Year of Release: 1969
"Witchi Tai To" is one of those songs which - despite its relative obscurity in the grand scheme of things - has been covered half to death. Originally produced by the songwriter and saxophonist Jim Pepper as an adapted Native American chant which he learned from his grandfather, the single surprised a few people by getting to number 69 in the US Billboard charts. It apparently remains the only track to chart in America which features an authentic native chant (although before anyone argues about it, I'm no expert when it comes to definitions of authenticity for such things).
It was then covered by counter-culture figures Brewer and Shipley, then somehow gained the attention of major league pop impresario Simon Napier Bell in the UK who decided to produce this slick version of it for the British market. This was fronted by the mysterious Clive Sands who was, in actual fact, Peter Sarstedt's less successful brother. This version of "Witchi Tai To" has picked up abuse from some quarters for being too poppy and inferior to the original, but I happen to think it's wonderful. With an arrangement that increasingly swells as the song progresses and an almost hymnal organ underneath, it's no bastardisation of Pepper's intentions, just another brilliant piece of summery late sixties pop. Where the original occasionally verges towards the pious, this is the sound of blissed out glee, almost explosively happy - even the needle damage on my copy can't destroy its intentions. That it's been almost completely overlooked since its release is surprising - a recent compilation focussing on the output of Napier Bell's SNB label completely ignored it.
The flip "In A Dream" is rather more traditional popsike fare, but is also sweet in its own way.
Clive Sarstedt later changed his name to Robin Sarstedt - presumably to confuse people researching blog entries years in the future - and had a hit in the UK with "My Resistance Is Low" in 1976. For my money, however, this flop is far, far better than that track, and it's certainly a notch or two above his brother's "Where Do You Go To My Lovely".