded. “Who Is Sylvia?” was an adaptation of Franz Schubert’s song “An Sylvia”. “It’s So Hard” was also recorded by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich as “Hard to Love You”.
In April 1966 Denis D’Ell, Alan Ward and Peter Pye left the group. D’Ell became a solo singer, usually of soul songs, and his “Better Use Your Head” (1967) became a 1970s favorite on the Northern Soul circuit.
In the early seventies Denis formed a band with Rod Butler called Zarabanda and also fronted the Don Harvey band.
• In 1975 he won a controversial victory in a national talent show.
• In April 1976 he released Home Is Home / Morning Without You
• In the 1980s he was with The Southside Blues Band.
• In 1983 he appeared in an episode of The Time Of Your Life
• In 1994 the MKII version of The Honeycombs reformed for a 30th anniversary gig, and around that time they recorded a cover of “Live And Let Die” for a compilation album Cult Themes from the 70s Volume 2 on Future Legend Records.
• During the nineties and into the new millennium he was with a duo called “The Shuffle Brothers” with Tommy Dunn (who also played with blues band National Gold) and sometimes Andy Robinson Andy Robinson Band who would depp for Tommy.
Andy Robinson, who played with him in later years said “Working with Dennis was a real pleasure and great learning curve. We used to play a pub in Southend on Sea called the “Minerva” on a Sunday, playing sometimes from midday to midnight and I don’t ever think he repeated a song once. His knowledge was enormous as was his talent and sound.
The last time I saw him was at a fundraising gig in Saffron Walden football club, his appearance was heartbreaking, he died soon after.”
On July 6, 2005 he lost his battle with cancer at the age of 61.
What is not so well known is that Denis did not particularly like the music that made him famous. He was critical of Joe Meek’s recording techniques. He said “There was always contention between us and Joe that he never recorded the band the way we sounded. He was fond of speeding us up so that I ended up sounding like Mickey Mouse. He liked to compress everything and put on so much echo ─ we ended up like the Tornados with a singer.”
In an August 1964 NME article, he gives his favourite singers as Elvis, Roy Orbison, and Brook Benton and favourite artists/instrumetalists as Ray Coniff, Floyd Cramer, Chet Atkins, and Bill Black.
In the summer of 1964 Denis saw a band called ‘Dave Dee and the Bostons’ and liked them. He got them a slot supporting The Honeycombs and showed them to managers Howard and Blaikley who took the band on, changing the name to ‘Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Titch’. The deal between The Honeycombs and Howard and Blaikley required that the Honeycombs got first refusal of all new songs written by the pair. If they turned a song down then it would go to Dave Dee.
After Martin Murray left The Honeycombs the mantle of band leader naturally fell to D’Ell. Since Denis preferred blues to pop he turned down a lot of songs. In fact The Honeycombs second album only has three Howard and Blaikley numbers on it compared to the first which only had three songs NOT penned by the pair. Naturally those songs were offered to Dave Dee. So songs like ‘All I Want’, ‘No Time’, ‘You Make It Move’, 1965; and (among many others) ‘Bend It’ 1966 might have been Honeycombs songs.
Music must have been in Dennis’s blood since not only did he remain in the music business through thick and thin until his untimely death in 2005, but also his brother Laurie still plays bass to this day in various bands, including Medicine Hat.
January 29, 2005 – Eric Griffiths was born on October 31, 1940. Griffith, John Lennon, Pete Shotton and Rod Davis, were all at Quarry Bank High School together and shared an interest in American music. Eric and John attended some guitar lessons but found it too slow to learn and dropped the lessons when Lennon’s mother taught them to play easier banjo chords.
Lennon formed The Quarry Men with Eric, Shotton and Davis. Paul McCartney joined The Quarry Men as lead guitarist but the band decided that neither McCartney nor Eric were suitable as lead guitarist. When George Harrison joined the band they suggested that Eric buy an electric bass and an amplifier but he could not afford this and he was not invited to McCartney’s house for the next rehearsal and when Eric phoned them during the practice session, John told him he was sacked.
April 10, 2003 – Little Eva Narcissus Boyd was born on June 29th 1943 in Belhaven, North Carolina, and moved to the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York at a young age. She worked as a maid and earned extra money as a babysitter for songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
It is often claimed that Goffin and King were amused by Boyd’s particular dancing style, so they wrote “The Loco-Motion” for her and had her record it as a demo (the record was intended for Dee Dee Sharp).
However, as King said in an interview with NPR and in her “One to One” concert video, they knew she could sing when they met her, and it would be just a matter of time before they would have her record songs they wrote, the most successful being “The Loco-Motion”.
July 21, 2002 – Angus Boyd “Gus” Dudgeon was born on September 30th 1942 in Surrey, England, the bucolic county just south of London where he would return to live in the 1970s.
His career began when he worked as a teaboy (now more commonly known as a ‘gofer’) at Olympic Studios — one of the premiere recording facilities in London. Within a short time, Gus advanced to a position of sound engineer and moved on to Decca Records’ studios at West Hampstead. There he got to work on sessions with artists signed to the record label, or hoping to be. His role on these dates would be to lay cable, plug things into things, and position microphones…all in support of the session producer. It was this training that Gus would use as a basis for his approach to production in the years to come.
June 27, 2002 – John Entwistle (The Who)was born on 9 October 1944 in Chiswick, a suburb of London, England. During his life he became famous as an English musician, songwriter, singer, film and music producer, who was best known as the original bass guitarist for the English rock band The Who. He was the only member of the band to have formal musical training. His aggressive lead sound influenced many rock bass players as he made himself immortal with the bass solo on their smash hit “My Generation”. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Who in 1990.
Entwistle’s instrumental approach used pentatonic lead lines, and a then-unusual treble-rich sound (“full treble, full volume”) created by roundwound RotoSound steel bass strings. He was nicknamed “The Ox” and “Thunderfingers,” the latter because his digits became a blur across the four-string fretboard. In 2011, he was voted the greatest bassist of all time in a Rolling Stone reader’s poll.
May 6, 2002 – Otis Blackwell was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 16, 1931, he learnt the piano as a child and listened on the radio to rhythm and blues (then known as “race” music) and to country music in films starring such singing cowboys as Gene Autry and Tex Ritter. They were the two elements that were eventually to combine in the early 1950s to create the mainstream hybrid that became rock’n’roll.
On leaving school in the late 1940s, he worked first as a floor-sweeper at a New York theatre and then as a clothes-presser in a laundry. In 1952 he won a local talent contest at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and secured a recording contract with Joe Davis’s Jay-Dee label. It was at Davis’s suggestion that he began writing his own songs. “I was thrown into it,” he later said.
His first release was his own composition “Daddy Rolling Stone”. It failed to reach the charts but later became a big hit in Jamaica where it was recorded by Derek Martin, and was also covered by The Who in their early “mod” period.
Blackwell made further recordings for RCA Records and the Groove label, which were among the earliest examples of the emerging rock’n’roll style. Yet, with all the time he was developing his songwriting, on Christmas Eve 1955, he sold the demos of six songs he had written for $25 each. They included “Don’t Be Cruel”, which featured him singing over an accompaniment of piano and a cardboard box for a drum.
Over time he realized his first love was songwriting and by that same year had settled into the groove that he would ride for decades as he became one of the greatest R&B songwriters of all time, whose work significantly influenced rock ‘n’ roll. Yet his first big hit as a writer came not with “Don’t Be Cruel” but with the sultry and atmospheric “Fever”. Originally an R&B hit in 1956 for Little Willie John, it became a huge global pop hit for Peggy Lee (who had passed just two months earlier) and has since been covered several hundred times by other artists.
His vocal style was said to have had a strong influence on the young Elvis Presley. He is however remembered best, not as a performer, but as a one-man song-writing factory, who helped to shape 1950s rock’n’roll and whose most memorable compositions included Don’t Be Cruel, All Shook Up, Fever and Great Balls of Fire.
His association with Presley began around the same time, when the singer covered “Don’t Be Cruel”. Originally released as the B-side of Hound Dog, the song had topped the American charts in its own right by September 1956. It simultaneously headed both the R&B and Country charts. Next, Presley recorded Blackwell’s “Paralysed”, which fared less well, although it later reached No 8 in the British charts.
But by April 1957 a version of “All Shook Up”, originally recorded by the little-known David Hill, had not only restored Presley to the top of the charts, but also become the biggest selling single of the year.
The song was written after Blackwell’s publisher, “Goldie” Goldhawk, had shaken up a bottle of Pepsi and said to him: “You can write about anything. Now write about this!”
Blackwell provided Presley with further hit songs, including “Return to Sender” and “One Broken Heart for Sale”. But “All Shook Up” and “Don’t Be Cruel” have remained in the record books as the two songs which stayed at No.1 for longer than any of Presley’s other hits.
There has been considerable speculation over the relationship between Blackwell and Presley, who never met. “We had a great thing going and I just wanted to leave it alone,” Blackwell said in an interview in 1989. Their two names often appeared together on records as co-writers, but in truth Presley’s role as a writer was negligible. It was common practice at the time to sell part or all of the rights of a song and Presley’s astute manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was well aware of the value of the publishing royalties. It has also been said that Presley borrowed many of his vocal mannerisms from Blackwell. Certainly it was the singer’s method at the time to copy wholesale the writer’s demo of a song, arrangement and all. As Presley used Blackwell’s demos to learn the songs, the debt was probably considerable.
A prolific writer, who sometimes used the white-sounding pseudonym John Davenport, Blackwell copyrighted more than a thousand compositions in his career. Among them was Jerry Lee Lewis’s signature tune “Great Balls of Fire”, as well as further hits for Lewis in “Breathless” and “Let’s Talk About Us”. There were more 1950s rock’n’roll hits with “Hey Little Girl” and “Just Keep It Up” by the now almost-forgotten Dee Clark, and Cliff Richard recorded his “Nine Times out of Ten”. Jimmy Jones had a hit in 1960 with Blackwell’s “Handy Man”, which was revived by James Taylor in the 1970s, and Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and Tanya Tucker also recorded his songs. So, too, did Ray Charles and Otis Redding, although Blackwell was disappointed that few black artists ever had hits with his compositions.
He continued writing and performing and enjoyed some success in 1976 with the comeback album “These Are My Songs!” on the Inner City label. He also recorded the tribute The No.1 King of Rock’n’Roll on his own Fever label when Presley died in 1977. In 1991 he was inducted into the National Academy of Popular Music’s Songwriters Hall of Fame. Three years later, Chrissie Hynde, Graham Parker and Deborah Harry were among those contributing cover versions of his songs to the album “Brace Yourself: A Tribute to the Songs of Otis Blackwell”.
Otis was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1986 and in 1991 into the National Academy of Popular Music’s Songwriters Hall of Fame.
His crowning moment came in the late 1980s when the Black Rock Coalition, an organization of black rock musicians, led by Vernon Reid, the lead guitarist of the band, Living Colour, held a tribute for him at the Prospect Park Bandshell in his native Brooklyn.
Although there were many other generous acknowledgements to his role and influence down the years, his style essentially belonged to an earlier era and he was never to repeat the scale of success he had enjoyed in rock’n’roll’s first decade.
Otis Blackwell died from a heart attack in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 6, 2002 at age 69.
July 11, 2001 – Herman Brood was born on November 5th 1946 in Zwolle, the Netherlands. In the early years, his influences included Fats Domino and Little Richard. He always liked to paint and play piano.
He started playing the piano at age 12 and founded beat band The Moans in 1964, which would later become Long Tall Ernie and the Shakers. He also briefly played piano with Dutch premier blues band Cuby and the Blizzards, but was removed by management when the record company discovered he used drugs.
For a number of years in the late 1960, early 1970s Herman spent time in jail for dealing LSD, or moved abroad, while he had a number of short-term engagements with The Studs, the Flash & Dance Band, Vitesse.
In 1976, Brood started his own group, Herman Brood & His Wild Romance, (and started work with photographer Anton Corbijn) initially with Ferdi Karmelk on guitar, (Nina Hagen’s romantic partner and father of her daughter), Gerrit Veen (bass), Peter Walrecht (drums), and Ellen Piebes and Ria Ruiters (back vocals). They played the club and bar circuit, first in Groningen, In 1977 the band released their first album, Street.
May 23, 2001 – Tommy Eyre was born on June 5, 1949 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. He moved to London in 1969 and what followed is the well spelled out timeline of one of rock and roll’s greatest keyboard players.
Very versatile and prolific keyboardist, Tommy had an incredible career playing with many top bands and artists of almost every genre. His name should be included in any hall of fame for keyboardists, and although his musical contributions are very extensive, he’ll always be remembered by two of his most famous works:
The playing in Joe Cocker’s original version of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. Tommy’s organ arrangements gave the song such classy style, and the playing in the famous ‘Baker Street‘ by singer Gerry Rafferty, another eternal song.
Such an in-demand keyboardist, Tommy played the Reading Festival eight different times with eight different bands.
May 16, 2001 – Brian Pendleton (The Pretty Things) was born on 13th April 1944 in Wolverhampton, to Raymond and Kathleen Pendleton (nee Brownsword); Raymond and Kathleen had married early in 1942. Brian was born in Wolverhampton Road in the Heath Town district of the city, at an address that no longer exists. When he was still a baby the Pendletons moved to Dartford in Kent and his younger sister was born in 1950.
The teenage Brian attended Dartford Grammar School. He was in the year below future Pretty Thing Dick Taylor and superstar-to-be Mick Jagger. Although Brian and Dick would recognize each other at a later date (Dick certainly remembered Brian from school) it seems that as they were in different years they didn’t speak much, it is a playground truth that those pupils in the years below were not generally considered worthy of attention and this is doubtless still the case today! English schools divide their pupils into groups called ‘houses’ which are usually named after a person of local historic significance and represented by a color. Brian was a member of the house called Daeth, possibly in honor of a local (Dartford) family; it’s color was yellow. Peter Pike was in the same year as Brian and recalls that he was a reserved character but could from time to time be funny and lively.
July 17, 1988 – Nico (Velvet Underground) was bornChrista Päffgen in Cologne, Germany on October 16, 1938. When she was two years old, she moved with her mother and grandfather to the Spreewald forest outside of Berlin to escape the World War II bombardments of Cologne. Her father Hermann, born into a dynasty of Colognian master brewers, was enlisted as a soldier during the war and sustained head injuries that caused severe brain damage and ended his life in a psychiatric institution.
In 1946, Nico and her mother relocated to ravage-torn downtown Berlin, where Nico worked as a seamstress. She attended school until the age 13 and began selling lingerie in the exclusive department store KaDeWe, eventually getting modeling jobs in Berlin. At five feet ten inches and with chiseled features and porcelain skin, Nico rose to prominence as a fashion model as a teenager.
At the age of 15, while working as a temp for the U.S. Air Force, Nico was raped by an American sergeant. The sergeant was court-martialed and Nico gave evidence for the prosecution at his trial. Nico’s song “Secret Side” from the album The End makes oblique references to the rape.
She was discovered at 16 by the photographer Herbert Tobias while both were working at a KaDeWe fashion show in Berlin. He gave her the name Nico after her ex-boyfriend, filmmaker Nikos Papatakis, and she used it for the rest of her life. She soon moved to Paris and began working for Vogue, Tempo, Vie Nuove, Mascotte Spettacolo, Camera, Elle, and other fashion magazines. At age 17, she was contracted by Coco Chanel to promote their products, but she fled to New York City and abandoned the job. Through her travels, she learned to speak English, Spanish, and French.
After appearing in several television advertisements, Nico got a small role in Alberto Lattuada’s film La Tempesta (1958). She also appeared in Rudolph Maté’s For the First Time, with Mario Lanza, later that year.
In 1959, she was invited to the set of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, where she attracted the attention of the acclaimed director, who gave her a minor role in the film as herself. By this time, she was living in New York and taking acting classes with Lee Strasberg.
She appears as the cover model on jazz pianist Bill Evans’ 1962 album, Moon Beams. After splitting her time between New York and Paris, she got the lead role in Jacques Poitrenaud’s Strip-Tease (1963). She recorded the title track, which was written by Serge Gainsbourg but not released until 2001, when it was included in the compilation Le Cinéma de Serge Gainsbourg. In 1962, Nico gave birth to her son, Christian Aaron “Ari” Päffgen, commonly held to have been fathered by French actor Alain Delon. Delon always denied his paternity even though the child was raised mostly by Delon’s mother and her husband and eventually was adopted by them, taking their surname, Boulogne.
Nico’s first performances as a singer took place in December 1963 at New York’s Blue Angel nightclub, where she sang standards such as “My Funny Valentine”.
In 1965, Nico met the Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones and recorded her first single, “I’m Not Sayin'” with the B-side “The Last Mile”, produced by Jimmy Page for Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label. Actor Ben Carruthers introduced her to Bob Dylan in Paris that summer. In 1967 Nico recorded his song “I’ll Keep It with Mine” for her first album, Chelsea Girl. Dylan had written the tune for Judy Collins in 1964, according to her own liner notes from the Geffen Records’ album Judy Collins Sings Dylan (she was the first artist to release the song, in 1965).
After being introduced by Brian Jones, she began working in New York with Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey on their experimental films, including Chelsea Girls, The Closet, Sunset and Imitation of Christ.
When Warhol began managing the Velvet Underground he proposed that the group take on Nico as a “chanteuse”. They consented reluctantly, for both personal and musical reasons. The group became the centerpiece of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a multimedia performance featuring music, light, film and dance. Nico sang lead vocals on three songs (“Femme Fatale”, “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, “I’ll Be Your Mirror”), and backing vocal on “Sunday Morning”, on the band’s debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967). Nico’s tenure with the Velvet Underground was marked by personal and musical difficulties. Violist and bassist John Cale has written that Nico’s long preparations in the dressing room and pre-performance good luck ritual (burning a candle) would often hold up a performance, which especially irritated band front man Lou Reed. Nico’s partial deafness in one ear also would sometimes cause her to veer off key, for which she was ridiculed by other band members. The album went on to become a classic, ranked 13th on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, though it was poorly received at the time of its release.
Immediately following her musical work with the Velvet Underground, Nico began work as a solo artist, performing regularly at The Dom in New York City. At these shows, she was accompanied by a revolving cast of guitarists, including members of the Velvet Underground, Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Jackson Browne.
For her debut album, 1967’s Chelsea Girl, she recorded songs by Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin and Jackson Browne, among others. Velvet Underground members Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison contributed to the album, with Nico, Reed and Cale co-writing one song, “It Was a Pleasure Then.” Chelsea Girl is a traditional chamber-folk album, which influenced artists such as Leonard Cohen, with strings and flute arrangements by producer Tom Wilson. Nico was not satisfied with it and had little say in its production. She said in 1981: “I still cannot listen to it, because everything I wanted for that record, they took it away. I asked for drums, they said no. I asked for more guitars, they said no. And I asked for simplicity, and they covered it in flutes! … They added strings, and— I didn’t like them, but I could live with them. But the flute! The first time I heard the album, I cried and it was all because of the flute.” In California, Nico spent time with Jim Morrison of the Doors. Morrison encouraged her to write her own songs.
For The Marble Index, released in 1969, Nico wrote the lyrics and music. Accompaniment mainly centered around Nico’s harmonium, while John Cale added an array of folk and classical instruments, and arranged the album. The harmonium became her signature instrument for the rest of her career. The album has a classical-cum-European folk sound.
A promotional film for the song “Evening of Light” was filmed by Francois de Menil. This video featured the now red-haired Nico and Iggy Pop of the Stooges.
Returning to live performance in the early 1970s, Nico (accompanying herself on harmonium) gave concerts in Amsterdam as well as London, where she and John Cale opened for Pink Floyd. 1972 saw a one-off live reunion of Nico, Cale and Lou Reed at the Bataclan in Paris.
Nico released two more solo albums in the 1970s, Desertshore (1970) and The End… (1974). She wrote the music, sang, and played the harmonium. Cale produced and played most of the other instruments on both albums. The End… featured Brian Eno on synthesizer and Phil Manzanera on guitar, both from Roxy Music. She appeared at the Rainbow Theatre, in London, with Cale, Eno, and Kevin Ayers. The album June 1, 1974 was the result of this concert. Nico performed a version of the Doors’ “The End”, which was the catalyst for The End… later that year.
Between 1970 and 1979, Nico made about seven films with French director Philippe Garrel. She met Garrel in 1969 and contributed the song “The Falconer” to his film Le Lit de la Vierge. Soon after, she was living with Garrel and became a central figure in his cinematic and personal circles. Nico’s first acting appearance with Garrel occurred in his 1972 film, La Cicatrice Intérieure. Nico also supplied the music for this film and collaborated closely with the director. She also appeared in the Garrel films Anathor (1972); the silent Jean Seberg feature Les Hautes Solitudes, released in 1974; Un ange passe (1975); Le Berceau de cristal (1976), starring Pierre Clémenti, Nico and Anita Pallenberg; and Voyage au jardin des morts (1978). His 1991 film J’entends Plus la Guitare is dedicated to Nico.
On 13 December 1974, Nico opened for Tangerine Dream’s infamous concert at Reims Cathedral in Reims, France. The promoter had so greatly oversold tickets for the show that members of the audience couldn’t move or reach the outside, eventually resulting in some fans urinating inside the cathedral hall.
Around this time, Nico became involved with Berliner musician Lutz Ulbrich (Lüül), guitarist for Ash Ra Tempel. Ulbrich would accompany Nico on guitar at many of her subsequent concerts through the rest of the decade. Also in this time period, Nico let her hair return to its natural color of brown and took to dressing mostly in black. This would be her public image from then on.
Nico and Island Records allegedly had many disputes during this time, and in 1975 the label dropped her from their roster.
In February 1978, Nico performed at the Canet Roc ’78 festival in Catalonia. Also performing at this event were Blondie, Kevin Ayers, and Ultravox. She made a vocal contribution to Neuronium’s second album, Vuelo Químico, as she was at the studio, by chance, while it was being recorded in Barcelona in 1978 by Michel Huygen, Carlos Guirao and Albert Gimenez. She read excerpts from Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe. She said that she was deeply moved by the music, so she couldn’t help but make a contribution. During the same year, Nico briefly toured as supporting act for Siouxsie and the Banshees, one of many post-punk bands who admired Nico. In Paris, Patti Smith bought a new harmonium for Nico after her original was stolen. Other fans of Nico included John Lydon (of the Sex Pistols), Dave Vanian (of the Damned), and Tommy Gear (of the Screamers).
Nico returned to New York in 1979 where her comeback concert at CBGB (accompanied by John Cale and Lutz Ulbrich) was reviewed positively in The New York Times. She began playing regularly at the Squat Theatre and other venues with Jim Tisdall accompanying her on harp and Gittler guitar. They played together on a sold-out tour of twelve cities in the East and Midwest. At some shows, she was accompanied on guitar by Cheetah Chrome (the Dead Boys).
In France, Nico was introduced to photographer Antoine Giacomoni. Giacomoni’s photos of Nico would be used for her next album, and would eventually be featured in a book (Nico: Photographies, Horizon Illimite, Paris, 2002). Through Antoine Giacomoni, she met Corsican bassist Philippe Quilichini. Nico recorded her next studio album, Drama of Exile, in 1981 produced by Philippe Quilichini. Mahamad Hadi aka Mad Sheer Khan played oriental rock guitar parts and wrote all the oriental production. It was a departure from her earlier work with John Cale, featuring a mixture of rock and Middle Eastern arrangements. For this album, in addition to originals like “Genghis Khan” and “Sixty Forty”, Nico recorded covers of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” and David Bowie’s “Heroes”. Drama of Exile was released twice, in two different versions, the second appearing in 1983.
After relocating to Manchester, England, in the early ’80s, Nico acquired a manager, Alan Wise, and began working with a variety of backing bands for her many live performances. These bands included Blue Orchids, the Bedlamites and the Faction.
In 1981, Nico released the Philippe Quilichini-produced single “Saeta”/”Vegas” on Flicknife Records. The following year saw another single, “Procession” produced by Martin Hannett and featuring the Invisible Girls. Included on the “Procession” single was a new version of the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”.
At this time, Nico was often cited as an influence on the gothic rock scene, admired by such artists as Peter Murphy of Bauhaus as well as Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and The Banshees, whose foreboding vocals are influenced by Nico’s distinct dark style of singing. At Salford University in 1982, Nico would join Bauhaus for a performance of “I’m Waiting for the Man”. That same year, Nico’s supporting acts included the Sisters of Mercy and Gene Loves Jezebel. The Marble Index has frequently been cited as the first goth album, while Nico’s dark lyrics, music and persona were also influential.
In September 1982, Nico performed at the Deeside Leisure Centre for the Futurama Festival. The line-up for this show also included the Damned, Dead or Alive, Southern Death Cult, Danse Society, and Gene Loves Jezebel.
The live compilations 1982 Tour Diary and En Personne En Europe were released in November 1982 on the 1/2 Records cassette label in France; the ROIR cassette label reissued the former under the revised title “Do Or Die!” in 1983. These releases were followed by more live performances throughout Europe over the next few years.
She recorded her final solo album, Camera Obscura, in 1985, with the Faction (James Young and Graham Dids). Produced by John Cale, it featured Nico’s version of the Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart song “My Funny Valentine”. The album’s closing song was an updated version of “König”, which she had previously recorded for La cicatrice interieure. This was the only song on the album to feature only Nico’s voice and harmonium. A music video for “My Heart Is Empty” was filmed at The Fridge in Brixton.
The next few years saw frequent live performances by Nico, with tours of Europe, Japan and Australia (usually with the Faction or the Bedlamites). A number of Nico’s performances towards the end of her life were recorded and released, including 1982’s Heroine, Nico Live in Tokyo, and her final concert, Fata Morgana, recorded on 6 June 1988. The double live album Behind the Iron Curtain was recorded during a tour of Eastern Europe, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and made from recordings of concerts in Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and other cities, and was released before her death in 1988.
A duet called “Your Kisses Burn” with singer Marc Almond was her last studio recording (about a month before her death). It was released a few months after her death on Almond’s album The Stars We Are.
Nico’s final recording was of her last concert, ‘Fata Morgana’, at the Berlin Planetarium on 6 June 1988. This was a special event created by Lutz Ulbrich and featured a number of new compositions by Nico and the Faction. As an encore, Nico performed a song from The End…, “You Forget To Answer”. A CD of this concert was released in 1994 and again in 2012.
Nico saw herself as part of a tradition of bohemian artists, which she traced back to the Romanticism of the early 19th century. She led a nomadic life, living in different countries. Apart from Germany, where she grew up, and Spain, where she died, Nico lived in Italy and France in the 1950s, spent most of the 1960s in the US, and lived in London in the early 1960s and again in the 1980s, when she moved between London and Manchester.
During the final years of her life, she was based around the Prestwich and Salford area of Greater Manchester. Although she was still struggling with addiction, she became interested in music again. For a few months in the 1980s, she shared an apartment in Brixton, London, with punk poet John Cooper Clarke.
On 17 July 1988, while on vacation on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza with her son Ari, Nico had a heart attack while riding a bicycle, and she hit her head as she fell. A passing taxi driver found her unconscious, and he had difficulty getting her admitted to local hospitals. She was misdiagnosed as suffering from heat exposure, and died at eight o’clock that evening. X-rays later revealed a severe cerebral hemorrhage as the cause of her death.
In the late morning of July 17, 1988, my mother told me she needed to go downtown to buy marijuana. She sat down in front of the mirror and wrapped a black scarf around her head. My mother stared at the mirror and took great care to wrap the scarf appropriately. Down the hill on her bike: “I’ll be back soon.” She left in the early afternoon on the hottest day of the year. – Ari Boulogne
One of the most fascinating figures of rock’s fringes, Nico hobnobbed, worked, and was romantically linked with an incredible assortment of the most legendary entertainers of the ’60s. The paradox of her career was that she herself never attained the fame of her peers, pursuing a distinctly individualistic and uncompromising musical career that was uncommercial, but wholly admirable and influential.
She’s more than just another dour (if shockingly beautiful) face and a terrifying, Germanic drone-voice, but even haters admit that goth rock — everything good and bad about it — begins with the late Christa Paffgen (1938-1988), known to the world as Nico. Starting out as a European model and all-around rock scenester before dropping like a bomb(shell) into Andy Warhol’s Factory, Nico ended up in the Velvet Underground, sticking around long enough to write herself into history as the scary blond chanteuse on The Velvet Underground & Nico before embarking on a solo career. She gained a rep as the ice queen to end them all (allegedly breaking up with Lou Reed by telling him, “I can no longer sleep with Jews.”). She had a son by Alain Delon, lived for years with a monster heroin habit, and made a couple of the creepiest rock albums ever recorded. She died falling off a bike, in 1988. All in all, an epic life, at least for a while.
The woman, as unpleasant as her rep might be, made some pretty sui generis music, and everything between 1967 and 1974 is worth a spin if you like your (non)rock remote, arty, and colder than a Valkyrie’s armored tit. Unfortunately, the shelves now sag with exploitative death-tripping compilations of live shows, remixes, limited-edition outtakes, and other bullshit that all but the most devout of fans should avoid on principle alone.
Chelsea Girl, her solo debut, is sort of the first great lost Velvets album. Lou Reed, John Cale, and Sterling Morrison play on various songs and between them wrote five, including the oddly sweet “Little Sister,” “It Was a Pleasure Then,” and the haunting title track. (Think of it as an early version of “Walk on the Wild Side.”) The music is folk rock as only the Velvets could have imagined it: strings, a wandering flute, minimalist guitar thrum, and little else. Other highlights are by Tim Hardin and Jackson Browne, including the old-before-his-time genius of Browne’s “These Days” and “The Fairest of the Seasons.” A lovely debut, and not too scary. (The Reed tunes have been added to the deluxe reissue of VU and Nico.)
The Marble Index, on the other hand, is where the difficult listening starts, and it’s pretty amazing for it. The songs, Nico compositions all, are spare melodic frames that Cale, perhaps feeding on post-Velvets rage and feeling a bit anti-American, gives a stark, high-church-of-art feel to, adding droning harmonium, flashes of percussion, and generally creating one seriously dislocating vibe. “Ari’s Song,” dedicated to her son, might be the least-comforting lullaby ever recorded. Totally uncompromised, deeply European art music that stands in total contrast to the American roots music that was obsessing folks like, say, Dylan and the Band.
Desertshore is essentially Marble Index II: Teutonic Boogaloo, somehow even starker than Index. Cale again relies on the harmonium for musical weight, layering it into towering, droning waves. Nico still sounds pretty much like death chilled over, but that’s kind of her thing, and it’s still quite beautiful if you’re the type who drinks his Celine straight.
The End is as strange and removed an album as the ’70s could have spawned. Produced again by Cale (complete with some vocals and about a billion instruments by him) and featuring Roxy Music’s Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera. Guitar and piano textures flicker in and out, muffled instrumental screams flicker in and out, and over it all is Nico’s stately manner. The only thing preventing this obelisk from unreservedly rolling into the avant-rock canon is her wretched yet brilliantly revealing taste in covers. Nico closes the album with a reading of the Doors’ “The End” so straight-faced and melodramatic as to render Jim Morrison’s by-that-time already overwrought Freudian bullshit totally comic. Far less cute (though somehow not as annoying) is a monolithic, droning take on “Das Lied der Deutschen” (or “Deutschland Uber Alles”). Perhaps The End is Nico’s most totally idiosyncratic album: creepy, morally suspect, and occasionally inadvertently funny as hell; it fit her like a velvet glove cast in onyx. (The Classic Years draws on all of these albums for a very handy sampler.)
Fascinating, then, that when she returned to rock in 1981, she dismissed her earlier work as “really boring” (a sentiment many might totally agree with). It was the perfect time for the ice queen to thaw, as bands like Bauhaus, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Sisters of Mercy were stealing her moves. So, no surprise that Drama of Exile pairs her with a thin new-wave band that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on, say, Rough Trade. The tighter material is strange after so much ambience, but her lyrics are still intriguing reflections on the doom of it, all and her taste in covers has gotten much better: She tries to slay the father (or ex-boyfriend) on VU’s “Waiting for the Man,” and Bowie’s “Heroes” gets a charged, jumpy makeover, and, yes, her accent sells it brilliantly. (Maybe the Wallflowers should have tried doing the German version . . . uh, never mind.) Camera Obscura, from 1985, is her final studio album and only available as an import.
Before the CD era, Do or Die was the closest thing to a hits package Nico’s cult ever got, a set of live tunes from various shows, many with the live band from her 1982 European tour. But thanks to that same CD era, there are a bunch of somewhat exploitative and totally inessential live albums that fall in and out of print, most of them available on import. Each has some nice moments, but there’s a lot of studio product to get through before anyone needs to dig this deep. Live Heroes drones through six songs, including the Bowie tune and “My Funny Valentine.” Chelsea Girls/Live is a brutally misleading title for an set of live ’80s synth stuff. Icon appends the interesting “Vegas/Saeta” 7-inch with some Drama of Exile outtakes and some live material. Solid. Fata Morgana is, as you might expect, from 1988, as she moved back to drones. Nico died of a cerebral hemorrhage on July 18, 1988. The goth nation has yet to declare this cruel day some sort of holiday, but it’s only a matter or time.
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