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Archive for the ‘Vanilla Fudge’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: VANILLA FUDGE-Vanilla Fudge (1967).

I’m still puzzled by the existence of Vanilla Fudge.  By 1967 I wouldn’t think that a band who existed primarily on covers would be viable.  I also wouldn’t think that an album that is all covers would have been marketable.  But I guess the fascinating sound of Vanilla Fudge–lots of organ, screamed vocals and a heavy rhythm section covering recent hits at a drastically reduced speed was a sensation.

Evidently they influenced everyone (Led Zeppelin opened for them and Richie Blackmore and Jon Lord loved the organ sound and wanted it for Deep Purple) and are considered a link between psychedelia and heavy metal.

The first song is a cover of The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” of all songs. The Beatles released it in 1965 and two years later the Fudge put heir spin on it.  It is pretty much unrecognizable until they get to the lyrics.  Singer Max Stein takes the lyrics smooth and slow until he starts screaming like a heavy metal song (I can hear an Ian Gillan precedent).   After the “Ri-ii-iide,” in the chorus there’s a little guitar riff that stands out amid all of the organ.

“People Get Ready” (also originally from 1965) also starts unrecognizable until 90 seconds in when there’s a nod to the main riff and then a lot of harmony vocals. By nearly 2 minutes, the main melody of the song is played slowly on a church style organ and they sing the chorus in a kind of church choir.  The whole song is pretty much all organ and Stein crooning.

“She’s Not There” (recorded by The Zombies in 1964) is organ heavy with a build up for each line The song feels really psychedelic with Stein’s screamed vocals, and Appice’s drumming.  I really rather like the backing vocals.

“Bang Bang” (1966) was written by Sonny Bono is noisy with crashing drums and intermittent guitar surrounded by the Hammond organ.  About 2 minutes in, he sings in a childlike voice “Ring Around The Rosy” and “A Tisket a Tasket.”  I don;t know the original at all, but can;t imagine how it went.

After an introduction called “Illusions of My Childhood, Pt. 1” which is basically 20 seconds of keys, they get into their first hit a cool, slow cover of “You Keep Me Hanging On.”  I find that with the Vanilla Fudge, it’s the songs I don’t know as well that I enjoy their treatment of more.

“Take Me for a Little While” is less than 3:30 after the introductory “Illusions of My Childhood, Pt. 2.”  It ends with a melody of the Farmer in the Dell before the martial beat introduces us to the next song.

After the 25 seconds of “Illusions of My Childhood, Pt. 3” the official cover of “Eleanor Rigby” begins completely unlike any version of the song.  It’s just keys and such until about 3 minutes when they start singing “oh, look at all the lonely people” in a kind of choir.  When the actual lyrics come in, they are sing quietly or in a group chorale.  They end the song by chanting “they do, they do.”  It’s a complete reinvention of the songs.

The record ends with them singing a denouement of “nothing is real, nothing to get hung about.”

There really is nothing else like this band.  But they seem far more like a novelty than a foundation of a musical style.  And they’re still touring today.

[READ: February 1, 2016] “The Actual Hollister”

I really like Dave Eggers’ writing style. It always seems casual yet dedicated.  Like he might not really care that much about what he’s going to tell you but that he paid a lot of attention while he was getting ready to bring it to you.  That attitude kind of helps especially when reading something that you yourself don’t really have a care about (to start with).

This story is about Hollister, California.  Eggers says he was inspired to go there because he had been seeing those sweatshirts that say Hollister on them.  [At this point I have t confess that I have seen them, but don’t really register them and didn’t know it had anything to do with Abercrombie and Fitch].

And thus the story bifurcates into the story of the brand and the story of the town.  And never shall they meet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VANILLA FUDGE-The Beat Goes On (1968).

I thought the first Vanilla Fudge album was odd–covers of contemporary songs done slowly and with little resemblance to the originals.

Well, this second album was downright bizarre.

It  doesn’t really have any “songs.”  Rather, it’s more of a collage–a history of recorded sound as interpreted by the Vanilla Fudge.  There’s a few snippets of classical pieces, some rocks songs, historical vocal recordings and final words from the guys in the band.  All sandwiched between snippets of them playing The Beat Goes On, the Sonny Bono song.

It’s a weird enough record on its own, but when you read just a little but about it, it gets even weirder.  According to the Wikipedia entry:

The group was at odds with producer George “Shadow” Morton during recording, as Morton made his own concept album without significant input from them. In the liner notes of Sundazed Records’ 1990 CD reissue, the band denounces it as a failed experiment on the producer’s part.     ….
In his autobiography Stick It!, Carmine Appice declares: “Even listening to it now – which, let me tell you, I rarely fucking do – The Beat Goes On sounds like an album that Spinal Tap would be wary of making.”

The album opens with an instrumental “sketch.”  It is primarily the Vanilla Fudge keyboard sound with some occasional piano and guitar sounds washing in and out.

After a recording of Thomas Edison reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb, a ponderous voice says PHASE ONE and they start with the first iteration of “The Beat Goes On.”

Then comes what is now probably the fourth surprise already.  The track is titles “Eighteenth Century: Variations on a Theme by Mozart: “Divertimento No. 13 In F Major”” and it’s 45 seconds of Mozart on harpsichord!  It’s followed by a 45 second version of “Old Black Joe” by Stephen Forster, this time sung quietly with acoustic guitar and bass.

That was meant to represent the nineteenth century.  The twentieth century has a bit more diversity with Cole Porter, Glenn Miller and Elvis.  There’s rags on piano with a trap drum.  “In the Mood” sounds like it’s in a roller rink and “Hound Dog” sounds really tinny and awful.  The music is played perfectly, but the quality of the recording is deliberately (I assume) poor.

The next section is called The Beatles, because they clearly didn’t record enough Beatles on their first album.  But this time they do it more like the originals, not like the Vanilla Fudge.  In less than two minutes, they run through excerpts from “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “I Feel Fine,” “Day Tripper,” “She Loves You,” and “Hello Goodbye.”   Except that for the final track they sing “You say hello and I say goodbye…”  And they laugh into…

PHASE TWO.  This has another version of “The Beat Goes On” followed by six minutes of Beethoven (if you;re keeping track, Beethoven was before the 20th century).  They play “Fur Elise” & “Moonlight Sonata” on keys with bass.  But it builds up with rocking drums and   build rocking with drums and keys and guitar.  It gets crazy fast and loud.

Then another version of “The Beat Goes On” followed by another version of it (the original would have switched sides at this point.

PHASE THREE is called “Voices in Time” and it is literally 8 minutes of historical recordings by: Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy.

Then on to PHASE FOUR which after one version of “The Beat Goes On” is talking sections with the band members.  They are labelled “Merchant/The Game is Over”

Vinnie on guitar says a few things concluding with “As life goes on, the beat goes on.”  Tim on bass does an “interview” in which he (or someone) asks him questions which he answers–about sex, politics and ice cream among other things.  He sounds pretty much  like an ass.

Carmine says “I play drums.  Listen to my drums if you wanna hear me talk.”  And finally after some Indian style music comes Mark the lead vocalist.  He uses his time to read a bit of the Bible, a passage about Moab.

The whole business ends with the longest yet version of “The Beat Goes On.”

The CD comes with a Bonus Phase.  There’s a cover of The Beatles’ “You Can;t Do That” and an original  These two songs are certainly the highlight, especially their original song “Come By Day, Come By Night.”  I love the bassline and choral voices.  This really points out what a waste it was not to record their own songs.

The sixties were a weird time.

[READ: July 22, 2017] Some Recollections of a Busy Life

The beginning of this book includes Dave Eggers’ essay that was in the New Yorker, July 20, 2015 issue.

Read about it here.

T.S. Hawkins was Dave Eggers’ great-great grandfather.  In 1913 Hawkins wrote Some Recollections of a Busy Life and printed 300 copies.  Now 102 years later, Eggers was able to use his press to get it reprinted,

What’s even more disconcerting is that we’re prepared for the book to be 102 years old, but it starts with Hawkins talking about what it was like seventy years ago.  So the beginning of this book is actually set in the 1840s and 50s.  He was born March 6, 1836 in Missouri about 12 miles from the Mississippi River. His grandfather had been from Virginia and then moved to Kentucky and then on to Missouri.

He is writing his recollection not believing that the general public would care about them but he hopes his children and grandchildren might be interested in the changes which have taken places over the years of their grandfather’s life.

He grew up West of the Mississippi with no railroads and no telegraphic or telephonic communication with the rest of the world.  News in the East took weeks to reach them.  Electrical lighting was a thing undreamed of.  They made their own soap with the ashes from their fires.  Their clothes were homemade. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 15, 2016] Blue Öyster Cult

2016-01-16 23.20.39I first got into Blue Öyster Cult in 1981 with “Burnin’ for You” (yep, I knew that before “Don’t Fear the Reaper”).  Fire of Unknown Origin was my favorite album for years.  When I got to college, I met my friend Nick when I drew the Blue Öyster Cult logo on my notebook and he saw it.  And then I found out that my neighbor Glen was the biggest Blue Öyster Cult fan, possibly ever.

He has seen them play a bunch of times, but for some reason I never went.  And that is my one major regret after seeing them–I wish I had seen them before when the whole band was together and when they were 20 years younger.  For while they did not disappoint, they weren’t quite up to the standards I had imagined.

The week before the show I listened to their whole catalog and imagined an ideal setlist–deep cuts and weird songs.  But honestly, they could have played any of their songs and it would have been great.

And I loved that they played a sampling of songs from throughout their career. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 15, 2016] Vanilla Fudge

2016-01-16 20.13.10I had never seen Blue Öyster Cult even though I’ve been a pretty big fan since college.  So when I saw they were playing at the Wellmont, I had to go see them.  As it turns out Vanilla Fudge was going to be the opener.

I have known of Vanilla Fudge, but I realized that I had no idea what they sang.  And when I looked them up, their biggest hits were all covers.  It turns out, that’s what they are–the world’s most successful and unusual cover band (Led Zeppelin opened for them in 1969, and Deep Purple got their organ sound from Vanilla Fudge).

Although they do covers, their sound is very much their own.  They don’t so much cover songs as transform them into their own style.  And that style is psychedelic and very heavy.

The band released five albums from 1967-1969 and then broke up.  They reunited and recorded an album in 1984.  Then split up.  And reunited in 2002 (with a different singer) and released an album of rerecorded old Vanilla Fudge as well as a cover of a Backstreet Boys and an N’Sync song (!).

Then the original lineup reunited in 2007 for an album of all Led Zeppelin covers called Out Through the In Door.  And then last year they released a new album called Spirit of ’67 (a collection of songs from 1967).  This featured all of the original members except the bassist who has retired.

So, here it is almost 50 years later and the original lineup (sans bassist) is still touring.  And they sounded amazing.  (more…)

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