“Hits ’67”

HITS ’67 – “12 Top Hits Superbly recorded” (Music For Pleasure MFP 1089) April 1967

Can you tell the difference between these and the original sounds?

Back cover liners:

This collection of top hits of 1967 has been carefully chosen. These numbers represent more than just chart-breaking songs; each of them is a pop landmark reflecting the sounds which people now want to hear, but they will live far beyond their reign in the charts for they all have a fresh sparkle about the.

In the last ten years the hit parade has gone through a progressive evolution. We are now past the days of banal moon-in-June slush and have recovered from the primitive three guitars and drums thump-and-bash. 1967 is the year when clever arrangements and exciting new sounds have produced a hit parade of tremendous contrasts.

Eastern sounds, classical music, free-form stylings, blues and folk music and a casting-back to the 1930s have all made their mark and still the purveyors of pop seek new horizons.

Of course, it all started with the Beatles, and their big hit “Penny Lane” was acknowledged as one of the cleverest conceptions in years. The tune is fascinating but so too are the lyrics which show Lennon and McCartney’s tremendous insight into everyday life in their native Liverpool and have a strangely melancholy air.

If the Beatles started it all, then it certainly continued with the controversial Monkees and their American hit “Little Bit Me – Little Bit You”.

Already twice a hit by different artists in the States, “Green, Green Grass Of Home” was revamped by Tom Jones and hit the top-ten all over again. “Memories Are Made Of This” was similarly updated by popular Irish star Val Doonican.

Another number which was revived to become a hit was “Release Me”, originally recorded by Little Esther Phillips and a British chartbuster for Engelbert Humperdink.

Paul Jones left the Manfred Mann group to forge a career of his own and he scored with “I’ve Been A Bad Bad Boy”. Similarly, Alan Price has stayed at the top since his break with the Animals and the amusing “Simon Smith And His Amazing Dancing Bear” revealed his superb piano playing.

“This Is My Song”, from the film “A Countess From Hong Kong”, produced a chart battle between Petula Clark and Harry Secombe while “Edelweiss”, which comes from the hit show ‘The Sound Of Music’, burst into the top-ten, sung by Vince Hill.

Georgie Fame took a Billy Stewart original ballad, “Sitting In The Park”, and made it a big British hit with his soulful vocal.

Whilst most of the sounds of 1967 are forward looking, there has also been some successful recapturing of the sounds of yesterday and The New Vaudeville Band‘s “Peekaboo” took this path to the top with its ‘Thirties approach.

Easily the most amusing titled number of the year has been “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman”, and its unusual use of whistling made it a sure-fire hit for the mysterious Whistling Jack Smith.

The artists you will hear on this album are not those who featured on the original ’67 hits but you will find it difficult to tell the difference as you listen to this faithful presentation of the sounds which have captured the charts.

Side 1

  1. Edelweiss – originally by Vince Hill
  2. Penny Lane – originally by The Beatles
  3. Simon Smith And His Amazing Dancing Bear – originally by The Alan Price Set
  4. A Little Bit Me A Little Bit You – originally by The Monkees
  5. Peek-A-Boo – originally by The New Vaudeville Band
  6. Memories Are Made Of This – originally by Val Doonican

Side 2

  1. Release Me – originally by Engelbert Humperdinck
  2. I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman – originally by Whistling Jack Smith
  3. This Is My Song – originally by Petula Clark
  4. I’ve Been A Bad Bad Boy – originally by Paul Jones
  5. Green, Green Grass Of Home – originally by Tom Jones
  6. Sitting In The Park – originally by Georgie Fame

Over the years there has been discussions on various online music forums that David Bowie provided the vocals for the track “Penny Lane”. Bowie, himself denied any involvement. However the rumours persisted. Someone left a comment on one of the YouTube videos stating that it was The Riot Squad.

I haven’t found any evidence that The Riot Squad were the group who recorded the numbers “Penny Lane” and “Little Bit Me – Little Bit You” for this Music For Pleasure release but Bowie was a member of the group for a brief period. Perhaps this is why and how those rumours started?

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Record Collector magazine update from 2013:

Between 1960 and 1967, Easy Beat was broadcast nationally every Sunday morning and was one of the earliest BBC programmes to feature pop music. Presented by Brian Matthew, Keith Fordyce, David Symonds and even, on several occasions, a young Val Doonican, it featured sessions by special guest artists recorded on a Wednesday evening in front of a studio audience at the Playhouse Theatre, Charing Cross.

As one of the house bands, Johnny Howard played behind all the top stars of the day, with Tony Steven singing backing vocals for Del Shannon, Petula Clark, Bobby Vee, Roger Miller and Dionne Warwick, and chatting with Ringo Starr and Gerry Marsden in between rehearsals.

In addition to the live work, Tony was constantly in demand as a session singer, his versatile voice echoing the smooth styles of Dean Martin, Anthony Newley and Tony Christie, with whom he remains a good friend. In December 1967, Columbia released his first solo single, “No Love Like Your Love” / “Try” (DB 8307).

It was early in 1967 that Tony recorded the session that has sparked the “is it David?”

Rumour – or “Bowiegate”, as Tony calls it. The album in question was Hits ’67 (MFP 1089), the first budget collection of cover versions issued on the MFP (Music for Pleasure) label, and Tony recorded two tracks, covering The Beatles’ Penny Lane and The Monkees’ A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You. It was never his intention to mimic anyone, he confirms, and he was not trying to imitate Paul McCartney, let alone David Bowie. It has often been noted that Bowie circa 1967 can sound like Anthony Newley and Tony can certainly take off Newley with ease – so maybe therein lies the answer to the vocal riddle.

Another interesting feature of this version of Penny Lane is the unusual trumpet track, as Tony explained: “Regarding the out-of-sync trumpet, it was not a piccolo trumpet, as some people have speculated. In fact, it was a normal trumpet played an octave or two down and then speeded up, like Pinky & Perky. It was inserted later – but it was the recording engineer who was responsible for it being a beat behind, I think. So blame the engineer, not the trumpet player!”

The man behind the album was Australian producer Bill Wellings, who had pioneered the idea of budget covers as early as 1962, when he created the series of EPs called Top Six. Six hits of the day on one EP, the early issues were recorded using session musicians at Pye studios and sold to retail outlets from the back of Bill’s car, although Pye took over the distribution themselves in 1964. The idea proved very popular, with Pye issuing more than 40 editions by 1967.

Wellings was looking to expand the idea and struck a deal with EMI, whose MFP label was specifically set up to sell budget-priced LPs. Consequently Hits ’67 was released in April that year. Interestingly, the Bowiegate Penny Lane also appeared on Top Six 38, but still without Tony being credited as the singer.

When the full-length albums came out, no singers or musicians were credited, setting the precedent for anonymity on every subsequent budget-priced album. Within a year, other labels such as Marble Arch, Hallmark and Top Of The Pops were all competing for a slice of the lucrative budget market.

The Top Of The Pops label began using top photographers to dress their sleeve designs with scantily-clad glamour models and the MFP Hits series began to look a little drab by comparison. In 1970, MFP fought back by rebranding their albums as Hot Hits, with glossy sleeves that echoed their main rival.

Back in Britain, Tony’s voice, if not his name, became known to millions of children when he recorded the theme song for Jamie & The Magic Torch, a popular animated television series that ran on ITV between 1976 and 1979. This provoked another case of mistaken identity, as Tony was not credited and the singer is often thought to be Tim Brooke-Taylor of The Goodies!

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