2 May 2021

The Marksmen - Smersh!/ Orbit 3

Hard-hitting instro from 1963 which strangely failed to break through

Label: Parlophone
Year of Release: 1963

Strange as it may seem, The Marksmen could, with the squint of an eye and a wave of the hand, be regarded to be "proper sixties pop stars". Credited as the backing group for Houston Wells on the Joe Meek produced "Only The Heartaches" in 1963, they weren't by this point unfamiliar with press or media appearances, having acted as backing boys for a genuine Top 30 hit-maker. 

Their association was relatively short-lived, however. During a tour of Ireland with Wells, the group began to get the sneaking suspicion that the singer was exploiting them, and tore up his return ticket home in a fit of pique, determining never to work with the man again. It was probably with hope in their hearts that they entered a recording studio to record this instrumental beat 45, hoping to creep back into the spotlight with the benefits of the shine they'd received from that one minor hit. 

"Smersh!" - somewhat unusually named after Stalin's "Death to Spies" organisation - is actually a sparkling example of the electric guitar instrumental having a sharp edge. Taking its cues from the sinister title, it begins in an innocent way, guitars twanging alongside tick-tocking rhythms, but its simple tune occasionally gets interrupted by all manner of rumbles, dischords, and whinnying guitar interludes, like Stalin's lads crept up behind them and gave them a ghastly going over while they were midway through their merry melodies. 

Bit part Shadows, bit part Joe Meek in a menacing mood, it's actually a neat little single. The group appeared on the "Five O'Clock Club" show to promote the record, but the exposure didn't lift it into the charts, and the band weren't given another opportunity to front their own record. 

The group came from Southend-on-sea and consisted of Brian Gill on bass, Norman Hull on guitar, Peter Nye on drums and Pete Willsher on lead guitar. Willsher went on to work on a number of library music LPs for De Wolfe, Ready and Studio G, and also put out a Country Rock LP on Pye in 1977 called "Steel Seasons". The whereabouts of the others is not entirely clear.

If you can't preview the tracks below, please go right to the source.

1 comment:

rntcj said...


Thanx for this one. "New" artist here = "new" hears here. To these ears sound like "typical" pre-Beatles UK instrumental Pop.

Ciao! For now.