1 December 2011
The Montanas - Ciao Baby/ Anybody There
Year of Release: 1967
Oftentimes you will hear people talk about how demanding modern record labels are of their acts, spewing out invective about how "They didn't release The Head Shoppes album when the third single flopped!" In truth, the sixties weren't much better for this sort of behaviour. The Kinks "You Really Got Me" was their third shot at success after two stiffs, and it was widely believed that had it not succeeded, that would have been the end of the band's recording career.
Bearing the above in mind, the career of Dudley's The Montanas (also signed to Pye along with everyone's favourite Muswell Hill band) is perplexing to any student of pop. From 1965- 1969 they were allowed to release eight singles, and also had this one reissued once in order to see if it had more luck on its second outing. This was a perplexing amount of faith to show a band which, from its beat beginnings right to its sunshine pop end, never really showed much sales potential. Two things probably acted in the band's favour. Firstly, their beat take on harmony pop was incredibly middle of the road and subsequently enjoyed some airplay during the period. Besides that, reports from the frontline of the era would suggest they were also a versatile live act, as likely to please social and supper club audiences with music and comedy as they were Carnaby Street kids, and it's possible that Pye executives may have hoped that some of that crowd-pleasing ability would cross over into sales of physical product. This is a case of "citation needed" to the power of a hundred, obviously, but calculated guesswork is all we have in this peculiar case.
In reality, The Montanas never realised their potential either at home or abroad. They spent some time in America trying to crack the lucrative British Invasion market, issuing a total of eight singles there as well to no avail, although the rather good "You've Got To Be Loved" managed to climb to number 58 on the Billboard Charts. By 1969 both UK and US labels had clearly had enough, although the band carried on performing well into the seventies.
"Ciao Baby" was issued twice by Pye in a bid to give the band a hit. The first time around it dominated the airwaves impressively, but failed to chart. It's not hard to understand what Radio DJs saw in this one. It's rich, summery harmony pop which would have sounded utterly in keeping with some of the more middle-of-the-road hits of the day. There's a slick touch of class to the performance and it's arranged in a typically pleasing fashion by Tony Hatch. It isn't, however, any sort of lost classic, and the fact that it's been largely forgotten in the years since unlike other 'turntable hits' ("The Days of Pearly Spencer" by David McWilliams, for example) possibly shouldn't be that surprising.
Perhaps the most notable release by the band for people interested in psych pop is the rather sour, piss-taking 1967 B-side "Difference Of Opinion" where the band let their previously hidden satire spew in the direction of hippies. Dominated by pseudo-Dylan lyrics and statements like "Flower people, all the same/ using other people's names/ trying to find someone to blame", it's safe to say that they weren't convinced by the subculture of the time. Why they never got a gig penning parodical songs for "Spitting Image" in the eighties is anyone's guess.
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