Archive for the ‘The Fortunes’ Category

Unit 4 + 2

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Listen: Concrete And Clay / Unit 4 + 2

Always loved this band’s name. It pre-dated tags given to electronic music acts by about thirty years or so. As it turned out, their acoustic guitar style had a Flamenco thing about it, I guess. It was a thread pretty common to the majority of Unit 4 + 2′s records, even though as a kid, the wilder, trashier, bluesy guitar stuff appealed the most, especially when maracas were involved.

Anything from Decca UK, and released via their London Records Group in America was moved to the top of my pile though. Even the MOR productions of Tom Jones and The Fortunes were fine by me.

‘Concrete And Clay’ would’ve gone Top 10 here, no doubt, if another competing copy cat version by Eddie Rambeau hadn’t been grabbing airplay and sales simultaneously. So instead of reaching a placing near it’s UK #1 slot, the record topped out at #28 on BILLBOARD, victim to a wank American singer who hadn’t moved on fashion wise since Fabian from about five years earlier.

Nice intro as well, ironically similar to but predating label mates, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Honky Tonk Women’ by about three years.

Listen: (You’ve) Never Been In Love Like This Before / Unit 4 + 2

Even more appealing was the followup. ‘(You’ve) Never Been In Love Like This Before’, complete with my favorite, an unnecessary bracket within the title, continued their pattern of re-writing the previous single, as ‘Concrete And Clay’ had done with it’s predecessor, ‘Sorrow And Pain’. This can double as either developing a sound, or becoming a perfect target for hater journalists. Both outcomes are common.

Basically, a stiff, it hovered around the lower reaches of the Top 100 for several weeks, eventually topping out at #93. I can still see that unsold chunk in a W.T. Grants record rack, back when vast areas of department store walls were lined with rows and rows of the latest 45′s. There they sat for weeks, until one day, gone. Well, all but the copy pictured above.

Albert Hammond

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Listen: The Free Electric Band / Albert Hammond AlbertHammondFreeElectric.mp3

Ok, so Albert Hammond made his real mark as a songwriter, credits including The Hollies, Aswad, Blue Mink, The Fortunes, Tina Turner at best. Many of his biggest earners were of the more gack inducing mainstream nuisance types. Songs you could neither stand nor avoid during their reign.

That’s ok, there’s room for everybody I suppose. And given his one international hit, ‘The Free Electric Band’, all is pretty much forgiven.

I think I may actually recall every song I heard on UK radio in ’73. I was that focused on it. Couldn’t get enough. Radio 1 was my non stop soundtrack. Back then, pop music would end at midnight on the BBC or it would have been 24/7.

There were a handful of singles that peaked in the mid teens, like Junior Campbell’s ‘Sweet Illusion’, and this was one (#19) as well. Even better. A nice slow grinder of a climb insured a load of airplay.

Early moog sounds always caught the UK’s ear. Maybe that’s why this worked over there instead of his US smash ‘It Never Rains in Southern California’.

Los Bravos

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

losbravosblackuka, Los Bravos, Decca, Press, Ivor Raymmonde

losbravosblackusa, Los Bravos, Decca, Press, Ivor Raymmonde

Listen: Black Is Black / Los Bravos
Black Is Black / Los Bravos

Without a doubt, this was a signature song to my Summer ’66 soundtrack. This guy’s voice was almost scary. Between that and the lyrics, it especially sounded powerful late at night. I spent a week in Brooklyn that August, glued to the various New York City stations and heard this often. Along with The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer In The City’, this song faithfully brings me back to that un-airconditioned summer vacation of listening to the radio by night and dragging my Aunt Nancy round the record shops by day: The House Of Oldies, King Karol and Colony basically. I spent hours in them. Thank God for her patience. Colony was really well stocked, but very expensive – list price: 98ยข! This was huge money for a kid in his single digits. Much more interesting were the shops in the East Village. Most of them sold promos for a quarter. Lots of white label Fontana’s, pink label Decca’s and the London Group’s orange swirls. You could spot those a mile away. I vividly recall getting Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours ‘Don’t Stop Loving Me, Baby’ in one such place.

Los Bravos, from Spain, big in England, well ‘Black Is Black’ was. Now big here. What a concept. Play good music on the radio, people buy it.

You still catch this one occasionally on the Oldies stations in smaller US markets and it does pop right out .

losbravosdontcareuka, Los Bravos, Decca, Press, Ivor Raymmonde

Listen: I Don’t Care / Los Bravos
I Don't Care / Los Bravos

The UK followup actually did okay, #16. It was easily a song that band and producer Ivor Raymonde worked hard on. I still would bet my last dime they all knew it wasn’t quite good enough despite the almost good enough parts, yet my guess is they needed something out quick and just went with it, hoping no one would notice.

Their US label, London Records’ offshoot Press, did notice. It never got released Stateside.

losbravosgoingusa,  Los Bravos, Decca, Press, Ivor Raymmonde

Listen: Going Nowhere / Los Bravos
Going Nowhere / Los Bravos

Instead, ‘Going Nowhere’ was the US followup to ‘Black Is Black’. Not a big showing chartwise, it peaked at #91. In a very signature Ivor Ramonde production, it sounds identical to his approach with The Fortunes. He had his sound down. I heard this a bit around Christmas of that year (see chart below). Turns out lead singer Mike Kogel was German, adding a great accent to his Gene Pitney vocal style. Spanish band and the first ever to chart in Billboard, German singer, pretty exotic for the day.

losbravosbringusa, Los Bravos, Decca, Press, Ivor Raymmonde

Listen: Bring A Little Lovin’ / Los Bravos
Bring A Little Lovin' / Los Bravos

What a surprise. Almost two years later, an eternity then, when no one expected it, Los Bravos finally really followed up ‘Black Is Black’ with a song equal in greatness. ‘Bring A Little Lovin’ sounded fantastic on the radio. I lit up every time I heard that intro. It was everywhere in Spring of ’68. Oddly, it didn’t chart in the UK, making the British pressing a very pricey item. Even US copies are hard to unearth now. Had they come with this straight after ‘Black Is Black’, the sky would’ve been the limit.

wndr_12_4_66, WNDR

The Fortunes

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Here It Comes Again / The Fortunes

Here It Comes Again / The Fortunes

Listen: Here It Comes Again / The Fortunes FortunesComes.mp3

Back in the 70′s, many record stores bought direct from each label. Only the really small shops were forced to buy via a one stop, which were distributors that represented all the labels, a kind of middle man. I worked for Discount Records in ’74-75. Although a chain owned by CBS, they were deep catalog stores and centered around college towns and campuses, hence their two Syracuse locations. And each of these shops would buy direct from the various labels. Every Tuesday all the reps would stop by, bring the staff hot drinks and donuts, plus stacks of promos, T shirts and posters. It was heaven. One summer day, I went to the Syracuse University library, having been alerted to their complete bound collection of BILLBOARD magazines from the 60′s, to sit for hours and pour through them. I took a new marble notebook and dated each page to the corresponding issue then listed any facts of interest. Chart entries, new releases with catalog numbers, etc. Years later, I managed to find a magazine dealer selling a complete run of issues from ’64 – ’68. Perfect, I bought them all.

A few days later, I got this ‘why not’ idea. I ordered about one hundred long out of print 7″ titles on the London family labels from our rep, one copy each, using the newly acquired catalog numbers from my day of research.

I’d actually blanked and didn’t even think more about the order, being sure they’d never turn up. I mean how could they? This was ’75 and some of them had come and gone, most were flops, some ten years prior. But lo and behold, about a week later, the London order arrived, and one of the boxes was chock full of many, many of those very titles. Oh man, I was flying. Amongst them were all the Press singles from The Fortunes, not to mention The Small Faces, Los Bravos, The Pudding, The Gibsons and loads more. And those was just the ones on Press. I won’t even get into the Deram, London, Tribe, Hi and Parrot selections on this post. My immediate reaction was to order five copies of many that had turned up, which I did, but no more ever came. Obviously, these had been sitting on the shelves for literally a decade.

I think most kids considered The Fortunes sound to be manufactured, over orchestrated, adult leaning, the music your parents would like too. All true I guess, but I did love those big, ballad-y Greenaway/Cook and/or Les Reed boomers. ‘Here It Comes Again’ was a decent hit here, #27 in Nov ’65.

This Golden Ring / The Fortunes

This Golden Ring / The Fortunes

Listen: This Golden Ring / The Fortunes FortunesGolden.mp3

But the followup, ‘This Golden Ring’ struggled slowly, and perfectly, to a problem #82 in February ’66. The Fortunes were burned into my psyche as a wintertime sound. Most of their records remind me of the freezing cold walks to and from school with my little red transistor radio clamped to my ear, pre ear buds by decades.

Gone From My Mind / The Fortunes

Gone From My Mind / The Fortunes

Listen: Gone From My Mind / The Fortunes FortunesGone.mp3

‘Gone From My Mind’, despite it’s confident delivery, didn’t make a ripple. Never heard it on the radio in my life, and therefore really excited to find it amongst the others in that London shipment. No surprise, it’s ended up as my favorite.