Planet is a “producer label” rather than a “manager label” but both categories are related in being promoted, pressed and distributed by Polydor, or by their related company, Philips. Philips were Planet’s sponsors and backers.
Planet is highly-sought after by collectors, and is not to be confused with the later soul label, which issued The Pointer Sisters, and ran from 1978 to 1985, nor a current reissue label in Britain.
It was founded by Shel Talmy, the American producer based in London. His background in LA was as a recording engineer, but he switched that to producer on arrival in Britain. He came to London in 1962, and blagged his way into Decca on the strength of some Beach Boys and Lou Rawls demos, not done by him, but done by a friend, Nick Venet. One of his early jobs at Decca was teaching The Bachelors to sing harmony properly. It took him six weeks and resulted in the huge hit Charmaine. He can be forgiven for that, because he went on to work with The Kinks, The Who, Manfred Mann and Pentangle. You Really Got Me by The Kinks has been claimed to be the first punk record, as well as the first heavy metal record.
Talmy produced those classic first Kinks and Who records. He also finally scotches the Jimmy Page lead guitar story … Jimmy Page played rhythm guitar on You Really Got Me and Dave Davies lead, to allow Ray Davies to focus on singing. And for the other Talmy-session rumour, yes, true. The Ivy League were brought in to sing backing vocal on The Who’s I Can’t Explain.
Talmy also knew about LA’s Wrecking Crew of session musicians, and assembled a group of reliable musicians for his productions … Jimmy Page on guitar, Bobby Graham on drums, Nicky Hopkins on piano. In fact much the same guys who were working for Immediate at the same time.
When he formed Planet with leading live bookings agent Arthur Howes, Glyn Johns came in as his recording engineer. Talmy and Howes had launched the Orbit Universal Music Company in May 1965, and took half the front page of the NME to announce their ‘independent recording company’ and to list the artists they were recording in London for Piccadilly, Pye and Stateside What were British productions doing on Stateside? Both The Talismen (Masters of War) and Dave Helling (It Ain’t Me Babe) were covering Dylan. Kenny Miller had Restless, the first David Bowie composition to be released. They still didn’t have a label. Planets have an Orbit, and in this case Orbit spawned Planet.
The Talismen had won the Midland Beat Contest and when they recorded with Shel Talmy and Glyn Johns at IBC Studios, they had no idea which label it was destined for. The Dylan cover was Talmy’s idea, as it was for Dave Helling, who Talmy had discovered busking. Dave Helling moved on to Planet once it got started. His Christine (Planet) is Dylan wannabe right down to the cracked voice.
Other Talmy / Stateside records were I’ll Go Crazy by The Untamed, It Hurts So Much by The Liberators, It Hurts Me When I Cry by Sean Buckley and The Breadcrumbs, Ladies Man by Colette & Bandits, and There’s A Riot Going On by Major Rowley.
The Untamed later moved to Planet as Lindsay Muir and The Untamed. The Liberators became Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours. Major Rowley was pastiching the old Robins hit in an upper class British accent. This was John Rowlands backed by Tony Rivers and The Castaways. Everybody Ska by Prince Buster was an earlier Talmy production on Stateside, but that at least was apparently recorded in the USA.
So why Stateside? Lou Guarino of World Artists in the USA commissioned Talmy to find British artists for US release on Bell and United Artists. It didn’t all happen, but the leasing route between Talmy’s Orbit company and Stateside probably goes via Guarino. An alternative theory is that Stateside was set up to deal with a variety of small independent US labels, so Orbit’s independent productions fitted. There was a touch of fakery adding “An Amy-Mala” recording on these British discs.
The Planet label lasted from December 1965 to December 1966, issuing just twenty-two records. The Creation were Talmy’s favourite band but never made it. They sound very much like The Who, or rather the bass is prominent in the mix, excellent, and sounds like John Entwhistle. So they sound like The Who without Pete Townsend and Keith Moon. The B-side of Making Time, Try and Stop Me, was the natural A-side and might have been a big hit. The bass guitar sound is superb.
The single (Making Time) was an airplay hit on the pirates, but Planet couldn’t get it into the shops, their distributor, Philips, not really trying, and it only crawled to number 49 on the charts.
Dean Rudland. The Creation Singles Box Set
Painter Man was the second single. It reached #36 in the UK chart, but was a runaway hit in Germany, soaring to #2. It is incredibly catchy … a natural ear-worm.
Painter Man opened with a bowed guitar intro, before moving into its story-telling verse ad unbelievably catchy chorus. Talmy’s production is sharp and to the point, and we have three minutes of psych-pop heaven.
Dean Rudland. The Creation Singles Box Set
The Creation report that Talmy killed Planet because he was being screwed by Philips, and Talmy continued to work with them as producer, transferring releases to Polydor.
Shel Talmy: They were enormous in Europe, you know, in most of the Continent, except for France. Never quite made it [in Britain] and they went the way of a lot of bands, they decided to break up. I just could not hold them together. I tried. I said, “Hang on, I think we’re just about there.”
Other releases include John Lee’s Groundhogs, John Lee Hooker (credited on his own), The Untamed (aka Lindsay Muir’s Untamed) and Cameo-Parkway transfer, The Orlons.
John Lee’s Groundhogs didn’t include Mr Hooker himself. The Groundhogs had backed him in the UK, and recorded a fake live album with him. They kept the association. However, they were influenced by the Mod scene, and metamorphosed from a dullish boogie band to a tight little soul outfit with a three-piece horn section. John Cruikshank took the vocal on I’ll Never Fall in Love Again. This was a Sly Stone (then Sylvester Stewart) composition and production from Bobby Freeman’s C’mon & Swim album. The B-side was written by Tony McPhee and is credible punchy club soul, also featuring Cruikshank. They recorded an album with John Lee Hooker featuring the horns, from which the John Lee Hooker single Mai Lee comes. Few musicians could back John Lee Hooker, fond as he was of eleven and a quarter bar blues, and twelve and one fifth bar blues. The Groundhogs solved the problem by establishing a loud relentless 12-bar boogie that even John Lee Hooker was forced to follow. Talmy thought The Groundhogs were a surefire success, wrongly. I saw them with Hooker and the combination was dull, plodding.
The Trekkas Please Go was a near miss, or in the Radio London and Radio Caroline charts, a minor hit.
Perpetual Langley’s We Wanna Stay Home and the follow-up Surrender are considered girl group classics, but again failed to get chart action, in spite of heavy legitimate advertising in the rock press. If possible, girl singers should be little and have a big voice, as advertised here. Both feature the horn section and crunchy bass. We Wanna Stay Home would have been a credible Eurovision entry, jaunty with an unpleasant touch of beer garden Oom-Pah.
Wild Uncertainty’s Man With Money was a cover of a minor Everly Brothers number.
The Orlons have a Motown sound rather than their 1962 era Cameo-Parkway style, and it’s the sort of record that had a major chance of success with enough promotion and airplay, which it didn’t get.
The National Pinion Pole (opinion poll … gedit?) with its 1966 election special, Make Your Mark Little Man was going for the scathing Dedicated Follower of Fashion approach. The vocals consisted of Planet staff members adding lines, and the main vocals are probably Perpetual Langley and her brother Gerry. It’s yet another reputed Jimmy Page track.
From a net interview:
Q: How did your Planet label come about?
Talmy: Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. The only other independent label per se was Oldham’s label [Immediate], and I thought it would be nice to have a label and do my own thing, and I made this horrendous deal with Philips, out of which there was almost no way I could really have made any money. But it was fun while it lasted. In retrospect, I probably did a lot of things I shouldn’t have done, but who knew? I certainly didn’t. I’d never run a label before. Having the label [Planet] was fun: of course, again I knew absolutely nothing about what I was doing and made a terrible deal with Philips, who was distributing the record. I made some money in the end, but it was such an onerous deal I folded it. It would be fun now, but now we’re talking about big bucks. There’s no way to do it on a shoestring anymore. Not a mainstream company.
Talmy talks elswhere in the interview about how he refused to get involved in chart fixing. The Creation were managed by Tony Stratton-Smith (see Charisma), who was also too honest. He made the mistake of paying the regular NME fixer £270 to get Painter Man to number 36, then complained loudly about the practice of fixing. He made his payment for the next week only to find the record out of the chart in spite of significantly increased sales. His quarter page ad in Disc (having fallen out badly with NME) for Perpetual Langley’s record reaped no rewards either. As Mary Langley, she went on to better things with CBS.
Ray Davies supplied All Night Stand for The Thoughts, one of the last Planet singles in September 1966. It was the theme song for an abortive rock movie loosely based on the rise of The Beatles, which accounts for it being somewhat Beatle-ish.
In the end, Talmy was spotting talent, but none of it was of the Ray Davies / Pete Townsend songwriting quality which gave him the apparent Midas touch with The Kinks and The Who. Much of the Planet stuff is interesting., all of it well-produced. Jimmy Page picked up a good few session fees. The Corduroys Too Much of A Woman sounds like Hot Chocolate six years later. Not surprising really, as Hot Chocolate founder Tony Wilson wrote it.
The lack of chart action by Planet releases adds to their legend and rarity, but eschewing chart-fixing looks like the main reason for its demise. Early centre labels are black, later ones are white.
The black centre discs initially came in plain white sleeves, not the later white Planet sleeves. At a record fair in Stratford-upon-Avon, a seller had a near complete set of Planet releases, many of which he had bought new (all on sale at very high prices, as they should be) so browsing and chatting confirmed my suspicion that sleeves with logos were not universal. Dani Sheridan’s Guess I’m Dumb in 1966 was a Brian Wilson composition with a full-on production by Shel Talmy, strings and all. Brian Wilson had presented the song to Glen Campbell, briefly a Beach Boy, and The Beach Boys never recorded it.
Take Lindsay Muir’s Untamed. Their 1966 record Daddy Long Legs is rated (mint) in Rare Record Guide at £250 in its original plain white sleeve, but only £240 in a printed Planet sleeve. Let’s forget the unlikely situation of such a fine distinction being made in negotiating a price on a disc that was probably pressed only in the hundreds. Let’s forget too that it would be impossible to tell a 1966 Planet plain white sleeve from (say) a 1966 white plain Atlantic sleeve: sixteen labels bought their plain sleeves from the same supplier. The copy illustrated here says Manufactured and Distributed by Philips Records. It has a large hole. Hmm. A bit early for a large hole on Philips. Juke-boxed? No, it’s pristine. It is actually mint. That’s because the copy illustrated is a 2011 replica, which cost rather less than £250. It goes for around £6.95. Whether it’s authorized or not, we have no idea. It is good to have though.
Planet switched from black centres after Perpetual Langley’s Surrender (PLF115) in May 1966. The first white centre release is Making Time by The Creation (PLF 116).
There was only one LP issued in the UK. The Night And Day of … by Screaming Jay Hawkins PL 1001). Having dissed John Lee Hooker with The Groundhogs, I have to admit my live experience of Planet artists wasn’t great. I saw Screamin’ Jay and he was so abysmal I walked away.
Elsewhere a John Lee Hooker LP was issued ‘… And Seven Days’. It’s the one recorded with The Groundhogs, and sources suggest it was recorded in 1965. I can’t find a copy with Planet on it, though they recorded it, and it contains Mai Lee. In the USA it was licensed to Verve Folkways. The album was issued in the UK as John Lee Hooker in 1972 by New World.
The deleted Best of Planet Records CD has most of the better singles, though not John Lee Hooker’s Mai Lee. Hooker was notorious for recording the same songs for different labels in the USA, so there may have been a licensing problem.
There are two Ace CDs of Shel Talmy productions: Making Time and Planet Beat. Making Time extends well beyond Planet. Planet Beat has Planet rarities, like the rather soppy How Do They Know by The League of Gentlemen, but is mainly material Talmy recorded and put on Stateside and other labels. Ace always has the finest obtainable recording quality.
Then there’s Shel’s Girls: From The Planet Records Vaults (Ace) which has girls / girl groups he recorded between 1964 and 1966 … which brings in Perpetual Langley, Dani Sheridan and Stevie Holly, but also some of his productions for Immediate … Val Lenton, and Goldie and The Gingerbreads.
Planet demonstrates that rarity is the real price-driving force in vinyl value. The John Lee’s Groundhogs single is valued at around four times the Creation singles. Creation singles are the most distinctive (OK, easily the best) thing on Planet, but both charted (mildly) and if you see a Planet single, which is a rare event, it will almost certainly be one of the two Creation singles. If I compiled a top ten of Planet tracks, The Creation would occupy places 1-4. The main competitors are Daddy long-Legs by Lindsay Muir’s Untamed and Spinning Top by The Orlons.
The Creation box set appeared on Demon in 2014, and all the singles have picture sleeves presumably new designs, or possibly foreign ones.
|PLF 101||Dave Helling||Christine||Dec 1965|
|PLF 102||Tony Lord||World’s Champion||Dec 1965|
|PLF 103||The Untamed||It’s Not True||Dec 1965|
|PLF 104||John Lee’s Groundhogs||I’ll Never Fall In Love Again||Jan 1966|
|PLF 105||The Trekkas||Please Go||Feb 1966|
|PLF 106||Dani Sheridan||Guess I’m Dumb||Feb 1966|
|PLF 107||Steve Holly||Strange World||Feb 1966|
|PLF 108||The Tribe||Gamma Cootchie||Feb 1966|
|PLF 109||League of Gentlemen||How Can You Tell||Feb 1966|
|PLF 110||Perpetual Langley||We Wanna Stay Home||Apr 1966|
|PLF 111||National Pinion Poll||Make Your Mark Little Man||Apr 1966|
|PLF 112||Eugene Ferris||Smile In Your Eyes||May 1966|
|PLF113||Lindsay Muir’s Untamed||Daddy Long Legs||Jun 1966|
|PLF 114||John Lee Hooker||Mai Lee||May 1966|
|PLF 115||Perpetual Langley||Surrender||May 1966|
|PLF 116||The Creation||Making Time||Jun 1966|
|PLF 117||The Orlons||Spinning Top||Jul 1966|
|PLF 118||The Thoughts||All Night stand||Jul 1966|
|PLF 119||The Creation||Painter Man||Sep 1966|
|PLF 120||A Wild Uncertainty||A Man With Money||Oct 1966|
|PLF 121||Gnomes of Zurich||Please Mr Sun||Nov 1966|
|PLF 122||The Corduroys||Tick Tock||Dec 1966|