Friday, September 25, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Sounds Nice


SOUNDS NICE-Love At First Sight/Love You Too US Rare Earth R 5008 1969

I have always disliked Serge Gainsourg and Jane Birkin's "Je T'Aime Mon Non Plus", I'm not a prude but it's gross to my ears. Just the idea of that scruffy tramp Gainsbourg being intimate with anyone, let alone on record, real or faked is just enough to make me lose my lunch. That said I always liked the melody of the tune. 

Then along came Sounds Nice, a U.K. easy listening instrumental venture that was the brainchild of Decca A&R man Tony Hall comprising of arranger/producer Paul Buckmaster and organist Tim Mycroft. They covered "Je T'Aime.." as "Love At First Sight" at the suggestion of Hall who heard the original in France (it was notoriously banned upon it's June '69 release in Britain). Issued here in the U.S. on Motown's predominantly rock n' roll off shoot Rare Earth in September 1969 it failed to make any ripples in the US despite charting in the U.K. (strangely it was issued here a month before it was in Britain). Wrapped in swirling organ accompanied by lush orchestration, "Love at First Sight" is the encapsulation of kitsch easy listening, but the funky organ and bass/drums really swing. Legend has it the band's name came from Paul McCartney's comment when Tony Hall played the newly completed project for him. 

The flip "Love You Too" is a quaint B-3 led instrumental with sophisticated strings and congas that would not be at all out of place on Roy Budd's "Get Carter" soundtrack.

Both tracks are available on the sole Sounds Nice LP "Love At First Sight" on Rare Earth ( See photo above) that's chock full of groovy Hammond instrumentals like the brilliant reading of the Beatle's "Flying" and a total Swinging London Hammond groover "Continental Exchange" that would have made an amazing 45! It's fairly easy to find and relatively inexpensive. 

Hear "Love At First Sight":

Hear "Love You Too":

Friday, September 18, 2020

The Sound of '67: The Pink Floyd's Debut


THE PINK FLOYD-Arnold Layne/Candy And A Currant Bun U.K. Columbia DB 8156 1967

On Sunday January 27th of 1967 Princeton, New Jersey born and bred (local boy makes good!) producer and former Elektra records U.K. A&R man Joe Boyd was in Sound Techniques studios with his new findings a London based four piece called The Pink Floyd.  Boyd had previously left Elektra after offering them The Move, Tomorrow and The Pink Floyd. After three resounding replies of "No!" from his label boss Jac Holzman back in America he decided to resign and start his own production company and immediately sought out British bands to record. He had worked with the Pink Floyd earlier that month cutting an alternate version of "Interstellar Overdrive" and "Nick's Boogie" for Peter Whitehead's film "Tonight Let's All Make Love In London" (these tracks would not be officially released in their entirety until 1991). 

The end results of the session on January 27th yielded a finished product of two recordings, "Arnold Layne" and "Candy And A Currant Bun", both band originals penned by the ir lead singer/guitarist Syd Barrett. The band's managers Peter Jenner and Andrew King (aka Blackhill Enterprises) shopped these tracks around as a demo. After a back and forth with Polydor and EMI the band ultimately went with EMI who signed them to their Columbia outlet. In an unusual move EMI chose to release the finished product as their debut single rather than re-record it with their usual staff production crew (standard label policy at the time allegedly). The downside was that EMI artists were only allowed to be recorded by EMI staff at their Abbey Road studios which unfortunately meant that out intrepid hero Joe Boyd's production assistance was no longer required. One can't help but wonder what a Boyd produced version of the band's debut LP "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" might have sounded like. 

"Arnold Layne", a cautionary tale of a cross dressing man who steals women's unmentionables off of their laundry lines late at night has grown into legend. Roger Waters and several associates of the band maintain that "Arnold" was based on a real life individual in Cambridge, where the band were from. Syd himself mused "Arnold Layne happens to dig dressing up in women's clothing. A lot of people do so let's face up to reality" (Melody Maker April 1, 1967). Though the not banned by the BBC (it rose to a respectable # 20 in the U.K.) it was banned by those intrepid underdog's at Pirate Radio's Radio London (who's financial backers were decidedly unhip). The band filmed a black and white promo film for "Arnold" in February 1967 at the seaside in East Wittering, West Sussex utilizing a variety of masks and a tailor's dummy.

"Arnold Layne" was and is like nothing else in the charts in March 1967 when it was released. Though The Beatles' "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields" was certainly pretty way out the rest was the likes of Petula Clark, Engelbert  Humperdinck, Vince Hill etc. Chart contemporaries aside "Arnold's" strength is in it's freaky Farisa organ solo care of Rick Wright and Syd Barrett's unique lyrics. Syd's vocal delivery sounds almost disinterested at times.

The flip "Candy And A Currant Bun" (originally titled "Let's Roll Another One") is far more freaky. With it's high pitched backing vocals accented on the end word of each verse and distorted guitar intro it's clearly going to be something way out. The guitar/keyboard solos are full on freakouts and possibly the closest a Pink Floyd 60's single got to replicating the experimental madness that their live gigs were known for. Wright's Farfisa noodling sits perfectly with Barrett's feedback and Zippo on Fender Esquire guitar technique. Contrary to what you may read on the Internet (YouTube in particular) there are no recordings of the number as "Let's Roll Another One" and anything you hear are clever fakes at best.

Both sides are available in a host of places, most recently the "1965-1967 Cambridge St/ation (sic)" collection and the similar "Pink Floyd-The Early Years 1967-1972" collection. 

Hear "Arnold Layne":

Hear "Candy And A Currant Bun":

Sunday, September 13, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Cops N' Robbers

COPS' N ROBBERS-St. James Infirmary/There's  Gotta Be A Reason US Parrot 45-PAR- 9716 1964

Watford, England's r&b quintet Cops N' Robbers issued just three 45's in the U.K., their debut November 1964's "St. James Infirmary" b/w "There's Gotta Be A Reason" was launched as Decca F 12019. It was simultaneously released in the States on Decca's U.S. offshoot Parrot (behind releases by Lulu, The Zombies and Billy Fury and a host of other "British Invasion" acts).

"There's Gotta Be A Reason" was my introduction to the band, appearing on a the second volume of the German various artists album series "Broken Dreams: The Hopes And Glories Of British Rock 1963-1969", while it's flip "St. James Infirmary" soon came on my radar via See For Mile's "Sixties Lost And Found Volume Three" compilation LP. 

Cops N' Robbers live 1965 at The Studio Jazz Club, Westcliffe-On-Sea, Essex

Pic by John Ricks c/o Sam Knee

"St. James Infirmary", a blues tune dating back to the 1920's was covered by a host of British 60's r&b bands but Cops N' Robbers take the prize for the first band of the genre to record it for a release (it was later covered by The Graham Bond Organization, Georgie Fame and Eric Burdon & The Animals, to name a few). I've never been a huge fan of the track, but Cops N' Robbers give it a go with just simple organ and some baleful singing. There's a harmonica solo, but my brain keeps playing Dick Heckstall Smith's amazing sax solo on The before mentioned G.B.O. version in it's place!

Then there's the flip side, "There's Gotta Be A Reason", which to my ears is the far superior of the two tracks and would have made a far stronger A -side. Driven by a monotonous yet catchy, slow riff it's filled up nicely by some combo organ trills reminiscent of Alan price on those early Animals records and cool call and response backing vocals. The lead vocalist sounds almost snotty and detached which to my ears just oozes cool.  

Neither side has seen a reissue in a really long time, with "There's Gotta Be A Reason" popping up on Decca/Deram's excellent "The R&B Scene"comp in the late 90's (and a vinyl only reissue a few years ago). There was an unauthorized Cops N' Robbers LP/CD collection put out by a certain dodgy label in Pennsylvania in the late 90's but we don't condone bootlegs.

Hear "St. James Infirmary":

Hear "There's Gotta Be A Reason":

Friday, September 4, 2020

Only In America! 10 U.S. Only Pressings Of U.K. 60's 45's Part Two

1. GRAHAM GOULDMAN-"The Impossible Years" RCA Victor 47-453 1968
As a member of The Mockingbirds and author of a multitude of hits for The Hollies, The Yardbirds, Herman's Hermits etc, Graham Gouldman  had quite a high profile in the 60's. In 1968 RCA Victor issued an LP in the U.S. of his versions of his own material (several of the tracks previously recorded by other artists). Two U.S. only singles were issued from the LP, the first of which was this number, previously recorded/released in the U.K. by Wayne Fontana. Gouldman's version is far superior in my mind due in no small part to the lush orchestration/woodwinds beautifully arranged by John Paul Jones. Though Peter Noone is given production credits Gouldman asserts that Noone was never seen during the recordings.

2. JAMIE POWER-"Love's Gonna Go" Jamie 1307 1966
This was the B-side of U.K. r&b performer Duffy Power's second U.S. single for the Jamie label under the curious moniker of "Jamie Power" (the topside was a fairly mundane version of "There's No Living Without Your Loving", previously cut by Manfred Mann). "Love's Gonna Go" is a moody r&b ballad with some bluesy guitar, mild instrumental backing, a harmonica solo and Duffy's powerful blues belter of a voice. Strangely it was also used a the B-side to it's U.S. predecessor "She Don't Know" (Jamie 1299 1965).

3. THE IN-BE-TWEEN-"Security" Highland 1173 1966
Possibly one of the rarest and most sought after U.S. singles by an obscure U.K. group is this 45 by The In Between's (credited here as "The In-Be-Tween") who of course later became Ambrose Slade and then finally Slade. Their frantic, evisceration of Otis Redding's "Security" is pure full on freakbeat as the band plow through through it with their Black Country soul cover band beat gusto. Though uncredited on the label the record was produced by Kim Fowley.

4. SMALL FACES-"Mad John" Immediate ZS7 5012 1968
Immediate records issued this U.S. 45 (it was also released in Canada and Australia) coupling two tracks from the band's "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" LP (the B-side was "The Journey").  Both tracks are slightly edited with Stanley Unwin's narration removed from them. "Mad John" actually contains a longer musical passage at the end with Marriott's almost Celtic "aye diddley aye die die" repeated twice instead of once like the LP version.

5. GEORGIE FAME-"Last Night" Imperial 66299 1968
Attempting to capitalize on Georgie Fame's sudden U.S. success with "The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde" on Epic records, his previous U.S. label Imperial pushed out this curious single containing an edited LP track (shortened by almost three minutes), a cover of The Mar-Key's  instrumental "Last Night" as an A-side. Curiously the edited mix had previously been utilized by the label as a B-side to their 1966 pressing of "Sitting In The Park" (Imperial 66220 December 1966). The edit retains the segment where the band launch into a few bars of The Rolling Stone's "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and fades out prior to their going into snatches of Martha and The Vandella's "Nowhere To Run".

6. THE GROUNDHOGS-"Shake It" Interphon IN-7715 1965
Rock lore has it that British late 60's blues monoliths  The Groundhogs secured this U.S. only release thanks to intervention from the man himself John Lee Hooker, who they had backed on a U.K. tour. Regardless whether that's true or not "Shake It" is a frantic slice of primordial British r&b: wailing harmonica, bluesy "Baby Please Don't Go" style licks and driving Nicky Hopkin's style stride piano, a far cry from their later heavy monolithic blues.

7. HERBIE'S PEOPLE-"Semi Detached Suburban Mr. Jones" Okeh 4-7265 1966
Okeh launched this U.S. only cover of the Carter/Stevens tale of marital jealousy exactly at the same time that Manfred Mann's version was being released in the States on Mercury. Interestingly Herbie's People retained the original title while Manfred Mann changed the "Jones" to "James" so as not to sound like a kiss off to their recently departed lead singer Paul Jones. Though lacking the charm (and Mellotron) of the Manfred's version this one gets plaudits for it's effort.

8. FARON'S FLAMINGOS-"Let's Stomp" Columbia 4-43018 1964

Liverpool's Faron's Flamingos, like The Big Three were known as  "musician's musicians" and though their vinyl output was slim (just two singles in the U.K.) they were swept up in the A&R man blitz of Merseybeat and afforded one single in the U.S. (split with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes). Their version of Bobby Comstock's "Let's Stomp" is pure adrenaline acting as father/mother and midwife to The Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" and later, The Milkshakes.

9. PETER BEST-"I Wanna Be There" Original Beatles Drummer Best-800 1965
This is one of the many Pete Best 45's issued in the United States after Best and his  group were brought to NYC in 1965 by producer Bob Gallo (he also shipped The Undertakers over at the same time). "I Wanna Be There" is an almost soul tune of sorts, though the vocals are a bit rough by vocalist/bassist Wayne Bickerton (Pete Best was merely the drummer and sang on none of the New York recorded Gallo releases) but it's still a decent tune and shows promise. Bickerton and his then band mate Tony Waddington (guitar) would later go on to cut the track with the U.K. based South Carolina female soul trio The Flirtations for Deram released on both sides of the Atlantic in different configurations. Gallo shares writing credits on the label with Waddington though all Flirtations versions of it bear the Bickerton/Waddington song writing credits.

10. .THE MOVE-"Yellow Rainbow" A&M 966 1968
A&M had been the outlet for all of the Move's U.K. Regal Zonophone singles ("Flowers In The Rain" and "Fire Brigade"). They did however pass on the band's debut untitled LP for a U.S. release but curiously chose "Yellow Rainbow", an LP track as their next U.S. single issued in August of 1968. "Something" was the B-side, which would wind up as the flip of the band's November U.K. single "Blackberry Way" (reused again in February '69 for the U.S. pressing of "Blackberry.."!!). "Yellow Rainbow" is an apocalyptic vision sung by the band's rhythm guitarist Trevor Burton full of backwards bits and thundering bass care of in house glamor boy Christopher "Ace" Kefford. It was not issued anywhere else as a single.