A. Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band - If This Is Love (I'd Rather Be Lonely)
AA. Stuart Smith - The Drifter
GENO WASHINGTON needs little introduction to the UK Soul/Mod scene. In his heyday, 1966-68, he was, reputedly, the highest-paid performer and certainly THE most indemand live act in UK club-land. At the time, it was very much the trend for upcoming white pop/rock bands to murder American R&B and Soul songs, but with Geno you got the real deal, the closest you’d ever get to hearing Wilson Pickett or Otis Redding live.
Geno was born William Francis Washington in Evansville, Indiana, 21st December, 1943 to very humble beginnings. He grew up fast and tough before discovering and embracing his natural afinity with music, rhythm and dance. As a teen, he played horn in the high-school marching band alongside his close friend Timmy Thomas. He changed his name to Geno – because he thought it would impress the girls – and, after leaving high-school, joined the airforce marching band and was transferred to England, arriving in East Anglia a week before his 18th birthday.
Geno performed with local bands in and around the Ipswich area, eventually teaming up with Pete Gage’s Ram Jam Band in late ’65, and they quickly made a name for themselves with their medley-inspired, adenalin-fuelled live shows. Within months, they had signed to the Pye Records label ‘Piccadilly’ and scored a Top 40 hit with their finger-clickin’ debut single “Water”. A few minor hits followed, including their admirable cover, the C.O.D.’s Chicago anthem “Michael”, but the crowning glory was their album Hand Clappin’, Foot Stompin’, Funky Butt… Live, which reached No.5 and remained in the U.K. pop charts for a staggering 38 weeks. A second live album followed, Hipsters, Flipsters And Finger Poppin’ Daddies, which also broke the Top 10 and spent a further three months on the chart. During this flurry of recording, Geno and the Band laid down their version of “If This Is Love (I’d Rather Be Lonely)”, originally cut by The Precisions earlier in 1967. The song probably came to their attention via one of the many publishers based on Denmark Street, London’s Tin Pan Alley, but, for whatever reason at the time, it remained in the can and has eluded a vinyl release ever since… UNTIL NOW!
Which leads us nicely into our double-A side “The Drifter”, another Pye recording that has languished, unreleased, until now. The song, a true Northern Soul icon, was originally recorded in America in 1965 by Ray Pollard for United Artists. It scored a UK release the same year where it was picked up by Long John Baldry, who cut a very credible version on his album Looking At Long John Baldry and also a highly collectable United Artists single.
Baldry was a favourite figure on the UK club scene, often performing alongside Geno and other Pye acts such as Jimmy James and The Vagabonds. It’s little wonder then that the song caught the ear of Pye’s A&R department and was recorded by the unknown Stuart Smith, who has had to wait over 50 years for his 2 minutes and 54 seconds of fame!
Two fabulous reasons to make this one of the top reissue 45s of 2021!
Special thanks to rare soul collector and UK authority Pete Smith for bringing this to our attention after all these years.