14 July 2011

Gene Latter - Sign on the Dotted Line/ I Love You

Gene Latter - Sign on the Dotted Line

Label: Spark
Year of Release: 1969


Would-be Welsh pop stars seemed to get a rough ride of it during the sixties. Uncle Tom Jones may have broken out of the valleys and into the hearts of many a knicker-throwing wench, and Mary Hopkins might have briefly been Apple's biggest success after The Beatles, but beyond that there weren't many contenders. There was a distinct Welsh music industry established during the decade, but its appeal seemed to wane on the south side of the Severn Bridge and East of Chepstow - local (often folk-orientated) stars often flourished within their own borders, particularly in North Wales, but failed to find much appeal in the rest of the UK.

Of all the contenders, Cardiff's Gene Latter was certainly one of the most persistent, having a long and varied career from 1965 until the late seventies. During that time he tried many different styles, and one of his more undeservedly famous releases is "Mother's Little Helper", a dire cover of the Rolling Stones track which for some reason was given a home on the Rubble series of compilation albums. The Stones themselves slated it in the music press and sales were disappointingly low, and after such a thorough drubbing you could have forgiven Gene for calling it a day.

Rather than hang up his hat, he carried on, producing some curious and often strong work. "Sign on the Dotted Line" is possibly the most loved creation of his amongst the Northern Soul crowd, enjoying a great many plays on the circuit, and no wonder - the frantic, pounding insistence of the track is a joy to behold, and slotted in incredibly neatly with the scene, making him an unlikely Northern Soul turntable hogger along with the likes of David Essex and Elkie Brooks. Such was the track's cult popularity that you can still buy it on iTunes as part of a Northern Soul compilation, although if you want to hear the blaring, heartbeat amplifying thing before you buy, it's naturally on Youtube as well.

As a result of the commercial availability of the tune I've shied away from including it as a download on the blog, but instead given you the none-too-shabby self-penned B-side "I Love You" instead, which is what I believe many people would refer to as a "mod floorfiller". It's a very simple groover which sounds exactly like much of the fare which was emerging on Immediate Records before the label went under - all swinging confidence and ragged, masculine vocals.

Gene Latter's whereabouts are unknown. He appears to have released a single in the late seventies entitled "John Travolta, You Are A Superstar" which I've never seen or heard anywhere, and then we're left with nothing to go on. As ever, an update on his present activities would be welcome. Edit: A reader has since got in touch to suggest that the person behind the John Travolta single is a different Gene Latter, namely an ex-member of South African band The Shakespeares.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll leave this here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49z3owerqlM

:>)

23 Daves said...

Thanks for that! God, how absurd.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the Travolta record might be by a second Gene Latter; There was a band from Rhodesia, later moved to Belgium, called Gene Latter & the Shakespears, look here:

http://houbi.com/belpop/groepen/brian.htm

greetings,
Jan, Nijmegen NL

23 Daves said...

Thanks for pointing that out - there appears to be conflicting information online about this, but the website you've directed me to seems a lot more thorough than the source I used. I'll just quickly re-edit the entry to reflect the information.

anyonesdaughter said...

No, it is definitely the same Gene Latter. See this blog post for more info: http://babylonwales.blogspot.de/2009/09/gene-latter.html
I have collected a pile of 45s from the Shake Spears and from Gene Latter. He had been their vocalist for just a year (1965-1966).

Anonymous said...

Hi my daughter still keeps in contact with Gene's daughter. I knew gene in the 60's

Anonymous said...

Hi. I am Gene Latters daughter. It is the same Gene Latter. The fact remains that it was difficult for Black artists to get the support and promotion that their white counterparts got back in the day and to be Black and Welsh was a double jeopardy. I had many conversations with my dad about the music industry and its double standards. The matters he raised with me are now well aired having been exposed by other high profile Black artists and with the internet, the words spreads quicker and wrongdoing is exposed quicker with opportunity for debate instantanious.

He was a pioneer in his time when record labels were advising him that he needed to put white faces on his record covers as bacl faces didnt sell.

RIP Dad.

Dave G said...

I knew Gene around 1973/4. We were working at the Palm Beach Casino as croupiers. Gene was a character and a half and a pleasure to be around. He had a fabulous cheekyness that made him endearing as he did things that would have got others into trouble.
A few years ago we tried looking to see if we could find out what he was up to but couldn't find any info on him then. Sad to hear the news now.

Dave L said...

In Manchesters Twisted Wheel club or Sloopys just off Albert Square, everyone was up on the floor when this was played thoughout 1969. Even though I have embraced other forms of music since that time, this remains one of my favourite songs ever. thank you Gene!