The Fantastic Baggys
The Fantastic Baggys were a LA studio project by PF Sloan and Steve Barri. The duo recorded one album for Imperial in 1964 Tell 'em I'm surfin', as well as three singles. Although there were four Fantastic Baggys pictured on the album cover of Tell em' I'm surfin', only Steve and Phil were band members. While the exact reasons for the commercial failure of the Tell 'em I'm Surfin' album are a mystery, there is no doubt that mid 1964 was a little late for a surf album in the US. By then the British Invasion was in full swing and surf music had lost it's magic
The one place where Tell 'em I'm Surfin' did extremely well was in South Africa where it was a big seller. The single peaked at no 2 on the Springbok charts in Aug 1966. Upon the album's success, TEAL Record Company in South Africa was so eager to issue new Baggys albums that, when none were forthcoming, they created their own indigenous version of The Fantastic Baggys. They subsequently signed one of their own bands, The Falling Leaves, to do the job. Their first single release was Papa do ro ron with Anywhere the girls are by the US Baggys on the b side. Papa do ron ron peaked at no 10 on the Springbok charts in November 1966.
Sloan explained in an interview that ..." Dunhill felt that they owned the name P.F. Sloan, and could put out material as they liked under that name, as they did with The Fantastic Baggys. Today it would be unthinkable. They had the brand name of The Fantastic Baggys, and therefore they could sell the name wherever they wanted to, without caring about the material, the production or the work. I had written a letter to the South African Fantastic Baggys asking them if they would like any help with what they were doing, but Dunhill forbade me to have any contact with them at all. Their songs are not bad, but they are obviously different from the stuff we were doing. "
Two additional Fantastic Baggys albums were released in South Africa, consisting mostly of songs by the like-named South African group, with a few leftover cuts by the real Baggys. The second album, Ride The Wild Surf, was released in November 1966. Although five tracks, drawn from singles and out-takes, did feature Sloan and Barri, more than half the set featured the Falling Leaves themselves. By the release of Surfer's Paradise in 1967, the excitement had run it's course. The last album only featured one Sloan/ Barri composition, Only When You're Lonely. Some sources incorrectly claim that it was mistakenly drawn from another studio project, the Grass Roots. I have listened to both recordings and there is no doubt in my mind that the track in question was recorded by the local outfit. The last two Baggys albums were commercial flops as the band failed to keep pace with the public's shifting musical tastes.
The SA Baggys returned to the local singles chart in 1967 with a cover of the Ivy League's Four and twenty hours which did reasonably well for them. Unlike Sloan, the Ivy League toured South Africa during 1966 and were backed on stage by Pete Clifford's 004. In 1967 Steve Barri told The Thomas Group that I've Got No More To Say was a huge hit in South Africa. Yet another success story for Sloan/ Barri in a country renowned for sun, surf and bikini girls. Incidentally, South Africa's first indigenous surf song Get your Baggys on was recorded in1965 by locals boys, the Bats. Bruce Johnston, before his Beach Boys days, recorded an instrumental surf song Capetown as a tribute to the local surfing community. The popularity of PF Sloan compositions in South Africa were now almost a given and he subsequently impressed another man with strong South African ties, Mickie Most, who requested him to write a song for Herman's Hermits. " I wrote the song downstairs in the dressing room of a sunset strip rock club. Donovan was performing that night and his manager Mickey asked me if I would write a song called A must to avoid for the Hermits movie...problem was he was leaving the following day and needed it right away... I went downstairs and borrowed one of Donovan's guitars and sketched out the song...The next day I told Barri about it and he helped with some of the lyrics...I cut a rough demo on it and gave it to Mickey...."
Various SA musicians copied Sloan and information on cover versions of his songs are well documented on various web sites. However, the only cover not listed anywhere is Billy Andrews' ex- Staccatos solo version of Pardon me (it's my first day alone). Also of importance is the fact that PF Sloan's composition Secret Agent Man fell prey to prison censorship and the song was banned from the Robben Island prison library while Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were jailed on the Island. Even the cover design of local folk singer, Nick Taylor's 1965 album Looking Out was copied from PF Sloan's album Songs Of Our Times. PF Sloan was indeed an influential musician in mid sixties South Africa.
Tyron Khoury, skin basher for many South African groups in the sixties confirmed that The Falling Leaves recorded as The Fantastic Baggys. The final line-up were: Art Fisher [lead ex meteors], George McCauley [bass], Luigi Merola [vocals/ rhythm guitar] and Tyron himself. Martin Sack guitar also played for the outfit during 1966 - '67. The Falling Leaves recorded 3 singles for PYE and 1 for Continental. McCauley is an older brother of the well known Rhema Church personality, Ray McCauley.
Discography: South African Pressings (including 2 from abroad)
1966 Tell 'Em I'm Surfin'/ Big Gun Board
Imperial IRS. 87
1966 Pa Pa Do Ron Ron/ Anywhere The Girls Are
Imperial IRS. 94
1967 Four And Twenty Hours/ Ride The Wild Surf
Imperial IRS. 96
1966 Tell 'Em I'm Surfin'
IMPERIAL IRL 367
1982 Tell 'Em I'm Surfin'
LIBERTY LN 10192 (US Pressing)
Comment: This is an abridged version of the original album.
1980 Summer Means Fun: Californian Surf Music 1962 - 1974
Capitol 1A 046-78 038 (Dutch Pressing)
1966 Ride The Wild Surf
IMPERIAL IRL 374
1967 Surfers Paradise
IMPERIAL IRL 381
1967 Summer Blonde Beach Party
SUMMER BLONDE: Various Artists
Recommended Web sites:
South Africa's Rock Classics