Biography
Electric Banana is the name the Pretty Things sometimes recorded under starting in the late '60s when they took a job with the De Wolfe music library. At the end of the decade they cranked out three albums' worth of psychedelic pop that stacked up well alongside their official releases. They also recorded two more sets in the '70s when the need for extra cash arose. The albums became oft-bootlegged collector's items and were finally given a legitimate release in 2019.

In 1967, the Pretty Things (vocalist Phil May, guitarist Dick Taylor, bassist Wally Waller, and drummer John Povey) were down on their luck financially and looking for a way to bolster their drooping bank accounts. By chance, the folks at the De Wolfe music library were looking for a swinging young band to provide some mod songs that they could offer to movies and TV shows looking for something hip. Using the moniker Electric Banana, the band entered the studio in early 1967 with the Reg Tilsley Orchestra and cut a 10" mini-album made up of band-penned originals and songs written by professional songwriters on one side -- and in a practice that would continue on all their recordings -- instrumental versions of each on the flip. One of the songs from the album, "Street Girl," appeared in the Belgian film Pandore and was released as a single there. The experience of making Electric Banana went well enough for both sides that the band recorded another mini-album at the end of the year. This time the band forsook the orchestral accompaniment, though as on their first session, they did still cover two songs. The band originals on More Electric Banana were more psychedelic and heavy this time, sounding like practice for their S.F. Sorrow album, which they were making at roughly the same time and features a re-recorded version of the More Electric Banana song " I See You."

When the band came back to the studio in 1968 to lay down more Electric Banana tracks, their lineup expanded to include John Twink Alder on drums with Povey moving to keyboards. Unlike the first two times they recorded as Electric Banana, the group weren't working on a Pretty Things album at the same time and ended up giving away some A-level material. The songs were written and recorded for the soundtrack of the 1969 film What's Good for the Goose, which they also memorably appeared in. Their sound by now combined the heaviness of biker rock, the trippiness of hard psychedelia, and even some West Coast country rock. Even More Electric Banana was released in 1969.

They didn't make another Electric Banana record for a few years, though their songs ended up being used in a few movies and TV shows and other bands borrowed the name. After "It'll Never Be Me," which was on Even More Electric Banana, appeared in a 1973 episode of Dr. Who, De Wolfe brought the band back to the studio to make more music. Phil May and John Povey were joined by drummer Skip Alan, guitarist Pete Tolson, bassist Stuart Brooks, and multi-instrumentalist Gordon Edwards and they laid down a selection of mainstream album rock tracks under the title Hot Licks. The record was released in 1973 and the Banana faded out of sight for a few years. By 1977, the band was once again looking for work and De Wolfe obliged. The lineup this time was May and bassist Waller along with guitarists Mickey Finn and Bill Lovelady, drummer Chico Greenwood and keyboardist Brian Johnson. The record didn't pay any heed to the punk sound exploding around them; instead, it was a set of good-time rockers released in 1978 as The Return of the Electric Banana. That was the end of the Banana's tenure at De Wolfe, although Waller did go on to make more recordings for the company. It wasn't the end of the Electric Banana story, however, as resourceful bootleggers frequently released collections of the songs recorded during the '60s sessions and finally in 2019, the Grapefruit label officially released all of the Electric Banana recordings in a lovingly packaged box set titled The Complete De Wolfe Sessions. ~ Tim Sendra, Rovi




 
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