Crap... It's March 2... not the 1st.
Oh well... let's kick off March 2.
I have for you today, quite possibly my all-time favorite song - Wipe Out, performed by The Ventures in 1966 Japan.
Quite possibly a a group well ahead of their time, The Ventures are the best-selling instrumental rock group of all time!
Formed in 1958 by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle in Tacoma, Washington state, U.S., they have sold over 100 million record globally.
Try listening to it with headphones on and then listen to the guitars when they kick in. Oh! And the drumming! How he doesn't have a heart attack while playing I'll never know!
While American more or less tired of the surf sound of The Ventures in the 1970s, the group are still very much revered in Japan and are probably the reason why surf rock exists there.
What a great performance!
Okay... it ain't ' nuff said...
From Wikipedia: Don Wilson and Bob Bogle first met in 1958, when Bogle was looking to buy a car from a used car dealership in Seattle owned by Wilson's father. Finding a common interest in guitars, the two decided to play together, while Wilson joined Bogle performing masonry work. They bought two used guitars in a pawn shop for about $10 each, and called themselves the Versatones.
They played small clubs, with Wilson played rhythm guitar, and Bogle lead guitar.
But, when they tried to register the band name, someone else already had it… until Wilson’s mom suggested The Ventures.
They heard Nokie Edwards play at a nightclub and had him join to play bass.
After hearing the Chet Atkins son Walk Don’t Run, they wanted to record it, so they had Skip Moore join them on drums as they hit the recording studio.
They pressed a few 45s and sent that out to a few record companies… but before hearing back, Skip Moore skipped out to go and work at his parent’s gas station. He also had opted out of the royalties on the record, taking $25 for his role as session musician instead.
Of course, when the song became a hit for The Ventures, he tried to sue for royalties, but failed, seeing as he got paid for his role as a session musician instead. Of course that song sold 1-million copies and was awarded a Gold Disc.
Without a drummer, the band turned to George T. Babbitt Jr…. and keep in mind that this was still before the song became a hit… and he was used to play bars and private parties… but then it became known that he was TOO Young to play in bars (under 18 at the time), so they had to find a replacement, hiring Howie Johnson.
It’s like watching Spinal Tap and seeing all of their drummers blow up… watch that movie and see if you can count how many drummers they go through.
Little George T. Babbit Jr. however - well… he went on to become a 4-star general in the USAF (United States Air Force), coming back in 1998 to join them in a live performance wearing his full uniform!
|United States Air Force Four-Star General George T. Babbit Jr. - former drummer of The Ventures.|
Okay - a last minute addition of the general playing at a reunion gig in 1998 - above.
When Walk Don’t Run became a hit, the group needed to record a full album, and did so with Howie Johnson, who had been in a bad car accident back in 1957 and played the drums while wearing a neck brace. That's him in the black and white video above.
In 1961, bassist Edwards—who was decent guitarist—said that the lead guitar work of Bogle was maxed out… and that he should be the lad guitarist.
Bogle agreed, and became the bass player allowing Edwards to become lead guitarist.
That kind of stuff happened every once in a while… I believe guitar virtuoso Jimmy Paige of not-yet Led Zeppelin fame played bass for The Yardbirds. That is one of the reasons why Led Zeppelin almost called themselves The New Yardbirds.
Actually, as The Yardbirds disbanded, and some of the original members wanted to keep going, while one guy, terry Reid was asked to take over as lead singer, contract obligations made him pass, but he suggested the then-unknown Robert Plant who then recommended his childhood friend John Bonham as drummer. Bassist/keyboardist and session player John Paul Jones approached Plant and offered his services… and of course, Paige was still the “original” leftover from The Yardbirds. Original Yardbirds rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja backed out…
For a tour of Scandinavia in August of 1968, they played as The New Yardbirds.
But, Dreja claimed the rights to The Yardbirds name… and after discussing with The Who’s bassist John Entwhistle and drummer Kieth Moon, they discussed another name for the band, and one of them apparently quipped that it would fly like a lead zeppelin.
Back to The Ventures... drummer Johnson continued to play with The Ventures through 1961 - four-and-a-half albums, until he quit to spend more time with his wife... his new second wife.
Needing a drummer, the group knew of a gentleman named Mel Taylor, who was a house drummer at The Palomino club in North Hollywood. He performed on some recording sessions and then joined for good.
Taylor is perhaps one of the more under-rated drummers in rock and roll history, in my opinion, as evidenced by his playing on Wipeout! And... Walk Don't Run in Japan - below:
Is it just me... but is there no bass?!
So... what about Japan? Well... Japan, for whatever reason, really had a love-on for all things American... perhaps a bit of respect for the country that defeated them in a war...
In this case, surf music was typically American in stature. Plus... since The Ventures were an instrumental group, there was no language barrier... you either "got" the music, or you didn't.
With Japan the second largest record market in the world after the U.S., The Ventures actually outsold The Beatles two to one in Japan.
The love affair between Japan and The Ventures was such that the group produced dozens of albums exclusively for the Japanese and European markets, and have regularly toured Japan from the 1960s through to the present.
According to a January 1966 Billboard Magazine article, the Ventures had five of 1965's top 10 singles in Japan.
Here... check this out: