It took American pop music a while to regroup after the British Invasion. Through 1964 only the Beach Boys, exporting their “fun, fun,fun” surf and hot rod Californian paradise to teenagers who had never seen the ocean and the 4 Seasons, the only group with a #1 hit before,during and after The Beatles, were able to enjoy continued success. By the summer of 65 the Byrds and the Lovin Spoonful were at the head of a generation of young musicians who had seen the world change and hoped there was a place for them between Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders and Chad and Jeremy on next week’s edition of “Shindig !”.
Here are three American hits from 1965 all from Texas and all worthy of a look all these years later.
Sir Douglas Quintet had spent 1964 growing their hair so that they could pull a stroke which a few US bands tried, pretending they were from Britain. Check the Knickerbockers “Lies” which is more Beatley than the Beatles. Here Trini Lopez, two years away from his finest hour in “The Dirty Dozen” (re-made as “Inglorious Basterds” by Quentin T), blows their cover after a great performance of their hit in the strangest of settings. I only heard “She’s About A Mover” on the radio and heard a fine slab of Texan R & B. The Vox Continental of Augie Mayers underpins a driving song. I suppose that wearing odd clothes , performing lame dance moves in a cardboard castle, surrounded by medieval go-go girls was a way of getting on TV. No matter, everybody knows “She’s About A Mover” because it’s a great single.
Doug Sahm and Augie Mayers were around the music scene for a long time. They were champions of Texan music and always got a fair hearing over in the UK because of the quality of their work which started with the Quintet.
As some other Texans sang, “every girl’s crazy bout a sharp-dressed man”. The dapper & dynamic double joints of Roy Head and his worldwide hit “Treat Her Right”…what the…? Recorded, like the Sir Douglas Quintet, in San Antonio the 45 was kept away from the #1 spot by “Yesterday”. Roy’s edge was that he did some white bread imitation of James Brown while singing. I think he got caught by this a little and there are clips when the rolling around on the floor gets in the way of the music. The song, written by Roy and his fellow member of the Traits, Gene Kurtz, is a great sparky soul thrash. It is truly blue eyed soul, not a pale cover version like more than a few hits of the day. If you like this then Head’s work is worth further investigation. He was always wild and when he added a garage rock touch to the brass stabs he sounded pretty good.
The only other thing I know about Roy Head is that when he was introduced to Elvis Presley he knelt at the King’s feet and bit him on the leg ! Elvis got ready to karate the Texan’s ass but Roy explained that he wanted Presley to remember the meeting. Crazy story, crazy guy.
OK…I will have to turn myself down a notch or two for “Never To Be Forgotten” by the Bobby Fuller Four because I really do think that it is one of the great American pop 45s of the 1960s. Here is the link between Buddy Holly (old rock n roll), the Turtles & the Box Tops (the new) , the Association and the Left Banke (the future). The three elements merge to produce a sound which makes me happy whenever I hear it. It’s not “Like A Rolling Stone”. It was maybe a happy accident. No problem…the simplicity, the drive, the harmonies, the optimism…perfect pop. There is a “Shindig !” clip of the boys performing this but the clarity of the recording is what we need.
Fuller grew up in El Paso and idolised his fellow West Texan Buddy Holly. The band moved to L.A. to record. “Never…” was not a hit but started a run of noteworthy singles. “Let Her Dance” is now off of Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr Fox”. “I Fought The Law” is a stone dead rock classic and “Love’s Made A Fool Of You” a re-make of “…Law”. Then in 1966, aged 23, Bobby was found dead in his car. The cause of death was never satisfactorily established.
Bobby was not a folk musician turned pop star. The band were a bit show bizzy, played some surf music, made an awful beach party movie. They were rockers and as the music changed in the mid-60s some of that Texas rock and roll would have been welcome. He may have paved the way for Credence. Hey, he may have become one of those creepy Bobbys like Vinton and Sherman. We will never know.