Tuesday, December 29, 2015
The Sidekicks - Featuring 'Fifi the Flea' (1966)
The Sidekicks were an American band from New Jersey who started out as a British Invasion copy band called the Redcoats. The Redcoats released a Herman's Hermits-inspired 45 on Laurie Records, "The Dum Dum Song." Their material can be heard on a 2001 Dionysus Records compilation called "Meet The Redcoats...Finally.”
When the Redcoats signed with RCA, they were made to change their name, which they weren't too happy about. Still, they managed to score two minor U.S. hits under their new moniker, the Sidekicks. The biggest one was the dramatic, complex "Suspicions," which got to #55 in June, 1966) and was penned by the group's drummer John Spirt and guitarist, Mike Burke. It's catchy as all-get-out but perhaps a bit too sophisticated for its time. Spirit, by the way, had been in a group called the Ran-Dells and co-composed their hit "Martian Hop" (#16, 1963).
The other Sidekicks hit was "Fifi the Flea," a cover of a Hollies album track the band composed under the name "L. Ransford." This single fared poorly, only getting to #115 on the Bubbling Under chart in October of 1966.
Both of those cuts were featured on the group's only album Featuring "Fifi the Flea." This is a clean rip of the stereo vinyl with scans. The album has never been on CD and considering the beyond-bad contract they signed (more on that below), it probably won't ever come out officially.
The album is a good-to-average mid-'60s pop release. Arranger Jimmy Wisner had session musicians play instead of the group, so it's got a somewhat stiff, professional feel. But there are four originals by Spirit and Burke, plus some really good other material like Wisner's "Sight and Sound." Then there's the closing novelty number, "Ollie Wong," which is either really funny or very offensive, depending on how politically correct you are.
After the LP came out, the group released two non-LP a-sides, "Miss Charlotte" from Jan. 1967 and "You Gave Me Someone to Love" from April of that year (the flips side of these were both on the LP). "Miss Charlotte" is a fantastic pop-rocker with amusing lyrics and a fantastic lead guitar line. It was featured on the downloadable compilation 60s Psych Pop Treasures - Vol. 9.
The group broke up when they learned they'd signed a bad contract with a mysterious wealthy Philadephia woman who'd backed them financially for their initial demos. That contract also caused several group members not to be able to sign with Elektra Records when they started a new band called Words of Wisdom.
For a detailed account of the Sidekicks' history, check out the essay at the '60s Garage Bands Web site written by the band's lead singer and guitarist Zack Bocelle: http://www.60sgaragebands.com/redcoatssidekicks.html
(One final note: On some copies of this album, it was titled Suspicions on the label, and one such copy is pictured at Discogs.com. But my label, the LP cover, and the actual listing in Discogs all call it Featuring 'Fifi the Flea.' So that's what I called it here. Anyone know anything about this title switcheroo?)
John Spirt: drums
Mike Burke: guitar
Zack Bocelle: guitar, vocals
Randy Bocelle: bass, vocals
2. Up On The Roof
3. You're A Girl
4. More (Theme From “Mondo Cane”)
5. Not Now Written
6. Ask Your Friend
7. Fifi The Flea
8. Sight And Sound
9. Out Of The Dark
10. He’s My Friend
11. The Best Things
12. Ollie Wong (The Same)