Freddie and The Dreamers
I'm telling you now, I know it's been said before
by Sam Leighty
We live in the day and age of "Layla," "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Horse With No Name," "Stairway To Heaven" and "For What It's Worth" being played on the radio over and over again, with a great deal of sanctimony and solemnity. All of this causes you to think and ponder, where are Freddie and The Dreamers now that we need them? Yes, those guys, that five man British Invasion Rock and Roll Group from Liverpool's twin city of Manchester, England, who did records like "I'm Telling You Now" and "Do the Freddie." As the sixties drew to a close, many people dismissed Freddy and the boys as the ultimate castoffs of uncool.
But this is unfair and their story deserves to be told. Freddie Garrity was born in 1936 and he worked as a milkman. Garrity never took an overt interest in music until Bill Haley came along in 1955. He started collecting 45's and he was especially interested in Elvis Presley sides. He decided to try his hand at singing rock and roll. In the early sixties, the British rock music scene was very active. All of the big cities in the British Isles had interesting music scenes. Manchester was Liverpool's twin city on the Mersey river. The Beatles released "Love Me Do" b/w "P.S. I Love You" on Parlophone Records in October 1962. This 45 rpm release inaugurated sort of a chapter two in rock and roll, following on Elvis Presley's chapter one in 1955-1956.
At approximately that time Freddie got together with some friends and they formed "Freddie and The Dreamers." The Dreamers were friends of Freddie's and they were Derek Quinn (guitar), Roy Crewsdon (guitar), Pete Birell (bass guitar and backing vocal), and Bernie Dwyer (drums). Freddy fessed up in a 1991 interview "the black plastic glasses and the hair were Buddy Holly, the music was The Beatles." Onstage, Freddie leaped, let loose with Jerry Lewis styled cackles, made silly faces while flapping his arms and legs around. The Dreamers played the singles precise and crisply, kicking their legs in turn to "The Freddie" and "The Limey Bop." Comedy and silliness were a big part of what Freddie and The Dreamers were all about. This would come in handy nowadays with so many bands and singers intent on marketing funerary seriousness and gastric unhappiness.
Freddie and The Dreamers were a bit older than the other British Invasion groups who were making it big in the USA in 1964/1965. Freddie 30 years old in 1966 and the guys in the Dreamers were almost the same age. Freddie's "Buddy Holly" hairdo was a toupee sewn in place before performances. Freddie and The Dreamers gigged tirelessly and they finally got a record deal with EMI in 1963.
"If You Have To Make A Fool Out of Somebody" b/w "Feel So Blue" was issued in the UK and Europe. It charted and yes, it was successful. It wasn't exactly a super smash hit yet it did keep EMI interested in them and it cinched their status as a "big time" group. The group’s trademark buoyant "I'm Telling You Now" came three months later and it was a big record with its "kick turn" stage act and arm flapping, etc. This was Freddie and the Dreamers' biggest song and it was re-released on Tower Records in the USA in 1965 as those of us who owned transistor radios back then well know. Freddie and The Dreamers had comedy touches and wonderful Merseybeat singles.
Eventually they came to America. This was at around the turn of 1964/1965. You'll notice that of the UK groups who were coming here at that time (The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Manfred Mann, Them, The Yardbirds, The Moody Blues) all seemed to pull off a combination austere intellectual/tough guy/art college image. Freddie and The Dreamers knew they could never pull off those kind of dashing Mogan David and abstract art shenanigans, so why bother!? A different tack was needed. Freddie would be the geeky boy toy while the Dreamers played those Merseybeat riffs and stood there looking disgusted. The group had an air of gentle insolence and freindly disrespect. They were considered to be nerdy and some people didn't like them.
People who were digging Top 40 radio when "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was a hit in January 1964 will recall that while the mid-sixties era had tough-sounding groups like The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds, many of the UK groups and singers who followed on the Beatles' heels were nerdy and a bit romantic: groups and singers like Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, Herman's Hermits, Gerry and The Pacemakers, Billy J.Kramer and The Dakotas, The Dave Clark Five. This could have been the result of a cartel of British Invasion managers and PR people trying to promote a likable loser image.
So Freddie and The Dreamers toured here following a lot of promotional stuff in magazines like 16 and Datebook. The lads had at least six American chart entries in 1965. "You Were Made For Me," "If You Have To Make A Fool Out of Somebody," "I'm Telling You Now," "A Little You," "I Understand" and "Do The Freddie." They played to packed auditoriums. Most groups, both American and British could be a bit exclusive about TV appearances. Freddie and The boys played every American network show featuring rock and roll bands throughout 1965. The Dreamers played tight while Freddie sang in an "English" tenor voice similar to Manchester mate Peter "Herman" Noone. Freddie's voice was more high pitched and Paul McCartney-ish than Herman's, which was closer to a baritone range and more cockney sounding than Freddie. These singing touches were both nice and I can't imagine the sixties hits of Freddie or Herman without them. Yet these were showbiz touches. Both singers came from Manchester, which has its own accent, somewhat different than greater London. At the time, it all worked out and I can't conceive of those records sounding any other way.
Freddie and The Dreamers’ American sides were issued on both Tower and Mercury. For some reason the members of the group had signed themselves to both labels for their recordings in the USA. It is possible they simply didn't know if the contracts were for reissues or new recordings. This could have got them into a lot of legal snags and scrutiny. The group was very successful so this was all quietly dismissed.
Freddie and the lads had their two biggest hit records in 1965. They were "I'm Telling You Now" and "Do the Freddie." Freddie and company did arm swinging and leg kicking acts and dance routines to their hit songs. They did routines such as those for both of those songs and you can see it on Shindig, Hullabaloo and Ed Sullivan. Of all those TV shows I mentioned, Freddie and The Dreamers played nearly 20 of them throughout 1965 alone.
The story behind "Do The Freddie" itself is interesting. It was a demo done in America and it got tossed from one exec and one producer to another. An acetate of it got mailed to Freddie and he listened to it on some home studio equipment. Freddie had some definite ideas about verses with lyrics for the backing tracks. He said the track was "right in his key." The Dreamers didn't play on the record but they learned the song for live appearances. "Do The Freddie" was a big hit.
Freddie and The Dreamers' chart success in America tapered off at the end of 1965 though. They continued to tour and have big records in the UK and Europe and were in at least four movies. New York DJ Cousin Bruce Morrow featured them in the 1966 TV special "It's A Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod World." Otherwise, by 1966, industry insiders in America considered Freddie and The Dreamers to be "last year's dance craze."
Nevertheless, Freddie and The Dreamers were very good songwriters when called upon. Freddie was a heartthrob like other sixties commercial icons such as Bobby Sherman, Mark Lindsay and Davy Jones. The girls screamed for him. He surely had lots of knocks on his door, plenty of fan mail and many phone calls at inconvenient times from fans who somehow got ahold of his number. Judging by the lyrics to "If I were a Playboy," a spring of 1966 British and European hit for the guys, I assume Freddie got an overanxious and pornographic fan letter from a young girl of about 15 living in suburban or small town Illinois. Freddie showed that laughing regular guy side of himself and he killed two birds with one stone- he gave the girl the thrill of her life but he kept her a little bit unsure with the hint of undue publicity and attention. The result was the hit song for Freddie and the Dreamers in the guise of “Playboy.”
For You Love, I'd come to Illinois if I were a Playboy We'd live like a Duke and Duchess Here in a Castle Fortress These things I only want for you Is that what you want too? Is that what you want too?
Freddie and the Dreamers also played Eurorock's incredible tour de force TV show Beat Beat Beat in 1966 and then again in 1967. The 1966 songs consists of them doing "Run For Your Life," "If You've Got A Minute Baby" and "I'm Telling You Now." The guys shared the 1966 bill with the Searchers. The 1967 songs are "Nashville Cats," "Some Other Guy," "If I Were A Playboy" and ends with an extended "If You've Got A Minute Baby." The 1967 "Nashville Cats" is suitably ridiculous with bassist Pete Birell singing lead while Freddie clowns around with a tambourine and makes faces. On the 1966, show they perform The Beatles' "Run For Your Life" exactly like the record and "If You've Got A Minute Baby" uses some flourishes borrowed from "You Won't See Me." As admitted years later, there was a substantial Beatles influence on Freddie and The Dreamers' music. All of these clips are in You Tube. There's enough Freddie and the Dreamers stuff on there to keep busy for a couple of hours.
1967 didn't see the last of Freddie and The Dreamers, yet you could say they were getting strident competition from progressive rock and heavy psychedelica. One of the groups most likable but silly 45 rpm releases came in May 1967. It was their try at electric banana pop titled "Brown and Porters Meat Exporters Lorry." This has become something of a collectable in the UK. Freddie and The Dreamers' LP album releases from the sixties are collectable too, both the original American and UK ones.
Freddie and The Dreamers released their last substantially high end vinyl record release in 1968. Fittingly enough, it was an album of Disney Songs. The guys continued for years on the oldies circuit even though by 1971, they had no current chart releases. Eventually there were some new recordings. Unfortunately, producers and session players tried to Claptonize The Dreamers sound which wasn't in the heavy progressive spectrum in the first place. Freddie and The Dreamers continued to perform oldies shows throughout the seventies and the eighties to enthusiastic audiences though. Freddy and bassist Pete Birell were cast in a BBC kiddee show called Tiswas and they were regulars on the show for years. Freddie was a guest VJ in MTV's early incarnation and he was often cast in kind of a "duo" with Peter "Herman" Noone.
Freddie and The Dreamers continued until 2000. Freddie even added a piano player to the lineup and continued the group for years with assorted musicians.. Freddie's doctor advised he should stop working because of pulmonary tension. Freddie and The Dreamers did their last concert at Margate Winter Gardens in December 2000. Freddie retired from all work in February 2001. Roy Crewdson, Derek Quinn and Pete Birell are still alive. Bernie Dwyer died in 2002 and Freddie himself died in 2006 at 69 years old.
Freddie and the boys' music were romantic, like Petula Clark or Peter and Gordon. The group played loud with that driving Merseybeat style, combining good singing and good playing for hot hit singles. Even Lester Bangs was something of a Freddie fan.
Seriousness wasn't Freddie and The Dreamers trademark. Freddie has been called "The Clown Prince Of Rock and Roll." In later years, Freddie said "I wouldn't have it any other way." "I'm Telling You Now" and "Do The Freddie" still sounded great on that jukebox or that car radio. In 2006, EMI released The Ultimate Freddie and The Dreamers Collection 2 CD set- 62 tracks and covers all the hits and the highlight- it’s a great place to indulge yourself.
In more recent years, Freddie and the guys seem, in retrospect, to be happily lacking in the bassoon lesson and last hour algebra tension exuded by so many over-serious groups that followed later. Freddie and The Dreamers belong to that earlier, simpler time, way back when before the ponderous era of music. A blast from the past for sure.
Freddie and The Dreamers UK 45 rpm singles discography
If You Have To Make a Fool Out of Somebody/Feel So Blue (1963)
I'm Telling You Now/What Have I Done To You? (1963)
You Were Made For Me/Send A Letter To Me (1963)
Over You/Come Back When You're Ready (1964)
I Love You Baby/Don't Make Me Cry (1964)
Just For You/Don't Do That To Me (1964)
I Understand/I Will (1964)
A Little You/Things I'd like to say (1965)
Thou Shalt Not Steal/I Don't Know (1965)
I Don't Know/Windmill in Old Amsterdam (1965)
If You've Got A Minute Baby/When I'm Home With You (1966)
Turn Around/Funny Over You (1966)
Hello Hello/All I Ever Want is You (1967)
Brown and Porter's (Meat Exporters)Lorry/Little Brown Eyes (1967)
Little Big Time/Freddy Garrity (solo)-You Belong To Me (1968)
It's Great/Gabardine Mac (1968)
Get Around Downtown Girl/What To Do (1969)
Susan's Tuba/You Hurt Me Girl (1970)
Here We Go/I Saw Ya (1970)
|MAIN PAGE||ARTICLES||STAFF/FAVORITE MUSIC||LINKS|