Fun and Games
Dig the hype sticker on my copy!
The tunes you see before you today hail from a very groovy album that I picked up while digging several years ago.
I think that I had heard about Fun and Games, but had never heard their music, but the album gave off all kinds of the right kind of vibes (look, song titles, Gary Zekley credits etc) so I handed the man my money and took it home.
My initial reaction to the album wasn’t ecstatic, but it improved greatly over multiple listens.
This has something to do with the fact that the band really has two fairly distinct sounds which are tied directly into the authorship of their songs.
The group originated in Houston, TX as the Sixpentz (45s on Kidd, and Brent) and worked their way through garage punk, folk rock and evolved into a more sophisticated harmony pop sound by the time they became the Fun and Games Commission (on single on Cinema) and eventually Fun and Games.
The group’s original material is excellent and well developed, which is why you have to wonder why Uni had them record so many Gary Zekley/Mitch Bottler (who wrote hits for the Grass Roots, with Zekley also writing classics for the Yellow Balloon and the Clique among others) tunes (7 of the 11 songs on their LP), one Beach Boys cover (a really interesting reworking of ‘Don’t Worry Baby’) alongside just three group originals.
This is not to say that the group’s identity is completely lost inside of the Zekley/Bottler tunes (‘Close to Carmel’ and ‘Topanga Canyon Road’ are especially nice) but that there are moments where they sound like they’re being “steered”, if you will.
Thankfully, even in those moments, they seem to be trying to do something unusual anyway.
I’m including two of the group originals, and one of the Z/B songs to give you an idea of where they were coming from.
‘The Grooviest Girl In the World’ (like the album’s title song) sounds like it was engineered specifically to latch onto the Kasenetz/Katz bubblegum avalanche – which is not a bad thing – but they also add a touch of sophistication (also evident in the album’s title track) to the mix that makes it stand out. The record was a minor hit in late 1968 (Top 40 in a bunch of markets) but I suspect a flood of similarly sounding records stopped it from going further.
The two group originals I’m posting, ‘Something I Wrote’ and ‘The Way She Smiles’ were written by Joe Romano and Rock Romano (who I believe were brothers) respectively.
‘Something I Wrote’ has a Beatle-y touch of popsike to it, which reveals itself a little bit more as the song goes on (dig the tastefully applied sitar). Very groovy, yet not so far out that the teenyboppers would yank it off their record players.
‘The Way She Smiles’ is a little more sophisticated, in and Association/New Colony Six (MK2) way, with some wonderful group harmonies and lovely chord changes, as well as a guitar solo that sounds like it was lifted from a Buffalo Springfield record.
Apparently, due to band misbehavior, the label refused to promote the record, and they never got the chance to record again, which, considering the vast amount of potential shown on ‘Elephant Candy’ is a damn shame.
Though some of the group’s tracks have appeared on comps (and the earlier Sixpentz material was reissued) if you want to hear all of ‘Elephant Candy’ you’ll have to find yourself an original copy, which these days should set you back 30-50 bucks.
I hope you dig the tunes and I’ll see you all next week.