Saturday, January 23, 2010

Out Of Time, Chris Farlowe (1966)

This post could be subtitled "Six Degrees of Separation from Chris Farlowe." Or perhaps "#1 Artists I'd Know If I'd Grown Up in the UK Instead of the US."  Or just "Now I've Heard the Term Soul-Howler Twice in 12 Hours - About Two Different People." 

The first of the two soul-howlers will be a topic for another day (thank you very much, Wade, you fiend) - if I can find any information on him!  Today, our subject is Chris Farlowe, who I discovered a few hours ago listening to my Alan Price Set channel on Pandora.  One of his songs got my attention, but I'd never heard of him, so as is my wont I checked him out. 

Turns out this guy, who at 69 years of age is still performing, was a huge success across the pond with his #1 hit Out Of Time, a song I only knew as a Rolling Stones recording. This is where the first degree of separation comes in - his association with the Stones.  More on that in a minute. 

Farlowe got his teenage start when the skiffle craze was in full swing in England, but when rock & roll supplanted that musical genre, he formed a band called the Thunderbirds, which performed both rock and R&B (guitarist Albert Lee was a member), and had a record contract which produced singles destined for the trash heap. When that contract was up, however, a power broker stepped in: Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham saw potential in another white singer who had a voice tailor-made for R&B, and signed Farlowe as a solo act.  His first song to chart was the Jagger-Richards composition Think, which was also recorded by the Stones but not heard til a few months later as an album track on Aftermath. 

Next up - Out Of Time, which was a sensation as produced by Mick Jagger for Farlowe.  It was #1 in the UK two weeks after the Kinks Sunny Afternoon and two weeks before the Beatles Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby. Here, we never heard it, only a Stones version on the Flowers LP - the following year!  Farlowe became such a soul persona that he was invited to appear on a special broadcast of Ready, Steady, Go! that spotlighted Otis Redding's visit to the UK; his cover of Mr. Pitiful got someone's attention. And wouldn't you know it - thanks to YouTube we can actually see what went on there - Farlowe singing It's A Man's Man's Man's World followed by a bit of Otis. Good God!     

His career went in fits and starts through the later 60's and 70's.  His last hit was Handbags and Gladrags, written for him by Manfred Mann's Mike d'Abo; he also ended up associated with Colosseum and Atomic Rooster. None of that panned out, but in the 80's he was featured in Outrider, Jimmy Page's debut album as a soloist (here he is singing Hummingbird on that). That led to a BBC radio live show that thrust him back into the limelight and onto the radar screen of a whole new generation.

Today, he's a special guest at concerts given by the likes of Van Morrison and yes, as recently as a few months ago, the Alan Price Set, which is of course how I got here in the first place. And he has something called the Norman Beaker Band to back him up at other times. Who knew?  This has been a revelation. Today, Farlowe's confinement in the 60's to the UK wouldn't have limited his exposure, and more people would have been able to appreciate him. I am constantly delighted by the myriad online resources that tell me in real time what people all around the world are listening to. One of the upsides of globalization ...  


Wade said...

That's great stuff. What makes it more surreal is that a guy with that face sounds like that. When I first saw the picture, the words "master embalmer" came to mind, not "soul-howler."

Is "Handbags and Gladrags" the same one Rod Stewart did? Surely there aren't two songs with that title.

wendy said...


It's the same song, yes. Farlowe did it first, then d'Abo rearranged it later for Rod Stewart.

Holly A Hughes said...

Nice post! I also discovered Chris Farlowe way late, also through the Alan Price connection. (I'm just impressed that you knew about Alan Price -- he too has never had the recognition he deserves in the US.) Farlowe's voice was, and I presume still is, extraordinary. Once I've heard his versions of those early Stones songs, Mick's renditions seem so bland in comparison.

I'm dying to know who your other soul-howler will be.

Norrin2 said...

The Ramones did this tune on "Acid Eaters" their album of 60's covers. I prefer their version, though Farlowe's good.