Listen: Zabadak / Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
Last year around this time, Bob Lefsetz, who publishes a fascinating subscription letter you should all Google and sign up for, wrote about hearing The Box Tops during Christmas break in Vermont, ’67. It was a nice piece, time traveling me back to that Christmas/New Year’s week, growing up outside of Syracuse, a ten year old obsessed with records. I wrote him a response with much of the following, but don’t know if he ever read it. He never responded.
Everything happens for a reason. It motivated me to start my own blog, so all good.
Basically, I still like the winter weather as it reminds of that week off school as a kid. Everyone wants to escape it here in NY nowadays but I love staying home, hanging around the deserted city, having friends over especially if they bring Christmas cookies, keeping the fireplace going and hoping for snow.
Growing up near Syracuse was pretty drab but we had one remarkable perk: a Top 40 station, WOLF, that from ’64 – ’67 seemed to flawlessly play the good bits of BILLBOARD’s chart alongside national non-hits, most of them British, and many rightfully considered classics today, including several US flops each by The Who, Them, The Move, The Zombies, The Kinks, The Moody Blues, Unit 4 + 2, The Hullaballoos, The Pretty Things and Manfred Mann.
So I’d spend that whole week glued to the radio, crawling the record shops and record departments at W.T. Grants and Woolworths, collecting chart handouts, asking for discarded Billboard magazines and stocking up on deletions.
One of the UK bands whose label, Fontana, didn’t or couldn’t put the needed payola cash behind them on a national level, actually had hits upstate: Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Some consider them too pop, or zany, but I just loved their image of paisley pants with flowered shirts and their music.
Eventually, they switched US labels in late ’67, to Imperial, who made a big attempt at breaking them here and almost did. ‘Zabadak’ got a lot of play, charted in many markets and got great reaction. KHJ in Los Angeles took it Top 10. (See chart above). Both my local Top 40′s were spinning it, and even the adult contemporary one.
I was feeling liberated. Finally Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich were having a hit, and The Small Faces too, ‘Itchycoo Park’ was doing equally well. US radio was about to be on pulse. I didn’t need to find a way to live in England after all.
Then thud. ‘Zabadak’ stalls at #52 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 (above). Seems it’s been all down hill ever since.
December 28th: it’s been 41 years today, the receipt is still in the sleeve, that I bought ‘Zabadak’ at Walt’s Records on Salina Street, doing my part. It’s a fantastic single. All jungle drums with haunting strings and chants. Sounded stunning on the radio then, like nothing else. A lot of stations played it for a few weeks. The kind of record that zaps me right back, hence I always remember the date and I’ll always remember that great record shop.
I can easily visualize the decor and it’s unique record shop smell. I wanted everything in the place, still do. One whole wall was lined with brackets that held 25+ copies of a single, where all the biggest sellers made it. But the obscure records, many of the ones I mentioned, would reside in the back on a four sided carousel that swirled, and had slot like pockets, each able to hold ten or so copies of a single. I would go straight to that unit every visit which was usually once or twice a month, having to decide which two or three singles I could afford on my dollar per week allowance. Some of the ones I had to pass up took me years to locate: The Small Faces ‘All Or Nothing’ with the picture sleeve and The Riot Squad ‘How Is It Done’ come to mind. But there were many I did get like Them ‘Richard Corey’, The Yardbirds ‘Goodnight Sweet Josephine’ and The Herd ‘From The Underworld’.
On December 28, 1967 I tore to that rack and there it was. ‘Zabadak’. My Aunt Nancy, a grand lady, had brought me shopping and kindly paid as a Christmas treat, thereby allowing me to spend my dollar allowance on Inez & Charlie Foxx’s ‘(!-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count The Days’. We went on to visit another relative that afternoon where I was tortured, staring at these jems, jonesing to get home and play them as they did not own a record player.
Now I’m convinced Hot Chip could do a killer remake of ‘Zabadak’.
Oh and one other tid bit about Walt’s. I ran there to buy Traffic’s ‘Hole In My Shoe’ the day after seeing them at Syracuse University’s Jabberwocky Club on their first tour. As I walked in, out came Traffic, with loads of soul and jazz albums. They patiently waited as I bought the single then signed it’s picture sleeve.