Friday, March 31, 2023

Book Review: Jerome Blanes’ Outsiders by Insiders (1997/2009)

Jerome Blanes’ Outsiders by Insiders
Unless you’re a 1960s rock aficionado, or a specific collector of the era’s freakbeat and garage rock vinyl, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever heard of the Outsiders. One of the fave mid-to-late ‘60s bands in the Netherlands, the Outsiders were rock ‘n’ roll pioneers, teen idols, studio innovators, and ready-for-primetime musicians who, sadly, never broke out of Amsterdam, much less made their way to London, Los Angeles, or New York City where they may have found a larger audience. After my review of garage-rock legend Greg Prevost’s recent book, On The Street I Met A Dog for the Rock and Roll Globe, his publisher Massimo del Pozzo sent me a copy of Jerome Blanes’ excellent tome Outsiders by Insiders from Misty Lane HQ in Italy.

Jerome Blanes’ Outsiders by Insiders

Originally published in Dutch in 1997 and later updated and translated for republishing in English in 2009 by Misty Lane Books, Outsiders by Insiders is a timeless look behind the scenes at one of the best bands to be shrouded in rock ‘n’ roll obscurity. The Outsiders basically existed from 1965-69, with the band’s earliest Dutch chart success experienced during their first couple of years. They released thirteen charting singles during this period, as well as three full-length albums – one a collection of their singles (Songbook) – and their self-titled 1967 LP featuring a studio side and a live side, which was perfect as the Outsiders were known across the Netherlands as a dynamic and electrifying live act.

The band’s de facto swansong was their third album, 1968’s C.Q., which initially sold little or nothing but has since garnered status as a classic psych-garage-rock album that deserves space in your collection. Whereas most European bands were falling over their amps in an attempt to mimic the Beatles, the Outsiders drew inspiration from the R&B-influenced bad-boys in the Pretty Things and the Rolling Stones, even opening for the Stones for one of their 1966 Dutch appearances. The best-known Outsiders line-up was comprised of singer/songwriter Wally Tax, guitarists Ronnie Splinter and Tom Krabbendam, bassist Appie Rammers, and drummer Leendert Busch, with Frank Beek taking Rammers’ place from 1968-69.

Blanes does a wonderful job with the book, Outsiders by Insiders providing an oral history of not only the band, but the Dutch rock ‘n’ roll scene altogether, going into exhaustive detail about the musical and cultural evolution experienced by the Netherlands during the 1960s (societal growing pains that were similar to those in both the U.K. and the U.S.). Years of interviews are compiled into a coherent and succinct narrative that crams a lot of life and energy into roughly 170 pages. Blanes conducted extensive interviews with the band members, friends and hangers-on, and managers and promoters, and has outlined a fantastic story about starry-eyed teens searching for fame and fortune.

Wally Tax of The Outsiders
Wally Tax of The Outsiders

Sadly, it was never meant to be for the Outsiders, whose most effective manager was also unable to take them to a higher level of success. Although the band made a few performances in France, they never received an opportunity to play in England, which may have been more receptive to their harder-edged R&B-tinged garage-rock sound. Blanes mentions but a little of the friction that occurred between the band members and, by all accounts, the original Outsiders stayed relatively tight throughout their lives, and many continued playing music well into the new millennium. Short-sighted management was slow to recognize changes in the musical currents that were occurring internationally circa 1968 or so, and a lone U.S. visit by the Outsiders did little to advance their careers while less creative Dutch contemporaries like Tee Set and Shocking Blue enjoyed massive late ‘60s U.S. radio hits.

Blanes work on Outsiders by Insiders is impressive, the book an easy read providing a comprehensive history of the band. Although I haven’t seen the original Dutch version of the book, Misty Lane’s edition is as swanky as the aforementioned Greg Prevost book, with heavy glossy paper and a wealth of B&W photos of the band, memorabilia, and other rock ‘n’ roll ephemera sure to please any hardcore collector. The final chapter includes sections on each band member and what they did after the Outsiders, while an extensive discography and session notes provide those with a love of minutiae with the cheap thrills they crave. Overall, Outsiders by Insiders is a solid rock biography that has flown under the radar for far too long, as have the Outsiders themselves. My curiosity piqued by the story told within these pages, I sought out the  Outsiders albums on CD and have not been disappointed.  

Misty Lane Magazine

Along with the Outsiders book, Misty Lane head man Massimo del Pozzo also sent the most recent copy of their Misty Lane magazine. Although the cover date on issue #21 is 2007, the music that del Pozzo and his contributors write about is timeless, so the zine offers a great read despite its vintage! Features in this issue cover 1960s and ‘70s-era artists like the Jefferson Airplane, Blues Magoos, The Choir/Raspberries, Blues Project, Crabby Appleton, and Leaf Hound, vinyl from all of which is heavily traded on the collectors’ market. The issue also includes coverage of some bona fide obscurities known only to the most dedicated of crate-diggers, bands like Rising Storm, Sir Lord Baltimore, Chosen Few, and Third World War.

The zine also includes an interview with Ugly Things publisher Mike Stax, currently of the band the Loons and previously of the Tell-Tale Hearts, which goes a long way towards outlining the artist’s musical obsessions. I’m a Neil Merryweather fan, but even I didn’t know about his early albums with the band Merryweather, a situation quickly fixed by a moderately-expensive sojourn to Discogs. The zine’s writing is enthusiastic and informative, and the contributors track down original band members when available to get their stories directly. There’s the usual bunch of record reviews and other pop culture material, presented in a somewhat old-school graphic format, on glossy paper with lots of color photos. The best thing is that Massimo has told me that he’ll be resurrecting the zine sometime later this year, which is good news, indeed! Check out the Misty Lane website for more details on all the books, zines, and groovy records they have available…

Wally Tax photo by A. Vente / A. & F. van Geelen - Beeld en Geluidwiki - Gallery: Fanclub

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