Wednesday, November 9, 2016

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: Billy J. Kramer Channels Marvin Gaye

BILLY J. KRAMER with the DAKOTAS-Neon City/I'll Be Doggone US Imperial 66143 1965

Billy J. Kramer and The Dakota's career had long ground to a halt by the time today's subject was released in the U.S. in December 1965. "Neon City" was his 7th and final U.S. 45 (in the U.K. it was 8th in the U.K. issued as Parlophone R 5362 November 1965).

"Neon City" is a nondescript piece of Drifters inspired pop, it's not awful but it's utterly unremarkable certainly doesn't warrant a play more than once. The musical backing of horns, backing vocals and strings sounds more suited a Walker Brothers record.  Clearly George Martin and the folks at Parlophone were trying desperately to find a niche to restore Billy to his former glory (howewver fleeting it may have been).  In fact the musical backing is the only thing remotely interesting about this track.

Ready Steady Go 1965

Marvin Gaye's "I'll Be Doggone" (covered by fellow Liverpudlian's The Searchers only a few months earlier on their 4th LP titled, predictably, "Searchers No. 4") should have been the A-side.  Though it's doubtful that a Motown cover by a British artist would have a snowballs chance in hell of charting in 1965 on either side of the Atlantic it's still an amazing track. The number's greatness is due in no small part to the backing by The Dakotas.  One time Pirate's guitarist Mick Green bashes through with his choppy Fender Telecaster power chords mixed with an amplified acoustic guitar playing the main riff in a formula that totally gives this version its guts.  Kramer's vocals sound confident and almost contemptuous and the Dakotas response to his call sound interesting as well.

Dakotas Mick Green and Frank Farley

Both sides have been collected in several places, most recently on the 4 CD compilation "Do You Want To Know A Secret: The EMI Sessions 1963-1983".

Hear "Neon City":

Hear "I'll Be Doggone":

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