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11 Feb 2017

The Hangmen “Bitter Sweet"1967 US Psych Garage Pop Rock













The Hangmen “Bitter Sweet"1967 US Psych Garage Pop Rock
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One of Washington D.C.'s most popular and successful sixties bands, their story began with an act called The Reekers who were formed by guitarist Tom Guernsey in 1964. Following the release of their debut 45 - Don't Call Me Flyface / Grindin' (Ru-Jac 13) in early 1965, Bob Berberich was recruited on drums and The Reekers laid down early versions of What A Girl Can't Do and The Girl Who Faded Away. No 45 resulted.After more personnel changes the band re-emerged as the Hangmen in April 1965, with vocalist Dave Ottley - a British ex-pat working as a hairdresser in DC. The band re-recorded the Reekers' tracks for their first 45 and What A Girl Can't Do is a classy girl-put-down belter.
The 45 was a local hit, and an in-store appearance at the Giant Record Shop in Falls Church, nearly caused a riot. Billboard magazine reported the near riot in Feb '66, when 400 teenagers gathered to hear The Hangmen play at the store, with a further 1,500 packed outside the shop. The police had to disperse the crowd after 15 minutes, with traffic being disrupted in the street. The shops owner told Billboard he'd sold 2,500 copies of What A Girl Can't Do.
The follow-up, the stunning Faces, is also a five-star mean'n'moody fuzz-rocker with Who power chords and obtuse lyrics - PLAY LOUD. This 45 featured new bassist Paul Dowell and Ottley moved on soon after its release to be replaced by Tony Taylor (ex-Roaches).
The third 45 was a taster for the album that appeared at the turn of the year. Bittersweet includes rather lame reworkings of What A Girl Can't Do and Faces and for fans of the first two garage-punk 45s it may be a disappointment. It's good, but not that good, despite a five-minute-plus version of Gloria, and will appeal more to pop fans with tracks like the dreamy version of the Everly Brothers' Let It Be Me.
By the Summer of '67 the band's direction shifted to psychedelia and their name changed to The Button. Daly and Dowell had been replaced by guitarist George Strunz and Alan Fowler, former bassist of the Mad Hatters. Founder Tom Guernsey left soon after and The Button relocated to Greenwich Village where they evolved into Graffiti.
When Berberich left The Button, he returned to DC. There he reunited with Dowell and Daly to form (Paul Dowell and) The Dolphin. Their line-up was completed by a young and talented guitarist called Nils Lofgren. Berberich also sat in with Puzzle for a while when their drummer was injured in a car accident.
In 1968, Tom Guernsey produced a 45 by The Piece Kor. He was also reunited with Reekers vocalist Joe Triplett, writing and producing a 45 for The Omegas. In the seventies he returned to performing with brother John in the band Claude Jones. Dave Ottley returned to the U.K. and is now a hairdresser in Barnet, London...................

Clearly an underated album but with mixed reviews. It's too pop for the garage heads and I've been put off buying it for years when I read that the re-recordings of 'Faces' and 'What A Girl Can't Do' were deemed to be not as good as the single versions.

I was tempted a few times to buy the bootleg on Radioactive but I've never been a fan of their CD masterings. Tom Guernsey sent me a copy of the album on CD recently and I was suitably impressed by the music to go out and seek an original copy on vinyl.
Some prices were in the region of $100-$130 but I managed to locate one (not on ebay) for $50 and it was in mint condition, aswell as being the important MONO release.By the way, here's some trivia for you. The trippy picture of The Hangmen on the cover of the album was taken in the bedroom of Tom Guernsey's apartment in 1967. Tom is hiding behind the self portrait.The psychedelic influence for graphics was evident with the logo for the 'Bittersweet' album. This colouful lettering brightened up the back cover.....

1960s Washington, D.C.-based cult band ... (Okay, they actually hailed from Rockville, Maryland.)

While attending high school in Montgomery, County Maryland (a Washington DC suburb), drummer Bob Berberich and guitarist Tom Guernsey had been members of The Reekers. The Reekers managed to record an obscure 1964 Guernsey-penned surf-rocker that was released as a single for the small Baltimore-based Ru-Jac label. The single did nothing and before a follow-on could be recorded the band called it quits when the members when off to college.

- 1964's 'Don't Call Me Flyface' b/w ' Grindin' (Ru-Jac catalog number 45-RJ-13)


Berberich and Guernsey enrolled in Montgomery Junior College where they found kindred spirits in fellow students George Daly (rhythm guitar) and Mike West (bass). If you believe the story, the four decided they wanted an authentic British singer. Reaching out to the British Embassy, they were put in touch with Scottish-born singer/hair-stylist Dave Ottley.

Active playing battles of the bands, local dances and club scene (La Salle Teen Club, The Rabbit's Foot, etc.), in 1965 band managers Mike Klavens and Larry Sealfon played a Hangmen demo for Monument's Records founder Fred Foster. Foster was impressed, signing the band to Monument. Over the next year they releasing a first rate pair of garage rockers:

- 1965's 'What a Girl Can't Do' b/w 'The Girl Who Faded Away' (Monument catalog 45-910)
- 1966's 'Faces' b/w 'Bad Goodbye' (Monument catalog number 45-951)

Touring up and down the East Coast, opening up for a slew of national acts increased their profile and sales of the singles proved strong in their Washington D.C. home market. That provided enough commercial promise for Monument to finance an album. With former The Roaches lead singer Tony Taylor replacing Dave Ottley and Paul Dowell taking over bass for Mike West, 1967's "Bitter Sweet" found the band teamed with songwriter/producer Buzz Cason. Recorded in Nashville, the album offered up a mixture of band originals, including remakes of the two earlier singles, and a couple of outside covers While a lot of folks were less than enamored by new singer Taylor, to my ears he wasn't half bad. I just didn't see where the loss of an authentic English singer made much difference to their sound. About half of the album was quite good. Their cover of Cindy Walker's 'Dream Baby' was slinky and enjoyable. 'Terrible Tonight' had a nice lysergic feel. The band original 'Isn't that Liz' held on to their earlier garage roots and they turned in a nice cover of Van Morrison's 'Gloria'. While pale compared to the original 45, their re-recorded version was still energetic. Unfortunately, exemplified by the re-recorded singles, Monument seemed determined to recast the band as a faceless pop entity. To that end producer Cason saddled the group with sappy, over-produced ballads such as 'Let It Be Me' and the Lovin' Spoonful-influenced 'I Wanna Get To Know You'. Certainly not a bad debut, but you had to wonder what they could have accomplished given more artistic freedom....by ...RDTEN1............

A very good mixed covers + originals psych-garage-pop offering by the one-album DC local-danceband-makes-good... We find the screamy freak jam closer 'Gloria' overblown/skip-able and could live w/out slow-dancer 'Let It Be Me' but most the other songs seem good to essential, if late '60s are your like my bag...Another famous cover is the opener [a nice folk-garage-sitar-spiced 'Dream Baby'] They also do a Jack Bryant of The Fallen Angels' song which that group didnt release until their reunion alRain of Firebum [which only I in the whole world seem to own].
Try & blog the thing; the CD company is ?ably honest and they charge too much..by...okeyeye .........

With Mike Henley and Joe Triplett away at college, Tom and Bob Berberich joined another band, the Hangmen, with bassist Mike West and rhythm guitarist George Daly, fellow students at Montgomery Junior College. The same month the Reekers were getting attention around DC with Don't Call Me Flyface, a photo of the Hangmen appeared in the April 3, 1965 Evening Star with a caption explaining the Hangmen had lost a battle of the bands at the Shirlington Shopping Center to the Shadows. Tom confirms the story that needing a singer who sounded English, George called the British Embassy asking for someone who could sing! The singer they found was Dave Ottley, a hairdresser variously reported as being from Liverpool, London or Scotland.
In early summer of '65, a friend of Tom's named Larry played What a Girl Can't Do for Fred Foster of Monument Records. Lillian Claiborne graciously released Tom from his contract with her and Foster signed him - only Tom as he was the songwriter and leader of the Reekers. Since Joe Triplett and Mike Henley were committed to college, Tom decided, against his own preferences, to work with the Hangmen as his band. Monument then released the Reekers' recordings of What a Girl Can't Do and The Girl Who Faded Away under the Hangmen's name, even though only Tom and Bob Berberich had played on them.
Some sources report that the Hangmen rerecorded the The Girl Who Faded Away for the Monument 45. A close listen shows that the Hangmen's Monument 45 version is actually the same recording as the Reekers' original Edgewood acetate, except that the acetate had a long ending that was cut from the Monument 45. Confusion also exists about What A Girl Can't Do. The Monument 45 version released under the Hangmen's name is the Reekers. In 1966 the Hangmen recorded their own version of the song for their LP, which sounds much different.
Arnold Stahl, a lawyer, and Mike Klavans of WTTG formed 427 Enterprises to promote the band. Their connections landed gigs for the Hangmen in embassies and a mention in Newsweek. One memorable event was playing a party for Robert Kennedy's family and getting drunk in their kitchen!
Despite these connections, the Hangmen were still primarily a suburban band, playing for kids at parties and shopping malls but not getting into the clubs like the big DC acts like the British Walkers and the Chartbusters. This would change as the Monument 45 of What A Girl Can't Do started gaining momentum locally.
The Hangmen recorded a fine follow up, Faces, and this time Monument put some money into promotion, taking out a full page ad in the trade magazines. Propelled by fuzz guitar and a heavy bass line, Faces is a tough garage number with a fine vocal by Ottley. Tom points out that the song finishes quite a bit faster than it starts, making it difficult for those on the dance floor to keep up! The flip is another Guernsey/Daly original, Bad Goodbye, which features studio musician Charlie McCoy on harmonica.....Garage Hangover........


Tracklist
A1 Dream Baby 2:25
A2 Guess What 2:10
A3 Crazy Man 2:21
A4 Let It Be Me 3:05
A5 Terrible Tonight 2:20
A6 Faces 3:35
B1 I Wanna Get To Know You 2:32
B2 Everytime I Fall In Love 2:18
B3 What A Girl Can't Do 2:27
B4 Isn't That Liz 1:59
B5 Gloria 5:37

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..