Unless you’re driving or doing surgery, I want you to close your eyes and picture Little Richard. Head thrown back with six inches of hair piled up on top, hands stretching for the piano. Good golly miss molly. Or Jerry Lee Lewis? The killer? Kicking the bench out of the way, standing a few feet back so he has to bend over to wail on the keys. Great balls of fire! Or Fats Domino giving it up on “The Fat Man” one of those songs that’s always on the list as the first rock and roll record. These were the guys who invented the music. And those pianos were iconic. But, somewhere around Duane Eddy and Chuck Berry, the electric guitar took over as the symbol of rock and roll. Now I like guitars as much as the next guy but today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl is all about the 88’s.
The late, great Nicky Hopkins is one of the most important session musicians in rock history. He recorded the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Airplane, and the Steve Miller Band among others. He earned the nickname Edward as a result of his composition and performance on “Edward, The Mad Shirt Grinder,” a nine minute piano masterpiece from the Quicksilver Messenger Service album Shady Grove. Well, it turns out there’s a false ending in the middle of the song that allows Chuck Leavell to slide onto the bench and launch into the great Sea Level track, “Rain In Spain,” which, as it turns out, also has a false ending. As you might imagine, hand mixing ensues. Chuck’s resume as a session guy is nearly as impressive as Nicky’s. In addition to his career with the Allman Brothers and Sea Level, he’s played with the Stones, Clapton, and many others. At the end of the set, we’ve got a surprise from the Isley Brothers, but before we get there, how about a surprise from one of the icons of New Age music? George Winston covering The Doors. Trust me. But first, from the Way Back Studios, let’s join Cheech and Chong as they try to give a piano lesson to little Jimmy.
|Cheech & Chong||Jimmy (excerpt)|
|George Winston||Love Me Two Times|
|Quicksilver Messenger Service||Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder (part 1)|
|Sea Level||Rain in Spain (pt 1)|
|Quicksilver Messenger Service||Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder (part 2)|
|Sea Level||Rain in Spain (part 2)|
|Isley Brothers||Work to Do|
The Average White Band does a great version of that song, but I’ve always preferred the Isley Brothers take on “Work to Do.” From their 1972 album, Brother, Brother, Brother. Chris Jasper on piano. Before that we tossed Quicksilver Messenger Service into a hand blender with Sea Level mixing “Edward, The Mad Shirt Grinder” with the “Rain in Spain,” done in two parts each. Nicky Hopkins, one of rock’s most influential piano players, handled the keyboards for Quicksilver and Chuck Leavel did the same for his Allman Brothers-era side project. Before the first part of the mad shirt grinder, we heard an instrumental version of The Door’s “Love Me Two Times.” If you looked at the display on your radio, you might have thought, uh, that can’t be right. George Winston, the Windham Hill New Age guy? Sure enough. That was from his 2002 release, Night Divides The Day – The Music of The Doors on Dancing Cat Records. I didn’t know it at the time, but Mr. Winston went to middle school about three blocks down the street from where I grew up. Which just goes to show, you never know.
We started the set with a little comedy from Cheech and Chong, trying to teach Jimmy how to play the piano. From my scratchy copy of their 1976 album, Sleeping Beauty, a reference to the design of the album itself, which, when you opened it looked like a huge seconol, a popular barbiturate from the seventies, known as a red. By the way I’m sure you remember Cheech and Chong’s “Basketball Jones,” but do you remember who played on it? How about George Harrison, Tom Scott, Jim Keltner, and three keyboard players, Billy Preston, Carole King and – you guessed it – Nicky Hopkins. Well, the piano sounds like a carnival and the microphone smells like a beer here in the Way Back Studios. Thanks for listening, I’m Bill Fitzhugh back with another batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl sooner or later, right here in the Deep Tracks.