Archive for the ‘Wayne Bickerton’ Category

The Flirtations

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Listen: Nothing But A Heartache / The Flirtations
Nothing

This is simply the greatest Motown single that was never on Motown. Even though the UK Deram label really didn’t specialize in releases for the soul or RnB market, ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ suddenly appeared in mid ’68. Re-released a few months later, with a different B side, the record started to get play in the US, eventually peaking on the Billboard charts at #34. It was overseen by Wayne Bickerton, who had produced the lavish, for it’s day, album by UK band, World Of Oz. Their single, ‘The Muffin Man’, was almost a hit, garnering pretty solid airplay in a lot of US markets during summer ’68, for about two weeks. Literally, every local chart I’ve ever seen it on was for a two week run. I guess the checks didn’t clear and onto the payola victim scrap heap that fantastic single went.

Years later, this Flirtations track became a Northern Soul success. Northern Soul records, in simple terms, are non hit, copy versions of the Tamla/Motown sound. Many were still being recorded into the early ’70′s, after that original era had long past. The clubs in the North of England were insatiable for anything resembling it and hence the tag Northern Soul.

Proof of the song’s validity comes in the fact that, despite being a UK act and UK made record, like most of the Motown singles from the 60′s, ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ was only a hit in America.

The Move / Jimmy Miller

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Listen: Blackberry Way / The Move
Blackberry

Certainly one of my favorite singles ever, I dare say one of the greatest records ever released. Fact not opinion.

The recent BBC documentary, THE JOY OF THE SINGLE spotlighted ‘Blackberry Way’ as just that for a teenage Holly Johnson, who relived a long walk to and from a nearby record shop, whereby The Monkees’ ‘(Theme From) The Monkees’ wasn’t available. In fact, that track was never issued on a 7″ when current, luckily. The shop clerk talked him into the latest release by The Move instead, a sale amongst many that would have contributed toward the record reaching #1 on the UK charts.

The program was another in a long list of reminders that pulling out a copy of ‘Blackberry Way’ and letting it play on repeat was yet again, a solid hour well spent in my house.

Along with high school pals Denny and Mark, I sent off to England for copies of this pre-release. We wanted it shipped day one. God knows how we’d hear about these records sentenced to teen life in upstate New York, but we did. In fact, our crowd were so into The Move that there was no messing about by this, the release of their sixth single. And one titled ‘Blackberry Way’, heaven help us, we knew it’d be stunning. I can vividly remember opening that cardboard mailer and playing it for the first time. Stunning doesn’t do the song justice.

Years later, employed in Elektra’s A&R department meant a constant search for new signings and a resulting schedule of meetings with everyone from managers, agents, lawyers and occasionally, name UK record producers with their newest projects. Through the years Gus Dudgeon, Don Arden, Jonathan King, Stuart Colman, Malcolm McLaren, Wayne Bickerton, Hugh Padgham or Shel Talmy might book in while passing through New York. On one occasion, I got a call requesting some time for Jimmy Miller.

His visit was not going to be wasted on me. I was only too keen, as was usually the case, to talk about the less travelled topics covered by most fellow A&R reps, in this instance his more obscure British productions, of which The Move was one. Turns out, he was always happy to recount his histories, including a well repeated run down of that period with The Rolling Stones. But my curiosity in The Move brought out a unexpected tale, all presented with the enthusiasm of a kid.

For starters, ‘Blackberry Way’ was the only song he ever recorded with them, and then just sitting in for the band’s usual producer, Denny Cordell. The details were rather simple and verify the often documented flying by the seat of their pants 60′s music industry. Denny and he were co-workers at Straight Ahead Productions, to whom The Move were signed. Denny was double booked on a session with Joe Cocker & The Grease Band and asked Jimmy to cover for him with The Move. These details, to be clear, were laughingly verified by Denny years later.

As a result, the band’s only UK #1 was produced, not by the guy who worked with them on every other track prior, but by his pal in the next office. A jovial recollection actually.

So as Jimmy Miller sat across from me recounting these details for the first time in my office on the 20th floor of the Warner Brothers building, I pulled out the above copy for an autograph, which seriously pleased him to no end.

Pacific Drift

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Listen: Tomorrow Morning Brings / Pacific Drift
Tomorrow

When we were introduced, Barry Reynolds seemed genuinely surprised by my interest in him being a member of Pacific Drift, or even knowledge of it. As with a handful of UK centric 60′s labels that I collected, Deram was one. Given his band were on the roster meant I had investigated all associated history. In an era of tuneless progressive rock, which was incidentally as equally addictive as Northern Soul with book values to prove it, Pacific Drift additionally had hooks. Turns out these were Barry’s formative writing days.

So upon meeting in the late 80′s, when I inherited Marianne Faithfull’s A&R duties after joining Island, he being her life long writer, band member, mentor and heart strong companion, we finally met. Humble and shy about Pacific Drift would be an understatement. Having gone on to write so many more songs of greater strength, clearly this stuff was too early, too underdeveloped for him to care about years later. Doesn’t mean I didn’t.

Besides, some records maintain their biggest strength in the ability to turn back time. So is the case with Pacific Drift. Being the young record fanatic that I was, I’d befriended an evening jock at the local Top 40 during summer ’70, intentionally hoping all roads could lead back to getting his promo cast offs. Initially this worked fine, until realizing his intentions leaned in other directions. The arrangement ended abruptly but not before a few trunk sized vinyl scores, one of which included Pacific Drift’s FEELIN’ FREE album and the accompanying ‘Yes You Do’ / ‘Tomorrow Morning Brings’ 7″.

Pacific Drift’s pressings went top of the pile, primarily due to Deram but also producer Wayne Bickerton’s involvment. I loved his recordings with The World Of Oz and given his Decca/Deram house producer status, this stuff I needed to hear. Lyrically, I’ve never worked out if ‘Tomorrow morning brings the afternoon’ is genius or embarrassing. But it was prog, all things made profound sense via the hash pipe.

Dream Police

Monday, October 19th, 2009

dreampoliceuka, Dream Police, Junior Campbell, The Marmalade, Decca, London

dreampolicehomeusa, Dream Police, Junior Campbell, The Marmalade, Decca, London

Listen: I’ll Be Home (In A Day Or So) / Dream Police DreamPoliceHome.mp3

Reportedly Scotland’s Dream Police began as a psychedelic/progressive band that included future members of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and The Average White Band. Signed to Decca in late ’69 on a tip from Junior Campbell, himself then on the label’s roster as a member of The Marmalade, their first (of three) singles for the label coincidentally included him as the band’s producer, arranger and conductor. Conductor?

The Marmalade had a sound, not unlike The Love Affair or Cupid’s Inspiration, and a whole bunch of lesser known ‘pop’ acts, all wonderfully over produced and clawing for a slot in the charts. Despite being considered manufactured fodder by the intelligent and/or hip music community, I found this stuff fascinating. Totally formula in it’s conveyor belt style, I still can’t get enough of it. Decca UK reigned king in the field. Always with a soft spot for inhouse producers or production deals, Junior Campbell, as with Jonathan King, Wayne Bickerton, Mike Hurst and others churned out endless pap to lap for the label. I’m still finding overdone stiffs from that period. One such example: Dream Police.

‘I’ll Be Home (In A Day Or So)’ could have indeed been a hit for The Marmalade (they recorded a version) had it been issued as a single. Junior Campbell’s production of the song for the Dream Police includes his obligatory rock lead guitar over the top of multi tracked vocals and string section bits galore. And quite frankly, the version deserved to be a hit.

Wayne Bickerton Productions: World Of Oz / Clyde McPhatter / The Rubettes

Monday, December 29th, 2008

The Muffin Man / World Of Oz

Listen: The Muffin Man / World Of Oz
The Muffin Man / World Of Oz

Seems the labels had a stable of in-house producers back in the 60′s. And many times they’d be given the new signings to whip into shape, and record in those infamous four or six hour windows. I’m guessing these producers were either on staff, or had production deals, similar to today’s consultancies. People like Denny Cordell and Mike Hurst come to mind, as does Wayne Bickerton.

I first noticed his name on Decca and Deram releases. A very favorite was ‘The Muffin Man’ by World Of Oz. It got a lot of Top 40 play in the US for a few weeks during summer ’68. Years later, in the Notting Hill Record & Tape Exchange, I stumbled on a copy with this very rare UK sleeve pictured above. My heart just about stopped. I’d no idea it existed as it’s not mentioned in any of the price guides and I’d never seen another. ‘The Muffin Man’ was part of their rather lavish album, lavish for the time that is, apparently requiring a huge budget. I was lucky enough to meet Wayne about four years ago on a New York trip, and meant to ask that budget detail. I had many questions, and he was fantastic about filling in so many blanks, but that one slipped my mind. Always an admirer of his work, it was a fascinating hour or two.

Baby You've Got It / Clyde McPhatter

Listen: Baby You’ve Got It / Clyde McPhatter
Baby You've Got It / Clyde McPhatter

Although an original member of The Drifters, Clyde McPhatter oddly moved to England, and even odder, signed to Deram. Come on, The Drifters were the definition of Harlem Doo Wop and such. Why did this guy pick up and go to London? Was he a closet Anglophile? Luckily, Wayne Bickerton was put in charge and produced his Northern Soul hit ‘Baby You’ve Got It’. Applying his trademark orchestration, the song became Clyde McPhatter’s strongest single ever.

Sugar Baby Love / The Rubettes

Listen: Sugar Baby Love / The Rubettes
Sugar Baby Love / The Rubettes

Occasionally I hear The Rubettes ‘Sugar Baby Love’ and it jumps out every time. A perfect combination of glam and maybe doo wop meets Four Seasons or something. Not only did he produce it, but co-wrote the song as well.