THE NASHVILLE TEENS – IN FOCUS

Their discs reviewed


Here are some of my random thoughts and words about The Nashville Teens over the years. All of the original Nashville Teens blog posts on my old website have since been deleted so no label scans or picture sleeves are available. Instead, I’ve used images scanned from ’60s music magazine ‘Fabulous’.

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’I’m A Lonely One’ (New World NW 6002) 1972

By the time the very first Nashville Teens album was released in 1972 they had effectively disbanded. This was a strange release on New World as it contained some old hits like ’Tobacco Road’ but mostly misses in the form of ’All Along The Watchtower’ and ’Biggest Night Of Her Life’,

The outstanding cuts were reserved for Side 2. Here, the casual listener was probably bewildered by the tripped out psychedelia of ’I’m A Lonely One’ and the strange ’Ex Kay One Lx’. The beautiful acid folk reverie of ’Day And Night’ is a pure joy, so to is the delightful ’Widdicombe Fair’.

These four songs probably date from 1968 and were unreleased at the time. ’I’m A Lonely One’ b/w ’Ex Kay One Lx’ would have made a perfect psych single. It’s a crime that they weren’t released at the time.

A radically different version of ”Widdicombe Fair” to that which appeared on the posthumous LP released on New World in 1972. While the LP version mines a deep trance acid folk furrow, the single version only released in Hungary on Qualiton in 1970 on 45 is a heavier funk rock take

(15/12/12)

ARIZONA SWAMP COMPANY – ’Tennessee Woman’/’Train Keeps Rollin’ (Parlophone R5841) May 1970

Back in the Summer I reviewed every one of The Nashville Teens Decca singles, but at the time I was missing a couple of pieces of the jigsaw that I required to give an even broader picture of their sounds. One such item was their only release for Parlophone under the alias of Arizona Swamp Company.

I’m not quite sure why the band decided to change their name for this single. Perhaps it was a contractual thing? Whatever the reason, it didn’t really matter as the 45 bombed out of site. The record wasn’t a big seller and as such is scarce and does not show up for sale too often.

’Tennessee Woman’ is a belter of a tune, a typical late 60s rocker with great energy and a memorable chorus. Should have been a hit as it really had everything going for it. The flip ’Train Kept Rollin’ is another powerful rocker with an absolute killer lead guitar rave-up. Easily the equal of The Yardbirds version and my favourite.

’Train Keeps Rollin’ was compiled on Rubble 13 ”Freak Beat Fantoms” – although it’s not really ’freakbeat’ but late 60s/early 70s rock and blues.

(10/12/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’All Along The Watchtower’/’Sun-Dog’ (Decca F 12754) March 1968

By 1968 the hits had well and truly dried up for The Nashville Teens and this 45 just happened to be their last Decca release.

It flopped of course but I don’t know how. Their version of Bob Dylan’s ’All Along The Watchtower’ is a classy rendition with it’s full production sound by Vic Smith (Vic Coppersmith-Heaven) and pulsating psych guitar leads. Maybe the public just weren’t ready for this sort of bluesy psychedelia yet. The Jimi Hendrix Experience released a version seven months later in Oct ’68 and had a big hit with it.

The flip ’Sun-Dog’ is a traditional blues song but with the bands own lyrics. Even the producer Vic Smith gets a credit. It’s a typical early 1968 blues wailer and an indication of the direction the English music underground was going in.

(21/08/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’The Biggest Night Of Her Life’/’Last Minute’ (Decca F.12657) September 1967

A neat two sided pop psych release was the next Nashville Teens single to completely miss the charts. ’The Biggest Night Of Her Life’ was a Randy Newman song notable for some ’bendy’ production techniques from future Jam producer Vic Smith.

The flip ’Last Minute’ is a group original, written by vocalist Arthur Sharp and is a much more instant mod beat effort sounding like their previous couple of records recorded by Shel Talmy.

During August 1967, and just before the release of this single, the NME reported that lead guitarist John Allan and bassist Pete Shannon were leaving The Nashville Teens. Shannon was replaced by Neil Korner.

(20/08/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’I’m Coming Home’/’Searching’ (Decca F.12580) March 1967

The classy mod pop of ’I’m Coming Home’ quickly followed the release of ’That’s My Woman’ probably to coincide with their European tour to Germany and Hungary during April/May ’67. Not sure how this didn’t dent the charts in Britain but I suppose it was obvious by now that the beat boom groups from 1964 had now either broken up or moved onto experimental psychedelia. The Nashville Teens were no doubt thought of as relics. Time and tastes moved on quickly in the mid 60s.

As The Nashville Teens didn’t have a songwriter it must have been tough for them. Shel Talmy’s production skills definitely raised their sound to another level. The flip ’Searching’ is of course another cover version but this one is a treat. Once again, reviews in the music press were positive but lack of radio play and promotion meant that another flop was on the cards.

(18/08/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’That’s My Woman’/’Words’ (Decca F.12542) January 1967

1966 proved to be the start of The Nashville Teens commercial decline. They no longer occupied positions in the charts and their last two singles were no great shakes. Fortunately, they were a very professional and solid outfit as a gigging band and had just come off the road touring Great Britain with The Small Faces and The Hollies. That would have been some line-up.

The Nashville Teens changed their producer to pop art svengali Shel Talmy and the first fruits of this association was the thunderous fuzz rocker ’That’s My Woman’ which was a back to basics stormer full of attitude. This is where it’s at and it should have been a hit for them. The single got very favourable reviews in NME and Record Mirror. Sadly, the record flopped.

’Words’ on the flip is my spotlight choice. It’s an up to date mod mover with brass flourishes. The production by Shel Talmy is first rate and the song really hits a groove that I dig.

(16/08/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’Forbidden Fruit’/’Revived 45 Time’ (Decca F.12458) August 1966

Earlier in the year drummer Barry Jenkins left The Nashville Teens to replace John Steele in The Animals. He remained with Eric Burdon in the ’new Animals’ when the latter embraced psychedelia with a new line-up.

Jenkins was replaced by Roger Groom who was the original Nashville Teens drummer during their stint in Germany. The change was reported in NME during April 1966.

’Forbidden Fruit’ was also recorded by The Mark Leeman Five and is not a very good song in my opinion. Rather corny and mundane. Just when aural freakbeat fireworks were being released by English groups in ’66 The Nashville Teens could only muster this. The flip ’Revived 45 Time’ is no better and is a strange 50s throwback. Definitely their poorest release to date.

(14/08/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’The Hard Way’/’Upside Down’ (Decca F.12316) January 1966

The Nashville Teens chose an Ashford, Simpson and Armstead song as their first single in 1966. ’The Hard Way’ is a mod soul effort and should appeal to those with a liking for that genre. It sounds a tad like The Action.

The other side ’Upside Down’ is more in keeping with their beat sound but hardly sets the world alight. The group were interviewed in Record Mirror at the time slating The Mark Leeman Five for recording and releasing ’Forbidden Fruit’ during January ’66. This was going to be the next Nashville Teens 45 but it was held over in favour of ’The Hard Way.’

(13/08/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’I Know How It Feels To Be Loved’/’Soon Forgotten’ (Decca F.12255) October 1965

Although chart success proved to be on the wane in 1965, this single flopped for instance, The Nashville Teens had cameo parts in movies ’Go Go Mania’ and ’Gonks Go Beat’. They were also in demand on the gig circuit and enjoyed a sizable following.

Sadly, ’I Know How It Feels To Be Loved’  failed to get much notice and as such is an overlooked disc. The song is a departure from their usual crunching R&B sound, this time around preferring a baroque pop arrangement with harmonies. Some reviews at the time likened it to The Byrds but I don’t hear that at all. The harmonies are certainly not tight enough and there ain’t no Byrds style ’65 jangle.

The song however, is a lost pop gem and I’m pleased to give ’I Know How It Feels To Be Loved’ some exposure on Flower Bomb Songs. ’Soon Forgotten’ is another pop effort but like the title suggests the 45 was soon forgotten.

(11/08/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’The Little Bird’/’Whatcha Gonna Do?’ (Decca F.12143) April 1965

The last Nashville Teens record to hit top 40 was ’The Little Bird’, an excellent beat ballad written once again by John D. Loudermilk. The strange thing about this release was that the same song was recorded by Marianne Faithfull and released at the same time. Both were Decca artists, so in effect they were competing against each other.

Producer Andrew Loog Oldham was also involved with both acts and explained his thoughts on the ’clash’ of the singles in Record Mirror during May ’65. It turned out that Marianne Faithfull’s version was more successful, eventually reaching top 10 whilst The Nashville Teens stalled at number 38. Things like this meant a lot back in the 60s.

The flip is ’Whatcha Gonna Do?’, a wonderful beat rocker with a compelling guitar break. The song was written by songwriters not in the band. I think the lack of a songwriter was a problem for The Nashville Teens and is probably why they never released a studio album in Britain during this period.

(11/08/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’Find My Way Back Home’/’Devil-In-Law’ (Decca F.12089) February 1965

The third Nashville Teens single was another powerful R&B mover recorded in NYC during December 1964. This working visit broke their agreement with regular producer Mickie Most who decided to cut his association with the group.

’Find My Way Back Home’ was described in NME as ’a compulsive finger snapper’. They certainly don’t describe records like this in reviews nowadays. The flip ’Devil-In-Law’ is a novelty beat tune and not something to spin that often.

The Nashville Teens were probably still popular at this stage in early 1965 and sales were solid but the record stalled at number 34.

(07/08/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’I Need You Baby’ EP (Decca DFE.8600) January 1965

The first and last The Nashville Teens EP was released in January 1965 to retain the momentum of their previous top ten singles.

The thing with EPs back in the 60s was that they were not aimed at the charts, they even had a limited pressing. With this in mind The Nashville Teens offered four purist R&B covers. ’I Need You Baby’ is better known as ’Mona’ and many groups recorded that song of course.

I’ve read elsewhere that ’Parchment Farm’ was considered for their debut single. Everything on this EP is pretty damned good and would suggest that The Nashville Teens had the sound but not necessarily the teeny-bop image or more importantly the songwriter to go to the next level.

(05/08/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’Google Eye’/’T.N.T.’ (Decca F.12000) October 1964

The follow up Nashville Teens single after the amazing ’Tobacco Road’ was another John D. Loudermilk composition titled ’Google Eye’.  It’s a decent enough effort and reached top ten in Britain but is a little bit too novelty for me. For those of you out there who don’t know what google eye means, well it’s a catfish found in USA. I’m surprised the song hasn’t been used to advertise the Google search engine before? You read it here first if that ever happens.

Far superior is the flip ’T.N.T.’ an absolute R&B belter notable for it’s tough vocals and killer guitar break. Remember, that this song was recorded in 1964 and you’ll realise that The Nashville Teens out powered the rest at this stage in their careers including The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds.

During September of ’64 they toured Britain with Billy J. Kramer and The Yardbirds and their exposure continued with support slots to The Animals throughout October and November.

In mid 1964 The Nashville Teens travelled to New York for a ten day visit and they appeared on Murray The K Kaufmann’s Christmas Show at The Paramount Theatre in NYC. Due to visa problems the group were unable to travel to other parts of America.

(04/08/12)

THE NASHVILLE TEENS – ’Tobacco Road’/’I Like It Like That’ (Decca F.11930) June 1964

One of the earliest R&B groups from England during the beat boom were The Nashville Teens. They formed some time in 1961 (according to the liners on the back of their one and only EP release) when vocalists and founding members Ray Phillips and Arthur Sharp got together soon to be joined by John Hawken (piano), Pete Shannon (bass), Mick Dunford (guitar) and Roger Groom (drums).

This line-up travelled to Germany in 1963 and worked at Hamburg’s renowned Star Club. After making a name for themselves as a tight and energetic unit they were asked to become backing band for Jerry Lee Lewis on his ’Live At The Star Club’ LP.

Mick Dunford and Roger Groom were replaced on their return to Britain by John Allen and Barry Jenkins respectively. Thus the 1964 line-up was settled along with a contract with Don Arden who came in as The Nashville Teens Manager. He got them prestigious backing band gigs with the touring Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. They even recorded with Carl Perkins on his Brunswick single ’Big Bad Blues.’

The Nashville Teens debut 45 ’Tobacco Road’, written by John D. Loudermilk, became an instant classic and reached #6 in the charts. I’ve read that Loudermilk was inspired to write his song after reading a novel titled ’Tobacco Road’ by Erskine Caldwell. This book was published in 1932 and chronicled the living conditions of poor whites from the southern States in America.

The Nashville Teens rip the original version to shreds with their potent brand of R&B with it’s vicious backbeat, boogie piano, pounding rhythm and nasty vocals. The production of Mickie Most adds echo to the drums and guitar which really beefs up the overall sound. 

The flip ’I Like It Like That’ is tame beat by comparison.

(03/08/12)

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