Thursday, November 16, 2023


One of the first pop songs I can remember that wasn't the Beatles. 

My mum liked it and sang it a lot, in part because the word "Simon" appeared in it.  She also liked that Alan Price - nice looking fellow. 

Alan Price had this sound that I think of  as "rock without guitars" and that descends from the Paul McC side of Beatles - "Hey Jude", "Lady Madonna". A little bit too ingratiating.  Cosy.

Only recently realised "Dancing Bear" was written by Randy Newman, one of those crit-beloved (American-crit beloved, really) artists I've never got to grips with. The shadow of "Short People", perhaps. 

(You gotta love the sloppy disregard of Decca's design people, misspelling Alan on the single cover)

I guess it's one of these songs that if not exactly anti-showbiz, is perhaps ambivalent about the indignity of entertaining a bunch of paying strangers?   

Apparently for Newman it had some kind of secreted meaning to do with how showbiz is a way for minorities - Jewish or Black - to find acceptance in White America. 

This other big hit for the Alan Price Set is this "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"-ish knees-up. Also has more than a tinge of vocal blackface about it.  

Alan Price is all over the soundtrack of O Lucky Man, the Lindsay Anderson movie. 

Warm Horlicks Englishy sound, very 1971

That flat cap. 

I always remember Price unfondly as the one who joins Dylan in bullying the earnest student journalist in Don't Look Back -  (at 45.50)

(Student aka Terry Ellis, who went on to co-found Chrysalis Records)


  1. Newman does seem to be largely unappreciated by UK critics (artists are another story) - he's an awkward fit anywhere, but the closest would be the US division of 'rock without guitars' (Brian Wilson, Harry Nilsson, and Van Dyke Parks being other notable members) and a sort of American version of Brel/Brassens style chanson (abrasive social criticism, grotesquely exaggerated black comedy, and genuine existential pain - not coincidentally, Newman was the only American songwriter admired by Jake Thackray, the UK chanson division leader)

  2. Ah, interesting about the Jack Thackray connection. Big fan of Jake.

  3. Allllllan Price did pioneer the "Doom Organ" sound with The Animals (the first Goth band), and there would have been no Doors etc. without him. He occasionally did some dark shit after leaving the 'mools as well:

    A bit of a schizo career, really. Don't think there's a greater let-down band than The Animals - promised to be the grand viziers of eternal darkness, and then just puttered out.

    1. Oh yes you have the whole theory that The Doors are just the Animals with a load of pretensions and reading of Nietzsche and Artaud etc on top!

      I have never listened to The Animals's albums, just know the famous singles. Worth a listen, then? (Well, judging by your let-down comment, maybe not...)

    2. Don't know about the albums either - the fact that there is hardly any original material on them doesn't encourage me to check them out, but maybe that's an error on my part.

      The classic singles are the first records that prefigure the psychotic turn that would happen later in the decade. This one even contains the proto-Doors line "I'm gonna ride the serpent":

      I think with the early beat groups, the manager was the vital element. You needed to have a visionary like Epstein or Loog-Oldham or Kit Lambert - somebody with a bit of life experience who could see beyond what the bands themselves could see. The Animals obviously didn't have that, and just seemed to crumble away. Which is a great shame, because they were the grittiest and most glowering of all the British Invasion bands.


Old Wave video special

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