Bobby Goldsboro – Look Around You (It’s Christmas Time)

The 60s are relatively bereft of Christmas pop which has stayed the course fifty years on.  The exceptions are The Beach Boys Christmas Album and Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift From You though even The Beach Boys’ Little Saint Nick is not heard with anything like the ubiquity of offerings from the 70s (you know which ones).

Looking to see what has been forgotten, I came across Look Around You (It’s Christmas Time), a chugging, self-penned 1968 single by Bobby Goldsboro with a Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell feel.

 

 

Conscience at Christmas 

What’s interesting is Goldboro’s take on 60s’ social conscience given a seasonal twist.

The lyrics paint a dismal, dysfunctional picture of plastic trees, empty churches and a one armed beggar selling pencils for a dime.

The twin contemporary evils are materialism and alcohol, especially the latter:

We will deck the halls with holly if we make it off the floor.

Sometimes the social commentary is heavy handed, bordering on the unintentionally comic:

Santa Claus on every corner
As he braves the winter night
Bells are ringing in his left hand
And a bottle in his right.

Yet despite the imploring title, the message is ultimately reassuring: to simply remember the true meaning of Christmas.

I don’t think this obscurity is about to be revived anytime soon but it’s interesting to discover a piece which sits a little differently alongside Bobby Goldboro’s resolutely conservative back catalogue.

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Another Cold and Windy Day

Another Cold and Windy Day may have been only a promotional piece for Coke but it bares all the hallmarks of the Bee Gees’ melodic melancholia at its best (let’s, for the moment, overlook the small matter of the chorus lyrics: ‘Things go better with Coca Cola’).  It’s surprising that the drinks’ manufacturer wanted to link their product to such a sad, introverted little piece even if it does market Coke as some kind of panacea for Winter depression.

Hearing Another Cold and Windy Day makes me realise it’s this melancholic quality – plentiful on Horizontal – which is what’s missing from Side 1 of Idea.  I’d substitute Robin’s somewhat flat ballad In the Summer of His Years for a deCoked Another Cold and Windy Day any day.

Given the song’s likely recording date of late 1967/early 1968, I’m surprised to find Rhino filed it  under their Idea rerelease.  It’s overall sound – harpsichord, cellos – suggests a Horizontal sensibility.

Bee Gees – Idea

The first Bee Gees album which fails to satisfy yet two of their all-time killer songs are to be found here.

Unlike its late 60s counterparts, Idea lacks coherency.  1st fizzes with quirky likeability, Horizontal explores new territories and Odessa luxuriates in ambitious orchestral grandeur.  But Idea?  Well what was the idea apart from producing another outlet for Bee Gees’ songs?  Probably just that.  Given the pace at which the brothers were working at the time, it’s not surprising that about half of Idea sounds like set aside material.

Two sided

Idea is an album of two sides in more than just the literal sense.

Side One is largely content to tread water.  We have the swooning, overly lush concoction Let There Be Love (though wonderful sostenuto vocals), the folk/country-lite of Kitty Can, a heartfelt though merely pleasant ballad from Robin (In the Summer of His Years – in memory of Brian Epstein) and the enjoyable while it lasts Indian Gin and Whiskey DryDown to Earth is hugely promising but criminally under-developed (did David Bowie ever hear it?).  Vince gets his sole bite of the cherry on Such a Shame but his guitar and harmonica outing is little more than an enjoyable diversion.

There’s nothing that’s bad here, just little that’s inspiring.

Bright Ideas

But then it all kicks off with the pent-up restlessness of Idea (or the top notch soul of I’ve Gotta Get a Message To You if you’re listening to the US or South African Idea) building to the magisterial humility of I Started a Joke and the dignified finale Swan Song which is Where the Swallows Fly without the hyperbole.  Along the way, the understated Kilburn Towers provides a delightfully whimsical digression.

So what you’re left with is the deceptive feeling of a Bee Gees album as good as any other – in fact one which includes two stellar classics in I’ve Gotta get a Message to You and I Started a Joke – because by the album’s close, the far superior second half has so thoroughly eclipsed the memory of the somewhat ordinary first.


Idea [1968]

Side 1
Let There Be Love

Kitty Can
In the Summer of His Years
Indian Gin and Whiskey Dry
Down to Earth
Such a Shame
I’ve Gotta Get a Message To You*

Side 2
Idea
When the Swallows Fly
I Have Decided To Join the Air Force
I Started a Joke
Kilburn Towers
Swan Song

* US/South African LP version only in place of Such a Shame


Singles 1968 [related to Idea]

Jumbo
The Singer Sang His Song

I’ve Gotta Get a Message To You
Kitty Can

I Started a Joke
Kilburn Towers


Unreleased 1968

Chocolate Symphony*
Bridge Crossing Rivers*
Completely Unoriginal*
Come Some Christmas Eve or Halloween*
Gena’s Theme*
Another Cold and Windy Day (Coke Spot #1)*
Sitting in the Meadow (Coke Spot #2)*

* released on Idea Rhino reissue, 2006


-> Odessa
<- Horizontal

 

Bee Gees Top 50 1966-72
Bee Gees’ Home Page

Bee Gees – Horizontal

The declamatory opening bars of World hammer home the psychedelia of Horizontal but it’s less quirky than on Bee Gees 1st and decidedly heavier too.  The band stray into interesting new territories such as chanson, Really and Sincerely, and blues rock, The Change Is Made.

Some of 1st‘s wayward edges have been ironed out so that Horizontal has a more settled, consolidated feel.  The song-writing is solid, sometimes inspired, and they convince across the range.  Surprisingly, instead of expanding the soul repertoire of 1st it’s pretty much abandoned here.

The depressed album

Often labelled the Bee Gees’ depressed album, Horizontal has a remarkable coherency.  

I find the flow of Side 1 the most satisfying in their back catalogue; as one song fades you can’t wait for the next because you feel a growing confidence in their hands.  Really and Sincerely somehow manages to build upon the emotion of And the Sun Will Shine. Between those two highs Lemons Never Forget provides some necessary acidity and channels the Beatles less slavishly than In My Own Time whilst the wistful, subtly playful Birdie takes the emotional impact down a few notches just when needed.  Side 1’s spinoff, Barry‘s spotlight centre stage solo With the Sun in My Eyes, envelopes you in love’s warm glow.

Side 2 is the lesser, lumbered as it is with the resolutely mainstream Massachusetts but the final three tracks intrigue, hinting at an alternative more rock oriented Bee Gees, an option which the band would only occasionally take up.

As for the depression, it’s there but Horizontal is by no means a depressing listen.  Yes, there is bitterness – The Change Is Made – and queasy otherworldliness – Horizontal – but the eye opening World is breathtaking as well as post-traumatic and the painfully naked Really and Sincerely ultimately cathartic.

Truly lush

Crucially, they show their prettier side without just layering on the strings.  Birdie is truly lush thanks to Vince’s warm guitar licks and regret beautifully poised on Day Time Girl, the album’s dark horse and one of their finest ballads.  Both have terrific chord modulations and lovely melodies.

Bee Gees 1st is a fresher, more diverting album but Horizontal the more satisfying. 


Horizontal [1968]

Side 1
World
And the Sun Will Shine
Lemons Never Forget
Really and Sincerely
Birdie Told Me
With The Sun In My Eyes

Side 2
Massachusetts
Harry Braff
Day Time Girl
The Ernest Of Being George
The Change Is Made
Horizontal


Singles 1967/68 [related to Horizontal]

Massachusetts
Barker of the UFO

World
Sir Geoffrey Saved the World

Words*
Sinking Ships

* Words, a non-album track, was recorded the same day as World (3rd October 1967) and so in that sense can be said to be Horizontal-related 


Unreleased 1968

Out of Line*
Ring My Bell*
Mrs Gillespie’s Refridgerator*
Deeply, Deeply Me*
All My Christmases Came at Once*
Thank You for Christmas*
Medley: Silent Night/Hark the Herald Angels Sing*

* released on Horizontal Rhino reissue, 2006


-> Idea
<- Bee Gees 1st


Bee Gees Top 50 1966-72
Bee Gees’ Home Page

Not just a Casual affair

I surprised myself a little in writing no less than eight posts on The Casuals who, by any stretch of the imagination, were a minor pop group of their time and no more than a one hit wonder to a majority of the public who might have heard of them at all.

Casuals

When I started lightspots, I said I would try to avoid reproducing information available elsewhere – discographies, biographies, reeling off a band’s career.  But for The Casuals, to fill in some of that background has felt necessary as it appeared to be barely out there.  What existed was widely scattered and tended to be brief, focusing on their ‘one hit wonder’ status.

I hope something of my appreciation of the band has emerged through what were fairly straight and narrow biographical posts.  But writing them has made me think further about why The Casuals hold a particular appeal for me.

Two aspects spring immediately to mind – the abiding quality (and qualities) of their big hit and the underappreciated elegance of John Tebb’s unique voice.  But there’s more.

Making arrangements

I’m also interested in the role of these 60s arrangers whose talents often seem severely undervalued.  It’s as if the arrangements are regarded as unfortunate necessities for young bands signed to major labels who had to endure their creations being ‘dressed-up’ for commercial success by older, more conservative record company stalwarts.  Well that was how it might have seemed at the time and to rock cognoscenti subsequently whereas by and large, I find the arrangers add a great deal of expertise, colour and interest, taking the music to another level of sophistication rather than reducing it down or blanding it out.

It makes more sense to hear these bands in the round – as an amalgamation of the talents of performers, composers, arrangers and producers rather than focusing only on the frontmen.

There is something I find quite endearing about young groups being nurtured by the talents of a largely older generation who were themselves informed by earlier and other traditions: big band, orchestral, jazz, classical and so called easy listening to name but a few (George Martin obviously springs to mind here).  That collision of the old with the new – psychedelia, rock, experimentalism – produced something rare and unique to the mid-late 60s with everybody benefitting from the cross fertilisation.  I think the ‘old’ was as essential to the ‘new’ in the mix although it tends to be the new which gets the attention.

But there are other aspects of bands like The Casuals which appeal, more personal ones, perhaps, which are harder to pin down but which have quietly crystallised as I’ve written these posts.  Now I’d like to say something about these too.

English modesty

There is sometimes a sense when listening to pop of imagining yourself as part of the band.  Sometimes this might be subtle or what you might call ‘psychic’ – feeling an intense part of the music simply by being a listener or a fan – sometimes it’s much more overt – identifying with particular band members, or relating to a group’s ethos or sympathising with the scene they represent.  I can’t imagine what it feels like to be a rock god (which is perhaps just as well as I was never going to be one).  I don’t much relate to the macho, muscularity of that nor of wanting to hog the limelight.  But I think I can imagine what it might have felt like to be a Casual – part of a working band from the provinces, hoping for that elusive breakthrough hit.  Yes, it’s a  fleeting fantasy of being in a POP group at that time, the comraderie in music, being on a shared quest.  The excitement yet modesty of it appeals.

I feel it in a closer way still with groups such as Honeybus who wrote all their own material but, like The Casuals never made it big. Their lack of grandeur or spectacular success beyond the one hit seems curiously English – defining them as unassuming though they never intended it to be like this of course.  Pete Dello’s diffidence probably played a part in crashing the band’s career.  Still, I find these qualities immensely appealing and a huge loss once they slipped out of music during the Americanisation of the 70s before being effectively demolished under the weight of international stadium rock in the 80s.

Experimenting with the mainstream

The Casuals’ music may not be the most ambitious and yet it provides an ideal example of how ideas from outside the mainstream come to influence that mainstream and why this is so redolent of the 60s.  The Beatles exemplified this.  The Casuals highly arranged, orchestrated pop sound with its sometime nods to a flower power/psychedelic sensibility would not have been possible two years before and was already cut adrift two years later. The narrowness of this window gives their music an added poignancy.

There is a sense too that because music has moved on so much since then, music which at the time simply did not qualify as ‘artistic’ has acquired a certain piquancy or even potency.  Nothing sounds remotely like it today and we simply don’t have the means – the backgrounds of the arrangers, the jobbing nature of the touring band playing in a myriad small venues, that unadulterated style of smooth ballad singing, the ability to distil something in song primarily through melody – to capture that sound anymore even if we wanted to.

Here come the nice

Another thing which fascinates me about The Casuals’ music is that it is a refinement of quintessential pop in 1968.  The Herd were perhaps its trendy embodiment but The Casuals offered something less modish, less gimmicky, friendlier (‘you’re really too kind’).  Their songs are often characterised by a courtly quality, a niceness, a kind of politeness so that when they do kick-ass (Seven Times Seven) they do so within parameters which are fundamentally pleasant!  To some this might seem like damning with faint praise but I believe that there is room for music which isn’t necessarily utterly outré, world changing, in your face, ‘out there’, banging – and that that music can be appreciated for its particular virtues just as can any other.  It need not be bland, boring or disposable but charming, delightful, understated.

Although I don’t recall hearing The Casuals at the time (being only four in 1968), there is something in their music (as with The Family Dogg) which powerfully takes me back to the late 60s/very early 70s, as if it was in the air when I was a child – the sunshine brass, blissed out harmonies, that ‘honey and buttercups’ vibe.  The Casuals‘ juvenilia themes intensifies this, as if their music describes both my childhood – Toyland, Daddy’s Song – but then also what it might have felt like to have been a teenager in 1968 – I’m thinking Here we Go Round the Mulberry Bush – with fare such as Fool’s Paradise, Sunflower Eyes and even Toy.

Songwriting

I have tried my hand at songwriting and from time to time have borrowed some of the feel of songs like Toyland and Letter Every Month without consciously trying to do so, let alone emulate them.  I just find it’s there as a part of me – the desire to write a three minute, melodic pop song which is modest but in its own way hopefully eloquent, crafted, going beyond guitar, bass and drums – a kind of 1969 Casuals’ single in other words.

I might even post some of these songs up one day…

 


Posts on The Casuals

The Casuals: beyond Jesamine
The Casuals: before Jesamine: 1961- mid 1968
Jesamine Part 1

Jesamine Part 2
When Jesamine Goes: Singles 1968/69
Hour World 1969
With Jesamine Gone: 1970-76

 

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