20 May 2015

The Amboy Dukes [UK] - Judy In Disguise/ Who's Foolin' Who/ Simon Says/ The Marquis

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1967

Cratediggers the length and breadth of the UK have regularly been confused by the fact that there were two Amboy Dukes releasing records at around roughly the same time. The one most people will keenly be searching out is obviously the US Garage Group featuring Ted Nugent, but there was also a British soul/ ska outfit sharing the moniker. 

Still, record collectors chancing a spare pound or two on the British group will very rarely go home disappointed. Many of their 45s - and they did gain quite a brace of releases on Polydor due to their strong reputation on the live circuit - are actually pretty nifty. The real prize of the pack, which tends to go for quite hard cash, is "High Life In Whitley Wood", a ska song about a housing estate in Reading which mentions various local facilities (such as the by-pass) in a joyous fashion. This is on my personal "wants" list.

But even their management's utterly cynical attempts at carving hit singles for the group contained gems on the flip side. The Amboys were given "Judy In Disguise" on the false understanding that the original version wouldn't otherwise be gaining a release in the UK. We all know what balderdash that proved to be, and sadly the group's sales suffered. Buried on the B-side, though, is a version of Arthur Conley's "Who's Foolin' Who" which is fine stuff indeed, and evidence of their powerful live sound.

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1968

And if at first you don't succeed, try again… and with much the same format and results as before. The version of "Simon Says" on offer here is frankly nothing to write home about, but once again, if you flip the side over you get a more remarkable B-side. "The Marquis" has become a northern soul spin in recent years and is as smooth as an eel, all prowling basslines and dramatic brass stings. 

Talking about the membership of the group is hard work, as they went through numerous different line-ups and at any given time seemed to have a cast of thousands. Nonetheless, by the point of these recordings it seems that the group consisted of the following:

Dave Kislingberry (Vocals)
Trevor Lock (Guitar)
Pete Howard (Bass Guitar)
Mick Jerome (Drums)
Rod Lee (Trumpet)
Steve Gregory (Tenor Sax & Flute)
Buddy Beadle (Baritone & Alto sax)

Steve Gregory went on to play the saxophone on George Michael's "Careless Whisper" - probably one of the most known pieces of popular saxophony after the work of not-Bob Holness on "Baker Street". Trevor Lock is now in "Magic", a Queen tribute band. Pete Howard became a sound engineer at the BBC, but sadly passed away in 2007. The whereabouts of the rest is slightly unclear.


paul mccolm said...


My father Ken McColm played on the first 3 Amboy Dukes records [ including High Life in Whitley Wood], he left as Simon Says was released, but always claimed he played on the released version. There was an interview with him a fw years back in Shindig magazine which gave some interesting insights into the band and that particular period. Always a big draw in the Reading area, they have achieved cult status in the area mainly due to the High Life single.Sadly may father passed away a few years ago, but he loved telling me about his time in the band.

Paul McColm.

23 Daves said...

I'm sorry to hear that Paul - but thank you very much for sharing your memories.

Did he play in any other groups throughout that period?

Anonymous said...

When I was assistant manager at the Top Rank Bingo Club in Reading we often used to drink after work in the Duke of Edinburgh pub opposite............I remember some of the group used to frequent the pub after hours whilst we were drinking there.