Monday, August 11, 2014

Good Things Come to Him Who Waits. Well, At Least Sometimes.

Okay, this is a really long story, and I've told some of it before on a couple of occasions, but there's a new kicker at the end, so please indulge me.

First, the set-up.

One of the greatest (and most obscure) lost singles of the 70s -- indeed, in rock history -- is a little number called "Natural Man" by The Marcus Hook Roll Band. The MHRB were actually Harry Vanda and George Young of The Easybeats, then toiling under various aliases in the period before they roared back as the production team behind the first couple of AC/DC albums (AC/DC's Malcolm and Angus, of course, are George's younger brothers).

In any case, the record itself is one of the landmarks of the Glam Era -- a perfect three chord "Sweet Jane" derivative with hilarious topical lyrics, gorgeous layered electric and acoustic guitars, and absolutely brilliant production, including a bass guitar and cowbell breakdown (a la the bit in Free's "Alright Now," but hookier) that sets up a massive series of final choruses that once heard are etched into your auditory canal forever. An absolute masterpiece, is what I'm saying.

Unfortunately, it was not a hit when released here on Capitol Records in 1973. I had a promo copy like the one pictured below at the time, but I misplaced it later in the decade.

Note the misspelling of Harry Vanda's name, which may give you some clue to the record's importance to the braniacs at Capitol. In any case, the only LP it ever appeared on back in the day was an Australia-only release that apparently self-destructed, Mission Impossible-style, approximately two days after it was issued. As for CD, starting in the late 90s you could get a copy of the song on an import MHRB compilation, but unfortunately it was an inferior demo version that lacked all the magic of the single.

You can read a contemporary account of the single -- from the now defunct house organ of United Artists Records -- over HERE. Incidentally, the author of said piece, Martin Cerf, was one of the hipper record company guys at the time, and a friend to numerous rock journalists of the period including the late great Greg Shaw; he may, in fact, have been a partner in Greg's BOMP Records, although I'm hazy on that.

Anyway, as the years flew by down the echoing corridors of time, I pretty much decided that the single version never actually existed and that I'd more or less hallucinated the whole business. But two or three years ago I finally got a pretty good vinyl rip of the 45 (with some surface noise and turntable rumble, but otherwise listenable) and musically it was indeed as great as I recalled.

And that, I figured, was that.

Well, not quite.

Cut to: last month. From Rhino's just released reissue -- which I had no idea was in the works -- of the original MHRB album, please behold in breathless wonder the newly remastered (from the original tapes) version of "Natural Man." Sans pops and clicks and sounding as glorious as it must have been when first played back over the monitor speakers at EMI's Abbey Road studios in June of 1972.

And you will hear no better rock-and-roll song or record any time this year, trust me.

Rhino's reissue comes with several single bonus tracks (both A and B sides) as well as terrific and informative liner notes by original producer Wally Allen (of Pretty Things fame); you can order it over at Amazon HERE. If you're a fanatical Vanda and Young completist, Amazon also has the Japanese import CD version which has two extra bonus tracks.

You're welcome.


Anonymous said...

Steve speaks the gospel truth!!!! One of the greatest singles of the 1970's.

What he didn't tell you is The Weasels used to play "Natural Man" live back in 1974-1976.

Allan R.

Mark said...

Really nice. Never saw the name -- Marcus Hook Roll Band -- and never heard the song in its time. And it's got one thing that's important to me (anyway): lyrics that makes you go back for a second and third and fourth listen while the rest of the song bulldozes its way into your cranium.

cthulhu said...

The '60s are rightly held up as the great period of rock-n-roll, but stuff like this makes me think that the pinnacle of power pop in the early '70s is the true ne plus ultra of rock. Great find, Steve!

Jai Guru Dave said...

And when the Weasels did it, Glenn, who was famous for changing lyrics, used to sing at the end of the breakdown: "A little bit of honky -tonk, a little bit of harmony. I just want to do my qualudes, but people won't let me be!"

Which, needless to say, is NOT the real lyric. It made us laugh every time. To this day, I don't know what the real lyric is! I'll go listen now and find out.

buzzbabyjesus said...

It's already not the best rock n roll song I've heard this year. I think the reason it didn't hit is the vocals are really off-putting. Irritating and without character. Especially on the chorus.
It's only interesting now as an artifact with a pedigree. A reasonably well crafted rock song a notch or two below Slade or Sweet.

dave leonatti said...

Have you posted anything, Steve, about the Vanda-Young later project/group "Flash & the Pan"? I believe two albums of synthesizer pop/rock with two great singles; "Down Among the Dead Men" and "Hey St. Peter" If not, I can share those re-issued CD's.

Dave Leonatti

steve simels said...


Boy do I disagree about the relative merits of this versus anything The Sweet did. Estimable as that band were, their records sound like period pieces -- this, on the other hand, is a classic timeless rock single.


Anonymous said...

Needs a stronger vocal, better rhythm section and more ballsy edge. Otherwise good ingredients are there. Not exactly "Good Times." So, dicks back in the pants, please.

Vickie Rock - Like a steam engine, like a roller coaster

steve simels said...

Well, nothing is as good as "Good Times." That's a given

buzzbabyjesus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buzzbabyjesus said...

This doen't come close, IMHO, to "Ballroom Blitz".

steve simels said...

This is closer to Eddie Cochran. Even the best Sweet records are closer to bubblegum. Not meant as a criticism, btw.


Billy B said...

I knew the Easybeats only from the hit "Friday...". I saw a video on youtube a week or so by Stevie Wright. I had never heard of him. Cat can/could rock.

steve simels said...

See If you can find Stevie's "hard road" single.

Alzo said...

Not bad at all. Thank you.
Now if someone could only find a rip of John Miles's 'High Fly.'

Mister Pleasant said...

Count me in the "love it" category. Just recently listened to the album on Rhapsody. A lot of great boozy rock but this single is the real deal.

Anonymous said...

Is it Vanda or Young on lead vocal? Do I detect a Dutch accent? Anybody know? Whoever it is, the person should not be a lead vocalist. This track could have been so much better. Needs more punch and a dynamic singer. Might have been a monster, then.

"Quick Reaction," though a lesser song, has the balls [of AC/DC] that this one lacks. Silver Shoes & Strawberry Wine is pretty good but also flawed. Too bad they couldn't put it all together for Natural Man, which is the best tune on paper. Vastly superior precursor to AC/DC's Live Wire, sorta.

Vickie Rock

P.S. I love the US version of Desolation Boulevard. I'd say its a bit too hard and rough to be labeled 'bubblegum.' I have a story regarding the album ... but a bikini clad, dancing Sandy just followed up "Loose Booty" with "Do Me" by Jean Knight.

Mark said...

100% agree with Desolation Boulevard being a great album.

Anonymous said...

Vickie: It's George Young on vocals.

Jai Guru Dave: I remember Glen's lyrics a little differently:

A little bit of Honky Tonk
A little bit of sodomy
I just want to do my qualudes
But my mother won't let me be.

Allan R.

PS: I'll dig through my Weasel cassette tapes and see if I have a live version of Natural Man.

Shriner said...

Re: Desolation Boulevard -- yes the *US* version is great as it has more of the Chinn/Chapman songs on it (and the much, much better single version of Fox on the Run...) That's the version I grew up with.

I heard the remaster of the UK version when it came out in 2005-ish and it was much more hard and not as poppy as I had remembered and didn't like it nearly as much. Even though it includes the unintentionally(?) hilarious B-side "Someone Else Will"...

Anonymous said...

Shriner: Any song that begins and ends with an a cappella "If you don't go down on me someone else will", can't be anything but a winner.

Not that I went very often, dressed for the part, or, fit the bill, but I do remember this tune from the waning days of the English Disco. For a couple of years, I used to give a gay glitter guy friend of mine rides to Rodney's and drop him off. I usually didn't stick around too long, if at all. I didn't want to class up the joint.

It was a tiny shithole with mirrors, so that everyone could see their inflated egos in costume. Dumb little lude girls playing dress-up while sucking cock for blow. Those plant IQed nymphettes, indiscriminate pedders, and pathetic male groupies could wallow in their 475 square feet rathole of Watney's and kidney pie vomit, as far as I was concerned. They couldn't even get decadence right. They made it boring, stale and depressing. They were the fetid dirt shoveled on glitter and glam's coffin.

I'd rather be up the street seeing SAHB or Rory Gallagher at the Whisky. At least they had a liquor license. If I wanted costumes, I preferred the Rocky Horror variety at the Roxy, where there was tons of action of a decidedly more adult nature. The stuff I carried in my purse those days. Oh my. A veritable arsenal.

Vickie Rock - Gun play makes the sex sizzle. You won't come too soon when you're cuffed with a .41 rimfire against your skull, will you?:-)