340) Pinkerton’s Assorted Colors — “Magic Rocking Horse”
“Magic Rocking Horse” was a ‘66 A-side by PAC that didn’t achieve the success it so richly deserved. It is a wonderful song about cherished childhood memories helping one emerge intact from troubled times, which Anorak Thing calls “great baroque pop with ringing acoustic guitars and a melancholy vocal delivery complete with a delightful 12 string acoustic guitar solo” (http://anorakthing.blogspot.com/2019/06/pinkertons-colours-magic-rocking-horse.html?m=1) and Peter Chambers calls “a great piece of psychedelic freak beat.” (https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Donkey+came+too+on+Pinkertons%27+gigs%3B+BACKBEAT%3A+BECAUSE+THEY+DON%27T…-a0132735426).
The group, formerly the Liberators, was named by their manager Reg Calvert (who had brought fame to the Fortunes). Peter Chambers writes that:
Reg was an impresario, running clubs all over the country. [His] Clifton Hall became a ‘pop-school’, an academy of beat where new talent could be nurtured. Along with the likes of Danny Storm, The Fortunes and Screaming Lord Sutch, Pinkertons Assorted Colours were soon to become part of Reg Calvert’s unique empire. With the new name came the new image, brightly coloured suits were the order of the day, really putting the colour into Pinkertons. . . . Front man Sam ‘Widge’ Kempe was re-christened Samuel ‘Pinkerton’ Kempe and given an amplified auto-harp . . . to become the trademark of the band visually and musically. Although it was an unusual instrument for a beat band, the Lovin’ Spoonful had also experimented with the auto-harp . . . . [Their debut single, “Mirror, Mirror,” reached #8 on the UK chart, but while] Magic Rocking Horse . . . should have been huge . . . just as it was released . . . Reg Calvert was to lose his life in a bizarre shooting incident. Who knows if the lack of promotion and the lack of a manager contributed to low sales. Whatever the reason, it failed to chart . . . .https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Donkey+came+too+on+Pinkertons%27+gigs%3B+BACKBEAT%3A+BECAUSE+THEY+DON%27T…-a0132735426
After the failure of “Magic Rocking Horse,” the band changed labels and changed names to the Flying Machine. In ’69, the Machine flew all the way up to #5 in the U.S. with “Smile a Little Smile for Me.”
* Vernon Joynson points out that “[a]s there was no colour TV[, Reg Calvert] insisted on the ‘assorted’ tag, which the group particularly hated and hassled him to drop until the day he died, subsequently hassling his successors until they agreed.” (Tapestry of Delights Revisited).
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Here is an 80’s cover by Plasticland: