Monday, June 20, 2011

Beside myself : turn the beat... over

So much for making it a post a day in this little B side series. I fell at the first hurdle. I blame the weather – the sun shone yesterday so it needed to be enjoyed. It’s raining again now.

Over the years of listening to radio shows certain tracks stick in the mind and the artist and title are somehow magically permanently stored away in a little corner of the memory with the thought “I must hunt that one down one day”. (I say permanently stored away, but I’ve reached the age where it is becoming noticeable that the memory banks are starting to shut down). Of course this memory burning process was often facilitated by a record button and a C60 cassette.   

Anyway, a few years ago (with the memory still fully intact) when I first “found” ebay some of those memorable tracks were swiftly hunted down. One of these was “Common Thief” by Bill House. (I think John Peel - once again - was the person who had played it as a new release - and I think it found its way onto one my mixtapes). On playing the copy I eventually snagged it was, in all honesty, not as great as I had remembered it. But in any event I was still glad I had a copy.

More recently I discovered I had had a version of Bill House’s song in my collection all the time. It just goes to show that back then I must have been as guilty as many others for not paying proper attention to B sides, because I certainly have no recollection of ever linking Bill House’s original with the B side of Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn The Beat Around”. Yes, Vicki Sue covered “Common Thief” on her first album “Never Gonna Let You Go” and all 5 and a bit minutes of it were squeezed onto the B side of her biggest hit, which, in its 7” inch form, has been sat in my collection for – well - forever.        

Due mainly to “Turn The Beat Around”, which was a big hit, Vicki Sue Robinson, who tragically died of cancer in 2000 much too young at only 45 years of age, has always been labelled as a disco act, at least in my mind. But dipping into her work that is up on YouTube it is evident that she was much more than that and all four of her released albums contain some strong songs, by no means all in a disco vein. Her singing has a certain jazz sensibility and Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan were, apparently, early influences, as were folk /blues artists such as Woody Guthrie and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee who were acquaintances of her folk singing mother.

Digging into her background some more, far from just a disco queen, singing – including jingles – was evidently just part Vicki’s repertoire having been a songwriter, film actress, and Broadway star too.

So let’s go to the disco - and beyond…

(Incidentally the strings about 3.30 in remind me of Pleasure’s “Joyous” which would have been recorded around the same time).       

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