Mr. Darrell Banks
“Listen – Our Love Is In the Pocket MP3″
Friday has finally arrived, and the sweet, sweet smell of one of the last weekends of the summer is upon us. Goodbye tourists! Goodbye traffic! Helloooooo peace and quiet.
I can’t say that I’m any less tired than I was on Wednesday, but knowing that it’s almost Saturday, the promise of extra sleep and being free to engage in slackjawed do-nothing-ness is enough to energize me. That and the extra groovy see-lek-shun that I have lined up for your delectation, which once you open up your ears and let it step on in, will prove once again that some records – possessed of a certain élan and perspicacity – are just made to launch a weekend.
The first time I ever heard ‘Our Love Is in the Pocket’ was sometime in the early 80’s. I had been out, perusing the sunburnt fare at a local flea market and happened upon a copy of the first Amen Corner LP ‘Round Amen Corner’. I grabbed it mainly because I had heard of the band (having seen singer Andy Fairweather-Low perform at the Ronnie Lane ARMS benefit at Madison Square Garden), and I was of course predisposed then – as I am now – to hoover up vinyl like it’s going out of style.
When I got the record home, and gave it a spin, I was at first perplexed (having made the mistaken assumption that Amen Corner were a psychedelic band), then pleased with my purchase. Here was a band that in the midst of all the dandelion, licorice, cotton candy clouds of late 60’s UK psychedelia, were working a decidedly R&B cum soul vibe which I found to say the least, delightful.
The tune that grabbed me right away, and shook me to the soles of my feet was ‘Our Love is In the Pocket’. At the time I had no idea that the song was a cover, let alone a revered part of the Northern Soul canon (hell, I hadn’t even heard of Northern Soul yet). I was put on the right track shortly, as I was singing the praises of the song to one of my Mod/Garage cohorts, who then informed me that the song had originally been recorded by a cat named Darrell Banks.
So, back to the flea market I went, and before long I held in my hands a copy of the original 45. The first time I placed it on the turntable, I knew that no matter how much I liked Amen Corner’s version, there was – as has been said many times, about many things – no substitute for the original. Banks rough, deeply soulful voice provided a magical counterpoint to the sweet melody of the song. In the ensuing years, the credits on the label began to come into focus, in that I found out that the GEO in GEO-SI-MIK was none other than George Clinton, a musician that would soon occupy a place of honor in my record collection, from the days of the Parliaments right on through to Funkadelic (SI-MIK being respectively Sidney Barnes and Mike Terry).
When I began to understand the whole Northern Soul “thing”, I realized why this record (and to an even greater extent the 1969 cover by JJ Barnes – which used the same backing track) was so revered. If there was ever a record that could serve as a blueprint for a particular sound, ‘Our Love Is In the Pocket’ is it. From the propulsive 4/4 beat, to the ringing vibes, honking baritone sax and bright, sweet hooks, it’s as if it was ordered in the “one item from column A, one from column B” method from the Northern Soul “menu”.
Banks hailed from Buffalo, NY, where he performed locally. He was eventually signed by Solid Hitbound productions (hence the GEO-SI-MIK connection) in Detroit, who borrowed the name of the Buffalo lounge where Banks performed (the Revilot) for a new label, on which Banks debut 45 would be the initial release. Released in 1966, ‘Open Up The Door To Your Heart’ would become a Top 40 pop success, dragging its B-side ‘Our Love Is In the Pocket’ along for the ride.
Over the next four years, Banks would record 45s for Atco, Cotillion and Volt (as well as LPs for Atco and Volt), before he was tragically shot dead in a confrontation with an off-duty police officer in March of 1970.
As I mentioned before, ‘Our Love Is In the Pocket’ was covered by J.J. Barnes in 1969, with a Parliaments cover ‘All Your Goodies Are Gone’ on the flipside. Barnes version is held by many in the Northern Soul world to be the superior/definitive version. On this point I must respectfully disagree. The only difference between the two records (which as I said employ the same backing track) are the vocals, and while I understand the preference among some for the somewhat silkier quality of Barnes voice, I vote for Banks.
Currently, if you’re looking to score some of that good Darrell Banks sound, his ATCO LP (which included his Revilot sides), ‘Darrell Banks Is Here’ has been reissued. If you prefer to do a little digging, keep your eyes out for the definitive – but sadly out of print – ‘The Lost Soul’ on Goldmine. What I would suggest, is that you get off your duff (if you haven’t already done so) and take yourself a little vinyl safari in an attempt to unearth your very own copy of this 45. I have had at least half a dozen copies make their way into my hands over the years with little or no effort. As I stated before, ‘Open Up the Door To Your Heart’ was a Top 40 hit, so it shouldn’t be too hard to track it down.