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Spanky and The Gang's All Here

September 28, 2015

We're going to try something new here, at least new for me. That is talk about a group WITHOUT playing any of their "hits." Start with a guessing game. What's the group?

 

 

Thanks a lot, YouTube. It's hard to play games when the video gives it away, but for a band that only put out three albums between 1967 and 1969, Spanky and Our Gang left us with a ton of music, but unless you purchased the LP's, you wouldn't know it.

 

The original group, formed after Elaine "Spanky" McFarland (a singing waitress) was asked by a club owner in Chicago to put together a band for nights when there wasn't an act booked. It consisted of Spanky, "Oz" Bach (bass, vocals), Malcolm Hale, (lead guitar, trombone, vocals), Nigel Pickering (rhythm guitar, vocals), and John Seiter (drums, vocals). The distinguishing thing is all five sang. Very well. With Hale doing the arranging and a good idea of what to record, the group "hit" in 1967 with both "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" and "Lazy Day," but if you didn't buy their self-titled LP, would have missed this gem…

 

It Ain't Necessarily Bird Avenue 

 

Well, hmmmm, "Byrd Avenue" WAS the flip side of "Lazy Day," but who flipped 45s over? But THIS never came out on a 45…

 

Spanky and Our Gang commercial 

 

Folk rock at its best. That's Nigel on the lead of this Mike Smith ditty. Didn't I say the band could sing?

 

Their second album, "Like to Get to Know You" came out in '68. There's the hit, then there's this, that show off their harmony singing…

 

Stardust - Spanky and Our Gang 

 

It's a concept of sorts. It starts with the song "Chick-A-Ding-Ding" segues into "Stuperflabergasted" and moves on with the party chatter into Hoagy Carmichael's old chestnut "Stardust," then into "Coda," a reprise of "Like to Get to Know You."

 

After the second LP, Oz Bach left the band and was replaced by Kenney Hodge on bass (and vocals) with Lefty Baker joining the band on a second lead guitar... and vocals. This was the lineup that recorded their last album, "Without Rhyme or Reason b/w Anything You Choose." By the way, on the backside of the LP, the titles are reversed. Not backwards, that would be too simple, but reversed. The record has no real hits on it, but it DOES have another Hoagy Carmichael song ("Hong Kong Blues"), and 3 really good concept tracks, one being "Since You've Gone:"

 

Since You've Gone 

 

…which starts with the tune at the top of this blog, goes into "Jane," then "Yesterday's Rain," and ends with the above, which in turn reprises "1-3-5-8." Alas, after the LP was recorded but before it was released, Malcom Hale died unexpectedly. That devastated the band in as much as Hale was the group's arranger and de facto leader. The band completed its tour then broke up.

 

I did make a little error here. There WAS a hit of sorts on the third LP. This…

 

Gives a Damn 

 

Used to great effect during John Lindsey's 1969 New York City mayoral campaign, it was banned on a number of radio stations due either content ("Damn") or the word Damn in the title. It did sell some, and was their last hit, if even a semi one. But it doesn't detract from the fact that this was their most complete album from a musical standpoint, holding together as a whole better than the other two. And as seems to be the way, of the three LPs, without a true hit, it was the worst seller by far.

 

I don't really want to leave on a sad note. Spanky And Our Gang lasted about three years, similar to The Mamas And The Papas, a group they are often compared to. More complex than the M's & P's, they were much more fun, too. So let's leave them as we began, with the opening song in this blog....extended. Seems fair enough.

 

 1,3,5,8 Jane

 

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