Monday, March 19, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Brit's Via Italy: The Rokes

THE ROKES-The Works Of Bartholomew/When The Wind Arises RCA Victor 47-9546 1968

Britons by nationality The Rokes made a career based in Italy in the 60's doing cover versions of British and American tunes in Italian, notching up multiple hits (including a #1 with a reading of Bob Lind's "Cheryl's Going Home") and in doing so wound up being touted as "The Italian Beatles". The flip of  "Cheryl's..", "Piangi Con Me" (re-titled "Let's Live For Today"), was co-written by The Rokes lead singer David "Shel" Shapiro which was then covered in English by the British group the Living Daylights which later led to the Grass Roots version (several US pressings of which wrongly credit Sloan/Barri as the songwriters!) but the real reason we're here is......

Despite their stream of Italian language material the band nonetheless cut a few sides in English, the last of which was today's selection.  Released in Britain in May 17, 1968 (RCA 1694) on exactly the same day as a competing version by Wayne Fontana (re-titled "The Words Of Bartholomew" Fontana TF 933), yet another moment of British record exec treachery (you can read about a similar instance here). The track was co-written by band members David "Shel" Shapiro and Mike Shepstone. It was the band's second (and last) US 45 issued around the same time as it's UK release (their previous US 45 was "Let's Live for Today" released in May 1967 in an effort to capitalize on the Grass Roots hit issued the previous month!).

"The Works Of Bartholomew" is a light weight pop psych about a frustrated sheet metal worker who daydreams of being a famous writer.  It's layered in subtle strings/horns and sits perfectly alongside period pop-psych social observations of tales of the every-man protagonist.

The real gold is the flip "When The Wind Arises", a freakbeat/pop psych opus with its high backing vocals, driving musical backing and trippy interlude with blowing wind sound affects, faintly tinkling piano and the slowly ascending, eerie chorus.

Both sides are available on the Rev-Ola CD compilation "Let's Live For Today: The Rokes In English 1966-68".

Hear "The Works Of Bartholomew":

Hear "When The Wind Arises":

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