Possibly the happiest a band’s ever been to perform their hit single.
Posts Tagged ‘British Invasion’
Given the indelible mark Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders made with Clint Ballard Jr.’s “Game of Love” (#2 in the UK, chart-topping in the U.S.) it’s surprising just how short they ran as a unit. Nine singles, two albums, and by 1965 they’d gone their separate ways. In fact, their run ended as their singles (“It’s Just a Little Bit Too Late” from this second LP and “She Needs Love,” included on this reissue as a bonus) failed to capitalize on their breakthrough and Fontana’s solo career was realized more quickly than had previously been expected. It’s reported that he informed the band of his departure as he walked off stage midway through an October 1965 live show. Fontana and the band continued on separately (the latter scoring quickly with Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager’s “A Groovy Kind of Love”), and this second album, released three months after the split, was left to founder.
Fontana and the band had been pulling in different directions before the split – the former looking to highlight his singing, the latter (lead by guitarist and future 10cc founder, Eric Stewart) their instrumental abilities. The latter’s versatility is highlighted in the range of songs tackled on this second album – a collection that was put together over a longer period of time than the single day afforded their debut. There are only two originals (“Like I Did” and “Long Time Comin’”), both mid-tempo beat numbers written by Fontana under his given name of Glyn Ellis. The rest of the album picks up songs from a talented array of American writers, including Leiber & Stoller, Gene Pitney, Chuck Berry, Van McCoy, Goffin & King, Willie Dixon and Burt Bacharach. The selections are typically UK-centric, including a UK hit (“Memphis, Tennessee”) that was a non-charting U.S. B-side, and Merseybeat favorites from Richard Barrett (“Some Other Guy”) and Bill Haley (“Skinny Minnie”).
The album included the follow-up single to “Game of Love,” sticking with Clint Ballard for “It’s Just a Little Bit Too Late.” Despite its great beat, twangy guitar and catchy lyric, it only edged into the UK Top 20, and fell short of the U.S. Top 40. The group’s last single, included here as a bonus track, was yet another Ballard beat-ballad, “She Needs Love,” which cracked the UK Top 40, but failed to chart in the U.S. The album’s original dozen tracks are augmented on this Bear Family reissue with nine rare single and EP sides. Pre-LP singles include Jimmy Breedlove’s “Stop Look and Listen” (b/w a cover of Gene Chandler’s “Duke of Earl”), and the group’s UK smash cover of Major Lance’s sweet soul “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um.” The latter is backed by a cover of the rare Doc Pomus and Phil Spector tune, “She Needs Love,” originally recorded by Ben E. King.
The final three tracks collect the rare Walking on Air EP (which also included “She Needs Love”). Here you’ll find covers of obscure soul favorites by Jimmy Williams (“Walking on Air”), Jimmy Hughes (“I’m Qualified”) and Billy Byers (“Remind My Baby of Me”). Together with producer Jack Bavenstock the group simplified the arrangements to fit the group’s rock ‘n’ roll sound, dropping the heavy sax and keyboards of Rick Hall’s original chart for “I’m Qualified” and upping the tempo on “Remind My Baby of Me.” All tracks are mastered in crisp, mono, and Bear Family’s reissue is housed in a digipack with a 22-page booklet stuffed with photos and liner notes in both German and English. This is a terrific artifact of the British Invasion, made all the richer by the nine bonus tracks, and a terrific complement to the group’s first album. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]
The Move are barely known in the U.S., but their impact on the late-60s British rock scene, and all that tumbled from it, reverberates through to today. By the end of their run, they’d evolved an artier sound that would find full-flower as founders Roy Wood and Bev Bevan, and latter-day member Jeff Lynne, decamped to form the Electric Light Orchestra. But in their prime, they were a rock powerhouse that matched up to the Who’s incendiary music and daring social antics. The group is captured in full-flower of their most famous incarnation on these soundboard tapes, recorded at San Francisco’s Fillmore West in October 1969 on their first and only tour of the U.S. These tapes have floated around bootleg circles, but this is the first complete and official release, endorsed by Sue Wayne, the widow of the band’s vocalist, Carl Wayne.
Wayne had saved the tapes for over thirty years, but it was only in 2003 that digital restoration became sufficiently sophisticated to bring this archive back to life. Sadly, with Wayne’s passing in 2004, the project was once again sidelined. Now fully restored, the song list, plus a ten-minute interview with drummer Bevan, clock in at nearly two hours. The selections include their early single “I Can Hear the Grass Grow,” and fan favorites “Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited” and “Hello Susie.” Also included are covers of Nazz’s “Open My Eyes” and “Under the Ice,” Mann & Weil’s “Don’t Make My Baby Blue” (which the Move likely picked up from the Shadows), Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind” and Ars Nova’s “Fields of People.” The set is surprisingly light on Roy Wood songs, given his position as the band’s main songwriter, but bits of stage patter help sew everything together.
The band’s combination of pop and rock – memorable melodies and tight harmonies played against heavy drums and bass – is a perfect fit for the stage, and particularly for the late-60s Fillmore. The band stretches out on long jams, but their focus contrasts with the meandering discovery of San Francisco’s original ballroom rock. Even Bev Bevan’s drum solo and the melodic salutes woven into “I Can Hear the Grass Grow” sound more like performance than on-the-spot experiment. The set is filled with energy from start to finish, and though the vocals are occasionally often mixed forward, the tapes are solid and reasonably balanced. It’s a shame the Move didn’t tour the U.S. again, as they surely would have been major stateside stars. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
The third volume of Castle Music’s British Invasion anthology is now available domestically for digital download. Originally released in 2002, the 56-track collection digs into the Pye Records vault for sides released amid the British Invasion in 1964. The name act most familiar to U.S. listeners is the Searchers (represented here by the lovely “Don’t Throw Your Love Away, the love-lorn beat rock “I Pretend I’m With You” and two more), but the real riches are in the lesser known acts. Highlights include Rod and Carolyn’s tight duet “Talk to Me,” the Monotones’ hand-clapping “It’s Great,” Vandyke & The Bambis foot-stomping Alley Oop-styled “Doin’ the Mod,” Tommy Quickly’s wrought “You Might As Well Forget Him,” the Wedgewoods’ Seekers-styled “September in the Rain,” and Shane and the Shane Gang’s terrific train-rhythm blues “Whistle Stop.” There are enthusiastic covers of “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “You Can’t Sit Down,” “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” and the Soul Agents’ should have scored a double A-side with “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” and “Mean Woman Blues.” To be fair, there are also dozens of competent singles and B-sides that rightly made little impression on the UK chart and are unknown in the USA. Still, it’s interesting to hear all the things that Pye was throwing at the market to see what would stick. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
With oldies radio having reduced Herman’s Hermits catalog to only a couple of their hit singles, many listeners may be unaware of the group’s immense mid-60s popularity. The Hermits were the top-selling British group in 1965, besting even the Beatles, spurred manic responses from female fans, and starred in two feature-length films. ABKCO’s two-fer pulls together the soundtracks from both 1966’s Hold On! And 1968’s Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. To be fair to the Fab Four, neither of the Hermits’ films holds a creative candle to A Hard Day’s Night (or even Help, really), and while the soundtracks haven’t the brilliance of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, they do combine charming hit singles, interesting explorations of folk-rock, good album tracks, and yes, some filler.
Hold On spun off two hit singles, the music-hall styled “Leaning on the Lamp Post” and the folk-rock “A Must to Avoid.” The latter is one of four titles penned by ace Los Angeles writers P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri. The Hermits’ original version of Sloan & Barri’s “Where Were You When I Needed You” hasn’t the venom of the Grass Roots’ subsequent hit, but Peter Noone’s double tracked vocal is a nice touch, and the band cuts an interesting groove that marries British Invasion beat music and West Coast folk-rock. The title track quickly reveals Sloan’s fascination with Dylan, and the tambourine, hand-claps and waltz-time of “All the Things I Do for You Baby” suggest the Sunset Strip sound of the Leaves and Byrds.
The remainder of Hold On includes the novelty “The George and Dragon” and a generous helping of tunes written by soundtrack specialists Fred Karger, Ben Weisman and Sid Wayne. Wayne and Weisman wrote several of the more passable songs for Elvis Presley’s films, and here they work up the foot-stomping “Got a Feeling,” Zombies-styled “Wild Love,” and, for film co-star Shelley Fabares, the mid-tempo ballad “Make Me Happy.” Mickey Most’s productions, heard here in true stereo, hold up well, sounding punchier and more nuanced than one might have heard through an AM radio in 1966. The entire album clocks in at just over twenty-two minutes, and so it pairs nicely with the Hermits’ second soundtrack.
The Hermits scored their second feature film two years later, but by this time the music scene had moved on from cute mod style to hippie couture, and the band’s commercial fortunes had waned. The soundtrack’s single, “The Most Beautiful Thing in My Life,” managed a measly #131 in the U.S. and didn’t chart at all in the UK. Still, the album contained several interesting songs from ace pop songwriter (and then soon-to-be 10cc founder) Graham Gouldman, including the Hollies-influenced “It’s Nice to be Out in the Morning.” Filling out the track list were the band’s 1965 title hit (reproduced here in mono) and their last top-five, 1967’s “There’s a Kind of Hush.”
ABKCO’s reissue (with fantastic digital transfers by Peter Mew, Teri Landi and Steve Rosenthal) adds a bonus rehearsal session of “Mrs. Brown” in which Peter Noone tries out an a cappella introduction and pins down the tempo. Noone was among the most charming front-men of the British Invasion, and his good nature and hard-work shines through on both the hits and album tracks. Much like the recent Herman’s Hermits documentary, these soundtracks show off an endearing band that cannily picked their material from top-flight writers. The two-fer CD is also available as individual album downloads [1 2], but both soundtracks are recommended, and the two-fer is the way to go. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
This recently formed French quartet has got the sounds of 1960s British R&B, Boogaloo and Freakbeat down, from their punch-in-the-gut mono mix to stellar organ and Fender Rhodes and tasty guitar solos. The Animals, Spencer Davis Group, Pretty Things and early Rolling Stones are obvious antecedents, with an emphasis on bluesy go-go beats that surely make Towerbrown a favorite for the dance floor. Three vocal tracks and the hard-swinging organ-and-guitar instrumental “Let’s Paint it Brown” make up the band’s 4-song debut EP. Available as a limited edition 7” single (email the band for info) or digital download, this one’s sure to keep you grooving. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]
Reelin’ in the Years’ five-DVD set includes excellent documentaries on Dusty Springfield, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Herman’s Hermits and the Small Faces, which are also available individually. Each film is packed with full-length performances (some live, some lip-synched for TV) and interview footage with the principles and other key personnel. Though all four documentaries are worth seeing, the chapters on the Small Faces and Herman’s Hermits are particularly fine. In both of these episodes the filmmakers were able to get hold of a deeper vein of period material, and with the Small Faces relatively unknown in the U.S. and the Hermits known only as non-threatening hit makers, the stories behind the music are particularly interesting.
The bonus disc, available only in the box set, adds nine more performances by Dusty Springfield, seven more by Herman’s Hermits, and over ninety minutes of interview footage that was cut from the final films. The music clips include alternate performances of hits that appear in the documentaries, as well as songs (such as a terrific staging of Springfield’s “Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa” and the Hermits’ obscure “Man With the Cigar”) that don’t appear in the finished films. The interview material really show how unguarded and unrehearsed such encounters were in the 1960s. Fans of specific acts are recommended to their individual film, but anyone who loves the British Invasion should see all four plus the bonus disc. For reviews of the individual documentaries, please see here, here, here and here. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]
It’s Gonna Be All Right: 1963-1965 is one of four documentaries released as part of a five-DVD British Invasion box set by Reelin’ in the Years Productions. Of the four artists profiled (which also include Dusty Springfield, the Small Faces and Herman’s Hermits), Gerry & the Pacemakers might seem the most lightweight. But like all of the artists in this series, what U.S. audiences saw were just the tip of a larger artistic iceberg, and this collection of seventeen vintage musical performances and interviews, television and stage appearances, and contemporary interviews with Gerry Marsden and Bill Harry (founder of the Mersey Beat newspaper) tells more of the band’s story beyond their oft-anthologized hits. The Pacemakers emerge as early exponents of Liverpool’s beat rock, and an act that vied with the Beatles for the seaport town’s music fans.
The parallels between the Pacemakers and the Beatles are many. Both were Liverpool bands with Skiffle roots that turned to covering American R&B. Both honed their live performances in demanding Hamburg gigs, played the Cavern Club, were managed by Brian Epstein, wrote some of their own hits, were produced by George Martin, starred in their own film (Ferry Cross the Mersey), toured America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. The Pacemakers’ music wasn’t as edgy as the Beatles, and Marsden never really varied from his smiling, sometimes hammy, showmanship as a front-man. The group broke in 1963 with “How Do You Do It?” and “I Like It,” and crossed the Atlantic the following year with “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.” Their earlier U.K. singles would find later success in the U.S., though “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “I’m the One” (#1 and a #2, respectively) remained UK-only hits.
The group was on the front-lines of the British Invasion, appearing in the 1964 T.A.M.I. Show, but like many of their peers, they never really evolved. Their success in the UK tailed off in 1965, they charted their last single in the States with 1966’s “Girl on a Swing,” and disbanded a month later. Unlike the Small Faces and Herman’s Hermits volumes, this film provides little documentation of the band’s musicians, and few details of their time in the studio or on the road; this is more a nostalgic pass through their catalog (including a nice anecdote about “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”) than a revelatory document of the band’s history. In addition to the 72-minute documentary, the full individual performances can be viewed via DVD menu options. Bonuses include additional interview footage with and extensive liner notes by Bill Harry. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]
Listen People 1964-1969 is one of four documentaries released as part of a five-DVD British Invasion box set by Reelin’ in the Years Productions. Like the other three, it’s a terrific collection, spanning twenty-two complete vintage performances, period promotional footage, television and stage performances, and contemporary interviews with Peter Noone, Karl Green (bass), Keith Hopwood (guitar) and Barry Whitwam (drums – sitting in front of his awesome gold-sparkle Slingerland drum set). Noone was – and is – one of the most charming front-men of the British Invasion, and the documentary reveals the band to be much more than a backing unit for their vocalist. Their hits were often the lightest of pop songs, but written, played and sung exceptionally, and the group was a charming live act.
The group’s hit singles were brought to them by producer Mickey Most, who had a golden ear for material and arrangements. Their first single, a 1964 cover of Earl-Jean’s “I’m Into Something Good,” was a worldwide smash and followed by a string of singles, some unreleased in the UK, some unreleased in the US, that kept the group at the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic well into 1967. The unusual release strategy left U.S. audiences with a different picture of the group than those in their home country; in particular, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat,” “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” “Listen People,” “Leaning on the Lamp Post,” and “Dandy” were all stateside smashes that went unreleased as singles in the UK.
The documentaries’ interviews reveal the unorthodox story behind the recording and release of the music hall styled “Mrs. Brown,” and recollections of the band’s first NME Poll Winners Concert are born out by a winningly nervous performance. The group looks more comfortable with their up-tempo cover of Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World,” with the young Noone in his schoolboy suit playing the part of the song’s protagonist. It’s easy to see why he was the sort of heartthrob who induced Beatlemania hysterics in young girls. An early performance of “Fortune Teller” at the Cavern Club shows the group to have had a grittier R&B side that was mostly unused for their hits. The liner notes and commentary mention a hot version of Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You” that unfortunately didn’t seem to make the final cut of the DVD.
The group’s hits rarely strayed from polite pop, failing to navigate many of the changes wrought by the latter half of the 1960s. Their recordings of songs by P.F. Sloan (“A Must to Avoid”), Ray Davies (“Dandy”) and Graham Gouldman (“No Milk Today”) took them towards folk-rock and more poetically crafted lyrics, but even as their clothes took on the fashions of 1966 and 1967 their singles remained “romantic, boy-next-door stuff.” They continued to record through the psychedelic era, having a Top 40 hit with Donovan’s “Museum” (not included here) and thickening their productions with strings and a hint of country twang on “My Sentimental Friend,” but the heavy sounds emanating from San Francisco and elsewhere spelled the end of their hit-making days.
Herman’s Hermits were a feel good band whose chipper music became anachronistic in the face of Monterey Pop and Woodstock. Their singles weren’t trendsetting (though Noone suggests his over-the-top English accent on “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” freed other British bands to abandon their faked Americana), but they were catchy, sold extremely well, and to this day remain memorable. In addition to the 78-minute documentary, the full individual performances can be viewed via DVD menu options, and bonuses include a 24-minute concert filmed for Australian television, a commentary track, and fifteen minutes of interviews that recollect the Hermits’ 1967 tour with the Who. This is a great documentary for both fans and those who only know a few of the group’s hits. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]
All or Nothing 1965-1968 is one of four documentaries released as part of a five-DVD British Invasion box set by Reelin’ in the Years Productions. It is a spectacular collection of footage that spans twenty-seven complete vintage performances, interviews with the principle band members reflecting on their time as seminal mod and psychedelic rockers, and superb vintage clips of the band creating in the studio, shopping on Carnaby Street and gigging at iconic clubs like the Marquee. The producers have performed miracles in digging up rare television and film footage, and archival interviews with Steve Marriott (from 1985) and Ronnie Lane (from 1988, his last filmed appearance) are complemented by contemporary interviews with Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan.
Though the Small Faces had only one chart hit in the U.S. (1968’s “Itchycoo Park”), their fame in the UK and Europe, not to mention their style, sound and musicianship, were in league with the Who and Stones. The band members post-Small Faces gigs brought a greater helping of stateside fame (Marriott with Humble Pie; Lane, McLagan and Jones with the Faces; and Jones with the latter-day Who), but this 101-minute documentary shows the Small Faces were a group to be reckoned with. Marriott was a ferocious front-man with an aggressive vocal delivery, hot guitar licks and a songwriting partnership with Ronnie Lane that matured from derivative R&B to original tunes that wove pop, rock and psych influences into their bedrock soul. The interviews trace the group’s original influences, the pop sides forced upon them, and the turning points at which they made artistic leaps forward.
Among the biggest events in the Small Faces’ development was a change in management and label from Don Arden and Decca to Andrew Loog Oldham and Immediate. The mod sounds and styles of their early singles quickly became psychedelic, but not before launching their new phase with the 1967 ode to methadrine, “Here Comes the Nice.” Their hair and fashions in the accompanying television performance find the band in transition between the dandy style of the mods and the floral and flowing elements of the hippie revolution. The influence of LSD can be heard in “Green Shadows” and the band’s U.S. breakthrough, “Itchycoo Park,” which McLagan suggests was a rebuttal to England’s formal system of higher education. The group’s pièce de résistance, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, is essayed here with a lip-synched clip of the title tune and a seven-song live-sung (but not played) set from the BBC’s Colour Me Pop.
The progression from the hard R&B of “Whatch Gonna Do About It” to their crowning concept album is impressive, but that it happened in only three years is amazing. The story of the Small Faces is told here in the band’s words and music, with interview footage woven among the music clips. The full performances, including four not featured in the documentary, can be viewed separately via DVD menu options. Lane’s full interview and a photo gallery are included as extras, along with a 24-page booklet featuring detailed credits and song notes. This disc will strike a deep nostalgic chord for UK fans, and will be a voyage of discovery for Americans familiar only with “All or Nothing,” “Itchycoo Park,” “Tin Soldier,” and “Lazy Sunday.” [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]