The Action

The Action was an English rock band that cut five 1965–67 Parlophone singles, including the mod-soul anthem “I’ll Keep Holding On” and the psych nugget “Shadows and Reflections.” They recorded more than three full album’s worth of material that later appeared on the archival CDs Ultimate! Action and Rolled Gold. In 1969, they morphed into Might Baby.

Members: Reg King (vocals, 1965-67, 1998-2004), Alan King (guitar, lead vocals), Michael Evans (bass), Roger Powell (drums), Peter Watson (guitar, 1965-66, 1998-2004), Ian Whiteman (keyboards, 1967-69), Martin Stone (guitar, 1967-69)

The Boys

The Action formed as The Boys in August 1963 in Kentish Town when singer Reginald King (1945–2010) and guitarist Alan ‘Bam’ King  (b. 1945, no relation) teamed with bassist Mike ‘Ace’ Evans and drummer Roger Powell. They served as the backing band of singer Sandra Barry — a combination sometimes billed as Sandra & The Boys — and performed on her March 1964 Decca single “Really Gonna Shake” (b/w “When We Get Married”). Reg King wrote both sides.

On November 13, 1964, Pye issued The Boys debut single: the Reg numbers “It Ain’t Fair” and “I Want You.” Though uncredited, Evans devised the “I Want You” riff.

They made one further Boys recording: an acetate of Reg’s “Fine Looking Girl.” Lead guitarist Pete Watson joined the band, which renamed itself The Action and developed a live repertoire comprised of American soul covers. Beatles producer George Martin secured them a deal with Parlophone. The Action were managed by Rikki Farr, brother of singer Gary Farr (then of R&B stalwarts the T-Bones, which featured future Nice members Keith Emerson and Lee Jackson).


“Land of One Thousand Dances”

On October 15, 1965, The Action released their first single, “Land of One Thousand Dances,” an R&B cover backed with the Motown number “In My Lonely Room.”

“Land of One Thousand Dances” is a 1962 song by New Orleans soul singer Chris Kenner. In early 1965, Mexican-American garage rockers Cannibal & the Headhunters had a No. 30 Billboard hit with the song. In 1966, Wilson Pickett popularized the song with a version that reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“In My Lonely Room” is a song by the Motown staff-writing team of Holland–Dozier–Holland. In 1964, Martha & the Vandellas took their version to No. 6 on the Cashbox R&B chart.


“I’ll Keep Holding On”

On February 11, 1966, The Action released their second single “I’ll Keep Holding On,” a Motown cover backed with the “Hey Sah-Lo-Ney,” a recent obscurity on Swan (the Beatles first US label).

“I’ll Keep Holding On” is a song by Motown staff writers Mickey Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter; first recorded as a 1965 Tamla a-side by The Marvelettes.

“Hey Sah-Lo-Ney” is an R&B song by Brill Building songwriter and recording artist Mickey Lee Lane, who co-wrote it with his brother Bernie Lane and released it as a 1965 Swan a-side.

On June 24, The Action appeared at the University of Durham as part of “June Ball ’66,” which also featured sets by the Yardbirds, The Roulettes (with Russ Ballard), the Graham Bond Organization, Mandy Rice Davies, Ronnie Aldrich, The Checkmates, Ken Colyer, and Simba & The Outer Limits.


“Baby You’ve Got It”

On July 1, 1966, The Action released their third single “Baby You’ve Got It,” a recent US soul obscurity backed with a cover of the Billboard R&B hit “Since I Lost My Baby.”

“Baby You’ve Got It” is a 1966 song by Chicago soulster Maurice McAlister (aka Smokey McAlister), a Chess recording artist who co-wrote the song with label staffer Terry Vail and released it as a a-side with vocal trio The Radiants. (Another McAlister song, “I Can’t Stand It,” appears on the 1965 debut album by the Spencer Davis Group.)

“Since I Lost My Baby” is a Motown song by Smokey Robinson and Pete Moore of The Miracles; first cut by The Temptations as a 1965 a-side on the Gordy label.

In late 1966, Watson left The Action, which continued as a quartet.


“Never Ever”

On February 17, 1967, The Action released their fourth single “Never Ever” backed with “Twentyfourth Hour,” both Martin-produced group originals.


“Shadows and Reflections”

On June 23, 1967, The Action released “Shadows and Reflections,” a psychedelic side backed with “Something Has Hit Me,” a song Reg King co-wrote with Melody Maker journalist Nick Jones.

“Shadows and Reflections” is a song by LA music executive Larry Marks and Minnesotan songwriter Tandyn Almer, best known for writing the Associations hit “Along Comes Mary.” The first version of “Shadows and Reflections” appeared as a 1967 MGM single attribute to The Lownly Crowde: a studio outfit that rendered the song as a vocal MOR number (side a) and a brassy instrumental (side b).

“Something Has Hit Me”

In France, both sides appeared with the preceding “Never Ever” single as an EP on the Odéon label.


Missing Period

In mid-1967, The Action cut ties with Farr and Parlophone. Later that year, they added keyboardist Ian Whiteman and demoed new originals for a prospective album. Tensions arose between Reg King and Whiteman, prompting the latter’s spring 1968 departure. They cut further demos with guitarist Martin Stone, an early member of Savoy Brown. However, no deal ensued and Reg King quit the band in mid-1968. The demoed material (roughly fifteen songs) remained vaulted until the 1995 archival disc Brain (The Lost Recordings 1967/68), later reissued as Rolled Gold.

Whiteman rejoined The Action, which briefly gigged as Azoth, then reclaimed their name in late 1968 and demoed five new songs. These recordings remained vaulted until the 1985 archival EP Action Speak Louder Than….

In January 1969, they signed to Head Records, a fledgling post-psych indie label established by their former roadie John Curd, who changed their name to Mighty Baby. Meanwhile, a new Action single appeared outside the UK.


“The Harlem Shuffle”

In May 1969, the German Hansa label issued one final Action single: “The Harlem Shuffle” an R&B cover backed with the Petula Clark cover “Wasn’t It You.”

“The Harlem Shuffle” is a 1963 R&B song by the American vocal duo Bob & Earl, whose original reached No. 36 on the Cashbox Top 100. In 1966, rockabilly vets The Traits dented the Billboard Hot 100 with their brassy R&B cover version.

“Wasn’t It You” (incorrectly credited on the label as a group original) is a song by Brill Building power-couple Jerry Goffin and Carole King; included on Petula’s 1966 Pye–Warner release I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love and since covered by UK singer Billie Davis and American garage rockers the Soul Seekers.


The Ultimate! Action

In November 1980, upstart UK archivists Edsel Records issued The Ultimate! Action, a fourteen-song compilation of the band’s 1964–67 recordings. Renewed interest in The Action stemmed from the recent mod revival, prompted by The Jam, whose frontman, Paul Weller, wrote the compilation’s liner notes.

The Ultimate! Action contains all ten of their Parlophone a- and b-sides, plus “Harlem Shuffle.” It also includes three unearthed tracks: one Reg original (“The Cissy”), an Impressions cover (“I Love You (Yeah)”), and a song of unknown origin (“The Place”).

“I Love You (Yeah)” is a song by Impressions frontman Curtis Mayfield, included on their 1964 ABC-Paramount release Keep On Pushing.

Weller writes that “The Action were one of the few bands to not only capture the Tamla/soul sounds, but actually shape it into their own style and sound.” In that regard, Weller compares them favorably to the Small Faces; further stating that “Alongside Steve Marriott, I reckon Reggie King stands as one of the best of the white soul singers; in some ways his rich soul voice sounds a lot more natural then Marriott’s.”

In 2001, Edsel issued Action Packed!, a seventeen-song CD with The Ultimate! Action contents and three additional tracks: “Wasn’t It You” and the newly unearthed “Just Once In My Life” and “Come On, Come With Me.

“Just Once In My Life” is a song that Goffin–King wrote with Phil Spector for the Righteous Brothers, whose 1965 version reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1966, ex-Animals keyboardist Alan Price covered it on The Price to Play, his debut album leading the Alan Price Set.

“Come On, Come With Me” is a group-original by the lineup of King, King, Evans, and Powell.


Brain (The Lost Recordings 1967/68) = Rolled Gold

In 1995, archivists Dig the Fuzz Records issued Brain (The Lost Recordings 1967/68), a fifteen-song CD compilation of Action demos, recorded between autumn 1967 and spring 1968. It disc contains all original material: including four Reg King numbers (“Come Around,” “Brain,” “Climbing Up The Wall To See You, See Me,” “Follow Me”) and five King–King co-writes (“I’ve Got Something to Say,” “Love Is All,” “Icarus,” “Strange Roads,” “In My Dreams”). The disc contains two versions of “In My Dreams” — a Martin-produced orchestral recording and a raw demo.

Whiteman plays flute on three numbers, including “Things You Can Not See,” a track he co-wrote with Reg, who collaborated with Evans on “Look at the View.” One track, “It Really Doesn’t Matter,” credits eight writers, including the six Action members and subjects ‘M. Oram’ and ‘N. Jones’. Stone plays lead on seven tracks, including “Stranger,” a Reg–Stone co-write. The penultimate song, “Little Boy,” is a co-write between Reg and Blossom Toes drummer Kevin Westlake, who cut a 1968 collaborative single with Gary Farr on Marmalade.

In 1998, Dig the Fuzz reissued Brian as Rolled Gold with several titles scalloped or appended (indicated in parentheses).

“In My Dreams (Orchestrated)”
“Come Around”
“I’ve Got Something to Say” (aka “Something to Say”)
“Love Is All”
“Icarus”
“Strange Roads”
“Things You Can Not See” (aka “Things You Cannot See”)
“Brain”
“Look at the View”
“Climbing Up the Wall to See You, See Me” (aka “Climbing Up the Wall”)
“It Really Doesn’t Matter”
“Stranger” (aka “I’m a Stranger”)
“Follow Me”
“Little Boy”
“In My Dreams (Demo)”


Action Speak Louder Than…

In 1985, the post-Reg demos from late 1968 appeared on the mini-album Action Speak Louder Than…, released on the UK punk label Dojo. It contains five Whiteman originals.

“Only Dreaming”
“Dustbin Full of Rubbish”
“An Understanding Love”
“My Favourite Day”
“A Saying for Today”

The Action Speak Louder tracks were produced by Peter Jenner, a soundman on 1969–70 Harvest titles by the Edgar Broughton Band, Kevin Ayers, and the Third Ear Band. The tracks were remixed by ex-Vinegar Joe guitarist Pete Gage, an Action contemporary in the R&B–beat group The Zephyrs.


Post-Action

The final Action lineup (Whiteman, Stone, Evans, Powell, and Alan King) morphed into acid rockers Might Baby and made one album on Head, followed by the 1971 Blue Horizon release A Jug of Love. After Alan’s departure, Whiteman, Evans, and Powell formed Habibiyya for the 1972 raga-rock Island release If Man But Knew.

In 1971, Reg King surfaced on on United Artists with a self-titled album; recorded with Evans, Stone, Powell, Whiteman, and Blossom Toes guitarist Brian Godding.

Alan King formed Ace, an R&B ‘pub rock’ band with singer–keyboardist Paul Carrack (ex-Warm Dust). They released three 1974–77 albums on Anchor Records. The first, Five-A-Side, features “How Long,” a mid-tempo soul-rock ballad that reached No. 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100.


Discography:

  • “Land of a Thousand Dances” / “In My Lonely Room” (1965)
  • “I’ll Keep Holding On” / “Hey Sha-Lo-Ney” (1966)
  • “Baby, You’ve Got It” / “Since I Lost My Baby” (1966)
  • “Never Ever” / “Twenty Fourth Hour” (1967)
  • “Shadows and Reflections” / “Something Has Hit Me” (1967)

Compilations:

  • The Ultimate! Action (1964–67 recordings)
  • Rolled Gold (1967–68 recordings)
  • Action Speak Louder Than… (1968 demos)

Sources:

2 thoughts on “The Action

  1. “Musically, The Action progressed from an R&B/beat style akin to The Artwoods and The V.I.P.s to a more refined, soulful, full-bodied approach by the time of the 1967–68 Rolled Gold sessions. The band’s mature phase is best represented by the electric/acoustic chordal thickness and harmonized airs of “Things You Cannot See” and “Icarus,” which were finally issued 30 years after they were recorded by archival label Dig the Fuzz.” – from the first draft (2018).

  2. Shadows and reflections wasn’t first issued as a single by The Lownly Crowde! Eddie Hodges did it first.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *