Monday, March 9, 2015

The Mindbenders- 10 Top Tunes You Should Know

Manchester's Mindbenders career without Wayne Fontana was brief, barely three years. The trio were: Eric Stewart (Lead vocals/guitar), Bob Land (bass) and Ric Rothwell (drums). As short lived as they were they managed quite a few amazing tracks in this period after just two U.K. LP's and just 9 singles.  Since they are not terribly well known I decided it would be amusing to profile 10 of their more interesting recordings.

1. "My New Day And Age" single B-side U.K. Fontana TF 869 1967
Released as the flip to the band's cover of The Box Top's smash "The Letter" this group original (composed by lead singer/guitarist Eric Stewart) was allegedly written for Family (who presumably never cut a version). By far the band's most progressive tune thanks to some very 1967 effects (backwards guitars, a buzzing raga guitar solo, phlanging etc) and would've made a far better A-side which as you will read was often the case with this group.

2. "Schoolgirl" single U.K. U.K. Fontana TF 877 1967
Far punchier than the orchestrated version that was later recut for the band's 2nd LP "With Woman In Mind" this single allegedly skirted controversy at the time for it's lyrics (via Graham Gouldman) about a grad student who gets seduced, deflowered, knocked up and abandoned.  It's delivery is punchy accented by some near Eastern sounding licks, a fierce driving rhythm section and some high backing vocals.

3. "It's Getting Harder All The Time" single U.S. Fontana F-1595 1967
From the film "To Sir With Love" (where the band can be seen performing this at the end of term dance scene) this tune was released as a single in the U.S. (with "Off And Running", another tune heard in the film as it's flip). It's one of their most powerful numbers with some almost ska like chopping chords, a blistering/distorted solo and solid vocals.

Whatta gig! July 1966

4. "Uncle Joe The Ice Cream Man" single U.K. Fontana TF 961 1968
This Graham Gouldman track was the band's last U.K. single before disintegrating (Gouldman had recently joined the band which by now had new members Jimmy O'Neill on bass and Paul Hancox on drums). A Mindbenders CD I have states that the band were cutting this track at Olympic studios when Mick  Jagger (who was working on "Beggars Banquet" at the studio) strolled in and said "Why are you singing this shit?".  Regardless of Sir Mick's assessment this number is a decent candy floss type pop-psych song with some great pop hooks, strings and groovy harmonies.

5. "Can't Live With You, Can't Live Without You" single U.K. Fontana TF 967
The band's second 45 after their debut "Groovy Kind Of Love" (their biggest hit, #2 in both the U.K. and U.S.A) failed to live up to the chart potential of it's schlocky predecessor.  Nevertheless it's a decent beat/ballad relying on a nifty little riff and some standard slick Mindbenders harmonies.

6. "The Morning After" single B-side U.K. Fonana TF 780 1966
Profiled in an earlier entry this B-side of the band's version of The Zombie's "I Want Her She Wants Me" (released two years prior to The Zombies) is the Mindbenders strongest track in my book, hands down.  From it's freakbeat guitar licks to it's "ba ba baa" backing chorus it's damned infectious and sticks in your cranium instantly when you hear it.

7. "Far Across Town" single B-side U.K. Fontana TF 806 1967
This flip of the soppy "We'll Talk About It Tomorrow" was written by bassist Bob Lang and is one of the handful of original compositions the band did. It's a perfect melding of "beat" and "freakbeat" with a powerful delivery and cool backing harmonies that recalls what The Searchers could've sounded like with a little more "ooomph!" in 1967.

8. "Yellow Brick Road" single B-side U.K. Fontana TF 910 1968
Starting out with this funky percussion groove reminiscent of The The Turtle's "I'm Chief Kamanawanalea (We're The Royal Macadamia Nuts)" this flip of  the plastic soul meets harmony pop of "Blessed Are The Lonely" is an interesting number.  It's quirky with weird phlanged piano and a funky groove thanks to some fluid basslines and some Beatle-esque bits (and a psychedelic requirement: a nonsensical spoken word bit in a Home Counties accent), despite it's cod psychedelia it's an outstanding track .

Portuguese E.P. 1967

9. "Airport People" U.K. LP track "With Woman In Mind" Fontana TL 5403 1967
This  Martin/Coulter composition from the band's April 1967 2nd LP was oddly also covered by The Roulettes on Fontana on the flip of the next to last 45 (TF 822). I think it's far more suited for The Mindbenders than The Roulettes because it's tempo fits their style and they really make an otherwise mundane number work.  Sadly I can't find a clip of it on YouTube!

10. "Love Is Good" single B side U.K. Fontana TF 644 1965
The Mindbenders debut might have been the sappy "Groovy Kind Of Love" but if you were to flip it over you'd find this jazzy rocker underneath.  Eric Stewart (also the track's composer) sings in a jazzy style while the whole number pumps away in a perfect mid 60's British r&b style.  Easily one of their most rocking songs right up there with "The Morning After"!

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