This continues the story of Len Barry and “1-2-3,” as told by Roger earlier this weekend.
We begin, as we must, with a song:
“The Electric Indian,” said Jimmy Bishop of Philadelphia soul powerhouse WDAS on the liner notes of their LP (United Artists UAS 6728), “is not history. It is the present and the future.”
To give Bishop his due, they indeed didn’t have much of a history, at least as a group: they were all session pros from Philly. That’s Vince Montana on the vibes, and Daryl Hall, pre-Oates, on rhythm guitar. The present was an idea by Bernie Binnick, who’d founded the local Swan label many years before: according to local guitarist Frank Virtue, Binnick wanted something Indian, with sitars and all. What he wound up with was, well, a different sort of Indian entirely, complete with vaguely-Native American (“savage” and “pulsating,” said Bishop) rhythm. Perhaps this was the influence of Binnick’s co-writer, listed as one Bernice Borisoff, who almost certainly had some connection to producer Leonard Borisoff, better known as Dovells lead singer and later solo act Len Barry.
The record first appeared on Barry’s own Marmaduke label, and was licensed to UA after it started to take hold outside Philadelphia. One more single, a non-LP cover of Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1000 Dances,” managed to chart (at #95) before the Electric Indian name was retired, though the group kept pushing the Native American motif: the B-side of that Kenner cover was called “Geronimo,” and the next single was called “Rain Dance.”
Most of the E.I.’s tracks were recorded at Philly’s legendary Sigma Sound, and several of those session pros, including Montana, evolved into MFSB, the band behind all those Philadelphia International hits produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Quite a future it turned out to be.
Much of this, I compiled for my Single File series back in 2009. And just for the heck of it, here’s the last track from the Keem-O-Sabe album:
This is almost enough to forgive Len Barry for covering “Somewhere” from West Side Story (Decca 31923, #26, 1966).