Saturday, February 22, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Pretty Things On Laurie

THE PRETTY THINGS-Talkin' About The Good Times/Walking Through My Dreams US Laurie 3458 1968

The Pretty Things had a small run of US singles, six of their nine UK Fontana singles were issued here on the US imprint of the label. Their last was June 1966's "Come See Me" (Fontana F-1550) followed by a two year dry spell before the release of today's subject in July of 1968. It was previously issued in the UK as Columbia DB 8353 in February of 1968 and would only be a one off release for the US Laurie label (home of lots of other off the wall UK releases like Adam Faith's "Cowman Milk Your Cow") before a brief move to Motown's rock n roll Rare Earth spin off for one single and then semi stardom on Led Zep's Swan Song label.

Most 60's British r&b bands fell like Dracula to garlic and a sharpened stake to psychedelia. But like The Stones The Pretty Things weathered the storm easing from r&b into psych (via what I like to call their "mod" period in '65-'66) before getting freaky (much like The Stones and The Yardbirds). To me some of The Stones attempts at psychedelia were sometimes embarrassing with poor track selection (half of "Their Satanic Majesties Request" for instance) and awful production and the Yardbirds to my ears were just bluesmen on acid while Pagey was ripping off Davy Graham and Bert Jansch. But the Pretty Things had a great track selection of originals in their psychedelic period and a great producer in Norman Smith (also responsible for the first Pink Floyd album and two of their three Syd Barrett era 45's and their two post Syd ones) that made them rise to the top of the lot and it all magically happened in just one year.

The coupling of "Talkin' About The Good Times" b/w "Walking through My Dreams" picks up where November '67's "Defecting Grey"/ "Mr. Evasion" 45 (U.K. Columbia DB 8300) left off as far as psychedelia is concerned. The credit for shaping the Pretties psychedelic sound to my ears is owed in no small part to former Fenmen members Jon Povey (keyboards) and Wally Waller (bass) and their backing vocals (and their writing assistance to lead singer Phil May and guitarist Dick Taylor). The Pretties also get high marks for this period for using the Mellotron and much like The Zombie's "Oddysey And Oracle" it's used sparingly and tastefully. 

Povey, Waller, Taylor, Twink and May

"Talkin' About The Good Times" is in my estimation the most psychedelic record The Pretties ever cut. I'd prefer to skip any Pink Floyd comparisons that are often thrown about by people on this era that I think is purely based on sharing the same producer/label. It's clockwork guitar/balalaika/sitar intro reminds me of something off of the Tomorrow LP and it's immediately meshed with loads of Mellotron and the band's layers of harmonies (dig the Beach Boys style a capella bit towards the end) and then it fades out with a hypnotic riff from Dick Taylor (and more Mellotron).

"Waking Through My Dreams" is less trippy with subtle organ/piano beneath the bands incredible harmonies, with guitars playing descending licks and crashing drums from Skip Allen (who would depart soon after to be replaced by former Tomorrow drummer John "Twink" Alder). The fade out once again showcases the perfect meshing of their vocal abilities and hypnotic riffs beneath a layered tapestry of sound.

Both cuts are featured on several Pretty Things collections, the most current being "Come Seee:The Very Best of The Pretty Things". "Talkin' About The Good Times" cropped up on Bam Caruso's "Rubble 3: Nightmares In Wonderland" collection while "Walking Through My Dreams" was issued on the "Nuggets II" box set, "Psychedelia At Abbey Road" and  the "Rubble 2: Pop Sike Dreams" compilations.

Hear "Talkin' About The Good Times":

Hear "Walking Through My Dreams":

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Great Obscure U.K. 60's Sides: Adam Faith Channels The Bee Gees

ADAM FAITH-Cowman MilkYour Cow/Daddy What'll Happen To Me UK Parlophone R 5635 1967
When the Bee Gees broke in the U.K. in 1967 manager Robert Stigwood wasted no time hustling their material which resulted in an interesting deluge of cover versions and compositions not officially released by the Brothers Gibb.  Many it seemed, were by artists whose ships has sailed with the advent of psychedelia like Gerry Mardsen ("Gilbert Green"), Billy J. Kramer ("The Town Of Tuxley Toymaker") and today's subject, Adam Faith.

Hits had dried up for Adam. He cut an amazing version of Bob Lind's "Cheryl's Going Home" in October of 1966 . September of the following year saw the release of a Bee Gee's composition "Cowman Milk Your Cow" (issued in the US on Laurie as LR 3455 the following year with the sides reversed). It was never released by the Bee Gees and their vocal presence on the track indicates that they were either in on the session or, as in the case of other Gibb brother's covers, the track was cut over the top of their demo.  There seems to be some contention on who plays on the track with the suggestion that Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green plays guitar, there are also suggestions that Faith's stalwart backing band, The Roulettes are responsible for the musical backing (the later are mentioned in the liner notes of an EMI Adam Faith compilation CD which I would expect to be believable). Regardless of who is on it the track is magical. Beginning with a pastoral jangling guitar, looping Macca-esque bass lines and raga licks that dart in and out it's amazing from start to finish. The lyrics are off beat ("cowman milk your cow, keep away from the dark side...") and reflective ("how many years will it take till the moment when we all descend and that could be a million years and that's a long long time"). Barry and Robin Gibb's voices can be heard in tandem with Adam's on alternating verses. The ending fades out in a semi trippy way with the backing vocals repeating "long long long time" over and over like a mantra. Unfortunately the Midas touch of the Brothers Gibb failed to apply and the track was not a hit.

New Musical Express September 23, 1967

The B-side "Daddy What'll Happen To Me" is an anti-war protest number. It starts out with a trumpet playing taps on top of some acoustic guitar. The chorus almost sounds like a C&W tune but the regal trumpets and Vernon's Girls styles backing vocals give it a distinctly British feel. Lyrically it's an incredibly powerful number written from the point of a terrified young soldier in the front lines that requires a few spins before becoming interesting.

Both sides were collected on the exhaustive CD "Complete Faith: HMV, Top Rank& Parlophone Recordings 1958-1968".

Hear "Cowman Milk Your Cow":

Hear "Daddy What'll Happen To Me":

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Great UK 60's Singles: Them "Baby Please Don't Go"

THEM-Baby Please Don't Go/Gloria UK Decca F12018 1964

One of my greatest TV memories was Xmas of 1984 and getting a VCR and my dad and I going to the nearby supermarket (which was open!) and rented a "Ready! Steady! Go!" VHS tape and seeing Them perform "Baby Please Don't Go" on it. I don't know if I had known anything about them prior to this but my mind was suitably blown by what I was hearing.

Without resorting to their entire band history, Them were an r&b quartet from Belfast led by one Ivan "Van" Morrison a blues/jazz/r&b aficionado. Signed to Decca, the band's debut single "Don't Start Crying Now" (Decca F 11973, September 1964) failed to garner much attention, but it's follow up "Baby Please Don't Go" (November 1964) rose to #10. I'm not going to wade into the ongoing debate of who played the distinctive riff (Jimmy Page or band guitarist Billy Harrison) on the track but I will debate Them's inspiration for the track. It's been stated that John Lee Hooker's version is the basis of their version but I'm inclined to believe that Mose Allison's interpretation also played a part.  Regardless  Them's version with it's driving riff with tremolo arm action and the zooming bass line backed with Van Morrison's wailing harp and distinct blues shouting makes it instantly recognizable. There has never been a version like this and there probably will never be.

Plugging "Baby Please Don't Go" on "Ready Steady Go!" November 20, 1964

The flip side is the stuff of legends. Van Morrison's "Gloria" could have been an A-side (it reached #71 in the US where d.j's obviously preferred it to "Baby Please Don't Go"). It's monotonous and simplistic three chord pattern is the perfect stuff of garage band mythology (covered by Americans The Shadows Of Knight it went to #10 in the States in 1966) and Van Morrison's lewd leer about "Gloria" is perfect as the band chugs on half frat rock, half r&b. Iconic.

Both tracks are available in a host of place but my favorite recommendation is the essential 3 CD set from 2016 "The Complete Them 1964-1967" (which alternate versions of both sides and a demo of "Gloria" as well as a live B.B.C. take).

Hear "Baby Please Don't Go":

Hear "Gloria":

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Stop Me If You've Heard These Before....10 More For Your Ears

Here's ten more US 60's 45's from the archives for your listening pleasure! Maybe some new ones..

1. LESLIE UGGAMS-"Who Killed Teddy Bear" US Atlantic 45-2313 1965
From the film of the same name Leslie croons this killer track that would not have sounded at all out of place in "Little" Anthony and The Imperials repertoire! Made nearly impossible to find due to it's Clint Ballard penned flip "Don't You Even Care" (also covered by The Hollies), a massive Northern favorite, "Who Killed Teddy Bear" is a moody orchestrated stormer worth checking out as is the flick starring Sal Mineo as a creepy Times Square cruiser with serious sexual hangups and Juliet Prose as a mod looking club DJ he's stalking.

2. YIDDISH SOUL BROTHER AMNON-"In New York City" US Chess  1990 1967
This curiously named artist is responsible for one of the most collectible and expensive Chess 45's you're ever likely to encounter. Backed by some jazzy/snazzy uptown horn sounds and some groovy ivory tinkling this one oozes sophistication that betrays it's 1967 release date.

3. CHUCK BERRY-"Club Nitty Gritty" US Mercury 72643 1966
By 1966 you'd have thought Chuck was all out of tricks but this funky 1966 single shows the old dog still had new tricks.  Moved along by some jazzy electric piano and Chuck's requisite licks it's a rocking tune and a pricey one at that!

4. BOBBY PETERSON QUINTET-"Mamma Get Your Hammer" US V-Tone 221 1961
This sax driven screamer sounds like a cross between Richard Berry and early Robert Parker with the most insane chorus you'll ever find in an r&b number: "mama get your hammer a fly's on the baby's head..".

5. THE FIVE Du-Tones-"The Gouster" US One-derful 4818 1963
From the excellent One-derful label comes this nifty little number by The Du-Tones about a brief and little known American urban subculture known as "gousters".  A gouster (which depending on which interpretation you read) was allegedly a dandified street hoodlum in gangster style apparel. "The Gouster" is a frantic, boisterous and perfect melding of greasy/gritty r&b and street corner doo-wop from the band who had previously gave us "Shake A Tail Feather". David Bowie took note of the Gouster trend which you can read about here.

6. JOE THOMAS AND BILL ELLIOTT-"Speak Your Piece" US Symbol 45-200 1964
Flutist Joe Thomas and drummer Bill Elliott's mega obscure 45 for the Symbol label "Speak Your Piece" is an essay in "mod jazz" coolness. From it's groovy flute, honking sax and soulful vocal delivery (via Elliott) you're hooked, instantly, the first time you hear it.  The US 45 is topped by an even pricier French E.P. containing the track, but there's always their US 1964 Sue LP which is a bit more affordable.

7. SHAWN ELLIOTT-"The Joker" US Roulette R-4643 1965
American vocalist Shawn Elliott's take on the Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse number "The Joker" has unfortunately been roped into the dreadful Northern soul category, which is a shame because it's more of a jazzy pop song to my ears. It starts out slow but then the fuzz guitar and upbeat tempo increases with some jazzy flute and strings.  Pure magic!

8. ANTHONY & THE IMPERIALS-"You Only Live Twice" US Veep V-1269 1967
Forget the Nancy Sinatra version kids the real money is on this take by Anthony & The Imperials (formerly Little, I guess he was grown by '67).  This version followed Nancy's a month later and it's amazing, from the storming arrangement by Teddy Randazzo with shimmering strings (that could be off of something on Scott Walker's first solo LP!), horns and organ to the Anthony's excellent delivery it's a pity no one paid attention to it. 

9. TERRY AND THE CHAIN REACTION-"Keep Your Cool" US United Artists UA50199 1967
Produced by Rick Hall (who co-wrote it as well) this laid back number has a feel and tempo that reminds me of Jimmy Hughe's "It Ain't What You Got" (also a Hall production). This band is a mystery to me as I know absolutely nothing about them.  Regardless it's a subtle almost spoken word number with advice to how to "keep cool" laid down on top of a menacing little soulful groove. 

Northern soul anoraks will of course be familiar with Mr Middleton's "To The Ends Of The Earth". Far less expensive but still not had cheaply had is this version he did with Burt Bacharach singing "My Little Red Book" from the film "What's New Pussycat". Middleton's phrasing at times sounds restrained but it's a killer track with the musical backing providing a template for the Sounds Incorporated version.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Riot Squad

THE RIOT SQUAD-Cry Cry Cry/How Is It Done US Reprise 0457 1966

We've previously chronicled prior US single releases by Britain's 60's act The Riot Squad in other entries. Their first US single (their second in England) "I Wanna Talk About My Baby" was discussed here while we wrote about their third and final US single (their fifth in England) here.

Today's entry "Cry Cry Cry", was their second US release issued in April 1966 (it's British counterpart, the band's fourth there, was released in January 1966 as Pye 7N 17041). It holds the distinction of being their first release with the legendary producer Joe Meek at the controls.

Though certainly not the band's strongest release, "Cry Cry Cry" is not so much unlistenable as it is mediocre, especially with The Four Season's like "ieye yei yei's" chorus that's positively grating and the even higher backing vocals. Next!

The flip "How Is It Done"  (titled "How It Is Done" in the UK) kicks off with a heavy Motown influenced bass line and some freaky sax bits that sound Middle Eastern (and much like something Graham Bond was doing at the time).  The key changes and breaks are incredibly soulful but there's something truly freaky in it's delivery that I can't put my finger on.

1966 line up c/o

Both sides are available on the 2003 Sequel records Riot Squad anthology "Jump" as well as Edsel's earlier collection "Anytime".

Hear "Cry Cry Cry":

Hear "How It Is Done":

Saturday, January 18, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Knack...Erm....The Lobsters

THE LOBSTERS-(The Man From The)Marriage Guidance And Advice Bureau/Dolly Catcher Man US Mercury 72696 1967

Every now and then a U.K. 60's 45 was issued in the U.S. with the band name being altered for some bizarre reason.  I first heard of this when Wild Silk's Shel Talmy produced "(Visions In A) Plaster Sky"/"Toymaker" came out over here credited to "Basil" and recently Larry over at Funky 16 Corners told me about a Cocktail Cabinet 45 issued here as "We Believe". Recently I stumbled upon another one, The Knack's (the U.K. 60's sorts) final single "(The Man From) The Marriage Guidance And Advice Bureau" (Piccadilly 7N 35367 February 1967) which was released here on Mercury and credited to "The Lobsters" (possibly to avoid confusion with a US 60's band of the same name).

The Knack were a UK 60's quartet featuring the famous Paul Gurvitz (lead vocals/guitar), Brian Morris (vocals/guitar), Gery Kenworthy (bass) and Topper Clay (drums). Gurvitz of course would join brother Adrian to find fame as Gun, bit that's another story for another day.

After their first two singles on the Decca label went nowhere John Schroeder signed the band to Pye's Piccadilly offshoot in 1966 resulting in three more singles, none of which did anything.  The band would cut just one more single with the label before splitting. Issued as Piccadilly 7N 35367 in February 1967 "(The Man From) The Marriage Guidance And Advice Bureau" backed with "Dolly Catcher Man", as mentioned above was issued here where it was their only US release, like it's predecessors it did nothing on either side of the Atlantic. I was first introduced to the A-side back in 1990 when it graced a Sequel CD compilation called "Quick Before They Catch Us". It's a somber acoustic guitar led track that falls somewhere between early Al Stewart and Duncan Browne with some great harmonies with some tongue and cheek lyrics that perfectly fits in with its quirky release date.

The B-side, the curiously titled "Dolly Catcher Man" starts out sounding like a folk rock/Dylan pastiche but then the 12 string kicks in and the high harmonies join in it becomes a half way decent quirky pop tune.

Both sides were compiled on a Knack CD collection put out by Rev-Ola in 2007 titled "Time Time Time".

Hear "(The Man From) The Marriage Guidance And Advice Bureau":

Hear "Dolly Catcher Man":

Saturday, January 11, 2020

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: I Scream You Scream, Who The Hell Screamed For Freddie?

FREDDIE AND THE DREAMERS-Do The Freddie/Tell Me When US Mercury 72428 1965

Freddie and the Dreamers have always annoyed me, maybe it was the fact that Freddie always looked like a degenerate window cleaner or that stupid giggle he did with those ridiculous leaps or that him and his band mates looked old enough to have been in World War II (he was actually born in 1936). Well all this lunacy culminated with someone writing a song for him to leap about to called "Do The Freddie". It wasn't even released in the U.K. but it was his eleventh US 45 released in April 1965 where it reached a modest #18 in the charts (incidentally his last hit here, or anywhere actually).

If you can get past his ridiculous mad giggles peppered all over the track "Do The Freddie" is a half way decent tune.  The best part of the number is the musical backing (possibly session players?) which is heavily accented by horns and female backing vocalists (no doubt the Vernon's Girls) and I will admit it's pretty damn catchy (especially the guitar solo)! My dad remembers dancers on some US TV program back then showing viewers how to "do the Freddie", thankfully it never caught on!

Freddie and the Pensioners

The flip side is a track called "Tell Me When", previously covered by The Applejacks (and it was their debut US 45 issued a year earlier). The Dreamers make a complete mess of it because it already had potential to be a dippy song and their interpretation of it is even more icky. The phrase "disgustingly twee" aptly describes it.

Both sides were compiled on an EMI USA CD collection way back called The The Definitive Collection" that's still available.

Hear "Do The Freddie":

Hear "Tell Me When":