Saturday, 25 August 2012

Remo Four - In The First Place (1967)

The Remo Four Quartet started out as a vocal harmony band from Liverpool. They  formed in 1958 with a line up of Keith Stokes (Vocals, Guitar), Don Andrew (Vocals, Bass), Colin Manley (Guitar) and Harry Prytherch (Vocals, Drums).  By 1960 they had shortened their name to the Remo Four and were gigging regularly around Liverpool, cultivating a large following including Manley's old school mate, Paul McCartney, who would often check them out at the Cavern Club.  In early 1963 Prytherch left the group to get married and was replaced by Roy Dyke.  A little later Tony Ashton joined the group on Keys and Philip Rogers replaced Andrews on Bass.

The band would release several singles on the Pye/Picadilly label between 1963-64 whilst  occasionally serving as a backing group for the likes of Tommy Quickly, Johnny Sandon and Gregory Phillips. In 1965 the Remo Four (alongside Quickly) performed on Pop Gear (aka Go Go Mania), a British music review film directed by Frederic Goode and hosted by Jimmy Saville.  By 1966 the band had left their beat group sound behind, now favouring a more mod approach of Jazz and R&B and relocated to Germany where they were more popular than in their native country.  They were now playing a residency at the Star Club in Hamburg and had also became the unofficial house band for German music television show Beat Club and can be seen in many episodes.

While in Germany the Remo four signed to the Star Club's record label, releasing a few singles which sold well over there and eventually cut an album in 1967 called Smile! Recorded in just two days, the album is a collection of cover versions of mod standards and sounds along the lines of Brian Auger & The Trinity, Georgie Fame and Graham Bond. Following the album's release the band released one more single, the excellent "Live Like A Lady" (comped on Rubble 16) b/w "Sing Hallelujah" then returned to the UK for a brief stint of cabaret, backing Billy J. Kramer.  It was around this time that they were approached by George Harrison who asked the band to back him on his first solo album.

In December 1967, London based American director, Joe Massot met George Harrison at the opening party of the Apple Boutique where he offered him the job of creating the soundtrack to a film he was making in the UK called Wonderwall.  Harrison accepted the offer and recruited the Remo Four as his backing band for the recording sessions. The first recording sessions were held in EMI's Bombay studios during January 1968 where Harrison conducted several Indian session musicians over three days of recording (he also recorded the instrumental track for The Inner Light while he was there).  The Remo Four did not attend the Bombay recordings but were required for the preceding recording sessions at Abbey Road studios.  Joining the Remo Four on the sessions, it's rumoured that John Lennon plays some rhythm guitar, Richie Snare aka Ringo plays some drums (on "Party Seacombe"?), Harrison's best mate Eddie Clayton aka Eric Clapton plays guitar on "Ski-ing" and Peter Tork plays Macca's banjo on "On The Bed" (?).  The album was released in December 1968 by which time the Remo Four had split up with Ashton and Dyke joining forces with Kim Gardner from the Birds/Creation to form Ashton, Gardner & Dyke. Neither movie nor soundtrack album were successful and were soon forgotten until thirty years later.

In 1998 Massot, now an established film director, decided restore Wonderwall for re-release.  He contacted Harrison and asked for him to send the master tapes for the soundtrack.  On the masters was a track that Massot had never heard. "In The First Place", written by Manley and Ashton, is a vocal recording, a heavily phased song, similar to "Blue Jay Way" with Harrsion on vocals and the Remo Four providing the backing.  George hadn't submitted the song to Massot first time round as he was under the impression that he was only to provide instrumentals for inclusion on the soundtrack.  Massot loved the track and added it to the newly restored film.  The song was also released in conjunction with the movie as a single on cd and 7" vinyl credited to the Remo Four (produced by George Harrison).

A version of "In The First Place" was recorded for the first Ashton, Gardner & Dyke album released in 1969  on Polydor records.  Retitled to "As It Was In The First Place", the re-recording, now clocking in at 6 minutes and 32 seconds, suffers from an annoying wailing vocal and a two minute lounge/jazz outro.

Check out the killer version, recorded in 1967 and released in 1998 on the Pilar label.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, I have known about The Remo Four since my teens (I am 54 now) thanks to German television who transmitted a few clips of them doing Peter Gunn and Like A Rolling Stone. There is an intriguing fact mentioned on their Wikipedia page about Keith Stokes. It seems that he died in 2010 in Wallasey after friends and relatives had fruitlessly tried to find him for more than 15 years! Unfortunately nothing else about this matter. Do you or anyone know something more about this matter?