Monday, 23 April 2012

A mindbending evening

If you’ve ever wondered what they get up to in Penzance of a Friday night . . .

Not exactly a pressing question, I’d guess. But still . . .

There, by myself, I saw in the local paper that the Mindbenders were playing in a local pub, the Dock Inn. The Mindbenders, I thought, that can’t really be the same ones I vaguely remember from the 1960s, can it?

Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, I seem to remember they were called. What a great name: a collision of aspirant 1960s working class first name, a record label title for a surname and a hint of drugginess in the backing band’s name. I also seem to recall their hit was A Groovy Kind of Love and that the band later split from Mr Fontana.

So I went. And this is what I saw, in all its are bure boke reality.

It’s an archetypal West Cornwall scene. Older women, often divorced, looking out for themselves. Many of them found their way there in search of a new life. New agey stuff, often. They completely outnumber the men of their age and income group. And they remember their younger selves, it seems, by dancing to a group from that period.

What was the Mindbenders’ performance like? As you might expect, there were now just two of them — a pair of old geezers. Bass and guitar, plus drum machine. 

I didn’t stay for much more than half an hour but they didn’t play a song I didn’t know — though none of them were Mindbenders songs. One of them, the bassist, I think, introduced each song with the name of its original performer/writer and a little story about it. There, I thought, is someone who long ago grasped the import of a PRS statement. I quite liked their attempt at Robert Parker’s Barefootin’ — though nothing, of course, could ever match the fizz of the original.

Having written all that, I googled and wikied. I now know these things:

* Mr Fontana was born Glyn Geoffrey Ellis.

* Even though he and his band were on the Fontana label, he actually got his surname from Elvis Presley’s drummer, DJ Fontana. 
* Fontana is a town in California. Beyond that, I can’t find out what it means or why Philips picked it for one of their record labels.

* Mr Fontana now seems to have mental health issues — court appearances in weird costumes, setting fire to his own car.

* The two hits he had that I do remember from the list are Um etc, a cover of a Major Lance tune, and Game of Love.

* The Mindbenders’ name had nothing to do with drugs. It came from a Dirk Bogarde movie The Mind  


* I was right about A Groovy Kind of Love. Written by Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager (Burt Bacharach’s ex-wife among other things), it’s apparently based on a piece of classical music — the Rondo of Clementi’s Sonatina in G. Not that I’ve actually heard it.

* It was originally done by Diane and Annita. I actually have that version on a wonderful Ace compilation, You Heard It Here First! The originals of I Feel Good, My Boy Lollipop and Wild Things are also gorgeous surprises.

* Later Mindbenders included Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, future members of 10CC. I don’t think they were the ones in the Dock Inn, Penzance version. Graham Gouldman did, however, write this song, for the Yardbirds.

Also . . .

Another Cornish scene.

A little something about the significance of pop.

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