UK Motown Covers 1970 (Elton John, etc.)
Back in the late 60's / early 70's there were a number of London based record labels that specialised in cutting covers of hit tracks & shoving them out on EP's & LP's to catch some of the money spent by 'none discerning' record buyers ...... One of these outfits was Avenue Recordings of Chingford.
Just about their hardest working producer / arranger was Alan Caddy, a guy who had started out in Johnny Kidd & The Pirates and the Tornados (who hit with "Telstar"). He recruited ' starving' London based musicians / singers to perform on the cover versions he cut quickly & cheaply. The performers got a 'one-off' small fee & no royalties from sales of their work which was put out anonymously (the performers were just identified as 'various artists'). The tracks were laid down to sound as close to the hit versions as was possible with the people involved on each session but a number of singers/ musicians found the work 'rewarding' in that it fetched in steady reliable (if small) fees.
Also back in the 1960's, one Reg Dwight (after he and friends had formed a band, the Corvettes, when only 14) joined Bluesology (he played electric piano for them). The group made a living backing visiting American soul artists such as Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles.
He also auditioned unsuccessfully (as lead vocalist) for a couple of prog rock bands and then recorded as a solo artist some songs he had written with a new musical partner. After their songs were cut by other artists, Reg released his debut album (‘Empty Sky’) in 1969 but it failed to sell.
He wasn't making much money, so he would go down to Avenue Recordings and also cut tracks for them. As his old group (Bluesology) had played soul / Motown songs on the road for a few years & he was a massive soul fan, he knew many of the tracks that he was asked to perform on for Avenue. He sang lead on a number of the soul tracks that were laid down in the Chingford studio & these definitely included "Signed Sealed Delivered", "It's All In The Game" & "To Be Young Gifted And Black".
He also sang on other Motown tracks for the label but which these were is hard to determine now.
Anyway, back in the real world, Reg quickly followed his first album with a 2nd LP, ‘Elton John’ (1970). After a while a track off this, "Your Song", was a big UK (February 71) & US hit.
Avenue Records, who's sole purpose for existing was to make money, gathered together a few of their Motown covers & released them. An EP ('Soulbusters') escaped in 1971, followed by an LP ('A Tribute To Motown) in 1972. Reg (Elton) performed on some of these cuts but they weren't allowed (at the time) to attribute the cuts to him.
More recently, a number of CD's have been released that include some of the tracks he cut for Avenue back in the late 60's and 1970 and these have been put out under his (Elton John) name.
I'm trying to determine which other Motown & soul tracks cut by Avenue feature him on them but it's a hard task.
The EP the label released featured -- Tracks Of My Tears; I'll Pick A Rose For My Rose; Harlem Shuffle; Stop Her On Sight; Too Busy Thinking About My Baby & Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday.
......... whilst the track listing of the LP was :- Surrender; I'll Pick A Rose For My Rose; Signed, Sealed, Delivered; Too Busy Thinking About My Baby; Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday; Yesterday's Dreams; We Can Work It Out; Walk Away Renee; Seven Numbers; I'll Be There; Stop Her On Sight & I Was Made To Love Her.
Anyone out there an Elton John fan & can tell me which of the above he played / sang on ???
On the more recent CD's attributed to Elton, he performs Signed Sealed Delivered, It's All In The Game & To Be Young Gifted And Black.
Here is his version of "To Be Young Gifted And Black" ........ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tmKSg5g8S0
This was first cut by Nina Simone but had been a big UK hit done reggae style.
Jsmith this is truly very interesting information. Thank you! I seem to recall this practice being employed here in the U.S. at different times and very sparingly. In the early 80's there were recordings put out under the name of "Stars on 45's". Instead of trying to sound exactly like the original recording, they opted for mimicking the vocals from the original and the backing track would be "modernized" dance music.
Elton on "It's All In The Game" ..... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RA2bJVgA26c
He's trying to sound like Levi about 1min 40 secs into this cut BUT the backing isn't really done 4 tops style (which I guess is why this number wasn't included on the Avenue 'Tribute to Motown' LP).
Last edited by jsmith; 05-04-2012 at 11:50 AM.
Elton's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" ........ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB9rGQpW4VI
...... You can really tell its him on this cut.
was this recording outfit also used on those "pop hits" lps you used to find in 1960's supermarkets and now filling charity shops?
MFP and maybe hallmark labels
Slightly off topic, but Elton John did the sleeve notes to The Supremes Touch Album, yes? Why were they omitted from the UK Tamla Motown issue? Anyone know?
Yes he did. He and Cindy Birdsong were friends.
Originally Posted by paulo
I likes a lot the cover of Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" by Incognito feat. Maysa Leak:
.... RE: He (Elton) and Cindy Birdsong were friends.
Obviously from the time he toured all over the UK & Europe as a backing musician for the group (Bluebelles).
I seem to remember Elton telling the story of his 1st big live show in Philly. He was excited about starring at this big venue (? can't recall which one it was), so he rang Patti LaBelle to ask if she wanted to come along as his guest.
YES, she said, but who are you playing behind .... she didn't realise that he old pal Reg had become Elton John.
I have a free with the Daily Express CD "Legendary Covers" Volume 1 - Elton John which lists.
Signed Sealed Delivered
Love Of The Common People
Young Gifted & Black
Up Around The Bend
I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top
unfortunately I don't have volume 2 so I can't offer anymore information.
British fans were outraged because the notes were factually incorrect.
Originally Posted by paulo
In the 1960's, Woolworths didn't sell chart music on either side of the Atlantic. In the USA some stores sold bin ends of 45s and cartridges, while in Britain the chain had established a thriving line in cover versions recorded by unknown artists, which were recorded in London's New Bond Street and rushed into the shops to line up with new releases by the big stars. The Woolworth's label was Embassy. Some of the artists involved recalled their recording sessions in a BBC documentary made a few years back.It was explained that the 'group' behind the labels Beatles 'covers' consisted of whatever artists happened to be available on the day. It seems that more than fifty different people sang as Typhoons between 1960 and 1964! Some people loved these covers, others absolutely hated them. Whatever your perspective, they are highly collectable today!
Embassy label 'Tops in Pops' releases: Singles sold for approx 21p) whilst EPs went for approx 34p.
Oriole, the recording company that Woolworths hired to mastermind the Embassy Records initiative, showed lots of initiative in marketing the line. They had manufactured vinyl 45 rpm singles from 1958 and in the Sixties introduced EPs (Extend Playing records) which allowed them to squeeze four songs onto one single instead of the usual two. These EPs were often given picture sleeves to improve their appeal and were sometimes advertised in the press. Building on the success of picture sleeved EPs, they began compiling full LPs of the songs sometimes as a 'Juke Box' and these proved a big hit in Woolworths stores, particularly at Christmas. Some people credit them with prompting the rise of budget compilation albums from labels like Camden, K-Tel and Ronco. Some of the Embassy songs went on to become hits on the Continent as Oriole leveraged their investment by releasing the best titles in Belgium to some acclaim.
Oriole Records was the UK home for Motown releases between Sept 62 & Sept 63.
During the tenure of A&R manager John Schroeder, Oriole licensed recordings on a regular basis from the US Tamla Motown catalogue, but none of the releases charted. Several of these 45's have since become highly collectable -- Mary Wells, the Contours, the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Martha & Vans, Eddie Holland and Little Stevie Wonder.
Oriole released nineteen Motown releases on their black and white Oriole American label, whilst seven albums appeared on the normal black and yellow Oriole label. The Oriole T/M releases are among the rarest releases issued in the UK.
....... So Oriole was cutting cover versions of UK pop hits & Beatles tracks at the same time as they were putting out Motown tracks.
Wonder if there are Embassy cover versions of "Please Mr. Postman", "You Really Got A Hold On Me" and "Money"
"Devil in His Heart" by The Donays (Correc-tone Records - later picked up by New York City label Brent) was released in the UK by Oriole in 1962. The Donays lead singer Yvonne Vernee also recorded solo and later joined The Elgins. The Beatles covered this song as well.
It's said that Elton John also sang / played on some of the Oriole / Embassy tracks BUT maybe this is just folks assuming that he did coz he recorded similar stuff for Avenue (unless Avenue also supplied Woolworths with tracks for their 'cheap' releases as well.