Archive for the ‘Mike Hurst’ Category

The Alan Bown Set / The Alan Bown!

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

alanbowngonna, 	The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

Listen: Gonna Fix You Good / The Alan Bown Set AlanBownSetGonna.mp3

What a great idea. Take the band’s leader, put ‘The’ in front of his name – and an exclamation point at the end. Need for band name: solved.

Previously monikered The Alan Bown Set, and then leaning more toward a sometimes noisy soul sound, the band covered Little Anthony & The Imperials’ ‘Gonna Fix You Good (Every Time You’re Bad)’ and proceeded to get Northern Soul love years later. At the time though, ’65 – ’66, they struggled.

alanbowntoylanduka,The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

alanbowntoylandusa, Mike Hurst, The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

Listen: Toyland / The Alan Bown! AlanBownToyland.mp3

Switching labels, name and genre in ’67, and jumping on board the psychedelic train that seemingly overnight had a lot of passengers, they hooked up with the Mike Hurst who did their future productions.

The Alan Bown! recorded a pop-psych classic OUTWARD BOWN (simply titled THE ALAN BOWN! in the US), from which ‘Toyland’ was the second single. Until recently, I had no idea it charted on the Cashbox Top 100, peaking at #96. Usually when a single would get into the 90′s on Cashbox, Billboard or Record World, it would at least ‘bubble under’ the other two publication’s charts. Not the case with ‘Toyland’ in Billboard’s ‘Bubbling Under The Hot 100′ section – hence I missed out on the single’s activity, not having regular access to Cashbox. ‘Toyland’ really did deserve to be heard and become a hit.

In the UK, the week the band got their Top Of The Pops appearance, their current UK label, MGM, had a pressing plant strike – so with no copies in the stores, their single fell out of the NME chart (where it was #26) and that was that.

alanbowngypsyuka, The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

alanbowngypsyusa, The Alan Bown!, Island, MGM, Deram, Jess Roden, Robert Palmer, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, NME, Top Of The Pops, Gordon Neville

Listen: Gypsy Girl / The Alan Bown! AlanBownGypsy.mp3

Treading water through ’68 – ’69, they signed with Deram releasing my other favourite 7″ from them, ‘Gypsy Girl’. Singer Jess Roden up and split to go solo, with Robert Palmer replacing him, and re-recording many of the vocals on the new album.

Next stop for The Alan Bown! was Island in ’70, where Robert Palmer’s vocals on the upcoming album, LISTEN were re-recorded by new vocalist Gordon Neville once he chose to leave for a solo career.

This pattern must have gotten pretty boring for Alan Bown himself. An even odder coincidence being that by then, The Alan Bown!, Robert Palmer and Jess Roden were all signed to Island and no doubt seeing each other regularly in the label’s infamous canteen. Can you imagine the unspoken competition?

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.

Cat Stevens

Friday, August 28th, 2009

catmatthew, Cat Stevens, Deram, Mike Hurst, Alan Tew, Joan Armatrading

Listen: Matthew & Son / Cat StevensCatStevensMatthewSon.mp3

How sharp am I? I just realized Cat Stevens was actually a singer/songwriter. Not my cup of tea usually, big exception being Joan Armatrading. During his time with Deram, he was most likely forced to use in-house producers/arrangers by parent company Decca. Mike Hurst was one. I loved his productions, and Decca A&R seemed to be most comfortable with dramatic arrangements, enter Alan Tew. ‘Matthew & Son’ was a big favorite – still is. I recall when ten or so years back, driving through Shepherd’s Bush in a cab on our way to Heathrow heading back home, Corinne saying ‘Look, Matthew & Son’. It was a small store front, a shoe maker, clearly from the font and signage, there for decades. It had to be the subject for this song.

catdoguka, Cat Stevens, Deram, Mike Hurst, Alan Tew, Joan Armatrading

Listen: I Love My Dog / Cat Stevens CatStevensDog.mp3

His previous, and initial debut single ‘I Love My Dog” hits home too. I love dogs, cats, any animal. It’s why I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years – refuse to have any part in an animal living a horrible life and then being slaughtered.

catportobello, Cat Stevens, Deram, Mike Hurst, Alan Tew, Joan Armatrading

Listen: Portobello Road / Cat Stevens CatStevensPortobelloRoad.mp3

As for it’s B side, ‘Portobello Road’, come on, it’s a London tradition. Those weekend market stalls are well known now, but on my last trip (June ’09), I got there before the sun came up, when the real crazies are picking, and found the first three Walker Brothers albums in spotless condition – £1 each.

Double Feature

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

doublefeatureusa, double feature, deram, mike hurst, alan tew

Listen: Baby, Get Your Head Screwed On / Double Feature DoubleFeature.mp3

This was the best of both worlds: period psychedelic and a perfect template of that bombastic UK Decca production sound. Either as employees or via production deals, a lot of the same names appeared on many of the label’s releases, in this case musical director Alan Tew and producer Mike Hurst. An all time personal favorite, Mike Hurst also produced several early Cat Stevens singles. As was quite common at time, bands didn’t always write their own material. This Cat Stevens cover, no doubt a suggestion from Hurst, is both on fuzz overload and claustrophobically orchestrated, all somehow making for a perfect sonic marriage.

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.