If there are two things I’d like for you, my faithful and always wonderful reader, to get from this Obscure Classic Rock post (besides the fact that I must come off as an obsequious music writer – I do have unpopular sentiments, trust me), it is that a band name is exceptionally important and that bands that famous classic rock musicians played in prior to the pinnacle of their success often go understated. We will get to the name part a little later. For now, I want to provide some commentary on the latter point.
Before talented artists hit it big in popular bands, they almost always start in another band. The band may contain members of the ultimately successful line-up, but, it is exceptionally rare that every member of the known line-up grew up and formed the band together. Now, usually the first band is fallow, raw, and, therefore, understandably unsuccessful. But we are talking about the 60s and 70s, man. Even the bands before the bands were awesome. So why didn’t they just succeed at the outset?
Remember a few posts ago I mentioned how the Seeds experienced decreased popularity by mid-1968. The Seeds, a very talented band that in a lesser talented year may have been among some of the top acts, were going up against bands like, hmm, let’s see, The Doors, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel – need I really continue? Quite simply, the talent was incredible, and unfortunately bands frequently fell between the cracks. One such band (keeping with the semi-Fall theme) was the Birds. No, not the Byrds. The Birds.
And now we come back to the first thing I wanted you to take from this post. When you name your band, be original. Choose something that some other group (perhaps from across the pond) won’t think of. It is, though, rather impossible to anticipate same-name problems, so sometimes you must go on luck. The Birds and the Byrds were producing music at the same time, and at the height of The Birds’ British success, The Byrds’ version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” was just released (1965) by the British CBS Records. And, unfortunately for the Birds, it went to town on the UK single charts. A slight issue, right. While both bands might have spelt the avian animal’s common name differently, they pronounced the name the same, and that’s what did the Birds in.
The Birds are known as being Ronnie Wood’s first band. Wood later played with The Creation, Faces and, now, the Rolling Stones. Bassist Kim Gardner also got his start with the Birds, later playing in The Creation with Wood. The Birds, though, unfortunately get that “first band” title too often. They were a talented act that, in 1964, were labeled as the next big thing, receiving equal billing with the Who at some concerts.
The Birds were formed in 1964 when the members were teens in Yiewsley, London. In addition to Wood and Gardner, the band featured vocalist Ali McKenzie, guitarist Tony Munroe, and drummers Bob Langham and Pete McDaniels. They originally called themselves the Thunderbirds (which was actually the name of a 60′s band from Iowa, but, one that did not achieve success equaling the Byrds, so if the Birds kept their original name, both bands would have probably been able to coexist.) They changed their names because they were to play a show on the same bill as Chris Farlowe whose backing band was named the Thunderbirds. Whole lotta’ name problems, hah?
The band earned a recording contract with Decca after a “Ready Steady Go” Battle of the Bands, and they released their first two singles “You Don’t Love Me” and “Leaving Here.” They would continue to release music (including “That’s All I Need You For” which was a never recorded track from the 1967 movie Deadly Bees) until a lack of success led to the group, which at once held much promise, disbanding. But, like I mentioned, a lack of success did not mean that the band wasn’t good, and the Birds represent another great band that was not able to have sustainable success during what was both the best and worst time to be a musician (the mid-late 60s).
“That’s All The I Need You For” (which as you can see was only partially done for the movie. The end features Ali McKenzie’s reformed Birds line-up playing the song.) features McKenzie’s excellent R&B/Mod rock voice mixed with some quality guitar work.
“Leaving Here” is an excellent first release. Lively energy is emitted from the song in the fast-paced chord-heavy guitar track and the turned-up note-striking guitar solo. You can hear that British R&B (“maximum R&B”) much in the style of the Who, the Creation, the Smoke, and other Mod-style bands playing at the same time as the Birds. The music was dance-able, hyper and melodious (even with the fuzzy, loud guitar). And the Birds were excellent at creating it for the short time that they did play together.