What did the American West Coast of the 1960s have in common with the British West Midlands? - certainly not the weather, but at least one innovative Hollywood record producer saw talent and potential in some of the local Birmingham area groups back in those days.
American record producer and songwriter Kim Fowley's earliest claim to fame is likely as the mastermind behind the Hollywood Argyle's hit record 'Alley-Oop' which sold multi-millions of copies in the U.S.A. during the early 1960s. He soon gained a reputation for his off-the-wall productions and by 1962 had a No. 1 hit record in the U.K. with the classically-styled 'Nut Rocker' by "B Bumble and The Stingers" - could this be the original inspiration for Birmingham's own Electric Light Orchestra? (see The Move).
Considered by some to be a "genius" and dismissed by others as "a freak", Kim Fowley went over to Britain in 1964 to check-out the music scene there. He was largely responsible for getting the Birmingham group The Rockin' Berries to record 'He's In Town' - their biggest hit in the U.K. The eccentric producer soon played a major part in the discovery and development of various other British groups - some who would become very well known later in the 1960s.
Ace Records Ltd. have issued 'Impossible But True - The Kim Fowley Story' (CDCHD 888) - a new CD compilation of Kim Fowley's 1960s recordings which includes two rare tracks by a couple of West Midlands groups. The first of these entitled 'Security' is an Otis Redding cover version by the Wolverhampton band The 'N Betweens. Kim "discovered" the band playing at the Tiles Club in London during 1966 and attracted by their raw energy, promptly whisked them off to a recording studio - convinced they would be "the next big thing".
The resulting sessions produced a 45 single 'You Better Run/Evil Whitchman' that sold well in Wolverhampton but was ignored by the rest of the country. The 'N Betweens version of 'Security' a track recorded during the same session, was issued on a single in the U.S.A. but soon withdrawn due to lack of promotion. The 'N Betweens line-up at that time was Dave Hill, Jim Lea, Don Powell and Noddy Holder - later to become one of the most successful British groups of the early 1970s after changing the band's name to Slade.
The other West Midlands related track on the CD is titled 'Daydreaming Of You' and was recorded by The Hellions, a group that originated in Worcester. The track was composed by hit songwriter Jackie DeShannon and originally released as the Hellions first single. Kim Fowley gave the recording a distinctive American west coast sound but despite its commercial appeal, neither this or subsequent records by The Hellions made any impact on the British charts.
The Hellions line-up consisted of Jim Capaldi, Dave Meredith, Gordon Jackson, and Dave Mason. The band evolved into Deep Feeling with Capaldi and Mason going on to form the internationally known band Traffic along with Steve Winwood from the Spencer Davis Group and Chris Wood who was in the West Midlands bands Chicken Shack and Locomotive. Gordon Jackson recorded a brilliant but ill-fated solo album in 1969 (see Gordon Jackson - Thinking Back LP).
This terrific Kim Fowley collection is crammed with a total of 32 tracks that span Kim Fowley's career during the 1960s and includes many rare recordings by groups he produced from both America and the U.K. The CD comes with a massive 36 page booklet of photos and extensive notes written by compiler Rob Finnis. For more information about this incredible collection, visit the Ace Records website at www.acerecords.co.ukCopyright © John R Woodhouse 2003