The musical odyssey of Ivor Raymonde

The legacy of Ivor Raymonde, songwriter, arranger, musician and producer, was first explored last year in a double album compiled by his son, Simon, former bass player with Cocteau Twins and boss of indie label Bella Union.

Ivor Raymonde
Ivor Raymonde

So extensive is his father’s back catalogue from the 60s and 70s that Simon has dived into the vaults again and found another 25 pearls ranging from the well-known to the obscure. Examples of Raymonde’s work with Dusty Springfield, The Walker Brothers, Cat Stevens, Roy Orbison and the Alan Price Set feature alongside names that the pop history quickly forgot such as The Chants, The Eyes of Blue, The Rogues, Christopher Colt and The Cryin’ Shames.

The track selection on Odyssey: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde Vol II is, says Simon, down to “a mixture of things”. “It’s to do with licensing, the state of the masters or whether they even exist. You’ve got a logistic issue on the one hand and then on the other hand you’ve got to think about how you want the record to flow.

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“What I did initially was start putting down 35 or maybe 40 tracks that I’d uncovered that I thought were great and what I always do is I send them to Kieron [Tyler], who helps me with these compilations, he would have a look at it and find out who the rights holders were and find out how tricky, or not in some cases, it would be to do the licensing. So there were a mixture of things how we got to what we finally got but it’s not far off the original list, really. Some of them you look at and it just doesn’t work for the running order. But there’s so much stuff out there that you could carry on doing this indefinitely.

“I haven’t thought about a third album at the moment because this one has taken up a lot of time, and it’s also just trying to find more original source material likes photos and stuff like that, I think we’ve pretty much used up all there is.”

The majority of tracks on this album stem from Raymonde’s purple patch with Phillips and Decca Records in the 1960s. “Dad’s boss was a chap called Dick Rowe, he offered him a job as head of A&R at Decca,” says Simon. “I think dad wasn’t sure that he wanted to do it originally because he did a lot of producing and arranging not being tied to one company but he had a great relationship with Dick and it did seem like a stable environment, at least he knew where his pay cheques were coming from. I think in those days jobbing musicians and producers were, like all of us, concerned about where the next pay cheque was coming from. So on the one hand he was not sure he wanted to be tied down but on the other he was just starting a family so he took the job.

“I think what happened as result of that was interesting. I found a document, a PDF or an XL file, buried on page 65 of Google and I clicked on it and it was this amazing list of every track that was recorded at Decca in the period he was working in the studios there and it had very protagonist on each track, who was producing it, who was arranging it and who was in the studio that day and I thought, ‘I can’t believe I’ve got this’. I started scrolling down and we’re talking thousands of tracks and then of course the catalogue number of the single related to that track.

“It was a brilliant discovery. Because of the period he was working there in the studios as the head of A&R or producer his name was cropping up on pretty much every other listing so it enabled me to see a) how much he did and b) even though there was catalogue numbers, we’ve researched this since, there were things that had catalogue numbers that never came out. It’s an interesting document to discover late night and it did help enormously in seeing it rather than having to guess what happened, it also led us to tracks that we weren’t that aware of.”

The album opens with the Dusty Springfield track Little By Little. Although Springfield could be exacting in the studio, she and Raymonde had a long, productive working relationship. “Back before she went solo he was working with her in the 50s, when she was a member of The Springfields,” says Simon. “I’d never heard him or my mum say a bad word about her. I read things that she was a tricky customer but people say that about all artists, don’t they? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being self-determining in that way. She was single-minded about when she needed to change and she was brilliant about that, even though dad was probably like, ‘I would love to carry on working with her’. He could see in hindsight the sense in her going to America and working with arrangers out there because that was the sound that she wanted to be singing, those were her favourite records.

“I think it was a brilliant relationship, it took her from a folky/country thing into the 60s pop stuff and the string arrangements and all that. I think it was just the natural stepping stone for her to move onto the next stage of her career. I think it was really important for both of them, not just Dusty.”

Raymonde also worked with easy listening artists such as Leeds-born Frankie Vaughan, Kathy Kirby and Ronnie Carroll. Simon says he admired his father’s adaptability. “Growing up I probably sneered at it a little bit, some of those artists like Frankie Vaughan seemed so cheesy, the entertainer-type characters, but once you delve into it and once times passes, you actually listen to the variety of stuff he’s done. I’m not a Frankie Vaughan fan particularly across his career but [Tower of Strength] is an absolute belter, it’s a real stormer of a tune, and the vocal on it is absolutely amazing. You think where his career went, Max Bygraves almost, Saturday night TV, but really he was a hell of a singer. He probably could’ve gone on to do a bit of a Tom Jones, but he went down the road he went down, for my personal tastes not necessarily for the best, but that particular track was a pretty big hit and it was a real stormer of a tune.”

Simon admits he “wasn’t sure” about including US singer Del Shannon’s rendition of The Beatles’ song From Me To You on Odyssey. “He was the first American singer to cover a Beatles song, as far as I can recall,” says Simon. “He was doing a show at the Hammersmith Odeon in ’63 and he came and did a session with dad at Decca studios on the day off of the tour. He’d heard about The Beatles and decided that he wanted to do this song and dad was the arranger on the session. You could say what was recorded followed a bit of a template by George Martin but he added this beautiful trumpet part and it changed the track, it gave it a more haunting feel. I thought it was brilliant. I wasn’t 100 per cent sure about it at the start but I saw the sense of putting it on the record because of its uniqueness as the first American artist to record a Lennon and McCartney song.”

Bella Union recently released the Twinkle song Michael Hannah as a 7in single. “It had never been out before,” says Simon. “We’d got the whole record together and then somebody had told Kieron about this track that Ivor had done with Twinkle. We looked into it and we knew the song had been released before but I thought, ‘I wonder what my dad’s version of it sounds like’. It was so radically different it was almost like a different tune. It was on President Records, he did it around 1971, and for whatever reason the track got shelved but a quarter-inch tape was found in this vault not so long ago, somebody dusted it down, and I do believe that Cherry Red are going to be releasing a compilation of all this stuff but we were able to get a first shout at putting that out. We thought we’d put it out on a 7in because it is a collector’s item.”

Another key discovery was a track that Raymonde recorded with the baroque pop outfit Giles, Giles & Fripp, a prototype version of the progressive rock group King Crimson. The song Thursday Morning was another of Simon’s “late night discoveries” on YouTube. “I thought, ‘That can’t be Robert Fripp, surely?’ and clicked on it. There’s a whole album that I bought, it’s amazing, it’s called The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles & Fripp, and I really loved the record. Dad worked on this track Thursday Morning which I think was a single at the time, probably not successful. I love the idea of King Crimson and my dad working together.”

The Martells’ track Time To Say Goodnight was perhaps Simon’s rarest find. “I found that on YouTube as well,” he says. “There’s a collector of these super-rare 7-inches on Decca called John Manship. I tried to buy it and it was so much money, £300 or £400. I wrote to him and because I knew he had a mint copy of it I asked if he would make me an MP3 of it so I could at least have a good quality MP3. He was a bit older and I don’t think he had the software to do it, so I ended up swallowing deep and purchased it at an unbelievably inflated price. Luckily it was a mint copy that I got off Discogs. I’d heard it on YouTube and I already thought it was brilliant but to actually receive it in the post… and I think we actually used the vinyl that I bought [on Odyssey].”

Raymonde did have a top 30 hit, Loo-Be-Loo, under the name The Chucks, but Simon says he wasn’t aware of the track until after his father had died in 1990, at the age of 63. “The Chucks was something I did discover in the research for the [first album],” he says. “They released three singles, I thought they were quaint, but through a bit of late night trawling I did manage to pick up mint copies of each one.

“Dad is known as a producer and arranger. This was a very strange scenario. The Loo-Be-Loo song that we used on this album I think it was recorded by Gene Vincent and Dick Rowe heard this track in America and, as often happened in those days, said, ‘We should do a version of that here’. Dad started recording this track and he got some singers in to do the backing vocals and I think he was planning on getting a proper singer to replace his vocals and then all of a sudden Dick Rowe was like, ‘This sounds amazing’ and then he released it the next week and it started getting a lot of airplay.

“Ready Steady Go came up and he had to go on TV but he went, ‘No, I’m not going to be the lead singer of a pop group, that’s not my thing at all’. I spent too much time trying to find some footage of that because that would be hilarious, but I’ve not been able to. They put this fake group together and there’s a shot of him on the front cover with Raybans on and a pork pie hat. I’ve read a bit about it in his book where he had two hours to come up with a look for the band and that’s the way they went – black outfits – and they went on the TV, but after that he went, ‘Dick, you’re never going to ask me to do that again’. He hated it, but it’s indicative of the kind of bloke he was, he didn’t like to turn down work.

“If someone asked him to do something 99 times out of 100 he’d say, ‘Let me crack on and give it a whirl’ and I think that’s why when you look at his career you see the crazy amount of variety that went on there – comedy records with Jon Pertwee, stuff that’s dreadful and embarrassing – but he would just do everything because he was frightened of not working. He became pickier as he became more successful but certainly in the beginning someone would call him up and say, ‘There’s a band coming into the studio tomorrow’ he’d be there, and he would do it.”

Although Simon feels his father’s work as an arranger and producer was appreciated during his lifetime, he says: “In the last ten years of his life there was definitely a feeling, with the onset of synths and drum machines and people doing things on computers for strings, he did feel a bit left out in the end. Maybe there was a feeling that he was underappreciated in the last period of his life. It was a bit sad for somebody this talented. He’d play gigs at his local golf club, just playing the piano and singing songs just to make a few quid. But the era had just changed. When punk came along everything did change and electronic music kicked in and his skillset to a degree was just not required any more.

“Also he wasn’t a networker. He was in the 60s, he lived in London and he was in Soho pretty much every day. Even prior to the studio stuff he was working nonstop, first as a busker and then on the Queen Mary playing in a band on the boat going to New York, so he was in the game in the 60s and 70s but once he got married and moved out of London when he had established himself – and I totally relate to it – he lost interest in being in town and hanging out and going to the parties and doing that sort of thing that you probably needed to do to get the work. He also wasn’t a drinker. I think sometimes if you’re in people’s faces all the time you get the jobs, and he wasn’t really interested in playing that game at all. I don’t think he was underappreciated, certainly not by me anyway.”

On the cover of Odyssey is a photograph of Nita, Simon’s late mother, that once sat on his father’s piano. “It was something that we were used to seeing all the time,” Simon explains. “He had this beautiful walnut Kemble piano in his study and he had that perched on top of the piano. When he died and mum moved all his stuff out, the photo got put away. We noticed it when we were down there for a family visit one Sunday, going through some old photos, and we were like, ‘This photo of mum is so amazing, she looks like a film star’, so we put it out on the mantelpiece and there it remained for the last few years. My mum died last year and just in the whole tidying up of family business we took a whole selection of photographs together and that photo was all of our favourites and we used it for her funeral service.

“He loved my mum so much and they had such an amazing relationship that I thought it would be really appropriate for this album to recognise her contribution to the whole thing too. Women often in the 50s and 60s were housewives, just doing all the rearing of the children, and didn’t often get the credit for the part they played in the man’s career. This doesn’t resolve that but it’s a nod to her involvement.”

Being able to share some of the wealth of music that his father produced has, Simon says, “thrilled everybody else” in his family. “Like all of us, time passes and things do get forgotten about. Because I’ve been quite driven, for whatever reason, to find these nuggets of his work over the years…I would say to my mum, ‘I’ve found this incredible record that dad made’ – like this Hawaiian album, he often used pseudonyms, that’s another thing we’ve discovered, he did it under this pseudonym Ray Miranda – and she would be like, ‘No, that wasn’t him’ and I would say, ‘No, it definitely was, I bought the record off eBay, his name’s on the back’, and she would go, ‘No, Simon, I would know about that’, I’d be like, ‘OK, mum, whatever’. It just showed me that there is so much stuff out there that he was doing that he probably didn’t even tell his own wife about. He would pop up, do a session and then the record would come out a few weeks later and he’d probably forgotten about it when a couple of years passed or just not realised the significance of it.

“But because, with the thankful help of the internet and these wonderful archival documents, I’ve been able to discover some of this stuff, then be able to share it with my sons and my brother and sisters, it’s given them the same sense of discovery that I had, because none of them knew this stuff either. So it’s a beautiful discovery for the whole family, that’s a lovely thing.”

Simon says he has “not yet” been able to see how his father has influenced him as a musician, nonetheless, the 57-year-old says “he is getting there maybe”. “So many of my friends are like, ‘You should do an arrangement, you’d be brilliant at it’ and I’m like, ‘No, I don’t want to do that’. I probably do it in my own way, without scoring it down, writing parts of the oboe and the bassoon, because that’s just not my world. I maybe am reflecting his work in a funny kind of way, but just in my own way. Of course I must be influenced by this whole thing, his heritage and his music. I don’t know if it’s genetic, but I’ve grown up in a house of music. As a baby the whole house was filled with music, right up to when I started making my own choices, so it’s inevitable in a way that I’m going to have it in the blood maybe, but I don’t know that I would feel that it’s influenced me directly. I’ll probably be able to see that better when I’m a bit further away from this compilation. I’m trying to make my own record right now at the same time.”

The second Lost Horizons album – that he’s making with long-time friend Richie Thomas, former drummer with 4AD band Dif Juz – is, Simon says, “pretty much done”. “I’m just mixing it right now at home. I’m just jumping from one thing to another, that’s just the way I have to do these things.” Like its predecessor Ojala, it will feature a cast of guests. “A couple of people that were on the last record have turned up again, which is lovely, like Karen Peris from The Innocence Mission and Tim Smith from Midlake, he’s done another track, but there are some other interesting names in there too.” The likelihood is it will be out in “the later part of next year”.

Odyssey: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde Vol II is out now on Bella Union.