Spanky And Our Gang recorded during the psychedelic era, they dressed like a psychedelic band, but at heart they were a pure pop group that produced a number of catchy and melodic singles during the last three years of the 1960’s.
Vocalist Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane, guitarists Malcolm Hale, Lefty Baker, and Nigel Pickering, bassist Kenny Hodges, and drummer John Seiter were all veterans of various bands before coming together to form Spanky And Our Gang.
The band was built on Spanky’s strong vocals and the intricate harmonies of the band members. On stage they were an eclectic band that bordered on a vaudeville act but in the studio, they created some of the best top 40 pop of that late 1960’s. Real Gone Music has now released both sides of all their Mercury Singles under the appropriate title The Complete Mercury Singles.
The music of Spanky And Our Gang remains rooted in the late sixties. No matter how well Real Gone Music has cleaned up the sound, it is still a product of the era’s technology. All the tracks are thus presented in their original mono mixes. Still, when taken on their own terms, hit singles such as “Sunday Will Never Be The Same,” “Making Every Minute Count,” “Lazy Day,” “Sunday Mornin,’” and “Like To Get To Know You” are all brilliant pop tunes that stand the test of time well.
They were primarily a singles band and the 21 tracks contain the best of the band’s output. In addition to the aforementioned hits, there were a number of singles and B sides that combined the best elements of the group. Two Fred Neil Tunes, “Echoes” and “Everybody’s Talkin’” keep the focus on McFarland’s voice and prove what a wonderful instrument it was. “Without Rhyme Or Reason,” “Mecca Flat Blues,” and “The Swingin’ Gate” all have tight harmonies and layered music.
Perhaps the tracks that best defines their legacy are “Like To Get To Know You” and “Sunday Mornin.’” They had moved from four part to six part harmonies, which gave the sound a denser quality. The instrumental textures wove in and out of the vocals creating two of the more sophisticated singles of the time-period.
The band did not survive the decade. The beginning of the end occurred October 30, 1968, when Hale died of complications from walking pneumonia. There will be no reunions as of the seven members who passed through the band, only Seiter and McFarland are alive today. Spanky would replace Mama Cass in a reformed Mamas and Papas during the 1980’s.
The Complete Mercury Singles primarily appeal is to fans of the era or someone who wants to travel back in time to a simpler period when music produced by such bands as Spanky And Out Gang dominated the AM radio airwaves.