Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Music: Dig this.

Though they began musical life as the less than inspiring Bob's Vegas Five, the Undertakers soon found a necrological shtick that would keep the kids coming back for more. Combining funerary fashions with goofy on-stage antics and off-kilter performances, the Undertakers rode the post-Beatles wave of Liverpool hype to achieve cult status in the Merseybeat Era.

The early career of the Undertakers weirdly shadowed the early career of the Beatles. Like the Beatles, the Undertakers worked out the kinks in their road show by undertaking a grueling tenure in Hamburg's Star Club. Later, on returning to Liverpool, they were courted by Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Unwisely, perhaps, they turned Epstein down and took the road less traveled by the Fab Four.

The Undertakers signed to Pye records and were teamed with producer Tony Hatch for a series of singles. Unfortunately, Hatch and the group did not see eye to eye. Hatch wanted the Undertakers to tighten up their anarchic and wacky performances, essentially draining the group of much that made it unique. This conflict of artistic visions combined with lack of label support doomed the Undertakers to cult status. Not that the Undertakers didn't try to break into the public consciousness. During a European tour the group tried to grab headlines by arranging to get two of its members busted at Checkpoint Charlie on a currency smuggling charge. Apparently currency smuggling doesn't bring the same bad boy cred as drug offenses and the music world answered the publicity stunt with a collective shrug of indifference.

Check out this wonderful Undertakers page at the Merseybeat Nostalgia Web site. There you can hear an almost Sonics-ish version of "Money" by the 'Takers as well as three other tunes from the boys in black.

The collected singles of the Undertakers can be found on the Big Beat album The Undertakers: Unearthed.

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