Posts Tagged ‘Joe Cocker’

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The Grease Band was formed in 1966 and probably the most well-known backing group of the late 1960s backing Joe Cocker admired by critics and rival musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, they emerged to a brief flurry of activity in their own right at the start of the ’70s, as well as backing Marianne Faithfull in her first significant solo work of the ’70s.

The original line-up underwent several changes over the ensuing years. They appeared with Cocker during the 1960s, including his performance at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969. After Cocker formed the Mad Dogs & Englishmen band, the group released two albums without him in the 1970s.

Henry McCullough (guitar), Alan Spenner (bass) and Bruce Rowlands (drums) joined Chris Stainton in the group’s best-known incarnation, but this unit split from Cocker in 1970 at the end of an arduous American tour. Spenner, Rowlands and McCullough were then joined by guitarist Neil Hubbard as the Grease Band embarked on an independent career.

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The group’s brand of blues-rock was perfectly captured on their debut album released in April 1971 and they enjoyed a reputation as an exciting live attraction. Signed to EMI’s progressive label Harvest the band fitted in well with the burgeoning UK country rock scene. Stainton remained an associate member, although Mick Weaver, aka Wynder K. Frog, subsequently augmented the line-up. John ‘Pugwash’ Weathers came in for the defecting Rowlands, but the band broke up in December 1971 when McCullough joined Wings

Alan Spenner and rhythm guitarist Neil Hubbard went on to play in the UK white soul band Kokomo, while Drummer Bruce Rowland later joined Fairport Convention.

Rowland, Spenner, Hubbard and McCullough all played on the original 1970 soundtrack recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. But even 40 years later, the mention of the Grease Band still brings flashes of recognition to those aware of Woodstock, or the original Jesus Christ, Superstar, or that second Joe Cocker album, and their debut record is still available on CD in the 21st century.

  • The Grease Band (Shelter/Harvest, 1971)
  • Amazing Grease  (Goodear, 1975)

Take What You Need UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69In February of 1965, Melody Maker asked John Lennon about his enthusiasm for Bob Dylan material and Dylan interpretations. “I just felt like going that way,” he said about the new acoustic guitar-based material The Beatles were then recording at Abbey Road. “If I’d not heard Dylan, it might have been that I’d written stuff and sung it like Dominic Behan, or somebody like that.” Despite the non-committal answer, Dylan’s impact on Lennon was clear .

Out of the public eye, Lennon after being hipped to the album by George Harrison had spent summer 1964 absorbing Dylan’s Freewheelin’ album. All four Beatles smoked cannabis with Dylan. Lennon went further and confessed he’d written “a folky song which I try to sing in a Dylan style. I didn’t want to overdo it, but I like it.

Indeed, The Beatles weren’t the only British pop stars in thrall to Dylan. In openly acknowledging this, they and Donovan had been beaten to the record shops in 1964 by The Animals, whose first two singles – “Baby Let Me Take You Home” and “House of the Rising Sun” – reinterpreted material from Dylan’s first album, issued in 1962. Those were pre-existing songs covered by Dylan but when he began issuing his own compositions they were, in turn, also ripe for covering.

Any of Dylan’s songs were up for grabs and the enlightening, entertaining new 22-track compilation “Take What You Need: UK Covers of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69” charts the early days of these endeavours on this side of the Atlantic. The oldest track is The Fairies’ version of “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”, issued on 31st July 1964. The latest are five tracks from 1969 which range from Joe Cocker to Sandie Shaw, and Fairport Convention to the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber-sponsored The Mixed Bag.

Britain, though, was initially resistant to Dylan’s charms. He had been in London at the end of 1962 and appeared on television, as well as live at The Troubadour and other folk clubs. As the fine liner notes say, “few on the British scene were taken with Dylan; most were at best indifferent or, in the case of arch traditionalists Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl, completely dismissive.” There was one exception: the open-minded Martin Carthy. He alone was not going to help Dylan’s recognition.

Take What You Need UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 The Fairies Don’t Think Twice it’s Alright

So how did Bob Dylan become embedded in the fabric of British pop? The generalised opening of minds and ears integral to Beatlemania is one answer. Playing London in May 1964 helped push Dylan towards the pop, rather than niche folk, market. More specifically, bands like The Animals were blues fans who also liked folk and were on the lookout for material. Cover versions laid the table for the real thing – Dylan himself. Another factor was the high-profile support Dylan enjoyed in America which attracted attention in Britain. Joan Baez’s espousal did no harm and Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” in June 1963 was a massive US hit. Handily for Dylan, the manager he shared with the latter was keen on cross-collateralisation. It all ensured 1964 became Dylan’s breakthrough year in the UK.

Take What You Need kicks off with The Fairies’ bouncy “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”, which features session-era Jimmy Page on guitar. It’s followed by Marianne Faithfull’s Baez-style “Blowin’ in the Wind” (on which Page probably also appears). She sings preciously, as if afraid of the song. The Fairies blast away with nary a care for the nature of the source material. This twin-track approach courses through the compilation: wholesale reinterpretation versus on-eggshells respect for what’s being recorded.

Artistically and commercially, the most successful of the Britain’s Sixties Dylan fanciers were serial Dylan interpreters Manfred Mann, whose still daisy-fresh “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” is sandwiched between the Ian Campbell Folk Group’s gloopy, portentous “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and The Cops ‘N Robbers‘ tense “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”. Next up is Chad & Jeremy’s limp “Mr Tambourine Man”.

Take What You Need UK Covers Of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 Manfred Mann If you Gotta go go Now

As the decade winds on, the mostly chronologically sequenced Take What You Need scoops up some extraordinary obscurities. Alex Campbell’s superb “Tom Thumb’s Blues” balances reverence for the material with spontaneity. Best of all is The Factotums’ romp through “Absolutely Sweet Marie”. Conversely, Cocker’s clod-hopping assassination of “Just Like a Woman” – with yet more Jimmy Page – is almost impossible to listen to.

Take What You Need is a wild ride. And it should be. During the years covered, it was open season on Dylan’s songs. The smooth comes with the rough and, in acknowledging this, the true nature of British musician’s response to Dylan is revealed.

Joe Cocker Goes Out To The Movies

Recorded during Joe Cocker’s two-night stand at the Fillmore East in 1970, ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ is the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll road show. Band leader Leon Russell assembled a killer group to back the 25-year-old singer. It’s heavy on covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Rolling Stones, but Cocker pretty much makes them his own.

When Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen concert movie premiered on 22nd January, 1971, cinema audiences were able to experience Joe Cocker at the peak of his powers.

The live album from the famed tour of the same name had been released in August 1970, reaching No. 2 in America and No. 16 in the UK. The subsequent film brought Cocker’s unique performance to the silver screen for the second time in a year. He had starred with his Grease Band in the film of the Woodstock Festival of summer 1969, which came out in 1970 and showed his celebrated electrifying  interpretation of Lennon-McCartney’s  ‘With A Little Help From My Friends.’

Mad Dogs

But while that was one song among an all-star event, Mad Dogs, The movie directed by Pierre Adidge, was a two-hour showcase for Joe Cocker as a frontman, and a chance to watch master musician and band leader Leon Russell in full flow as Joe’s musical director for the 48-city tour. There are also prominent roles for other members of the band that we already knew, or came to, in their other work. Saxophone maestro Bobby Keys, especially admired for his long relationship with the Rolling Stones, is featured along with another of their collaborators, Jim Price.

Cocker’s keyboard man Chris Stainton is on board, as are prolific sidemen such as Jim Keltner and Derek and The Dominoes  members Jim Gordon and Carl Radle. The tour, and the film, also did much to announce the vocal talents of Rita Coolidge, who featured on Russell and Bonnie Bramlett’s lovely tune ‘Superstar.’

Vincent Canby’s review of the film in the New York Times in March 1971 described it as a record of the tour featuring Cocker, the young extraordinarily talented, British blues singer, and the largely American entourage (band, choir, friends, wives, children, groupies and a single dog named Canina) that accompanied him. The entire group numbered almost 40 people, most of whom were on stage during most of the performances, making for what seems to have been extremely cheerful and friendly chaos.”

Joe Cocker’s career took off after singing his his amazing interpretation of With a Little Help from My Friends at Woodstock Festival. But did you know that the rest of his Woodstock set remained unreleased? Here’s the whole set, for the first time: the Beatles tune; “Feelin’ Alright; Dear Landlord; Just Like a Woman; I Shall Be Released; I Don’t Need No Doctor” , and more!
It makes one wonder why it took so long for the “Live at Woodstock” series to emerge – maybe copyright issues, who knows. Joe Cocker rose to fame in the late 60s in part, at least, on the back of his performance at the Woodstock festival of August 1969. Until this album only the track “With a Little Help From My Friends”, off the Woodstock set, was released (on the first Woodstock album). Those who know, and like, that track will not be disappointed with this album. For those that don’t know Joe Cocker, his stlye is that of an extravagant front man covering songs of the time in an idiosyncratically soulful style.

This set is performed by a band who know what they are doing and are doing it well. It is a tight, well performed set of songs mostly from Cocker’s first album. This incarnation of the Grease Band is really good (really, really good). Like many “overnight” sucesses, that success is founded on years of hard slog. This performance catches a glimpse of Joe Cocker and his band at the top of their game and before drugs, fame and rock and roll have taken their toll.

Why did we have to wait 40 years for this fabulous album to be released? I have always thought Joe Cocker’s performance on the Woodstock film was one of so many highlights but to now be able to hear the full performance is an absolute treat.

It is a staggeringly good performance by Joe Cocker & the Grease Band. They are on absolutely peak form here in August 1969. Joe Cocker’s voice never sounded better than this. The sound is perfect. This is 77 minutes of some of the most powerful and raw rock and soul.


Joe Cocker, the English blues-rock singer with the intense howl and the distinctive stage presence, died of lung disease today while at home in Colorado. Cocker was 70.

Joe Cocker was born in the British city of Sheffield — also the home of another famous Cocker, Pulp frontman Jarvis. (They’re not related, but Jarvis’ father Mac used to lie and say that he was Joe’s brother when he was an Australian radio DJ.) Born John Robert Cocker, Joe got his start as a 16-year-old leader of a band called the Cavaliers. He’d spend his teens and early twenties performing under various names (he was Vance Arnold for a while) and leading various groups: Vance Arnold And The Avengers, Joe Cocker’s Big Blues, the Grease Band. Despite a short-lived Decca Records deal in 1964, Cocker wouldn’t break through until 1968, when his Grease Band covered the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” as a wild, sincere, throaty blues-rocker.

Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” would be his signature song for his entire career. He famously performed it at Woodstock and got a highlight spot in the Woodstock documentary, and years later, it would serve as the theme song for “The Wonder Years”. In the years that followed, Cocker would score more hits with more covers: Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady,” Julie London’s “Cry Me A River,” the Box-Tops’ “The Letter.”

His version of Billy Preston and Dennis Wilson’s “You Are So Beautiful” was a massive international hit in 1974, but he didn’t score his greatest chart success until he topped American charts in 1982, when his Jennifer Warnes duet “Up Where We Belong” served as the main theme for the movie An Officer And A Gentleman.

Joe Cocker remained a goofily genial pop-culture presence throughout his life, never taking himself too seriously. He performed on Saturday Night Live while John Belushi stood right next to him, imitating his spasmodic stage presence. He recorded an early-’80s reggae-pop album at Compass Point studios with Sly & Robbie backing him up. He performed at Woodstock ’94. He kept steadily performing until very recently, and Fire It Up, his final album, came out in 2012.