Album Reviews

The Murmaids: A Few Of The Things We Love (Ace Records)

murmaids

The Murmaids
A Few Of the Things We Love
Ace Records

Funny how quickly a musical style can become anachronistic with the arrival of a hipper new sound. Listening to the innocent harmonies of teenage girl trio The Murmaids, one might think that they’re listening to the fresh sounds of 1958. Surprising, then, to learn that their charming hit “Popsicles & Icicles” arrived towards the end of 1963, shortly before the Beatles-led British Invasion changed everything.

But the story of The Murmaids isn’t so much about being lost in tidal wave of Beatlemania; instead, theirs is a cautionary tale of record label greed, maniacal producers, and naiveté that resulted in this talented young duo ripped off. Formed by teenage sisters Terry and Carol Fischer, with school friend Sally Gordon, the trio was quickly picked up by notable LA producer/pervert Kim Fowley, who gave them their first single, “Popsicles & Icicles,” written by a young songwriter named David Gates. Fowley, ever the abusive Svengali, would encourage the duo by yelling that they weren’t smart enough to understand the lyrics to their single, declaring that they were too ugly to have sex with, and that the only way any of them would get laid would be if they had a #1 hit single. One of the girls raised him on that proclamation, saying that if they had a number one hit, that he’d have to fix her up with one of his rich friends. (Bluff was soon called, and said Murmaid was soon set up on a date with a smitten future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston.)

The abuse understandably soured the girls on their new producer, with whom they recorded a handful of songs. None of the singles made their way to the charts—the innocence of “Popsicles & Icicles” resonated in the days and weeks after the death of President John F. Kennedy, but there was no way they could replicate that moment. So for the trio, that was that.

Or so they thought.

The band might have become an afterthought to its members—but not to Fowley and their record label, who would put together permutations of The Murmaids, at first marginally including Gordon, but eventually not even bothering to include a single original member of the group. This deception would go on until 1968, when they released their final single, a cover of Traffic’s “Paper Sun.”  This version would be notable for one of its members, Yvonne Young, who would shortly change her name to Donna Fargo, going on to become one of the more popular country vocalists of the 1970s. Heck, so distanced were the original members that when their former label released a “new” album of old material in the 1980s, none of them were aware of it until decades later.

Setting the backstory aside, the music of The Murmaids—irrespective of who was in the band—was a fine blend of pure girl-group gold. It’s a sad testament to the era that follow-up singles “Heartbreak Ahead” and “Wild And Wonderful” are excellent numbers, catchy, dance-floor ready numbers that don’t feel quite as nostalgic as “Popsicles & Icicles.” Later songs from the different incarnations aren’t bad, either; “Go Away” is a fun song, while “Little Boys” is interesting as it is the debut of Donna Fargo as a songwriter. Their final single, a cover of Traffic’s “Paper Sun,” is actually quite excellent. Also included is the Murmaids’ one-off single as The Lady-Bugs, a recording of “How Do You Do It,” best known as a song the Beatles rejected, but was a hit for Gerry & The Pacemakers, and this version featured Jackie DeShannon on vocals.

The history of The Murmaids is a cautionary tale of greed and corruption, A Few Of The Things We Love shows that the music that was a byproduct in this illicit story never actually suffered, even if the girls in this “band” aren’t necessarily the “band” that started out with a wonderful, charmingly innocent debut single.

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