Another instalment drawn from the one of the most significant catalogues in UK 1960s rock history: the vault of legendary producer Shel Talmy. Over half the contents are previously unreleased, and feature scintillating outtakes and alternate versions alongside acknowledged classics of the beat group genre, many featuring a young guitar slinger by the name of Jimmy Page.
From his efforts with the Kinks and the Who alone, the Shel Talmy sound would wield considerable influence during the crucial mid-60s episode in popular culture. But for every ‘You Really Got Me’ or ‘My Generation’, there were dozens of also-rans that have since become underground classics or, such as the contents of “Planet Beat”, lie waiting to be re-evaluated. This new collection features a handpicked selection from the remarkable cadre of beat and R&B recordings Talmy produced or handled between 1964 and 1966, all redolent of a time when not only was his work rate alarmingly prodigious, but the batting average high, aesthetically if not always commercially.
You might say the timing was perfect. With his arrival in London the summer of 1962, the nervy American walked into the British music business at the precise moment the beat scene was in ferment. True, most of his early Decca production work focused on vocalists past their sell-by date or pop schlock such as the Bachelors, but as these discs were also amongst his first successes, it makes sense that Talmy maintained that route. Having cut his teeth as a recording engineer in Hollywood, he was also au fait with the full range of pop music archetypes and could bring an American methodology to the making of records that was unusual in the British industry at that point.
By the time Talmy had struck out on his own as an independent in the spring of 1964, he had further honed his techniques. He established a relationship with a recording studio, IBC Sound in London’s Portland Place, whose facilities delivered the sonics required, and focused on session musicians who could quickly deliver what some of the less disciplined players in the self-contained beat group environment were less able. His personal picks soon devolved to Nicky Hopkins on piano, Bobby Graham on drums and Jimmy Page on guitar. The three are all over many of the tracks here, and in particular regard to Page, the compilation acts as an interesting and unique survey of his first major sojourn in the studio.
As for the featured artists themselves, their stories are all likely typical of that era, with the occasional historical wrinkle that makes for a wonderful tidbit (such as the presence of future participants in both Emmerdale and Game Of Thrones). It was an innocent period when the bright lights of Denmark Street attracted many a provincial beat group anxious to follow in the wake of the Beatles. Eventually, frustrated with a relative lack of autonomy when it came to his releases, Talmy started his own short-lived Planet Records imprint in late 1965.
While the label missed the main thrust of the beat age, Planet’s release schedule nevertheless contains several worthy examples of the genre from the Trekkas, Tribe and League Of Gentlemen, all included here. They join alternative versions of well-thumbed beat nuggets such as the Breadcrumbs’ ‘Everybody Knows’, Wayne Gibson’s ‘See You Later Alligator’, and the First Gear’s ‘Leave My Kitten Alone’. Rare singles from the Dennisons, Lancastrians, Zephyrs and Untamed join unreleased excitement from the the Liberators, Talismen, Presidents, Pathfinders and Johnny B Great. Taken together, they constitute as much a reminder of the signature qualities Shel Talmy brought to British record-making as they do of the glory days of this country’s rock’n’roll past.