|1976 Intercord - INT 128.301 (stereo)|
1. My Friend Jack (3:04)
2. Waterfall (2:37)
3. You Can't Catch Me (3:13)
4. High In A Room (2:56)
5. Wake Up Cherylina (2:15)
6. Don't Lead Me On (2:12)
1. We Can Take It (2:40)
2. If The Weather's Sunny (2:50)
3. I Wanna Make It With You (3:04)
4. It's Getting Closer (2:37)
5. It's Just Your Way Of Loving (2:23)
6. I Would If I Could But I Can't (2:10)
I know April is not quite over yet, but I'm going to go ahead and declare this record the official Thrift Store Record Report Find of the Month.
Let me tell you, it has been a very slow month down at the thrift mines. Day after day of picking at the same stagnating (but always reshuffled) crates of junk LPs had taken its toll on me. I was losing faith in the system and began growing paranoid. The large as life, grimacing cover shots of Manilow and Streisand were mocking me. Tormented by thoughts of an inside man intercepting the good stuff before it could hit the floor, or of one of the local record dealers being tipped off about new arrivals, it was high time I take action to counter these threats to the supply chain ... yes, I'm sure they are all working against me now, and something needs to be done about it... but then, finally, before I had a chance to do anything drastic that could've ultimately caused the thrift store workers to speak of me in hushed tones (and possibly giggle) whenever I showed up, I caught a lucky break that ended the maddening dry spell...
Immediately upon entering the store, cat-like senses on high alert, I detected a grocery bag full of records someone had just dropped off near the checkout counter. Now, being the first to root through an untouched, freshly donated batch of records is always an exciting prospect, full of wondrous possibilities, but when a bunch of Statler Brothers, a Kenny Rogers, and a battered John Philip Souza record were the first to come out, the excitement began to wane. Then, amazingly, this rather obscure, garage-psych-pop gem by The Smoke revealed itself—and in excellent condition! Although, appropriately enough, it does reek badly of (cigarette) smoke residue. Some other decent finds were LPs by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, The Ventures, a 1958 Elvis compilation, and a couple other interesting, oddball records that will be the subject of their own reports at a later date. It turned out to be a very strange mix of records in that bag.
I had previously heard just two songs by this band: High in a Room, and My Friend Jack, but after reading an article on them in the March issue of Record Collector magazine a couple weeks ago, I started thinking about them again and wanted to hear more, so it was perfect timing finding this right now.
|The record has a Gull label, but note the Intercord|
catalog number. The back of the cover states:
(c)(p)1966 Morgan Music Productions
Manufactured by Intercord Ton GmbH from master
recordings owned or controlled by Gull Records
It is a German release from 1976, put out by Intercord Records, as part of their "Star Power" series of reissues and compilations. It has the same track listing as the band's first and only long player: ...It's Smoke Time (1967), which was a German-only pressing that wasn't distributed in the UK until the Gull label reissued it with a different cover in 1975.
Though hailing from Yorkshire, England, the band was most successful on the European mainland. My Friend Jack, their biggest single, reached the top 50, but stalled at number 45 in the UK charts. This was likely due, in no small part, to the lyrics about how friend Jack "eats sugar lumps" and "travels everywhere." These references to LSD earned the song some bad press and it was banned from BBC airwaves in the UK before it had a chance to ride the charts for very long. The single became a chart-topping hit in places like Germany, France, and Switzerland—securing the band an appearance alongside The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Who on Germany's Beat-Club TV show, as well as a tour with The Beach Boys and The Small Faces.
I believe High in a Room and My Friend Jack are often considered to be the best songs by The Smoke, and they are indeed good ones, but my new favorites are: Waterfall, which is a beautifully dreamy, melancholy ballad that reminds me of something Peter & Gordon might have recorded, and Wake Up Cherylina, another slower, less acid-tinged, pop ballad. Both songs have more of a timeless quality about them than some of their others, and I don't think it would really be a stretch if they were mentioned in the same breath as songs by The Zombies or The Beatles.
Click here to see The Smoke perform My Friend Jack on Beat-Club