Thursday, May 23, 2024

Deram Records Top 10

1. THE MOVE-"Night Of Fear" Deram DM 109 1966

The Move got a reputation of being a slick 5 piece soul music floor show with syncopated dance moves and the band's four vocalists standing across the stage in a line doing obscure gems like Gladys Knight's "Stop Get A Hold Of Myself" or Joe Tex's "You Better Believe It". But when brought in as one of Deram's earliest signings their musical style shifted to originals penned by lead guitarist Roy Wood and the soul covers were left at the door of the recording studio (though they were still on the soul train both on air for BBC sessions and their live repertoire). Roy wrote their debut, "Night Of Fear" with it's distinct "War Of 1812" intro lick, something he said came from his parents love of classical music. It was coincidentally used the previous year by Ike and Tina Turner on their Loma 45 "Tell Her I'm Not Home", something a band with deep appreciation of soul music might well have been familiar with. Regardless it's an amazing track about nightmares (though of course everyone thought it was about a bad acid trip), punctuated by some amazing harmonies and resident mod fashion plate on bass Ace Kefford who adds the possibility of "trippier" elements at play when he soulfully croons "Just about to flip your mind, just about to trip your mind" in a Steve Winwood-esque style the bridge. The band's tight four part harmonies are the proverbial cherry bomb on top.

2. FRIENDS-"Mythological Sunday" Deram DM 198 1968

Friends were a studio only concoction featuring former Ivy League member John Carter and probably a who's who of session musicians. "Mythological Sunday" was the flip side of the insipidly dreadful "Piccolo Man", probably the label's worst offering after the dreadful "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman". Led by an eerie Mellotron that weaves together a gentle pop psych harmony number that sounds like a '68 Moody Blues outtake, it's a slow build.  The bridge sweeps in with a pop psych opus comprised by everything under the studio sink with harpsichord, majestic/soaring harmonies, piano etc. The number fades out and returns with an ominous solitary organ chord drone and war sound affects as a somber regimental march comes closer and closer with the military chorus singing: "If a million men went off to fight a war in foreign lands and fifty thousand came back home with blood upon their hands, would any soldier that was left come back to fight once more if he could know before he died what he was fighting for" before drifting back off an ending with the Mellotron notes that begin the track.

3. DAVID BOWIE-"The London Boys" Deram DM 107 1966

Forget "My Generation", "The London Boys" was THE archetype 60's mod anthem. It was, and still is......and much more. Originally recorded when Bowie was signed to Pye, the powers that were rejected the track because of it's lyrics about taking pills. His new label Deram, actually signed him after hearing the track and it was utilized as the flip of his debut Deram release "Rubber Band". From it's somber, glum beginning warble to the lifting full throttle cabaret ending (which David Robert Jones delivers like the Frank Sinatra of modernism) the number is a masterpiece. Restrained by a simple bass/organ backing with strains of brass (muted trumpet and woodwinds) the song builds as the pitch of Bowie's plight reaches it's full descent. Lyrically poignant and proud despite the "against all odds" scenario of hopelessness and failure faced by the song's young protagonist, "The London Boys" ages well. Bowie thought so too and re-recorded it for his aborted (and later posthumously released) LP "Toy" and performed it live several times in the early 2000's (usually sticking to the original arrangement) .

4. TINTERN ABBEY-"Beeside" Deram DM 164 1967

This two sider is for me, the DEFINITIVE British 60's psychedelic 45. "Beeside" begins with a faint piano that descends in volume until banished by a burst of slowed down cymbal flashes and a tapestry of Mellotron. Then there's some Macca '66-'67 style bass and backwards guitars before the ethereal lead vocals begin. The whole track is a mindblast, there's so much going on it it musically while the lead singer sings about pollination in a piece that at times musically reminds me of the majesty of the classic piece "Carnival Of Animals". And in the timely British pop psych tradition there's some muted  regal trumpet during the chorus that meshes really nicely with the Mellotron. This is British 60's psychedelia encapsulated accept no substitutes or imitations.

5. DENNY LAINE-"Say You Don't Mind" Deram DM 122 1967

"Say You Don't Mind" is one of those classic Deram releases that broke new grounds (The Move, Cat Stevens, Bowie, Tintern Abbey etc).  From it's renaissance evoking woodwinds, strings and rocking backing track it should've been a number one.  No doubt it was probably kept away by some tripe like Engelbert or The New Seekers.  But you can say this, there weren't many people doing this "string section" bit this early on in Deram's roster, which is sad because Denny Laine never really reaped the rewards he should have from this concept.  "Groundbreaking" I think one of the "Disc & Music Echo" clips I have somewhere said upon it's release.  Denny's voice is strong and hits some notes few could get away with, though Colin Blunstone did a wonderful reworking as a single in 1972. Rumor has it that he recorded an entire LP worth of material at the time, but the only thing that was forthcoming was one more single by him for the label eight months later. 

6. VIRGIN SLEEP-"Secret" Deram DM 173 1968 

We profiled Virgin Sleep's lush debut "Love" in one of our earliest posts (see here). Five months later in January 1968 they returned with this, their second and unfortunately final Deram single, this time with legendary producer/arranger Keith Mansfield providing some stunning orchestral backing. With it's extremely heavy orchestral intro, thundering drums and this high pitched note that is either a flute or some angelic vocals (or both) it's a Brit psych pop magnum opus. Eventually there is a discernible flute as well and in the ultimate "toy town psych" tradition there is a host of mentions of numerous nursery rhyme friendly animals making it a veritable barnyard of psychedelia all concerning the animals and the ability or inability to keep the "secret" ("butterflies sailing in the breeze, go tell it to the queen of the bees now she knows...spider spinning it's web of silk watching the ducks down by the mill, he'll keep the secret until he's ready.."). 

7. TEN YEARS AFTER-"The Sounds" Deram DM 176 1968
"The Sounds" should have been the A-side. Forget any blues pretensions or 20 minute Slim Harpo covers, "The Sounds" is a full on freakbeat gas from start to finish. Curiously it reminds me a bit of Dennis Couldry's "I Am Nearly There" (UK Decca F 12734 issued the same month) with it's downtrodden, morose vocals with lyrics of mental confusion brought on by "the sounds". Is it about paranoia? A bad trip? A man who has just about had enough of life?  You decide. There's occasional bluesy but blistering guitar licks that burst out while the main verses feature a subtle organ and almost Gregorian chant backing vocals that gloomily plod along like a freakout dirge and it just builds and builds. The organ gets funkier and sound affects slowly start to pile on creating a brilliant cacophony of paranoia and confusion. It stops abruptly and slowly creeps back in for a few seconds. Positively trippy, man.

8. THE 23RD TURNOFF-"Michael Angelo" Deram DM 150 1967
Out of the ashes from Liverpool beat latecomers The Kirkbys (pronounced "Kirby's", thanks Amanda!) lead singer Jimmy Campbell rebranded and relaunched them as The 23rd Turnoff (named after a Liverpool exit on the Motorway, if liner notes to a See For Miles comp LP are to be believed), though apparently Campbell is the only member actually participating in the recording. The lush orchestration and incredibly generous use of phasing are perfectly in keeping with the times as are the regal trumpet trills (is that a piccolo trumpet perhaps?) and an organ going through a Leslie speaker. The lyrics are equally profound ("why should it be that a man such as me who cares not for money and fame, shouldn't be rich with God's natural gifts to have something to show at the end of life's game"). And as was the case with Tintern Abbey, we got but one brilliant single out of them and then nothing.

9. THE EYES OF BLUE-"Supermarket Full Of Cans" Deram DM 114 1967

"Gettin' kind of hung up baby, wondering what you're gonna do...." intones the beat group styled lead singer of The Eyes Of Blue. From their rep back home in Swansea as blue eyed soul purveyors you would expect a lead singer aping Otis Redding. Nope. But that's where the charm of these fellas comes in. Their musical backing is full on high class and probably would have (or maybe might have?) moved the floors at Wigan Casino with with it's precision piano and vibes. But it's the fact that the lead singer is not singing in a soulful way that mimics a black American that makes it work! The number's strength is also due in no small part thanks to in house producer Noel Walker (also responsible for work with fellow label mates and soul loving Welshman Amen Corner). It's 101 mph delivery and the catchy vibes and enthusiastic punctual shouts of "Hey!" before the chorus are positively infectious as are the Action styled falsetto backing vocals. This was their second and  last single on Deram before jumping to Mercury and going prog the following year. Yuck.

10. THE PYRAMID-"The Summer Of Last Year" Deram DM 11 1967

"I just passed through the place where the sea was warm and clear, and the sun, and the sun was always hot in the summer of last year...", or so went the pastoral harmony pop and sole release by The Pyramid, who were discussed in one of our earliest posts (here). The band's harmonies are pure Californian/West Coast that would do the Association proud but they also bring to mind The Who's backing vocals on say "In The City" or "Glow Girl". There's subtle organ and some heavy fuzz bass (care of one John Paul Jones) and incredible knob twiddling by Denny Cordell (responsible for other Deram acts Beverely and Denny Laine) but it's those layers of vocals and harmonies that keep bringing me back again and again. Pop over to the link above for the original post to read memories of the single's recording by original member Mike Lease.

All label scans c/o of

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