Blimey! Another hit!
Georgie Fame is a classic case study of an artist that just blew me away when I first heard his music. Later on, when I got into Mose Allison (to name but one of the greats from which Mr. Fame plagiarized liberally) my ardor for his music grew cool, and the need to hear it decreased as well. Then, even later on - my adolescent, purist scorn washed away by time - I found myself listening to Georgie Fame once again.
For those unfamiliar with the varied sounds and styles of Mssr. Fame (aka Clive Powell), he first came on the scene (at least for US listeners) as part of the British beat boom in the mid-60’s. Over in the UK, his blend of jazz, R&B, soul and Blue Beat had already made him a star. Blending his love for the vocals of artists like Mose Allison, Fats Domino and Jon Hendricks with his skills on the Hammond organ, Fame got his start with impresario Larry Parnes (the man who created Vince Eager, Johnny Gentle, Marty Wilde etc, thus the goofy alias). Parnes started him off as a backing pianist for his hit acts. After working for Billy Fury, Fame took the band, switched to the Hammond, and the rest as they say is history.
Within a few years Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames were one of the most popular groups in the UK. Swept up in the British Invasion, Fame and band actually hit the US charts a couple of times. ‘Yeh Yeh’ was a Top 40 hit in early 1965, and ‘Getaway’ making the Top 10 in some markets in the summer of 1966. Both the ‘Yeh Yeh’ and ‘Getaway’ LPs were released in the US and are worth picking up (surprisingly easy to find at bargain prices) , both for Georgie’s swinging vocals, and for slamming Hammond instro’s like ‘El Bandido’ (a personal fave, also available on 45) and ‘The In Crowd’.
Things cooled off a bit for Fame in the US (though he was still a big star on his home turf) until early 1968, when his 45 of ‘The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde’ hit the US Top 40 again.
A response to the Bonnie & Clyde mania (which followed the popular movie of the same name) that was sweeping the world (but especially the UK where 1920’s style fashion became a serious fad, i.e. New Vaudeville Band etc.), ‘The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde’ is perhaps my least favorite tune from what could be considered Georgie Fame’s “classic” era. I’ve never been a fan of stylistic bandwagon jumping, least of all when it’s done by someone that ought to know better (and is capable of much more). Fame sleepwalks his way through the track, though taking a look at the charts - where the gimmicky ‘Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde’ was swimming in a sea of bubblegum and soundtrack tunes – it’s not hard to understand why it was a hit.
Anyway...the only reason I mention the song at all, is because it carries with it an excellent b-side, i.e. ‘Beware of the Dog’.
The first time I heard the song it was a pleasant surprise, even moreso because I had just subjected myself to ‘The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde’. I was going through a period where I was picking up any and all Georgie Fame 45s, and since it was cheap (was back then in the 80’s, and still is now) I grabbed it and threw it on the stack. So, having winced my way through the a-side, I flipped the 45 over and things took a decided turn for the better.
There on the b-side was ‘Beware of the Dog’, a jazzy, funky Hammond instro. The tune features Fame, wailing on the Hammond, some heavier than usual drums and a cool horn chart. It’s not hard to imagine this tune getting a workout in some of the finer UK discotheques, as it has a late-period, dimmed-but-still-Swinging London vibe about it. One of the interesting things about the tune, is that at least in the US, it was a non-LP track, not appearing on the ‘Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde’ LP (a mushy, bland affair saved only by the presence of the smoking ‘Somebody Stole My Thunder’*). As I said before, copies of this 45 are very easy to come by at a reasonable price, and - as far as I can tell - it has never been reissued on CD.
CORRECTION: I just received this message from Georgie Fame authority Billl Luther:
Actually "Somebody Stole My Thunder" came out two
years later than "The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde", so
it's not on the LP. It was on his next U.S. LP
(albeit in live form)"Shorty" and also his U.K. LP
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