Saturday, June 22, 2019

Same Name/Different Artist: Eric Somebody

purchase [461 Ocean Boulevard]

Andrew Jackson and John Milton are both credited with some version of "the mind has a life of its own". In choosing "Eric" names for my post, I figure I must have been at least subliminally influenced by local advertising for this week's <Istanbul> concert from Eric Burdon - maybe not "a mind of my own"? There are banners and posters all over the city announcing the event.

I had decided to go down the path of looking into the prevalence of the name "Eric" over time (and comparing it to the prevalence of my own name) and realized that it may have been influenced by the posters:

I only once ever came face to face with an "Eric" (as opposed to variations such as Erik) - and that was the headmaster of my private boarding school back in the '70s - his name even shows up in a Google search.(hereby putting an end to the question I posed last post).

The popularity of names waxes and wanes over the years: my own did not even rank in the US Social Security list of popular names the year I was born, but more recently has ascended to somewhere in the top 200. Eric, appears in the top 20s for most of the latter half of the 20th century, dropping to the low 100s in the 21st. You can ponder for yourself why names come and go: is it fame-association or something else?

So ... Eric <somebody?> wherein Mr Clapton most probably figures at the top of the list, but is not the only major musical Eric to figure in that list of "Greats". Naturally, limiting ourselves to a first-name of Eric is going to come up with a variety of genres:

Eric Burdon - from said concert.

Eric Gale,

And then there's Eric Carmen of the Raspberries

and Eric Weisberg of  Duelling Banjos fame

Friday, June 21, 2019


When I was a boy I was always suspicious of Marcs, feeling them to be a little affected in their ways, a name for hairdressers and models, not actually realising that the name, in that spelling, is a diminutive, for Marcus. Marks always seemed more manly. Anyway, this is not a tale of two Marc/ks, being a little more complicated than that, as Marc Almond is one person and Mark Almond, or to be more correct, Mark-Almond were a core of two, but with anything up to another 30 associated. Let me explain........

Jon Mark, guitar/vocals, and Johnny Almond, sax and flute, were a pair of jobbing musicians in the 60s, each earning a pedigree from a combination of sessions and the company they kept. Mark was in the short-lived 'Sweet Thursday', alongside Nicky Hopkins, later becoming bandleader and musical arranger for Marianne Faithfull's nascent works. Almond was kept busy in 'Zoot Money's Big Roll Band', also including later Police-man, Andy Summers, and the ex-Animal, Alan Price's 'Alan Price Set'. Meeting on the sessions scene and becoming members of the legendary John Mayall's band, like all Mayall alumni, the logical next step was to form a band. Arguably jazzers more than rockers, their music was a hybrid of the two, with hints of the later Steely Dan in some of the moods evoked. Augmented by a swathe of the great and the good in both genres, with the likes of Billy Cobham, Dannie Richmond and Steve Gadd present on occasion, individually if not collectively, and that is just the drummers. They actually lasted way longer than just the first two albums I am familiar with, with a number of reunions, ahead of finally calling it a day in the mid 80s. Mark still plays music, producing new-age and celtic fare, actually gaining a Grammy for a record of tibetan chants in 2004. Almond died in 2009.

Marc Almond actually was a Mark, leaving this behind him as he started his musical career. (What did he leave behind him? Do keep up.) With training in performance art, his childhood idols were Marc Bolan and David Bowies, hints of whom remain evident in his extravagant feyness. It was whilst he was at college that he met Dave Ball, the pair forming 'Soft Cell' in around 1980, with massive worldwide success arriving in 1981 with 'Tainted Love', a song by Gloria Jones, the wife (and widow) of Bolan, originally the b-side and segued with 'Where Did Our Love Go', the Supreme's hit. More slow burning in the U.S. than Europe, it got as far as number 8 on the Billboard chart, but later held the record for the most number of consecutive weeks on the chart. Some further success followed but the band were short-lived, splitting 3 years later, bar a later (or the inevitable) brief reunion tour.

Since then Almond has had a varied career, veering between distinctly arthouse material and more obvious chart-bothering, such as gloriously over the top duets with Gene Pitney and with Bronski Beat. His camp persona and theatrical overtones seemed  entirely appropriate for Gallic chanson styles, and one success came with his covers of Jacques Brel, 'Jacques', and then a more varied set in a similar style, 'Absinthe'. Later years saw him move to Moscow and work with russian artists on traditional folk song based material. In 2004, and back in London, he sustained a life-threatening motorbike accident, taking some few years to recover. Sustained by a decidedly odd covers album, he has since been been energetically pursuing increasingly widespread projects, with collaborators as disparate as neo-classical composer, John Harle, and, as above, boogie-woogie TV presenter and ex-Squeeze pianist, Jools Holland, with whom he has toured extensively.

I feel some irony that, given the purpose of this piece, to demarcate the differences between the similarly named artists, now, in 2019, the idea of Marc Almond fronting Mark-Almond would seem strangely not so odd. A pity it can't happen.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Same Name/Different Artist: Squeeze

Squeeze: Take Me I’m Yours

I’ve always felt that Squeeze, despite some significant commercial success, never really got the respect that it was due. Top notch songwriting (to the point that Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook were often compared to Lennon and McCartney, which is a tough standard to live up to, but even being mentioned in that class is pretty good, right?), tight playing and great hooks made them popular in the UK, but less so in the US. Maybe there was something “too British” about them that didn’t translate so well here. But I’d stack up their second through fourth albums, and a handful of later songs, against anyone in their genre.

Plus, they played at a huge all-campus party at Princeton in 1982, and were great. I think.

This band was formed in 1974 by Difford and Tilbrook, who added Jools Holland and eventually drummer Gilson Lavis and bass player Harry Kakoulli. They decided to call themselves “Squeeze,” after the pseudo-Velvet Underground album of the same name. Their self-titled debut album (produced by former Velvet Underground member John Cale) was released in the UK in 1978 (although the two singles were actually produced by the band).

And here’s where we get to the theme.

In the United States, the band and the album  were called UK Squeeze, because a bar band from Connecticut called “Tight Squeeze” had registered the name, and the record company was leery of legal challenges. I’ve scoured the Internet for some audio or video evidence of this “Tight Squeeze,” but have been unable to locate any. Which may be a blessing (sorry, former members of Tight Squeeze, if you happen upon this blog post—send me some music and maybe I’ll edit this).

Guess what? Difford and Tilbrook and Co. were also called UK Squeeze in Australia. Because there was also a band from Sydney with that name. And while information is sparse on these guys, I did find a couple of videos, neither of which I find too compelling, but it does seem like they were popular in Australia, Germany and Scandinavia, and lead singer Robin Lee Sinclair has had a solo career, mostly as a country singer and Roy Orbison impersonator.

Our featured song, from the UK band, is “Take Me I’m Yours,” from the debut album that caused the identity crisis.