The Honeybus — “She Sold Blackpool Rock”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — March 16, 2023


764) Honeybus — “She Sold Blackpool Rock”

Honeybus is one of my favorite 60’s bands (see #6, 52, 207, 434, 562, 605), with the honey being especially bittersweet with what should have been, what could have been. The beautiful ballad “She Sold Blackpool Rock” was their last-ditch attempt at a hit. Roger Dopson tells us that “in desperation [they] came up with [the song] released in May ’69 . . . a straightforward attempt to recreate [their one hit ‘I Can’t Let Maggie’ Go’] — but . . . it just didn’t move.” (liner notes to the Honeybus at Their Best CD comp)

As to the Honeybus, Jittery White Guy puts it perfectly:

Honeybus had the pop touchstones of the Beatles and the Hollies, while balancing the more sunshiny, twee aspects of the early Bee Gees with some mild touches of post-Sgt. Pepper psychedelia. . . . Their songs were unusually tuneful, some lovely little hooks paired with sweet harmonies, and it’s almost shocking to hear these songs today and realize the band had pretty much zero commercial success (at least here in the US).

And Bruce Eder beautifully ponders what made the band so special and what could have been:

Considering that most have never heard of them, it’s amazing to ponder that they came very close, in the eyes of the critics, to being Decca Records’ answer to the Rubber Soul-era Beatles. The harmonies were there, along with some catchy, hook-laden songs . . . . The pop sensibilities of Honeybus’ main resident composers, Peter Dello and Ray Cane were astonishingly close in quality and content to those of Paul McCartney and the softer sides of John Lennon of that same era. What’s more, the critics loved their records. Yet, somehow, Honeybus never got it right; they never had the right single out at the proper time, and only once in their history did they connect with the public for a major hit, in early 1968. . . .

Dello and Cane . . . were the prime movers behind Honeybus. In 1966, they formed the Yum Yum Band . . . . A collapsed lung put Dello out of action in early 1966, and it was during his recuperation that he began rethinking what the band and his music were about. He developed the notion of a new band that would become a canvas for him to work on as a songwriter — they would avoid the clubs, working almost exclusively in the studio, recreating the sounds that he was hearing in his head. . . . It was a novel strategy, paralleling the approach to music-making by the Beatles in their post-concert period, and all the more daring for the fact that they were a new group . . . . The group was one of the best studio bands of the period, reveling in the perfection that could be achieved . . . .

They were duly signed to England’s Decca Records and assigned to the company’s newly organized Deram label . . . . The critics were quick to praise the band . . . [but their first two singles were commercially] unsuccessful. Then . . . their third release, “I Can’t Let Maggie Go,” [see #6] . . . . . . peaked at number eight. . . . [It] should have made the group, but instead it shattered them. Peter Dello resigned during the single’s chart run. He had been willing to play live on radio appearances and the occasional television or special concert showcase . . . but he couldn’t accept the physical or emotional stresses of performing live on a regular basis, or the idea of touring America . . . .  Dello left . . . . [and] Jim Kelly came in on guitar and vocals, while Ray Cane . . . took over most of the songwriting, and Honeybus proceeded to play regular concerts. The group never recovered the momentum they’d lost over “Maggie,” however, despite a string of fine singles . . , [including] . . . “She Sold Blackpool Rock” . . . . These records never charted . . . . [T]he group had pretty well decided to call it quits once they finished the[ir] LP . . . . The Honeybus Story . . . was released in late 1969, but without an active group to promote it, the record sank without a trace. . . . [I]t was a beautiful album, with the kind of ornate production and rich melodies that had become increasingly rare with the passing of the psychedelic era . . . .

Here’s a version in Italian:

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