“I love rock ‘n’ roll so put another dime in the juke box baby”. Who doesn’t know that line, who doesn’t remember that song? But what is it you remember about it? Dumb rock song? Well love it or hate it it was a No.1 US hit (7 weeks at the top) that resonated with a lot of people, the song’s anthemic chorus pounding in their Rock ‘n’ Roll hearts. That’s often the point when there’s a hit, how it resonates with the masses on a whole other level, like perhaps Losing My Religion, or I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For or I Will Always Love You. It’s how it just hits a chord with people, Under The Milky Way did that, too. So everyone remembers I Love R’n’R and you probably remember it was a hit for Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, sneering her way through the chorus. You might even remember the video, black and white, Joan Jett’s heavy eye make up and the Rock guitar bends, the world’s music intellectuals hated it, but who wrote it?
It’s an odd story with today as it has a sad end. There was a band called Arrows who were signed in 1974 by Mickie Most’s Rak label and he produced their first three singles, Touch Too Much reaching No.8, Toughen Up (No.51) and My Last Night With You (No.25). One last single with Mickie Most in charge was I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (originally a B-side). It didn’t seem to chart anywhere that I can see, but after a TV show producer saw it performed once on TV, Arrows got their own TV show. It went on for two seasons, I remember seeing it and Joan Jett saw it, too, when she was on tour with The Runaways in the UK. Arrows released an album that had none of the Mickie Most produced tracks and signed to MAM management. Once Upon A Time, the opening track on their debut album (1976), was released a month before they signed the deal. Mickie Most was so furious with their signing he refused to release any more of their records, so they found themselves with a record label, hit singles, new management, a popular TV show and no releases.
This brings me to the writers who were two of Arrows’ members, bassist/singer Alan Merrill and guitarist Jake Hooker. Apparently it was written as a response to The Rolling Stones’ It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It). Merrill was the son of Jazz singer Helen Merrill who had found fame in the fifties. He in turn had found a successful career in the oddest of bands in the oddest of places, namely Japan. That’s a long story that you can read about somewhere else but both Merrill and Hooker grew up in America, they were two Americans (two thirds) of what was considered an English three-piece band – English drummer Paul Varley completed the line up. When the TV show ended, the band ended. There were no more singles, no more albums and that was that. I guess Mickie Most got his revenge for them not signing their management to him, even though he was also the record label and initially the producer. In 1979 Joan Jett recorded I Love R’n’R as a B-side to a single with Paul Cook and Steve Jones. In 1981 she did it again with her band The Blackhearts. The rest is history.
The reason I’m telling this story is because today Alan Merrill died of the Corona virus at the age of 69. That’s all of Arrows gone. Jake Hooker died in 2014 aged 61 and Paul Varley died in 2008 at the age of 59. Merrill acted, did sessions, toured with other bands, wrote songs for others and made lots of solo records, Hooker went on to manage his wife who was an actor and singer and Varley played drums with lots of bands including Terry Reid.
One last thing on this (or two) I was asked to play guitar with a band when I was living in New York for a show called The Beat Goes On at The Bottom Line. We played one set of US Punk and New Wave and one set of UK Punk and New Wave. Steve Goulding from the Mekons was in the band. There were guest singers and one of them was Ricky Byrd, the guitarist from Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, super nice man. I remember doing a song that I can’t remember and singing into the same microphone as him. Ha ha. I think I sang Friction? Tom Verlaine had taught me the guitar part, seemed perfect for the show. And the really, really last thing, Barton Price who was in The Models (and played drum pads on She’s King) had a spell as the drummer in The Blackhearts. I only just found out tonight that Britney Spears covered I Love R’n’R. That was a shock, but not as big a shock as seeing Céline Dion and Anastacia doing You Shook Me All Night Long in Las Vegas.
So back to the rest of the day. I had the diamond eyes this afternoon. In the olden days it would have turned into a week of hell, but these days it just gives me a dull headache for a few hours when my eyesight returns to normal. Olivia made me tea and eased my neck and feet muscles, it’s all you can do. Darkness, silence, patience (maybe Pink Floyd on quietly).
I had a sesh tonight with Tyler in Portland, a talented multi-instrumentalist and singer. It’s hard out there having the ideas, the words, the instrumental skills but not the resources to put it all into action. It’s just the damned money that makes the difference. He’s made records before but how to move forward? If I were a millionaire…
Dare and I did some recording today for a Space Summit track, I played a guitar solo on my ’59 Jazzmaster. I haven’t pulled that one out for a while, what an amazing guitar it is. I also spoke to Ed the drummer in Bristol today about the drum tracks, we are getting there. Mixing tomorrow.
Music today was of course Arrows’ album, but then I followed it up with Japan’s first very Rock & Roll album, released in 1978 (that apparently David Sylvian is embarrassed about). I have it in two different covers. One version had a couple of jumps on it that I couldn’t see in the grooves so I played side one on one copy and side two on my other copy. But I was wondering what else I could play from 1976 and stumbled across this peculiar record. Marianne Faithfull’s first album since the sixties, Dreamin’ My Dreams, also released as Faithless with some alterations. This is Marianne Faithfull before the second breakthrough with the amazing Broken English album, released in 1979. At this point she was definitely unsure where to go because this is mainly a Country album but she’s back and I like it, mostly. It’s the beginning of her cigarette, alcohol and drug voice, which she arrived at through some terrible times of addiction and even homelessness, but through that she gave us some riveting music.
Last album of the night staying in 1976 and an album I haven’t played for a long, long time. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s Penthouse Tapes. I saw them twice in Liverpool around this time. I always play Next with The Faith Healer as the key track (covered on A Box Of Birds). But this is a mostly covers album that fits perfectly with Marianne Faithfull’s covers album, but this one is a bit more Rock ‘n’ Roll!
Song of the night in keeping with a theme of Rock ‘n’ Roll is Better Hope You’re Not Alone from the third Noctorum album Honey Mink Forever. Check out the jamming solo at the end, Dare on bass, me on Les Paul.
Better Hope You’re Not Alone
Make a wish
And see just what unfolds
Watch the heat rise from the cold
Do you believe all you’ve been told
There’s a myth
That’s going ’round the world
That god can’t be a girl
Black with eyes like pearls
Well I know quite soon things are gonna change ’round here
Can’t you appreciate that everything you want is near
Random taught belief can only generate hate
Well the picture’s crooked
All this madness
All this foolishness
How come you want to desecrate
And if you go out on your own
You’d better hope you’re not alone
A supernatural being
All knowing and all seeing
Who demands that we are kneeling
Then a small
Difference in the faith
Which will breed the seeds of hate
Until it’s all too late
If you look at it all it really doesn’t make much sense
You tell me you’re good as you’re committing the worst offense
There’s a hell of a lot of attack in your defense
Well the world’s our oyster
So don’t pollute it with your
Stupid, esoteric, narcissistic pretence
And if you go out on your own
You’d better hope you’re not alone
(Willson-Piper / Mason)
Honey Mink Forever (2011)