Posts Tagged ‘British Invasion’

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #33 – Unit 4+2: “Concrete And Clay” b/w “When I Fall In Love” – London 45 RPM Single 45-LON-9754 (G4/H4)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #33 – Unit 4+2: “Concrete And Clay” b/w “When I Fall In Love” – London 45 RPM Single 45-LON-9754 (G4/H4)

Today’s song is a somewhat forgotten British Invasion classic from 1965, featuring future members of The Kinks and Argent amongst its band members.

Unit 4 was a British harmony vocal group that was started in the early 1960s by Brian Parker who was a member of Adam Faith’s backing band The Roulettes. Parker set out to form his own band and recruited Buster Meikle on vocals and guitar, Tommy Moeller on vocals and piano and Peter Moules on bass. Soon thereafter, they added two more members, Rod Garwood (bass) and Hugh Halliday (drums) who became the “+2” of their namesake. Their first British single was “The Green Fields” which was a top 50 hit in 1964.

By 1965, they were joined by two guest musicians, Bob Henrit who later went on to become a member of The Kinks and Russ Ballard who was a founding member of Argent. Both had worked with Parker and were also members of The Roulettes. Henrit and Ballard later joined Unit 4 + 2 as full members in 1967.

Their 1965 single, “Concrete And Clay” topped the British charts due to its inclusion on pirate radio playlists. In America, Unit 4 + 2’s recording of the song competed on the charts with a rival version by singer and Bob Crewe protégé Eddie Rambeau. Rambeau’s version climbed to number 35 on the charts, while Unit 4 + 2’s made it up to number 28. Both recordings kind of cancelled each other out, so neither was able to attain the attention that it should have.

A full length album was rush-recorded and released to capitalize on the success of the single in England, but the material was lacking and attempts to find a suitable follow up single failed to catch fire on the charts. As time went on, the band delved into psychedelic music as they strived to keep up with the ever changing times. During the late 60s, the group with Henrit and Ballard now full members recorded a version of Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” that failed to compete well with the more successful version by The Byrds.

“Concrete” was covered by Gary Lewis And The Playboys, Cliff Richard, Martin Plaza (of the group Mental As Anything) who brought the song to the #2 position on the Australian charts in 1986, Randy Edelman who brought the song to #20 on the UK charts in 1976, Kevin Rowland (of Dexy’s Midnight Runners) and They Might Be Giants.

The flip of today’s single is a cover of the Victor Young and Edward Heyman standard “When I Fall In Love” which was popularized by Nat “King” Cole and hundreds of other pop vocalists. The group’s cover puts them more into the category of easy listening artists like The Lettermen.

All in all, Unit 4 + 2 released 16 singles and two albums in England between 1964 and 1969. The song was rerecorded by songwriter and original vocalist, Tommy Moeller for a UK album in 2011. Moeller was also known as the public face of another British one-hit wonder, Whistling Jack Smith who had a number five whistling hit with “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman.” In the U.S. Unit 4+2 are barely remembered for this one great track, which to my ears sounds like a prequel to today’s faux folk groups like Mumford And Sons and The Lumineers.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: May 20th, 2015

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” by Whistling Jack Smith

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” by Whistling Jack Smith

Whistler’s brother?

Actually, no. Then who was Whistling Jack Smith, and why is his sole hit from 1967 haunting me?

I played an album of British Invasion hits released on the Parrot Record label from the late ‘60s before I went to work this morning. When this song came on, my ears quickly perked up. Although I recognized the recording, I hadn’t heard it in years and didn’t even know who it was or what it was called. Ever since then, this little ear worm has ceased to leave me alone.

The song was initially titled “Too Much Birdseed” and was written by Roger Cook and Roger Greenway. It was renamed “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” and was recorded by Whistling Jack Smith (a play on the name of 1920s singer “Whispering” Jack Smith). Cook and Greenaway went on to greater fame as the songwriters of the Hollies’ smash hit “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress.”

So who exactly was Whistling Jack Smith? That’s where our story gets a little convoluted, because the artist known as Whistling Jack Smith was actually two people…or maybe even three…

The actual whistler on the record was alleged to be trumpeter John O’Neill. O’Neill was known for famously provided the whistling on Ennio Morricone’s theme to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, as well as for singing the theme to the TV show, Wagon Train under the name Johnny O’Neill. I say allegedly because it is also believed that Noel Walker, who was a record producer for the British Deram record label, was the guy who did the actual whistling on the record. Nevertheless, no one seems to really want to cop to the deed, so let’s just move on.

So we don’t really know who did the actual whistling on the record, but we do know that the smiling guy on the cover of the sole Whistling Jack Smith album was Billy Moeller. Moeller went by the stage name of Coby Wells, and it is he who lip-synched (or whistle-synched) the song on this clip from the TV show The Beat Club. Moeller was also a roadie for British one-hit-wonders, Unit 4+2 who scored a hit on these shores with “Concrete And Clay” in 1965. His brother, Tommy was also a member of the group.

To further confuse things, the Batman of the song’s title is not the comic strip character, but rather is the term the British use for a military valet.

Upon its release, the single shot up to number 20 on the Billboard charts in America. Although four additional singles and an LP were released under the name of Whistling Jack Smith, nothing was ever heard from him again.

Edited: February 24th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Things Will Never Be the Same” by Four Just Men

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Things Will Never Be the Same” by Four Just Men

I recently wrote about Freddie & The Dreamers’ single, “I’m Telling You Now,” and the American album of the same name. The record was not a Freddie & The Dreamers album per se, although they were the featured group on the cover. It was a compilation released in 1965 to introduce unknown British Invasion groups to American audiences featuring two tracks each by Freddie & The Dreamers, Mike Rabin & The Demons, The Toggery Five, Linda Laine & The Sinners, Heinz and the group whose song is today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman, Four Just Men.

Four Just Men were one of the better groups to ride on the coattails of The Beatles and The British Invasion, and while their output was miniscule to say the least, it was indeed potent.

They were a Merseybeat group whose original name was Dee Fenton & the Silhouettes. Upon changing their name to Four Just Men in 1964, they were signed by George Martin who produced several non-charting British singles for them in 1964 through 1965. The group’s two Parlophone singles were “Things Will Never Be the Same” b/w “That’s My Baby (which were the two songs on the U.S. compilation album) and “There’s Not One Thing” b/w “Don’t Come Any Closer.” Both singles were originals, written by singer-guitarist Dimitrius Christopholus and guitarist John Kelman. The group changed their name yet again, this time to Just Four Men after another band also calling themselves Four Just Men threatened to sue EMI.

While the group toured with The Rolling Stones, The Searchers and Del Shannon in support of the two singles neither charted and they were dropped by EMI. They resurfaced in 1966 as a psychedelic group called Wimple Winch, who was known for the local hits “Rumble on Mersey Square South” and “Save My Soul.”

The two Four Just Men singles, as well as eight previously unreleased tracks from the era and 16 songs by Wimple Winch, were released on the now out of print import CD, The Wimple Story 1963-1968.

Edited: December 10th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/26/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” by Whistling Jack Smith

Whistler’s brother?

Actually, no. Then who was Whistling Jack Smith, and why is his sole hit from 1967 haunting me?

I played an album of British Invasion hits released on the Parrot Record label from the late ‘60s before I went to work this morning. When this song came on, my ears quickly perked up. Although I recognized the recording, I hadn’t heard it in years and didn’t even know who it was or what it was called. Ever since then, this little ear worm has ceased to leave me alone.

The song was initially titled “Too Much Birdseed” and was written by Roger Cook and Roger Greenway. It was renamed “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” and was recorded by Whistling Jack Smith (a play on the name of 1920s singer “Whispering” Jack Smith). Cook and Greenaway went on to greater fame as the songwriters of the Hollies’ smash hit “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress.”

So who exactly was Whistling Jack Smith? That’s where our story gets a little convoluted, because the artist known as Whistling Jack Smith was actually two people…or maybe even three…

The actual whistler on the record was alleged to be trumpeter John O’Neill. O’Neill was known for famously provided the whistling on Ennio Morricone’s theme to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, as well as for singing the theme to the TV show, Wagon Train under the name Johnny O’Neill. I say allegedly because it is also believed that Noel Walker, who was a record producer for the British Deram record label, was the guy who did the actual whistling on the record. Nevertheless, no one seems to really want to cop to the deed, so let’s just move on.

So we don’t really know who did the actual whistling on the record, but we do know that the smiling guy on the cover of the sole Whistling Jack Smith album was Billy Moeller. Moeller went by the stage name of Coby Wells, and it is he who lip-synched (or whistle-synched) the song on this clip from the TV show The Beat Club. Moeller was also a roadie for British one-hit-wonders, Unit 4+2 who scored a hit on these shores with “Concrete And Clay” in 1965. His brother, Tommy was also a member of the group.

To further confuse things, the Batman of the song’s title is not the comic strip character, but rather is the term the British use for a military valet.

Upon its release, the single shot up to number 20 on the Billboard charts in America. Although four additional singles and an LP were released under the name of Whistling Jack Smith, nothing was ever heard from him again.

Edited: April 25th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/27/12

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – “I’m Into Something Good” by Herman’s Hermits

They were the brain child of producer Mickie Most, the man who was also behind The Animals, Donovan, Suzi Quatro and the Jeff Beck Group…and they did have the mildly attractive Peter Noone as a lead singer. Still, it’s hard to believe that Herman’s Hermits gave The Beatles a run for their money during the early days of the British Invasion when they sold over ten million albums and singles over a 12 month period. This song comes from their debut album, “Introducing Herman’s Hermits” that also included the hits “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter,” “Sea Cruise” and “Mother-In-Law.” Here’s a vintage clip of “I’m Into Something Good” from “Shindig!”

Edited: March 26th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 4/22/11

It’s time to give Freddie Garrity some props.  No, he wasn’t John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison…or even Ringo Starr…but he was responsible for this 1964 British Invasion chart-topping gem and the “Do The Freddie” dance craze!

For your further enjoyment: “Do The Freddie” by Freddie & The Dreamers

Edited: April 22nd, 2011