Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Part of my Past - Simon Dupree and the Big Sound (2004)

Once upon a time I bought two singles from Bruce's Records in the west end of Edinburgh. 'Sunday Girl' by Blondie (which my Auntie Lorna then sat on and broke) and 'Bright Eyes' by Art Garfunkel, which remains one of my favourite singles. Not that anyone should really care about this fact but those two purchases led, thousands upon thousands of records later, to my listening to Part of the Past, the best of the often over-looked Simon Dupree and the Big Sound.

It's not hard to see why they're usually over-looked, to be honest. For a start, they were British but not particularly long-haired or psychedelic (at least to start with). Originally called The Howling Wolves, they played R&B and blues covers and only switched to flower power, stripy shorts and sunglasses after their first couple of R&B singles died a death and they were ordered to change their name and sound by their record company.

Not that Simon Dupree and the Big Sound was the absolute best name for a pseudo-San Francisco psych band to have. The Big Sound are a mid-fifties group, dressed in matching suits and ties, booked to play the 'Enchantment Under the Sea' dance in Back to the Future. They're not a sixties psych band in home knitted kaftans, riffing off Love and the Great Society, they're a covers band, doing note perfect renditions of Pat Boone and Johnny Ray with occasional dips into the down and dirty proto-rock of Bo Diddley.

Or at least that's what the name suggests.

Which is a real shame as some of the tracks on Part of My Past (a double cd which collects pretty much everything they ever recorded), stand in decent comparison to anything on the majestic Arthur Lee and Love's seminal Forever Changes. A track like 'It Is Finished', with it's odd intonation and rushed lyric, would slip onto Forever Changes and nobody would blink an eye - but that's another one of the problems with the band as a whole. While I was listening to this in the car, I found most tracks reminding me of something else - a track or a band or just a general sound.

So 'It is Finished' is classic Love, 'Reservations' is early Kinks, 'Kites' is Scott Walker and so on. It's not necessarily a bad thing at this far remove, where a song which sounds like one of Scott Walker's better efforts is to be applauded, but at the time it must have made marketing the band a bit of a nightmare. 'Kites - the chorus sounds like the weird one from the Walker Brothers!' isn't an obvious promo poster in 1967, after all.

Still 'Kites' made the UK Top 10, even while it died a death in the States, but while the follow-up single got in the top 50, that was as close to mass success the band ever got. Within a couple of years they had recorded a single under the name The Moles, disbanded and then two of the mainstays of the band went off to found the far more dull prog rock band, Gentle Giant.

Interesting fact - one Reg Dwight briefly joined the band as keyboard player on a tour of Scotland. He didn't hang around but changed his name to Elton John and went solo instead.

Part of my Past is available here (under 'Easy Listening', which really just sums up the problems The Big Sound have had).

No comments:

Post a Comment