We all know what happened to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones…but what about The Rockin’ Berries, Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, The Pretty Things and The Giddy Statues?
In between the peppy early Sixties pop of CLIFF RICHARD and the late Sixties explosion of progressive rock, there were hundreds of beat-groups from all over Britain looking for two-minute hits and slightly longer careers.
In this blog, I now celebrate the small names and the no-hopers who were genuine superstars in the U.K. but could never break into the American music market during the pop British Invasion of the 60s.
THE APPLEJACKS: 6 member band with a female bass player—their debut Decca single, “Tell Me When”, hit #7 in April 1964. A well chosen cover of a Ray Davies song “I Go To Sleep” should have restored their career, but when it missed by a mile it was clear that these Apples had gone decidedly bad.
THE BEATSTALKERS: This 5 member crew were a tough, concise and nattily-trousered Glasgow soul outfit. Although years ahead in the wardrobe department – drawing complementary sartorial praise from THE KINKS and THE SMALL FACES on a shared “Ready, Steady, Go!” appearance where the group performed their new single, the mod-soul, “Left Right Left” – the group failed so dismally in the US that, after their 3rd performance, they cancelled the remainder of their 4 week U.S. tour and spent their abundant free time feeding the ducks in Central Park, NYC.
DAVE BERRY: A good-looking chap and solo singer. Berry was given a Geoff Stephens composition, “The Crying Game” a tearjerker ballad (later covered in the 80s by Boy George) that swept to #5 in August ’64. TV exposure introduced Berry to a curious nation that was at once intrigued by his mysterious, somewhat sinister image. He had his hair dyed black and taken to wearing all black outfits, complete with leather gloves and capes. Berry scored his most remembered and biggest (#5 in April ’65) with a cover of Bobby Goldsboro’s US hit, “Little Things”.
THE BIG THREE: The Big Three have been immortalized as John Lennon’s favorite contemporaries from the Mersey Beat era. BRIAN EPSTEIN became The Big Three’s manager and Decca Records swept them off to London where they recorded a debut single, a cover of Richie Barrett’s “Some Other Guy”. A poor representation of their true live sound, it only managed to reach #37 in April ’63.
The chance to record a live document at the legendary Cavern Club provided the opportunity to capture the trio in all their raw panache. “LIVE AT THE CAVERN” should have been the release that redressed the problem as to how the group should sound, and would have made a great album but for the unfortunate fact that Decca managed to lose or erase most of the tapes. However, they managed to make an EP from the surviving tapes, which reached #6 in December. Epstein, always at loggerheads with the group over image, dropped them.
CILLA BLACK: BRIAN EPSTEIN began bringing his stable of Liverpool talent to London record companies in 1962. Among the acts he launched the following year was “Swinging Cilla,” a former hat-check girl from the CAVERN CLUB who, with the songwriting talents of her pals J. Lennon and P. McCartney, had no trouble sending her first few releases high into the British charts.
THE CREATION: No other band came closer to emulating the feedback-ridden auto- destruction of the early WHO than The Creation, who had a couple of hits in Britain. And lead guitarist Eddie Philips was even asked by Pete Townshend to join the Who as second guitarist.
THE CRYIN’ SHAMES: A Liverpudlian outfit featuring 2 lead singers. The group released 3 Decca singles – the first of which was a cover of The Drifters’ “Please Stay”, (The Cryin’ Shames version is poignant and yearning) hit the Top 30 in mid- 1966. However, the band’s crowning achievement was “Come On Back” [written by the band], a brooding slice of menace which, with its wobbly organ and otherworldly fuzz, is probably the closest any British act has come to emulating the sound of the classic American garage bands. The quintessential English Maverick JOE MEEK produced their records.
THE SORROWS: One of the most overlooked bands of the British Invasion, The Sorrows offered a tough brand of R&B rock that recalled The Pretty Things (though not as R & B) and The Kinks (though not as pop-oriented). Their biggest hit, “Take A Heart,” stopped just outside the U.K. Top 20; several other fine mid 60s met with either slim or total lack of success.
THE SMALL FACES: This band was the best English band never to hit in America.
But in England, the Small Faces were one of the most extraordinary and successful bands of the mid-60s; their music remains some of the most valuable and enjoyable of the era and very Mod.
THE GIDDY STATUES: (1964-1968) Singer-guitar player REGGIE BENDER formed The Giddy Statues in 1964. He claimed a UFO transmitted the band’s name to him. The band hit it big in 1965 with 3 singles in the U.K. Top Ten. The Giddy Statues then careened along a career path that followed the twisted psychodrama of Reggie Bender. The Giddies officially broke up at the end of 1968; Reggie Bender became a solo artist with some success as well as some psychotic breaks.
THE MOVE: The Move was an early pioneer in the art of power pop. Though the group followed in the footsteps of The Beatles and The Beach Boys by combining riff-rock with choirboy harmonies. Their best album is “SHAZAM” – shows the band in all its eclectic glory, from incandescent folk-pop to full-blown pomp.
THE PRETTY THINGS: A talented band that garnered heaps of critical praise, The Pretty Things never caught on with the buying public – particularly in the United States. The Pretty Things started out as R&B roots rockers along the lines of the early Rolling Stones. During the late 60s the band switched gears, entering the world of psychedelia and progressive rock. The major achievement of this period was “S.F. SORROW”, which in 1968 was the first rock opera and both a precursor to and influence on The Who’s “TOMMY.”
The bands listed are only a small portion of the bands that were popular in England, but never “made it” in America. Most Americans (probably even folks in the U.K.) have never even heard theses band names mentioned.
Here is a “shout out” to more of these 60s bands from the U.K.
Tommy Steele, George Fame, Chris Farlow, Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, The Fourmost, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Shadows, Billy Fury, The Merseybeats, The Bachelors, The Mojos, The Four Pennies, The Nashville Teens, The Undertakers, Sandie Shaw, The Rockin’ Berries, The Walker Brothers, The Ivy League, The Action, The Fortune, Ken Dowd, The Silkie, Twinkle; Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich; Heinz, Adam Faith, The Fortunes, The Roulettes.
And many, many, many more.
Thank you guys and gals from the bands of this era. You made pop music a more exciting, interesting, cool experience.
PS: The frenzy of the early and mid-60s, when loud guitars, button down suits with frilled collars, and mop tops fired the second shot heard ‘round the world –
Below is a brief summary of the music British Invasion of America.
- February 7, 1964 THE BEATLES arrive in America, amid a throng of press, overexcited fans, and mass confusion.
- Febuary 9, 1964 THE BEATLES play for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show. Watching them is the largest audience ever to collectively see a television program to date.
- April 4, 1964 In a feat never to be duplicated, THE BEATLES occupy the top five positions on the Billboards singles chart.
- June 2, 1964 THE ROLLING STONES, rivals from the south of England, begin their very first American tour. By August 1, three new Stones songs are hot on the charts.
- August 19, 1964 THE BEATLES start their first full American tour, beginning in San Francisco.
- September 5, 1964 THE ANIMALS zoom to Number One in the U.S. with “House Of The Rising Sun.”
- October 17, 1964 MANFRED MANN repeats The Animals’ success with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.”
- November 24, 1964 THE KINKS debut on American television. Soon both their hits this year, “You Really Got Me,” and “All Day and All of the Night” reach number 7 on the Hot 100.
- December 31, 1964 By this point, 27 songs on the Top 100 in America are by British performers.