We begin this installment by featuring a British cover of the hippest record that The Four Seasons ever cut, the piano driven mod classic that is 'Beggin'".
Timebox were an art school-formed group that were deeply influenced by US soul and soul-jazz sounds, and those influences are heard to their greatest capacity on this track. The group never saw much success (this record made the lowest regions of the UK top 40 and was their only hit). The key members regrouped in 1969 in the progressive rock bag as Patto (named after lead vocalist Michael Patrick 'Patto' McCarthy), and guitarist Ollie Halsall went on to play guitar on (the excellent) soundtrack from The Rutles TV special All You Need Is Cash.
Both the Timebox and Four Seasons versions of Beggin' are driven rhythmically in a way that's so strong that it almost makes the song itself inconsequential. However, in the case of the song itself, it too is strong, making for the type of record that's gonna make people stand up and take notice; and they have for 46 years now.
Of course The Hollies scored several hits during The British Invasion and beyond, but this track, tucked away as the b-side to their massive hit 'Bus Stop', is one of their greatest (and toughest) beat numbers. The Hollies were top notch musicians, and friends-since-childhood Allan Clarke and Graham Nash had one of the greatest harmony vocal blends to the east of The Everly Brothers, who, also recorded a fantastic version of this track on their incredible 1966 LP Two Yanks In England. The backing band on the Everly's LP was none other than....drumroll please...THE HOLLIES! The brilliant songwriter "L. Ransford" who's listed on the label? It's none other than Hollies Allan Clarke, Graham Nash and Tony Hicks wiriting under a pseudonym. Perhaps in their modesty they didn't want to rub in the fact that they could out-sing, out-play, and even out-write just about anyone else on the scene.
Backwards track? Check. Fuzz guitar? Check. Swirling orchestration? Check. Must be England, 1967! The Marmalade take obvious cues from The Beatles first release of 1967 (Penny Lane b/w Strawberry Fields Forever) here, and the end results are a charming, lovely slice of English pop-psych.
This long-running Scottish group (their original name was the Gaylords) formed in Glasgow in 1961, changed their name to The Marmalade in 1966 and saw a string of massive hits in the UK from 1968 til 1972. The group is still active today with only one original member(!)
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 :
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.
Once again, I'll preface this post by saying if you like what you hear from Little Barrie, I suggest you buy their entire catalog and (definitely) go to a live gig if you have a chance. Their most recent release (King Of The Waves) is one of the great LP's of recent years, hands down!
We left off around the mid-'00's, and in 2005, Little Barrie's excellent debut full length (We Are Little Barrie) was released, containing a few tracks that had previously been released on 7" and a whole lot more. "Free Salute" was the single drawn from the LP, and the b-side is a SMOKING hot BBC version of "Didn't Mean A Thing", which itself was previously issued on the 'Memories Well" 45. This live version finds the band in top form. Just dig the tone, fire and taste of Barrie's guitar playing; it's the type of thing that seperates true talent from reheated, unispired blues licks.
"Burned Out" was an early (2002) single that made its way onto the Little Barrie debut LP, and DAMN is that track funky! DJ Nu Mark remixed it, and it takes the track into new terrain in the way that only an exceptional remix can (and adds a downright funny drum break section as well). Genuine Records released a cool white label promo 7" of the remix.
Spike Priggen (AKA "Cookie" of Bedazzled.tv and Scopitones.com) will be DeeJaying at Sidecar on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn every other Thursday starting January 10th. I'll be "spinning" everything from Freakbeat to Dub, up to and including Glam, Bubblegum, Pop-Psych, Sunshine Pop, Garage Rock, Girl Groups, British Invasion, Punk, New Wave, Northern Soul, Ska, Funk, Soundtracks & other great musics of the 60's, 70's, 80's and beyond. Also expect to see some obscure Mod Retro Video action, courtesy of Bedazzled.tv on the monitors. Link to FaceBook Event page.
10 minutes of vintage Marianne. Buy The Very Best of Marianne Faithfull
"The Flower Pot Men were a British pop group created in 1967 as a result of the single "Let's Go to San Francisco", recorded by session musicians, becoming a major UK Top 20 and Continental Europe hit in the autumn of 1967. The group's sound was characterised by rich, three-part vocal harmonies." Link.
This stoned sounding gem is the B side to "Love". The "Sleep" certainly sound like their name, as they sing about an abandoned insane asylum near Sunbury on Thames. The drifty sounding vocals are perfect for a song about 'a twilight world', where children 'play on swings and roundabouts, some of them will never get out'. Sounds positively creepy and you can easily conjure up the look, smell and feel of an abandoned asylum. Both this and the A side were written by group member Tony Rees.
"Love" by The Virgin Sleep is one of my favourite records from 1967. It takes me straight back to the year when music seemed to progress, change, and startle at an amazing rate. Released Sept 1, 1967, the Virgin Sleep hailed from the Richmond area of London. A four piece, they were originally Themselves, but changed to a more Kings Road sounding name, and recorded this vaguely Eastern sounding song, loosely based on a Buddhist chant. It deftly blends sitars with a string section and is musical nirvana to those of us who enjoy Psych mixed with a strong batch of pop. This song should have been a huge hit, but unfortunately, it didn't bother the charts. Fortunately, Deram gave them a 2 record deal, because The Virgin Sleep released one more single, which we will come to in due time. The B side of this record, "Halliford House" is a worthy contender itself and we will take a listen to it next. These are the kind of records that made Deram such a great label!