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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

~Nippy Sweeties~#1: The Choir/ The Journey Men

A Trove Of Obscure Sixties Pop, Garage & Psychedelic Wibblery!

One of the best things about the 'Pebbles' series of Sixties compilations is that they are so slapdash and chaotically thrown together that they sound, at times, like mix-tapes. Levels are all over the place, tracks have been mastered complete with the clicks, pops and static from the original vinyl releases. And, like the very best mix-tapes, they sometimes throw up nice little segues, neat little one-twos where two songs, sweetly juxtaposed create a wondrous musical sucker-punch that leaves you reeling and buzzing like an infant full of sherbet.
Thus, take Pebbles Vol 2, NOT the original release but the version that comes in The Pebbles Box, one of the greatest box-sets of all time, Side 2 Tracks 3 and 4; 'It's Cold Outside' by The Choir and 'She's Sorry' by The Journey Men....pure POP Heaven, both songs mixing the thrilling with the poignant. As you'll find in a lot of these Blog-posts on obscure 60s tracks, it's baffling that neither of these songs troubled the charts on either side of the Atlantic, given that they're both better than some of the stuff that clogged up the charts then....what were the parents of our generation thinking?

Let's start with The Choir.
'It's Cold Outside' is one of my favourite 60s songs of all time. Based around a pounding drum pattern, we're suddenly swept away on blanket of shimmering Rickenbacker guitars, before a melancholy voice intones some fairly maudlin lyrics; "Well my world used to be sunny// And jokes used to be funny// But now you're gone// And everything's turned all around// Well my world used to be warm// And there never was a storm// But now you're gone// And everything's turned upside down"....the strange blend of vibrant music and downbeat lyrics makes for curious listening, and then it explodes into the chorus; "And now it's cold outside// And the rain is pouring down// And the leaves are turning brown// Can't you see?" really is an amazing sound, like early Beatles crossed with an American Smiths if you will. And there's a moment about three quarters of the way through when the song changes key that makes me want to punch the air with joy!!
The Choir were from Mentor in Cleveland, Ohio and started life as The Mods, dressing in Merseybeat gear and filling their sets with covers of British Invasion tracks. 'It's Cold Outside' was released in 1967 by which time they were called The Choir and had progressed to writing their own material. After they split up they joined forces with Eric Carmen to create Power-Pop legends The Raspberries. Carmen would of course go on to score with perennial mawkish guilty-pleasure 'All By Myself'. The song was released on Roulette Records in the Spring of 1967.
I once won a fairly minor quiz/competition on a 60s Garage Online Radio Station and my prize was to choose the Garage song of my choice from their vast archive to be played on the next show....I chose 'It's Cold Outside'....THAT is how much I love this song.

And no sooner than it ends, we're off with a squiggly little guitar intro and straight into the galloping Farfisa romp that is 'She's Sorry' by The Journey Men. Like The Beatles 'She Loves You' this is a conversation song in which the protagonist informs his friend that he shouldn't be so down as he's just met his estranged girlfriend and she admits she was wrong to leave him. It rattles along at a fair old whack and the vocals have just the right amount of reverb to give the song a slightly sinister edge(you could imagine The Damned covering this), and the keyboard playing is simply inspired.
I like to think of this song as a response to the previous track. The protagonist of 'It's Cold Outside' mourns the loss of his girlfriend only to have the principal figure of 'She's Sorry' reveal that everything is going to be alright and that he wasn't to blame.

Here's what we know about The Journey Men; they came from Tampa, Florida, this was their only release, on Boss Records in 1965....and that's it!! That is ALL we know. Now, the Internet, being so full of erroneous information, would have us believe that The Journey Men were a folk-trio that featured John Phillips of The Mamas And The Papas, and Scott McKenzie of 'San Francisco(Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)' fame who released three albums, but this is incorrect. They were called The Journeymen and sounded nothing like this.

Put simply then, these are two of the greatest songs in musical history and to fully appreciate them you have to hear them back-to-back and in this order.

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  1. The Journeymen were NOT from Florida but from Brunswick OHIO, A Cleveland suburb--My High school English teacher was the keyboard player.

  2. Thanks for the comment Ed.

    All the info was cribbed from 'The Pebbles Box' which, being an 'official' Bootleg, is unreliable at most.
    Tell your English teacher that he is extremely talented and has made some rather sad Scottish musos very happy indeed over the last 20 years!!