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

 

Casuals’ Classics: ten of the best by The Casuals

Following my series of posts on the band here is my Casuals Top 10 in reverse order:


#10  Weather Vane 
Album track, Hour World  Decca 1969


‘Though you point from east to west, you point just one way…’

Of the two new, quiet ballads on Hour World, John Tebb’s Weather Vane, surprisingly outshines Manston- ‘Jesamine’-Gellar’s Sunflower Eyes.

‘Weather Vane’ is simple in melody and conception but it’s graced by John Tebb vocals.


#9  Jennifer Brown 
A-side Italy, Joker 1966


If you think The Casuals just weren’t cool enough, bend an ear to this early chilled Italian mood piece.

Moody organ, piano out of nowhere, mysterious vibes and mellow trumpet, it’s truly the lost gem of The Casuals’ crown.


#8  Hello It’s Me
Album track, Hour World  Decca 1969


… for its combination of almost courtly though slightly ironic beseechment  (‘You’re really too kind…’), cutely cooing falsetto backing vocals and air of youthful heartache (the singer longs for communication yet struggles to say what he really means).

Most of all it’s just the sheer niceness of the thing.


#7  Adios Amor (Goodbye My Love) 
A-side, Decca 1968


The Casuals favoured elegant Italianate ballads in their earlier days and Adios Amor is perhaps their finest.


#6  Seven Times Seven 
A-side, Decca 1969


A giddy take-off over choppy piano riffs, brilliant brass and an unexpected subtly blues based melody all collide into a high octane chorus overseen by an edge of excitement and anticipation…

This is the most confident and driven of The Casuals’ singles.  John Tebb’s voice almost shifts into rock mode as he urges us to hedge our bets.

And then there’s that very Joey Levine ‘Hey!’ – or is it an ‘Oh!’ ? – sandwiched between the intro and main vocal, surely one of the most bubblegum vocal moments in pop.


#5  Toy 
A-side, Decca 1968


As Toy was the impossible follow-up single to Jesamine, inevitably I skated over its delights in my 1968/69 singles post.

‘Toy’ may be fluffy (as well as catchy) but it’s an early hint at The Casuals’ toytown leanings and the song is treated to a rousing arrangement.

Chris Andrews successfully updates his stood up love dramas from real-life monochrome suburban streets to imagined technicolour toy bandstand.


#4  Letter Every Month 
B-side, Decca 1971


 

Tucked away like a winsome afterthought on the B-side of what I always think of as The Casuals’ final single Someday Rock ‘n’ Roll Lady (for all their bluster Tara Tiger Girl and The Witch are little more than prodding producer induced rigor mortis twitches), this marks Howard Newcomb’s virtual debut as composer.

There is a boyishly forlorn mood, a deft touch to the lyrics and an occasional nice use of imagery (‘the staircase turns to stone’).

It’s a shame Howard and John didn’t try their hand at writing more or was it that their contributions were simply sidelined?


#3  Toyland 
Album track, Hour World  Decca 1969


‘Let’s all go and blow our mind… in Toyland … ‘ – a hint of psychedelia in the everyday setting of a child’s bedroom, animated by the dare-to-dream magic of make-believe.

Written by Jess Roden and Tony Catchpole, Toyland was first produced by their band, The Alan Bown Set but from its ‘Alouette’ opening fanfare to those mumblings over an energetic (toy?) trumpet lead-off, it’s The Casuals who have the honey and buttercups scene sewn up, bringing the song – and the toys – to life.


#2  Never My Love 
Album track, Hour World  Decca 1969


This humble, elegant classic from the Addrisi brothers is one of the most covered songs of all time.  I may not have heard all the versions but I can definitely say I like The Casuals’ better even than The Association’s and I’d expect theirs to be the gold standard.

Arthur Greenslade picks up the reins as Musical Director for this song only, applying a light touch to allow the blissed out backing vocals to soar and shine… and shine they do, suggesting that the group might have made it as a full blown sunshine pop outfit.

The song’s melodic sensibility and earnest romantic assurances suit John Tebb’s voice as if it were created for him.


#1  Jesamine 
A-side and album track, Hour World 1969


 

 

Sometimes the most predictable choice is fervently the right one.

If ever a record was made to waft gently out of summer windows, it was Jesamine – especially in 1968 but anytime will do.

At heart, Jesamine is a fragile delectation inhabiting a song built with solid craft and the persuasive power of a lovely melody.  It’s a textbook case of the right voice, arrangement, song, group at the right time…  everything coming together to create a timeless classic which just goes on spreading delight.

And having halted at No 2 in ’68, it’s a pleasure to make ‘Jesamine’ my No 1.


Coming soon:  ‘Not a Casual Affair’ summing up the band’s appeal.


Previous 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 Casuals: with Jesamine gone, 1970-76

1970/71: the end of the Decca years

Come early 1970, over eighteen months since the release of Jesamine and with a clutch of unsuccessful singles behind them (not to mention a commercially unsuccessful album), Decca still believed the band had a future.

Stalwart Ivor Raymonde was recruited for May 1970’s My Name Is Love (co-written by Chris Andrews) b/w John Tebb’s I Can’t Say.  Sales were over too long a period to chart and both slightly plodding songs comprise The Casuals’ weakest single to date.

On live dates, Chris Evans stood in for Howard Newcomb who was ill and when bassist Alan Taylor and drummer Bob O’Brien left in 1970, Evans became a permanent member, along with Lloyd Courtney.

Roger Grey and Steve Wallace joined the band in October 1970.

Tony Hiller (of Brotherhood of Man fame) became producer with Tebb’s eminently commercial Some Day Rock ‘n’ Roll Lady, recorded in December 1970 and released as a single in January 1971.

By now, The Casuals had grown their hair and favoured a more, well, ‘casual’ look for the 70s.

Along with changes in line-up and an updated image, the catchy Some Day Rock ‘n’ Roll Lady marked a new sound for the group, linking into bubblegum and the current rock ‘n’ roll revival mood while still sounding fresh.  A ‘toy’ feel remains given the deliberately lightweight production and there is some chirrupy laughter during the instrumental break.  The contrasting B-side was Newcomb’s A Letter Every Month, a fine song which deserved more exposure.  The single sadly made little impact.

The Decca demos

I have several demos made by the band during that 1970/71 period at Decca with either Tony Hiller, David Hitchcock or Peter Sames as producer.

Casuals, Sunday Morning Coming

 

Some sources show Hey Mary b/w Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming was recorded November/December 1970 whereas mine is stamped with a February 1971 date.

Hang On To Your Life (the Guess Who song from 1970?) b/w Let Him Live was possibly recorded November 1970.  I don’t know as I don’t have this one.

Everything’s Alright b/w/Peace Is All You Need with Peter Sames producing at Decca’s West Hampstead studios was recorded in June 1971 according to my single-sided demo though some sources say May 1971.

Who Trevor was, we might never know.

I would say all three are highly respectable interpretations of moderately strong songs with fairly low-key arrangements (no orchestra now though these are, of course, demos) suggesting some commercial potential.  The overall flavour is a kind of pop take on folk-rock or, in the case of ‘Sunday Morning Coming’, gentle country-rock.

For a while, a second album was in the offing but this was not to be and following a prolonged period of a lack of commercial success, The Casuals were dropped by Decca in 1971.

Label to label

June 1972 marked a move to Parlaphone for Tara Tiger Girl b/w Nature’s Child written by the band’s Chris Evans and with a Move-like bouncy-stomp.

There was an American Jam single for which the band were renamed American Jam Band though as both singles had the same B-side, the link was obvious.  According to John Tracy’s sleeve notes for 1991’s Casuals CD compilation, the group was probably Chris Evans and Rob Moore AKA Kansas Hook/ American Jam Band.  AnyCasuals The Witch resemblance to Jesamine is entirely accidental.

They took a punt on progressive label Dawn in June 1974 for The Witch (written by the band’s Chris Evans) b/w Good Times, both sides produced by Robin Blanchflower.  ‘The Witch’ is a last ditch attempt to be heavy (‘black eyed queen you’re the devil’s machine’) and ‘Good Times’ has zingy snyth but neither convince.

The Casuals were consigned to the cabaret circuit now that the hits had very much dried up.  They disbanded in 1976.

Fragments of an afterlife

A spell of session singing followed for John and then involvement in Big John’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus by John Goodison, founder of Brotherhood of Man.  Tebb left for France in 1987, worked solo in the south of France and, last heard of, still fronts a number of bands.  Rockafantazia profile of John Tebb (scroll down a little).

Bassist Alan Taylor had a spell with Italian jazz oriented group Ping-Pong  in the early 70s, re-emerging as Bulldog.

Taylor surfaced again for a 1977 single Song for Magdalena in 1977 which you can read as a sort of mid-70s Casuals sound.  It is smoothly competent but strains for a certain ambitiousness it cannot quite muster.

A 1982 single appeared in Italy on Polydor, Out of My Mind b/w Take Your Time credited to Casuals with music and lyrics by Alan Taylor.  I haven’t heard a copy.

Alan was involved with various Euro disco projects for a number of years.  He passed away in Italy in 2011.

On and off the record

Two CD compilations of The Casuals have been released.

Jesamine: The Casuals [Decca, 1991, Deram 820 990-2] offers eighteen tracks and sleeve notes by John Tracy.

The Very Best of the Casuals [Karusell, 1996, 552 088-2] is the superior collection, providing 20 tracks and a better selection from Hour World  though Brian Gammidge’s sleeve notes  are perfunctory (this was only ever a budget release).

The 1991 compilation is no longer available but is worth getting hold of for several tracks which don’t appear on the later comp, namely Don’t Dream of Yesterday, Touched, I Can’t Say and A Letter Every Month.  

As I mentioned in an earlier post on The Casuals, Shapes & Sounds 2: Shades of Deepest Purple from the BBC archives 1967-1971 [Top Sounds, 2008, TSSCD 003] provides interesting insights into the band live and by far the most comprehensive sleeve notes on the group’s history, with some colourful reproductions of memorabilia for good measure though, be warned, the text is tiny!

There is still plenty of room for a definitive compilation which gathers together all the single A and B-sides – including the European only ones – Hour World in its entirety, the leftover album tracks and the 1970/71 Decca demos.

Further loose ends

A few years ago I caught a request for a Casuals song on Sounds of the 60s by a former group member.  I think the requester was John Tebb, and if I remember correctly, the request wasn’t for ‘Jesamine’.

I think John may have entertained on cruise ships and in hotels and bars in the south of France for at least a few years.

According to their joint Facebook page  Howard lives now in Manchester and John in the south of France.

The Stoke Sentinel reports that The Casuals and Herman’s Hermits played a charity gig for the Douglas Macmillan Hospice in Knutton.

The Casuals Official Site

But we’ve not finished with The Casuals yet…

Ten of the Best from The Casuals


CORRECTION 26 Feb 2016:  I inadvertently reversed the A/B sides of ‘Tara Tiger Girl’/’Natures’ Child’.  Sorry about that.  The text now shows the A-side correctly as ‘Tara Tiger Girl’.


Previous posts on The Casuals

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

The Casuals: Hour World, 1969

Casuals - Hour World

The Casuals began work on what was to be their sole album, Hour World, on 27th November 1968.  Hour World was issued by Decca in both mono and stereo versions in June 1969 but was not released in US.

As you can see from the track listing, much of its content also surfaced as single A and B sides:

Side One
1. Jesamine – 4.13 (Manston, Gellar) A-side
2. Toyland – 2.59 (Roden, Catchpole)
3. Never My Love – 2.28 (D. & D. Addrisi) B-side
4. Fool’s Paradise – 2.27 (Arnold, Martin, Morrow) A-side
5. Picnic – (Pardo, Smith, Guest)
6. Now You Can Be – 2.20 (Lynton)
7. Daddy’s Song – 3.05 (Nilsson) B-side *

Side Two
1. Hello It’s Me – 2.35 (Hazzard)
2. Love Me Tonight – 2.57 (Mason, Pace, Pilat, Panzeri) A-side **
3. Someday Man – 2.35 (Williams, Nichols)
4. Touched – 3.17 (Murphy) A-side
5. See!  – (Newcomb)
6. Sunflower Eyes – 2.26 (Manston, Gellar) A-side
7. Hey-Hey-Hey – 2.10 (Tebb) Italy B-side
8. Weather Vane – (Tebb) Italy B-side

  * as ‘Non E Il Violino’, Italy/Germany
** as ‘Alla Fine Della Strada’, Italy/Germany


Time and The Casuals

Toy is notable for its absence though would have fitted in quite well thematically with fare such as Now You Can Be, Daddy’s Song and Toyland, thus consolidating a common thread of childhood and juvenilia (so there is a concept to Hour World, apart from the rather tacked-on ‘clock’ one – the album is bookended with the sound of a ticking clock, tying in with the grandfather clock image on the reverse sleeve and on some single picture sleeves).

‘Jesamine’, of course, leads the album, its extended timing of 4.13 here accounted for by some opening sound effects which produce a lingering rumble over the start of John Tebb’s delicate vocal, disconcerting if you hear the album version in isolation.

Of the tracks not already discussed under the 1968/69 singles  Picnic and See! are fairly basic exercises in soundscapes, brought in to create an overall album feel which at least hints at psychedelia.  The band turn in a worthy cover of Paul Williams’ Someday Man though not eclipsing the composer’s original. 

Hour World ends with two Tebb compositions, the embarrassing and probably best forgotten Hey-Hey-Hey (which includes the line – ‘Watch out for me cos im so happy, You can wrap me in a baby’s nappy’ – that juvenile theme again) and his credible, gentle ballad Weather Vane.

Fabgear vibe

The slight music hall feel of Now You Can Be and the brass band on Daddy’s Song have the unfortunate effect of reminding me of contemporaneous ghastly kids’ TV talent contest Junior Showtime which first aired in 1969.  Both songs have their virtues though, ‘Now You Can Be’ eventually alluding to a fabgear toytown vibe and Nilsson’s ‘Daddy’s Song’ conjuring an affectionate portrait. Hour World bylineMeanwhile, ‘Toyland’ avoids any familial saccharine quality by pursuing head-on that peculiarly late 60s conflation of childhood with mind expansion.

Five tracks from the Hour World sessions remain unissued: Love Can Fly, Take Me For a Little While, Tomorrow Tomorrow (the Bee Gees song – I’m not certain whether this was recorded with English lyrics or only in Italian as ‘Domani Domani’), Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Go plus, in the UK, Barcelona b/w Tomorrow’s Dream which was a single on the continent only.

Decca in-house artist David Anstey (perhaps best known for his wonderful Days of Future Passed album cover) provides the line drawing cover art, depicting our fantastic foursome and a cherub clambering over a hefty Greek God-like figure seated on a pile of ancient tomes. Versions in Germany and possibly elsewhere in Europe show the artwork against a defining blue background.

Wonderful World 

Hour World is an enjoyable album for which I have an enduring fondness.  It captures something of that ‘pop band on an adventure’ vibe which was perfected by The Monkees.  The album’s potentially disconcerting blend of mature ballads and blatant appeals to a younger/family audience is united by a solid overall sound thanks to the distinctiveness of John Tebb’s vocals and the talents of arrangers Cy Payne, Reg Guest, Ken Woodman and Arthur Greenslade.

Due to the success of ‘Jesamine’, The Casuals remained busy with concerts, TV appearances and publicity meaning that Hour World was not completed until Spring 1969 by which time the afterglow of their ’68 single success had faded. Hour World did not trouble the album charts.

Still, the band persevered into the next decade producing a range of material, none of it commercially successful but some matching the quality of their late 60s output and leaving a legacy of rare demos.

That’s the story I’ll take up next time.

With Jesamine Gone: 1970-76


Previous 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

The Casuals: when Jesamine goes: the singles 1968/69

Following Jesamine

Now The Casuals faced a dilemma.  What were they supposed to do with a hit like Jesamine?  Follow it up with another of course.

Groups get criticised for selecting a replica of their biggest success in the hope of simply repeating the formula.  The Casuals, or rather the band’s management, cannot be accused of this ploy.

Toy story

The song chosen was Chris Andrews’ ‘Toy’.  ‘Toy’ is everything that ‘Jesamine’ is not – it’s bouncy, uptempo, effervescent, not dissimilar to Andrews’ hits for Sandie Shaw with a faint oom-pah and some toy/boy type rhymes.

For what is a straightforward pop song, ‘Toy’ is given a fab arrangement courtesy of Reg Guest, culminating in the contrast between a tiny music box and a huge carnivalesque band lead off.  There’s even an odd ‘mew’ thrown in on the music box bit as if the whole shebang are out in force.

Perhaps the single was chosen to show that the band had appeal as teenybop popsters but it must have come as a bit of a disappointment for lovers of ‘Jesamine’.  The moment had passed and so had Jesamine.

Casuals Toy

Toy was released in November 1968, entering the charts in December at No 40 when Jesamine was still at No 46 and peaking at No 30 in January 1969.  It was to be The Casuals’ last chart entry and probably deserved better.  We can only speculate on whether a song like Fool’s Paradise might have fared more favourably as an immediate follow-up single, maintaining the romantic ballad connection with ‘Jesamine’ but showcasing a maturer song.  In the UK, the B-side of ‘Toy’ was Touched, a buoyant piece which, unlike ‘Toy’, made it onto Hour World, whereas in mainland Europe, ‘Toy’ was accompanied by John Tebb’s throwaway Hey, Hey, Hey – more on that in my next Casuals ‘post.

In the wake of ‘Jesamine’s’ success, the group embarked on their first major British tour as support for Scott Walker along with The Paper Dolls, The Love Affair and Terry Reid, with The Casuals, Cupid’s Inspiration and The Searchers appearing at alternate venues.

In the States, ‘Toy’ and subsequent releases were credited to The British Casuals to prevent confusion with a home grown act of the same name.

The 1969 singles

Despite the relative failure of ‘Toy’, Decca maintained faith in the band and three UK singles were released in 1969, whose A and B sides maintained a fairly even balance between ballads (legacy of their Italian days) and a faster-paced, groovy pop sound.  Of the three A-sides, Fool’s Paradise and Sunflower Eyes made it onto Hour World whilst Caroline, anticipating a slight change in sound, did not.

Casuals Fool's Paradise

Fool’s Paradise, released in April, (written by Chris Arnold, David Martin and Geoff Morrow, soon to form Butterscotch) was a solidly written romantic ballad but is overshadowed for me by its B-side, the heady Seven Times Seven.  The band really sound as if they are giving it their all here. John Tebb’s vocal veers somewhere between pop, rock and, at times, bubblegum (that opening Kasenatz Katz ‘Yeah!’), there are some lively drum fills from Bob O’Brien and Howard Newcomb’s latter day electric guitar is rarely as foregrounded.  ‘Seven Times Seven’ was an A-side in Italy, recognition of its inclusion as theme and part soundtrack for the film Sette Volte Sette – more on that a little later.

Casuals Sunflower Eyes

1969’s second single, released in June, was Sunflower Eyes by the Manston, Gellar duo that had brought the band such success with ‘Jesamine’.  Although pleasant, the imploring ‘Sunflower Eyes’ is not in the same league as its predecessor whereas B-side, Never My Love, despite being a somewhat predictable choice, remains for me the best cover of that much covered song I Casuals Never My Love bylinehave heard.  ‘Never My Love’ is eminently suited to John Tebb’s soaring voice and dreamy harmony vocals light up its heavenly chambers.  The Italian (and possibly pan-European) release of ‘Sunflower Eyes’ has John Tebb’s Weather Vane as B-side.

October brought the band’s third and final single of 1969, Roy Wood’s ‘Caroline’.  It isn’t at all hard to imagine The Move having covered this.  ‘Caroline’ was also produced by Wood and marked a slight change of direction for the band as orchestration is absent for the first time.  The flute introduction is presumably provided by Casuals’ bassist and sometime flautist Alan Taylor.  John Tebb has a very particular, deliciously mannered, rather courtly way of singing ‘Oh’ which can be heard here (‘Oh! Waiting for ‘Caroline’) and on previous single ‘Sunflower Eyes’ (‘Oh! You’d be surprised’).

‘Caroline’ was well partnered by John Tebb’s mischievous Naughty Boy.  Roy Wood often shows a predelicition for unusual instruments and it is possibly a bassoon adding a steady off-beat rhythmic element throughout ‘Naughty Boy’.  Both sides (especially ‘Naughty Boy)  prefigure the rock-‘n’-roll-lite of 1971’s Someday Rock ‘n’ Roll Lady.

The Italian job

Seven Times Seven (B-side in UK, A-side in Italy), was written by Armando Trovajoli and Jack Fishman and was probably recorded by The Casuals in the early part of 1968 as it featured in that year’s Michel Lupo directed Italian crime comedy Sette Volte Sette.  Although legend has it that every self-respecting modish 60s film has a ‘band scene’ sadly The Casuals do not appear.

Sette Volte Sette

Some jazzy, mainly instrumental music with wordless vocals also forms part of the soundtrack, provided by Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni according to the end credits.  The Casuals get no credit at all, only the song’s composer is mentioned at the start: ‘music composed and directed by Armando Trovajoli.’

I can’t comment much on the actual film as the only subtitled or dubbed version available appears to be in Hungarian but it looks to be a stylishly enjoyable crime-caper period piece, perhaps a kind of Italian The Italian Job with locations shared between Italy and London.

It is not always clear which parts of the soundtrack are provided by The Casuals, apart from the straightforward theme itself of course, but my definite hunch is that the semi-improvisatory, instrumental versions of Seven Times Seven must be by the band.  If so, this makes the soundtrack of particular interest to Casuals’ fans.


Here is a breakdown of the music in Sette Volte Sette with what I believe to be contributions from The Casuals highlighted:

  9.40 -10.24  flute/brass based on the song
13.47 -14.40  instrumental, jazzy
17.02 -17.25  flute jazz based with brass
24.23 – 24.55  fast based ‘dubba-dubba’ jazz brass and bass
28.18 – 28.34  woodwind based instrumental
35.27 – 36.16  an instrumental, ‘Seven Times Seven,’ organ-based with wordless backing vocals
38.02 – 38.53  very 60s vocal passages based on earlier woodwind theme
39.30- 40.58  From ‘When you feel like running out…’ until the drums just before verse 2, ‘Seven Times Seven’, the song, debuts first as background to a slightly kinky ‘bedroom’ scene, then foregrounded from 40.11 as accompaniment to an exciting outdoor sequence.
47.44 – 48.58  the theme returns with the ‘Well when you feel like running out..’ vocal.
53.48 – 54.48  swinging, organ-based ‘background’ instrumental accompaning a woman-on-woman sex scene viewed by an older, male onlooker.
55.48 – 56.21  aah-ahh vocals

1.01.15 – 1.01.48  band/organ again with fast dee-dee vocals
1.17.42 – 1.19.01  a loping instrumental with dee-dee vocals 
1.20.15 – 1.20.40  wordless vocals and very jazz flavoured instrumentals
1.32.03-  1.33.11  the song returns starting with the intro but fades out during the chorus
1.34.35 – 1.35.08  lolloping instrumental with wordless vocal

1.36.01 – 1.36.48  fast theme again with wordless ‘ba-dubba-dubba’ vocals
1.38.35 – 1.40.06  organ based music fading-in over dialogue becoming slower with organ drone for change of scene at 1.39.22 then gradually building with wordless vocals
1.43.30 – 1.45.13  theme in full from intro to verse 2

You can catch the film in full here – with no subtitles or dubbing though!



… and in Europe

A further three singles were released in some European countries, notably Italy and Germany.

Alla Fine Della Strada (‘At the End of the World’) is an Italian song by Lorenzo Pilat which became a UK Number 9 for Tom Jones as ‘Love Me Tonight’ also in 1969.  It features as ‘Love Me Tonight’ in English on The Casuals’ album Hour World along with B-side, Non E Il Violino (‘Now You Can Be’, actually ‘Daddy’s Song’).

Casuals Alla Fine Della Strada

The band sang ‘Alla Fine Della Strada’ at the February 1969 San Remo Song Contest and this is the only surviving footage I know of in which the The Casuals perform live as ‘Jesamime’ on Beat Club would almost certainly have been mimed and anyway the psychedelic effects almost entirely overwhelm what we can see of the band.

The thoroughly enjoyable Toyland b/w (again) Never My Love appeared at least in Germany in July 1969 and both songs feature on Hour WorldAlan Bown gave us the original ‘Toyland’ in 1967 with a home produced psychedelic style production; the busy cello is great but I miss The Casuals’ brass.  Jeff Bannister’s vocal emphasises the blissed out feel of the lyric whereas John Tebb’s is more knowing and has the edge on phrasing.  The Casuals win out overall.

But the most interesting of the three European singles from 1969 (not sure of the exact month of release) is the single Barcelona b/w Tomorrow’s Dream as neither songs have surfaced elsewhere.  ‘Barcelona’ was written by Juan Pardo, no connection with The Casuals’ producer, David Pardo.  ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ is of particular interest as it is written by John Tebb.  Frustratingly, both sides remain unknown to me.  Most European releases are on the Vogue or Joker record labels whereas ‘Barcelona’ is on Columbia.

I had intended to tackle The Casuals album, Hour World, as part of this post but having said a lot more on their 1968/69 singles than I’d anticipated, I’m going to save Hour World until next time and hope that you will join me then.

The Casuals: Hour World, 1969


Previous posts on The Casuals

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

Jesamine Part 2

The Casuals: Jesamine – Part 2

 

Charting Jesamine

Jesamine was released on 31st May 1968 but did not enter the UK Top 50 until 20th August, reaching No 2 in November.  Ironically, it was kept off the top spot by that year’s Opportunity Knocks winner, Mary Hopkin.

Altogether ‘Jesamine’ spent eighteen weeks in the Top 50 and was the thirteenth best selling single of the year, outstripping ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’ and Joe Cocker’s ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’.

The single enjoyed very good airplay on Radio 1 which perhaps explains its slow-burning success.

When it emerged also as a European hit, ‘Jesamine’ (often spelt ‘Jezamine’ on European releases) was released in the US, appearing as ‘Jesamine (A Butterfly Child)’ but wasn’t a hit.

Marty Wilde covered his own composition under the name of Shannon, scoring only a number 104 in the US charts in 1969.  In this live version, he sings in an almost semi-crooning style at times over harpsichord, flutes and strings but his version lacks the drive of The Casuals with contributions from the band.

 

The B-side, lest I forget, was Greenaway-Cook’s fine I’ve Got Something Too, a sweeping, slow building ballad with a shimmering introduction.

Imagining Jesamine

The band relocated fully to the UK to promote ‘Jesamine’ once it was clear the single was becoming a Top 20 hit.  However, there appears to be no Top of the Pops footage remaining of ‘Jesamine’.   The band would have also performed their single on other shows of the time such as Southern TV’s Time for Blackburn so it’s possible footage may yet emerge.

Casuals Beat Club 1Casuals Beat Club 2

Casuals Beat Club 3The only known TV performance footage is from German TV’s Beat Club in October 1968, in black and white and so laden with overlapping images and striking lighting that the faces of the band are barely visible.

Records show that between August 1968 and the end of 1969, The Casuals recorded no less than 36 sessions for BBC radio so listeners would have had ample opportunity to sample the diversity of the group beyond their major hit.

One of these sessions is captured on Shapes & Sounds 2: Shades of Deepest Purple from the BBC archives 1967-1971 [Top Sounds, 2008, TSSCD 003].

We get a chance to hear how The Casuals handled Jesamine as a live band, whilst two further tracks – Midnight Confessions (written by Lou Josie and  covered by The Grass Roots) and Take Me For a Little While (written by Trade Martin and performed earlier by Evie Sands) – show them as beat group, live attraction and versatile professional outfit.  John Tebb’s voice remains terrific on the uptempo material.  A further version of ‘Take Me For a Little While’ was recorded as part of the Hour World sessions but didn’t make it Shapes and Sounds 2onto the album.

On ‘Jesamine’ it sounds as if the vocals might be shared, with Howard Newcomb taking over at ‘When Jesamine stays…’ although I could be wrong here.  Certainly there is a differentiation which is not on the single.

Loving Jesamine

Back in 1968, Barry Gibb said ‘Jesamine’ was “about the best record of the year”.

Singapore group The Quests covered the song in 1970 with much charm and lovely organ and echo overload – listen here

Paul Weller loved the song so much he named his child after it (judging from comments on Youtube and elsewhere he wasn’t the only one).  It is track six on a 2003 covers’ compilation of some of his favourites, Under the Influence.Casuals Jesamine single in sleeve

The song seems to have lasting appeal judging by many fond comments and recollections online.  I get the impression that people who don’t much like 60s music give it a try and find they are enchanted too.

It seems as if, over the years, Jesamine has gathered even more of a sense of fragile beauty unto herself.  The song inspires recollections of childhood’s sun dappled days in the 60s or simply of carefree youth – more innocent times in every sense.

There is a minor scene in episode one of The Tyrant King (Thames Television’s ‘swinging London’ children’s adventure series) in which the children are in a bedroom and ‘Jesamine’ is heard playing in the background.  With The Tyrant King airing in October 1968, this scene would have been filmed as the single gained airplay in the summer or early autumn.  The children pay the music little attention but it hardly seems to matter.  Indeed it’s the incidental way in which the song is experienced which is so poignant because this is how ‘Jesamine’ would have been heard by millions at the time, as background, yes, but also as a kind of permeating loveliness whose piquancy is only fully realised when momentarily recaptured by us as adults viewing this scene or hearing the song many years later.

As pop has become harder, shinier, more industrial, more unrelenting, Jesamine represents a kind of vanished spirit of innocence, embodying its own, and our own, ephemerality.  It surely ranks as one of the finest and most memorable No 2 hits of all time.

The butterfly child lives on.

Love’s In Control: The Casuals’ Jesamine
The Casuals on Beat Club

When Jesamine Goes: the singles: 1968/69 


Previous posts on The Casuals

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

The Casuals: Jesamine – Part 1

Casuals Jesamine single

That’s Jezamine with a ‘z’ in Europe

According to one source, Marty Wilde saw a shop called ‘Jesamine’ on his travels and thinking it a lovely name, wrote the song.

Writing Jesamine

Jesamine was written by Marty Wilde and Ronnie Scott (The Bystanders’ manager) under the joint pseudonym Frere Manston and Jack Gellar.  It tends to be Marty Wilde who is given sole credit; I don’t know if this reflects how songwriting duties were split between them or whether Marty Wilde crops up as sole composer as he is the better known name (by the way, it’s high time Marty Wilde’s 1969 Diversions LP was released – ‘Abergavenny’ might easily have been recorded by The Casuals, its toytown pop feel and big production bearing great similarities to their output around 1968/69).

Bystanders Jesamine 45Jesamine has an interesting history.  It was covered firstly by The Bystanders as When Jezamine Goes.  Although released only six months prior to The Casuals’ version, its primitivism gives it the feel of a 1966/early 1967 single.

In fact The Casuals’ ‘Jesamine’ eclipses The Bystanders original in every way starting with the title; Jesamine is itself such an unusual and lovely name, why add anything to that?

The Bystanders single lacks atmosphere and finesse.  Even featuring a leaden drum, the butterfly child doesn’t stand a chance of taking flight.  Strings unimaginatively parallel the somewhat forced lead vocal.  The arrangement briefly improves with some long overdue harmonies towards the end but the closing la-las create the sense of an incongruous singalong.  Perhaps it was rushed out or maybe “the powers that be would never spend the money” as group member Clive John comments (in sleeve notes to The Bystanders: Pattern People – The Pye Anthology, Castle 2001, CMRCD 270).  Significantly there is no credit for the arrangement.

Arranging Jesamine

The Casuals were fortunate to have as their Musical Director Cy Payne whose imaginative and sympathetic arrangement perfectly elucidates the song at every turn, maintaining both its gentle momentum as a pop song and its ‘butterfly child’ utopianism through subtle layers of orchestration.  Woodwind, brass and strings add much colour and interest.  The mood remains light even when brilliant brass predominates (as on the lead-off).

Listen to how Cy Payne handles the mid-song breakdown which is little more Jesamine 45than an awkward pause in The Bystanders’ version.  There are delightful, unexpected but just right plucked strings, curling woodwind and that drowsy single acoustic guitar strum before the harmonies return.

It also has to be said that John Tebb’s vocals are ideally suited to the song’s inherent melodicism and play a huge part in its success as a record.

Beyond its musical accomplishment, part of the fascination of  ‘Jesamine’ for me is that it seems somehow psychedelic and yet it obviously isn’t psychedelic at all in the genre defining sense.  But that ambiguity is its marvel.  The whole experience of love and of being in love in ‘Jesamine’ is transformative.  That dreamlike, otherworldly fragility… could Jesamine have emerged from her chrysalis in any other year but 1968 when the beautific visions of the previous year had filtered through to the public and the pop mainstream?

Deconstructing Jesamine  

One feature which adds hugely to the effectiveness of the song is its unusual structure.

The introduction poses a question ‘What am I supposed to do with a girl like Jesamine byline 1Jesasmine?’, setting us up for the song.

The main body of the song revolves around repetitions of a two part chorus – ‘When Jesamine goes…’ and ‘When Jesamine stays..’ offering a kind of light and shade or, in this case, shade (‘goes’) and light (‘stays’).

A bridge breaks up the repeated choruses parts 1 and 2 (with ‘When Jesamine Goes’ heard once more than ‘When Jesamine stays’).  The bridge resembles the introduction by again posing a question – ‘What can you say when a girl doesn’t want to know?  – but to a new melody.

Then we reach the most innovative part of all, the repetition of the forlorn ‘What am I supposed to do..?’ introduction but now heard as counterpoint to the ‘What can you say when a girl doesn’t want to know?’ of the bridge, adding to the elegance and sophistication of the song and dramatising how much the protagonist is both dazzled by love and beset by self doubt.

This unusual feature leads into a brass dominated instrumental lead-off of the chorus with John Tebb’s vocal joining in to fade.

So using the classic A-B-C structure of a song, ‘Jesamine’ would look something like this:


A  Introduction  What am I supposed to do..?
B  Chorus 1  When Jesamine goes…
C  Chorus 2  When Jesamine stays…
B  Chorus 1  When Jesamine goes…
D  Bridge  What can you say..?
B  Chorus 1  When Jesamine goes…
C  Chorus 2  When Jesamine stays…
E  Bridge D What can you say..? with Introduction A What am I supposed to do..?
B  Chorus 1  [When Jesamine goes…] instrumental
B  Chorus 1  When Jesamine goes… – to fade


It’s also worth pointing out how the choruses’ dual swings between ‘Jesamine goes’ and ‘Jesamine stays’ hang on the pivotal ‘but then the whole world dies’.  This somewhat startling word ‘dies’ – heightened still by it being suspended in mid air at the end of a line – clearly shows the protaganist’s bewilderment when Jesamine leaves and his world seems to have faded away with her – he is left only with his feelings (and ‘Jesamine’ is all about feeling).  But crucially ‘dies’ also strikes at the heart of the ‘butterfly child‘ – her ephemerality and the very fleetingness of his taking pleasure in her.

Next time: Charting Jesamine, Imagining Jesamine, Loving Jesamine

The Casuals: Jesamine – Part 2


Previous posts on The Casuals

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