16 September 2009

The Spotnicks - Orange Blossom Special and Just Listen to My Heart

Spotnicks- Orange Blossom Special

Spotnicks - Just Listen to my Heart

Label: Oriole
Year of Release: 1962 and 1963 respectively

Technically speaking, The Spotnicks have no place on this blog.  They were massive in their home country of Sweden during the sixties, and even achieved a moderate amount of success in Britain, which is astonishing for a nation which - then even more than now - tended to cock snooks at their musical neighbours from other European countries.  It's also a sure sign that the band had something special going on.

And indeed they did.  Their finest hour, the 200mph, rip-roaring "Hava Nigila", reached number 13 in the UK Top 40, and may only have been prevented from a top ten place by other business factors (which I'll come on to later).  These two singles, "Orange Blossom Special (b/w "Spotnicks Theme") and "Just Listen To My Heart" (b/w "Pony Express") charted rather more modestly at 29 and 36 respectively, but display a galloping, bouncing approach to the guitar instrumental which still sounds reasonably novel even today.  The Shadows may have been bigger on these shores, but I'd argue that should never have been the case.  

The Spotnicks are probably more famed over here for wearing space suits on stage than anything else, and for innovatively using leadless radio-controlled guitars which were apparently periodically known to cut out if an ambitious Spotnick wandered too far from the source of the signal.  Such is the price of breaking new ground - and in any case, I've witnessed similar problems when watching other acts live in the present day, so clearly the issue hasn't died a death.

Oriole Records are an interesting case in point, being an independent label in the UK at a time when attempting to strike it out alone was considered rather bold and even foolish.  Most of their cash in the sixties came from their Embassy Records outlet which sold el cheapo cover versions of the hits of the day to outlets of Woolworths.   They also owned a pressing plant which was frequently contracted out to major labels if one of their discs hit unanticipated demand, and Oriole pressings of Beatles singles are known to be quite collectible.  So known were they for focussing on these two business areas that it's widely alleged they frequently didn't spend a great deal of time grooming their potential hitmakers or promoting their own singles, so it's possible The Spotnicks might have had more success with another label.

Oriole also had a habit of wiping their master tapes, believing them to be too expensive to store and too valuable not to re-use - a fact which almost makes me want to bite my fingers off in frustration.  I'm sure the Spotnicks recorded most of their stuff in Sweden, but nonetheless I purchased a seventies Best Of album by them (on Air Records) which featured many of their sixties hits completely re-recorded in a heavily glossed, modern fashion, which does make me wonder if somebody was quick on the draw with the audio eraser at some point.  Ah well, these are definitely the originals below...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very interesting blog, and I agree with every word - a very unique group especially their early tracks. Young Rockabilly fans today would probably love their early music. As an instrumental group at least equal to the Shadows - damn shame only us 60yr
olds can remember them! (in Britain)