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Vocal Harmony Pop Groups and Duos
The New Seekers sound was influenced by vocal harmony styles stretching back to The Fleetwoods and the Everly Brothers. Founded by Keith Potger of the Seekers, the group was most obviously influenced by the folk pop of the original Seekers, but the New Seekers soon became more than just a replica of their namesakes. They also drew inspiration from the California sound of the Beach Boys and from the "sunshine pop" of The Mamas and The Papas. The psychedelia / flower power era also had its influence on the New Seekers' sound. Roy Wood's group The Move was particularly influential as were the more melodic beat groups from earlier in the '60s such as Herman's Hermits, the Hollies and the Searchers.
ABBA were the first international pop stars to emerge from Sweden. A-ha were the first to come from Norway. Both groups combined catchy songs with classy production but whereas ABBA had a camp image and appealed to all ages, A-ha traded on their boyish good-looks to woo the teenage market. Between 1985 and 1994 A-ha had 18 Top 50 hits in the UK. Their thirteenth, Crying In The Rain, had originally been a hit for the Everly Brothers in 1962. The song, with its lyrics of broken-hearted "sorrow and pain", was ideally suited to teenage heart-throbs - a fact that had not gone unnoticed in 1973 when it had been selected by the New Seekers' management as a solo single for Marty Kristian.
Best-known in the UK for their 1980 hit All Out Of Love, the Australian group Air Supply were most successful in the United States, where they made it into the Billboard Top 10 on eight occasions. Their last Top 10 hit, Making Love Out Of Nothing At All, was written and produced by Jim Steinman, famous for his work with Meat Loaf (Bat Out Of Hell) and Bonnie Tyler (Total Eclipse Of The Heart).
America formed in 1969, the same year that Keith Potger formed the New Seekers. The group had a style reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash, combining counter-harmonies with an acoustic guitar backing to produce a smooth, melodic sound that had a particularly strong appeal to audiences in the United States. In January 1972, while the New Seekers topped the UK singles chart with I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing, America were climbing to the number 3 spot with their début hit Horse With No Name. In the States the song spent three weeks at number 1, beginning a run of six Top 10 hits, which ended in 1975 with another number 1, Sister Golden Hair. In November 1982 the erstwhile trio (now a twosome) returned to the lower reaches of the UK singles chart with a Russ Ballard song, You Can Do Magic. Yet again, they did better in the USA, where the song became their last Top 10 hit.
(CD) includes the New Seekers'
version of Follow The Wind.
Bay City Rollers
The Bay City Rollers formed in Edinburgh in 1967. Although the band had its first hit in 1971 with the Jonathan King-produced single Keep On Dancing, it wasn't until 1974 that the band's career really began to take off. With hits written and produced by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter (who also wrote two singles for the New Seekers), the Bay City Rollers built a big teenage fanbase. By 1975 'Rollermania' had taken hold. The band had consecutive UK number 1s with Bye Bye Baby (an old Four Seasons' song) and Give A Little Love. The following year the Rollers also topped the charts in the USA with Saturday Night, a single that had been a flop in the UK in 1973.
Perhaps the most influential of all vocal harmony groups, the Beach Boys took the Californian surf sound of Jan and Dean and brought it to an international audience. The Beach Boys developed the Jan and Dean formula (a falsetto vocal sung over a doo-wop style backing) by using 'wall of sound' production techniques borrowed from Phil Spector. The Beach Boys' finest achievement was their 1966 album Pet Sounds and the number 1 single taken from it, Good Vibrations.
In 1974, when they were invited to appear on the radio programme My Top 12, the New Seekers selected a song from Pet Sounds, God Only Knows, as one of the group's favourite tracks. Lyn explained why they'd chosen it: "We were in the Troubadour Club in America (in Los Angeles) ... and one of the Beach Boys came in to see us ... I was really knocked out by this. I couldn't believe it! Because at that stage we'd only being going for a couple of years and we weren't altogether really well known, you know, and the fact that he actually came in to see us was great."
The New Seekers paid tribute to the surf sound on their 1978 single Flashback (this was recorded after Lyn Paul had left the group). One segment of the song includes Beach Boys style harmonies with Marty Kristian echoing the words of Jan and Dean, "surf city, surf city." The group also added Good Vibrations to its stage act, performing the song as a medley with Simon and Garfunkel'sKeep The Customer Satisfied (again, this was after Lyn Paul had left).
The Gibb brothers (Barry, Robin and Maurice) were born on the Isle of Man but emigrated to Australia with their parents in 1958. In 1962 they signed to Festival Records, recording two albums and a string of singles, one of which, Spicks and Specks, became a big hit "down under". Amongst these early recordings was a folk-flavoured number titled Follow The Wind. The song was later recorded by the New Seekers for their second album Keith Potger and the New Seekers.
Christened the Bee Gees by a Brisbane disc jockey, the Gibb brothers returned to the UK in 1967. They signed to Polydor records and later that year had their first UK hit, New York Mining Disaster 1941. The single and the album from which it came, Bee Gees 1st, were produced by Ossie Byrne, who later went on to work with Cressida and the New Seekers. Further hits followed, including two UK number 1s, Massachusetts and I've Gotta Get A Message To You.
The Bee Gees went their separate ways in 1969 but reunited towards the end 1970 after Robin Gibb's initially successful solo career had ran out of steam. During the period of separation Robin had a solo hit with Saved By The Bell. Barry and Maurice meanwhile continued as the Bee Gees, following their brother to number 2 in the UK charts with Don't Forget To Remember. On reuniting the brothers had two Top 3 hits in the USA with Lonely Days and How Can You Mend A Broken Heart. The latter gave them their first US number 1.
The Bee Gees' career took a nose dive in the UK but their fortunes revived briefly in 1972 when they returned to the Top 20 with My World and Run To Me. The following two years were a fallow period for the band but 1975 marked a turning point - the Bee Gees discovered disco. Working with producer Arif Mardin, the brothers added funkier rhythms to their distinctive nasal harmonies, whilst the harmonies themselves began to show an increasing fondness for falsetto, The result was the album Main Course, which included the US chart-topper Jive Talkin' (also a Top 5 hit in the UK).
This began four years of phenomenal success. 1976 brought another US number 1, You Should Be Dancing.1977 brought yet another, How Deep Is Your Love. Taken from the film soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, this turned out to be the first of six consecutive US chart-toppers - Stayin' Alive, Night Fever, Too Much Heaven, Tragedy and Love You Inside Out.
Although the Bee Gees never again matched this level of success they continued to have occasional hits in the 1980s and 1990s. In October 1987 they topped the UK singles chart with You Win Again, so earning themselves the distinction of being the only group to have number 1 singles in the UK in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. After this they had another four Top 5 hits in the UK - Secret Love (1991), For Whom The Bell Tolls (1993), Alone (1997) and Immortality (recorded with Celine Dion in 1998).
Maurice Gibb died on 12th January 2003, aged 53, after suffering a heart attack during surgery.
Bread's second album On The Waters,
includes the hit single Make it With You
and the lesser-known Look What You've Done,
which was later
covered by the New Seekers.
Byrds The Notorious
A boy band put together in 1994 to emulate the success of Take That, Boyzone began their chart career with a cover of the Osmonds' Love Me For A Reason. The band made a habit of borrowing songs from the '70s, scoring further hits with Father and Son (a track from Cat Stevens' 1970 album Tea For The Tillerman) and You Needed Me (a hit for Ann Murray in 1978 though not for the New Seekers, who recorded the song the same year).
Bread made their US chart breakthrough in 1970 with their second album On The Waters. Their début album, Bread, had not sold as well as anticipated, leading the band members to feel (as guitarist Robb Royer put it) that they had been "eclipsed ... with a similar sound" by Crosby, Stills and Nash. On The Waters, however, earned them a gold disc, while the single from it, Make It With You, gave the band a Top 5 hit in the UK and a number 1 in the USA.
Like all of their subsequent hit singles Make It With You was written by lead vocalist David Gates. The other songwriters in the band, Robb Royer and James Griffin, contributed several songs to the album, amongst them Why Do You Keep Me Waiting (the B-side of Make It With You) and Look What You've Done (covered the following year by the New Seekers on their album Beautiful People).
Bread had another five Top 10 hits in the USA - It Don't Matter To Me (1970), If and Baby I'm-A Want You (1971), Everything I Own (1972) and Lost Without Your Love (1976). They made less of an impact in the UK, where two of their US hits were covered more successfully by other artists. A reggae version of Everything I Own topped the charts for Ken Boothe in October 1974 (a feat repeated by Boy George in March 1987) while If became a UK number 1 in 1975 for 'Kojak' actor Telly Savalas.
Pioneers of folk-rock, the Byrds combined three-part harmony with the distinctive jangle of Roger McGuinn's 12 string guitar. The band made their reputation by recording the songs of Bob Dylan but unlike the "prettied up" cover versions of his songs by Peter, Paul and Mary or the Seekers, the Byrds brought more complex arrangements to mixing desk. Although influenced by the Beatles, the Byrds developed a sound that was unique. Whatever styles they experimented with - acid rock, space rock, country rock - that sound always shone through.
The New Seekers and the Byrds both recorded the Goffin / King classic Goin' Back. The Byrds released the song as a single in December 1967. The New Seekers included their version on the 1972 album Circles.
David Crosby (ex-Byrds), Stephen Stills (ex-Buffalo Springfield) and Graham Nash (ex-Hollies) recorded their first album together in 1969. One of their songs, Marrakesh Express, became a hit single in the Summer of '69, reaching number 28 in the USA and number 17 in the UK.
The following year they were joined by Neil Young, who toured with the band and appeared on their second album Déjà Vu. The album was a huge hit in both the USA and the UK. In the States the group also had four Top 30 singles - Woodstock (written by Joni Mitchell), Teach Your Children, Ohio and Our House. None of these charted in the UK, though Woodstock became a British hit for Matthews' Southern Comfort.
After the release of a live album (Four-Way Street) in 1971, the band members went their separate ways. Their partnership was often stormy but they recorded and toured together from time to time (sometimes as a trio, sometimes as a foursome). In 1974 all four of them reunited for an American tour, which was accompanied by the release of a compilation album So Far. Work began on a new album, Human Highway, but this was abandoned and it wasn't until 1988 that the four recorded their second studio album, American Dream. In the intervening years Crosby, Stills and Nash recorded two albums as a trio, CSN (1977) and Daylight Again (1982),
Culture Club combined harmony vocals with soul and reggae influences. The band's flamboyant lead vocalist, Boy George, gave the group a distinctive sound and look, ensuring from the outset that Culture Club got noticed. Having failed an audition with EMI Records and released two unsuccessful singles on Virgin (White Boy and I'm Afraid Of Me), Culture Club got their big break when Do You Really Want To Hurt Me shot to the top of the UK charts in October 1982.
Between 1982 and 1984 Culture Club were never absent from the charts for long, scoring a second UK number 1 single in 1983 with Karma Chameleon and topping the UK album chart with Colour By Numbers. In the USA the band became one of the UK's biggest exports, enjoying a run of six consecutive Top 10 singles. These included I'll Tumble 4 Ya and Miss Me Blind, neither of which were released as singles in the UK.
The band took a break in 1985, returning in 1986 with a Top 10 album (From Luxury To Heartache) and a hit single (Move Away). Later that year Boy George hit the headlines when he was arrested for possession of cannabis. In 1987, as George embarked on a solo career, the Culture Club story looked as though it had come to an end. Eleven years later, however, Culture Club re-formed, joining the '80s revival in the UK with a Top 5 single I Just Wanna Be Loved and a new album Don't Mind If I Do.
Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show were a seven-piece band from New Jersey. The group had two lead singers, Ray Sawyer (dubbed "Dr. Hook" because he wore an eye patch) and Dennis Locorriere. The group signed to Columbia Records in 1971 and had a trans-Atlantic hit the following year with the Shel Silverstein song Sylvia's Mother. As 1972 drew to a close the group had a second Top 10 hit in the United States with Silverstein's The Cover Of The 'Rolling Stone'. A BBC ban prevented the record from becoming a hit in Britain.
During 1973 Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show continued to be successful in the USA, scoring minor hits with Roland The Roadie and Gertrude The Groupie and Life Ain't Easy. In 1974, however, the hits ran dry. The future brightened a bit in 1975 when the group moved to Capitol Records and shortened its name to Dr. Hook. In March 1976 a cover version of Sam Cooke's Only Sixteen brought a third Top 10 hit in the USA, while the follow-up, A Little Bit More, gave Dr. Hook that hitherto elusive second hit the UK. The same year the newly-re-formed New Seekers covered A Little Bit More on their album Together Again (recorded after Lyn Paul had left the group).
Throughout the rest of the '70s Dr. Hook continued to have hits in the USA and the UK with their blend of easy-going ballads and tongue-in-cheek country rock. Although the former predominated once they had moved to Capitol, Dr. Hook retained their sense of humour. Who could doubt the double entendre of the line: "When you're in love with a beautiful woman, it's hard"? The lyric, coupled with a catchy tune, took them to number 1 in the UK in November 1979. It followed the success of the Bellamy Brothers earlier that year with the equally dubious If I Said You Have A Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me.
The Drifters formed in 1953 as a vehicle for vocalist Clyde McPhatter. The group had six Top 10 R&B hits in the USA. These included the Drifters' version of White Christmas, which was a number 2 R&B hit in 1954.
Over the years the group went through a bewildering number of line-ups, with the term "Drifters" becoming a brand rather than the name of a particular group. In 1959 manager George Treadwell created a completely new group of Drifters by inviting another group, the Five Crowns, to use the "Drifters" name. With Ben E. King as lead vocalist, the new line-up had an immediate success with There Goes My Baby, which reached number 2 in the USA. The follow-up, Dance With Me, got to number 15 and gave the group their first hit in the UK. The Drifters' success reached its peak with Save The Last Dance For Me - a UK number 2 and the Drifters' only US number 1.
By the time that the single had topped the charts (in October 1960) Ben E. King had quit the group. Rudy Lewis replaced him as lead singer, staying with the Drifters until his premature death in 1964. Hits from this period included Sweets For My Sweet (later a UK number 1 for the Searchers), Up On The Roof and On Broadway.
The Drifters continued with Johnny Moore as lead singer, scoring another Top 10 hit in the USA with Under The Boardwalk. Subsequent hits such as Saturday Night At The Movies, At The Club and Come On Over To My Place marked a decline in the Drifters' chart placings. In 1966 their run of hits came to an end.
In 1972 the very singles that had closed out their US chart career heralded a revival of the Drifters' fortunes in the UK. In the first week of June a single featuring At The Club and Saturday Night At The Movies peaked at number 3 in the singles chart. Come On Over To My Place followed it into the Top 10 in September. Buoyed by this success the Drifters signed to Bell Records. With songs supplied by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, Tony Macaulay and Geoff Stephens, the Drifters recorded a succession of singles whose titles and lyrics echoed their hits from the '60s - Kissing In The Back Row Of The Movies, Down On The Beach Tonight and Every Nite's A Saturday Night With You.
In the United States, meanwhile, another group of Drifters (led by Charlie Thomas) began touring and recording, though with less success than their British counterparts.
The Drifters (with ever-changing line-ups) continued as a live act throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The death of Johnny Moore at the end of 1998, however, appeared to finally bring down the curtain on the Drifters' long career.