7 February 2016

Robbi Curtice - The Soul Of A Man/ When Diana Paints The Picture

Label: Sidewalk
Year of Release: 1968

Now here is an absolute stormer, and one I'd been trying to find at a reasonable price for years on end. As occasionally happens, I took a punt on a very battered looking copy at a highly reduced price, and contrary to my expectations, it plays perfectly OK.

"The Soul of a Man" begins with a thudding, thundering bass line, Mod inspired crashing drums, then finally Robbi's victorious roar of "Right in the palm of your hand is the soul of a man". James Bond inspired brass patterns join the foray, and the track bashes and crashes around, ricocheting off the walls. One of those rare examples of a great record that seems to be all chorus and virtually no verses at all, it does a lot with very little, a veritable firework display of a two minute single.

The flip can't be ignored either. "When Diana Paints The Picture" is gentle, considered popsike with another high quality and effective arrangement. That both sides were coated with such fairy dust shouldn't be too surprising when you considered Vic Smith's close involvement. Vic later went on to become produce Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, producer of choice for The Jam and, perhaps less famously, Peter Wyngarde on his "When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head" album.

Robbi Curtice was Wiltshire based songwriter Rob Ashmore in real life, who had recently scored a Denmark Street publishing deal with Mills Music. "When Diana Paints The Picture" was co-written with Curtice's regular working partner Tom Payne and was being held in reserve by the company for Cilla Black for a possible future single, which obviously never emerged (and with all due respect to the deceased superstar, it's hard to imagine her version topping this one anyway). "The Soul Of A Man", on the other hand, was entirely a Ralph Murphy and Vic Smith composition, and recorded pronto after Curtice "learned the song in minutes after learning it on the back of an Embassy cigarette packet". Allegedly all concerned were disappointed with the final production of the track, and it only saw the light of day in the USA where it was almost entirely ignored, bar rumoured consumer interest in Sacramento.

Curtice's songwriting career continues, and in 2007 he saw a song of his ("Gospel Lane") emerge on the soundtrack for the Serge Bozon film "La France".


David Pascoe said...

I now have a song I can play my wife which doesn't have to involve Paul Anka. Terrific stuff.

VanceMan said...

How could that A side not have been a hit? (Or at least not have been covered by Tom Jones?)

23 Daves said...

I know! I'm baffled as well. And bemused by the fact that everyone involved thought the production was slightly below-par, which makes no sense to me at all.

Unknown said...

I'm so pleased to hear that our record is still interesting people nearly fifty years on! It's fantastic to hear that people are still listening. Thank you so much. By the way the real name of Robbi Curtice is Rob Ashmore (not Robert Murphy) - and I ought to know! I think you're getting confused with Ralph Murphy, who co-produced the two sides of the record with Vic Smith. I'd be very grateful if you could correct that on your post 23Daves.
If anyone's interested in our other stuff - Tom Payne and I have a website:-
"When Diana Paints the Picture" has recently been remastered (the bells are so much better now) and included on a Capital records album "Book a Trip 2".
Please contact me if you would like any more information. Best wishes. Robbi

23 Daves said...

Thanks so much for dropping by, Robbi (and putting me straight!) Apologies for getting your real life name wrong - I can't find the source I obtained the details from at the moment, but hey ho, I suspect another Internet site may have been involved.

I am puzzled by the fact that this single didn't get a UK release. It certainly deserved one. Do you know anything about the reasons why?

Unknown said...

At the end of the recording session in June 68, everyone in the studio listened to the playback of "When Diana Paints the Picture" and it really sounded amazing. All agreed we were going to have a big hit on our hands! I had some publicity photos taken and even a provisional routine for appearing on "Top of the Pops" was discussed.
But ... for some reason, the producers altered that studio mix, and their version was considered unsuitable for release, first by Decca, and then by the EMI labels. I don't think the record companies liked the bells at the beginning of the recording, - too long an introduction to suit the pop radio programmes of the time.
So what was originally a throwaway B side - "Soul of a Man" - became the A side and was released in USA only, where it did moderately well. It was of course written by the aforementioned producers Vic Smith and Ralph Murphy - not that I'm putting any significance on that!
You can see what I mean by listening to the re-mastered version of "Diana" on "Book a Trip 2" (Capital records) - that was how it was meant to sound!
Best wishes to everyone.