SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing March Of The Flower Children: The American Sounds Of 1967, 3CD Boxset Various Artists

MARCH OF THE FLOWER CHILDREN – The American Sounds of 1967   (3CD SET)
As anybody that has ever read any of the thousands of reviews I’ve written over the past 50 + years will know only too well, Psychedelia is my first and enduring musical love. So with apologies to those for repeating the fact yet again! but there’s always new readers to consider. This latest compilation from the ever excellent Grapefruit Records could have been compiled especially for me, and I couldn’t be happier settling in for a smorgasbord of sound lasting 4 hours spread over 3 Cd’s in this spanking collection featuring 85 tracks from some of the greatest names to feature in this mind bending musical genre. All the facets that make up the whole Psychedelic movement can be heard here, from hard acid rock, to folk rock. punk garage, toytown & sunshine pop & whimsical solo entries. Big names include Love, Vanilla Fudge, Young Rascals, Moby Grape, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Steppenwolf, The Velvet Underground & many more, including the band who first got me hooked in 1966/67 the glorious & unique ultimate garage band The Electric Prunes. It was the latter’s use of twisted, distorted fuzz laden instrumentation on ‘I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night’ (not included) that set me out on my voyage of mind bending musical discovery. The big names mentioned are sprinkled across the compilation which is bolstered in the main by the less well known & some outright obscure bands & artistes, although a lot of whom will be known to fellow aficionados, such as The Seeds, The Cryan Shames, Blue Magoos, The Beau Brummels, The Rare Breed, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Lemon Fog etc. Psychedelia had it’s roots in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco and the Hippie movement with artistes like The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin & others in 1966 and by the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967 reached it’s crescendo on both sides of the Atlantic. Here in Britain, which has been covered by previous Grapefruit compilations relating to 1967,we were listening to the likes of Traffic, Tomorrow, Spooky Tooth, The Nice, Cream etc etc, most of whom had drawn their inspiration from the San Francisco movement, although on the whole British psychedelia often tended to come in ‘softer’ form than its American counterparts. Anybody that’s already into the genre will understand what I’m relating, however for anybody new to the genre or want’s to revisit that most magical and experimental period this new compilation is an ideal starting point. There’s little point in me bombarding you with a lot of names to conjure with, especially for newbies, but here from across the 3 CD’s are, in my opinion, some of the standout tracks. The whole set kicks off on Disc1 with a band that I’ve always loved, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, with a tasty morsel (see what i did there) with the up-tempo mix of snarling guitar & Fifth Dimension style harmonies that make up their excellent offering ‘It’s A Happening Thing’. This is followed by, what for me, are the ultimate & finest exponents of the whole genre, Love. Arthur Lee’s vocal and lyrics have always had the ability to transport me to another world, here represented by iQue Vida!’ lifted from their superb 2nd album Da Capo. As is common with a lot of Love’s songs on first hearing they sound all sweetness and light, but on closer inspection are often unsettling and menacing, yet always superb. Great to see the inclusion of old friend, the late Tim Rose with the original recording he made of the classic ‘Morning Dew’ still the definitive version as far as I’m concerned. I was working with Tim on some gigs when he sadly and unexpectedly passed away in 2002, a great loss. Elsewhere on Disc1 are great tracks from the underrated Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Lovin Spoonful, The Mothers of Invention, The Kaleidescope, Harpers Bizarre & Eternity’s Children. Disc2 gets us underway with a stunning Prunes type track from a band unknown to me The Zodiac with a track entitled ‘Aries’ replete with a solemn spoken part, interwoven with melding Eastern music with rock, all very dark and mysterious. Then it’s on to a stone cold classic, with the majestic strains of Vanilla Fudge with their famous alternative version of the old Supremes hit ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’, here in it’s edited radio 3minute version as opposed to the full length album version that ran to 7 & a half minutes. This is followed by my all time favourite garage/psyche band, the previously mentioned Electric Prunes with ‘Hideaway’ a ‘B’ side of one of their lesser singles, but nonetheless a great track. The familiar names follow on with Moby Grape & The Stone Poneys with ‘Fall On You’ & ‘Evergreen Part One’ respectively. The track that lends the compilation it’s title follows with the splendid The Seeds and ‘March of the Flower Children’ which sounds more akin to something one of our own homegrown esoteric bands might have produced. Other tracks on Disc2 that stand out come from The Byrds with the seldom heard ‘Lady Friend’ & also The Cyrkle, The Lemon Drops, Captain Beefheart & The Endd amongst others. Disc3 features another personal favourite band with Steppenwolf & ‘The Ostrich’, another seldom heard track. The excellent Strawberry Alarm Clock are represented with ‘Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow’ ( a real psyche title if there ever was one!). Buffalo Springfield with ‘Bluebird’ and The Velvet Underground with ‘White Light/White Heat’ put in welcome appearances. There is an additional plethora of great songs from many obscure and unlikely artists such as Nilsson and surfer boys Jan & Dean! An honorable mention must also go to The Chamber Brothers with their classic experimental ‘Time Has Come Today’, a big personal favourite. The compilation concludes with The First Edition fronted by Kenny Rogers, who would of course become a solo Country superstar later in his career. Here he appears with his band who produced some classics of their own, famously with ‘Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town’ the wonderful ‘Somethins Burning’ and the psyche offering ‘Just Dropped In – To See What Condition My Condition is In’ (you can enjoy this in the video at the end of this review). It just remains for me to compliment David Wells once again, the head honcho at Grapefruit Records, for another superb compilation, lovingly compiled and accompanied as ever by an informative booklet crammed with info, photo’s & images. So, draw up a comfortable mushroom to sit on, put on your favourite headband, pass the Hookah and drift awa………y…..enjoy.
for more information go to
Til next time…stay safe….Colin

Stephen Moran… Great review Colin

Mick O’Dowd… This contains so many bands that I never classed as psych! Maybe that’s why I never caught on to it until recently, through your posts Colin. Great stuff by looks of it and as I say i’ve heard and appreciated a lot of these artists

Colin Bell… Mick, I think to be fair, some of the artists you didn’t class as psyche, ultimately weren’t, but went through a period of experimenting during ’66/’67 before returning to, or moving on to other more suitable genres for them

Mick O’Dowd… Got into a lot of these from the samplers The Rock Machine Turns You On & Thr Rock Machine Loves You. Priced at an amazing (even in those days) 14/6d!

Colin Bell… Mick, Great samplers, really got a lot of people interested and as you say cheap, even then

Pete Prescott… So many bands ! Wow !

Claire Lonsdale… Would love to hear it! X

Alan Esdaile… Some great names here and a good sleeve.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Too Much Sun Will Burn: The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1967 Volume 2, 3CD Box Set Various Artists

TOO MUCH SUN WILL BURN (The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1967 Volume Two) Various 

I could complete this review in 3 words…just buy it! But that won’t do will it.. That’s just the view of this reviewer who has been in love with psychedelia since it’s apogee in 1967, as any regular reader of my reviews, columns, or listeners to my specialist radio shows will know. Back in 2016, Cherry Red’s psyche label Grapefruit Records released the glorious 3CD set ‘Let’s Go Down And Blow Our Minds’ which was hugely well received ( & reviewed in these pages) now after a long anticipated wait, here 7 years later is its companion piece. Once again the whole 3CD set has been given all the love and attention it deserves. 3 Discs each housed in separate sleeves sporting their own cover designs (& disc designs) housed in a beautiful sturdy clamshell box, accompanied by a lavish 48 page booklet annotated by label boss David Wells, a guy for whom my admiration grows with each release he oversees. The booklet contains many rare photo’s together with sleeve covers & fascinating facts on each track to introduce the reader to the collection, & it kicks off with a quote from John Peel. Which could not be more apt, a) given his well known love of the genre & b) on a personal note, he was to become an early mentor & friend to me back in those halcyon days. So let’s get into all the delights on offer for your ears & senses to revel in. We kick off our lysergic drenched journey on Disc1 with what is probably most people’s’s idea of a classic piece of psychedelia in Traffic’s ‘Paper Sun’ which perfectly sets the scene for the 78 tracks to follow in its wake, over what will be a 4 hour journey down the rabbit hole. Immediately following Traffic is one of my all time favourite psyche bands Tomorrow, with ‘Revolution’ (no not The Beatles track!), the band comprised of several luminaries including Twink (Pink Fairies) & Keith West (of ‘Grocer Jack’ fame). ‘Revolution’ was the follow up to their near hit earlier that year with a cover of Nazareth’s arrangement of ‘My White Bicycle’ awash with ‘phasing’ & backward tape loops & all manner of effects so redolent of the whole scene Tomorrow for me have always been a major favourite & the version of ‘Revolution’ included here arrives in an alternate mix which is a bonus. I should add that many alternate takes, debut appearances & rare nuggets surface throughout the collection, to mine & I’m sure over aficionados delight.  Tomorrow are followed by Caleb ( who will be known to those aforementioned aficionados) an early bandmate along with a certain Reg Dwight in Bluesology, prior to releasing such nuggets as ‘Baby Your Phasing is Bad’ included here, the i think the title says it all! As ever it’s the obscure that delights me, but here Grapefruit Records have done a great job balancing this box set with its plethora of the little known, with the big names such as The Troggs, Elton John, The Strawbs (with Sandy Denny), Eric Burdon & the Animals, The Marmalade, The Flower Pot Men etc. Highlights for me on Disc1 come with some favourite tracks from excellent acts Tintern Abbey, The Syn, The Alan Bown! Johns Children & Hastings Pier stalwarts Episode 6 with ‘Love, Hate & Revenge’ bringing back some happy memories for me of working with the latter many times. And so onto Disc2 which opens with the piercing vibe of ‘Dive Into Yesterday’ by the criminally underrated & largely forgotten band Kaleidoscope, who like so many bands that surfaced at the time didn’t quite make it, but thoroughly deserved to. The Move put in an appearance with one of my favourite ‘B’ sides they ever made, in ‘Wave The Flag And Stop The Train’, which was originally coupled with ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’. The Move are joined on Disc2 by other big names The Who, Simon Dupree (& it’s not ‘Kites’!), Procol Harum. The Bonzo’s, DD,DBM&T, Nirvana, The Spencer Davis Group etc Some of the most interesting, & greatest psyche bands put in stellar appearances such as The Attack, The Virgin Sleep, The Mirage & The Artwoods with a special mention to another band i had the pleasure of working with on several occasions, in the shape of Orange Bicycle with ‘Hyacinth Threads’. They were a great band who combined vocal harmony work on par with The Beach Boys combined with intoxicating melodic psyche, a band i could listen to happily all day. As usual when writing about music i love I’m conscious i don’t have the space to discuss EVERY track! (as much as I’d like to), so we must move on to the final disc in the set Disc3. Starting with The Hollies and their foray into psychedelia (headed by Graham Nash) with Top 20 hit ‘King Midas In Reverse’. a great classic, but unfortunately it would also turn out to be the record that would cause the split within the band, that broke them apart with Nash leaving to form CS&N, but that’s a whole other story. Of all 3 discs this one serves up the greatest number of recognisable names with David Bowie, The Idle Race, The Pretty Things, The Small Faces. The Herd The Zombies etc, although you won’t find the ‘usual suspects’ tracks that most compilers put together, another plaudit to David Wells. Amongst the obscure & delightful are contributions from The Creation, The Tickle, Norma Rowe, The Action & Circle Plantagenet. Also, great to see the inclusion of Dave Davies with his second hit follow up to ‘Death Of A Clown’ with, to my mind an equally great record ‘Susannah’s Still Alive’ which sounds better in quality here (it usually sounds muddy) so thanks to whoever cleaned it up. New to me was The Bystanders track ‘Royal Blue Summer Sunshine Day’ a band that usually covered American harmony hits, they later morphed into Man the rock band. I never cease to marvel at all the tracks that surface after all these years that even die hard fans of the genre like me can still be surprised by. The whole collection comes to a close with the wisdom of Pete & Dud & ‘Bedazzled’ which to those of us of a ‘certain age’ brings a warm nostalgic smile. As the compilation alludes to with its title ‘Too Much Sun’. There were many bands in that wonderful ‘summer of love; in 1967 that took flight, some soared to happy heights and were rewarded with fame and glory and some, like Icarus, (the legend, not the band!) flew too close to the sun and crashed and burned to be forgotten. However like the man said, better to crash and burn than slowly fade away….enjoy

for more information go to

Til next time….stay safe……Colin

Alan Esdaile… Great sleeve Colin and some interesting tracks. 1967 a Great year for music!

Mick O’Dowd… Even me who as you know wasn’t aware of what psych was i’ve actually heard a lot of these bands and hadn’t put them it that pigeonhole! Some great tracks on here

Claire Lonsdale… Lots of my favourite tracks and many more that I have to discover it seems

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing What A Groovy Day – The British Sunshine Pop Sound 1967-1972, 3CD Clamshell Box Various Artists

WHAT A GROOVY DAY -THE BRITISH SOUND OF SUNSHINE POP 1967-1972             Various Artists

Firstly, my apologies for being a bit late with this particular review, this compilation was released last month, however my initial review copy went astray and I’ve only just received it’s replacement. OK so what do we have? Well it couldn’t be more succinctly titled. You may be forgiven for thinking what is ‘sunshine pop’ exactly? To be honest I don’t remember when i started using that description myself, for what has always been basically previously referred to as good ‘harmony pop’. According to David Wells, whose label Grapefruit Records released this new compilation. In the late 90’s an article appeared in the respected magazine Record Collector looking in depth at the American harmony pop movement of the late 60’s as evinced by the likes of The Beach Boys, Mamas & The Papas, 5th Dimension etc etc who brought the sunshine, surfing, beach culture to the rest of the USA all wrapped up in happy feelgood harmony pop tunes. Here in the UK we may not have had the benefit of all that Californian sun & lifestyle but we certainly had our own movement of harmony pop acts, even though they may have conjured up images more redolent of Margate & ice cream than bronzed beach bunnies. As British record collectors latched on to our take on harmony pop, Record Collector editor Peter Doggett coined the ‘sunshine pop’ moniker to add some weight to the genre & distinguish it from it’s American inspiration. This new collection boasts over 4 hours of all that’s best in ‘sunshine pop’ spread over 3CD’s containing a total of 87 tracks which mingles some well known names & hits, combined with rarities & previously unreleased  gems. And full credit to Grapefruit Records they have mined deep on this release turning up gems like a demo by Sweetshop ‘Millions of Million’s which was the first effort by what would become major band Sweet. The whole collection gets underway with the song that gives the compilation it’s title ‘What A Groovy Day’ by Harmony Grass who previously known as Tony Rivers & the Castaways were a pivotal band of the genre. Tony along with John Carter (Ivy League, The Flower Pot Men. First Class etc) were the undisputed kings of well produced catchy harmony/sunshine pop. It’s a surprise that ‘What A Groovy Day’ which was the follow up to hit Harmony Grass track ‘Move In A Little Closer Baby’ (also included in this compilation) wasn’t also a hit, it’s lushly orchestrated catchy hook is really very good. It sets the tone perfectly for the whole compilation. If like me you are a fan of great harmony/sunshine pop you will take delight in hearing songs from bands such as Orange Bicycle, Episode Six, Jason Crest (all bands I’ve worked with). If you’re not familiar with those names you will be with the likes of The Seekers, Cliff Richard, White Plains, The Hollies, The Tremeloes, Hermans Hermits etc, all represented by less well known entries but by no means less interesting. I think it’s fairly pointless for me to go spewing out a whole lot of names contained in this compilation, which unless you’re a die hard fan of the genre, you will probably not recognise, but let me re-assure anyone with only a passing interest in British harmony/sunshine pop from the late 60’s to early 70’s this really is a goldmine of treasures. However to choose a few personal highlights. If you always thought The Congregations 70’s hit ‘Softly Whispering I Love You’ was a great record (i do) here you will find the original recording performed by David & Jonathan (Roger Cook & Roger Greenaway) who wrote it. Another gem is The Alan Bown! with their version of ‘We Can Help You’ originally written & recorded by the great Nirvana (Rainbow Chaser). The aforementioned White Plains ‘Every Little Move She Makes’ deserved to be a big hit but inexplicably wasn’t at the time. So many of these great tracks just nearly made it but for whatever reason didn’t crack the charts or the big time. Even Grapefruit represented here with ‘C’mon Marianne’ struggled to find lasting success despite the full patronage of The Beatles behind them. Long forgotten bands like Tinkerbell’s Fairydust & Sun Dragon all deserved a better fate too. I’ve chosen to end this review by appending a video of Dorian Gray with his version pf ‘I’ve Got You On My Mind’ an upbeat summery classic which peaked at No 36 & earned Dorian an appearance on TOTP, his one & only. The song was later recorded by White Plains who fared better getting to No 17 in the charts, a great version, however I’ve a soft spot for Dorian’s version. As ever i salute David Wells for his wonderfully annotated 48 page booklet that accompanies this release in it’s sturdy clamshell box. Quite simply it’s the soundtrack to what will hopefully be a great British summer and will certainly put a smile on your face. Enjoy.

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Til next time…..stay safe….Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Tony Rivers: Move In A Little Closer – The Complete Recordings 1963-1970, 3CD Box Set


It’s been a long time coming, but finally Tony gets a comprehensive release of all his recordings from his career with the Castaways & Harmony Grass. I’m delighted for him. He’s a member of this (SMART) group & i know has many FB friends on the site. So, Tony if and when you read this review any errors that follow are purely mine! I’ve never made any secret of my love for harmony/sunshine pop as regular readers will know. Along with John Carter, Rogers- Cook & Greenaway, Tony is one of the most pivotal exponents of the genre to emerge from the 60’s. He’s been there & got the T shirt many times over and has nothing to prove to anyone. There, as usual, is an excellent essay accompanying this new release by Grapefruit Records boss David Wells with many insights on his career from Tony himself and i highly recommend you read it for the full picture of a man who like his 2019 autobiography title says ‘I’m Nearly Famous’. Tony’s story started back in 1961 when a 20 year old Tony Thompson originally from County Durham began working at Butlin’s Holiday Camp in Clacton as a lowly store clerk with ambitions to sing. It was at a Butlins Staff Show that he first got up on stage and sang a couple of Cliff Richard numbers, ironically a foretaste of one of his greatest successes that would come years later as musical director/arranger for Cliff during his re-invention & hugely successful period in the 70’s & 80’s. However back to the beginning and whilst at Butlins Tony met another musician which would lead him to eventually meet and join up with Dagenham band The Cutaways as lead singer. At this point Tony Thompson became Tony Rivers. The Cutaways played all the usual clubs, ballrooms etc of the times, they gained experience, members and managers came and went but by 1962 their latest manager suggested a change of name to the more catchy Tony Rivers & The Castaways and now a fully pro band they attended and passed an audition for EMI Records at Abbey Road in 1963. It was in April of that year that Tony first encountered The Beatles, supporting them at a gig at the Pigalle club following that year’s annual New Musical Express Concert at Wembley. Tony would later go on to be managed by Brian Epstein, but I’m in danger of writing his life story here, so once more i urge you to read the aforementioned essay for the full picture, lets get to the 3 CD’s contained in this package. I’m very pleased to see unlike some compilations this one lays out the tracks in chronological order which enables you to follow the development of Tony and the band. The whole thing kicks off on Disc1 with ‘Shake Shake Shake’ a cover of a recent hit for American Jackie Wilson & whilst it’s energetic and perfectly competent it’s not especially memorable, however it does immediately show off Tony’s voice to good advantage & along with the next half a dozen following tracks you notice the compelling harmony work going on. All the songs sound like they could have happily landed on The Beatles ‘Please Please Me’ album if they had just been a touch more catchy. But i could make that statement about a great many of the groups from that time. Things start to change musically when we hit track 9 ‘Til We Get Home’ a song written by Tony that is as close to a Beach Boys number as any UK performer has ever come. This was the result of Tonys new found friendship with Carl Wilson & Brian Johnson who he had met at EMI house in Manchester Square. It was at their suggestion that Tony & Co record ‘God Only Knows’ as a single (track 20 on this compilation) as the band themselves had no intention of doing so, it was just another track from the then unreleased ‘Pet Sounds’ In July 1966 Tony & the Guys released their version… on the same day as The Beach Boys own original version! This sort of combination of broken promises/bad luck/timing, seems to loom largely over the whole of Tony’s career throughout the 60’s particularly and beyond…Also to be found on Disc1 is the boys cover of The Beatles ‘Nowhere Man’ from Rubber Soul, and a very good version as a single it is. However, the ‘curse’ of the Castaways struck again when despite given a catalogue number by EMI at the last moment the release was cancelled by Brian Epstein who decided against releasing it. One of the best tracks on Disc1 belongs to a number called ‘The Grass Will Sing For You’ a beautifully constructed song that sounds like a cross between The Beach Boys & The Association, albeit with Tony’s own musical magic touch to the exquisite harmony work. Tony is no mean songwriter either CD1 concludes with his composition ‘Pantomime’ which has a whiff of psyche about it along with the trademark harmonies. After years at EMI with little to no success by late 1968 things badly needed to change. And change they did in came a new manager, a new producer Chris (Yesterday Man) Andrews & a new label RCA Records. In January 1969 this combination along with a name change to Harmony Grass finally rewarded Tony & the boys with a No 24 hit record with ‘Move In A Little Closer’ a gloriously catchy slice of pop, retaining the harmonies the band were renowned for, but also adding far more orchestral backing (courtesy of Johnny Arthey), a move, purist Tony wasn’t especially onboard or comfortable with.,.however nothing ventured…But again that earlier ‘curse’ i alluded to came back to bite them, when the very week ‘Move In A Little Closer’ was heading up the charts, the way in which units were sold and calculated for chart position was changed resulting in the band’s first, and as it turned out sole hit, being stuck in the 20’s when it should have been in a higher position! Although I don’t think in my own opinion Tony was as happy with his work in Harmony Grass as his previous incarnation, i personally prefer much of the material such as the beautiful ‘I’ve Seen To Dream’ (written by Tony) a very classy & i think more contemporary piece of material. Another choice track is ‘Good Thing’ to coin a phrase ‘God Only Knows’ how long it took Tony to work out all those harmony parts! The standout track for me though has to be another composition by Tony entitled ‘Summer Dreaming’, had this been put out in the USA under the CS&N name i predict it would have been a monster hit. I’m getting short of space now (as usual!) but room to mention Disc3 that is a first time on CD issue for some of the bands most popular songs recorded for BBC sessions in both Castaway & Harmony Grass configurations. To summarise, this new and much requested compilation of a British harmony icon will delight his many fans. Boasting 88 tracks, together with the splendid essay i referred to earlier, i congratulate Grapefruit Records on yet another winning release. As for Tony, he may be the only man i can think of to have the patronage of The Beach Boys, hung with The Beatles, been managed by the 2 greatest managers ever in Brian Epstein and Robert Stigwood, play everywhere you can imagine and work his socks off for a decade to only have one solitary hit to show for it by 1970. However, his story was far from over after that and he would go on to new milestones, but that is a story for another day and maybe another compilation. Enjoy!

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Til next time….stay safe…Colin

Mick O’Dowd… They were rumoured to have been the only band to play Good Vibrations live on stage. If true I just know that they could have done it. Even the BB didn’t include it in their stage act until later on. I have seen them a couple of times at The Witch Doctor in St.Leonards in the 60’s and they appeared on the Pier as well. Great band and highly underated. Thanks for this Colin.

Alan Esdaile… Not forgetting he sung The Likely Lad’s theme ‘Whatever happened To You’.

Colin Bell… Alan, I forgot to mention that!


SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing The First Class: Beach Baby – The Complete Recordings, 3CD Set

Hi everyone. Happy New Year to you all. Welcome to another year of SMART SOUNDS reviewing all the best new compilations & re-releases of classic material from the 60’s & 70’s. There are many exciting albums & artistes on the way. So, lets kick off the year with the release of a long overdue handsome box set compiling all the records credited to The First Class, plus a plethora of unreleased tracks, pseudonymous tracks, jingles & more. When Christmas comes around we all know & expect to hear Slade & ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ & when Summer rolls around you can guarantee you will hear the one track by First Class everybody knows ‘Beach Baby’. Its long been a disappointment to me that the vast majority of people never get past listening to any other First Class tracks, there is so much to discover & enjoy. At last, those lovely people at Grapefruit Records have compiled this lavish 3CD digipack, complete as usual with a well written set of notes by label boss David Wells. The First Class was the brainchild of a man who has featured in these pages several times, lastly with a compilation dedicated to all his many creations. That man is John Carter. For anyone who isn’t familiar with John, he is the man who started life in a band called the Carter-Lewis Southerners with songwriting partner Ken Lewis (Hawker), gave us The Ivy League, The Flowerpot Men, White Plains & many ‘one off” names over the decades. When it comes to harmony pop John is a titan in the UK music scene & The First Class was arguably the apogee of his achievements. It’s certainly a view i hold myself. Many critics back in 1974 when ‘Beach Baby’ was released referred to it as a UK pastiche of American icons The Beach Boys. It’s true the Beach Boys style was an obvious influence but there it ends. For years John had spent his time in the studio making records (& advertising jingles) & releasing them under different names as aforementioned. Although he would sometimes perform live he had no real interest in doing so, his love was to be in the studio creating. After years of collaborative songwriting with Ken his writing partner, in 1972 John’s wife Gill started writing with John when Ken started experiencing health problems. Gill’s way with lyrics brought a new perspective to the mix when she wrote an early hit in 1972 ‘Dreams Are Ten A Penny’ released under the name Kincade. Although not a hit in the UK it was big across the continent. The following summer in 1973 whilst John was watching the Wimbledon final Gill sat & wrote the lyrics to what became ‘Beach Baby’. Immediately seeing it’s more mature potential John came up with the tune & gathering together members of his usual collaborators & session singers, chiefly Tony Burrows & Chas Mills the trio entered the studio & ‘Beach Baby’ was born. The finished recording was licensed to independent label UK Records, owned & ran by Jonathan King. It was a hit single on both sides of the Atlantic in Summer 1974. My old friend & mentor John Peel, not really noted for his love of ‘pop’ music described it as ‘ 5 minutes of near perfection’, praise indeed. The success of BB led to the demand from King for a follow up single & more importantly an album. Using BB as a template John, Tony & Chas together with other regular contributors including former Shadows drummer Brian Bennett entered the studio & with all the songs written by John & wife Gill came up with the album. They had the clever idea of linking the tracks with a fading in & out radio presenter, as if you the listener, were tuning in your radio, complete with a whooshing & high pitched whine. The album simply self titled forms CD1 of this new box set. I believe it is not just a great pop harmony record, It is one of the finest albums of any genre to emerge from the UK in the 70’s & contains some of the most lovingly crafted, intricate & beautifully constructed songs committed to vinyl in those days. You may think I’m eulogising too much for a ‘pop’ record but trust me I’m very definitely not. I don’t usually struggle to come up with a suitable adjective to describe songs, when it comes to many songs on this album such as ‘What Became Of Me’ ‘Long Time Gone’ ‘Bobby Dazzler’ (the follow up single to BB) & in particular ‘I Was Always A Joker’ the right adjective is i believe ‘majestic’ (you can judge the latter for yourselves with the YT clip accompanying this review). John (who sang lead on ‘Joker’) managed to create an album that evokes the best of the 60’s records that contained a summer ‘vibe’. I love this album, even the inclusion of reworked versions of ‘Dreams Are Ten A Penny’ & early Ivy League hit ‘Funny How Love Can Be’ are not out of place or surperfluous. The original album is bolstered on this release by an additional dozen bonus tracks, many previously un-released. Although not commercially a huge seller King was still enthusiastic enough to release more First Class singles & commission a 2nd album. This was released in 1976 entitled SST (an acronym for Super Sonic Travel) & takes up CD2 of this compilation. As John was not expecting to produce a 2nd album for King SST doesn’t cut it in the way its superb predecessor did. This is not entirely surprising when you realise the songs were compiled together from disparate recording sessions which were not all primarily intended to end up on a First Class album. However, having said that it still has its highlights such as ‘I Was A Star’ another loving Beach Boy-esque pastiche, the plaintive ‘Childs Play’ or the multi layered upbeat ‘Life Is Whatever You Want It To Be’ Rather annoyingly (& it’s my one complaint) it contains the short edited version of a personal favourite in ‘Too Many Golden Oldies’ (the full length version is the final track of the compilation on Disc3). I wish it had been placed where the edit has been. Still a minor niggle. Again, like Disc1, SST contains a wealth of bonus tracks (including some nostalgic jingles that made me smile) & some interesting tracks, new to me I’ve not heard before such as ‘Broken Toy’ & the bands take on the old Brenton Wood track ‘Gimme Little Sign’. Disc3 completes the set with a huge selection of jingles, one off creations & all manner of other John Carter creations which although of interest to die hard fans, may prove to be non essential to fans of First Class & will probably be best appreciated by completists, interested in Johns full remarkable musical history. So, there we have it, the first review of 2023 & for me its been a great start. Once again i congratulate Grapefruit Records on doing a fine job of making this new compilation available, Its worth buying just to own that debut album alone. Enjoy.

for more information go to
Til next time…..stay safe…..Colin

to catch up on Colin’s previous SMART SOUNDS reviews …

Mick O’Dowd… Always thought FC were a one-hit wonder, disposable pop etc. Didn’t know about all the other stuff. I knew JK was prolific inventor of bands/singers and I was aware of Tony Burrows. This appears to be a very good compilation I must say

Colin Bell… I’m pretty sure knowing you as well as i do, you’d enjoy it for sure

Alan Esdaile… I was always a joker is a Great track.


SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Climb Aboard My Roundabout! The British Toytown Sound 1967-1974, 3CD Box Set

CLIMB ABOARD MY ROUNDABOUT The British Toytown Sounds 1967-1974    (3CD set) 

I have been eagerly awaiting this release. For a lifelong lover of psychedelia this is like unwrapping a highly anticipated present on Christmas morning. Grapefruit Records & head honcho David Wells have come up with another 24carat compilation in their ever expanding excellent catalogue. Climb Aboard My Roundabout invites you to get onboard with 87 tracks spread over 3 CD’s, running to over 4 hours, of the sub genre of British psychedelia that over the years has become known as ‘Toytown’. I have to say straight away that that’s not the name I personally have used over the years to describe this collection of examples of wonderful British eccentricity, but I’m happy to run with it, if that is what the aforementioned David Wells assures me is what collectors refer to this wonderful world as. So, for the uninitiated what is ‘Toytown’ sounds? Probably the most famous &  best known example that most people would know is Keith West’s ‘Excerpt from a Teenage Opera’ (or ‘Grocer Jack’) if you prefer, included here closing CD1. A deceptively whimsical tale of an old grocer in a very British town failing to deliver his goods on his round. The record has all the ingredients that make up a ‘Toytown’ track, it conjures up images of childhood, uses children’s voices liberally, contains sweeping orchestration & generally transports you to a wondrous other world full of cosy imagery, but within this world reminiscent of Trumpton, Camberwick Green etc there sometimes lies a darker heart. Let’s not forget that ‘Grocer Jack’ had a fatal heart attack! The whole genre really got off to a start when The Beatles released their double ‘A’ side single ‘Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny lane’ back in February 1967. The two songs both delved back into John & Paul’s collective, if different, memories of childhood & set the template for the 100’s that would follow in their wake. A whole phalanx of writers & artistes turned to the works of the likes of Edward Lear & probably most notably Lewis Caroll whose adventures of Alice in Wonderland has been plundered as the inspiration for many a ‘Toytown’ tune. I had my own flirtation with this world when my close friends in Ruperts People wrote & recorded ‘Prologue to a Magic World’ built around Alice back in 1967. The artistes that make up the majority of the records featured in this compilation will most likely be largely unknown to those not already steeped in late 60’s esoterica. But that’s not to say every artist is obscure. The compilation gets off in fine style with Jeff Lynne’s early band The Idle Race with what was nearly a hit ‘The Skeleton & The Roundabout’ featured here in it’s rarer mono mix which has a different ending with additional vocals. It has an irresistible catchy chorus. childlike bewitching lyrics all set to a mildly lysergic acid influenced musicality. And that description really sums up the basis of ‘Toytown’ songs for me. I unfortunately don’t have the space to give you a blow by blow description of every track, however, if you go to CD 1 track 12 ‘Peter’s Birthday’ by The World of Oz & listen to that followed by the next 3 tracks ‘Ha! Ha! Said the Clown’ in it’s original demo form written & performed by Tony Hazzard (a big hit for Manfred Mann) ‘Sad Simon Lives Again’ Tim Andrews & lastly ‘Uncle Joe The Ice Cream Man’ The Mindbenders. Those 4 songs grouped together encompass & demonstrate perfectly all the best qualities of the genre, the prolific use of whimsical orchestration, nonsensical, yet hugely entertaining lyrics, incredibly ‘hooky’ melodies & just a whole other-worldly atmosphere. Scattered throughout the compilation there are names you will recognise, like the aforementioned Keith West & The Idle Race plus The Herd, Consortium, David Bowie, Jigsaw, Spencer Davis, Nirvana etc but in all likelihood not with the tracks you are probably most familiar with. However, this is where the listener is hugely rewarded with golden nuggets that in a lot of cases have been lost, or indeed never heard, in the mists of time. Some tracks bring back instant memories for me,  for example i remember laughing myself silly when first listening to The Bonzo Dog Do Dah Bands album ‘Gorilla’ all those years ago represented here by one of it’s best tracks the gloriously silly ‘The Equestrian Statue’. In addition there is a plethora of rare and un-released material just waiting to be discovered across the 3 CD’s. I hope this has given you just enough of a flavour of all the candyfloss delights this compilation has to offer any music lover with even just a passing interest in this wonderful 1960’s world of dreams inhabited by fairies, wizards & all manner of fantasies. It’s the aural equivalent of getting out a long discarded Enid Blyton book & reading it accompanied by lashings of ginger beer! & returning to your childhood. Fanciful? yes, but so much to enjoy. Once again i commend Grapefruit Records for their attention to detail, from the sturdy clamshell box to the excellent & as ever, very informative accompanying 48 page fully illustrated booklet. Pull up a mushroom to sit on, make yourself comfortable, settle down with a hookah (herbal naturally) & enjoy!

Fore more information go to
Til next time…..stay safe & well…..Colin


Claire Lonsdale… Right up my street, and I think Colin, you and I were discussing the Idle Race a few months ago. I loved Climb Aboard My Roundabout. X

Colin Bell… Claire, I do believe we were, you’d certainly enjoy this compilation i know

Reid McDuffie… These Cherry Red compilations are bloody marvellous

Mick O’Dowd… Wow from what you have written a fantastic compilation. Excert from was the only decent track on the Teenage Opera album but what a track. Always loved Idle Race. Fave Bonzos was probaby Canyons of Your Mind or maybe Jollity Farm or the brilliant Intros and Outros. Great looking album!

Alan Esdaile… Great review Colin. Agree with you Mick on Bonzos Canyons.

Alan Wood… Indeed an early Xmas present for me, grocer jack in my top 15 and saw The Herd on the old Pier


SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Shape Of The Rain: Riley Riley Wood & Waggett, 3CD Digipak

Who? I hear you cry, well  in this instance I would echo that myself. I like to think after 50 + years in this business that even if I don’t know their work I will at least have heard of them, but I must confess not this time. So let’s investigate, come with me back to the end of the 60’s/start of the 70’s. Many bands had dropped their previous incarnation’s and gone ‘psych’ ‘prog’ ‘freakbeat’ ‘experimental’ etc etc. To cater for these ‘underground’ bands, the major Record Labels all created offshoot labels, EMI had Harvest, Pye Had Dawn, Philips had Vertigo, Decca had Deram and bringing up the rear was RCA with Neon. Now I have this particular quirk that remembers Record Labels (I used to file my mobile disco records by label) so I DO remember Neon but for another long forgotten band in Dando Shaft. In operation for just over a year from 1971 -2 the label only had 11 releases of which SOTR was number 7. Hailing from an area of the country bounded by Sheffield and Chesterfield the band came together originally as a Everly Bros style duo of cousins Keith Riley (lead vocals/guitar),and Brian Wood (guitar vocals before being joined by Keith’s brother Len Riley (bass) and Iain ‘Tag’ Waggett (drums).  The band’s name changed constantly, The Gear (inspired by their covers of Liverpudlian bands and Beatlesque sound) The Reaction was another and it was at this point they recorded a brace of demo’s and a local record shop owner David McPhie took an interest (he also represented Sheffield’s own Joe Cocker) and duly became their manager. With a name change to the more contemporary Shape Of The Rain all was set. This 3CD package covers their 1971 album RRW&W, a host of demo’s, outtakes, alternative versions, the demo’s for the aborted second album, a 50 minute live show from May 1970 and more. Disc 1 contains the original album kicking off with ‘Woman’ which, as noted in the sleevenotes, is a riff heavy pop/rock number sounding in structure very similar to Atomic Rooster’s ‘Devil’s Answer’ (co-incidentally issued on the same day!), this was issued as a single but didn’t trouble the charts at all, But this didn’t bother Neon, singles ‘weren’t cool man’ this was the dawn of the album…much cooler… After all the man in charge at Neon was Olav Wyper who in his previous life had been at CBS where he had dreamed up the much lauded sampler ‘The Rock Machine Turns You On’. Why am I banging on about labels? because that’s where the problem with the success or rather lack of it for Shape Of The Rain lies. They were a good sounding band, they wrote their own material, and where they didn’t ,had excellent taste performing material by The Byrd’s and Love. Now as any reader of my reviews, column’s etc will know Love is a band really close to my heart. Shape Of The Rain were clearly heavily influenced by the prevailing West Coast Sound, track 7 ‘Dusty Road’ is a prime example as is the following track  ‘Willowing Tree’s. And this is my point about success, had SOTR been on RCA’s main label there would have been more emphasis on promotion and put frankly money spent. To be fair even the band admit they were ‘musically confused’ but being hidden away, on a albeit ‘cool’ underground label served them badly. Their music is hook laden, delicate and contains some stunning arrangement’s, the Press of the time were impressed comparing them favourably to the like’s of Traffic and Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman took them to his heart as a big fan. So you had a commercially adept band hidden away on an obscure label, it was a no win situation as the fans of the ‘underground labels’ were looking for something more esoteric than SOTR and the main label fans of RCA were being treated to Bowie, Sweet etc i.e. the commercially successful acts of which SOTR could have been one. They have also been compared to Badfinger which I think is a fair comment, good hooky melodic songs and credibility to boot. The songs written for the second unreleased album show a growing confidence ‘The Very First Clown’ and ‘Listen To Your Heart’ being two examples.

The 3rd disc in the set is the previously mentioned ‘live recording’ taped at Manchester University (supporting Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) and given the recording restraints of the time is remarkably good, it captures the band in fine form (love the ‘Hendrix’ licks) mostly made up of new material at the time it did include a great version of ‘Willowing Tree’s from the Riley, Riley, Wood & Waggett album. And what about that album title? hardly jumps off the sleeve does it? I have a horrible suspicion somebody said something along the lines of ‘Crosby, Stills & Nash’ that’s cool man lets do that with this album. enough said! Eventually the band transferred to the main label and carried on til the mid 70’s before going their separate ways. Its a fact that there is more 60’s & 70’s music available to listen too today than there was then, incredible but true, so many albums never saw the light of day for so many reasons and some rightly so but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Shape Of The Rain and plugging a gap in my musical knowledge. Grapefruit Records have done their usual sterling job on the presentation of the set and the 24 page booklet contains many evocative photo’s and pictures of vintage poster’s and sound quality is excellent. Enjoy.

Til next time….please all stay safe and well……Colin

For more information go to

Tag Waggett… thanks for your kind words and thanks for an excellent review. Tag Waggett ( drummer) SOTR

Colin Bell… Hi Tag, good to hear from you, i hope i did your album justice, stay safe & well

Bill Griffiths… the first eight live tracks were recorded at Alfreton Hall on 2nd May 1970 on a Tandberg 1541 mono recorder and a Shure microphone . I was fortunately able to find a position at the back of the hall in an elevated position above the audience. the hall itself is not large being the remains of a former stately home of the Morewoods family, now a wedding venue. A couple of tracks were not included on the cd, possibly to leave room for the Manchester set.

Tony Davis… Really interesting piece Colin. As you say many lost bands of the late 60s and early 70s are now coming to light and bringing hidden gems to life.

Colin Bell… Thanks Tony, the review i posted yesterday of the 3CD set of bands covering The Beatles has some great stuff on it, which may well interest you, Cheers.

A.A.Matthews… Excellent notes about this band that until a few days ago were unknown to me. May I draw attention to Cross & Ross , another little known UK outfit from the early 1970’s. They appeared to be influenced by CSNY, the Laurel Canyon sound, and other West Coast outfits. Well worth seeking out

Colin Bell… Thanks for your comments A.A. I’m happy my review led you to discover a very interesting band

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Bubblerock Is Here To Stay Volume Two, The British Pop Explosion 1970-73, 3CD Set Various Artists

Grapefruit Records gave us Volume 1 of Bubblerock back in 2020 as reviewed here in these pages. Now they return with Volume 2 of a 4 hour wade through that first few years of the 70’s where a proliferation of songwriters turned singers, session artistes, songwriting teams & artistes were all pumping out 3 minute ‘bubblegum’ pop/rock singles at a great rate. Some stuck and became hits and established their singers/writers. Many didn’t & this new 3CD set brings together a dazzling mixture from both camps sitting side by side all waiting to be discovered all over again & indeed many perhaps for the first time. The whole collection kicks off on Disc1 with Barry Green & ‘Shake A Tail Suzy’. I confess i didn’t know before he went ‘Dancing On a Saturday Night’ as Barry Blue, Barry made several records under his own name which is really Green, all unsuccessful, so amazing what a change of colour can do! ‘Shake A Tail Suzy’ is a bizarre record made as a flexi disc (remember them?) give away single to promote Suzuki Motor Bikes, that starts with the sound of a bike revving and then thumps along in a Glitter Band style whilst a young lady sighs & whispers suggestively…yes it has to be heard to be believed! More familiar ground follows with the late Lynsey De Paul & her debut hit ‘Sugar Me’ (co written with the previously mentioned Barry Green/Blue) before Gilbert O’Sulllivan appears with ‘No Matter How I Try’, although i was never much a fan of Gilberts there is no knocking the fact he was & is a gifted songwriter with an original way with lyrics. The wonderfully eccentric Stavely Makepiece band who I’ve always had a soft spot for show up next with ‘Walking Through The Blue Grass’ which makes me want to dig out one of their albums and play it through. Next up is a rather weak version of ‘Sunny Honey Girl’ a Cook/Greenaway song that was a big hit for Cliff Richard but did nothing for Telford band Fluff whose version this is. The familiar strains of Madeline Bell burst out next with the joyful ‘Good Morning Freedom’ a hit for the band ‘Blue Mink she fronted with Roger Cook. Then a whole lot of the usual suspects follow with tracks from Jonathan King, White Plains, The Brotherhood Of Man (with Tony Burrows naturally!) & other less well known acts. Two honourable mentions go here to The Paper Dolls with their version of The Angels old hit ‘My Boyfriends Back’, a much punchier take, that i used many times over the years to fill a dancefloor. And secondly Sweet put in an appearance with what i consider their best single of their lightweight early pop singles, the earworm that is ‘Alexander Graham Bell’. Christie also weigh in with the oft forgotten ‘Iron Horse’. Having now got really into the groove we move on to Disc2 which begins with the grandly named Huddersfield Transit Authority who deliver a version of Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’. Now as many regular readers know Del was my first musical love & you cover his songs at your peril as far as I’m concerned, so I’ll comment no further on this version and move swiftly on! There is a larger smattering of the bigger names nestling amongst the lesser known on this disc with hits from Slade ‘Coz I Love You’ Middle Of The Road ‘Soley Soley’ Judge Dread ‘Big Six’ Clodagh Rodgers & The Tremeloes. The latter made me laugh out loud as the track featured is’ Right Wheel, Left Hammer Sham’ which i remember well. However just a few years back i was at a gig in my home town where the boys were playing, and talking to Ricky (the lead guitarist) after the gig i mentioned this particular track & was somewhat gobsmacked when he categorically denied they had ever released it! Well Mr Westwood here’s the proof! Amongst the unfamiliar acts on the disc is Dave Newman a singing milkman who won ‘Opportunity Knocks’ with his version of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ (and i thought i had heard every version of this evergreen hit). It just goes to show what makes these compilations a fascinating listen. Moving on to Disc 3 which gets off on the wrong foot for me with the awful (sorry Roger & Tony) ‘Gimme Dat Ding’. I never was big on novelty songs but this one in particular has always ground my gears. Fortunately things are swiftly back on an even keel with the inclusion of Track 3 which is labelled ‘Rainbow Chaser’ by Pica. Now ‘Rainbow Chaser’ by 60’s duo Nirvana is one of my all time favourite psyche/pop singles. I own everything Nirvana recorded. I was thus very surprised to learn that this version by ‘Pica’ was actually Patrick Campbell-Lyons (the writer & one half of Nirvana) trying his luck with a later pop/jazz take on his own classic. This is just the sort of thing that once again makes these compilations such an interesting listen & full credit to David Wells the boss of Grapefruit Records for turning up these forgotten delights & surprising old DJ’s like myself who thought they’d heard it all. Of all the 3 discs in this new compilation this final one serves up the most unfamiliar artistes and tracks and its been a joy to acquaint myself with names like Bruce Spelman, Rockin’ Horse ‘Julian The Hooligan’ what a great track!, Autumn, Deep Feeling, Boots & Shakane all previously unknown to me. There are a couple of sizeable hits included with Greyhound’s ‘Black & White’ & closing track Lieutenant Pigeon’s ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ which in common with ‘Gimme Dat Ding’ i really can’t stand & i wish the compilation had concluded on a different track. But overall it’s a small niggle in comparision to all the enjoyment i have experienced discovering some gems that I’ve never heard before. As ever there hasn’t been enough space to include every single track, but i trust i have given you a good taste of what’s on offer. Once again David Wells has done a superb job with the 48 page accompanying booklet that contains a wealth of info and photo’s of the artists featured.  I know from my own experience just how much time and love it takes researching all the details. If you have any interest in the early 70’s pop/rock period you will enjoy, as have i, this journey through a land of long forgotten pleasures. Enjoy.

for more information go to

Til next time….stay safe & well…..Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing John Carter: My World Fell Down – The John Carter Story, 4CD

JOHN CARTER    ‘My World Fell Down’ – The John Carter Story

If like me you are a big fan of harmony pop, then you will instantly know who John Carter is, if not, but however you grew up as i did in the 60’s you will know him, even if you think otherwise, through a myriad number of names and hit records. John is simply a legend. As a singer, writer, producer, arranger, engineer, he has few equals in pop music history. Over the years various compilations have been released focussing on different phases of his career. At last the excellent Grapefruit Records have managed to put together a pretty much definitive collection spanning John’s illustrious career spread over 4 CD’s boasting over 100 tracks. His story began in the late 50’s when schoolfriends John Shakespeare and Ken Hawker formed a skiffle band in their native Birmingham writing Buddy Holly type songs and gaining experience. In 1960 the duo made the pilgrimage to London and under their pseudonyms of John Carter (born Shakespeare) and Ken Lewis (Born Hawker) made the rounds and gained a management deal. The pair were convinced to form a band to showcase their material and the result was Carter-Lewis & The Southerners. Making a brief stint as their lead guitarist was the ubiquitous Jimmy Page. The band gigged extensively, including locally on Hastings Pier and The Witch Doctor. Although successful as a working band record success eluded them until 1964 when they met an engineer working at a record studio in Denmark Street by the name of Perry Ford. Noting the 3 men’s voices blended well together whilst making demo’s John got them signed to Pye Records and after a few false starts they saw their career take off, firstly when Herman’s Hermits recorded one of John & Ken’s songs ‘Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat’ taking the single all the way to No 2 in the US. It was also a minor hit in the UK for Goldie & The Gingerbreads. In 1965 after providing backing vocals on The Who’s debut hit ‘I Can’t Explain’ John, Ken & Perry now renamed as The Ivy League scored 2 massive hits with ‘Funny How Love Can Be’ & ‘Tossing And Turning’ and the rest as they say is history. And oh what a glorious history it’s been. Never particularly comfortable with performing in 1966 John took a back seat to concentrate on writing and production. His place in The Ivy league being taken by one Tony Burrows. John along with new song writing partner Geoff Stephens wrote the title track of this new Grapefruit compilation ‘My World Fell Down’ for The Ivy League, it’s wonderful complex and intricate harmony arrangement can now be viewed in retrospect as something of a template for what i and others consider his 2 greatest creations, the pop/psychedelic band The Flowerpot Men and Britain’s answer to The Beach Boys in the form of The First Class. Even when John stepped away from creating and was just doing a favour as vocalist for a fellow song writing friend (Geoff), he found himself at No 1 in the USA as the lead vocalist on The New Vaudeville’s Band ‘Winchester Cathedral’. In 1967 John and Ken formed their own production company (Sunny Records). From then on John would go on to create the aforementioned Flowerpot Men, The First Class, Stamford Bridge, Kincade and a plethora of other names the majority of which can be found on these 4 discs. His output has been to say at the very least prodigious. He even entered Eurovision territory writing Mary Hopkins second placed ‘Knock Knock Who’s There?’. As you can clearly see there is so much to John i could write a novel! But returning to this new release, on Disc1 you can follow his progress from the beginning with the early Carter Lewis offerings, The Ivy League. the demo’s for The New Vaudeville Band and ‘Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat’ amongst many others. Disc2 offers up (for me) his finest work with the impeccable Flowerpot Men and in particular ‘Let’s Go To San Francisco’ and happily it’s at last put together as one track instead of Parts 1 & 2 as it originally appeared, as separate A & B sides when first released back in 1967. And contrary to what seems to be popular belief over the years, it was John that sang the lead vocal NOT Tony Burrows! (he was on backing) and Tony performed in the touring band and on TV. This is followed by the equally glorious follow up single ‘Walk In The Sky’ and more less well known FPM cuts .You can also hear demo’s for what ultimately became hits for Herman’s Hermits in the shape of ‘Sunshine Girl’ and ‘My Sentimental Friend’ and a further extensive selection of other demo’s. Disc3 concentrates on more demo’s and various differently named offerings from John including a track for Ohio Express, who you may remember as the American ‘bubblegum’ act that had a huge No 1 with ;Yummy Yummy Yummy’. It also showcases 2 of John’s more longer running pseudonyms The Haystack and Stamford Bridge. Disc4 opens with more tracks from Stamford Bridge, followed by many tracks by yet more of Johns’ creations such as Scarecrow, Stormy Petrel, The London Boys & Sequola. Two tracks appear from Kincade including the big hit ‘Dreams Are Ten A Penny’ before we are treated to what many other reviewers/critics consider his finest work, with the band The First Class. There is no doubt that ‘Beach Baby’ the most well known of First Class tracks is a tour-de-force of writing, production and brilliant vocal work that critics have hailed time and again as being up there with some of Brian Wilson’s best offerings. It’s certainly true that since it’s release all the way back in 1974 it’s been a staple of radio programmers (particularly in summer) and still sounds as fresh as ever. But there was more to First Class than just BB, have a listen to ‘What Became Of Me’ and especially ‘I Was Always The Joker’ (a big personal favourite) both phenomenally good compositions. This comprehensive, marvellously put together, new in depth overview of John’s work actually concludes with a track by First Class I’ve played so many times on my radio shows entitled aptly ‘Too Many Golden Oldies’. Could there ever be such a situation/question?…..with John Carter at the helm?….nah…….definitely not. As ever i have only been able to impart a portion of all the information on John that is available without writing a book, the accompanying booklet to the compilation does an admirable job and i was lucky enough back in the late 60’s early 70’s to be friends with Pete and Robin who were members of The Flowerpot Men and the band they morphed into in the shape of White Plains. So for me this release has been a hugely enjoyable nostalgic trip bringing back some memorable moments. The compilation is released this Friday (18th) the same day as the next SMART meet, see you there! Enjoy.

For more information go to
Til next time………stay safe……Colin


Alan Esdaile… Great track.

Robert Searle… Alan, Great track, great production, great vocals.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Once Upon A Time In The West Midlands – The Bostin’ Sounds Of Brumrock 1966-1974, 3CD Box Set Various Artists

I’ve been looking forward to this release for some time. Whenever we start talking about the 60’s and the leading bands and artists its inevitable we will start talking about Liverpool, Merseybeat and The Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Cilla etc, followed by Manchester with The Hollies, The Dakotas, Georgie Fame, Hermans Hermits, Barclay James Harvest etc and of course London at the very heart of things which spawned 100’s if not 1000’s of bands. But as Merseybeat began to wane in the mid 60’s and the ‘beat’ scene in general, another city was on the way up bursting with talent and boasting some musicians destined to be at the forefront of the music scene, some to this present day. That city was Birmingham and this new 3CD box set is devoted as the title says to ‘Brum Rock’.  When you start to list just some of the main acts you can hear on this new compilation you begin to appreciate just how much influence these artists have had on the world. So who do we have in the main league? The 2 most obvious ones are a pair of guys who couldn’t work together eventually, but between them created some of the greatest and much loved music of all time. I speak of course of Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne. Roy as any rock fan knows came to prominence with his band The Move in 1966 which Jeff was to join briefly before the pair of them started the Electric Light Orchestra and then due to musical differences went their separate ways with Roy forming Wizzard and Jeff developing ELO into the monster success it became. When i think of Birmingham its Roy and Jeff that first enter my mind swiftly followed by a man who fronted another huge band from the city. The Moody Blues, with original lead singer (and old friend) of many years Denny Laine. Everybody is familiar with Denny’s lead vocal on ‘Go Now’ (not included here) but when he went solo he made a record that became the inspiration for a 15 year old schoolboy to get in the music business. That 15 year old was me and the record was ‘Say You Don’t Mind’ which is included on this compilation which i am so pleased to see, as the original version has been incredibly hard to find over the years since it was initially released in 1967. It became a bigger hit when Colin Blunstone recorded it a few years later and he did a great job, but Denny’s original is sublime. I could write pages on just Roy, Jeff & Denny but with space limited let’s have a peek disc by disc at some of the great music and artistes to be found. Disc1 contains tracks from the previously mentioned heavy hitter’s such as The Move ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ alongside Jeffy Lynne’s band The Idle Race with the catchy psyche pop ‘Imposters Of Life Magazine’. ‘Life’s Not Life’ from The Moody Blues and Denny’s ‘Say You Don’t Mind’. Other big names abound with The Spencer Davis Group ‘Moonshine’ their spin off band Traffic with one of my all time favourite numbers of theirs ‘No Face, No Name, No Number’. The Rockin Berries follow with the seldom heard ‘Yellow Rainbow’ and Chicken Shack weigh in with ‘When The Train Comes Back’. Notable mentions go to 2 more less familiar bands in the shape of Locomotive with the excellent ‘Mr Armageddon’ and The Uglys with ‘I’ve Seen The Light’. It’s also great to see tracks from The Move’s guitarist Ace Kefford after he left to go solo. Disc2 headliners include The Climax Chicago Blues Band, Medicine Head, Trapeze & Big Bertha who collectively may not have shifted records in the quantities that the main artists on Disc1 did but they all have loyal fans and followers. Scattered throughout the disc are also some previously unissued gems including the delightful ‘Dance In The Smoke’ from Kansas Hook, a band that arose from the ashes of The World of Oz, another favourite band of mine who released the psyche/pop near hit ‘The Muffin Man’, i recently wrote about elsewhere. The World of Oz also feature in their own right on the compilation with ‘Like A Tear’. Other tracks that stand out come from acts Tea And Symphony, The Californians, Bakerloo & Cathedral with the previously unreleased ‘Its A Hard Way’. Disc3 gives us the debut hit from Roy and Jeffs baby, ELO, with what would become the bands signature set closer, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, nestling alongside this is Roy’s undoubted homage to all things Phil Spector/Wall Of Sound with ‘Ball Park Incident’ which is nice to see, rather than the usually compiled ‘See My Baby Jive’.  Roy also features solo with his wistful rendition ‘Dear Elaine’. Slade crop up with a track i confess i’ve never heard before in ‘One Way Hotel’ which catches them in 1970 on the cusp of breaking through. The ever satisfying Steve Gibbons features with ‘Brown Girl’ & another favourite appears with Jim Capaldi and ‘Eve’. Proto metal rockers Judas Priest join the party with ‘Rocka Rolla’ a quite restrained rocker given their usual fare. The compilation climaxes with the aptly titled ‘Bye Bye Birmingham’ a rocker from Blackfoot Sue, best known for their hit ‘Standing In The Road’ but proving here they were a more than competent good time rock band. All told this 3CD set runs to over 4 hours, containing 69 tracks and i have only featured just some of my personal highlights. As ever, this release from the excellent Grapefruit Records, comes housed in a sturdy clamshell box complete with a 48 page booklet with a wealth of information and artwork. I’m sure the good folk from Birmingham and the West Midlands particularly will love this new package and look back lovingly on their local bands, but those local bands grew in many instances to be known all over the world and are right up there with anything Liverpool, Manchester & London produced. I’ll leave you with the record that started it all for me. Here’s Denny. Enjoy.

For more information contact…

Til next time……stay safe…..Colin

Leigh Mitchell… as always, very interesting…..xx

Alan Esdaile… Look what I found! Colin and Denny Laine.