How To Get A Hit.
How to get a hit.....
Cover versions; dont'cha just love 'em? Of course, some of them are (whisper it quietly) better than the originals..... some put a new slant to the song and others....... well, you do wonder sometimes!!!
Back in the mid-sixties, one sure way to get a hit record was to cover a track from an upcoming Beatles album (12 in just over seven years, so that's almost two a year!!), or so managers thought. Yep, there were some careers built or enhanced by Beatles songs, Cilla Black, Billy J Kramer, Peter and Gordon and Joe Cocker immediately spring to mind, but there were plenty of others where careers sometimes ended after a last (or even first) ditch attempt at success covering a Fabs tune (see the Eyes in my 'Mod, mod...' article).
Looking back through those rose tinted spec's, it's easy to imagine that, before the Beatles, all the early British rock'n rollers either covered US hits or existed on songs from Tin Pan Alley and, to a certain extent, that's true. But, for example, Cliff Richards first hit was perhaps Britain's first, purposely composed 'teen' record either by the singer or, in this case, a member of the singer’s group, the Drifters (soon to be Shadows) guitarist Ian (Sammy) Samwell. 'Schoolboy Crush' had been the intended 'a' side, a cover of a Bobby Helms 1958 US hit, until Jack Good refused to have Riff on his Oh Boy television show unless Columbia flipped the disc. They did, and were rewarded with a No 2 hit.
Venerable rockers Johnny Kidd and the Pirates started out with a self-composed hit ('Please don't touch') which reached No 18 in 1959 and then Billy Fury really set the bar for the nascent Fab Four when his first single, 'Maybe Tomorrow', became the first self-composed record by a Liverpudlian 'rock' star to chart (No 18), around three years before the Beatles.
On the obverse, some of the 'classic' sixties bands started out with cover versions (step forward the Kinks, Hollies, Rolling Stones, High Numbers/Who, Moody Blues and others) before going on to the more lucrative, self-composed song route to pensions stability.
Over the years it's estimated there have been over 4000 cover versions of Lennon/McCartney songs, with 'Yesterday' alone accounting for 2200 at the last count. Not bad for a single never released (at the time) in the UK and, therefore, it's also no wonder Fab Paul wanted to change the composer credits to either McCartney/Lennon or, preferably, just Macca!!!
Anyhow's, for your delectation, I've picked twenty (fairly) obscure covers from my vinyl collection (unless marked * to show CD) and, as usual, I'll start with something which doesn't meet the criteria... well, sort of not... but... well, you'll get the gist!!
Jimmy Scott: 'Alullo Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da Story Parts 1/2' (*). Revolution Records single. Released 6th Dec 1968
Love it or hate it, The Beatles 'Ob La Di Ob La Da' was McCartney's tribute to Jamaican ska music. Surrounded by the sound of rocksteady and early reggae that was all the rage in the late 60's, McCartney's tale features a character named Desmond but, even more interesting is the story of the man who was the inspiration for the song.
'Ob la di ob la da, life goes on, bra' was a phrase McCartney had heard from a Nigerian friend named Jimmy Anonmuogharan Scott Emuakpor (known as Jimmy Scott), who he met in the Bag 'O Nails in London. The phrase was alleged to be Yoruban for 'Life goes on' but was actually only a Scott family phrase. Scott came to England in the 1950's, where he found work as a jazz musician and became an in-demand percussion player. He played with Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames in the Sixties, backed Stevie Wonder on his 1965 tour of Britain and later formed his own Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da Band. He also became a member of Bad Manners during the post-Two Tone ska revival.
According to McCartney: 'I had a friend called Jimmy Scott who I used to meet in the clubs in London. He had a few expressions, one of which was, 'Ob la di ob la da, life goes on, bra'. I used to love this expression... He sounded like a philosopher to me. He was a great guy anyway and I said to him, 'I really like that expression and I'm thinking of using it,' and I sent him a cheque in recognition of that fact later because even though I had written the whole song and he didn't help me, it was his expression.'
The fact that Paul used this catch phrase as the basis of a song later became a matter of real controversy with Scott.
McCartney later said "He got annoyed when I did a song of it because he wanted a cut. I said 'Come on, Jimmy. It's just an expression. If you'd written the song, you could have had the cut.'"
In late '68 Scott was arrested and taken to Brixton prison to await trial on a charge of failing to pay alimony to his ex-wife. He asked the police to contact the Beatles' office to see if McCartney would foot his legal bill. McCartney had his friend Alistair Taylor put up the money in exchange for Scott dropping rights to the phrase but Taylor had to get the money from a friend since no one in the Beatles camp carried much cash. It should also be noted that after doing a huge number of takes, Paul continued trying to record this as a slow song. One evening Lennon was in the studio listening and growing increasingly frustrated to hear Paul still recording it at a slow tempo. After ingesting various illegal substances, he burst into the recording room, pushed Paul aside and began playing the song violently and very fast on the piano. Strangely, it's this fast recording which was released on the White Album.
For your delight, it's the second, organ led part of the single, taken from the Immediate Mod Box Set, which I've included here.
Bedrocks: 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da'. Columbia label single 'a' side. Released 6th December 1968.
Formed in Leeds in late 1967, this West Indian sextet got their big break in 1968 when they were offered the opportunity to record 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' at EMI Studios with former Beatles tape-op, Pink Floyd producer and future recording star Norman 'Hurricane' Smith. After borrowing £25 to hire a van for the trip, they completed the single in one session. Two days later the disc was issued and, a fortnight later, it was in the UK Top 20. Unfortunately, their more authentic reading was outsold by Marmalade’s chart-topping version. Despite plenty of radio exposure, it was the Marmalades version, featured on Top of the Pops with the band in full tartan regalia (including kilts!!) which soon burst through to the top of the charts. For their follow-up, the Bedrocks recorded a version of the rugby song ‘The Lovedene Girls’, which received little airplay and failed to chart. There were several other singles but this was to prove their last taste of commercial success. To date there have been over 60 version of the song but, despite this, the track is often the subject of ridicule. It was voted the worst song of all time in a 2004 online poll organised by Mars. The New Musical Express singled out "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" as "the least convincing cod-reggae skanking this side of the QI theme tune", The Telegraphs’ Tom Rowley named the track as a "reasonable choice" for derision, and it was also included in Blender magazine's 2004 listing of the "50 Worst Songs Ever!"
Duffy Power: 'I saw her standing there'( * Take 1-unreleased). Parlophone single 'a' side. Released 3rd May 1963.
Back in May 1960, the Silver Beatles, minus a permanent drummer, had auditioned for the rock'n'roll svengali Larry Parnes for the chance to back either Billy Fury, Duffy Power or Johnny Gentle on a short Scottish tour. They fell short on the day and had to settle for a tour backing Gentle. But fast forward to 1963, after furnishing Cilla Black with 'Love of the loved', the Beatles debut album opener was 'offered' to Power, becoming only the second Beatles song to be covered. Duffy, at that time, was very much a 'jazz/blues' artist whose back up musicians on the session were the Graham Bond Quartet featuring Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and (Donny's finest guitarist) John McLaughlin. Power disliked most 'pop music' but, after several failed releases, took the view that although the song itself was 'a good tune', he would re-work the music into something approaching his 'normal' output. Lennon's renowned dislike of 'jazz' immediately leapt to the fore and a month later, after pressure from Lennon and EMI, Power and Bond returned to the studio (this time with Big Jim Sullivan on guitar) with Ken Jones in charge to 'straighten' out the song. Despite the (second) finished take being less adventurous and more in keeping with 1963's tastes (well, almost), the single still failed to sell. Duffy, after retiring from the music business and working for several years for the DHSS, would continue to be a 'musicians musician', recording several unreleased albums, some fine singles and touring with stellar back-up musicians before passing away in February 2014. This version can be found on the double CD 'Leapers and Sleepers'.
Tomorrow: 'Strawberry Fields Forever'(*). '50 Minute Technicolor Dream'. RPM Records released 1998.
Here's one of those bands probably more famous for who passed through than it's actual musical output.... more's the pity. On drums was the legendary John 'Twink' Alder, later to cause mayhem worldwide as a member of the Pretty Things and the Pink Fairies, guitarist and future Yes-man Steve Howe and, on vocals Keith West. Rounding out the band was bassist Jon Newey, later to move to Jeff Becks group, then into production before leaving the business altogether. The line up came together as the In Crowd in early 1965 and gained a substantial 'mod' following on the London club scene. As the musical climate changed they grew their hair, started to wear outlandish clothes and began to incorporate a more psychedelic edge to their music which saw the band become favourites of John Peel and share the stage with Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and the Mothers of Invention. They were scheduled to appear in the cult movie 'Blow Up' but, despite recording songs for the soundtrack, their place was taken at the last moment by the Yardbirds. Their classic single, 'My White Bicycle', came out in May '67, closely followed by the underground favourite 'Revolution', but their eponymous album was delayed until February 1968, despite being completed in October. In the meantime West had been approached to sing on a single from a proposed 'teenage opera' entitled 'Grocer Jack'. When this achieved a high chart placing, and sales of one million plus, it placed great pressure on West and the band, which led to it's eventual demise. However, in December 1967, the band appeared at London's vast Olympia Halls as part of the 'Christmas On Earth' all nighter on a 'who's who' bill of Hendrix, Floyd, Graham Bond, Move, Soft Machine and many others. The Beatles had said, in 1966, that the 'new' music they were recording would be impossible to play live and promptly released 'Strawberry Fields Forever', followed in June 1967 by 'Sgt Peppers...'. The Fab Four may not have been able to perform these songs live, but that didn't stop Hendrix from playing excerpts from 'Peppers' on the day of release and, at the 'Christmas...' gig, Tomorrow laid down this much darker version of 'Strawberry Fields Forever' as well as a selection from their still unreleased album. Within months the pressure applied to West eventually took its toll and he left the band, which promptly folded. Fans and critics agree that if their album had been released in mid-67 they would probably have had as much influence as the Floyd, Move etc. However, they now only hold a small place in history thanks to the later careers (or lack of) by their members.
Deep Purple: 'Exposition/We can work it out'. 'The Book of Taliesyn' album. Harvest Records. Released June 1969.
From the sublime to the, frankly, ridiculous. Ignore, if you can, the ludicrous and overblown 2 mins 56 seconds intro based on the Second Movement from Beethoven's 7th Symphony before this grossly over-rated behemoth (whose concert I walked out of in 1970) commences to 'wring the neck'(sic) of this Beatles classic. A tortuous version owing a great deal to the equally over the top Vanilla Fudge but with even less 'subtlety'!!. I've never been a fan of 'rawk', heavy or otherwise, and whenever I pull this album off the shelves I'm reminded just why. In my opinion... abysmal but, hey, it's still of interest.. no???
Lulu: 'Day Tripper'. 'Love Loves to Love,Lulu' album. Decca Records. Released December 1967.
Somewhat of a curates egg, overall this ain't a bad album. The title track is probably as close as Lulu got to psychedelia, unsurprising as she had recently completed a string of concerts with the, by now 'experienced' (in Hendrix terms), Monkees. There are other good covers too, including a storming 'Morning Dew' and'Take me in your arms and love me' amongst 'em. The album is notable for also being one of the earliest recordings by three quarters of Led Zeppelin, with Jon Paul Jones also producing some of the tracks. By this time Lulu was an 'experienced' (not in Hendrix terms!) trouper with several TV series under her belt and, on January 4th 1969, Jimi Hendrix was scheduled to sing a duet with Lulu. When Hendrix showed up for the show he soon made plain that the plan for The Experience to open their set with "Voodoo Child" and then play their early hit "Hey Joe" with Lulu joining Hendrix onstage at the end, to sing the final bars before segueing into her regular show-closing number, just wasn't going to happen. Of course, the show is now part of TV history thanks to Hendrix breaking off mid 'Hey Joe' to play a brief extract from the recently defunct Cream hit 'Sunshine of your love' and throwing the entire production crew into sheer panic. Bassist Noel Redding later went on record with the succinct comment... "We cringed".
Reparata and the Delrons 'If I fell'. 'Whenever a teenager cries' album. World Artists label. Unreleased in UK.
Premium girl group sounds here from Brooklyn's finest and, perhaps unluckiest trio. 'Whenever....' had reached Number 60 in mid-64 but it's follow up, the Shangri-La's influenced 'Tommy' (no, not THAT 'Tommy'!!) barely dented the top 100. The record label quickly pushed out an album and the girls toured with Dick Clarks Caravan of Stars as well as opening for the Rolling Stones. If the album had been released in the UK I'm sure the label would have been forced to issue it in a different sleeve. Even the US record buyers must have been put off by the sight of three girls 'twisting' away in out-dated 'full skirt' dresses and bee-hive hair-do's!! Still, the album is a bit of a corker and sits comfortably alongside anything issued by the Red Bird label around that time. This Beatles ballad is hardly re-arranged but the girls harmonies are something special. There's also a good version of 'Do Wah Diddy' as well as fine versions of 'Dedicated to the one I love' and Greenwich and Barry's 'I have a boyfriend'. All in all, a pity that this line up suffered from mis-management by their first label, a situation not improved when a new line up signed to RCA in 1965. It would be 1968 before yet another line up (still featuring Reparata/Mary Aiese) hit number 13 in the UK with the anodyne 'Captain of your ship', which also charted highly in most of Europe but not, strangely, in the US. The final outing for this line up was, unbelievably, as back up vocals on the Rolling Stones 'Honky Tonk Women'!!!!! This track taken from my US copy of the 'Whenever...' album.
Pat Boone: 'I want to hold your hand'. 'Boss Beat' album. Dot Records. Released November 1964.And now, here's perhaps rock and rolls smoothest operator. His very early tracks, including fine versions of 'Tutti Frutti' and 'Ain't that a shame' were soon overwhelmed by a plethora of middle of the road songs. However, in 1964, producer David Gates (yep, THAT David Gates) pulled Boone into the studio, along with respected girl group The Blossoms, who featured Darlene Love and Gloria Jones in their line-up, and set about trying to re-establish Pat into a hit maker once again. Some of the songs on the album were either poorly chosen, or just didn't suit Boone but, amongst the goodies were this Beatles number, 'Sweet Little Sixteen', 'Kansas City' (taken much faster than Wilbert Harrisons original) and Dee Clarks 'Raindrops'. In a final (perhaps?) attempt to up-grade his image, in 1997 Pat released his most controversial album, 'In a metal mood', which featured Boone covering well-known heavy metal songs such as 'Stairway to heaven', 'Smoke on the water', 'Paradise city' and 'The wind cries Mary' in a jazz/big band style. It reached No. 125 on the U.S album chart, thus becoming Boone's first album to chart in 35 years.
Brenda Lee: 'Can't buy me love'. '...sings Top Teen Hits' album. Brunswick label. Released 15th February 1965.
Another 'mixed bag' album from an artist about to be swept away in the 'Brit-invasion' tsunami. Again, it's an album with some really good covers, 'Dancing in the street' is particularly tough, there's a good version of '(She) He Loves You'. 'The Crying Game' and 'Wishin' and Hopin'' also make the cut but several of the others show Brenda struggling to keep up with the times. However, it must be noted that, in the sixties, Brenda placed 47 singles on the US charts, putting her 4th behind Elvis, the Beatles and Ray Charles!!! In 1964 Brenda recorded "Is It True", featuring Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page on guitars with Bobby Graham on drums which was produced by Mickie Most and was rewarded with a No 17 hit here. It was recorded at Decca Records' number two studio at their West Hampstead complex and was composed by Ken Lewis and John Carter, who were also members of hitmakers the Ivy League. Around the same time Brenda toured the UK with Manfred Mann, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and the John Barry Seven as support... not a bad line up methinks!!
Standells: 'Eleanor Rigby'. 'Hot Ones' album. Capitol Records. Released Jan 1967.
Here's one of garage musics finest bands on the down-ward slide. Having charted with 'Dirty Water', 'Sometimes good guys don't wear white', Try It' and a couple of others in 1966, the band were soon 'reduced' to a whole album of then current chart songs by Donovan, the Stones, Kinks, Troggs and others. The group had been founded in 1962 by Larry Tamblyn in Los Angeles and were soon playing LA's premier club circuit but, a date at P.J's (where they recorded their debut album cunningly entitled 'Live at P.J's) saw the band forced to have their 'Brit invasion' style long hair cut before appearing on stage. Around this time they appeared on the Munsters TV show, as themselves, singing 'Come on Ringo' and (presciently) a version of 'I want to hold your hand' in full Beatle regalia. Passing through the line up was Gary Leeds (later to be a Walker brother) and Dewey Martin, later of Buffalo Springfield. This is a pretty good 'beat' version of McCartneys 'Revolver' string enhanced ballad and features a nice lead vocal from Dick Dodd. This version is from the French Eva label 'Riot on Sunset Strip' soundtrack/compilation album.
Toys: 'Yesterday'. '.... sing A Lovers Concerto and Attack'album. Stateside label. Released January 1966.
A fine version of Macca's most covered tune, with superb lead vocals by June Montiero (her only 'lead' outing with the group), brass and organ carrying the song instead of strings.... and check out those harmonies by Barbara's Harris and Parritt. The Supremes recorded their version around the same time but this one, in my opinion, is far better. The bands life time was short-lived, formed in 1961 but not signed until 1965, their career was over in 1968. When 'A lovers concerto' hit the UK charts they were hurriedly packed off for a cash-in tour which upset label chiefs back in the USA. As a result, just two more (superb) singles were released before the girls called it a day. This track comes from their only album which, other than this cover, was written and produced by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, who had originally signed them to their Genius Incorporated label. Despite a cameo spot in the film 'It's a Bikini World', which also featured the Castaways, the Animals, and the Gentrys, internal difficulties saw the group split for many years before the occasional '60's gold' concert reunions and solo tours by lead vocalist Barbara Harris.
13th Floor Elevators: 'I'm down'. 'Elevator Tracks' album. TAR Records. Released 1987.
Where to begin with the Elevators??? A Texas band who grew their hair, featured an electric jug as a dual lead instrument, took copious amounts of drugs and were regularly 'confronted' by Texas' more 'conservative' concert go-ers!! However, sensing that 'Frisco would be more tolerant of acid fried bands they fled Austin to appear alongside Big Brother and the Holding Company, Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service amongst others. Their debut single, 'You're gonna miss me' hit number 55 nationally, leading to TV appearances on the syndicated 'Dick Clark Show'. However, their label, International Artists, was only a small outfit and was unable to meet the demand for their debut, and later, albums which did have a serious detrimental effect on the band. Only two albums were released during the bands short life (1965-68) with a further two later in the sixties. Lead singer Rocky Erickson still tours with various differing back up groups, whilst none of the original line up ever moved on to any kind of 'long term' success. Perhaps the greatest tribute to the band is that, despite their material being so difficult to obtain (their albums were not even released in the UK until 1977, a full five years after they appeared on the seminal 'Nuggets' compilation!!), their songs have been covered by REM, Television, Primal Scream, Jesus and Mary Chain, ZZ Top and many others. This track is from 'Elevator Tracks', a 'semi-official' album of unreleased and alternate tracks backed by a second side of barely controlled insanity recorded at the La Maison Ballroom on home turf Austin. This should go straight to the appropriate track...
801's: 'TNK' (AKA 'Tomorrow never knows). '801 Live' album. Island Records. Released November 1976.
If you had been at West Runton Pavilion on August 26th 1976 you would have been privileged to hear one of this bands only three concerts. I was lucky enough to be at the gig where this performance was recorded (London's Queen Elizabeth Hall on the 3rd September) and the only other outing was on the 28th August at Reading Festival. But 'who were they' I hear you ask?? Well, the line up was (Roxy Music's) Phil Manzanera, (Ex-Roxy) Brian Eno, Curved Air's Francis Monkman, respected slide guitarist Lloyd Watson (no relation!) and ace rhythm section Bill MacCormick and Simon Phillips, who Manzanera had roped in to breath life into his previous group's (Quiet Sun) little known material. The involvement of Eno soon took the concept on to a different level, which saw a couple of songs from his early solo out-put plus a brace of covers, a storming version of the Kinks 'You really got me' and this exploratory version of the Beatles outstanding 'Revolver' album closer (and the first track recorded for the album fact fans!). Quite what Lennon made of it is not known... surely he would have been impressed, despite its 'jazzy' leanings? Released at the height of 'punk', the Pistols were already playing outside of London's clubs and, coincidentally, played Runton the following week after the 801's, the record possibly stands as progressive music's high water mark and, also, its swan song too. Oh, and why Runton? The band needed an intimate club, off the beaten track but respected on the music scene, to try out their material and Runton fitted the bill. Unfortunately, in 1986 the venue was demolished.
Yes: 'Every little thing'. 'Yes' (balloon album). Atlantic label. Released 26th July 1969.
Another 'prog' band deciding that a two minute Beatle album track would make an ideal candidate for a 5 minutes wig-out 'Crimso' stylee..... and, overall, it does work. Thanks to Jon Andersons harmonies and Squire and Brufords tight rhythm section this one is much more palatable than the Purp's 'We can work it out'. A couple of years later the band would do a great cover of Simon and Garfunkel's 'America' but here Pete Banks sets the scene for Steve Howe to follow when he joined the band in mid-'70. Tony Kaye's important part in the early Yes cannot be overstated. However, it was his reluctance to give up his reliance on the Hammond B3/Leslie combination in favour of the incoming Mellotron, Moog and VCS3 synths which saw him rather cruelly elbowed aside for 'wunder-kind' keyboards player Rick Wakeman. Once these two were ensconced it was onwards and upwards to 'Topographic Oceans', all things Dean-ery and world dominance as one of the most popular 'prog' bands of the mid to late seventies. I was lucky enough to see Yes (on the curiously billed 'Yes, If, Egg' tour, featuring the aforesaid three bands) play an outstanding set at Doncaster's Top Rank on 5th March 1971, just after Howe had joined, but with Kaye still on keyboards. In addition to the cover of 'America', the band also threw in a version of Mason Williams instro-hit 'Classical Gas' segued with Howes 'The Clap' (available on Howe's 1999 solo compilation 'Pulling Strings' CD and, strangely, 'Classical Gas' also features on Wakemans obscure 'Piano Vibrations' album released in 1971) , plus tracks from the recently released 'Yes' album which had cemented their place in the 'prog' hierarchy alongside King Crimson, ELP, Van Der Graaf Generator and others.
Dick James: 'Sing a song of Beatles Pt 1/2'. Parlophone single. Released 27th November 1964.
OK, here's the guy who probably made more money out of the Fab Four than any of its constituent parts! A 'cash in', less than essential double sided single featuring three Beatle chart toppers on the top side and a further single and two album tracks on the obverse. James' career started before World War 2 when he was a vocalist for the popular dance band leader Henry Hall. Following war service he eventually teamed up with Geraldo and then progressed to The Stargazers with whom he achieved two No 1 singles in the early fifties. Solo success followed with hits such as the 'Theme from Robin Hood' (altogether now... Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen.....), 'The Ballad of Davy Crockett (altogether now.... Davy, Daveee Crockett, king of the wild frontier.....) and 'Garden of Eden (altoge.... oh well, you get the point!!). He befriended George Martin during the fifties, just as he moved from recording to, initially, song plugging before forming a publishing company, Dick James Music. Martin rang James prior to the release of 'Please Please Me' and offered him the publishing rights. Springing into 'plugger' mode, James rang Philip Jones, producer of Thank your lucky stars (at that time the premier music show on TV), played the record down the phone and secured the boys their first nationwide TV appearance. James and Martin quickly established Northern songs to publish all Lennon/McCartney material which was administered through Dick James Music. Initially a mutually beneficial arrangement, James' future 'milking' of the Beatles output probably started with this single. He would get performing royalties (if it had sold any copies, that is!!), plus publishing royalties, which probably would have earned him more than the Beatles would have done from the disc. The Beatles became increasingly irritated with James and, by 1968, things were at an all time low. Seeing the writing on the wall, James opened secret negotiations to sell his share of Northern Songs, without the bands knowledge, and after the sale went through, the Beatles were left without any rights to their own songs, whilst James had made many millions of pounds! James then founded DJM Records, signed a bespectacled pianist found 'moonlighting' in the studio by his son and proceeded to make further millions when Reg Dwight subsequently changed his name to Elton John!! Here's side one of the single:
Loose Ends: 'Taxman'(*). Decca single. Released 5th August 1966.
Released the same day as the Beatles album 'Revolver', from which this song is taken, it would seem that as the parent group limited his output to one per album, George Harrison had been shopping his songs around. This Birmingham band had been playing in London's top 'mod' clubs for around a year and had released a soul influenced single, 'Send the people away' earlier in '66. This organ and conga enhanced version certainly deserved a much better fate and, as a result, is much sought after amongst todays 'mod' era music collectors. Current values seem to be around the £300+ mark, although there may be some 'semi-legit' copies out there... must contact Adrian at Loose Ends Norwich!!!
Score: 'Please Please Me'. Decca single 'a' side. Released 25th November 1966.
Perhaps one of the best ever cover versions of a Lennon/McCartney song, this one takes the 'Taxman' bass line, throws in a screaming psych/hard rock version of the tune and tops it off with motifs from 'Shapes of things' and 'Satisfaction'... what's not to love!!?? Unbelievably, by the end of 1964, there had already been almost 20 cover versions of the song, with version by the Crickets, Kestrels, the Merseyboy's, the Liverpool's. Keely Smith, Mary Wells and even the Chipmunks! The London band were Ken White (guitar), Alan Megitt (bass), Clem Lee (Drums), Frank Davies (Guitar) Eddy Lamb (vocals), who are all still with us but, unbelievably, this was their ONLY release.... criminal. Taken from the 'Rubble Five-The Electric Crayon Set' compilation album.
Ingoes: 'Se non mi aiuti tu'(Help'). Ricordi International single (Italy only). Released November 1965.
A curiosity here, for the mono-lingual amongst you (me included), here's 'Help' in Italian by the Ingoes. There's also a French language version too, entitled 'Au Secours', released at the same time. But, who were the Ingoes? Well, they were a London band of maraca shakers, formed in 1964 who, after being turned down by Georgio Gomelski, decided to broaden their musical experience by accepting a three week residency in Dortmund. Five 30 minute sets, seven nights a week, massed brawls between the 'locals' and off-duty US servicemen saw the band serve their apprenticeship and so, suitably battle hardened, they returned to the UK and Georgio... and were still initially rejected. Taking pity on the boys, a tour backing Sonny Boy Williamson was proffered and, at a Crawdaddy Club gig, Giorgio finally succumbed to the bands charm and a management deal and regular gigs soon followed. 1965 saw the band 'exported' to Paris' Le Bus Palladium club where Salvador Dali and Sean Connery were spotted regularly 'getting down'. During the following twelve months there were some line up changes which saw Jim Cregan join the ranks in time to record 'Help', a live EP from the club and a short film appearance in 'Tenabrae Factae Sunt' by Pascal Aubier also filmed at the Palladium. At the end of 1966, with the musical climate changing, Gomelski decided that a change of image, and name, would catapult the guys to international stardom via his new label, Marmalade. And so, step into the light, Blossom Toes, heroes of the psychedelia scene and their cult album 'We are ever so clean'. Further line up changes followed until, in 1970, the band split, although there was a partial reformation that year as B.B.Blunder... now, whatever happened to them?
This, and other early tracks and demo's, can be heard on the 'Before we were Blossom Toes' album.
Naturals: 'I should have known better'. Parlophone label single. Released 31st July 1964.
Big things must have been expected of this release as it was actually issued in the US on Liberty Records. Here in the UK it did manage to reach number 24 and was featured on Juke Box Jury when the Beatles presided over the show. Harrison is quoted as saying "there were a few chords that I didn't know were on it". Not too sure if that's a complement though! Formed in Harlow, they were at one point apparently known as the Blue Beats, before becoming the Cossacks and finally settling on the Naturals in early 1964. Signed to the Parlophone label at around the same time, they made their debut late that winter with "Daisy Chain", which didn't do anything. Soon after its release, 'I should have known better' earned them a performing (or, really, miming) spot on Ready! Steady! Go! on August 14, 1964, marking the peak of the group's national exposure. The Beatles song also proved the highpoint in their history, and one they were never able to repeat or build on -- two more singles followed that never charted, and by early 1965 the band had called it quits.
And finally... to round out this 'Top 20', a 'cover version' by the Beatles themselves, well, sort of!!
The Beatles: "Komm, gib mir deine Hand". Odeon Records single. Released 4th February 1964 (Germany/US only).
Odeon record chiefs persuaded George Martin, Brian Epstein that there was merit in recording the Beatles two latest singles in German in order to maximise sales. Reluctantly, the band trooped in to Paris' Pathé Marconi Studios on the 29th January 1964, during a 19 day residency at the Olympia Theatre, to lay down new vocals to the original back-up tapes of ' I want to hold your hand' and, due to the mono mixes for 'She loves you' being destroyed by EMI (!!!!) after mixing for stereo, recording a whole new, different version of 'She loves you' in just thirteen takes. These were the only Beatles recordings undertaken outside of the UK (the Tony Sheridan and Star Club sessions excepted) and came at the same time that the group hit the US charts and were announced as guests on an upcoming Ed Sullivan show. The torturous route to this entree into the US show-business top rated show had begun during the Beatles 1963 'Summer' tour when Jack Babb, talent scout for Sullivan, saw the Beatles whilst on one of his European jaunts. During his time here he was assisted by London theatrical agent Peter Pritchard (strangely, one of my school friends had the same name.. but surely.... nah!!), who was not only contracted to Sullivan but, crucially, also knew Brian Epstein. November 4th saw the Beatles playing in front of the Queen and inviting the rich and famous to 'rattle their jewelry' at the Royal Command Performance. The following day, Epstein flew to New York with Billy J Kramer with a view to establishing him as a cabaret style crooner, as well as to upgrade the US record label, Capitol, for not pushing the Beatles hard enough. Pritchard had already approached Epstein about negotiating a deal for the Sullivan show, but this was something which Epstein said he preferred do himself. However, Pritchard did mention the conversation to Sullivan and it was at this time that Sullivan remembered a commotion at London Airport when he been passing through on October 31st 1963. The British Prime Minister and contestants for the Miss World competition were all flying out that day but, coincidentally, the Beatles were flying in.... and there were, despite an ongoing thunderstorm, around 1500 screaming teenage girls on the open viewing area there to 'greet' them!! Sullivan asked what all the commotion was about and was informed that it was for The Beatles, who were returning from a short tour of Sweden. To the question "Who the hell are The Beatles?" Sullivan was told that they were a well-known UK pop group. Although Sullivan would later claim that the incident caused him to immediately inquire into booking The Beatles on his show, we now know the true story. Whilst Epstein was flying to the US, Pritchard was regaling Sullivan about the Royal Variety performance and the sights Sullivan himself had seen the previous year. At Pritchards insistence, a meeting with Epstein was set for November 11th at Sullivans Delmonico Hotel suite, with a follow up evening meal the next day. They tentatively agreed that The Beatles would appear on the Feb. 9, 1964, show live from New York, and then the following week on a special remote show broadcast live from the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach.
Although Sullivan usually paid up to $10,000 for a single performance, he offered Brian $3,500 for each live show and also agreed to pay the group's transportation and lodging. Realizing the importance of having his boys on the Sullivan show, Brian agreed to the deal provided The Beatles received top billing. Although Brian claimed Sullivan gave in to this demand, it is unlikely that Sullivan did little more than agree to consider top billing for the group. However, by the time the first show aired on the 9th February the Beatles were crashing into the US charts and Sullivan was eagerly promoting The Beatles as the headline act. The Beatles taped a second 'live' performance for February 23rd and also performed live from Miami on the 16th. The agreed payment was $3,000 for the taped segment, plus the initial $7000 bringing the total for the three shows to $10,000. As was often the case with Epstein's negotiations, the deal was then sealed with a handshake.
Both German language tracks are available on various Beatle comps, mine is from 'The Beatles Rarities' album. The only problem is, the Beatles are pretty jealous of what appears on the 'net..... but I managed to find this one where the German language version is played over a clip for the 'English' version....