Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kave Kids

In 1971, Lester Bangs, rock'n'roll's most interesting and talented critic, wrote a lengthy rant for Greg Shaw's Who Put the Bomp? praising the primitive sound of Andover's Troggs as the antithesis to the singer-songwriter era of popular music. Bangs entitled it "James Taylor Marked For Death," which pretty much sums up his opinion on the matter.

"They're so far behind, they're in front," Graham Nash said of the Troggs. Certainly, their mastery of any instruments was rudimentary at best, but add that to the sexuality in their lyrics, and one has a recipe for authentic rock'n'roll--a do-it-yourself ethos for angst plagued teenagers everywhere. "Wild Thing" is one of the finest examples of this in all of rock'n'roll, a stone-cold classic known by just about everyone on the planet.

The Troglodytes consisted of Reg Presley (nee Ball) on vocals, Chris Britton on guitar, Pete Staples on bass and Ronnie Bond on drums. Kinks manager Larry Page discovered them, shortened their name to the Troggs, and got them a recording contract with Fontana records. (Until Page formed his own label, Page One) One of their best singles, "I Can't Control Myself" was banned completely in Australia and received only restricted play on the BBC.

The Troggs evolved with the changing musical directions, releasing the psych-tinged Cellophane in 1967, which also featured another massive hit, "Love Is All Around" (covered very well by our Invaders). Of course, no lesson in Troggomania would be complete with a mention of The Trogg Tapes, a surreptitiously recorded row that includes words we shall not repeat here.

Recommended purchase, though now out of print: The Troggs: Archeology, a 3 CD set with all the best tracks and the infamous Trogg Tapes, too.

(Personal favorite Trogg Track: "Night of the Long Grass")

(References: Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs; Tapestry of Delights by Vernon Joynson and British Beat by Chris May and Tim Phillips)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

For Goodness Sakes!

Liverpool's Swinging Blue Jeans created some of the finest pop rock records of the Merseybeat Boom, including the definitive recording of "Hippy Hippy Shake, " and yet their name is now a mere footnote in rock history. With the exception of The Beatles, many of Liverpool's popular groups found success fleeting once the Merseybeat tag became unhip and passe, and the Jeans were no exception. They continued recording until 1968, but were unable to repeat the success of 1963.

Like most Merseybeat bands, the Swinging Blue Jeans began as a skiffle group as early as 1957 (under the name The Bluegenes). They progressed to trad, changed their name, and developed a local following, which led to a residency in Hamburg's infamous Star-Club . While there, the Blue Jeans concentrated more on rock'n'roll, R&B and country. Upon return to Liverpool, the Blue Jeans obtained residencies at the Mardi Gras and Downbeat clubs. In early 1963, they were signed to the HMV label and recorded their first single, Ray Ennis' "It's Too Late Now," a prime example of the Mersey sound--melodic harmonies, yet musically powerful.

After the enormous success of "Hippy Hippy Shake," which reach number 2 on the UK charts, the lads repeated the same formula on their cover of "Good Golly Miss Molly," which only reached no. eleven. Their next single, a cover of "You're No Good," a song they discovered in a female fan's record collection, reached number 3, but this was to be their last big hit. Their next single was a major disappointment and did not reach the top 50, which in turn effected sales of their debut album. Before the Blue Jeans knew it, the Merseybeat era was over.

Anyone interested in learning more about Merseybeat should search out copies of Spencer Leigh's Let's Go Down The Cavern, and Pete Frame's The Beatles and Some Other Guys: Rock Family Trees. Leigh and Frame are acknowledged as the foremost Merseybeat experts, and their books are essential. I also recommend tracking down the BBC 2 1 hour special on Merseybeat based on Frame's Family Trees. The clip presented here shows the Blue Jeans performing at the 1964 NME Pollwinner's Concert.

(References:"The Swinging Blue Jeans" by Peter Doggett, Record Collector, Dec. 1982 p. 49 - 54; The Beatles and Some Other Guys by Pete Frame; various issues of Disc.)