From The Soul Train To The Hippie Highway

The bands who played the Saturday afternoon “Teen Beat” club were loud, the first live amplified music I heard. They were also. looking back all the way from here, straight from the fridge. The template was both the Rhythm & indeed the Blues, the first Stones LP. They all, as best I can remember included “You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover” & the brilliant Phil Upchurch groove “You Can’t Sit Down”. Man, I was young, the big boys took me, watched out for me, showed me how to lift 45s from the back of the jukebox. The talk was of the latest groups who had appeared on the previous night’s “Ready Steady Go”. A TV show I was not yet allowed to stay up & watch. Good times.

Fast forward just a couple of years to youth clubs & the odd night that we were able to blag our way into a gig on licensed premises (You need to look 18 to get a beer in the UK). The bands now played soul, Southern Stax soul because Motown could not only get a bit complicated at times but often needs James Jamerson around to funk it right up. “Knock On Wood”, “Hold On I’m Coming”, “Mr Pitiful”, they all did those because it was what the Mods wanted to hear. Our local boys were called The Dimples after a John Lee Hooker jam but it was all that was left of the bluesy times. They were on the soul train now. Then, in 1967, it all went a bit nuts. Kaftans & love beads, weed instead of speed. Flowers in your hair & scuse me while I kiss the sky. What can a poor boy do ?

So Dean Ford & the Gaylords (well…OK), “Scotland’s Top Group” became Marmalade, moved to that London & got some new duds from Carnaby St. “I See The Rain” is a classy piece of psych-pop with a great guitar sound. Written by 2 of the band it was a hit in Holland but not in the UK. A further single failed & CBS insisted on choosing the band’s material. 1968’s “Lovin’ Things” is a piece of stinky cheese-pop which went into the Top 10. In the same year a cover of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, the Beatles fluffy faux-reggae nursery rhyme gave the band their only #1 record.

A generation of British pop people were moving right along with Jimi & the Beatles & there was a gap in the market for pretty-boy, custom made bubblegum pop, y’know…for the kids. Marmalade, smiling & mugging for the cameras like former Gaylords, fitted the bill. For all their claims to be serious musicians & some later inoffensive soft rock they were there with the Tremeloes, Love Affair & Amen Corner, grinning & singing other people’s songs. It’s a pity that “I See The Rain” was not a smash because it was as good as the band got & is up there with the Move’s early acid pop singles.

Wow ! & again Wow ! There is no more classic development through the 1960s than that of the Alan Bown Set. Trumpet player Bown was appointed leader of the jazzy John Barry Seven when Barry left to concentrate on Bond scores & other lucrative movie work. In 1965 he & 3 others of the 7 formed the aforementioned Set to play the R&B that was getting the gigs at this time. Despite a bit of a revolving door for members they were proper players, had a great horn section. They hired singer Jess Roden & became an outstanding live soul attraction who did not sell records. In 1967 the band recorded the soundtrack for a French movie “Jeu de Massacre” &, I assume, this is the French-only single from the film.

It is great, the band are still Mod suited & Chelsea booted but seem to be on a stoned weekend jaunt to Paris & ready to go with the Summer of Love flow. What a smashing mess of a promo & of a song. The band was between labels in the UK, they were leaving behind the soul & swapping the “Set” for an exclamation mark. The Alan Bown ! went for psychedelic whimsy, pleasant enough but not outstanding when there was a lot of that about. So between covers of Edwin Starr & the first time around Nirvana came this crazy racket which was never released in the UK & is the best thing you will ever hear either by the Set or the !

This time I have to choose the track just before the switch to the hippie high road. Simon Dupree & the Big Sound, formerly the Howling Wolves (R&B name) & the Road Runners (Soul name), were the kings of Portsmouth pop. The 3 Shulman brothers had a good thing going live but, there’s a pattern here yeah, the record label, Parlophone, wanted to sell more discs (as if all the Beatle money was not enough). The debut single was a spirited cover of the 5 Americans garage-pop “I See The Light”. “Day Time Night Time” from 1967, was the third to miss out. Is it blue-eyed soul ? Is it freakbeat? Like I give a flying one ! It is a cracking 45 which still has that 60s freshness about it plus a dude playing French horn on-stage.

The next 45 was the big one for Simon Dupree & the rest. They were encouraged to “go psychedelic” & “Kites”¬†was the result. Man it was pretty lame which is why “Day Time Night Time” gets the nod from me. There were diminishing returns from the follow-ups & the Shulmans had one last re-launch left. Gentle Giant made an LP a year through the 1980s. I have not heard one of them & have no intention of starting now. British prog-rock…bag of shite. Me, I’ll stick with the Big Sound of Simon Dupree.