"He's back in town. . ."


Who needs January, anyway?

In typical Pimps of Gore fashion, the two-year anniversary of this site came and went without note. Instead, as January 9th rolled around, I found myself re-enrolled in college and navigating my university's online education system like an old lady lost in the mall. Two years ago I was hiding from the cold in my Chicago apartment, writing about Guided by Voices. Today, I'm hiding from the Omaha cold in a couple of nursing textbooks. You get lamer every year, you know.

Anyway, I assure you, I'm back. I've paid up my GoDaddy fees and, at least for 11 more months, I'm going to keep driving this boat right into the ground.

And what better way to do that this afternoon than with a few songs by a little unsung 60s British Invasion group called the Rockin' Berries?

In all fairness to us, the listeners, the Rockin' Berries have probably remained unsung because they weren't that great of a band in the first place. I'm not going to sit here like Joe Obscurity Blogger and tell you, "These guys should have been as big as The Beatles!" That opinion is reserved for The Kinks.

The Rockin' Berries, however, had one song so great that it's hard for me to believe it never became even a minor hit in the U.S. I was watching an old movie called Pop Gear a few weeks ago, which features a huge assortment of British Invasion bands (including The Beatles and The Animals) lip synching to their hopefull hits. As I watched this movie, one "performance" in particular jumped out at me:

"He's In Town"

You know how the best part of Harry Belafonte's "Day-O (Bananna Boat Song)" is that falsetto "Wheeeee-ooh-eee-ooh-weee-um-mum-u-wayyyy"? The Rockin' Berries take that same moment and recast it as the most crushing part of this delicate little ballad about losing your girl to that great guy she's been pining for ever since he left town. That perfect, Frankie Valli-esque falsetto comes from one of the Berries' two vocalists, Geoff Turton. Further research showed me why this song jumped out at me immediately: it was originally written for the Tokens by genius songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King. (I vow to write a post in the near future about the undeniable pimpness of Carole King.)

I watched the Rockin' Berries scene another half dozen times before hitting the web to try and purchase the track. No such luck, so my hunt went deeper. . . and more illegal. Thanks to some rock fans on LimeWire, I found a few more Berries songs that I liked, but didn't love anywhere near as much as "He's In Town."

See what you think of:

"Itty Bitty Pieces"
"What in the World's Come Over You"
"Yellow Rainbow"

In the end, the Rockin' Berries were a decent band that marginalized itself through the career choices it made. According to Allmusic, the Berries were caught up in the idea of being entertainers - not just a band - and included a lot of novelty and comedy material on their records. They couldn't have anticipated how musician/lyricists like Bob Dylan were about to change the music industry forever by injecting an air of art and seriousness into rock music, a form that wasn't getting that kind of respect when bands like the Berries were on their way up.

Still, I think it's important not to forget songs as good as "He's In Town." It's always good to be reminded that even the seemingly insignificant bands in rock history contributed some great material to the form.

- Learn a lot more about the Berries here
- . . . or, here


1 comment:

Joe said...

Great, your interest in the Rockin' Berries and their turns in "Pop Gear" -- but you've picked the wrong song.
GE-off Turton (dontcha love those British spellings) has an very nice falsetto but he also possessed a
beautiful tenor.
On their second "Pop Gear" tune, "What In The World's Come Over You," after starting out in falsetto mode Turton brings his chest voice in very clearly about 45 seconds into the tune.
That, combined with some nice close ups of Turton singing -- I mean lip synching -- makes this the most emotionally effective tune in all of "Pop Gear."
(Unfortunately, there was a tune of the same name by someone named Jack Scott, which perhaps overshadowed the Berries' effort. I can't even find the lyrics to the Berries song on the net.)
Turton was a damn good singer; I just think "What In The World's Come Over You" better shows off his talents. Also, if you watch "Pop Gear" again to check it out, check out the Berry in the background with the maracas.
Very funny.
Well, at least you didn't obsess on The Nashville Teens performance of "Google-Eye."
And The Beatles in "Pop Gear" -- that's newsreel footage, not in studio lip synching.
And what's Matt Munro doing there?