12 March 2012
The Potatoes - The Bend
Year of Release: 1966
Now here's something of a mystery. In 1966, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich (hereafter known as DDDBMT) released the British number two hit "Bend It". Penned by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, it featured traditional Greek-influenced melodies, a strong bouzouki sound (apparently achieved via an electrified mandolin) and eventually became the audio backdrop for one of Gilbert and George's pieces of art. Never DDDBMT's strongest moment, it nonetheless captured the imagination of the British and European public and stormed the charts, even getting to Number One in Germany.
However, it seems as if a similar single was penned by Howard and Blaikley and released a mere few weeks before DDDBMT's version. "The Bend" is lyrically and musically very similar, and whilst you can't easily accuse people of self-plagiarism in a court of law, there was something very odd afoot here. According to the available timelines I have, "The Bend" was issued in the dying weeks of August 1966, with "Bend It" following rapidly on its heels in early September. It's entirely possible that Dave Dee and his merry band had enough space in their busy schedules to rush into a studio and record a similar track as soon as it became apparent that nobody was interested in this disc, but it doesn't seem too likely. So why on earth did Howard and Blaikley and Fontana Records issue two very similar sounding records involving presumably identical dances at exactly the same time? Was the thinking that they could actually create a bizarre Greek-flavoured scene, or bombard the charts with a certain noise?
A few rumours have flown around Internet-land about this record for awhile, and one theory is that this is actually DDDBMT larking around. However, I think the most likely explanation is that The Potatoes were a studio based creation, and for whatever reason Fontana decided not to get behind them and gave this record a half-hearted release later than originally planned. The concept was floated again with DDDBMT, an act with a strong chart history behind them, and once that record took off the whole matter was forgotten. As nobody concerned has ever come forward to clarify matters, that's probably the only answer we're going to get.
As for the record? Well, it is what it is. A foot-stomping novelty disc which pings and zings along, steadily getting increasingly frantic. It's not hard to imagine it having been a hit - certainly DDDBMT proved that could be done - but it does seem rather as if the whole thing had been suffocated at birth.
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