Review: The Scorpions – Hello Josephine

scorpions
CD. RPM

No, not the German metallers responsible for Wind of Change and the like. The version of The Scorpions was a British beat band, who were around for a few years 1964 – 1967, and like a number of bands at the time, managed to become big abroad while being pretty much unknown back home. In this case, it was The Netherlands that took the Mancunian quintet to their hearts, thanks to the band heading over to Holland in the summer of 1964 to play a series of gigs, much as the Beatles had done in Hamburg a few years earlier.

This new compilation is culled from the band’s twelve singles and three albums, and as a slice of mid-Sixties beat, it’s solid enough, if not exactly remarkable. There’s no sense of the band having a recognisable sound, something that isn’t helped by the fact that a fair few numbers here are covers, including the title track, a Fats Domino number already covered by Wayne Fontana (and the band’s biggest hit). So the numbers go from swinging beat numbers like Baby Back Now (with it’s garage punk vibe and groovy organ) to traditional rock ‘n’ roll and R&B numbers like Bo Diddley, What’d I Say and Got My Mojo Working.

At their best, the band do manage to have that pre-psych, post beat sound that is exemplified by twangy guitar, pounding organ and a certain down ‘n’ dirty go-go groove – My Babe are good examples of this. Elsewhere, they go for a soul feel, on songs likeThe Nana Song, which is a reworked version of Wilson Pickett’s Land of a Thousand Dances (hence the title – Na Na Na Na – lest you thought it was a song about someone’s granny). These covers – which also include Tobacco Road, Van Morrison’s Gloria, Long Tall Sally and Johnny B.Goode amongst them – don’t really improve on existing versions. At best, they are reasonable facsimiles, at worst rather bland renditions. However, a surf guitar flavoured version of Greensleeves is rather eccentric and fun.

Their originals – Hey Honey, Too Many Lovers – tend to be a mixed bag, mostly lacking the immediate hooks of a Beatles record. There were lots of bands working the circuit, at home and abroad, in the mid Sixties, but by and large, the ones who made it were the ones with the songs. The Scorpions didn’t have anything to compete with the big (or even middling) beat acts of the era.

As a result, it’s unlikely that this album will do much to lift the band out of the footnotes of 1960s British pop. But fans of the era will certainly welcome this release anyway, as it’s always good to see lost music being revived, and while nothing on this album is remarkable, equally, nothing is entirely awful within its own level. If you fancy seeing what the also-rans of the Beat explosion were like, this is a solid collection, with detailed sleeve notes, and worth a listen. But don’t expect anything revolutionary.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

BUY IT NOW (USA)

Advertisements