Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults.

Label: Big Beat.

From 1962, right through until the early seventies, Chicago-born Shel Talmy was one of the most successful and innovative record producers working in the British music industry. He’s best known for discovering The Kinks and produced their first five albums. However, Shel Talmy also worked with The Who, Pentangle and Cat Stevens, and helped launch their careers. For over a decade it  seemed that Shel Talmy was the man with the Midas touch. This period  has been documented and celebrated by Ace Records, whose Big Beat imprint have just released Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults. It’s another reminder of a man who helped transform British music.

Shel Talmy arrived in Britain from Los Angeles in 1962, as a twenty-five year old. By then, his dreams of becoming a film director had been dashed. This had happened nine years previously, when Shel Talmy attended  a routine check-up at his ophthalmologist. That day, sixteen year old Shel Talmy discovered that he had retinitis pigmentosa. This inherited degenerative eye disease meant that Shel Talmy would eventually loose his sight. For Shel Talmy this was  a crushing blow.

Realising his dream of becoming a film direction was in tatters, Shel Talmy was forced to rethink his plans for the future. He decided to settle on the next best thing and become a record producer. Shel Talmy was determined that when the time came, he would make his dream 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 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. He allowed Shel Talmy to sit in on recording sessions with Bobby Darin. Through watching these sessions Shel Talmy learnt how to run a session. This 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.  However, 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. 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. However, 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 joint 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 answered in the affirmative. Having heard the demo and heard what he liked, Shel Talmy took The Kinks to Pye. 

Having signed to Pye, Shel Talmy produced The Kinks’ first five albums. During this period, The Kinks were one of the most successful British bands of the sixties. However, The Kinks were just one many band that Shel Talmy worked with after his arrival in Britain in 1962 and some of these bands feature on Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults.

This is an intriguing release, as over half of the songs on Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults have never been released before. They’re demos, outtakes and alternate versions of what are regarded classics of the beat group genre. This includes songs by The First Gear, Sean Buckley and The Breadcrumbs,  The Hearts and The Lancastrians. There’s also contributions by The Untamed, The Pathfinders, The Zephyrs, The Presidents, The Tribe, The Talismen, The Trekkas and The Rising Sons. Some of the beat groups on Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults feature twice on this new compilation, which is the third instalment in this occasional series.

Opening Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults is My Baby Is Gone which is the first of two tracks from The Untamed. They released I’ll Go Crazy as a single on Stateside in June 1965, and hidden away on the B-Side was the Lindsay Muir composition My Baby Is Gone. Ironically, it’s a much stronger track than I’ll Go Crazy and before long, the melodic and memorable My Baby Is Gone, which became a favourite of British mods.

After the success of The Beatles, new bands across Britain were formed and attempted to combine the sound of a hard rocking guitar and harmony vocals. This included The First Gear who released two singles on Pye, including A Certain Girl which was released in October 1964. On the B-Side was Leave My Kitten Alone, which features a young Jimmy Page on guitar. His guitar wizardry is key to the success of this hard rocking song from the beat era. Sadly, commercial success eluded The First Gear, and they didn’t follow in the footsteps of The Beatles.

The Zephyrs were formed in London in 1961, and signed to Decca in 1963. However, their stay at Decca was brief and they signed Columbia later in 1963, and went on to release five singles. This included She’s Lost You in February 1965, which features the Pete Cage composition There’s Something About You on the B-Side. It’s the stronger of the two tracks and is a truly memorable driving, beat anthem that would’ve made a good single.

When The Dennisons released Nobody Like My Babe as a single on Decca in October 1964, Lucy (You Sure Did It This Time)  featured on the B-Side of this Shel Talmy production. It’s a hidden gem that is almost epitomises everything that is good about the British beat era, and is too good to languish on a B-Side.

By September 1965, The Lancastrians were about to release their fourth single Lonely Man on Pye. It was produced by Shel Talmy and features peerless harmonies that are almost Byrdsian on this beautiful beat ballad. 

For Wayne Gibson and The Dynamic Sounds’ third single, the released Kelly, which featured a young Jimmy Page on guitar. Tucked away on the B-Side was a cover of an irresistible rocky version of See You Later Alligator that is one of the highlights of Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults.

In February 1966, The Tribe released The Gamma Goochie, which was produced by John D. Sullivan for Shel Talmy’s Planet label. Before long, the single  was regarded as a minor beat classic. Despite that, many record buyers and especially mods preferred the bluesy beat of the B-Side I’m Leaving which benefits from a soulful and emotive vocal.

When The Talismen released a cover of Bob Dylan’s Masters Of War on Stateside in April 1966, Edwin Johnson and Alvin Johnson’s Casting My Spell featured on the B-Side. It’s an urgent and hard rocking example of beat rock that is very different to the cover of Masters Of War. These two songs show very different sides of The Talismen

Another single released on Planet in February 1966 was The League Of Gentlemen’s How Can You Tell. Those that turned over to the B-Side discovered the wistful ballad How Do They Know, which  is one of the finest songs that The League Of Gentlemen recorded.

The Pathfinders were formed in Birkenhead, in Merseyside, England, in the mid-sixties and released just two singles. One of the songs that wasn’t released is Love Love Love which is a  melodic and memorable song that is a reminder of the Merseybeat sound.

When Stateside signed The Rising Sons in Britain, a cover of Goffin and King’s You’re My Girl was released as the debut single in June 1966. A month later, the Amy label released Talk To Me Baby  as The Rising Sons’ debut single. Sadly, commercial success eluded this melodic beat pop single when it was released in July 1966. By then, music had moved on and Talk to Me Baby had missed the boat. If it had been released a year of two earlier, things might have been very different for The Rising Sons.

Closing Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults is another song from The Talisman, Just Can’t Keep a Good Man Down. It’s a much more melodic and poppier sounding song that shows yet anther side to this underrated band.

Between 1962 and 1979, Shel Talmy was one of the most successful producers in Britain, and it would take a box set to do his career justice. However, Big Beat, an imprint of Ace Records, have just released Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults, which is their third compilation from the legendary producer’s back-catalogue. 

This time, Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults focuses on his work with British beat bands during the sixties. Rather than focusing on the obvious, it’s a case of digging deep for Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults and combining well known songs from familiar beat bands with B-Sides, alternate takes, demos and unreleased tracks. Great care has been taken when compiling Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults, and hidden gems aplenty have been discovered by the compilers. This includes a number of B-Sides which knock spots of the single, and are a welcome addition to Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults which is a reminder of one the great producers of his generation.

Whilst other producers stuck to tried and tested production techniques, Shel Talmy was constantly experimenting and innovating. That had been the case 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. This was similar to George Martin, when he worked with The Beatles. 

Producers had to be able to think outside the box in the sixties, 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 this 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 a songwriter and talent spotter and 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. Twenty-four feature on Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults,  which is reminder of a pioneering producer at the peak of his powers.

Planet Beat-From The Shel Talmy Vaults.

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