Video of the Week: Silver Threads and Golden Anniversaries–The Seekers Celebrate 50 Years

In the Seekers’ appearance on ’60 Minutes’ from 2012, the only 60’s band still together with its original lineup intact look back at their heyday and a time when earnest, well-performed folk music had a place in the charts right beside the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

This group was a favorite in my house when I was growing up, and I passed on a love for them to my son as my dad did for me.

If you remember or appreciate the genre, you’ll find the 1968 farewell performance linked below a real treat. Also, enjoy Judith Durham’s crystalline vocals leading a typically ebullient performance on “Love is Kind, Love is Wine”, their final U.S. chart entry (#135) from 1968. This joyful tune deserved a wider audience

 

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/10/28/9601/

The Seekers 1968 Farewell Show

I post this with some trepidation. Either you, dear reader, will have some appreciation–or at least tolerance–for the music of the 60’s folk movement…or you will not.

If so, you’ll find the Seekers’ 1968 farewell show a treat, dubious attempts at humor aside.

The Seekers formed in Melbourne, Australia in 1962. After immigrating to England in ’64 a string of worldwide hits followed. Their music was a somewhat sugar-sprinkled hybrid, perhaps too close to pop for some folk purists, but it was a winning sound that earned them the distinction of being the first Australian act to land in the top 5 in England and the U.S. as well as their home country.

Just four years later, though, lead singer Judith Durham announced her intention to leave the Seekers for a solo career, and the group called it quits.

Their final performance together was shown live by the BBC in the form of this special, called Farewell the Seekers. It drew an estimated 10 million viewers, a testament to just how well-loved the group were in England and elsewhere.

The mode of music they specialized in is as out of fashion as Durham’s dress. But there’s no denying the talent on display here, or the timelessness of some of these songs.

Fans of singing competition TV shows like The X Factor and American Idol have been brainwashed, frankly, into thinking that a great singer is measured by the level of histrionics in a performance, or the number of notes, other than the ones on the page, that a song is adorned with. Judith Durham’s purity of voice and seemingly effortless performance–the way she gets out of the way of a great song instead of imposing herself on it–is a lesson in how it once was done, and still is by the best ones. Celine Dion is gifted. Durham is a great singer.

seeker

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2017/06/27/video-of-the-week-silver-threads-and-golden-anniversaries-the-seekers-celebrate-50-years/

 

The Forgotten Hits: 60’s Pop

Every era and genre of music has songs that were popular in their day, but whose footprints have been washed from the sand over time. Our goal in this series of posts is to resurrect their memory; to help in a small way to reverse the process of the “top tenning” of oldies formats, which reduce hit makers from previous decades to their most popular song or two and then overplay them until you almost loathe an artist you used to enjoy (think “Sweet Caroline” or “Don’t Stop Believin’”).

I’ll be citing the Billboard pop charts for reference. Billboard Hot 100 charts of the 60′s and 70′s were a much more accurate reflection of a song’s popularity, before there were so many other ways for a song to enter the public consciousness (reflected by the number of pop charts Billboard now uses). It was an era when radio ruled–before a car commercial, social music sharing site, or Glee were equally likely ways for a song to break through.

The Joe Jeffrey Group: “My Pledge of Love”

#14 in 1969

Cleveland’s Joe Jeffrey isn’t exactly a household name, and it isn’t easy digging up information about him or his band. That’s what one-hit status will do for you. He did release a cover of British group White Plains’ “My Baby Loves Lovin” that was released a week earlier stateside, but his bid to steal their chart thunder failed when his version charted just outside the top 100 while White Plains’ went to number 13.

His label, Wand, did issue a poor-selling LP with the same title as his hit single though, and its liner notes hyped it as “the best all-around pop album since ‘Sgt. Pepper.'” Hmm…

Good song, though.

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Turn Down Day

The Cyrkle: “Turn Down Day”

#16 in 1966

The Cyrkle were managed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein and given their name by John Lennon. Their biggest hit was the #2 “Red Rubber Ball”, which was written by Paul Simon and still gets oldies radio airplay. Time hasn’t been quite so kind to “Turn Down Day” in terms of continued exposure. But it’s a nice musical snapshot of its time. And the fact that someone posts songs like this on YouTube, and tens of thousands of others view it, proves some people havan’t forgotten.

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Oh Happy Day: The Best Of The Edwin Hawkins Singers

The Edwin Hawkins Singers: “Oh Happy Day”

#4 in 1969

The Edwin Hawkins Singers were actually the Northern California State Youth Choir, and “Oh Happy Day” was from an album they recorded (called Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord) with the intention of selling it privately to raise money for a choir trip. But their modest 500-copy pressing wasn’t nearly enough after a local DJ at KSAN in San Francisco started playing the song. Buddah Records signed them to distribute it nationally (also changing the choir’s name to the Edwin Hawkins Singers) and the record became a million-seller.

The song also inspired George Harrison to write “My Sweet Lord” (well, this song and, apparently, “He’s So Fine.”) But it also caused some degree of controversy regarding the commercialization of gospel music. But hey, as I’ll be pointing out in a future post, it wasn’t unique–there was lots of God on the radio in the 60’s and 70’s.

This song’s style may sound like one you’ve heard before, but it was fresh then. “Oh Happy Day” actually helped pioneer the black gospel sound that is commonly used in contemporary worship.

The Edwin Hawkins Singers actually did see the top ten once more, backing Melanie on her 1970 hit “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”.

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Best of

James & Bobby Purify: “Let Love Come Between Us”

#23 in 1967

James & Bobby Purify have been described as “Sam & Dave without the ugly and offensive sweat.” They were indeed a poppier version of the legendary soul duo as this, their second-highest charting hit, attests. They were better known for the hits “I’m Your Puppet” and “Shake a Tail Feather”, the latter of which actually charted at just #25. But “Let Love Come Between Us” is the hit that radio left behind for some reason.

The duo were not brothers but cousins James Purify and Robert Lee Dickey.

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Reach Out of the Darkness

Friend & Lover: “Reach Out of the Darkness”

#10 in 1968

Friend & Lover were husband and wife duo Jim and Cathy Post. Dig the groovy tune and get hip to the message, man. This one just reeks of the flower power, post-Sgt. Pepper Age of Aquarius and all that–the Indian Summer of Love, if you will.

But something about it wasn’t quite cool enough to earn it an afterlife in movie soundtracks and such, the way songs like “Let’s Get Together” and “Time of the Season” and “Good Morning Starshine” did. Oh well, that just makes it a more powerful burst of nostalgia to listen to if you do remember it.

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The Best of The Five Americans

The Five Americans: “Western Union”

#5 in 1967

The only time this Dallas band cracked the top twenty was this catchy little thing that sounds a little like the Hollies’ “Stop, Stop, Stop” with a Roger McGuin guitar sound. Maybe it’s the whole archaic telegram thing that has caused it to fall out of favor–couldn’t be that wonderfully cheesy organ solo!

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Very Best of

The Seekers: “I’ll Never Find Another You”

#4 in 1965

Judith Durham-fronted Australian folk-pop group the Seekers have at least one song you probably know: the #2 hit “Georgy Girl” was their biggest hit, though not a highlight of their catalog to me personally.

This one really is a gem I think, and a family favorite since back in the days of my dad’s living room stereo.

The twelve-string acoustic folk sound was a staple on radio from the late 50’s to at least the mid-60’s. The Kingston Trio, The Limeliters, The Mitchell Trio (with John Denver), The Rooftop Singers, The Serendipity Singers, The New Christy Minstrels (with Kenny Rogers) and Peter, Paul & Mary were artists of the ilk that the hilarious film A Mighty Wind totally took a piss on.

And some of it was over earnest, and hasn’t aged all that well admittedly. But I do have a soft spot for the Seekers, and can’t resist a lyric like:

If they gave me a fortune/My pleasure would be small/I could lose it all tomorrow and never mind at all

But if I should lose your love, dear/I don’t know what I’d do/For I know I’d never find another you

Earnest, yes. But beautifully rendered by folk diva Judith while the 12-string rings sympathetically. This works for me. It’s a loss for all of us that we don’t hear this stuff anymore.

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