The tune, written by Bobby Austin and Curt Sapaugh, hit #23 on the US Hot 100. I believe that makes “Kindness” Campbell’s first hit of the Seventies. Just below, we have video of the artist performing the song live in 1977.
Glen Campbell: ‘Try A Little Kindness’ (Live, 1977)
Any good? This is a fantastic collection of groovy pop songs you don’t have to be a Beatles fan to love.
What’s with the fake Beatles album covers?That album is the soundtrack to a 1978 US comedy TV special (All You Need Is Cash) that’s a parody history of the Beatles.
And how about the terrible band name? It comes from Rutland, a tiny British region spoofed by Monty Python alum Eric Idle in his cheap but funny TV series Rutland Weekend Television. Idle shot a retro Rutles film clip for the series that caught on when it was shown on America’s Saturday Night Live in 1977. (As a name, The Rutles is no worse than The Rattles, a German beat group that the Beatles played with in Hamburg circa 1962.)
The Rutles: ‘I Must Be In Love’ (1978)
So this is a Monty Python thing? Really it’s just Eric Idle, though fellow Python Michael Palin also puts in a cameo.
Who made the music? British comedy rocker Neil Innes, whose group Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band had worked with the Beatles, wrote all the songs. For the film, Innes formed a band that (mostly) played themselves onscreen as Beatles clones. For his McCartneyish character, Idle mimed to vocals and bass playing provided by others.
Who else joined the party? Co-producer and Saturday Night Live mastermind Lorne Michaels brought Belushi, Aykroyd, Radner, and Murray on board to play hilarious cameos. Mick Jagger and Paul Simon play their rocker selves reminiscing over the awfulness of the Prefab Four. Idle’s pal, ex-Beatle George Harrison, emphatically supported the project and plays a bearded, clueless TV journalist in the film.
Funny or trainwreck? Since there were no full-length Beatles documentaries in 1978, All You Need Is Cash served as the first band retrospective. It was a big hit with fans due to its hundreds of nods to Fab Four trivia. Thankfully for non-fans, the comedy isn’t limited to insider in-jokes, but offers lots of groan-worthy mainstream gags. Example: “His father was such a snob that he wore a pair of swimming trunks in the bathtub, in order to avoid looking down on the unemployed.”
So it was a big deal? Sadly, few fans managed to catch its March 1978 NBC broadcast, but its UK showing a few days later was better received. The film didn’t become a cult classic until its 1983 release on home video, at which point its countless punchlines (“I think it was the trousers”) would become catchphrases for knowing rock fans.
The Rutles: ‘Iris Mountbatten – The Trousers’ (1978)
Does it sound like the Beatles? A lot more than Klaatu, frankly; Innes and his Rutles studio band really nailed the full arc of the Beatles sound, from eager Northern beat group to wasted London hippies. At the time, most of the Rutles songs were quickly traced to Beatles sources: “Number One” sounds like “Twist and Shout”; “Piggy in the Middle” is a clear rip of “I Am The Walrus.” Listening nowadays, though, the joy is hearing the album as an unreleased Beatles project — or just a fine record by a group of skilled Beatles enthusiasts, which is what the Rutles were anyway.
The Rutles: ‘Number One’ (1978)
Did anyone think it was the Beatles? Nah, everyone knew it was a joke. But before the special and album came out, there was a minor hoax that might have tricked a few folks. When Eric Idle hosted SNL in early 1977 and brought his Rutles film clip, Neil Innes performed an early version of “Cheese and Onions.” The audio from this appearance turned up on Indian Rope Trick, a vinyl bootleg from later that year (and before the TV special); the track was listed as “a solo John L. out-take. 1974 (?)”
‘Saturday Night Live’: Nasty’s ‘Cheese & Onions’ (1977)
So there were two 8-tracks? No, just one, the one with the album covers; the other is my fake “custom” tape. The film included too many songs for the single LP soundtrack (and John Lennon thought “Get Up And Go” sounded too much like “Get Back,” which might rile the lawyers), so six were left off until the 1990 CD version of the album. Rhino’s recent vinyl reissue put the missing six songs onto a bonus 7” ep, so I decided to do an 8-track edition of it. I had to break one song for my tape, but the Warner Bros. 8-track presents all 14 album cuts in a fairly chronological flow without splitting any of them. Recommended!
Staple Singers, ‘When Will We Be Paid?’ (‘Record World’ magazine, January 17, 1970).
The Staple Singers’ “When Will We Be Paid?” originally appeared on the group’s 1969 LP We’ll Get Over and was released as a single late in that same year. The tune, written by Randall Stewart and produced by Steve Cropper (Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Blues Brothers), didn’t make a big radio splash but was the first Staple Singers record of the 1970s being pushed by Stax.
Check out a nice find below of the group performing “When Will We Be Paid?” live in 1971.
Staple Singers: ‘When Will We Be Paid?’ (Live, 1971)
Don Harrison Band, ‘Red Hot’ (‘Cash Box’ magazine, January 22, 1977). Click to enlarge.
The Don Harrison Band features two former members of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Stu Cook (bass) and Doug Clifford (drums). The roots-rockin’ band released two LPs on Atlantic in 1976 – a self-titled platter and Red Hot – as seen above.
Bottom line: legit? Absolutely, a great album with clever, quirky lyrics and killer melodies, veering from prog to pop to hard rock.
Weren’t they a Beatles hoax? Sort of, but it wasn’t Klaatu’s fault. Months after the album’s quiet release, a journalist and several radio stations suggested the Beatle-ish group was actually a reunited Fab Four. It was easy to believe: no band members were identified on the sleeve, a Canadian label boss fed the confusion (“if yesterday is here, let it be”), and Capitol Records didn’t clear things up (“Klaatu is Klaatu”).
Klaatu Radio Special (1977)
So if they weren’t the Beatles, who were they? Turned out Klaatu was just a talented prog-pop band from Toronto. Though the Beatles association brought the group lots of attention, it would come to hinder their future success, since they were seen as pranksters rather than the real deal. Followup albums Hope (a rock opera about space explorers) and Sir Army Suit were well-reviewed but didn’t sell well here. Happily, the band has reunited and is still playing live forty years later.
Does it really sound like a Beatles album? Somewhat. It’s full of Beatle-ish horns, harmonies, and backwards effects. Certain songs even sound like certain Beatles: “Little Neutrino” is an update to Lennon’s “I Am The Walrus,” “Sub-Rosa Subway” is dead-on McCartney a la “Penny Lane,” and “California Jam” and “Doctor Marvello” include George-like guitar and sitar.
Klaatu: ‘Little Neutrino’ (1976)
Who else do they sound like? The group should really be considered alongside prog-pop bands like 10CC, Electric Light Orchestra, and Supertramp. On this self-titled debut (originally titled 3:47 EST in Canada), Klaatu plays everything from spacey late-night jams (“Little Neutrino”) to hard boogie rock (“True Life Hero”) to novelty music-hall numbers (“Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III,” which sounds like a cockney Oscar the Grouch).
Klaatu: ‘Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III’ (1976)
Didn’t the Carpenters do one of their songs? Karen and Richard covered Klaatu’s best-known number, the oddball UFO anthem “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft.” The song describes believers who send telepathic messages to aliens and receive a startling reply. Issued in space-crazed 1977 between the Star Wars and Close Encounters films, the Carpenters’ cover became a US top 40 hit.
Klaatu: ‘Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft’ (1976)
Aside from UFOs, what are the other songs about? The album is quite nerdy in its subject matter. “Anus of Uranus” (???) is another alien-encounter jam, while “Little Neutrino” is about the smallest of the subatomic particles (“I am someone you’ll never know”). “Doctor Marvello” and “Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III” portray comic-book-ish adventurers on supernatural quests.
1870’s short-lived Beach Pneumatic Transit, inspiration for “Sub-Rosa Subway”
Most geeky of all is “Sub-Rosa Subway,” the true tale of the secret construction of an air-powered subway beneath 19th-century Manhattan (suggesting to some that the Beatles had also secretly reconstructed themselves).
Klaatu: ‘Sub-Rosa Subway’ (1976)
How’s the 8-track? Capitol did a nice job. To accommodate program breaks, they split two of the weaker songs and left the best ones untouched. “True Life Hero” breaks after a false ending, so it sounds like it’s over — it’s quite a surprise to hear it come roaring back after the splice!
Join us next week for another great tape by a very different make-believe Beatles band… a legend that will last a lunchtime.
Here’s a fascinating three minutes of must-watch footage for David Bowie fans. On October 15, 1977 Bowie visited the TopPop studios in the Netherlands for a round of local promotion and to shoot an appearance singing “Heroes.”
I found Bowie’s self-directed round of musical chairs while being photographed particularly interesting. The man wasn’t shy about presenting himself just right. Have a look.
Reversing the tape in this battered Beatles cartridge reveals a fab mirror universe of psychedelic sounds.
What does it sound like? Backwards Beatles listening is a strange experience. The sounds and voices are very familiar but the melodies and “lyrics” are brand new. It sounds like a Beatles tribute band from another country (or planet), playing weird Fab Four soundalikes with gibberish words.
Who would do this? Inspired by the 1969 “Paul is Dead” hoax, fans would spin Beatles records backwards by hand, discovering bogus “secret messages” and strangely beautiful music. Today anyone can reverse digital Beatles song files using basic audio software. But 8-track listeners have another option: reverse the tapes inside the cartridges and listen to the music backwards. (You can’t do this with prerecorded cassettes or open-reel tapes, which play the same if you flip them.)
How can I do it? Open your 8-track, then respool the head end from the center onto another reel (or unspool into a box). Then wind the tail of the tape back onto the original hub, so the head winds up on the outside (twist the tape 180° so the brown oxide faces out). Resplice with new foil, close cartridge, be amazed.
Spooling the tape from the temporary reel (left) back to the original hub (right). The tape’s “tail” (end) is now on the hub where the head would normally be. Note the tape is being flipped to keep the oxide side facing out. A portable vinyl turntable running at 45rpm will respool the tape in about five minutes.
Have you tried it? I did this yesterday with tape one of the 1973 compilation 1967-1970 with very good results. The tape plays from back to front, starting disconcertingly with Lennon’s screams from “Revolution” and ending gently with the “Strawberry Fields Forever” mellotron. “Hey Jude” was a revelation; I’d always found its descending “na-na-na” coda depressing, like the hopes of the ’60s circling the drain, but in reverse it sounds uplifting and optimistic. Surprisingly, some songs, such as “The Fool on the Hill” and the “Strawberry Fields Forever” ending, sound almost the same in reverse!
The Beatles: ‘Hey Jude’ (Backwards)
Is this what the Beatles intended? Though the band did backwards overdubs starting with 1966’s “Rain” and “I’m Only Sleeping,” I don’t think they expected fans to listen to their music in reverse.
Then why bother? Backwards listening gives you a stark new perspective on Beatles recordings you’ve heard hundreds of times. This unfamiliar setting reveals loud basslines, delicate vocal harmonies, fat keyboards, and clever, tight introductions. It’s a wild ride as new instruments intrude unexpectedly and sudden tape edits change the mood. You feel like you’re listening from inside the songs, watching the machinery at work.
The Beatles: ‘Penny Lane’ (Backwards)
How about the new “lyrics”? Gibberish backwards vocals are like a Rorschach for listeners to project their own ideas onto — hence rock’s backmasking controversy, in which parents and priests discovered Satanic lyrics that weren’t really there. Still, you can’t help but hear a familiar word or phrase at times. Some fans have carefully transcribed the crazy lyrics they hear, as on the “Hey Jude” clip above, making the Beatles seem like babbling lunatics. To me, the reverse title of “Strawberry Fields Forever” sounds like “very sleepy rebels,” an apt description of the drugged-out band at that point!
The Beatles: ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ (Backwards)
Who else would sound good backwards? ’60s psychedelic artists or any other mad-scientist tape manipulators: Jimi Hendrix, Todd Rundgren, Frank Zappa, Parliament/Funkadelic, Prince. Of course, those tapes will cost you more than this Beatles discard, but when you find one for cheap, plow ahead in reverse!
As revealed in the ad above, the tune, written by James Alexander and Zelda Samuels, was originally a gospel number. After some pop adjustments and a Womack recording “Lookin’ For A Love” shot up to #10 on the US Hot 100.
Bobby Womack, ‘Lookin’ For A Love’ (‘Soul Train,’ 1974)
Happy New Year’s Eve everyone! I hope you have a wonderful 2019! To celebrate the closing of one year and the opening of the next – here’s the now traditional George Harrison with “Ding Dong, Ding Dong.”
“Ding Dong, Ding Dong” released in December 1974 and hit the Top 40 in the US (#36) and UK (#38). The non-LP single was written by Harrison and features the artist on guitar and laryngitis. Roll the delightfully silly video filmed at Friar Park, England!