16 June 2010

The Fruit Machine - The Wall

Fruit Machine - The Wall

Label: American Music Makers/ Spark

Year of Release: 1969

From the very limited information I have available to me, it's possible to deduce that The Fruit Machine were a London-based band of teenagers who produced some rather gritty, beaty pieces of late sixties rock. "Follow Me" and their cover of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" in particular hint towards a unit who weren't shy about the use of beefy hard rock vocalisations and guitar work-outs.

Neither of their singles on Spark (the rather more fey "Cuddly Toy" and "I'm Alone Today") did any business, and for some perplexing reason the label opted out of issuing this one in the UK. Instead it was licensed to "American Music Makers" for US distribution, failing to crack that market in much the same manner that their UK singles had done. Its lack of success can perhaps be put down to its subject matter and fluffy hippy-isms seeming antiquated as the seventies dawned, but it's still one of the finest pop examples of the psychedelic genre. Penned by John Carter and Russ Alquist (who also released the amazing "Laughing Man" single on Spark) it appears to be a ballad on the subject of materialism backed with shimmering effects, gut-thudding, plunging basslines, and Eastern-styled instrumentation. For all that, at no point does it seem like a cheap novelty item, nor over-the-top - it's just a marvellous piece of songwriting and production which earworms you immediately after the first listen. Only the badly produced, treble-heavy trumpets can be faulted.

My copy of this is the DJ promo which is the same both sides, and therefore fails to feature the official flip side "Willow Tree". If anyone has that, or has heard it, please do let me know.

In the meantime, altogether now: "Mmmmmm-mmmmmmm-oooooo-aaaahhhhhhhh".


Mr Pinkwhistle said...

The Wall is a great and hugely memorable song - first heard by me on one of the Rubble comps - and you're lucky to have an original promo. Willow Tree is not quite in the same class but I've grown fond of it. Rather more self-consciously 'heavy' on the guitar and drums, in keeping with
the times, but it seems to share some lyrical concerns: ''empty faces stare at walls''. However, these are the vertical walls of some lonely bedsit, flat or office rather than the horizontal sea walls on which I walk as the A side crashes in my head. The band was from Norfolk - a county which I've always found to induce a certain dreamy, melancholy escapism - memories of sunshine under the Willow Tree.

Willow Tree can be found on Electric Sugar Cube Flashbacks, Vol. 4 (LP), and also on Lost Jukebox Series 74 - a massive but also extremely patchy series which I've only just started to dip into. Now, there are many truly well deserved obscurities to be 'discovered'!

Anonymous said...

You're right, it's a good song with reasonable sounding lyrics. Sounds a bit like an electrified folk song in places. I have to say that I like it overall but maybe not that much.

23 Daves said...

Thanks for the tip-off about the band's origins Mr Pinkwhistle - I have to say that info on the band is sparse and it's proved difficult to obtain the necessary details.

I'll try to dig out "Willow Tree" at some point soon.

Anonymous said...

I was in Fruit Machine and I don't remember any of the guys coming from Norfolk!!

Anonymous said...

I was in Fruit MNachine and I don't remember any of the guys coming from Norfolk!!

23 Daves said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting - were you all actually from London, or were you based elsewhere? If you've any more info please do let me know.

Anonymous said...

I was the bass player in "Fruit Machine" All the guys in the band came from SW London.

23 Daves said...

Thanks for letting us know. What was the line-up of the band, and do you know what any of them are up to these days?

Mr Pinkwhistle said...

Sorry if I misled you over the band's origins. I picked up one of their UK singles (the superb I'm Alone Today) in Norfolk when on holiday with my parents many years ago and was told by the funny old guy in a little shop that they were a local band. He had at least another 2 copies at 10p - wish I'd snapped them up now, of course. I was attracted by the SPARKling record label as much as anything, which at 14 and barely starting an obsession with obscure gems I'd never seen before. But at least I trusted my ears.

Anyway, now you and all your visitors can hear their UK releases at the Bomber blog, which also includes some info from - presumably - Anonymous...- ie Chris Randall the bass player. Much as I respect the first two Rare Bird lps (and the Fields lp - also bought in Norfolk on a later holiday!) I love the Fruit Machine's singles.

I don't usually have time to commment in the way that I would like upon many of your obviously well considered and expressed postings, but yours is surely one of the most individual and original music blogs out there - no lazy cut and paste reviews if you can avoid it!

23 Daves said...

No problem Mr Pinkwhistle, and many thanks for the compliments about the blog. With a lot of these bands, sometimes unreliable second or third hand information is all we have to go on, and record store owners are often a better source than most!

Olli said...

Hi there, I can shed a little light on this.
I've got
ANDY 'CED CURTIS gtr, vcls A
STEVE GOULD vcls, gtr A
from another blog. I presume that anonymous is Chris Randall who now plays bass with The Honeycombs with Martin Murray.

Chris Randall said...

We were in our twenties when these recordings were done and, yes, we were indeed based in London. The studio was in the basement of Southern Music in Denmark street. Tape machine was a valve (tube) Ampex 1/2 inch 4 track. Drums were placed in a separate sound booth. Echo was provided by a full size plate located next door in the tape storage area.

Chris Randall

23 Daves said...

Thanks for getting in touch with that extra information Chris!

Do you have any idea why "The Wall" was only issued in America?