Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Frieze - 1972 BC + Bonus Tracks

(Australian 1971 - 1972)
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Frieze was a curious side-track in the continuing careers of Beeb Birtles and Darryl Cotton, who came to fame as members of Zoot. After Zoot split in 1971, lead guitarist Rick Springfield launched his solo career and headed off to the United States.

Cotton and Birtles were approached through their management by a Melbourne advertising agency. One of the agency's national accounts was the clothing company, Frieze Brothers' Suits, who wanted to employ a pop group to help promote their products.  Beeb recalls "They wanted Darryl and me to form another group which they wanted to call 'Deep Frieze'. The gimmick was that they wanted every guy in the band to be named after a type of material, meaning cloth material. So obviously Darryl Cotton was fine but they wanted me to call me Terry Lean and I was to have a brother called "Crimp" (as in Terylene and crimplene)."So we're sitting there thinking, hang on, we've already been through "Think Pink - Think ZOOT" and these guys are wanting us to do a similar, if not worse, thing. We promptly told them that to pursue this kind of idea; they would get laughed out of the country. Instead we talked them into doing a duo using just Darryl and myself and calling ourselves Frieze."

Beeb Birtles & Darryl Cotton
With financial backing from the company Frieze, they bought a station wagon, a sound system and a tape recorder, which they used to provide pre-recorded backing for their shows and, of course, they were fitted out with a wardrobe of Frieze suits. They performed mostly in shopping malls, performing songs while male models showed off the latest Frieze suits. They played popular hits of the day including songs by Crosby, Stills & Nash and Young and they also did an Everly Brothers medley. During the latter stages of the group, they drafted in Brisbane band Burke & Wills as their backing group.

Frieze lasted almost exactly one year, from June 1971 to June 1972. Their first single, a cover of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's "Feelings" ’71, came out on Robie Porter's Sparmac label and managed to scrape into the lower reaches of the Melbourne chart. They were then signed up by the newly established Australian division of Warner Brothers Records. Frieze recorded two singles for Warner which was released during 1972; Frieze's first single for Warner had Darryl's "Try Yourself" on the A-side, backed by one of Beeb's , "You and I". The third and last Frieze single featured two songs by Darryl “Why Do Little Kids Have To Die", backed by "Jimmie and Jessie".

The duo also recorded a full album, titled 1972 B.C. (WS 20006) on Warner Records.. It was produced by Brian Cadd; but the LP did not feature Burke & Wills. Instead, the album line-up included several of the same musicians who had recently worked with Cadd on Russell Morris' acclaimed “Bloodstone” LP, Cadd on keyboards, with guitarist Phil Manning (Chain) and bassist Barry "Big Goose" Sullivan (Chain), drummer Ray Arnott (Spectrum, Mighty Kong), session guitarist Charlie Gould and renowned jazz and session flautist/saxophonist Graham Lyell.

By mid-1972 Birtles had grown tired of act and he told Cotton and manager Jeff Joseph that he was quitting, so the duo split and in July, Cotton left for the USA. Meanwhile, Jean Gair offered Birtles a job answering phones at the AMBO office for $50 a week. It was there that he took the call that changed his life, he answered the phone one day and a voice said, "Yes, I was wondering if you could help me, I'm trying to get in touch with Beeb Birtles?" The voice belonged to musician Graeham Goble, formerly of Adelaide folk-rock group Allison Gros, who wanted Beeb to join his new band Mississippi. Beeb accepted, although Goble wanted him to play guitar rather than bass. The other members of Mississippi reportedly opposed this at first but Goble threatened that he would quit if Birtles wasn't hired. The rest is history. Birtles and Goble formed a successful musical partnership that endured through Mississippi and eventually led to worldwide success with Little River Band.


Darryl Cotton returned to Australia in the late 1970s and moved into TV, becoming a popular children's show host. He later returned to music and gained a successful solo career with several LPs including ‘Best Seat in the House’, which produced his biggest solo hit, ‘Same Old Girl’, that peaked at #6. He had since been part of a trio with his old mates Russell Morris and Jim Keays.
Sadly, Darryl passed away in 2012 aged 62, losing his battle with liver cancer.
In 2017, the S.A. Music Hall of Fame inducted Beeb Birtles and fellow Zoot band mate, Darryl Cotton (posthumously), and their good friend, Barry Smith, of the Town Criers. [extract from Milesago]
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The following are two 'Frieze' articles published in the Go-Set Magazine during 1971. 

Acoustic Country Music (Go-Set Mag, October 2, 1971, page 6)
Colin James talks about Frieze

There's a trend happening in Australian music that is interesting, and even exciting to watch. It's something that has happened overseas and has not really come to much. Except perhaps one or two good albums. What it is is musicians leaving their existing groups and forming what they feel are more musically satisfying combinations or groups. To wit, the individual Beatles working on other people's albums, people like Leon Russell and even Bob Dylan got into the act.


It's different to people like Mayall and Clapton who have been in more groups than I can count on all my appendages. Their changes seem to be motivated by self-dissatisfaction in what they're playing, while the recent moves by musicians seem to be positive moves. Moves to gain a new sound.

In all, the moves show a desire by musicians to try and find a progression in music. One thing that is talked about by most musicians, and done by some (listen to Aqualung by Jethro Tull - track 2 to the end, side one) is to include more melodic sounds in electric rock music.



Another thing is forming unlikely combinations. Take Pilgrimage, and who I want to briefly discuss here, Frieze. While most musicians are trying to amplify until they electrocute themselves to death (making Ed Nimmmervoll's Death of Rock prediction doubly true), some people are trying to work out music. Frieze have come under some criticism for accepting a contract by a suit manufacturer, but it is an attempt to free them to do what they want.
Most musicians face starvation, some all the time (even the old Zoot starved every now and then) but what Darryl and Beeb have done is sign a contract that will guarantee that they don't starve while they learn to play music.

Zoot Re-united in 2011
Darryl admits he never really played guitar in Zoot, but says he is spending the next year learning. The direction he will take is uncertain,but as he says, there are so many people around it's hard not to be influenced by someone. Possibly with Frieze it could be Graham Nash of C.S.N & Y fame because both Darryl and Beeb like him, and it could fit in well with the acoustic country sound they are trying to develop.

Both are writing, but their first record was picked from a pile of recording company stock songs that "you might like to do one of these kid". Puzzling, but as they explained, coming from the Zoot they were uncertain of their own ability.

Another thing they are using is tape backings, for two reasons. One. It's expensive to cart around a backing group. Two. They really don't want the hassle of groups for a while. But the tapes make an interesting addition to their soft sound, and enable both voices to be heard.

The only problem with their acoustic sound is that it cuts out quiet a few of the venues they could work (They're already have to put pick-ups on the guitars to be heard in small places) according to Beeb, they're playing the same places that they did in Zoot and a few more.

It will be interesting to see how Frieze progress, but if they are genuine as they seem, it should be well worth it by the end of the year.


Friezed Feelings of Darryl and Beeb (Go-Set mag, October 16, 1971, page 3)
Interviewer: Ian 'Molly' Meldrum

Darryl and Beeb's current single Feelings is hardly selling like hot cakes, and why should it? They don't even particularly like the record themselves.

When the Zoot finally broke up and it was announced that Darryl & Beeb would be going out as a duo many critics like myself expected big things to happen. We're still waiting.

If you judge what they're like from their record, Feelings, you would be excused for thinking they're another poor man's Simon & Garfunkel.The record did absolutely nothing for me and judging from the sales reaction it did little for anyone else, bar Adelaide where it is cirrently No.10

Forgetting the record, what are they like live?
About three weeks ago I happened to stumble across them at a dance in Melbourne and they really surprised me. I must admit I was a bit suspect when they first walked on because I had heard about the taped backings they use instead of a group. I knew that Darryl's voice wasn't exactly crash hot and that his acoustic guitar playing was even more suspect. So with this in mind, I watched and took it all in. They surprised me because Darryl's voice is much clearer and stronger when he takes the lead and sings harmonies with Beeb. His guitar playing is not that bad and coupled together they are very very tight. The taped backing is not even apparent and doesn't seem strange.
But what of the future. Can they expect to carry a name that is a trade name for a clothing manufacture and more important, can they expect to exist on the Australian pop scene by relying on taped backings. The only way to find this out was to have a tete-a-tete with the lads themselves, and so this is what they had to say:

What are the Frieze about?

Darryl: What do you mean - what are we all about? We're a duo, two of us who sing and play acoustic country type music. The name Frieze was chosen because of our tie with the clothing company Frieze Brothers

Surely this has been a hang-up?

Darryl: Not at all. It's been financially rewarding as well as a help in promoting us. With this sort of financial help it allowed both Beeb and I to play the sort of music we'd always wanted to play.

Don't you feel that the taped backings used cause you to lose communication with your audience?

Darryl: You're only judging us on the first bracket that we recorded and played. We've learnt a lot since then and have included six new numbers. They'e far more gutsy and there's more audience involvement in them.

But aren't you, as an act, becoming a little stagnant on stage? Whereas before, especially you Darryl, used to move around a lot. In fact you've almost lost your complete visual act.

Darryl: We don't intend to be a visual act any more

Beeb: You and many others keep comparing us with the Zoot. We're not and don't intend to be the Zoot any more.

I don't think that, but I do think you could be more visual on stage.

Darryl: It all adds up to experience. When we started this duo I'd never played guitar before and therefore before I think of anything else, I have to concentrate on playing guitar. It's the same with Beeb, he's never done as much singing before. But when we get it all together our visual act will become more exciting.

Your current single 'Feelings' is very Simon & Garfunkel. Surely this is bad?

Darryl: It wasn't our choice. It was the record company's. We were virtually ordered to sing that song. We didn't want to sing it that way but they were convinced it was going to be a monster. It's proved otherwise - we almost told them that it would happen that way anyhow. I must say though, that it has sold well in Adelaide and we got an incredible response a couple of weeks ago when we were there.

Do You think there is room for a duo on the Australian pop scene?

Darryl: Yes, definitely, same as there's room for solo artists. With the Frieze there are the two of us doing just a little more than a solo artist.

You couldn't exactly say that solo artists are booming at the moment though.

Darryl: I think work is pretty low everyone throughout Australia at the moment, including groups. We're lucky we have a clothing manufacturer behind us because we don't have to worry about the money angle.

Darryl, I never thought that you had much of a voice in the Zoot but I must admit that I was rather surprised that both of your voices blend well together and individually are very clear.

Darryl: That was one of the frustrations when I was in the Zoot. I knew I wasn't doing a good job with them. I feel much happier now because I'm not screaming and I'm getting a chance to sing properly. Beeb and I have always liked harmonies and now we have a chance to play as we really want to.

Are you surprised that Rick Springfield has done so much since the group broke up?

Darryl: I really expected more
Beeb: I expected a lot more also

Darryl: In the Zoot he was so ambitious and at one stage he said he would even leave us if we didn't do or progress more. But all he's done is release a single and that's as far as it goes. Don't get me wrong. I like the single very much and he's a very talented guy. As far as ourselves are concerned, don't think we're going to rely on taped backings to get us through because after we've finished this next promotion for Frieze we hope to get together with a group and do some work.

Ray Arnott (drummer of the Spectrum) said he'd like to do some work with you - well?

Darryl: We'd love to. Even Doug Parkinson and Phil Manning have mentioned using us from time to time. It'd be great working with guys like that and having four-part harmonies as well.

What will your next record be like?

Beeb: It's got to be more gutsy that's for sure.

Darryl: Yes, but it'll still be along the harmony or country lines.

Beeb: We have about six new songs in the act, so it'll probably be one of them.

Darryl: We're having a few recording hang-ups at the moment but as soon as they're ironed out it'll be much better.

I never realised you did original stuff on stage?

Beeb: We don't and have no desire to perform any on stage unless it's been put down on record first so people can identify with it.

Darryl: Because of the work setup you can't say I'm going to play my numbers and that's that. At the moment we're doing a lot of pubs and just a bit of everything so we can make some money and I'm sure the majority of our audiences wouldn't like to hear something they've never heard before. That's probably why we're not so original, because we're working to a wide range of people.
Beeb: I think a lot of people are getting sick of groups playing their own songs if they haven't put them down on record and the public haven't heard then before.


Darryl: I don't agree wholly on that because I think originality is an important part of anyone's act but you've got to give us a go. After all, we've only been working together like this for the last two and half months.

What do you do apart from your music?

Darryl: Nothing much

Beeb: What do you mean by that?

Nothing personal, just hobbies and that sort of thing


Beeb: Oh, I See. Well I just like listening to records - anything to do with music. There isn't much else I do apart from the personal thing of course

So what can we expect of Frieze over the next six months?

Darryl: We'll be putting down an album and another new single. Maybe it will come off the album. This week we have to do the Frieze promotions which will continue for five weeks. Once we've finished that we don't have to do any more work for them until April of next year. For the rest of the time we'll be recording and touring, hopefully with a band behind us.


Perhaps it would be a good idea over the summer break to do beach dances and get the group together?

Darryl: We're negotiating now to do a whole lot of beach stuff and hopefully we'll be using a couple of musicians with us. We have no gripes and are really happy with the way things are progressing.

Finally, before you go, do you regret the breakup of the Zoot at all?

Beeb: No

Darryl: I miss it, but as I said before I was very frustrated as a vocalist. It was a joke. I knew I Was - but there was nothing I could do about it. With the Frieze it's so much more satisfying.
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The above interview was conducted by Ian 'Molly' Meldrum who I admire greatly. However, I found Molly's approach to this interview to be somewhat negative and pretentious.  He had already prejudged these guys as being nothing special, before even asking his first question.  Some of his questions were just plain rude and I'm surprised Darryl didn't walk out of the interview mid-stream when Molly implied that he couldn't sing or play guitar. Anyhow, you be the judge.
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This post consists of MP3's (320kps) ripped from vinyl (thanks to Ozzie Musicman) and includes limited artwork.  I've also included the bonus tracks "Young Man's Lament" (B-Side Single) and their CSN&Y cover of "Cinammon Girl" (Live on Happening '71).
This album is an important piece of the jigsaw puzzle that helped to form the highly successful  Australian juggernauts 'Little River Band' in the mid 70's 
A big thank you to Woodynet for providing me with the two Go-Set articles, helping to make this a more informative post. Thanks mate !
Interesting to note that the final single off their LP "Why Do Little Kids" was credited to only Darryl Cotton rather than Frieze?
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Track Listing
01 - Friend
02 - Love Is A Feeling
03 - Superman
04 - Jimmy & Jessie
05 - Why Do Little Kids Have To Die
06 - Try Yourself
07 - A Song
08  - You & I
09 - All Because Of You
10 - Jackie Girl
11 - Young Man's Lament (B-Side Single)
12 - Cinammon Girl (Live on Happening '71)

Produced by Brian Cadd
Engineered by John French

Brian Cadd: keyboards
Phil Manning: electric guitar
Ray Arnott: drums
Barry Sullivan: bass
Charlie Gould: acoustic guitar
Graham Lyell: sax and flute
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Frieze Link (89Mb)
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3 comments:

  1. Terrifice Post on Frieze, very informative and appreciate the effort you put in. happy to help in any way.

    cheers

    woodynet

    ReplyDelete
  2. Agree with Woody's comments here. Well researched - as usual

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks fellas - it's what I enjoy and always try to bring something new to the table.

      Delete