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

Advertisements

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