Sunday, November 22, 2015

Simon Dupree and the Big Sound: Like the Sun Like the Fire

I have written before about the first single I ever bought: Kites by Simon Dupree and the Big Sound. It seems my preference for Mellotrons and psychedelia was present from the start.

There is a good entry on the band on All Music:
"Simon Dupree" was vocalist Derek Shulman, one of a trio of brothers (Ray and Phil being the other two) from Portsmouth, England, who started out in music as R&B fanatics and first formed a group in 1964. 
Their musical interests can be glimpsed by the choices that the Shulman brothers made between 1964 and 1965 in naming their bands, which included the Howling Wolves and the Road Runners. 
Those names aside, their repertoire was focused a lot more on the songs of Wilson Pickett, Don Covay, and Otis Redding than on the Wolf or Bo Diddley. "Simon Dupree & the Big Sound" came about in the course of their search for a flashy name.
And it explains how an R&B outfit came to record Kites:
Then, in October of 1967, the group's management and record label decided to try moving Simon Dupree & the Big Sound in the direction of psychedelia. It's entirely possible that they were looking at the huge sales and international recognition suddenly accruing to the Moody Blues, an R&B-turned-psychedelic outfit who had gone from near-oblivion to scoring a pair of hit albums and singles with their new sound. 
The result was "Kites," a song recorded in the early fall of 1967 at Abbey Road. The bandmembers were unhappy with the new song and the sound they were being asked to create, but they tried to make the best of it - they experimented with a Mellotron for the first time, and used it pretty much as impressively as the Moody Blues did. The melody was Asian-sounding, and the presence of actress Jackie Chan reciting some poetry over the music didn't detract from the single's "Eastern" sound. 
"Kites" wasn't R&B, but it was the right song at the right time, and it made the British Top Ten, a major commercial breakthrough for the group.
The Shulman brothers later formed the prog rock band Gentle Giant.

If they were in Abbey Road in the autumn of 1967 then they may well have coincided with the Zombies as they made Odessey and Oracle. And the Mellotron on Kites may be the one John Lennon left at the studios after recording Sergeant Pepper, which the Zombies made such good use of.

Listening to Kites today, it isn't very good. In fact I prefer the B side.

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