“If You Want This Love of Mine” Special Edition: Sonny Knight/West Coast Experimental Pop Art Band: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — June 17, 2022


487) Sonny Knight — “If You Want This Love of Mine”

As Little Steven might say, this is a wicked cool R&B slow burner by Sonny Knight that was transformed a few years later into a pop psych stunner. Only in the ’60’s!

Mental Itch tells us that:

Sonny Knight (born Joseph Coleman Smith 1934-1998) was an African-American R&B and pop singer-songwriter, musician and author, known for mid-50s music era hit “Confidential.” . . . He first recorded for Aladdin, and then for Cal-West, as both Sonny Knight and his real name Joe Smith; both stints were unsuccessful, however. Knight moved to a small label Vita [and] cut a single called “Confidential” which was originally a B-side to “Jail Bird.” However, radio disc jockeys flipped the single and [it] ultimately broke into the Top 20 at the end of 1956. . . . Knight recorded a number of unsuccessful singles on lesser labels before he retired from the music business in the mid-1960s. In 1981 he wrote a novel The Day the Music Died based on his own harsh experiences of racial prejudice that prevailed in the music business in the 1950s. Knight had resided in Maui, Hawaii, where he died in 1998, aged 64. . . . On Aura Records, he once again visited the pop chart in 1964 with “If You Want This Love,” and “Love Me As Though There Were No Tomorrow,” peaking at #71 and #100 respectively. . . . When Knight retired in the mid 1960’s, [he] relocated to Hawaii where he resided and continued performing at small bars.


All Music Guide adds that:

Encouraged to seek a recording contract by a girlfriend, Smith looked in the telephone book and called the first label listed, Aladdin Records. He changed his professional name to Sonny Knight and recorded unsuccessfully for Aladdin, then switching to Specialty Records. Specialty producer Robert ‘Bumps’ Blackwell partnered him with songwriter Dorina Morgan (wife of producer Hite Morgan), who penned ‘Confidential’ for Knight. The single reached number 17 in the USA, but Knight was unable to follow it up.


Here is a “live” performance from ’65:

Here is a cool version by Sammy Davis, Jr.:

488) The West Coast Experimental Pop Art Band — “If You Want This Love of Mine”

The WCEPAB turned the song into a pop psych classic, off their Part One album. Round and Round Records says that “[t]his fantastic 196[7] set remains one of the very best albums from The psychedelic era, made by a bunch of teens and Bob Markley, their 30-something tone deaf benefactor, who was in it for the chicks.” https://roundandroundrecords.com/products/the-west-coast-pop-art-experimental-band-part-one-lp?variant=42036268925183 (see #197)

Richie Unterberger says of the album and the song that:

The[ir] first album for Reprise was the best of the group’s career, in large part because it was the most song-oriented. It was still plenty weird, almost to the point of stylistic schizophrenia, but when you got down to it, much of the record was comprised of fairly catchy songs in the neighborhood of two and three minutes. At times they sounded like . . . a Kinks-like garage band (“If You Want This Love”) . . . .


Altrockchick, on the other hand, calls the album “breathtakingly uneven . . . with a few lovely splashes of post-Rubber Soul melodic pop unable to cover the smell of some of the stinkiest crap you’ll ever smell on record. . . . Anyone trying to spin Part One into a psychedelic masterpiece is either stoned or stone deaf.” (https://altrockchick.com/2014/06/17/classic-music-review-part-one-by-the-west-coast-pop-art-experimental-band/?amp=1). Well, call me stoned and stone deaf!

Tim Forster tells the tale:

After seeing the Yardbirds play at a hip Hollywood party, teenage hopefuls Shaun and Danny Harris and Michael Lloyd found themselves locked into a Faustian pact with the host, eccentric millionaire Bob Markley. The deal? He would promote their band and buy expensive equipment if they let him bang a tambourine on stage. According to Lloyd, music was the last thing on Markley’s mind. “He had seen the incredible amount of girls that thought rock and roll was really cool and that was his only motivation.” . . . Bob . . . acquir[ed] an impressive state-of-the-art light show, book[ed] the band into trendy local venues . . . and financ[ed] the release of . . . their debut LP . . . . Better still, he used his society contacts to swing them a prestigious three album deal with . . . Reprise. But things swiftly took a turn fo the worse. . . . Markley had already saddled the band with their ludicrously cumbersome moniker. Soon it emerged that he had registered the name instead of the group’s . . . members — enabling him to replace anyone he chose– as well as channeling all of the publishing and other potential royalties through his own company . . . . [I]t wasn’t long before Bob began demanding more creative input. As Shaun ruefully recalls: “The part that was frustrating was that he had no musical aptitude of any kind and so what he was trying to do to be different and innovative . . . was an embarassment.” . . . [One] of Bob’s Tinseltown friends, Baker Knight . . . contributed two of the album’s unexpected highlights [including]”If You Want This Love.” . . . As Danny recalls: “We changed the time signature [of Knight’s song] and made it very driving. I remember when Baker Knight first heard the playback he didn’t know what to make of it and said [adopts gruff southern drawl] “Hey! I thought this was a Country song!”

liner notes to the CD reissue of Part One

And Mark Deming adds:

In 1962, the [Harris] family relocated to Los Angeles and the Harris Brothers joined a local rock band called the Snowmen . . . . Danny and Shaun attended the same high school as Michael Lloyd . . . in another, more successful local group called the Rogues; Shaun was recruited to join the Rogues . . . and soon Michael, Shaun and Danny began working together on music of their own. They . . . cut a handful of fine singles under the name the Laughing Wind [and became] acquainted with noted L.A. producer and scenester Kim Fowley [who] introduced the band to Bob Markley, the Oklahoma-born son of a wealthy oil tycoon who had . . . ambitions of making a name for himself in music, having released an unsuccessful single for Reprise Records. . . . Markley was impressed by the attention the band received from the audience of music business insiders and teenage girls, and decided he wanted to form a band rather than work as a solo act. [He] liked the Laughing Wind well enough that he made them an offer . . . .


Ah, so it’s all Fowley’s fault!

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