Andrew Loog Oldham, Charles Dickens, Cheek, Ian and the Zodiacs, Ian Crawford, Jagger/Richards, Johnny Chester and the his Chessmen, Roxanne Fontana, The Hitmakers, The Inmates, The Lonely Boys, The Mighty Avengers, The Rolling Stones
Digging through my vinyl collection I came upon a 1974 Deram/London (Decca in the UK) Records release entitled Hard Up Heroes, a compilation focused mostly on lesser known tracks from British artists from the ‘beat’ era (roughly 1963 to 1967). It’s got some cool stuff on it but the real find was a track called “So Much in Love” recorded by The Mighty Avengers. What a tune! So subtle in its earwormy effects. Now imagine my surprise to discover it was a Jagger/Richards cast off from a period when they were trying to mimic the Beatles’ songwriting largesse by giving away their excess material to other artists. And what makes the story even more intriguing is just how many acts tried to make this a hit – unsuccessfully! Most of the versions came out in the mid-1960s period, with a few in the 1970s, one in the 1990s, and then one last version in 2018. And, of course, there may be other versions I’ve yet to find. I won’t feature them all here, just the ones that take the song in slightly different directions.
In my view, arguably the ‘best’ version of “So Much in Love” was the 1964 original by The Mighty Avengers. They were a Coventry band that were briefly a part of Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s stable of artists (as he attempted to mimic Beatles manager Brian Epstein’s success managing multiple acts). Oldham procured the song for them from the Stones and then produced the cut, with help from future Led Zeppelin member John Paul Jones. I love the sound of this era of British poprock and the band squeezes a nice amount of hookiness out of the tune, helped by some great plinky piano and a straight up early Moodies-style vocal.
The Mighty Avengers
Subsequent versions of the song split between more poppy and rocky takes. In 1965, three covers of the song typify this division. Australia’s Johnny Chester and his Chessman offer up a very genteel, mannered pop arrangement that stylistically would not be out of place as an Everly’s album deep cut. Ian Crawford amplifies the song’s pop elements with horns and fancy background vocals. By contrast, Liverpool’s Ian and the Zodiacs deliver a classic Merseybeat version. Three more covers in 1966 continue this trend with The Herd rocking things with plenty of soul organ, Denmark’s The Hitmakers blowing up the pop sound, particularly on the vocals, while sometime fashion photographer Charles Dickens vibes a little Beach Boys with production help from Andrew Loog Oldham.
Johnny Chester and the his ChessmenIan CrawfordIan and the ZodiacsThe HerdThe HitmakersCharles Dickens
Despite its failure in the 1960s bands would continue to keep trying to push “So Much in Love” onto the charts. Arguably the most successful was Australian band Cheek, whose 1977 version briefly made that country’s top 50. However, the band broke up shortly afterwards, having released only two singles and no album! Three years later UK pub rock/new wave band The Inmates featured a rollicking version of the song on their second album, A Shot in the Dark. The next cover came 15 years later from a band that technically didn’t exist. The Lonely Boys were created to provide the music for a fictional 1960s band featured in a 1990s book and movie of the same name. The band’s performance exceeded all expectations, producing a strong debut album and a killer version of “So Much in Love” that seemed to out-sixties the actual 1960s recordings. Most recently Roxanne Fontana turned out a peppy yet understated classic rock and roll rendition of the tune in 2018.
The InmatesThe Lonely BoysRoxanne Fontana
Discovering this great lost Jagger/Richards tune has got me thinking there has to be a Songs the Stones Gave Away collection out there somewhere, full of overlooked gems, even if their efforts did not bear the same fruit as their Merseyside competitors.