Monday, April 23, 2018

Great Obscure U.K. 60's Sides: The Big Three

THE BIG THREE-By The Way/Cavern Stomp UK Decca F 11689 1963

Liverpool had one of the largest beat group scenes in Britain and nearly all of them made at least one record in the wake of Beatlemania which saw A&R men swoop up there with contracts in hand.  Still smarting from rejecting The Beatles Decca records surprisingly signed few Merseybeat acts to their roster, among them were The Mojos, The Pete Best Four, The Dennisons and a band some of have called "The first power trio": The Big Three. Headed by the enigmatic vocalist/drummer John Hutchinson (aka "Johnny Hutch" to all on Merseyside) they featured Brian Griffiths (vocals/guitar) and future Merseybeat/Roxy Music vocalist/bassist John Gustafson (aka "Johnny Gus"). There were multiple line-ups but it's this configuration that many, myself included, consider the "classic" Big Three line up. Like many 60's Scouse beat acts the band were initially handled by Brian Epstein, who secured them a recording contract. The band released their first 45 on Decca in March '63 with a version of the "Louie Louie" of Liverpool, Richie Barrett's "Some Other Guy" (Decca F 11614) which reached #37 on the UK charts.

For a follow up release the band had a Mitch Murray track "By The Way" foist on them (beat scholars will recall The Beatles being also saddled with a dreadful Murray composition called "How Do You Do It", which they rejected and became a hit for the more compliant fellow Liverpudlians Gerry and the Pacemakers). The band were not at all happy with the release. Interestingly after this release in June 1963 the band parted ways with Epstein. Legends abound about their unruly behavior leading to Epstein terminating their contract  though another version was, understandably, that Epstein clearly had too much on his plate handling the Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and others!

"By The Way" , like "How Do You Do It" is a sappy, uninteresting, pop ditty. The band do their best but it's not a terribly interesting composition. It's not dreadful, but it's not not something you want to play repeatedly. The number is redeemable only by Griffith's nifty guitar playing and Gustafson's backing vocals (an asset he would take with him to The Merseybeats) . The real gold is the flip side, "Cavern Stomp", a group original (which somehow the producer Noel Walker wound up sharing credits on). It's a rollicking, catchy beat group number that jives with amphetamine energy . Built around an infectious riff and lyrics that are possibly the only track of the Merseybeat era to name check the "movements" home base venue it's incredibly brief (1:41) but incredible. "Keep your jive and your rock n roll, do the Cavern stomp..."

In 1982 Edsel records would compile the band's slim discography as an LP "Cavern Stomp", which contains both tracks. A CD release in 2009 was put out by RPM titled "Cavern Stomp: The Complete Recordings" collecting all of their tracks and the Edsel LP was semi-legitimately issued on CD in 2004 by Deram in Germany as part of their "Liverpool Connection" series.

Here's an excellent feature on the band from someone who witnessed them back in the day:

Hear "By The Way":

Hear "Cavern Stomp":

Sunday, April 15, 2018


There's a great scene in the 2000 iconic London underworld film "Gangster No. 1" where a bunch of aging old gangsters are sitting around a table drunk at a (presumably) private boxing match and one of them begins to reminisce about a record label that needed "seeing to": "I can still picture the record label going round and round, what was it.....Dee-ram records was it?"

Deram records, a favorite subject of ours, was launched in the UK in 1966 as a subsidiary of Decca records (in the USA it fell under the umbrella of London records). Interestingly the labels intended first releases were a series of orchestral LP's (six in all) issued in October 1967. They were preceded by a matter of days by two releases on September 30th Beverely's interpretation of Randy Newman's "Happy New Year" b/w her own "Where The Good Times Are" (Deram DM 101) and Cat Steven's "I Love My Dog" b/w "Portobello Road) Deram DM 102). The label had a long and prolific run until 1979 when it ceased releasing contemporary records and remained solely a reissue label. I decided to pick 10 of my favorite 45 releases on the label, no easy task I can assure you. Their UK releases are listed first and US releases (if any) are listed second in each entry. Enjoy!

1. DENNY LAINE-"Say You Don't Mind" UK DM 122, US 45-7509 1967
Former Moody Blues front man Denny Laine wasted no time kick starting a solo career after leaving his band in the Summer of 1966. Lushly orchestrated by producer Denny Cordell (who had also produced the last 4 Denny Laine era Moodie's 45's) "Say You Don't Mind" is nothing short of your brilliant archetype pop/psych ditty. Starting with woodwinds  and the the earlier mentioned strings it gave hope for what would be a brilliant solo career that sadly only resulted in one more solo 45 for the label.

2. DAVID BOWIE-"The London Boys" UK DM 107 1966
Originally demo'ed in early 1966 for Pye records during Bowie's one year stint with them "The London Boys" was rejected for release by producer Tony Hatch due to its drug references.  After leaving Pye Bowie and his backing group the Buzz re-cut it at the famous RG Jones studio in Morden in October 1966 and when they were signed to Deram it became the flip of his debut "Rubber Band". Somber and effective with just organ, bass, woodwinds and trumpets it builds to a crescendo as drums come in and Bowie disdainfully laments about the seamy side of life "with the London boys".

3.  AMEN CORNER-"World Of Broken Hearts" UK DM 151, US 45-85021 1967
Welsh 7 piece Amen Corner was one of the tightest blue eyed soul bands in the UK in the late 60's. Their 1967 cover of the Pomus/Shuman composition (previously cut as a B-side by Cissy Houston) is miles beyond the original with the horns having an almost psychedelic effect as they fade in and out behind Andy Fairweather-Low's distinct soulful vocals and the churchy B-3 and subtle strings that are just discernible. Magic!

4. FRIENDS-"Mythological Sunday" UK DM 198 1968
Friends were a one off studio concoction by legendary singer/songwriters John Carter and Ken Lewis. "Mythological Sunday" was the flip of the easily forgettable "Piccolo Man". Wrapped in eerie Mellotron and the pair's soaring harmonies it ends with a drone and war sound effects and the poignant refrain "a million men went off to fight a war in foreign lands and fifty thousand came back home with blood upon their hands, would any soldier that was left go back to fight once more if he could know before he died what he was fighting for" before the main Mellotron riff softly comes back like an ominous clarion. Freaky.

5. VIRGIN SLEEP-"Love" UK DM 146, US 45-7514 1967
Sounding not too dissimilar to The Trogg's "Love Is All Around", Virgin Sleep's debut 45 in truth was issued a whole month before!  Beautifully orchestrated with faint sitar licks and finger cymbals, "Love" is a perfect pop-psych opus with it's Gregorian chant backing vocals and Left Banke inspired strings while the lyrics encapsulate the whole "love" flower power ethic without being cheesy or camp. Photos of the quartet show them looking very un-flower power in the pattern button down collar shirts and mod haircuts no doubt unsure of their direction. Produced by Noel Walker who also was behind fellow label types The Eyes Of Blue and their Welsh brethren Amen Corner.

6.  TINTERN ABBEY-"Vacuum Cleaner" UK DM 164 1967
Easily my #1 favorite psychedelic 45 of all time and without a doubt the most expensive and sought after example of it's genre, this sonic dose of British psychedelia stands above all comers. On the flip of the curiously titled "Beeside", "Vacuum Cleaner", an odd ode to a household cleaning apparatus, is musically sparse. It's just bass, drums (with some heavily miked cymbals) and double tracked vocals until a heavily phased wah-wah pedal guitar solo buzzes out of nowhere and does it business and quits.

7. CLYDE McPHATTER-"Baby You've Got It" UK DM 223, US 45-85039 1969
Ex-Drifter Clyde McPhatter cut several tracks in 1968 in the UK under the supervision of producer Wayne Bickerton (see The Flirtations below)  that eventually resulted in two Deram 45's. "Baby You Got It" was the last of the two (preceded by the Jackie Lomax/Wayne Bickerton penned "Only A Fool" in July 1968, DM 202). With it's uptempo groove, soulful strings, vibes and fuzz bass it was an instant smash on the Northern soul scene in the 1970's. Sadly neither single did anything to resuscitate McPhatter's flagging career.

8. THE FLIRTATIONS-"Nothing But A Heartache" UK DM  216, US 45-85036 1968 /45-85038 1969
The South Carolina trio The Flirtations came to England and were scooped up by former Lee Curtis and The All Stars/Pete Best Combo members Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington.  The Liverpudlian duo were then part of Decca/Deram's in house magicians of A&R and production. They wrote and produced pretty much every track the Flirtations cut on Deram with a handful of exceptions and none was stronger than this, their 2nd 45 for the label unleashed in November 1968. Wrapped in the lavishly orchestrated strings and horns it's by far one of the label's most powerful 45's which fails to explain why it only reached a paltry #31 in the USA and #51 in the UK (it was released in the US twice, in December 1968 and again in January 1969, each pressing bearing a different B-side)!!

9. THE SYN-"Grounded" UK DM 130, US 45-7510 1967
The Syn were one of the most active bands on the London scene racking up a record 36 appearances at the Marquee Club in less than a year in '66-'67.  The band's existence was brief and they cut a mere two singles for Deram but what a ride they had. "Grounded", the flip of their debut "Created By Clive" (dubbed "Created by idiots" by the band who hated the number and refused to play it live), owes much to their Marquee heroes The Action from it's fluid Rickenbacker licks to it's high falsetto harmony backing vocals and it's fattened up by some tasty Farfisa organ. The Syn was also the home of future Yes members Peter Banks and Chris Squire.

10. THE MOVE-"Night Of Fear" UK DM 109 1966, US 45-7504 1967
Comprised of the cream of the Brum beat scene the Move burst into the pop world in December 1966 with their debut 45 (produced by Georgie Fame producer Denny Cordell) with guitarist Roy Wood's ode to paranoia "Night Of Fear" (the flip "Disturbance" also seemed to tackle a recurring Move song theme, mental illness). The track starts with an "1812 Overture" lick which Roy Wood cited as coming from his parents love of classical music. The Move were huge soul purveyors in their well honed live set prior to this which makes me wonder whether the idea came from Ike and Tina's "Tell Her I'm Not Home" instead. Led by the band's brilliant four part harmonies and heavy bass from the band's resident ace face Chris "Ace" Kefford it ranks up there with the greatest Who and Creation sides. Kefford soulfully croons the "just about to flip your mind, just about to trip your mind" in the refrain. Two years later he would be edged out of the band after an L.S.D. induced nervous breakdown.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Ivy League Part Two

THE IVY LEAGUE-Tossing & Turning/Graduation Day US Cameo 377 1965

British harmony trio The Ivy League's second US 7" release was their 4th British single "Tossing & Turning" (UK Piccadilly 7N 35251 June 1965). It was issued here in the States in September of '65 and was the only Ivy League US 45 released with a picture sleeve!

Starting off with some organ and very jangly guitars giving it a distinct "folk rock" feel "Tossing & Turning" again benefits from their stellar, crisp harmonies these guys were known for. The musical backing is quite solid too (the drums in particular, probably Clem Cattini) and no doubt makes the track.

And then there's the flip side.....Despite starting out with some tough musical backing "Graduation Day" is a god awful song. Total pop drivel, like something written on the spot to hurriedly complete the session. More's the pity because the musical backing is great and the guitar solo is totally raunchy and over the top.

Both sides are available on a variety of Ivy League compilation CD's. As their material is owned by Castle Communications they've been licensed to death.

Hear "Tossing & Turning":

Hear "Graduation Day":

Monday, April 2, 2018

10 British 60's R&B/SKA 45's

We have frequently touched upon various individual ska 45's recorded in Britain by English r&b bands but I decided it was time to compile a list of ten recommendations for your listening pleasure....all tracks are UK singles unless otherwise noted.

1. THE BLUE FLAMES-"J.A. Blues" R&B JB 114 1963
The Blue Flames (led by former Larry Parnes discovery Georgie Fame) cut two instrumental 45's for the predominately ska label R&B (named for the labels owners Rita and Benny). Sandwiched in between releases by Don Drummond and The Charmers was this 1963 instrumental, the band's first of two 45's here. It's a mild horns/organ instrumental with a ska beat that's nondescript and mildly banal, but worth a listen.

2. MAYNELL WILSON & THE WES MINSTER FIVE-"Baby" Carnival CV 7014 1964
A few years before her in demand Ember 45 "Motown Feeling" black vocalist Maynell Wilson cut her teeth on this 45 on the predominantly ska label Carnival, which like fellow UK imprints R&B and Blue Beat was not averse to the odd British r&b release. She's backed her by a UK r&b band who cut 3 distinctly jazzy r&b 45's for the label. "Baby" , the flip of "Hey Hey Johnny" steals the tune and melody from Millie Small's smash "My Boy Lollipop" lock stock and barrel but Maynell's voice is a zillion times better than Millie's dreadful screechy voice and there's a great sax solo that would not at all be out of place on a Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames tracks.

3. MICKEY FINN & THE BLUE MEN-"Tom Hark" Blue Beat BB 203 1964
Profiled in one of our earliest posts here, as mentioned prior this 45 was NOT the work of UK r&b/freakbeat legends Mickey Finn & The Blue Men but sessions musicians including Mohawks/KPM organist supremo Alan Hawkshaw. Regardless of who played on it this ska reading of a one off 1958 hit by South African's Elias And His Zig-Zag Jive Flutes is infectious and brilliant.  It's a perfect marriage of organ/sax Brit r&b mixed with a traditional ska rhythm.

Scan c/o

4. THE WILD ONES-"Purple Pill Eater" Fontana TF 468 1964
Tucked away on the flip of the r&b rave up "Bowie Man" comes this cod-ska social commentary on the purple heart amphetamine crisis. It's delivered in a semi offensive West Indian accent while the band churn out a semi competent ska beat while the lyrics warn "don't eat the purple pills my boy, the purple pills just make you ill".

5. SYKO & THE CARIBS-"Jenny" Blue Beat BB 213 1964
Tucked on the flip of a rollicking boogie woogie reading of "Do The Dog", "Jenny" follows that early Blue Beat blue print of the slow r&b shuffle with a ska back beat.  It works because it's uncomplicated and fits perfectly along with similar Jamaican releases on the label at the time by Owen Gray and Prince Buster.

Scan c/o

6. GEORGIE FAME & THE BLUE FLAMES-"Madness" E.P. cut "Rhythm & Blue-Beat" EP Columbia SEG 8334 1964
Clive Powell's ska pedigree is first and foremost among white British r&b artists. He released two 45's on the UK ska label R&B (see above), played organ on Prince Buster's "Wash Wash", covered Eric "Monty" Morris ska hit "Humpty Dumpty" on his debut LP "R&B At The Flamingo" and his debut UK EP "Rhythm And Blue-Beat" was filled with four ska tracks, including this ace interpretation of Prince Buster's smash among them making him the first white artist to cover Prince Buster!

7. THE EXOTICS-"Cross My Heart" Decca F 11850 1964
The jury is out on who The Exotics were but its a pretty safe bet the guess they were Brit based West Indians. "Cross My Heart" would not be at all out of place on the Blue Beat label with it's innocuous ska/ blues shuffle driven by a harmonica, though it's production is a bit too slick for anything they ever put out.

8. THE BEAZERS (CHRIS FARLOWE)-"Blue Beat" Decca F 11827 1964
Brit 60's r&b legend Chris Farlowe was signed to EMI's Columbia output so this 45 was cut surreptitiously on the sly and credited to the fictitious "Beazers". The brainchild of arranger/producer Cyril Stapleton (who interestingly became head of A&R at Pye the year after this 45!), "Blue Beat" is yet another melding of ska rhythm's with a staid but solid British musical backing (including ex-Blue Flame Tex Makins on bass, future Blue Flame and Ringo stand in Jimmy Nicol on drums and the man behind the famous lick on "Shakin' All Over", Joe Moretti on guitar). Regardless of it's genuine "ska credibility" it's a decent track and extremely in demand.

9. THE LLOYD ALEXANDER REAL ESTATE-"I'm Gonna Live Again" President PT 157 1967
Starting off with some brilliant "chicka-chick" vocal toasting straight of of "Guns Of Navarone" and a funky riff that's sounds a bit like "I'll Be Doggone", "I'm Gonna Live Again" remained under the mod/soul/ska scenes radar for ages.  This UK 7 piece band issued this monster melding of ska with soulful r&b on the flip side of their sole 45, a cover of "Whatcha Gonna Do".

10. MICKEY FINN & THE BLUE MEN-"Pills" Oriole CB 1927 1964
Unlike the Blue Beat 45 above this 45 featured the actual Mickey Finn & The Blue Men members playing on the record. Taking the Bo Diddley classic and putting a ska beat to it is sort of ingenious idea because it actually works! the flip was a similar ska treatment of Jimmy Reed's "Hush Your Mouth".

The Yardbirds broke into the ska version of the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty" in the middle of their version of "Respectable" on their debut LP "Five Live Yardbirds", The Beatles used a ska rhythm in the middle eight of "I Call Your Name", fellow Liverpudlian's Tommy Quickly and the Remo Four did a live version of the ska treatment of "Humpty Dumpty" as their last UK 45 and The Hollies did the same in their first recording of "A Taste Of Honey"......

Saturday, March 31, 2018

March's Picks

 1. DAVID BOWIE-"Life On Mars"
Since checking out the "David Bowie Is" exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum (I'll get around to writing about that soon) I have been going through a rather heavy (heavier than normal) Bowie bender and this one seems to pop into my head daily!

This interesting cover of the Doors track comes via the even more interestingly named British band called The New York Public Library. It doesn't deviate much from the original but it's cheezy combo organ and 12 string guitar give it an almost US 60's garage band feel and easily betters the original in my book!

3. THE REGENTS-"Words"
L.A's Regents (not to be confused with the "Barbara Ann" hit makers) beat The Monkees by almost a year with this rough n' ready version of this Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart track issued in the States in July 1966 on the short lived Penthouse label. It's inclusion on a Psychic Circle CD years back led me to believe it was British for quite awhile!

4. STILL LIFE-"What Did We Miss"
Still Life were on one of the Bam Caruso "Rubble" volumes ("Rubble 18: Rainbow Thyme Wynders", clearly they were running out of title ideas towards the end there) with the regal sounding "My Kingdom Cannot Lose". It was the flip of this interesting number that starts with military drum rolls and questions the glory heaped upon past military conflicts whilst...."what did we miss people think was so glorious millions of lives that the people gave...." with a great O.T.T. pop-sike delievery.

5. OTIS SPANN-"Keep Your Hand Out Of My Pocket"
Recorded in the UK under the supervision of blues aficionado Mike Vernon this tune from '64 was a re-recording far superior to any other versions Spann cut in my book. It's found on the flip of his Decca 45 "Stirs Me Up" and got it's airing to my ears back in the 80's on Kent's "Rhythm & Blue Eyed Soul" LP compilation.

6. JIMMY POWELL-"Tom Hark"

There's loads of versions of this famous Elias and his Zig-Zag Jive Flutes instrumental.  This reading by UK 60's r&b underdog Jimmy Powell was possibly the first white British cover of it. It retains some of the melody of the original but adds vocals with a sort of Chubby Checker meets Gary U.S. Bonds feel which believe it or not works really well.

7. JEAN WELLS-"After Loving You"
This one's a brilliant soul number on record industry heavy Frank Calla's label Calla found on the flip of Jean Wells  '68 ballad "Ease Away A Little Bit At A Time". The vibes and production pretty much guarantee that it was a Northern soul favorite.

8. THE V.I.P.'s-"In A Dream"
Powerfully led by the blue eyed soul beltings of recently deceased lead singer Mike Harrison this Jackie Edwards composition featured on the flip of their in demand mod/soul stormer "Straight Down To The Bottom" and showcases the vocals of the man Gary Wright called "the white Ray Charles".

9. KIP ANDERSON-"A Knife And A Fork"
This brilliant 1966 45 on Chess blends Chicago blues with some up tempo soulful r&b for a perfect marriage. The sax reminds me of Junior Walker while the groove reminds me of a Rufus Thomas Stax 45.

10. THE RON-DELS-"Lose Your Money"
Here's a tough/punky U.S. cover of The Moody Blues number issued here in late '65 on the Smash label with an even more powerful harp blowing than the original, tougher guitar and totally snotty/snide requisite Jagger mincing vocals.  Killer!

Monday, March 26, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: David Bowie's Final Deram 45

DAVID BOWIE-Love You Till Tuesday/Did You Ever Have A Dream US Deram 45-DEM-85016 1967

David Bowie's third US 45 would be his last on the Deram label (it was also his last Deram 45 in the UK when it was issued in July 1967 as DM 135). It's American release was delayed until September and contrary to the label indicating it was "from the LP "David Bowie" it was not the version found on his debut LP but a re-recording that had been made on June 3rd with string arrangements by Ivor Ramonde (just two days after the release of David's debut LP). The single version is slightly less upbeat than the original album recording, with heavier orchestration with woodwinds and Bowie's vocals taking on a slightly more accentuated British accent. It is also of note that the track ends with the strings playing "Hearts And Flowers" after Bowie ruefully opines "well, I might be able to stretch it till Wednesday". This version was also used as the theme to the aborted 1969 David Bowie TV special "Love You Till Tuesday" (which was finally released in 1986).

"Did You Ever Have a Dream" is a number that I honestly have only recently grown to love. Interestingly driven by banjo (care of session-man extraordinaire Big Jim Sullivan) and tack piano it's probably one of the first pop songs to address astral projection and quite possibly also the first pop song to mention the boro of Penge ("you can walk around in New York while you sleep in Penge")!  It's happy-go-lucky feel is aided in no small part by some brilliantly regal brass parts. Bowie's vocals sound different than anything else from his Deram period, I can't quite put my finger on why though.  It ends with the sound of some breaking crockery.

Plugging "Love You Till Tuesday" on Dutch TV's "Fan Club" 11/7/67

Both tracks are available in a variety of places but we recommend the deluxe two CD 2010 reissue of David's debut album.

Hear "Love You Till Tuesday (Single Version)":

Hear "Did You Ever Have A Dream":

Monday, March 19, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Brit's Via Italy: The Rokes

THE ROKES-The Works Of Bartholomew/When The Wind Arises RCA Victor 47-9546 1968

Britons by nationality The Rokes made a career based in Italy in the 60's doing cover versions of British and American tunes in Italian, notching up multiple hits (including a #1 with a reading of Bob Lind's "Cheryl's Going Home") and in doing so wound up being touted as "The Italian Beatles". The flip of  "Cheryl's..", "Piangi Con Me" (re-titled "Let's Live For Today"), was co-written by The Rokes lead singer David "Shel" Shapiro which was then covered in English by the British group the Living Daylights which later led to the Grass Roots version (several US pressings of which wrongly credit Sloan/Barri as the songwriters!) but the real reason we're here is......

Despite their stream of Italian language material the band nonetheless cut a few sides in English, the last of which was today's selection.  Released in Britain in May 17, 1968 (RCA 1694) on exactly the same day as a competing version by Wayne Fontana (re-titled "The Words Of Bartholomew" Fontana TF 933), yet another moment of British record exec treachery (you can read about a similar instance here). The track was co-written by band members David "Shel" Shapiro and Mike Shepstone. It was the band's second (and last) US 45 issued around the same time as it's UK release (their previous US 45 was "Let's Live for Today" released in May 1967 in an effort to capitalize on the Grass Roots hit issued the previous month!).

"The Works Of Bartholomew" is a light weight pop psych about a frustrated sheet metal worker who daydreams of being a famous writer.  It's layered in subtle strings/horns and sits perfectly alongside period pop-psych social observations of tales of the every-man protagonist.

The real gold is the flip "When The Wind Arises", a freakbeat/pop psych opus with its high backing vocals, driving musical backing and trippy interlude with blowing wind sound affects, faintly tinkling piano and the slowly ascending, eerie chorus.

Both sides are available on the Rev-Ola CD compilation "Let's Live For Today: The Rokes In English 1966-68".

Hear "The Works Of Bartholomew":

Hear "When The Wind Arises":