The Smoke seemed destined to be the greatest British band of the 60’s. Read on for their sad tale of record industry greed, radio station indifference, distribution mishaps, managerial exploitation, personal tragedy, substance abuse, mental instability, and an apathetic, capricious and philistine public…
Just kidding! They seem to be a classic 60’s case of one-hit wonders. I’d never heard this song until it popped up in my YouTube feed the other day. It became a big hit in Germany in ’67 (the year I moved, so I never heard it), but in England its progress up the charts was knee-capped by the BBC for drug references (the BBC did such a great job keeping young Brits off drugs). The most remarkable thing about this band is that not one of them did anything noteworthy before or after this song. Usually when you look into British bands with a hit during this period, you’ll find that at least one or two of them before or after played with someone you’ve heard of. But not these guys. Anyway, it’s a pretty good song and worth hearing.
For whatever reason, I found myself revisiting cult faves Honeybus over the weekend. If you’re unfamiliar and craving some late 60’s psychedelic/baroque/folk/pop, they could be your fix. I recommend streaming the anthology pictured above. Some good hooks and harmonies throughout, though I found myself skipping a good amount of songs. Your mileage may vary. Perhaps due to the drug-addled times, there are some oddities, such as this otherwise good song marred by a fucking kazoo. They had a top ten UK hit with this, which almost, just-about sounds like it could be a parody of the baroque pop of the time.
Speaking of twee pop parodies, nothing will ever surpass this masterpiece (said to be a parody of Ray Davies’ “Funny Face”) from Neil Innes, the man who would one day compose the entire Rutles catalog in something like a week.
Both proof that one needn’t be especially proficient as a musician to write killer songs AND an explanation for my recent blargh absence.
The Nerves weren’t around too long but are regarded by some as ground zero for the LA punk and power pop scene. Drummer Paul Collins went on to form The Beat (“Rock N Roll Girl,” “I Don’t Fit In”), bassist Peter Case formed The Plimsouls (“A Million Miles Away”), and guitarist Jack Lee’s song “Hanging on the Telephone” became a massive hit for Blondie when they covered it on Parallel Lines in 1978.
And here’s Collins a few years later with The Beat …
I’m only about a third of the way through but I’m digging it so far. Man, I miss record stores …
Everyone thinks they know what killed Tower Records: The Internet. But that’s not the story. “All Things Must Pass” examines this iconic company’s explosive trajectory, tragic demise, and legacy forged by its rebellious founder Russ Solomon.
Carole King rules. Songs I forgot she wrote but probably you guys all know:
I’m Into Something Good (Herman’s Hermits)
The Loco-Motion (Grand Funk Railroad)
The Porpoise Song (Theme from “Head” The Monkees Movie)
Up On The Roof (The Drifters)
I included the above because I enjoy the Scottish punk versions of things, and go Monkees of course. In describing Up On The Roof:
Appropriately enough, the song was born among the rat-race noise of a crowded city street. “Carole came up with the melody in the car – an a cappella melody,” …
A peaceful moment above the fray would have seemed like heaven to King – a young woman with two children and a demanding full-time job in a hit factory. The sophisticated arrangement was overseen in the studio by King herself, who was barely 20 years old at the time. “Carole used to hang in there with us tough,” Drifters member Charlie Thomas told Emerson. “She used to pound down. She wasn’t no hard woman – a girl, at her age. But she played the piano and it was amazing the songs she gave us.
Delayed by the pandemic, of course. Your Academy is a Memphis supergroup of sorts, made up of likeminded middle-agers. I think the video’s been up a year but the vinyl is new. What a set of pipes on that Brandon McGovern! (I’ve always loved his voice.)
Extensive band bio and purchasing options on Bandcamp.