Needle in a Haystack

One of my practice songs – the Velevelettes Needle in a Haystack, from when I was knee-high to a grasshopper — before the days of quantizing and ‘drop-ins’ we had to play in time – after a cold shower and a 10-mile run, of course.

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54 Responses to Needle in a Haystack

  1. David Witherington says:

    Hey, Bruce. Man, I just played “Walking on Thin Ice” for the first time in years. You were killin’ it, bro…tight bass with amazing fills. The arrangement for the horns was great too. It was remastered for the Rhino bonus disc of PTC. Another highlight on that disc was the BBC recording of “Danger Zone” (the Percy Mayfield cover). I’ll bet it was a joy to play that one, being the blues enthusiast that you are! Good stuff…those bonus discs made all those albums seem fresh again, and painted a more complete picture. Of the many reissues over the years, I think the Rhino ones are definitive. Have you listened to any of that bonus stuff?

    • Bruce says:

      I heard ‘Danger Zone’ the other day when some posted a clip of a Capitol Theatre gig. I must admit, it sounded good. ‘Thin Ice’ was just me being George Porter Jnr (Bassman with the Meters)

      • David Witherington says:

        Wow! That makes sense with Allen Toussaint producing. It does have a New Orleans feel. Just brilliant…the Meters were great. I think you are every bit the musicologist that EC is. I really miss your playing too…keep us posted if you make a new record with anyone. 🙂

      • David Witherington says:

        Allen Toussaint R.I.P. I heard the sad news this morning. He was the heartbeat of the New Orleans sound in so many ways. My condolences to you and any musician who ever had the honor of working with him.

      • Bruce says:

        Uncanny coincidence. I only met him the once — EC obviously knew him better.

      • David Crosby says:

        Like so many of those EC & the Attractions your bass playing is central to the tune. Walking On Thin Ice by EC & the Attractions is so much better than the original. John loved Yoko but her singing is quite like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

      • Bruce of America says:

        I remember venturing into the depths of urban Atlanta as a college student, just to find various bootlegs of ECATA performances. Danger Zone was one “compilation”. About $75 US back in the 80’s! Now you can just zip them off the internet should you be of that predisposition.

      • Bruce says:

        Think of the money you could’ve invested in a high-interest account if you’d waited. They had high-interest accounts in those days 🙂

  2. Mike Miller says:

    Here’s a gig for ya….I guess the fellow pictured is supposed to be PT. Actual CL ad in KC today.

    http://westendstudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/IMG_1424.png

  3. Mike Miller says:

    Oh my. Someone has bumped their head:

    As much as i think Elvis is the greatest human to walk this earth, i wonder if others have that one song (or possibly more) that is considered his finest but just has you pressing the skip button – for me its Doll revolution ! Closely followed by Tokyo storm warning….i dont know why….without causing too many arguements whats yours ?no debates cos were not going to all agree – just the song(s) please smile

    • Bruce says:

      For me — it’s “I Want You”. But then I was there at the time. Several other candidates for the “Yellow Submarine Award” though.
      (Just read an interview with EC in which he said he used to be depressed quite a lot of the time. Still, at least he didn’t keep it to himself :))

    • Ed Morgan says:

      Songs that I skip nearly every time? Little Triggers and American Without Tears…both highly regarded by most but ,for whatever reason, I just don’t care for them. Sad to say but after 35 years of hearing it I also give Alison the boot most of the time these days. Strict Time and Next Time Round will never suffer that fate though. Strict Time is very under appreciated.

    • David Witherington says:

      From the Attractions years, I don’t skip much…however, I agree with Bruce about “I Want You.” For me, it had power on the first couple of listens in 1986… after that, it became unbearably long and annoyingly over-emoted. And from 1996, “I Want to Vanish” has me running for the stop button every time. That vibrato singing has me taking Lipo Flavonoid these days…hehe. From recent years, I can skip entire albums sometimes. I say all of this with love and respect though. I love Elvis, Bruce, Steve and Pete like I love John, Paul, George and Ringo…and that’s a lot of love!

      P.S. …and even they got the “Yellow Submarine Award” (good one, Bruce) 🙂

    • Mike Miller says:

      It was the ‘greatest human to walk the earth’ that got my attention.

    • Bruce of America says:

      Actually Doll Revolution and 45 and about the only two songs of the past 20 years or so I wouldn’t push “next track” on.

      • Bruce of America says:

        Meaning of course songs from “the artist formerly known as Elvis Costello and the Attractions”.

    • Paul Inglis says:

      Is “Battered Old Bird” a highly regarded number? Because the psycho-drama of that is fairly off-putting – even more so than “I Want You”. “Tokyo Storm Warning” does go on a bit, doesn’t it – diminishing returns (and fatigue) set in pretty quickly with that one. Might have been halfway decent if it had more than 3 and a half chords…

      Leaving aside the obviously flawed Goodbye Cruel World – which is like a musical version of Russian Roulette; you keep pulling that trigger thinking that eventually there has to be a good song – most of the earlier albums are pretty solid.

      As for the later “post Attractions” albums …they are mostly a mixed bag really. I’m mainly talking about the more conventional band records, not the ones done with the Outer Mongolian Throat Singing Ensemble. I can’t say I’ve ever worried much about his voice – I guess it can get a bit affected at times – but no one’s expecting Caruso, are they? A lot of the singers I like have fairly questionable voices anyway … EC’s probably one of the better ones!

      • Bruce says:

        As Tony Blair said: “The most important thing is sincerity — and once you can fake that, you’ve cracked it.”
        I think TSW sounds like one of those interminable Dylan songs — a hybrid between ‘Maggie’s Farm’ and ‘Desolation Row’. That’s why I tried to subvert the three chord monotony by playing the note from the bass line under the ‘1’ chord also under the ‘4’ chord — that’s probably the ‘half chord’ you’re referring to. Joking aside, I’ve listened to a lot more Mongolian overtone chanting than I have old records I played on. (Check out David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir)

    • Geert De Wilde says:

      ‘Clubland’ is one of those for me. As much as I love Steve’s piano on it, I really don’t like the repetitive melody that doesn’t manage to lift itself out of that one key.

  4. Bruce of America says:

    Thanks Bruce. I love watching YouTube videos of people playing bass, especially when they “isolate” the sound. I was also finally able to listen to “Mad about the wrong boy” there. I think “Sad about Girls” is actually a really great song (either version). It says “vocals by the Attractions”, but I was curious, who’s singing those lead vocals? I can’t say I’ve ever heard you even speak. I assume it was Steve on that track, but what about the others?

    • Bruce says:

      It is Steve singing on that track. I’m not sure if that radio interview is still available on catch-up (scroll down the home page) but if it is, then you’ll be able to hear me speak.

    • Geert De Wilde says:

      I’m afraid I’m one of those people who have a soft spot for ‘Mad About The Wrong Boy’, however much its perpetrators may be embarrassed by it. Arms Race, Straight Jacket, Highrise Housewife. Most if not all of them have something punky and melodious about them. ‘Taste Of Poison’ even used to be in our setlist (with a minimal touch of ABBA in its arrangement) 🙂 Not being a great singer myself, I always dig ‘limited’ vocalists. One of the reasons I picked up on EC, I think 🙂 I assume you do your fair share of singing on ‘Mad …’ too?

      • Bruce says:

        At this rate I may have to dust down a copy and have a listen! I sang on the two tracks I wrote. There was probably a decent album lurking in there somewhere. We should’ve done it under another name.

      • Mike Miller says:

        Was that project just “busy work” because EC was off doing other things?

      • Bruce says:

        Polly Parton — or should I say “two things”. 1) The master plan at this point was throughly fecked due to the Columbus incident — otherwise, I’m sure that we’d have been off on round 20 of Jake’s perpetual US tour. 2) Alternative arrangements were therefore made — EC to produce the Specials, and the Attractions to make a solo album.

      • Bruce says:

        Yes – I’ve got a copy of her book upstairs. She didn’t take a blind bit of notice of JR. Good for her.

      • Ed Morgan says:

        How rushed was the production of Mad? Was it a quick turnaround from idea to finished product or did you have a fair amount of time to gather material? I read somewhere that the Seconds of Pleasure album from Rockpile was rushed and that the band was disappointed that they didn’t have more time to write more songs. The whole process seems to me to be a little like the Hebrews in Egypt…more bricks/no straw. At least from what I’ve read…

      • Bruce says:

        No, the album wasn’t rushed at all — we had all the time we needed to come up with ideas — they were the best we could could come up with 🙂

      • Mike Miller says:

        It seems if it wasn’t Columbus it would have been somewhere else. I don’t see how he expected the group to work this hard. Like driving your car flat out…it’s bound to blow up at some point.

      • Bruce says:

        That’s about the size of it. As I said in Rough Notes, it was inevitable. We could’ve been contenders! At least we went down fighting 🙂

      • Ed Morgan says:

        I figured with the insane pace you had that it would have been rushed. Did you ever work under a time limit that drastically affected the outcome of a project?

      • Bruce says:

        I think 29 shows, in several different countries with 5 TVs in between probably falls into that categories.

      • David Witherington says:

        Hey, Bruce. Which was recorded first…”Get Happy” or “Mad About the Wrong Boy” ? I’ve always wondered, because I got the “Mad” album six months later because it was only available as a UK import. It still amazes me that no one has ever released it in America to this day. The collector in me did manage to track down a Canadian pressing on “Attic Records” a few years later. I will always defend it as at least underrated. 🙂

      • Bruce says:

        I’m pretty sure Get Happy came first. It should be in “the book”.

      • David Witherington says:

        Thanks, Bruce. I don’t know why that passage didn’t stick with me, but I’m glad I looked it up. According to pages 174-175, you regrouped after “Mad” to record a new batch of songs that would become “Get Happy.” I think the release dates may have confused both of us, as I’m pretty sure “Get Happy” did come out first. Regardless, I want to use this confusion to thank you for writing your book chronologically. I was able to answer the question quickly because of this, unlike a certain other autobiography that is impossible to reference for not taking that path.

    • Mike Miller says:

      EC says that there is no index, no captions on the tiny photos, and written out of order because it’s a “story”.

      • Bruce says:

        There used to be a progam on British TV called ‘This Is Your Life’. It wasn’t called ‘Is Life This Your’.

      • Paul Keeble says:

        Reminds me of “I’ve had a big falling out with Yoda, what he said was out of order”

        Hi Bruce(/all)
        First time poster and long-time fan. Just took advantage of The Bass Centre’s deal of buy “Rough Notes” and get a free Pink Korean Precision knock-off!
        Expensive book
        Lovely bass 🙂

      • Bruce says:

        Good joke. Good buy!

      • Mike Miller says:

        Paul: Best bass you’ll ever own. Trust me on this one.

      • Paul Keeble says:

        I suspect so, it’s considerably better than I am anyway!
        Awfully addictive to play. (I’m addicted to playing awfully)

        I love how even the neck is in both feel and sound, the notes just seem to bubble out of the thing, despite my… erm… talent.

      • Bruce says:

        On a recent visit, the editor of Bass Guitar Magazine couldn’t put it down — so I’m anticipating a good review in the near future. I’ll keep you posted. It will, I hope, confirm the impeccability of your discernment and the wisdom of your purchase.

  5. I have just returned from a mystical place of intense, intense concentration and enhanced musical scrutiny.

    The following notes were recovered:

    ******

    Martha My Dear has an insanely complex intro
    What style of music is this supposed to be?
    Violins and cellos.
    Tubas?
    It’s not orchestra music, and it’s not jazz. Actually, that flugelhorn or whatever it is, DOES sound like jazz. But also sounds kind of like English hunting music or something. What does that even mean?

    Is this, like early 1900s British style pop music? It sounds like it would open a musical play or something. Gilbert and Sullivan type.

    HONEY PIE also sounds like this. Old British music involving the military. Why does Britain have so much military-related pop culture? Like, from during the war, 1st and 2nd.

    Interesting how the ‘jazz age’ was the music of World War II. Like, the war was so serious and traumatizing that they just wanted cheerful, upbeat music for entertainment? A certain seriousness to everything.

    Is Savoy Truffle also supposed to be like this? I notice saxophones, big horn section, early jazz or swing style.

    Big horn-section riffs were the distorted guitar ‘power chords’ of the pre-rock era.

    Electrified guitars must have sounded REALLY shocking and unique when they first became common, especially the overdriven, distorted type.

    Callback about ‘obla-di-bla-da’ earlier BEatles song reference. Why wasn’t Jack Bruce referenced?!?! All these Eric Clapton references in Savoy Truffle, I had no idea.

    “Six saxophonists (three baritone, three tenor) were brought in and were reportedly displeased when Harrison decided to distort their sound on the recording.”

    The horn section was SUPPOSED to sound like guitar chords?

    • Bruce says:

      Or maybe that managed to slip George Martin some acid in his tea :)? I think the short answer to your observations is that they were making genuinely innovative reinterpretations of various classic genres — the over-riding essence of which was their great sense of fun.

      • Not sure what I was on about with the thing about British pop culture and the military – looking back on it I’m not sure that’s any more true of Britain than the US – but I remember I had a strong mental image of the World War II era and a bunch of British aviators and aircrewmen with those leather jackets and flight caps, while listening to ‘Honey Pie’. I had some kind of burst of insight about the contrast between the extremely light-hearted music of that generation, and the extreme seriousness of the war that they had to undertake, but it wasn’t well-articulated.

      • Bruce says:

        You definitely had a touch of the Glenn Millers there.

  6. David Witherington says:

    Hey, Bruce! Too cool for words…your bouncing bass had me smiling through the whole clip. Thanks again for reminding us in your radio interview about this great record. Watching this reminded me of first dropping the needle on EC & A’s fine cover of “Getting Mighty Crowded” back in 1980, which you definitely set the groove in motion on as well. You got soul, brother, you got soul!! 🙂

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