Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames Part Three of Three

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Fame released three singles and an EP that year, kicking off with his second number 1 single 'Getaway', and once again produced by Denny Cordell.
This self-penned number was written for a TV jingle for the National petrol brand, and later used as the theme tune for an Australian television quiz show. Fame tells the story during his gigs that he wrote the song on his guitar on the morning of the session while trying to shake off a massive hangover! Next up was Fame's cover of Bobby Hebb's 'Sunny', which features John McLaughlin on guitar, and went to 13 on the charts. 'Sitting In The Park' went to number 12 on the charts and to cash in on that number 1 record, EMI released the Getaway EP, which contained three tracks taken from the Sweet Things album.

These were the final recordings of Fame with The Blue Flames though Fame had one more ace up his sleeve when he recorded the big band jazz album Sound Venture. This album featured the cream of British jazz musicians, with a line-up that includes Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Dick Morrissey, Kenny Wheeler, Ray Warleigh, Jimmy Deuchar, Phil Seamen, and the very talented Harry South, who scored the arrangements and conducted the band. The album was released in October and went to 9 on the charts.
Tubby Hayes

Harry South came to prominence in the fifties and played with many notable West Indian jazz musicians such as Joe Harriott, Dizzy Reece, as well as Brits like Tony Crombie and Tubby Hayes. During the sixties, he formed a big band that featured the likes of Dick Morrissey, Phil Seamen, Keith Christie, Ronnie Scott, Ian Carr, and recorded an album for Mercury Records. He also composed and arranged scores for Humphrey Lyttelton, Buddy Rich, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Witherspoon. He then branched out into session work and writing scores for films and TV, which included the opening and closing music for the very successful British TV cop show, The Sweeney.

Side one opens up with the mid-tempo 'Many Happy Returns'. A tune written by acclaimed Abbey Road engineer and later successful recording artist in his own right, Norman 'Hurricane' Smith, before going into 'Down For The Count', a breezy Count Basie number with lyrics by Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert. A couple of ballads follow, 'It's For Love The Petals Fall' (written by percussionist Jack Ashford from Motown's Funk Brothers, who Fame had befriended on the 1965 Motown tour) and Fame's 'And I'm Missing You'. On 'Funny How Times Slips Away', Fame plays cat and mouse with the muted trumpet, and it's my opinion that this remade version is better than the original on Sweet Things. The last track is the tongue-twisting Count Basie classic, 'Lil' Pony', written by Neil Hefti and with lyrics once again by Jon Hendricks.

'Lovey Dovey' follows, and something that I didn't know until now, is this song was written by 'Memphis' Eddie Curtis and Ahmet Ertegun. Ahmet and his brother Nesuhi were the co-founders of Atlantic Records. The ballad 'Lil' Darlin' is another Count Basie classic written by Neil Hefti and lyrics by Jon Hendricks and has some tastefully muted trumpet played by the great Scots trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar. The children's nursery rhyme 'Three Blind Mice', re-arranged by Jon Hendricks especially for Fame, cooks along at a fair pace, before going into another Fame original, 'Dawn Yawn'. This tune is a nod to the sixties all-nighters, where you are wending your way back home after leaving a Soho club at 6 am, just a little the worse for wear.

Jon Hendricks was a significant influence on Fame as you can see by the tracks on this album, which includes the next song. 'Feed Me' is taken at a swinging tempo with Tubby Hayes playing a banzai like solo and Fame anglicises the tune by including shepherd's pie in the lyrics. The album's closer is James Brown's 'Papa's Got a Brand New Bag' and in his interview with Mojo magazine Elvis Costello claimed. "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag is my least favourite track because it sounds really clunky like they're reading it off a chart, not like James Brown's horn players at all." It's fair to say the arrangement doesn't quite fit with the other jazz songs on this album, but this track is worth the money for Dick Morrissey's blistering solo. The album production credits read Denny Cordell and Tony Palmer.
Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames at The Flamingo

Georgie Fame and the Harry South Big Band played a concert The Royal Festival Hall on October 9, 1966, with a line-up similar to the album. I was fortunate to obtain a ticket and attended this performance, which kicked off at 3 pm. I hung on to every song and thought this concert one of the best that I had seen Fame perform.

It all ended in 1966 when Fame left the Blue Flames behind and signed a lucrative solo deal with CBS Records. Although Denny Cordell produced his initial recordings, nothing was quite the same again. He had a number 1 record with 'The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde', and with Alan Price charted with 'Rosetta'. However, this wasn't kind of music I wanted to hear from Fame; no, I wanted more of the Blue Flames.

Chris Welch stated in his original sleeve note for Sound Venture that following this album; Count Basie should give him a call, and he did. They appeared together in concert at the Royal Albert Hall on April 20, 1968, and once again, I was lucky enough to attend the show though my seat was in the Gods. It's funny looking back on this night, as little did I know that seven years later I would be working with the Count.

I was smitten from the first time I saw the Blue Flames at The Black Prince in Bexley and remember them coming down off the stage. On August 7, I attended The 1965 National Jazz and Blues Festival in Richmond, where Fame appeared on a bill that included Graham Bond Organisation, Manfred Mann, Ronnie Jones & the Blue Jays, and Gary Farr & the T-Bones. I also made it to the Sixth National Jazz and Blues Festival on July 31, 1966, at the Royal Windsor Racecourse. They appeared alongside The Action, The Alan Bown Set, and it was also the scene of Cream's second appearance (the first was at the Twisted Wheel Manchester on July 29). Also appearing on the bill that day was the Harry South Big Band featuring Tubby Hayes, and I wonder if it was at this festival where the idea came about for Sound Venture.

I also attended the Blackheath R 'n' B festival in 1966, where they played alongside The Small Faces, John Mayall, Manfred Mann (with Jack Bruce on bass), and Roy 'C'. During the Manfreds' spot, someone threw a bottle at Paul Jones, and even though it missed by a mile, Jones copped the hump and the band stormed off the stage. Fame and the Blue Flames came back for a second set though the roadies dropped Fame's organ off the stage and he played guitar for the rest of the show.

I saw Fame and The Blue Flames three times in one week, once at Eltham Swimming baths (terrible sound) and twice at Rik Gunnell's Ram-Jam club in Brixton. A French TV station filmed the second gig, which started late, and I just made it back to Waterloo for the last train back to Woolwich. Nonetheless, I would have walked home from Brixton rather than miss the gig. That night Fame wore the same shirt he wore on the Sweet Things sleeve. I was breezing around Soho just after the release of this album, and bumped into Glen Hughes and had a chat. In November 1966, Hughes died in a fire aged 24 in Shepherds Bush, when he fell asleep while smoking a joint. Glen Barton, a very gifted bass player, passed away from septicaemia due to his heroin addiction at the age of 24 on May 16, 1968.
The Ram Jam Club

In the late seventies, Fame regularly toured Australia, mainly to get away from the British winters. Down under, he toured with the Australian Blue Flames, which featured Aussie musicians. They also recorded an album for the Swedish label Four Leaf Clover. Later, Fame reformed The Blue Flames, which includes his two sons Tristan and James, and plays with them to this day. He's worked with everyone including a long stint with Van Morrison, and it's no coincidence that some Van's finest (later) recordings are with Fame as the 'straw boss'. He was a founder member of Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, as well as working with Eric Clapton, Joan Armatrading, Muddy Waters, Boz Scaggs and The Verve.

Quite a few years ago, I spoke to Universal about releasing Fame's back catalogue, which was now owned by RSO Records, only to find out that they were unable to locate any of the master tapes. I found this hard to believe as master tapes are the biggest asset a record company has, and to lose, or misplace them is a criminal act. Over the years, the only CDs that have been released are compilations, until recently, when Universal's Japanese Record company released the catalogue on limited edition CD's, in facsimile record sleeves. There is also now available a 5 CD box set, 'The Whole World's Shaking' containing all of the EMI/Columbia recordings, which is a steal at £44.99.

Although Fame's career spans six decades, he has never received any real recognition from the music business and considering his achievements, it's a travesty. In the mid-eighties, I was discussing this with The Style Council's Mick Talbot, who reckoned that Fame should have won every award going, and if he were American, he would be in every Hall of Fame (sic). However, to this day, no musical institution has recognised him or his contribution to the British music industry. How he hasn't won a Brits Outstanding Award is a crime. They gave one to the likes of Duran Duran, Robbie Williams and Sting but not Fame, and he has done more for the British music scene than that lot put together.

Fame was one of the few white British musicians who absorbed the soul of Motown, Stax, R 'n' B, jazz music, and when he covered a song it didn't sound like a cover, he made it his own. He was one of the first, if not the first Brit to record Blue Beat/Ska music, at a time when the Seventies 2Tone crowd were swinging in their Dad's trousers. When he sang, it was in a distinctive soulful way that captivated his audience. He was a great pianist and still is one of the best Hammond organists in the UK, bar none. One reviewer rated his version of the Mar-Keys' 'Last Night' as better than the original - some compliment. Even the Beatles failed in their attempt to capture that 'Motown Magic'. Their version of 'Please Mr Postman' is merely a pastiche of the original Marvelettes version that most pub bands of the sixties could have knocked out.

There's a quote in the sleeve note on Sweet Things, which sums up the man. Fame is neither a sensationalist in appearance nor performance. A solid guy well liked and respected by his band, fans, and people on the music scene everywhere. He was not an overnight sensation; he is not a passing phase. Georgie Fame is one of the characters of music in the country and one day we will be able to look back with feeling and say I knew his early years.

The sixties were a great time to be a teenager, and listening to and seeing Fame and The Blue Flames live, are moments that I will take to my grave. Fame influenced me so much that I went bought a Hammond organ (L100) and tried desperately to emulate my hero. Alas, eighteen months later I gave up, as I just didn't have what was required to become a musician.

I've never been big on nostalgia, but Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames is where it all started for me. If I hadn't heard them all those years ago, I'm not sure where I would be today, and it's great he's still doing it - Yeh Yeh and a Yeh Yeh

Part One Here

Part Two Here 

Read 3815 times Last modified on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 15:09
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