February 2002: Duncan Russell recalls
News about the "See the Light" single and the
Flames stay in England, 1968-69.
Duncan Russell, of South Africa, was kind enough to send us his
personal recollections about his friendship with the Flames. With his
permission we include a few highlights here.
I was living with them in North Harrow in England in 1969,
at the time that Carl and Dennis Wilson visited with them (the Flames)
to tie up the details of their moving to the States. I haven't had the
opportunity to fully examine your site- excellent work! So do not know if
you know that Ricky and Blondie backed Marsha Hunt on her "Walk on
Gilded Splinters" single and appeared on "Top of the Pops"
with her, with Tony Visconti producing. This was at the time that Ricky and
Blondie were looking to develop original material for the Flames, as there
was some comment that they needed to do this. Well they obviously succeeded.
Ricky, Blondie and I sat in the back-room in North Harrow and I gave them
the first few lines of lyrics for "See the Light" which they
subsequently developed and polished to make them their no1 in LA. They came
to visit me in 1970 or 71 in Durban whilst on tour, and I was very happy to
see them go on to greater things. They certainly were the best live band I
have seen, and the "vibe" at the Alfresco in Durban (where they
had several residencies) was something very special. I stayed with the
Flames April to August 1969. I left to come back to South Africa on August
5th.1969. Those few months I stayed with the guys were very interesting, to
say the least. When I arrived they had a residency at "Blaise's"
club in South Kensington - a tiny basement club which had the pick of the
top groups of the time. It was "Blaise's" where Chas Chandler
(former bassist with the Animals) launched Jimi Hendrix's amazing career. It
was there that Carl Wilson first spotted them and saw their obvious talent.
Blaise's was virtually a second home for the Flames. I remember
"Pinball Wizard" by the Who being played often at the club.
As the youngest of the Flames, Ricky (in particular) and Blondie were always
interested and ambitious as musicians, open-minded and willing to work at
sessions and virtually anything that was going when the Flames weren't
playing. I think that was how the collaboration with Marsha Hunt occurred.
Ricky was doing sessions as well at a small studio near the Marquee Club in
Soho, and played on several of other people's recordings. Unfortunately I do
not have any record or recollection of these, except the one session that
was recorded appeared on a radio show the very same evening! Things happened
fast back then. Ricky and I went to see "Ten years After" and
"Jethro Tull" at the Albert Hall in about June of 69 - as I said
Ricky was always exploring different approaches. Ricky and Blondie were also
doing some sessions at the Apple studios in Savile Row, and I recall they
were doing sessions for a friend Jimmy Thomas, an American singer. I don't
know if the recording still exists in the BBC archives - that "Top of
the Pops" was recorded in the Shepherd's Bush studios. Frankly they
were not very happy with the BBC recording. I don't know if "Walk on
Gilded Splinters" made the charts. The other player on the recording
that I remember was "Tex" who was a Panamanian conga player. The
Flames also played at least once at the "Revolution" club in
Mayfair, which was the "in" club at the time, with various Beatles
and other luminaries of the time popping up all the time.
Thanks for the intriguing memories, Duncan.
Richard Laws, guitarist of Bill Kimber and the
Couriers and later the A-Cads kindly sent us the following fascinating insight dating all
the way back to the time of the Flames' formation in 1964. Thanks Richard.
It seems that there's a general misconception about when The Flames started (or started
using Ricky Fataar on drums). I can definitely say that Ricky was drumming for the
band during the first half of 1964. My band, Bill Kimber and the Couriers, did a two or
three week gig topping the bill at Cape Town's Luxurama Theatre at that time and The
Flames were among the supporting acts. It was definitely Ricky on drums. He
must have been about eleven years old at the time.
Tertius Louw from South Africa reports the
Grahame Beggs who produced The Flames and Una
Valli was an excellent musician who played lead guitar for Dickie Loader and the Blue
Jeans as well as the Shangaans. The Shangaans were short lived, but Loader and the Blue
Jeans released many singles and albums and were one of SA's top pop groups of the sixties.
Other groups in the same league were Johnny Kongos and the G-men; The Four Jacks and a
Jill; The Staccatos; etc. Another SA Pop star, Gene Rockwell, composed the B side of single
45R 239. See singles discography. Soul was the "flavour of the month" in SA
during 1968/9. Local bands like The Bats, Staccatos, Square Set and the Rising Sons used
tracks featured on Burning Soul on their own album releases during this period.
Producer Ivan Wehr also produced for another
popular SA band called the Invaders. The latter also recorded "For Your Precious
Love." Wehr also produced a single for the Invaders in1969 with the title "I've
Got Dreams To Remember" (Ed: also the tile of a compilation album)
A short while Burning Soul was released, an
American band by the name of The Mauds released an album called Hold On. Three tracks from
Burning Soul are also on this album and if one listens to these songs it is quite clear
that the Flames also copied the brass arrangements used by The Mauds on said tracks. The
album details are: Mercury Records MG 2055 1967 (SA number) and Mercury Records SR 61135
The A-Cads were the first South African group to
record a cover-version of Don't Fight It.
Webmaster's Note: We gratefully acknowledge
Tertius' many excellent scans of precious early Flames material, as well as his
compendious knowledge of South African Flames-related record releases.
This South African born drummer made his debut in the States in the early 1970s with his
band, "The Flames." This was the first step in his career climb. That first US
trip led to a tour as the drummer for the Beach Boys, 5 years with Joe Walsh, and most
recently the drum chair with Bonnie Raitt. Ricky has also been fortunate enough to work
with Boz Scaggs, Crowded House, and Etta James as a producer.
Ed.: From the Pearl drums page, who seem to omit
that Ricky had been playing at least five years by 1970. Perhaps it was Boz and the other
who were fortunate to have Ricky!
Centerpiece of a long and convoluted story
regarding the recording of the HOLLAND album. The Beach Boys relocated to the Netherlands
in 1972 to
record this album away from the pressures of L.A. They spend exorbitant amounts of money
building a studio on a farm in Baambrugge, Holland
recording much of the album. The story goes that when the band turned the album into
Warner Brothers, they rejected the album because there was no
potential single. Brian's friends were then alerted to convince him to write a surefire
hit. Luckily, Van Dyke Parks had a cassette of a song that
he and Brian started, that being "Sail On Sailor". The song was then polished,
recorded (without Brian's participation) and tacked onto the album
replacing a Ricky Fataar/Blondie Chaplin song called "We Got Love". Arguably the
best Beach Boys song of the last 20 some odd years. Features a soulful lead vocal from
guitarist, Blondie Chaplin.
Blondie Chaplin: Back-Up Rolling Stones
Blondie Chaplin, born in Durban, South Africa, is a multi-talented musician , singer, and
songwriter whose recent work includes an album of his own
material as well as performing as a background vocalist and musician on Bridges to
Babylon. He also works as lead vocalist and guitarist with
Skollie performing a wide-ranging musical repertoire, from rhythm and blues to reggae and
African influenced rock music and ballads, primarily featuring
songs composed by Blondie, often written from a personal perspective while also reflecting
issues of wider social concern. Blondie Chaplin has performed and recorded with some of
the major figures and groups in popular music, including the Band, the Beach Boys, Paul
Butterfield, Rick Danko, David Johansen, Bonnie Raitt, Phoebe Snow, and Jennifer Warnes.
These have featured his singing (both lead and harmony vocals) and guitar playing, as well
as performances on bass, piano, percussion and drums. Beyond his extensive experience
performing both with his own band and with numbers of other groups, Blondie Chaplin also
performs as a solo-acoustic artist and along with his instrumental and vocal prowess, is
an accomplished songwriter and vocal arranger. In addition to recordings of his own
material, as a writer of both music and lyrics he has contributed material recorded by
artists including the Beach Boys, Paul Butterfield, David Johansen, Renee
Ohara, and, on their most recent album, the Band. He also has recorded a series of African
chants as the soundtrack for a three-part National Geographic video special entitled The
Heart of Africa that was televised nationally on the Public Broadcasting Service Network.
Mick Taylor and Shayne Fontayne played on her most recent comeback album, Something Real.
Blondie Chaplin was also on the album. This could be where they agreed that Chaplin would
Mick Taylor/Blondie Chaplin:
Blondie Chaplin, a creative studio musician most famous for playing on many Beach Boys
albums, replaced Shayne Fontayne in the Modified Band.