9 December 2009

Marvin Welch Farrar - Lady of the Morning/ Tiny Robin

Marvin Welch Farrar - tiny robin

Label: Regal Zonophone
Year of Release: 1971

Two thirds of Marvin Welch Farrar have already featured on this blog's "Pictures of Marshmallow Men" homebrew compilation, so some of you - or most of you, I actually hope - will already be familiar with the backstory here. Essentially, MWF were just two members of The Shadows attempting to issue vocal material under another name, with the addition of the previously unknown John Farrar. Although largely thought of as an instrumental act, The Shads themselves had occasionally sung on their discs before, but found the public less willing to accept this kind of output - so for the most part, it would appear they decided to draw the boundaries by issuing any material with those things called "lyrics" in it under this guise.

In all honesty, it's probably not what you'd expect. Rather than follow Cliff Richard's lead, it would seem that the band had something of a love affair with West Coast harmonies, and most of their vocal material almost had lovebeads hanging off its Crosby Stills and Nash inspired middle eights. This single showcases their approximation of this style across two sides - "Lady of the Morning" is the less interesting tune (albeit the official A side) in my opinion, consisting of a rather slight melody despite some pleasing bits of pedal steel and top-hole vocal harmonies. The chorus doesn't seem to quite reach any sort of satisfactory peak or conclusion for one thing. "Tiny Robin", on the other hand, is all icicles, plucked guitar strings, spooked vocal melodies, and is a seriously good atmospheric piece. Admittedly it's not really in the same league as The Fleet Foxes for this kind of 'vibe', but surely the fact that we're mentioning Hank Marvin and The Fleet Foxes in the same context is a curious enough phenomenon in itself?

Naturally, although one Marvin Welch Farrar album did manage to chart very modestly, the public's curiosity wasn't really poked, and the project died a death before the seventies were up. Hank Marvin felt that they were alienating an audience who just wanted to hear Shadows material, and failing to gain an adequate new audience who wouldn't accept the idea that what they were doing was in any way credible. As a result, they're not talked about much now, despite having recorded a few tracks any number of Wilson-worshipping indie kids would have killed to pen. It's an unfair world, but at least we can only conclude that it's also certainly an odd one.

Oh, and by the way... this is the first of a few Christmas-inspired uploads you'll be getting on the blog, in case it really needs spelling out to you.


Baz said...

Great single by a great trio who did 2 great albums. Was so unfortunate that the ignorant public didn't give this a fair chance. Bruce Welch said in his book that when MWF did their first gig, they walked offstage to the sound of their own footsteps. Every gig, people were shouting out for Shadows numbers.

Worse, EMI sabotaged the first album. They pressed a small amount which sold out in one day... it took them ages to get repressings done and by then, interest had sunk.

1972 was a bad year for Bruce Welch... he had split from girlfriend Olivia Newton John and coupled with being disheartened by the fact that MWF were making great music but being ignored, he quit... and not long after, attempted to commit suicide.

When The Shadows reformed some time after, they played several MWF songs in their set and went down well... seemed the public would accept MWF but only if they had some doses of The Shadows instrumentals as well.

23 Daves said...

It seems to be one of the golden rules of the music industry that if a serious artist decides to go 'pop', they're more likely to have success and acclaim than if a pop artist decides to take the opposite route. This is odd when you consider the fact that most modern music industry art or 'classic rock' cliches were actually invented by The Beatles - a pop band who got serious on us towards the tail end of the sixties.

It's interesting that you mention Welch's problems, as I must admit I was ignorant of these. I hadn't realised that these releases were quite as significant as that.

Baz said...

Good point about those golden rules... very rare pop acts ever go "serious" with success... most fall flat on their faces!

One of the classic examples was The Tremeloes who decided to "go serious." Unfortunately, in act of complete and utter idiocy, they gave an infamous interview where they dismissed everything they'd done before as "rubbish" and that it was "music for morons!" Nobody ever took them seriously again and that was the end of their chart career.

I think another problem with MWF was the Cliff Richard connection. They were a regular act in one of Cliff's early 70's BBC series and Cliff was well and truly in "naff" mode at that time. Worse still, Hank Marvin would be seen doing plenty of the comedy routines... so that definitely robbed MWF of credibility as well.

What was the public supposed to think... they'd see a serious performance by MWF, followed by Hank doing dumb comedy... and Hank being the guitar legend... that definitely created friction between him and Bruce.

Such a shame really... MWF's work holds up really well and it was fitting The Shadows played a couple of numbers from that venture in the "final" tour in 2005. Hank and Bruce remain really proud of that music, and rightly so.

Dave Nightingale said...

Speaking of the albums,"Second Opinion" deserves a second opinion,of which these 2 tracks are taken from,plus "Thank Heavens I've Got You",later covered by Cilla Black,and many more (Ronnie,Come Back To Nature,Lonesome Mole).

Marketed correctly,the 3 lads could have been a viable alternative for CS&N,but typically the British proles weren't going to have that.

Glad though that EMI have seen sense in recent years,and issued a best of on CD....

Marc said...

Hello there, greeting from The Netherlands.

I'm looking for a download from this underestimated group.
Could somebody help me?

23 Daves said...

Hi Marc.

This single is all I have in my collection at present, I'm afraid, but I do know that iTunes in Britain are stocking their "Best of" on mp3. I'm assuming you should be able to buy it in The Netherlands as well?

Failing that, another reader may possibly be able to help you.

Anonymous said...

Bruce's suicide attempt had nothing to do with the failure of Marvin, Welch & Farrar. It was due to the split from Olivia.