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!…