PLANET MOD-BRIT SOUL, R&B AND FREAKBEAT FROM THE SHEL TALMY VAULTS.

Planet Mod-Brit Soul, R&B and Freakbeat From The Shel Talmy Vaults.

Label: Big Beat Records.

The name Shel Talmy, means different things to different people, and many record buyers all automatically remember the Chicago-born producer’s work in Britain with legendary rock bands The Who and The Kinks. Others will remember Shel Talmy as the producer of the short-lived British garage rockers The Creation. However, how many people remember his production work with American blues men John Lee Hooker,  Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Ray Gates or with British R&B groups like The Soul Brothers, The Groundhogs and The Untamed? Shel Talmy worked with each of these artists and groups that feature on Planet Mod-Brit Soul, R&B and Freakbeat From The Shel Talmy Vaults which was recently released by Ace Records’ Big Beat Records imprint. It’s a fitting tribute to the American musical impresario and producer who only got involved with music after his dreams were dashed.

This happened when sixteen year old Shel Talmy attended  a routine check-up at his ophthalmologist, only to discover that he had retinitis pigmentosa, which was an inherited degenerative eye disease meant he would eventually loose his sight. For Shel Talmy this was a crushing blow.

Realising that his dream of becoming a film director was now in tatters, sixteen year old Shel Talmy was forced to rethink his plans for the future. After much thought, he decided that when the time came, he would embark upon a career as a record producer. While many believed that this was a pipe dream, Shel Talmy was determined that one day, his dream would become a reality. 

By 1961, twenty-four year old Shel Talmy was ready to embark upon a career as a record producer. Rather than knocking on the doors of LA’s recording studios, Shel Talmy headed to one of Los Angeles’ many music business hang outs to network with music industry insiders.

At Martoni’s, Chicago-born Shel Talmy met Phil Yeend, a British expat who owned Conway’s Recorders. The two men talked and soon, Phil Yeend, offered twenty-four year old Shel Talmy a job as an engineer. By then, Phil Yeend had already assured his newest employee that he would train him as an engineer.

Shel Talmy began work at Conway’s Recorders in early 1961. During his first three days at Conway’s Recorders, Shel Talmy was shown the basics, including how to work the board. After that, he was thrown in at the deep end. 

Over the next few months, Shel Talmy spent much of his time working with members of the legendary studio band the Wrecking Crew. They were by then, seasoned veterans who had a wealth of experience, and Shel Talmy was able to tap into their experience. Shel Talmy also found himself working with the Beach Boys and Lou Rawls during his first year as an engineer and producer. For Shel Talmy, his first year at Conway’s Recorders was a whirlwind.

Shel Talmy also found himself working with Gary Paxton, who having started out as one half of Skip and Flip, was well on his way to becoming a successful producer. Meanwhile, Shel Talmy’s friend Nic Venet was the A&R man at Capitol Records and allowed him to sit in on recording sessions with Bobby Darin. Through watching these sessions Shel Talmy learnt how to run a session which was all part of his musical apprenticeship.

Back at Conway Recorders, when  Phil Yeend and Shel Talmy weren’t working with clients, they spent time experimenting with new recording techniques. Especially working out the best way to record guitars and drums. The pair was interested in the advantages of isolating instruments during the recording sessions. This was unheard of, but eventually, would become the norm. Shel Talmy was already innovating, and would continue do so throughout his career. 

When there was some downtime at Conway Recorders,  Phil Yeend allowed Shel Talmy to try out new recording techniques. This was all part of a steep learning curve and this crash course in engineering and production would stand Shel Talmy in good stead for the future.

Especially when Shel Talmy decided to spend a few months working in Britain. This visit wasn’t planned, and instead, it was a case of curiosity getting  the better of Shel Talmy. During his time working with Phil Yeend, the Englishman had told him about life in Britain and how great a country it was. Eventually, Shel Talmy decided he would like to spend some time working in Britain.

Fortunately, a friend of Shel Talmy’s who worked at Liberty Records setup a meeting with Dick Rowe at Decca Records. When Shel Talmy went into the meeting, he wasn’t lacking in confidence and went as far as playing Dick Rowe acetates of some of the records that he had worked on. British record company executives in the early sixties weren’t used to such confident interviewees, but Dick Rowe, who was a huge fan of all things American, liked Shel Talmy and hired him on the spot. 

Just over a year later, Shel Talmy and Dick James founded a new label, Planet Records. This join venture was the start of a new chapter in Shel Talmy’s career. 

By then, he was well on his way to enjoying the most successful chapter in his musical career. This lasted seventeen years and saw Shel Talmy become one of the most successful producers working in Britain. During this period, Shel Talmy had the Midas touch. 

He discovered The Kinks when their manager Robert Wace took a demo into one of music publishers on Denmark Street. When Robert Wace asked if anyone wanted to hear the demo, Shel Talmy was the only person who answered in the affirmative. He listened to the demo, and not only liked The Kinks’ music, but realised the group’s potential and took the group to the Pye record label who signed the group.

Having signed to Pye, Shel Talmy produced The Kinks’ first five albums, and during this period, they became one of the most successful British bands. Especially within the ranks of Britain’s mods, who claimed The Kinks as their own.

It was a similar case with The Who and The Creation who were both produced by Shel Talmy, and became popular known as “mod groups.” Meanwhile, Shel Talmy was known as the man who distilled and brought the mod rock sound to vinyl. However, Shel Talmy also recorded many other groups who would become part of the eclectic soundtrack to life as a mod. This included The Thoughts, A Wild Uncertainty and The Tribe who Shel Talmy recorded for his short-lived Planet label, while The Trackers and Pros and Cons and others were independent productions which he farmed out to major labels. They join bluesmen John Lee Hooker, Ray Gates and Screaming Jay Hawkins and British R&B groups like The Soul Brothers, Groundhogs and The Untamed  on Planet Mod-Brit Soul, R&B and Freakbeat From The Shel Talmy Vaults.

The Untamed from Worthing, in East Sussex, England, released five singles between 1964 and 1966. This includes Daddy Longlegs which was released on Shel Talmy’s Planet label in 1966. However, it’s an alternate version of Daddy Longlegs that is included and sadly, was the swan-song from mod heroes The Untamed who open Planet Mod-Brit Soul, R&B and Freakbeat From The Shel Talmy Vaults.

In 1966, American bluesman John Lee Hooker entered the studio in London with The Groundhogs accompanying him and recorded an album’s worth of material. It’s also thought that British bluesman John Mayall played on the sessions. Before the album was released, Mai Lee which was released as a single on Shel Talmy’s Planet label in 1966. Later in 1966, the album John Lee Hooker With John Mayall With The Groundhogs was released by Verve Folkways. One of the highlights of the album was Mai Lee a collaboration between American and British bluesmen.

Another favourite of British mods were The Thoughts who released a string of singles during the mid-sixties. This includes their oft-overlooked cover Ray Davies Call Me Girl which was released as a single on Planet 1966. There’s a nod to The Who on a song that would later became a mod and freakbeat favourite.

John Lee’s Groundhogs were another band signed to Shel Talmy’s Planet label. They released the stomping R&B single I’ll Never Fall in Love Again in January 1966. The single was produced by Freeway Music, which was a partnership between Bill Wyman and Mike Vernon. They produced Over You Baby the heartfelt Brit soul ballad which is tucked away on the B-Side. Blazing horns and snappy drums provide a backdrop for this soul-baring ballad that is a welcome addition to the compilation.

During 1966, Shel Talmy worked with a number of American bluesman, including Ray Gates who recorded It’s Such A Shame for Decca. It was produced by Shel Talmy and released in October 1966 and was Ray Gates only single. Hidden away on the B-Side was the soulful and bluesy hidden gem Have You Ever Had The Blues?

In December 1966, The Corduroys released Tick Tock as a single on the Planet label. It was penned by the two members of The Corduroys, Tony Wilson and Norman Oliver who Shel Talmy hoped would become Planet’s house songwriting team. The pair also wrote the B-Side Too Much Of A Woman which is a memorable slice of British R&B that was released in American and Canada in 1967, but sadly failed to find an audience. However, Norman Oliver went on to strike gold after changing his name Oliver Norman and co-writing You Sexy Thing for the British group Hot Chocolate.

Goldie and The Gingerbreads were an all-girl group who were signed to Atlantic Records after being spotted by Ahmet Ertegün playing at party in 1964. Over the next five years, Goldie and The Gingerbreads rubbed shoulders with the great and good of music, opening for The Kinks, the Rolling Stones, The Yarbirds and The Animals. In Britain, Goldie and The Gingerbreads released four singles on Decca between 1965 and 1969. This included their  sophomore single That’s Why I Love You. It was released on Decca April 1965 and was produced by Shel Talmy. On the B-Side was The Skip which many people regard as the stronger of the two songs. It’s an dancefloor friendly instrumental where a Hammond organ plays a leading role in this underrated track that even today is a mod favourite.

Charismatic bluesman Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ recording career began in 1955 when he released You’re All Of Life To Me as a single. By 1969, Shel Talmy had signed Screamin’ Jay Hawkins but farmed him out to Phillips who released I’m Lonely in April 1969. It was penned by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and produced by Abe “Voco” Kesh and Milan Melvin. They produced the B-Side Stone Crazy which was another Screamin’ Jay Hawkins composition which explodes into life combining R&B and rock ’n’ roll. It’s a tantalising reminder  of the inimitable showman Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. 

Tony Christie and The Trackers one and only single was a cover of Barbara Ruskin’s Life’s Too Good to Waste, which was released on CBS in 1966. It was produced by Shel Talmy who was responsible for the Fuzz Mod pop sound on the single which marked the debut of Tony Christie who would find fame with Las Vegas, (Is This The Way To) Amarillo and Avenues and Alleyways.

When The Tribe recorded their debut single for Shel Talmy’s Planet label, the song that was chosen was Joe Mangiggli’s The Gamma Goochie. It was released as a single on Planet in  February 1966, with John D. Sullivan taking charge of production. The result is a mod friendly stomping fusion of R&B and rock.

Another group that was signed to Shel Talmy’s Planet label who only released one single was A Wild Uncertainty. They released A Man With Money in Britain in October 1966 which was arranged by Arthur Greenslade and produced by Glyn Johns. Sadly, commercial success eluded the single, which featured the Tony Savva composition Broken Truth on the B-Side. It’s another vastly underrated mod rock track, and is another song that sounds as if A Wild Uncertainty and producer Glyn John were influenced by The Who. Despite that, Broken Truth epitomises everything that is good about the mod rock sound.

The Untamed recorded I’m Going Out Tonight for Shel Talmy’s Planet label, but sadly, the song wasn’t released as a single. This was a missed opportunity from the group from Worthing as  I’m Going Out Tonight oozes quality and is reminiscent of The Who. Indeed, the vocal is reminiscent of Roger Daltrey on this mod friendly hidden gem.

Closing Planet Mod-Brit Soul, R&B and Freakbeat From The Shel Talmy Vault is the second contribution from The Soul Brothers, Goodbye So Long. It’s quite different from Searching, a mod friendly uptempo song long in hooks. Goodbye So Long is a beautiful, soulful ballad which shows another side to The Soul Brothers which featured Tony Wilson who would later join Hot Chocolate. It seems that compiler Alex Palao has kept one of the best until last. 

Planet Mod-Brit Soul, R&B and Freakbeat From The Shel Talmy which was recently released by Big Beat Records, is a lovingly curated compilation and is a perfect companion to Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production which was released by Ace Records. It’s a fitting tribute to Shel Talmy and is the perfect introduction to a groundbreaking producer. 

Whilst other producers stuck to tried and tested production methods, Shel Talmy had been experimenting and innovating ever since  he started work at Conway’s Recorders in early 1961. Since then, Shel Talmy was a blue sky thinker when it came to production, and in many ways, was similar to George Martin, when he worked with The Beatles. 

Back in the sixties, producers had to be able to think outside the box, as they were hamstrung by what is now regarded as basic equipment. By being able to innovate, some producers were able to make groundbreaking recordings  with what is now regarded as basic equipment. This included George Martin, Phil Spector, Joe Meek, Jimmy Miller and Jack Nitzsche. To that list the name Shel Talmy can be added, as he belongs in such illustrious company. 

After all, Shel Talmy wasn’t just a producer, he was also a songwriter and talent spotter. However, first and foremost Shel Talmy is remembered as a pioneering producer who worked with some of the biggest names in British music. His innovative approach to production transformed many groups, and made stars of The Kinks and The Who, who went on to become two of the biggest names in British musical history. They’re just two of the hundreds of bands and artists who were produced by Shel Talmy during the most successful chapter in his musical career. 

This period lasted an incredible seventeen years and saw Shel Talmy become one of the most successful producers working in Britain. During this period, Shel Talmy had the Midas touch and could transform the fortunes of bands. Sadly, not all the bands he worked with reaches the same heights of The Kinks and The Who, and some of the artists Planet Mod-Brit Soul, R&B and Freakbeat From The Shel Talmy Vaults didn’t enjoy the success that their talented deserved. 

Now just over fifty years later, and the twenty-four tracks on Planet Mod-Brit Soul, R&B and Freakbeat From The Shel Talmy Vaults return for a welcome encore. There’s singles, B-Sides, demos and alternate tracks that range from uptempo R&B dancers to beautiful ballads and songs that epitomise the mod sound. One of the architects of the mod sound was pioneering producer Shel Talmy whose career is celebrated on Planet Mod-Brit Soul, R&B and Freakbeat From The Shel Talmy Vaults, which is the perfect companion to Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production.

Planet Mod-Brit Soul, R&B and Freakbeat From The Shel Talmy Vaults.

2 Comments

    Trackbacks

    1. My Generation of Sunday 05 & Tuesday 07 August: Shel Talmy’s Mod Planet, Eirin Spilde, Jim Cregan [Ed’s Show 2018-31] | Radio 68
    2. My Generation of Sunday 12 & Tuesday 14 August: Johnny Hallyday feat. The Small Faces and Peter Frampton [Ed’s Show, 2018-32] | Radio 68

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