Ace’s latest addition to its Songwriter Series, Listen People: The Graham Gouldman Songbook 1964-2005, appropriately enough begins with a track written by Gouldman, “That’s How (It’s Gonna Stay).” But the track is also significant in that it was performed by Gouldman, as well – as part of his early group The Mockingbirds. Throughout his career, he’s worn many hats – as a songwriter, as a band member, as a solo artist – and all of them are touched upon on this fine celebration of a largely underrated talent.
“That’s How (It’s Gonna Stay)” is a catchy midtempo number that could have caught on in the midst of the British Invasion; EMI in the U.K. preferred it over another Gouldman tune as The Mockingbirds’ debut single. That other song was the harder-rocking “For Your Love” – a top ten hit on both sides of the Atlantic for The Yardbirds. Befitting with Ace’s tradition of blending definitive or iconic versions with rare covers, “For Your Love” is heard here in a 1965 recording by Larry Williams and Johnny “Guitar” Watson, backed by The Stormsville Shakers. The Williams/Watson rendition isn’t too far removed from The Yardbirds’, as Gouldman delivered the song in a fully-formed state. The songwriter was called upon to supply The Yardbirds with another hit, and so he tailored “Heart Full of Soul” for the band. Showcasing new guitarist Jeff Beck, it eclipsed the success of ‘For Your Love.” It’s heard here in a 2004 cover by Rush, demonstrating the endurance of Gouldman’s finest work. As a solo artist, Beck also dipped into the Gouldman songbook for an ode to the now-defunct occupation of “(The) Tallyman,” on which Beck provides a rare vocal as well as his typically searing guitar. The Yardbirds aren’t ignored on Listen People, however. “Evil Hearted You” was a third top 3 hit, but hasn’t had the endurance of the edgier “For Your Love” or “Heart Full of Soul.”
The Hollies first scored with a Graham Gouldman song via the upbeat “Look Through Any Window.” It became a U.K. top five hit in summer 1965, and gave them entrée to the U.S. as their first top 40 chart entry stateside. It’s heard here in a perky, well-produced and faithful cover by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, but The Hollies’ next Gouldman tune was even stronger. “Bus Stop” (1966) – a No. 5 entry in the U.K. and the U.S. – showed Gouldman’s mastery of craft at a young age (he wasn’t yet 21). Imaginatively structured, with evocative imagery and clever wordplay, the intricate “Bus Stop” is still one of Gouldman’s most beloved songs.
The darkly melodramatic, funereal “I’m 28” (“It’s getting late? What have I got to do?”) is a rare treat from Toni Basil playing the would-be spinster circa 1966 – fourteen years before “Mickey” thrust her into the pop spotlight. A retro feel permeates Wayne Fontana’s reading of the nostalgic “Pamela, Pamela.” Its music hall rhythm and Les Reed’s lush string orchestration lend it a lovely feel with just enough musical tension to keep it from ever getting too treacly. The title track of this collection, “Listen People,” was yet another hit in ’66 from the prolific songwriter. The hit single went to Herman’s Hermits, but across the pond, it was covered by Cleveland’s Outsiders. Their version included here lacks the sweetness brought on by Peter “Herman” Noone’s vocal, but is nonetheless credible. Gouldman continued to crank out songs for the Hermits, including “East West” and “No Milk Today.” Morrissey revived the former in 1989, its pervasive sadness clearly appealing to the singer. The latter is persuasively sung here by its author, from his 1968 RCA solo album produced by Noone. But no Gouldman anthology would be complete without an actual Herman’s Hermits track, and here the honors go to the period celebration of “The London Look,” a 1968 ditty that was actually penned for a Yardley Cosmetics ad campaign.
Gouldman recruited Friday Brown, Christine Ebbrell, and Keith Lawless to form the studio group High Society. Their “People Passing By” is a beautifully ethereal slice of early folk-rock, with Brown’s prettily wispy, vibrato-laden lead vocals, and makes its CD debut on Ace’s collection. (Note that John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin plays bass on this rare track from his days as a session musician.)
The obscure “The Cost of Living” (1966) from Twickenham band The Downliners Sect offers satirical social commentary; it was co-written with Peter Cowap of The Country Gents and Hermits manager Harvey Lisberg. Also atypical is the darkly dramatic “Behind the Door,” first recorded by Manchester’s St. Louis Union but a perfect fit for Cher in Harold Battiste’s haunting, Eastern-inspired arrangement.
Arguably Gouldman’s most famous band affiliation, 10cc, evolved from The Mindbenders. The whimsical psych-pop of “Uncle Joe, The Ice Cream Man” dates to the group’s final days in 1968. Gouldman had joined the group to fill in for their bassist Bob Lang. He befriended vocalist Eric Stewart, which in turn led to the union of Gouldman, Stewart, Kevin Godley, and Lol Creme as 10cc. With Stewart and Gouldman doing the heavy lifting as pop songwriters, and Godley and Creme indulging their more experimental leanings, 10cc thrived between 1972 and 1976. The ever-popular “creative differences” led the two factions to split in 1976, however. From 10cc Mk. II is Gouldman and Stewart’s anthemic “The Things We Do for Love,” still in heavy rotation on classic rock and oldies radio today. Gouldman had less success in the 1980s when he paired with another pop hero, Andrew Gold, as Wax. Their gleaming, bouncy “Right Between the Eyes,” from 1986, never caught on despite having all the best qualities of the era’s pop music.
Among all these pop delights are a couple of R&B cuts. Manchester’s The Peddlers were a cabaret-leaning jazz trio, but the deep, raspy voice of Roy Philips was well-suited to deep soul. “Have You Ever Been to Georgia,” ironically, was written during Gouldman’s association with bubblegum kings Kasenetz-Katz, but thanks to Philips’ commanding vocal, it soars as a slice of funky orchestrated soul. 10cc Mk. 1’s signature song, “I’m Not in Love,” was revived less than a year after the success of the original by Dee Dee Sharp at Philadelphia International Records. Having come a long way since her “Mashed Potato Time” days at Cameo Parkway, Sharp brought delicious style to her smooth and soulful recording arranged by Philly great Bobby Martin and played by the label’s house band, MFSB.
Ace has brought the Gouldman story up to date with the inclusion of the late Kirsty MacColl’s vibrant, Latin-flavored sing-along “Treachery” (co-written by Gouldman and MacColl) from 1999, and McFly’s guitar-driven power pop-esque “I’ve Got You” (penned with Tom Fletcher and Danny Jones), from 2005. Who knows, forty years earlier, the latter might have found itself into The Yardbirds’ repertoire!
Compiler Tony Rounce has provided the detailed track-by-track notes in the 20-page color booklet, and Nick Robbins has remastered each track. Listen, People – with its emphasis on pure pop from a master tunesmith in an era when melody ruled, this is one of the finest additions to the label’s Songwriter Series.
- That’s How (It’s Gonna Stay) – The Mockingbirds (Columbia DB 7480, 1965)
- Bus Stop – The Hollies (Parlophone R 5469, 1966)
- For Your Love – Larry Williams & Johnny “Guitar” Watson with the Stormsville Shakers
- I’m 28 – Toni Basil (A&M 791, 1966)
- Evil Hearted You – The Yardbirds (Columbia DB 7706, 1965)
- Look Through Any Window – Gary Lewis & The Playboys (Liberty LP LST-7452, 1966)
- Pamela, Pamela – Wayne Fontana (Fontana TF 770, 1966)
- Tallyman – Jeff Beck (Columbia DB 8227, 1967)
- Listen People – The Outsiders (Capitol LP ST 2501, 1966)
- I’m Gonna Take You There – Dave Berry (Decca F 12258, 1965)
- The Cost of Living – The Downliners Sect (Columbia DB 8008, 1966)
- People Passing By – High Society (Fontana TF 771, 1966)
- The London Look – Herman’s Hermits (Yardley Cosmetics/Columbia EP SLE 15, 1968)
- Uncle Joe, The Ice Cream Man – The Mindbenders (Fontana TF 961, 1968)
- Behind the Door – Cher (Imperial 66217, 1966) (*)
- No Milk Today – Graham Gouldman (RCA Victor 47-9453, 1968) (*)
- Have You Ever Been to Georgia – The Peddlers (Philips 6006 141, 1971) (*)
- I’m Not in Love – Dee Dee Sharp (TSOP 4778, 1976) (*)
- The Things We Do for Love – 10cc (Mercury 6008 022, 1976) (*)
- Heart Full of Soul – Rush (Atlantic CD 83728-2, 2004) (*)
- East West – Morrissey (HMV 12POP 1622, 1989) (*)
- Right Between the Eyes – Wax (RCA PB 40509, 1986) (*)
- Treachery – Kirsty MacColl (V2 VVR5015253, 1999) (*)
- I’ve Got You – McFly (Island MCDX60099, 2005) (*)
All tracks mono except (*) stereo