Monday, April 12, 2010

The British Invasion

For the past couple of months now we've been RAVING about the brand new British Invasion DVD Series just released by Reelin' In The Years Productions ...

The initial series features special discs spotlighting the music of Gerry and the Pacemakers, Herman's Hermits, Dusty Springfield and The Small Faces ... and, if you buy the special box set (containing all four of these DVDs) you also get a BONUS DVD featuring extended interviews and more musical highlights.

We first heard the good news that this was going to be an on-going series a few weeks ago ... and we were already chomping at the bit to see which artists might be spotlighted next.

Then we just received this announcement from Bob Merlis, along with some media coverage regarding the next series of releases ... and we can't WAIT!!!

Check this out:

We've been working to spread the good word about the British Invasion DVD series that's been out just a couple of weeks. Volumes cover the music of Herman's Hermits, Small Faces, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Dusty Springfield packaged together with a bonus disc that comes with the box set. I'm just back from NY where British Consul-General Sir Alan Collins hosted a wonderful celebration of those releases with a reception at the UK Consulate offices. The event was attended by a gaggle of media people as well as actual British invaders Ian McLagan of the Small Faces (now a resident of Austin, TX and a U.S. citizen) and Keith Hopwood, guitarist extraordinaire of Herman's Hermits. They were joined by some home-grown musicians who have a deep appreciation of the British Invasion era. These included Marshall Crenshaw (factoid: he played John Lennon in Beatlemania! before launching his career as a singer / songwriter and then played Buddy Holly in "La Bamba"), Handsome Dick Manitoba of the the seminal and legendary punk band The Dictators and Genya Ravan who fronted Ten Wheel Drive and, prior to that, Goldie & The Gingerbreads, the first all-female rock band to be signed to a major label. They formed in 1962, actually a bit in advance of the first wave of the British Invasion.
The big news at the event came from David Peck, Reelin' In The Years Productions' president and one of the producers of the series who announced three of the bands that will be chronicled in the next British Invasion series slated for release this fall: The Hollies (just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), Manfred Mann and cult faves The Pretty Things.
Check out Jim Bessman's account of the event that's pasted below; it's a wonderful tale about Robert Kenison, member of idiosyncratic midwestern rock band Dr. Bop & The Headliners, getting to meet Keith Hopwood again five decades after their original encounter in Madison, WI:

'British Invasion' DVD launch brings together rock 'n' roll legends
April 10, 2010 -
Manhattan Local Music Examiner
Jim Bessman
It was a remarkable reunion of two rock 'n' roll legends from both sides of the Atlantic Thursday evening at the British Consulate-General in New York for Reelin' in the Years Productions' launch party for its British Invasion DVD series.
The series features single-disc documentaries of Dusty Springfield, the Small Faces, Herman's Hermits and Gerry & The Pacemakers. Consul General Sir Alan Collins hosted the event, which starred Small Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan and Herman's Hermits guitarist Keith Hopwood.
Also in attendance was
Robert Kenison, a.k.a. Troy Sharmel of the legendary 1970s Madison, Wis.-based rock 'n' roll show band Dr. Bop & The Headliners. Kenison re-introduced himself to Hopwood, whom he recalled chauffeuring around in Dr. Bop's limo when Herman's Hermits performed in Madison.
"Our manager was Ken Adamany, who also managed Cheap Trick," said Kenison afterwards. "He would rent out our limo to touring acts when they came to town. But it was so long ago that now I'm not sure if it was Herman's Hermits or Rare Earth that I chauffeured! But I do know I ended up having drinks with Herman's Hermits at the Park Motor Inn across the street from the State Capitol."
And Kenison did indeed enjoy an animated conversation with Hopwood at the Consulate-General regarding the two guitarists' mutual guitar hero -- and Herman's Hermits' underappreciated influence in their own right.
"We were all influenced by Chet Atkins," said Kenison. "He had a signature thumb-and-fingers picking style and played a Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar -- which is what George Harrison played in The Beatles. Everybody wanted to be like The Beatles, and I salivated to get a Country Gentleman and eventually got one."
The guitar, Kenison noted, "had a button you could push to mute the three top strings and another one to mute the three low strings. I was always curious if Keith used one on [the group's No. 1 hit from 1965] 'Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter' to get the muted banjo sound."
Sure enough, an impressed Hopwood acknowledged that his guitar was indeed a Country Gentleman.
"He said that the original recording of 'Mrs. Brown' -- which Herman's Hermits covered -- used a banjo, so they were looking for a means of copying that sound," continued Kenison. "Then someone stole Keith's guitar when they were touring, so he inserted a feather duster between the strings and the replacement guitar's body to get the same effect as the Country Gentleman's!"
Kenison also quizzed Hopwood about the volume control on the guitar licks on "Listen People," Herman's Hermits' No 2 single in 1966.
"It sounded to me like he was using a Telecaster, which in those days -- before there were floor pedals -- had a volume control close to the strings so the little finger of the right hand could control the volume," said Kenison. Again, a surprised Hopwood confirmed Kenison's surmise, as he did moments later when Kenison suggested that Herman's Hermits' lead guitarist Derek "Lek" Leckenby was a student of guitarist James Burton -- as evidenced by his playing on the group's No. 7 hit from 1965, "Just A Little Bit Better."
"James Burton did all those great guitar licks on Ricky Nelson's records," Kenison noted. "Keith said that Leckenby just idolozied him. So we were listening to Chet Atkins and James Burton in the Midwest -- and so were these guys in England!"
The Herman's Hermits DVD Listen People 1964-1969 has been receiving rave reviews -- rightly, relates Kenison, whose own mid-'60s pre-Dr. Bop band, The Gentlemen, assumed the style and sound of The Beatles and their contemporaries.
"For a lot of guitarists in little bands across America, Herman's Hermits were very influential -- more than people realize -- in terms of learning how to play guitar," explains Kenison. "We didn't have Internet or youtube or guitar tablature -- you had to listen to records and try to figure out how they were playing. Herman's Hermits had two guitars, bass and drums and nicely-done arrangements -- similar to The Beatles -- and small groups could sound really good playing their music."
He points to "Silhouettes," Herman's Hermits No. 5 hit in 1965.
"It's opening guitar line was a scale -- which forced us to learn to play scales!" he said. "So it became a sort of pedagogical device -- a learning tool. And Keith noted that it later goes up half a step -- so you learn about modulation! We started playing it in thirds to make harmony, and it was fun to do."
Kenison adds that The Gentlemen also played "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" and Herman's Hermits' No. 4 hit from 1967 "There's A Kind Of Hush" in addition to "Silhouettes."
"A lot of bands were playing those songs because they sounded great, and were instrumentally challenging," he concludes.
Incidentally, it was announced at the British Invasion event that Reelin' in the Years' next set of British Invasion DVD's will be released in the fall and will include programs documenting
The Hollies, Pretty Things and Manfred Mann. A short clip of The Hollies' Allan Clarke, Graham Nash and Tony Hicks singing the first chorus of their 1967 hit "On A Carousel" at the original Abbey Road Studios recording session left attendees gobsmacked.
(The Examiner saw The Gentlemen play at a junior high school dance and later wrote the "Bez Sez" column for the Dr. Bop & The Headliners newsletter; he also wrote the liner notes for the 2004 compilation Herman's Hermits -- Retrospective.)

You can read more here ... as well as check out a couple of video clips:
Click here: 'British Invasion' DVD launch brings together rock 'n' roll legends
(More clips from this series have been posted on YouTube!)