Liner notes to the Edsel Records collection
How Does It Feel To Feel (ED CD 106, 1990)
by The Creation
How Does It Feel To Feel / Life Is Just Beginning / Through My Eyes / Ostrich Man / I Am The Walker / Tom Tom / The Girls Are Naked / Painter Man / Try And Stop Me / Biff Bang Pow / Making Time / Cool Jerk / For All That I Am / Nightmares / Midway Down / Can I Join Your Band / Uncle Bert / Like A Rolling Stone / If I Stay Too Long / Hey Joe
"Our music is red - with purple flashes" - Eddie Phillips 1966
It's a marvellous quote, capturing the style and image bound up in the Creation. Both in excitement and innovation they were an almost perfect group, but somehow circumstances fell in the way of success.
The roots trace back to 1963 and a Cheshunt group, Jimmy Virgo & The Blue Jacks. They included Jimmy Virgo (vocals), Norman Miffen (lead guitar - an ex-member of Cliff Richard & The Drifters), Mick Thompson (rhythm guitar), John Dalton (bass) and Jack Jones (drums). On Virgo's departure and the arrival of replacement Kenny Lee, they became Kenny Lee & The Mark Four. Miffen left soon after, Eddie Phillips joined as guitarist, Kenny Lee became Kenny Pickett and the group's prefix was dropped so they became simply Mark Four (no relation to the Liverpool quartet of the same name).
The Mark Four were signed to Mercury in early 1964, releasing Rock Around The Clock c/w Slow Down as their debut single that May, followed by Try It Baby c/w Crazy Country Hop some months later. The four sides are all covers; Bill Haley, Larry Williams, Marvin Gaye and Johnny Otis respectively. They are all dependable versions of differing styles. The group's real identity began to show on their third single which appeared on Decca a year later in August 1965. Hurt Me If You Will c/w I'm Leavin' is a confident single, beginning the excellent Pickett/Phillips songwriting team. This time the influences are contemporary, Hurt Me is a straightforward and powerful song, whereas I'm Leavin' hints toward the expression of The Who (and later Creation) with its Bo Diddley form and superb controlled feedback passages.
The release was followed by the inevitable changes. Mick Thompson dropped out of music altogether, as did John Dalton, although his was a short absence. By the Summer he auditioned successfully for The Kinks, replacing Peter Quiafe for Sunny Afternoon, he left upon Peter's return to the group and joined them again in 1969 when Quaife finally left. Dalton's replacement in the Mark Four was Tony (surname sadly forgotten by all), and the group released their final single the following February. Work All Day (Sleep All Night) c/w Going Down Fast, two more originals following the line towards the future group's direction, with melodies and performances needing a producer to refine them into a complete direction.
By this time the group were in London, represented by the Robert Stigwood agency, but real progress came with a new manager. Tony Stratton-Smith was already handling the Koobas when a mutual friend persuaded him to see the Mark Four. He was impressed and agreed to handle the group on condition a new bassist was found. He suggested Bob Garner, briefly a Merseybeat and latterly a part of the Tony Sheridan group. Garner was accepted and Stratton-Smith's next move was to find a producer. He brought in Shel Talmy, who had heard the group previously on an early demo of Crazy Country Hop. Since that time Talmy had become a leading independent record producer, working with, amongst others The Kinks and The Who, although he'd recently found his relationship with the latter severed. Talmy was impressed with the Mark Four, signing them to his own Planet label the next day. Within a week they were recording a single, but under a new name - found by Pickett in a book of Russian poetry - The Creation.
Making Time c/w Try And Stop Me was their 'debut' single, released June 17th 1966. (The same day an NME booking ad still referred to the Mark Four, showing how speedy the changes had been). It's a startling release. The promise of the previous singles being caught in the sharpness of Talmy's production. His work with The Who unfinished, Talmy clearly saw The Creation as an extension of those Pop-art experiments in sound. The Who comparisons are slightly unfair, the Mark Four had been exploring a similar path, and the Creation were showing their own individuality, not least the startling break on Making Time where Phillips, playing guitar with a violin bow rips through the song. Try And Stop Me is only marginally less powerful and thanks to an excellent 'Ready Steady Go' appearance the group were at last attracting attention.
Making Time reached no 49 with fascinating press clippings following. "Our show is a premeditated moving picture," said lead guitarist Eddie Phillips (to Record Mirror), "non stop movement." The show certainly seemed fascinating with an 'action painting' close where Kenny Pickett used an aerosol spray on canvas, before setting fire to it. Interviews also gave titles of forthcoming recordings: Private Hell, If I Stopped Moving I'd Fell Out Of The Sky, Closer Than Close: and titles they certainly were as they did not materialise as records.
Painter Man c/w Biff Bang Pow was released in October. Everything - visual concept, style and sound came together in this, an absolute mirror of the group's total being. Stylistically similar to Making Time, Painter Man is more commercial, with its hammered chorus and fabulous guitar. Phillips was now attracting real attention for his innovations: Pete Townshend asked him to join The Who as a second guitarist, but he refused. (Townshend made do by joining The Creation fan club). Biff Bang Pow is also good, if close to the My Generation riff, and with the Nicky Hopkins piano fills.
The single itself reached no 36; it seemed the next step was success, but it somehow faltered. Firstly Planet Records folded, and although Talmy was retained as producer, a new label was needed in order to get another records released. Secondly The Creation's popularity on the Continent, especially Germany, kept them touring there instead of Britain. Their short UK package tour with the Walker Brothers was simply not enough. But, most crucially, there was continuing tension within the band. Jack Jones was ousted, and for three weeks Dave Preston, a friend of bass player Bob Garner, drummed with the group. Preston proved incompatible, and Jones was reinstated, but it seemed Garner was intent on establishing The Creation as his own group. Certainly there was frustration at being tipped for success so soon and never quite reaching it, and management was blamed. It looked as though Arthur Howes (a promoter and Talmy's partner at Planet) would step in, but this plan was suddenly changed due to more internal disagreements. Matters came to a head when Kenny Pickett arrived at a practice to find a new bass player, and Bob Garner on vocals. Pickett simply walked out and the vital partnership was broken.
The new bassist was Kim Gardner, previously a member of the Birds, who's issued four excellent singles before splitting in 1966, and were signed to the Stigwood agency at the same time as the Mark Four. The new Creation issued a single almost immediately. If I Stay Too Long c/w Nightmares appeared on Polydor in June 1967. The top side is a disappointing [I digress! -pHinn] slow ballad, markedly different to all the previous singles. Nightmares is much better, an older Pickett/Phillips song, faster and tougher, which in fact became the American A-side. The single was not a success, confirming that any Creation future lay on the Continent, and another tour there followed as well as a debut album We Are Paintermen released only in Germany, Holland and Scandinavia. Impossibly rare now, the album confirmed the musical potential of the group, (Note: - the superb cover is misleading, although Kenny Pickett is on almost all of the record - duly credited - it's the Kim Gardner line up that's shown in the photograph).
How Does It Feel To Feel was the next German single, here it was passed up in favour of Life is Just Beginning. This was much better record than If I Stay Too Long, opening with a brief string arrangement before a fade in vocal led into a stronger, more adventurous song. In complete contrast its flip Through My Eyes, another early song, relates more closely to The Creation of Painter Man, with its menacing Phillips' guitar. As a single it represented a last real attempt at UK success, with adverts attempting to capitalise on the German success with copy which read "The Creation are the third top touring group; the fifth top recording group... had two records in the German Top Ten... they flew in from Switzerland to record BBC's 'Saturday Club' and jumped back on a plane to keep a booking in Zürich... etc. etc." The group also appeared at The Alexandra Palace 14 Hour Technicolour Dream, and provided the incidental music to a BBC2 'Monitor' documentary, although none of this helped to achieve a breakthrough in Britain.
February 1968 saw another Continental tour, whilst Polydor issued the 7 month old How Does It Feel To Feel coupled with the equally old Tom Tom as the next British single. It too flopped and The Creation split up on their return, seeing little hope of breaking their now well established pattern.
Almost immediately an offer of a three week date in Madrid materialised. With Bob Garner back in Warrington, Lancashire and Eddie Phillips unwilling to tour again, a new group was assembled. Kenny Pickett rejoined and with the (almost) everpresent Jack Jones, Kim Gardner and an Australian guitarist simply called Digger, fulfilled the Contract. No-one seems to know quite where Digger appeared from, nor where he went, but the three weeks over, there was enough enthusiasism within the band to carry on. There was still need for a lead guitarist; again Phillips was asked as the natural choice, but he had decided to leave music altogether to concentrate on married life and his job with London Transport.
It was Ronnie Wood who joined, previously a member of the Birds with Kim Gardner, Wood had subsequently been with Jeff Beck's group. This latest line-up issued only one single in Britain, Midway Down c/w The Girls Are Naked, released in May 1968. Midway was not a group song but adapted well to their style. The Girls Are Naked is closer still to the old sound, with its high-pitched voices and crunching rhythm. But there was still no breakthrough and the treadmill of German hits and British indifference carried on. Continental releases continued, first with the Boney Moronie c/w Mercy Mercy single, hardly classic versions, followed by For All That I Am c/w Uncle Bert, their final release, which showed how strong this particular Creation might have been. The group finally split in June 1968, following their last date played at the John Lewis Store theatre in Oxford Street, London. Kenny Pickett joined Led Zeppelin's road crew and later had success as a song-writer. Ron Wood rejoined Jeff Beck and later became a member of The Faces and currently The Rolling Stones. Kim Gardner formed Ashton, Gardner & Dyke (Resurrection Shuffle), then Badger and Jack Jones worked in cabaret as a singer (under another name!). Eddie Phillips made a brief reappearance in the late 70's, releasing a few solo singles, one of which, Limbo Jimbo was produced by Shel Talmy. He also reunited with Kenny Pickett in a songwriting partnership, and is currently embarking on new recording projects.
The tracks included here are all of the British singles, A-sides and B-sides, omitting only If I Stay Too Long. For All That I Am is the last German release. Cool Jerk was the continental A-side to Life Is Just Beginning and Can I Join Your Band is possibly the highlight of We Are Paintermen. I Am The Walker remained unissued until the 1972 Charisma release 66/67, a quickly deleted compilation, and Ostrich Man is available here for the first time. This is a definitive collection and to steal a close from the advert for Painter Man: creep in and buy, Sam; Pow, like Now! Remember The Creation!
The Creation @ Making Time
The Creation @ Ready Steady Go
The Creation @ Geocities
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