Bob Lackman had only one release, an EP on the French label Riviera in 1966. “Laughing Boy” is the standout track but all four songs are worthwhile.
No one seems to know exactly where Bob came from or what happened to him. I’ve read he was an English singer who happened to get a release in France. But to my ears he sounds more American than English.
The singer shows familiarity with Los Angeles in the final song, “Sad Day for Doc Shades”:
The poor people of Clark Street, Have trouble finding things to eat, Back in Watts, they have one friend Who never asked to be fed, … (?) he’s afraid.
Doc Shades, bad days, Sad days for Doc Shades.
The story is one, sad but good, Practice on 5th Avenue and Hollywood, Until that day that young girl passed away. Because her folks, they were rich, there was trouble in store, Doc Shades could work no more.
The agent grew thin, Bad times had set in, for him.
Doc Shades, bad days, Sad days for Doc Shades.
They no longer said his hands shook, and his reflection in the bottle was a look, Of paranoid indecision, conscience, better known as fear.
The time had come, sad days for Doc Shades had begun. I said now baby let’s do it, I know it, Poor Dark Shades though.
Doc Shades, bad days, Sad days for Doc Shades.
Well I have no more license for any decrepit body, The soul is good, he drinks wood alcohol.
Now he still treats the people on that street, Clark Street, I lived there, No Jaguars, no Japanese gardeners, Lots of trash, it’s ain’t easy here babe, No Frenchy food, or no Frency nothin’.
“Bad Day for Doc Shades” is the only song from the EP not audible on youtube, I’m sorry to say. “Town of Sorrow” seems to cover a similar emotional state but with abstract lyrics. “I Cry for You” has a tuneful pop sound.
“Laughing Boy” has more passion and vitriol, with the singer sucking in his breath between verses, turning from a gentle voice in one line to a harsh accusing tone in the next.
On the beaches far below, I see the waves crashing on the rocky shore, And I also see the sky with its clouds of pink and white, and it makes me wonder why I shouldn’t fight.
See the laughing boy over there. See the laughing boy.
I hear crowds of laughter, and of joy, I see before me, a little boy, He looks so happy, smiling boy, But it is you that I dread.
See the laughing boy over there, See the laughing boy.
This little boy, comes up to me, He’s filled with joy, he’s so carefree, But if he’d been through the same as me, Then I don’t think he’d be ashamed, To tell me what is wrong.
On the beaches far below, I see the waves crashing, crashing on the rocky shore, And I also see the sky with its clouds of pink and white, Do you see them there?
See the laughing boy over there, See the laughing boy.
Bob Lackman wrote “Laughing Boy” and collaborated with a writer named Pasternak on the other three songs. A commentator “Boursin” wrote below, “Pasternak is almost certainly the DJ Emperor Rosko (real name Mike Pasternak). In 1966 his French-language show, Minimax, was on Radio Luxembourg every weekday night, and was hugely popular in France.”
I contacted Emperor Rosko and he wrote back:
I found him singing in the [London] Underground. He came from a wealthy family. I produced those tracks. Everything disappeared, masters, label, and Bobby. Bobby disappeared back into New York. If you track him down give me a shout!
I asked Rosko about his co-writing credit as Pasternak and he replied, “I messed with it a bit.”
The cover lacks any credits except for song writing and photography by Drew Bond. I find the color/b&w art jarring because the sunburst on the guitar is blacked out on the right side and because his hand is turned into a lifeless gray color.
A notable rock music venue in the South of France, the Voom Voom Club in St. Tropez was frequented regularly by French actress Brigitte Bardot and her husband, the late Gunter Sachs.
During the mid-late 1960s, many notable British bands performed at the Voom Voom, including Carl Douglas & The Big Stampede, Jimmy Cliff & The Shakedown Sound, The Soft Machine, The New Formula, Mickey Finn & The Blue Men and The Ray King Soul Band.
I have started to compile a list of bands that played at the Voom Voom Club but would welcome any additions and corrections in the comments below.
March 1967 (Melody Maker lists 16 days in St. Tropez but may not be Voom Voom):
The Herd: Peter Frampton (lead vocals/lead guitar), Gary Taylor (bass), Alan Bown (keyboards/lead vocals) and Andrew Steele (drums)
Carl Douglas & The Big Stampede: Carl Douglas (lead vocals), Del Grace (lead guitar), Mike Manners (keyboards), Tony Charman (bass), Mel Wayne (sax), Verdi Stewart (trumpet) and Del Coverley (drums)
New Formula: Mike Harper (lead vocals), Martin Fallon (lead guitar), Bruce Carey (bass), Ricky Dodd (vocals/saxophone) and Tommy Guthrie (drums)
Jimmy Cliff & The Shakedown Sound: Jimmy Cliff (lead vocals), Kevin Gammond (lead guitar), Terry (Verden) Allen (keyboards/vocals), John Best (bass) and Sean Jenkins (drums)
Ray King Soul Band: Ray King (lead vocals), Roger Dean (lead guitar), Terry Leeman (keyboards), Paul Slade (bass), Jim Lang (tenor saxophone), Ken Horton (baritone saxophone) and Malcolm Jenkins (drums)
Mickey Finn & The Blue Men: Alan Mark (lead vocals), Micky Waller (lead guitar), Rod Clark (bass/lead vocals), John Cooke (keyboards) and Richard Brand (drums)
Circa August/September 1967:
The Soft Machine: Daevid Allen (lead guitar/lead vocals), Kevin Ayers (bass/lead vocals), Mike Ratledge (keyboards/vocals) and Robert Wyatt (drums/lead vocals)
21 May-11 June 1968:
Ray King Soul Band: Ray King (lead vocals), Paul Williams (lead guitar), Terry Leeman (keyboards), Paul Slade (bass), Jim Lang (tenor saxophone), Ken Horton (baritone saxophone) and Malcolm Jenkins (drums)
The What’s New have always fascinated record collectors: mistakenly listed as a Florida band, they released two EPs in France but nothing in the U.S.
Spike Priggen found some great videos of the What’s New performing on French TV and suggested we collaborate on a post, which I put up at Bedazzled last month.
Their story starts with the Yachtsmen, a folk group founded by students at Long Beach City College in 1959. The Yachtsmen became regulars at Disneyland in Anaheim, releasing an LP on Disney’s Buena Vista label (BV-3310), High and Dry with The Yachtsmen in 1961.
On the LP the group were Carl Berg (vocals, guitar), Ray Jordan (vocals, banjo, string bass), Jay Huling (aka Jay Hulingpart, vocals, guitar, bongos), and Bill Reed (vocals, bass). Other members included Kevin Shipman and Mickey Elley.
The Yachtsmen continued performing at Disneyland for the next several years, appearing on another LP, Jack Linkeletter Presents a Folk Festival.
Meanwhile Scot Thistlewaite (stage name Colin Scot) had been playing banjo and guitar with a ragtime duo called Bud and Scotty at Coke Corner in Disneyland, with Bud Hedrick on piano.
Scot was born in the UK, moved to Canada in the late ’50s where he went to Sir Adam Beck Collegiate High School in London, Ontario, then moved to California where he attended Cal State University at Long Beach.
In October, 1965, French chanteuse Line Renaud and her husband Louis “Loulou” Gasté saw the Yatchsmen at Disneyland and brought the group over to Paris in January, 1966.
Kevin Shipman wrote to me about how Scot joined the group:
Scotty was a friend of our folk group The Yachtsmen when we were all at Disneyland. As you have noted in your piece, he and Bud Hedrick played ragtime at Coke Corner.
Some time in December 1965, Line Renaud, the star of the Casino de Paris in Las Vegas, toured Disneyland and saw us performing. Shortly after that we received a call from her representative saying that she wanted us to come to Paris to be second billing in her new show at the original Casino de Paris. We talked about it and decided it would be a great opportunity to live in an amazing place and to re-charge our creative batteries.
One of our guys was finishing up his master’s degree and had just been engaged to be married and he declined to make the trip. We immediately went to Scotty to see if he might be interested. He jumped a foot off the ground and yelled “YES”. Scot had just been called up by the draft board and there was no way he could have been a soldier. He was barely an American having arrived from Canada only a few years earlier and he was a committed pacifist. This would be his way out of that and into a new and exciting chapter.
Scotty was the perfect addition to our group. He spoke French with near fluency – something we were not aware of when we approached him – and he brought a lot of energy and heart to what was to become a folk-rock band. We wanted to break out of the folk music constraints and do original music with power and finesse. All the members were strong musicians with great harmony sensibilities and we could all sing solo. I like to think that we were predecessors of bands like Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Eagles.
The band changed their name to the What’s New though they still look very collegiate performing “Des mots d’amor” with Line Renaud on French TV. [Unfortunately all the excellent videos of the band on French TV have been taken down from Youtube since I first posted this article.]
They recorded their first EP in July, ’66 at Gasté’s own studio in Paris, scoring a French hit with a single version of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain”. Their first EP also has their version of Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind” and two songs by Randy Sparks of the New Christy Minstrels, “Huckleberry Finn” and “Driving Wheels”.
Kevin Shipman told me:
We had a hit in France (number one or two depending on who you talk to) with “Early Morning Rain” but we did not have the management we needed. Line Renaud’s husband Lou Lou Gaste liked to think that he was performing those tasks and fended off other true management people who approached him.
One of our best moments was one of our last. We played the premiere music venue in Paris – the Olympia – opening for Michel Polnareff and the Beach Boys [October 25, 1966]. Everyone one who saw the show said that we blew the Beach Boys off the stage. They had great hits but they were weak in live performance.
Their second EP showcases four original songs by Colin Scot, putting a sharp folk-rock sound behind Scot’s plaintive lead vocal and the group’s harmonies. It includes the now-famous “Up So High” (“Got no use for LSD, every time you look at me I’m up so high”) and the excellent “Get Away” which moves from dreamy verse to tough chorus.
The What’s New disbanded in early 1967.
Kevin Shipman explains:
I had decided that I needed to go back and finish my college studies. I was one year away from graduation and I felt that goal slipping away after a year and a half in Paris. Another member was having marital troubles and his wife insisted on returning to the US and her church group. So, we reluctantly parted ways as friends having come very close to the prize but not at the right time.
Scot could not go back to the US having eluded the military and chose to go to England where the music scene was far more vibrant than in France.
Colin Scot became part owner of a nightclub called Kahuna’s Cave in Cala Mayor, Palma de Majorca, and toured the folk circuit in the UK in the late ’60s. In the 1970s he released LPs on United Artists and Warner Bros, with a final single “Mandolin Man” / “Boris” on RCA in 1977. He died in Amsterdam in 1999.
My wife and I remained close to Scotty over the years and visited him twice in Amsterdam. He came twice to our home at Lake Tahoe and we found all our visits to be both rich in friendship and yet agonizing witnessing his descent in ever-deeper and more virulent alcoholism. I never saw him pass out which was amazing considering how much he drank.
Our last visit from him was in winter of 1999 and he would die a few months later. During that last visit he was not drinking for the first time in his adult life but he was having liver failure. He resumed drinking when he returned home.
Scotty was a beacon and a natural Pied Piper. Everyone loved him and he seemed to love everyone. I can tell you from reading his poetry that he came to view life in a fundamentally dark way. He trusted everyone and was taken advantage of by many. He had no concept of money management and it vaporized in his possession.
Ultimately, his life was very difficult with bright chapters – Disneyland and Paris in particular – and many dark ones. In reflection, it could not have gone any other way. This was Scotty and there was no other life option for him. Music and entertaining was his passion and alcohol was a demon none of us could exorcise from him. Interventions were planned but failed.
Scot’s writing was always a reflection of his life circumstances. The music he wrote during the What’s New period was mostly upbeat. He intensely disliked the dreariness of London and addressed that directly in one of his solo songs. His writing became darker as his circumstances deteriorated and that diminished the appeal of his music for many. I repeatedly encouraged him to lighten up and inject some humor or irony, as he used to do, into his writing rather than hitting us on the nose with what he didn’t like. He preferred the direct approach. Regardless, he was a great talent and a wonderful, sensitive person.
In the end, he should be remembered as a loving, caring, zany bundle of gifts and excesses. His was the life of the clown. Happy on the outside and often tortured within. The day his father Cy called to inform me of his passing I cried. I knew Cy would call with that message before too long so I was prepared for it. But it pained me greatly and it still does. He was one of a kind and he is missed.
A truly European band, the Rhythm Checkers had members from four countries over the course of their three-year career. Their first EP includes some of the wildest garage ever cut on the continent.
Begun in 1965 in Sarrelouis, a town in the Saarland region of Germany very close to the border with France, the band had three Germans: Dave Kelly (Wolfgang Mersinger) on vocals and guitar, Kurt Horbach on bass, and Norbert Hohlweg (spelled Hohlweck on the EP) on drums, with Eddy Van Nelfen from the Netherlands on rhythm guitar. Occasionally Frank Farian, the founder of the Hansa label, would join them on keyboards.
Kibitz Club, Strasbourg, May 1966
The band relocated to Strasbourg, France in 1966, replacing Dave Kelly with two Frenchmen: Robby Stierheim of the Black and White (“Where Did You Go” on Storz) on guitar, and Roby’s friend Roland Bauer (aka “Bouboule”) of the Skat Five as new lead singer.
That summer the Rhythm Checkers traveled to play the Puce Palladium in the town of Juan les Pins in the French Riviera, and on November 8 they opened for Jerry Lee Lewis at Paris’ Olympia Theatre, playing r&b hits like Ride Your Pony and Long Tall Sally. They went over big, leading to a month-long booking at Kiki Chauvieres’ club the Locomotive in Paris.
Juan les Pins, Summer 1966
Returning to Strasbourg in December, they cut their first EP at the Kibitz Club, produced by Alain Dubois and pressed in 2000 copies on the Disques AGD label. “Cause I Need You” and “Theme of the Rhythm Checkers” are originals by Robby Stierheim and Eddy Van Nelfen.
Both are solid songs, though the production brings the drums and vocals to the fore and buries the fuzz guitar on “Theme of the Rhythm Checkers”. On this song especially, Roland’s voice reminds me of Roky Erickson’s though I’m sure he was unaware of the Elevators at the time.
They also cover Bo Diddley’s “Said Oh Yeah” and, surprisingly, a great version of “On Your Way Down the Drain,” originally by the New York group the King Bees. This song is crude as can be, a real garage classic.
On February 21, 1967 they returned to the Olympia to open for Chuck Berry. By this time another former member of the Black and White, Danny Gentner replaced Kurt Horbach on bass. A hoarse Roland Bauer opens their set with a shout of “Vivre le rock n’ roll et vivre les Rhythm Checkers!”
This wild performance was recorded for their second EP, featuring all cover songs this time: “Long Tall Sally”, “Kansas City”, “Land of a Thousand Dances”, and the Small Faces’ recent release “I Can’t Dance With You”. Again they’re engaged to play Paris clubs, this time the Tchoo Tchoo, the Poporama and the Bus Palladium.
At Gérardmer, summer 1967
In the fall of ’67 English keyboardist Chris Hadfield joined the band for gigs with the Artwoods and Sandie Shaw. The group broke up at the end of the year, with Robby, Chris and Roland forming a r&b group called the Meats. Roland reformed the Checkers in the 1970s for one single.
Born in the Paris district of Ménilmontant, Annie Philippe became a DJ at the Paris club Twenty One when she was just seventeen.
Meeting Paul Mauriat there led to an audition with the Riviera label, where she released 4 EPs beginning in 1964. In early 1966, her fourth EP contained her biggest hit, “Ticket de quai”, and also included one of my favorites “On m’a toujours dit”, with its fuzz guitar and handclaps.
After moving to the Philips label, she released the great “C’est la mode” in late 1966. This track is almost hypnotic in its buzzing guitar, heavy beat and layered vocals. She continued recording regularly through 1969 with occasional success, then made a comeback attempt in the late ’70’s.