Friday, January 19, 2024

Beached: Ten British 60's Beach Boys Covers

1. TONY RIVERS & THE CASTAWAYS-"Girl Don't Tell Me" U.K. Immediate IM 027 1966

Tony Rivers was (and still is) the uber British Beach Boys fan. He cut three different Beach Boys covers and this was his first (which featured a version of "Salt Like City" on the flip!). It's probably my favorite of the lot here. It's harmonies are incredible and I think they're actually better the original because there's so many layers. The production is incredible leading me to believe it was handled by the sessions engineer Glyn Johns and NOT Andrew Loog Oldham.

2. THE ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM ORCHESTRA-"I Get Around" U.S. Parrot 45-PAR 9745 1965

In 1965 Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra released an LP of Beach Boys covers on one side and Four Seasons covers on the other titled "East Meets West" in the U.S. Most of the numbers are rather tepid instrumentals but this version of "I Get Around" is interesting because it's got some very ratty fuzz guitar and occasional high vocals and tinkling pianos and let's not forget the murky bass (possibly John Paul Jones?).

3. THE ROB STORME GROUP-"Here Today" U.K. Columbia DB 7993 1966

The final Rob Storme single was this competent take on "Here Today" (covered by several other 60's British bands  like The Art Movements, The Factotums, The Seftons etc). It's delivered faster than the original kicking off with an almost heavy sense of urgency, driving beat and decent harmonies. It's a perfect example of how to do a cover: leave some things intact in their replication and make the rest your own.

4. THE FACTOTUMS-"You're So Good To Me" U.K. Immediate IM 022 1966

Alongside Tony Rivers The Factotums carry the mantle of Britain's most prolific 60's Beach Boys fans covering three different compositions in 1966. This was their first Beach Boys cover, it's fairly close to the original though the production gives it an almost proto-Bubblegum feel (think The Archies). The vocals are not as intricate as some of their other releases but they give it a decent show of things, just not something I would play too often.

5. THE SUMMER SET-"Farmer's Daughter" U.K. Columbia DB 8004 1966

U.K. foursome The Summer Set were purveyors of the American "West Coast" sound so it was only fitting that they would cover a Beach Boys track (curiously they were also The Top Ten Allstars in Germany where they issued no less than four other Beach Boys covers!). This track originally released by Brian and the boys on their 1963 "Surfin' USA" LP and is deftly handled thanks to top notch production by Spencer Lloyd Mason and sounds more like a church choir than a rock n roll band thanks to it's minimal somber orchestration bringing the band's vocal prowess to the front!

6. THE FACTOTUMS-"In My Room" U.K. Piccadilly 7N.35333 1966

As mentioned above The Factotums covered three Beach Boys tunes. This was the flip of their reading of "Here Today". This was the band's third single and the first of four releases for Piccadilly records. I'm going to be ultra critical here because "In My Room" is hands down my favorite Beach Boys tune, but The Factotums do a halfway decent version of it, though they really don't do much but try and replicate it I will have to say it's pretty even handed.

7. TONY RIVERS AND THE CASTAWAYS-"God Only Knows" U.K. Columbia DB 7971 1966

Tony's final Beach Boys cover was issued five months after the above profiled double sider on Immediate. Of course it's got nothing on the original but it's still nothing short of amazing. Tony and the boys vocals are razor sharp and the arrangement (anyone know who was responsible for it?) is equally brilliant!

8. PEANUT-"I'm Waiting For The Day" U.K. Columbia DB 8032 1966

This one is an interesting choice because it wasn't covered by several artists in Britain like "Here Today".  Peanut was a Trinidad born U.K. based singer who cut several singles (she was also later known as Katie Kissoon). This was her third 45, produced by Mark Wirtz (dubbed "the German Tony Hatch" by Keith West of Tomorrow). Wirtz applies his famous "toy town psych" production to the track which includes everything including the kitchen sink making this a merry little romp that bears little resemblance to the original!

9. PETULA CLARK-"J'ai Pas Le Temps (No Go Showboat)" France Disques Vogue V.45-1255 1965

Here's a MEGA obscure Brian Wilson composition originally cut by The Timers in 1963 (with Brian and Mike Love on vocals). Petula cut this version in French where it was issued as a B-side, it eschews the high falsettos of the original and has your typical mundane Ye-Ye feel to it. It's not horrible but it's nothing to write home about either....

10. DANI SHERIDAN-"Guess I'm Dumb" U.K. Planet PLF.106 1966

One of the most collectible singles on Shel Talmy's short lived Planet records label is this cover of "Guess I'm Dumb" by the female vocalist Dani Sheridan. The vocals are silky smooth and the production is incredible with subtle strings, brass etc. Powerful stuff!!  No wonder it's so much moolah!

All scans courtesy of

Monday, January 15, 2024

Ska Cash In's : The Great North American Ska Invasion Of 1964

We profiled ten British 60's ska cash in's back in 2018 which you can view here. I decided to broaden the category for ten more from the United States. Most of these date from 1964. There's a reason for this dear reader if you will allow me to explain. In the 90's I was at an Inspector 7 gig in New Brunswick and I met an older Jamaican lady who's son was in a reggae band on the bill. She told me that in 1964 she was brought over from Jamaica to "dance the ska" at the Jamaica pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair and that the music industry in the United States was certain that ska (which was on occasion also referred to as "blue beat" or "Jamaica ska") was going to be "the next big thing" like Bossa Nova had been. Unfortunately it didn't happen and as a result there was a host of American releases of Jamaican ska 45's and LP's released here. More unfortunate was that it created a brief dash of cheezy cash ins, often by Calypso or mambo artists. In researching for this piece I discovered that most, if not all of these were firmly in two camps, one was rooted in the previously mentioned genres while the other in an almost polar opposite "white" pop field (I resisted adding Annette Funicello's dreadful "Jamaica Ska" to the list).  Most of them are rubbish and this list is for completists only but I'll let you be the judge:

1. MARK THATCHER-"The Blue Beat" U.S. United Artists UA 734 1964

This one is pure pap. A white guy affecting that awful banana boat accent ("come on and do de blue beat") that has me absolutely gasping in horror because to me it's a few steps away from "black face". The music backing is incredibly antiseptic and completely devoid of any signs of mambo or Latin rhythms like many others on this list and ranks as one of the more deplorable entries.


2. JERRY JACKSON-"Shrimp Boats (Jamaican Ska)" U.S. Columbia 4-43056 1964

This one is more like a New Orleans r&b ballad with a ska rhythm in the background then a straight up ska cash in like most of this piece's entries. It reminds me of Brook Brenton being backed by Byron Lee and The Dragonaires! Not bad actually,

3. DEAN JONES-"Women (Ska-Da-La-De-Da)" U.S. valiant 6055 1964

Though I might be pushing it by sticking this in a "ska" list this Dean Jones (yes THAT Dean Jones of Disney film fame) number is a killer. Over the top of a "Watermelon Man" melody Dean belts out this jazzy/blues stormer that kicks into a ska rhythm during the main chorus. Pure gold!

4. SHAWN ELLIOTT-"Shame And Scandal" U.S. Roulette R-4586 1964

Originally recorded by Sir Lancelot and the Caribbean Serenaders this cover was released a whole year before The Wailers and though it's still delivered in the mock West Indian accents Puerto Rican vocalist Shawn Elliott sounds more sincere in his delivery. The musical backing is tight and the lyrics are a gas ("your Daddy ain't your Daddy but your Daddy don't know").

5. MANGO JONES AND HIS ORCHESTRA-"Coffee Street Ska" U.S. Vee Jay VJ-603 1964

Back in the 90's I stumbled upon the entire LP by Mango Jones & His Orchestra with The Harry Ballu Singers. What immediately struck me was how cheezy it was. It was as if Ricky Ricardo suddenly came home one day and bellowed "Luuuuuucy we've gone ska" and immediately the mambo had a few ska rhythms thrown in and "ska ska ska" (or possibly "ska ska ska Jamaica ska") being shouted at every opportunity. Then add these Swingle Singers style vocals on it and you can't get anymore white middle class lounge music than this. Ska? Barely.

6. "BABY" EARL AND THE TRINI-DADS-"Everybody Do The Ska" U.S, S.P.Q.R. 45-3317 1964

Despite the name this group was American and was a ska alter ego of the S.P.Q.R. records house act The Church Street Five and ranks as the most expensive of all of today's records in this list with copies fetching anywhere from $100 on up! It sounds a bit like a Fishbone or The Untouchables (the 80's L.A sort) record cut for a John Water's 60's film! It's extremely uptempo and catchy (the sax is positively wild) with it's twangy guitars, frat boy chorus vocals and squawking sax making for a totally infectious groove!

7. BOBBY JAY AND THE HAWKS-"Come See Come Ska" U.S. LP track Warner Brothers W 1563 1964

There is some speculation that The Hawks on this are The Hawks of Levon and The Hawks (pre-Band) fame but I can find no info to support this. Taken from an entire LP of ska themed instrumentals this isn't half bad sounding like proto-Sunset Strip pre-garage rock a go-go doing ska: very slick production, sax, combo organ and twangy surf guitars. Interesting but probably tedious for an entire LP (which interestingly does not come cheap).

8. THE BAJA MARIMBA BAND-"Baja Ska" U.S. Almo International 211 1964

The Baja Marimba band were one of those bands always pictured on the dust jackets of my parent's Herb Alpert LP's. This is by far the weirdest of all of today's selections. The cheezy organ is really nifty and the brass is slick and punchy but the marimbas ruin it for me. In retrospect it sounds like Acker Bilk jamming elevator music with Ernest Wranglin and Baba Brooks! Best of all there's no white people singing in mock Caribbean accents, phew!

9. THE FLEETWOODS-"Ska Light, Ska Bright (Jamaica Ska)" U.S. Dolton 97 1964

Even the hoary old Fleetwoods from my Dad's teenage years got in on the craze! This is not as terrible as I expected musically anyway as the backing track is slick and reminds me a lot of Millie's "My Boy Lollipop" it's the fake Jamaican accent on the lead vocals that's got my toes curling up in my Solovairs! I never imagined a ska version of "Star Light Star Bright" so here it is!

10. RAY RIVERA-"Do The Blue Beat (Jamaica Ska)" U.S. RCA Victor 47-8372 1964

Jokingly referred to on 45cat by "Ray Rivera the Godfather of skinhead reggae"  this number was copied note for note by Kiwi singer Dinah Lee and also released by Mark Thatcher (see #1 above) . As mentioned previously lots of Latin music artists moved seamlessly through Bossa Nova and briefly into ska (albeit plastic ska in most cases) and Latin bandleader Ray Rivera is no exception. However this number seems to shed any Latin/mambo sounds and is musically more akin to a British cash in from the period and the lead singer almost sounds British as well making it the least cringy of all of these.....

All scans courtesy of

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

U.S. Soul/R&B/Jazz/Blues 45's For January

1. JOHNNY LYTLE-"The Man" Constellation C-145 1965

Drummer/vibraphonist Johnny Lytle has a small  selection of moddy/moody jazzy instrumental 45's and this one is probably my favorite as it's a perfect mix of vibes, horns and Hammond. This was his fourth sibgle, and his only one on the Constellation label.

2. MERL SAUNDERS QUINTET-"Soul Grooving" Galaxy 755 1967

My pal Jennie Wasserman hipped me to this funky little horns versus organ instrumental groovy many years ago and I am still on the hunt for it. There's some wonky sax on it that gives it a funky uptown feel as well as an incredible guitar solo immediately followed by a wailing Hammond solo.

3. HOLLYWOOD FLAMES-"I'm Gonna Stand By You" Symbol 215 1966

Here's one I know absolutely zip about. It's a mid tempo call and response soul groover with a distinctly Motown feel to it with the handclaps and female backing vocals. I really dig the atmospheric organ that trills along with the melody during the vocal parts.

4. TED FORD-"You're Gonna Need Me" Sound Stage 45-2604 1968

This uptempo horns driven floor filler came to my attention in the late 80's on my first Northern Soul compilation CD ("Up All Night 30 Northern Soul Classics"). The arrangement and delivery betray the '68 release date and it always reminded me of a more sophisticated/well produced Robert Parker side.

5. THE MIGHTY MARVELOS-"Talkin' Bout Ya Baby" ABC 11011 1967 

Previously known as The Marvelos (and their 1965 hit "I Do"), this was the flip of their first single under their new moniker. It's a fast paced number playing to the band's intricate backing vocal strengths with some sharp brassy backing.

6. BENNY GORDON AND THE SOUL BROTHERS-"What Is Soul" RCA Victor 47-9194 1967

This cover of Ben E. King's powerful 1966 hit is re-interpreted by by Benny Gordon and company the following year and was their third single of an eventual four 45's on the RCA Victor label. Though not as vocally strong as the original the congas and the funky Stax style horns make it an interesting version nonetheless!

7. CHUCK BRADFORD-"You're Going To Miss Me (When I'm Gone)" Fire 505 1961

I will pretty much snatch up anything I find on the Fire label and this one is no exception. Powered by a "Last Night" style style groove (complete with a honky sax solo) it's an excellent party record that I know absolutely nothing about!

8. L.H. & THE MEMPHIS SOUNDS-"Out Of Control" Hollywood 1122 1968

Here's an recent discovery of mine that was yet another anonymous release that was the brainchild of Memphis sax player Charles "Packy" Axton , son of Stax records co-founder Estelle Axton. Though not as gritty as some of his other releases (ie The Packers or The Martinis) it's a half decent, hard driving mid tempo number that was recorded after Axton returned to Memphis from his Los Angeles soujourn. Interestingly it's not an instrumental, does anyone know how the vocalist is?

9. MICKEY & SYLVIA-"Baby You're So Fine" Willow 45-2300 1961

This track was dropped one year before the pair found stardom with their smash "Love Is Strange" (a re-release of a 1958 recording). This tune was their first track for the Willow label and it's a driving saxophone versus piano instrumental that is positively infectious!

10. JACK MONTGOMERY-"Dearly Beloved" Scepter SCE 12152 1966

This MEGA expensive baritone soul ballad has a Motown style backbeat, falsetto backing vocals, vibes and strings making it a Pensioner Soul must have and driving it's price into the ridiculously un-affordable zone. Regardless of it's in demand status with the geriatric floor shuffling set it's nothing short of brilliant.

All scans c/o