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Music Reissues Weekly: Living Daylights - Let's Live For Today | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: Living Daylights - Let's Live For Today

Music Reissues Weekly: Living Daylights - Let's Live For Today

Essex psychedelic pop band’s album emerges after 55 years on the shelf

Spot the future Blockhead. Living Daylights pose like the pop stars they never were in 1967

In the third week of April 1967, Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s “Somethin’ Stupid” topped the UK’s single’s chart. Sandie Shaw’s “Puppet on a String” was number two, and The Monkees’ “A Little Bit me a Little Bit You” snapped at her heels. Englebert Humperdinck’s recent number one “Release me” was at number five. All very pop, very mainstream.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Purple Haze” was in running too then, as were Pink Floyd’s “Arnold Layne” and The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever”. But other chart entries like Whistling Jack Smith’s “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman”, The Dubliners’ “Seven Drunken Nights”, Val Doonican’s “Memories are Made of This" and Petula Clark’s “This is my Song” attest to popularity of records lacking any modish psychedelic frills.

Living Daylights - Let's Live For TodayBalancing immediacy with the new trappings could succeed that April. Viz: The Move’s “I Can Hear the Grass Grow” and The Hollies’ gently wonky “On a Carousel”. If the mainstream was to be penetrated, adopting a full-on freakiness was not a certain formula for success.

Enter the Essex-based Living Daylights. Their first single was issued on 21 April 1967. “Let’s Live For Today” had a good chance. Lightly psychedelic, it was in the same bag as The Hollies – very melodic, catchy, engaging. But no dice, and all that subsequently appeared under their name was a second and last single, October 1967’s “Baila Maria”. Another flop, so that was it. The band spilt in early 1968. Between their two singles, they recorded an album which was never issued. It has now emerged on a CD titled Let’s Live For Today - The Complete Recordings.

 “Let’s Live For Today” had a backstory which could have helped Living Daylights into the charts. There was a lot of interest in the song. It was originally issued in Italy in June 1966 as ‘Piangi Con Me", a B-side by ex-pat British band The Rokes. Next, it was covered in the Netherlands by The Skope as “Be Mine Again”. The Rokes then issued it in English as “Passing Through Grey”. British music publisher Dick James got the rights but didn’t like the lyrics, so had it reconfigured as “Let's Live For Today”. Living Daylights had just come onto his books, so they recorded it. Another Rokes version – as "Let's Live For Today" this time – was issued on the same day as the Living Daylights’ single. Neither single charted. However, the song was recorded in America by The Grass Roots and picked up chart action.

In continental Europe, Living Daylights’ “Let’s Live For Today” was issued in France, Portugal, Spain and The Netherlands. There were also Brazilian and Japanese singles. In America, to compete with The Grass Roots, their “Let’s Live For Today” was deviously marketed as “the original hit English version”. This release pattern seems to be the reason they recorded the shelved album. Potentially, Living Daylights had a wide audience.

Living Daylights - Let's Live For Today_US adYears later, the barely remembered Essex combo got some attention when "Always With Him" – the B-side of “Baila Maria” – and “Let's Live For Today” were included in 1984 on the first volume of the Rubble collections of British psychedelia. There they were, with The Craig, The Open Mind, Wimple Winch and other belatedly celebrated  bands. It was also discovered that Living Daylights’ bassist was Norman Watt-Roy, later a mainstay of Ian Dury’s Blockheads. (pictured left, US press ad for Living Daylights “Let’s Live For Today” single)

Let’s Live For Today - The Complete Recordings includes two versions of the shelved album: one mono, the other stereo. Included are versions of The Beatles' “Getting Better” and “I’ll Be Back” (Dick James was also The Beatles' publisher). “Cos I’m Lonely” is written by Living Daylights' producer Caleb Quaye (soon to work with Elton John). “Say You Don’t Mind" had been a recent single for Denny Laine. "What’cha Gonna do About it” is not the Small Faces song but a cover of a track recorded by Doris Troy. Otherwise, single sides “Let’s Live For Today” and “Always With Him” were teamed with self-assured tracks written by the band’s prime mover Garth Watt-Roy.

This is a confident pop album with some great psychedelic touches. "Cos I’m Lonely" and "Up So High" nail this aspect. The charming “If I Had My Way” feels like a single that never was. “Always With Him” remains superb. Throughout, there’s an attractive, distinctive wobbly guitar tone which may be the result of playing through a Lesley Cabinet. Living Daylights were a fine band, one worthy of having an album released – this is a better listen than, for example, the Apple album. But after "Baila Maria” stiffed and the album was shelved, Living Daylights had a limited lifespan.

While this CD unearths something worth unearthing, mysteries remain. The liner notes say nothing about the audio source, and lack anything on how what’s heard was found and then issued 55 years after it was recorded. Where had this album been? Nonetheless, Living Daylights deserve this release. They missed out in April 1967. Now, their potential has been recognised.

@MrKieronTyler

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