I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in my most recent post of Sixties songs that I still had some more up my sleeve. It was such great decade for music that there is an almost endless mine into which I can dig! So I thought I’d give you a few more for this week’s tunes.
One of the benefits for me of becoming a teenager (in 1966) was that there was an explosion of new music for my ever expanding tastes to find and enjoy. It was also the time when we were introduced to much more American music than just the crooners who had been their standard export until then. Like this band:
Talk about a rock classic! That was released in October 1966, and topped both the UK and US charts. With its complex mix of harmonies, changes of pace, and all-round brilliance it was unlike anything we’d heard before, and was the song that broadened the musical horizons of many a kid like me. It was still the surfer boys that we knew and loved, but they seemed to have grown up. It was a year later that the song finally appeared on an album – Smiley Smile – having had to await its turn, being released as a single a few months after the band’s masterpiece, Pet Sounds, which to my mind is still one of the greatest albums ever. Smiley Smile wasn’t the band’s most successful album, reaching #9 here but only #41 in the US, but the genius of this song stands out regardless. It was their third successive album in a run of ten which achieved higher chart placings in the UK than they did in the US: I’ve always found that strange.
To show that doing ‘epic’ wasn’t just the province of American bands, here’s one from a British outfit that merits that description:
I loved the Moody Blues, and bought all of their albums, apart from their early pop-based one before they developed into a prog rock band. This was a track on their concept album Days Of Future Passed, released in November 1967. The album only reached #27 here but was a huge hit in the US, peaking at #3. This song was released as a single to coincide with the album, but didn’t do especially well at the time, only reaching #19 here and #103 in the US. It was, however, re-released as a single in 1972, and got to #9 here and #2 in the US. It also reached #14 here in 1979, so it has ultimately had a fair run at the charts. As I said, an epic song from a wonderful album.
A change of tack now for my next tune. This was one I bought at the time, though it was the B-side of the song I’d actually shelled out for! I think you’ll see why I fell in love with it, though:
This one only just sneaks into this selection, as it was released as a single in December 1969. The band was officially ‘Delaney And Bonnie’ but were usually promoted with the additional ‘And Friends.’ They were very much a live act, though they did make some fine albums too. This song was co-written by Bonnie Bramlett with Leon Russell, though husband Delaney gets a credit too. It was the B-side to a track called Comin’ Home, which is a glorious piece of rock with some great guitar work – it reached #16 here but only got to #84 in the US. The band was known for the collection of those ‘friends’ who played their shows, who at times included the Allman Brothers, Dave Mason (of Traffic), Rita Coolidge, George Harrison and Eric Clapton, among others. I think Bonnie’s soulful vocals are incredibly powerful, and still play this song occasionally these days. Not so the cover version by The Carpenters, which you may know: they got to #2 in the US and #18 here in 1971 with a version typical of them – note perfect and completely lacking any heart. The original is in a league of its own, to my mind.
This next one is another which has enjoyed massive sales in a cover version, but is another where I much prefer the original:
For two brief but glorious years, from 1966 to 1968, The Troggs gave us a string of hit singles, starting with the worldwide smash Wild Thing. As with most of their records (but not Wild Thing), this one was written by the band’s lead singer, Reg Presley (real name Reg Ball – I think he borrowed the other bit from someone). They came from the unassuming Hampshire town of Andover, but they certainly made their mark in the wider world. Probably known better for their more upbeat tracks, they could also turn their hand to a good rock ballad, and this one perfectly captured the mood of the 1967 summer of love. The song peaked at #5 in the UK chart in November 1967, but took a little longer in the US, where it reached #7 in spring 1968. That cover version? A little thing by the Scottish band Wet Wet Wet, which was featured in the movie Four Weddings And A Funeral. They were given a choice of three songs to record for it – all covers – and went for this one as they felt they could make it their own. Released in 1994, it only got to #41 in the US but was #1 in twelve other countries, including here in the UK where it spent fifteen weeks at the top, and has sold around 2m copies. As I said, I much prefer the original, but I’m sure Mr Presley won’t have minded the improvement to his bank balance. Sadly, he passed away in 2013 from lung cancer.
I like to drop in an occasional song which I know is obscure, in the hope that it will be the first time that any reader has heard it. I think this one qualifies under that heading:
Eclection were another short-lived band, together only from 1967 to 1969. They originally comprised a Norwegian (Georg Hultgreen, who later took his mother’s name of Kajanus and had some hit singles with the band Sailor), two Australians (the amazing vocalist Kerrilee Male and Trevor Lucas, who later went on to form Fotheringay with his then girlfriend, and later wife, Sandy Denny, and was also in Fairport Convention for a time), a Canadian (Michael Rosen, guitar, vocals, and some songwriting), and a token Brit (Gerry Conway, their drummer, who has been in several bands – including Fotheringay – has played with loads of other artists and is to this day with Fairport Convention). In their time together they made one self-titled album, and this track was going to be on their next release. However, plans changed when Kerrilee left to go back to Australia, and a new version – Please Mk.II – was released as a single in October 1968 with the replacement vocalist, Dorris Henderson. I loved that and, like the album, bought it at the time, but when this version surfaced on YouTube a couple of years ago I realised what I’d been missing. Kerrilee’s vocals just soar. It is such a pity that she had apparently decided that music wasn’t for her, as she could have been a huge star with a voice like that. Needless to say, the band didn’t enjoy any chart success, though they did well as a live act, both as headliners in smaller venues and supporting bigger acts: they opened for The Beach Boys on a UK tour in autumn 1968. After much coming and going of band members they finally called it a day in 1969, but their album is one of the few to enjoy the ultimate accolade – having been bought by me on vinyl, cassette and CD.
This week’s final selection is a slightly odd one for me. I’m not religious, so to choose a song with ‘God’ in its title has surprised even myself! However, I don’t think you need to be religious to appreciate this song, as its message of what our world needs to be is universal:
Billy Preston was a deeply spiritual person, and he clearly wrote this song from his heart. But, as I said, you don’t really need to be religious to listen to his words and know that he is right. It is a timely reminder for many who call themselves Christians as to what that actually means, I think. Billy was a friend of The Beatles, and played (and was credited) on their single Get Back. This friendship is reflected in the list of musicians who were assembled for this track: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Ginger Baker, and backing vocals from Dorris Troy and Madeleine Bell – a veritable roll call of the UK’s late 60s top musicians! This was a single in 1969, reaching only #62 in the US but getting to #11 here in the UK. I think it’s a wonderful song, and a fitting one with which to leave you this week, to reflect on.
Have a good week, take sensible precautions against the plague, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday. The theme is already in my mind, I just need to find a few tunes for it 😉