Decca issued three singles during 1967. ‘Oh How I Miss You’ reached No.30 and had a self-penned harmonica instrumental on the ‘B’ side; ‘Ghost Mountain.’ ‘Marta’ followed in the summer and made the top twenty. The third single of the year was probably the greatest departure the band ever made from their well-trodden style. ‘3 o’clock Flamingo Street’ was very well received by the music press, but failed to make any real impression on the charts.
The one album release of the year was, in my opinion, the best LP they ever recorded. ‘The Bachelors Sing The Golden All Time Hit’s’ comprised cover versions of songs that had officially sold over one million copies.
All the tracks portray the group at their very best. Their voices are matured; the harmonies watertight and the Musical Arrangements by Arthur Greenslade and Ivor Raymonde make this LP an absolute ’must’ for any MOR collector.
The Bachelors handling of such classics as ’Put Your Head On My Shoulder,’ ’You, You, You,’ ‘My Happiness and ‘Harbour Lights’ is nothing short of spectacular. The high spot of the 14 tracks must go to their rendition of ‘Stranger In Paradise,’ especially when heard in stereo.
Decca released four singles in 1968, non of which made the UK top 50. The first was a ballad from the Musical ‘Camelot.’ ‘If Ever I Would Leave You.’ Next came ’ The Unicorn’ – a children’s fantasy song which had been a hit for another band in both the USA and Ireland. This record sold very well for The Bachelors over a long period, but the volume of sales at any given time, was never enough to push it into the charts.
A religious ballad followed, but despite predictions otherwise, ‘I’ll Walk With God’ flopped. The song had been a show stopper in their live set whilst they had been preparing it for recording and its failure to become a massive hit was a disappointment for Decca, the group and their fans. The final single of the year ‘Turn Around Look At Me’ suffered a similar fate. For my money, this recording was their second best effort on 7” vinyl after ‘No Arms Can Ever Hold You.’
The record sales high spot of the year was the huge selling ’The World of The Bachelors,’ which shot to No.8 in the album chart and remained there for almost 4 months. It contained a sprinkling of previous hits and three tracks not previously released in the UK.
One of the tracks on this album ‘The Whole World In His Hands’ had been on the soundtrack for the 1965 Billy Fury Film ‘I’ve Gotta Horse.’…and an audience pleaser in their stage act from 1964 – 1966. As a 14 y/o I’d written to Dick Rowe at Decca, pleading with him to include it on a future Bachelors LP.
He actually wrote back and promised to arrange it at some time in the future. It’s always impressed me that he kept his promise to a kid in Lancashire.
Their 5th and final EP release on Decca was issued in November 1968. ‘Seasonal Greetings from The Bachelors’ contained four religious songs, all of which had been issued before. The sleeve itself was a novelty in that the back was printed out in a ‘To/From’ format, making it a ready labelled Christmas Present! Many Bachelors fans did not buy this EP at the time and, as the rarest of all, it is very difficult to find.
1969 was a great year for Bachelors fans! Decca put out four more singles, two more ‘World of’ albums and the group took ‘The Bachelors Show’ to London for the summer.
On the singles front it seemed there was desperation to achieve chart success, as each one was different in style to the rest. The Bing Crosby standard ‘Where the Blue of the Night’ was the first in April. Issued as a ’double A’ with ’Caterina’ it failed to chart.
‘Caterina’ was given ‘power play’ status by Radio Luxembourg. The station ran a competition alongside it, the winner scoring a dinner date with the group in London! Next up was a Decca bet on the writing talents of Paul Simon. ‘Punky’s Dilemma’ was issued in July and promptly banned by the BBC! The song was to have originally featured in the film ‘The Graduate’ but was ditched. It later turned up on Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bookends.’ The Bachelors cover was a pleasant interpretation, but the opening lyric ‘Wish I was a Kellogg’s cornflake’ was deemed to have advertising potential, hence the ban and total lack of airplay.
A cover of ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ from ‘Midnight Cowboy’ came next. The vocals were mainly handled in unison but the occasional spread harmony was excellent, with John Stokes providing the unmistakeable link to the original by Nilsson. This cover was much easier to listen to and must rate as one of their best singles. The failure of this disc hastened a retreat to the ‘big ballad’ sound and, although ‘My First love’ was tugging at the heartstrings for Christmas and praised by the music press, it didn’t do the trick.
Of the two ‘World of’ albums that year, it was volume 2 that charted, peaking at No.11. Volume 3 was a total bonus; 12 unreleased tracks from sessions for a religious album that never came to fruition – great value for the princely sum of 19s/11d (99p). As PA/SPA22 it took the number of an unissued album in the ’World of’ series, which is why it appears to have been released out of sequence. This album was later re-packaged on the ‘Pickwick’ and ‘Contour’ labels.
Having had nine singles without a big hit it is not surprising that their future 45rpm issues on Decca were sparse. 1970 produced only one… a cover of Paul Anka’s (All of a sudden) My Heart Sings .The song had two airings in ‘The Bachelors Show’ on ATV but didn’t chart.
Two further ‘World of’ albums were issued during the year. Volume five was the best value, containing six previously unissued tracks.
Despite slowing record sales; the group remained at the top of the show business tree in theatre, cabaret and television. The early months of 1971 saw them headlining at London’s Talk of the Town. In common with many other top names of the day, they were recorded ‘live’ at the venue. Unfortunately, Decca’s mobile recording equipment was in great demand at the time and they were only able to make one take. The finished album was a disappointment. It failed to capture the true atmosphere of the group’s smooth and slick live performance, though it is doubtful if anyone other than their most devoted fans would have known the difference.
The summer of 1971 saw the group in yet another record breaking season at Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre. During this run they were able to partly record two more albums using mobile equipment which was brought to the theatre.
‘Under and Over’ (see TV series section) contained 16 Traditional Irish Folk songs and gave Dec Cluskey his first official shot as a record producer. The album was certainly ‘ahead of its time’ and is an absolute delight in stereo presentation.
Copies of ‘Under and Over’ are very hard to find, but American pressings do pop up on eBay sometimes!
The second album partially recorded in Scarborough was a joint effort with Irish Soprano Patricia Cahill. ‘Stage and Screen Spectacular’ was an excellent offering. As the album name suggests these were all cover versions of popular songs, but there were several surprises.
Their version of ‘Diamonds are Forever’ was also released as the sole single of 1971 alongside the James Bond film itself. Decca, ever optimistic, held the release of the album until January 1972, which is why the catalogue number appears out of sequence. The single didn‘t chart, all honours going to Shirley Bassey.
Highlights of the album include the main theme from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ (which really rocks!); an amazing interpretation of ‘Tea for Two’ guaranteed to relax with the most beautiful repetitive piano fill, and a stomping cover of ‘Thank You Very Much.’ The Musical arrangements on this album are truly amazing…the way the instruments build during the bridge section of ‘Darling Lily’ and explode with the vocals thereafter is spine tingling! It was the largest orchestra ever assembled for a Bachelors recording project, but, strangely there is no credit for the MD in the sleeve notes… it had to be Ivor Raymonde!
The Bachelors parted company with Decca shortly after their last new single release in October 1972. ‘The Land of the Other Way Round’ was a children’s fantasy song in the same genre as ‘The Unicorn.’ Written and produced by Tommy Scott (who has enjoyed huge success as both a writer and producer with the Major Minor label), it sold very well over a long period of time and was, for many years, a favourite on BBC radio’s ‘Junior Choice.’