Blow My Mind! The Doré-Era-Mira Punk and Psych Legacy.

Label: Big Beat Records.

Format: CD.

During the fifties and sixtes many small record companies sprung up across America. Especially, in cities like New York and Los Angeles which were two of America’s musical cities.  One of these new labels was Era Records which was founded in 1955 by two cousins, Lew Bedell and Herb Newman.

The two cousins came from very different backgrounds. Lew Bedell had been a comedian but his career was at a crossroads. So he was on the lookout for a new career. Herb Newman was a music industry veteran who had started out as a West Coast sales rep for Mercury and later Decca. Having learnt the ropes, Herb wanted to form his own company. With his cousin looking for a new career, this seemed like the perfect opportunity for the two cousins.

Herb and Lew were like brothers. This had been the case since Lew’s parents split-up.  After his parent’s divorce, his mother took Lew and his sister to New York. They didn’t stay long in the Big Apple. Instead, they headed to Los Angeles where they stayed with Max Newman. Not long after this, Herb Newman was born. The two cousins were brought up together and later went in to business together.

With the financial support of Herb’s father Max Newman, they founded Era Records in 1955. Three years later, in 1958, Dore Records, an imprint of Era Records was founded. The rationale behind forming a second label was that it would double the chances of having a record played on the radio. Dore  Records would also allow Herb and Lew to release much more groundbreaking records. 

This was the case from the day Dore  Records opened its doors. Having released two singles, a young Phil Spector approached Herb and Lew with To Know Him Is To Love Him, by The Teddy Bears. When Herb heard the understated arrangement, he thought that if it was to be released on Era the record would be rerecorded. Phil disagreed. So did Lew. He heard the potential in the To Know Him Is To Love Him and agreed to release the track in its original form. It became a huge worldwide hit. However, for the next couple of years, Lew and Herbs opinions on music differed. Eventually, in 1959, Lew and Herb decided to go their own ways in May 1959.

It was an amicable spilt. Herb Newman continued with Era Records, but moved the company to new premises. Lew retained Dore  Records, which stayed at 1481 Vine Street, Hollywood.

Dore Records became Lew’s baby. He was a shrewd judge of character and transformed the label into one of the top independent soul labels of the sixties. However, there was more to the label than soul. 

That was despite Dore Records struggling to keep up with the changes in musical fashions. The British Invasion groups had taken America by storm and changed the musical landscape. Dore Records had started to released a more eclectic selection of music including pop and novelty discs. They were joined by psych and singles by garage proto-punk bands. However,  these releases failed to find an audience. 

It was a similar case at another label  founded by a music industry veteran. Mira was founded in June 1965 by Randall Wood, the former president of Vee Jay Records. It was the sister label of Mirwood but was a relatively short-lived enterprise. The label closed its doors for the last time in 1968. However, by then, just like Era and Dore Records Mira had released a number of hidden gems.

These hidden gems feature on Blow My Mind! The Doré-Era-Mira Punk and Psych Legacy which is a new compilation which was recently released by Big Beat Records. It features twenty-five tracks from the likes of The Syndicate, The Leaves, The Motion,  South Hampton Story, Yesterday’s Tomorrow,  John Winfield Jr,  Spencer’s Van Dykes,  The Search,  The Bees and The Tormentors. Some of the tracks have never been released before and make their debut on the compilation. 

Opening Blow My Mind! The Doré-Era-Mira Punk and Psych Legacy is My Baby’s Barefoot by The Syndicate. It was writen by Bill Rash and released as a single on Dore in 1965.  The group sneer and  swagger their way through what’s best described as a s slice of proto-punk that’s full of attitude.

Garage band The Leaves are best known for their cover of Joe. One of their lesser known songs is Do Me A Favor which has never been released before. It’s a stomping slice of garage rock with  a wailing blues harmonica that leaves a lasting impression.

The Lyrics feature twice on the compilation. This includes their single They Can’t Hurt Me which was released on Era in December 1965. The B-Side was the defiant sounding hidden gem So What!!. Both songs ooze quality and  have obviously been influenced by the British Invasion  groups. 

Another hidden gem which was only known amongst a select group of record collectors was Leave Me Behind by South Hampton Story.  It was arranged and produced by Christian Wilde and released on the In-Sound imprint in 1969. It’s trippy and atmospheric as fuzz guitars, Doors influenced keyboards and tight harmonies combine to make the world a better place. 

Yesterday’s Tomorrow released the John Greek production  Leave Me Behind on Dore in 1968. They were one of the garage bands signed to the label and the track is highly rated amongst connoisseurs of the genre.

Singer-songwriter John Winfield Jr signed to Dore in mid-1965 and later that year recorded She Touched My Soul. The original version of this folk rock track has never been released before features makes a welcome debut on the compilation. It showcases a talented singer and storyteller who should’ve reached greater heights.

Ty Wagner was still a teenager when signed to Era in 1965. A year later, he recorded his composition Slander which was produced by Don Ralke. It’s a riotous screamer full of posturing, angst and attitude from the still rebellious teenager.

I’ll Blow My Mind was released on Dore in 1966 by Spencer’s Van Dykes. It’s driven along by the bass and features an energetic and enthusiastic performance that sounds as if it’s been influenced by the British Invasion groups. 

I’m Gonna Dance by The Wrench is a dreamy and slightly psychedelic track that features Ina Sharoff’s vocal. It was released on Dore in 1969 and this hidden gem is one of the highlights of the compilation.

The Search was a group from the San Diego area who signed to the In-Sound and cut two singles at Gold Star in 1967. This includes Climate which was released which was played by some DJs on the West Coast. They heard the potential in a track that features an impassioned vocal and carefully crafted stop start arrangement. Sadly, the single wasn’t a commercial success because by then, the label was suffering distribution problems. For the group it was a case of what might have been?

Shame by The Front Page and Her was released on Dore in 1968. The group from Torance was one of the lesser known names to release a single on the label. However, it’s a truly memorable genre-melting track where pop, rock and psych melts into one on a track that was ahead of its time.

Forget Me Girl by The Bees was released on Mira in 1965. This was one of two singles the group cut for the label.  Pop meets rock on a carefully crafted arrangement with a memorable hook.

Cobwebs was a slice of theatrical or horror psych that featured on the B-Side of Simon T Stokes1967 single for In-Sound. It’s very different to his other contribution She Touched My Soul. However, he was a versatile vocalist and his second contribution is the perfect way to close Blow My Mind! The Doré-Era-Mira Punk and Psych Legacy.

For collectors and fans of sixties garage, proto-punk and psych the twenty-five tracks on Blow My Mind! The Doré-Era-Mira Punk and Psych Legacy will be a veritable musical feast. There’s many tasty morsels amongst the unreleased tracks, obscurities, B and singles. Bon appétit. 

Blow My Mind! The Doré-Era-Mira Punk and Psych Legacy.

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