|(l to r: Tony Calder, Nico and Andrew Loog Oldham; taken from the booklet with 6CD box "The Immediate Story")|
- NICO- Nobody's idea of a role model, certainly not going to win any 'mother of the year' awards, but definitely deserving of a permanent place in the rock pantheon. The minimalism of Talking Heads or Flying Lizards almost certainly can be traced directly to her post-CHELSEA GIRL solo albums, rather than Alban Berg or Erik Satie. Much of her personal history, marred by drug addiction and pathological lying, is a Gordian Knot of misinformation and contradictory accounts; I won't even attempt to address it here. For the curious, the only-- and I mean only-- trustworthy sources are the book "Nico: The Life & Lies Of An Icon" and the documentary film "Nico/Icon" it inspired. For supplemental reading, ex-band member James Young wrote a book that's been repackaged under a variety of titles by a variety of publishers and is filled with could-have-happened anecdotes from the early 1980's.
The first catalogue number was assigned to The McCoys for a single ("Hang On Sloopy") that was actually licensed from the Bang Records label, located in the U.S. That label (formed by Bert Berns, Ahmet and Neshui Ertegun and Jerry-- or, for the purposes of his first initial, Gerald-- Wexler) was only a few months old itself and formed by producers and executives at Atlantic Records. Berns also had business in England producing the band Them and writing their hit "Here Comes the Night". He would later bring Van Morrison to Bang as a solo artist. The Immediate label would continue to license recordings from Bang, including by artists like the Strangeloves.
The other two singles featured original recordings. IM002 was the only release by The Fifth Avenue, arranged and produced by Jimmy Page. Page was a prolific studio musician before becoming the fourth lead guitarist in the Yardbirds (he was approached for the job when Eric Clapton quit and recommended Jeff Beck; he later played with them alongside Beck and stayed after Beck left). The two members of The Fifth Avenue were Denny Gerrard and Kenny Rowe. After this, Gerrard formed another duo at Immediate (Warm Sounds) which signed to Decca subsidiary Deram. Rowe met Brian Epstein client Tony Rivers and his band The Castaways when they recorded a one-off single for Immediate shortly before they left EMI/Columbia. After Epstein died in 1967, the Beatles formed the Apple organization, eventually leading to the Apple label in 1968. Three members of the Castaways were recruited by the head of the publishing division to form a band for an artist with a publishing contract. As Grapefruit (named after the Yoko Ono book) they were one of the first bands signed to Apple but their recordings were licensed to other labels before Apple started manufacturing their own records. For perspective, remember that the Beatles themselves continued to release records through Parlophone until August 1968. Rowe joined Tony Rivers to form a new version of the Castaways. After one single on Polydor, they refashioned themselves as Harmony Grass and signed to RCA.
The A-side of the Fifth Avenue single was a pretty faithful cover of the Byrds' arrangement of "The Bells Of Rhymney". It appeared on their first album, which had only been out in the U.S. for two months and would be released in the U.K. in August, close to the Fifth Avenue single. The Byrds never released it as a single in the U.S., although it made it to the Greatest Hits album in 1967. It the U.K. it was included on an EP in February 1966.
The B-side was a Jimmy Page original, "Just Like Anyone Would Do". Musically, it sounds like the hooks from four different songs patched together. Any one of them is hummable, but it makes the full song difficult to remember. And being difficult to remember could be fatal given the competition these initial three singles were wading into. The third single was, of course, Nico's debut. The next post will look at the A-side. In the meantime, below is a list of the top 50 singles in the August 19th, 1965 Record Retailer. Instead of listing them as they appeared in the chart, in order of their rank that week, I've listed them in the order that they were released to give a sense of how long they had been in the British consciousness at the time. I then note how long they eventually lasted with their last chart date and total number of weeks. After the artist and song title I give their peak rank (not necessarily their rank on August 19) and their label.