Monday, April 18, 2011

I'm Into Something Good

British Invasion: Part 4
Continuing with this theme for another fun week, a group that was extremely successful during the British Invasion was Herman's Hermits, a beat band from Manchester. Forming in 1963 and fronted by the 15-year old lead singer Peter Noone ("Herman") who was already an experienced actor in a British soap opera, the group actually rivaled The Beatles on the charts and was the top-selling act of 1965. With their clean-cut, non-threatening image, the band had a string of hits including "I'm into Something Good," which reached the #1 position on the UK charts in September 1964. Written by the Gerry Goffin and Carole King (Brill Building songwriters), this song was arranged by Hermit's guitarist Derek Leckenby and was their debut single. Considering that Peter Noone had a certain similarity to a certain US president (JFK), Herman's Hermits aimed several of their songs for the US fan base that never saw release in the UK. What a fun bunch of lads!
From North London, another beat group that formed in 1963 was The Honeycombs. Unlike any group we're seen so far, this band actually had a female drummer, Honey Lantree, and the group's name was actually a pun on her name and her job as a hairdresser's assistant. The Honeycombs are best known for their debut single, "Have I the Right?," released in June 1964, which went on to sell two million copies worldwide and became their biggest hit. Known for its prominent drum beat, the sound was enhanced by the band's members stomping their feet on wooden chairs in the studio. Although the group was considered a one-hit wonder in the US, with Dennis D'Ell's strong lead vocal and Honey on drums, they remain a distinguished group from the Invasion.
Also forming in 1963, The Fortunes were an English harmony beat group from Birmingham, who hit their big break in 1965 with a succession of hits that continued into the 1970'. In the summer of '65, the group received international acclaim after their fifth single release with "You've Got Your Troubles," breaking into the Top-1o charts in both the UK and US. Later in the '60s, The Fortunes were also the voices for Coca-Cola advertisements, including a version of the classic "Things Go Better With Coke" and the new "It's the Real Thing" slogan in 1969. This live performance comes from the NME Poll Winners Concert (NME being New Musical Express, a popular music magazine in Britain), which was an awards event that featured artists voted most popular. Lead singer and bassist Rod Allen definitely has a great quality to his voice, though his look is not at all what I pictured (sorry about the poor sound on the video).
We'll conclude today with Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan, a "regular" around here at The 60's Beat. Coming out of the British folk scene, Donovan came to fame in early 1965 after a series of live performances on the pop TV show Ready Steady Go! in the UK, and with record producer Mickie Most (who also produced Herman's Hermits and The Animals), Donovan had several hit albums and singles throughout the rest of the 60's. Released in October of 1966, "Mellow Yellow" reached #2 on the US charts, selling over a million copies, and has since become his signature song. Although this song is sometimes mistaken for a Beatles song, Donovan was in fact friends with The Beatles (he even taught John Lennon and Paul McCartney his finger-picking guitar style) and Paul was actually one of the "partiers" heard in the recording. Despite the untrue rumor that this song was about smoking dried banana peels, it remains a classic example of 1960's fun.

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