Marcus Hook Roll Band
By Martin Cerf - Phonograph Record Magazine - Jan. 1973 - 45 revolutions Per Minute Column.
NATURAL MAN (Vanda-Voung)
Produced by Wally Allan
Regal Zonophone RZ 3061
Time (very long)
Flip -Boogalooing Is For Wooing
I'm not really concerned that this record hasn't been released in the United States any more. Well, mebbe juz a little. You see, I'm in an interesting position. A lucky one for which I'm grateful. If I come across a great single, or group, I get to call it to the attention of this here record company called United Artists who presumably will check it out. There's a couple others around who hold a similar relationship. Like Ralph Gleason at Fantasy, Don Heckman at RCA, Ed Ward (with all good companies) and others. And why not use our good sense? Rockridics like Ed Ward know what they're talking about...He's documented the subject matter for so long, obviously he's able to analyze the demographics of a specific recording and judge its worth against the competition.
(Ward's tastes have brought Asleep At The Wheel, Mott The Hoople and Commander Cody to the surface. And John Mendelsohn was tellin' us consistently about the Kinks, David Bowie, the Move and Christopher Milk so long ago I almost forget I'm teenage.) Which brings me to the matter at hand, the Marcus Hook Roll Band. Where did I first hear Natural Man? Over the phone, from this guy, Ron Eyre, who works out of UA in New York City. He wanted to know what I thought...He's always playin' stuff on the phone and sending tapes and what not...But most of the material he sends is second rate (which is only natural as quality, innovative stuff numbers few)...Ron said "Ya know who these cats are don't cha? It's Vanda and Young, and they made a lot of money for United Artists back in 1968." Sure, Vanda and Young, they were to the Easybeats what Wood and Lynne are to the Move. And in some ways they're a better combination (since they have been able to stick together for so long).
Eyre said Capitol Records had turned down the master, wasn't interested in another foreign act... You see Capitol has first option on all EMI material in the States. Then it comes to VA. Well, I asked Ron to send out the single to Bill Roberts (my partner) or myself and we would listen close up.
It was about fourteen days later when one of the faces from the VA A&R Dept. plodded into my office with the single and expounded lazily, "Ah, say, here's that Marcus record from England you wanted to listen to..." Our A&R wizz-kid wasn't keen on this record, "Take a listen to it and see if it's any good." To say he wasn't motivated is to say little.
So, I call trusty ol' Greg Shaw, anglophile expert that he is, into my domain. With the A&R hopeful still present, I inform Greg who we were. gonna listen to then Dropped the cartridge. Hearing that repetitive fender staccato chording intro, Greg and I were, fifteen seconds in, jumpin' up and down to the music of the Easybeats reincarnated. All the promise Vander and Young implied with Gonna Have A Good Time Tonight in 1969 they live up to here. If you can imagine what the Easybeats would have sounded like four years on should they have stayed together, then you know what Natural Man is all about.
Wazit sound like? It's got a snare that tears speakers. It's got protest lyrics. It demands you dance. It's got Beatle harmonies. It's got a riff the best this side of the Hollies' Long Cool Woman and Heaven Knows by the Grass Roots, and a hook, well, now I know the reason for the group's name…Towards the end of the record the riff slows; then stops, then builds through the use of: (1) a nasal lyric, (2) Cow Bell, (3) Sizzlin' guitar progression and, and, and... Then it leads into the most inherent repetitive verse: "In-it to the rhythm, in it to the top, everybody 's talkin' to ya never gonna stop, well don't cha worry bout me, I'm a Natural Man... in it to the rhythm; in it to the top... " etc.
As is obvious, Greg and I beseeched the A&R people to jump on the side immediately, pick it up for our heroes, United Artists... Well, I'm not about to categorically list all the events that followed, all that matter~ is UA don't have it. And those folks who originally turned the side down, Capitol, they have decided to exercise their option after all...
But something real curious happened the other day though. Capitol's greatest asset, Ken Sasano, told me they reversed their decision once more and they didn't want the record after all. So I put in a call to the head of International A&R at the Tower and lightly queried him as to the company's position on the recording..."Where the hell did you hear we weren't releasing the record. I heard Natural Man in July while in England and decided then to release it on Capitol. So whoever said we weren't puttin' it out, is crazy"...My, my so defensive...The cat seemed really pissed there Was any question at all...Why he was so adamant that I absolutely freaked when .I found out the record still isn't released and it's now three months since they picked up the master. Rumor has it the record is comin' out sometime in January. Such priority.
So, in the meantime, you can only get Natural Man as an import on the EMI sub label Regal Zonophone. And it's worth the 2 bucks you'll have to lay down for it...The B side, Boogalooing Is For Wooing is a whole other subject...It's so great, I might just save it for the next column. (89 points, both sides.)
-Martin R. Cerf