Saturday, February 21, 2015

The New Vaudeville Band - Winchester Cathedral

One of the oddest one-hit wonders of the '60s, the New Vaudeville Band -- true to their name -- drew from the swinging vaudeville, trad jazz, and British music hall styles of the '20s and '30s to create a distinctively anachronistic brand of novelty pop. The group was masterminded by producer/songwriter Geoff Stephens, who in 1966 convened a group of mostly anonymous studio musicians (including drummer Henry Harrison) to record a jaunty, old-timey British number he'd written called "Winchester Cathedral." Though Stephens was credited as the vocalist on the track, it was later confirmed to be sung by ex-Ivy League/Flowerpot Men/First Class vocalist John Carter, who sang through his hands to simulate the sound of a megaphone (as on old Rudy Vallee records). "Winchester Cathedral" was an enormous hit, climbing into the British Top Five and going all the way to number one in America, where it also won a Grammy. Stephens suddenly needed a band for touring purposes and at first invited the similarly backward-looking Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band to serve as the living, breathing New Vaudeville Band. Collectively, the group declined, but their saxophonist Bob "Pops" Kerr signed on, joining a lineup that featured Harrison, guitarist Mick Wilsher, keyboardist Stan Haywood, trombonist Hugh "Shuggy" Watts, bassists Neil Korner and Chris Eddy, and new vocalist Alan Klein, who performed under the alias Tristram, Seventh Earl of Cricklewood. The band issued its debut album -- titled, naturally, Winchester Cathedral -- in 1967, and though they were one-hit wonders in the States (in spite of their touring success there), they notched two more popular singles in the U.K. that year: the Top Ten "Peek-a-Boo" and the Top 20 "Finchley Central." The latter song became the title track of their second album, released by Fontana toward the end of the year. In 1968, the group played a major role on the film soundtrack The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom, but their novelty was beginning to wear off with the record-buying public. The band retreated to the English cabaret circuit, where they eked out a profitable (if lower-profile) existence for some time to come; they also played Las Vegas on occasion and released U.K.-only singles in 1973 and 1976. With numerous personnel shifts in its declining years, the group finally broke up for good in 1988. Kerr, meanwhile, kept the flame of British eccentricity burning with his own Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band.
01. New Vaudeville Band - Winchester Cathedral
02. New Vaudeville Band - Finchley Central
03. New Vaudeville Band - Peek-A-Boo
04. New Vaudeville Band - Amy
05. New Vaudeville Band - I Was Lord Kitchner's Valet
06. New Vaudeville Band - Green Street Green
07. New Vaudeville Band - Holiday Inn
08. New Vaudeville Band - I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now
09. New Vaudeville Band - Sadie Moonshine
10. New Vaudeville Band - If I Had A Talking Picture Of You
11. New Vaudeville Band - Lili Marlene
12. New Vaudeville Band - Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square
13. New Vaudeville Band - So Tired
14. New Vaudeville Band - Whispering
15. New Vaudeville Band - Oh Donna Clara
16. New Vaudeville Band - Tap Your Feet (And Go Bo-De-Do-De-Do)
17. New Vaudeville Band - Whatever Happened To Phyllis Puke
18. New Vaudeville Band - 14 Lovely Women
19. New Vaudeville Band - Rosie
20. New Vaudeville Band - That's All For Now Sugar Baby
21. New Vaudeville Band - Reflections
22. New Vaudeville Band - Shirl
23. New Vaudeville Band - Diana Goodbye
24. New Vaudeville Band - Shine On Harvest Moon

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