15 September 2008
John Bryant - A Million Miles Away
Year of Release: 1967
This is an act of complete self-indulgence on my part, but then screw it, it was my birthday yesterday so I feel as if I can do anything I want. Within reason, obviously.
For many years, the above 45 has been something of a family joke. Of all the obscure sixties singles there have ever been, this is also probably the only one we had about the house when I was a very small child. Let me explain - my father's name is John Bryant. Despite this, he is most definitely not the solo artist behind this work, contrary to his frequent claims. You see, this single was bought for him as a present by a friend of his at the time of its release, and for a long time afterwards he carried it around in his bag with him, showing it off to people and telling them it was his own work. Whether he did this for laughs or in some futile attempt to raise his social status I couldn't possibly say - although it remains a massive childhood disappointment to me that he tried the scam out on me when I was four years old, and I was deeply impressed. Even at that age I thought having a single out on a "proper label" was probably one of the greatest things you could achieve in life.
Even though I don't actually think this single is a masterpiece, it's the only release that's ever caused my entire family (rather than just me) to collectively puzzle and ponder about the whereabouts of the artist, and wonder if he possibly might be a distant relative. A quick google search and scour around some sixties sites reveals that John Bryant had three singles out on Fontana in the sixties, and one on MCA entitled "I Bring the Sun" which the "Happening 45" online store says is "Psychedelic pop manna from heaven, with mellotron, wah wah and tripped out daydream lyrics. The B side is almost as fantastic. A lost classic and pretty scarce." I have never heard this one for myself, so unfortunately cannot pass comment (although any MP3s anybody has would be very welcome). I seem to have memories of the "Sweet Floral Albion" sixties e-zine also recommending this as well.
"A Million Miles Away", on the other hand, is most definitely not psychedelic. John Bryant sounds rather like one of the many folk singer-songwriters of the period who got rushed into major label studios to have an orchestra bunged behind their compositions, and I'll be frank, this really isn't anything much to flip your wig about. It's a perfectly pleasant three minutes, with his rich, deep voice musing upon the pleasures of solitude on the harbour, but anyone expecting a find on a par with Bill Fay is going to be sorely disappointed. The flip side "It's Dark" is rather more bouncy and perhaps more interesting, but there's not much in the contest.
The question, however, remains. Who was John Bryant, and how did he manage to put out a string of singles on major labels in the sixties without having a hit? Did you know him? Are you him? Please do drop me a line if so, because I've always been curious about this one, and so have my family. The fact that he also had a "lost" psychedelic single out I've never heard has me even more intrigued.
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