It's A Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod World.
It's A Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod World.
Yep, time to take a look at another musical genre. This time it's the bands who sprang up in the UK in the mid-sixties and were spawned, in may cases, during the r&b boom and went on to the onset of psychedelia. Some of these bands are now termed 'freakbeat (and I'll probably mention that a few times!) whilst others were greatly influenced by the soul music emanating from the US. But first, a brief history of 'mod'....
The term 'mod' derives from 'modernist' and was originally used in the 1950s to describe modern jazz musicians and fans.This usage contrasted with the term 'trad', which described traditional, New Orleans style jazz players and fans. The 1959 novel 'Absolute Beginners' describes UK modernists as young modern jazz fans who dressed in sharp modern Italian clothes and is the earliest example of the term being used to describe and define this burgeoning youth culture.
Author Terry Rawlings argues that mods are difficult to define because the subculture started out as a "mysterious semi-secret world", which the Who's early manager Peter Meaden summarised as "clean living under difficult circumstances." However, from the mid-to-late 1960s onwards, the mass media often used the term 'mod' in a wider sense to describe anything that was believed to be popular, fashionable or modern.
George Melly wrote that early mods watched French and Italian art films (ahem... probably not all mods!!) and read Italian magazines to look for style ideas but they usually only held semi-skilled manual jobs or low grade white-collar positions such as a clerk, messenger or Office boy (and that's me... right there!!).
Musically, 'mod' was, by and large unique to the UK. Probably because of the pressure cooker atmosphere of the London club scene, the 'movement' was not duplicated anywhere else in the world. Despite several of the major bands touring Australia, New Zealand and Europe at the height of their popularity their presence generally only affected the way home groups appearance changed fashion wise, not musically. As regards the US, only the Who toured there, and even then it was after their period as a 'social influence' had begun to wane here in the UK.
However, back to the UK and the mod-era groups who (sometimes) became popular between 1964 and 1966, generally accepted as the height of widespread mod 'culture'. In this article I'll be concentrating on those bands who, in my opinion, 'defined' mod, either musically or sartorially (sometimes both, sometimes just the one) but I'll be omitting some of the progenitors (Fame, Money, Bond to name but three) as they may appear in a follow-up R&B article.
As usual, I will be straying outside the time period I've outlined and, on this occcasion, I'll also be referring to my CD collection (marked *) a couple of times as some of the songs are beyond the reach of my pocket money!! Everything else is from my vinyl collection so up first, as usual, someone who initially doesn't meet any of the above criteria:
The Merseybeats:'Fortune Teller'. Released August 1963. Fontana single 'b' side.
A fine, speedy cover of Benny Spellmans 1961 'b' side which had been an in demand tune in all the London clubs. The Merseybeats version does feature some very fine 'slashing' chords which, thanks to James Page, Pete Townsend and, particularly, Creations Eddie Phillips would become a feature on many 'mod' singles over the next twelve to eighteen months. There were concurrent versions by the Searchers, Rolling Stones and others but it would be ex- Searcher Tony Jackson and the Vibrations who would finally drag the song into a fully 'modded-up' version almost two years later.
(Steve Marriott's) Moments:'You really got me'. Released UK October 2008 Acid Jazz EP. US release World Artists October 1964.
The Moments were (allegedly) very successful in the East End of London and Essex and were a regular attraction at the Attic Club in Hounslow where soon to be actress Adrienne Posta would occasionally guest with the Moments on stage singing a cover of Twist & Shout! Steve Marriott was lead vocalist and keyboard player, Jimmy Winston (later the Small Faces keyboards player) played bass. Guitarist John Weider had a spell with Eric Burdon and the Animals while drummer Kenny Rowe joined Capability Brown in the 1970s.
'You really got me' was never available in Britain as it was intended purely for the American market in a desperate attempt to beat the Kinks to the US charts. The Moments lost this battle and, to be fair, their version does suffer from poor production so one can see how it didn't set the US charts on fire.The single does, however, mark Stevie's entrance onto the mod scene as a musician in his own right (let's discount his earlier Decca 'Holly-lite' 'Give her my regards' single) as, up to his involvement with the Moments, his main claim to fame was as a harmonica player on sessions for the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra. Although by '64 he had appeared on TV, film and stage, this was Stevie's first 'group' venture. It's rumoured that Pete Meaden, the manager of the High Numbers/The Who was briefly the Moments manager and it's possible that it is this connection that pointed Stevie towards the mod movement. This track comes from an EP featuring both sides of the single plus two unreleased tracks.
Brian Auger and the Trinity: 'Green Onions '65'. Released October 1965. Columbia single 'a' side.
A child prodigee on piano, after playing in the jazz clubs in the late 50's and early sixties, Auger moved to the Hammond B3 organ and formed the first of many line ups of the Trinity. He signed to Columbia and released this, his second single, whilst concurrently running the Steampacket, a soul revue outfit featuring Long John Baldry (late of the Hoochie Coochie Men), Rod Stewart (also a 'Hoochie Coochie' man) and Julie (Jools) Driscoll (of whom we'll speak soon). They were a hard gigging band, signed to Georgio Gomelsky's management, who never made any 'official' recordings. There were nine studio tracks laid down after an evenings double gig, plus a live gig at Birmingham Town Hall in February 1965 recorded for the American record labels as a 'taster' but, by the end of 1965 Stewart and Baldry had left the line up. Auger and Driscoll stayed as a team, with several tracks being issued between early 1966 and 1968's biggie 'This wheel's on fire', but this cover of Booker T and the MG's 1961 US chart topper (and mod anthem) is my favourite from the period. Very rarely does a cover (almost) top the original, but this one comes close!!! Great track.............
Julie Driscoll: 'Don't do it no more'. Released June 1965. Parlophone single 'a' side.
Here's Julie with her first 'proper' single, a cover of an Inez and Charlie Foxx track. Her debut waxing was on the 'Take Me By The Hand (And Lead Me)' album by the Harold Geller Group in 1963, HG being the conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. He composed music for the movies 'Trio', 'Jungle Street', 'Fury at Smugglers' Bay' and 'The Mistress'. From there Jools was spotted by Georgio Gomelski who, after installing her as the secretary for the Yardbirds fan club, secured a recording contract with Parlophone which led to three singles which were released concurrently with her time in Steampacket. When Steampacket folded mass acceptance followed thanks to the opportune cover of Bob Dylan and the Bands 'This Wheels on fire' in June 1968 which rose to number 5 in the UK charts. Follow-up singles and albums were confusingly credited to Julie Driscoll, Brain Auger and the Trinity and Brian Auger and the Trinity with Julie Driscoll, which possibly didn't cement the groups identity in the publics consciousness. Just a couple of small hits followed before Jools flew the nest and joined her husband, Keith Tippetts, on his journey into jazz via Carla Bley, Robert Fripp and many others.
(Lindsey Muir's)Untamed: 'It's not true'. Released 10th December 1965. Planet single 'a' side.
The Untamed were formed by Muir as early as 1956 and gigged 7 nights a week around Worthing. They turned professional in 1964 and commenced a bewildering procession of line up changes. After a couple of singles on Stateside, Decca signed the band on it's 'one shot' contract before producer Shel Talmy signed the band to his new label, Planet. Here he furnished them with a track from the Who's debut album (which Talmy had just produced) but, despite regular plays on Radio Caroline and other pirate stations, the disc didn't register. Perhaps one of the reasons was that, instead of hitting the road, the bands manager secured a four month residency at that mecca of hip-ness.... Londons Hilton Hotel. So, instead of playing in front of the growing mod scene, the Untamed were playing jazz covers and standards to Sammy Davis Jnr, Lena Horne, Dean Martin and Rocky Marciano until agent Arthur Howes saw sense and sent them out on a short tour round the clubs. Unfortunately it was too little, too late and further line changes followed. Not for the first time, Muir chose his new members from what were, in effect, working mens club bands and, again, just as the band had recorded another fine single (the Jimmy Page enhanced 'Daddy Long Legs') it was off to yet another residency! This time it wasn't central London, it was the Watersplash Club in St Hellier, Jersey, for six months!!! Further line up changes followed, more worthy singles were released but, more importantly, more opportunties were missed and despite tours in Germany and Italy, by 1967 the band had, in effect, folded.
Fleur De Lys: 'Circles'. Released 25th March 1966. Immediate label 'a' side.
Whilst playing a months residency in Germany, the band were given a copy of the Who's 'Instant Party' (aka 'Circles') on the 4th March and told to learn it and report to Londons IBC studios on the 7th to record it as their next single! Somehow, in the next three days, the band managed to traverse the 500 or so miles, work out their own version of the song and knock on the studio doors at the appointed hour and lay down this cracking version. Released just 18 days later the single was overlooked by the press and radio, perhaps because, even by March 1966, Immediate Records were struggling to promote all the tracks they were releasing. The bands line up at this time was Frank Smith on vox, Phil Sawyer on lead guitar, Gordon Haskell on bass and (ever present through the bands myriad line-ups) Keith Guster on drums. In addition to releasing songs as (Les/The) Fleur De Lys, they had releases as Ruperts People, Shyster, .... featuring Sharon Tandy as well as ......featuring Tony (Head) and Tandy. In all the band had 11 different line ups in its five year life span but, despite this, still managed to release several essential singles including my personal favourite, November 1968's 'Liar'.
Mark Four: 'I'm Leaving'. Released 6th August 1965. Decca Records 'b' side.
The bands third single and, again, a Decca 'one shot' deal. Both sides are crackers but it's the extended feed-back on 'I'm Leaving' that seals it for me and which firmly places the track in the now popular 'freakbeat' genre. Just one more single (Fontana's 'Work all day') before the bands new manager Tony Stratton Smith suggested not only a name change, but also a line up shuffle which saw a new bassist join, the bands name change to the Creation and a signing to Talmy's Planet Records. Ground breaking singles such as 'Painter Man', 'Making time' and 'How does it feel to feel' followed during the next 18 months but continual in-fighting saw the band split in early 1968, just as the ink was drying on a contract to sign to a major US label. I was lucky enough to see Creation in full 'pop-art/auto destruct' mode at Donny's Side Saddle club in September 1966 where, at the climax of the set, all the fire extinguishers and hoses were discharged resulting in a flooded (sunken) dance floor and a ban on bands playing the venue for many years.
Southern Sound: 'I don't wanna go'. Released 12th August 1966. Columbia label 'b' side.
Yet another fine beeside, this time to the bands only release, 'Just the same as you'. Top side is an angst ridden tale of life on the dole etc and deserved more sales than it achieved (i.e. minimal) as it is a fine slice of 'mod'. The obverse side is even better with its throbbing bass line and obligatory slashing guitar chords. Only one member of the band, Robbie Blunt, went on to any success, working in Robert Plant's band and also playing with Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. The names of the other members appears to be lost in the mists of time. Pity, it's a fine, 'Meek' style disc with something to say and a minor 'pop art' classic. My copy is one of several 'semi-legit' reissues which I have picked up from Lost Property, St Gregory's in Norwich.
Him and the Others: 'She's got eyes that tell lies'. Released 7th October 1966. Parlophone label 'b' side.
And another cracking beeside from '66 whose top side is 'I mean it'. Formed in 1964 by Lenny Shaw and Keith Giles, they signed up George Demetrious, Colin Roche and Geoff Gibbs by the usual method (an ad in Melody Maker!!) and immediately started playing Londons top clubs. They appeared playing live at London's Tiles Club in the 'quickie' film 'Mini Weekend' (wonder what the plot line to that involved?) before releasing this single. Despite excellent reviews in all the music mags the single stiffed and, by early 1967, the band started to disintegrate. Several members stuck it out as 'The Hand' for around a year before folding (sic) altogether. Colin Roche formed a short lived outfit with Paul Rodgers before he joined Free and saw rather more success than him....errrr, and the others!!!!!
Marc Bolan: 'The third degree'*. Released 3rd June 1966. Decca label 'a' side.
Mark Feld grew up in Hackney and at the age of nine he was given his first guitar and began a skiffle band. While at school he played guitar in "Susie and the Hula Hoops," a trio whose vocalist was a 12-year-old Helen Shapiro and, at 15, he was expelled from school for bad behaviour. He briefly joined a modelling agency to become a "John Temple Boy", appearing in the clothing catalogue for the menswear store as well as on the cardboard cut-outs displayed in shop windows. Town magazine featured him as an early example of the mod movement in a photo spread with two other models before, in 1964, Feld met his first manager, Geoffrey Delaroy-Hall, and recorded a slick commercial track backed by session musicians called "All at Once". This was released posthumously in 2008 as a very limited edition seven-inch vinyl.
Feld then changed his stage name to Toby Tyler when he moved in with ex-child actor Allan Warren, who became his second manager. At this time he liked to appear in boho-chic, wearing a corduroy peaked cap similar to his then current source of inspiration, Bob Dylan. Warren hired a recording studio and cut two tracks, the Bob Dylan song "Blowin' in the Wind" and Dion Di Mucci's "The Road I'm On (Gloria)". A version of Betty Everett's "You're No Good" (still unreleased) was later submitted to EMI but was turned down.
Warren then sold Feld's contract and recordings for £200 to his landlord, property mogul David Kirch, in lieu of three months' back rent, but Kirch was too busy to do anything with Mark. A year or so later, Mark's mother pushed into Kirch's office, shouted at him that he had done nothing for her son and demanded he tear up the contract to which he willingly complied. The tapes of the first two tracks vanished for over 25 years before resurfacing in 1991 and selling for nearly $8,000 with an eventual release on CD in 1993
Feld then signed to Decca Records in August 1965. At this point his name changed via Marc Bowland to Marc Bolan (assumed to be from folkie Bob Dylan... Bo/lan). He recorded his debut single "The Wizard" with The Ladybirds on backing vocals and session musicians. "The Wizard" was released on 19 November 1965 and two solo acoustic demos recorded shortly afterwards ("Reality" and "Song For A Soldier") have still only been given a limited official release in 2015 on seven-inch vinyl. A third song, "That's the Bag I'm In," written by New York folk singer Fred Neil (of 'Everybody's talkin'' fame), was also committed to tape, but has yet to be released.
In June 1966 "The Third Degree", again featuring minimalist backing by session musicians, appeared. Despite its almost Velvet Underground feel (also favoured at that time by Bolans new best friend David Bowie) the single failed to click and sank without trace.
This is one of my excursions into CD-land... the original is much too expensive for my pension-funded expenditure I'm afraid.
Later in 1966, Bolan turned up at Simon Napier-Bell's front door with his guitar and proclaimed that he was going to be a big star and it was only after thinking about installing Bolan into the Yardbirds line-up that Napier-Bell's next brainwave ocurred, so, meanwhile..............
Johns Children: 'The Love I Thought I'd Found' (aka 'Smashed and Blocked' in USA). Released 14th October 1966. Columbia label 'a' side.
It's 1965 in Great Bookham and drummer Chris Townson and singer Andy Ellison form a band called the Clockwork Onions, later to become The Few, and then The Silence. The band consisted of Townson and Ellison, with Geoff McClelland on guitar and John Hewlett on bass guitar. While performing at a swimming pool party in St Tropez in mid-1966, Townson met The Yardbirds's manager Simon Napier-Bell and invited him to come and see The Silence. Napier-Bell described them as "positively the worst group I'd ever seen", but still agreed, after multile brandies, to manage them. He changed their name to John's Children in order to ensure that the inexperienced bass player Hewett was not fired, dressed them up in white stage outfits and encouraged them to be outrageous to attract the attention of the press. Townson described their live acts as "theatre," "anarchy" and "deconstruction." They fought each other on stage, used fake blood and feathers, and they trashed their instruments. In general the band "whipped the audience into a frenzy."
Napier-Bell signed John's Children to Columbia Records, and they released their first single, "The Love I Thought I'd Found" in late 1966. Napier-Bell co-wrote the single with Hewlett, but because of his lack of confidence in the band's musical abilities, Napier-Bell used US session musicians on the recording.The single has been described as a "disorienting piece of musical mayhem", and "one of the first overtly psychedelic singles." To Napier-Bell's surprise "Smashed Blocked/Strange Affair" broke into the bottom of the US Billboard Hot 100 (No.96) and reached local top ten charts in Florida and California. However, in the UK, almost all the bands singles were banned by the BBC due to their 'controversial' lyrics. In March 1967 Napier-Bell replaced guitarist McClelland with Marc Bolan and the band toured as support to the Who in Germany which saw them in front of a NASA designed stack of amps even louder than the Who's, Marc attacking his guitar with a chain and the band showering the audience with flour bombs. After major riots in Düsseldorf and Ludwigshafen Townsend had the band kicked off the tour as 'too loud and confrontational'!!! Hmmmm....... Several singles, notably 'Desdemona', and a (US only) album, subtly entitled 'Orgasm', followed (again utilising US session players, screams lifted from the Beatles 'A Hard Days Night' soundtrack, a sleeve featuring the band in the nude with only flowers covering their modesty and with-held for three years by the record company) before Bolan moved onwards and, eventually, upwards to teen stardom. The band soldiered on for a while, broke up after a disastrous gig as stand-ins for the Bee Gees at Hamburgs Star Club and later (partially) reformed as post-punkers 'Radio Stars'. In common with Bolans solo Decca output, all the original singles are extremely rare (and expensive).
Attraction(s): 'She's a girl'. Released 11th November 1966, Columbia label 'b' side.
No relation to Elvis Costello and the...., this is a fine, snarling piece of 'garage punk' (or 'freakbeat' as it's UK equivalent is called nowadays) by the Romford based combo fronted by the superbly named Dean Maverick. Just two singles on Columbia, the 'a' side cover of the Kinks Dave Davies composed 'Face to Face' LP track is even more primitive that the original (with a bonus spoken intro), and produced by Dave Davies too. Their other single was a blander effort, another cover, this time of the Rolling Stones 'She's a rainbow'. After, presumably, failing to find another song starting with 'She's a....' it was a return to the mists of time and Romford for the lads.
Jimmy Winston and the Reflections: 'Sorry she's mine'. Released March 1966, Decca label single 'a' side.
Born James Edward Winston Langwith, Winston was a founder member of the previously mentioned Moments as lead guitarist. Peviously he had attended acting school and had several small, non-speaking roles in theatre and TV. His parents ran the Ruskin Arms pub in London's Manor Park where the Small Faces used to rehearse and it still forms the base for the meetings of the Small Faces fan club. Several 'myths' surround Winstons eventual departure from the Faces, one that he was too tall, possible; secondly, his organ playing was basic; definitely.. he was still learning at the time; thirdly, there was a dispute regarding his brother and the financing of the 'group' van; possibly an extenuating factor to.... lastly; he believed he was also a 'front man' in the band. This is probably the real reason... for proof, witness his behaviour on 'Thank your lucky stars' where Jimmy was seen waving his arms frantically to take attention away from Marriott's guitar solo. Both of them were natural front men and, obviously, something had to give.
After the Small Faces he formed Jimmy Winston and his Reflections. Their single 'Sorry She's Mine' featured the more proficient future 'Yes' man Tony Kaye on keyboards and ex-Moments John Weider on lead guitar. The Kenny Lynch composed track had already been recorded by his former bandmates for their first (Decca) album but, when the Faces refused to accept more Lynch numbers, he offered the track to Winston (conveniently overlooking to tell Winston about the other version) who transformed the number from an acceptable album track into a real tour de force single. Decca got behind the band with lots of publicity but, somehow, the track got lost in traffic. Undaunted, Winston re-jigged the line-up (to Winstons Fumbs) and returned with the even better 'Real Crazy Apartment' single. Again, nothing! As a result both singles are now worth the proverbial kings ransom, luckily my copy only cost me a few quid from an unsuspecting car boot dealer!!!
Disillusioned, Winston returned to acting where his credits included the 1972 Doctor Who serial 'Day of the Daleks' and later, part of the original London cast recording of Hair, alongside Sonja Kristina, Marsha Hunt, and Alex Harvey.
There was an attempted comeback in 1977, with the 'Sun in the morning' single on NEMS, further bit parts in films and on TV but, to date, no signs of any real success in either sphere. Still, a classic single is more than many bands achieve, and Jimmy scored two!!!
Small Faces: 'I've got mine'. Released 5th November 1965, Decca label single 'a' side.
Probably the finest 'mod' single... ever!!!
The bands second single is a hard-hitting, mo(o)dy R&B song with a tremendous guitar sound and was the first single written by the Marriott/Lane team. The song's release was planned to coincide with the film 'Dateline Diamonds', which featured the band performing the song alongside several other singles and album tracks. However, the film was not shown in cinemas until long after 'I've got mine' was released and as a result they lost out on the expected media exposure and publicity, and the disc was subsequently judged a failure by Decca. The label insisted that, for the time being, the band return to 'outside' compositions and, to a certain extent, they were proved right when the follow up (the Kenny Lynch/Mort Shuman inked 'Sha la la la lee') hit number three in early 1966. Unfortunately, the spin off was that the band were then 'tainted' as a 'teeny bop' band despite their superior first album on Decca containing some of the best in mod, soul and proto heavy metal recordings then around. The song was later revisited by the band in 1968 when a new instrumental version was recorded as the title track from the album 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake'. It was after the failure of "I've Got Mine" that Jimmy Winston was 'released' from the band and replaced by keyboardist Ian McLagan (formerly of The Muleskinners and Boz and the Boz People). Winston did, however, co-write the B-side (and first Decca album track) "It's too Late" with Marriott and Lane.
'Dateline Diamonds' was mainly conceived by the bands manager Don Arden and music publisher Harold Shampan as a publicity vehicle for up-and-coming talent. The plot revolves around smuggling diamonds between the Netherlands and the UK, via the pirate radio ship MV Galaxy, which were concealed inside the band's demo tape boxes (unbeknownst to the Wonderful Radio London management of course!!). It featured the actors William Lucas, Kenneth Cope, George Mikell, Conrad Phillips, DJ Kenny Everett (as himself), Patsy Rowlands and from the 'up and coming talent' area, the Chantelles, Ray Anton and the Pro-Forma (who ARE these people??) and a young Kiki Dee and is now considered a 'classic' (ahem!!) of its genre.
The Game: 'The Addicted Man'. Released 6th January 1967, Parlophone single 'a' side.
After striking out with the Small Faces and Jimmy Winstone, Kenny Lynch cast round for another band on which to foist his compositions. He soon spotted Mitcham schoolboy band The Secrets, signed them to a management deal, changed their name to The Game and placed them with Pye records. Mid '65 saw the release of the rather ordinary Lynch composed marracca laden 'Gotta keep on moving, baby' which didn't move any units at all. The band then ditched Lynch, signed with Decca and underwent an image and musical transformation after picking up on the mod scene in London. Their 'one shot' Decca release was 'Gonna get me someone'.... which no-one got and so the band moved on to Parlophone to record the band comped 'The Addicted Man'. The label, initially, got behind the single and they were rewarded with a slot on 'Juke Box Jury' and that's when the excretia hit the revolving blades!!! Despite being an anti-drug song, written as a warning from someone who is hopelessly addicted, perhaps to heroin, the jury, consisting of those paragons of virtue Pete Murray, Alan Freeman, Simon Dee and Jimmy Saville voted the record a resounding 'miss'. Nothing unusual there but, in this case the panel were particularly vituperative. As a result, the BBC banned the disc and, as the Chairman of EMI was a member of the House of Lords, Parlophone quickly withdrew the record and the band retreated to the studio to record what was, essentially, a 'kiss off' to JBJ entitled 'It's shocking what they call me'. There was just one more single before the band sundered with members going on to 'lyte-psych' outfits Kind Hearts and English and Lavender Grove before retreating to Mitcham and Morden for 30 years. The collectability of their handful of singles saw the band reform in the mid-nineties coupled with an album of their singles, demoes and spin off groups material all being topped off with club and festival dates.
The Eyes: When the night falls* (Demo 2): Released January 28 1967. Mercury single 'a' side (finished version).
Here's the second demo version of the bands first single on Philips offshoot Mercury, previously used as an outlet for US soul releases. Philips usually placed that 'dirty' r&b stuff by the Pretty Things, Spencer Davis group et al on Fontana but decided it was time to give Mercury a higher profile. Enter The Eyes, formed by Ealing's Terry Nolder as, variously, The Aces, the Arrows and 'Dave Russell and the Renegades'. When this sexier appelation didn't click with the birds an upgrade to Dave HartThe Hartbeats was foisted on the youth clubs of Acton, Brentford and the surrounding area, boosted by shiny waistcoats and romantic ballads. Although this increased the groups fan club to around 70 members, another plan was hatched. Noting that locals the Small Faces and the High Numbers had moved on to greater things, the lads decided to 'go mod'. In came a suitably 'mod' name. variously coloured dyed parkas with tyre tracks stencilled across the back, rugby styled t-shirts with an 'eye' pattern labouriously sown on (each 'eye' with the appropriate members photo as a 'pupil'), a new stage act featuring Motown and Stax covers and a slew of self composed songs. A higher profile soon followed with gigs at the Ricky Tick and the Tiles nightclub Radio Caroline night. Within a few weeks the group were signed by Phillips and they were soon in the Stanhope Place studios to lay down their first killer single. 'When the night falls', was released with considerable fanfare, including adverts on the London buses and Underground... a first!!. Their gigs increased with supports to the Move, Action and The Birds but an audition for the BBC saw the band stumble when the producers were treated to a new song entitled 'I can't get no ressurection' in front of a huge crucifix. Back in the studio, the lads recorded their next opus... 'The Immediate pleasure', a song about, well, bringing ones self, and/or girl friend, 'immediate pleasure'. Another BBC refusal and a quick return to the studio to lay down the Who's stage favourite Everly Bros cover, 'Man with money' which still didn't lead to an entry on the BEEB's playlists. Phillips harrumphed and said 'time to go for the hit, lads' and so it was Beatle-time and a cover of 'Good day sunshine', before the release of the Fabs 'Revolver'. Even this failed to click and, ignominiously, the band were talked into an album of Rolling Stones covers (as The Pupils) for the Wing budget label for a paltry £180. And that was it... just four singles, an ultra rare EP and the Pupils album from a band that, despite their 'b' sides showing their influences (Who/Stones), had real promise. Their singles and EP would set you back around a £1000, if you could find 'em, so it's no surprise my 'Demo 2' version of '...Night falls' (including extra feedback and a slower tempo than the released version) is from one of those pesky shiny silver discs.
Action: 'Land of 1000 dances'. Released 15th October 1965. Parlophone single 'a' side.
The unluckiest band of the 60's??? Probably. After forming in 1963 as the Boyfriends (primarily the backing band to Decca's mod-ette Sandra Barry) in Kentish Town, the boys shortened the bands name to... The Boys, added lead guitarist Pete (no relation) Watson and gigged around the capital under their own steam during 1964. During this period the band were turned down (shades of the Beatles here) by every label... including Decca, who they had already recorded for backing Miss Barry!! Picking up their own coterie of fans amongst the burgeoning mod fraternity, thanks to their musical choice of sparkling original songs and a selection of Tamla and Stax material, they changed their name to the more immediate sounding The Action and started to bombard Beatles producer George Martin with requests to attend one of their shows. Early '65 saw George in the crowd at Balham Town Hall after which, suitably impressed, he offered the boys (sorry.. The Action) a deal with Parlophone and signed up as their personal producer. Into the same studio as the Beatles they went, laid down a great double sider, 'Land of 1000 dances' and 'In my lonely room' and sat back to watch the single.... sink without trace. Over the next two years a string of some of the best singles around were released, including band comps 'Never Ever' and the superlative 'Shadows and Reflections' with absolute minimal sales. Martins production was faultless, the band continued to play sell out gigs and tour as support regularly but, somehow, were unable to make a breakthrough. So, signed to the Beatles label, produced by the Beatles own producer, recording in the same studio as the Beatles, why, when passing the Beatles in the corridors of Abbey Road.. or when they were in the studios with Martin, didn't they take the easy route and ask the Fab Four for a tune to hoist them into the charts? No-one seems to know the answer to that, I'm sure they could have magicked up another, say, 'Back in the USSR' for the band and helped them on their way, but the opportunity was never grasped and so, one of the UK's best bands was allowed to wither away. The onset of psychedelia saw the band expand their line-up, minds and musical horizons with the 'Rolled Gold' album... but even that was allowed to stagnate in the vaults for 30 years. Early '68 saw the collapse of the band after a disastrous gig in Cornwall and a partial reformation later that year as Mighty Baby... but thats another story.
Wimple Winch: 'Save my soul'. Released 17th June 1966. Fontana single 'a' side.
Where to start? Let's try (for once) and be brief.... a 'late' entry into the ranks of 'Merseybeat' as the Four Just Men, until another band laid claim to the name and forced a change to the credit to Just Four Men on their debut Parlophone single, November 1964's 'That's my baby'. There were high profile tours, including with the Beatles but no change in fortunes so, in early '66 the band changed their name to Wimple Winch and moved to Fontana. An early single,'What's been done', coincided with the band's new manager opening the Sinking Ship Club in Stockport and, amongst their early support slot's was one with a new American left handed guitar sensation called Jimi Hendrix. Despite plenty of plays on Radio London the single failed to lift off so back into the studios they went and layed down this monster of a track. Again, plenty of airplay but still no sales. Returning to the studio the band continued to ring the changes and recorded the lengthy, proto-psychedelic, semi-biographical 'Rumble on Mersey Square South', the location of the Sinking Ship, but then the clubs name seemed to start to reflect the band's fortunes. The club burnt down, destroying all their equipment and Fontana decided that, despite three critically recived singles, it was time to pull the plug. A slew of demo's were laid down in private studios but it would be thirty years before these, and the Winch's singles would begin to circulate amongst fans of mod, 'freakbeat' and psychedelia.
Clique: 'You've been unfair'. Released May 1965. Pye single 'b' side.
The top side ('We didn't kiss, didn't love, but now we do') to their second single is tremendous, but the B side is even 'mod-ier'. The Harrow five piece were signed to Pye by Kinks manager Larry Page after he was given a copy of their Marquee Studio produced EP and he placed them into the studio to record 'She ain't no good' (covered contemporaniously by the Knack). When that failed to chart, they changed the line up and returned with this excellent double sider, but even this didn't garner a hit for them. Dissolution set in and, within months, the band had folded. Their two singles and EP are now extremely collectable. Even at the time of their split the bands average age was on 16!!!!
Goldie and the Gingerbreads: 'The Skip'(demo version). Released 9th April 1965. Decca single 'b' side.
Honorary 'Brits' (for the purposes of this article), here's NYC's finest all-girl guitar/drums band. Despite being looked upon as a novelty act when The Animals manager shipped them over to record the innocuous 'Can't you hear my heartbeat' (UK No 25 folks!!), the band did have 'previous' in NYC. They had formed in 1962, performed at Andy Warhols legendary 'Mods and Rockers Ball (leading to an introduction to the Rolling Stones and Atlantic Records head honcho Ahmet Ertegun) and, by 1964, had even performed in Hamburg before releasing (US only) a version of 'Skinny (V)Minnie' on Atlantic. After the Alan Price produced '... heartbeat' on Decca, the band came under the aegis of the legendary Shel Talmy who beefed up their recorded sound. On stage they were already a highly proficient, hard hitting band (as winessed by yours truly on the March '65 Rolling Stones tour) so it was no surprise when the second single, 'That's why I love you' had this tough little instrumental on the obverse. Much in the vein of Small Faces 'b' sides, this demo version has organist Margo Lewis trading licks with Talmy's favoured ivory tinkler, the legendary Nicky Hopkins. The demo version here is from an essential new release entitled 'Planet Mod', a collection of tracks either from the Planet label, leased to the label or produced by the labels founder Shel Talmy. The band then embarked on two years, world-wide hard gigging which led to a fractious break-up in 1967 after just a hand full of singles. Goldie signed to Immediate for a couple of singles before returning to the States and forming the heavyweight jazz-rockers Ten Wheel Drive whilst the three others formed jazz rock band Isis. The band were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011 and, earlier, had been awarded the prestigious Touchstone Award for "women who have the courage and inspiration to make a difference in the music industry and whose work has set new standards." Not bad for a band whose main claim to fame (at best) is a No 25 UK hit which was eclipsed in the US by Herman's Hermits!!!
*** Video is released version... not 'demo' as above.
The Who: 'Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere (BBC live version 24th May 1965). This release 15th February 2000. Polydor album.
My favourite Who single (originally released just three days earlier than the BEEB version), this one features an extended 'feedback' section which suits me just fine. Were they ever a 'mod' band?? Well, they certainly played 'maximum R&B', they had a huge mod following but, to me...... no!! Who cares (no pun intended) when music is this fierce, imaginative and downright dangerous.... ENJOY!!