Sunday, April 29, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Pre-Wimple Winch Just Four Men

JUST FOUR MEN-There's Not One Thing US Tower 163 1965

Capitol records Tower subsidiary had a brief brain storm in 1965 where they backed 45's by Freddie & The Dreamers with tracks by other British artists. The first was April 1965's "You Were Made For Me" (Tower 127) which was backed by The Beat Merchant's "So Fine". Today's specimen was released in October 1965 with Freddie & Co's "Send A Letter To Me" backed by a cut from a Liverpool combo called Just Four Men (confusingly they were previously known as "The Four Just Men" and had a Tower 45 all to their own, "That's My Baby/Things Will Never Be The Same", Tower 118 January 1965).  "There's Not One Thing" was previously an A-side in the UK in February as Parlophone R 5241 where it was backed by "Don't Come Any Closer".  Freakbeat scholars will tell you that by 1966 the group morphed into the legendary Wimple Winch.

"There's Not One Thing" is a moody beat ballad. It's tempo and key bring to mind the Zombies at their most forlorn (think "Leave Me Be" or "I Must Move") and it's precision double tracked vocals and jazzy guitar licks make it a beat group classic. It was included in the now out of print Wimple Winch CD anthology "The Wimple Winch Story 1963-1968".  The Freddie and the Dreamers A-side "Send A Letter to Me" is crap.  It starts out with a nifty Seekers style guitar lick but its a god awful song that needs to be in a landfill somewhere....

Hear "And There's Not One Thing":

Monday, April 23, 2018

Great Obscure U.K. 60's Sides: The Big Three

THE BIG THREE-By The Way/Cavern Stomp UK Decca F 11689 1963

Liverpool had one of the largest beat group scenes in Britain and nearly all of them made at least one record in the wake of Beatlemania which saw A&R men swoop up there with contracts in hand.  Still smarting from rejecting The Beatles Decca records surprisingly signed few Merseybeat acts to their roster, among them were The Mojos, The Pete Best Four, The Dennisons and a band some of have called "The first power trio": The Big Three. Headed by the enigmatic vocalist/drummer John Hutchinson (aka "Johnny Hutch" to all on Merseyside) they featured Brian Griffiths (vocals/guitar) and future Merseybeat/Roxy Music vocalist/bassist John Gustafson (aka "Johnny Gus"). There were multiple line-ups but it's this configuration that many, myself included, consider the "classic" Big Three line up. Like many 60's Scouse beat acts the band were initially handled by Brian Epstein, who secured them a recording contract. The band released their first 45 on Decca in March '63 with a version of the "Louie Louie" of Liverpool, Richie Barrett's "Some Other Guy" (Decca F 11614) which reached #37 on the UK charts.

For a follow up release the band had a Mitch Murray track "By The Way" foist on them (beat scholars will recall The Beatles being also saddled with a dreadful Murray composition called "How Do You Do It", which they rejected and became a hit for the more compliant fellow Liverpudlians Gerry and the Pacemakers). The band were not at all happy with the release. Interestingly after this release in June 1963 the band parted ways with Epstein. Legends abound about their unruly behavior leading to Epstein terminating their contract  though another version was, understandably, that Epstein clearly had too much on his plate handling the Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and others!

"By The Way" , like "How Do You Do It" is a sappy, uninteresting, pop ditty. The band do their best but it's not a terribly interesting composition. It's not dreadful, but it's not not something you want to play repeatedly. The number is redeemable only by Griffith's nifty guitar playing and Gustafson's backing vocals (an asset he would take with him to The Merseybeats) . The real gold is the flip side, "Cavern Stomp", a group original (which somehow the producer Noel Walker wound up sharing credits on). It's a rollicking, catchy beat group number that jives with amphetamine energy . Built around an infectious riff and lyrics that are possibly the only track of the Merseybeat era to name check the "movements" home base venue it's incredibly brief (1:41) but incredible. "Keep your jive and your rock n roll, do the Cavern stomp..."

In 1982 Edsel records would compile the band's slim discography as an LP "Cavern Stomp", which contains both tracks. A CD release in 2009 was put out by RPM titled "Cavern Stomp: The Complete Recordings" collecting all of their tracks and the Edsel LP was semi-legitimately issued on CD in 2004 by Deram in Germany as part of their "Liverpool Connection" series.

Here's an excellent feature on the band from someone who witnessed them back in the day:

Hear "By The Way":

Hear "Cavern Stomp":

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Ivy League Part Two

THE IVY LEAGUE-Tossing & Turning/Graduation Day US Cameo 377 1965

British harmony trio The Ivy League's second US 7" release was their 4th British single "Tossing & Turning" (UK Piccadilly 7N 35251 June 1965). It was issued here in the States in September of '65 and was the only Ivy League US 45 released with a picture sleeve!

Starting off with some organ and very jangly guitars giving it a distinct "folk rock" feel "Tossing & Turning" again benefits from their stellar, crisp harmonies these guys were known for. The musical backing is quite solid too (the drums in particular, probably Clem Cattini) and no doubt makes the track.

And then there's the flip side.....Despite starting out with some tough musical backing "Graduation Day" is a god awful song. Total pop drivel, like something written on the spot to hurriedly complete the session. More's the pity because the musical backing is great and the guitar solo is totally raunchy and over the top.

Both sides are available on a variety of Ivy League compilation CD's. As their material is owned by Castle Communications they've been licensed to death.

Hear "Tossing & Turning":

Hear "Graduation Day":

Monday, April 2, 2018

10 British 60's R&B/SKA 45's

We have frequently touched upon various individual ska 45's recorded in Britain by English r&b bands but I decided it was time to compile a list of ten recommendations for your listening pleasure....all tracks are UK singles unless otherwise noted.

1. THE BLUE FLAMES-"J.A. Blues" R&B JB 114 1963
The Blue Flames (led by former Larry Parnes discovery Georgie Fame) cut two instrumental 45's for the predominately ska label R&B (named for the labels owners Rita and Benny). Sandwiched in between releases by Don Drummond and The Charmers was this 1963 instrumental, the band's first of two 45's here. It's a mild horns/organ instrumental with a ska beat that's nondescript and mildly banal, but worth a listen. Fame's manager Rik Gunnell forbid him from making an "vocal" records at this time whilst shopping for a major label deal, hence both R&B 45's are instrumentals. 

2. MAYNELL WILSON & THE WES MINSTER FIVE-"Baby" Carnival CV 7014 1964
A few years before her in demand Ember 45 "Motown Feeling" black vocalist Maynell Wilson cut her teeth on this 45 on the predominantly ska label Carnival, which like fellow UK imprints R&B and Blue Beat was not averse to the odd British r&b release. She's backed her by a UK r&b band The Wes Minster Five who cut 3 distinctly jazzy r&b 45's for the label. "Baby", the flip of "Hey Hey Johnny" steals the tune and melody from Millie Small's smash "My Boy Lollipop" lock stock and barrel but Maynell's voice is a zillion times better than Millie's dreadful screechy voice and there's a great sax solo that would not at all be out of place on a Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames tracks.

3. MICKEY FINN & THE BLUE MEN-"Tom Hark" Blue Beat BB 203 1964
Profiled in one of our earliest posts here, as mentioned prior this 45 was NOT the work of UK r&b/freakbeat legends Mickey Finn & The Blue Men but sessions musicians including Mohawks/KPM organist supremo Alan Hawkshaw. Regardless of who played on it this ska reading of a one off 1958 hit by South African's Elias And His Zig-Zag Jive Flutes is infectious and brilliant.  It's a perfect marriage of organ/sax Brit r&b mixed with a traditional ska rhythm.

Scan c/o

4. THE WILD ONES-"Purple Pill Eater" Fontana TF 468 1964
Tucked away on the flip of the r&b rave up "Bowie Man" comes this cod-ska social commentary on the purple heart amphetamine crisis. It's delivered in a semi offensive West Indian accent while the band churn out a semi competent ska beat while the lyrics warn "don't eat the purple pills my boy, the purple pills just make you ill".

5. SYKO & THE CARIBS-"Jenny" Blue Beat BB 213 1964
Tucked on the flip of a rollicking boogie woogie reading of "Do The Dog", "Jenny" follows that early Blue Beat blue print of the slow r&b shuffle with a ska back beat.  It works because it's uncomplicated and fits perfectly along with similar Jamaican releases on the label at the time by Owen Gray and Prince Buster.

Scan c/o

6. GEORGIE FAME & THE BLUE FLAMES-"Madness" E.P. cut "Rhythm & Blue-Beat" EP Columbia SEG 8334 1964
Clive Powell's ska pedigree is first and foremost among white British r&b artists. He released two 45's on the UK ska label R&B (see above), played organ on Prince Buster's "Wash Wash", covered Eric "Monty" Morris ska hit "Humpty Dumpty" on his debut LP "R&B At The Flamingo" and his debut UK EP "Rhythm And Blue-Beat" was filled with four ska tracks, including this ace interpretation of Prince Buster's smash among them making him the first white artist to cover Prince Buster!

7. THE EXOTICS-"Cross My Heart" Decca F 11850 1964
The jury is out on who The Exotics were but its a pretty safe bet the guess they were Brit based West Indians. "Cross My Heart" would not be at all out of place on the Blue Beat label with it's innocuous ska/ blues shuffle driven by a harmonica, though it's production is a bit too slick for anything they ever put out.

8. THE BEAZERS (CHRIS FARLOWE)-"Blue Beat" Decca F 11827 1964
Brit 60's r&b legend Chris Farlowe was signed to EMI's Columbia output so this 45 was cut surreptitiously on the sly and credited to the fictitious "Beazers". The brainchild of arranger/producer Cyril Stapleton (who interestingly became head of A&R at Pye the year after this 45!), "Blue Beat" is yet another melding of ska rhythm's with a staid but solid British musical backing (including ex-Blue Flame Tex Makins on bass, future Blue Flame and Ringo stand in Jimmy Nicol on drums and the man behind the famous lick on "Shakin' All Over", Joe Moretti on guitar). Regardless of it's genuine "ska credibility" it's a decent track and extremely in demand.

9. THE LLOYD ALEXANDER REAL ESTATE-"I'm Gonna Live Again" President PT 157 1967
Starting off with some brilliant "chicka-chick" vocal toasting straight of of "Guns Of Navarone" and a funky riff that's sounds a bit like "I'll Be Doggone", "I'm Gonna Live Again" remained under the mod/soul/ska scenes radar for ages until both sides of this 45 were unearthed by RPM in 2011 for their various artists three CD set "Looking Back".  This UK 7 piece band issued this monster melding of ska with soulful r&b on the flip side of their sole 45, a cover of "Whatcha Gonna Do".

10. MICKEY FINN & THE BLUE MEN-"Pills" Oriole CB 1927 1964
Unlike the Blue Beat 45 above this 45 featured the actual Mickey Finn & The Blue Men members playing on the record. Taking the Bo Diddley classic and putting a ska beat to it is sort of ingenious idea because it actually works! the flip was a similar ska treatment of Jimmy Reed's "Hush Your Mouth".

The Yardbirds broke into the ska version of the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty" in the middle of their version of "Respectable" on their debut LP "Five Live Yardbirds", The Beatles used a ska rhythm in the middle eight of "I Call Your Name", fellow Liverpudlian's Tommy Quickly and the Remo Four did a live version of the ska treatment of "Humpty Dumpty" as their last UK 45 and The Hollies did the same in their first recording of "A Taste Of Honey"......