Thursday, October 2, 2008
The Pyramid-The Summer Of Last Year/Summer Evening
The United Kingdom was particularly enamoured with the American "West Coast sound" in the mid 1960's. True there were loads of Beach Boys covers, but some bands went beyond the covers and struck out to create their own home brand. The songs needn't have always been about surfing, beaches or blondes in convertibles, but some were.
Enter The Pyramid. A band who released this one off single on the Decca offshoot label Deram. Produced by the pop maestro Denny Cordell,it evokes everything you'd expect from a bunch of English guys who dug The Association and the like. I could easily imagine them onstage in their all white get ups with sunflower medallions and shades prompting some cat call from some oik as they loaded their gear in the dismal grey night of some unwritten Northern English town "California's that way mate...". The record was reportedly released (according to an article in "Record Collector") in the un-summery month of January 1967. As the scan of my promo copy will attest by it's release date this is entirely correct. Probably not the brightest move by Deram's production department, it was also sandwiched in between Cat Steven's smash "Matthew & Son" and Whistling Jack Smith's "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" (shudders in Sideshow Bob style sniggering all around). Needless to say the record sank without a trace.
"The Summer Of Last Year" is a low key multi layered harmony number relying on some nice fuzz bass (played by none other than John Paul Jones it's reputed), guitar, drums and a faint organ. The lyrics evoke the joys of summer, the backing vocals remind me of The Who's Entwistle and Moon on one of the band's surfy B-sides ("In the City"). All in all it's pleasant and catchy because of the bass, the vocal perfection and the way the crescendo builds when the combo organ kicks in. Good stuff.
The flip "Summer Evening" plumbs the same seasonal sentimentality lyrically but it's slower and has an almost raga feel to it's gentle guitar work. I also swear I can hear a tabla on it, but I'm not sure in adittion to some organ. Both sides also feature the drumming talents of one Ian Pratt-MacDonald(later Matthews) later to pop up in Fairport Convention.
The A-side did turn up on a U.K. 60's psych/pop CD collection called "Fairytales Can Come True Volume One") and both sides featured on the late 80's Decal LP compilation "Deram Days".
POSTSCRIPT: The band were a trio consisting of Steve Hiett, Albert Jackson and Ian Pratt-McDonald. They were assisted in the studio by John Paul Jones who played bass and possibly organ and arranged by Mike Lease (who also provided backing vocals) . Lease would later crop up in the band Freedom (who's line-up boasted to ex-Procul Harum members) in 1968 responsible for the brilliant "Where Will You Be Tonight" single (UK Mercury MF 1033). Special thanks to "Record Collector" magazine and Nigel Lees for these last bits.
Further addendum's from original member Mike Lease:This recording was the culmination of an elaborate stage act, involving 2 non-stop sets of at least 45 mins. each [!], testing the breath control of the singers to the limit, I was the musical directer of this ambitious project which ran for 18 months or so... Albert Jackson was the 3rd vocalist. I played the organ on the recording, not John Paul, aka John Baldwin. The brilliant Pete Trout was on drums, Big Jim Sullivan on guitar.... - Mike Lease
I might have got the guitarist on the A side wrong... - Pete Trout thinks it was John McGlaughlin, with Big Jim on the B side... Maybe.... - Mike Lease
Yet another thought just occur ed to me about this track.... It could have been Big Colin Pincott on guitar, side "A"... I'm really unsure and don't want to misrepresent anyone... - all that's certain is that Big Jim Sullivan was on the "B" side, John Paul Jones - bass, Pete Trout - drums, myself - organ, keyboards, and I can't remember who played congas on the "B" side.. - Mike Lease.
Hear "The Summer Of Last Year":