The British Invasion, featuring Miss Bessie Banks ?

If you’re a regular reader you know we believe the 1960’s was “Ground Zero” for  musical diversity, with “The British Invasion” as the most potent ingredient  in this magnificent melting pot of music and culture! As young fans we devoured every note and every word and learned more about the culture and music of “Mother England” than we ever dreamed! However we soon began recognizing  a pattern emerging from all this incredible new music coming from “across the pond” In nearly every interview with every new British act, they all agreed, their greatest influences were American artists! But we ultimately discovered that  it went deeper than admiration and inspiration! As we further examined these British invaders, studied and learned about “their” music we found with rare exception the song’s and musical bedrock for the Brits  was “All American” beginning with The Beatles and The Stones covering Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Willie Dixon, Howlin Wolf, Buddy Holly and the list goes on to include the “B” list invaders like Herman’s Hermits who favored American film / T.V. and Show Tunes!, more over”Herman’s HUGE “Break out hit “I’m into Something Good” was written by Carole King! In fact nearly every Great Brit who picked up a guitar was only looking for one thing “Another great song from America! Particularly “Brill Building songs from American songwriters like Carole King/Gerry Goffin or Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil, Jerry Ragovoy, Doc Pomus and JD Loudermilk The singers may have had an English accent, but the songs were All American! Eric Burden and The Animals may have pleaded “We Gotta Get Outta This Place” conjuring up images of a dark and dirty Mersey side port town, but no, it was written in New York City by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil

Remember “Tobacco Road” by The Nashville Teens? Perhaps the most twisted example of our point, The Nashville Teens we’re not from Nashville or Teens, they were from Weybridge Surrey, England when they approached  JD Loudermilk about this semi autobiographical song he wrote celebrating his hometown of Durham North Carolina. Yet somehow we believed those”English Teens” when they sang “I was born in a trunk, mama died and my daddy got drunk, left me here to die alone, in the middle of Tobacco Road” NO WAY!

Through the years, we are continually surprised to learn that another one of our favorite “English records” from the 60’s was actually written by an American songwriter, which in hindsight compromises the historical potency of the whole British Invasion! duz’nit ? Which leads us to our most recent discovery!

We believe you were likely a huge fan of The Moody Blues, especially their second album “Day’s Of Future Past” Their “Progressive attempt to blend classical music and orchestrations with Rock music! We’ll get into that Farce, Fake and Fancy in another post. Today, it’s all about their debut single from 1965 “Go Now!” that we’d like to focus on.  Remember “Go Now!”? With it’s compelling A capella solo introduction, soaring harmonies and a perplexing piano solo that seemingly changes time twice, challenging even the best rhythm masters! We were impressed and believed that with quality songs like “Go Now!” The Moody Blues  showed incredible promise as songwriters and that would sustain them beyond the British Invasion and more! But, that was not the case, there isn’t a drop of the Mersey River’s  inspiration flowing through this remarkable song! “Go Now emerged from the tenements of Brooklyn New York  by an unknown American songwriter who intended it as the catalyst to launch his wife’s fledgling singing career! His name was Larry Banks and his incredibly talented wife? Of course, Bessie Banks!

Larry, who co-wrote “Go Now” with his friend, Milton Bennett in 1962 produced a “Demo” of the song featuring Bessie’s amazing vocal performance. After shopping the demo to numerous record labels they eventually garnered interest from the legendary production team of Leiber and Stoller in late 1963They “Sweetend” Larry and Bessie’s demo with orchestrations and background vocals eventually releasing the record in January 1964 on Leiber and Stollers record label “Tiger” records!

Everyone was quite excited and confident that they had a huge hit on their hands, including Denny Laine, the lead singer from The Moody Blues who were in London working on their debut album. Denny heard Bessie’s “Go Now” and with little regard for much else rushed into the studio with his band and recorded a near note to note cover of Bessie’s recording. The bands management and record label initiated an aggressive promotional campaign and in an instant “Go Now!” By The Moody Blues was a huge hit in the U.K and throughout Europe, in no time, the record had crossed the Atlantic landing in the U.S.A. just as Bessie Banks was just starting to get some attention and real traction on her record!

Perhaps this part of the story should be told by Bessie Banks in her own words:

“I remember 1963 Kennedy was assassinated; it was announced over the radio. At the time, I was rehearsing in the office of Leiber and Stoller. We called it a day. Everyone was in tears. But we all felt great about ‘Go Now'”; I was so happy and excited that maybe this time I’ll make it. ‘Go Now’ was released in January 1964, and right away it was chosen Pick Hit of the Week on W.I.N.S. Radio. That means your record is played for seven days. Four days went by, I was so thrilled. On day five, when I heard the first line, I thought it was me, but all of a sudden, I realized it wasn’t. At the end of the song it was announced, “The Moody Blues singing ‘Go Now’.” I was stunned and deflated. This was the time of the English Invasion and the end of Bessie Banks’ career, so I thought. America’s DJs had stopped promoting American artists.” Go Now! By The Moody Blues would achieve world wide recognition reaching the number one position in the U.K. and Top Ten in The U.S. Denny Laine continued playing “Go Now!” even decades later when he joined Paul McCartney in Wings!

But now! Here’s your chance to hear both! First, it’s Bessie…

And the great Moody Blues…

Have you ever heard Bessie Banks? Do you have a British Invasion story? We’d like to hear it!…



  1. RICK

    Bessie Banks’s “Go Now” was released in January 1964. A good record, it nonetheless failed to make the national pop charts or the national R&B charts. The Moody Blues’s “Go Now!” (exclamation mark added) was released in the US in January 1965.

    While it’s possible that Banks’s version was “just starting to get some attention and real traction on her record” a year after its release, it’s highly unlikely. If you have evidence that it did, please post a link.

    Thanks and keep on keepin’ on!


    • Hey Neil,
      We had a feeling you might chime in on this post and you make an obvious point! The truth is as we were researching this piece on Bessie, we too took note of this historical discrepancy! Ironically it’s Bessie herself who establishes the conflict with the dates in an interview excerpted from a biography on Larry and Bessie! You can see further details by just going to Bessie Banks Go Now on Wikipedia
      However the overall point of our piece was to reveal the important role the U.S.A. Played in the British Invasion and we felt the story of Bessie and Larry banks providing The Moody Blues with their debut Smash, really underscored our point! Furthermore, we felt it was not our place to question Miss Bessie Banks or HER recollection of the events in her life!
      Lastly Neil, you are correct, the one change the Moody Blues made to the song in their version, they added an exclamation point to the title, making it “Go Now!”
      Hey Neil, always great when you and your “Eagle Eye’s show up!

  2. I started my band, The Malibooz, in 1963 in NYC. In 1964 I brought in my buddy, Walter Egan and we have been performing together ever since. Initially we leaned heavily on Surf Music and Chuck Berry. When the British Invasion hit, we moved right along with it including our original tunes. All the British Bands came through NYC and I was able to go to concerts with The Beatles, The Stones, The Dave Clark 5 etc. Also WINS-AM DJ, Murray the K, put on shows at the Brooklyn Fox where I saw, Cream, The Hollies, The Who , etc. Over the years The Malibooz has had the privilege and fun or opening for some of our fav BI bands including, Badfinger, The Yardbirds, Herman’s Hermits featuring Peter Noone, Donovan, Billy J. Kramer, The Searchers, Chad & Jeremy, Peter Asher, etc. In 2010, The Malibooz recorded a CD of 14 original British Invasion inspired tunes for our album “Queens’ English”. We called it our “British Inversion” album. We were fortunate to have a dozen British Invasion icons guest on the album; including, Spencer Davis, Tony Hicks of the Hollies, Andrew Loog Oldham, Chad & Jeremy, Ian Whitcomb, Richard Morgan of The Troggs, The Quarrymen etc. We’re keeping the tradition alive with our latest album “QE 2”. Last May The Malibooz went to Liverpool to play 3 shows at The Cavern Club. For one performance, The Quarrymen joined us on stage to play 20 Flight Rock; the song that got Paul McCartney into The Quarrymen!
    Truly grateful to have been part of the music then and now.

    • Hey John,
      Thanx for this great post and I gotta say, the more I hear and learn about The Malibooz the more I admire you guy’s! And I gotta admit I’m a wee bit envious! I can’t imagine how great it must be to work and record with the people who originally inspired you!
      We’re huge fans of The Malibooz here at SMS and will add for our readers,if your a part of thee greatest decade of music and beyond You will love The Malibooz! Their latest release “Q E 2 and their previous record “Queens English wil take you back in time and more, and if you can see them live, well….It just doesn’t g any better! If you wan’t to learn more, click on this link and you’ll be happy you did!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.