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Spectropop - Digest Number 16

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There are 7 messages in this issue #16.

Topics in this digest:

      1. Morris Levy
           From: "James F.  Cassidy" 
      2. Yellow  Dean
           From: "Kingsley" 
      3. Re: Jan and Dean's Yellow Balloon
           From: Jamie LePage 
      4. Pittsburgh radio
           From: "David Feldman" 
      5. Re: Pittsburgh
           From: Carol Kaye 
      6. local hits that never made it nationally
           From: Frank 
      7. Re: Rock On stall
           From: Frank 


Message: 1
   Date: Sun, 06 Aug 2000 11:16:16 -0400
   From: "James F.  Cassidy" 
Subject: Morris Levy

A few digests back, my fellow Jamie, Mr. LePage brought
up the name of Morris Levy.  I can't add anything to the
Tommy James story, but I do have vivid memories of the
colorful Mr. Levy.

My first job after college was managing the Strawberries
record store in Framingham, Mass.  The chain's corporate
office was behind the store. Morris Levy owned the chain
at that time.  Every couple of months, Morris would
drive to Framingham in his big Cadillac from his home in
upstate New York, accompanied by his fiancee - a
fetching redhead about 40 years Morris' junior.

Morris looked, dressed, and spoke like a cast member of
The Sopranos.  His wardrobe favored powder blue leisure
suits (this was 1978) with an open-collared white shirt
and multiple gold chains.  He smoked cigars and never

Everyone at Strawberries lived in fear of Morris.  He
had a temper.  And he knew people.  His nephews, Neil
and Richard, both worked for Strawberries at one time or
another, and even they were afraid of him.  Morris
became their surrogate parent after their father (Morris'
brother) passed away suddenly under violent

When Morris was concerned about pilferage in the
Strawberries warehouse operation, he hired a young man
>from New York named Sal Gigante to keep an eye on things.
Sal was about 5 foot 8 and 250 pounds, most of which was
concentrated in his arms.  Sal was a sweetheart most of
the time, but also had an explosive temper that would
erupt unexpectedly from time to time. Morris later made
Sal president of Roulette, which was all but dead at the
time anyway.  It wasn't until years later that I
discovered Sal was a close relative of Vincent "The Chin"
Gigante, the famous "Oddfather" of the Genovese crime
family, who pretended he was crazy for 30 years to avoid
the cops.

Despite his gruff exterior, Morris would host a summer
outing every year at his Ghent, New York farm for all
the Strawberries employees, although I never attended. 
But a co-worker and I heard rumors that in his garage,
Morris had boxes full of the John Lennon "Roots" album
that was to be sold via TV on Morris' "Adam VIII"
mail-order label (for the whole story on this episode,

We kept trying to figure out a way to get some copies
>from Morris without sending him into a rage, but we
never got up the nerve.  I was always joking to my
friend that the next time Morris came to visit, I was
going to say to him "Hey Morris, I really love that song
you wrote, 'Why Do Fools Fall in Love.'  Which part did
you write - the words or the music?"

Knowing that all Strawberries managers eventually got
fired once their weekly salary exceeded $250, I soon
found a "real" job and left under my own steam.

Jim Cassidy

--------------------[ archived by Spectropop ]--------------------

Message: 2
   Date: Sun, 06 Aug 2000 10:18:08 +0100
   From: "Kingsley" 
Subject: Yellow  Dean

Re the Yellow Balloon debate - From what I've heard Dean
has been known to 'forget' some of the history, so
pronouncements like he being responsible for both
versions of Yellow Balloon should be viewed with caution.
Also compare the vocals!  Zekely was a friend of his, but
was more than capable of putting a great version out
himself with session guys. I also noticed with a smile
that the money figures in my Rock On memories got
strangely translated in the ether: I paid three pounds,
25 pence for the Hondells, and three pounds each for The
Critters. Needed to show that these were great buys even
then!!  I also recall a shop a little later in Oxford
Street with a mass of US albums, including the first
Hondells, all at 49 pence!

Happy Hunting everyone. Look out for Ripples Vol 7 out in
about a month.


PS I'm just off to London to attend a newly started
Sunshine Music club that Bob Stanley of St Etienne is
involved with. It's called 'Monday Monday'

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

--------------------[ archived by Spectropop ]--------------------

Message: 3
   Date: Mon, 07 Aug 2000 15:50:35 +0900
   From: Jamie LePage 
Subject: Re: Jan and Dean's Yellow Balloon

Paul wrote:

> Dean did two arrangements of Yellow Balloon, one a typical
> Jan and Dean one, and one that had a bubbly effect like
> the Turtles. He says he was doing Turtles album graphics
> at that time.
> Apparently he gave the Turtles type version to Gary Zekley
> who shopped the tape (with some alterations) to Canterbury
> Records.

Wow! That's quite a story, and quite different from the
one I am familiar with, which goes something like Gary
didn't like Dean's version and stormed out of the studio
in the middle of the session. Determined that the version
in his head would be a hit, but in order not to antagonize
Dean, he did his own version (as Yellow Balloon) without
Dean's knowledge.

This is from David Bash's review on the Gary Zekley page 

> Zekley was proud of the song, but didn't like the way
> Torrence had recorded it, so he went around to different
> labels to shop it. Among those who Zekley visited was Ken
> Handler of Canterbury Records, who was very excited about
> the song and immediately set about having it recorded. He
> had Zekley do the vocals, and then he brought in
> noteworthy studio musicians to add the embroidery. 

That's always been the story as I heard it.

> he also said someplace he was afraid he would get sued if
> he issued it

On what grounds? Because it was allegedly the J&D master???

> I am told by other fans the Canterbury album was padded out 
> with some dead dog songs that were cut in about two 
> sessions. Some of the songs had been previously issued 
> under the name Our Gang, but I understand they were 
> re-recorded for the Yellow Balloon album so the sound 
> would be uniform. Can't confirm this because I don't have 
> the Our Gang versions on Br'er Bird label. 

I'm a fan and I think the Yellow Balloon album is
excellent. Take the song "How Can I Be Down" for instance.
A well crafted song with a great hook. Bash again:

> Although many nay sayers have tried to dismiss The
> Yellow Balloon as being lightweight and disposable, it's
> absolutely false. Although it's certainly true that most
> of the songs on the album are sunny and bright, and
> childlike in sentiment, the arrangements are superb,
> offering strongly Beach Boys influenced bass figures,
> sophisticated keyboard flourishes, and some very odd
> time signatures. You'll feel the magic from the opening
> cut "How Can I Be Down," sung by Zekley, which is simple
> in its essence but also awash in carousel like keyboards
> and dizzying vocal arrangments. 

Which Yellow Balloon song was released by Our Gang? I
know of Our Gang's THEME FROM LEON'S GARAGE (Hal does
scab dates there), which is written by Zekley. It is
actually the backing track to Don't Be Gone Long by the
Ragamuffins. I assumed the garage in question belonged
to Leon Russell and Hal Blaine was the drummer
namechecked in the title.

> The Save For A Rainy Day CD definitely belongs in any
> Jan And Dean collection. This seems a little long but if
> anyone else can shed some light on this confusing
> subject,

Thanks, Paul. Your post was very interesting and I echo
your sentiments. The J&D CD is quite good, and I too hope
further clarification on this confusing subject will be

All the best,


--------------------[ archived by Spectropop ]--------------------

Message: 4
   Date: Sun, 06 Aug 2000 04:26:43 -0400
   From: "David Feldman" 
Subject: Pittsburgh radio

Greg wrote some wonderful stuff about Pittsburgh radio:

> Many of these records fall under the category of 
> Spectropop faves - a lot of girl-group type stuff, along 
> with soulful love songs. There is a local company that has
> been putting a bunch of this stuff out on CD, and I'll have
> to get more information and post it to the list.

That would be great.  I associate the Vogues with
Pittsburgh, and have always thought of "5 O'Clock World"
as a song about steel mills.  
> An example of a "Pittsburgh Hit" is "High On A Hill," by "
> Mandy" writer Scott English. Almost any time a poll is 
> conducted on Pittsburgh's favorite oldies, this song 
> usually pops up as Number 1. It wasn't a national hit, but
> a monster record here in Pittsburgh. I think it may have 
> gotten some airplay in California.

Now THAT is a great music choice (in the same way that
"Gloria" often finished 1st or 2nd in such polls in Los

"High on a Hill" was indeed a hit in Los Angeles (where I
ran out and bought the the single) but I'm pretty sure I
first heard it on American Bandstand (a sort of
Pennsylvania connection).

Dave Feldman

--------------------[ archived by Spectropop ]--------------------

Message: 5
   Date: Sun, 06 Aug 2000 18:22:11 -0700
   From: Carol Kaye 
Subject: Re: Pittsburgh

> From Greg Matecko:

>>>On another note, I'm still kicking myself for finding out
too late that Carol Kaye played a jazz concert during her
seminar in Pittsburgh! Carol, what did you think of local
luminary Joe Negri?<<<

Joe is a wonderful person, fine guitarist, very
sensitive, good chordal knowledge and fine player -- I
loved meeting him, great person, wonderful musician, and
chatting with him was fun too.  It really wasn't a
"concert" but more of a jam, playing tunes I'd never
played before on bass (with Henry Johnson, and fine
local drummer, forget his name sorry, it was such a busy
seminar-filled 3-1/2 days there, then flights from hell
trying to get back to LA...but Pittsburgh...ah, what a
beautiful city, great place).  Wish they had the musical
educational programs for guitar and bass out here in LA
like you all do back there in Pittsburgh.  Our schools
out here are something of a joke I think.

Bill Purse, Mark Koch - simply geniuses...Duquesne is so
lucky to have their educational prowess, and their bass
teacher, another great, Jeff Mangone...played with Buddy
Rich on the road, symphony bassist too, fine jazzer, and
fine teacher.....he's been using my books he says for
decades.  Was so thrilled to meet these people, Joe
Negri, Ken Karsh etc., just the best.  Was fun to trade
some one-liners with Jimmy Bruno too, and of course I
know Ron Anthony who also got the Pittsburgh Legends
award.... was a fun but busy week.

On another note, Jamie in his post said "the drummer
overplayed". Listen, the way those sound-mixers
work.....they dramatize the bass drum by loading it with
DB's!  You can never hear the bass player but the
thud-thud-thud-thud of that awful bass drum, thanks to
the ignorance of sound-mixers who evidently got their
training in the 80s when the bassists were busy slapping
the bass (not playing real notes which support the band
and chordal foundations).

You should have seen the look on the sound mixer when
our trio (we were one of the bands playing for the
opening of the Paul Allen music museum in Seattle), Ray
Pizzi on sax, Mitch Holder on elec. guitar and myself on
elec. bass played --- I playfully looked over to catch
the dismay on the sound-mixer's face when he evidently
was searching for that dreaded bass drum and alas, there
was NO DRUMMER.  Hope they all learn to find the bass
and bring that up instead of the bass drum soon.

Carol Kaye

--------------------[ archived by Spectropop ]--------------------

Message: 6
   Date: Mon, 07 Aug 00 09:29:47 +0100
   From: Frank 
Subject: local hits that never made it nationally

This remark makes me think that it could be a good idea
if Spectropop listers could send lists of local hits that
never made it nationally. I know for sure there were
quite a few that really made it big (like the Scott
English" track) in their region. Difficult to know about
them if you weren't there. I'm pretty sure we would make
some great finds in these lists. Anybody for it ?

>An example of a "Pittsburgh Hit" is "High On A Hill," by "
>Mandy" writer Scott English. Almost any time a poll is 
>conducted on Pittsburgh's favorite oldies, this song 
>usually pops up as Number 1. It wasn't a national hit, but
>a monster record here in Pittsburgh. I think it may have 
>gotten some airplay in California.

--------------------[ archived by Spectropop ]--------------------

Message: 7
   Date: Mon, 07 Aug 00 09:29:45 +0100
   From: Frank 
Subject: Re: Rock On stall

Thanks a lot Kieron, and Kingsley this does bring back
memories. The number of great Lps I found in this stall !!
It was the beginning of my record collection. As a matter
of fact most of my Phil Spector's singles came from this
Rock On stall. And this is where Igot my first "BACK TO
MONO" button !


>That was in Soho market, at the east end of Gerrard Street
>(London's Chinatown). Rock On originally was a stall in 
>Portobello Market and moved to Soho Market in 1976. It was
>great - I bought the Try It LP by The Standells in = 1977 
>(I was three years old...). In Sep or so '76 the Jam 
>plugged into the electric supply at the stall and played 
>outside the market on the street (I didn't see this). But 
>the stall was a goldmine for 60s and 50s stuff - the folks
>who ran it ran Chiswick records, now Ace Records, top 
>reissue label. In mid 1977 another stall opened in the 
>market, Wretched Records, totally dedicated to punk. When 
>the Rock On shop opened in Camden (late 1978 I think) the 
>stall became Rocks Off, and moved into a shop in Hanway 
>Street (behind Oxford Street) under that name. And it was 
>there I got the soundtrack to Riot On Sunset Strip.
>That's quite enough memory lane,

--------------------[ archived by Spectropop ]--------------------

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