Archive for the ‘The Flowerpot Men’ Category

The Merry-Go-Round

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Listen: Live / The Merry-Go-Round

I think summer ’67 was the sunniest ever. I remember it like yesterday, and can still feel the angst of wanting every last record that was being released. I was insatiable, riding my bike daily, many times twenty miles each way on the back country roads either between Canastota and Oneida, or into Syracuse. Every night as I lay in bed with the transistor under my pillow, listening to AM broadcasts from far away places in the Midwest or way up into the Northeast via Boston or Maine, I’d be scheming out tomorrow’s plan of where to go, looking for, asking for records.

Back then, at dusk, AM stations were required to switch from broad, local signals, to limited radius and directional. This meant those directional beams would make local broadcasts from hundreds and hundreds of miles away sound down the street. And with many of the looser US Top 40′s playing the latest underground and psychedelic releases overnight, new discoveries became a daily occurrence. Whether it be Country Joe & The Fish, The Pink Floyd, Moby Grape, The Move, The Magic Mushrooms, Tim Hardin, The Lewis & Clark Expedition, The Flowerpot Men or The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, I was hearing it all and my want list was endless.

So off I’d go, to the various shops, blagging promo records, last week’s copies of BILLBOARD, CASHBOX and RECORD WORLD, music surveys from the local Top 40′s, inventory check lists the distributors would leave with the store buyers, I hoarded them all.

Wednesdays were when the national record label reps would hit the Syracuse stations promoting their wares. None of my friends dared join me, so I’d wait alone on my bike in the parking lots for them to pull up, and got good at talking singles out of these guys, handing my high school newspaper record reviews to them in exchange for a dig through their latest releases. I’ll tell you truthfully, I’ve tried just about every drug out there, but never have I found a high near the one a free for all through a promotion man’s trunk full of 1967 promo 45′s could provide.

What became known as sunshine pop surfaced amongst the sub genres and regional music scenes during that summer. God, I hated the term and generally cringe when having to admit liking music tagged as such. Along with The Third Rail, Sagittarius, Eternity’s Children, Colours and The Sunshine Company, I guess The Merry-Go-Round’s ‘Live’ inhabited a slot. Their obvious British looking haircuts caught my eye, and when ‘Live’ started to pick up a lot of daytime play quickly, I was hooked. Critics claim a similarity to The Beatles, I don’t hear it. I preferred to associate them closer to The Hollies or The Tremeloes, they certainly looked the part.

‘Live’ almost made it nationally, but stalled just short of Top 50, which was ultimately a real shame.

You know those songs that take you right back? This is one for me.

Nero & The Gladiators

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Listen: Entry Of The Gladiators / Nero & The Gladiators
Entry Of The Gladiators / Nero & The Gladiators

The mystique of the early 60′s is impossible to shake. A constant return to it seems my endless circle. Instrumentals were a lot more abundant then, as A side singles that is. Electronic and dance records nowadays don’t count. No one expects them to go Top 40.

I’d always assumed Nero & The Gladiators were produced by Joe Meek. These early 60′s singles don’t even mention producers. In fact, label copy went downhill once more than the producer needed crediting. A nice, minimal information label still looks the best.

Come to find out, Joe Meek only did a non-Nero Gladiators single ‘Tovaritch’, their final release in ’63. It’s the intro on this one, ‘Entry Of The Gladiators’ that led me to assume otherwise.

There’s a lot detail involving this band’s musicians through the years: Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, The Ivy League, The Flowerpot Men. In fact, Mike O’Neill, Nero himself, was an original member of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, playing organ in their initial four piece lineup during Fall ’66.

Brenda Lee

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Is It True / Brenda Lee

Listen: Is It True / Brenda Lee

Several months ago, I noticed someone on eBay selling six nice, clean Brenda Lee UK Brunswick singles in the original company sleeves for about $5 and figured, you can never have enough Brenda Lee. I’ve always really liked her, even though I don’t listen too often. The great news is she still sounds like a fireball kid with a monster voice to this day. So I went for it, they arrived and I was quite pleased to find when playing through them, that I just loved this one.

‘Is It True’ immediately sounded English to me. On closer examination of the label, I saw the track was written by Carter/Lewis, a pretty famous UK team who wrote many hits in the 60′s and even released records as The Ivy League and The Flowerpot Men to name a few. Google them.

I have now probably played this a few hundred times, faithfully converting the single to an mp3 on my turntable device (this year’s Christmas present from my dear brother-like friend Howard Thompson) and putting it onto my shuffle.

It came up on the subway yesterday and I just repeated it about a dozen times. So here it is.

A funny footnote, when filing away my new UK copy, I discovered I’d had a US pressing (I did admit I don’t listen enough), and it’s additional label copy indicates ‘Recorded In England’. My guess is she was steered toward jumping on the British Invasion train in ’64. Thank you to whoever suggested it.

Coincidentally, the single peeked at #17 in both the UK & US charts in Sept/Oct ’64 respectively.

Brenda Lee will be 64 in December. She’s still a baby, so hopefully she’ll play New York soon and I’ll get to see her.