Saturday, October 12, 2013

A (History) Lesson Perhaps..............

BALLOON BUSTERS-Alcock And Brown/Bluer Than Blue Canada Pye 7N 17748 1969

Despite being a military aviation enthusiast for longer than I've been a 60's music fan it was not until I heard "Alcock & Brown" by The Balloon Busters earlier this year that I learned the story of the intrepid airman Captain John Alcock (pilot) and Flight Lieutenant Arthur Brown (navigator). Both Alcock and Brown served in WWI as airmen and both were shot down and became P.O.W's. Post war in a Daily Mail sponsored competition in June 1919 they flew a World War I vintage twin engined Vickers Vimy bomber on the first non stop flight across the Atlantic from St. John's, Newfoundland to Clifden, Ireland.  Hailed as national heroes upon their landing they were awarded 10,000 pounds and were knighted by King George V. Sadly Alcock was killed in a flying accident just six months later, Brown passed away in 1948.  A statue of them both stands on display at Heathrow airport to this day.

Capt. John Alcock and Lt. Arthur Brown, 1919

Despite being on the Pye label I had never heard of it before, which struck me as positively weird because I was once informed by one of the gentlemen behind the Bam Caruso label that licensing fee for Pye/Piccadilly is reasonable and a great deal of the label's catalog has been comped to death as a result! It was not until my friend Larrry Grogan (of Funky 16 Corners/Iron Leg blog fame) came upon a U.S. copy on Chess a few months ago that I heard it for the first time.  I was immediately struck by it's  jolly demeanor, power pop precision and the fact that it told a story, which as research proved, turned out to be 100% true lyrically! The precision production (by old hands Howard Blaikey and Co.) adds to the catchiness of the tune and is a perfect late 60's British pop record.  There were no more 45's by Balloon Busters (though the single was released in the US, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Portugal and Canada, the last four having the same catalog number as the U.K. release).

U.S. Pressing

The flip side, "Bluer Than Blue" is sadly quite lame.  It's a piece of undistinguished pop/pap akin to something foist on late era Dave Dee and Co. or The Herd.  It doesn't work for me, sorry.

The original U.K. single was released on May 2, 1969.  Former member Colin Fox commented on YouTube:

"The band I was playing with at the time was called St. Johns Wood, but for Alcock and Brown Howard Blaikley decided they wanted to name us Balloon Busters, for obvious reasons. Although we were professional for a time, we never made it to the big time. All the band members I´ve played with in the past came from Eastbourne in East Sussex. "

Hear "Alcock And Brown":

Alcock and Brown's Vickers Vimy

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