Friday, 22 February 2013

Sands - Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator (1967)

Sands were a psychedelic pop group, formed from the ashes of Surrey, R&B band The Others. The group consisted of Paul Stewart (vocal), Peter Hammerton (guitar, vocal), Ian McLintock (bass, vocal), and Rob Freeman (guitar, vocal) Nigel Baldwin (drums)  Their one off single "Mrs Gillespie's Refrigerator" is my favourite cover of a Bee Gees song, albeit an unreleased one. The label states that the single was produced by Bee Gees manager, Robert Stigwood but Hammerton has since said that Stigwood never attended the recording session and so the band produced it themselves. The single appeared in 1967 on Reaction Records and was one of the first to be administered by the Beatles own Apple publishing company. The b-side, a Hammerton/Stewart original "Listen To The Sky" is a highly regarded psychedelic nugget, and has since been comped many times.

The band were taken under Brian Epstein's wing, which could have led to some kind of success had Epstein not been found dead two weeks before the single's release date. The single flopped and subsequently, interest in the band waned. Sands split up shortly after but Freeman and McLintlock carried on as a duo, forming another excellent pop-sike project called Sun Dragon, who would sign to MGM records and score a minor UK hit in 1968 with a cover of the Lemon Pipers' "Green Tambourine" which led to an LP of the same name, a very likeable album and one that rarely shows up these days. All of the mentioned recordings were collected and released on CD by Rev-Ola in 2007 and more recently the Sands 7" single was bootlegged which was a nice treat for those of us that can't afford £300 for an original copy.

Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator
(Gibb, Gibb, Gibb)

Talks about the cold on television, 
Advertising in the intermission. 
Lights down low, glued to the screen, 
There she is, incredibly clean. 
I love her. 

Mrs. Gillespie, you know how to sell me. 
You make me blow my mind with things you tell me. 
Lights down low, glued to the screen, 
There she is, incredibly clean. 
I love her.  

Ahh, Ahh, Ahh, Ahhhh
I'll be back to see you later.
Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator.

Now she disappears back to the program. 
I return to work, feeling so low down. 
Someone else is stealing my scene, 
Fade away right into a dream about her.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Herman's Hermits - Bet Yer Life I Do (YouTube)

Here's an ace video taken from the excellent modcinema YouTube channel, Peter Blair Denis Bernard Noone and co playing their fab 1970 single "Bet Yer Life I Do" in front on a gawping crowd of onlookers. 

This song and many more can be heard on the latest Bite It Deep mix, Volume 9, on Mixcloud here.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Bite It Deep Volume 9

Number nine...

Velvet Glove - Master Will
Capability Brown - The Band
Bee Gees - Ring My Bell
Rich Fever - Everything's Moving
Herman's Hermits - Bet Yer Life I Do
Toast - Time Of Year
New Potatoes -  Good Morning & Goodbye
Michel Pagliaro - Lovin' You Ain't Easy
Harmony Grass - Let My Tears Flow
Graham Gouldman - Late Mr Late
Peter Noone - Right On Mother
Tony Hazzard - Me The Peaceful Heart
Moon - Pirate
Gandalf - Bird in the Hand
10CC - Headline Hustler

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Harmony Grass - This Is Us (1969)

Harmony Grass were an Essex band whose career began in 1960, originally known as the Cutaways and with the addition on vocals of Tony Thompson, who would change his name to the more showbiz Tony Rivers, became known as Tony Rivers and the Castaways. By 1963 the band were signed to Columbia records and were recording at Abbey Road Studios. Their first three singles are of a standard beat/pop style of the day albeit far superior than a lot of bands that were scoring hits with this formula. The Beach Boys influence was starting to show by their fourth single, especially the b-side "Til We Get Home" I must also mention that the a-side, "She", written by Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones, is a real Who-like, early Power Pop nugget that readers of this blog will definitely dig. Andrew Loog Oldham produced a single for the band released on his own Immediate record label in 1966, a killer version of "Girl Don't Tell Me" which surprisingly sounds more like the Beach Boys than the Beach Boys' own version (listen here and here and you'll see what I mean) and has been on my wants list for some time now.

The band's last single on Columbia was another Beach Boys cover, a self produced and brave attempt at "God Only Knows" which although musically doesn't reach the heights of the Brian Wilson original, the harmonies are spot on. The last single released as Tony Rivers and the Castaways is "I Can Guarantee You Love" (included on Bite It Deep Mix Vol.2) on Polydor records in 1968. Written by Graham Dee and Brian Potter from the Cortinas/Octopus, capturing the summer of love vibe just too late to make an impression on the charts. It is another one of those records that should have been huge but wasn't and my favourite of the Castaways era.

Harmony Grass - 1969
Towards the end of 1968 the band come to the conclusion that a name change was in order. Tony Rivers & The Castaways was sounding dated and they were known as a good live act but not a chart band. The name Harmony Grass was picked and almost instantly the bands luck changed. Now signed to RCA, their first single under the new moniker, "Move In A Little Closer Baby" achieved success in the two things they had been previously lacking: substantial radio play and consequently, a hit record. The line up around this time included Tony Rivers (vocals), Tony Ferguson (lead guitar, vocals), Bill Castle (drums, vocals), Tom Marshall (guitar, piano, vocals), Kenny Rowe (falsetto vocals) and Ray Brown (bass guitar).

The single's success provided the band with the opportunity to record  an LP. "This Is Us" was released in 1969 and showcases the band's penchant for playing harmony driven Beach Boys-esque pop which they had been perfecting on the live circuit for the last five years. The album is the epitome of British Sunshine Pop, mostly written and produced by Rivers with orchestral arrangements by Johnny Arthey. Looking towards the U.S. for inspiration, you can hear influences from the likes of the Turtles on "Move In A Little Closer Baby", the Association on "What A Groovy Day" and "Summer Dreaming", Harpers Bizarre on "Chattanooga Choo Choo", Four Freshmen on the acapella "Tom Dooley" and Arthur Lee's Love on "Mrs Richie". Rivers even manages to tap into Brian Wilson circa 1966 on "I've Seen To Dream" which sounds like a lost song from the Pet Sounds sessions.

Harmony Grass released a further five singles on RCA, each of them melodic pop of the finest order before calling it a day in late 1970. Ferguson and Rowe moved in a heavier direction although still kept the vocal harmonies in Capability Brown and Rivers went on to produce and provide vocals on numerous recordings.  Back in 1999 RPM dedicated a three volume series of CD's compiling the complete recorded works of Tony Rivers. Volume one focussed on The Castaways and Volume two on the Harmony Grass sessions. The third and final volume "Harmony Soul" collects Rivers' work with various projects throughout the seventies like Summer Wine, Indiana, Shine, Hollywood Freeway and the Highly Likely single "Whatever Happened To You?" which was used as the theme to to UK sitcom Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?

Check out the official Tony Rivers website here for loads of interesting stories spanning his full career and a full discography. There is also a YouTube channel here which is regularly updated and shows that Tony Rivers still regularly writes and performs and is still the British master of the harmony.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Happy 70th Birthday Graham Nash

So with today being Graham Nash's 70th birthday I thought I'd pay tribute to the man who released his fair share of killer pop "reckerds" over the years. Here's five of his best...

The Hollies - Everything Is Sunshine (1967)
The B-side to King Midas In Reverse. How could anyone resist this cute, two minute, popsike love song?

The Hollies - Elevated Observations? (1967)
My personal highlight from the Butterfly album, this wasn't included on the US version. Nash shares vocals with Allan Clarke here for one of the more blatant drug references of the era. Also one of my wife's favourite songs!

The Hollies - Jennifer Eccles (1968)
As close to bubblegum pop as the Hollies ever got. Nash shares the songwriting credit with Clarke on this, which would be his last single before departing the band, unhappy with the pop direction and rejection of his new, hipper songs. Cool video.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Our House (1970)
Nash's ode to domestic bliss, apparently written in under an hour and about his home that he shared with Joni Mitchell in Laurel Canyon. Quite possibly the finest tune in the Nash song book.

Crosby & Nash - Frozen Smiles (1972)
A bitter lyric about a friendship turned bad, but put to a positively optimistic tune. I like it when songwriters do that!


Fresh Air - It Takes Too Long / Here Comes Summer (1972)

Fresh Air's recording lifespan lasted for a mere two singles (neither charted) from 1971 to 1972 with both being released on Philips and still selling cheaply when they turn up thanks to the Record Collector Price Guide's low listing price of £6 and £7. First single "Too Many Reasons" is a pleasant enough pop tune with a whiff of Badfinger attached to it, but it's the bands second single "It Takes Too Long" which, rightfully so, gets the most attention. 

Two of my favourite blogs, "Purepop" and "Left and to the Back" have previously posted articles on this record. The George Harrison influence is so strong here that you couldn't get away with writing about it and not giving at least one nod to the Quiet One. If we had to play spot the influences, which lets face it, is pretty much what this blog does in every post, I'd say it borrows heavily from the "All Things Must Pass" album, especially "My Sweet Lord" and "What Is Life" but without the five drum kits, ten acoustic guitars, three bass guitars and the rest à la typical Phil Spector style.  Fresh Air's production was handled by David Knights who may or may not have been the bass player for Procol Harum. Knights also shares the songwriting credit with Myers. Again, I'm taking an educated guess here in saying that this may be Mike Myers who had co-written songs with Greenaway & Cook also on Philips around the same time. 

The B-side "Here Comes Summer" is a great laid back acoustic and vocal harmony driven number which straight away got me thinking of "Sun King" by the Beatles. An albums worth of songs of this standard would have been amazing but Philips clearly decided that two flops were all they were going to allow Fresh Air. If anyone knows what Myers/Knights did next, please get in contact.

 I'll most likely include "Here Come Summer" on a future Bite It Deep mix so for now, dig this...