I was impressed if not swept away by The Casuals sole Top 10 hit Jesamine as soon as I heard it on Sounds of the 60s, I would guess nearly thirty years ago now. The song brilliantly captures the utopianism of the late 60s and distills that into a melodic, very skilfully arranged pop song. I still find it hard to imagine it done any better than this.
Judging by the song’s frequent inclusion on 60s compilations and the fond tributes which appear on Youtube – some from those who remember Jesamine in 1968 and many from those who are far too young to do so – it seems a lot of us feel the same way. Some even named their child after the song.
More than a butterfly child
My happy discovery prompted a search for what else The Casuals may have produced. There is more than you might think and although nothing quite reaches the heights of that superb pop single, they were responsible for a clutch of singles and a 1969 album which straddle pop in all its multifarious manifestations at the time – sunshine pop, power pop, and pop-soul, sometimes with baroque and psychedelic inflections running through. They also produced the most affecting, blissed out, sunshine harmony cover of Never My Love I have ever heard.
The Casuals were essentially performers and hit makers rather than songwriters although several worthy self-penned John Tebb compositions pepper their output.
Their later years, in an attempt to find a new winning sound, produced demos and singles in a bewildering variety of genres such as folk-rock, country-rock, bubblegum and hard rock.
As owner of several later demos which don’t appear to have yet seen the light of day, I’d like to share these with you in my final post on The Casuals.
Alongside the arrangements (and ‘Jesamine’ is a masterpiece on that score), another vital ingredient which lifts their music above the ordinary is the little commented upon but highly distinctive voice of John Tebb, a thing of great flexibility and loveliness whose youthful romanticism renders it ideally placed to voice the gentle ruminations of those times.
So I hope you’ll join me over the coming weeks to take a trip back to the late 60s and explore what this neglected group have to offer.