Friday, March 1, 2013

The 5th Estate -Ding Dong! The Witch Is Back!: The Fifth Estate, 1964-1969





Members
Rick Engler - guitar, fuzz bass, lead vocals, harmonica
Ken 'Furvus' Evans - drums, vocals
Doug 'Duke' Ferrara - bass, lead harmony vocals
Wayne 'Wads' Wadhams (d. 19 August 2008) - harpsichord, piano, organ, lead vocals
Bill Shute - guitar, shugro 8, vocals
Chuck LeGros - vocals, harmonica (1966)
Bob 'Bobby Lee' Klein - lead vocals, keyboards, guitar (1969 + 2006>)


Best remembered for their 1967 novelty smash "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead," pop combo the Fifth Estate began their career in Stamford, CT, in 1964 as the Demen. Originally comprised of singer Don Askew, guitarists Rick Engler and Ken Evans, bassist Doug Ferrara, keyboardist Wayne Wadhams, and drummer Bill Shute, the group soon changed its name to the D-Men, honing a British Invasion-influenced garage approach that resulted in a contract with the tiny Veep label. Their debut single, "Don't You Know," appeared in the fall of 1964, soon followed by "I Just Don't Care"; neither single earned notice outside of the Stamford area, and the D-Men adopted a folk-rock sound for 1965's "So Little Time," their lone effort for the Kapp label. Following the addition of lead vocalist Chuck LeGros, the band adopted the name the Fifth Estate, relocated to New York City, and in May 1966 returned with "Love Is a Game," one of the last-ever singles on the venerable Red Bird label, which closed its doors soon after the single's release. Although Askew and Wadhams were enjoying some success as songwriters, placing material with the Brothers Four and Reparata & the Delrons, the rest of the Fifth Estate were growing increasingly disenchanted with the music business -- frustrations reached their peak in late 1966, when LeGros stomped off-stage during the middle of a set and never returned.

While performing at a Christmas party not long after, Askew reportedly cracked that given the proper production and promotion, any song could become a hit; his bandmates took the bait, and Askew and Wadhams set to work on adapting the Wizard of Oz chestnut "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead," basing their arrangement in part on Michael Praetorius' dance suite "Terpsichore." Jubilee Records heard the demo and quickly signed the group, with "Ding Dong!" falling just shy of the Billboard Top Ten in mid-June 1967; the Fifth Estate spent the summer touring as part of a package headlined by Gene Pitney and the Happenings, and in August released the follow-up, the Lovin' Spoonful sound-alike "The Goofin' Song." The record went nowhere, as did the subsequent "Heigh Ho!" As some of the lineup returned to college, the Fifth Estate recorded and performed sporadically -- later Jubilee singles including "Do Drop Inn" and "Coney Island Sally" substituted session musicians for members who were MIA, and 1969's "The Mickey Mouse Club March" featured none of the official members at all. When Jubilee called it quits later that year, the Fifth Estate followed suit; Wadhams later enjoyed a career as a producer and arranger of some note, also teaching at the Berklee School of Music; in 1995, his Boston Skyline label issued the 27-track D-Men/Fifth Estate compilation Ding Dong! The Witch Is Back.



In the mid-'60s, Wayne Wadhams performed in a band called the D-Men that evolved into the Fifth Estate. They went Top 15 in 1967 with a novelty remake of the Wizard of Oz tune "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead!." Their only hit on Jubilee Records is very misleading. This group should be as sought after as Moulty & the Barbarians. This is a very generous collection of demos: songs they wrote for the Righteous Brothers and Cilla Black, and covers of Buddy Holly's "It's So Easy"" and John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom." This album really goes across the '60s spectrum, which makes it so fun and so unique. The rhythm tracks to "I Wanna Shout/Tomorrow Is My Turn" sound like the Ventures performing in your living room; the second portion of the song descends into a dirty "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"-type riff. With all the cult fascination for Roky Erickson and the Chocolate Watchband, it is amazing what the 64-plus minutes on this disc reveal, and even more amazing that this music isn't as sought after as so many other bands from that era. A novelty hit, after all, hardly has the lustre of a Standells riff or ? & the Mysterians' organ passages. The unreleased 1966 single "How Can I Find the Way" sounds like Barbara Harris of the Toys. The liner notes on the back of the CD call this "A real first: the complete recorded output and memoirs of a group who recorded for four labels between 1964 and 1967." The demo for their breakthrough hit, the cover from The Wizard of Oz (as well as the hit version) is here, and when you play that next to "Love Isn't Tears Only," their demo for the Righteous Brothers, the abilities of these New Englanders comes totally into focus. It would've been perfect for the Walker Brothers or Tom Jones. The McGregor Clothes jingle is lifted carefully from Chad & Jeremy's 1964 hit "Yesterday's Gone." Murray the K even makes an appearance -- a tape from his WINS-AM show recorded in 1964 appears in between songs four and six. Early work by future producers Bill Szymczyk and Phil Ramone are also included; the liner notes by Joe Tortelli are as thorough as his lengthy essay in the Delaney & Bonnie package for Rhino. The 28 tracks, featuring 26 songs, the Murray the K bit, and the clothing jingle would be a good study course in the life of a rock band who hit it big, and all their work that went in between. Wayne Wadhams is a major producer who has worked with jazz act Full Circle on Columbia, among many others. As producer David Foster emerged from the Canadian band Skylark, the history of producer Wadhams compiled here with his Fifth Estate is more than just a good study. As stated, this is a real period piece for collectors of vintage '60s music. ~ Joe Viglione Includes liner notes by Joe Tortelli. Producers: Kevin Gavin, Steve Jerome, The Fifth Estate. Engineers include: Bill Szymczyk, Phil Ramone, Eddie Youngblood. The Fifth Estate: Chuck Legros, (vocals, tambourine); Bill Shute (acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin); Rick Engler (guitar, background vocals); Wayne Wadhams (vocals, piano, harpsichord, organ); Doug Ferrara (bass, percussion, background vocals); Ken Evans (drums, percussion). Additional personnel: Dick Charles, Kevin Gavin, Robin Moiser, Kenny Karen (vocals); Steve Jerome (jews harp); Robert Klein (drums).



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