Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Blue Mink

Madeline Bell Brodus was born in New Jersey in 1942 and raised by her grandmother. She had an aptitude for singing and was encouraged to sing in the local church gospel choir. Madeline’s voice got stronger and by 16 older she was in a gospel group called ‘The Glovertones'. They toured the US extensively then aged 18 she joined the Alex Bradford Singers and traveled throughout Europe.

She fell in love with London and decided to make it her home signing for Columbia Records. Madeline Bell embarked on a solo career and soon had established herself on the UK cabaret circuit. She worked as a session singer and worked with many well known artists, including Joe Cocker, who it is reported waited a year for her to be available just to sing on "With A Little Help From My Friends" (1969).

Madeline and Dusty Springfield became good friends when she sang backing on ‘The Middle of Nowhere,’ (1965) and the two started to write songs together.

Madeline continued with her own recording career, switching labels and releasing versions of Bacharach and David's "What the World Needs Now Is Love", and Rogers and Hammerstein's "Climb Every Mountain," for the Philips label.

Despite critical acclaim no commercial success followed so she continued to work as a popular studio backing singer. She also had a lucrative career as a jingles singer on TV ads so her voice was well known in the UK. Her version of ‘I’m gonna make you love me’ with Dusty on backing vocals gave her first hit, ironically in the US (1968).

A year later Madeline Bell joined a group of friends who were session men, singers and song writers in a makeup band called Blue Mink. The band’s line up was Roger Coulam (organ), Madeline Bell (vocalist), Roger Cook (vocalist), Herbie Flowers (bassist) and Barry Morgan (drummer). Herbie Flowers, Barry Morgan and the guitarist Alan Parker worked with Roger Coulam at London's Morgan Studios. They recorded several backing tacks then Roger Coulam approached soul singer Madeline Bell and Roger Greenaway (previously half of David and Jonathan) to join them as vocalists. Roger Greenaway declined, but suggested his friend Roger Cook (the other half of David and Jonathan duo). Most of the Blue Mink songs were written by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway and when ‘Melting Pot’ was released in 1969 it became an instant hit.

The members continued with their session work despite the success of the band. Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway had already established themselves as successful song writers with "You've Got Your Troubles" (The Fortunes) (1965), and continued with "I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing" (the New Seekers) (1971).

Herbie Flowers has wicked sense of humor and he wrote the novelty hit, "Grandad" by Clive Dunn (1970).

Something he took a long time to live down but he can be forgiven because of his contribution to Lou Reed's Transformer album (1972) and the opening bass on "Walk on the Wild Side. "

His bass playing also features prominently on David Bowie's "Space Oddity."

Whilst still members of Blue Mink, Herbie Flowers, Alan Parker, and Roger Coulam, were simultaneously playing jazz / rock / big band fusion with Collective Consciousness Society (CCS) and Alexis Korner.

As popular music trends turned to glam the appeal of Blue Mink faded and the group finally parted in 1974 having artistically explored all they wanted to do. Madeline and the rest of the band went onto solo success. Roger Cook moved to the US in 1975 where he became a successful country music songwriter, writing songs for Chrystal Gayle "Talking In Your Sleep," and Don Williams’ "Love Is on a Roll."

Herbie Flowers remained in demand and featured in a line-up of T. Rex (1976) before co-founding Sky in 1978. He is better known now as a jazz musician and music teacher.

Barry Morgan like his fellow musicians had worked with Elton John on his early recordings and is sure to have played drums on the theme tune for The Sweeny.

He continued working and became owner of Morgan Studios before his untimely death. Although not actually a member of Blue Mink, Roger Greenaway association was close and he worked with singer Tony Burrows to form Pipkins, getting chart success with "Gimme Dat Ding" (1970).

In the same year Cook-Greenaway took one of their compositions "True Love and Apple Pie" and re-recorded it as a Coca-Cola radio commercial. The success of the advert "I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company," was again reworked, to remove the references to the brand name, and became a transatlantic hit for the New Seekers in 1972.

By the eighties, Roger Greenaway had become more involved with administration and became Chairman of the Performing Right Society and eventually took charge of the European ASCAP office. Little is known what became of co-founder of Blue Mink, Roger Coulam.

Worth a listen:
Melting Pot (1969)
Goodmorning Freedom (1970)
The Banner Man (1971).
Stay with me (1972)

Madeline Bell
I’m gonna make you love me (1968)

David and Jonathan
Lovers Of The World Unite (1966)

The Fortunes
You've Got Your Troubles (1965),

Collective Consciousness Society (CCS)
Whole Lotta Love (1970)
Walking (1970)
Tap Turns on Water (1970)

Joe Cocker
With a little help form my friends (1969)

Dusty Springfield
In the middle of nowhere (1965)

Roger Cook/Roger Greenaway songs for other acts, (sometimes writtent with other collaborators), include:
Gene Pitney
Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart (1967, then re-recorded with Marc Almond, 1989)

Whisling Jack Smith
I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman (1967)

Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon
Blame It On The Pony Express (1970)

Elton John
My Baby Loves Lovin (1970)

Deep Purple
Hallejuah (1970)

Andy Williams
Home Lovin' Man (1971)

Cilla Black
Something Tells Me Something's Gonna Happen Tonight (1971)

The Hollies
Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress (1972)

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