13 May 2015

The "You Know Who" Group - Roses Are Red My Love/ Playboy

Label: London
Year of Release: 1965

Groups or performers refusing all interviews and veiling their true identities is, by modern day standards, unusual behaviour but not especially original. The reasons behind it have varied enormously, but tend to be for either artistic or practical reasons. The Art of Noise spent their early career hiding behind masks to encourage a greater focus on their music, whereas TISM masked themselves up purely because the edgy, satirical Australian pop group had a few schoolteachers in their ranks who might have lost their day jobs had their identities been revealed.

Back in the sixties, the motives tended to be a lot more cynical. The Guess Who shot to success in Canada in the USA by presenting themselves as a British band hiding under a new identity. The Moles and The Score tried to create some kind of enigma around themselves in the expectation that someone would think they were Beatles, Stones or Kinks in exile, but failed to hit home. Then there was the less catchily named "You Know Who" Group…

"Roses Are Red My Love" was released in the USA a full two months before The Guess Who's gambit, and is a piece of remarkable craftiness. Imitating the British beat sound and even getting the lead singer to vocalise with an English accent (with inevitable Dick Van Dyke styled consequences) it desperately wants to dupe the public into thinking this is a famous band moonlighting for reasons known only to themselves. And one can only speculate - what could those reasons have possibly been? Spare cash on the side behind the record company's back? Running away from their manager who had gangland connections? Shits and giggles? Clearly people were a lot more credulous about cynical marketing ploys in 1965 than they are these days. 

Unbelievably though, one rumour suggests that the members of The "You Know Who" Group were far closer to The Beatles than one might suppose. Merseybeat group The Undertakers (featuring future Apple signing Jackie Lomax) are alleged to be behind the backing tracks here, and all were mates with The Beatles on the live circuit. The group decamped to the USA at the end of 1964 following the termination of their contract with Pye, hard-up and desperate for work, and found some luck through the producer Bob Gallo who also happened to be responsible for this record. However, there is absolutely no concrete evidence to suggest that this is them, and they've never gone on record to confirm it - and those vocals sure as hell don't sound like Lomax. But whoever else was responsible, they've been very shy about coming forward, remaining as masked as they ever were. 

"Roses Are Red My Love" was enough of a minor hit in the USA to ensure that it still crops up on one hit wonder compilations, putting it outside the remit of this blog. It's available on YouTube, though, and you can hear for yourself that it's a cute period piece, all rasping harmonicas and teenage angst. The flip  "Playboy" (below) is a bit more raw and minimal.  

I'm hedging my bets wildly here and almost asking for trouble, but if you had any associations with this group and would like to take this opportunity to come forward, please do so. I have absolutely no idea what evidence you would need to provide to convince me that you're being genuine, but this is worth a try. 


Anonymous said...

Marvelous posting

Thank you so much


skipmooose said...

At the time in 1964, it was rumored to be the Dave Clark 5, even though the vocals sound very close, they also denied it was them.

23 Daves said...

I would be prepared to stake quite a lot of money on a bet that there is absolutely no involvement of any famous British group member whatsoever with this recording.

It *might* be something some of The Undertakers had a passing involvement with, but the boring answer of "anonymous US session men" will probably turn out to be the correct one. But still, I'd love to know how the project got started, what they were told, whether there were any live appearances, etc.

Klepsie said...

They were apparently a Brooklyn group and the idea of trying to pass them off as secretive Britons came from Bob Harvey who recorded these tracks with them. See interview with Bob Gallo at http://collectingvinylrecords.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/ask-mr-music-by-jerry-osborne.html

Klepsie said...

Or better still, see bassist John Piemonte's recollections of the period at http://www.jerryosborne.com/6-11-12.htm.

23 Daves said...

That's brilliant, Klepsie, thanks! Four Italians from Brooklyn - who'd have thought.

Klepsie said...

Well, you're being unduly modest here; you won your bet that they weren't British.

Anonymous said...

Bit of trivia: The lead singer, Robert Esposito, is the father of actress Jennifer Esposito.