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Out of the Blue - Tommy James and the Shondells

While Tommy James and the Shondells were always at their best when they were doing their own thing, they spent a lot of time copying the styles of other current successful acts of the sixties, most notably the Four Seasons. Not to say that these records weren't great, they were excellent without exception, but just not as successful. Here they do it Beach Boys style although there's a hint of the Four Seasons too. Tommy James has a terrific voice, but the backing vocals, and the production with the harp in particular evoke the image of a beautiful blue breaking wave in west coast sunlight. And the song's not even about the sea, let alone surfing, but you can feel that seashore all the way through.

At the time of this release, the Beach Boys' current album was the classic Pet Sounds, and the the band were touring the US while Brian Wilson was holed up in his Bel Air bedroom with Van Dyke Parks writing the songs for the Beach Boys legendary but never-released "Smile" album, the Mary Celeste of rock music.

Thirty years later, the team at Polar Promotions, Martin, Laurence and myself, booked Parks to play in London, but he cancelled at the last minute as he, out of the blue, received the commission to write the soundtrack for Walter Hill's movie "Wild Bill", a western about Wild Bill Hickok's final days. If my memory serves me, we also lost our deposit through a dodgy agent who used it to pay for an operation for his ex-wife. It was the 1990's, before the days of the internet and mobile phones, and some punters didn't hear that the concert was off until they arrived at the venue to meet us on the door offering them grovelling apologies and their money back. As far as I recall, it would have been the first time Parks ever performed in the UK but not one of our disappointed customers had a go at us. They were all sympathetic and one guy who'd travelled all the way from Glasgow even thanked us just for trying to book Parks. He said he was sure he'd have a good evening in London instead, thus restoring our frayed faith in human kindness.

Back on the pet sounds front, Martin once owned three parrots, all of which he trained to say "I'm Spartacus". Visits to his house were always epic.

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