Classic Singles #103: The Barrier – Uh! / Spot The Lights (1968)

barrier-pic sleeveThe Barrier hailed from Fulham in South London and were originally known as The Purple Barrier, shortening their name in response to pressure from the management of Deep Purple (then a pop psych outfit themselves rather than the heavy rock behemoths they would become in the 1970s).

‘Uh! / Spot The Lights’ was The Barrier’s third single and appeared on the Philips label in December 1968 (in the UK in a plain sleeve, though it was also issued in the Netherlands in the picture sleeve shown). Despite the rather uninspiring title, ‘Uh!’ is in fact a very enjoyable slice of commercial pop psych / mod beat with a spiky guitar break and a few of the titular grunts thrown in for good measure.

But it is on the flip that the group really hits their stride. A discordant piano intro immediately grabs the attention and quickly gives way to pummeling drums (that hardly let up for the rest of the song) and driving fuzz guitar, underpinning a very melodic, catchy vocal line with simple but effective lyrics about a night out in the centre of town.

‘Uh!’

‘Spot The Lights’

‘Dawn Breaks Through’, the b-side of The Barrier’s debut single on the independent Eyemark label is also essential to check out – it is another high octane pop psych gem, unfortunately buried on the flip of the very forgettable ‘Georgie Brown’. It had initially been slated to appear with another song, the excellent ‘Shapes and Sounds’, but this 45 never proceeded beyond the acetate stage (though you can now hear the lost a-side on Incredible Sound Show Stories Volume 1 or on a 45 issued by Top Sounds in 2013 which also includes a demo version of ‘Dawn Breaks Through’).

A second 45 ‘The Tide is Turning / A Place In Your Heart’ was recorded by session men while the band were touring overseas.

A brief clip exists of the group, part of Philips’ New Faces of 1969 promotional film that also showcased the likes of The Open Mind, Ambrose Slade and Procession.

Reissues: Both sides of the single are on Rare 60’s Beat Treasures Volume 4; ‘Spot The Lights’ is on Rubble Volume 17 and English Freakbeat Volume 3.

Discography
  • Georgie Brown / Dawn Breaks Through (Eyemark, 1968)
  • The Tide Is Turning / A Place In Your Heart (Philips, 1968)
  • Uh! / Spot The Lights (Philips, 1968)
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Classic Singles #102: The Answers – It’s Just a Fear / You’ve Gotta Believe Me (1966)

Answers-labelThe Answers from South Shields in the North East of England were responsible for a bona fide freakbeat classic in ‘It’s Just a Fear’, the a-side of their debut single released on the Columbia label in February 1966 (promotional copies give the song title as ‘Just a Fear’, stock copies as the full ‘It’s Just a Fear’).

The song was written by guitarist Tony Hill, whose incisive, driving, at times almost raga-like fretwork is a key feature of the number – a dance floor stomper with pounding drums, soulful vocals from J. Vincent Edwards, and a suitably frenetic rave-up finish.

Flip ‘You Gotta Believe Me’ (another Hill composition) is a more commercial offering than the a-side but still moves along nicely with a winning melody and some neat harmonica.

Follow-up single ‘That’s What You’re Doing To Me / Got a Letter From My Baby’ appeared in July (possibly only in demo form).

Tony Hill has featured in this blog before as he left The Answers to join the definitive line-up of psychedelic legends The Misunderstood and after that formed heavy progsters High Tide. J. Vincent Edwards went solo after the band split, appeared in the London production of Hair, and later went on to be a successful songwriter and producer.

‘(It’s) Just a Fear’

‘You’ve Gotta Believe Me’

Reissues: ‘It’s Just a Fear’ can be found on Rubble Volume 13, English Freakbeat Volume 3 and That Driving Beat Volume 1; the flip is on Portobello Explosion and Magic Spectacles.

Discography
  • It’s Just a Fear / You’ve Gotta Believe Me (Columbia, 1966)
  • That’s What You’re Doing To Me / Got a Letter From My Baby (Columbia, 1966)

Classic Singles #101: The Escapades – I Tell No Lies / She’s The Kind (1966)

Escapades-labelThe Escapades from Memphis, Tennessee were formed in late 1965 by singer Tommy Minga after he had been forced out of another local band The Jesters (who later released a 45 on Sun Records, ‘Cadillac Man’ credited to Minga though in fact written by their guitarist Teddy Paige).

The debut single from Tommy’s new group appeared on the Arbet label in February 1966 and was reissued a month later on XL. A-side ‘I Tell No Lies’ is a top notch garage swinger with swirling keyboards, confident vocals, and a simple but effective guitar break from Bennie Kisner, all anchored by a neat driving bass-line. The song was composed by keyboard player Ron Gorden and drummer Ronny Williamson.

Flip ‘She’s The Kind’ is a more moody affair, again with keyboards in full effect. This was written by Minga, Gorden and bassist Dale Roark.

The success of the 45 locally led to a deal with national label Verve, a subsidiary of MGM, and a second single was issued in May. ‘Mad Mad Mad’ is an excellent up-tempo raver with fuzzy guitar and a catchy main riff, and ‘I Try So Hard’ is an urgent folk-rocker. The band also took part in a grueling tour of the southern United States supporting The Swinging Medallions and Sam The Sham. The headline acts flew from venue to venue but The Escapades had to drive punishing distances in their converted hearse (yes, another garage band with one of those!).

The band split up in 1967 when three of its members were drafted.

‘I Tell No Lies’

‘She’s The Kind’

Reissues: ‘I Tell No Lies’ is on Pebbles Volume 5 and A History of Garage and Frat Bands in Memphis 1960-1975 Volume 1. The flip is on Sixties Rebellion (or Volume 1 of the vinyl). Both sides of the single plus ‘Mad Mad Mad’ and an unreleased number ‘What You Know About Love’ are also included on Big Beat’s compilation of The Jesters, Cadillac Men: The Sun Masters.

Discography
  • I Tell No Lies / She’s The Kind (Arbet / XL)
  • Mad Mad Mad / I Try So Hard (Verve)

 

Classic Singles #100: The Paragons – Abba / Better Man Than I (1967)

Paragons-labelIf I had to pick a song that epitomises the youthful exuberance of 60s teen garage in all its glory then it might well be the anthemic ‘Abba’, a-side of the only single from Charlotte, North Carolina’s The Paragons.

The 45 appeared on the Bobbi label in January 1967 and was a sizable local hit, receiving considerable airplay. At the suggestion of the group’s manager Bobbie Cashman, it had been recorded at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte (whose owner Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith composed ‘Dueling Banjos’, the instrumental made famous by the 1972 film Deliverance).

‘Abba’ was selected as one of the songs for the single as it was the only original number in the band’s set. Its structure is ridiculously simple, a chorus-like opening followed by a verse ending in call and response shouts of “Yeah”, then repeat. There’s no instrumental break but the infectious melody backed by a classic garage chord progression from the jangling lead, fuzzy rhythm and keyboards is all that is needed.

‘Abba’

The flip is the band’s take on ‘Mister You’re a Better Man Than I’, a number written by Manfred Mann’s Mike Hugg and his brother Brian and recorded by The Yardbirds on their 1965 Having a Rave Up album. Like so many garage bands, The Paragons were heavily influenced by the British Invasion groups and this was no doubt a staple of their live set and features plenty of fuzzy lead guitar.

‘Better Man Than I’

Though credited to Danny Huntley and Johnny Pace on the 45, ‘Abba’ was in fact written by high school student Jim Charles while he was living in Killeen, Texas. The inspirations for the song were a cartoon character on the television who sounded like he was saying “abba dabba” and Jim’s father, who was always telling Jim and his brother to turn off the lamp in their room (the so-called Abba lamp, complete with red light-bulb). Over the course of time the lyrics were adapted so that they were about a girl and the light going off became a lovelight going on. The brothers debuted the song live in their outfit the Lily Whyte Lyres, complete with the Abba lamp, which was turned on for the duration of its performance.

In Spring 1965 Jim’s family moved to Charlotte. He heard a band playing in Freedom Park and offered to sing for them, then later met members of the Paragons (then known as The Pagans) at Charlottestown mall and was invited to join them on guitar. For a while Jim was playing in both bands, The Abbadons and The Paragons, with each performing their own version of ‘Abba’, until a falling out with Johnny Pace over a girl led to Jim leaving The Paragons. He was replaced by Pat Walters, from another local band The Barons, to complete the line-up that appears on the single – Johnny Pace on drums and lead vocal, his brother Bobby on bass, Danny Huntley on rhythm guitar, Tim Moore on organ, and Pat on lead guitar.

The band rehearsed at the Pace family rec house and played the usual array of school dances and teen clubs, as well as shopping centre parking lots and opening slots for The Hollies and Herman’s Hermits, traveling to gigs in a hearse.
After The Paragons broke up, Johnny Pace moved on to The New Mix, who recorded a fine pop-psych album for United Artists in 1968. Pat Walters formed The Good, The Bad and The Ugly with Bobby Pace, was later in Jeremiah who made two pop-rock albums on Uni in the early 1970s, but is best known as a member of power-poppers The Spongetones who formed in 1979.

Reissues: You can find ‘Abba’ on Teenage Shutdown Volume 5, Le Beat Bespoke Volume 3, or Tobacco-a-Go-Go Volume 2. The flip is on Bury My Body and Yesterday’s Dawn. For more information on The Paragons and the music scene in Charlotte and North Carolina in the 1960s I thoroughly recommend Jacob Berger and Daniel Coston’s 2013 book There Was a Time.

Footage still exists of the band’s lip-synched appearance on The Village Square, a variety show that started out as a local North Carolina program but was later syndicated across the United States. The picture quality isn’t perfect but it is amazing to have any visual record of the group at all. So, enjoy!

 

Classic Singles #99: Boeing Duveen and the Beautiful Soup – Jabberwock / Which Dreamed It (1968)

Boeing-pic sleeveThis prime slice of Carnaby Street-style UK psychedelia appeared on the Parlophone label in May 1968. The a-side brilliantly sets Lewis Carroll’s famous nonsense poem ‘Jabberwocky’ from Through The Looking Glass, the follow-up to Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, with a musical backdrop full of strange sound effects and bursts of sitar, keyboards, and fuzzy guitar.

Flip-side ‘Which Dreamed It’ continues in similar fashion, this time taking the words from the poem that concludes Through The Looking Glass, and matching them with a more laid-back sitar, flute and tabla-driven backing that has a raga-like feel to it.

Promotional copies of the single came in the art sleeve pictured, which reproduces the original illustration of the Jabberwock by John Tenniel. The 45 was the brainchild of Sam Hutt, a qualified doctor who was one of the signatories to the pro-marijuana advert paid for by Paul McCartney that appeared in The Times in July 1967. Hutt played guitar and had been learning the sitar but couldn’t write lyrics, hence the co-opting of Carroll’s poems – an inspired choice as it turned out.

Sam HuttIn 1969 Hutt joined a general practice aimed at young people in London’s Ladbroke Grove founded by Dr. Ian Dunbar, which among other things used tincture of cannabis (then legal to prescribe) instead of methadone to help recovering heroin addicts.

He later ran (by his own admission) a not-too-successful private practice from a flat on Exhibition Road that he shared with Roger Chapman from the group Family and Jenny Fabian, author of Groupie. Fabian recalled that “I did find it a bit weird…trying to lie around stoned listening to the sounds of vaginal inspections going on behind the curtain up the other end of the sitting room”!

Hutt moved on to become a so-called “rock and roll doctor” to bands such as The Who, Rolling Stones, and Grateful Dead. Indeed, he already had form in this area as the picture on the right shows – this was taken on Formentera in the summer of 1967, when Hutt accompanied the Pink Floyd on holiday to keep an eye on an increasingly erratic Syd Barrett.

It was a fateful meeting with Gram Parsons, who had been sent to see Hutt by Keith Richards, that led to the good doctor’s discovery of country music, and he later adopted the alter-ego of Hank Wangford, who continues to record and perform live to this day.

‘Jabberwock’

‘Which Dreamed It’

Reissues: ‘Jabberwock’ is on Rubble Volume 14 and ‘Which Dreamed It’ on The Perfumed Garden Volume 3 or Rubble Volume 20 – or you can find both sides on the Rubble box-set. There is also a vinyl reissue of the single on the Captain High label, though this doesn’t have the picture sleeve.

 

Classic Singles #98: The Aquarian Age – 10,000 Words in a Cardboard Box / Good Wizard Meets Naughty Wizard (1968)

AquarianAgeThis 45 appeared on the Parlophone label in May 1968 and was recorded by two members of the recently defunct band Tomorrow. Drummer John ‘Twink’ Alder and bassist John ‘Junior’ Wood were joined on the single by Clem Cattini on drums and Nicky Hopkins on piano. The 45 was arranged and produced by Mark Wirtz (the mastermind behind the uncompleted A Teenage Opera project, which only yielded a couple of singles at the time), who had worked with Tomorrow on their self-titled album released in February 1968, an essential artifact in any collection of UK psychedelia.

‘10,000 Words In a Cardboard Box’ is a perfect slice of psychedelic pop, with prominent orchestration that adds to the impact of the song. It doesn’t always have to be about fuzz guitars!

‘10,000 Words In a Cardboard Box’

‘Good Wizard Meets Naughty Wizard’ combines an Eastern influenced, quite enjoyable Mark Wirtz backing track with the whimsical story of the two wizards. This will not be to most people’s taste (it probably wasn’t at the time either) and I don’t expect you to listen to the end if it all gets too much!

‘Good Wizard Meets Naughty Wizard’

Later in 1968, Twink joined The Pretty Things in time for their seminal S.F. Sorrow album, a masterwork of the highest order that all should know, and appeared with the rest of the band in British comedian Norman Wisdom’s film What’s Good For The Goose (the group recorded several numbers for the film that appeared on the last of their releases on the De Wolfe sound library label under the alias The Electric Banana, Even More Electric Banana in 1969).

Twink had another go at the a-side for his Think Pink album in 1970, recorded with ex-Tyrannosaurus Rex man Steve ‘Peregrine’ Took and members of The Deviants. This is an excellent slowed down, heavy psychedelic version with treated vocals and stinging guitar. (And Wirtz also included a version, re-titled ‘Love and Occasional Rain’, on his own Come Back and Shake Me LP from 1969.)

The collaboration with The Deviants eventually lead to the formation of The Pink Fairies, though Twink left the group in mid-1971 following the band’s Never Never Land debut, and after that was only occasionally in the line-up on tours. More infamously, in 1972 he formed the band Stars with Syd Barrett but this collaboration lasted only half a gig before Barrett wandered off the stage.

Reissues: ‘10,000 Words in a Cardboard Box’ is on Rubble Volume 3 (or the CD box-set The Rubble Collection Volumes 1-10), Psychedelia at Abbey Road, and both sides are included as bonus tracks on the EMI CD issue of the Tomorrow album.

 

 

Classic Singles #97: The Third Bardo – I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time / Rainbow Life (1967)

ThirdBardo_labelThe Third Bardo’s ‘I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time’, though perhaps a little more well known that some of the singles covered in previous posts, is yet another punkadelic monster that simply cannot be ignored!

The band were from New York and released their only single on Roulette in May 1967. In stark contrast to the stagnation of today, rock music was changing and evolving at such a frightening pace in the late 1960s that to have actually been five years ahead of the time would have been the sonic equivalent of a UFO landing in the Stone Age and its occupants dispensing wisdom upon the uncomprehending minds of those present to witness the event.

In fact, the Third Bardo perfectly captured the heady days of the Summer of Love, not least in their evocative name – which was taken by lead singer Jeff Monn from The Tibetan Book of the Dead and refers to the moment after death when the consciousness is reborn into a new body.

Both sides of the single were written by Rusty Evans of The Deep / Freak Scene fame and Victoria Pike, who was married to the record’s producer, Teddy Randazzo, a successful singer and songwriter in his own right. ‘I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time’ opens with an ominous guitar figure, quickly joined by a slightly more fuzzy Eastern influenced lead, pulsating bass, and subtle keyboards. Jeff Monn imbues the vocals with a sneering swagger and the break is a searing slice of top drawer raga-esque fuzzadelica.

‘I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time’

Flipside ‘Rainbow Life’ is a trippy little number with its Eastern style melody, cryptic lyrics, and swirling sound effects. I’m not sure which instrument is making that high-pitched sound but it is very distinctive. Another reasonably effective version of this song appeared on the Freak Scene’s 1967 Psychedelic Psoul album on Columbia. In fact, if you like ‘Rainbow Life’ you would probably enjoy Rusty Evan’s other work, notably The Deep’s primitive but charming Psychedelic Moods album from 1966 on Cameo-Parkway.

‘Rainbow Life’

ThirdBardo_bandThough short-lived, the band did play hip Manhattan clubs such as Arthur’s and Ondine, and appeared on Upbeat, the Cleveland-based syndicated television show. The 45 received some airplay on the East Coast, but it was pulled from the radio because of perceived drug references in the lyrics.

The session that produced the single also yielded four other tracks, including an alternate version of ‘Rainbow Life’, that are all well worth hearing. The six cuts have now been collected on a 10” vinyl EP by Sundazed Records.

After the Third Bardo broke up in 1967, Monn went solo and released an album for Vanguard in 1968 called Reality, then changed his name to Chris Moon for The Chris Moon Group LP that came out on Kinetic in 1970.

Reissues: Apart from the Sundazed EP, both sides of the 45 are on Psychedelic Microdots Volume 3. The a-side is also on Ah Feel Like Ahcid, the Nuggets box set, and Best of Pebbles Volume 1.