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I Live for the Sun - Vanity Fare

Apart from the overproduced sound of Roy Wood's Wizzard, perhaps the best UK Beach Boy progeny were the confusingly titled band, Vanity Fare. Confusingly that is, as they were named after the Thackeray novel, but with the word "Fair" spelt wrong. "Vanity Fair" itself a quote from Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress", denoting the fair held at the metaphorical town of Vanity, a stop on the pilgrim's journey. By using the word "fare" they posit the interesting concept of the possibility of imposing a charge or fee for being vain. This tax could raise a lot of money, particularly from the wealthy.

While I am usually a stickler for the real thing, the Vanity Fare version of "I Live for the Sun" has the edge over the original by the Sunrays who sound like an acned fratpack trying to crash an early Beach Boys party. In fact the Sunrays knew the Beach Boys and also came from California, but their material does indeed mostly sound like Beach Boys "B" side rejects that have never passed by the beady ear of Brian Wilson. Admittedly, VF had the advantage of bringing their version out three years later in 1968: Trevor Brice's vocals are more knowing, the drums of Dick Allix more driving and the backing singing has a lighter touch, not as cloying as the original. And someone had the bright idea of adding keyboards which give the track a hippy "Summer of Love" feel and which even create a wavy note that sounds like a heat haze after the word "sun" at the end of the chorus.

One hot summer, some years ago, a friend who was a veterinary surgeon, was called out to an emergency at one of those country manor zoos, where an elephant had fallen and broken a leg, and he had to put it down. It was a stressful task, This, injecting the animal with a large amount of anaesthetic and poison to put it to sleep and then kill it painlessly. Afterwards, before driving the fifty miles home, my friend felt that he needed to take a moment to settle his nerves and so stopped at a garage and bought a packet of Rothmans. He had given up smoking a couple of years before but this, he reasoned, was an exception, he'd only have one, it would do the trick, and he'd be on his way. He smoked the fag, and did indeed feel better. He put the pack in his Land Rover glove compartment and drove home. A month later, he was called out put to put down a sick horse and, once again, felt the need for a cigarette. As you can imagine, a vet's life is one strewn with small animal tragedies, and pretty soon whenever confronted by a dog that had eaten too much or a cat with fleas, he would find himself shaking his head and saying "Well I don't know, I'm afraid it doesn't look good I'm afraid..............".

Are what we live for addictions by another name? And who knows where they can lead us? Vanity Fare did have a million seller in the US two years later with "Hitching a Ride", which was much more successful there than in the UK, because the US had a much bigger hitch hiking culture with its larger distances and burgeoning new age culture. In my early teens, I became addicted to hitch hiking. I went everywhere by thumb, relishing the different characters who would stop for me, long intercity runs starting at motorway service stations, or just short trips such as the three miles to the nearest pub. I gave this up when I realised my mother, now in her late fifties, was stopping for every hitcher she passed, sometimes picking up two or three on one journey, and often driving up to twenty miles out of her way to get them to their destination. I realised that she was doing this in the belief that her generosity would mean that I got more rides, presumably as this was being marked out on some heavenly hitchhikers' book of merit. I struck a deal: I'd take driving lessons (which she would pay for) and give up the hitching as long as she'd stop picking up hitchers. I missed the company, but at least I knew she was safer as a result.

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