When I was a teenager, British groups The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles, dominated the pop music scene around the world. However, there was another vibrant music trend going on at the same time, though not all the bands involved enjoyed the same success. This early British Pop was the proving ground for many of the Progressive Rock supergroups to come. In the 1960’s these groups had a predominantly Mod feel, and dressed in the style popular at the time. They had their roots in earlier Blues music, and this can be heard in some of their cover versions, and use of organs and harmonicas. Some are now long forgotten, others became giants of the music industry. This is where it all started, for most of them.
Go Now. Originally recorded by Bessie Banks in 1962, her ( I think better) version was eclipsed by this Moody Blues cover, from 1964, with Denny Laine on lead vocals, as the American pop market avidly sought out anything to do with the new craze for British groups. The Moody Blues went on to become one of the biggest bands of their time, though without Laine, who left in 1966. He later went on to join Paul McCartney’s band, Wings. When I was still only thirteen, this was one of my real favourites.
You Really Got Me. The Kinks were a London group, fronted by Ray Davies, and his brother Dave. They had a style that sounded immediately English, despite influences of both Blues and Rock. They went on to great success, and various splits in the band, though they are still performing, in various incarnations, to this day. This was not their first release, but their first big hit, reaching Number One in the UK charts, in 1964.
For Your Love. There hadn’t quite been anything like this single from the Yardbirds, when I first heard it in 1965. This Blues influenced band was to give us some of the most famous names in rock music. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, all three played with the band at some stage. This song was written by Graham Gouldman, who later formed 10cc, and the connections from this band are too numerous to list here. I thought it was really something then, and I still do.
She’s Not There. With Rod Argent on organ, and the marvellous Colin Blunstone singing lead vocals, this English group had a huge hit with this song in 1964, on both sides of the Atlantic. Argent went on to form his eponymous supergroup, and Blunstone became one of the most respected vocalists in the UK. His vocal range is demonstrated here, and in the following song suggestion as well. You can tell, I like him.
Say You Don’t Mind. In 1972, the now solo Blunstone released this single. Not a rock anthem, or pop song, rather an emotional and powerful love song. The string arrangement is famous, and Colin’s range is simply wonderful. The video clip is from some years later, and he has still not lost his touch! (There are some synch problems on this video)
All Or Nothing. Again coming from the London Mod scene, and an undeniable influence on later musicians, especially Paul Weller, the Small Faces had a string of hits, during the short time that they were together. Drummer Kenney Jones later went on to become the drummer in The Who. In 1966, this record went to number one in the UK, and became one of their biggest sellers. Singer Steve Marriott left the band in 1968, going on to form Humble Pie, with Peter Frampton. Marriott became a heavy drinker, and died during a fire at his home, in 1991. The band re-formed, with some original members, and Rod Stewart as vocalist. Renamed The Faces, they went on to considerable success.
Handbags and Gladrags. Written by Mike D’Abo, of Manfred Mann fame, this is the definitive version of this classic power ballad, sung by Chris Farlowe, in 1967. Farlowe was a powerful Rock and Blues singer, best known for his cover versions of Rolling Stones songs, especially ‘Out of Time’, and ‘Paint it Black’. He had solo hits with versions of both songs. He later joined two of the better-known UK supergroups, Colosseum, and Atomic Rooster. Now 73, he still performs occasionally.
This Wheel’s On Fire. This 1968 version of the Bob Dylan song, by Julie Driscoll, and Brian Auger and The Trinity, was one of the first progressive pop songs to have the psychedelic and mystical feel that became so fashionable within a few short years. Still popular today, and used as the theme song for a long-running TV series in the UK, this instantly recognisable song is a tribute to Julie’s haunting vocal style, and Brian Auger’s arrangement.
White Room. By 1968, pop had gone progressive, and supergroups outnumbered ordinary ones. Cream was a trio of former Blues musicians, with Jack Bruce on bass and vocals, Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals, and Ginger Baker on drums. Their mix of Blues, Rock, and psychedelia, similar to that being played by Jimi Hendrix, was an immediate success, even though by this time they were on the verge of breaking up, after only two years together. This is one of their signature tracks.
So there you have it. A short look at the roots of British band music, and the early days of some of the biggest groups of the last few decades. Lots missed out, I grant you, but that, unfortunately, is the nature of the beast of blogging. The Internet awaits those of you who wish to learn more.