The American who changed the sound of British rock’n’roll. This unprecedented anthology draws upon both signature hits and some spectacular misses, along with unheard rarities from the producer’s personal archive.
Until now, Ace’s acclaimed Producer series has more or less focused on the legends of the American music business. This latest instalment is no different, save for the arena. “Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production” celebrates the activities of a soft-spoken, myopic Chicagoan who walked right into the British music industry and, in his own low-key manner, turned it upside-down.
A contemporary of Phil Spector, Shel Talmy trained as an engineer in Hollywood, but when on holiday in the UK in 1962, he brazenly announced his availability as producer to Dick Rowe at Decca Records. Early hits with the Bachelors led to a reputation for handling the new wave of beat and mod outfits that erupted in the wake of the Beatles. British 1960s pop was guided by many different figures, yet amongst the production-line hitmakers like Mickie Most, or men associated with a particular act, such as George Martin, there were few like Talmy that had a reputation for a particular and identifiable sound, outside of perhaps Joe Meek. Based upon his supervision of the early Kinks and Who alone, Talmy firmly upped the ante within the polite environs of the UK charts.
Despite the forthright style with which he made his name, Talmy rose to the top of his chosen profession based on a proven ability to deliver with any number of acts, be they lightweight folk-pop, hip jazz-R&B or bone-crunching rock’n’roll. The roll-call of artists he worked with is remarkable not just for its divergence, but for the fact it is populated with so much that has retrospectively gained influence. His involvement might have only been early on when their potential was not yet fully realised (David Bowie, Roy Harper) or it constituted the stewardship of an established artist during a particular phase (Easybeats, Manfred Mann).
With a couple of exceptions, “Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production” focuses squarely on the man’s golden era, 1964 to 1970. His biggest acts, the Kinks and the Who, are represented by ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’ and ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’, both discs of some importance in their early catalogue. It would be impossible to fully delineate Talmy’s workload once he hit his stride. His prolific schedule at the time invariably meant a proportion of discs fell by the wayside, only to have subsequently become cherished items to 60s pop fans. As heard here, they range from future stars such as Bowie and Lemmy (with the Rockin’ Vickers) to cult faves the Untamed, Oliver Norman, First Gear and Mickey Finn, along with the acts on Talmy’s own Planet Records, including pop-art avatars the Creation. Shel’s girls are represented by the collectable Perpetual Langley and Goldie & the Gingerbreads, while his work with Lee Hazlewood and the Pentangle demonstrates the breadth of his abilities. Finally, along with the freakbeat classic ‘Bald Headed Woman’, Trini Lopez’s witty ‘Sinner Not A Saint’ is included as an example of the producer’s songwriting prowess.
As a compiler, this has been one of the most satisfying collections I have assembled for Ace, thanks to unprecedented access to Talmy’s personal vaults, which yielded master tapes for many obscurities, as well as a pair of significant unissued alternate versions from Bowie and the Easybeats. Some of my earliest pop music memories are Shel Talmy productions, so to be able to spend quality time with the man himself and rummage through the backroads of such an illustrious career has been pure pleasure. I hope it shows.