Having a Beatle on your side in the late 60s really ought to have been the golden ticket to fame, fortune and loads more. But oddly enough it wasn’t always the case. And exhibit A are Mortimer, a band who were gifted an unreleased Macca gem yet still somehow managed to not to worry the chart compilers.
Their’s is truly a sorry tale. They formed in New York in the late 60s and had already recorded one excellent folk rock album that was reissued a few years back by Rev-Ola.
But sensing that London was where it was out the trio crossed the Atlantic and made a beeline for the Beatles’ west London offices. When they got there an impromptu audition impressed George Harrison and within weeks they were not only signed to the Apple label but had first crack at a new Macca song Two of Us – which at the time of the Mortimer recording was known as On Our Way Home.
Within a year or so they were headed back to the US tails between their legs with neither the single nor the album ever getting a full release, courtesy of the legal shenanigans which were besetting Apple. So the legendary Mortimer album myth was born. And now you can check out if to see if it matches the hype courtesy of a release on CD by RPM.
First up, there was good a reason why Mortimer’s take on Two Of Us was never a hit. On paper they should have excelled at the rambling folk pop and Everly Brothers style harmonies, for some odd reason it just doesn’t seem to work. The addition of an odd synth line only making it sound even more incongruous.
Fortunately Mortimer didn’t really need Macca anyway – they had plenty of great songs of their own. On Our Way Home the album is a veritable psych pop masterclass stuffed with beautiful melodies, stunning arrangements and plenty of 68/69 period trappings too. As much as I cherish that debut, this takes that sound they patented then a step further courtesy of some very clever songwriting and ambitious arrangements.
The track that should have been the hit was You Don’t Say You Love Me, bright Turtles type pop with a soulful twist and a hook-laden chorus. You Do Too is in the same ballpark with a stinging guitar runs, while People Who Are Different tuns the psych weirdness up a notch or two. I Didn’t Know is also a very classy slice of late 60s pop with a distinctive brass arrangement that channels The Bee Gees or maybe Simon and Garfunkel while Miles Apart recalls their debut with a chugging acoustic guitar nudged along by bongos.
They weren’t afraid of throwing the kitchen sink at the songs either. Polly is a slight floaty ballad that’s drenched not only in strings but the voices of pretty sizeable choir too. One of the bonus songs, Last Of H, comes with a bouncy African chant too.
Overall this a genuine find for RPM and album that if you love a bit of late 60s pop will keep you amused for months.