An advertisement reprinted in Ace Records’ splendid new collection Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production reads, “Artistes Shel Talmy Has Recorded: The Kinks, The Bachelors, The Who, Chad and Jeremy” and so on. Add to that list Manfred Mann, The Creation, The Fortunes, Trini Lopez, Lee Hazlewood, and a certain David Bowie, and you have an idea of the scope of this first-of-its-kind collection dedicated to the work of the producer-engineer-impresario. Though born in Chicago, Talmy made his name in British pop and rock, and this collection features some of his spectacular highlights from the period 1964-1970 in which he had many of his greatest triumphs.
A move from Chicago to Los Angeles set young Talmy squarely in the middle of the burgeoning teen pop scene. He met Phil Spector (“I took an instant dislike to him,” Talmy recalls in Alec Palao’s liner notes) and was mentored by Capitol Records’ Nik Venet. Talmy took up engineering, learning the mechanics of the studio in a way that would soon reward him. With the encouragement of a British friend, he traveled across the ocean and nabbed himself a deal with Decca Records. He remained independent, though, and when he brought The Kinks to Pye Records after being impressed by the band’s demo, his reputation was sealed. In addition to his outside productions, he formed the Orbit-Universal management company as well as the Planet Records label.
Talmy would be recognized today as an important figure in British rock history if only for his productions for The Kinks (represented here by “Tired of Waiting for You”) and The Who (“Anytime, Anyhow, Anywhere”). He was able to translate the raw ferocity of both groups onto records without sacrificing their immediacy or edge, and indeed, these full-throttle explosions sound as fresh today as they did decades earlier. He was a bit of a mod specialist, also helming seminal cuts by The Creation (“Making Time,” featuring Eddie Phillips’ singular “violin bow” technique of guitar-playing) and The Mickey Finn (“Night Comes Down”). The First Gear’s fusion of R&B and rock-and-roll on Allen Toussaint’s “A Certain Girl” made for another exciting rave-up. The youthful David Bowie was another one of Talmy’s clients. Bowie was on Talmy’s Orbit-Universal artist roster for just eight months, but had already perfected the art of reinvention as he shifted from R&B wailer to sharply-dressed mod. Making Time unearths a previously unreleased version of his quirky 1965 single “You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving,” with unique vocal and instrumental overdubs.
The breadth of Talmy’s recording activities is mightily evident here, as he didn’t limit himself to just one style or musical genre. Goldie and the Gingerbreads’ “That’s Why I Love You” is a sleek and sophisticated slice of uptown soul. Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson’s “Surrender” is another rare R&B treat as sung for Talmy’s Planet Records by Perpetual Langley (real name: Mary Langley) with raw passion. (The song, also recorded by the group The Carrolls, was famously revised for Diana Ross in 1971, becoming a top 40 Pop/top 20 R&B U.S. hit in the process.) Mary’s brother Gerry Langley co-wrote “Daddy Long Legs,” performed here with swagger by Lindsay Muir’s Untamed in a brassy, beat-ish treatment. Oliver Norman’s “Drowning in My Own Despair” is a big, brash ballad in the dramatic Tom Jones mold.
Talmy was well-versed in pop as well as heavier rock-and-roll, and among the earliest tracks here are confections from The Fortunes (“Caroline”) and Texan singer Trini Lopez (“Sinner, Not a Saint”). “Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. Jones” is a bouncy yet satirical nugget from the pens of hitmakers John Carter and Geoff Stephens. Talmy was at the helm of The Easybeats for their breakthrough “Friday on My Mind,” and while that tune from the Australian band isn’t here, there is a previously unreleased alternate version of “Lisa” (1967) in Talmy’s typical driving style. Of similar vintage is The Nashville Teens’ bright and catchy “I’m Coming Home,” replete with feedback-drenched solo. The softest sounds, though, come from Chad and Jeremy with their breezily beautiful “A Summer Song,” a U.S. top ten hit in 1964. The version here is the U.K. single take, with Messrs. Stuart and Clyde trading off vocals in the first verse rather than singing in unison as on the U.S. recording.
Some of the strongest songs on this collection are from the folk realm, of which Talmy had a great interest. Talmy’s arrangement of the field spiritual “Bald Headed Woman” (also recorded by The Who and The Kinks) received one of its finest, most bluesy interpretations by The Sneekers in 1964; Jimmy Page can be heard on the track. Years later, Talmy signed The Pentangle to his Planet label on the strength of songs such as the beguiling “Light Flight,” and recorded Roy Harper for CBS U.K. in 1968 (“Aging Raver”). Folk-rock of a different vein can be heard via Lee Hazlewood’s moody, naturally country-flecked “Bye Babe,” from his Talmy-helmed 1969 album Forty. (The letter from Hazlewood to Talmy reprinted in the booklet is priceless.) Oddest of all is Ben Carruthers and The Deep’s “Jack O’ Diamonds,” a song composed by Carruthers in pastiche Bob Dylan style to lyrics taken from the artist’s liner notes to Another Side of Bob Dylan!
Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production makes the case for the sonic auteur Talmy as much more than “just” the producer behind the early hits of The Kinks and The Who; his productions set the template for which those bands and so many others would follow in the years to come. The thick, 28-page booklet features a lengthy, introductory essay by compilation producer Alec Palao as well as wonderfully detailed track-by-track notes in typical Ace style. (Note, however, that while the liner notes are presented in chronological order as to each song on the program, the disc itself is not chronologically sequenced.) Nick Robbins has splendidly remastered all tracks. You’ll want to make time for this latest addition to Ace’s ongoing Songwriters and Producers series. It’s available now at the links below!
- Making Time – The Creation (Planet PLF 116, 1966)
- Bald Headed Woman – The Sneekers (Columbia DB 7385, 1964)
- Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James – Manfred Mann (Fontana TF 757, 1966)
- That’s Why I Love You – Goldie and the Gingerbreads (Decca F 12126, 1965) (*)
- Tired of Waiting for You – The Kinks (Pye 7N 15759, 1965)
- Bye Babe – Lee Hazlewood (LHI LP 12009, 1969) (*)
- Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere – The Who (Brunswick 05935, 1965) (*)
- Night Comes Down – The Mickey Finn (Columbia DB 7510, 1965)
- Light Flight (Theme From Them Three Girls) – The Pentangle (Big T BIG 128, 1968) (*)
- Stop and Watch the Children Play – The Rokes (Vik LP 3021, 1966) (*)
- A Certain Girl – The First Gear (Pye 7N 15703, 1964)
- Surrender – Perpetual Langley (Planet PLF 115, 1965)
- You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving – Davy Jones (David Bowie) (previously unissued alternate, rec. 1965)
- Ageing Raver – Roy Harper (CBS LP 63184, 1967) (*)
- Lisa – The Easybeats (previously unissued alternate, rec. 1967)
- Daddy Long Legs – Lindsay Muir’s Untamed (Planet PLF 113, 1966)
- A Summer Song – Chad and Jeremy (United Artists UP 1062, 1964)
- Jack o’ Diamonds – Ben Carruthers and The Deep (Parlophone R 5295, 1965)
- Toymaker – Wild Silk (Columbia DB 8534, 1969)
- I’m Coming Home – The Nashville Teens (Decca F 12580, 1967)
- Caroline – The Fortunes (Decca F 11809, 1964)
- Drowning in My Own Despair – Oliver Norman (Polydor 56176, 1967)
- I Don’t Need Your Kind – The Rockin’ Vickers (CBS 202241, 1966)
- Jamie Sue – Tim Rose (Capitol LP ST 673, 1970) (*)
- Sinner Not a Saint – Trini Lopez (DRA 315, 1962)
Mono except (*) stereo