Sarstedt 1969

 

It’s hard to catch up with the 60s generation.  For a while I’ve had it in mind to post on Peter Sarstedt but his death in January of this year has overtaken me.  So this review of his first two albums from 1969 becomes something of a tribute by default though not an uncritical one.

The two albums in question are Peter Sarstedt and As Though it Were a Movie both for United Artists and brought together on BGO’s 1995 CD re-issue [BGOCD274] – more on the CD release later.

Romantic outsider

A European flavour runs through both albums, at times recalling something of the romanticism of Nick Garrie-Hamilton’s The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas.  It therefore comes as no surprise to learn that, like Nick, Peter travelled widely in Europe prior to his major success at the end of the 60s.  But Sarstedt’s romanticism, whilst never jaded, is far more equivocal, more observational than Nick Garrie-Hamilton’s misty-eyed musings.  Sarstedt is also some eight years older.  A certain worldliness is offset by a literary, artistic sensibility – witness the wistful epiphany of I Am a Cathedral, also the most Garrie-like track here.

Talking of I am a Cathedral, Peter acknowledges he was looking for ‘something obscure and enigmatic’ and that seems key to an understanding of these albums.  At once both wayward and mainstream (in a way which only the late 60s can muster), we’re always aware of Sarstedt’s instincts to deliver a good (or at least reasonable) folkie melody but then he’ll throw something unsettling into the lyrical mix so that Sons of Cain are Abel begins by evoking days of wine and roses but its summery gaze is drug-fuelled and blank.

Both albums are produced by Ray Singer and arranged by Ian Green and share a similar sonic sensibility.  The latter (despite its top and tailing orchestral extravaganzas) is slightly drier, a little rootsier.  On the debut album especially, the producer might have been Mike Hurst around the time of Neil McArthur’s She’s Not There. 

The orchestration is by turns quasi-psychedelic, middle-of-the road, folkie, cinematic, clicky in an early Cat Stevens sort of way, featuring just an occasional brush with rock.  For me, the instrumentation mainly enhances the surprisingly diverse styles on offer – country, calyspso, gospel – but I say that as a fan of 60s arrangements.  I have only dipped into Peter Sarstedt’s later albums but singles like Beirut from 1978 and 1986’s Hemingway both suffer from unsympathetic backings.  Peter’s 2006 album On Song (which I have heard through) opts for a reduced palette of acoustic guitar and I suspect this may be true of his later offerings; how I miss those arrangements!

Gentle but sardonic

Sarstedt comes across as someone who partakes of life but remains essentially an outsider.  He as good as tells us this in Boulevard.  He comments on his experiences, painting portraits of people he meets along the way though at times it’s not clear how these encounters affect him.  He is like a traveller negotiating his way through the peace, love and drugs generation via the wheeler dealing of Blagged, the drug bust of No More Lollipops for You and the permissive apologia of I’m a Good Boy. 

Sarstedt’s voice may be gentle but his tone can be surprisingly sardonic.  He acknowledges Dylan’s influence.  Only on Many Coloured Semi-Precious Plastic Easter Egg does the debt become overly onerous.

I find the overtly satirical pieces pall after a few listens – My Daddy is a Millionaire (the clue is in the title) the sly Take Off Your Clothes, the insistent I’m a Good BoyMary Jane (portrait of a dominatrix) gets by thanks to some fabulously blaring toxic swinging London horns – it feels like you’re in a Jaguar swinging round Piccadilly Circus (or Pigalle) in 1968.  On the second album generally, Sarstedt seems more relaxed, less keen to impress: Letter to a Friend is welcome for its self-deprecatory honesty.

Follow that

 

It’s so hard to hear Where Do You Go to (My Lovely) just as ‘track 7’ when you know it was a massive international hit.  The song dominates Peter Sarstedt by nature of its length, repetitive structure and comprehensive narrative but I wouldn’t say it completely overshadows its peers.

Follow-up,  Frozen Orange Juice, although likeable enough in a jaunty kind of way, was a lost opportunity to showcase the best of Peter’s material, a view shared by its composer.  It’s just too different from its predecessor, an infinitely inferior song with an unevocative title.  Inevitably it made it to Number Ten.

At his best

As Though It Were a Movie is often cited as his best song and, on the basis of these two albums, I’d agree.

As Though It Were a Movie in full.

I’d also highlight Blagged with its clever, sometimes cynical power exchange, catchy melody and Day in the Life drums.

The double CD

It would have been nice had the double-CD included as bonus tracks Peter’s two pre-album singles:  In the Day of My Youth b/w My Monkey is a Junkie (Major-Minor 1967 as Peter Lincoln, the B-side is Bonzoesque and quite irritating) and I Must Go On (Island 1968, the B-side Mary Jane features on Peter Sarstedt).

More pertinent is the omission of Where Do You Go to (My Lovely) B-side Morning Mountain.  Having caught it on Youtube, it’s a minor piece but should have been included anyway.

Liner notes from Spencer Leigh of BBC Radio Merseyside provide just enough context together with reproductions of original album artwork and full lyrics for Peter Sarstedt.  

This is an adequate but by no means deluxe re-release.

‘Life … God how it slips away’  – ‘Time, Love, Hope, Life’.

Peter Sarstedt: 10th December 1941 – 8th January 2017.


Peter Sarstedt

1. I am a Cathedral – 2.49
2. Sons of Cain ae Abel – 3.46
3. No More Lollipops – 2.12
4. Stay Within Myself – 2.56
5. You are My Life – 3.13
6. Sayonara – 2.36
7. Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) – 5.23
8. Blagged – 3.12
9. My Daddy is a Millionaire – 2.18
10. Once Upon an Everyday – 2.33
11. Mary Jane – 2.19
12. Time Was Leading Us Home – 4.27
13. Many-Coloured Semi-Precious Plastic Easter Egg – 2.51
14. Time, Life, Hope, Life – 3.52

As Though It were a Movie

1. Overture – 3.08
2. As Though It Were a Movie – 3.54
3. Open a Tin – 2.54
4. Step into the Candlelight – 3.06
5. Take off your Clothes – 3.55
6. Letter to a Friend & Intermission – 3.05
7. Overture – 0.30
8. Boulevard – 2.44
9. The Sunshine is Expensive – 3.17
10. The Artist – 2.52
11. The Friendship Song (Hey Nena) – 4.23
12. Juan – 1.37
13. I’m a Good Boy – 3.52
14. National Anthem & Doors Clsoe at 10.45pm – 1.28

Extra tracks

15. Frozen Orange Juice – 3.10
16. Aretusa Loser – 3.43

The fruits of Grapefruit: Part 2

Part 1 looked at Grapefruit within the 1968 pop scene and staked a claim for the quality and ‘positioning’ of their contribution.  I also reviewed the six entirely new tracks released on Yesterday’s Sunshine: the complete 1967-1968 London sessions [RPM, 2016, Retro 977]. 

Here, I’m concentrating on the twelve tracks comprising Around Grapefruit, their 1968 album, and the alternative (actually the original) versions on Yesterday’s Sunshine.

around-grapefruit

Around Grapefruit

Side One
1. Another Game – 2.51
2. Yesterday’s Sunshine – 3.32
3. Elevator – 2.05
4. Yes – 2.40
5. C’mon Marianne – 2.46
6. Lullaby – 3.29

Side Two
7. Round Going Round – 3.00
8. Dear Delilah – 2.36
9. This Little Man – 2.26
10. Ain’t  It Good – 2.36
11. Theme for Twiggy – 3.15
12. Someday Soon – 3.02

Singles 1968/69

Dear Delilah – 2.36  / Dead Boot – 1.52 [1968]
Elevator – 2.05 / Yes – 2.20 [1968]
C’mon Marianne – 2.46 / Ain’t It Good – 2.36 [1968]
Someday Soon – 3.02 / Theme For Twiggy – 3.15 [1968]
Round Going Round – 2.47 / This Little Man – 2.27 [1969]

Likeable

Ain’t It Good and the harpsichord driven Another Game have a compulsive likeability and show a real command of the genre.  Bizarrely, both were passed over as singles by RCA.  The more obvious Elevator (yes, a classic metaphor on getting high) was a single and with its beaty, propulsive quality was probably one of the most commercial things they did but Elevator didn’t rocket up the charts.

They sound so young and joyful on John Perry’s very 1965/66 Beatlesque B-side to Elevator, Yes (‘Yes it’s happened to me… tonight I am me’)  a youthful tribute to life affirming experience showcasing some fine vocals; Peter Frampton may have had the prettier face but George Alexander’s voice is better than Frampton’s sometimes nasal whine (more on this in Part 1).  It was John Perry’s songs which had brought him to the attention of RCA but with only Yes making it onto vinyl, we can only wonder at the quality of his unrecorded material.

There are very few differences between the original versions of these songs on Yesterday’s Sunshine and the remixed versions on Around Grapefruit.

Captivating

The captivating Yesterday’s Sunshine (surely their masterpiece but why so much louder than everything else on Yesterday’s Sunshine?) languishes in gorgeous melancholy.  A skilful exposition leads into pounding keyboards and that cathartic, vocoder drenched chorus.   It’s the perfect marriage of pop and psychedelia.grapefruit-2a

Dear Delilah (their first single) bends your ears with its phased drums (is that what Shindig means by ‘crispy’?) and there’sthe briefest of classical instrumental passages, whilst quirky B-side Dead Boot comes on like some Fading Yellow obscurity from 1966.

Carnabetian

Instrumentals often get overlooked as mere album filler material but that’s emphatically not the case with Theme for a Lonely Queen (aka Twiggy).  A melotron mood piece with wah-wah Taste of Honey melodic undertones, it conjures up exactly what the title says – an androgynous, waif-like figure drifting by Carnabetian shop windows, wrapped up in her own fragile beauty, so of the moment yet strangely ethereal.   A fully fledged version made it onto Around Grapefruit as Theme for Twiggy but it’s the more minimal san strings original on Yesterday’s Sunshine which best evokes a glacial, haunted dream of swinging London.

Lullaby led to George Alexander being signed to Apple.  The song came to John Lennon’s attention in summer 1967.  Of course, dream like themes run through many of Lennon’s 1966/67 songs and perhaps it was the somnambulant, hallucinogenic qualities of Lullaby which appealed to him.  Known also as Lullaby for a Lazy Day, the Lennon-McCartney produced original (their only dual producer credit) on Yesterday’s Sunshine is a prime piece of English psychedelic pop but it was a slower paced, orchestrated version which made it onto Around Grapefruit.   To my ears the slower pace suits this drowsy song better but the Lennon-McCartney production highlights sonic guitar and sweet backing vocals and is more atmospheric.

I prefer the album version of Round Going Round to the original on grapefruit-2bYesterday’s Sunshine which has brass mixed back so lacks a little punch in that department.  The performance is still fine though.

Odd one out

The only 1967/68 Grapefruit track I don’t get along with is C’mon Marianne.  It just doesn’t sit well with the rest of the group’s output which is so ‘London 1968’.  C’mon Marianne is not bad, in fact it’s perhaps their most spirited vocal performance but choreographed swaying horns and a conservative, frat feel take Grapefruit back in time to where they really don’t want to be.  Who needs covers anyway when your songwriter is George Alexander?  Predictably, RCA seized upon C’mon Marianne as a single (it was a UK No 35) relegating the far more modish Ain’t It Good to be discovered as B-side.

This Little Man is George Alexander in Dead Boot melancholy mood again, adopting that classic generation gap 60s stance of us/them and attempting a reconciliation at the end.  Doesn’t the drum beat part company with the time-signature during those woodwind instrumental breaks?

The Yesterday’s Sunshine alternative take of Someday is stripped down and upbeat and I think works rather better than the slow album finale version although I miss George Alexander’s swinging sax solo.

So there are pros and cons both ways with the proto tracks on Yesterday’s Sunshine and the finished versions on Around Grapefruit.   The clearer sound quality of Yesterday’s Sunshine (the material was sourced from the original masters) is definitely a bonus and occasionally, as on Lullaby, a revelation.

Juiced

Sadly Grapefruit’s post-Pepper intricacies were no longer considered cutting edge come the grittier feel of ’68, even less so by Spring ’69 when Around Grapefruit arrived in the shops.  The album picked up favourable reviews but failed to sell.  Changes at the top of Apple Publishing didn’t further their cause either with American John O’Connor replacing mentor Terry Doran in mid 1968.

Another explanation for their lack of chart success might be that, judging from Youtube performances (OK, mimes) they failed to project as individual pop personalities.  The band comes across as cute but uniform and puppet-like.  Admittedly these are TV performances where they may have been instructed to peform a  certain way and they may have been a different proposition live.

Second half  

That they went on to produce a respectable but ultimately forgettable purple washed, blues follow-up in ’69 is no surprise.  George Alexander wrote all but three of Deep Water’s rather short, ten songs with the remaining three penned by newcomer Robert Wale who also seems to provide most of the rougher sounding vocals.

deep-water

The best track is Alexander’s Deep Water, catchy soul-pop in rock clothes.  Elsewhere Grapefruit embrace boogie and country but often sound a little too serious.  Shunning the trend to expansiveness, the album clocks in inauspiciously at just under thirty minutes.

We can only guess at what might have followed Around Grapefruit if it hadn’t been for the diktats of the age and record company.  Think of the distance between Elevator and Yesterday’s Sunshine, double it, move in the direction of progressive pop and this is what could have been.  Grapefruit might have been the forgotten sound of 1969 pop too.

Fruitless

All that was heard from Grapefruit after Deep Water was a lone 1971 single Universal Party b/w Sha Sha which is like background music compared to Around Grapefruit.

As for their 1968 prime, a stray Long John Baldry-like track, Fall of the Castle (currently available on Youtube) was apparently written for another artist to record and implies there may be yet more Grapefruit to emerge from the archives.

1. Dear Delilah – 2.32
2. Dead Boot – 1.57
3. Breaking Up a Dream – 3.20 *
4. Lullaby [sped-up stereo version] – 3.09 **
5. Another Game – 2.55
6. Elevator – 2.05 **
7. Yes – 2.19 **
8. Ain’t it Good – 2.41 **
9. Sweet Little Miss No Name – 2.36 */**
10. Round and Round [aka Round Going Round] – 3.11**
11. Someday [alternative version] – 2.30 **
12. Somebody’s Turning on the People – 2.14 */**
13. Trying to make it to Monday – 3.08
14. C’mon Marianne – 2.38 **
15. Theme for a Lonely Queen [aka Twiggy] – 3.52**
16. This Little Man – 2.50 **
17. Do What You Want to [aka Learn to Love Me] – 3.31 */**
18. Yesterday’s Sunshine – 3.35 **
19. Someday Soon – 3.03
20. One More Try – 3.16 */**

* previously unreleased in any form
** new tape transfer/multitrack mix

All songs written by George Alexander except #7 Yes, John Perry, #14 C’mon Marianne, L. Russell Brown & Raymond Bloodworth, Four Seasons cover

Produced by Terry Melcher except #4 Lullaby, Lennon-McCartney

Yesterday’s Sunshine: the complete 1967-1968 London sessions
[RPM, 2016, Retro 977]


The fruits of Grapefruit: Part 1

The fruits of Grapefruit: Part 1

grapefruit-yesterdays-sunshine

Grapefruit sound like ’68 pop personified yet commercial success largely eluded them.  Despite Lennon-McCartney endorsement and an Apple association, their singles never made it into the Top 20.

Sounds of ‘68

The pop group of 1968 was The Herd.  Much as I love their production heavy, playfully apocalyptic creations (From the Underworld, Paradise Lost) The Herd owe much to a pre-Pepper DDDBMT sensibility and were actually fairly untouched by psychedelia.

It’s Grapefruit, who encapsulate the sound of post-Pepper ‘68 pop not just with their flute and harpsichord embellishments but in their chord progressions and an all-round trip-friendly sensibility, a youthful, often exuberant take on a colourful, kaleidoscopic world.

Pop-psych, psych-pop?

On a scale between pop and psych, Grapefruit are maybe three quarters pop to one quarter pysch but what a good place to be that was (musically if not commercially) in ‘68.

Seen from the psych end of the scale, July and Blossom Toes may have cornered the warped, time bending side of things but Grapefruit had something more substantial than just treated vocals and uber reverb.  They had brilliantly sparky songs.  The solidly melodic songwriting of George Alexander made sure of that.  George Alexander wrote everything bar two tracks on their first album, Around Grapefruit, and was also their wonderfully clicky bassist.  It’s Alexander’s solid songwriting which puts them above their more radical rivals.

And seen from the other side, the pop side, Grapefruit embrace the demands of psychedelia with a freshness and persistent confidence which their poppier elder peers – Tremeloes, Hollies – sometimes lacked.  There’s no see-sawing between King Midas in Reverse and Jennifergrapefruit-1 Eccles, no resort to supper club fare such as Suddenly You Love Me.

Segments of…

Grapefruit came together via Apple Publishing in 1967.  Terry Doran paired songwriter George Alexander with ex Sugarbeats and Tony Rivers and The Castaways John Perry and Geoff and Pete SwettenhamJohn Lennon christened them and thus Grapefruit was born.  It’s their first album, Around Grapefruit (1968, released 1969) I’m mainly concerned with in these two posts.

Around Grapefruit really impressed me 25 years ago when a then friend gave me a handful of cassettes, one of which was labelled simply: ‘Grapefruit’.  The name meant nothing to me.  I gave it a listen and instantly liked what I heard.  This band didn’t just produce the occasional brilliant pop song, they produced brilliant pop songs across an entire album.

A few years later, I tracked down their Around Grapefruit LP.  The only bad thing about it was the drab, uninspiring ‘grapefruit as ash tray’ cover which failed to hint at the sparkling contents.   That cover must have looked very dated indeed come release in 1969.

Tastes like…

It feels as if there’s been a growing appetite for Grapefruit over the last fifteen years or so.

2002 brought RPM’s 94 Baker Street, a compilation of groups signed to Apple Publishing.  It included a number of alternative takes and unreleased songs by Grapefruit and in many ways marked the beginning of the search for further unused recordings which culminated in May’s release of Yesterday’s Sunshine: the complete 1967-1968 London sessions [RPM, 2016, Retro 977]This gathers together recordings before producer Terry Melchor remixed and redubbed the tapes for the Around Grapefruit album in early 1969, plus there are six entirely new tracks.

grapefruit-around-the-bbcMeanwhile Around Grapefruit was finally given the digitally re-mastered treatment in 2011.  A fourteen track BBC compilation, Around the BBC had appeared four years earlier.

If you’re new to the band, I would say Around Grapefruit is the place to start.  Follow that up with Yesterday’s Sunshine to give new insights into the album.  Several songs are radically different from their finished versions – more on this in Part 2

Fresh fruit

But what of those six entirely new tracks on Yesterday’s Sunshine?

There are two highlights: the cheeky escapade Sweet Little Miss No Name (rather this had made it onto Around Grapefruit in place of C’mon Marianne) and Trying to Make it to Monday in which George shows a more introspective, doubtful face with a melody hinting at both defiance and melancholy.

The other previously unreleased tracks are Somebody’s Turning on the People, Breaking Up a Dream – a choppy instrumental crying out for a vocal (it was never committed to tape) – and the soul party pop of Do What You Want to Do (aka Learn to Love Me).

The sixth track is One More Try.  Better known as Charlotte Rose, this fine George Alexander composition was recorded by The Majority for a January 1969 single.  Grapefruit’s version rocks out a little more though I’d give The Majority’s the edge. 

The new tracks are all worthy contributions to the Grapefruit oeuvre but can’t eclipse their prime cuts: Another Game, Yesterday’s Sunshine, Yes, Lullaby, Ain’t It Good and Theme for a Lonely Queen.

Join me for Part 2 when I’ll listen to Around Grapefruit and its alternative versions with complete track listings.


The fruits of Grapefruit: Part 2

Robin’s Rarities

Saved by the Bell 1968-70I was a little unsure how to tackle this collection of demos and other rarities from 1968-70, comprising CD3 of Saved By the Bell: the Collected Works of Robin Gibb 1968-1970 .  The pieces are not slight but they are, by their very nature, often incomplete or unfinished.  

I gave track-by-track commentaries for Robin’s Reign… Plus (CD1) and the Sing Slowly Sisters Sessions (CD2) but in this post, I’m going to be more selective.

Works in progress  

All 23 tracks here are previously unreleased.  They were never intended to be made publicly available let alone form a coherent album.  They add further weight to the sheer quantity of material Robin produced during his time away from the Bee Gees and his fertile imagination around this time.  They also provide insights into his working practices and how the songs later shaped up.

(Un)easy listening?

With the CD clocking-in at 73.55, hearing it in one sitting isn’t always easy listening.  This is partly because of the raw emotion conveyed pretty much across all tracks, also the slow, sometimes wavering pace of the songs (many of them in ¾ time) and the unadorned sonic quality of many of the recordings.

#2 Janice and #3 Love Just Goes are perhaps the most extreme examples of all of Robin’s tendencies at this time.  The dirge like Janice enjoys a good chorus melody and benefits from plucked then bowed strings but with its heart-wrenching relentlessness coming in at 5.36, is a little too unremittingly sad to be a comfortable listen.   Still, the song’s expressiveness cannot be denied.

The rendition of #4 August October is likewise slow and prolonged, low backing vocals accentuating a mournful air.  Despite a rather splendid ending, August October was to benefit hugely from the contrasting faster pace adopted on the final Robin’s Reign version.

BBC sessions

Sessions for Brian Matthew and Johnnie Walker (#6-10) offer interesting variations on familiar songs and also provide historical insights into the needle-time saving practice of BBC sessions during the 60s and 70s.

#6 Saved By the Bell is a smooth rendition with lots of backing vocal and what sounds like a double tracked vocal whilst #8 August, October is mandolin heavy.

Again I’m struck by the sheer good naturedness of the slightly overlooked #9 Weekend, sounding a little punchier here maybe due to compression.  #13 Give Me a Smile highlights how the bass moves the chorus along.

Robin speaks 

Interviews with Brian Matthew (#7) and David Wigg of The Daily Express (#11) again reveal Robin’s array of projects at this time, most robins-raritiesof which were never seen to see fruition.  It’s interesting to speculate whether they may have done so had he not returned to the Bee Gees’ fold in 1970.

Talking to the always upbeat Brian Matthew, Robin speaks of his ‘unlimited horizon’ for writing and unsurprisingly describes himself as a dreamer.  If you didn’t know of his huge success, he might be any aspiring English songwriter with a head awash with ideas.  The conversation ends in a half humorous, half bewildered fashion.

Unheard of

Then follow a clutch of the most interesting tracks, representing ‘new’ songs.

#12 The Band Will Meet Mr Justice (demo) sounds like and is from 1968, delivered in busking style on acoustic guitar whilst #13 The People’s Public Poke Song (demo) is a nonsense animal song which again wouldn’t have been out of place as a quirkier piece on Bee Gees 1st.   #15 The Girl to Share Each Day (demo) – again acoustic guitar only – is a romantic song from Robin’s perspective of invisibility and vulnerability.  #16 Come Some Halloween or Christmas Day (demo), with its Indian Gin and Whiskey Dry-like melody meanders rather (well it is a demo) and would benefit from a little trimming.  #17 Heaven in My Hands is slightly ragged in places with snatches of weird lyrics.

Organic

#18 Most of My Life (demo) is the final track on Robin’s Reign and not one of my favourites but here it is set to organ only which inadvertently creates the odd effect of Robin in a deserted church, seated at the instrument, singing this to himself, recalling the wonderful Lord Bless All.   The plaintive quality of Robin’s voice makes an organ pairing particularly expressive.

#19 Goodbye Cruel World (demo) sees Robin ‘crying and wanting to go home’ whilst #21 Don’t Go Away (demo) offers more soulful, anguished vocals.  The likable #20 Down Came the Sun (demo) was later to appear on Robin’s Reign.

Two final tracks are credited to Robin Gibb Orchestra and Chorus with both #22 Moon Anthem and #23 Ghost of Christmas Past sounding most fulsome after the primitivism of what has gone before – fitting attempts to provide finales for this disparate collection.

Thank you

This CD is essentially for Robin devotees.  The material is not lacking, it’s just that absorbing a body of ‘work in progress’ is inevitably not the nuanced, satisfying experience of a Robin’s Reign or Sing Slowly Sisters.  The value of the rarities is largely scholarly and completist.

As I mentioned, I also find a one-sitting listen quite draining.  The insularity and emotionally charged nature of these songs – fervent, tender, passionate, sentimental sometimes almost disturbed – make heavy demands on the listener.  It’s as if Robin has retreated from the many mansions splendour of Odessa into just one (windowless) room.

None of this detracts from Andrew Sandoval and his team’s huge and worthy achievement in allowing us all to hear this material after four decades.  Nor from Robin Gibb for writing it.

Complete track listing CD3:

1. Alexandria Good Time – 3.14
2. Janice – 5.36
3. Love Just Goes – 5.06
4. August October “Agosto Ottobre” (Italian) –  2.34
5. One Million Years “Un Millione de Ani” (Italian) – 4.13
6. Saved By the Bell (BBC) – 2.52
7. Robin Talks With Brian Matthew (BBC) – 1.37
8. August October (BBC) – 2.22
9. Weekend (BBC) – 2.05
10. Give Me a Smile (BBC) – 3.29
11. Robin Talks With David Wigg (BBC) – 1.41
12. The Band Will Meet Mr Justice (demo) – 2.46
13. The People’s Public Poke Song (demo) – 1.49
14. Indian Gin and Whiskey Dry (demo) – 1.53
15. The Girl to Share Each Day (demo) – 2.14
16. Come Some Halloween or Christmas Day (demo) – 3.43
17. Heaven In My Hands (demo) – 2.11
18. Most of My Life (demo) – 3.51
19. Goodbye Good World (demo) – 3.08
20. Down Came the Sun (demo) – 2.47
21. Don’t Go Away (demo) – 5.10
22. Moon Anthem (Robin Gibb Orchestra & Chorus) – 5.34
23. Ghost of Christmas Past (Robin Gibb Orchestra & Chorus) – 7.43

Saved By the Bell: the Collected Works of Robin Gibb 1968-1970 [Rhino, LC 02982, June 2015]

 


Reviews of Saved By the Bell CDs 1 and 2:

Robin’s Reign… Plus
Sing Slowly Sisters

Animal Song: Godley or Creme vocal?

Having said in my Fading Yellow Vol 4 review two weeks’ ago that the ‘rapturous vocal’ for track 6, Animal Song (Godley and Creme 1969 B-side under the unlikely name Frabjoy & Runcible Spoon) was by Kevin Godley, an article in April’s Shindig (page 69 sidebar) gives the vocalist as Lol Creme (though Shindig say Kevin was responsible for the folk-country A-side, I’m Beside Myself.

Now I’m confused.  What do others think?

Take a listen under #6 on Fading Yellow Volume 4.

Either way, it’s a gorgeous vocal.

 

Fading Yellow Volume 4

Fading Yellow 4Flower Machine Records, FMRCD1004

“Timeless UK 60s popsike and other delights”

No, my Fading Yellow reviews haven’t disappeared, maybe just faded for a while.

I wanted to review the volumes in order which meant tracking down the elusive Volume 4. It’s a solidly enjoyable collection.

I hope you will find it easier to pick out individual tracks than in previous Fading Yellow reviews.


#1 Thoughts and Words – Morning Sky [1969] *****


‘I’ll fly the morning sky and then I’ll fly away’.

A fine melodic start to this comp.  Wistful harmony folk-pop not unlike Simon and Garfunkel crossed with Christie with an echo of ‘Across the Universe’-Beatles.  Producer Mike Batt brings sparkle to acoustic guitar strings whilst maintaining an overall natural vibe.

Bob Ponton (who wrote Morning Sky) and Martin Curtis were ex members of Pandamonium (not the Manchester based group of the same name).  There is a 13 track Liberty album also produced by Mike Batt with a cover depicting the duo in a woodland setting which I have not yet heard.

 

And here is Bob Ponton with Morning Sky in 2008:

 

 

I stumbled across this excellent  Mike Batt discography


#2 The Picadilly Line – At the Third Stroke [1967] ***


From The Huge World of Emily Small the Line’s only album (Picadilly was intentionally spelt with one ‘c’ since London Underground owned the copyright to the original though Fading Yellow adds the second).

The duo were Welsh born Ron Edwards and Roger Hand who began as folkies before being signed to CBS for an album of very 1967 lightly orchestrated  folk-pop-rock.

Picadilly LineThe arrangements are John Cameron’s, fresh from his revitalisation of Donovan’s career via Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow.  ‘Emily Small’ shares many of the same musicians – Danny Thompson on bass, Harold McNair on flute, Tony Carr on drums for some tracks – but the arrangements never quite fly as freely as they do for Donovan.

At the Third Stroke is a little twee at times (‘the circus returns to the town’), but is redeemed by an undercurrent of mystery or incipient threat.  There’s a feel of Chad and Jeremy in its determination to fully paint a scene and a tasty guitar sound which I know from somewhere.

I’m not sure what the ‘at the third stroke’ aspect of the song is apart from an obvious reference to the then ‘talking clock’ telephone service and this being the third track.  A concept ran through the album but it was enigmatic at the time and utterly lost a half century later.


#3 The Majority – Charlotte Rose [1969] ****


Majority OneThe Majority (1965-69) were an accomplished band especially in their later Majority One incarnation (1969-71) as 2005’s Rainbow Rockin’ Chair comp shows in abundance.

This is an enjoyably multi-part love song written by Grapefruit’s George Alexander with baroque flavourings, Beatlesque moments in those ‘I don’t know’ backing vocals and perhaps a flavour of ‘Man in a Shop’ era Marmalade.

 


#4 The J & B – There She Goes [1966] ***


Micky Jones and Tommy Brown’s promising first release before changing their name to the more zeitgeist State of Micky & Tommy.

Here we have a post beat/just pre-psychedelic sound, so it’s electric guitars with sometime strings which enjoy some nicely augmented moments.


#5 The Playground – The Girl Behind the Smile [1969] ****


B-side to I Could Be So Good, this Essex band released three singles around 1969/70 and this is the second.

Some nice piano arpeggios over twangy acoustic guitar and harmonies suggest innocence and indeed in its sunnier passages, The Girl Behind the Smile reminds me of Malcolm Holland’s Wendy from Piccadilly Sunshine 16


#6 Frabjoy & Runcible Spoon – Animal Song  [1969] *****


 

B-side to I’m Beside Myself (on the fabulous Marmalade label) and both sides written by Godley and Creme, Animal Song is charmed and charming, an escape into a beguiling realm similar to the more mellow tracks from Godley and Creme’s 1970 album as Hotlegs.

Tony Meehan (early Shadows) opts for a shimmering sitar arrangement which perfectly complements Kevin Godley’s rapturous vocals post-script on this point

Intriguingly imaginative before they placed too much cleverness between them and their music.


#7 Pipes of Pan – Monday Morning Rain [1967] ***


Buzzing cello, clanging guitar, organ, telegraph wire strings and a slowed down lysergic mood.  The B-side was an instrumental version.  

Monday Morning rain was just too outré to make it.  The sleeve says produced by Larry Page and written by Chip Taylor.


#8 The Toyshop – Send My Love to Lucy [1969] *****


A trippy fantasy of loneliness and yearning – wonderful.  The singer is missing his love but seems strangely content to remain in an  enchanted world.

B-side to Carter-Lewis’s poppy Say Goodbye to Yesterday, this is ambitious and beautifully put together and will truly take you on a journey.  A portentous vocal recalls Moody Blues as do lyrics such as ‘and in the depths of deep unconsciousness you’ll find you’re on a journey to the cities of your mind…’   I can almost hear early Family too.

A fine arrangement overall though I’m not sure about the wailing backing vocals… still, this scrapes to five stars.

How come they only made the one 45?


#9 The Candlelight – That’s What I Want [1967] ***


Written by Carter-Lewis in their Ivy League vein with echos of ‘Sealed With a Kiss’, That’s What I Want has been recorded since 1963 by The Cicadas, The Marauders, The Liverpool Five and probably others.

The Candlelight’s version comes with dense harmonies, ‘cello and nice guitar work.   This works up a little to be like Hour Girl (The Rites, #10, Fading Yellow 2) but not half as powerful.


#10 The Epics – Henry Long [1968] ***


B-side to Travelling Circus.  Written by Chip Hawkes and produced by ex-Tremelo Alan Blakley, Henry Long perhaps sounds later than 1968 with that compact piano sound and the electric guitar break.   I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere.

‘Travelling Circus’ b/w ‘Henry Long’ was The Epics third and final single release before they morphed into Christie but not before releasing the Roy Wood produced ‘Round the Maypole’.


#11 Finders Keepers – Light [1966] ***


Big drums, big production, surf-influenced vocals and a girl group influenced sound… dramatic brass, strings, harpsichord flourishes set to fairly banal girl/boy vocals.  Those descending piano motifs do give a sense of ‘when the night closes in’ though.

Finders Keepers included future Deep Purple member Glenn Hughes but, that apart, is one of the less interesting tracks here.


#12 Martin, Martin – Imagine [1967] ***


The trippy B-side to Say Shalom on Buddha with a desolate bookending (well, OK, breath wind effects) trippy, drony and vocoded backing vocals and – trumpet.

The rather knowing picture sleeve portrait of Martin Martin in shades suggests he was well hip to the vibe of ’67.


#13 The Young Brothers – Mirror, Mirror [1968] ***


Cook-Greenway produced and wrote the A-side I’ve Always Wanted Love whilst group member Paul Young went on to Sad Café.

Not the Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours song, the melody recalls Jimmy Campbell’s ‘Forever Grateful’ from his 1970 album Half Baked.

Mirror, Mirror breaks out into a soul influenced chorus which prepares us for…


#14 Robbi Curtice – The Soul of Man [1968] ****


Robbi Curtice truly operates at the crucible of mod, soul and  psychedelia.  His epic ballad When Diana Paints the Picture was a definite highlight of Fading Yellow 3

Knowing this A-side pairing represented his more upbeat northern soul side, I was eager to hear it, hotly anticipating Robbi would inject excitement into proceedings, which he does from the word go with pounding drums/bass, dramatic stop-start ‘Smash!’ ‘Damn!’ lyrics before we open out into full chorus with brass and flutes.

This slab of hi energy dynamism is a great pairing for its dreamy B-side though ‘Diana’ remains the single’s crowning glory but see also #25.


#15 Alan Bown – All I Can [1969] ***


Written by Tony Catchpole, this was B-side to Deram single Gypsy Girl.  

I’m getting to find out more about this band through various fragmentary sources.


#16 Jason Paul – Shine a Little Light into My Room [1969] ***


According to Fading Yellow‘s notes, this A-side orchestrated pop piece was written by Al Gorgoni of The Flying Machine and Bobby Weinstein.


#17 The Californians – Can’t get You Out of My Mind [1967] ***


Of Follow Me and The Cooks of Cakes and Kindness fame, this is the swinging pop B-side from The Californians first single, Sunday Will Never be the Same (a hit for Spanky and Our Gang).


#18 Wayne Fontana – The Impossible Years [1967] ****


A survey of the titles of Wayne Fontana’s 1967/78 singles – 24 Sycamore, The Words of Bartholomew, Storybook Children – show how eager was he to jump aboard the psychedelic bus.

 

After a portentous beginning this sympathetic exploration of the mixed emotions of adolescence develops into a characteristically minor-key Graham Gouldman revelation complete with plucked strings, precision trumpet and that Gouldmann giveaway final off-tonic strum.

Gouldmann was bassist with the Mindbenders and recorded his own version of The Impossible Years for The Graham Gouldmann Thing LP.  Gouldmann’s English enunciation and baroque stylings add a delicate feel but Wayne Fontana provides more edge.


#19 Wayne Fontana – In My World [1967] ***


Hats off to Fading Yellow’s policy of featuring rarer tracks from artists not associated with psych, sike or psychedelia showing how almost everyone was touched by the changing times.

This is a Sergeant Pepper influenced invitation written by fellow Mindbender, Glyn Ellis aka Wayne Fontana.


#20 John Bromley – If You Were There With Me [1968] ****


John BromleyThis achingly idyllic track from SingJohn Bromley’s 1968 Polydor album, is consummately gentle folk-pop with wispy female backing vocals courtesy of Yvonne ‘Sue’ and Heather ‘Sunny’ Wheatman.

John credits Graham Dee as probably having come up with the idea for the female counterpoint melody.

The arrangement is by Gerry Shury who, despite his later pop-soul leanings, here turns in a gorgeously understated baroque accompaniment.


#21 The Gibsons – You Know I Need Your Loving [1967] ***


B-side to The Magic Book, with a more US flavour though there is a Beatles influence to some of the vocal phrasing.

The band hailed from Australia but came to England in 1965 – hence their inclusion here.


#22 Dave Berry – And I Have Learned to Dream [1967] ***


B-side to 1967 Bee Gees’ penned single Forever, this is a highly wistful song written by Ian Hunter (given as Ian Patterson here).  You can straightaway tell it’s Dave though even through the heavily vocoded vocal.

Pre-dream Dave 

His best chart-era single was 1970’s Chaplin House, captured on Fading Yellow Volume 12.


#23 The Majority – Wait By the Fire [1967] ****


A sobering, atmospheric B-side (produced by Ivor Raymonde) to I Hear a Rhapsody – ‘in the cold light of the dawn you will understand’ – also recorded lower, slower and more sombre still by Just Us.


#24 David McNeil – Linda [1969]  ***


David is the son of Marc Chagall!

A stoned, self-written A-side complemented by rich harmonies and string/woodwind arrangement though sub-par sound quality.

It’s atmospheric but doesn’t quite do enough despite a springy energy, hinting at a breakout into something which never arrives.


#25 Robbi Curtice with Tom Payne – Gospel Lane [1968] ****


Robbi Curtice truly operates at the crucible of mod, soul, psychedelia and – music hall?  Well it worked for The Small Faces.

An assured touch from the very start with a Billy Nicholls’ cheekiness and a vein of quirky graveyard humour all set to a catchy melody.

Gospel Lane was written by Rob Ashmore and Tom Payne and feels like it wants to break out into a big arrangement but doesn’t perhaps because this is a home recorded demo.

The track is dated 1969 by Fading Yellow but Robbi Curtice’s Youtube upload says 1968 so let’s go with that.

I hold the next volume in my hand so hopefully the gap won’t be quite as long before Fading Yellow 5 fades into view.

 


1. Thoughts and Words – Morning Sky   3.36 • 1967 *****
2. The Picadilly Line – At the Third Stroke  3.03 • 1967 ***
3. The Majority – Charlotte Rose  2.59 • 1969 ****
4. The J & B – There She Goes   2.46 • 1966 ***
5. The Playground – The Girl behind the Smile   3.02 • 1969 ****
6. Frabjoy & Runcible Spoon – Animal Song   2.22 • 1969 *****
7. Pipes of Pan – Monday Morning Rain   3.02 • 1967 ***
8. The Toyshop – Send My Love to Lucy   4.20 • 1969 *****
9. The Candlelight – That’s What I Want   2.26 • 1967 ***
10. The Epics –  Henry Lord   2.46 • 1968 ***
11. Finders Keepers – Light  3.12 • 1966 ***
12. Martin Martin – Imagine  2.13 • 1967 ***
13. The Young Brothers – Mirror Mirror  3.25  • 1968 ***
14. Robbi Curtice – The Soul of Man  2.32 • 1968 ****
15. The Alan Bown – All I Can 2.46 • 1969 ***
16. Jason Paul – Shine a Little Light Into My Room  2.48 • 1969 ***
17. The Californians – Can’t get You Out of My Mind  2.05 •1967 ***
18. Wayne Fontana – The Impossible Years  2.31 • 1967 ****
19. Wayne Fontana – In My World  3.04 • 1967 ***
20. John Bromley – If You Are There With Me  3.14 • 1968 ****
21. The Gibsons – You Know I Need Your Loving  3.02 • 1967 ***
22. Dave Berry – And I Have learned to Dream  3.11 • 1968 ***
23. The Majority – Wait By the Fire  3.14 • 1967 ****
24. David McNeil – Linda  2.50 • 1969 ***
25. Robbi Curtice with Tom Payne – Gospel Lane • 2.38 • 1968 ****


Fading Yellow Volume 3
Fading Yellow Volume 2
Fading Yellow Volume 1

Sing Slowly Sisters

Saved by the Bell 1968-70The second of three posts on Saved by the Bell: the Collected Works of Robin Gibb 1968-70.  

Here I’m listening to CD2, the Sing Slowly Sisters sessions recorded 1st January – April 1970.

From the stentorian drum beats which open the album, Sing Slowly Sisters conjures up so many ghosts:  the exhuming of material nearly half a century old, the shadow of World War One which haunts some of the music and most of all, the ghost of Robin Gibb himself.

Ghosts

Sing Slowly Sisters’ apparently sepia-tinted setting is a historical place only inasmuch as it is fundamentally a place of the mind, Robin’s mind, a shrouded place in which to contemplate loneliness and loss.  Sing Sing Slowly SistersSlowly Sisters is introverted to its very core.

Some of the music might have made a good soundtrack for a film or TV play with a historical setting – a Victorian drama made in the early 70s, a Ken Russell production perhaps?

There is more variety on offer here than on Robin’s Reign  Not all the songs proceed at a similar pace and the production is more intimate especially on the chamber songs.

Along with his pronounced eccentricity, Robin’s amazing facility for melody barely relents throughout more than twenty tracks; in fact, the songs are pretty much built on melody alone with not a riff, a groove or rock motif in sight.

The ideas seemed to pour out of him at this time, not just in the songs collected here but across other projects too, some mentioned in interviews with Brian Matthew and David Wigg on CD3.

No less than four songs mention the word ‘wife’, an unusual emphasis in pop, perhaps used to root the songs firmly in the past and within a particular structure of society.  But the uxorial pre-eminence also points to an enduring relationship rather than mere passing fancies, thus dignifying love and intensifying its loss.

The contrast between the ambitious Sing Slowly Sisters and the uninspired reunion group effort Two Years On recorded only months apart is astonishing.

Track record 

Joseph Brennan gives the Sing Slowly Sisters track listing and running order (based on two acetate LPs) as possibly:

 

1. Life – 2.32
2. I’ve Been Hurt – 4.21
3. Irons in the Fire – 4.07
4. Cold be My Days – 6.14
5. Avalanche – 4.13
6. Make Believe – 5.03
7. All’s Well That Ends Well – 2.12
8. A Very Special Day – 2.56
9. Sky West and Crooked – 2.31
10. Sing Slowly Sisters – 3.57
11. C’est la Vie, Au Revoir – 3.19

Running time: 41.25

 

Saved By the Bell provides us with an entirely different one, supplementing the eleven above with a further seven tracks and two demos:

 

1. Sing Slowly Sisters – 3.57
2. Life – 2.32
3. C’est la Vie, Au Revoir – 3.19
4. Everything Is How You See Me – 2.39
5. I’ve Been Hurt – 4.21
6. Sky West and Crooked – 2.31
7. Irons in the Fire – 4.07
8. Cold Be My Days – 6.14
9. Avalanche – 4.13
10. Engines Aeroplanes – 2.25
11. The Flag I Flew – 4.15
12. Return to Austria – 2.17
13. It’s Only Make Believe – 5.03
14. All’s Well That Ends Well – 2.12
15. A Very Special Day – 2.56
16. Great Caesar’s Ghost – 2.23
17. Anywhere I Hang My Hat – 3.41
18. Loud and Clear – 3.34
19. Return to Austria (demo) – 8.02
20. Why Not Cry Together (demo) – 2.09

 

I would barely want to take issue with the eleven tracks shortlisted by Brennan (and presumably those chosen by Robin to comprise the finished Sing Slowly Sisters); these alone would comprise a most distinctive and distinguished album.  Return to Austria is perhaps a surprising omission.  I’d take any of Robin’s originals over the slightly underdeveloped All’s Well that Ends Well though his highly unusual borrowing of another’s melody (‘In the Bleak Midwinter’) probably makes it a ‘must’ for inclusion.

Of the twenty tracks on this CD, the most accessible songs with the biggest arrangements mainly come first, as if from a rousing start we move deeper into the album’s melancholy heart.  But with the eleven Brennan tracks largely placed across the first half of the CD, there is an inevitable, though slight, dip in quality on the second half.  Significantly, the Brennan selections tend to be the songs with the strongest historical placements and/or narratives.

Three songs recorded together – I’ve Been Hurt, Irons in the Fire and Cold Be My Days – occur consecutively on Brennan’s proposed running order and almost do so here (separated only by Sky West and Crooked).   This nearness allows for a sense of a developing and deepening mood across the three which share in delightful chamber arrangements and a delicate, inward discernment.  The mood culminates in the crystalline sharpness of Cold Be My Days. 

Still, whatever the running order, at last here is much of the material gathered together from scattered acetates, demos and tapes and as cleaned up as it can be for our listening pleasure.  Having heard – and in some cases endured – scratchy, creaking versions of some of these songs, it’s marvellous to hear them in near pristine form.

Two Sing Slowly Sisters tracks are utterly definitive and if I was compiling a ‘Best of Robin Gibb’, they would have to be included.  They are Sing Slowly Sisters and Cold Be My Days.

 


Sing Slowly Sisters: track-by-track

Sing Slowly Sisters 

Bob Stanley describes Sing Slowly Sisters as ‘possibly the most moving song about the First World War ever written’.  It surely sits alongside the very best of Robin’s work.

Sing Slowly Sisters – in full

Life

This lively number sounds like a hit, pure and simple, in the orchestrated pop style of the day.  You’ll appreciate its simple virtues once you reach further into the lonely depths of Sing Slowly Sisters.    There are even echoes of  I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You  if you listen for them.

C’est la Vie, Au Revoir

Although more mainstream than the two unarguably (in my opinion) essential tracks Sing Slowly Sisters and Cold Be My Days, C’est la Vie, Au Revoir is classic Robin with its affecting, inexorably sad chorus and that wonderful couplet:

“All the trees around me ignored the sun and died,
Grass and reeds around me quietly apologized”.

  C’est La Vie, Au Revoir – in full

Everything Is How You See Me

This has something of an Idea Side 1 song about it though Vic Lewis’s introduction lends an incongruous epic western quality.   I especially like Robin’s late entry backing vocals swelling the outro.

I’ve Been Hurt 

After the relatively lavish arrangements up until this point, I’ve Been Hurt shows the way to the intimate, introverted heart of the album by way of a sweetly Victorian string quartet and woodwind arrangement.

Combining startling vulnerability with an air of quiet entreaty, Robin sings of shame, about being hurt and misled.  ‘Be careful with my heart’ might sum up the song’s gentle plea.

Amidst the studied seriousness, he can’t resist a little humour – ‘last not least my job went east’.

Sky West and Crooked

‘Cobwebs smother the eyes of another…’  A simple strumalong waltz with elliptical lyrics referencing an ‘East Derbyshire dentist’ this is perhaps Robin at his most endearingly strange.

The title seems to be a self-acknowledgement of Robin’s eccentricity but is also a 1965 film starring Hayley Mills.

Irons In the Fire

Set to the loveliest arrangement of harpsichord and strings, Robin imagines himself as old and downcast, looking back on the ‘arcade of my age’ as ‘tapestries of youth fall into view.’  There are some characteristic rhymes within rhymes – ‘mentally on the whole you stole my soul’ and a lovely downward drop of key on the very final vocal ‘I’m a helpless choice’.

Cold Be My Days

The second of two essential Sing Slowly Sisters tracks.

The bright-eyed Cold Be My Days shows Robin’s mastery of a quasi-classical genre in his own inimitable style.  His voice is utterly suited to the string quartet arrangement.

The apparently meandering middle detour is immaculately integrated into a carefully thought through whole, its thematic and musical sensibilities completely at one.

A disarmingly ambitious song.

Cold Be My Days – in full

Avalanche

Born out of Robin and wife Molly’s four days trapped in an Alpine cabin, this is the most stripped down thing here.  Robin’s voice strains (deliberately) a little at the upper reaches as if to convey the altitude and extremity of the situation (probably a little serendipitous thinking there on my part!).

The title left me hoping for vivid imagery à la Cold Be My Days.  This is very highly rated but I’m afraid I find it a little repetitive.

Engines, Aeroplanes

A break for an ostensibly jaunty countryish mood after the intensity of what has gone before and we’re back to a more arranged sound.

The Flag I Flew

This and the following three fully orchestrated tracks share something of the flavour of Robin’s Reign’s tracks such as Gone, Gone, Gone, The Worst Girl in This Town and Most of My Life.

Return to Austria

A continuation of farewell from the previous track, the same key and a definite similarity between the melody in the verses.

It’s Only Make Believe

“I’ve never been alone before,
It makes me feel so insecure,
There’s nowhere I can turn”

Few singer-songwriters are as unguardedly exposed as this.  There is a nice upward moving inclination taken up towards the end by the violins and a well crafted elaboration of ‘believe’ morphing into a repeated ‘Believe me…’

All’s Well That Ends Well

Robin utilises the melody of that most melancholy of carols, ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’, his upper register voice a complete contrast from the preceding track.  His plaintive tone belies the title.

The melody is so well known that upon hearing it, one cannot but help recall the original words, like a kind of silent subtext.  This element of recall is probably an artful aspect of the palimpsest.  If so, Lord Bless All far more successfully conjures a wintry feel.

A Very Special Day

“People danced like in a story from Bernard Shaw…’”

… such gaiety begins a vivid and extraordinarily economic narrative.

It’s possible to piece together a story from the lyric’s allusions: Robin is about to leave for war.  He has been ‘thrown down like the enemy’ by his bride to be who has left him to seek her ‘very special day’ with a new suitor.  He surveys the dancers at an unnamed occasion (her wedding?) with great sadness and loneliness at the prospect of walking away and losing everything – his wife, his comfort and familiarity and ultimately perhaps his life.

A companion piece to Sing Slowly Sisters, A Very Special Day is characteristic in its conflation of personal loss with broader themes of greater loss in war.  Robin skilfully uses the language of one to evoke the other.

This piano and vocals only piece is wedged amongst a run of heavily orchestrated tracks so as to accentuate its starkness.

‘A Very Special Day’ is a later standout track.

Great Ceasar’s Ghost

A stately serenade, Great Ceasar’s Ghost is possibly a kind of idiosyncratic ode to ‘the most incredible man to arise’, a product of Robin’s historic heroism.  But given the almost unrivalled obscurity of the lyrics even that interpretation may be conferring upon the song a precision its writer never intended.

‘Great Ceasar’s Ghost’ was possibly to have been Robin’s fourth solo single.

Anywhere I Hang My Hat

A likeable piece which ups the tempo and wants to inject a little soul into proceedings.   Re-worked I can hear this almost fitting into Bee Gees 1st.

‘Anyone can come and use my phone…’ thanks Robin.

Loud and Clear

Repeats the melody and some of the lyrics of I’ve Been Hurt with a far more conventional and upbeat arrangement, a less intimate vocal recording and to lesser effect.

Return to Austria (demo)

An eight minute demo which perhaps begins with something of the flavour of Hudson Fallen Wind thanks to heavy echo and synth only (joined by drum machine after five minutes).

Robin sings the chorus with real feeling ‘I still love you more than you’ll ever know‘ but retreats to la-las and da-das for sections which do not yet have lyrics.  The repetitive nature as Robin gets to grips with the material is almost hypnotic.  The ‘I just don’t know what to do’ proto-lyric is thankfully excised in the finished version.

Why Not Cry Together (demo)

A heavily reverbed vocal for a short acoustic guitar accompanied piece with an undertow of bleak good humour, a plea for togetherness in the face of life’s mixed emotions.

Look out for my third Saved By the Bell post coming soon where I shall review CD3, Robin’s Rarities.

Gibb Songs 1970 – Joseph Brennan’s site

Robin’s Reign … Plus
Bee Gees’ Top 50 1966-72