Marcus Hook Roll Band – Album Pre-Listening “Tales of Old Grand-Daddy”
Ebenso wenig stammt diese Band aus dem Bezirk “Marcus Hook” in Pennsylvania. Die MARCUS HOOK ROLL BAND existierte nur im Studio und veröffentlichte in den frühen Siebzigern drei Singles und ein Album.
Und wenn irgendetwas von dieser Band auf einer Internet-Auktion auftaucht, kann man sicher sein, dass die Sammler ihre PayPal-Konten bis auf den letzten Cent leerräumen, um ein Exemplar zu ergattern. Aber die erschreckendste Tatsache ist, dass, wenn die MARCUS HOOK ROLL BAND aus ihrem Studio gekommen und auf Tour gegangen wäre, ihr Album promotet und den verdienten Erfolg gehabt hätte, dass das AC/DC-Phänomen dann wahrscheinlich nie stattgefunden hätte! Neugierig?
THE MARCUS HOOK ROLL BAND ist die eigenartige, aber höchst signifikante Personifizierung der legendären Partnerschaft zwischen Harry Vanda und George Young. Die besser bekannten Varianten dieser Partnerschaft firmierten unter den Namen The Easybeats („Friday On My Mind“) und später in der mysteriösen Band Flash and The Pan („Walking In The Rain“). Denn der Holländer Harry Vanda und der Schotte George Young begegneten einander als heimatlose Teenager in einer Einwanderer-Unterkunft in Sydney, Australien, wo ihnen klar wurde, dass sie irgendwie zusammengehören. Jahre später zeigte das US-Label Capitol Records ein starkes Interesse an einem Album von THE MARCUS HOOK ROLL BAND, nachdem man dort die Single Natural Man gehört hatte.
Das Album: Tales of Old Grand-Daddy
Der Großteil der Aufnahmen entstand während der Monate Juli und August 1973. Eine unabdingbare Zutat war dabei der von Producer Allen ‚Wally‘ Waller zollfrei eingekaufte Jim Beam Old Grand-Dad Bourbon Whiskey, der letztlich für den Namen des Albums verantwortlich wurde.
George Young erzählt: „Wir waren zu viert: Harry, ich und meine beiden jüngeren Brüder Malcolm und Angus. Wir sind alle komplett abgestürzt – außer Angus, der zu jung war – und wir hingen einen Monat lang im Studio ab und gaben uns jeden Abend die Kante. Das war das Erste, was Malcolm und Angus taten, bevor sie AC/DC auf die Beine stellten. Wir hatten das alles nicht sonderlich ernst genommen, also kamen wir auf die Idee, ihnen eine Vorstellung davon zu geben, worum es bei Studioarbeit eigentlich ging.“
Tontechniker war damals Richard Lush: „Die Sessions waren ein Riesenspaß, angefeuert mit massenweise Old Grand-Dad Bourbon. Angus Young trank Milch. Und Angus und sein Bruder Malcolm spielten genauso gut Gitarre wie Harry.“
Erst die Aufnahme-Notizen, die kürzlich im Abbey Road-Studio ausgegraben wurden, offenbaren, dass Malcolm Young auf vielen der Tracks Rhythmusgitarre und Soli einspielte.
Offenbar hatte der Kentucky-Bourbon die Erinnerungsfähigkeit aller Beteiligten etwas beeinträchtigt. So gibt es zum Beispiel eine absolut großartig gespielte Slide-Gitarre auf dem Album, bei dem sich keiner daran erinnern kann, wer es eingespielt hat.
Harry glaubt, dass es vielleicht der in Kiwi geborene Kevin Broich gewesen sein könnte, aber Kevin erinnert sich nicht einmal daran, dass er dabei gewesen wäre.
Wally erinnert sich vage daran, dass Malcolm mal Slide gespielt hätte, aber er ist sich nicht sicher. Dementsprechend besteht die Herausforderung für den geneigten Hörer darin, herauszufinden, welches der Soli von einem knapp 17-jährigen Angus Young stammen könnte. Wir tippen auf die zweite Gitarre im Break von Cry For Me.
Das Album Tales Of Old Grand-Daddy der MARCUS HOOK ROLL BAND enthält das gesamte 1973 erschienene Album plus die unveröffentlichten Songs One Of These Days und Ride Baby Ride sowie die drei Single-B-Seiten Natural Man (1972), Moonshine Blues (1974) und Louisiana Lady (1973). Nicht nur für Archäologen ein definitiver Leckerbissen!
Line-Up Marcus Hook Roll Band 1972-1974
Harry Vanda: Lead vocals (tracks 1,2,3,4,7,10,13 & 14)
George Young Lead vocals, Backing vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Piano, Bass Guitar (tracks 5,6,8,9,11,12 & 15)
Malcom Young: Guitar
Angus Young: Guitar
John Proud: Drums
Alex Young: Saxophone
Howie Casey: Saxophone
Ian Campbell: Bass
Freddie Smith: Drums
Wally Waller: Electric Piano, Bass, Backing vocals
Sleevenotes and track by track
Marcus Hook Roll Band
Who is this mythological group? I can tell you that there is no such person as Marcus Hook. Nor does the ‘band’ originate from the borough of Marcus Hook in Pennsylvania. This ‘band’ only ever existed in the studio, releasing three singles and one album in the early ’70s. If any of these turn up on internet auction sites today, collectors bankrupt their PayPal accounts to win them. But the scariest fact is that if the Marcus Hook Roll Band had come out of the studio, played live, travelled the world, promoted their records, and found the success they certainly deserved, then the whole AC/DC phenomenon probably would never have got off the ground. Do I have your attention now?
The Marcus Hook Roll Band is one obscure, but significant, persona of the legendary partnership of Vanda & Young. Their better known personas are the ‘60s beat phenomenon The Easybeats, and later the mysterious post-disco dance entity Flash And The Pan. Dutchman Harry Vanda and Scottish George Young first met as displaced teenagers in an immigration hostel in Sydney, Australia. They formed a band with three other new Australians, became an Aussie pop sensation, went to London and had an international hit with ‘Friday On My Mind’.
When the Easybeats split up in 1969, Harry and George remained in London hoping to make a living as session musicians, songwriters and producers. They released a string of very good singles under a number of odd pseudonyms: Eddie Avana, Moondance, Paintbox, Tramp, Grapefruit, and Haffey’s Whiskey Sour. In 1972 they sent a demo to Alan ‘Wally’ Waller (aka Wally Allen) who was working as a house producer for EMI Records. In June 1972 he got them into Abbey Road studios to record the song ‘Natural Man’. It was not a great success sales-wise, but it did catch the attention of the right people. A second single, ‘Louisiana Lady’, was recorded in November. When considering what to call the project, Waller’s original idea was The Jay Jays, before somehow settling on Marcus Hook Roll Band.
Tales of Old Grand-Daddy
The album was not made until the following year, and on the other side of the globe. Vanda and Young had in the meantime accepted an offer from Ted Albert to return to Australia and re-launch Albert Productions. The plan was to build a new studio in his Sydney building, Boomerang House, and kick start the solo career of their old Easybeats band-mate Stevie Wright. But a frantic call came from Waller announcing that EMI’s affiliate in the USA, Capitol Records, was now interested in the single ‘Natural Man’, plus an album from the Marcus Hook Roll Band.
Harry and George had just resettled their young families in Sydney and had no intention of returning to London. So Waller made the trip to Australia, and was delighted to find engineer Richard Lush working at EMI’s Castlereagh Street studios. A fun time ensued in studio A over July/August 1973. A key ingredient was the duty free booze supplied by Waller—Jim Beam’s Old Grand-dad bourbon whiskey — hence the album name.
The AC/DC Connection
It was decided not to use any of the London tracks but to start again with a new batch of songs and a new line-up. In a rare interview for Bomp magazine in 1978, George Young explained to Glenn A. Baker the philosophy behind the Marcus Hook Roll Band, “We thought it was hilarious, it had just been a joke to us… We had Harry, myself and my kid brothers, Malcolm and Angus. We all got rotten, except for Angus, who was too young, and we spent a month in there boozing it up every night. That was the first thing Malcolm and Angus did before AC/DC. We didn’t take it very seriously so we thought we’d include them to give them an idea of what recording was all about.”
Richard Lush recently told me, “The sessions were great fun, fuelled with plenty of Old Grand-Dad bourbon. Angus Young drank milk. Angus and his brother Malcolm played guitars as well as Harry.”
The production notes, recently unearthed at Abbey Road reveal that Malcolm Young played rhythm guitar on all ten of the album tracks, and some of the unreleased tracks. He also took a share of the lead guitar solos, and maybe even some slide-guitar. Angus had a lesser role, and it is unclear what he actually played on; the Kentucky bourbon seems to have affected everybody’s memory on these details. For instance, there is some great slide guitar on the album but no-one can remember who supplied it. Harry thinks it might have been Kiwi born Kevin Borich, but Kevin does not remember being there (Old Grand-Dad to blame again?). Wally vaguely remembers Malcolm doing some slide-guitar, but really can’t be sure. So the challenge for the astute listener is to figure out which licks and solos belong to a seventeen year old Angus Young. I’ve got my money on the second guitar in the ‘Cry For Me’ lead break.
TRACK BY TRACK
Can’t Stand the Heat
When the recording in Sydney was finished, Waller took the tapes back to Abbey Road in London to mix. ‘Can’t Stand the Heat’ was released as a single for the UK and Germany. The song transforms an old cliché into a domestic challenge, ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of my kitchen.’ Inexplicably, interest in the USA cooled and EMI, after all that trouble, shelved the album… the issue was George and Harry not committing to travel to America to promote it. Alberts organised a lease arrangement, and the album was released in Australia only, making a ripple in the charts at #89. George was furious with the artwork, “…on the cover they had an old man sitting in a rocking chair, which was complete bullshit. It should have shown a bottle of Old Grand-Daddy bourbon, that’s what it was all about.”
A common theme in Vanda/Young song-writing is revisited here. As working class boys they have never had much time for social climbers, ‘She was born in bread and butter, but she has champagne in her eye…’ There are layers and layers of guitars on this one. With four shit-hot guitar players in the band, what would you expect? Hang in there for the tempo change at the end.
This song was part of a cache of songs Vanda & Young brought back with them from London. Australian group Flake had already recorded a version of it a year earlier. When Waller was mixing the album, he felt this song still sounded a bit flat, so he organised a party at Abbey Road, invited all the secretaries and their boyfriends, laid on plenty of booze, and when the party was in full swing, conscripted everybody to clap and sing along with the chorus, giving it the live feel similar to the Beach Boys’ Party album. Soul singer Al Wilson has also covered this song.
Silver Shoes & Strawberry Wine
Vanda shines singing this bluesy slow-burning ballad that builds and builds with vocals, lead guitar, piano and sax battling it out in the climax. Howie Casey’s sax was added later at Abbey Road. John Paul Young recorded this song on his first album, and still includes the song in his current-day set-list.
Watch Her Do it Now
A tongue-in-cheek song about a salacious nymphomaniac who is probably the female equivalent of ‘Ape Man’, ‘Only knew me about an hour before she did her thing on me, then she did my brother, then she did my pa, then she did my sister, then she asked for more.’ Producer Waller plays bass as George wanted to play piano, and get it all down in one go without having to overdub it. Harry and Malcolm (master and apprentice) both have guitar solos amid the abundant slide guitars played by… who knows?
People And The Power
In Juke magazine, Harry once described ‘The People And The Power’ as a social commentary song. George elaborated, “We sat down one evening, had a serious thinking session and tried to write a song that would say in three or four minutes where the people have failed… how they are now without any power at all. Over the last few centuries the power that belonged to the people was taken away.” Stevie Wright later recorded it on his second solo album.
This track as much as any other on the album demonstrates the driving powerful rock that was the prototype for the sound that was to become the signature of AC/DC. The reprise of the chorus of ‘The People And The Power’ to the melody of this song was inspired, as is the five note bridge that links them. Is that an Angus Young moment?
Shot In The Head
This song had already done the rounds before Marcus Hook laid down this definitive version. Vanda & Young first recorded it themselves in London when they were known as Haffy’s Whiskey Sour (due to some welcome sponsorship from a whiskey company). English blues rock band Savoy Brown also covered it around that time too, and John Paul Young used it as a b-side for his very first single ‘Pasadena’. Producer Simon Napier-Bell replaced the original lyrics with some truly atrocious ones of his own and gave it a new title ‘Better Go Back to Bed’.
Taken out of context, the lyrics may sound politically incorrect. Not that that ever worried Vanda & Young. The song is actually poking fun at a certain type of Neanderthal masculinity that continues to defy evolution. At the end of the very amusing verses, George could not control his fits of laughter. If you listen hard you can hear the beginnings of a George Young snigger just before the chorus drops in. The lurching rhythm is propelled by vocal grunts and George dropping a length of metal chain on the floor (one to the bar). Waller sings the bass call back to George’s vocal. All great fun!
Cry For Me
The album was belatedly picked up in the USA in 1979 by Capitol, ditching the old man in the rocking chair for a boring orange and green cover (still no whisky bottle though). The power-packed torch ballad ‘Cry for Me’ had to give way to ‘Louisiana Lady’ on the American pressing. This was a great pity as ‘Cry for Me’ is arguably Harry Vanda’s finest vocal performance, to which he commented to me with typical humility, “I just wish I could sing a bit higher, George and his bloody high keys!” The song was later covered by Alison McCallum.
One of These Days (Previously Unreleased)
A left-over song from the Sydney sessions, but easily good enough to have made the original selection. Very clever, funny lyrics and plenty of guitars from Harry, Malcolm and George. The chorus will stay in your head all day.
This is where it all started. Curiously, Alberts had released a mono version of the song in Australia which was most likely the demo. Unfortunately, it is that inferior version which has ended up on previous reissues of the album, 1981 “Full File” and a 1994 CD (that finally had a whiskey bottle on the cover!). So now in 2014, for the first time, the proper stereo version of ‘Natural Man’ appears on an album. It is easy to pick the difference, as this one begins with a big ringing guitar. The whole thing is more full-bodied, with the piano doubling the bass line during the break. Glenn A. Baker once declared it a cult classic.
Moonshine Blues (Waller; B-side)
It was agreed that all the b-sides would be Wally Waller compositions, published by EMI (as Vanda/Young songs were represented by Alberts). ‘Moonshine Blues’ was the b-side of the third single, with Waller doing all the work on it in London before travelling to Sydney. He talked Harry into adding lead vocal and Malcolm some guitar licks. This track was actually slated to be on the album, but was left out due to space concerns — remember LPs could only fit about 20 minutes per side.
The musicians used at the Abbey Road sessions were Vanda & Young’s regular “Glasgow Mafia” — Freddie Smith (drums), Ian Campbell (bass, vocals) and Alex Young (sax). The latter was actually George Young’s older brother who was the only one of the eight Young siblings not to emmigrate to Australia with their parents in 1963. His contribution here means that this Marcus Hook Roll Band compilation is the only project where all four musical Young brothers appear together. That in itself is something very special.
Ride Baby Ride (Previously Unreleased)
This one also nearly made the album. George’s Scottish twang almost has a country sound to it. Banjo and acoustic guitar add to that impression. All guitars — and possibly everything else — were played by Harry and George. A mental picture of 5 foot 5 inch George Young carrying his girl home from Baltimore provides enough of a comedy hook for me. Piano fills the break and hints at the direction Vanda & Young were soon to take with another Young (John Paul, no relation). Typical of Vanda & Young, in their minds moving on to the next stage of their career before the last one has even finished.
John Tait (March 2014)
John Tait is author of “Vanda & Young: Inside Australia’s Hit Factory”