ASK FRED

Hold­ing court and pop­ping corks, Fred Del­lar an­swers all your R&B, PSB and RPO posers.

Mojo (UK) - - Contents -

That old ’56 wing-ding between Basie and Alan Freed rolls again.

MOJO’s re­cent Dance The Blues CD was a scin­til­lat­ing chunk of R&B, but one that threw up an old query: was Alan Freed’s Rock’n’Roll Band ac­tu­ally the Count Basie Orches­tra? Jez Matthews, via e-mail

Fred Says: The band heard on the MOJO CD is one headed by tenor-totin’ Sam ‘The Man’ Tay­lor with an ar­range­ment by Leroy Kirk­land, who among other things pro­vided many back­drops for Di­nah Wash­ing­ton. The con­fu­sion re­gard­ing Basie’s in­volve­ment on these ses­sions stems from the fact that the Basie band was utilised as the house band on Freed’s cig­a­rette-spon­sored Camel Rock’n’Roll House Party 1956 ra­dio dates be­fore being re­placed by Tay­lor’s band later in the sea­son. Basie, iron­i­cally, picked up the Best Rock’n’Roll Band award from Cash­box mag­a­zine that year af­ter being ditched by Freed who claimed, “Basie has the great­est band in the coun­try but it isn’t a dance band.” Draw­ing this sour re­sponse from the Count: “Peo­ple were danc­ing long be­fore there was rock’n’roll.”

HOW DID ALLEE AND PSB GET TO­GETHER?

How did Amer­i­can song­writer Allee Wil­lis come to co-write the Pet Shop Boys/Dusty Spring­field hit What Have I Done To De­serve This? J.G. Spell­ing, via e-mail

Fred Says: Wil­lis, who co-wrote Earth, Wind & Fire’s Boo­gie Won­der­land and Septem­ber among oth­ers, told on­line TV sta­tion Rock Talk that she first met PSB’s Neil Ten­nant and Chris Lowe af­ter West End Girls was a hit in Europe, and their man­ager came to Amer­ica to find them a pub­lish­ing deal and an il­lus­tra­tor for their fan club sta­tionery. Wil­lis, who was also an artist, was given the job. Even­tu­ally, Ten­nant “asked if I was the A. Wil­lis on those Earth, Wind & Fire records. When I said, Yes, they stayed for a week and we wrote What Have I Done To De­serve This.” Wil­lis also re­vealed that parts of the song’s five sep­a­rate sec­tions were from a song she’d “writ­ten years ago and for­got­ten”. Wil­lis can also be heard on ShyBoy’s 2017 ver­sion of the song, repris­ing the vo­cals she per­formed on the orig­i­nal demo.

IN SEARCH OF RARE RAF­FERTY

I am a big fan of Gerry Raf­ferty’s City To City al­bum. In fact, I have been col­lect­ing every pos­si­ble press­ing of that al­bum on vinyl. Cur­rently I have around 25 ver­sions, so still got an­other 55 to go! It’s amaz­ing the var­i­ous things you find that are dif­fer­ent with each press­ing, such as the South African press­ing has a unique tan la­bel, while one of the Ger­many press­ings has the track­list­ing in­cor­rectly printed on the back cover. I also col­lect the cas­sette and CD press­ings too. The ques­tion is: what is the rarest and most valu­able press­ing of this al­bum avail­able?

Joe Metera, via e-mail

Fred Says: I’m a great ad­mirer of the artist John Pa­trick Byrne, who painted the cover of City To City. I first cot­toned on to his work af­ter see­ing the art­work for The New Hum­ble­bums’ al­bum in 1969, and be­came in­creas­ingly im­pressed as he wended his way through a series of unique claddings for LPs by Gerry Raf­ferty, Steal­ers Wheel, Dono­van and even The Bea­tles. Byrne then went on to become an em­i­nent play­wright and TV writer. There doesn’t seem to be an out­stand­ingly rare City To City of­fer­ing in terms of value, though; the only ver­sion of real price being the 2016 CD is­sue, mar­keted on Ja­panese Parlophone, which could set you back around £30. Apt, per­haps, for a per­former whose first solo al­bum was en­ti­tled Can I Have My Money Back?

WHEN DID THE RPO FIRST ROCK OUT?

OK, The Royal Phil­har­monic Orches­tra has re­cently pro­vided lush back­ings for Elvis, Roy Or­bi­son, Aretha and The Beach Boys. But what was their first on-record rock in­volve­ment? D. Vaisey, via e-mail

Fred Says: Ar­guably, the RPO first rocked out on Deep Pur­ple’s Con­certo For Group And Orches­tra, re­leased on Har­vest in 1970. Along the way they’ve played on The Or­ches­tral Tubular Bells (1974) Glen Camp­bell’s Live At The Royal Fes­ti­val Hall (1977), Elkie Brooks’s Amaz­ing (1996) and Re­nais­sance’s Live At The Royal Al­bert Hall (1997), also log­ging an im­pres­sive num­ber of in­stru­men­tal al­bums cov­er­ing The Bea­tles, Oa­sis, Queen, Gen­e­sis, Abba and oth­ers, not to men­tion the Hooked On Clas­sics chart­buster. In fact, it ap­pears the RPO have amassed one of the big­gest num­ber of rock re­leases in the UK!

HELP FRED

I was mar­vel­ling at Richard Thomp­son’s strange cover of Brit­ney Spears’ Oops! …I Did It Again re­cently, and won­dered if MOJO readers had any favourite (seem­ingly incongruous) cover ver­sions that find un­ex­pected new di­men­sions in a song? It has to be sin­cerely in­tended and not know­ing or a joke though. So no Pat Boone-gone-metal, Wil­liam Shat­ner or ukulele cover ver­sions of Slayer please!

Craig Pow­ell, via e-mail

Dude feud: (above from right) Count Basie looks askance at Alan Freed; (left) John Pa­trick Byrne’s art­work for Gerry Raf­ferty’s City To City al­bum; (be­low) Pet Shop Boys Neil Ten­nant (left) and Chris Lowe with Dusty Spring­field, 1987.

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