1970/71: the end of the Decca years
Come early 1970, over eighteen months since the release of Jesamine and with a clutch of unsuccessful singles behind them (not to mention a commercially unsuccessful album), Decca still believed the band had a future.
Stalwart Ivor Raymonde was recruited for May 1970’s My Name Is Love (co-written by Chris Andrews) b/w John Tebb’s I Can’t Say. Sales were over too long a period to chart and both slightly plodding songs comprise The Casuals’ weakest single to date.
On live dates, Chris Evans stood in for Howard Newcomb who was ill and when bassist Alan Taylor and drummer Bob O’Brien left in 1970, Evans became a permanent member, along with Lloyd Courtney.
Roger Grey and Steve Wallace joined the band in October 1970.
Tony Hiller (of Brotherhood of Man fame) became producer with Tebb’s eminently commercial Some Day Rock ‘n’ Roll Lady, recorded in December 1970 and released as a single in January 1971.
By now, The Casuals had grown their hair and favoured a more, well, ‘casual’ look for the 70s.
Along with changes in line-up and an updated image, the catchy Some Day Rock ‘n’ Roll Lady marked a new sound for the group, linking into bubblegum and the current rock ‘n’ roll revival mood while still sounding fresh. A ‘toy’ feel remains given the deliberately lightweight production and there is some chirrupy laughter during the instrumental break. The contrasting B-side was Newcomb’s A Letter Every Month, a fine song which deserved more exposure. The single sadly made little impact.
The Decca demos
I have several demos made by the band during that 1970/71 period at Decca with either Tony Hiller, David Hitchcock or Peter Sames as producer.
Some sources show Hey Mary b/w Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming was recorded November/December 1970 whereas mine is stamped with a February 1971 date.
Hang On To Your Life (the Guess Who song from 1970?) b/w Let Him Live was possibly recorded November 1970. I don’t know as I don’t have this one.
Everything’s Alright b/w/Peace Is All You Need with Peter Sames producing at Decca’s West Hampstead studios was recorded in June 1971 according to my single-sided demo though some sources say May 1971.
Who Trevor was, we might never know.
I would say all three are highly respectable interpretations of moderately strong songs with fairly low-key arrangements (no orchestra now though these are, of course, demos) suggesting some commercial potential. The overall flavour is a kind of pop take on folk-rock or, in the case of ‘Sunday Morning Coming’, gentle country-rock.
For a while, a second album was in the offing but this was not to be and following a prolonged period of a lack of commercial success, The Casuals were dropped by Decca in 1971.
Label to label
June 1972 marked a move to Parlaphone for Tara Tiger Girl b/w Nature’s Child written by the band’s Chris Evans and with a Move-like bouncy-stomp.
There was an American Jam single for which the band were renamed American Jam Band though as both singles had the same B-side, the link was obvious. According to John Tracy’s sleeve notes for 1991’s Casuals CD compilation, the group was probably Chris Evans and Rob Moore AKA Kansas Hook/ American Jam Band. Any resemblance to Jesamine is entirely accidental.
They took a punt on progressive label Dawn in June 1974 for The Witch (written by the band’s Chris Evans) b/w Good Times, both sides produced by Robin Blanchflower. ‘The Witch’ is a last ditch attempt to be heavy (‘black eyed queen you’re the devil’s machine’) and ‘Good Times’ has zingy snyth but neither convince.
The Casuals were consigned to the cabaret circuit now that the hits had very much dried up. They disbanded in 1976.
Fragments of an afterlife
A spell of session singing followed for John and then involvement in Big John’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus by John Goodison, founder of Brotherhood of Man. Tebb left for France in 1987, worked solo in the south of France and, last heard of, still fronts a number of bands. Rockafantazia profile of John Tebb (scroll down a little).
Bassist Alan Taylor had a spell with Italian jazz oriented group Ping-Pong in the early 70s, re-emerging as Bulldog.
Taylor surfaced again for a 1977 single Song for Magdalena in 1977 which you can read as a sort of mid-70s Casuals sound. It is smoothly competent but strains for a certain ambitiousness it cannot quite muster.
A 1982 single appeared in Italy on Polydor, Out of My Mind b/w Take Your Time credited to Casuals with music and lyrics by Alan Taylor. I haven’t heard a copy.
Alan was involved with various Euro disco projects for a number of years. He passed away in Italy in 2011.
On and off the record
Two CD compilations of The Casuals have been released.
Jesamine: The Casuals [Decca, 1991, Deram 820 990-2] offers eighteen tracks and sleeve notes by John Tracy.
The Very Best of the Casuals [Karusell, 1996, 552 088-2] is the superior collection, providing 20 tracks and a better selection from Hour World though Brian Gammidge’s sleeve notes are perfunctory (this was only ever a budget release).
The 1991 compilation is no longer available but is worth getting hold of for several tracks which don’t appear on the later comp, namely Don’t Dream of Yesterday, Touched, I Can’t Say and A Letter Every Month.
As I mentioned in an earlier post on The Casuals, Shapes & Sounds 2: Shades of Deepest Purple from the BBC archives 1967-1971 [Top Sounds, 2008, TSSCD 003] provides interesting insights into the band live and by far the most comprehensive sleeve notes on the group’s history, with some colourful reproductions of memorabilia for good measure though, be warned, the text is tiny!
There is still plenty of room for a definitive compilation which gathers together all the single A and B-sides – including the European only ones – Hour World in its entirety, the leftover album tracks and the 1970/71 Decca demos.
Further loose ends
A few years ago I caught a request for a Casuals song on Sounds of the 60s by a former group member. I think the requester was John Tebb, and if I remember correctly, the request wasn’t for ‘Jesamine’.
I think John may have entertained on cruise ships and in hotels and bars in the south of France for at least a few years.
According to their joint Facebook page Howard lives now in Manchester and John in the south of France.
The Stoke Sentinel reports that The Casuals and Herman’s Hermits played a charity gig for the Douglas Macmillan Hospice in Knutton.
But we’ve not finished with The Casuals yet…
CORRECTION 26 Feb 2016: I inadvertently reversed the A/B sides of ‘Tara Tiger Girl’/’Natures’ Child’. Sorry about that. The text now shows the A-side correctly as ‘Tara Tiger Girl’.
Previous posts on The Casuals