Everyone has to start somewhere, even famous rock stars. Not many of them achieved stardom with their first record. That’s the theme of “You Heard Them Here First”, a collection of two-dozen cuts by big name acts, all recorded before anyone knew them from Adam.
Take Arthur Lee, wigged-out lynchpin of the band Love, who in his early dues-paying days briefly fronted an obscure instrumental combo. The MGs were a big noise in Memphis, but few folk in Los Angeles got to hear the L.A.G.s. Now’s your chance. Or Marty Balin, who, long before Jefferson Airplane took off, tried his hand at teen idol-dom, seemingly unaware the world already had a Gene Pitney, a Ricky Nelson and a Bobby Vee. Who knew?
Everyone knows the Righteous Brothers, but not many are familiar with Bill Medley’s previous group the Paramours, blue-eyed Coasters clones extraordinaire. Motown kyboshed the Mynah Byrds’ chances of stardom by cancelling the release of their single; no one knew who Neil Young and Rick James were at the time. Young’s later back-up band Crazy Horse recorded in earlier guises too, amongst them the Rockets, while the Beefeaters osmosed into the Byrds, Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal started out in an unknown group named the Rising Sons and Gram Parsons cut his teeth in the International Submarine Band. Bob Dylan knew a good thing when he heard it and he heard it in Levon & the Hawks, who teamed up with him and changed their name to the Band. The Pigeons found few takers until they slowed things down and re-launched themselves as Vanilla Fudge. Hear all these bands here.
Danny Lee, anyone? We know him now as genius songwriter Dan Penn. What about Link Cromwell? Where would Patti Smith be without Lenny Kaye? How does Mark Robinson grab you? Just a quick listen is all it takes to identify the unmistakeable bass voice of Lee Hazlewood. Nilsson’s first chart record dates from 1969, but he’d been scratching around in the music biz for years by then, writing songs for the Ronettes, singing demos for Little Richard and recording singles under pseudonyms like Bo Pete.
Collectors will tell you it’s invariably the records made by well-known artists before they were famous that are the hardest to find and the most expensive to buy. Expect to fork out over £500 for an original copy of ‘Liza Jane’ by Davie Jones with the King Bees, the fabled first single released by the lad who grew up to David Bowie, for example. By purchasing this CD, you save yourself a small fortune and get pre-fame recordings by Lou Reed, Joe Cocker, Cher, Mike Nesmith, Peter Frampton, J.J. Cale, Warren Zevon and P.F. Sloan thrown in for good measure.
BY MICK PATRICK