Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The British Beat

by Bill Holmes

Here's another music review of a PBS My Music program this time titled The British Beat. Surprise, it's a compilation show of British Invasion singers and groups that was made in 2004. It's mostly live performances with just a couple of old tapes. Petula Clark was the hostess.

For those too young or those who have forgotten, a possibility if you were fully engaged during the decade, the British Invasion refers to the music invasion that occurred in the mid 1960's. Technically this was the second British invasion. The first one was in 1812 and involved guns and swords instead of guitars, keyboards and drums. I guess the 1812 invasion had fifes and drums but they were not the main instruments. I don't consider the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) a British invasion since the American Colonies were under UK rule.

Enough 18th and 19th century history and on to the 1960's. Of course the music invasion was led and dominated by the Beatles but they were far from the only Brits to crack the US music charts. There were warning signs of the invasion in late 1963 but the full assault started in early 1964. There were many great artists who emerged during this period. Some of the best known iconic classic rock music was released in the 1960's. A few of the singers and groups are still performing. So, on to the show.

The show opened with Wayne Fontana without the Mindbenders. He sang The Game of Love and A Groovy Kind of Love. Wayne has had a few run ins with the law and mental health system but he still sounds pretty good. Next came Peter and Gordon who sang Go To Pieces and World Without Love, written by Paul McCartney. They sounded great, but Gordon Waller looked like hell. He died in 2009. Peter Asher became a record executive with Apple Records after P&G broke up. He also produced albums for Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Cher and others. They were followed by Mike Pender without The Searchers who sang Needles and Pins, or should I say Needles and Pinza. He sounded OK, but I think it was lip synced.

Now on to one of the highlights, an old performance of You Don't Have To Say You Love Me by the great Dusty Springfield. It's a good song performed by someone with an exceptional voice. Dusty also had stage presence and charisma. Unfortunately Dusty died in 1999. It's one of my favorites artists and songs.

Host Petula Clark sang Downtown next. Petula's voice is still good. She would have been 71 or 72 years old when the show was recorded. It looks like she has had a little plastic surgery. After several good performances we were due for a clunker and Paul Jones, formerly of Manfred Mann, gave us one. He sang Do Wah Diddy Diddy badly. He tied for the worst performance of the show. Probably should have lip synced it because the voice is shot.

Fortunately we quickly got back on track with a fun, energetic rendition of Here Comes My Baby by the Tremeloes. The guys sounded good and seemed to be having fun. They were followed by an old tape of The Rolling Stones classic (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. One of the best ever guitar riffs. Then to change it up there was a combination of old footage and live performance of We Gotta Get Out Of This Place by The Animals. The producers did a good job of editing the taped and live pieces together. After that they did an all live version of House of the Rising Sun. Eric Burdon and his voice have a lot of hard miles on them, but he is still getting it done.

A couple of highlights followed. The Zombies Time of the Season and She's Not There. I'm a Zombies fan and those are two great songs. They still sound good. Colin Blunstone (lead singer) and Rod Argent (keyboards), the original heart and soul of the Zombies, are still with the band. I remember seeing the Zombies live in 1964 or 65. Continuing the upward trend, Lulu did To Sir With Love. Another favorite artist and song. Lulu looks and sounds great.

OK, so it's time for another dud and The Troggs delivered one with Wild Thing. That song has a good guitar riff but is not actually a very good song. Reg Presley never had a very good voice and it had gotten considerably worse. Reg recently died. This tied or maybe even surpassed the Paul Jones performance for the worst in show award.

Recovering quickly we have Gerry and The Pacemakers singing Ferry Cross the Mersey and Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying. Both good songs. Gerry Marsden looks bad and his voice is fading but it wasn't terrible. Chad and Jeremy took the stage next to sing Yesterday's Gone. The boys sounded good. They still perform and tour. Herman's Hermits did three songs, Wonderful World, Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter and Listen People. That's about two, maybe three, too many songs for me. I was never a Herman's Hermits fan. I thought they had a bubble gum sound and a too cutesy delivery. Peter Noone's (Herman) voice isn't great either. If I were the producer, I would have cut a couple of these songs and added a second or third number to another act.

To close out the show we have Denny Laine without the Moody Blues performing Go Now. This was another old footage and live performance mix. It sounded good but the live portions looked lip synced to me.

Overall it was a good show. It's both nice to see the old acts now and sometimes a little sad. Some of the old British invaders haven't held up too well or are gone. Others still look and sound pretty damn good. I guess it's the same for many of us that lived through and survived the 1960's. It's probably even more difficult for famous rockers who had all the advantages and disadvantages of the sex, drugs and rock & roll lifestyle. Regardless of how the bodies and voices have held up, we will always have the music, my music. For that I'm thankful.


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