Today I'm joining in on Alex J. Cavanaugh's Underrated Treasures Blogfest. Click on the link for more info and a list of other participants. Later in this post I'll also tie in my entry with my announcement of the winner of last week's Battle of the Bands post.
First, here's the premise of the blogfest: Everyone has a favorite movie or band that no one else has ever heard about. For whatever reason, they remain undiscovered and underrated. Now is your chance to tell the world about this obscure treasure!
The Hello People
In the post-Beatles era of rock, more than ever groups, artists, and music producers were looking for the next hot gimmick that would catch the attention of a public hungry for new and different entertainment. Good music was not always enough to make a group stand out--with television appearances and the growing live music scene, performers needed something visual to make them stand out from the rest of the crowd. Every artist was shaking their hips, coming up with new hairstyles, and donning flashier wardrobe. Dance crazes came and went.
Record producer Lew Futterman developed the group The Hello People in 1967. The artists who became the Hello People were musicians who were experimenting with visual arts when Futterman discovered them. Noting their talents and abilities to learn quickly, Futterman had them train in the art of mime. The gimmick of the band became a group of mime artists who played music between their skits.
The act began appearing on major television shows as well as doing live performances. They recorded a couple of innovative albums in the late 60's that helped them achieve cult status though nothing overwhelming on the national music charts. Their music is a very well executed hodgepodge of pop, jazz, and psychedelia. Perhaps it was a lack of musical focus that caused them not to catch on with the public. There was also probably not enough promotional support for the group. Then too maybe the world was just not ready for a mime rock band. After all, mimes can be pretty darn annoying.
Their appearing in mime make-up was a breakthrough gimmick that more than likely influenced later bands such as Kiss. The sunny innocence of The Hello People was a product of the times of the Summer of Love and happy fun drugged up happening experiences. The band could hold their own with rock music, but they also chose the eclecticism of folk, jazz, and even country. That goes over well with music lovers like me, but rarely seems to work for the rockers who just want to head bang.
If you like a group that exhibits diverse talent in their musical skills, interesting delivery, and decent songwriting, you might enjoy The Hello People. They are definitely dated to the era from whence they came, but good music can be appreciated years after it is produced. I would rank The Hello People as one of the outstanding groups of the late 60's.
Though they recorded a few more albums in the 70's and collaborated with Todd Rundgren throughout that decade, they faded into obscurity. Curiosity leads me to wonder whatever happened to the members of this fine group. Maybe someone out there can answer that question for me.
To read more about my memories of The Hello People I invite you to read my post about them at my blog Wrote By Rote.
When I went into this contest my vote was skewed in favor of The Hello People. Originally my intent was to pit them against the composer and original performer of the song, Todd Rundgren. In that contest I would have picked the Hello People over Rundgren. The vocals in the group version to me sound better than Todd's and overall I think the production is superior. I think a credible argument could be made that Todd Rundgren himself would agree with this assessment since after all this is like a do-over, a second chance, for Rundgren since he produced this version for a group that he apparently admired a great deal. He used them as his back up band so he must have thought they were pretty good.
Since I've been doing a "boys against the girls" contest lately, I decided to eliminate Todd's version in favor of finding a female version. Laurel Masse's sounded nice and she had a good story to present in my post so I went with her. I had already decided that The Hello People were going to win my vote, but I figured that Masse would gain some support from my readers with her very nice rendition.
Well, a funny thing happened after I put my post up. I started listening to the two versions repeatedly and Laurel Masse's version began to really grow on me. Don't get me wrong. This was a tough call for me. Both versions are excellent and both are winners. In the end, the version by Laurel Masse became my favorite.
Here's my reasoning: Todd's production, though outstanding, still sounds like something from his "living room" recording studio. The synthesizers are a bit cheesy in places though very appropriate in others. It's a great recording, but when put next to that of Laurel Masse it falls behind just a teeny bit. Masse's recording has a real string section instead of the simulated synthesizer strings. And her voice melts my heart. The song seems more appropriately performed by those female pipes. Her presentation makes the song sound like a classic, which indeed it has become.
This was another close race for the voters, but in the end the majority went Laurel's way.
The Hello People 10 votes
Laurel Masse 13 votes
Next Battle of the Bands will be on Wednesday October 1st. Once again it will be paired with a posting for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be there and be sure to vote--please!
Were you previously familiar with the Hello People? Which band or artist do you think had the greatest gimmick of all time? Are you (or were you at any time) a fan of Kiss or any other similar groups?