Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Freddie And The Dreamers


 Freddie Garrity: 14th November 1936 – 19th May 2006

Was Freddie Garrity ever cool? 
Or just the Clown Prince of the 1960’s Beat-Boom pack? 
Whatever, Freddie & The Dreamers had hits, 
and they added to the gaiety of that gayest of Pop-decades.

‘Freddie is the only man I know who can sing, dance 
and remove his trousers all at the same time’ 
 – Michael Carreras
                                     (sleeve notes to ‘What A Crazy World’ EP) 

Was Freddie Garrity ever cool?

Perhaps, during the first two weeks as their debut hit charted. “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody” was a perfectly respectable piece of Blues from James Ray (a US no.22 from December 1961). The kind of song that harder more authentic R&B bands might have picked up on – the Animals, say, or Manfred Mann, had Freddie not got in first. And in keeping with the expectations of the time there was a sharp keening harmonica riff feeding into the disc. But, from the first TV glimpse, introduced by Brian Matthews on ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’, it was obvious that Freddie & The Dreamers were the jokers of the Beat-Boom pack.

Not that their appearance immediately contrived eccentricity, sharply-suited with clean shirts and ties, it was more that their sheer physical oddness made any degree of seriousness difficult to put across. Freddie himself was short (‘please don’t pick on me, ‘cos I’m only 5’ 3”’ as the Barron-Knights lampooned) – actually he stood 1.63 metres, more of a 5’ 5.5”, with tight black curly hair and thick black horn-rim spectacles. The missing geek-link between Buddy Holly and Elvis Costello, were it not that both were infinitely finer musicians than he was. Behind him there was a podgy bass-player with a dodgy eye (Pete Birrell), a drummer with slick-back hair who looked like a door-to-door salesman (Bernie Dwyer), one guitarist sporting curious sunglasses (Derek Quinn) and another going prematurely bald (Roy Crewsdon). Their debut album sleeve, with the band peering through the bars of a big brass bed-head in long Victorian Wee-Willie Winkie night-gowns and striped hats caught the tone exactly. Those sensitive to Mod-tuned credibility would flip straight past it hunting for the Kinks, Bo Diddley, Small Faces or Chuck Berry.

But if – in the pin-up stakes, they were the no-hoper band-least-likeliest-to, Freddie & The Dreamers were smart enough to switch that around and turn it to their advantage. They decided to be silly. With Freddie as the silliest of them all. Mitch Murray had already written two no.1’s for Gerry & The Pacemakers, now – for Freddie & co, he almost equalled that achievement, with “I’m Telling You Now” (co-written with Freddie) and “You Were Made For Me” peaking at no.2 and no.3 respectively, both amplified by the most ludicrously strenuous but precisely choreographed stage-moves in Pop history. With each hit that followed matched to its own absurdly callisthenic dance-routine, irresistible high-kicking trouser-dropping eye-candy slotted in against the two-minute thrash of darker more intense bands.

They appeared on TV’s iconic ‘Blue Peter’, singing “You Were Made For Me” proudly wearing their Blue Peter badges, Freddie pausing to stroke studio-dog Shep during the closing bars. For another TV date Freddie even performed the number suspended on a swinging wire. And they were big. They starred as part of the ‘Beatles Christmas Show’ package at the Hammersmith Odeon (24th December 1964 – 18th Jan) alongside the Fab Four, and the Yardbirds, introduced by Jimmy Savile. The Barron-Knights gave Freddie the further accolade of sequencing their spoof of “You Were Made For Me” onto their first big hit “Call Up The Groups” alongside comic replications of the Beatles, the Searchers, the Dave Clark Five and the Rolling Stones (listing the Dreamer’s unsuitability for conscription into the navy because ‘I get sick at sea-e-yeei-yee’). 

Freddie was born in Manchester, a miner’s son (yes, there were miners in Sale!). An enthusiastic schoolboy footballer and a Manchester United fan he was also steeped in the city’s diverse popular entertainment tradition, performing an Al Jolson act for a local talent contest. Leaving school in 1956, a sometime milkman and door-to-door salesman, it was during his engineering apprenticeship at a Turbine factory that he began playing skiffle with brother Derek in the Red Sox, travelling to engagements in a battered pre-war Austin Seven. ‘It was supposed to take four only at an absolute pinch, we once had nine in it’ he later recalled, ‘what with that, a large washboard lashed to the bonnet, a tea-chest bass tied on the back and a big bass drum strapped onto the roof, we looked a crazy sight. If we stepped on it, we could average fourteen miles an hour!’

Later he was part of the John Norman Four, then the Kingfishers (alongside Roy Crewsdon) who – in 1961, became Freddie & The Dreamers. They played raw Rock ‘n’ Roll during their Hamburg ‘Top Ten Club’ residency – and Rock would remain the basis of their repertoire, Eddie Cochran, Ray Charles, Berry Gordy’s “Money” (which every sixties group attempted), and especially Buddy Holly, but they were already introducing comedy elements into their set. Until, signed by manager Jim O’Farrell, they sailed through a BBC audition in 1963 and hopped the second – Manchester, wave of the Beat Boom, debuting live on radio’s ‘Beat Show’, then making their first attention-grabbing TV appearance on ‘Let’s Go’. Some taste of their on-stage demented doodlings are captured in their cameo for the black-&-white movie ‘What A Crazy World’, in which Freddie sings “Short Shorts” in his underpants, then – with trademark manic giggle, he proceeds to pull down the trousers of the rest of the group as the song continues. It had been a mirth-making part of their act since 1959.

I saw Freddie & The Dreamers once. A bored drizzling Blackpool evening with nothing better to do. They were part of a variety bill that meant enduring a comedian, chorus-girls, a bright family-entertainment crooner, then twenty-minutes of irrepressibly catchy Freddie hits. No-one screamed. No-one rushed the stage. It wasn’t that kind of concert. The high-point was drummer Bernie Dwyer desperately jabbing his arm in the air to attract Freddie’s attention. The show halted. ‘J-j-j-jut a minute’ stuttered Freddie in his best Norman Wisdom voice. After a hurried whispered exchange, Freddie led him by the hand off-stage, Bernie walking crouched and cross-legged with an expression of extreme anxiety. The sound of a toilet flushing. And, suitably relieved, Bernie returned to his drum-kit to complete the set. A piece of ‘Carry On’ humour grafted seamlessly onto bouncy hits like “I’m Telling You Now” and their revival of Paul Anka’s “I Love You Baby”, to belly-laugh applause. If the Rolling Stones were cleaving Rock away from ‘light entertainment’, Freddie was doing his best to reunite the two, as part of traditional British seaside entertainment.

The last time I remember laughing out loud at the group was when they did the old Hollywood Argyles hit “Short Shorts” on a typically lavish ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ set mocked-up like a swimming pool, Freddie in goggles and flippers, the band part-submerged in a dry-ice stand-in for water. So totally over-the-top bonkers it was a brief joy to watch. But as their career momentum slowed here, unexpectedly they took off massively in the States. Calling off as part of a world tour, a timely showcasing of their antics on ‘Shindig’ and ‘Hullaballoo’ meant that not only did “You Were Made For Me” top the American singles chart (in April 1965), but the matching stage-routine was instantly adopted as a teen-dance craze. When a TV interviewer asked him what his dance was called he paused, and said ‘The Freddie’. Sniffing sales, at the labels instigation Freddie was hauled into the studio with some session-players, and within weeks “Do The Freddie” was also charting, with the approval of dance-master Chubby Checker himself. For a few months Freddie was all over American Pop TV, with two labels simultaneously vying with each other to place his records on the charts…

‘The group are very much general entertainers these days, 
and they rush in and out through the proceedings dominating 
most of the sketches – though some of their first-night humor 
was not of the most delicate’ 
 (‘NME’ reviews their Great Yarmouth Summer Show 
 with Ruby Murray and the Tornadoes, July 1967) 

What next? There was the movie – ‘Every Day’s A Holiday’ (1965), set in one of those terminally grim ‘Maplins’-style holiday camps, it was a flimsy attempt to tie in a miscellany of C-list Pop stars, including John Leyton and upper-class know-it-all Mike Sarne (who’d had a no.1 with ‘Eastenders’ Wendy Richards with “Come Outside”), gathered around a let’s-do-the-show-right-here plot, providing the excuse for bonus glimpses of beat-groups such as The Mojos (“Everything’s Alright”). Freddie and the gang feature as the camp chefs, an excuse for the extended sight-gag comedy sequence in which the Dreamers cook Freddie as ‘dish of the day’, opening the oven to find him inside complaining brightly ‘I’m not done yet’. Whatever slight pretensions to ‘cool’ had by now been totally abandoned for the goofy vitality of straight-ahead slapstick.

Yet there was to be one more chart single. Just to prove they could. A cover of the G-Clefs “I Understand” (an American no.9 hit from October 1961), contrasting the Dreamers’ close-harmony rendition of the New Year anthem ‘auld lang syne’ against Freddie’s sentimentally sincere lead. Later, there were a couple of failed singles, including the marginally amusing “Gabardine Mac” which opens deceptively seriously – like Pat Boone’s “Speedy Gonzales”, before detonating into a manic nonsensical chorus. There’s even another slighting reference to his diminished stature. Then their cover of Sopwith Camel’s zany “Hello Hello” with its airy throw-away non-sequitur ‘would you like some of my tangerine?/ I’ll never ever treat you mean’. After which, as far as Pop was concerned, they dropped beneath the radar.

Life in the Rock ‘n’ Roll fast lane was over. But as early as 1966 they were making moves into straight comedy with their own boy-scout romp ‘Cuckoo Patrol’, before Freddie edged into children’s TV by compering his weekly ‘Little Big Time’ series with Pete Birrell. Meanwhile, Roy Crewsdon moved to the Canary Islands. Derek Quinn went from Pop hits to marketing soft drinks. While Freddie sporadically reformed new Dreamers for revival tours – even commenting ironically on this status by writing a single for the group called “I’m A Singer In A Sixties Band”, while he was also playing Ariel in a 1988 production of ‘The Tempest’. Later he turned up in a 1993 episode of TV’s nostalgia-fest ‘Heartbeat’ as Tiny Weedon, a pint-sized drug-dealing DJ (in an episode titled ‘Father’s Day’). Then on knockabout panel show ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’ (episode 6.2, 1999).

Freddie married three times – to Josie until 1973, to Deirdre, and to Christine from October 1990. He was first diagnosed as suffering from emphysema after being taken ill during a flight home from a 2001 New York engagement, and although he scaled back his work-load he died aged 69 while on holiday with Christine in Ysbyty Gwynedd, in Bangor, Wales, from related ‘blood circulation problems’. So, was Freddie Garrity ever cool? Or just the Clown Prince of the 1960’s Beat-Boom pack? Rock critic Lester Bangs – who knows about what is and what is not hip, saluted Freddie & The Dreamers in 1980 for their ‘plenitude of talentless idiocy’ a quality for which they should be ‘given their place in Rock history.’ Whatever, Freddie & The Dreamers had a row of memorable hits, and they added to the gaiety of that gayest of Pop decades…


‘Freddy & The Dreamers, a scatty surrealist group…’ 
(poet Jeff Nuttall spells the name wrong but 
gets the sentiment right in ‘Bomb Culture’, 1968) 

 (Freddie Garrity, 14 November 1936. 
Derek Quinn – lead guitar, 24th May 1942. 
Bernie Dwyer - drums, 11th September 1941. 
Roy Crewsdon – rhythm guitar, 29th May 1941. 
Pete Birrell - bass, 9th May 1941) 


1963 “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody” c/w “Feel So Blue” (Columbia DB7032) UK no.3

1963 “I’m Telling You now” (Mitch Murray/ Freddie Garrity song) c/w “What Have I Done To You?” (Columbia DB7086) UK no.2 – USA “I’m Telling You Now” (Tower 125) no.1 March 1965

1963 “You Were Made For Me” (Mitch Murray song) c/w “Send A Letter To Me” (Columbia DB7147) UK no.3 – USA “You Were Made For Me” (Tower 127) no.21 May 1965

1964 “Over You” c/w “Come Back When You’re Ready” (Columbia DB7214) UK no.13

1964 “I Love You Baby” c/w “Don’t Make Me Cry” (Columbia DB7286) UK no.16

1964 “Just For You” c/w “Don’t Do That To Me” (Columbia DB7322) UK no.41

1964 “I Understand” c/w “I Will” (Columbia DB7381) UK no.5 – USA “I Understand (Just How You Feel)” (Mercury 72377) no.36 April 1965

1965 “Do The Freddie”c/w “I’m Telling You Now” (Mercury 72428) US no.18 May 1965

1965 “A Little You” c/w “Things I’d Like To Say” (Columbia DB7526) UK no.26, US no.48

1965 “Thou Shalt Not Steal” (cover of 1964 US Dick & Deedee no.13 hit) c/w “I Don’t Know” (Columbia DB7720) UK no.44 ‘Record Mirror’ says ‘Freddie in plaintive mood, C&W-styled, full string section’ (October), Freddie-composed flip

1966 “If You’ve Gotta Minute Baby” c/w “When I’m Home With You” (Columbia DB7857)

1966 “Playboy” c/w “Some Day” (Columbia DB7929)

1966 “Turn Around” c/w “Funny Over You” (Columbia DB8033) ‘Record Mirror’ says ‘softly sung, rather pensive, and absolutely straight… a good lullaby-ballad’ (November)

1967 “Hello Hello” c/w “All I Ever Want Is You” (Freddie original) (Columbia DB8137) Feb ‘NME’ says ‘an infectious, easy-going Good-Time flavour, enhanced by honky-tonk piano and tuba’

1967 “Brown & Porter’s (Meat Exporters) Lorry” c/w “Little Brown Eyes” (Columbia DB8200) May

1967 “Little Red Donkey” c/w “So Many Different Ways” (Columbia DB8348) Freddie solo, written for him by the Troggs, with his own composition on the flip. There’s also a Dreamers single without Freddie “The Maybe Song” (February 1968 – Columbia DB8349)

1968 “Little Big Time” c/w “You Belong To Me” (Columbia DB 8496) Nov. Freddie Garrity solo

1968 “Gabardine Mac” c/w “It’s Great” (Columbia DB8517) Dec

1969 “Get Around Downtown Girl” (Greenaway/Cook song) c/w “What To Do” (Columbia DB8606)

1970 “Susan’s Tuba” c/w “You Hurt Me Girl” (Philips 6006-098) – an unexpected hit in France. ‘NME’ says ‘it’s a novelty piece with a catchy sing-along chorus, and assorted oom-pah passages from the tuba’ (April)

1978 “I’m Telling You Now” + “Just For You”, “You Were Made For Me”, “Over You” (EMI 2694)

1978 “Here We Go” c/w “I Saw Ya” (Polydor 2059041) June


FREDDIE & THE DREAMERS: THE TWO FACES OF FREDDIE (& THE EIGHT FACES OF THE DREAMERS)’ (Columbia 33SX 1577 – 1963) with ‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody’, ‘Some Other Guy’, ‘Somebody Else’s Girl’, ‘Yes I Do’, ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’, ‘Drink This Up It’ll Make You Sleep’, ‘I Understand’, ‘Sally Ann’, ‘I’m A Hog For You’, ‘The Wedding’, ‘Money’, ‘Crying’, ‘He Got What He Wanted’, ‘Kansas City’

YOU WERE MADE FOR ME’ (Columbia 3SX 1663 – 1964, re-issued Music For Pleasure MFP1168 – October 1967) with ‘Jailor Bring Me Water’, ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’, ‘Tell Me When’, ‘Cut Across Shorty’, ‘I’ll Never Dance Again’, ‘What’d I Say’, ‘See You Later Alligator’, ‘Early In The Morning’, ‘I Think Of You’, ‘Only You’, ‘Johnny B Goode’, ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’, ‘Say It Isn’t True’, ‘Write Me A Letter’

SING-ALONG PARTY’ (Columbia SX1785 – 1965)

FRANTIC FREDDIE’ (USA only – January 1966) with ‘Windmill In Old Amsterdam’, ‘Short Shorts’, ‘Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah’, ‘Drink This Up, It’ll Make You Sleep’, ‘Crying’, ‘Camptown Races’, ‘How’s About Trying Your Luck With Me’, ‘Cut Across Shorty’, ‘Jailor Bring Me Water’, ‘I’m A Hog For You’, ‘What’d I Say’, ‘See You Later Alligator’

IN DISNEYLAND’ (Columbia SCX6069 – October 1966) twelve Disney songs including ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ and ‘The Siamese Cat Song’, from ‘Dumbo’, ‘Summer Magic’, ‘Pinocchio’, ‘Winnie The Pooh’, ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘Snow White’, ‘Alice In Wonderland’ arranged by Johnny Scott

KING FREDDIE & THE DREAMING KNIGHTS’ (Columbia SX6177 – November 1967) with ‘I Fell In Love With Your Picture’, ‘The Doll-House Is Empty’, ‘Picture Of You’, ‘The 59th Street Bridge Song’, ‘So Many Different Ways’, ‘Children’, ‘The Night Is Over’, ‘There’s Got To Be A Word’, ‘Juanita Banana’, ‘Sing C’est La Vie’, ‘Don’t Tell Me That’, ‘Is It Love’, ‘You’ve Got Me Going’, ‘Look For The Rainbow’ – ‘not for Captain Beefheart fans’ says ‘Record Mirror’

OLIVER IN THE OVERWORLD’ (Starline SRS5019 -1970) cartoon cover, a kind of ten-song ‘Alice In Wonderland’ story-cycle about a clock called Oliver, written by Mike Hazelwood and Albert Hammond (father of the Strokes guitarist), produced by John Burgess, with Roger Greenaway & Roger Cook on hand. Consists of ‘I Wanna Go To The Overworld’, ‘How D’Ja Do’, ‘The Overroad’, ‘You Can’t Go Wrong’, ‘It Can’t Be This’, ‘Day-By-Day’, ‘Harry The Heater’, ‘Undercog Song, ‘I’ll Come Back And See You Again’ and ‘Gimme Dat Ding’ (later a March 1970 no.6 hit for the Pipkins)

FREDDIE GARRITY’ (Bus Stop Records 5002 – 1974) Freddie solo album

BEST OF FREDDIE & THE DREAMERS’ (EMI NUT11 – 1977, C-Five C5 503) twenty tracks including ‘I’m A Hog For You’, ‘Johnny B Goode’, ‘I Love You Baby’, ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’, ‘Tell Me When’, ‘I’m Telling You Now’, ‘Playboy’, ‘If You’ve Got A Minute Baby’, ‘Short Shorts’, ‘Over You’ etc

BREAKING OUT’ (Arny’s Shack Records AS025 – 1978)

THE EP COLLECTION’ (See For Miles SEE299 - 1990) with tracks from EPs ‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody’ (Columbia SEG8275 – 1963) + ‘Feel So Blue’, ‘I’m Telling You Now’, ‘The Viper’, ‘You Were Made For Me’ (SEG8302 – 1964) + ‘Send A Letter To Me’, ‘Money’, ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Da’, ‘Over You’ (SEG8323 – 1964) + ‘Come Back When You’re Ready’, ‘Kansas City’, ‘I’m A Hog For You’, ‘Ready Freddie Go’ (SEG8403 – 1965) with ‘Silly Girl’, ‘Little Bitty Pretty One’, ‘In My Baby’s Arms’, ‘She Belongs To You’, ‘Freddie & The Dreamers’ (SEG8457 – 1965) with ‘I Wonder Who The Lucky Guy Will Be’, ‘A Windmill In Old Amsterdam’, ‘Do The Freddie’, ‘A Love like You’ plus tracks from ‘What A Crazy World’ and ‘Just For You’ EP’s

THE BEST OF THE EMI YEARS’ (EMI 0777, CDP7997152 – 1992) 34-track CD compilation, singles, b-sides and album tracks from “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody” to “Do The Freddie”, “Gabardine Mac”, “Jailer Bring Me Water”, “Come Back When You’re Ready”, “Playboy”, “Brown & Porter (Meat Exporter)” etc

Movies & Clips: 

WHAT A CAZY WORLD’ (Alan Klein, 1963) as ‘Frantic Freddie & The Dreamers’, with Joe Brown & Marty Wilde. Produced a Freddie soundtrack EP ‘Songs From What A Crazy World’ (Columbia SEG8287) which includes ‘Short Shorts’, ‘Sally Ann’, ‘Camp Town Races’ and non-film ‘Lonely Boy’

JUKE BOX JURY’ Freddie was a guest panellist on the BBC-TV show on 23 November 1963 & 2 May 1964

JUST FOR YOU’ (1964) with EP ‘Freddie Sings Just For You’ (Columbia SEG8349) with ‘Just For You’ (performed in Elizabethan dress), ‘I Love You Baby’, ‘Don’t Make Me Cry’, ‘I Just Don’t Understand’

BIG BEAT ‘64’ (1964) compilation film

TOP OF THE POPS’ editions dated 1 January 1964, 10 December 1964, 1 April 1965

EVERY DAY’S A HOLIDAY’ (1965) with Mike Sarne and John Leyton, retitled ‘Seaside Swingers’ for its US release, features “Don’t Do That To Me”

OUT OF SIGHT’ (1966) features “Funny Over You”

CUCKOO PATROL’ (1966) short Freddie Garrity feature film

SHINDIG! PRESENTS BRITISH INVASION Vol.1 & 2’ (1992 ) video compilations, volume 1 features “I’m Telling You Now”

THE BRITISH INVASION RETURNS’ (2000) video compilation with “I’m Telling You Now” 

Published in:
(UK – May 2007)


John Pitt said...

Such a thorough and well-written post about one of my favourite acts deserves a pat on the back!
Thanks, Andrew!

MikeMCSG said...

A pedantic point but they couldn't have stroked Shep in the sixties; he wasn't born then. Must have been Petra or Patch

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S said...

I saw Freddie live in 1964 and all the girls screamed all the way through. Very underrated band. Some excellent songs among those albums, singles and EPs.