ANSWERED PRAYER: Impulse Records is planning an 08 October release for A Love Supreme Live, a previously unavailable on stage performance of the landmark early 1965 album of the same name by the JOHN COLTRANE QUARTET.  Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell shares the details in the Bits And Pieces column. Click on the Bits And Pieces link under the Previous Posts heading at right for the full story. (Click on above image to enlarge).

SINCE 1975 -

Welcome to the official web site for Blitz, The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. Since 1975, Blitz has been the leading voice for the discerning music enthusiast. Blitz Magazine was also one of the first magazines of its kind to embrace the internet, having also been online since January 1996.

Here you will find news and updates about all of the key artists essential to the growth and development of rock and roll music and related genres, including rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and easy listening. For highlights from recent past editions of the Bits And Pieces and Shape Of Things To Come columns, click on the archival postings on the right hand side of this page. Be sure and check back frequently for regular updates.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us at

Michael McDowell
Blitz Magazine
Since 1975 - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

E-Mail us at for a list of available back issues.

Be sure to follow Blitz on Twitter:
on Facebook at:
Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People


Follow the fascinating and unfolding tale (through her favorite music) of the life and times of Blitz Magazine's late and beloved Photo Editor, Audrey McDowell, as told by her husband, Blitz Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell. A Facebook exclusive! "Like" us on Facebook at Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, and watch for further installments.


In a free standing article, Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell discusses with CINECYDE co-founder and front man Gary Reichel life for the band in the wake of the tragic and unexpected passing of bassist Chris Girard in 2019, as well as their back with a vengeance all new Tremor release, Vegetable Or Thing

The world of music mourns the loss of one of its most enduring and beloved pioneers with the 27 July passing of HARPTONES co-founder and lead vocalist, WILLIE WINFIELD.

Impulse Records will be adding to the extraordinary legacy of JOHN COLTRANE with the 08 October release of a newly discovered 1965 stereo live performance of his signature album for the label, A Love Supreme.

DEBBIE GIBSON has the faithful rejoicing in the wake of the release of her all new Stargirl label album, The Body Remembers.

We pay tribute to ROLLING STONES drummer CHARLIE WATTS, who succumbed to a brief illness in a London hospital on 24 August.


The music produced throughout the greater San Diego area during rock and roll's most creative period finally gets proper recognition via the magnificent new Relampago-go label anthology, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958 - 1973

Roger Maglio's Gear Fab label has added to its acclaimed Psychedelic States series with one of its most solid offerings yet: West Virginia In The '60s.

Rock N' Roll School For Girls is the first career spanning look at the work of the veteran band, the CATHOLIC GIRLS.

The 7a label continues its impressive series of the finest Monkees-related releases with Cosmic Partners, the landmark 1973 live concert at McCabe's Guitar Shop by MICHAEL NESMITH AND RED RHODES.


The prolific veteran composer and lyricist BRIAN GARI takes the classic question, "What's in a name?" to a whole new level with his latest Original Cast Records release, Names, Volume Two.

Veteran first generation garage rock greats the TOL-PUDDLE MARTYRS endured a fair share of pandemic related logistics issues to get the word out. But their efforts were worth it for their all new Under A Cloud, one of their most ambitious releases to date. 

Veteran rockers FRIJID PINK have returned to form with one of their most solid collections of original material in recent years with their latest Dynasty Records release, Hot Pink.



IT'S GOTTA LAST FOREVER: Billy J. Kramer And The Dakotas, Herman's Hermits, Gerry And The Pacemakers, the Dave Clark Five, the Yardbirds, Lulu, the Kinks and the Downliners Sect are among the many great artists profiled in author PETER CHECKSFIELD's two latest books. Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell takes a closer look below.  (Click on above image to enlarge).

Peter Checksfield

Peter Checksfield

By Michael McDowell

Among other things, the advent of the so-called punk / new wave movement in the mid to late 1970s raised the bar for the DIY ethic in a number of fields. 

In the wake of the countless self-produced singles and albums that surfaced as the disenfranchised rallied to rescue music from the protracted aesthetic slump in which it found itself at the time, endeavors in related fields availed themselves accordingly. Most prominent among them were the independently produced music periodicals, of which Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People remains the lone active survivor. 

Concurrently, the record collectors and musicologists who were inspired by the movement often contributed by putting the knowledge gained from the study of their recorded archives and personal research into book form. The resultant titles, such as Minnesota Rocked In The 1960s and Peace Record Guide often succeeded by virtue of enthusiasm as much as they did by helping to meet (if not fulfill) a great need.

However, in that pre-internet era, research was often spotty and limited to the resources at hand for the individual author. But as communications increased exponentially over the next several decades, the sharing of information online brought much to light that had been overlooked in even the best of those well intended early efforts. 

In this digital age, those ambitious early outings often seem quaint and / or passe, as well as limited by definition in their usefulness as reference works. But in light of an increase in the return to basics perspective in the wake of the isolation borne of the 2020 pandemic, the DIY ethic seems to once again be gaining momentum.

Musically speaking, legendary artists such as Debbie Gibson have raised anticipation levels to near fever pitch among the faithful with her forthcoming DIY One Step Closer single (scheduled for 16 July release) and her The Body Remembers album, both for her own Stargirl label. In turn, alumni of such respected veteran bands as the Mutants and the Plugs have joined forces as the Rearragements, whose independently recorded, produced and released debut album, At Sixes And Sevens is one of the best new offerings of 2021 to date.

In terms of publications, UK author and musicologist Peter Checksfield has championed the return to basics perspective in an encouraging way, via the release of a series of books that chronicle major movements and landmarks from rock and roll's most productive period.

Checksfield's two most recent releases, while true to the spirit of those aforementioned earliest works at the onset of the movement, nonetheless take the essential step of upgrades in terms of journalistic acumen and physical layout. The first of these is a chronicle of the much missed ABC television series, Shindig! Hosted by the late Jimmy O'Neil (who was once interviewed at length in Blitz Magazine) and featuring recording artists Donna Loren, the Blossoms, Bobby Sherman and Carol Shelyne as regular cast members, Shindig! was the most prominent among a series of like minded series that included Swingin' Time, Hullaballoo, Malibu U, The Lloyd Thaxton Show, Shivaree, Shebang, Top Of The Pops, Let's Go, Where The Action Is, Hollywood A Go Go and others.

In his book, Checksfield chronicles each episode of the 1964 - 1966 series individually, including all musical performances, augmented with visuals from each episode. A supplementary discography details subsequent availability on vinyl, CD, VHS and DVD. 

Checksfield's second work is the more ambitious of the two, chronicling as it does the highlights of the most impacting musical movement of the era. Having A Rave Up! includes all related releases by the front runners of the so-called British Invasion, including Herman's Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, Billy J. Kramer And The Dakotas, the Fortunes, Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders, Lulu, the Kinks, the Pretty Things, the Downliners Sect and many, many others. While individual commentary is often limited to the most basic attributes of each artist's respective legacy, given the sheer volume of talent at hand, such brevity is arguably borne of necessity.

To be certain, Checksfield's books serve as much as reference volumes as they do narratives on their respective subjects (and perhaps even more so). But, if nothing else, those who lament the presumed "lack of warmth" of the internet once again have at their disposal the fruits of independent labors, such as the aforementioned independent CD and vinyl releases. And for those times of reflection and independent study, a bit of recreational reading (if not enlightenment, at least on the part of the hardcore faithful), augmented by a well stocked library of recordings most assuredly qualifies as both a Shindig and a Rave Up in its own right.


SUGAR BUZZ Veteran Michigan musical visionaries CINECYDE have returned with a vengeance following the tragic and unexpected passing of bassist Chris Girard in 2019 with their all new Tremor Records release, Vegetable Or Thing. In the following exchange with Blitz Magazine Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell, Cinecyde co-founder and front man Gary Reichel discusses the resolve and commitment to their most unique vision, both of which have enabled the band to flourish for nearly a half century. The band is pictured above in concert in August 2021. Left to right: Jim Olenski (lead guitar), Diane Schroeder (drums), Gary Reichel (lead vocals), Skid Marx (bass). (Click on the above image to enlarge).

By Michael McDowell

In recent years, the music industry has taken a cue from the corporate world and has found that mergers can sometimes be beneficial.

Sometimes those mergers are borne of necessity, such as when veteran groups find themselves in need by way of attrition or due to the untimely passing of colleagues. One of the most successful and enduring examples availed itself in the late 1970s, when still active members of the Larados (Bad, Bad Guitar Man) and the Reflections (Poor Man's Son, Deborah Ann, June Bride) came together; first as the Larados, and more recently as the Reflections. That merger enabled them to persevere prolifically both in the recording studio and on the concert stage.

More recently, surviving members of area supergroups the Mutants and the Plugs joined forces to form an all new venture, the Rearrangements. The band's resultant debut, At Sixes And Sevens is one of the most promising albums of the decade to date. 

Taking their cue from these fellow suburban Detroit veterans in part out of necessity in recent months has been the pioneering band, Cinecyde. The band was founded by front man Gary Reichel in tandem with the onset of the so-called punk and new wave movement that availed itself in the mid-1970s.
Many of Cinecyde's area colleagues at that time were both prolific and promising in their own right. The evidence could be found via the release of such game changing singles as the Mutants' So American, the Romantics' Little White Lies, the Reruns' Since You Gotta Cheat / So So Alone and the Ivories' Doctor Help, to name but a few. Musically, each drew from the vaunted verse, chorus and bridge template to maximum advantage.

But Reichel's vision was one that was borne more of an ongoing dissatisfaction with the mainstream at large. Understandably disillusioned with the pedestrian fare that characterized the area's FM radio output of the day, Reichel rose to the occasion and created with Cinecyde an anthem for the ages that arguably stands among the finest releases of the era. That 1977 single, Gutless Radio found both Reichel and guitarist Jim Olenski in full out assault mode, providing an anthem for the movement in the process. 

Cinecyde persevered well into the next decade, with such first rate releases as Black Vinyl Threat, Positive Action and Tough Girls to their credit. Their momentum carried well into the current century, evidenced by such ambitious originals as I Won't Break and Fueled For Action. Rounding out the band's present day line up is drummer Diane Schroeder.

Tragically, Cincecyde was dealt an unexpected blow in July 2019 with the passing of long time bassist, Chris Girard. Yet somewhat ironically, the band eventually navigated that setback via another merger. In 1978, an ambitious duo known as Flirt (Rocky Re Marx - vocals; Skid Marx - bass) released their debut single, Don't Push Me for Real Records to instant acclaim, enabling Flirt to take their place alongside Cinecyde and other area front runners in the movement. And it is Flirt bassist Skid Marx who has risen to the occasion and has succeeded Girard as Cinecyde's bassist. 

Not surprisingly, the 2020 pandemic adversely impacted Cinecyde as it did bands and solo artists around the world. Live performances ground to a halt as a result, although the band did persevere with the recording process incrementally, when circumstances permitted. 

Thankfully, that same year, Cincecyde was given an unexpected major boost via their inclusion in the acclaimed vinyl anthology album, End Of The Night (1976 - 1983) on the Hold Fast label. Therein, Cinecyde's Phosphorous And Napalm was featured among rare and in demand tracks by Flirt, the Reruns, the Ivories, the Rushlow-King Combo, the Seatbelts, the Mutants, the Plugs and others. 

Duly inspired, Cinecyde returned to the studio with Skid Marx to put the finishing touches on their latest Tremor Records release, Vegetable Or Thing. The final Cinecyde project to include contributions by Chris Girard, Vegetable Or Thing is indeed a smorgasbord of the band's trademark unique lyrical approach, with a slight trace of the tongue in cheek perspective. The latter attribute is evidenced in their tribute to Cramps lead guitarist Kristy "Ivy" Wallace, Widow Ivy, as well as the science fiction-inspired title track. That the album's original material is among the most accessible and melodic of their career is as much a testament to their commitment to genre diversity and a steadfast belief in both the cerebral approach and heart as foundational.

Most encouragingly, Cinecyde has returned to live performance in tandem with the release of Vegetable Or Thing, with several well received appearances to their credit throughout the year to date. Blitz Magazine recently caught up with Gary Reichel, whose enthusiasm for the band's unwavering mission statement (as it approaches the half century mark) continues unabated.

BLITZ: Cinecyde's signature single, 1977's Gutless Radio was an instant classic, and arguably stands alongside the likes of Eddie And The Hot Rods' Do Anything You Wanna Do and the Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop as one of the definitive anthems of the movement. However, given the even sorrier state of mainstream radio in the third decade of the twenty-first century, did you ever feel that either the band still has its work cut out for itself, or that your initial efforts contained a touch of the prophetic?

REICHEL: We’re honored to be included in that rank! Regular rock radio atrophied back in the mid 1970s and it hasn’t gotten any better. 

Radio is an expensive proposition. It takes a lot of money to keep it running. The only problem was, the willingness by the corporate owners to give the format some leeway went away. That leeway is what can keep the station vital and compelling. 

I know, the bean counters will explain a little variation of the format (read giving music a little out of the rigid format a chance) will drive away their listeners. But you have to innovate to remain vital. Gutless Radio and Rock Meat & The Hard-Ons was our way of shouting a warning that radio had gone completely wrong.

It sure was tough seeing a whole exciting movement of music be squashed and kept from a wider audience. The range and scope of which was so very wide and varied. Some leaked out either by accident or perhaps because of college radio, of which there are some great shows. I always thought the Ramones should have been as big as the Beach Boys of the early to mid 1960s. Yeah, there’s still plenty of work to do!

BLITZ: While many of your area colleagues went on to strike deals with other record labels, Cinecyde opted to stay the independent route. While there was the benefit of creative autonomy as a result, were there any regrets in that respect?

REICHEL: I had heard so many horror stories about bands that were completely manipulated by their label and it disgusted me. There were some musicians that benefited and that is great. The music business is filled with so many pitfalls and with a broken system to get music to the public, it is hard to celebrate. Sometimes it works, but it is a strange business.

But we like making music and we like recording music. Songs that entertain us and hopefully catch the ear of the public. The only choice is to arrange the whole thing on your own. Write music, record music, press records, try to get some distribution. Why wait? Do it yourself. We can tell other musicians, you will be satisfied and have a sense of accomplishment. Plus, as an artist, it is your responsibility to document your work and to document it on a disc.

BLITZ: There is an established pattern with respect to veteran artists joining forces out of necessity. To wit, some years ago, the pioneering vocal groups the Reflections and the Larados merged, with charter members of each group still active in the present day incarnation of the Reflections. Likewise, founding members of the Plugs and the Mutants have turned out one of the best debut albums of the decade to date with their new band, the Rearrangements. 

In turn, following the tragic passing of Cinecyde veteran Chris Girard in July 2019, the band opted to persevere with Skid Marx now overseeing responsibilities on the bass. In fact, the basic templates of eleven of the fourteen tracks on the band's new album, Vegetable Or Thing were conceived when Girard was still in the band. Given Marx's extensive track record as co-founder of Flirt, what sort of impact did his presence have on the band's existing mission statement?

REICHEL: Chris Girard was appreciated, loved and a great player. He had many issues to deal with and we thought he should step away for three or four months to get a handle on what he was dealing with. A temporary hiatus. 

We had a commitment to play at the Detroit All-Star Garage-Rock Punk Revue and asked Skid Marx if he could substitute for Chris. It went well and we took on a few more gigs with Skid. 

Chris’ situation wasn’t getting better. I thought, perhaps Chris would be able to rejoin the band in ten or twelve months, but it wasn’t to be. His health took a huge turn downward and we lost him. 

Skid has worked well with us. His style is a little different, but I appreciate it. Diane and Jim have been able to mesh well with his playing. Cinecyde is an existing band and Skid studied our work and plays our songs. 

But it is important to move forward and we have.  We’ve started recording Out Of The Past, I’ll Go Away, The World Is Getting Me Down, I’m Sorry I Met You and several others. We also just recorded Primitive Town. Skid brought the basic musical structure and I wrote the lyrics. Jim and Diane worked on the arrangement. I welcome Skid’s musical contributions, and after some adjustments, it all becomes Cinecyde! He is a good man, a funny man, a great musician, a walking Detroit Punk Rock historian and a member of Cinecyde.

BLITZ: Vegetable Or Thing is a winner on a variety of levels. For one thing, the title track and its resultant black and white video draws from the inspiration of such classic science fiction films as The Blob and Plan Nine From Outer Space, while the track itself exudes a solidarity of sorts with the Cramps' Human Fly

The latter point is highlighted exponentially therein with Widow Ivy, your tribute to Cramps co-founder, Kristy "Ivy Rorschach" Wallace. And your highly distinctive lead vocals have risen to the occasion accordingly. What prompted such a diversity of inspiration for that project?

REICHEL: I’ve had an appreciation of 50’s science fiction and film noir for many years. I’m really happy with the finished results of both songs. The video for Vegetable Or Thing is on YouTube. And it has that sci-fi and noir-ish feel/ Thank you filmmaker, Chris Jordan! 

There is a spectrum of sound for Cinecyde. I’ve always appreciated the garage bands of the sixties, like the Electric Prunes, the Blues Magoos, Paul Revere And The Raiders and even the Monkees. Oh, I could name a ton more! Couple that with punk, twinges of rockabilly, pop, old country and blues, we have a lot to draw from.  It it is all put through the filter of punk or should I say, Cinecyde. 

Yes, as contemporaries, I admired the Cramps and felt for them, as they got a raw deal from their record label. The shock of Lux’s death also made me think of Ivy. Later, I wrote Widow Ivy and wasn’t sure if it would work in the context of Cinecyde. But it did and we were all able to bring something to the song to satisfy us. 

BLITZ: You're So Far Away and The Mouth That Won't Shut Up are somewhat more straight ahead in terms of execution and lyrical content than is most Cinecyde fare, demonstrating perhaps a bit of solidarity with the aforementioned original front runners of the movement. In turn, the instrumental The Westerner and the original vocal piece, Candy Girl each tip the hat to an extent to rock and roll pioneer Link Wray. Given that much of the band's lyrics opt for a more topical nature, were cuts such as these perhaps conceived as attempts to in part think outside of your own box?

REICHEL: I think if you look at the body of work that is Cinecyde, it covers a lot of ground. Topical, sometimes. Aggressive, sure. Poppy in a garage band sort of way, occasionally. There are some great songs there. Everything from Radiation SicknessTough Girls, Don’t Come Crying To MeIndustrial Grey, Keep An Open Mind, I Will Not Obey, Don’t Push Me, Falling ApartThree Summers, Today The World Will Rock, Lezbo Vampires vs Al Qaida, Sugar Buzz, The Signal From Outer Space, Vegetable Or Thing to just name some. 

Yes, there is a Cinecyde sound. But sometimes you have to think outside of the box to some degree. You have to accept the notes that play in your head using your taste and sensibilities to figure out what works. For me, it always starts with a song. Is it a good song? Can the band work with what it is or adapt it? But from time to time, I like to stretch the boundaries a little. 

In stretching the boundaries, Jim Olenski (guitar), Diane Schroeder (drums) and I have enjoyed movie soundtracks (mostly ‘50s and ‘60s) and certainly we’ve had a number of discussions about that. Surf guitar and other rock n roll instrumentalists are also a delight. Cinecyde has done a handful of instrumentals we’ve all brought to the band. And now we find Skid (also) enjoys exploring music in an instrumental aspect. I thought of The Westerner as a kind of movie theme that could have been placed in the early to mid 1960s. I’m playing guitar with Jim on that one. And yes, Link Wray, oh yeah!

BLITZ: The Ballad Of Bootsey X is of course a tribute to the late Ramrods and Sillies alumnus, Robert Mulroney, who succumbed to brain cancer in November 2013. Given the seemingly higher mortality rate amongst musicians, do such developments being about a sense of urgency for Cinecyde, either individually or collectively? If so, what direction do you see the band taking to fulfill those visions?

It certainly gives you pause. We miss Robert. He was in Cinecyde, playing drums for about six or seven months. We recorded Burn The Crack House Down with him. 

Do I have a sense of urgency? I do. Cinecyde has eight albums. But in this time we should have had sixteen! So many things in life derail your plans. Failures, disasters, financial and health issues have affected us to one degree or another. 

But we get up and keep moving. We are in a phase right now of great productivity and that gives me satisfaction.

We finished up the disc Vegetable Or Thing and we are very pleased with it. I’m proud of our body of work. We’ve created compelling punk pieces that can stand on their own.



RED CARPET READY: Reaction among the faithful (also known as Deb Heads) has been euphoric in the wake of the 20 August release of The Body Remembers, the all new studio album by DEBBIE GIBSON on her own Stargirl label.  Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell shares the details of this extraordinary project below.  (Click on above image to enlarge).


For years, the late James Brown was often referred to as, "The Hardest Working Man In Show Business". But such a distinction could also be made about Jimi Hendrix, Jim Reeves and John Coltrane.

With respect to the latter three artists, all were so prolific on both the concert stage and in the recording studio, that new material by each artist continues to be released within the current century, decades after their respective passings (Hendrix died in September 1970, Reeves in July 1964 and Coltrane in July 1967). 

Within the twenty-first century alone, saxophonist John William Coltrane has been the subject of several new releases of both live and studio recordings. These heretofore unavailable sessions have largely stemmed from his work with the classic John Coltrane Quartet, which also included pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. Almost invariably, these newly available collections were originally recorded during the quartet's affiliation with Impulse Records, believed by many to represent the apex of Coltrane's extraordinary and far reaching vision.

By far the most acclaimed of Coltrane's Impulse Recordings was his landmark A Love Supreme album. Recorded in late 1964 and released on Impulse in early 1965, A Love Supreme was Coltrane's impassioned musical tribute to the Lord. 

Yet while A Love Supreme ultimately went on to become Coltrane's signature endeavor, only three live performances of it were known to exist. As 1965 progressed, Coltrane's remarkable vision continued to expand, resulting inevitably in personnel changes within the quartet. And while highlights of his vast catalog were not set aside in live performances under the circumstances, Coltrane's focus nonetheless began to emphasize vision over reflection. 

For years, it was believed that the only performance of the three live presentations of A Love Supreme that had been recorded was one that transpired at a jazz festival in France in July 1965. That particular live performance had been included as bonus material in the deluxe CD commemorative edition released by Impulse some years ago.

However, it has recently been discovered that saxophonist Carlos Ward, who had been mentored by Coltrane and sat in with the group on that monumental occasion, had in his archives a full length stereo recording of that elusive second live performance of the album in its entirety. Recorded at the Penthouse Club in Seattle, Washington during a week long residency in late 1965, it is Ward's reel to reel tape which provided the source material for this sublime forthcoming release.

In keeping in part with the atmosphere of a worship service that characterized the studio recording of A Love Supreme, Coltrane augmented the quartet's classic line up with additional players for this landmark live performance. In addition to Ward, the basic line up of Coltrane, Tyner, Garrison and Jones is joined by saxophonist Farrell "Pharoah" Sanders (who became a regular part of Coltrane's entourage), as well as Donald Garrett working alongside Garrison on bass. 

While the basic framework of the studio recording of A Love Supreme continues to set the stage here, the additional personnel allows for greater freedom within that blueprint, not unlike the "moved by the Spirit" results of a traditional church worship service. Concurrently, there are hints of the expanded overall vision that would avail itself in the coming months, as the addition of Sanders (and later Coltrane's wife, Alice on keyboards) helped define, as Coltrane's work moved into its final phase, which was tragically cut short by his battle against cancer. 

With a detailed essay by historian Ashley Kuhn and insights from the musicians themselves, Impulse's live performance of A Love Supreme is slated for 08 October release. To be certain, in keeping with the spirit of the performance itself, its imminent availability is nothing less than answered prayer.


There had been enough concerns about his health that his doctors advised him to sit out the band's forthcoming tour. Even so, few believed that this day would come so soon.

Drummer and Boonsbury, London native Charles Robert "Charlie" Watts passed away in a London hospital on Tuesday 24 August. He had been in recuperation from an illness that had sidelined him for the past several weeks.

Born on 02 June 1941 as the son of a lorry (truck) driver, Watts took to music at an early age. He was particularly enamored with the front runners of the burgeoning jazz movement, such as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Watts came on board with the Rolling Stones in January 1963. He succeeded Mick Avory, who went on to join the Kinks. Watts has served in that capacity ever since. 

As one of music's most beloved and enduring institutions, the Rolling Stones' legacy needs little (if any) introduction. Suffice to say for the moment that Watts provided the backbeat and the heart for the band's most enduring classics, including (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, Get Off Of My Cloud, 19th Nervous Breakdown, Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?, Let's Spend The Night Together, Dandelion, Live With Me, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Let It Rock, It's Only Rock And Roll and Rip This Joint, to name but a few.

Tributes began pouring in from all over the world of music in the hours following Watts' passing. Lavish praise for his acumen as both a musician and as a human being has been coming in from the likes of Elton John, the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, the Monkees, the Kinks' Dave Davies, Tiffany, Herman's Hermits co-founder Karl Green and Beatles alumnus Paul McCartney. 

Watts' passing leaves only vocalist Mick Jagger and lead guitarist Keith Richards as the band's surviving active members. Bassist Bill Wyman retired in 1993, while rhythm guitarist Brian Jones passed away in 1969. Darryl Jones succeeded Wyman as bassist in 1993, while Creation alumnus Ron Wood has augmented Richards' work on guitar since 1975.

Charlie Watts is survived by his wife Shirley, their daughter Serafina and grand daughter Charlotte. Memorial services are pending.


It Was Just For Laughs.

That is sometimes how various solo artists, bands and vocal groups begin their musical careers. However, those who persevere for long periods of time ultimately do so through not just because of the laughs, but in response to the tragedies, trials and tribulations, as well.

One such beloved pioneering vocal group took that notion as seriously as it could be taken by making that maxim the title of the B-side of their signature single. Formed in 1951 in Manhattan, New York, the Harptones ultimately became one of rock and roll's most influential and most enduring acts among the pioneering vocal groups. The original line up was comprised of lead vocalist Willie Winfield, keyboard man and arranger Raoul Cita and vocalists Claude Clarke (first tenor), William Dempsey (second tenor), William "Dicey" Galloway (baritone) and Billy Brown (bass).

In short order, the Harptones also became one of rock and roll's most prolific vocal groups. Their high drama cover of Louis Prima's A Sunday Kind Of Love for Bruce Records put them on the map in 1953. It was followed in rapid succession by Since I Fell For You, I Depended On You and their utterly stupendous 1954 signature single, My Memories Of You, all for Bruce. 

In November 1954, Dicey Galloway was drafted into military service. With newcomer Freddy Taylor in his place (who shortly thereafter was succeeded by Bernard Beckum), the Harptones persevered, turning out one first rate single after another for such labels as Paradise, Andrea, Tip Top and Rama, including the highly acclaimed standards Life Is But A Dream, What Is Your Decision and The Shrine Of Saint Cecilia.

The Harptones persevered off and on throughout the ensuing years, turning in the occasional gem for such labels as Cub and KT along the way. But in 1982, the group got one of its biggest breaks when it was recruited to be a part of the artist roster of the short lived but exponentially impacting Ambient Sound label. With such legendary label mates as Randy And The Rainbows, the Mystics, the Capris, Johnnie And Joe, and the Jive Five turning out career highlights in the process, the Harptones' contributed to the proceedings with their highly acclaimed Love Needs album, which spawned the classic single, Love Needs A Heart.

Most encouragingly, the Harptones persevered well into the twenty-first century, with the magnificent and compelling lead vocals of Willie Winfield remaining among their primary attributes. While Winfield continued to maintain a strong social media presence to the present day (where he regularly fielded inquiries and words of encouragement from the group's sizeable fan base), health concerns forced his retirement from music in early 2019. 

And now, most tragically, a heart attack during the evening of Tuesday the 27th of July brought to a close the remarkable legacy of this most influential and beloved pioneer of the vocal group genre. Willie Winfield was 91. Memorial services are pending.


Record Store Day may never be the same again.

Created in part to generate and renew support for physical releases and brick and mortar retail outlets during the height of the digital era, Record Store Day has also brought into the forefront the competitive nature that has long persisted among musicologists and record collectors. 

To wit, the rise of the independent release as a dominant format during the so-called punk / new wave movement of the mid to late 1970s and early 1980s caused artist, label and observer alike to rethink the notion of the standard A and B side of a single being the be all and end all of the format. In a somewhat unlikely partnership with the concurrent disco movement (where twelve-inch vinyl singles featuring various incarnations of a single track held center stage), the punk / new wave releases brought into the process such heretofore peripheral variations as the Club Mix, Dub Mix, Radio Mix and the like. In the process, those extras provided an open door for the now essential bonus track, which was an integral part of the rise to prominence of the Compact Disc format in the 1980s.  

Procuring each and every variant became a matter of not just necessity, but (to a degree) pride amongst the hardcore faithful. It was at that point that the notion of record collecting as a competitive sport became a dominant trait within the movement. 

Interestingly enough, the baseball card industry followed suit in 1988 with the debut of the technically groundbreaking Upper Deck line of sports cards. Their near-immediate dominance of an industry long believed to be the exclusive domain of the venerable Topps brand gave birth to that industry's own version of bonus tracks and various mixes in the form of the chase card, which enticed the most ardent devotees with limited edition runs of cards featuring snippets of uniforms, game used bats and the like. 

However, the impact of the pandemic in 2020 affected the ad hoc Record Store Day holiday adversely, to the degree that some of its key attributes (most notably the celebration of new releases) were forced to ride out the storm online. While nearly all concerned acquiesced out of necessity, the more discerning artists and labels soon discovered and embraced the notion of an all encompassing approach that would feature the best of both worlds. 

Perhaps chief among the visionaries in terms of the artists themselves has been the beloved five-tool player (vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger), Deborah Ann "Debbie" Gibson. When the onset of the pandemic in early 2020 abruptly derailed the momentum of her highly acclaimed Girls Night Out single, her endearing attributes of genius and relentless optimism kicked in to provide an ongoing series of highlights throughout that most challenging of eras.

Among those highlights were the creation in her home studio (whose focal point is a grand piano once owned by the late, charismatic and highly influential keyboard virtuoso, Wladziu "Lee" Liberace) of several inspired musical performances that approach masterwork status even in the rudimentary state in which they remain for the moment. They include a sublime answer song of sorts to Girls Night Out in the form of the wry social commentary, Girls Night In, as well as a playful cover of Cockeyed Optimist from the 1958 Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein musical, South Pacific, and (most notably) a gorgeous, sublime, original piano instrumental, French Carousel, which arguably holds its own among the catalogs of such absolute masters as Leroy Anderson and Ron Goodwin. 

Released on 20 August on her own Stargirl label, The Body Remembers CD includes one of several existing mixes of Girls Night Out, as well as her recently released remake of her 1989 Atlantic label Lost In Your Eyes single as a duet with Joey McIntyre (with whom she is sharing the stage in a series of sold out performances in Las Vegas in August and September). The remainder of the fifteen track album (which is also slated for vinyl release) is comprised of new original material that promises to make The Body Remembers one of the highlights of the decade to date. The remaining selections include the title track, as well as Runway, Love Don't Care, Strings, Legendary, Freedom, Dance 4U, What Are We Gonna Do?, Luv U2 Much, Red Carpet Ready, Tell Me Love and the highly anticipated Me Not Loving You.

Almost without exception, those high levels of anticipation have been warranted for all such previous endeavors. And with respect to the album's latest single, One Step Closer, perhaps Gibson herself best illustrates the reasoning behind it.

"Ever had someone try to diminish you, but instead it lit you up?", she asked. 

"Then this is your song!"

Indeed, with such lyrical bravado as, "Bet you're missin' it; This, keep kissin' it" to underscore her resolve in that respect, One Step Closer may well take its place among such absolute masterpieces as the Thirteenth Floor Elevators' You're Gonna Miss Me (if not Rick Nelson's Garden Party) as one of the great vengeance anthems of the ages. To be certain, in the words of one of Gibson's classic signature Atlantic era singles, "It's electric!"



WATCH YOUR STEP: The music of the greater San Diego area that was produced throughout rock and roll's most fertile period at last gets its due via this magnificent Relampago-go label anthology, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958 - 1973.  Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a closer look below at this landmark collection. (Click on above image to enlarge).


The Catholic Girls (JSP)

Among other things, the study of the legacy of the Catholic Girls is a study of the reassessment of priorities.

Prior to the advent of the so-called punk / new wave era in the mid - 1970s, the belief of many a band and solo artist was that their success was best reflected in statistics, as well as being embraced by the mainstream media. Such optimistic (yet ultimately futile) reasoning was articulated throughout the decades via such memorable singles as Bobby Bare's The All American Boy, the Byrds' So You Want To Be A Rock 'N Roll Star and the Raspberries' Overnight Sensation.

Thankfully, the rise of the so-called independent music press (of which Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People remains the lone still-active publication) in tandem with the aforementioned punk / new wave movement called out such aspirations for what they ultimately were: an exercise in futility. But given the short shelf life afforded the vast majority of those who managed to crack that glass ceiling, the long term loyalty afforded the proven artist in the indie press was a welcome relief for those who opted to stay the course for the long run.

In the case of New Jersey's Catholic Girls, that reality check came about in short order. Their professed musical mission statement was countered on all fronts at the onset by the mainstream media over concerns regarding periphery that the band had not even taken into consideration, let alone incorporated into their vision. 

Thankfully and true to form, various factions within the indie press contingent came forward and welcomed the Catholic Girls with open arms. The band reciprocated by amassing a recorded legacy that consistently showcased the strength of their material via the consistent incorporation of a variety of attributes into the mix.

Put another way, the Catholic Girls did not consistently defer to the basics of songwriting (a solid verse, chorus and bridge template) to sustain their momentum. Like the late visionary genius Michael Holliday (who amassed an impressive legacy via his years ahead of its time technical acumen, augmented by a deliberately understated delivery that invariably drew the listener into the proceedings), the Catholic Girls often opted to tell their tale in near stream of consciousness manner, deferring to the consistence of the high drama element in their delivery (which worked particularly well in live settings) to sustain their momentum. It was an attribute that was also found in the works of the Des Moines, Iowa-based Luxury (particularly in their acclaimed 1979 Green Hearts single), and one that has long been used with resounding success in network television's so-called daytime serials. 

It is the best of the Catholic Girls' accomplishments in that respect that are gathered in this career spanning two CD collection. Compiled and remixed by Vincent Mazella and John H. Haley (who also provided a detailed account of the sessions in the accompanying booklet), the proceedings herein are equally divided between previously available material and various alternate takes and heretofore unissued demos. 

Within the latter group, there are signs of individuality from the onset. To wit, Private School incorporates snippets of landmark moments from earlier works by the Shangri-Las, Whyte Boots and Pleasure Seekers into a high drama setting that set a precedent for later works by the duly inspired On The Air and Dragster Barbie. In turn, Summer Boy (Summer Vacation) takes a Gene Pitney-like crescendo approach to paint a vivid portrait of a familiar yet captivating study in pathos. The brief instrumental workout in the final moments underscores the point quite succinctly. 

Meanwhile, amongst other things, the second disc celebrates the band's debut album for MCA. Subsequent studio sweetening was kept to a minimum, as the original 1982 sessions were well recorded to begin with, in keeping with MCA's unwavering standards in that respect. To be certain, the material in Catholic Girls was designed to be best appreciated in a live setting. The band took decisive steps to bring that concept to fruition at the time via various appearances with the Kinks, Martha And The Vandellas' Martha Reeves, Tom Petty and others. 

Ongoing support from Long Beach's KNAC-FM and Pasadena's KROQ-FM also helped, as did consistent accolades in the indie press. Nonetheless, the band and MCA eventually parted ways. Undaunted, the Catholic Girls pressed ahead, albeit despite occasional personnel changes. To that effect, lead vocalist / rhythm guitarist Gail Petersen, lead guitarist Roxy Andersen, bassist Joanne Holland and drummers Kyd Ellsworth and Doreen Holmes have been among the most consistent presences within their ranks. Their subsequent endeavors are well represented in Disc One via the inclusion of such memorable fare as If No One Fell In Love and It Doesn't Become You.

As a testament to their resilience, the Catholic Girls have persevered to the present day. And with hope currently springing eternal for an eventual return to live appearances, the time was most fortuitous to revisit their remarkable catalog in a commemorative manner. Most assuredly, this Rock N' Roll School For Girls has produced ongoing results on a grad school level.

Ella Fitzgerald (Verve)

"That was an attention getter".

The late Jackie Gleason invoked that prototypical expression of understatement while apprehending a suspect in his role as Sheriff Buford T. Justice in the classic 1977 motion picture, Smokey And The Bandit. To underscore his displeasure, Sheriff Justice administered the proverbial kick in the pants to the perpetrator. 

That said, displeasure in and of itself is most assuredly the antithesis of the proceedings at hand. Even so, the inevitable reaction is as attention getting as would be Gleason's method of discipline. 

Founded in 1956 by Norman Granz to provide a consistent label home for the extraordinary artist showcased here, Verve Records went on to become one of music's leading lights in short order. Among the top drawer artists to have been a part of the Verve roster were Rick Nelson, Cal Tjader, Wes Montgomery, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Smith, the Righteous Brothers, Walter Wanderley, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, the Mothers Of Invention, Dizzy Gillespie, the Velvet Underground and Hank Williams Junior in his Bocephus alter ego, as well as such visionaries as the Hombres, Janis Ian, the Blues Project, the Paupers and Friend And Lover on the company's affiliate Verve Forecast label. 

In her earlier recordings for Decca, Newport News, Virginia native Ella Jane Fitzgerald was all over the musical map. Her vast and vaunted catalog includes collaborations with such fellow visionaries as the Ink Spots, Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, Louis Jordan, Buddy Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Chick Webb, Buddy Rich, the Delta Rhythm Boys, Eddie Heywood and others. 

In the majority of those projects, all concerned inspired one another to greater heights. Not surprisingly, the result was a disproportionately higher percentage of top drawer material. 

However, upon occasion (primarily during solo projects during her tenure with Decca), Fitzgerald would opt for the so-called mood piece. And while such ventures were invariably well executed, they did to some listeners lean towards the anti-climactic, especially to those who favored her more spirited and upbeat approach.

Which is exactly why The Lost Berlin Tapes is indeed an attention getter.

Recorded at the Sportpalast on 25 March 1962, The Lost Berlin Tapes stems from high quality stereo recordings found in Grantz's extensive archives. Herein, Fitzgerald is accompanied by pianist Paul Smith, bassist Wilfred Middlebrooks and drummer Stan Levey, all of whom inspire her to unprecedented heights.

Indeed, from the opening rendition of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' 1935 Irving Berlin-penned Cheek To Cheek, Fitzgerald absolutely soars like never before. She gains even greater momentum via her interpretation of Matt Monro's My Kind Of Girl as He's My Kind Of Boy, invoking everyone from Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Harry Belafonte to Perry Como, Count Basie and Billy Eckstine in the process. 

The momentum continues to build as Fitzgerald glides decisively through the likes of Benny Goodman's Jersey Bounce, Ray Charles' Hallelujah I Love Her (Him) So, and Gordon MacRae's Cole Porter-penned C'est Magnifique. She even invokes a moment of self-realization and good natured self-depreciation during the prerequisite ballad arrangement of George Gershwin's often-covered Summertime.

By the set's end, as Fitzgerald tears into the Bobby Darin / Louis Armstrong standard, Mack The Knife, the audience is literally eating out of her hand and responds with near deafening applause. As such, the set closer, Joe Turner's Wee Baby Blues becomes as much a bid from the stage for a return to decorum among the audience members to allow for a gracious and timely exit as it does a showcase for genre diversity. 

Although she was blessed with a remarkable career that spanned nearly six decades, Fitzgerald sadly succumbed to complications from diabetes in June 1996. However, as a fitting testimony to her God given abilities, The Lost Berlin Tapes may well take its place in the upper echelons of her overall recorded legacy. And that, to be certain, is an attention getter of the highest order.

Michael Nesmith And Red Rhodes (7a)

Orville J. "Red" Rhodes was definitely a man whose reputation had preceded him.

In the early 1980s, Blitz Magazine paid a visit to Rhodes at his Hollywood, California-based guitar shop. In the wake of the dissolution of the First National Band several years earlier, Rhodes had opted to apply his considerable acumen as a steel guitar virtuoso and all around master of stringed instruments at large to a different career path.

Rhodes had established a formidable reputation via a series of solo recordings for the vaunted Crown and Somerset labels, followed by an acclaimed live album (recorded at the Palomino in North Hollywood) with the Detours for Era Records' affiliate Happy Tiger label. In 1969, he reached his career pinnacle by cofounding the supergroup, the First National Band with ace drummer John Ware, Monkees lead guitarist and resident visionary Michael Nesmith, and bassist extraordinaire John London (who had been an integral part of the legendary Lewis And Clarke Expedition, whose 1967 signature single. I Feel Good (I Feel Bad) featured Nesmith on backing vocals). 

Blitz Magazine had in its archives at the time a Gibson Les Paul copy electric guitar, which was in rather poor condition. However, the general consensus in the Southern California music community was that if any such instrument could be restored to fighting shape, Rhodes was the man for the job. With that, the somewhat battered guitar was brought to him for consideration.

"Sure, I'll see what I can do", Rhodes said, with a slight grin suggesting amusement at the notion of that much interest in a knock off model.

"I'll give you a call when it's ready".

True to his word, Rhodes phoned several days later to advise that the job had been completed. And in keeping with his legacy, that Les Paul copy model had been upgraded to the degree that it could have held its own with a Gibson original.

At that point, in addition to thanking him for his extraordinary work, Blitz Magazine took the opportunity to compliment Rhodes on his formidable legacy with the First National Band. The quartet's early 1970s albums and singles for RCA Victor pretty much set the standard of excellence in the country rock genre, with their 1970 Magnetic South album finishing in second place (behind Dave Edmunds' 1977 Get It! album for Swan Song) in Blitz Magazine's picks for Best Albums Of The 1970s.

With those words of praise, a slight smile of both pleasure and gratitude came over Rhodes' face.

"Come on back here", Rhodes said, gesturing towards the back room of his shop.

"I think you'll like this"

.In that back room was a well used steel guitar. Rhodes sat down in front of it and proceeded to play a magnificent version of The Crippled Lion from the Magnetic South album that brought his visitor to the brink of tears. 

Such is the power of absolute masters in their element.

As such, while it took the collective and considerable musical muscle of Ware, London and Rhodes to bring Nesmith's extraordinary musical vision to fruition, the notion of reproducing any of it in a live setting would have been inconceivable without at least the presence of Rhodes. 

All of which is evidenced in abundance in the 7a label's Cosmic Partners. Recorded live on 18 August 1973 at the Santa Monica-based McCabe's Guitar Shop (whose most recent musical guests include the legendary and beloved composer and vocalist, Evie Sands), Cosmic Partners is a rare intimate glimpse of giants in transition. By that time, the First National Band and spinoff Second National Band had run their respective courses, with Nesmith and Rhodes persevering as a duo for RCA Victor for a brief season. 

In place of Ware and London for this live date were bassist Colin Cameron and drummer Danny Lane, who, while supremely competent in those roles, nonetheless astutely held back here just enough to let the light duly shine on Nesmith and Rhodes. And shine they did, in a set that offered a sublime mix of the highlights of the First and Second National Band's brief but most formidable legacy.

Interspersed among Nesmith's trademark tales of the musician's life are some of the most compelling examples of the genre ever committed to record, from Tomorrow And Me, The Crippled Lion and Some Of Shelley's Blues (which had been covered by both the Stone Poneys and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) to the classic singles Silver Moon, Joanne and Propinquity (which had been a staple of the live set of veteran rockers the Chantays for much of the 1980s). To their considerable credit, Nesmith and Rhodes also offered up that evening a spot on rendition of their sublime cover of Bobby Garrett's Rose City Chimes, which had initially been issued as the B-side of the First National Band's Little Red Rider at the end of 1969.

Sadly, only Michael Nesmith and John Ware survive from that classic First National Band line up. Red Rhodes passed away in August 1995 at age 65, while the great John London died in his home state of Texas in February 2000 at age 58. 

With John Ware retired from live performances, Nesmith has in recent years has revisited his First National Band legacy with a revised group that he calls the First National Band Redux. He and beloved drummer Micky Dolenz likewise continue to soldier on as the Monkees in the wake of the tragic passing of band co-founder and bassist/keyboardsman Peter Tork in February 2019, with a series of live dates scheduled throughout 2020. The Monkees of course also turned out one of the twenty-first century's definitive masterpieces to date with their 2016 fiftieth anniversary album, Good Times! for Rhino Records.

And in keeping with their mission statement of releasing the finest of Monkees solo and related projects, Cosmic Partners comes with a highly detailed 24 page book, as well as being available as a picture disc in the vinyl album configuration. And, in the words of one of the standout tracks from the First National Band's Loose Salute album, Thanx For The Ride.

Various Artists 
(Gear Fab)

Sometimes it's all a matter of perspective.

With respect to the state of West Virginia, how a visitor approaches the state may well have a direct impact on how that visitor ultimately perceives it. For example, the area known as the state's Northern Panhandle is a relatively narrow stretch of land, which measures approximately thirteen miles from west to east. It can be accessed by car via Ohio from the west, or by Pennsylvania from the east. 

During that thirteen mile stretch, the visitor will encounter multiple truck stops. Among the most prominent attractions there is the acclaimed Eat And Park restaurant chain. 

But the landmark of note within that relatively brief drive is the city of Wheeling. The seat of Ohio County, Wheeling is known primarily for the West Virginia Independence Hall, which presently serves as a museum of early American history. The city also boasts a number of above average antique shops and thrift stores.

However, if a brief journey through the Northern Panhandle becomes the visitor's total experience of the state of West Virginia, they will have based their assessment solely on a visit to an area that comprises less than five percent of the state overall. 

Or to paraphrase the late Ellas "Bo Diddley" McDaniel, sometimes you can't judge a pan by its handle.

In the latest installment of his acclaimed Psychedelic States CD reissue series, Gear Fab Records founder and CEO Roger Maglio underscores that analogy quite decisively. West Virginia In The '60s features twenty-nine tracks which irrefutably demonstrate that the state could more than hold its own in the first generation garage rock movement with the best of them.

To underscore the point, in the project's sizeable and painstakingly detailed accompanying essay, Maglio within the first sentence refers to West Virginia as the Great Mountain State. The reasoning behind the emphasis becomes apparent in short order, with the biographical accounts of each artist denoting a level of vision and originality that supersedes the presumptive opinion.

To be certain, many an exponent of first generation garage rock has relied upon familiar cover material. In some respects, that proved to be counter productive to the movement at large. 

However, the artists herein show themselves to be worthy of accolades by instead contributing strong and reasonably diverse original material. Witness Disappointed In You by Al's Dynamics, or the Mojos' haunting What She's Done (with high drama atmosphere that was seemingly inspired by Bobby Jameson's I'm Lonely). In turn, the Plastic Menagerie draws from period devices (the "watery" Leslie sound) for maximum effect in Hold Your Baby Close. 

Conversely, the Evil Enc. Group's Hey You and the Satisfied Minds' I Can't Take It stick to the basics, with optimum results. Strong showings are also made by the Mysterians (Walking Home), the Scarlets (If I Had A Girl) and the Blue Crowd's Barry McGuire-ish Need A Friend.

But as further testimony to some of the artists' resolve to strive for originality, several of the tracks herein take decisive leaps forward into sparsely charted territory. The Fantastic Emanons do so in tongue in cheek manner with Duh, a unique hybrid of the Blendells' La La and the Driving Stupid's Horror Asparagus Stories.

Meanwhile, the Sabres' Need Your Lovin' sports a strong horn chart with pertinent changes in dynamics, a la the Mauds. J.T. And The Trolls' I Can't Believe It takes that concept a step further with a decisive Northern Soul flavor, while Royal (also known as the Royals Band) make a decisive leap forward into funk with their stereo cut, Star Goddess.

The one group herein to venture into both realms with equal success are the Long Brothers. Their Lonely Time evokes the New Colony Six's I Lie Awake (complete with horn charts), while its flip side, Dream Girl falls somewhere in between Sonny And Cher's Little Man and the Music Explosion's Little Black Egg.

Interestingly enough, with one exception (the aforementioned Long Brothers, whose pair of contributions here were originally released on Jubilee Records), each and every single in this gem of a collection initially appeared on the most basic of indie labels, which typifies the spirit of the genre at its best. Not that either option irrefutably factors into the outcome of the respective performances. But it does reiterate that each of these bands opted to not be deterred by their seeming geographic isolation. 

Rather, all concerned used their circumstances to strive for originality and delivered solidly on their own terms in the process. Perhaps the Flys' September 1966 Myskatonic label single defined the collective mission statement best: Be What You Is.

THE SAN DIEGO SCENE 1958 - 1973 --
Various Artists 

Curiously, one issue that musical developments have in common in the states of California and Michigan is a peripheral one: geography.

Throughout each state, various genres came to fruition and were celebrated accordingly within their respective home bases. In the case of Michigan, much of that was due to the liability of provincialism, in which undue emphasis is placed on a perceived "home town" focal point. Almost invariably, that relegates the likes of musical merit to secondary concern. 

Nonetheless, three highly productive scenes developed there during rock and roll's most fertile and creative period. In the western part of Michigan's lower peninsula, such first generation garage rock greats as the Kingtones, the Sheffields, Me And Dem Guys, the Five Emprees and the Quests made their mark decisively. 

Meanwhile, to the Northeast in the midsection of the lower peninsula (an area that encompasses Bay City, Saginaw and the surrounding communities, including Flint), the Bossmen, the Cherry Slush, Question Mark And The Mysterians and Terry Knight And The Pack all joined forces to take first generation garage rock to the next level. All but the Cherry Slush (who were recruited by the Chicago-based USA label) found a sympathetic home at the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based Cameo / Parkway family of labels, which at the time, under the oversight of Neil Bogart in terms of artist development became one of the world's front runners in that capacity.

And to the south, greater Detroit was showcasing what was arguably first generation garage rock's most productive movement ever. The wealth of top drawer protagonists of the movement speaks for itself: Bob Seger And The Last Heard, the Rationals, the Unrelated Segments, the Tidal Waves, Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels, the Underdogs, the Woolies, the Human Beings, the Young Men, the Scot Richard Case, Tim Tam And The Turn-Ons, the Thyme, the Shy Guys, the Pleasure Seekers, the Capreez, the Torquays, the Lazy Eggs and the Wanted, to name but a few. The concurrent quantum leaps being made there in Northern Soul via the Motown empire and such forward thinking labels as Revilot, Golden World, Ric-Tic and Groovesville served to make a phenomenal movement even more so.

However, as evidence of the aforementioned liability of provincialism, these three musical movements operated largely independently of one another, despite being separated by at most 150 miles. As such, artists who flourished within their home bases were often unknown just a two hour drive up the road. Not surprisingly, the attention spans of the rank and file were short lived, as their attention was eventually diverted by whatever "next big things" would assuage their jingoistic leanings.

Conversely, in California, the sheer vast size of the state enabled three individual movements to grow and flourish, while the proximity of the entertainment industry afforded all concerned the prerequisite exposure on a national and international level. 

The Bay Area earned the lion's share of attention through such venues as the late Tom Donahue's Autumn label, the recording home of the Vejtables, the Tikis (later Harpers Bizarre), the Mojo Men and the Beau Brummels. In turn, bands such as the Charlatans and the Great Society brought a wealth of diverse inspirations into the mix, paving the way for the over the top game changing success of Big Brother And The Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane and others. 

And a five hour drive to the south, in the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles continued to lead the way. Artists including Jan And Dean, the Standells, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, Love, the Palace Guard, the Leaves, the Yellow Balloon, the Byrds, the Doors and the Mamas And Papas each contributed exponentially to assure Los Angeles' decisive dominance in that respect. 

Meanwhile, just a two hour drive south of Los Angeles, yet another highly productive musical movement was flourishing. But as was the case with the aforementioned dichotomy concurrently happening in Michigan, it was one that went largely unnoticed in its two counterparts to the north.

Situated near the border with Baja California, San Diego and its suburbs were a home to military bases, a successful manufacturing industry and certainly as much musical talent as that which its northern neighbors boasted. Yet despite the occasional inroads made by John Gummoe's Cascades and the Lyrics (both represented here), it was a development that for all practical purposes was the area's best kept secret.

For the past few decades, Tell-Tale Hearts co-founder and Ugly Things Magazine editor, Mike Stax has been a tireless crusader for his home town cause. Having released several acclaimed projects chronicling the area's musical developments on his own label, he now lends his considerable acumen in that respect to this, the most comprehensive such project to date.

"I just helped out with liner notes, and now distribution", said Stax, with characteristic understatement.

In reality, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958-1973 makes a stronger case for the defense than any other such project to date. While first generation garage rock is represented in copious amounts among the more than two dozen tracks included here, Look Out! also takes into consideration the area's noteworthy developments in rockabilly, R&B and frat rock.

The collection opens with 1958's That Crazy Little House On The Hill. Composed by beloved Federal label era-Platters alumnus and co-author of the Penguins' signature single, Earth Angel, Gaynel Hodge, That Crazy Little House On The Hill made for a most rambunctious outing in the hands of rockabilly great Gene Lamarr and his Blue Flames. It is followed by the Strangers' wonderful 1959 single, The Caterpillar Crawl, best described as a hybrid of John Zacherle's Dinner With Drac and the Chargers' The Large Charge.

From there, the proceedings diversify in short order. Highlights include Ervin "Big Boy" Groves' cryptic 1962 Bucket Of Blood single (which owes more to Gradie O'Neal's Turkey Neck Stretch than either artist may have realized), the Nomads' 1963 James Brown-inspired Let's Do The Freeze, the Imperialites' 1964 take on Richard Berry's Have Love Will Travel (which showcases the piece's inherent Louie, Louie leanings more so than does the version by the Sonics), the Lyrics' Era label garage rocker, So What!! (which stands in marked contrast to their subsequent R&B leanings in their later work for GNP Crescendo), Steve And The Holidays' magnificent (and timeless) lament, Unemployment, Ervin Rucker's 1965 She's Alright (best described as variations on a theme by Bobby Bland), the aforementioned Cascades' lavishly arranged, psych-tinged I Bet You Won't Stay, the Five Pound Grin's wonderfully screwy Not This Time and Anita May And Interstate 5's haunting period piece, When It's Dark.

In keeping with the precedent set by industry front runners Gear Fab, Rare Rockin' Records and other labels which specialize in the reissue of archival material, the National City-based Ralampago-go label has taken decisive steps to assure a first class production. Not just in terms of the cleanest mastering possible (invariably a challenge when dealing with diverse source material), but with detailed session data and copious amounts of rare photographs. True to form, Mike Stax fills in the gaps magnificently via his painstakingly detailed essays on each track.

In the process, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958-1973 makes a significant step forward in terms of bringing the level of recognition for the region's musical accomplishments closer to that long enjoyed by its two counterparts to the north. As the Mixed Grill cautions herein, it's essential. Don't Throw It Away.

The Viscaynes (Org Music)

More often than not, the term "budget label" has proven to be somewhat of an oxymoron.

From the late 1950s, throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, the bargain bins at many a record retail outlet were well stocked with releases on labels such as Spin-O-Rama, Design, Hit, Tops, Sutton, Springboard, Trip, Avon, Crown, Grand Prix, Carnaby, Arc, Coronet and others of similar intent. Generally priced somewhat below the standard $3.98 stereo and $2.98 monaural of the day, the so-called budget albums tended to be overlooked by some who presumed that price and presentation suggested a lower standard.

In reality, the opposite has been very much the case. Generally, the labels covered a wide variety of concepts, formats and artists, from spot on covers of current releases (Hit, Carnaby), to thematic releases inspired by other artists (Design's 1967 Tijuana Christmas by the Border Brass, as well as Spin-O-Rama's over the top brilliant pair of David Seville-influenced albums by Eddie Maynard and the Grasshoppers). Others such as Design and Springboard devoted much of their catalog to Various Artists collections which showcased some of the best in music, with artists such as the Five Satins, Wilbert Harrison, Faye Adams, the Soul Survivors, the Turtles, the Trashmen and the Fendermen among those who were represented in their numerous releases.

One other approach common to many of those labels was to highlight worthwhile material by up and coming artists that was either heretofore unreleased or which had seen limited accessibility on other labels. Early catalog gems by Ronnie Dove, Bobby Rydell, Paul Revere And The Raiders and Tommy Roe were all given a second chance in this manner, as was the Beach Nuts' monster classic, Cycle Annie.

It was through one such project that the work of an extraordinarily gifted Northern California group was allotted the larger scale exposure that their earlier single releases, as great as they were, did not afford them up to that point.

In 1963, Sutton Records issued a multi-artist collection entitled Jumpin! With Pop Hits Of Tomorrow. Issued in both the stereo and monaural configurations, the album featured recent recordings by a promising group of artists that included the Sparkplugs, Dal Cory, the Sims Sisters and Diane Coley. 

As great as each of their contributions were, one track on that album stood so far above the rest that its appearance on a so-called budget label compilation instead of on a hugely successful 45 RPM single simply defied logic.

That track was You're My Only Love, recorded in 1961 and unreleased up to that point. The group responsible for it was the Viscaynes, a supremely talented six member group from Vallejo, California.

Comprised of Frank Arellano, Maria Boldway, Charlene Imhoff, Sylvester Stewart and brothers Charles and Vernon Gebhardt, the Viscaynes met and got together in due course while all were students at Franklin Junior High School and Vallejo High School. The Gebhardt brothers' father was the football coach at a nearby college, and the siblings were active in various sports programs at their high school. The Gebhardts also participated in school plays, as did neighbors Imhoff (who also kept score for the school's baseball team), Arellano and Boldway. 

It was at that point that each learned of one another's passion for singing. At Arellano's behest, they soon joined forces with Stewart, who was a member of the school's basketball program and gave lessons in both tennis and piano to other students. Active as a musician in his church for years at that point, Stewart also brought into the vocal mix a gift for arranging that would serve the Viscaynes well.

The group rehearsed diligently several days per week in the Gebhardts' home. They initially called themselves the Viscounts, but had to acquiesce when the instrumental group of the same name from New Jersey scored with their classic single, Harlem Nocturne on Madison in 1959 (and again in November 1965 with a reissue on Bell's affiliate Amy label). Determined to persevere with a "V" name, the group decided to parlay their affinity for Chevrolet's Biscayne model into a viable solution by becoming the Viscaynes. 

The Viscaynes participated in numerous talent shows, almost invariably taking top honors. An appearance on Dick Stewart's Dance Party television program also earned the group the grand prize, as well as the attention of producer George Motola. Having irrefutably established his acumen in that respect with the legendary Jesse Belvin's 1956 Modern label signature single, Goodnight My Love, Motola took the Viscaynes into the studio and captured their sublime vocal blend on a number of great sides. 

One of them, Yellow Moon took the mission statement of such like minded vocal greats as the Demensions a step further, and became a fair sized success for the VPM label in 1961. A fitting showcase for their impeccable vocal blend, Yellow Moon was nonetheless ultimately eclipsed in impact by its flip side, Uncle Sam Needs You. Backed by the Continental Band, Uncle Sam Needs You was a prototype of things to come (alongside such like minded efforts as Wilbert Harrison's 1960 for the Fury label), expressing as it does with Olympics-inspired humor the group's collective disillusion with the notion of cumpulsory military service. 

As if Yellow Moon and Uncle Sam Needs You were not sufficient enough evidence, the Viscaynes managed to cut several more sides that irrefutably demonstrated their formidable acumen as one of the most adept and capable vocal groups ever. Help Me With My Broken Heart was a Bert Berns-flavored masterpiece of high drama in the Gene McDaniels, Roy Hamilton and Ben E. King vein, while the otherworldly and sublime vocal harmonies of Imhoff and Boldway found in You've Forgotten Me set the stage for what is arguably one of Stewart's most commanding ever lead vocals. Likewise the sublime doo wop ballad A Long Time Alone, which saw release on the Hollywood-based Luke label as a solo Sylvester Stewart single under the name Danny Stewart. 

With a formidable repertoire in place and a consistent demand for live appearances, the stage seemed to be set for large scale acclaim for the Viscaynes. However, high school graduation found them instead going in separate directions, and the group sadly splintered without realizing their full potential. 

True to the tale told in their Uncle Sam Needs You single, Frank Arellano joined the United States Air Force, while the Gebhardt brothers went on to play college football. In fact, outside commitments often took Vernon Gebhardt away from the Viscaynes to such an extent that by 1961, his role in the group was assumed by Mike Stevens.

Meanwhile, Charlene Imhoff married and started a family soon after the group disbanded. Maria Boldway went on to become Miss Solano County and eventually the runner up for the title of Miss California in 1963. Sadly, Boldway is now deceased.

Not surprisingly (given his well developed skills at that point as a five tool player), Sylvester Stewart was recruited by the late Tom Donahue as a staff producer for his vaunted Autumn label, the recording home of such giants as Bobby Freeman, the Mojo Men, the Beau Brummels, the Tikis, the Vejtables, the Great Society, the Chosen Few and Rico And The Ravens. Stewart himself also recorded a pair of singles for Autumn, including Buttermilk under the name Sly. Interestingly enough, Stewart's sister, Rose went on to become musical director for the vocal group Newsong, one of the house vocal groups at Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California. 

For decades, the most accessible touchstone with respect to the Viscaynes' legacy was through the appearance of You're My Only Love on the aforementioned Sutton label compilation. Irrespective of the subsequent accomplishments of the group's alumni, with its utterly stupendous vocal harmonies and soaring lead vocal by Stewart, You're My Only Love eventually became widely recognized as one of vocal harmony's definitive masterpieces.

Thankfully, Org Music's long overdue vinyl release of the aforementioned Viscaynes sides with The Viscaynes And Friends at last makes You're My Only Love and the other essential components of the group's legacy once again available on a wide scale, along with three other George Motola productions by the Precisions and the Individuals. Blessed with a superb essay on the group's history by Rickey Vincent, the cover also sports a fine array of rare group photographs and press clippings.

To be certain, as the catalogs of the so-called budget labels served to underscore, the wealth of music that they and other companies championed is so vast that it is still being unearthed, researched, chronicled and celebrated more than a half century after the fact. And in the case of the Viscaynes, A Long Time Alone coming in terms of recognition will now reap exponential dividends in terms of accolades with this most essential compilation. A solid contender for best reissue of the year.