Saturday, December 3, 2011

Polydor In The 60's: Home of the Cool-Part One

In the U.K. in the 60's Polydor records may not have had the star power that EMI or Decca had but if you go through their discography they had as many cool U.K.  freakbeat/mod/r&b/psych 45's (and loads of U.S. soul/r&b singles as well) as EMI or Decca.  I decided to compile a list of my faves.  It started out as a top twenty then I knocked it back down to ten.  It was no mean feat as there were multiple Creation 45's on the label and I also had to narrow it down to exclusively English acts (sadly forcing me to omit such numbers as Aussie Normie Rowe's Graham Gouldman track "Going Home" , Nederbeat heroes The Golden Earring's "That Day", mega rare Northern soul fave Tony Middleton's "To The Ends Of The Earth" and the Swedish Steampacket's "Take Her Any Time", which was released in the U.K. by The Longboatmen to ensure there was no confusing them with the Long John Baldry crew). I also omitted 45's by The Bee Gees and The Jimi Hendrix Experience for the same reason.  Sadly there is no Polydor compilation of any of these tracks.  There could easily be, like Decca/Deram and EMI did years ago, CD's focusing on the different genres: a psych one, an r&b one etc.

1. THE BETTERDAYS-"Don't Want That" Polydor BM 56024 1965
One of the immediately apparent visions of cool from was this raw slice of '64 Stones/meets '65 Yardbirds.  It's harp wailing is bluesy but the slashing guitar work and Jimmy Page style guitar solo and Nicky Hopkins style piano tinkling reeks of Birds/Who influence and anticipates freakbeat, it's flip a so-so version of 'Here Tis", graced the legendary "Pebbles Vol 6: The Roots Of Mod".

Hear it on:
Bootleg 45 reissue

http://youtu.be/dhSv2xHGwx4


2. JACK BRUCE-"Rootin' Tootin'" Polydor 56036 1965
Other than the six CD Jack Bruce box set this brilliant debut solo 45 by the then Graham Bond Organization bassman is nowhere to be found on reissue which is absolutely, positively criminal as this single is beyond all shadow of a doubt one of the finest British 60's r&b 45's to have ever been laid down.  Bruce croons in a jazzy Mose Allison style about how hip he is while (presumably) his G.B.O. band mates lay down a solid groove.  It doesn't get better than this mods.

Hear it on:
Jack Bruce "Can You Follow" box set

3.THE DEEJAYS-"Black Eyed Woman" Polydor BM 56501 1965
"Speak it now....", so begins the raw and gritty track by these Swedish based Brit exiles on one of their two British 45 releases. First brought to my attention on one of the "Transworld Punk" LP comps in the 80's this track offers one of those rare moments where frantic U.K. r&b/proto freakbeat crossed wires with the snottiness and D.I.Y of U.S. 60's styled garage music.

Hear it on:
"Rubble Volume 13: Freakbeat Fantoms"

http://youtu.be/pf8_XGTf1Uo

4. JASON'S GENERATION-"It's Up To You" Polydor BM 56042 1966
Backed by the curiously titled "Insurance Co.'s Are Very Unfair" this track first came to my attention in the late 90's on a bootleg CD titled "Purple Hearts From Pastures Gone". Produced by Harvey Lisberg (who managed Graham Gouldman and Herman's Hermits) I don't know a thing about the band.  The track is as a common theme here (unintentionally), very American influenced.

Hear it on:
"Purple Hearts From Pasture's Gone"

http://youtu.be/tJGedhtJ3_E

5. THE VOIDS-"I'm In A Fix" Polydor BM 56073 1966
The flip side of "Come On Out", this track would easily have been at home on one of the "Back From The Grave" comp albums with it's cheesy fuzzed out main riff, off key vocals and sloppy production that sounds like a bunch of American teenagers in a garage, but alas it was cut by a bunch of British guys and like the people of Stonehenge "No one knows who they were or what they were doing, but their legacy remains".

Hear it on:
"Echoes From The Wilderness"

http://youtu.be/MoM_mhs-zGo

6. THE SUGARBEATS-"Alice Designs" Polydor 56120 1966
Pure genius.  This Tandyn Almer track (composer of The Action's "Shadows And Reflections" and The Association's "Along Comes Mary") is both unique because no one else covered it in the U.K. (originally cut in the States by the mondo obscure Mr. Lucky & The Gamblers whose version is more frantic and not at all "harmonic") and amazing because of it's layers of West Coast style harmonies, trippy flute and masterful production.  Akin to '67 vintage Action it's one of the greatest tunes of it's genre.

Hear it on:
"We Can Fly Volume 3"

http://youtu.be/Yk7vYDJdMAs

7. GARY WALKER & THE RAIN-"Spooky" Polydor 56237 1968
Though not a patch on Dusty's classic reading of The Classics IV version Gazz and Co.'s version is pretty groovy, though not as strong as their other tracks it merits inclusion here because I think their arrangement is subtle even though it's fairly close to the original.

Hear it On:
"Album No.1" LP reissue on CD with bonus tracks.

http://youtu.be/tQ3nU3sDjJ0

8. THE FLEUR DE LYS-"Mud In Your Eye" Polydor 56124 1966
The Fleur De Ly's have a few brilliant freakbeat classics and also a few of duds in their 7 single U.K. discography.  This, alongside their version of The Who's "Circles" and it's flip "So Come On" (Immediate IM IM 032) exemplifies what freakbeat is all about: maniac drumming, crashing guitars, an incessant/driving riff etc  It doesn't get much heavier than this in '66 kids.

Hear it on:
"Reflections", a Fleur De Ly's CD retrospective.

http://youtu.be/7rDdjP77vVM

9. THE CARAVELLES-"Hey Mama You've Been On My Mind" Polydor BM 56137 1967
Known here on these shores for their  hit "You Don't Have To Be A Baby To Cry", this U.K. female duo cut a bunch of unremarkable singles until this one. With it's Spector-esque production and angelic vocal delivery what's not to love?  Not a hit but easily their most in demand and collectible 45.

Hear it on:
"Dream Babes Volume Five: Folk Rock And Faithful"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3RZh-kq83o

10. KINGSIZE TAYLOR-"Thinkin'" Polydor 56152 1965
Liverpudlian Ted "Kingsize" Taylor's career was all but limited to Germany (where he spent most of his time) after the Beatles brought Merseybeat into the national spotlight. This was one of his handful of U.K. 45's (actually his last) and was recorded after the dissolution of his back up band The Dominos.  It bears no resemblance to the rock n' roll sounds cut during his Cavern days and is more reminiscent of the smoother more soulful r&b played by the likes of Cliff Bennett in '65-'66.

Hear It On:
"Chocolate Soup For Diabetics Volume Three"

No comments: