By today’s standards, or even by the criteria of rock benefit concerts later that decade, George Harrison had no idea what he was doing as a benefit organizer. The Concert for Bangladesh, initiated after the former East Pakistan suffered from massacres and famine, happened because the former Beatle saw the effect the tragedy had on his friend and teacher Ravi Shankar, a Bengali.
Harrison was able to line up Ringo Starr. Would there be a Beatles reunion, the press wondered? Er, no. The mysterious Klaus Voorman, who designed the Revolver cover, and played bass on John’s Live Peace in Toronto, was on board. But John wanted Yoko there too and that was the end of that. The only place the Beatles would all be together would be on the charts.
Longtime session musician Leon Russell was hot off Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. A drug-addled Eric Clapton was such an uncertainty that George had Peter Frampton show up at the rehearsals, just in case. Keyboardist Billy Preston, drummer Jim Keltner, the band Badfinger, and some of Russell’s cohorts completed the band. Both Harrison, who never had to be the front man before, and Bob Dylan, who had been out of the spotlight for some time, were nervous.
August 1 was the only available date at Madison Square Garden for the Bangladesh concert before Disney on Parade took over. Two shows at 2:30 and 8 pm. “There were no plans to broadcast the show live on radio or to record for TV.” Of the three cameras used to capture the show, “what survives is largely thanks to the camera that was in the pits.”
Meanwhile, Warner Brothers Records in Los Angeles was signing up artists with seemingly little concern for their immediate commercial viability. Randy Newman, Lowell George of Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder. Asylum Records, under David Geffen, was signing Jackson Browne and an unnamed group that would become The Eagles.
There were lots of accidental meetings of troubadours. Graham Parsons finds Emmylou Harris. Kris Kristofferson and Paul Anka meet on a plane, see each other’s gigs, and this led to the signing of Steve Goodman and John Prine. Jerry Jeff Walker hears an Anna McGarrigle song and pitches it to Linda Ronstadt; it was Heart Like a Wheel.
Paul also mentioned Roy Redmond’s version of Good Day Sunshine, which he acknowledged was a rather obscure track. In fact, the ONLY reason I know it is because it appears on one of those Warner Brothers Loss Leaders that I collected in the 1970s. COOK BOOK, from 1977, focused “on Warner’s black acts,” which were negligible only a few years earlier.
The other single, from April 1967, was Ain’t That Terrible/A Change Is Gonna Come. Yes, the latter is the Sam Cooke song.
“Loma Records was established in 1964 in order for Warner Brothers to capitalize on the emerging soul market – but almost exclusively as a singles label. Bob Krasnow, who ran the San Francisco branch of King Records from 1958-1964, was tapped by Warner Brothers to run Loma Records from its founding until the label ceased operations in 1968.”
Redmond’s Good Day Sunshine was in the middle of three Beatles songs on COOK BOOK, codifying yet again that the effect black music had on the Beatles was reciprocated.
Randy Crawford’s version of Don’t Let Me Down appears on her 1976 album Every Must Change. The Long and Winding Road was a 1976 B-side to a song called Hurry, Hurry by New Birth, “the Detroit band that helped invent American funk music.”
“The mix of disco beats, Latin percussion, soulful vocals and a catchy tune propelled” Cuba by Gibson Brothers to #1 in several countries, but not the US.
As I have noted, I bought a lot of the Warner Brothers Loss Leaders all through the 1970s, where I would discover all sorts of eclectic music at two or three dollars for a double album (LP) set. There was always a track or three that I had to play repeatedly. My absolute favorite song on the 1979 A La Carte collection was a song by the Gibson Brothers.
No, not those Gibson Brothers, Eric, born October 23, 1970; Leigh, October 11, 1971, in Plattsburgh, NY. The bluegrass music mavens with tight-knit two-part harmonies started performing publicly in 1987 but didn’t really emerge until the following decade. They have been International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainer of the Year in 2012 and 2013.
THESE Gibson Brothers, the Latin sibling trio, Chris (lead vocals, percussion), Patrick (vocals, drums), and Alex (vocals, keyboards) are the ones I mean. They were all born in Martinique, West Indies, but were based in France when they recorded their first single “Come To America” in 1976,
Their only hit in the US was Cuba, and it’s only got to #81; it was #41 in the UK in 1979, but was re-released in 1980 and got to #12. “The mix of disco beats, Latin percussion, soulful vocals, and a catchy tune propelled the song to #1 in several countries, and earned them four gold records worldwide.”
They had further success in Europe with tunes such as “Ooh! What A Life”, “Que Sera Mi Vida” (which sold over 5 million copies worldwide), and “Mariana”, all of which went Top 11 in the UK. These Gibson Brothers have recorded as recently as 2014, and they continue to tour worldwide.
Of course, those WB albums are not easy to come by these days, so I was happy when the song Cuba appeared on the 2-CD set Island Story 1962-1987, along with an interesting mix of songs, so that others might get turned on to the tune. Unfortunately, that collection ALSO appears to be out of print, though one can buy it from dealers on Amazon.
Listen to Cuba HERE (3:22 running time). Listen to the extended play (c. 7:30) HERE or HERE.
Someone gave me this album after someone else died, saying he would have wanted me to have it.
Back in the 1970s, when I was a poor college student, I would occasionally indulge my desire to purchase a new record album. When I’d buy one of James Taylor or Bonnie Raitt or the Doobie Brothers or Seals and Crofts – yes, Seals and Crofts – the record would come with an inner sleeve that would promise an eclectic set of music, a double LP, for only $2, postpaid, from the Warner Brothers roster of artists; the single albums were just $1. Eventually, I was so intrigued that I bought one, liked it, then bought another, and another…so that, to this day, I still possess most of them.
I will make brief mention of some of the albums, highlighting my personal history or a notable track. The ones I do not own are in italics.
1969 THE 1969 WARNER/REPRISE SONGBOOK (Warner Bros. PRO 331) Like several of the early albums, at least one side was dominated by Frank Zappa and his musical allies. But also featured the Everly Brothers. Eclectic. THE 1969 WARNER/REPRISE RECORD SHOW (PRO 336) Subtitled “Son of Songbook”, it has one EXTRAORDINARY soul ballad by Lorraine Ellison called Stay with Me. Read about it here and listen to it here. OCTOBER 10, 1969 (PRO 351) Chaz wrote: “A single-disc slipped into the mix while Warners was trying to decide if the doubles would sell.” By the time I was buying these albums, this disc was no longer listed. 1970 THE BIG BALL (PRO 358) SCHLAGERS! (PRO 359) Chaz: “Showcasing some Warners tracks that might conceivably get MOR airplay.” (MOR means Middle of the Road,” the title of a future package.) ZAPPÉD (PRO 368) “A single disc featuring acts on Frank Zappa’s Bizarre/Straight labels,” that I actually tried to order, but it must have been sold out. LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES (PRO 423) The only triple-disc set in the series, which cost $3 in the day, but I never bought it. Someone gave me this album after someone else died, saying he would have wanted me to have it. Subsequently, I’ve lost the middle record, which contained Side 2 and Side 5. But I still have Side 6, which is an unusually spiritual, even religious platter. The last song: Turley Richards: I Heard the Voice of Jesus.
1971 NON-DAIRY CREAMER (PRO 443) Another single disc, and one I never actually ordered. I may have requested Zapped and gotten this. HOT PLATTERS (PRO 474) TOGETHER (PRO 486) The last of the single-disc samplers, and I have no idea how WB sent it to me since I never specifically ordered it.
1972 THE WHOLE BURBANK CATALOG (PRO 512) “First set to credit Barry Hansen (Dr. Demento) for assemblage and annotation.” Not every subsequent album was annotated by him, but he was singularly entertaining when he did. Now, this was the point where the albums really became fun. There were radio spots for Sgt Preston of the Yukon or Inner Scantum inserted. Just before Arlo Guthrie’s Ukulele Lady, there’d be a snippet of a version recorded a half-century earlier. MIDDLE OF THE ROAD (PRO 525) “Just like it sounds.” Even features Frank Sinatra. BURBANK (PRO 529) Features the 57-second Voter Registration Rag by Arlo Guthrie, which I cannot find. THE DAYS OF WINE AND VINYL (PRO 540)
1973 APPETIZERS (PRO 569) Included Martin Mull: Licks off of Records. ALL SINGING, ALL TALKING, ALL ROCKING (PRO 573) “Features sound bites from Warner Bros. movies,” which made it probably my favorite album of the bunch.
1974 HARD GOODS (PRO 583) This collection has at least two rarities: War Song by Neil Young and Graham Nash, which was on a B-side of a Young single, but then “unreleased in any other format until June 2009, when it was finally released…on a box set by Neil Young called The Archives Vol. 1 1963–1972.” Immediately after that is The ’68 Nixon by Denver, Boise, and Johnson, which you can hear and read about here. Yes, the Denver is John Denver, who went on to some commercial success. PEACHES (PRO 588) “A compilation of tracks from the Georgia-based Capricorn label, then distributed by Warners,” which I don’t have and never saw offered until years later. DEEP EAR (PRO 591, 1974)
1975 THE FORCE (PRO 596) By this time, I was buying them as soon as I saw them advertised. ALL MEAT (PRO 604) “‘Not a speck of cereal,’ insists Frank Zappa. PEACHES, VOL. 2 (PRO 605) “A second collection from Capricorn Records, which I haven’t seen.” I DIDN’T KNOW THEY STILL MADE RECORDS LIKE THIS (PRO 608) “Back to the middle of the road.” THE WORKS (PRO 610) The rarity here was The Beach Boys: Child of Winter, which was a single that showed up in a Beach Boys collection more than two decades later.
1976 SUPERGROUP (PRO 630) THE PEOPLE’S RECORD (PRO 645)
1977 COOK BOOK (PRO 660) “Focusing on Warners’ black acts.” I have no idea how I got this album. I may have sent WB money and said “Anything else in the vaults?” WB in the 1960s was not a label with lots of black artists. Someone quipped that their only soul artist was comedian Bill Cosby. But by the 1970s, the label made a concerted effort to change that. I must admit that I loved the fact that the album had a trio of Beatles covers in a row: Randy Crawford- Don’t Let Me Down; Roy Redmond- Good Day Sunshine, and New Birth- The Long and Winding Road. LIMO (PRO 691)
1978 COLLECTUS INTERRUPTUS (PRO A-726) “Twenty-Six Earbinding Songs of Unique Delight, Derring-Do, Heartbreak, Scandal, and Lurid Sensation”. With Soft and Wet, probably the first Prince I owned. PUMPING VINYL (PRO A-773) As a musical eclectic, I tend to eschew labels. That’s why my favorite song in this collection is Funkadelic: Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?
1979 A LA CARTE (PRO A-794) The song I tended to overplay here was Gibson Brothers: Cuba MONSTERS (PRO A-796)
1980 ECLIPSE (PRO 828) “A new price: 2 LPs for $3.” Still a bargain. MUSIC WITH 58 MUSICIANS, VOLUME 1 (PRO 850) “Issued to mark the German jazz label ECM’s distribution deal with Warner Bros., this set, billed as ‘An International Array of Innovative Jazz Music and Performers,’… Roger Green found this one for me.” Well, yeah, I did, actually. And Charles added me to his “beyond the call of duty” list. As far as I know, there was never a Volume 2. TROUBLEMAKERS (PRO A-857) “This is as punk as Burbank would get.” Marianne Faithfull: Broken English.
1995 LOSS LEADERS REVISITED (PRO-CD-7955 “A limited-edition CD (3500 copies) with retro-cool; not properly a Loss Leader, since it was given away, but it caps the series with panache.” I’d never heard of this until I read about it.
These are more underplayed vinyl, records I listened to a LOT in the day, but less since I got the first CD player. Still, I now have a turntable, so they can provide me with additional hours of pleasure.