Listen/Download – Ohio Express – Beg Borrow and Steal
Collectors/aficionados of the 60s garage sound (I won’t say punk, since a lot of it doesn’t really edge over into anything resembling authentic punk) know that there were all kinds of small-to-medium-time combos, often making the leap from their parent’s basement, to the local teen clubs and sometimes, if they were very lucky, the recording studio and then the radio.
There were also the groups (a much smaller number) that managed to carry that sound onto major (or at least much bigger than local) labels.
Sometimes, thanks entirely to an industry that was often run by (or run like it was run by) gangsters, the waters got very, very muddy.
Such is the case with the Ohio Express, and the record ‘Beg Borrow and Steal’.
Now, you might say to yourself “Hey, the Ohio Express had a lot of big hits.” To which I would reply, “Which Ohio Express are you talking about?”
I would do this because unlike many of their contemporaries, the Ohio Express were something closer to a brand than a band.
‘Beg Borrow and Steal”, the “group’s” first hit from the summer of 1967 is a dynamite slice of late-period, slightly jangly, organ pounding (?!?) garage pop.
The fact is, that the band that recorded ‘Beg Borrow and Steal’ not only didn’t ever perform under the name Ohio Express, they didn’t even get proper billing on the original 45.
When you drill down, the first thing you generally see, is that before Cameo/Parkway whipped this one on the world as by the ‘Ohio Express’, it was released on the Attack label, with the same title, as having been recorded by the Rare Breed.
Scratch the surface a little bit more, and it would appear that even the Rare Breed was a Potemkin Village of sorts, yet another layer of falsehood slapped onto a New York group called the Conquests.
The connection – as it were – ends there.
What happened after that is a testament to what a ‘factory’ the Kasenetz-Katz organization was.
Having had a taste of success with ‘Beg Borrow and Steal’, and deciding music could be extruded upon the charts like so much baloney, they kept on releasing Ohio Express records , first using yet another “real” band, Sir Timothy and the Royals to tour and (to a much lesser extent) record, and then eventually dropping the band conceit entirely and ceding the brand/entity to none other than bubblegum maestro Joey Levine and various and sundry studio musicians.
The end result being, that the Ohio Express were – in the long run – no more real than the Archies or the Groovy Goolies.
Certainly not unheard of in the 60s (or even today) but a more Gordian knot than most.
The Ohio Express ‘brand’ kept on churning out records into the early 70s.
I hope you dig the track, and I’ll see you all next week with a new episode of the Iron Leg Radio Show.
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