13 November 2010

One Hit Wonders #16 - The Second City Sound - Tchaikovsky One

Second City Sound Tchaikovsky One

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1965

Sometimes obscure-sounding vintage-looking records leap out at you from the record racks, and you snap them up cheaply on the off-chance it's some killer little flop which has remained ignored by the wider public.  You get home, you put it on the turntable, conclude that it's quite an interesting little number and that you might be on to something.  Then you check ChartStats, and realise that it's just a minor hit single you've never heard before.

Still, this blog has a "One Hit Wonder" section now, and Brum instrumentalists The Second City Sound certainly fit that particular category.  "Tchaikovsky One" is much what you'd suspect it to be from the title, being a beat driven take on classical music, something I've always found nigh on impossible to listen to without hearing Peter Sellers' character Tommy Iron in my head saying "We'll cover anything that's out of copyright, like".  As wrong as it could potentially be, though, there's a Meek-like care about the record which seems immediately delightful, and the band shared Meek's love for technology.  Keyboard player Ken Freeman wanted to have a Mellotron on the track, but finding himself strapped for cash had to use a Clavioline instead, which gives the track a slightly eerie, dreamy air.

The B-side "Shadows" doesn't appear to be a tribute to the band of the same name, but rather a sinister, edgy piece of instrumental work with occasional bursts into pounding piano boogie.  I actually prefer it to the A-side.

As for The Second City Sound, no further hits were forthcoming after this reached number 22, but at least one of their number went on to have an influence on the music industry. Ken Freeman might not have been able to afford that ultra-desirable Mellotron, but he went on to build and market synths of his own, creating the Freeman String Symphonizer.  He also worked with Mike Oldfield and Jon Anderson, and perhaps most notably of all Jeff Wayne on the "War of the Worlds" album.  It's difficult to hear quite where his career was going to go on the basis of this little single, but for all its chocolate box arrangements, this probably sounded like a startlingly modern piece of work in 1965.  If Joe Meek didn't start hurling objects around his Holloway Road flat after hearing it, then I'm a Dutchman.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I own a copy of 'A Touch of Velvet, a Sting of Brass' by the same group on Major Minor records. It's quite good. It was a cover of a popular Radio Caroline theme by 'Mood Mosaic'. Phil Solomon managed Radio Caroline and the label. Solomon had a distribution (and no doubt a paella deal ;-) with Decca Records - Am I right in thinking The Second City Sound won Hughie Greens' Opportunity Knocks for several weeks in a row?...I was very young and it was all a very long time ago now...

23 Daves said...

Possibly! I found a forum comment referring to them winning "Opportunity Knocks" online after they signed to Decca (rather than as an amateur group). An interesting story, but one I couldn't really verify adequately.

If you think they were on as well, though, then it seems very likely.

Boursin said...

"Shadows" was written by Rod Argent. The record originated at the Jackson Studio in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, where The Zombies (from nearby St. Albans) recorded a lot of demos.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm Stuart Wilson,I played drums in Touch of Velvet the band that was put together after the original Second City Sound.Alan Nicklin & Bill Gilbert were the guys from the original line up, Alan bought in Kay Kennady on lead vocals,Ken was replaced by, Steve Brown on key boards. We did Opportunity Knocks in 1973, has anyone in TV land got a copy of the show?
We went up to the bar after the show and watched the tape,Hughie said you guys are mine! then fell off his stool.... pissed.

23 Daves said...

Hi Stuart, thanks so much for sharing those memories with us - Hughie Green's reputation clearly was justified then!

Have you any idea what the other members of the band are up to these days?

stuart wilson said...

Yes, Bill gilbert, steve Brown and I have sayed in touch with each other over the years, Bill is playing in a blues band "The Sharks", Steve is playing in a diverse spectrum of gigs, and me well I'm involved in two blues bands and session work. Last year I was invited to 'Abbey road'to record a session for 'Pixie Lotts'(at the time)new album.
We haven't heard from Alan or Kay for years, I must try and look them up.
Take Care.Stuart.

Joel said...

Jenny Darren , who joined Second City Sound during the Opportunity Knocks period is still singing and is currently in Greece

Anonymous said...

Around 1965-66, Second City Sound did a lot of work for the Mecca organisation. They appeared several times at Streatham Ice Rink in south London and I really liked their performances although they were, perhaps, a little highbrow (or was it actually that they were too good?) for an ice rink crowd who tended to want simpler music to skate to. Nice that the band is still remembered.

Anonymous said...

I have got a rare acetate that is on PYE recording studios written on the front in pen is "second city sound" "back on the road" I cannot find no details about the song or the record at all, does anyone know anything?

Arthur Nibble said...

According to the 45Cat website, "Back On The Road" was released by custom label SRT in 1975. You can see a copy of the label on that wesbite.

Arthur Nibble said...

According to the 45Cat website, "Back On The Road" was released by custom label SRT in 1975. You can see a copy of the label on that wesbite.

Petie Poo said...

I have an original copy of what I believe was Second City Sound,s only LP "Love Is Blue" from 1968. I bought it for the cover but love the music too.