PHOTO: MIKE VALINSKY
By Larry Jaffee
Vanilla Fudge organist Mark Stein opened his legendary band’s first of two nights at the Manhattan club by dispelling the claim on the club’s advertisement that it was their “farewell tour.”
Clearly miffed by a misguided and inaccurate marketing ploy to sell more tickets, Stein said the band’s plan was to “rock until we drop.”
The quartet (also including original members Vince Martell on guitar and Carmine Appice on drums, joined by longtime bassist Pete Bremy) proceeded to play its first album in order.
Covering a hit song and then turning it into something entirely new, and improving on it, is not an easy feat. That’s why Vanilla Fudge will forever be fondly remembered for its Summer of Love remake of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”
It stuck mainly because it successfully crossed genres from Motown girl group to arguably one of the first metal/prog workouts of a pop song. Opening with a funereal organ and drum tap (anti-Vietnam commentary, perhaps), “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” stretches past 7 minutes through some trippy twists and turns.
While the eponymous debut album (included covers of two Beatles songs “Ticket to Ride” and “Eleanor Rigby,” as well as other huge hits by major artists The Impressions’ “People Get Ready” (unexpected soulful lead vocals from Appice), the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” and Sonny Bono’s “Bang Bang,” none of them became the definitive, or even a formidable alternative. Hence, a one-hit wonder that made it to No. 6.
Since the band didn’t write its own material, Vanilla Fudge right from the outset were essentially a cover band that was regarded as an important group signed to a major label (Atlantic imprint Atco) with a well-regarded producer at the helm (Shadow Morton).
Their success largely was pegged on being at the right place at the right time, as labels scrambled to cash in on the hippie psychedelic fad, and they managed to stretch the intrigue through five studio albums, the last being released in Sept. 1969.
Seeing them perform now is a nostalgia trip, not unlike taking in an episode of Mad Men, although not as nearly satisfying.