6 October 2009

One Hit Wonders #6 - The Harmony Grass - Move in a Little Closer, Baby (b/w Happiness is Toy Shaped)

Harmony Grass - Move in a Little Closer Baby

Label: RCA
Year of Release: 1968

We're back, you muvvas!  And whilst it would have been tempting to return reinvigorated with a huge great blast of satanic rock and roll, that would perhaps be a bit too predictable - so have a fresh slice of toytown psychedelia instead, rather in the manner one might enjoy a nice slither of Battenburg cake on a Sunday afternoon.

The Harmony Grass were essentially just sixties scene stalwarts Tony Rivers and the Castaways under another name, switching labels and desperately trying to get a hit by posing as a new act.  The Castaways specialised in a rather English bastardisation of American West Coast harmony pop, but despite airplay and some acclaim failed to really attract much attention.  The Harmony Grass, on the other hand, just about managed to chart with this, taking it to number 24.  The A-side is essentially a piece of fluff which stylistically predates the likes of the Bay City Rollers - forward thinking it may be in its production values, but essential it isn't.

It's the B-side most L&TB viewers will be interested in, which is a combination of twee toytown English pop and The Beach Boys, beginning with some intricate vocal harmonies then continuing to muse and speculate on the wonder of toys.  The entire sub-genre of toytown psychedelia was very much an afterthought by the nineties specialist music press, and the label wouldn't have been bandied around at the time at all (unless somebody can prove otherwise).  However, if the movement had existed there's precious little doubt that "Happiness..." would have been one of the spearheading tracks, an anthem for the movement alongside Jeff Lynne's "I Love My Toys".  Allegedly, Brian Wilson actually heard the track once and gave it the thumbs up for its arrangement, and praise can't really come much higher than that.  

Despite their studio skills, however, the Harmony Grass couldn't sustain the public's interest for more than this single, and the game was up not long afterwards.  


Tony Rivers said...

An 'interesting' review from someone who has obviously made many hits of his own! If getting a record into the Top Thirty was considered to be not very good and whatever it was you said 'pop fluff' or something in an era where singles sold thousands, then you need to get out more. I moved on shortly afterwards and had a career making many hits with other artists, of different styles, I know what I'm talking about, Move In was a great record, played and recorded 'live' with the Orchestra. Still your review made me laugh!!! Thanks,
Tony Rivers.

23 Daves said...

Hi Tony,

Thanks for dropping by.

Way back when this was written, nearly six years ago now, the blog hadn't quite found its feet or its tone, and wasn't read by many people at all. In fact, it was really just a fun and underdeveloped exercise in pointing out a few records I liked or found interesting with people, and in this case it was the B-side "Happiness is Toy Shaped" which really caught my ears, a song I thought was - and maintain, is - an under-rated piece of songwriting (and arrangement) which deserves to be heard by more people. It was on my iPod last Christmas, in fact.

Some of the earlier entries on this blog do make me cringe slightly as they're far too brief and pithy and stop dead before revealing any facts about the musicians or the key people involved with the work. If I was writing this entry in 2015, I'd almost certainly mention your later career and some of the gems in your earlier career as well - the "Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads" theme, the brilliant Castaways singles on Immediate (which I hadn't heard yet in 2009. Your version of "Girl Don't Tell Me" actually adds to the original), and of course the Top of the Pops LP session work, which I'm sure you're sick of talking about by now.

So that's my defence! However, none of this changes one key thing - I'm afraid I still don't really rate "Move In A Little Closer, Baby", and if it had been up to me you'd have had a hit with a different single. "Mrs Ritchie" would have been a more interesting hit at this point. But it's not up to me, it's up to the public. And you're quite right, I'm not a prolific writer of hit singles. In fact, I've never even written a half-decent song. But I do enjoy talking about music.