The Collectors: Warner Bros promo postcard. (Image from The Electric Prunes site.)
This is what I love about exploring previously unheard music (to me) from the 1960s and ’70s – stumbling across gems like The Collectors.
The band from Vancouver, Canada, formed in 1961 initially as The C-FUN Classics, a name they took on when gigging to promote the local radio station, CFUN-AM. They were principally a covers band and landed the role of house band on the weekly ‘Let’s Go’ television show on the CBC network, performing under the simpler name of The Classics.
It was under this latter name they started writing and performing their own material, eventually releasing two singles, ‘Aces High‘ and ‘Till I Met You,’ both in 1964, the latter of which was picked up by the Jerden label for distribution in USA. The following year, the band travelled to Los Angeles to cut another single, ‘I Don’t Know.’ (This was released under the name The Canadian Classics to distinguish from several other ‘Classics’ acts around at the time.) The track was a minor success and helped gain some attention for the band.
They returned to Canada and following a few changes in personnel, dropped the ‘Classics’ name. For a while they played, officially nameless, as the house band at Torch Cabaret in Vancouver, before being spotted by L.A. label Valiant. With their funding, a demo was recorded, which subsequently led to the recording their first single, ‘Looking At A Baby.’
Of course, they had to be billed under some name or other and the story is they were offered a choice by the record label – The Collection or The Collectors. They chose the latter.
‘Looking At A Baby’ was a hit locally in Vancouver, with the follow-up, ‘Fisherwoman’ reaching #15 in the Canadian Hot 100 in August of the same year (1967.) This success, plus the American label Valiant now fully behind them, raised their profile south of the border, and they spent more and more time in and around California.
They supported Buffalo Springfield at The Fillamore and Iron Butterfly at The Avalon Ballroom, both in San Francisco. Coming late to their music, I can see why they were such a great fit for the West Coast sound of the time – a little bit ‘trippy’ sounding, with tight harmonies and a genuine sort of ‘jamming’ feel to their music.
‘Lydia Purple’: the only track not written by the band on their debut album.
Whilst in California, The Collectors recorded their debut, eponymous album, produced by Rolling Stones and Electric Prunes producer, Dave Hassinger. This is a pretty amazing album I have to say. It incorporates so many styles and melds them into something quite dramatic. Take some stoner type psych and occasionally menacing vocals, mix with psychedelic and folky sounds, build in some gentle and haunting flute, add tight harmonies and Gregorian chants and point in the direction of Prog – and that’s it!
Yeah, there are points when it does sound like they are maybe trying just that little bit too hard to be a ‘serious’ band, but overall, it works so well. At times I can hear echoes of The Doors; ELP; Jethro Tull and any number of psychedelic bands. In fact, you can hear it all on the second side of the album which is given over to the nineteen minute long opus, ‘What Love (Suite.)
If you can, please take time to check out this performance!
Their second, and final album, came in 1969. ‘Grass and Wild Strawberries’ was a collaboration piece with poet / playwright, George Ryga. The music supported his stage play of the same name and ran for three weeks in Vancouver, during which The Collectors played each and every night.
To my mind, this second album takes on a more rock / jazz feel, but none-the-less is still an outstanding release.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a commercial success, and when vocalist Howie Vickers left in 1969 to pursue a solo career, the remaining four members changed their name again, this time to Chilliwack.
During their time together, The Collectors provided soundtracks to three Canadian films and also contributed help to The Electric Prunes and their ‘Mass in F Minor‘ album.
Howie Vickers – Vocals
Bill Henderson – Guitar / Vocals
Claire Lawrence – Keyboards / Sax / Flute
Glenn Miller – Bass / Vocals
Ross Turney – Drums
|The Collectors||LP||1968||New Syndrome Records|
|Grass and Wild Strawberries||LP||1969||New Syndrome Records|
|Looking At A Baby||7″ Single||1967||New Syndrome Records|
|Fisherwoman||7″ Single||1967||New Syndrome Records|
|We Can Make It||7″ Single||1968||New Syndrome Records|
|Lydia Purple / She (Will O’ The Wind)||7″ Single||1968||New Syndrome Records|
|Early Morning||7″ Single||1969||New Syndrome Records|
|I Must Have Been Blind||7″ Single||1970||London Records|
|Sometimes We’re Up||7″ Single||1970||London Records|
**Additional reference was made to the website at the-collectors.org in compiling this post.**