Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: John's Children

JOHN'S CHILDREN-Smashed Blocked !/A Strange Affair U.S. White Whale WW238 1967

The fact that John's Children even got a record released anywhere let alone the U.S. is a miracle, this was their only U.S. 45 release (they even managed a U.S. only LP "Orgasm" but that's another story for another day) !  Back in 1985 I chose this track's title as the moniker for my short lived on again/off again modzine.  In the late 90's a group of younger folks in New York City were so moved by it they named their DJ night after it (which recently sadly came to an end after over a decade). For those who aren't aware of the band John's Children were a four piece discovered by Yardbirds manager/impresario Simon Napier-Bell in 1966 whilst on holiday in St. Tropez, you can read all about them and their meeting in his excellent book "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me".  The band's line up at the time of this single were: Andy Ellison (vocals), Geoff McClelland (guitar), John Hewlett (bass) and Chris Townson (drums), Marc Bolan would join soon after their second single which we've already discussed:

In the U.K. the track was issued as "The Love I Thought I'd Found" as Columbia DB 8030 in October 1966 (where a title like "Smashed Blocked" would not have passed the censors). The band's manager Simon Napier Bell used only vocalist Andy Ellison on this track and had the backing track cut by session musicians in L.A. (including, it is thought, the legendary Hal Blaine on drums).  It's nothing short of brilliant in my book.  It's title leads you to believe it'd be some four chord mod Who-Kinks power pop opus but instead it's a weird ballad of sorts, like the Walker Brothers coming down from an acid trip! Ellison's vocals sound weary, lost, confused while they're totally filled up by a brilliant barrage of instrumentation that's carefully choreographed punctuated by some cool horns and blasts of Farfisa organ.  The flip side is a bizarre ditty called "A Strange Affair" that is entirely spoken word (I'm not sure which member of J.C it is, or if it's any member at all) about an odd lad named Ernie who mows lawns in the cemetery with similar horns from the A-side and weird backing vocals that almost sound backwards at times!  The record went nowhere in the U.K. and despite Napier Bell's claims that the record was a huge regional success in places like California etc and that the group used the money they made from it's royalties to buy a club in their native Leatherhead, Surrey called The Bluesette I tend to take that story, like many others, with a grain of salt.  Regardless it makes good copy.

The original line-up 1966

Interestingly the U.K. issue only credits Simon Napier Bell as the composer on the A-side (on the U.S. issue he shares the credit with John Hewlett) while the U.K. B-side credits Simon Napier Bell and Andy Ellison.  The U.S issue credits the B-side to one "Fingers Groin"!

An interesting original German pressing that combines both of their first two A-sides, note second line up photo featuring Marc Bolan
A promo film for the track turned up on film a few years ago and was uploaded to YouTube, unfortunately it's backwards (the guitarists all appear left handed)but it's nonetheless brilliant to see.  You can view it below.

Both tracks are available on a variety of John's children CD compilations("The Complete John's Children" and "Smashed Blocked"), which are all sadly, out of print.

Hear "A Strange Affair":


timebox said...

This copy of the promo video appears to be in sync:

Wilthomer said...