Tin Tin

Tin Tin was an Australian orchestral-pop combo that released the 1970–71 albums Tin Tin and Astral Taxi on Atco–Polydor. They charted with “Toast and Marmalade for Tea,” a psychedelic Bee Gees pastiche produced by Maurice Gibb.

Singer–keyboardist Steve Kipner (ex-Steve & The Board) formed the Los Angeles trios Friends and Skyband. After his 1979 solo album, Knock the Walls Down, he co-wrote hits for Olivia Newton-John (“Physical”) and Chicago (“Hard Habit to Break”).

Members: Steve Kipner (keyboards, percussion, vocals), Steve Groves (guitar, percussion, vocals), Johnny Vallins (bass, guitar, vocals), Geoff Bridgford (drums)


Background

Tin Tin evolved from Rombo’s World, a pop combo developed from Steve & Stevie, the duo of Steve Groves and Steve Kipner.

Groves originated as a singer–guitarist in The Kinetics, a Melbourne beat quartet with guitarist John Vallins. They cut three 1966–67 CBS singles, including the local Top 20 hit “Excuses.” After their late-1967 breakup, Grover linked with Kipner, the recent frontman of Steve & The Board, a Sydney garage-rock band that included drummer Colin Petersen (a future Bee Gee) and guitarist Carl Keats (responsible for one of the Bee Gees’ few outside compositions, “Lonely Winter”).>

The Board released five singles between 1965 and 1967, including “Rosalyn” (a Pretty Things cover) and “The Giggle-Eyed Goo!,” an East Coast hit penned by Steve’s father, Spin Records boss Nat Kipner. Before their breakup, drummer Geoff Bridgeford stepped in for the now UK-based Peterson.

Steve & Stevie linked with the London-based Toast Records, a subsidiary of Major Minor (a label founded by Irish music mogul Aodogán Ronan O’Rahilly of the pirate station Radio Caroline).


Steve & Stevie

Steve & Stevie released their self-titled album in 1968 on Toast (UK) and Fresa (France).

The album features two songs (“Melissa Green,” “The Birds”) lone-written by Steve Groves, who co-wrote ten numbers with Steve Kipner, including “Sunshine On Snow,” “Fairy Tale Princess,” “I Can See It In the Moon,” and “To Whom It May Concern” (a title later appropriated by the Bee Gees).

Steve & Stevie includes three songs (“Merry Go Round,” “Shine,” “She’s Getting Married”) which the duo joint-wrote with the elder Nat Kiper.

A1. “Merry Go Round”
A2. “Remains to Be Seen”
A3. “Sunshine On Snow”
A4. “Liza”
A5. “As I See My Life”
A6. “Shine”
B1. “To Whom It May Concern”
B2. “Melissa Green”
B3. “She’s Getting Married”
B4. “The Birds”
B5. “Fairy Tale Princess”
B6. “I Can See It In the Moon”

Nat Kipner produced Steve & Stevie, which features arrangements by Gerry Shury (John Bromley, Sharon Tandy). The album’s cover mimics an LP record with monochrome studio pics (on the “vinyl” area) and a logo (on the label spot).

Toast lifted “Merry-Go-Round” as a single (b/w “Remains to Be Seen”).


Tin Tin Forms

After the album, the two Steve’s formed Rombo’s World with Groves’ Kinetics colleague John Vallins. The project went unrecorded when Groves and Kipner traveled to London, where they renamed their act Tin Tin after the titular character in the long-running Belgian comic strip The Adventures of Tintin.

In London, Bee Gees member Maurice Gibb linked Tin Tin with Australian–British music mogul Robert Stigwood, who overtook the Gibb brothers’ management after their UK arrival, two years beforehand. Maurice took an auxiliary role in Tin Tin while Stigwood secured them a worldwide dead with Polydor.

On June 20, 1969, Tin Tin released their first single: “Only Ladies Play Croquet” backed with “He Wants to Be a Star,” both Groves–Kipner originals.

Meanwhile, Groves and Kipner held a drunken all-night sessions with Maurice and Billy Lawrie, the brother of Gibb’s then-wife Lulu. Their session generated “Have You Heard The Word,” a Beatles pastiche in the Magical Mystery vein that Beacon Records released as a single under the group moniker The Fut.


Tin Tin

Tin Tin released their self-titled debut album in February 1970 on Polydor. It features nine songs co-written by Steve Groves and Steve Kipner, including “She Said Ride,” “Family Tree,” “Manhattan Woman,” “Lady in Blue,” and both sides of their earlier single.

Kipner lone-wrote the medley track “Flag / Put Your Money on My Dog.” Grover submitted three solo compositions: “Nobody Moves Me Like You,” “Spanish Shepherd,” and the breakout hit “Toast and Marmalade for Tea.”

Tin Tin features Kipner on bass, harpsichord, mellotron, piano, and tambourine. Producer Maurice Gibb makes guest appearances on organ (“Manhattan Woman”), mellotron (“Spanish Shepherd”), bass (“Toast and Marmalade,” “He Wants to Be a Star”), and multiple instruments (“Croquet”).

A1. “She Said Ride” (2:43)
A2. “Swans on the Canal” (2:13)
A3. “Flag / Put Your Money on My Dog” (4:29)
A4. “Nobody Moves Me Like You” (1:55)
A5. “Tuesday’s Dreamer” (1:22)
A6. “Only Ladies Play Croquet” (2:21) features Gibb, Groves, and Kipner on drums.
B1. “Family Tree” (2:31)
B2. “Spanish Shepherd” (2:36)
B3. “He Wants to Be a Star” (2:12)
B4. “Toast and Marmalade for Tea” (2:22) features a wobbly piano melody that the engineer caused by accident when he leaned on the tape machine.
B5. “Loves Her That Way” (2:24)
B6. “Manhattan Woman” (3:08)
B7. “Lady in Blue” (3:30) credits Kipner with “Coca Cola bottle effect.”

Maurice Gibb produced Tin Tin in sequence with Cucumber Castle, the only Bee Gees album that he and elder brother Barry Gibb recorded as a duo in the absence of Robin, who briefly left his brothers for a solo career. Steve & Stevie arranger Gerry Shurt supplied orchestration on “Swans,” “Toast,” and “Lady In Blue.”

Tin Tin appeared in a pink sleeve (monochrome back) with multiple photos of the two primary members. The intensity of pink varied by nation.

Tin Tin gained traction after the May 1970 release of their second single “Toast and Marmalade for Tea” (b/w “Manhattan Woman”), which reached No. 10 on the Australian Go-Set chart and peaked at No. 11 in New Zealand and Canada.


Interim Singles

Months after the album, Kipner’s Board bandmate Geoff Bridgeford joined Tin Tin. On November 20, 1970, they released their third single: “Come On Over Again,” a three-way composition backed with “Back to Winona.”

A. “Come On Over Again”
B. “Back to Winona” Groves, Kipner, Grozman

ATCO finally issued Tin Tin with “Come On Over Again” in lieu of “Loves Her That Way” in the US, where “Toast and Marmalade for Tea” reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. In Canada, Polydor issued the album with the ATCO tracklist under the title Toast and Marmalade for Tea.

On January 29, 1971, Tin Tin released their fourth single: “Shana,” which the two Steve’s joint-wrote with Kipner’s erstwhile Board bandmate Carl Groszman. The flipside, “Rocky Mountain,” is a Kipner–Groves original.

A. “Shana”
B. “Rocky Mountain”

On June 4, 1971, Tin Tin released “Is That the Way,” a near-remake of “Toast and Marmalade for Tea,” joint-written with Kipner and Groves Fute collaborator Billy Lawrie.

“Is That the Way” (b/w the Tin Tin cut “Swans On the Canal”) became their second hit. It peaked at No. 59 on the Billboard Hot 100.


Astral Taxi

Tin Tin released their second album, Astral Taxi, in October 1971 on ATCO (US) and Polydor (Australia, Canada, Europe). For this album, Steve Kipner and Steve Groves welcome rhythm guitarist Carl Keats (aka Carl Groszman), Kipner’s former bandmate from Steve & the Board.

Astral Taxi features five new Kipner–Groves originals, including “Set Sail for England,” “I Took a Holiday,” and the title track. Their erstwhile collaborator John Vallins co-wrote four songs: “Ships on the Starboard,” “The Cavalry’s Coming,” “Benny the Wonder Dog,” and the recent a-side “Is That the Way.” Fut bandmate Billy Lawrie co-wrote “Tomorrow Today.” Groves lone-wrote the Side A centerpiece “Our Destiny.”

A1. “Astral Taxi” (3:30)
A2. “Ships On the Starboard” (3:30)
A3. “Our Destiny” (3:15)
A4. “Tomorrow Today” (3:50)
A5. “Jenny B.” (4:10)
B1. “I Took a Holiday” (3:25)
B2. “Tag Around” (2:25)
B3. “Set Sail for England” (3:00)
B4. “The Cavalry’s Coming” (2:45)
B5. “Benny the Wonder Dog” (4:00)
B6. “Is That the Way” (3:09)

Sessions took place at London’s IBC Studios, where Tin Tin and Lawrie co-produced Astral Taxi, which Bee Gees soundman John Pantry engineered in sequence with 1970–71 titles by Brass Monkey, Cravinkel, and The New Seekers. Their early benefactor, Maurice Gibb, takes credit as “executive producer.”

Steve & Stevie arranger Gerry Shury provided orchestration for Astral Taxi after 2 Years On, the November 1970 Bee Gees release that reunited Robin Gibb with Barry and Maurice.

Photographer Richard Lyon took the Astral Taxi cover, which pictures Kipner, Groves, and Keats in a sunny forest setting, clad in early Seventies formal attire. The inner-gate has a sepia portrait shot of the trio.

Tin Tin promoted Astral Taxi as an opening act for the Bee Gees on the brother’s 1972 American tour.


Later Singles

On September 15, 1972, Tin Tin released their sixth single: “Talking Turkey,” a joint-write between Kipner–Groves and Geoff Bridgeford; backed with “The Cavalry Are Coming,” which the pair joint-wrote with Johnny Vallins. Tin Tin co-produced the a-side with Robin Turner, a subsequent soundman for the Average White Band and assorted punk groups (The Maniacs, The Wasps, The Art Attacks).

A. “Talking Turkey”
B. “The Cavalry Are Coming”

In January 1973, Tin Tin reappeared under the moniker Quire for the Kipner-produced single “Strange One,” a Groszmann original backed with Kipner’s own “Halfway Up the Wall.”

A. “Strange One”
B. “Halfway Up the Wall”

Tin Tin disbanded in early 1973. Kipner relocated to Los Angeles and formed Friends, a pop trio with Australian guitarist–singer Daryl Cotton (ex-Zoot) and American multi-instrumentalist Michael Lloyd (The Smoke, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band). They cut one album for MGM.

Meanwhile, Polydor issued a June 1973 single credited to Tin Tin: “I’m Afraid” backed with “Handle Me Easy,” both written and produced by English bassist Pete Beckett, recently of jam-rockers Paladin.

A. “I’m Afraid”
B. “Handle Me Easy”

After the Friends one-off, Kipner and Beckett teamed with American guitarist–singer Lane Caudell
in Skyband, an LA-based glam trio that cut a 1974 album on RCA.

In June 1974, Steve’s father Nat Kipner resurrected the Tin Tin name for a Decca single co-produced by Sixties-era soundman Mike Collier (Chris Farlowe, Downliners Sect, The Echoes, Kippington Lodge).

A. “It’s a Long Long Way to Georgia”
B. “Can’t Get Over You”


After Tin Tin

Steve Groves returned to Australia and did session work, starting with the 1974 Atlantic release That Girl Jones by soul-pop singer Marcia Jones. In 1981, he surfaced in The Bushwackers, a perennial Melbourne country band.

Steve Kipner settled in Los Angeles and focused on songwriting. He co-wrote two songs (“Movin’ Up,” “Cancellation”) on the self-titled debut album by Player, formed by Pete Beckett and (future soap actor) Ron Moss. In 1979, Kipner enlisted members of Toto for his Elektra solo album Knock the Walls Down, a classic of West Coast AOR (aka “yacht rock”).

In 1981, Kipner collaborated with ex-Tranquility guitarist–singer Terry Shaddock on “Physical,” the biggest hit of Olivia Newton-John‘s career. For its parent album, Kipner collaborated with Olivia’s main writer, John Farrar (ex-The Strangers, The Shadows), on the deep cut “Stranger’s Touch.” In 1984, Kipner co-authored “Hard Habit to Break,” a Billboard No. 3 hit for Chicago.


Discography:

  • Tin Tin (1970)
  • Astral Taxi (1971)

Sources:

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