Song Of The Day 7/16/2014: Red Alligator - "Real Cool"



Young Blood International!: I almost had to post this very cracked offering by "Red Alligator" with not much to say about it -- except how utterly bizarre and gruffly charming their 1969 recording "Real Cool" happens to be. I was able to find at least a general description of the kind of amalgamation Red Alligator was -- or who we thought they were -- courtesy of a 2012 post from the kindred music blog Left And To The Back:
As we all know, the sixties and seventies were shot though with session groups creating singles in the hope of scoring a hit. If the track stormed the charts, inevitably a touring group would then be created, some follow-ups, an album, and before too long everyone would be behaving as if they'd formed in the usual way. If it flopped, however, then follow-ups were unlikely, the band name got abandoned, and that remained the end of that. Red Alligator are one such example of the latter phenomenon. Put together by producer Miki Dallon, who had previously had success working with The Sorrows, they seem to have been forgotten about within weeks of it becoming apparent that this single wasn't going to do the business.
And why "Real Cool" wouldn't do the business is a mystery to me. Well, no, actually it's pretty obvious. But in my senior-discount parallel universe this record would log eons at the crest of the charts. What can you say about a song that sounds like a marching tune from the soundtrack of a '70s family sitcom then, without warning, swings into some groove-rock testifying a la Terry Reid? And then goes back into the marching bit?

But the plot thickens, or at least gets an infusion of absinthe or something. Turns out Red Alligator wasn't completely anonymous. The songwriter of "Real Cool" was credited as "J. Powell," which led me to do a little Discogs diving, where I found out "J. Powell" was Jimmy Powell, a British R&B singer who'd had a little following in London with his band, The Five Dimensions. A very young Rod Stewart was the harmonica player.

Powell and some of his cohorts (not Rod) were the backing band on Millie Small's classic ska hit "My Boy Lollipop". They made the circuits of all the British pop variety shows, and played some with the Stones and John Mayall's Blues Breakers. Powell even made a solo record with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones in the backup band.

Eventually Powell reconvened a new version of his group, called simply "Jimmy Powell & The Dimensions" (sans the "5"). In 2007 a Powell compilation called Progressive Talking Blues was released... and take a wild guess what song is on it.

Why Miki Dallon chose to release "Real Cool" under the new name "Red Alligator," when Powell had at least some established presence in the British rock scene, is still a mystery. Especially since Young Blood was putting out new Dimensions records. I don't know if it was an Eivets Rednow decision or a Dukes Of Stratosphear decision. But anyhoo, there you go: Red Alligator isn't anonymous at all, it's a gutsy R&B act from London who made a little of the scene in the '60s. Which means, of course, they're anonymous to most Americans. But I still really feel like I accomplished something tonight, so toss me a Nilla wafer and I'll catch it in my maw like a trained seal.



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