By Phill Marder
An email from Joe Seddon arrived a month or so ago. He informed me he was heading into the studio this Summer for one last recording session of some new songs he had written and some re-recording of some older material, the surviving copies of which are a little worse for wear.
The news was not unexpected. Joe and I have been around longer than we had any right to expect. How long? Well, I started buying records by purchasing three 45s at a local SunRay Drug Store…early hits by Elvis, Fats and Harry Belafonte. I saw Bob Feller pitch against the Philadelphia A’s. And Joe’s older!
Seddon has been in many bands, The Two Teens, The Sterling Brothers, The Strimbling Blimbles, Plymouth Rock, Feather Blue, A Band Called South, Mott’s Old Men, and some I’m sure I’ve forgotten or never knew of in the first place. Plymouth Rock was a sensation in South Jersey, packing every venue in which they were booked. Seddon was the lead singer, wrote the band’s material and played guitar. Frank Appice, cousin of Carmine and Vinny, manned the drums, Allen Weber handled sax and flute and Ron Lovett was on bass. Today, Appice has recorded a couple LPs with a Southern Rock band named John Harden and Lagrue Bayou, Weber was holding down the role of sax player extraordinaire Sam Butera in a Louie Prima revue show at the Jersey shore and remains active on the East Coast. Lovett makes rare appearances.
The band gained East Coast recognition and eventually Atlantic Records took notice, resulting in some outstanding recordings. But those never saw the light of day. Explanations vary depending on the source.
Joe Seddon should have been a star. He was a great musician (plays keyboards and drums in addition to guitar), a great songwriter (Progressive Rock, Pop, Country), and had matinee idol looks. Why it didn’t happen for him again is explained differently by different sources. Maybe some day, his life story will make a great LIFETIME movie.
Never one to push for success, Seddon, perhaps seeing the finish line on the horizon, recently mastered YouTube and began uploading many of his recordings. Before I steer you to my favorite 20, let me just say he has compiled a portfolio of compositions that have brought joy and pleasure over the years to those who have been lucky enough to hear them. For others, now’s your chance. My favorites change every time I listen, but here’s a guide to 20 premier selections now posted on YouTube. To listen, just follow the links.
Save Us All – This gem comes from the Mott’s Old Men CD, “Still Rockin’,” which was released at the close of 2012. The original was recorded during Seddon’s sessions with Atlantic Records back in the early ‘70s and has always been my favorite Seddon composition. Unfortunately, no pristine copy of the original is readily available, so Joe posted this remake. It’s a great version of a great song, and has a special emotional connection with Seddon, the lead vocals performed by Seddon’s current producer, Markie Hutchinson, son of Seddon’s partner in the Two Teens, the late Mark Hutchinson.
Purple Murder – This classic comes from the original Atlantic Plymouth Rock sessions, with tape hiss and wear expected from a copy pulled off an old 8-track. However, the writing is brilliant and Frank Appice’s drumming is other-worldly as Seddon’s composition switches gears with startling frequency. Several outstanding melodies join together until the finale explodes with typical Seddon humor.
Hard To Fall Out Of Love – An absolutely brilliant composition from Seddon’s Country portfolio. This version was recorded recently for the 2007 “Walkin’ Home From Gettysburg” CD Seddon issued under The Amishland Stringband moniker, but the original stems from the ‘70s. It’s faster & it had been so long since Seddon pulled this one out of his bag, when he did the re-recording he forgot some lyrics, which would make even a diehard Country listener shed a tear.
This should have been and still could be a Country classic in the right hands.
6-Cylinder Coffin – Another Plymouth Rock blast written when cars were built to race. Yes, 6-cylinders were quick, but in those days the real jets had 8 cylinders. Sure, we used a lot more gas than today’s standard 4-cylinder vehicles, but gas was pretty cheap then. Since speed was the norm, and seat belts and air bags were far in the future, cars were as dangerous as they were fast. In the wrong hands, too often they became 6-cylinder coffins. This one comes complete with a crash.
Uncle Sam Getting Fatter Every Day – Another from Plymouth Rock, the biting lyrics haven’t lost any relevance over time. On the contrary, considering events of the past decade, the lyrics pack even more punch today as Seddon sings “Hey Uncle Sam you’re getting heavy in the ass” and “Half the population’s living in a tent and the other half can’t even pay the rent.” This cut is included on The Jumbo Hot Dogs’ 2010 CD, “We’re On A Roll,” and reappears on the 2012 release “Girls Got Love” by the The Coffee Potz.
Perfect Dream – So pretty it instantly became my wife’s favorite. This was done by one of Seddon’s early groups known as The Strimbling Blimbles and was released on Mercury as the flip side of “Holding My Eyes Down,” which didn’t make this list, but is a terrific cut, nonetheless. That side can also be found on Seddon’s YouTube site. This version is not the 45, but simply Joe in the studio. It comes complete with the humorous false start and appears on The Jumbo Hot Dogs and The Coffee Potz.
Blue Ridge Heart – There are several different versions on Seddon’s YouTube site, but I prefer the track on the Mott’s Old Men “Still Rockin’” CD. This particular version is the basis for that cut. As one would surmise from the title, this is pure Country…complete with the misspelling of Tennessee. Another version, also on YouTube, comes from The Amishland Stringband disc.
One Way Rider To The Sun – Seddon’s vocal sounds a little like Bob Dylan here and there is a prominent harmonica. But there’s no escaping the haunting melody and that “time will get you in the end.” Simple and simply perfect. Found on The Jumbo Hot Dogs’ CD.
Animals & Nightmares – Appice’s drumming and Weber’s flute and sax turns this rocker into an Egyptian snake charmer’s delight before the ominous vocal chorus brings you back to modern day where “the whole world is turning into a creature feature.” A splice was made to remove a line Seddon now considers too offensive, but the surgery and the ever-present tape hiss doesn’t lessen the impact of one of Plymouth Rock’s most popular performances. Also found on The Jumbo Hot Dogs under its original title, “Evolutionary Beast.”
Steamboat Whistle Waltz – If “He Stopped Loving Her Today” tugs at your heart strings, this one may snap them. The singer’s “lady friend” finds out he’s been cheating and he feels so bad about it he shoots himself. “It broke my heart to break your heart this way,” he sings, and you’re digging into your hankie supply before you know it. Long happily married, where he came up with such sadness, I’ll never know. But he pulls it off thanks to the sincerity in his vocal. Appears on The Amishland Stringband release and again on The Coffee Potz.
Bye Bye Beverly – “There’s a new girl in town and her name is…Darlene.” Darlene should be the name of this recently recorded tune culled from The Jumbo Hot Dogs CD, but by any name it’s two minutes of Rockabilly at its best. This one would have fit nicely in a set by Jack Scott or Ricky Nelson. I’ll take it with a Chocolate Coke, please.
Life Is But A Fantasy – Atlantic wanted some radio friendly hits and Seddon provided them with a bundle. Don’t believe me? … listen to this track. It would have been a top 10 smash if done by Styx. As fate would have it, for whatever reason “Fantasy” never saw the light of day. But this recording thankfully survives.
Water Wears Down Stone – This starts off as a somewhat somber look at a simple truth…”water wears down stone.” But before you know it, the Amishland String Band blasts in, instruments and a vocal chorus roaring, and you’re in the middle of a tent revival meeting. Pass the collection plate.
Dollars In a Jar – And if there’s no collection plate available, this jar will do. As long as the right listener contributes a dollar. Actually, Seddon is hoping a lost love will return and he’ll be the happiest guy around whether or not she chips in a buck. Also from the Amishland String Band.
Joe Seddon Becomes The Insanely Mad Doctor Quack – In typical fashion, Seddon spins some serious concerns into a comical three minutes, complete with duck quacks. Homer & Jethro would have had a blast with this one, or better yet Spike Jones & His City Slickers. An insanely mad tune. Located on The Coffee Potz as “Dr. Dan.”
Go Baby – And speaking of insanely mad tunes, this rocker from the Jumbo Hot Dogs and the Mott’s Old Men CD ranks right up there for pure craziness. Mix some of Seddon’s best Chuck Berry/Duane Eddy guitar and ridiculous vocal contributions from everyone present at the time and this is the result. As Seddon explains, “…for everyone out there who is tired of listening to songs that make sense, I suggest you give this oddity a try.” Seddon thinks of race cars, I think Maury Wills on first base with the Dodger Stadium PA system blasting this away.
Time & Steel – Seddon prefers this recently recorded demo to the finished track. It works because the material is so strong. As Country as it gets, a mother longing for her son who’s locked up behind walls of “steel, stone and time.”
Roswell’s Rappin’ Alien – The Alien Kings CD was a Goldmine “pick of the week” when first released in 2000, and this is my favorite cut. Was it Seddon’s tribute to Rap or a thinly disguised sarcastic rip? You decide. Either way, it’s a fun track to listen to.
Sky Dog Traveler from this release also is a fun listen. Certainly a different view of our planet.
To reach Seddon’s YouTube Channel, which includes all his postings, follow this link: