Oscar — “Join My Gang”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — May 14, 2023


826) Oscar — “Join My Gang”

This ’66 A-side was a little ditty, “a light, jaunty little piece of pop” (Anorak Thing, https://anorakthing.blogspot.com/2016/04/great-obscure-uk-60s-sides-oscar-aka.html), that Pete Townshend penned for Paul Oscar Beuselinck/Paul Dean/Oscar/Paul Nicholas. Oscar’s father Oscar, was, for a time, The Who’s solicitor (Wilthomer, https://www.45cat.com/record/591006), “an ex-M16 agent turned solicitor who entertained many big name clients in the world of pop music” (liner notes to the CD comp Piccadilly Sunshine: Volumes 11-20: A Compendium of Rare Pop Curios from the British Psychedelic Era), “a rather flamboyant, eccentric, allegedly acid tongued solicitor to the stars”. (https://anorakthing.blogspot.com/2015/11/great-obscure-uk-60s-sides-oscar-aka.html)

Anorak Thing says that:

Strangely [“Join My Gang” is] just as idiosyncratic lyrically as say “I’m A Boy” or “Pictures Of Lily” but hearing Oscar do it makes you wonder what a Who version would have sounded like. Perhaps it was too light weight or maybe Pete felt he’d foisted enough perverse little ditties on the band. That said [it] is a light, jaunty little piece of pop with some silly lyrics with a main chorus of “You can join my gang. That would shake the world, you can join my gang even though you’re a girl” with some VERY ’67 Bowie style oboe in the background and some jangly folk rocky guitar. It’s catchy and the melody to the chorus is pretty damn infectious.

You would think . . . Oscar . . . had it made. His father (Oscar) was The Who’s lawyer and presumably these connections got him a deal with Robert Stigwood’s Reaction label.  Stigwood would also become his manager.  Previously he had gone under the moniker of Paul Dean cutting two singles (the last of which was on Reaction) with that name.  A name change to Oscar and a crack at an unreleased Pete Townshend song . . . were next.  Despite all this his debut stalled. 

https://anorakthing.blogspot.com/2016/04/great-obscure-uk-60s-sides-oscar-aka.html, https://anorakthing.blogspot.com/2010/08/oscar-club-of-lights.html

Bruce Eder tells us more about Oscar:

Few vocalists have gone through as many permutations in their career in popular music in the manner of Paul Nicholas. Best known as a singer, [he] began his career in professional music at the keyboard at age 19, playing piano with Screaming Lord Sutch and his backing band, the Savages, in 1964. He didn’t remain with the band too long, however, choosing to give up playing full-time in favor of studying drama and developing his acting skills. [He] continued to record occasionally, but despite his access to early compositions by Pete Townshend (“Join My Gang”) and David Bowie (“Over the Wall We Go”), he failed to chart a single with any of his work. In 1968, Nicholas joined the British cast of the musical Hair, which was brought to London in 1968 by Robert Stigwood in the lead role of Claude. The two years he spent in the part marked [his] first time crossing paths professionally with the producer, and he was later cast in Stigwood’s productions of Jesus Christ, Superstar and Grease. Nicholas also appeared in the rock-related movies Tommy, Lisztomania, and Stardust. [His] extensive credits in Stigwood’s productions and his resulting popularity inevitably led to his recording several singles for the producer’s RSO Records, mostly in a disco-pop vein, but his success was largely confined to the stage, where he continued to earn leading roles in major productions . . . .


Here is Pete Townshend playing the song live in ’74:

Here is a video delving into “Songs Pete Townshend Wrote for Other Artists”:

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