|Ready Steady||Clockwork Oranges||Ember EMB S227|
Internet searches in 2007 indicated initially that the Clockwork Oranges were in reality Italian supergroup I Pooh, incognito. However, research by Michel Bands from Grenoble, France, provided solid evidence that this was a fallacy.
"The facts as I understood them are that the Clockwork Oranges were formed in Great Britain and issued the single Ready Steady/After Tonight on Ember S 227. It was subsequently made available in the USA (Liberty 55.887) and in Germany with a picture sleeve (Columbia 23.226). Now this picture is depicting a different group, which some wise Italian fan recognized as being an early shot of the then newly-formed I Pooh. I suppose one way or another, this is the origin of the rumour. Furthermore, I also found reference to a Greek copy of the Clockwork Oranges single, labelled as 'The Clock Work Oranges', but with the picture sleeve showing a completely different group!
The Italian group I Pooh
German sleeve – looks like the same guys as those on the left
Italian release bears an enigmatic handwritten annotation
possibly intended as a cross-reference, maybe mere speculation regarding the band's ID..
Note the mis-spelling of composer Jackie Edwards' name
Greek picture sleeve – the photo bears little resemblance
to the band above and there are only four band members
I found a mention of the Clockwork Oranges in the Kinks' diary, playing the Rag Ball at Leeds University on Thursday 26th October 1967, with Brian Auger and the Trinity. This proves that Clockwork Oranges was not merely a name on a record label, even less a fancy name for a foreign artist. As far as I know, the Clockwork Oranges made no more recordings,
Now for the picture sleeves. These were not common in Britain in the 60s, but 'We Europeans' found them everywhere. In France, we even had the pleasure to see only first class glossy cardboard sleeves for our EPs. When we bought a British record, we had 2 hits for the price of one most of the time! Ninety-nine percent of the time, the pictures matched the inside. Sometimes there were photos of the group, sometimes mere drawings, or even pictures that had nothing to do with the artist. Now you would never find anything wrong with Beatles or Rolling Stones records. But mistakes might happen with unknown groups. I own a German single by German group 'The Image', covering 'Hideaway'. This has a picture of an early 60s French group on the front El Toro et les Cyclones, featuring a young Jacques Dutronc with sunglasses! I can also cite a Spanish Dave Clark Five LP which I have, adorned with a beautiful shot of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. And then there is the famous French EP of Gary Farr and the T-Bones sporting a picture of the Yardbirds! These errors are rare, but they do happen.
As far as the two Clockwork Oranges tracks are concerned, both titles are covers of Italian Hits. The English translation was made by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, who wrote all the hits by the Honeycombs, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, the Herd and later Flaming Youth. They told Ron Cooper that they were not directly involved with this record, merely putting English lyrics to the songs. 'After Tonight' was subsequently featured on the first (eponymous) Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich LP (which became Album of the Week on Big L two weeks running! 26/06/66 and 03/07/66).
The original versions of the songs were both recorded by the same Italian group, Equipe 84, which was one of the best bands at the time, being twice #2 in Italy in 1966 with covers of 'Bang Bang' and 'You Were On My Mind', and a mega-hit called 'Auschwitz'. 'Ready Steady' is the English version of 'Primo di cominciare' (Spring 1965); 'After Tonight' was 'Notte senza fine', their entry in the Naples Festival in Summer 65.
Now why would I Pooh choose to translate the hits of their worst enemies into English? Can you imagine the Beatles singing 'As Tears Go By' in Italian? Or the Rolling Stones singing 'She Loves You' in German? Besides, the first I Pooh single had only just been issued at the start of 1966. It was a cover of 'Keep On Running' ('Vieni fuori') and it was not a hit. Why should this then totally unknown group be able to release an English-language single in several foreign countries, but not in their own?"
So who were the Clockwork Oranges and was there more than one band of that name?
In June 2011Austin Powell wrote:
"Last year I was given the entire library of file copies from the Ember record label. Not only the UK releases but international releases and other material. Amongst that material are Greek, American and German releases by The Clockwork Oranges. Also in the library were a couple of Italian releases by 'I Pooh' and on one of those labels is also written "The Clockwork Oranges" and as the record in question is Vieni Fuori (the Italian version of Spencer Davis's Keep On Running), it's unlikely this was a note that the Clockwork Oranges should record an 'English version'. Maybe someone at Ember was suggesting that 'I Pooh' was, in fact, The Clockwork Oranges?
These Italian I Pooh releases are also in picture sleeves which I believe show that the German release carries a photo of the Italian group whereas the Greek picture sleeve is most definitely a different group."
In July 2011, Rob Parish resolved the mystery:
"There seems to be some confusion about the Clockwork Oranges. The band actually came from Erith, Kent with a line-up of Roger Cotton (guitar, vocals), Bobby Valentine (guitar vocals), Rick ? (bass, vocals), and my brother John Parish on drums and vocals. He still has their 45s on vinyl. John lives in St Ives, Cornwall. Coincidentally, so does Rick, while Roger Cotton stayed in Kent, runs a successful studio and is still prolific in the british blues scene. No sign of Bobby's whereabouts as yet. I have spoken to Roger, who said he would do some scans. From what I remember, Roger left the Oranges and went on to join Johnny Johnson's Bandwagon.
I've looked at the pic sleeves that came from Austin, (as above) and the Oranges are none of them. It's weird that several groups around Europe are all claiming to be the Oranges."
The above photo really is the elusive band! It was kindly contributed in September 2017 by Robert Valentine, who says:
"You will see the band name on the small round disc on the guitars. Hope this help shed some light." Here it is!
Michel's research about incorrect photos appearing on record sleeves demonstrates
how easily a simple error by the record company or at the printer's can
cause confusion. Batches of promotional photos would have been sent to the record company and onwards to the printers, to produce the picture sleeves. Any sort of mislabelling along the way would have resulted in the wrong photo on the wrong sleeve (instances of which Michel has cited above). If the envelopes labelled as containing pictures of the
Dave Clark Five accidentally became transposed with the one containing shots of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
at a foreign printer's, how would the person making the printing plate
be able to tell if he had the right band photo? Confronted by two photos of unfamiliar five-man bands, would he know which was which? This would ring true especially in the case
of relatively unknown newcomers. It seems far more likely that there was confusion or mislabelling on the part of overseas record companies rather than that any other band was claiming to be the Oranges.
Roger Cotton was a keyboard player of renown who ran the Roundel Studios, so-called because they were sited are in a former Kent oasthouse. The studios were described as "a working base for musician, composer and producer Roger Cotton, who plays piano, Hammond organ and guitar. Roger played for many years with the Peter Green Splinter Group touring with artists like B B King, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Ray Vaughan, Louisana bluesman Larry Garner, the late great James Carr and many more." Sadly, Roger died in June 2016.
It would appear that the mystery of the Clockwork Oranges and their recording of Ready Steady has been resolved. However, 'once on the net, always on the net', and I suspect that the myth that this single was an incognito release by I Pooh will always exist somewhere.
A version of I Pooh continues to perform. Offical website.
Svenn Martinsen in Norway also has infomation on his website that Ready Steady was Mike Lennox's climber for March 6th. Svenn (then aged 15) edited his own publication 'Anaheim Times'. He kindly sent the advertisement on the left and says:
"I usually have a very good memory, but of course might have mixed-up things there. On the other hand, it was written off old notes in the "Anaheim Times" written shortly after it was heard in the radio, usually on a Sunday after the Fab40. (And after "Cash Box Top 100 on RC South Sunday mornings which was the greatest inspiration until the Mi Amigo grounding in January the same year.)
I enclose some bits from "AT" 12/1966, (March 6th) I think the ad came from the New Musical Express and I think I cut it out and kept it because the record had a driving beat resembling my favourite, the "surf sound". The group was British, as far as I can remember."
Svenn liked the 'surfing sound' single so much that he placed it at number 16 in his personal 'Anaheim Times' Hot Hundred!
Left: Svenn has written 'One of UK's best surfing groups', 'Going to the Top' and 'Mike Lennox Climber on Big L'.