29 May 2008
The Hush - Elephant Rider/ Grey
Year of Issue: 1968
There are some cheery music industry optimists out there who believe that every band will eventually get the success they deserve, and if they don't, they've clearly approached something from the wrong angle. "Talent will out," as Freddie Mercury used to camply trill to anyone who was listening (and lest we forget, he suffered a few disappointments of his own before Queen made it).
On the other, shadier side of the room, however, stand people like me who think that whilst there's a grain of truth to the belief that talent is always recognised in the end, there are also other factors to consider. There's record companies, of course. We should never, ever, underestimate the power of record companies to make the wrong decision at the wrong time. Ask Bob Geldof what he thought of his American record company's plan to send stuffed rodents to radio stations to promote the Boomtown Rats. As a stunt, it turned more stomachs than it ever turned any dials on to heavy rotation. Then again, record companies are frequently known for promoting the right people in the wrong way, or signing the right bands and releasing the wrong tracks. And that's the focus of this entry.
On the "Sweeping the Nation 1968" muxtape, you'll have heard a track by the Penny Peeps entitled "Little Man With A Stick". Its bouncy frothiness was backed with an aggressive, mod garage barnstormer on the flip called "Model Village", which is the track which usually gets spun by DJs in sixties clubs these days. The band were apparently furious at the time that the label had chosen the weaker track by some staff songwriters as the A side, and felt that their careers had been wrecked as a result. My opinion (for what it's worth) is that "Model Village" might have sounded a bit too dated, a bit too pre-psychedelic even, for the 1968 charts, but there's no question it was the stronger piece of work. As a recording it would certainly have established the bands sound a lot more successfully, for the two sides barely have anything in common musically with each other. "Little Man" is a very polished piece of orchestrated pop, and the vocals are jolly and chirpy, unlike the sneering bluster of "Model Village" which was supposedly more in keeping with their live shows.
The Hush suffered a similar fate in exactly the same year, albeit by a different record company. Here we have two sides that sound absolutely nothing like each other. "Elephant Rider" sounds as if it could be a failed Song for Europe entry with its childish chorus and cheery noises, whereas "Grey" is actually a harsh, heavy, very garagey piece of work, messy and stormy in all the best ways. "One day I'll die, leave things behind..." the lead vocalist announces at the beginning of the track, to the single, pounding metronomic beat of a snare drum. "But that's just one thing on my mind," he then snarls as some demonic, punky guitars come behind. The chorus just builds, a single whining note being struck again and again as the vocals peak into panicked ranting. It's a total garage punk classic, and whilst I can understand how Fontana got jittery about its commercial potential, to bury this away on a B-side is nothing short of criminal.
As for whether The Hush approved of their decision or not, I'm afraid I couldn't say. This was the only single they were ever able to release, so unless some dusty tapes turn up somewhere soon, we'll never know if they had more tracks like "Grey" to offer. Nobody has ever been able to successfully trace them either, despite their single regularly going for hundreds of pounds at auctions (the copy photographed above is a bootlegged facsimile copy I purchased at a more regular price). If any of them ever happen to read this entry, though, they should certainly get in touch...
Both the A and B side is available at the below link:
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