Both Save Your Money and Wooden Girl, the A and B sides of Mark Radice’s 1967 single would be among the strongest tracks on Fading Yellow Volume 3 if written and performed by a twenty or thirty year old. Mark was aged only ten.
Neither are they the kind of sugary pap one tends to associate with child prodigies manipulated by producers with dollar signs in their eyes. No, this being 1967, a more intelligent and less overtly commercial approach is taken. Wooden Girl especially, takes the fact that the singer is aged ten and then does something interesting with that, so we have something genuinely intelligent and engaging going on here. I’d describe the sound as kind of homespun Sergeant Pepper meets spacey Hannah-Barbara.
‘Save Your Money’ and ‘Wooden Girl’ both feature catchy melodies (‘Wooden Girl’, incredibly so), slightly off-kilter, not overly produced arrangements and a canny knowledge of how to take the styles of the day and weave them into something a ten year old might sing about. That father was recording engineer Gene Radice must have helped but there is no getting away from the fact that these songs simply stand out. My only gripe with Save Your Money is that I can’t make out some of the lyrics and therefore lose the story – not Mark’s or the production’s fault at all, just the sound quality of the recording here.
Clavichord-rich B-side, ‘Wooden Girl’, is a very infectious piece of psych-pop which a band like Kaleidoscope might have come up with and is even stronger than Save Your Money. The story of the wooden girl is the classic tale of a child’s make-believe friend gone a little too far so she is more real than the people around him.
You’re not always quite sure on first listen which elements of the accompaniment are Mark’s voice-as reverbed-backing-vocal and which parts are actual instrumentation – somehow this blurring accentuates the sense of the child’s enclosed, imaginary world. He even manages to use what sounds like a kazoo to actually add something to the song rather than turn it daft or lightweight as might so easily have been the case.
Mark has gone on to do a great deal in music so I am sure to be posting about him again.