Year of Release: 1967
It's a rare pleasure for me to introduce a band from my own home turf on "Left and to the Back". Ilford, by now a piece of East London Victorian suburbia spilling over into Essex, isn't a place where a great many pop stars have come from, unless we count Louise Wener, Jet Black, The Dooleys, Kathy Kirby, and er, Sean Maguire. Probably the place's greatest claim to rock fame is the fact that "Itchycoo Park" was written about a park in the area (and no Small Faces member can agree on which one, though Steve Marriott claimed it was Valentines Park, just round the corner from my abode, and the lyrics themselves point to this as being the most likely candidate).
The Cymbaline, consisting of Stuart Claver on vocals, John Hollis on guitar and vocals, Gerald Morris on bass, Anthony Mortlock on lead guitar and vocals and Philip Chesteron on drums, were apparently all Ilford boys and were an ever-present sight on the release schedules throughout the mid to late sixties. Kicking their careers off on Pye with "Please Little Girl" in 1965, they jumped to Mercury for their next release in the same year, then finally settled on Philips in 1967 until their demise in 1969. Seven singles were released throughout the whole period, and the group were clearly deemed bankable by a number of people at the time - but it all came to nought.
It's somewhat surprising under the circumstances. The lads were clearly able musicians, and vocally their record performances are actually of an extremely high quality. What stands out overwhelmingly across many of their 45s are the tight, precise and pretty vocal harmonies Mortlock, Hollis and Claver were capable of delivering, and Claver's lead vocals in particular strike out from your stereo convincingly.
"Matrimonial Fears" is widely regarded to be their finest single, and found its way on to volume 4 of the Rubbles rarities series. However, the rest of their catalogue is by no means a total waste of time. "Peanuts and Chewy Macs", for example, is a sunshine-drenched piece of harmony pop which focuses on the activities of a slightly illicit market stall owner flogging tasty snacks to the public. It's as good as most of the harmony psych flops that came from the West Coast of the USA, and must have felt like a cheering listen leaking out of transistor radios in April 1967. Carefully arranged and with intricate arrangements, it's no lazy piece of work.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, after The Cymbaline dissolved Stuart Calver went on to do session vocal work for Roger Daltrey, Cockney Rebel and Linda Lewis. Chesterton later drummed for Marc Ellington, and the whereabouts of the others are unclear.