state of mynd: Music Catalog B

The Beat Merchants - The Beats Go On

The Beat Merchants - The Beats Go On

Tapestry of Delights:

The Beat Merchants


1 Pretty Face/Messin' With The Man (Columbia DB 7367) 1964
2 So Fine/She Said Yeah (Columbia DB 7492) 1965

A hard-edged R&B band from the South Coast area who got to appear on ITV's 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' to promote their first powerful R&B single Pretty Face. Their two fine and inevitably collectable R&B singles are recommended for fans of the genre.

Compilation appearances have included: Pretty Face on Maximum R'n'B (CD), R&B At Abbey Road (CD), Beat Merchants (Dble LP), English Freakbeat, Vol. 1 (LP & CD); So Fine and Messin' With The Man on English Freakbeat, Vol. 2 (LP & CD); Pretty Face and Messin' With The Man on Nowhere Men Vol. 1 (LP & CD), Rare 60's Beat Treasures, Vol. 2 (CD); She Said Yeah on Electric Sugarcube Flashbacks, Vol. 3 (LP).

Allmusic Bio:

The Beat Merchants were a talented British band of the early 1960's who were equally adept at generating mainstream British pop-rock, in the manner of the Roulettes or the Searchers, or hard-driving bluesy rock & roll in the manner of the Rolling Stones or the Small Faces. Yet apart from their debut single, "Pretty Face" — which made it to number 44 on the British charts — they never made any commercial impression on audiences in England or America. They started life as a Shadows-influenced instrumental group from England's south coast called the Hustlers, consisting of Ralph Worman (guitar), Geoff Farndell (bass), Gavin Daneski (rhythm guitar), and Les Rogers (later succeeded by Vic Sendall) (drums). In 1963, the group added Peter Toal as singer, which allowed them to expand their repertory and their appeal. Billed as "Peter & the Hustlers," the group began building a serious audience at their concerts, which featured upbeat covers of familiar American tunes — including "Hippy Hippy Shake" and lots of Chuck Berry numbers — interspersed with originals, courtesy of Farndell and Daneski.

In mid-1963, however, the band went through a series of sweeping changes. After crossing paths with the Rolling Stones — then promoting their first single, "Come On" — they decided to abandon their lighter, Beatle-esque sound in favor of the harder, more aggressive sound played by the Stones, and to focus their originals and their covers more tightly on American blues. Toal left the group at around this same time for non-musical reasons and was succeeded by Chris Boyle, and the band was rechristened the Merchants and then the Beat Merchants. They were signed to EMI's Columbia label in mid-1964 and made their recording debut with a group original, "Pretty Face", which just missed the British top 40 early that fall. That number, a crunchy guitar and harmonica driven bluesy rocker, very much in the manner of the Stones or the early Yardbirds, with a furious attack that also recalled the early Who, would be the total extent of the group's success in England. They continued recording into 1965 and 1966, going through some more line-up changes, including founder Ralph Worman's replacement by Rick MacEvoy and the Alan Piggott on lead guitar, and the departure of Chris Boyle, after which Geoff Farndell and Gavin Daneski took over on vocals. Their indifferent sales success on EMI led to the group's being dropped by the label, but not without some unexpected revenue coming out of the deal — for reasons that no one was ever able to explain (though it may reflect the frantic pace of the business during the heyday of the British invasion), their second single, "So Fine", was accidentally placed on the B-side of the American single of Freddie & The Dreamers single "You Were Made For Me" when the latter was reissued in America in early 1965; that reissue, on the Tower label, became one of Freddie & The Dreamers' biggest stateside hits, reaching the top 20 and earning a gold record. Without a contract but enjoying a serious stage reputation, the group soldiered on with a sound that was harder still, built around a surging guitar and bass — they cut demos that were as raw and powerful as anything coming out of the likes of the Small Faces or any other r&b-based band of the period, and the Farndell-Daneski songwriting team also showed some originality and sophistication, even as the group roared and pounded through covers of Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry songs. By 1966, despite the fact that they were hometown heroes and were able to earn a halfway decent living in Germany, the group, lacking a record contract and starting to fade from the music pages, called it quits. Farndell and Daneski kept working as composers for another year or two, generating the Bo Diddley-influenced punk jewel "Rich Girl", which just missed getting recorded by the Merseys. Later in 1968, they reteamed with Vic Sendall in a group called Permissive Society, which lasted for a few months, before they all decided to give up music permanently as a profession.

In the decades since, the Beat Merchants' singles have acquired a serious reputation as quintessential examples of English "freakbeat," that pre-psychedelic variation of garage punk unique to the UK, on a par with the best music of the Creation. Indeed, "Pretty Face" has the punky, almost violent, streak found in the rawest British Invasion R&B singles; "Messin' with the Man" is a more conventional treatment of a Muddy Waters song. "Pretty Face", "Messin' with the Man", and "So Fine" were issued as part of AIP's English Freakbeat series, and in 2000, Circle Records issued the first Beat Merchants CD, The Beats Go On . . . , drawn from their official EMI releases, various surviving demos, and a few publishers demos representing Daneski and Farndell's songwriting.

Allmusic review:

Listening to this 19-song compilation of official singles and demo tracks by the Beat Merchants, one just wants to ask, "What the hell went wrong?" Based on these sides, these guys had it all, a distinctive guitar attack, nicely coarse vocals, and a ton of collective charisma, but they never made it as a recording act. Whether they're engaging in Beatles-like balladry ("Was Before") or going head-to-head with the Rolling Stones on Muddy Waters' "Messin' With the Man," the Beat Merchants were making entertaining, exciting, and interesting records; even "Does It Show," a sub-Who hard rock ballad, is utterly diverting, and the best of the cuts here, "Pretty Face," "Moanin'," "Reasons," "So Fine," "On a Summer Day," "Pretty Thing," and "Not Guilty" — the latter a sneering punk anthem from very late in their history, which shows they still had what it took as players and songwriter in 1966, without a recording contract to their names — are as good as any archival releases by the Yardbirds and the Kinks et al. — Bruce Eder


1. Pretty Face 1:56
2. Was Before 2:55
3. Hippy Hippy Shake 2:45
4. Moanin' 3:17
5. All she wants is me 3:19
6. Reasons 3:04
7. Talkin' about you 2:26
8. So fine 2:48
9. On a summer's day 2:07
10. She said yeh 2:27
11. Come on & tell me 2:06
12. Fortune teller 2:32
13. So fine (alternative version) 2:47
14. Pretty Thing 2:28
15. What have I done 2:47
16. Messin' with the man 2:16
17. Does it Show 2:26
18. Rich Girl 2:09
19. Not guilty 2:54