22 February 2008

Frank Wilson - Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) mp3

never released

bootlegged in UK as In, IN6326, late 1970s.
reissued in UK as Tamla Motown, TMG1170, 1979.
reissued again as Tamla Motown 982 153 2, year unknown (2004?)
reissued again (bootlegged?) as Soul, TMG1170, year unknown.

Frank Wilson - Do I Love You

My copy, you'll not be surprised to learn, isn't an original. The last one of those to change hands went for £15,000.

This pressing mocks up the original label design, but uses the catalogue number of the 1979 UK reissue.

Frank Wilson - Do I Love You original label

I first heard of this record reading Stuart Maconie's book Cider With Roadies, which chronicles his life growing up and the evolution of his marrow-deep love of music.

Whilst not having the profound spiritual depth of Nick Hornby's 31 Songs, nonetheless it's a deeply insightful piece of music writing. Few people can be so genuinely in love with popular music in all its forms that they really truly understand Gentle Giant, punk and Chic, and can explain to you exactly why.

Maconie also has a taste for the extremely experimental, and his weekly Freak Zone radio show is a must-hear. Which you can do not only on the radio but for a week afterwards online (at poorer quality; you can get a podcast of highlights).

He's also a very funny man, and I laughed out loud more times than there are pages in the book. Take this bit about Slade;

Noddy Holder was not, as I originally thought on hearing the phrase, some kind of bizarre Enid Blyton-related implement, but a jolly, worryingly raucous individual from Walsall. His trousers were generally too short, the better to display his 12-hole oxblood docs, the footwear of choice for the man about town with a great many heads to kick in.

He had a penchant for long multicoloured patchwork jackets of the sort favoured by Dr Who and Jesus' favourite stepdad Joseph, although there the similarities with leading religious figures ended. Like Gary Glitter he looked permanently, antagonisingly startled and he had adopted the aforementioned riotously verdant 'sidies' last seen on Jimmy 'Wacko' Edwards.

Best of all though was his hat. He nearly always sported a top hat with small circular mirrors attached. It was the kind of thing desperate mums make for their offspring just before fancy-dress parties when they have no clear idea what to send them as.


Amazingly, though, Noddy Holder was not the most ridiculously dressed person in Slade. That honour has to go to Dave Hill. Dave was the group's second guitarist and had a guitar that bore the legend Superyob. He usually wore a jumpsuit made of the foil that you baste turkeys in and platforms of oil-rig-derrick height. All of this though paled in comparison with his coiffure, a sort of demented tonsure with a great scooping fringe. He looked like a glam rock version of a medieval monk.

Noddy's co-writer in Slade was Jimmy Lea, now, amazingly, a psychotherapist. In 1973 the thought of being psychoanalysed by a member of Slade would have been hilarious and terrifying, rather like Liam Gallagher being Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The line up was completed by the brooding, taciturn drummer Don Powell. Not much to say here other than that, at the height of their fame, Powell was injured in a car crash and afterwards suffered bouts of short-term memory loss. I don't intend to make light of this but even then I used to wonder what it must have felt like to 'come to' in the middle of a set and realise, 'well, I'm obviously a drummer of some sort. Wait a minute, isn't that Noddy Hol- bloody hell, I'm in Slade!'

Anyway, Maconie was also a resident of Wigan in the early 70s. The chapter on the town's legendary soul scene included this description of

what is often regarded as the best and certainly the rarest Northern Soul tune, 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)', one copy in existence, current asking price £15,000. More important than the price, it is utterly wonderful.

If you want to know what the magic of Northern Soul is, get yourself a copy (it's readily available on CD compilations, only the vinyl is worth the price of a terraced house in Whitehaven) and allow yourself to be swept away by its life-affirming, luminous, lump-in-the-throat beauty and effervescence.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no ailment or depression so profound and weighty that two and a half minutes in the company of this fabulous tune won't lift and banish. Excuse me while I go and put it on.

You see why that sent me scurrying off to find it?

Wilson was a writer and producer who did a fair few records in the 60s but really hit a winning streak at the end of the decade and into the 70s, notably with the post-Diana Supremes. One of his songs for them, Stoned Love, is a corker in much the same vein as Do I Love You.

But in 1965 he had a dalliance with the idea of being a performer. Just the one single was made. It seems that a few hundred were pressed but it was never properly released. It was forgotten about until discovered in the 70s by Northern Soul fans in Britain.

As Nick Hornby points out in 31 Songs, Ian Dury's Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3 is an amazing inventory of British traits. The line 'singalonga Smokey' may be about the American singer Smokey Robinson, but the British have always had a big love of black American music. We know we can't do it like them, but we really get what they do, it really speaks to us.

When the Stax Revue came over they were stunned to be mobbed at the airport and play a string of sold out concerts; this simply didn't happen to them anywhere else, not even back home. Even the standard term Northern Soul refers to that North of England scene in the early 70s.

To this day, old soul artists are amazed at the depth of knowledge and appreciation UK fans show compared with anyone else. Just the other week I heard Geno Washington on the radio making that point. No wonder it was British soul fans who discovered Do I Love You. We singalonga Smokey.

In the late 1970s, prior to any official release, British soul fans pressed a bootleg single of Do I Love You, with the label crediting it to Eddie Foster (In Records, IN 6326).

I've always loved Motown, and yet I'd kind of presumed that the classics were the best. It's a fair assumption. Anyone who's had a deep trawl through, say, first generation punk bands will know that there's a reason why we only know one song from Eddie and The Hot Rods or a couple from the Members but dozens from the Clash. It's cos the rest were shit.

Motown, however, is a case apart. Check out a compilation of Gladys Knight's Motown years and it's all killer no filler. Go a tad more obscure, get a Tammi Terrell and it's the same. And further it goes, into artists you've never heard of, until frankly if you did the maths Motown seem to have transgressed dimensional boundaries in the 1960s; there seem to be more hours of great Motown recordings than there were hours in the decade.

Then, if the released stuff wasn't enough, came the Motown Connoisseurs compilations. These were put together by Richard Searling, a Northern Soul legend whose credentials stretch as far back as being one of the original Wigan Casino DJs.

On Motown Connoisseurs Volume 1 there's a huge variety of Motown songs, all unreleased or painfully obscure, almost all of them as good as the classics that everybody knows. Volume 2 does more of the same, with the excruciating exception of a Four Tops track from the 80s.

However, Motown Connoisseurs Volume 1 featured Chris Clark's version of Do I Love You. Clark was Motown's first (and, for a long time, only) white signing. She possessed little of the charisma of her label mates and even less of their talent. Her version of Do I Love You is Wilson's backing track with Clark's anaemic voice failing to do it justice. It's like watching a wet tissue break over the front of a speeding train.

Searling then put together Northern Soul Connoisseurs. This has Frank Wilson's Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) on it. But it's a different version, a remake that lacks the urgency and effervescence of the single I've got. (It's quickly distinguished by the ad-lib "here's another thing I wanna say to you now" at about 0.58 just before the second verse).

In a further insult/injury interface, the recent reissue 45 (Tamla Motown 982 153 2) has Frank Wilson's inferior version backed with Chris Clark's!

The other week I was in a bookshop playing a top quality Motown compilation and there amongst all the tunes even your gran knows was Do I Love You, seemingly taking its place among the classics. But, again, it was the inferior version. This made me want to post the more yawping version here.

The single is a slightly shonky affair (hence my suspicion of it being a bootleg) and has endearingly/irritatingly missed off the first note. But three seconds in to the track you just don't care. You're off, soaring away on the greatest euphoric Motown stomper of them all.

[MP3 deleted to make way for new ones. Sorry!]

Incidentally, Amazon do all those Connoisseurs albums for £3.33 each. If you're buying a £12 CD or DVD, it can be cheaper to buy one of these and qualify for free postage than to just buy your one item. Go get 'em!

01 February 2008

Florence's Sad Song 45rpm & 33rpm mp3

Music For Pleasure

Dougal and The Blue Cat cover

A year or two back Dave Boulter and Stuart Staples of The Tindersticks did an album called Songs For The Young At Heart. They got an impressive range of guest vocalists in to sing songs remembered from childhood.

The dependably heart-squeezing voice of Cerys Matthews doing White Horses, The Go-Betweens' Robert Forster doing Uncle Sigmund's Clockwork Storybook, Puff The Magic Dragon by Bonnie Prince Billy (I can't ever get into using the quotemarks round his middle name, it feels too much like the way newspaper headlines denote allegation).

Jarvis Cocker does a reading of Marriot Edgar's poem The Lion and Albert, and the CD is packaged in a book with pages made of card like books for the under 5s. Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian does Florence's Sad Song from the feature length film of the Magic Roundabout, Dougal and The Blue Cat.

The Magic Roundabout. Fucking mad as you remember it being. Then there are the songs, words written and sung by narrator Eric Thompson (father of Emma).

Florence's Sad Song is about as depressing a song as you've ever heard, a hopeless emotionally blacked out lament with startling lyrical similarities to I Am A Rock; the singer rues ever having been trusting and open, and resolves to construct a permanent and impenetrable psychic barricade to keep others out.

Yet look what you get on the back, a drawing of the artists to colour in with crayons or paints. You don't get that with System Of A Down.

Dougal and The Blue Cat back cover

There is one thing that can make this black pit of a song go one darker. Play the fucker at 33rpm.

[MP3s deleted to make way for new ones. Sorry!]