Talk Of The Grapevine. New Soultime #6.
May 1977 saw the launch in Britain of the Grapevine label one of the most adventurous projects ever undertaken. Adventurous because the success of Northern Soul Records in the B.B.C. Charts, even with a major label like Pye promoting it, is very poor.
The label is owned by 'John Anderson' who also owns Soul Bowl record shop in Kings Lynn, it is distributed by R.C.A. Records and after just one year the first album on the label has been released.
Talk of the 'Grapevine' is easily as good as 'Great Disco Demands' and must rival R.C.A.'s own 'Jumping At The Go-Go' as the best of all the 'Northern' type albums.
As this is such an important album I asked Richard Searling the D.J. responsible for promoting a lot of the tracks and Mr Anderson himself for some background information on the Artists, Labels etc. So here we go starting with track one - side one Gene Woodbury - Ever Again. Northern fans will be immediately familiar with the tune through Bernie Williams' version on Bell . Richard started playing this covered up as William Lucas (the writer of the record). Discovered by Mr Anderson on one of his many trips to the States this is on Del-Val and has a sort of hand clap beat but I feel the Gene's voice is not as strong as Bernie's. A deal was arranged with the owners of the tapes in America and so this starts off the album. Little is known about Gene although he did have another release on Del-Val but it sounds more like Rock 'n' Roll than a Northern dancer.
Detroit Executives - Cool Off. One of the all time Northern fav's and for the first time the name of Richard 'Popcorn' Wylie appears on the album. Realeased on the Pameline label in America around '67 and the backing was also used on 'The Mighty Lover' by the Ideals on Boo-Ga-Loo. It may well be the words were wrote by Butterstone and he was a member of the group as Tony Hestor is credited as the other writer on the Ideal's and Butterstone's name does not appear on producing credits on the 'Cool Off'. The record tell's the story of a fella trying to teach a girl the latest dance. 'Shake Your Hands, Wiggle Like A Fan And Do The Cool Off'. Not much is known again about the group apart from they were all from Detroit, but it's intersting to note that the 'Green' Pameline copies were supposed to be faulty in some way yet these fetch the most money.
Eula Cooper - Beggars Can't Be Choosers. Originally issued on Note, this mid-tempo dancer never really took off, although most of the D.J.'s had copies in their collection. A record just can have too much class. Sounds '70ish with that electric piano in it and a rhythm guitar, gospel type backing and a nice sound.
Betty Boo - SpellBound. Wylie / Hestor producing with that oh so familiar backing, gurgling bass, drum rolls every second or fourth verse, that off key guitar plucking out the beat and before we go any further, I better try and put a lot of people in the picture. A lot of the Wylie / Hestor tracks on this album are just studio recordings and never came out as records. They were recorded in Detroit around '65 - '66 and people like Dennis Coffey and other famous Detroit session musician's must have helped out on some of the tracks. These recordings were then taken to various record companies and they would try to persuade them to release it on their label and pay Hestor and Wylie money for it. Stanley Mitchell's 'Get It Baby' and Tommy Neal's 'Goin to a happening' were two of the one's they managed to sell but the other tracks were not, maybe because the song wasn't good enough or the recording on the tape wasn't up to the quality required. So Popcorn 'Wylie' just kept these tapes little knowing that years later the Northern Soul Scene would dig them up and hail them as dance classics.
Mr Anderson obviously realised that by buying these tapes putting them on promotion copies and getting D.J.'s to play them, we could all benefit in hearing them and then eventually buy them on this L.P. clever HUH! But back to Betty Boo neither Richard or Mr Anderson (even Wylie and Hestor can't remember her after all it is 12 years ago) know a thing about her and 'Spellbound' is just a good record she recorded all them years ago.
Milton Wright and The Terra Shirma Strings - I Belong To You / The Gallop. One of the biggest sounds of '77, but of course 'The Gallop' was well known as an instrumental for years before this vocal tape was discovered by Mr Anderson. He promptly released it on his small American label 'Satrion' and advance copies were sent to all the well known D.J.'s. This could have been a voc/inst. release but someone at Carla (the original label of 'The Gallop') or maybe Milton himself thought better and 'I Belong To You' was lost in the hectic 60's. The Terra-Sherma strings are obviously the session men from the massive Terra-Sherma recording studios which were based in Detroit (& most of the 'Karen' and 'Carla' recordings were made there) and Milton Wright was a semi-famous writer and with Ollie Mc.Laughlin and Andrew 'Mike' Terry this is a truly 'Detroit' recording.
Richard 'Popcorn' Wylie - Rosemary What Happened' Voc / Inst. Another Detroit recording this time on the Karen label and 'Popcorn' himself takes the lead vocal and tinkles on the piano. Discovered in London by the staff of the 'Cheapo Cheapo' record stall, copies came up North and immediate success was scored. I had only heard the instrumental for ages but when the vocal started getting played "I flipped" (get it)? complete with Popcorns kids singing Rosemary in the background this was made as a tribute to the film 'Rosemary,s Baby' which was released in the mid-sixties. Interesting to note that pianist Sonny Saunders famous for his 'Brunswick' stuff co-wrote this.
Sidney Thomas - Look Let's Make Love. '76 record making this very modern compared to the rest, this came out on 'Parallel' in the States and went big late '76 via Colin Curtis if my memory serves me right. One man show on this, produced, arranged and wrote by Sid, and the record tells the tale of Sid trying to con the knickers off his woman, but in that wishy- washy 'Stylistics' type voice. I don't think he'll be too successful, still there's some neat guitar and synth work in the background.
Eula Cooper - Standing By Love. Once again the name Patterson (writer of 'Let Our Love . . .) pops up, although it must have been later in her career. Doesn't sound like a Northern sound, very mid-tempo with a perky flute in the production. Eula's voice is truly magical and is used to it's full advantage on this. Once again on 'Note' and fairly popular Northern sound.
Betty Boo - Stop That Boy. Slightly slower than usual and could be the worst track on the album, very unintersting and the sound quality is very poor.
Side 2. Tony Hestor - Down In The Dumps. ' ' take your hand out of your pocket you naughty boy, yes this is it, shares the same backing track as 'Get It Baby' but that's it. Those backing singers, that voice just floats . . . . "God, I Love It". Mr Anderson says this never came out, I think it did, why should a record that goes "whoop wop, Uh etc. (Get It Baby) have a release and a piece of class like this be ignored. On the 'Soul Bowl' promotion acetate it has a division of Satrion productions, this hit the scene early '77 and was the first thing I remember being promoted by D.J.'s for Mr Anderson, nice backing track is of course your chance to immitate Stanley Mitchell and grunt your way through. Strictly Rockers!
The Wylie - Hanky Panky. Northern Soul's answer to Punk Rock. Totally devoid of tune that's what makes it so good. One of the best on the album 'Soul Sam' said he had an acetate of it for about 2 years, which makes it more amazing. Just how long has Mr Anderson had these tapes, months, years or had a British label been planned many moons ago? What a rocker, don't like the instrumental but the vocal is brill. The piano break in the middle where he keeps hitting that one note. This is Northern Soul.
Eula Cooper - Let Our Love Grow Higher. One of the all time classics on the scene and as 'Standing By Love' wrote by Bill Patterson and he also lends a hand on arranging this. I'm sure this is Detroit, that tell tale bass line and various other instruments give it away. Don't know much about the label though (can anyone help). Once again Eula's powerful gospel type voice takes the front and the instruments cleverly use her voice to build it up. Probably a '68 recording, but sounds more '71 - '72ish.
Soul Twins - Quick Change Artist. God knows who the Soul Twins are, I've asked Stewart and Neil but they refused to comment, Anarchy in M's. Again Terry and McLaughlins names pop up and even though on the single it says Atco N.Y. this is Detroit recorded. Not much more you can say except it was very popular 2 years back on the Oldies front and has come out on a 'Grapevine' single.
Tony Hestor - Spaceland. Quite big at Wigan recently and of course Hestor / Wylie again. I do know a bit about this, it shares the same backing as 'Going To A Happening' Tommy Neal (issued in Britain on Vocation and in the States originally on Palmer and also Pameline). This wasn't made with all the others but when Smokey Robinson brought out 'Going To A Go-Go' & Bob Brady's 'Going To A Love-In' they rushed into the studio with the tape and tryed to cash in on the craze using the backing track of 'Spaceland' saved them time and so they got it out while everyone was still recording theirs and Palmer issued it, but due to lack of promotion and small distribution it flopped. After this I presume they just forgot 'Spaceland' and so it ended up in 'Popcorns' tape library.
Capitols - Cool Jerk '68. Cool Jerk by the 3 Caps - Capitols (same group) was reasonably successful and this instrumental from '67 (spot the mistake) was the 'B' side to 'Afro Twist' and my guess is that the tune already being well known they needed a fill in for the 'B' side so they cut an instrumental with Terry and McLaughlin using session men. '68' this must have been one of the last records on Karen as Soul was moving into Cloud 9 - 'Phycho' world of the Temp's and the neo-Motown beat was fading.
Right that's the lot, sorry about being long winded but 'Black Echoes' and 'Blues & Soul' seemed to have only skimmed the surface of this album and being the nosey get I am I thought I'd dig deeper. Some of the info is a bit patchy but if John Anderson and Richard Searling don't know, I can only get so far with my reporting. The one point against the album is the sound quality is good, but of a low volume - apparently most of the new British albums are like this though. So what are you waiting for, go out and buy it recommended price is about £3.99 and some people have paid £100 for Gene Woodbury. Extra info. Betty Boo's 'Say It Isn't So' will not be released on a single as the tape is too poor to reprocess on to plastic.