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Friday, July 14, 2023

rep> The Eyes - The Arrival Of The Eyes (1965-66 uk, great cult mod beat coiled with power, 2006 remaster)

Who would have guessed that terrific undiscovered talent lurked behind the rising sun stained-glass windows of the green-fronted doors of Ealing? Who indeed! But Ealing was pretty much like any other middle class borough on the outskirts of swinging London, only a short tube journey from Soho, and its coffee cars and strip clubs. Ealing was your normal suburb: it had local schools, shops, clinics; thanks to its proximity to the seething nightlife of London's streets, it also had actors, musicians, magicians, and cabaret artists living on every avenue... in other words, a well-equipped roster of local talent.

Our cameras now speed very quickly to the left, like they used to do on the Adam West 1960's Batman television series, and we focus in on a local Ealing wedding. Plucky Charles Lamey had managed to secure the hand of Gloria Honeycroft—for a few years, at least. Lamey, a native of low-key, no-nonsense St. Albans, Herts, wanted a low-key, no-nonsense wedding. But Gloria was having none of it. Gone for her would be the days of swanning off to the 21 's coffee bar, frugging all night to the sounds of Johnny Grant. She wasn't yet a respectable married woman. She was going out in style.

Gloria wanted a big reception with a swinging discotheque, but seeing as how they hadn't yet been invented, she had to settle for her local fave-rave band. They were a bit like the Shadows, playing well-known beat instrumentals, and their guitarist was, well, dreamy. The name of the band was the Renegades, a name she always had thought was a bit quiffy; but never mind, her parents couldn't afford the Detours, so she made do. The Renegades busily played their dodgy instrumentals on make-shift gear, making sure that they each wore their Colonel Sanders bow-ties just right.

The MC at the wedding stood up on the stage and announced the band: Christopher Lovegrove on lead guitar (EaIing's very own Hank Marvin), Kenneth Girwan on drums, Philip Heatley on left-handed rhythm guitar and Barry Allchin on four-string acoustic bass guitar. All guitars were fed through the band's prize possession: a flange-fronted twin-speaker combo amplifier. Outside, it was getting dark. The bride and groom had shot off, and the Renegades had two numbers left to play before packing up for the night.

The cake had gone, and the toilets had flooded. A lonely 17-yearold Terrence Holder sauntered past the front door as the band murdered 'Route 66.' He plucked up enough courage to wander inside and grab a dekko at the band as they plodded through the death throes of their set. Holder was impressed—not sure why—and within the space of six minutes had decided that his current job as a shipping clerk was perhaps not such a good idea after all. "What you need is a singer/' Holder said for the ninth time to Barry Allchin, as he helped them nick the mains plug off the record player. "Okay, okay/' murmured Allchin, "come and see us next week." Thus it was that Terry Holder, christened Dave Russell by his father, and now calling himself Gerry Hart (a better name for getting all the chicks he had ever dreamed of, he reasoned), joined the Renegades as singer.

The Renegades became The Hartbeats. Enter shiny waistcoats and romantic songs. Our heroes continued to play many a wedding reception and school youth club dance in Ealing. They had a fan club (membership: 70), managed by Chris Lovegrove's dad. No one remembers how it was that the Hartbeats became the Eyes, but no doubt the bastion of bug-eyed Mods in Acton, Bentford, and Ealing influenced the change. Original drummer Girwan decided against playing the band's new R&B inspired set, and handed his sticks over to Brian Corcoran. Even with the new moniker, the band were still only playing the Ealing YMCA, Hamble town hall, and the odd wedding... it was time for a major rethink. What to do? The answer was obvious. Buy new loud gear, and some slick threads, including customized bright pink parkas with tire tracks across the backs, and some rugby shirts.

By now, Motown and Stax singles had been digested; most important of all, Terry Holder had written a fistful of vibrant, shockingly good numbers. Mods, disillusioned with the new songs of the Small Faces and the Who, were in search of a new sound. The Eyes lived on feedback and used a gong, and rapidly gained a reputation as the loudest and most anarchic band on the scene. Soon, the band's cult status spread, and they became stalwarts on the Rickey Tick circuit of underground London nightclubs. One particular gig was a Radio London night at Tiles' club, just off Oxford Street. The area was not a typical Mod haunt; Tiles was a swinging go-go club, surrounded by op-art mini-skirt boutiques, coffee bars, and new fangled discotheques. It was here at this club—"away from the numbers" as the Mods (and later the Jam) would say—that The Eves got their break.

A longtime pal Drought a man from Philips to see the band on their second booking at Tiles, and he signed them forthwith to the Mercury label, which was run by Philips. The Eyes' 1965 single 'When The Night Falls' b/w “I’m Rowed Out” (Mercury MF 881), produced by the king of compression Shel Talmy, should have made them into instant legends. Alan Freeman described it as "truly unforgettable"—a prophetic statement. Later writers, like Cliff Jones in Mojo magazine, have described the single in emphatic language: "(it) is as raw as an open wound, as sharp as a scalpel blade, and jammed full of sinewy whiplash lead guitar and pounding demonic 'jungle telegraph' drums." Even today, the adrenaline rush from both sides of the single is as intense as ever. What it sounded like back in 1965 is anybody's guess.

The sound was brash and raw. Apparently, ear piercing guitar feedback/distortion was too much for Sixties pop music fans (the term 'Freakbeat' was not invented until much later); but in retrospect, few bands have ever managed as solid a debut. A big hit with Fluff Freeman and a few tasteful Mods, the single was nonetheless ignored by the world at large. If you are looking for music that captures the essence of Mod, then look no further than 'When The Night Falls' and ‘I’m Rowed Out' for two knockout punches of pure teen angst expressed with a cocksure swagger. Despite the lack of sales success, the Eyes began supporting the Kinks, the Move, and the Action.

A second single, The Immediate Pleasure' b/w 'My Degeneration' (Mercury MF 897), was released in January 1966. The song 'My Degeneration', a tongue-in-cheek homage to (or an absolute subversive rip on) the Who is both funny and cool at the same time. It was a regular visitor to the turntables in the jukeboxes of Brighton, and became a Mod anthem. It helped the Eyes' cause that the lyrics of the song contained references to coffee (Mod slang for bonking). This second Eyes single (both A and B sides) did not please everyone in England. The Tea Board attempted to sue the band because they seemed to be taking liberties with the "Join the tea set" chorus of 'My Degeneration'. Meanwhile, the BBC objected to lyrics in The Immediate Pleasure', and deemed the song too offensive for airplay.

When the Eyes were invited to the BBC for a radio session, various men in suits appeared to watch the band in action. Seeing the Eyes play a song entitled 'I Can't Get No Resurrection' in front of a crucifix was much too much for the  Light Programme folk—the BBC radio ban was now complete in every way. Not even a respectable (and respectful) cover of the Everly Brothers' 'Man With Money', released in May 1966 (Mercury MF 910), and backed by the superior band original 'You're Too Much', could undue the damage. Instead of becoming BBC regulars, the Eyes became big faves on pirate Radio London.

Good exposure, but hardly what a major label like Mercury had in mind for their acts. Still, the label had faith in the band, although they decided that it was time to go for a hit. The Eyes' faithful producer, Mike Hawker, had managed to get hold of the Beatles 'Good Day Sunshine' before the release of the "Revolver" LP. Although this third Eyes single, 'Good Day Sunshine' b/w 'Please Don't Cry7 (Mercury MF 934) received heavy airplay, and became the band's most successful single, this did not add up to very much in the world of record sales. The late 1966 release of The Arrival Of The Eyes EP', which contained both sides of their first two singles, sold so poorly that it has become one of the most collectable EPs of the Sixties.

In 1967, Phil Healey quit the Eyes, and was replaced by Steve Valentine. The band struggled on. Things were so bad that they accepted an insulting offer from Philips to record an exploitation album of Rolling Stones covers (and covers of songs covered by the Rolling Stones) for the budget Wing label for a meager £180. Recorded under the pseudonym the Pupils, the album was cranked out in one eight-hour session that included flashes of brilliance, some out of tune guitars, and the sound of drum sticks being hurled across the room. The album was released as "The Pupils Tribute To The Rolling Stones" (WingLP 1150) in 1966.

One contemporary article in the trades stated the obvious: "Eyes are closing... After sales of their record 'Good Day Sunshine' have shot up to 1 1,000 in just two weeks. The Eyes beat group announced this week they are disbanding. 'We feel we are stuck—we just can't get any further/ said a member of the Ealing group. 'We have made records, played all over the country, and what else can we do?' Singer Terry Nolder, of Ashgrove, South Ealing, is to form a new professional outfit called Tonic Water/ and the other four boys will either go back to their old jobs or become freelance guitarists.

During the three years the group has been in existence they have made five records—three of them written by the group—toured the country, and played at London clubs."  The Eyes were hardly innovators. Their early slices of Mod cool borrowed heavily from the classic 1960s sound of the Who. Yet the finest cuts of the Eyes, with their blend of innovative guitar feedback/distortion and anthemic Mod songwriting, are - equal in stature to rock classics like 'I Can't Explain' and 'Substitute.' The Eyes' bursts of electronic mayhem were quite advanced for the time, though like the Who they had hooks and harmonies to counterpoint the madness.

Thanks to the timeless quality of their handful of great tracks, the band's legacy continues to grow as more and more people discover that long forgotten bands like the Eyes (or Les Fleur Des Lys, to name another) could match heavyweights like the Who, the Kinks and the Small Faces blow for blow, even if only for a fleeting three minutes of pure genius at a time.

1. When the Night Falls (Terence Nolder) - 2:34
2. I'm Rowed Out (Terence Nolder, Barry Allchin) - 2:56
3. The Immediate Pleasure (Terence Nolder) - 2:56
4. My Degeneration (Terence Nolder, Scennedy) - 2:45
5. Man With Money (Don Everly, Phil Everly) - 2:43
6. You're Too Much (Terence Nolder) - 3:21
7. Good Day Sunshine (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 2:02
8. Please Don't Cry (Terence Nolder) - 2:35
9. Radio Londo - 0:28
10.Shakin' All Over (Johnny Kidd) - 3:27
11.When the Night Falls (Terence Nolder) - 2:57
12.I'm Rowed Out (Terence Nolder, Barry Allchin) - 3:18
13.The Immediate Pleasure (Terence Nolder) - 2:41
14.My Degeneration (Terence Nolder, Scennedy) - 2:36
15.Man With Money (Don Everly, Phil Everly) - 2:36
16.When the Night Falls (Terence Nolder) - 2:58
17.I Wanna Be Your Man (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 1:47
18.Not Fade Away (Buddy Holly, Norman Petty) - 2:14
19.If You Need Me (Wilson Pickett, Robert Bateman, Sonny Sanders) - 2:53
20.19th Nervous Breakdown (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 3:42
21.As Tears Go By (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Andrew Oldham) - 2:54
22.(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 3:53
23.Route 66 (Bobby Troup) - 2:16
24.The Last Time (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 3:06
25.Play With Fire (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts) - 2:23
26.Get Off My Cloud (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 3:08
27.Little Red Rooster (Willie Dixon) - 3:32
28.Ifs All Over Now (Bobby Womack, Shirley Womack) - 3:13
Tracks 17-28 as the Pupils from The album "The Pupils Tribute to The Rolling Stones"

The Eyes
*Terence Nolder - Vocals
*Christopher Lovergrove - Lead Guitar
*Kenneth Girwan - Drums
*Philip Heatley - Rhythm Guitar
*Barry Allchin- Bass Guitar
*Brian Cocoran - Drums
*Kenneth Girwan - Drums (-1965)

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