The Shotgun Express – ‘Curtains’

In terms of “new” music from Peter Green being “found”, 2017 ended in a fashion similar to the way that it began.  Early in the year, I learned of an “alternate” version of the Peter Green, Aynsley Dunbar, Jack Bruce, Rod Stewart one off collaboration “Stone Crazy” being available.  It wasn’t.

You can read about it here: https://smilingcorgipress.com/alternate-version-of-stone-crazy/

As the year was drawing to a close, Don Brown, collector extraordinaire of all things Peter Green, wrote on Facebook of an interview with Beryl Marsden, the female vocalist for The Shotgun Express, where she says that while studio musicians were used for the A-side of the band’s first single, The Peter B’s played on the B-side .

Beryl Marsden interview – 2011

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKBsQ7soNAc

Her time with The Shotgun Express is discussed between 16:10 and 19:27

Like many British bands from the ‘60’s, The Shotgun Express is now remembered mainly as a way station for those who passed through its ranks on the way to greater success.

Looking back more than fifty years, the band appears to have been more of a business merger than a creative decision by the singers and musicians to join forces.

The group was the creation of the Gunnell agency, placing two singers with the Peter B’s, Green’s first steady professional gig.

Clearly modeled on Stewart’s former group, The Steampacket (Stewart was with the group for eight months, becoming a member of The Shotgun Express five weeks after leaving),  the concept was that what the public was getting was not a single group, but a revue, with two singers who could command an audience singing solo or duetting with the other and a band that not only backed them, but was an attraction in their own right, anchored by the keyboardist.

Though most of the others went on to greater fame, when the band was formed in April of 1966, it was Beryl Marsden who had the most record releases to her name, with her fifth single being released that month.

Stewart had released two, neither successful; the last in November of 1965.

The Peter B’s had recorded and released a single in February of ‘66, but no one seemed to notice.

As evidenced by their lone single and a three song BBC session Green was second only to Bardens in The Peter B’s.  With the new line-up, his time in the spotlight would, by necessity, be greatly curtailed based on Peter Bardens’ recollections of the group’s set list which included numbers by Wilson Pickett and Eddie Floyd (Stewart), Sugar Pie DeSanto (Marsden) and Sam and Dave and Otis Redding and Carla Thomas for the two of them together.

Green would remain with the band for only another two months after this change in musical direction (his time with Peter B’s Looners / The Peter B’s was roughly six months) and John Mooreshead would take his place on lead guitar in July.

The new-lineup were said to have become a strong attraction on the English R & B club circuit and they released their debut single in October of 1966.

While it might have been flattering that either the Gunnell’s or the record company thought enough of their potential to have a full string arrangement scored and session players brought in to play on the A-side, ‘I Could Feel the Whole World Turn Round’, this was in the end a misguided attempt to come up with a “commercial pop” sound for the band in the hope of generating a hit single, despite the fact that it completely misrepresented the band’s sound and live shows.  (For other examples of this self-defeating approach see: The Nightshift’s first single, ‘That’s My Story’, Jeff Beck’s solo debut ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ and the Yardbirds’ U.S. only release ‘Ha Ha Said the Clown’.)

For the B-side, The Peter B’s were probably given just enough time in the studio to run through the number while the engineers set the levels, and then do one or two takes before their time was up.

The Shotgun Express

Rod Stewart: vocal / Beryl Marsden: vocal /

Peter Bardens: keyboards / (probably) John Mooreshead: guitar /

Dave Ambrose: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums

Released October 21, 1966 (Columbia U.K.)

June 1967 (Uptown U.S.)

I Could Feel the Whole World Turn Round (3:15)

b / w

Curtains (2:11)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uH48aAut6Z0

The poor sound quality on the available recording only makes the number even more aurally abrasive, but not even pristine sound could help free this piece from the time-period amber it is trapped in.  (some may see this as the number’s greatest strength)

Bardens’ staccato, cartoon steam-whistle blasts conjure scenes of beatniks in sunglasses and over-stretched sweaters spasmodically dancing, oblivious to the chaos surrounding them during a “madcap” comedy sequence in an Frankie Avalon / Annette Funicello beach movie or a 1960’s American television situation comedy.

Regardless of the artistic merit of the song, the question is, is that Peter Green on guitar?

Marsden stated that it was the Peter B’s (not studio musicians) who played the B-side.  But she did not specify which version of the band.

As noted, Green had left in July.  One could make the case that the number had been recorded while he was still a member, and then released at this later date; or that he rejoined them (as a favor or for fun) for this one session.

The strongest case against both these possibilities is that there is no guitar break in the number.

From when Green first joined forces with Bardens, he was a featured player.  (To our frustration there are no known live recordings of The Peter B’s Looners or The Peter B’s in circulation, but Bardens spoke of showcase numbers that Green played nightly)

The five recordings that we do have of the band all provide Green a moment to step out front, no matter how small.

The guitarist here does little more than keep the beat.

If it was an older recording, why would they not have followed the same formula?

If he had come back for a “one-off”, why would they not spotlight him to capitalize on his return?

Although he had only been playing professionally for about eight months, Green had already begun to develop a strong reputation.

The record company certainly wanted people to believe it was Green.  The press release that accompanied the record listed Green as still being a member of the Peter B’s.

http://www.45cat.com/record/db8178 (scroll down for press release)

As fate would have it, the day The Shotgun Express single hit the stores, Decca Records released the latest John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers 45 ‘Looking Back’ b / w ‘So Many Roads.

Clearly printed beneath the band name on both sides were the words “Featuring Peter Green”.

 

2 Comments

  • comment-avatar
    Roy Visser January 22, 2018 (11:37 pm)

    Great reading !
    I’m catching up on reading this, your book full of interesting facts …. many firsts so far.

    Slow reader here, thanks so much for your work here.
    Regards,
    Roy Visser

  • comment-avatar
    Rich Orlando January 23, 2018 (9:59 am)

    Thanks for the kind words – it is great that there is still so much more to explore – Green’s music is a gift that keeps on giving