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The Beat Merchants - The Beats Go On
They were incredibly young and had split before some of the band had not even reached 20. They only released two singles, one quite perversely made number one in America (albeit as a 'B' side to Freddie and the Dreamers 'You Were Made For Me') they started out as many other bands did in the early sixties as an innocent looking, clean cut, teen band inspired by the Shadows. A chance support slot with the emerging Rolling Stones in August 1963 changed all that and despite their short spell in the limelight and limited releases it was enough to ensure the Beat Merchants cult status as a classic garage punk band.  beatmerchants album sleeve
Now ace re-issue label, Circle Records, have released a tasty looking limited edition anthology called 'The Beats Go On' compiling the bands singles with rare, unheard demos all wonderfully packaged with excellent sleeve notes and photos / press cuttings.

The album features four demos the band recorded as Peter and the Huslters. On August 3rd 1963, the fledgling band supported the Rolling Stones and original bassist and founding member Geoff Farndell agrees, "This was the night our musical 'lives' changed". "The change in our band was almost immediate. Gone were the 'stage suits', organised 'Shadows steps', haircuts and at least 50% of our old repertoire".

By this stage their original singer Peter Toal had left the band and was replaced by Chris Boyle. There's a really funny story about Chris in the sleeve notes. The story goes that the band wanted to grow their hair in the mop style but Chris had curly hair and had to wet it down and wear a helmet in bed to make his hair go straight.

The band soon became the Beat Merchants and they began to build a reputation locally on the South Coast. The band eventually cut their legendary, self-penned debut single 'Pretty Face' for Columbia.

"We decided to write our own song and duly congregated at Vic's place and sort of wrote Pretty Face in the space of an hour or so" says Geoff, "We kicked off with a Bo Diddley beat and Chris mumbled and groaned a bit. Then Vic and I went into the middle eight changing the beat. We all pitched in. I remember Vic wrote the second verse and I wrote the 'big brown eyes' middle eight bit!"

In an excellent feature on the band in Issue 18 of The Ugly Things magazine, Hugh Deller describes Pretty Face as a 'blistering, bone-crunching, harp-wailing, bass pounding British R'n'B classic'.

The band went on to enjoy all the trappings of stardom with TV appearances, major press and tours abroad sandwiched between the debut single and the final release, 'So Fine'. By 1966 it was all over.

'The Beats Go On' captures the bands' legacy and primitive reputation. Rough demos maybe of historical interest only but you can still hear real quality and great song writing beneath the hiss on tracks like 'Was Before', 'Reasons' and 'All she Wants Is Me'. These group originals penned by Farndell have plenty of period charm. These songs beg to be re-recorded by any budding bands out there to give them real justice.

It's the better quality tracks though that will further enhance the bands' fine reputation amongst 60's garage fans. The follow up single 'So Fine' is another cool garage flavoured nugget with more wailing harmonica and a backbeat reminiscent of 'Psychotic Reaction' by Count Five. The bouncy 'She Said Yeah' has plenty of attitude with a great, teen angst vocal. The freakbeat frenzy of 'What Have I Done' and 'Not Guilty' are two unreleased rough diamonds and the band's poppier side is exposed on the delightful 'On a Summers Day'.

Pet Sounds E-Zine #12