The Poets: Not Actual 12-Strings

The ringing, echo-drenched electric 12-string guitars on the debut single by Scottish rockers, The Poets, are such a striking sound for 1964 and yet a strangely familiar one:  might it be possible that the band later reincarnated as Brian Jonestown Massacre?

“Now We’re Thru'”     The Poets     1964
[play at strong volume]

What a revelation when one finds out – thanks to Richie Unterberger’s interview with lead singer and songwriter, George Gallacher – “apparently, there were no 12-string guitars, but what there was, was the two guitars having the 1st and 2nd strings tuned the same, thereby creating a semi-12 string effect.”  That very same year interestingly enough, Lou Reed would take this concept to the ultimate extreme when he tuned all six strings to the same note (D) for his satiric dance (non)-hit “The Ostrich.”

Now We're Thru - The Poets 45

With great feeling and commitment from every band member, “Now We’re Thru’” is a classic A-side from top to bottom, with the chiming guitars – and especially the lonely vocal at song’s end – ratcheting up the romance and mystery. The song would find release in Japan (manufactured by the “otherKing Records), as well as the US, Australia, and the UK, where the song charted at #31, doing particularly well in Scotland, confirms Unterberger in his (revised) history of ‘overlooked innovators and eccentric visionaries’ — Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers.

Billboard‘s December 12, 1964 edition gives the back story on the single’s release here in the States:

“Bob Crewe, independent record producer, has formed his own label, Dynovox, which will be distributed by Amy-Mala Records.

The label’s first release is ‘Now We’re Thru” by the Poets.  Crewe is currently producing sides for the 4 Seasons, and current releases ‘Watch Out Sally‘ by Diane Renay on MGM; ‘Dusty‘ by the Rag Dolls on Amy-Mala; newcomer Michael Allen on MGM Records with ‘She,’ and the forthcoming Travey Dey release on Amy-Mala.

The New Crewe label will not confine its efforts to pop releases.  The New York Youth Symphony and show and movie scores are being recorded for future releases.”

Unterberger attributes much of the “brilliance” of The Poets’ singles to their manager/producer, Andrew Loog Oldham, and proclaims the band to be “certainly the most talented act in Oldham’s production/management stable other than the Stones.”  According to a November, 1964 edition of New Music Express, the band’s name is “presumably derived from the fact that they wear their hair Burns-style and have ruffled lace-fronted shirts.”

After recording two singles for Oldham’s Immediate label, The Poets would carry on for one more single after Gallacher’s departure – 1967’s “Wooden Spoon” – before disbanding.  Wait a minute, 1967 is the birth year for Anton Newcombe:  coincidence or musical reincarnation?

The Poets would reunite in 2011 for a live performance at Glasgow’s Eyes Wide Open club.  Tip of the hat (yet again) to Tom Avazian for hipping me to this track via UK anthology album from 1983:  20 One-Hit Wonders, Volume 2.

1968 Crown Durango Electric 12-String [courtesy of Drowning in Guitars]

Electric 12-String = 1968 Crown Durango

{double click on image above for 3-D centerfold effect}

 

Historical Sidebar:  First Electric 12-String Guitar on UK Recording

Tony Bacon’s Rickenbacker Electric 12 String, The Story of The Guitars, The Music, and The Great Players informs who the electric 12-string pioneers in the UK were:

In fact, [George] Harrison’s Rickenbacker wasn’t the first electric 12-string on a British recording session.  That honour belongs to a Burns guitar played by Hank Marvin of The Shadows.  Marvin, a Fender Stratocaster player, had teamed up with British guitar-maker, Jim Burns, to design a new solid-body six-string electric.  Burns also came up with an electric 12-string, and around October, 1963, Marvin received an early sample of the Burns Double Six.  He took it along to various sessions at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London where he was recording with Cliff Richard & The Shadows.

Marvin intended to record “Don’t Talk to Him” using the Burns 12, but problems arose, so instead he doubled a six-string line to achieve the prominent hookline.  A few weeks later, however, he recorded another Cliff session and played the prototype Burns 12-string for “On The Beach.”  Unusually, the 12 was strung like a six-string bass plus octave strings, clearly heard on the song’s low-down double string runs.  Later in November, Marvin used the Burns 12 with regular stringing for “I’m the Lonely One.”  These Cliff Richard songs weren’t released until 1964 — in the UK singles chart, “I’m the Lonely One” went to Number 8 in February and “On the Beach” to 7 in July — but they are important as early British recordings of the electric 12-string sound.

The book goes on to say:

The very first release of a British record with electric 12-string — just ahead of The Beatles and well ahead of Cliff & The Shads — was the result of another Abbey Road session.  Paul McCartney gave one of his songs to Peter & Gordon, a new duo signed to EMI.  They recorded their single “A World Without Love” at Abbey Road in January 1964, with sessionman Vic Flick [of James Bond theme fame] on guitar.
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Rare 1965 Jimmy Page B-Side

No doubt about it:  Jimmy Page, given his role as composer, arranger, and producer, dominates this B-side by a group you’ve never heard of (i.e., recording career = exactly one 45).  This song, I am now discovering, is virtually unknown to American fans of Page’s work, as it has mainly enjoyed release in the UK and Europe — first as a B-side, and later on compilation albums that showcase the daring and original music produced by UK’s renegade indie label, Immediate.  Even now, when you search YouTube, the song barely registers:  just one lonely audio clip, with a mere 1,707 listens to date.

Will you please tell us the song title already?!  “Just Like Anyone Would Do” — the B-side to “Bells of Rhymney” on the one and only single ever released by Fifth Avenue:

Fifth Avenue     “Just Like Anyone Would Do”     1965

From the flamenco-style guitar riff that propels the song, to the instrumental bridge with the majestic piano chording, to the ghostly backing vocals that linger after the rest of the mix has faded, there’s something fairly compelling about this song (ditto for another great Jimmy Page production from that same year that unfairly sank without a trace — Nico’s “I’m Not Sayin’“).

I first encountered this haunting track on a double-album anthology of Immediate singles (with album sides devoted to “The Most Obvious”; “The Rarest of the Rare”; “Happy to Be a Part of the Industry of British Blues”; and “Jimmy Page Productions/Sessions”) that was released, oddly enough, by Nashville-based Compleat Records in 1985.

Immediate Singles 2-LP AnthologySix years prior, the Led Zeppelin fan club Manchester/UK had gathered this B-side and 29 other tracks for a double album compilation entitled, James Patrick Page — Session Man.  In recent years, “Just Like Anyone Would Do” would be reissued on CD in 2000, both in the UK (here and also here) and Germany.  2007 would also find the song included on a European CD release, Your Time Is Gonna Come — The Roots of Led Zeppelin (1964-1968).

Led Zep Roots Anthology

The track listing in 2000’s 6-CD box set, The Immediate Singles Collection, provides this sparse bit of text about Fifth Avenue’s sole contribution to popular music history:

45 originally released as Immediate IM 002 — 1965.
Line-up:  Denver Gerrard (vcls, gtr), Kenny Rowe (vcls, bs).
Band origin:  London.

The original Immediate 45 (which was the second single issued by the label, following “Hang On Sloopy” by The McCoys) does respectable business, according to Popsike, at auction.

The Musical Equivalent of Recess

Amen Corner is one group who has managed to capture the joy of unstructured play time at school — that midday break known as “Recess“:

“Recess”     Amen Corner      1969

This song has particular meaning for me, as I am a PTA parent who is heading up a Recess Committee to improve the quality of the daily playtime experience at my children’s school.

That’s Andy FairweatherLow, by the way, vocalizing a song he himself did not compose (that would be a gentleman by the surname of Henderson) but one he did, nonetheless, produce, along with (early Kinks/Who producer) Shel Talmy, for the entire 1969 album, Farewell to the Real Magnificent Seven, on which “Recess” appears.

Fun to point out that this song never saw single release, except as the B-side of a 45 released in New Zealand.

Recess NZ 45“Recess” can also be found on a 1969 sampler album of tracks from renegade indie label, Immediate, that bears the wry title, Happy to Be a Part of the Industry of Human Happiness.

Immediate LP

“Think”: Squeezing Soul From a Stone

I had assumed lots of people were already familiar with Chris Farlowe’s kicking mod soul version of Jagger & Richard’s “Think” – but viewership numbers on YouTube tell otherwise:

“Think” wisely enjoyed release in India and Sweden, as well as its native UK, where it went to #37 on Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label.  “Think” is also the kick-off track on Farlowe’s 1966 LP, 14 Things to Think About.

14 Things and Yet Only 10 Faces – What Gives?

Chris Farlowe LP

“Mary Anne”: UK Countrypolitan

Legendary producer/engineer, Glyn Johns (The Who, Faces, Belly, Joe Satriani) gets behind the mic to sing this tuneful slice of British-flavored countrypolitan, “Mary Anne“:

Produced, arranged and conducted by – not Johns – but rather, Tony Meehan, drummer of premier UK instrumental outfit, The Shadows, and released in 1965 on Immediate, the independent label started by Rolling Stones’ manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, along with Tony Calder.

Mary Anne - Glyn Johns 45

Johns’ one and only Immediate 45 has commanded healthy prices at auction in recent years.