Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Celebrating the Olympics

As the UK and the world is gripped by the Olympics taking place in London, The Vinyl Word takes a look at the other Olympics - the doowop group which made it big in 1958 with Western Movies and made a successful transition into a 60s soul group much loved on the Northern Soul scene. The original Olympics comprised Walter Ward, Eddie Lewis, Charles Fizer and Walter Hammond, with Melvin King joining to replace Charles Fizer and staying when Walter Hammond, brother of Clay Hammond, left in 1959. Charles Fizer was shot and killed in the Watts riots in 1965.
Dismissed at first as a novelty group, with humorous takes on American TV shows and teen dance crazes, it's hard to find an Olympics record which doesn't sound great even today - and that includes most of their B sides. They recorded initially for Demon, then had a string of hits on Arvee, before moving to more success on Tri Star, Loma and eventually Mirwood. In the UK their records were issued on a wide variety of labels, as the following photos show. Check out the Youtube clips as well.
1. Dance With The Teacher/ Everybody Needs Love. HMV POP 584. Mint value £20.
Recorded for Demon, this was the follow up to Western Movies and is a a great dance number written, as many of their hits were, by Fred Smith and Cliff Goldsmith. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8-Qfb_1_B4
2. Private Eye/ (Baby) Hully Gully. Columbia DB 4346. Mint value £25.
This was their first record on Arvee and is similar to Western Movies, with gunshots kicking it off, but this time it's a homage to private eye shows of the time. The B side is a great slow dance number dedicated to the hully gully dance craze. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhH3wOZiUno http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSNoXEpF8y4

3. Dance By The Light Of The Moon/ Dodge City. Arvee 5020. (Released on Vogue in the UK)
This is another great dance number which for some reason was issued in the UK with the title Dance With A Dolly. Either way it's a cracking tune. The B side is another hully gully number. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgTbRAPazAc
4. I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate/ Workin' Hard. Vogue Pop 9174. Mint value £20.
This song goes back to the early days of jazz but this frenetic up tempo number is a far cry from the original. Great record though, and a minor hit in the UK reaching number 45 in 1960. The B side is a Coasters style number a la Charlie Brown. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e89KQC3RnbE 

5. The Stomp/ Mash Them Taters. Vocalion 9198. Mint value £20.
Featured in my recent item on the Vocalion label, this was also issued on Vogue before it morphed into Vocalion.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Br-pgQeuUig

6. The Bounce/ Fireworks. Sue WI 348. Mint value £40.
Another dance number, this time recorded for Tri Disc and released belatedly on the Sue label in the UK. The B side features the sound effects much-loved by the band. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtK93v9jxxg

7. Secret Agents/ We Go Together. Fontana TF 678. Mint value £30.
I featured the official A side - We Go Together - in my recent blog on the Fontana label, but this is a record which is well worth flipping over. After cowboys and private eyes it was only a matter of time before the Olympics got round to secret agents. It's a Northern soul favourite, and deservedly so. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ8dmbnXwRQ
8. Baby Do The Philly Dog/ Western Movies. Fontana 778. Mint value £30.
This is another Northern Soul hit, also recorded as an instrumental by the Mar-Keys around the same time. The B side is an inferior, speeded up version of the band's first hit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DpIjcUqnkA
9. Mine Exclusively/ Baby Do The Philly Dog. Action ACT 4539. Mint value £20.
I'm not sure if this was intended just as a reissue of the Fontana 45, but it has a different B (or A) side and is a really good Northern soul number with a Contours feel to it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIb9tlI5Fbs


At 9:40 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nick

It is a very interesting blog keep it up.


At 10:05 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Nick

Impressed that you put together the list without including 'Western Movies'. they certinly were a great group and all their stuff still sounds fresh today. I think I may listen to the Olympics on mp3 as well as 5live tomorrow!
cheers John

At 8:20 am , Blogger Nick said...

Western Movies was just too obvious a choice and I wanted to show the range of labels they appeared on in the UK. Based on their sound effects, they could easily have won a shooting gold medal if they had competed don't you think?

At 9:21 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's a great gun shot intro to Western Movies.


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