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THE BRITISH BEAT BOOM - NORTH OF THE BORDER
on 16 September 2011
It may have only reached number 31, but The Poets' debut single, 'Now We're Thru', was one of the more unusual records to break into the UK Top 40 during 1964, a period when the charts vibrated to the sounds of Merseybeat and rhythm and blues. Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham clearly felt that The Poets' haunting sound presented something different, signing the band to Decca Records and bringing them to London from Glasgow.
In what is yet another welcome release from the Grapefruit label, we get the A- and B-sides of all six Poets singles, and although this CD offers just 28 minutes of music, it works out a lot cheaper than trying to track down original copies of these 45s, which apart from 'Now We're Thru' all failed to chart; a shame, as there is worthy stuff here.
While the band's third single, 'I am So Blue', continued the echoey, forlorn direction of the debut, other singles like 'That's The Way It's Got To Be' and the highly collectable 'Wooden Spoon' pursued a harder-edged course, clearly falling under the banner of what has come to be known as Freakbeat: 'Wooden Spoon''s flip-side, 'In Your Tower', with its Indian flute embellishments, is an example of that genre's quest to seek out unusual sounds and wed them to ostensibly commercial songs. Apparently, The Poets' excellent cover of Marvin Gaye's 'Baby Don't You Do It' was produced by Paul Raven - aka Gary Glitter - and although the group felt that he remixed it without their approval, the record's ghostly backing vocals, distant-sounding guitar breaks and propulsive beat create an infectious blend all the same; I think it's my favourite on here, despite the band's misgivings.
As one would expect, the booklet contains a pretty decent history of The Poets, which features comments from the surviving group members, documenting their line-up changes, reasons for their overall lack of success, and how personnel drifted into other Scottish bands such as hit-makers Marmalade and the Apple Records act Trash.
As I say, you don't get a lot of tracks for your money. But, considering what these singles sell for on the collectors' market, this CD makes for a perfectly acceptable alternative to open-wallet surgery, shining a light on a somewhat enigmatic act from the British Beat Boom.