Sunday, November 15, 2009

Beatle People: Sounds Incorporated

Sounds Incorporated, later known as Sounds Inc., were a British instrumental pop group who recorded extensively in the 1960s.


The group formed in 1961, in Dartford, Kent, and gained a local reputation in nearby South London for the fullness of their saxophone-led instrumental sound. In 1961, after Gene Vincent's band, The Blue Caps, had been denied permission to work in the UK, they won the opportunity to back Vincent on his British tour and on recordings in London. This led to further opportunities to back other visiting American artists, including Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Brenda Lee and Sam Cooke. The energy put into their stage performances combined with Major West's humorous song introductions set them apart from other instrumental combos' regulation guitars, bass and drums.

Their only record with Parlophone, "Mogambo", failed to achieve significant sales, and they moved to Decca where they released a trio of singles, the last of which was recorded with producer Joe Meek, again with little success. However, while performing in Hamburg they met and befriended The Beatles and in 1963 signed to Brian Epstein's management company, NEMS. In the same year they appeared as musical guests in the film, Live It Up!.

Their first two singles on new label Columbia, "The Spartans" and "Spanish Harlem" made the UK Charts in 1964 but these were the only successes in their home country. That year also saw their becoming Cilla Black's backing band and the release of their first vinyl album called "Sounds Incorporated" containing many stage favourites, although not their chart sucesses. Their third Columbia single WAS included and turned out to be their greatest success in Australia, their version of the "William Tell Overture" reached #2.

The group toured the world as the Beatles' opening act, including the concert at New York's Shea Stadium. Their continuing popularity ensured a stream of work including backing duties at the televised "New Musical Express" awards, which still survives in the archives (as does the following years'). Unusual instruments were a feature. The battery-operated Clavioline keyboard (as used by the Tornados) is heard on "Keep Movin" but is also heard prominently on their previous disc before Meek, "Sounds Like Locomotion". Al Holmes played the lead melody on flute through "The Spartans".

1966 was the first year the group released no singles in their home country but recorded a second album, again simply titled "Sounds Incorporated". This was released on EMI's fledgling "Studio 2" label, primarily to show off EMI's mid-60's advances and developments in stereo recording techniques. Any singles taken off the LP for foreign markets were in that format's usual mono however, making these unusal items for UK collectors of the group.

The year of "flower power" saw the groups name truncated to "Sounds Inc." The Beatles, still friends from the Hamburg days invited Cameron, Holmes, and West to be the saxophone section on their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album track, "Good Morning Good Morning." After this guest appearance Sounds Inc left EMI and released a solitary single on the Polydor label "How Do You Feel," their first 45 to feature vocals.

The group began to disintegrate in the late 1960s, Newman having already left to work as a session musician and at one stage joining the Jeff Beck Group. Barrie Cameron's leaving for a career in A&R left a gap in the group, filled by Trevor White, the groups first true vocalist. The group soldiered on, moving to and mainly playing in Australia for their final years together. Their act become more middle-of-the-road, exemplified in their final LP which was released in many territories but not the UK, containing more vocals than instrumentals. In 1971 they finally broke up.

Recorded Legacy

Their recorded career is currently well covered on various CD sets, indicative of the high regard the group is held in amongst collectors. Virtually all of their recorded output is covered incluing rare and unreleased items. All tracks released as singles make up one compilation ("The Singles") and is probably the best introduction to the group. Both UK-released albums are contained on another collection in stereo, and their third LP is contained in a specialist UK compilation of rarer tracks. Many individual cuts spanning the first half of their career appear on various specialist instrumental compilations.

Their third Decca single "Keep Movin'"/"Order Of The Keys" is probably most sought-out by collectors, mainly due to being produced by Joe Meek, despite the famous producer recording methods imposing his studio sounds and managing to eradicate much of the band's own identity in the process. The first "Sounds Incorporated" was issued in both mono and stereo; the mono mixes are perhaps more representative of their poweful sound.

Television recordings still exist featuring the group in action although, perhaps unsurprisingly, little if anything exists from the UK achives. They also appeared in "Pop Gear," a compilation film made in colour which has been released on Video in recent years.

Band members

* Alan "Boots" Holmes (baritone saxophone) - (born 25 April 1940, Bermondsey, South East London)
* "Major" Griff West (saxophone) - (born David Glyde, 19 December 1940, Barnehurst, Kent)
* Barrie Cameron (keyboards, baritone saxophone) - (born Barrie Elmes, 25 October 1939, Erith, Kent)
* John St. John (guitar) - (born John Gillard, 1 April 1940, Dartford, Kent)
* Wes Hunter (bass) - (born Richard Thomas, 1941, Barnehurst, Kent)
* Tony Newman (drums) - (born Richard Anthony Newman, 17 March 1943, Southampton, Hampshire)


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