Sounds of the 60s: Garage Bands and Rock, Part 20
by Jack B. Stephens
Making a successful impact on the United States has often been difficult for several bands including those who some may perceive as part of the British Invasion. Sometimes the association of being a British band in the 1960s leads people to believe that it was somehow easier to reach success in America by being from the UK versus being from US. The fact of the matter is these garage bands faced basically the same path and hurdles regardless of their country of origin. This week we investigate four British bands that broke through in the UK while not receiving nearly as much attention in the United States. However, their later influence would be strongly felt particularly due to these bands launching the careers of some of our most well-known rock icons.
Arthur Brown formed the band The Crazy World of Arthur Brown in 1967. The original members included Brown, Vincent Crane, Drachen Theaker and Nick Greenwood all from England. Brown was known for his unusual theatrical performances combined with powerful vocals. Some of these stage antics included Brown wearing a burning metal helmet and other headpieces that he would set on fire. This combined with his use of extreme makeup, sometimes stripping naked during performances and other strange theatrics took the public by surprise. However, these onstage performances along with the bands music would influence other shocker bands to come such as Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson and several others.
The band released their debut album in 1968 “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown” which was a hit both in England and the United States. The album produced four singles. with one becoming a huge international success. The first single in 1967 “Devil’s Grip” did not crack the singles chart. However, the second single “Fire” became a huge international success attaining gold selling over a million copies. It reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1968 and number 1 on the UK singles chart. The single may have reached number 1 in the United States had it not have been that The Beatles “Hey Jude” stayed on top of the charts for many weeks. The singles “Nightmare” and “I Put a Spell on You” in 1968 failed to chart in the US. The idea of Brown setting himself on fire scared many concert organizers leading to trouble for the band. Theaker left the band because of a fear of flying and was replaced by Carl Palmer who later became part of the group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. However, the bands lineup shattered on their US tour in 1969.
The Herd formed in 1965 in London; however, three of the band members quit in 1966 due to lack of success with three singles. These included “Goodbye Baby Goodbye”, “She Was Really Saying Something” and “So Much in Love”. This led to a new formation which included Peter Frampton, Andy Brown, Gary Taylor and Andrew Steele. The band launched the career of the then 16-year-old Frampton. The first single with the new lineup was “I Can Fly” in 1967 which had limited success. However, the second single “From the Underworld” was a success reaching number 6 on the UK chart and was a hit in several other countries. “Paradise Lost” came next in 1967 reaching number 15. Their most successful single came in 1968 with “I Don’t Want Our Loving to Die” reaching number 5 on the UK chart. The group received little exposure or success in the United States. Even with the success in the UK, things were going downhill both internally and externally with the band through 1968. Their last single release “Sunshine Cottage” was not a success and the band fell apart. Steele and Frampton left the band. Frampton disliked the idea that some considered him a teen idol. Although the remaining members tried to continue on, the lack of success finally led to their demise. Frampton continued on to form Humble Pie.
The Spencer Davis Group
The Spencer Davis Group formed in Britain in 1963. The founding members were Spencer Davis, Steve Winwood, Pete York and Muff Winwood. They began practicing together and performing at several clubs with the name Rhythm and Blues Quartette. The band was spotted at a club and signed by Island Records in 1964. They in turn changed the name of the group. Their first single that year was a cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples”. 1965 saw the release of “Keep On Running” which was their first number 1 song on the UK Charts followed by “When I Come Home” and “Somebody Help Me” in 1966. All three were released in the United States, but none received promotion and failed to chart. “Gimme Some Lovin” was released in late 1966 along with “I’m A Man” in 1967 which finally were successes in the US as well as the UK. Both were million selling singles and reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Later in 1967, the original group began to splinter with Steve Winwood leaving the band to form the group Traffic. His bother Miff left the band as well for other pursuits in the music industry. The band replaced both and recorded several other releases; however, the new lineup failed to have much further success.
The Hollies began in Britain as a duo in the late 1950s consisting of Allan Clarke and Graham Nash. Eventually, the pair joined another band known as The Deltas consisting of Vic Steele, Eric Haydock and Don Rathbone. The newly formed group began playing as The Hollies at clubs in 1963. After signing with Parlophone Records, Steele left the band and was replaced by Tony Hicks. Their first and second releases in 1963 were covers of The Coasters songs “(Ain’t That) Just like Me” and “Searchin” both of which reached the UK Singles Chart. Rathbone soon left the band and was replaced by Bobby Elliott. In the beginning, the group was known as a cover band with their first UK top ten single in 1964 being a cover of “Stay” originally by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. This hit single was followed by several other covers, but the band began performing a large amount of their own material. Finally, they released their first original song “We’re Through” which reached number 7 on the UK chart in late 1964. Their first number one hit in the UK was “I’m Alive” in 1965. The single almost cracked the Billboard Hot 100. The Hollies finally broke into the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966 with “Look Through Any Window” which peaked at number 32. The band continued to be prolific with releases; however, breaking into the United States still proved difficult. Later in 1966, the band finally reached the Billboard Hot 100 with “Bus Stop” reaching number 5. Haydock had left the band before the release and was replaced by Bernie Calvert. The group continued trying to find their niche while playing sessions with various iconic artists including Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page. The Hollies had a series of international hit singles including “Stop Stop Stop” reaching number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966, “On a Carousel” reaching number 11 in 1967 and “Carrie Anne” the same year peaking at number 9. Despite these successes, the original lineup continued to deteriorate for various reasons. Nash continued to try and expand the bands range; however, he became disillusioned and left the band in 1968. What was left of the original band continued to have hits with replacement members into the 1970s with singles such as “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother reaching number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970 and “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” which proved to be their biggest hit in the United States reaching number 2 in 1972.
In thinking of garage bands and the British Invasion, some believe that groups from the UK had an easy ticket into the United States. However, this is not a correct assumption. Many bands from the UK had the same issues with success in the United States as did the American groups. We have explored a few of these in this article. One thing that all of the bands we have covered this week share is launching the careers of artists who would later have a huge impact on America. The fact is that simply creating a band, performing at clubs, signing a record contract and releasing recordings does in no way indicate international success. This is true for many bands regardless of their country of origin.
-Jack B Stephens
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Sources and Further Information:
Find Arthur Brown bio, music, credits, awards, & streaming links on AllMusic – Eclectic rocker of the 1960s who foreshadowed…