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The Mindbenders

Remaining together following the departure of frontman Wayne Fontana, the Mindbenders got off to one of the most promising starts any band could enjoy, when their debut single "A Groovy Kind of Love" soared to number two in the U.K. and topped the chart in America. And had the group only succeeded in locating a decent follow-up, they might well have developed into one of the finest British bands of the late '60s.

Instead, a series of disastrous choices of 45s condemned them to the ranks of rank also-rans, and it is only later that the sheer quality of their other work -- material hitherto lost on two Mindbenders LPs -- had been re-evaluated sufficiently to let listeners state that here was one of the greatest of all Britain's post-beat bands. A Groovy Kind of Love album totally failed to capitalize on the success of its title track, floundering to a lowly number 92, while a second song by "Groovy" composers Carole Bayer and Toni Wine, "Ashes to Ashes," scarcely improved on that in the singles' listings. It made number 55, although Fontana did still try to capitalize on it, repressing the Groovy Kind of Love album with "Ashes to Ashes" replacing "Don't Cry No More." (Later in the year, "Ashes to Ashes" hit number 14 in Britain, but only after the vaguely Spector-ish "Can't Live With You (Can't Live Without You)" had struggled to break the Top 30.

The Mindbenders made their final American tour in July 1966, kicking off in Atlanta on Independence Day, in front of a capacity 25,000 crowd. It was a shame they were only the opening band. James Brown was the headliner and, while Eric Stewart remembered, "we went down quite well," a more memorable show came when the Mindbenders played the Fillmore West later in the tour. "The liquid light show was great and really worked with our act, which was a lot heavier than on our records."

Stewart himself had developed into a very strong songwriter in his own right, contributing one song ("My New Day and Age") to the newly emergent prog rock favorites Family, and coming up with another, "Yellow Brick Road," which has been described as "the best record Traffic never made." For singles, however, the Mindbenders continued looking outside for new material.

It was not necessarily a bad decision; their taste, after all, remained impeccable. Their final release of 1966, "I Want Her, She Wants Me," for instance, was written by the Zombies' Rod Argent and was handed to the Mindbenders a full year before it reappeared on the Zombies' own Odyssey & Oracle album.

Fighting hard to keep abreast of the changing currents, the Mindbenders next embarked on their most audacious yet strangely prescient move yet, a full-blown concept album. No matter that, several months before Sgt. Pepper and even longer before SF Sorrow and Tommy, nobody had even heard of concept albums, the Mindbenders' With Woman in Mind remains a gem in that genre. And yet, despite the presence of both "I Want Her, She Wants Me" and "Ashes to Ashes," plus a startling new Graham Gouldman song, the lascivious "Schoolgirl" is an undiscovered gem as well. Unreleased in America, it did little anywhere else and disappeared as quickly as the accompanying single, yet another Bayer/Wine composition, "We'll Talk About It Tomorrow."

Faltering ratings and drooping self-confidence, of course, were not necessarily an insurmountable hurdle. The group was invited to contribute two songs to the soundtrack of Sidney Poitier's movie To Sir, With Love -- "number one hitmakers the Mindbenders" are seen performing live in the school gymnasium, airing "It's Getting Harder All of the Time" and "Off and Running," both sides of their next single. Unfortunately, not even major celluloid exposure could break the group's run of bad luck. Neither could an infusion of new blood, after drummer Ric Rothwell quit to be replaced by Paul Hancox. By the end of the year, the band was reduced to recording covers of current American hits, which could be rush released in Britain in the hope of beating out the original. Art had been reduced to a crapshoot and, even as the first of the Mindbenders' efforts, a version of the Boxtops' "The Letter." ground its way to number 42 in September 1967 (the competition, by the way, reached number five), it was clear that the end was in sight.

The Mindbenders made one final stab at reversing their fortunes, re-recording "Schoolgirl" and pulling out every psychedelic rock trick in the book. A BBC ban (that lasciviousness again), however, kept the single a good arm's length from either the radio or the charts and, when a reading of Robert Knight's "Blessed Are the Lonely" followed "Schoolgirl" into the dumper, in March 1968, Bob Lang quit (he would reappear as a member of soft rockers Racing Cars in the mid-'70s). He was replaced by Graham Gouldman, in which form the band cut one final single "Uncle Joe, the Ice Cream Man."

The Mindbenders then broke up, calling it a day at the Liverpool Empire on November 20, 1968, the last night of a U.K. tour with the Who, Arthur Brown, and Joe Cocker. Stewart and Gouldman, however, would continue working together, first as partners in the newly launched Strawberry Studios, then as one half of 10cc. ~ Dave Thompson
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Trojan Presents: The Producers

Disc 1

1. Mash It, Pt. 1

3. No More Wine From The Glass

4. Up And Down

6. Steppin' Razor

7. Put Down Your Fire

8. Chain Gang

9. Easy Come Easy Go (Alternate Take)

10. Reggae Girl

11. Action Line

13. Fatty Fatty (Extended Version)

14. Cool Down

15. Who Cause It

17. Cry A Little Cry

19. Work It

20. Lollipop Girl

Disc 2

1. Teacher Teacher

4. I'd Love You To Want Me

5. Concrete Rock

7. Let Locks Grow

10. Too Good To Be Forgotten

11. Run Joe

12. Feel Like Jumping

13. Black Beauty

14. Only Jah Love For I

16. The Same Song (Extended Version)

17. You'll Never Know (12" Mix)

18. It's A Good Day

19. Reggae On Broadway

x

Track List: Made In Dagenham (Original Soundtrack)

1. (There's) Always Something There To Remind Me

2. Get Ready

3. Israelites

4. It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World

5. Days

6. Can I Get A Witness

7. All Or Nothing

9. A Groovy Kind Of Love

10. Wooly Bully

11. Sunday Will Never Be The Same

12. Green Tambourine

13. Paper Sun

14. Friday On My Mind

15. With A Girl Like You

16. You Can Get It If You Really Want

17. Made In Dagenham

x

Track List: British Invasion Gold

Disc 1

1. Ain't She Sweet

2. Bad To Me

3. I'm Telling You Now

4. I Think Of You

5. Needles And Pins

7. Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying

8. Wishin' & Hopin'

9. She's Not There

10. A Summer Song

11. Ferry Across The Mersey

12. Yeh Yeh

13. Game Of Love

14. It's Not Unusual

15. You've Got Your Troubles

16. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away

Disc 2

1. A Groovy Kind Of Love

2. The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)

3. Sorrow

4. Wild Thing

5. Bus Stop

6. Sunshine Superman

7. See See Rider

8. Gimme Some Lovin'

9. Happy Jack

10. Georgy Girl

11. Pamela, Pamela

12. Here Comes My Baby

13. A Whiter Shade Of Pale

14. To Sir With Love

15. Love Is All Around

16. The First Cut Is The Deepest

x

Track List: We Can Fly, Vol. 4

1. Maxwell Ferguson

2. I Won't Hurt You

3. The Real Thing (Parts 1 & 2)

4. When The Wind Arises

5. Here I Go Again

6. I Really Love You

7. So Hard Living Without You

8. Drizzle

9. Daylight Child

10. Look At The Lights Go Up

12. We're Not What We Appear To Be

13. I Am The Noise In Your Head

14. Not So Young Today

15. Trapped

17. Time And Tide

19. Dr Crippen's Waiting Room

20. I Can't Break The Habit

21. Silver Chocolate Machine

22. My New Day And Age

23. Love Is The Sun

24. Fires Alive

25. Mr Guy Fawkes

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