29 May 2019

Paul Arnold - Bon Soir Dame/ Don't Leave

Ex-Overlander on rustic, folky solo pop mission

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1968

If they're mentioned at all these days, The Overlanders usually have the 'one hit wonders' tag prefixed to their name, thanks to their UK chart-topping version of The Beatles "Michelle". It's a fair assessment of their chart career, as their follow-up releases fell so far short of the Top 40 as to make their earlier success feel anomalous, but it ignores their long career on Pye initially as a niche folk-harmony group, and their moderate success in other countries prior to their biggest hit. 

Indeed, Pye kept them on their roster for twelve singles before pulling the plug, starting in 1963 with "Summer Skies and Golden Sands", and ending in 1966 with the super-scarce final release "Go Where You Wanna Go". "Michelle" was actually their tenth single, which puts the label's faith into some perspective - record labels in the sixties tended not to hang on to groups for years unless it was clear there would eventually be some kind of return on their investment.

Despite this, the crashing disappointment all involved must have felt once the follow-ups to  "Michelle" flopped is unimaginable, and singer and guitarist Paul Arnold had enough by the end of 1966, choosing to depart The Overlanders to try a solo career.

His first Pye release "Somewhere In A Rainbow" is also bloody scarce, suggesting few sales. This follow-up also seems to have fallen by the wayside, but at least very occasionally pops up in the collector's racks. The A-side "Bon Soir Dame" is irritating novelty pop which might have got airplay on the Light Programme some years previously, but the flip is a slightly more poppy, rustic tune with a woody folk-rock feel. It's strong enough to make me wonder why it didn't get compiled on the "Ripples" series, as it sounds like a natural home for it. 

26 May 2019

Tony Merrick - Lady Jane/ Michelle

A Stones cover one one side + Beatles cover on the other = near-hit single

Label: Columbia
Year of Release: 1966

Depending on how far you want to push or stretch the term, Tony Merrick could be regarded as a one hit wonder thanks to this single. It spent a solitary week at number 49 in June 1966 before dipping back down under the waves again - so close and yet so far.

It's not too surprising it was at least faintly in-demand for awhile. Both sides cover the two biggest hitting bands of the sixties, with "Lady Jane" taking on Jagger and Richards and "Michelle" naturally being another cover of The Beatles track. The A-side here is beautifully arranged, sounding like a touching and innocent piece of baroque styled pop, with strumming harpsichord sounds meeting plucked nylon guitar strings. Merrick's vocal performance is gentile and ever so slightly arch, suiting both the song and the arrangement.

"Michelle" on the flip side is less interesting, unfortunately, though it's not a Beatles track of which I'm especially fond, so your experience of it may differ.

22 May 2019

The Candy Dates - Some Other Time/ Show Me How To Live

Folk-beat group with Opportunity Knocks pedigree

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1965

For a group who managed a mere two singles on Pye before disappearing, The Candy Dates did seem to have a reasonably high media profile in 1965. This was largely due to their presence on the Opportunity Knocks programme, where their jaunty folk-beat songs obviously struck a chord with family audiences - sweet vocal harmonies for the Mums and Dads, and a steady beat to keep the kids happy.

Despite their mainstream exposure, the group's debut single "A Day Just Like That" sold poorly, and it was perhaps only to be expected that if "Some Other Time" didn't perform better, Pye's patience would snap. Lo and behold, readers, it didn't, and the band were dropped.

It is a bouyant and sugary effort, though, with lots of perky organ riffs and cute boy-girl harmony vocals. The flipside "Show Me How To Live" is much slower and more autumnal, and worked its way on to the "Ripple" compilation series some years ago.

Without wishing to sound as if I'm giving the group a back-handed compliment, part of the appeal of their sound is their cute naiveté. Their performances are largely solid, but the occasional wobble in the vocal harmonies and the simple riffs point towards a bunch of musicians who were offered recording opportunities at a point where they weren't necessarily tightly developed. Nonetheless, I'd like to think that if Pye had persevered and let them develop rather than treating them as a passing talent show fad, their third or fourth single might have broken through.

19 May 2019

Reupload - David and David - In The City/ Good Morning Morning

Like Elton John covering Nick Drake. Kinda. I suppose. 

Label: Columbia
Year of Release: 1970

While this piece of popsike hasn't quite slipped through the net - it did end up on a "Curiosity Shop" compilation recently - it has, it's safe to say, been rather largely ignored since its release despite the Gus Dudgeon production credit. Shunned even by the mighty Bible of all things sixties and esoteric, the "Tapesty of Delights" encyclopaedia, it's inexplicable that this one has been left to gather dust for so long.

There's an unquestionable Moody Blues air about the proceedings on "In The City", with a great deal of melodramatic vocalisations and despairing orchestrations about the angst of urban life, but the song has enough of a pop edge to succeed by the time the chorus rolls around. It's naive, charming, slightly silly and sweet and also somehow a tad epic with it, qualities that rarely occur in the same song at the same time. If Elton John actually had got around to covering Nick Drake, it might have ended up sounding a bit like this.

David and David were clearly a duo (and spare me the jokes about David Steel and David Owen of the Liberal/ SDP alliance, please). The identity of one of these Davids is unclear, but the other is clearly David Mindel, who would later go on to join the widely compiled Esprit de Corps whose "If (Would It Turn Out Wrong)" has been a mainstay of sixties rarity LPs. I think this is a slightly better single than that, though - not as woozy or psychedelic sounding, despite its earlier release date, but certainly a much more convincing and strident piece of work.

16 May 2019

Rhys Eye - Yellow Submarine/ I Just Can't Lose That Tune

Fascinating but sombre reading of the jaunty Beatles tune

Label: Epic
Year of Release: 1975

"Yellow Submarine" is probably one of the less analysed Beatles songs in their oeuvre, despite being one of the best known. At my infant school, it was wheeled out for sing-a-longs in school assemblies in halls that whiffed of chips and baked beans, and it was a track I was used to hearing on cartoons or during intervals at local children's theatre shows. Marrying upbeat melodies to nonsense lyrics, it seemed like the very definition of "harmless fun".

Clearly not everybody thought that way, though. Paul Phillips, who would later on find brief fame as Driver 67, was troubled by the sense it was an "other-worldly excursion into all sorts of sub-conscious emotions that I couldn’t put my finger on". Whether this was something he talked about to his friends or decided to keep to himself, when he eventually had gainful A&R employment at CBS he was surprised to find someone who agreed with him turning up to an audition.

Peter Bennett, who recorded and wrote under the name Rhys Eye, dropped by insisting he had a fantastic idea, but if he simply told Phillips what it was there was every possibility he would be cut out of the picture and find it being used by another artist on CBS. Phillips arranged for a legal waiver to be signed stating that whether he accepted or rejected the idea, it would remain the intellectual property of Mr. Eye.

And this, amazingly, was it - something that confirmed Phillips wasn't the only one bowing his head to Ringo's honking about strangely coloured submersible warships. Bennett's idea was simply a heartfelt, bluesy, troubled take on a Beatles song most listeners haven't really bothered to read much into. In Rhys Eyes' hands, "Yellow Submarine" becomes reflective and regretful, sounding like a hymn to lost childhood, lost friends and perhaps lost innocence - or, more than that, a nostalgia for absurd, exaggerated things that were never truly as the singer believed eating away at him like a deadly, slow poison. 

Whether it works is something not everyone is going to agree on, but it certainly fits the current decade's model of finding sorrow or opportunities for plaintive, melancholy expression in the most unlikely source material. If an advertising executive from John Lewis hears this and doesn't use it in their next Christmas campaign, then I'll be lost for words.

12 May 2019

Mortimer - Dedicated Music Man/ To Understand Someone

New York garage rockers The Teddy Boys taking an unexpectedly folk-pop turn prior to becoming Beatle proteges

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1967

The late sixties saw lot of groups suddenly changing tack stylistically, some because they took the special tablets so widely associated with the later era, and others because they realised the times they were a-changin' and didn't want to be seen as irrelevant. It's impossible to say how many had authentic, pure motivations and how many were just being cynical - and in the end, it doesn't matter terribly if the results are worthwhile.

Mortimer, consisting of Guy Masson, Tom Smith, and Tony Van Benschoten, had largely operated under the name The Teddy Boys, who were a storming garage rock group perhaps best known for their single "Jezebel". By February 1967 they'd changed their name to Pinnochio and The Puppets to issue "Fusion" on Mercury, then they appeared to throw all their electrified instruments into a skip to pursue a rather more semi-acoustic, hippy-ish, harmony driven direction.

Tony Secunda's (Move/ Procol Harum manager) cousin Daniel Secunda swooped down to take over the group's affairs, and they became quite hot property in New York, regularly performing to enthusiastic audiences. "Dedicated Music Man" was probably their closest crack at the hit parade, and showcases their abilities, which bear a strong and striking resemblance to the folk-rock scene of the time. The song has a strong, determined pop chorus as well, but was possibly not powerful enough to stand a chance in the very crowded 1967 marketplace.

8 May 2019

Offered With Very Little Comment #6 - Dora Hall, Dick James, Afro Akino, Tony Hatch, Chamber of Kommerce

Five 45s from the back of the box

Once again, readers, it's time to delve deep into the dusty crevices of my 45 collection and focus on a load of weird and occasionally wonderful cuts.

As usual, I've uploaded these en masse purely because I've ummed and ahhed over the contents of the recordings and researched the groups in question and can't really think of much to say beyond the observations you see below. Sometimes less is more (and anyway, you didn't seriously expect me to write a sixth Dora Hall blog entry, did you? I really don't want any of my friends to feel they need to stage an intervention).

If any of you feel you want to discuss the contents in more depth or highlight something I might not know, feel free to comment away.

(And remember, readers - simply refresh the page if Box is deciding to be an arse today).

5 May 2019

Reupload - Sunchariot - Firewater/ The Only Girl I Knew

Monty Python songwriter in rather earlier glam rock styled guise

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1973

A trend has emerged in recent years for compiling psychedelic pop and rock obscurities from the early seventies on to CD compilations. Now that the sixties era seems to have been largely hoovered clean, obscure quirky rock and art pop with psychedelic influences from that period is gaining popularity. Sunchariot seem to have escaped a place on one of these albums so far, but there's no good reason for that.

Take "Firewater" for example. It's a truly berserk piece of rock music about the plight of the Native American, filled to the brim with hollering noises, dramatic tribal vocals and an urgent instrumental break. There are shades of stomping glam about this, but nothing dominant in that sense. For the most part, it sounds like the work of a proper rock band swimming around in a period concept for all it's worth (and indeed, the seventies was awash with these ideas. Hard to know who started it, but I suspect Jeff Lynne got the ball rolling with the Idle Race's "Days Of Broken Arrows", and finished it with ELO's "Wild West Hero" - but perhaps that's too simplistic an overview).

1 May 2019

The Gaspar Netscher Ensemble - Get Out Of Bed My Darling/ Until You're Here Beside Me

Highly obscure but light-hearted sixties music hall inspired pop 

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1968

If a cumbersomely named award for the "least documented sixties group with more than one single to their name" ever comes into existence, The Gaspar Netscher Ensemble would surely be in with a shot. This was their second single on Pye, the follow-up to the equally obscure "There Is Nothing In This Whole Wide World Like Love", but it did nothing to push them towards the charts or get them documented in "The Tapestry Of Delights", on YouTube or anywhere else.

It's an interesting piece of work which closely resembles a lot of the music hall inspired 45s that emerged in the late sixties, recalling in particular The Almond Lettuce (if readers want a recent example of a group who adopted a similar frivolous sound on this blog). "Get Out Of Bed" occupies itself with the tale of a frankly nightmarish sounding wedding, cataloguing inappropriate behaviour from the guests and a seemingly sleepy and inert bride. The whole track has a continual merry bounce and a trombone that continually wails "ha ha" like Nelson off The Simpsons, just in case you're in any doubt that it's all in the name of good fun (the track probably could have been improved with the removal of this element, to be honest).

The identity of the group is a bit of a mystery to me, but I'm going to put forward a theory that the "R. Netscher" credited as songwriter here is Robin Netscher who apparently served as one of the  members of The Londonairs who we discussed back in March. The style of this track is slightly more sophisticated, but nonetheless it's possible to hear similarities.