Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames Part Two of Three

Written by
  • font size decrease font size increase font size
  • Print
  • Email
After an aborted attempt to release a single, it was decided to record a live album at The Flamingo. Ian Samwell would produce the record and Glyn Johns would engineer the session.
Samwell had written the hit record 'Move It' for Cliff Richard, as well as 'High-Class Baby and 'Dynamite'. In 1959, he wrote 'Say You Love Me Too', which was recorded by the Isley Brothers and was one of the first British songwriters to have a song recorded by an American R&B act. Glyn Johns went on to a stellar career and worked with likes of Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Eagles, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, The Clash, Small Faces, Spooky Tooth, New Model Army, and The Faces.

I spoke to Mick Eve about the line up for Rhythm And Blues at the Flamingo, which featured himself and Johnny Marshall on tenor and baritone. James George ['Big Jim Sullivan'] Tomkins (gtr), 'Boots' Slade (bass), 'Red' Reece (dms) and Henry 'Tommy' Thomas (congas). Sullivan was a late replacement for John McLaughlin, who had left the band suddenly, and considering he wasn't familiar with the repertoire, he did an excellent job. 'Tommy' Thomas was another sub, as the police had busted Speedy' Acquaye for a drug offence, and he was enjoying a short holiday at Her Majesty's pleasure.
Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames

Mick Eve played a big part in running The Blue Flames and was their 'straw boss'. He would organise rehearsals, and when needing a replacement musician, he was the go-to man. Many of the soul covers that the band did in these early days were played at the suggestion of Eve, who would hunt down obscure 45s and bring them to rehearsals for everyone to hear. Fame stated in 1974, 'If it hadn't been for Mick Eve, there wouldn't have been any band'.

Side one kicks off with Johnny Gunnell, who was the Flamingo's DJ, announcing the band and they go into 'Night Train', which James Brown had covered in 1962. This song was written and recorded in 1951 by Jimmy 'Night Train' Forrest. Next up is Louis Jordan's 'Let The Good Times Roll', where Fame cheekily inserts his name into a verse. For some reason, Johnny Gunnell returns to announce 'Do The Dog', written by Rufus Thomas, and just listen to audience baying in the background. 'Eso Beso' is a Samba, which was a hit for its composer Paul Anka in 1962, and the two saxes take the middle-eight. This tune has always seemed a strange choice to me but nonetheless it works. They end side one with Nat Adderley's classic 'Work Song', which Oscar Brown penned the lyrics.

Side two kicks off with 'Parchman Farm', a song about the infamous Mississippi Penitentiary, originally recorded by the blues legend and one time Parchman Farm resident, Bukka White, and then adapted in 1957 by Mose Allison, who was also a significant influence on Fame. 'You Can't Sit Down', was a million-selling instrumental single for The Phil Upchurch Combo, and Fame's version does the tune justice. 'Humpty Dumpty' is a nod to Fame's Blue-Beat roots and is a song written and recorded by Eric Morris in 1961. The second side finishes with 'Big' Joe Williams classic blues, 'Baby Please Don't Go'.

Recording techniques during the sixties were simple to say the least and more lo-fi than hi-fi. In one of the studios I attended, cardboard egg cartons were stuck to the walls and ceilings to suppress the noise. Most were limited to four-track recording machines and the outboard very primitive. As there were no sound trucks around at the time, live shows were tough to record, and the bulky equipment had to be lugged to the gig and set up in a small room. Although Rhythm And Blues At The Flamingo is relatively lo-fi, it not only captures the atmosphere of the Flamingo, it also succinctly captures the period. Incidentally, Glyn Johns forgot to press the record button while the group was performing the set that was to be recorded, and it was necessary for them to perform the whole thing again, straight away – this time with the record button working.

In 1964, Columbia released, 'Do The Dog' taken from the live album, 'Do-Re-Mi', and 'Bend a Little' as singles and although good tunes, like the album they didn't chart. During the sixties, it was the habit of record companies to released 4-track EP's, and Columbia released two; Rhythm & Blues at the Flamingo and Rhythm & Blue-Beat. This EP features 'Madness', 'Tom Hark Goes Blue Beat', 'Humpty Dumpty', 'One Whole Year Baby', and was produced by Ian Samwell.

In October 1964, Columbia released one of the definitive albums of the sixties, Fame At Last. It commences with Titus Turner's 'Get On The Right Track Baby', which is taken at a brisk pace, followed by 'Let The Sunshine In', a song written by Teddy Randazzo. Curtis Mayfield's 'Monkey Time' is up next and Fame performs an excellent version of the Jimmy McGriff instrumental 'All About My Girl'. Next up is my all time fave Fame tune, Goffin & King's 'Point Of No Return', originally a minor hit for Gene McDaniels. The arrangement is similar, but Fame's version, copied from an obscure 1962 version of the song by Louis Jordan that Fame had 'liberated' from the collection of Count Suckle is more jazzier. Side 1 closes with the Lambert Hendricks & Ross's drinking song 'Gimme That Wine'.

Side two opens up with Joe Liggins' 'Pink Champagne' and followed by William Bell's 'Monkeying Around'. The next song is a nod to Fame's Motown influences, Marvin Gaye's 'Pride & Joy', which is neatly followed by an instrumental you heard everywhere in the 60's, 'Green Onions'. Fame's version is sans Steve Cropper's guitar licks, but features his great organ playing with the horns riffing in the background. They turn the lamp down for the last two tunes, which include the Mose Allison influenced 'I Love The Life I Live', which was originally recorded by Muddy Waters and later by Allison. The closing title 'I'm In The Mood For Love' was written in 1935 by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields and originally recorded by film actress Alice Faye. The arrangement stems from James Moody's improvised version, which was entitled 'Moody's Mood For Love', which he recorded in 1939. Eddie Jefferson wrote lyrics to Moody's version and sang a 'vocalese' version of the song in 1952. In 1954, King Pleasure made it popular in a duet with Blossom Dearie, and Fame's rendition leans heavily on this arrangement.

Ian Samwell once again produced the album, with Earl Guest the music director for girl singers the Breakaways on 'Let The Sunshine In', 'The Monkey Time', 'Monkeying Around' and 'Pride And Joy'. They never featured the line-up on the sleeve, and as he played on the album, I asked Mick Eve if he could clear it up. He stated the line up included, himself and Johnny Marshall (tenor & baritone), 'Speedy' Acquaye (congas), 'Tex' Makins (bass), and 'Red' Reece (drums). Eddie 'Tan-Tan' Thornton (tpt) (occasional band member at this time), plays on a couple of tracks, and there is a guitarist on 'Let The Sunshine In', 'The Monkey Time', 'Monkeying Around' and 'Pride And Joy'. Ian Samwell couldn't recall the guitarist during an interview but thought it might be Colin Green or 'Big' Jim Sullivan. He also thought it might have been John McLaughlin. Much later, Colin Green stated that he played on some tracks around mid-1964, but unable to recall if the Fame At Last tunes were amongst them. Fame has stated it was Colin Green mostly and himself occasionally

During the sixties, record companies only gave their artists two four-hour sessions to complete an album. Fame At Last makes up for the lack of production values with some excellent playing, and it's hard to find fault with any of the titles. The album went to 15 on the charts, showing just how big a following Fame had built up. When it was released it only existed in mono, however, EMI released a (genuine) stereo version in 1969, on their budget label Starline. The UK took some time to get into stereo in the sixties and many record companies made stereo mixes of their albums for release overseas.

Fame's lack of success in the single charts was about to change when Columbia released 'Yeh Yeh' in December 1964. Produced by EMI staff producer Tony Palmer (as opposed to the well-known TV and film director of the same name), this Latin number was written by Rodgers Grant and Pat Patrick, and initially recorded in 1963 as an instrumental by Mongo Santamaria. Jon Hendricks added the words, and along with Dave Lambert and Yolande Bavan sang it at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival. In January 1965, Fame's version went to number 1, knocking the Beatles 'I Feel Fine' off the number 1 spot, as well as going to 21 on (USA) Billboard's chart. Fame's father was still putting in a night shift at the mill where he worked when this single topped the chart. In 2003, on Jools Holland's TV programme, Fame stated that Tubby Hayes wrote the arrangement.

They recorded the single after Fame At Last, and there was yet another change to the line-up, which now featured Colin Green (gtr), 'Tex' Makins (bass), Peter Coe (t/sax), Glen Hughes (b/sax), 'Speedy' Acquaye (congas) and Bill Eyden (dms). They played 'Monkeying Around' and 'Yeh Yeh' on TV's Ready Steady Go, on December 11, 1964 

Following the success of 'Yeh Yeh', Fame undertook a 20-date concert tour with Elkie Brooks and Zoot Money's Big Roll Band in support.

Fame released three singles in 1965; 'In The Meantime' written by John Burch, a mainstay of the UK Jazz scene, which went to 22. The second, a self-penned tune called 'Like We Used To Be' went to 33. The third, 'Something', written by blues legend John Mayall, went to 23. Three more EPs were released, 'Fame At Last', 'Fats For Fame', a tribute to Fats Domino, one of Fame's earliest influences as a keyboard player. The third 'Move It On Over' contained a mixed bag of R 'n' B, jazz and a nod to his early career in Rock 'n' Roll career.

March 1965 also saw another great achievement as Fame was asked to appear on the Tamla Motown UK tour. Earl Van Dyke opened the show followed by Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Fame, and 'Smokey' Robinson & The Miracles topped the bill. Fame said of this tour that 'it was my greatest experience since starting in the music business'. Of the twenty shows, only the London dates were a sell-out, while the attendances at the remaining shows were poor, and Fame only added to bolster the audiences.

May 1966 saw the release of Sweet Things, which I was eagerly awaiting, and recall the night I bought the album. A crowd of us were doing an all-nighter up west, and we visited the club Tiles, situated at 79/89, Oxford Street. The basement contained a record shop, and when I saw the album on sale, I just had to buy it though it meant carting it around the various clubs we visited. I arrived home at about 8 am the next morning and got some zzz's in before playing the record and I wasn't disappointed.

As far as I was concerned, The Blue Flames line-up on this album was the best, and featured Colin Green (gtr), Cliff Barton (bass), Peter Coe (t/sax), Glen Hughes (b/sax & flute), Eddie 'Tan-Tan' Thornton (tpt), 'Mitch' Mitchell, Drums, and 'Speedy' Acquaye (congas). Denny Cordell produced the album, who at the age of 21, worked with Chris Blackwell at Island Records before becoming involved with The Moody Blues. He also later produced The Move, Joe Cocker, and Procol Harum. He then went to the states and along with Leon Russell, set up Shelter Records, where they had success with J. J. Cale, Phoebe Snow, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Russell himself. EMI house engineer Peter 'Knobs' Hitchcock engineered the sessions.

The album went to number 6 on the charts, and the production values are higher than the previous two albums, particularly the vocals, which are fuller and have more reverb. The title track, originally recorded by The Spinners (known as the Detroit Spinners in the UK, in order to distinguish them from the then-popular Liverpool folk group of the same name), opens the album, and features Fame playing the piano. The band goes into a couple of R 'n' B classics, Don Covay's 'See-Saw', and Lee Dorsey's 'Ride Your Pony' with Fame back at the organ. They turn the wick down for Willie Nelson's 'Funny How Time Slips Away', with 'Tan-Tan' Thornton playing some nice hide-and-seek muted trumpet.' The arrangement is similar to Joe Hinton's 1964 version, without the falsetto ending. They follow this with a mellow version of Billy Stewart's 'Sitting In The Park', with Glen Hughes playing a delicate flute line over Fame's vocals. The closing track is another nod to Fame's West Indian influences, and he does justice to Lord Kitchener's Calypso 'Dr Kitch'. However, in today's politically correct society I doubt that the 'racy' lyrics would be approved.

Side two opens up with a couple of Motown classics, Smokey Robinson's 'My Girl', followed by Steve Wonder's foot stompin' 'Music Talk'. An instrumental version of Dobie Gray's floor-filler 'The In Crowd' follows, which was also covered by the Ramsey Lewis Trio. Next up is Rufus Thomas's 'The World Is Round', followed by a driving version of Sam Cooke's 'The Whole World's Shaking'. They end side two by blasting out The Mar-Keys' 'Last Night', with Fame adding some ad lib vocals; 'We're goin' to Motown too' and quotes from 'Nowhere To Run', The Stones 'Satisfaction' and several fake endings. The arrangements once again don't stray too far from the originals or the band's live versions. However, Fame and The Blue Flames always added something extra to the songs they covered. As with Fame At Last, there's not a dud on the album.

Part Two Here 
Part Three Here 

Read 4211 times Last modified on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 15:07
Rate this item
(2 votes)

About Us

ZANI was conceived in late 2008 and the fan base gradually grew by word of mouth. Key contributors came from those of the music, film and fashion industry and the voice of ZANI grew louder. So, when in 2013 investor, contributor and fan of ZANI Alan McGee* offered his support to help restyle and relaunch the site it was inevitable that traffic would increase dramatically and continues to grow. *Alan McGee co-founder of Creation Records and new label 359 Music..


What We Do

ZANI is an independent online magazine for readers interested in contemporary culture, covering Music, Film & TV, Sport, Art amongst other cultural topics. Relevant to modern times ZANI is a dynamic website and a flagship for creative movement and thinking wherever our readers live in the world.