Sunday, December 29, 2019

More Obscure U.K. 45's On U.S. Labels: Gerry Does Simon & Garfunkel

GERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS-The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine/Looking For My Life US Laurie LR 3370 1966

With Merseybeat long since dead and buried the likes of Gerry and The Pacemakers had seen better days and by 1966 the band had been absent from the higher reaches of the US and UK hit parade for some time. Then something interesting happened. In August of 1966 their single "Girl On A Swing" broke into the US Top 40 raising to #28. Back in the U.K. it failed to register and subsequently became their last British single as Columbia DB 8044 (and it was not actually released there until November). In December another US 45 was issued (and only released in Canada and Australia, not the U.K.). "Looking For My Life" backed with a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine" (culled from their October LP "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme"). It was released in the United States in December 1966 where it failed to repeat the hat trick of "Girl On A Swing" and sadly sank without a trace.

Gerry & Co.'s version of "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine" is actually quite entertaining. It takes the heavier back beat of the original and softens it by using a busker's banjo on top of some kitschy ivory tinkling that recalls the Kink's '66-'67 sound or David Bowie's "Did you Ever Have A Dream". Where the original has an almost cynical delivery this version is cheery and perfect for Gerry's "cheeky chappie" persona (that would no doubt aid him in his soon to be discovered cabaret circuit career).

"Looking For My Life" is an absolutely awful track. There's nothing remotely positive that I can say about it despite its sweeping strings and odd sitar lick bursts. Gerry would return with a solo single in June 1967 for the CBS label ("Please Let Them Be") followed by an unsuccessful crack at the Bee Gee's "Gilbert Green" in August.

Both tracks appeared on Gerry and the Pacemaker's final US LP "Girl On A Swing" released in late 1966 (Laurie LLP/SLP 2037) and have appeared on various EMI CD Gerry and the Pacemaker's compilations.

Hear "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine":

Here "Looking For My Life":

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Great Obscure U.K. 60's Sides: Adam Faith Does Bob Lind

ADAM FAITH-Cheryl's Going Home/Funny Kind Of Love UK Parlophone R 5516 1966

One of the many musical niches I enjoy is that of early 60's solo performers (both British and American) who swept away by Beatlemania and band's that wrote their own material, made some interesting records in an attempt to stay contemporary and sadly, failed commercially in doing so.

Early 60's UK superstar Adam Faith slots perfectly into that genre with a few releases.  In October 1966 he released a version of the flip side of Bob Lind's smash "Elusive Butterfly", a track called "Cheryl's Going Home" (which strangely was the original intended US A-side). Released in Britain in February 1966 on Fontana TF 670, Lind's "Elusive Butterfly" reached #5 in the UK charts (oddly the same exact placing as in America). Sadly Adam's rendering of failed to return him to the hit parade (a place he had been absent from since The Beatles took the charts by storm).

His version of "Cheryl's ....." is in my estimation, better than the original. It's a bit more uptempo and the orchestration by easy champion Ken Woodman is far more lush than the original, but it doesn't change much from the original arrangement.  There's an interesting part where Faith changes the lyrics to Anglicize the tune by changing the distinctly Californian "Santa Rosa special's down the line" by singing "Cheryl rode the special down the line".

The flip side "Funny Kind Of Love" is a disposable track, inoffensive but nothing I would put on a compilation.

"Cheryl's Going Home" was recently issued on the three CD Grapefruit set "Gathered From Coincidence: The British Folk Pop Sound Of 1965-66" and is also available on a UK EMI Adam Faith CD compilation "Hits!".

Adam tried again a year later with a brilliant unreleased Bee Gee's track called "Cowman Milk Your Cow" which you can read a bit on over here.

Hear "Cheryl's Going Home":

Hear "Funny Kind Of Love":

Sunday, December 15, 2019

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Jon Mark "Night Comes Down"

JON MARK-Night Comes Down/Baby I've Got A Long Way To Go US Decca 31732 1965

Freakbeat and British 60's r&b fans will no doubt recall Mickey Finn's single "Night Comes Down" (curiously used at the end of an episode of HBO's no defunct series "Vinyl"), but what many of you may not know is that it first recorded and released a month earlier by a British folk/blues guitarist named Jon Mark. Produced by Shel Talmy for his Orbit production company it was Mark's debut single. It released first here in the States in January 1965 after Talmy had taken tapes of his UK Brunswick recordings to be issued in the US Mark's single along with The Pro's and Cons and a debut 45 by a London group called The Who on the US Decca imprint.  It was released the following month as Brunswick 05929 in the UK. The A-side on both sides of the Atlantic was a tune called "Baby I Got A Long Way To Go". Prior to this release Jon Mark had been a fixture on the UK folk scene for some time and his greatest claim to fame thus far was being Marianne Faithful's guitarist (he would later be half of the famous duo Mark-Almond).

"Night Comes Down" is delivered in an acoustic folk/blues style not unlike that of guitarist Davy Graham. With it's acoustic guitar finger picking, stand up bass and brushes on the drums it's easy to imagine Graham performing it. His vocal style is smoky, almost whispered evoking some darkened blues cellar club. It was written by Talmy with Jon Mark (credited on the label with his real name John Burchell).

"Baby I Got A Long Way To Go", a Mark original, is the weaker of the two tracks.  There's some fuzzbox on it that creates a drone like effect (newly acquired by session player Jimmy Page) and vocally it recalls early Cat Stevens. With it's uptempo happy go lucky feel to it would not be at all out of place on the latter's two Deram long players. The main chorus is almost hypnotic.

Both sides are available on the RPM Jon Mark CD compilation "Sally Free And Easy".

Hear "Night Comes Down":

Hear "Baby I Got A Long Way To Go":

Sunday, December 8, 2019

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Faron's Flamingos VS Rory Storm and the Hurricanes

Faron's Flamingos/Rory Storm and the Hurricanes-Let's Stomp-I Can Tell US Columbia 4-43018 1964

With the advert of Beatlemania in the United States, strangely unlike their British counterparts, American record labels were slow to plumb Liverpool for other acts preferring to stick to the hit makers. Interestingly Columbia records launched a compilation album in March of 1964 titled "The Exciting New Liverpool Sound". It comprised of 12 tracks culled from two long players previously issued in the U.K. on the Oriole label over the span of two records called "This Is Merseybeat". This single was comprised of two tunes found on the Us Columbia album, even more interesting was the fact that the single featured two different artists, Faron's Flamingos and Rory Storm and the Hurricanes  (previous home of one Ringo Starr before joining The Beatles).

Faron's Flamingos courtesy of

"Let's Stomp" was originally cut by Bobby Comstock in the US on the Lawn label and released in December 1962, it's U.K. counterpart saw a release in March of 1963 on the Stateside label (SS 163).  Kicking off with a drum beat later reused by the Sweet on their hit "Ballroom Blitz" Faron's remake is slightly more uptempo and almost frantic anticipating the trash beat sound of The Milkshakes and therefore to my ears more interesting. The production is terribly thin but there's something charming about it, especially when compared to all of the polished Merseybeat being produced by George Martin. It starts out with a spoken word intro by Bill Harry, editor of the famous Liverpool music newspaper "Merseybeat".

Bo Diddley's "I Can Tell" was the flip side of his July 1962 Checker 45 "You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover", it was later released in Britain in October on the Pye International label (7N 25165). Rory Storm's version first graced the "This Is Merseybeat Volume One" album and though it's not a patch on the original of course it still rocks. Like the A-side it has a certain charm in it's trashy delivery coming across like a boozy frat rock band, especially the choppy guitar strumming care of Johnny Byrne aka "Johnny Guitar" and the slapdash drumming by Ringo's replacement. If anyone can confirm who it is I'd love to know was it Gibson Kemp, future Artwood Keef Hartley or future Peddler Trevor Morais?(the later was also in Faron's Flamingos!). Rory croons along in an almost disinterested tone like he had somewhere else he'd rather be.

Rory Storm (right) with two unknown Liverpool performers (snigger).

Both sides appeared on an Edsel records CD that collected tracks from both "This Is Merseybeat" albums.

Hear "Let's Stomp":

Hear "I Can Tell":

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Great Obscure U.K. 60's Sides: The Cocktail Cabinet

THE COCKTAIL CABINET-Puppet On A String/Breathalyzer UK Page One POF 046 1967

Back in the mid 90's my friend Haim duped me a cassette that a friend in England had made for him of obscure UK 60's mod/r&b sounds all from 45's. Pretty much all of the tape was new to my ears and among tunes by unknowns like The Reg Guest Syndicate, The Circles, Winston G., Johnston McPhilbry etc was this amazing organ instrumental called "Breathalyzer" by The Cocktail Cabinet. A few years later I managed to score a copy.

The Cocktail Cabinet was yet another U.K. 60's studio only concoction, this one was the brainchild of Irish born keyboardist/songwriter Phil Coulter (known to me via the dreadful Celtic muzak he made so beloved by my older Irish obsessed relatives) and Bill Martin. The two had been responsible for composing Sandie Shaw's March 1967 Eurovision hit "Puppet On A String" as well as a host of other dreadful hit compositions giving them a commercially successful songwriter's CV.

The A-side of "Breathalyzer" is a tongue in cheek version of "Puppet On A String" with a ridiculous banter going on and on between an artist and producer via the studio intercom ala the American "Senator Bobby" records. Next...

The flip side "Breathalyzer" is a brilliant little moody/moddy instrumental. Starting out with some fuzz guitar it fades into a smoky, swirling Hammond organ number that's easily imaginable in some scene in a Swinging London period film.  There's an off the hook fuzz guitar solo reminiscent of something from John Schroeder's "Dolly Catcher" LP in the middle that works perfectly.

Of interesting note "Breathalyzer" was issued in the United States as an A side credited to "We Believe" in 1968 (Bell 716) with a British Bill Martin 1968 A-side "Private Scotty Grant" (Page One POF 067 May 1968) on the flip.

The A-side has yet to be compiled but the flip is available on the indispensable Past and Present CD compilation "Instro Hipsters A Go-Go".

Hear "Puppet On A String":

Hear "Breathalyzer":