Some of my favorite garage/ psych sounds of the '60's were released on the Dunwich Record label, which began at the dawn of the garage era in 1965. Three Chicago based producer/ A&R types (Bill Traut, Eddie Higgins and George Badonsky) changed the name of the label which they started in 1963 with little success (Amboy), and scored a massive regional hit straight out of the box with The Shadows Of Knight's version of the recently released 'Gloria', waxed by (Van Morrison's) Them. The trio also acted as a production team that licensed many excellent (and marginal) records to other labels up until the 1970's as well.
When it comes down to it, "Last Time Around" from The Del-Vetts may be the ultimate Dunwich moment (although my wife would argue for The Banshees 'Project Blue', but I'm not the biggest fan of that record, personally). With an infectious stop-start arrangement, this fuzzed out monster is easily one of the finest records of its type! Surprisingly, this record actually made the national top 40, which I was very surprised to learn (although it's not an easy record to find). Sadly, singer Jim Lauer also ended up in a mental institution.
Back to that intial release; The Shadows Of Knight featured Chicago's answer to Mick Jagger (Jimmy Sohns) as their lead vocalist, and my father in law has great stories of seeing The Shadows Of Knight at teen clubs, and how Jimmy was a true showman of the highest order and influenced HIM to start his own garage band (The Id), who released a 45 in 1966 (but that's another story). while the Shadows version of 'Gloria' is cool, it's the flip, 'Dark Side', that I dig the most. Written by band members Warren Rogers and Jimmy Sohns, this number has a gothic garage vibe that is far more exciting to me than their cover of 'Gloria'. Dunwich Records began to be nationally distributed through Atco almost immediately, upon the success of this single.
If The Pride And Joy sounds similar to the Del-Vetts (especially in that wicked fuzz tone and snotty vocals) it's no coincidence- they are the same group. Allegedly, the Del-Vetts fan club suggested that they change their name to The Pride & Joy and the group obliged (such nice Chicago boys!)
This record also boils over with driving fuzz tone intensity but adds an amazing melodic sense that, in a perfect world, would have been a massive hit. These guys were VERY good- listen to those spot-on group harmonies on the chorus as well as the fantastic musicianship that seems ready made for your very own perfect world mod freakout dance scene complete with flashing lights and beautiful go-go girls dancing in, out, or around cages. Ah, for a perfect world...
Saturday's Children were probably Dunwich Records most musically advanced group. Lead singer/ co-writer Ron Holder of the fantastic group Saturday's Children passed away about a year and a half ago. A friend of his was kind enough to share the fantastic photo of Ron taken back around the time this record was released. Look closely at both the back wall and drum head to see "Saturday's Children" proudly on display.
There's no denying that the harmony and hook laden 'If You're Ready' is an excellent Beatle-esque number! Ron Holder and Geoff Boyan acted as the groups' Lennon/McCartney and penned tunes that were sophisticated, catchy and a perfect fit for those times AND these times. The group certainly deserved the success they never achieved, as they were clearly a talented bunch on every front. The group *did* open for the Beach Boys at McCormick Place in Chicago in 1966, which was probably one of the most exciting moments of their too-short career.
Saturday's Children released three 45's; one of which is the incredible Christmas single 'Deck Five b/w Christmas Sounds" that I traditionally share every December on the Daily 45.
France has never been fertile ground for inbred Rock and Pop at a real popular, mass cultural level; any French rocker or Pop fan will tell you that... Literature, Classical and Academic Arts such as paintings, sculpture, even comic book drawings and cartoon illustrations, YES! As far as music goes, some Classical again, maybe too in the great Music Hall revue tradition as in Folie Bergères, Moulin Rouge etc. and even greater music in movie scores, 'cause we do have some of the best library music writers and arrangers in modern contemporary it's true, but... Real Pop and Rock music, er... NO! It's always been a backyard business, found in Home studios and private gardens.
Once you have that in mind, and you are ready to dig a little deeper out of the mainstream, on the sideways and in the margins, you WILL ocasionally find some goodies, gems even, sometimes even an underground genius here and there... it's like Diggin' for Gold! :-)
Well, while not exactly a Masterpiece for times to come, such is the case for "Pop-IN-court", a private "Secret Affair" of Modern Pop chic found in the back alley of La Rue Popincourt, a famous street in Paris :
British 45's of the 60's are one of the 'ultimate' listening experiences to my ears; the sounds of a cultural renaissance whose influence is still felt in music fifty years on.
For part two of this series, we'll begin with a phenomenal piece if moody British beat from 1965, and in fact the only 45 issued by this group in the US. The Poets (not to be confused with the US soul group of the same name, who scored a minor hit with 'She Blew A Good Thing'), were managed and produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, himself most famous (and notorious) as the manager/producer of the Rolling Stones. With its' chiming 12 string guitar, huge reverb drone, and punky vocals, its practically a precursor to the Velvet Underground but with a Scottish accent. The Poets were from Glasgow, released a few more singles that sank without a trace and sadly broke up before recording a full album.
While 1967's "Grounded" was the b-side (to the downright awful "Created By Clive"), this is the side that has lived on in the hearts of collectors and fans of British beat. It also blows my mind that two members of this band (Chris Squire and Peter Banks) formed progressive rock band Yes only one year after this record was cut; a massive indication of changing tastes in music.
Regardless of its' lineage, this is an incredible record featuring some of the finest songwriting of the freakbeat era.
For less than two years during '67-'68, London's Soft Machine (as headed by bassist/ vocalist/ songwriter Kevin Ayers) were occupying the same type of (inner) space as the Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd. In fact, the two groups played together often at the legendary UFO Club. Much like Floyd after Syd Barrett, The Soft Machine carried on but in a wholly different style (jazz fusion) after the departure of Kevin Ayers at the end of an extensive tour supporting the Jimi Hendrix Experience (what a lineup!). The group was also managed by the Hendrix team of Mike Jeffreys and Chas Chandler, who also acted as their producer.
Fortunately, the group left behind an incredible debut single ("Love Makes Sweet Music" that I still do not own and has been on my want list for years) and their masterpiece debut LP. On the LP, the songs meld together as one long psychedelic suite, yet their US label ABC Probe was able to extract "Why Are We Sleeping" as a single, backed with Ayers "Joy Of A Toy" for the b-side of this 1968 release. Joy Of A Toy became the title of Ayers solo debut.
"Why Are We Sleeping" is my favorite 3 and a half minutes from the Soft Machine LP, as Ayers distorted bass (and baritone vocals) fights playfully for space with Mike Ratledge's organ swells, all the while drummer Robert Wyatt swings like a mofo (there's no guitar on this track), capped off by those haunting female harmonies. Forty five years later and the song is STILL relevant, perhaps even more so- so much happens all around us but so many folks walk through life filled with apathy.
The V.I.P's were a group formed in remote Carlisle, UK and have a very interesting history. The group released a few failed singles, became known as Art for one glorious 45 ("Rome Take Away Three") and an LP, then morphed into Spooky Tooth. Keith Emerson (pre-Nice) was also in the group at (I think) the time this record was recorded in 1966. This track is a superb cover of a highly sought after early 45 by the great Joe Tex.
Certain aspects of music got VERY strange in the late '60's-early '70's; changing sounds and trends brought about big changes in the type of records that were pushed as hit singles.
Records intended for the AM radio market cranked up the ODD-ometer, and some downright FREAKY tracks were released which never became hits but survive as relics from a very different age. An age where remnants of the psychedelic sound mated with bubblegum songcraft and a pinch of the 'HEAVY' rock (without the ...'n' roll) fused together.
In only their second year of releases, Status Quo's 'Make Me Stay A Bit Longer' was the seventh single from this prolific band that were a textbook example of starting off very psychedelic (their debut 45, 'Pictures Of Matchstick Men') and eventually becoming a long running British institution of hard rock. Status Quo released their 100th single in 2013!
'Make Me Stay A Bit Longer' finds the group in transition from the swirly coloured early releases into 'heavy' territory. While the chord changes on the verse are jarring and unconventional (although this effect was used later on to great effect by Sonic Youth and the bands that followed in their footsteps), the chorus is catchy and very poppy indeed. It failed to chart ANYWHERE.
'Getting Thru To You' seems to be a one off from Seattle group The Four Below Zero. The record has a great swagger that wouldn't sound out of place on the score of a late '60's biker flick, and 1:00 into the track, the whole vibe changes up and gets really weird. The it's all over at 1:32, leaving me scratching my head saying "What was THAT?" Not unlike the quirky songwriting styles of the likes of bands such as Neutral Milk Hotel.
While the release date of 'Too Fortiche', by a French studio project called Les Yper Sound is listed as 1967, it sure sounds a bit later to me. Take some outrageous fuzzed out guitar, add a few drum breaks and otherworldly, spaced out synthesiser blips and the results are one FREAKY record. The men behind the release Pierre Henry and Michael Colombier, were a electronic music pioneer and an innovator in musique concrete composition and a producer/ writer of film scores, respectively. The synth work foreshadowed the likes of progressive '70's groups such as Gong, Hawkwind, and Neu.
While The Sweet (later, simply, Sweet) are one of the quintessential glam rock groups, they busted out a serious freak out jam as the flip side of their glam hit 'Little Willie' in 1972. Starting off with an outrageous heavy guitar intro, the group launches into a variation of the 'Foxy Lady' riff and rhythm, for an ass kicking romp thru some seriously heavy, seriously psychedelic sounds. Interestingly enough, this particular copy came from the haul of an early 70's soul DJ whose collection I purchased, and out of the hundreds of 45's, very few of them were rock records. He marked the 'hot' side of records with an X, and it's no surprise that he put the 'X' on 'The Man From Mecca' and not 'Little Willie'. Makes perfect sense to me, as I could easily see spinning this disc along side early funk and '70's soul; I bet he lit up the dance floor when he did it back in the day, too.