Archive for the ‘The New Vaudeville Band’ Category

Spanky & Our Gang

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Listen: Like To Get To Know You / Spanky & Our Gang

God, I hated Spanky & Our Gang when they were current. As a kid, they just sounded like safe sonic sludge, a cross between The Mamas & The Papas and The Letterman. Being impatiently addicted to the English group image, this bunch were simply hideous visually, out of shape and way too American.

Add to that, they were signed to the US Mercury/Philips/Fontana labels. As far as I was concerned, any money and manpower directed toward them took away from The Herd, The Troggs, Manfred Mann, The New Vaudeville Band, The Pretty Things and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Trust me, this did not sit well.

Truth be told, I was kind of wrong. Indeed, they probably did rob those other acts of company resources, but musically, they were pristine. To be fair, as the years passed, I found Spanky & Our Gang to be a nagging guilty pleasure, and one that eventually carried no guilt. Their collection of hits and non-hits sound even better with age. In fact, very psychedelic, aided in no small way by some of the earliest stereo 7′ pressings I can recall.

Check out both the production and arrangement of any Spanky & Our Gang single, start with ‘Like To Get To Know You’. This was on the radio constantly in ’68 and rivals Richard Harris’s Jimmy Webb written/produced ‘MacArthur Park’ for the flowery mini symphony slot of the era.

The New Vaudeville Band

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Peek A Boo / The New Vaudeville Band

Listen: Peek A Boo / The New Vaudeville Band
Peek A Boo / The New Vaudeville Band

The New Vaudeville Band did not get their due respect, even though they never made a bad single, and their albums are full of flawless…..vaudeville. A genre cornered successfully by The Bonzo Dog Band and later dabbled into by The Kinks, I’m guessing maybe these guys were just a touch ahead of the credibility curve. Add to that, their first single ‘Winchester Catherdral’ became a worldwide #1 and, even back then, they landed into the mainstream before the press could give them praise, so they didn’t. Never mind, these singles speak for themselves.

The two followups to ‘Winchester Catherdral’ in order were ‘Peek A Boo’ and ‘Finchley Central’.

Although hits in the UK, only ‘Peek A Boo’ made the Top 100 here (#74 in February ’67), due in part to a great performance on the then, newly ‘In Color’ version of popular Saturday night variety show HOLLYWOOD PALACE. Singer Tristam The VII, Earl Of Cricklewood wore a blue sparkley jacket identical to the one Mick Jagger pranced in just a month earlier on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW (January ’67) when they caved, changing the lyrics for the boss, Ed himself, and thereby performing ‘Let’s Spend Some Time Together’ as a worldwide one-off.

Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band UK Picture Sleeve

‘Finchley Central’ Picture Sleeves: Above (UK) / Below (US)

Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band US Picture Sleeve

Listen: Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band
Finchley Central / The New Vaudeville Band

‘Finchley Central’ followed in late spring. Although not housed in a now very hard to find color UK picture sleeve, indeed US Fontana sprang nonetheless for a cover, except in black and white. Both are pictured above. Despite climbing to #16 in England, for places like Texas and Florida, a single in the style of your parents music (with a vocal that doesn’t even begin until 1:04 into the song, and then lyrically about the London subway system) during the summer of psychedelic ’67 meant…little.

Well actually it did Bubble Under The Top 100 at #102 for a stubborn three weeks. Maybe people equated it to something off SGT PEPPER or YELLOW SUBMARINE and thought it so far out that it was actually in, as it got some play and sold a handful.

See, The New Vaudeville Band were so good even The Beatles wanted to sound like them, and occasionally did.

Sandie Shaw

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Listen: Puppet On A String / Sandie Shaw
Puppet On A String / Sandie Shaw

As a kid growing up in the US, I never quite understood what the Eurovision Song Contest was. I do recall seeing lists of the various entires for a few years running. Seems each country from the mainland had one, and England got their entry as well. Despite that bit of water safely guarding them from being part of Europe when it might not have been convenient, in the case of this competition, the water was ignored.

Pretty much all the entries sounded dreadful and were of no interest to me, except occasionally those UK ones. Or at least the artists performing them.

Must have been ’67 when Sandie Shaw’s ‘Puppet On A String’ was one such entry. Despite anything previously involved with said competition, I loved this one. A backing track that mimicked The New Vaudeville Band playing ska, topped off with Sandie Shaw’s perky sulky voice, provided an unexpectedly wonderful recipe.

Simultaneously, her hip factor went out the window, so unhip an event Eurovsision apparently being. For a few years there, she was a happening, barefooted, Yardley mod girl type. Despite this record hitting #1 in England, suddenly things changed in hipsville.

But like Lulu, the years have treated her miraculously well. Neither of them appear to age, at all, shockingly. Maybe up close, but at even the slightest distance, this pair look like a million bucks.

‘Puppet On A String’ didn’t make it over that two week hump of airplay in America. Getting a true chance to sink into the public’s awareness level and become a hit meant surviving that fortnight of ‘new single’ rotations. So for a brief window, the record sounded spectacular coming through the dashboard of our family’s car, an emerald green ’64 Ford. Both the local Top 40′s gave it some decent spins, keeping me throbbing for one of my then heart throbs.

Joyce Bond / The Joyce Bond Review

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Listen: Ob La Di, Ob La Da / Joyce Bond
Ob La Di, Ob La Da / Joyce Bond

Found yet another gem at Academy Records in Brooklyn, hysterically sitting peacefully amongst the 50ยข boxes: Joyce Bond’s version of ‘Ob La Di, Ob La Da’. A song seemingly written for the natural Caribbean bounce, it further validates the lightweight value of The Beatles. Again, I preferred The New Vaudeville Band when comparing equals.

To be honest, I had no idea this even got a Stateside release, so I admit needing to be more humble in my criticisms of the local vendors. But hey, Steel Pulse singles on MCA are not worth $10 guys.

Listen: Robin Hood Rides Again / The Joyce Bond Review
Robin Hood Rides Again / The Joyce Bond Review

Nonetheless, way more fascinating is the B side here. Policy usually meant a straight up instrumental of the single’s A side was the norm, or as the mid 70′s evolved, a dub version. Not so this time. A completely new track, instrumental, and clearly nothing to do with Joyce Bond in any way other than her label copy credit.

Produced by B. Lee. Was it Byron or Bunny? Seems Joyce Bond had musical affiliations with both.

If ever there were an expert on Ska/Rock Steady/Reggae/Dub, it’s Duane Sherwood. He’s the go to on this stuff for all things not previously grooved into my gray matter. Inconveniently in this case though, he’s not big on the pop end of the genres. Add to that, the records recorded in the UK as opposed to down the yard, of which this is one don’t grab his attention. But given, as he pointed out, Bunny Lee produced a version of Otis Redding’s ‘Mr. Pitiful’, released by Joyce Bond and Little John in ’69, one year after this issue, Duane guessed B. Lee to be the Bunny man himself.

A fun, sonically out of place on Decca or any other major label at the time, single. I can only imagine how few were pressed, not to mention, sold.

Piccadilly Palace

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

While I’m on the subject of TV shows – there was a great summer replacement in ’67 for HOLLYWOOD PALACE, the weekly Saturday night variety program hosted by Dean Martin on ABC-TV. You know the one The Rolling Stones made their US network debut on, whereby Dean poked fun their way during his into and outro to the performance.

Well, in summer ’67 it was replaced with PICCADILLY PALACE. The sight to the series lists air dates and guests for each episode. I generally lived each week for the moment. Well that’s not entirely true, a lot happened that summer. Still, some of the guests: The Small, Faces, The Hollies, Manfred Mann, Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich, The Kinks and The New Vaudeville Band. If anyone has footage, please let me know.


Sunday, December 7th, 2008

St. James Infirmary / Cops 'N Robbers

Listen: St. James Infirmary / Cops 'N Robbers 23 St. James Infirmary.mp3

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue / Cops 'N Robbers

Listen: It's All Over Now, Baby Blue / Cops 'N Robbers 01 Its All Over Now Baby Blue.mp3

Get Yourself Home / The Fairies

Listen: Get Yourself Home / The Fairies 21 Get Yourself Home.mp3

Cops ‘N Robbers ‘St. James Infirmary’ always felt authentic, probably because of that reverb wash. From the first listen, it captured my imagination about the damp seedy blues clubs of London’s Soho, sitting nicely beside the sound of The Downliners Sect or Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds. Plus it was a UK Decca release, hence it’s US issue through sister label, Parrot. With Brian “Smudger” Smith on lead vocals, how can you go wrong? Young “Smudger” (he insisted on the quotes) went on to sing for The Fairies thereby delivering the great Pretty Things mimic ‘Get Yourself Home’. Meanwhile, in what was clearly fair exchange, The Fairies vocalist Dane Stephens made the switch and became Cops ‘N Robbers singer, recording ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ with them for UK Pye/US Coral, nicely retaining their London nightlife aura. Meanwhile drummer Henry Harrison proceeded to form The New Vaudeville Band. Yes much aloof upward nose turning is pointed them, but listen again – they clearly had a lot in common with The Bonzo Dog Band, recording some terrific singles which will be posted soon as proof.