The Strange Aussie Strangeloves
Perhaps an unusual choice when talking about Northern Soul artists, but this group has produced memorable Northern Soul records nonetheless. For the ordinary public, the Strangeloves are best known for their 1965 hit “I want Candy”. However, in the Northern Soul scene, many of their records have become legendary classics and sought after gems.
Rather than a traditional band, the Strangeloves were originally made up of three songwriters, Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer from New York. They recorded songs under the name of the Strangeloves under the guise that they were a band from Australia. Their first hit “I want Candy” heavily borrowed from Bo Diddley’s eponymous single, and almost all of their releases featured a similarly heavy, danceable beat. They even appeared on television with a large tribal drum, pretending to play it during a live performance. This style helped them fit easily into the Northern Soul scene as it emerged.
Apart from the three songwriters who made up the group, The Stangeloves came into reality with much guidance from Bert Berns, who released their singles and sole album on his label, Bang! Records. Berns was one of the foremost songwriters of the 1960s until his untimely death in 1967, having written legendary records such as “Twist and Shout”, “Piece of My Heart”, and “Everybody needs Somebody to Love”.
When the Strangeloves first found success with “I want Candy”, it saw them receive demand for many live performances, which they were not accustomed to. As such, they replaced their live act with session musicians who performed on the records, to replace their personas onstage. Nonetheless, the few Strangeloves singles that were released in the mid to late 60s remain as some of the finest examples of the type of rock and soul crossover music that was being made around the time in North America.
The Northern Soul Legacy
The singles that became more well known amongst soulies were “Night Time” and “Cara-Lin”, both original compositions that were released in the same year and on the same album as “I Want Candy”. “Night Time” features a Ray Charles-esque piano riff backed by heavy drums and lyrics about dancing, making it a prime candidate for the Northern Soul scene. “Cara-Lin” is a similarly heavy pop tune with soul undertones, which allowed it to fit in with other Northern Soul records. Both of these records also have the distinction of being able to appeal to both fans of Soul and of Nuggets-era Garage Rock, making their records even more collectable.
Ultimately, instead of continuing with the Strangeloves act, Feldman, Goldstein, and Gottehrer instead decided to create a new group for their next single initially meant for The Strangeloves. This single was the Berns-penned “Hang On Sloopy”, and the band was The McCoys, made up of the musicians that accompanied The Strangeloves during live tours. The McCoys was fronted by Rick Derringer, who would later become a key member of Johnny Winter’s band, and have a successful and well-regarded solo career of his own.
The songwriters behind The Strangeloves eventually continued to work with numerous bands and acts, having success with artists such as War, Sly and the Family Stone, and Blondie.