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Album Review

Chad And Jeremy – Yesterday’s Gone: The Complete Ember & World Artist Recordings

RPM

2CD/DL

Released 19th August 2016

The complete recordings from 1963 to 1964 from the British Invasion’s least likely lads….Ian Canty travels back to Pat Boone dominated early 60s America and tries to work out how an acoustic folk duo ended up massive stars there at the height of Beatlemania…………
Though the Fabs had clocked up the hits and created a big stir over here at first off, Beatlemania really got off the ground in America. The media in the States were cock-a-hoop over this novelty and it seemed like the rest of the country quickly followed suit. Even as the coverage reached saturation point, the American public wanted more. The problem was that there was only four Beatles, not nearly enough to go round, so to plug this gap in the market UK bands flooded in, eager for a piece of the American pie. Suddenly the biggest thing was to be British which was an amazing turnaround as Rock ‘N’ Roll was itself a product totally made in the USA.

So other UK bands attempted breakthroughs in the New World, with most getting a fair wodge of success. There were of course the Beatles as top dogs for the screamers and the dreamers and resident bad lads the Stones, but below the big two other made their mark. Bands like the much maligned but mighty-on-their-day Dave Clark Five, the more virulent and violent Kinks and Who and the showbiz end of it with the likes of Herman’s Hermits. Some bright spark came up with the term “British Invasion” and the label stuck. Quite where the Folk Pop duo of Chad Stuart (the bespectacled one) and Jeremy Clyde (the other one) fit in is difficult to say, but what is certain is they somehow became big names there in the mid-60s.

Most of these acts launched themselves Stateside on the back of UK success, but that couldn’t really be said of Chad and Jeremy. A look into their pre-history reveals time spent in a band called the Jerks (nothing to do with the Yorkshire Punk act of thirteen years later) and that the pair met when at the Central College of Speech and Drama in London. Though their debut single (produced by famous producer and arranger John Barry) “Yesterday’s Gone” just about reached the top 40, it was their only real hit at home and a small one at that. They really made their mark with the orchestrated “A Summer Song” which became their biggest US single, rising all the way up to number 7 on the Billboard chart. This set them up for a high profile career there, regularly appearing on television (including an episode of “Batman” where Catwoman was trying to steal their voices!) and charting where their “whispering” style of singing (which can be credited to Barry for telling them to stop shouting like they had to at the PA-less Folk clubs) was for a time all the rage.

Now pretty much forgotten in their home country, it is difficult to see how they appealed to the same folk that lapped up the then revolutionary Beatles and Rolling Stones. Difficult but not impossible. Chad and Jeremy managed to hit the sweet spot between the Folk revival, the Beatles’ ballads and Brill Building smoothness: in a way they were custom built for the US. There is also a slight throwback to the turn of the decade, post Rock ‘N’ Roll Pop – they seemed very wholesome among the Moptops. Closer to the middle of the road than their contemporaries, for the British Invasion Chad and Jeremy were much more visiting minstrels than invading hellions. They were the acceptable face of all these curious looking and sounding Brits for middle America and I would suggest they reaped their success from that.

Which is not to say they were without merit. Their first album (included here in its entirety on disc one) “Yesterday’s Gone” has more than enough rough edges to keep it interesting, as their trademark acoustic guitar strumming is superimposed over a Beat band backing and there is a charming naivety that helps to offset the occasional lapses into sappiness. Though they came through the Folk clubs they were not the most militant, with the anti-war “No Tears For Johnnie” the full extent of their foray into protest. The best tracks here for me are “Now And Forever” and “The Truth Often Hurts The Heart” which factor in some faux George Harrison wigged out guitar to a good end. If you’ve only known “Dirty Old Town” through the Pogues version, the reading here may be a bit of a shocker!

The second LP “Chad And Jeremy Sing For You”, which follows, is on the whole a bit slicker and leans a little more heavily on ballads. Their chart positioning was fluctuating wildly at the time and perhaps this collection steered an overly safe path in the search of mainstream success. The backing is often by a big band and they very rarely kick loose into something spicier. For the most part this platter falls into quite easy listening, the Beat pretensions of its predecessor stripped away and replaced with more lush arrangements. Occasionally they go a bit too far down that route – the soppy “Sleep Little Boy” is a bit cloying, but “My How The Time Goes By” with a nice Garagey Farfisa organ restores things in the plus column. Finishing up disc one are some knockabout live Folk tracks from a various artists LP.

Disc two here is effectively a Greatest Hits LP because as Chad and Jeremy left Ember in 1965 their star waned on the music charts at least, though they managed to keep themselves in the public eye with some of TV and film work. And yes, they released the inevitable “Psychedelic” album in 1967 (not included here). Like the LPs themselves the mix here is heavily tipped towards ballads and mid-paced numbers, but they do have their own charm and I defy anyone to listen to this entire collection without one song lodging in your head, particularly the single sides “A Summer Song” and “What Do You Want For Me”. There is also some rare mixes included with a bit of studio goofing, which helps present a full picture.

At best this is big sounding, slightly old fashioned but polished pop music, for a time before post-modernism when people just wanted to hear some good tunes well played (you may well ask “Why shouldn’t they?”). I can’t honestly say there is anything here that you will find completely earth-shattering, but there is plenty that is diverting. Fans of Beat will enjoy the strange juxtaposition of that genre with Folk prior to the Byrds patenting the style and the ballads, though hit and miss, are sometimes touching and more often than not replete with their own charm. No-one really makes simple sounding stuff like this anymore and I’m bound to think that is a bit of a shame.

 

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

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