Listen: My Friend Jack (Unreleased Version) / The Smoke SmokeJackUnreleased.mp3
Listen: My Friend Jack / The Smoke SmokeJack.mp3
Listen: High In A Room / The Smoke SmokeHigh.mp3
Listen: Have Some More Tea / The Smoke SmokeTea.mp3
Listen: Dreams Of Dreams / The Smoke SmokeDream.mp3
Listen: Ride Ride Ride (Dick Turpin)/ The Smoke SmokeRide.mp3
Listen: Sugar Man/ The Smoke SmokeSugarMan.mp3
A good band that sticks to their sound isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even when the world evolves, sometimes staying in your little place can be good, as long as you actually had something decent to begin with. Obviously, it’s how I feel about The Smoke. Now I hadn’t discovered them when they were current, I guess they didn’t quite get enough press attention, I missed out until a year or two later. And upon hearing ‘My Friend Jack’, I filed it right up there with The Creation. That guitar effect, in fact, sounded very Eddie Phillips to me. Still, it took ages to find all their singles. The 60′s releases were hard enough, being non sellers. And the 70′s singles, selling even less, were a real challenge. Thank God for the many trips I made to the UK on some label’s dime, because I’d have never found them otherwise.
Years later, I stumbled on some hardcore info – the original version of ‘My Friend Jack’ was recorded and made it’s way to acetates, but not issued due to explicitly drug obvious lyrics. The version that did come out being apparently toned down. On a trip to the UK, Howard returned with just that acetate, one of many gems he’d gotten off his uncle, a former Decca Records UK promotion guy. He just handed it over – a serious ass present. There aren’t many like Howard.
Chris Blackwell’s country house in Theale had an amazing dj equipped/record library in the loft overlooking his recreation room – with pool tables and the works down below. I always made my way straight up there at gatherings for the company. He invited Corinne and I to stay a long weekend, and drove us down from London late one Friday night. An always generous host, we had the run of the place. He said graciously, if I found any doubles in the loft, to help myself. This was a dream come true – and despite being tempted to pocket a few on a first visit – it proves honesty is the best policy, or good things come to those that wait…..whatever. He let me take whatever I wanted. Lo and behold, he had an extra of the one and only Island single by The Smoke. This was ’89, by which time I’d still never even seen a copy, not to mention in unplayed condition. Worth the wait. Thank you Chris.
Imagine my shock when finding ‘Dreams Of Dreams’ at the Notting Hill Gate Record & Tape Exchange, in it’s Revolution Records company sleeve, which until that moment, I hadn’t realized even existed. I guess the Revolution Records team expected big success for the imprint, thereby manufacturing stock sleeves. Mind you, the single was in the glass encased upstairs high end section but well worth the lofty price (around 75 GBP). Nice one.
By 1971, The Smoke had stubbornly, and wonderfully, not changed their sound much. As with all bands that began in the mid 60′s, they occasionally let their love of Motown show, as on ‘Ride Ride Ride’. Later still, despite the glam audio techniques poured all over ‘Sugar Man’, their one of a kind, signature sound could not be stifled, thankfully.