Saturday, November 23, 2019

One (Or So)-Hit Wonders

(All these groups apparently had the same unimaginative photographer.)
In 1964 the British Invasion was BIG. Huge. I was nine years old and not exactly discovering music, but discovering my own music. Little kids don't generally have money to spend on records (or any money, really). I had two teenage sisters and a teenage brother, so their music was the music I listened to. My sisters were singles buyers; they had Dion and Bobby Vee and sappy teen idol love songs. My brother, on the other hand, had excellent musical tastes. His oeuvre was LP's. The Beach Boys, Dylan, the first Beatle albums I ever laid my hands on. That's not to say he discovered The Beatles first ~ we'll call it a draw. When "I Want To Hold Your Hand" busted out of my transistor radio's speaker, I was immediately smitten. On the sidewalk outside my elementary school I became an instant music critic. Debbie Lealos and Cathy Adair and I held serious discussions about the best Beatle singles and, of course, who was the cutest Beatle (Paul, duh.)

Then Shindig! came along. Unlike today, when kids rule the world, in '64 we were grateful to be allowed to exist in the word. TV shows weren't created for kids, unless you count Captain Kangaroo. Shows sure weren't created for bubbling adolescents until some guy (apparently smoking dope) greenlighted Shindig!. The show was cast in black and white, which wouldn't have mattered, since we only owned a black and white TV. The Righteous Brothers were sort of the artists in residence, but anyone who was anyone in 1964 appeared on the show at one time or another:  Sonny and Cher, The Turtles, The Beau Brummels, Gary Lewis and The Playboys, The Lovin' Spoonful. 

Then there were the British Invasion artists. I thought I'd seen them all:  Freddie and The Dreamers, The Animals, Chad and Jeremy and Peter and Gordon (who I honestly couldn't tell apart), The Dave Clark Five, Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Zombies, Herman's Hermits, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Honeycombs (who recorded my favorite guilty pleasure track), Manfred Mann, The Moody Blues; yes, The Rolling Stones. Supposedly The Beatles, but I think I would have remembered that.

It seems, though, that a few British Invasion bands never made it in front of the camera.

The Searchers were a Merseybeat group, which actually was a thing, ostensibly named after the River Mersey in England. The British apparently don't know that the moniker should come first; otherwise I'd be living in close proximity to The River Mississippi. The Beatles are the most famous alumni of the Mersey beat sound, but it also included the afore-mentioned Gerry and The Pacemakers and the Hermits, Hollies and Dreamers, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders, and don't forget The Swinging Blue Jeans.

I didn't actually know that Needles and Pins was a remake ~ apparently The Searchers specialized in cover songs. I've never heard the Jackie DeShannon original, but it can't be as good as this:


Speaking of The Beat Mersey, this is a really good song:


The Georgia Satellites covered this song, and in hindsight, really didn't put their stamp on it. It sounds essentially the same (even sung in the same key):

This is a good song (and see? Wayne at least is shaking a tambourine):

Freddy and The Dreamers were a novelty act (I'm surmising). Even in 1964, I rolled my eyes at this attempt at choreography on Shindig!


Gerry and The Pacemakers weren't a pre-pubescent girl's dream. They didn't do "peppy" songs, unless you count "I Like It", which was a throwaway. In hindsight, they did very soulful songs; songs that only someone who'd suddenly sprouted maturity could appreciate.


I understand now why I recognize the name Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, but not their songs. It's always a risk when the lead singer can't latch onto a guitar, or even maracas, like Davy Jones did. It comes across as cheesy, red-tufted booth lounge-y. 


Graham Nash thought he could do better than The Hollies (he didn't). Fittingly, he's not included in this performance:


There's no one more annoying on SiriusXM than Peter Noone. He just drones on and on...and on. Herman's Hermits were an amalgam of good pop songs and crap. And Peter's instrument of choice was apparently hand-claps. Granted, the group had some real winners, but they also had some real stinkers. It was a freak show, with apparently no one in charge. This is one of the winners:


I began this post only wanting to highlight Needles and Pins, but as life is wont to do, The River Meander snaked on through. 

I could go on and on about the British Invasion, and these performances are only a subset. It is good to realize that even as an innocent rube, I had pretty decent musical tastes. I wasn't snookered by flash. 

In other words, The Searchers, and I, are awesome.

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