Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Southern California Spotlight: The Grains Of Sand - That's When Happiness Began/She Needs Me

Day three of our SoCal Region of The Battle of the Garage Bands takes us back to Los Angeles. Today's entrant shows that you don't have to record for a tiny label in a small town like in Delaware or Corpus Christie, Texas to go virtually unnoticed. Musical anonymity can happen right in the heart of one of the music meccas of the world.

The band in question is The Grains Of Sand, featuring David Hodgkins on guitar and harmonica, Douglas Mark on lead guitar, Rich Brand on bass and Willie Shider on drums (Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine plays drums on the plug side and I'm not sure who is on vocals). The band has the rare distinction of putting out two of the all time greatest garage singles. Today we feature their first release.

The song is the superbly crafted That's When Happiness Began released on Valiant records in February, 1966 and written by the songwriting brothers and Valiant recording artists, Don and Dick Addrisi.  The brothers would soon score a mega hit with their penning of the saccharin Never My Love, as recorded by fellow Valiant artists The Association.

Attesting to the hit potential of today's song, That's When Happiness Began has the unique distinction of being recorded in three different continents by four different acts, all in 1966 (in addition to the GoS, this was recorded by The Montanas in the UK, Mike Furber and the Bowery Boys in Australia and Gwynn Owen in New Zealand in that order). How this little non-hit wonder so efficiently made its way around the world boggles this Flip-Sider's mind; in any case, it was The Grains Of Sand who released it first and frankly did it best. Regardless, the song didn't go anywhere, partly, I am sure, because Valiant records, as part of the label's stated intent to the band, did not put a valiant effort behind it at all. Instead, after its all-too-brief heyday, this single gathered dust until the excellent What A Way To Die garage compilation surfaced it around 1983. Even among the stiff competition on that comp, Happiness stands out with its great melodic hook, harmonica solo and stomping beat, and was among the first songs in the genre to etch an indelible groove in this listener's ear.
It's just a great song. Yet what takes this single to the upper stratospheric reaches of garagedom, commonly known as Mount Garagemore, is the Flip-Side, She Needs Me.  After a few beats, the song hits us with an ear-bending, reverb-soaked, era-defining guitar motif with few parallels. Just brilliant in all respects. The lyrics then deliver a lonesome, urgent sense of yearning that is coupled with an economical use of words calling to mind By My Side by Australia's The Elois. Words and music are by band members David Hodgkins and Willie Shider:
She needs me!
Wants love!
Then why can't she accept me? 
She wants me, she loves me, she needs me, she says she do!
Well, she wants me, she loves me, she needs me, say you do! 
Can she see?
My heart will never be free! 
Well she wants me, she loves me, she needs me, she says she do!
Well she wants me, she loves me, she needs me, says she do! 
I'll take her!
God knows I won't forsake her!
Flip-side talks about the band's second single here. Photograph of band and certain information are from the interview of Rich Brand on the excellent site.

Enjoy and until next time, we'll see you on the Flip-Side.

1 comment:

  1. What an epic single. I agree this is a 100%, carved in stone, Garagemore staple. Both sides are A+ quality.

    That's When Happiness Began: How was this not a hit? If Capitol, Columbia or Warner Bros was behind this, the Grains Of Sand would have been performing on Where The Action Is and touring the country in support of The Byrds. And you are correct, Jack, this is the best of the three versions. Hands down. Didn't the Nashville Ramblers cover this?

    She Needs Me: I think the Flip-Side is even better than the A-Side! Who woulda thunk. This low grumbling, primordial raver is just splendid. The reverb drenched guitar work reminds me of The Squires' Going All The Way and the Magicians' Invitation To Cry. But the rhythm heavy basis of the song is very much like a Guilloteens song.

    These guys should have been stars. What a shame.