Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Murmaids - Popsicles And Icicles

The Murmaids can safely be classed as one-hit wonders -- but that one hit, "Popsicles and Icicles," not only characterizes an entire innocent era of pop music and the early phase of '60s girl-group music, but was a key early career jump for several of the participants. The Murmaids were Carol Fischer, Terry Fischer, and Sally Gordon of Los Angeles. They'd grown up together and had begun singing, and when the singing began to show promise in their middle/late-teens, the Fischer sisters' mother brought them into Chattahoochie Records, a tiny Los Angeles-based label, for an audition. The label's recording manager was Kim Fowley, who provided them with a song called "Popsicles and Icicles," composed by David Gates, an Oklahoman with musical aspirations who'd been knocking around Los Angeles for the last few years, writing songs and playing the odd session. The mix of dreamy melody and ethereal girl-trio voices was a quick chart success, "Popsicles and Icicles" scaling into the Top Ten in late 1963. It was, alas, to be the first and last time that the Murmaids were to occupy the attention of chart compilers. And, ironically, by the time the song was a hit, Carol and Terry Fischer had started college, and this was of much greater concern to them -- the trio did cut a few more songs in an effort to follow up on "Popsicles and Icicles'" success, but only "Heartbreak Ahead" in early 1964 managed to get any airplay. Without a full-time professional commitment to touring or personal appearance, the Murmaids proved a one-off success, "Popsicles and Icicles" disappearing, but not without leaving a lot of fond memories for radio listeners. Fowley kept working to get another chart hit, without success, and later Murmaids singles were very likely the work of other singers. The last Murmaids single appeared in 1968, by which time Fowley had begun working with the Clinger Sisters, a girl group (and former regulars on television variety shows, including Danny Kaye's program) who had turned toward a more rocking sound on Columbia Records. David Gates, whose song had given the Murmaids their one claim to fame, was taking his big steps to stardom around that time, forming the group Bread in 1969, which would bring him massive success both as a songwriter ("Make It With You," etc.) and as a pop-rock star during the early '70s. The Murmaids themselves remain a fixture of early/mid-'60s girl group collections. Their records -- and they left behind the equivalent of about an album of surprisingly good material -- recall the Paris Sisters, the Fleetwoods, the Teddy Bears and the rest of the innocent side of girl-group music. ~ Bruce Eder, All Music Guide

This 13-song CD reveals a wider range than the Murmaids' status as one-hit wonders would lead one to expect. The title tune, driven by a softly strummed rhythm guitar behind the gentle, ethereal singing of the trio, is a quintessential piece of early-'60s pop/rock, not as striking as "To Know Him Is to Love Him" but still memorable. The '40s pop standard, "Playmates" (covered by Sandy Stewart in Go Johnny Go) turns up as a bouncy pop/jazz style number, the trio backed by piano, bass, and drums. "You Cheated" is pretty, if routine, girl group fare, but the version of "Mr. Sandman" has an upbeat feel with a certain touch of earthiness. "Alone" is a throwback to doo wop sounds, complete with a "yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah" chorus and a very busy rhythm section, with the Murmaids trying hard emulate the Marcels' "Blue Moon." "Don't Forget" seems to have been producer Kim Fowley's attempt to mimic the Crystals, complete with an anthem-like chorus, a driving beat, and a pseudo-Spector backing band. The coming of age love song "So Young" shows more healthy lust than much of the trio's other repertory. The outstanding track, however, is "Wild and Wonderful," a soaring ballad with a ravishing array of hooks, a gorgeous organ and guitar arrangement, and a haunting fade-out. And anyone who wants more songs like "Popsicles and Icicles" will find them in "Heartbreak Ahead" and "Three Little Words." Strangely enough, one of their big hit's two B-sides, "Blue Dress," is present, but not the other, "Huntington Flats."

1. The Murmaids - Popsicles And Icicles (2:34)
2. The Murmaids - Bull Talk (2:32)
3. The Murmaids - Don't Forget (2:23)
4. The Murmaids - Three Little Words (2:12)
5. The Murmaids - He's Good To Me (2:17)
6. The Murmaids - You Cheated (2:19)
7. The Murmaids - Mr. Sandman (2:29)
8. The Murmaids - Blue Dress (2:24)
9. The Murmaids - Playmates (2:25)
10. The Murmaids - Wild And Wonderful (2:35)
11. The Murmaids - Alone (2:15)
12. The Murmaids - Heartbreak Ahead (2:31)
13. The Murmaids - So Young (2:09)
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