Diversions: the NME Awards Show of 1965

In a recent post about the 1964 “T.A.M.I. Show” I noted the scarcity of good live performances by rock bands of the “British Invasion” era. In 1965, New Musical Express (NME) a British music magazine, produced a major live awards show that is available on YouTube (below). While the video and sound quality is not nearly as good as the American show from a year earlier, the array of British bands in live performance is quite impressive, a list which includes the Beatles as the penultimate performers of the night.

Hosted by the now-infamous radio and television presenter Jimmy Savile, the show runs for ninety minutes with some chaotic set changes often seen at the fringes of the camera shots. This is about two years into Britain’s musical and cultural transition, but the United States was about a year behind that wave. Some of these bands never made a splash in the United States, or had to go some transformation before they hit their mark.

An example of the latter was the Moody Blues, who open the show. Here they sing their first hit, “Go Now,” which did hit #6 in the U.S., and featured their first lead singer Denny Laine (later of Paul McCartney’s Wings). But they became much better known later as a “symphonic rock” band fronted by Justin Hayward. They are still performing, and were just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Then come Manchester’s Freddie and the Dreamers, pretty much a “one-hit wonder” in the U.S. Organist Georgie Fame appears with his “Blue Flames” backup group, showing the talent he was developing as a jazz/R&B band leader that he would later employ as musical director for Van Morrison’s “big band” records and performances (one of my more memorable concert experiences).

Australia’s Seekers, put together by Dusty Springfield’s brother Tom to re-create the folk sound the two siblings had developed starting out, are a bit out of place representing the fast-fading acoustic-folk style being swept aside by the nascent rock bands. However, singer Judith Durham puts on very strong vocal performance here. Dusty Springfield shows up later in the concert in her emerging “high class” style, but if you want to see where the Seekers got their “sound,” see this performance by Tom and Dusty Springfield singing “Island of Dreams” a couple of years earlier.

Next up is a very young Peter Noone (looking eerily like the teenaged Justin Bieber) with Herman’s Hermits, having their first big year. I had forgotten all about the next act, the Ivy League (“Funny How Love Can Be”), followed by Sounds Incorporated (who?) and then Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders.

The Rolling Stones are just hitting their stride as well, and they put on a better performance here than in their earlier “T.A.M.I Show” appearance. They were followed by Cilla Black, a big star in the U.K., but who had little success in the U.S.

Donovan shows up in his early “Bob Dylan” mode, followed by a very young Van Morrison playing with his first Irish group Them as they perform “Here Comes the Night” from their first album. They (Them?) then move into an energetic seven-minute version of “Turn on Your Lovelight,” the Bobby “Blue” Bland hit that later became an extended concert staple for the Grateful Dead. The Searchers had a number of U.S. hits (“Love Potion Number 9”) but not with their performed song here.

Eric Burdon and the Animals put on one of the best performances of the night. The Animals were really two bands in one. They started out in the gritty northern town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne with their take on black American rhythm and blues, which they demonstrate well here with their version of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” and Ray Charles’ “Talkin’ ‘Bout You.” Their producer Mickie Most had an ear for New York Brill Building hit pop songs, however, and those discoveries brought most of their radio hits, like “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” in this set, with original keyboardist Alan Price in great form supporting Eric Burdon’s vocals. Their very tall bassist Chas Chandler would go on to become the first manager of Jimi Hendrix, and he put together Jimi’s first backup group, the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

My take on the Beatles’ best years is different from that of most critics. I consider the run from 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night through 1966’s Revolver as producing a canon of memorable two-and-a-half minute pop songs that has never been replicated, produced even while they were touring worldwide on a punishing schedule. This concert showcases them in the middle of those productive years.

In full “Nehru jacket mode,” the Beatles run through five songs in probably their best filmed live performance of that period, mostly from songs appearing in the U.S. on the Beatles ’65 and Help! albums (the British album releases were different). The set consists of “I Feel Fine,” “She’s a Woman,” “Baby’s in Black,” “Ticket to Ride,” and a finale of “Long Tall Sally.”

As an odd postscript, the Kinks finished the show (and what an awkward position that must have been) with a rough version of their first hit, “You Really Got Me.” I have yet to see guitarist Dave Davies actually replicate the wild guitar solo on that song in any filmed or TV performance, and he doesn’t do it here either.

Compared to the United States, England is a very small place. When I lived there from 2000-2002, stories would often pop up in the news about the demise of a major or minor band member from the sixties groups. Some of these musicians had gone on to continued fame and wealth (especially if they wrote the songs and thus continued to earn royalties), but most quickly descended into obscurity with little financial gain after a few years of rabid worldwide acclaim. Two members of Gerry and the Pacemakers opened an automobile repair garage, while a third reportedly drove taxis back in Liverpool. A member of the Troggs (“Wild Thing”) wound up back in his hometown of Andover in Hampshire, working in the warehouse of the book publisher that employed me there as its Technology Director. “British Invasion Fame” had a short half-life.

1 thought on “Diversions: the NME Awards Show of 1965

  1. Pingback: The best Beatles album you never heard turns 57 – When God Plays Dice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.