....In early 1963 an association with David Rattle - a local fan of the group who was apparently well connected in the entertainments industry - led to the Rebels changing their name to the Wild Oats despite the misgivings of certain members of the band, who felt that this new name portrayed them as country yokels. Shortly afterwards Rattle introduced them to David Nicolson, who had recently advertised for bands in the New Musical Express. Nicolson, who worked in EMI's press office, was described in Johnny Rogan's 1988 book 'Starmakers and Svengalis' as 'a typical Sixties whizz kid dabbling on the fringes of the music business who harboured dreams of establishing himself as a manager/producer in the Andrew Loog Oldham/Larry Page mould'. It was Nicolson who financed the Wild Oats' first trip to a recording studio in mid-1963, when versions of Marvin Rainwater's 'Whole Lotta Woman' and an obscure Elvis Presley song 'Put The Blame On Me' were cut at the R G Jones studio in Morden.....
01 RAM BUNK SHUSH
02 I'M WITH YOU
03 (AIN'T THAT) JUST LIKE ME
04 YOU BETTER MOVE ON
05 WALKING THE DOG
06 HUNGRY FOR LOVE
08 I'M TALKING 'BOUT YOU
09 I'LL NEVER GET OVER YOU
11 I SAW HER STANDING THERE
12 I KNOW
13 POINTED TOE SHOES
14 SWEETS FOR MY SWEET
15 PUT THE BLAME ON ME
16 POISON IVY
17 SHAKE SHERRY
18 MONEY (THAT'S WHAT I WANT
The Wild Oats were:
WILLY BROWN lead vocals (tracks 2-9 and 18), backing vocals
CARL HARRISON lead vocals (tracks 11-17), backing vocals
TREV ROWLAND lead guitar, backing vocals
ROBIN HARE rhythm guitar, backing vocals ROD GOLDSMITH bass
STYKX SCARLETT drums
It's probably fair to say that, when the definitive guide to rock history is written, the small Suffolk town of Leiston is unlikely to merit a mention; the town's only real claim to fame is its disturbingly close proximity to the Sizewell B nuclear power station. However, whilst the Suffolk Sound never threatened to rival Merseybcat as a musical phenomenon, Leiston did briefly boast a class R&B act of its own in the mid-1960s. Given average luck and a following wind, the Wild Oats may well have developed along the same lines as more celebrated bands of the era such as the Hollies and the Searchers, but despite a hugely popular live set, that all-important recording contract failed to materialise, and the band seemed destined to remain a well-kept local secret when they went their separate ways in 1967. So it proved for almost a quarter of a century. By the early 1990s, however, the Wild Oats had been afforded cult status by collectors due to the belated discovery of a handful of tracks that they had recorded on the fiercely collected Oak custom label, a division of the R G Jones recording studio of Morden in Surrey, where acts of the calibre of the Stones, the Kinks and the Yardbirds had all cut their first demonstration discs. The success in 1994 of Tenth Planet's anthology of Oak artefacts, including the Wild Oats' version of the R&B classic 'You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover', led the band to unearth tapes of a vintage Wild Oats performance in May 1964, when they were captured at the International Club in Leiston by a domestic reel to reel tape recorder that had been set up by two of their more fervent supporters. The result is 'Live At Leiston', not only an accurate representation of what the Wild Oats were doing in May 1964 but a fascinating snapshot of contemporaneous British pop music in a month when the singles chart was topped by the Searchers, the Four Pennies and Cilla Black (whatever happened to her?).
The roots of the Wild Oats can be traced back to February 1960 when schoolfriends Trcv Rowland and Willy Brown, suitably inspired by the exploits of Lonnie Donegan, formed a skiffle group in their hometown of Leiston in a remote corner of rural Suffolk. A parallel enterprise as an Everly Brothers-style vocal duo also began around this time, but by the end of the year guitarist Rowland and vocalist Brown had recruited Stykx Scarlett (drums), Rod Goldsmith (bass) and Carl Harrison (vocals) to form the Rebels. With the acquisition in early 1961 of guitarist Robin Hare (who joined from the Nightjars, another local act) and saxophonist Ron Philpot, the Rebels took to the stage as a fully fledged rock'n'roll outfit playing cover versions of recent hits. With few other local bands around, the Rebels had the scene pretty much to themselves. Appearing at clubs and village halls in the Lciston area, they slowly began to build a sizeable local following, often playing to crowds in excess of 300.
In early 1963 an association with David Rattle - a local fan of the group who was apparently well connected in the entertainments industry - led to the Rebels changing their name to the Wild Oats despite the misgivings of certain members of the band, who felt that this new name portrayed them as country yokels. Shortly afterwards Rattle introduced them to David Nicolson, who had recently advertised for bands in the New Musical Express. Nicolson, who worked in EMI's press office, was described in Johnny Rogan's 1988 book 'Starmakers and Svengalis' as 'a typical Sixties whizz kid dabbling on the fringes of the music business who harboured dreams of establishing himself as a manager/producer in the Andrew Loog Oldham/Larry Page mould'. It was Nicolson who financed the Wild Oats' first trip to a recording studio in mid-1963, when versions of Marvin Rainwater's 'Whole Lotta Woman' and an obscure Elvis Presley song 'Put The Blame On Me' were cut at the R G Jones studio in Morden.
By this stage the British beat boom was in full swing, and the Wild Oats' switch from rock'n'roll material to a more R&B-derived sound was a logical progression. This transition was accelerated by the influence of their new manager Chas Philpot (brother of Ron, who by now had left the band), who introduced his charges to the delights of obscure black American R&B and soul music. With a suitably revised repertoire, the Wild Oats found themselves in greater demand than ever. They began to perform regularly at local air bases as well as clubs in the Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester areas. The band also became a popular attraction at hunt balls and debutante parties (leading to a mention in the society magazine Tatler) as well as playing at various London clubs. They also performed at the world-famous London Savoy Hotel, where they were nearly refused entry due to their 'unsuitable' appearance, but declined an invitation to appear at the Star Club in Hamburg, deciding that the notorious Reeperbahn district was no place for a bunch of clean-living Leiston lads to be hanging out.
By late 1963 the Wild Oats were acting as backing band for the stage appearances of another of David Nicolson's progenies, Crispian St Peters, as well as returning to R G Jones to record a limited edition EP on the Oak label. 'You Can't Judge A Book By Its Covcr', 'Walking The Dog', 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?' and another attempt at 'Put The Blame On Me' were issued in an attractive picture sleeve, but the release failed to attract the attentions of a larger record company. Today a pristine copy of the EP, complete with original sleeve, is valued by Record Collector magazine at a cool Ј500.
1964 proved to be an eventful year for the band. They entered the All-England Big Beat Competition (an event sponsored by electrical giants Grundig) and were adjudged joint winners after appearing at the Marconi Club in Chelmsford, Essex. Their prize was a recording session at Radio Luxembourg, and the two tracks that were laid down under the aegis of presenter Philip Waddilove were subsequently broadcast by the station. Around this juncture the Wild Oats discarded their Fender Stratocasters in favour of Gibson semi-acoustics in order to approximate the Chicago blues sound, and further recordings were made at the City of London studios in an attempt to showcase the band's new musical emphasis. Versions of the Mary Wells hit 'Bye Bye Baby' and Sugar Pie De Santo's 'Soulful Dress' (a song that had been recommended to them by future Moody Blues manager Denny Cordell) were recorded, but the band were dissatisfied with the results. Notwithstanding this disappointment, a regular support slot at Gorleston Floral Hall enabled the Wild Oats to appear on the same bill as many of the biggest names of the era including the Kinks (who apparently were given a decidedly mixed reception), the Hollies, the Animals and Georgic Fame. Now playing to increasingly large audiences, the Wild Oats paid greater attention than before to sartorial matters, and their wardrobe included leather waistcoats, shirts and trousers from John Stephen in Carnaby Street, cuban heeled boots from Anello and Davide in Charing Cross Road and brown mohair suits from Cecil Gee in Shaftesbury Avenue.
Despite such fastidious grooming, the Wild Oats' main aim was to enjoy themselves, and their youthful exuberance was evident both onstage and off. After one London gig an inebriated Robin Hare walked through Soho in the early hours of the morning with a dustbin lid stuck to either foot. He was spotted by two policemen who immediately gave chase. The guitarist managed to shake one foot loose, but couldn't remove the dustbin lid from his other foot - nevertheless, he still managed to outrun his pursuers! The band's appearances at deb balls were also memorable experiences. They would play for anything up to four hours at a time, taking liquid refreshment (usually champagne) whilst on stage. Inevitably their performance was rather more rugged and raucous by the end of the show than at the beginning! Their willingness to play long hours was also rewarded financially, and at one venue they were paid more than the Hollies (at the time topping the chart with'I'm Alive') had received the previous week for a briefer appearance.
A further acetate coupling 'Route 66' and 'Fanny Mac' was made at Tont' Pike's studio in early 1965, but the band were unhappy both with the sound quality and their own performance. Shortly afterwards Graham Baldn' replaced Rod Goldsmith, who left due to musical differences. Robin Hare moved from guitar to Farfisa organ as the Wild Oats became increasingly influenced by soul music, covering material initially recorded by Lee Dorsey, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickctt. By this stage, however, the more successful British acts were moving away from the R&B/soul axis and into more experimental areas. By the time that the Wild Oats officially folded in late 1967 (Mick Hughes had replaced the disillusioned Trcs' Rowland in November 1966), the band had become somethnig of a musical anachronism. Their failure to progress from cover versions to scif-permcd material had condemned them to a finite shelf life, and they were inevitably overtaken by events as the musical and cultural epicentre shifted inexorably from Liverpool to San Francisco. Occasional reunions; - the last as recently as December 1994- have all been greeted by packed houses, confirmation that their reputation on a local level remains fully intact thirty, years after their hcydav.
The posthumous appearance of 'Live At Leiston' is undoubtedly an unexpected but welcome appendage to the Wild Oats story, but the album's appeal surely extends beyond such parochial realms. 'Live At Leiston constitutes a fascinating and important historical document, not because the Wild Oats were a uniquely individual talent but for precisely the opposite reason. All live albums issued during the beat/R&B era showcased the undisputed market leaders such as the Stones, the Yardbirds and the Kinks. The Wild Oats, however, can be considered as Everyman (or rather Everyband): had the proverbial Martian alighted from a passing spacecraft on a Saturday night in 1964 and wandered into any village hall or local hop the length and breadth of Britain, the chances are that he would have witnessed an almost identical set from any one of the multitude of local heroes taking their musical cue from their more illustrious peers. Extraterrestrials aside, the exhumation of 'Live At Leiston' finally gives rock historians and collectors alike the chance to hear the authentic sound of the suburbs as it stood in May 1964, srhcn provincial bands ruled British pop and British pop ruled the world.