Wednesday, 23 July 2008

John O'Hara and the Playboys

Initially for this post, I was only gonna write about John O'Hara and the Playboys' "Both Sides" LP, but since it's pretty much a one tracker I've decided to focus on the song rather than the whole album. The track in question is "Why Did You Do It?" by Stretch. A classic mid '70s club tune, which I'm not gonna describe as straight up funk, as it was made by a white Rock group from England. It definitely has a funky groove though and never fails to fill a dance-floor. I always assumed the song was about a cheating girlfriend but after some brief research turned up a more interesting story...

The band was put together on the initiation of Mick Fleetwood, to perform as Fleetwood Mac on a US tour, because of outstanding contractual obligations. Unfortunately, Fleetwood was unable to join the band for personal reasons, and part way through the tour it was realised that there was no original member of Fleetwood Mac in the band. The tour collapsed because the band was declaimed as a bogus Fleetwood Mac. The lyric of "Why Did You Did It?" was actually a direct attack on Mick Fleetwood for his failure to join the band on the ill-fated Fleetwood Mac tour.

The 45 of this track reached No.2 in the U.K. charts and is obviously as common as any other hit single. I've had it for years and see it at nearly every boot-sale I go to, so if you need a copy just head down to your local Sunday morning gathering and grab one for 25 pence or so. A couple of years ago, I picked up another version by South African singer Margaret Singana. Her album "Tribal Fence" features a cover of James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's World" which is what attracted my attention, but it wasn't until I got home and played it that I noticed the Stretch song. And what a great version it is too. All the dance-floor appeal of the original but with a smoother groove and lovely vocals. Turns out this is only fairly well known, so I was pleased to have an alternative version to play out.

Not long after I found the Margaret Singana album, I picked up this John O'Hara and the Playboys set - "Both Sides". Released in 1977 on the obscure U.K. label 'Look Records'. Signed on the back 'To Jean, Reg & Carol...from John O' good...XXX'. It was obviously an album they used to sell at gigs, so I always assumed them to be a cabaret act. If you check Popsike though you'll see an early album on Fontana that fetches big money. This record however, was made nearly 15 years later, and by the late '70s it looks like they'd fallen back to the club circuit after some initial success in the big time recording industry. The album as a whole is your typical cabaret selection with everything from light Easy Listening to current Pop hits of the time. There's a version of 'Superstition' (which was why I took a gamble on the album in the first place), but the drum break is weak and the rest of the song isn't much better either. The Stretch cover kills it though. Really raw production and a great instrumental workout in the second half. It's also quite amusing to hear John's Scottish accent creeping through at times. Licorice Soul included a version of "Funky Nassau" by the band on the superb "Working Man's Soul" compilation a couple of years back but I've yet to find the album it originally came from.

So there you have it, three different versions of one classic song. If you know of any others, let me know...

Stretch "Why Did You Did It?" (1975 Anchor U.K. 45)

Margaret Singana "Why Did You Do It?" (1977 Jo'Burg African L.P. track)

John O'Hara and the Playboys "Why Did You Do It?" (1977 Look Records U.K. L.P. track)

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