15 September 2008

John Bryant - A Million Miles Away

John Bryant - A Million Miles Away

Label: Fontana
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.



Bertil said...

No, I'm not John Bryant, but he also released an album on Polydor back in the early Seventies. Called "John Bryant" (Polydor UK 2382 069 1971, Polydor US PD 5520 1972), the album was nice enough singer/songwriter fare, and still worth a listen, "Woodbine Annie" et al. Easy enough to find; there are three copies available on the British eBay.

23 Daves said...

Thanks very much for pointing that out - ebay had nowt the last time I looked, but it would seem that the album does indeed seem to be up from a number of sellers at the moment. A typical ebay phenomenon, that...

I've also done a bit more of a dig around, and it would seem that somebody called John Bryant also penned some material for The Shadows in the sixties, which I am assuming is the same chap. Additionally, there was a session drummer around the same period known as John Bryant, but I am guessing he won't be the same person.

It's a surprisingly common name, which makes accurate Internet research a bit tricky - but if anyone else does have any pointers, I'd be glad to hear them. It does seem as if he may have been much more active than I originally gave him credit for, though.

Bertil said...

Further on John Bryants with proven rock/pop credentials from the ‘60s, you can find the Fontana October 1965 version of “Tell Me What You See” on the “Beat Us If You Can! Vol. 1” collection available in blogland, e.g.

John Bryant said...

It was me! I'm flattered that your dad claimed it as his. I did write the Shadows song - first vocal A-side and first non-top 20 hit. They didn't come back for another, but Cliff recorded one of mine "She's A Gypsy". I also recorded "I Bring The Sun" and "Tell Me What You See", but I'm not the drummer.
John Bryant (www.bryantwhittle.com)

23 Daves said...

Hello Dad! (Or not, as the case unquestionably is).

It's good to have the mystery resolved, and also pleasing to see that you appear to have gone on to much more successful things as well. I played the mp3 of "It's Dark" to my Dad just before Christmas, and he really enjoyed hearing it again, so I'll pass on the information to him as well as have a better scour at your website as soon as time allows.

Thanks for getting in touch.

horai said...

I have that first Polydor album from new and I still love it. John, you were really good man. Shame Polydor didn't get off their asses and push it harder.

Anonymous said...

"I Bring The Sun" reminds me of 1974 ELO, so for 1968 this is amazing!

Anonymous said...

hi , unfortunately the link is dead _ could you please reupload it??

23 Daves said...

It's on my list of things to do, Anonymous - hopefully in the next week or so.

23 Daves said...

Done- the reupload is here with a bit more information/ context: http://left-and-to-the-back.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/reupload-john-bryant-million-miles-away.html