I write the title of this post in partial jest because most music lovers have never heard of Billy Nicholls’ obscure album Would You Believe, but once you do listen to this album you cannot forget it. What is so tremendously intriguing about this album? What if I told you that the personnel enlisted for the recording of this album oozes with a plethora of British musical talent that you never realized took part in the creation of this lost masterpiece? Would you believe?
Would You Believe was conceived as the British response to Pet Sounds – as ostensibly evidenced by the similar colors (green and yellow) on the album cover and the wavy psychedelic wording. When you delve into the music, though, it does not at all resemble the airy surf psychedelia mastered by the Beach Boys. Instead, the listener receives a glimpse of the height of British psychedelic perfection, a combination of seemingly light sounds that actually represent a subtle grittiness featuring diverse instrumentation, swooning vocals, and heavy percussion. In a way, Would You Believe, which was released in 1968, represents a consistent bridge with the transition to early 70s British progressive blues-influenced rock. Oddly enough, the individuals who took part in the recording of this album played a huge role in this future music.
Andrew Loog Oldham, manager and producer of the Rolling Stones from 1963-1967, conceived this album and recruited Billy Nicholls, a teenage staff writer for Oldham’s Immediate Records, to take the lead role. Nicholls composed most of the tracks, except for the title track, “Would You Believe.” So who took part in the recording of the 12-track psychedelic pop album? Let’s see if you recognize the drowned-out secondary vocal in “Would You Believe.”
If you guessed Steve Marriott, you are correct! That’s right, that is Steve Marriott, the frontman of Small Faces and Humble Pie. The attempts to hide his vocal only add to the nonsensical humor it provides. In some sense, the song is a bit of a mess, a jumbled concoction of eccentric instrumentation and even more eccentric vocals, but the abstruse combination of gibberish combined with a folk breakdown and baroque pop works well.
Who else is playing in the background? Future Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones provides bass on the album with Ronnie Lane (of Small Faces and Faces). Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley combined with Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones for percussion, and session keyboard king Nicky Hopkins combined with Small Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan and future Elton John collaborator Caleb Quaye. Not a bad lineup, right?
Enjoy one more piece, “It Brings Me Down”!