Posts Tagged ‘The Mindbenders’

Alvin Robinson

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Listen: Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson
Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson

I saw The Rolling Stones for the first time on October 30, 1965 at the Syracuse War Memorial. I had forged a press pass, a typed note actually, on letterhead from a weekly paper in my little hometown. My Dad had set me up with the pompous owner of it, as I wanted to interview the band for a feature.

Looking back it was quite a good idea on my part, but this self celebrating fellow was nasty and dismissive. Even though I ended up meeting the band, I still loathe him for his attitude, not towards me, but towards my Father. He was so busy being busy, running in and out of his pathetic office, that I just reached over and grabbed a few pages of letterhead when he wasn’t looking. I shook with fear at what I’d done. I was still a good Catholic boy, but too late, I’d done it. So he tells me, “We don’t need a piece on this dirty English combo”, and that was that, or so he thought. Indeed, they didn’t need a a kid in his late single digits writing a review.

To be exact, this was the Canastota Bee Journal, as close as you can get to Mayberry. He and the paper, I’m guessing, are long gone. Still, I composed this laughable letter, claiming to be a writer on assignment and needing to interview them for a feature.

In those days, arenas were filled with hysterical, screaming kids, so how I managed to slide backstage so easily still baffles. An usher fell for that forged letter, and brought me back, where Bill Wyman was wrapping up his cords. Bill reads it, stares me straight in the eye and says in hindsight with a knowing smirk, “Come on and we’ll meet the rest”.

Holy shit. Is this really happening? It was the first time I nearly blacked out. I seriously remember that vividly. We are suddenly walking up the steps to the dressing room, knees weak, where in years to follow, I would meet, more like pester, (here goes, I know this is all a bit name droppy, but it really, really happened. I met all these bands and I’m proud of it): The Mindbenders, Them, The Moody Blues, The Nashville Teens, The Ikettes, The Who, The Pretty Things, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, Humble Pie, Heads Hands & Feet, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Steppenwolf, Canned Heat, Caravan, Toe Fat, Derek & The Dominoes, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, Frampton’s Camel, Traffic, Wild Turkey, The Faces, Badfinger, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Mother Earth, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Chambers Brothers, Sly & The Family Stone, Savoy Brown, Iron Butterfly, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, even Vivian Green, who I worked with decades later, was in that very room when on tour with Maxwell. Talk about coming full circle.

The management knew me and my friends well early on, they must’ve gotten a kick out of these crazy little kids, who’s Mom’s & Dad’s would wait patiently for until the shows ended. Our parents befriended the office staff, and in turn, those nice ladies always let us backstage.

The Rolling Stones were great, so nice. No one was in their dressing room except the band, and one other guy, I’m guess Ian Stewart, the tour manager. No food, nothing but bottles of Coca Cola. They signed my copy of 12 X 5, it probably lasted all of a minute but I still can relive it to this day. Here I was, with this exotic band from England that changed my life, which prior I could only see on TV every three to four months tops. I thought at that very moment, “This is the life for me”. I’m completely convinced it led to my career in music. No question.

Their current album at the time, THE ROLLING STONES NOW, was not a real album at all. In those days, the English labels released singles and EPs, in addition to albums. Not only were the EP tracks not on the LPs, but the singles weren’t either. So the US companies were always dropping off intended LP tracks to make room for the singles and sometimes strong ones from those EPs. For this particular release, London Records basically cobbled together some singles and EP songs, as well as unused UK LP tracks. Remember, the UK LPs were 14 songs compared to our 10-12, thereby creating even more choices.

Probably by coincidence more than design, THE ROLLING STONES NOW actually works as a proper LP. It was certainly a big success, slowly but very solidly scaling the US LP charts and staying Top 10 for ages, as it deserved to. The record’s filled with dark, minor key classics like ‘Heart Of Stone’, ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Pain In My Heart’ which they played on that night, Brian sitting at a huge B3 organ, wailing away.

It’s ok if you’re getting tingles. Take your time. You’ll need it. They were back, nine months later, during the AFTERMATH tour, and that’s whole ‘nother post waiting to be written.

This all leads us to ‘Down Home Girl’, a song on THE ROLLING STONES NOW. Little did I know then that it was a cover. I don’t even think I knew what that meant. They were all Rolling Stones songs to us. Years and years later I wised up, seeked out the original, and became a dangerous Alvin Robinson fanatic.

Here’s his version. Get any of his other releases. all of them actually.

The Spencer Davis Group / The Mindbenders / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich / The Pretty Things

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

THE BIG 4 / Various Artists:

Side 1:

Listen: Keep On Running / The Spencer Davis Group
Keep

Listen: You Make It Move / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
You

Side 2:

Listen: A Groovy Kind Of Love / The Mindbenders
A

Listen: Midnight To Six Man / The Pretty Things
Midnight

And so with the UK EP, given a possible restrictive higher price to the customer, often labels would package recent chart hits together making a purchase seemingly more attractive, musically convenient or both. Unlike Decca, Fontana weren’t regulars in the various artists EP game. But on this occasion, April 1966, THE BIG 4 hit the market to seemingly little response, given it’s absence from the RECORD RETAILER EP Chart.

Given the EP contained a recent #1 ‘Keep On Running’ and three current Top 50′s: #2 ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’, #26 ‘You Make It Move’ and #46 ‘Midnight To Six Man’, one would have expected a different result. Most likely the label did too.

Ultimately it’s hard to guess how many might have sold. I really would love to know. This one surfaces occasionally on eBay and doesn’t sell for much. Despite that, it still has value for the money as the pressing is superb, mastered loudly with great high and low end. Plus all the songs make for a great listen together.

Wayne Fontana / Jackie Edwards

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Come On Home / Wayne Fontana

Listen: Come On Home / Wayne Fontana
Come

Wayne Fontana’s version of ‘Come On Home’ came on the radio during the summer of 1966 and it was an instant favorite.

Sixteen months earlier, he was the apparent leader of the first live band I’d ever seen, Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. They opened for Freddie & The Dreamers. And so from my initial baptism into the live music world, I had a tendency to favor the support acts, especially if they were English.

By early ’66, they had split into two. It seemed like an eternity at the time. Both had several hits in the UK, with only The Mindbenders getting any real airplay here with ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ and ‘Ashes To Ashes’.

By that summer though, I was over anxious to finally hear a solo record from Wayne Fontana, having scoured the UK singles chart in BILLBOARD as part of my weekly ritual at Smith’s Records each Friday after school and seen one too many by him that had not entered my life.

Alas, ‘Come On Home’ got a few weeks worth of spins locally upon release, but then on the more mainstream leaning Top 40, WNDR, as opposed to the looser and much better WOLF. And yeah, I loved it immediately.

I recall mustering up the guts to shout it out at the London Palladium in April ’01. Along with Dave Berry, he was supporting Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Seriously, he was hysterically funny between songs and pretty great vocally as well. He ignored me when it came to my audience request although.

Listen: Come On Home / Jackie Edwards
Come

Little did I know at the time, ‘Come On Home’ was written by Jackie Edwards, the same guy who’d composed my early favorites by The Spencer Davis Group: ‘Keep On Running’, ‘Somebody Help Me’ and ‘When I Come Home’.

Years later, I discovered his history in ska, duets with Millie amongst others and several pop singles, many of which I’ve managed to obtain over time.

It was while digging through one of the seemingly endless storage cupboards at Island’s St. Peter’s Square office in London that I unearthed an unplayed promotional pressing of his ‘Come On Home’. I still experience a deja vu hot flash to that moment every time I hold this copy.

The Swinging Blue Jeans

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Swinging Blue Jeans - Don't Make Me Over USA

Swinging Blue Jeans - Don't Make Me Over

Listen: Don’t Make Me Over / The Swinging Blue Jeans
Don't Make Me Over / The Swinging Blue Jeans

Who says if you get a song for free, you won’t buy a copy later anyways – for whatever the reason: loyalty to the artist, love of the song, wanting a particular configuration or maybe even just doing your part.

Even though I’d gotten ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ at no charge during one of my early Friday night “I’m here to collect records for the children’s hospital” scams instigated on our local MOR station, WMCR, at an alarmingly young age, I bought a copy anyways. I passed up the stock of ‘She Needs Company’ by Manfred Mann to expend that particular dollar, which in hindsight was a wrong gamble. Never seen one since, although this Swinging Blue Jeans non-charter (actually it did Bubble Under The Billboard Hot 100 at #116) is a bit more common.

It was the heat of the moment. I was overtaken with supporting the team. I really thought I could help it nudge up the chart. The naiveness of youth. I’d actually heard it on my local Top 40, WNDR in March – it was a one listen record. Although Dionne Warwick had a hit with it in ’62, to me it was an unknown track by ’66, when this arrived.

If you grew up in the Northeast, quite possibly songs are seasonal. This was a winter single, along with others at the time that left a life long impression like The Mindbenders ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ or The Walker Brothers ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)’.

By May it had struggled onto the local survey (below) with several other greats. And on this particular week – it was the featured record thereby affording the lyrics be printed on the survey’s reverse side.

WNDR Chart 5-13-66

The Mindbenders

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

mindbendersgroovyusa, The Mindbenders, Fontana, 10CC, Wayne Fontana

Listen: A Groovy Kind Of Love / The Mindbenders
A

Listening to BBC2 a few weeks back, I was loving that ‘Days’ by The Kinks just normally got a spin. Immediately followed by The Mindbenders ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’, I realized once again, England was always a natural habitat for me. Had I been a native, I could’ve simply turned on the radio in the car for musical bliss.

Despite ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ becoming a massive mainstream hit, reaching #2 in both the US and England, it still sounds freaking great every time. Talk about an intro. I was on the phone with Duane when the above Kinks/Mindbenders segue went down and had to take a breather for a brief moment as it happened.

 The Mindbenders, Fontana, 10CC, Wayne Fontana, Lulu, To Sir With Love, Graham Gouldman

Listen: : Ashes To Ashes / The Mindbenders
A

Beginning with ‘Ashes To Ashes’, The Mindbenders’ success began an unfair linear downward erosion, with each single being played less and achieving lower and lower chart numbers each time, then no chart placings at all. The trajectory was softer in the UK, but more severe here, with this single being the big hit’s followup and doubling as The Mindbenders’ last US chart entry (#44. ’66). It worked out fine in the end for the fellows. Basically, they turned into 10cc.

mindbenderswantherusa,  The Mindbenders, Fontana, 10CC, Wayne Fontana, Lulu, To Sir With Love, Graham Gouldman

Listen: : I Want Her, She Wants Me / The Mindbenders
I

Most obscure is their US pressing of ‘I Want Her, She Wants Me’, Rod Argent’s’ song from The Zombies’ ODDYSSEY AND ORACLE. They deserve an A+ for cover choice, this version being as equally necessary to a full, healthy life as the original. Admittedly, the band suffer from the lack of Colin Blunstone’s angelic voice on this one, a set back not only for The Mindbenders, as well, for every other musical combo till the end of time.

mindbendersharderusa,  The Mindbenders, Fontana, 10CC, Wayne Fontana, Lulu, To Sir With Love, Graham Gouldman

Listen: : It’s Getting Harder All The Time / The Mindbenders
MindbendersHarder.mp3

mindbendersoff,  The Mindbenders, Fontana, 10CC, Wayne Fontana, Lulu, To Sir With Love, Graham Gouldman

Listen: : Off And Running / The Mindbenders
Off

They landed a two song technicolor spot in the classic TO SIR WITH LOVE film, performing ‘It’s Getting Harder All The Time’ and ‘Off And Running’. But despite the movie’s success, and character lead, Lulu, achieving her US #1 as a result, unbelievably it did The Mindbenders zero good in ressurecting their US presence.

Almost cookie cutter in beat group song perfection, Fontana US issued both tracks as a double A side. Promos occasionally turn up, but stock copies are very thin on the ground. Despite my constant search through the years for such a pressing, I only found one a recently, pictured above.

Freddy Cannon / Where The Action Is

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

freddycannonaction, Freddy Cannon, Where The Action Is, Dick Clark, American Bandstand

Listen: Where The Action Is / Freddy Cannon FreddyCannonAction.mp3

Let’s face it. The theme song to ABC’s syndicated daily pop show, WHERE THE ACTION IS, titled ‘Action’ by Freddy Cannon, was so good, even The Ramones could have covered it.

I lived for WHERE THE ACTION IS and saw many a great act each day after school. Our local Syracuse affiliate, WSYR-TV, was wishy-washy, and many times pre-empted it with other things. Looking over the complete, chronological list of episodes and guests, I’ve only just discovered missing Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours, The Action and Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich for just that reason. Indeed, I’m a bit crushed having now discovered these atrocities. Scumbags.

But seeing an LA centric act almost daily, given they were basically down the street from the studios, must have been daily bliss. To name a few: The Guillteens, The Ikettes with and without Ike & Tina Turner, The Vejtables, The Leaves, The Seeds, Gary & The Hornets, Love, Dino Desi & Billy, The Buffalo Springfield, Jan & Dean.

Not to mention the RnB stuff: Martha & The Vandellas, Doris Troy, The Royalettes, Mary Wells, Brenda Holloway, The Toys, Maxine Brown, Kim Weston, Carla Thomas, Billy Stewart, Bobby Hebb, Alvin Cash & The Crawlers or Felice Taylor. I still replay The Vibrations doing ‘My Girl Sloopy’ vividly in my memory.

Then there were the black and white segments from England, a real high for we Anglophiles: The Small Faces, Gary Farr & The T-Bones, Them, The Mindbenders, The Zombies, The Moody Blues, The Kinks, Unit 4 + 2, The Who, Wayne Fontana, Marianne Faithfull, The Yardbirds and The Cryin’ Shames.