Masters – The Poets Interview

Masters – The Poets Interview

This entry is part 8 of 22 in the series Masters

The Poets are rightfully hailed as legends for their originality and ground breaking song writing in the mid-60s, as any (freak)beat aficionado will be well aware. This didn’t go unnoticed by the youth of Scotland at the time, and they were treated as such with hysteria wherever they played. Needless to say it wasn’t long before the Rolling Stones’ manager and producer, Andrew Loog Oldham, came a-calling, signing them to Decca (and subsequently Immediate).

Despite penning such pioneering classics as ‘Now We’re Thru’ and ‘That’s the Way It’s Got to Be’ the Poets infamously underwent many line-up changes and, in terms of commercial success, never fully met their true potential.

It took a very long time in coming, but after many long discussions with beat-garage sensations – and most importantly faithful fans – the Thanes, original singer George Gallacher, and 1965-67 guitarist Fraser Watson agreed to go into the studio to see if they could recreate the Poets’ sound. And after being lucky enough to help promote their first come back show at EWO in December last year, I’m delighted to say they have done an impeccable job!

Here we talk to George, and Lenny Helsing of the Thanes, about the Poets in the 60s, what we can expect from them this year and at Le Beat Bespoke 8.

NUTs – Despite only having released a few singles, you’re known as the best Scottish beat group of the mid 60′s. What was the scene like in Scotland?  And were you based in London or in Scotland when the band was most active?

George Gallacher – The Scottish scene was vibrant with loads of great bands and great musicians, but completely lacking in originality; we were the only ones writing and playing our own material.

Lenny Helsing – During their heyday the Poets did actually stay mostly in London, mainly flitting between two hotels, the Aaland, and the Adrian. The former also housing at that time Them, Little Walter and one of the group’s earliest industry champions, Jimmy Saville.

NUTs – How does the success you achieved in Scotland differ from what you felt from the rest of the UK?

GG - It was easy in Scotland because we had little competition ‘the big fish in a small pool’ syndrome but in England we had to prove ourselves to be something other than a provincial success; I loved playing in England and loved the buzz in London.

NUTs – Were there ever plans for a full album release, or will there still be any?

GG - No the concentration was on singles. It may have been different if we had had more significant success. However, the fan club had concocted an optimistic story from summer 1965 onwards saying that the group were busy planning and arranging the recording of an LP, and that the group and management hoped it would be released in time for the fans to have it in their Christmas stocking. However, the reality is that only the singles, and a few extra tracks here and there, were ever recorded.

NUTs – In your BBC radio interview you mention Donovan sending some unreleased tapes of the Poets in their heyday to you, have you listened to them and what did you think?

GG - Yes we’ve now listened to the tapes that Donovan found in his archive. We think the material is excellent, and the quality of some of it is really quite exceptional.

There were three reel-to-reel tapes containing the original two-track mono masters for the following tracks: ‘There Are Some’ (B side of ‘Now We’re Thru’), ‘I’ll Cry With The Moon’ (B side of ‘That’s The Way It’s Got To Be’), and also ‘Loving This One’ (unissued at the time, but subsequently issued, in a much rougher-sounding acetate version, on the ‘Scotland’s No 1 Group’ CD and the more recent ‘Try Me Again’ CD/DVD set, both released on the Distortions label from Philadelphia, USA). One reel also contained the original tracking session for ‘Some Things I Can’t Forget’ (B side of ‘Call Again’), and ‘It’s So Different Now’ (unissued at the time, but also heard in a much rougher-sounding acetate version on the Distortions cd’s).

NUTs – Will any of this material see the light of day on a new Poets release?

GG – Currently, plans are afoot for Andrew Oldham to issue some, or all of these tracks, both on vinyl and CD. It is hoped that this idea will come to fruition sometime during 2012.

NUTs – Do you feel your association with Andrew Loog Oldham worked against you because of his focus on The Rolling Stones?

GG – No! Never! The time Andrew spent in the studio with us was incredible and it allowed him to indulge his imagination in something very different from the blues based, rock stuff of the Stones.

NUTs – Did you have any sort of relationship with the Rolling Stones? Were there tours you did together or plans for such? How about the Small Faces?

GG – There was really only a minor relationship going on between the Poets and the Rolling Stones. The groups didn’t ever really get together on a social basis, as both groups would always have such busy schedules, leaving no time to meet up. No tours were ever considered, or done together with either the ‘Stones, or with the Small Faces.

NUTs – Why were there so many changes to the original line-up of the band? Who made these decisions for change?

GG – Well Andrew made the first change getting rid of our drummer Alan Weir simply because he didn’t fit the image, this led on to his best friend Tony Myles (our rhythm guitarist) then leaving. I was next to leave simply because I was disillusioned with our relative failure and with what happened after, with which I had no interest.

NUTs – What are your plans for the current reunion of The Poets. Are any recordings planned?

GG – We have discussed the possibility of recording something now that the group has new life. We don’t really think there’s much point in re-recording any of the group’s already legendary-sounding singles, although it’s thought that it may be worth giving some of the old demo material another shot.

NUTs – What are some of your dearest memories of the 1960′s? People you worked with? Parties and the Music Industry scene?

GG – I have no particular memories of great importance just the wonderful zeitgeist itself. I mean we met loads of those who are now recognised as ‘giants’ of rock but at the time they were nothing special to us, only others pursuing the same dreams as ourselves.  If there is one thing that did impress me it was the live performance of the Pretty Things. I saw them live in the 100 Club in 1964 before we signed to Andrew — They were sensational!

NUTs – Are there any un-released songs that you feel could be released in the near future?

GG – There are certainly unreleased songs but their release would depend on the interest of others.

NUTs – What can we expect from your current live performance? How does it differ from the way it was in the 60′s?

GG – You can expect to hear a lot of what the Poets would have actually played live in the 60s, ranging from most of the original material that was released on disc, but also including some of the more eclectic R’n’B styled covers that the original band did at the time. The approach to playing the old material is as authentic as you would want it. But certainly one of the things the Thanes have brought is a much edgier sound to the overall proceedings, and they have also toughened up the feel of some of the more ‘ballady’ sounding, whimsical songs, for example the likes of ‘There Are Some’, but also ‘Call Again’ and ‘I’ll Come Home’. The group has also now developed a looseness which we like, and some songs are played at a slightly faster pace than they were originally played, but this also seems to work really well.


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Holly Calder

I’m one half of Eyes Wide Open in Glasgow, where we run a club, a label and now the Double Sight Psych & Garage Weekend, which takes place at the start of October. I love psych, garage, freakbeat, popsike, and have even been known to enjoy a wee bit of R&B! Always enjoy travelling to 60s clubs and weekenders around Europe, whether I’m there to DJ or just to mingle and dance!

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March 12, 2012 By : Category : Articles,Bands,Front Page,Interviews,Music Tags:, ,
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