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