I Want You, I Need You!: Garage-Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults.

Label: Playback Records.

Nowadays, the Festival Records’ vaults are a regarded as a musical treasure trove, and is proving a popular hunting ground for compilers and reissue label. This includes one of Playback Records who on the ‘4th’ of August 2017 will release I Want You, I Need You!: Garage-Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults. It features twenty-six tracks from The 5, Toni McCann, The Black Diamonds and The Pogs, who were all signed to Festival Records during the sixties, when it was Australia’s leading independent label. 

Festival Records was established in Australia on the ’21st’ October of 1952, by one of Australia’s first merchant banking companies, Mainguard which had been founded by Paul Cullen. He had bought two small companies based in Sydney, Microgroove Australia which was a record pressing company and Casper Precision Engineering. These two companies were merged and became Festival Records.

A turning point for the nascent Festival Records came in 1954, when it managed to secure the Australian rights to Bill Haley and The Comets’ 1954 single Rock Around The Clock. It became the biggest selling Australian single, much to the chagrin of the executive at EMI Australia who had turned down the single. For Festival Records this was a game-changer.

So was Festival Records’ decision to sign Australian rock ‘n’ roll bands. They were the first Australian label to do so, and they were able to sign Australia’s Big Three groups of the fifties Johnny O’Keefe and The Dee Jays, Col Joye and The Joy Boys and Dig Richards and The R’Jays. The popularity of the Big Three resulted in Festival Records’ profits trebling. Despite this, Mainguard was experiencing financial problems and Festival Records was sold to Australian property tycoon LJ Hooker in 1957.

The new owner of Festival Records, LJ Hooker was a music fan, and took an interest in the day-to-day running of the label.  A year after the label changed hands, Johnny O’Keefe and The Dee Jays’ single Wild One reached number one in 1958. Another of the Big Three, Col Joye and the Joy Boys enjoyed four number ones during 1959. To outsiders, Festival Records looked like a successful label. However, it continued to lose money, and in 1961, Festival Records was sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited.

Festival Records hadn’t been Rupert Murdoch’s first choice when he went in search of a record label. He tried to buy the Australian division of the American label Ampar. However, soon, the new owner of Festival Records was making his mark on his latest acquisition.

A then unknown Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass were recommended to Festival Records in 1962 by Sydney based DJ Bob Rogers. Festival Records decided to take a chance on Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, and they made a breakthrough with The Lonely Bull. It was a worldwide hit, and  its success in Australia lead to Festival Records signing a distribution deal with Herb Alpert’s A&M Records. This proved to be a profitable business deal, and helped transform Festival Records’ fortunes.

Under the astute stewardship of chairman Alan Hely, Festival Records became one of the most successful Australian record labels during the sixties. So was the New Zealand operation, Festival Records (NZ), which was a separate company, but was also chaired by Alan Hely. Festival Records was well on its way to becoming the biggest record label in Australasia, and would eventually surpass EMI in the seventies. By then, The 5, Toni McCann, The Black Diamonds and The Pogs, would’ve passed through Festival Records’ doors a decade earlier. They feature on I Want You, I Need You!: Garage-Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults which features twenty-six songs from The 5, Toni McCann, The Black Diamonds and The Pogs.

The 5.

The first group to feature on the compilation are The 5, who were a Brisbane based quintet. It featured vocalist Ronnie Williams, who up until late 1964, had been in a duo with his brother who sung in a local nightclubs called DBs. However, in late 1964, Ronnie Williams and joined forces with members of a band that had just split-up. 

It was also the end of the Williams’ brothers’ duo. However, Ronnie Williams asked their guitarist Barry Pearson to join The 5. Eventually, its lineup included drummer Peter Thompson, bassist Ian Jacobs, guitarists Stan Lenz and Barry Pearson and vocalist Ronnie Williams. They became The 5, which were signed by Ivan Dayman, who sent the nascent group out onto the Brisbane live circuit.

This he knew would allow The 5 to hone their sound and learn stagecraft. The 5 soon proved popular on the local live scene, and in 1965 the band moved to Melbourne. 

The 5 stopped off in Sydney to record their debut single I’ll Be There which was released on Festival Records’ Sunshine imprint in October 1965, with How Can She Know on the B-Side. By then, guitarist Barry Pearson had left to complete his apprenticeship and was replaced by Andy Paradise. He was only a temporary replacement, and Barry Pearson returned for the recording The 5’s sophomore single. 

This was There’s Time, which featured I Can’t Find Her on the B-Side. There’s Time which is a power pop cult classic, was released on Sunshine in February 1966 and reached the lower reaches of the Melbourne Top 40. Five months later,  The Five as they were now billed, returned with their third single Bright Lights, Big City in August 1966. Tucked away on the B-Side was the hidden gem, Wasting My Time which is one of the most melodic songs The Five recorded. Sadly, it was also one of the final songs they recorded.

Although they continued to play live until 1967, there were a couple of changes in the lineup. Eventually, the band ran its course and they went their separate ways in 1967.

Toni McCann.

Brisbane born Toni McCann was just fifteen in 1965, when she made her recording debut. Toni McCann was around at the same time as The 5, and they often shared the bill. Just like The 5, a great future was forecast for Toni McCann, who was known for her powerhouse of vocal.

There was much hype surrounding Toni McCann, who had signed to Festival Records’ imprint, Sunshine Records, which was run by Ivan Dayman. By then, Toni McCann had won a number of local talent contests, and was a familiar face on the Brisbane live circuit. However, when she signed to Sunshine Records, Toni McCann was sent out on a package tour where she played what was known as the Sunshine circuit. That was where many heard Toni McCann’s inimitable voice, who come critics would later compare to Wanda Jackson and Mick Jagger.

After returning from her tour of the Sunshine circuit, Toni McCann recorded her debut single, My Baby, with No on the flip-side. When it was released in July 1965 the fifteen year old vocal was billed as Toni McCann With The Blue Jays. It features a vocal powerhouse from Toni McCann, and a fifteen-second scorching guitar solo from Mal Clarke who wrote My Baby. Despite the quality of what’s one of the wildest Australian garage rock singles, My Baby failed to chart.

Four months later, and Toni McCann returned in December 1965 with Saturday Date, which featured If You Don’t Come Back on the B-Side. By then, Toni McCann was a regular on Australian television. Saturday Date which much more raucous and rocky than its predecessor, featured another vocal powerhouse from Toni McCann. However, it failed to find an audience and it was back to the drawing board for Ivan Dayman.

He hit on the idea of Toni McCann and Royce forming a duet, that he hoped would see them become Australia’s answer to Sunny and Cher. Toni and Royce released By Some Love in 1966, had a garage beat and influence, but again, failed commercially. After this, Toni and Royce’s singles headed in the direction of folk and pop. For Toni Royce, her garage beat years were over.

Black Diamonds.

The Black Diamonds were from Lithgow, in New South Wales’ coal fields. This was also where they served their musical apprenticeship, playing mostly, at local dances. Before long, The Black Diamonds were soon an accomplished band, and their music went down well among the people who by day mined The Black Diamonds.They were won over by the thunderous drums, pulsating bass line, fuzzy guitars and charismatic frontman Glenn Bland. So too was a local DJ.

This was DJ Bob Jolly, from 2LT, who thought that the Black Diamonds were destined for bigger and better things. He helped the Black Diamonds to record demos which were sent to Festival Records. These demos were heard by producer Pat Aulton, who saw the potential in The Black Diamonds.

Soon, The Black Diamonds was ensconced in Festival Records’ Sydney studio, where they would record their debut single. The song chosen  See The Way, with I Want, Need, Love You on the B-Side I Want, Need, Love You, which were both penned by band member Alan Oloman. When these songs were recorded, The Black Diamonds released their debut in late 1966.

When See The Way was released on Festival Records in November 1966, this memorable and melodic fusion of power pop and psychedelia passed record buyers by. This was ironic, as the Black Diamonds were one of the most accomplished of the Australian garage bands, and their carefully crafted debut single was streets ahead of many similar releases.

For their sophomore single, The Black Diamonds decided to cover J.J. Cale’s Outside Lookin’ In, with the hidden garage gem Not This Time on the B-Side. Just like their debut single, Outside Lookin’ In showcased an accomplished and talented band. However, Outside Lookin’ In was quite different from their debut single. It was a ballad, which showed a very different side of The Black Diamonds. When Outside Lookin’ In  was released in March 1967, the single failed to trouble even the local charts. For The Black Diamonds this was a disappointment, but they hoped that it would be a case of third time lucky.

In late 1967, The Black Diamonds moved to Sydney, and soon, they were a familiar face on the local live scene. Despite this, The Black Diamonds changed their name to Tymepiece as 1968 dawned. This resulted in a change in fortune for the group.

Not long after this, Tymepiece recorded The Bird In The Tree as a single. Around this time, Festival Records’ producer Pat Aulton asked the members of Tymepiece if they would record a song anonymously as his studio band The Love Machine. They agreed, and also agreed to record another single as The Tokens.

Pat Aulton wanted The Tokens to cover The Lion Sleeps Tonight, with The Lonely Hearts Club Christmas Party on the B-Side. Both sides feature on I Want You, I Need You!: Garage-Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults. Once The Lion Sleeps Tonight was recorded, it was released in the summer of 1968

By August 1968, Tymepiece were enjoying a hit single with The Bird In The Tree. Love Machine were also enjoying a top twenty hit and The Tokens were riding high in the charts with The Lion Sleeps Tonight. For the group that started life as The Black Diamonds, this was ironic. They  had never enjoyed a hit single, but since changing their name and adopting two separate aliases, they now had three hit singles in the charts at the same time. While this must have pleased them, it must have been galling that The Black Diamonds’ music never enjoyed the success it deserved.

The Pogs.

The last group to feature on I Want You, I Need You!: Garage-Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults are The Pogs, who were formed in Sydney by fifteen year old actor, singer and lead guitarist Rory O’Donahue. He had already appeared in a number of stage productions, but had decided to turn his attention to music and formed The Pogs. 

Joining Rory O’Donahue in The Pogs were drummer Paul Brownlow, bassist Roco Bellantonio and rhythm guitarist Nino Bellantonio. They were all older than the precocious and youthful frontman. Soon, the band were playing on the lucrative Sydney Northshore party circuit and became the house band at the University of Sydney’s Architectural revues which were organised by Graeme Bond. Playing at the revues was good experience for The Pogs, and resulted in them meeting Pete Best.

He was a friend of Graeme Bond’s, who had recently won a songwriting competition. Pete Best was looking for a band to record these songs, and The Pogs fitted the bill. Now all The Pogs needed was a recording contract. Fortunately, Pete Best had a contact at Festival Records, when they heard The Pogs signed them to their Leedon imprint.

The first single that The Pogs signed for Festival Records’ Leedon imprint was Claret and Tears, which featured Heidi on the B-Side. Claret and Tears was released in July 1966, and Leedon had high hopes for Pete Best produced single. Despite a slick, accomplished sound the folk-rock of Claret and Tears failed to find an audience, and it was back to the drawing board for The Pogs. 

Three months later, The Pogs returned with Now That It’s Over in October 1966, which featured Hey, Miss Thompson on the flip-side. Both sides were penned and produced by Pete Best, who was a talented songwriter and producer. Equally talented was The Pogs, on the rueful, melodic Now That It’s Over. However, just like Claret and Tears, commercial success eluded The Pogs’ sophomore single. For The Pogs, it was a frustrating time.

They hoped their luck would changed as 1966 gave way to 1967. I’ll Never Love Again was released in January 1967, with The Pogs’ Theme on the B-Side. Just like their two previous singles, I’ll Never Love Again was penned and produced by Pete Best. However, just like The Pogs’ two previous singles, I’ll Never Love Again failed to trouble the charts.

After three carefully crafted, but ultimately unsuccessful singles The Pogs, were needing a hit single. Leedon wouldn’t keep releasing singles that failed to find an audience. For their fourth single, the Pete Best composition Scenes From An Affair was chosen, with another of his songs Goodnight, But Not Goodbye on the B-Side. This was somewhat ironic.

Six moths after the release of I’ll Never Love Again, The Pogs released the cinematic Scenes From An Affair in August 1967. Sadly, history repeated itself when the single failed to trouble even the lower reaches of the charts. For Pete Best, it was Goodnight, But Not Goodbye.

In late 1967 Pete Best moved to Melbourne where he wrote advertising jingles. This he had experience of, having written the Aboriginal Referendum Jingle for the referendum in May 1967. It was sung by The Fogs, who after Pete Best moved to Melbourne, were left to right their own songs.

The Pogs changed their name Oak Apple Day, and released two singles. However, the change of name didn’t result in a change in the group’s fortunes. In 1972, Rory O’Donahue had returned to theatre, and Festival Records continued on their way to becoming Australia’s biggest record label.

By the seventies, the Festival Records’ vaults was a musical treasure trove, and forty years later, that is still the case. Many compilers and reissue label are beating a path to Festival Records’ vaults in search of musical treasure. This included Playback Records who on the ‘4th’ of August 2017 will release I Want You, I Need You!: Garage-Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults. It features twenty-six tracks from The 5, Toni McCann, The Black Diamonds and The Pogs. This includes singles and B-Sides, including many an oft-overlooked hidden garage gem.

The 5, Toni McCann, The Black Diamonds and The Pogs never enjoyed the success that their singles deserved. Not one of the singles on I Want You, I Need You!: Garage-Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults charted. Instead, each and every one of these singles passed record buyers by. 

These singles were very different, ranging from uptempo rockers, to thoughtful ballads. While some were cover versions, many were new songs were written by talented songwriters. These songs were carefully crafted by some of Festival Records’ top producers. However, the most important people were the musicians, including The 5, Toni McCann, The Black Diamonds and The Pogs. They recorded songs that ranges from raw, raucous garage rock to folk rock, power pop and psychedelia. However, they all have the one thing in common…quality. They’re also timeless, and were recorded between 1965 and 1967, which was the start of a golden period for music. A reminder of that period is the twenty-six timeless songs on I Want You, I Need You!: Garage-Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults, which features long-lost, hidden gems aplenty.

I Want You, I Need You!: Garage-Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults.

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