Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Leatherhead? What The Hell Comes From Leatherhead?

JOHN'S CHILDREN-Just What You Want, Just What You'll Get/But She's Mine U.K. Columbia DB 8124 1967

From the hamlet of Leatherhead, deep in Surrey U.K. came John's Children.  Discovered by Yardbirds manager and all round amusing impresario Simon Napier-Bell the band consisted of Andy Ellison(vocals), Geoff McClelland (guitar), John Hewlett (bass) and Chris Towson (drums).  They had previously released "The Love I Thought I'd Found" ("Smashed Blocked on the U.S. White Whale 239  issue) /"Strange Affair" Columbia DB 8030 in October 1966. This was their second release which hit the largely uninterested public (despite a nifty little advert for the trade papers seen above) on the 3rd of February 1967.  There's a great chapter on them in Napier Bell's HIGHLY recommended tome "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" (kudos to Rob Keith for turning me onto that one).

I was pretty much John's Children MAD in the 80's.  In early 1985 I named my fanzine "Smashed Blocked" after one of their tracks and on occasion could be seen sporting all white (white jeans, white high tops and white sweatshirt) just like the band. I once had my teenage sister aid me in bugging my local college radio station (WPRB at Princeton University) by phone, but to no avail, to play tracks from their reissue LP "The Legendary Orgasm Album" (an experience which still traumatizes her to this day). In my later years I managed to secure all but two of their U.K. singles (their first and the ultra rare "Midsummer Night's Scene").

"Just What You Want, Just What You'll Get" is a sneering piece that verges on snotty American garage music territory like The Music Machine . It begins with a cheesy combo organ, swatches of backwards guitars, this ominous descending bass line and Andy Ellison's plaintiff singing.  Then things get ugly.  Then the backing vocals come in with this mechanical, menacing chant that sounds a little too, almost, well like they're "Sieg heiling" (they're not I assure you but it does have a eerie feel to it that seems to have an automatonic feel to it) . Immediately after Andy starts to get venomous while he spits out misogynistic lyrics with the lovely catchphrase "what's in it for me?" and whispers "don't think I don't know just what you want" (punctuated with a shouted response "Everything!") and then "don't think I don't know just what you'll get" ("Nothing!). Well constructed and well crafted it stands as probably in my estimation one of their best pieces of work.  The flipside, "But She's Mine" is pretty muddy.  The lyrics are positively strange ("I need a woman, mother would do...")and it relies on a simplistic mod/power-pop 4 chord Kinks-style progression with a Dylanesque chorus and a burst of lead guitar pyrotechnics c/o Napier Bell's charge Jeff Beck (who was added as Napier Bell disowned the ability of the band's guitarist Geoff McClelland).  McClelland would soon fall victim to the axe and be replaced by a solo artist under Napier Bell's umbrella by the name of Marc Bolan.  The band would go on to achieve some noteriety with this line up, break up in late 1967, reform and blow up my friened's amp at '66-'99 in San Diego, California.

Both tracks are readily available on a multitude of John's Children CD's floating around out there.

Hear "Just What You Want, Just What You'll Get" (and be changed forever):

Hear "But She's Mine" (and agree that the lyrics are "odd"):

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