Who Else Remembers This?: 'Pop Gear'

Lately, I’ve been fascinated by the 1965 rock ‘n’ roll concert anthology Pop Gear, which keeps showing up at odd hours on various Showtime channels, where it seems to have replaced the Monkees’ Head (1968) as the Undeservedly Forgotten ’60s Pop Relic in regular off-peak rotation. Essentially, it’s one long episode of Top of the Pops, featuring about 16 British-Invasion acts that were big in the UK in 1964. (The emcee is TOTP‘s Jimmy Savile, a bug-eyed Marty Feldman lookalike with a hideous blond mop, who was England’s answer to Dick Clark.) The Beatles are present, of course (though in previously taped concert footage), but the movie’s chief appeal is its time-capsule preservation of the sounds, fashions, and visual styles of the lesser-known acts of the era.

There are a lot of bands here that never crossed over on this side of the Atlantic, though quite a few of them did , including the Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Peter & Gordon, the Spencer Davis Group, and the Honeycombs — who had a top five hit here with "Have I the Right," which they perform in the film, and which shows off the skin-pounding skills of Honey Lantree, who may have been rock’s first female drummer. (She’s just as geeky as Meg White, too.) Nobody here is in the same league as the Beatles (many of the era’s acts who made a lasting impact, like the early Kinks, Who, Rolling Stones, and Yardbirds, are conspicuously absent), but what’s remarkable is how strong a feel many of them had for American R&B. (Gotta love the dirty guitar sound and stomping, thumping bass of the Nashville Teens’ "Tobacco Road.") It’s jarring and exciting to watch a group of English schoolboys in matching suits and suddenly hear a deep, bluesy bellow burst forth from an impossibly boyish face like that of the Animals’ Eric Burdon (on the still-chilling "House of the Rising Sun" and "Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood") or of Steve Winwood (who must have been all of 16 here, well before he and the Davis Group hit big with "Gimme Some Lovin’" and "I’m a Man").

You can see many of the performances from Pop Gear on YouTube, including the Winwood shouter "My Babe," below. (Little Stevie doesn’t open his mouth until nearly a minute into the clip, but when he does, watch out!) And you can catch the whole movie at least three times over the next week on Showtime’s Family Zone channel, including tomorrow at 11:15 a.m.

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  • Stephanie Travitsky

    With all of this EMO alternative music going on today, these artists still have not thanked Colin Blunstone and the Zombies, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Tommy James, and other alt aritists from the mid sixities who influenced groups like Bloc Party. I heard “Time of the Season” live about two weeks ago. If that song was released today, it would sound just as amazing as it did years ago.

  • Alicia

    Oh, I love Pop Gear! I stumbled across parts of it on YouTube a few months ago and I was so happy.
    “Have I The Right” is such an underrated song. I love the jangly guitar and the drum stomping and that growl right before the chorus.

  • Rhonda

    I really enjoyed that–some really, still-amazing music came from the “British Invasion” era. Stevie Winwood was always great in whichever band he was in. I’d love to know what happened to Honey Lantree who looked like a demure little office worker until she picked up her drumsticks and started pounding away.

    • Gunner

      Honey is doing well and residing in Scotland. She writes songs these days, and plays an old acoustic.

  • Winona

    Since I don’t get Showtime, I’ll have to check out the snippets on YouTube, and continue to patiently wait for The T.A.M.I. Show…

  • Al

    Check out my Pop Gear Playlist on youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=A21D112F04801C56

  • Kalina

    I just purchased “Pop Gear” on eBay and watched it today. It made me cry because the last time I saw it was in 1964 when I was 10! I guess you’re impressionable at that age, but many of these songs stuck in my mind even though I never heard them again til today. And at 10, I didn’t understand why I was mesmerized by Eric Burdon. He wasn’t “cute” and looked mean. Now I recognize his charisma, soulfulness and sex appeal. I know these performers seem “cheesy” to many, but don’t forget, this was 43 years ago! At the time it was all “fab” and “gear” to me!

  • Andre’ Dall’au

    For whatever reason POP GEAR is unusally compelling to watch. As an American I see where most of what followed in American Pop came from. Also interesting is the R&B fascination of the talented British groups that produced VERY American sounds! All of the MTV stuff is just a rough and much less formal version of TOTP – that fails to give sufficient homage to the original musical video creators. Seeing performers like Honey Lantree compelled me to try to find out what happened to them in the next few decades. She was a honey then and only wish there were more photos of her around! Finding out how many of POP GEAR’s stars had passed on was a bummer as well. As a typical American male that LOVES to channel surf, I must admit that every time POP GEAR is on I watch it until it is over. I can’ get enough of the thoroughly 60’s dance choreography with costumes that made the dancers look like housewives or extras from “GOLDFINGER”. Overall, POP GEAR is a treasure trove of the birth of my music

  • Sally

    As far as I know Ann (Honey) is still living out in Essex with her husband Dave, they had two grown up sons and a grandchild when I last saw them.
    I worked with her and Dave from 98 til 2003 when I left to have my second child.
    We all worked together in financial administration in London, both Dave and Ann were a joy to work with and socialise with, Ann being very caring and motherly to me and many others. She didn’t often talk about her years as a drummer, probably because Dave who is a complete chatterbox did all the talking and loved to tell us stories of the 60’s and stories about Joe Meek.
    Thats it really.

  • kurt stiegmann

    would love to wish HONEY LANTREE A HAPPY BIRTHDAY(AUG. 28) . ANY IDEA HOW I COULD GET HER PHONE NUMBER IN MIDDLESEX?

  • gracie

    i saw this movie in the theater with my older sisters.. man i was sooooo little, but it was amazing! i have it on VHS…

  • gracie

    and billie davis was the bomb!

  • natasha hart

    any ideas as to how I can track down a copy of this DVD? Am Denis Dalziel’s daughter (Honeycombs singer) and am trying to find some memorabillia of my dad for my kids.

    • STEVE RHODES

      Dear Natasha Hart,
      I remember your dad Denis Dalziel from the early eighties when he was teaching you to play guitar in the garden of the Black Bull at Buntingford in between songs at a gig there.
      Your Dad was a great musician and a great person,and remember his gigs at the Black Bull,especially when he played Moonflower or Sanba Pa Ti, as it always brought the house down,
      I miss him a lot,Steve Rhodes

  • Mark

    Hi Natasha…any luck finding a copy?

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