Hello there! This week’s entry is Go Now, a really fine R&B song from the mid-60s. We will begin with the original by Bessie Banks. We will then discuss the most widely-known version of this tune by The Moody Blues, and then finish with a cover by Tin Machine.
Bessie Banks and Go Now:
Bessie Banks is an American pop singer. She was born Bessie White in North Carolina in 1938, and raised in Brooklyn. In the mid-50s, Bessie began a singing career, then met and married singer Larry Banks.
Bessie and Larry performed together for a few years, after which Bessie launched a solo career as a soul singer. In 1963 Larry Banks wrote the song Go Now specifically for Bessie. At left we show an early photo of Bessie Banks from about 1964.
In Bessie Banks’ version of Go Now, the singer confronts her former lover, who has expressed his intention to leave. The singer requests that he leave immediately, otherwise she might break down and cry because she still loves him.
We’ve already said “goodbye”
Since you gotta go, oh you’d better
Go now, go now, go now (go now, ooh)
Before you see me cry
I don’t want you to tell me just what you intend to do now
‘Cause how many times do I have to tell you darlin’, darlin’
I’m still in love with you now
Whoa oh oh oh
Bessie and Larry Banks recorded a demo of the song and shopped it around to several record companies.
The great songwriting and producing duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller heard the demo and decided to produce it. Leiber and Stoller re-recorded the tune and released in January 1964. At left is an image of the 45 RPM record of Bessie Banks’ Go Now, on Tiger Records.
I can’t find any live video of Ms. Banks performing Go Now, but here is the audio of her recording.
Go Now became a minor hit for Bessie Banks. It peaked at #40 on the Cashbox R&B charts. I’m a bit surprised that it was not more successful, because the tune is great and Ms. Banks gives it a powerful delivery.
The song features piano and bass up front. In addition to Bessie Banks’ vocals, there is a girl-group chorus supplied by Cissy Houston (Whitney Houston’s mother) and Dee Dee Warwick (the sister of Dionne Warwick and niece of Cissy Houston).
BTW, in the video we just showed, I haven’t the foggiest notion of the relationship (if any) between the song Go Now, and the random video clips of white teenagers in the mid-60s.
Bessie Banks tells a poignant story about Go Now. She states that shortly after her song’s release,
it was chosen Pick Hit of the Week on W.I.N.S. Radio [New York]. That means your record is played for seven days. …. I was so thrilled. On day five, when I heard the first line, I thought it was me, but all of a sudden, I realized it wasn’t. At the end of the song it was announced, “The Moody Blues singing ‘Go Now’.”
In Ms. Banks’ recollection, she was devastated to realize that a British Invasion group The Moody Blues had covered her song, and essentially erased her original version. However, it has been pointed out that Ms. Banks’ memory is faulty. Her original version of Go Now was released in Jan. 1964; but the Moody Blues cover was not released in the U.S. until Jan. 1965.
Nevertheless, it can’t be much fun to find that a cover of your only hit has had much greater success than your original offering.
As of 2007, it was reported that Bessie Banks was still performing although she now confined her efforts to gospel music. We wish Bessie Banks success and happiness, and continued long life.
The Moody Blues and Go Now:
The Moody Blues were a British Invasion band that became known for their progressive-rock style. They formed in 1964 as a rhythm & blues group from Birmingham.
The original founding members were Ray Thomas and keyboardist Mike Pinder, who had played together in an earlier group. They recruited bassist Clint Warwick, guitarist Denny Laine and drummer Graeme Edge. Initially the group called themselves The M Bs, as they were hoping to obtain sponsorship from Birmingham’s M&B Brewery. When the M&B sponsorship deal fell through, the group adopted the name The Moody Blues.
Below is the 1965 incarnation of The Moody Blues, performing on the British TV show Ready Steady Go! From L: Mike Pinder; Denny Laine; Graeme Edge; Ray Thomas, and Clint Warwick.Embed from Getty Images
Initially, the group played a combination of original songs and R&B covers. Early in 1964, Denny Laine heard Bessie Banks’ recording of Go Now. Laine was convinced that the song was perfect for the Moody Blues, and that it would be a hit. He managed to convince his bandmates to record the song, which appeared on the group’s first album The Magnificent Moodies, released in early 1965.
So here are the Moody Blues, performing Go Now on the NBC TV show Hullabaloo in March 1965.
As you can see, the Moody Blues arrangement of Go Now follows Bessie Banks’ original song very closely. In particular, the descending piano chords and bass are strongly reminiscent of the Banks version. However, instead of a girl backing chorus we get the Moodies backing up guitarist and lead vocalist Denny Laine.
Denny Laine has a terrific voice, and it’s no wonder that the version of Go Now by the Moody Blues was so successful (their cover shot up to #1 in the U.K., and peaked at #10 on the Billboard pop charts).
By the way, in this video you’ll see a couple of shots of Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles. Hullabaloo included several British Invasion bands on their show. In many cases the live performances were taped in Britain, and Epstein typically hosted those sequences.
In 1965 Go Now became the first big hit for the Moody Blues, and given their talent and creativity it would have been a good bet that they would quickly become British Invasion superstars.
Alas, that did not happen. After Go Now, it would be another three years before the Moody Blues would again land a hit on the pop charts. During the group’s fallow period, Denny Laine quit the group, as did bassist Clint Warwick.
At the end of 1966, the remaining three members of the Moody Blues then joined up with bassist John Lodge and lead guitarist Justin Hayward. At that time, the group shifted from their original blues-based sound to progressive rock.
This shift to progressive rock was highlighted by Mike Pinder’s use of the mellotron, an electrical tape machine that had the capability to reproduce a number of different sounds. In principle, one could use a mellotron to duplicate the sounds of many different instruments, and perhaps even an entire orchestra. Below left is a schematic diagram describing the operation of the mellotron.
Pinder worked for the original manufacturer of the device, and became fascinated by its possibilities. He claims to have introduced John Lennon and Paul McCartney to the machine.
The Beatles subsequently used a mellotron in several of their songs, including especially Strawberry Fields Forever, and also some songs from their Magical Mystery Tour and White Album records.
In any case, the Moody Blues made extensive use of the mellotron in several of their blockbuster albums, including the 1967 Days of Future Passed and the 1969 release To Our Children’s Children’s Children.
The group was able to utilize the mellotron to give a lush symphonic touch to their songs. Probably their biggest seller and signature song was Nights in White Satin. That song is not one of my favorite Moody Blues tunes, as I am more partial to songs such as Tuesday Afternoon and In Your Wildest Dreams.
The Moody Blues were among the foremost progressive-rock or ‘art-rock’ bands. They had a very loyal fan following, and were among the most durable prog-rock bands. Like so many other groups, they had several personnel changes and members who came and went, but nevertheless they continued to perform until about 2000.
Over the years, the Moody Blues have sold over 70 million records. This past year they were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and will be inducted in April 2018. Sadly, one of their founding members Ray Thomas died in January 2018.
And now some more about Denny Laine. After leaving the Moody Blues in 1966, Laine became a member of Ginger Baker’s Air Force when the former Cream drummer formed a new band in 1970. The stint with Ginger Baker lasted only a year, and then Denny became a founding member of Paul McCartney’s group Wings, assembled by the former Beatle.
On the plus side, Denny Laine provided Wings with a virtuoso guitarist and singer. Laine worked with Paul and Linda McCartney in that band for a decade. He co-wrote some of the songs for Wings, and sang both lead and backing vocals with the group.
Laine also showed off his musical versatility; in Wings, he played lead or rhythm guitar, bass, keyboards and woodwinds. So here is a video clip of Denny Laine singing Go Now, as a member of Wings.
Laine performed Go Now fairly frequently while on tour with Wings. This is a very enjoyable version of this song. It must be quite a kick to have Paul (and Linda) McCartney singing backup on your song! Laine plays keyboards here, and the song builds to a very satisfactory crescendo at the end.
However, it seems that Denny and Paul eventually had a falling out, and Paul closed down Wings in favor of a solo career.
Since that time, rumors have abounded that Paul screwed Denny over regarding reimbursement for Denny’s work with Wings. It is hard to obtain reliable information regarding this dispute. I do know that in 1979 two of the musicians in Wings were being paid £100 a week for their work. That seems awfully low for members of one of the more popular bands in rock music.
I have found claims that McCartney was incredibly stingy in his treatment of his bandmates in Wings; but I also see statements that McCartney paid Laine handsomely, and that disputes over money resulted from Laine’s extravagant lifestyle.
Anyway, the last I heard of Mr. Laine he was still touring with the Denny Laine Band. We wish this former member of Moody Blues and Wings health and happiness.
Tin Machine and Go Now:
In 1988, David Bowie was feeling restless. His latest album and tour had been disappointing, and he felt it was time for one of his frequent changes in style.
So Bowie teamed up with Reeve Gabrels and two brothers from Detroit, Tony and Hunt Sales. They formed the band Tin Machine with Bowie as the lead singer playing rhythm guitar and sax, Reeve Gabrels playing lead guitar, Tony Sales on bass and Hunt Sales on drums. The Sales brothers were the sons of American comedian Soupy Sales.
Bowie insisted that the group were not simply his backup musicians, but that he was simply one member of a heavy-metal band. The group claimed to have been inspired by rockers such as Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, as well as jazz musicians like Charlie Mingus and Gene Krupa.
Below is a photo of Tin Machine in performance at a concert in Amsterdam in 1989. From L: Tony Fox Sales; Hunt Sales; David Bowie; Reeve Gabrels.Embed from Getty Images
Another interesting aspect of Tin Machine was that their live performances were rather straightforward and workmanlike. Fans of David Bowie had grown accustomed to exceptionally theatrical shows, as exemplified by his earlier appearances as Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke, so there was some disappointment that Bowie’s role in Tin Machine was relatively muted.
Here is Tin Machine in concert at Tokyo’s NHK Hall in February 1992. Here, Tony Sales appears on lead vocals in a cover of Go Now.
I am really taken by this version of Go Now. It is a great heavy-metal blues rendition, and I am most impressed with Tony Sales’ vocals. Reeve Gabrels throws in a short but blistering guitar solo in the middle of the piece, while David Bowie is just barely visible in the background, strumming away on rhythm guitar.
Over a period of four years Tin Machine managed to release a couple of albums and to complete two tours before they disbanded. The future of the band was always in some doubt as Bowie would often undertake solo tours between Tin Machine projects, so it was never clear how long the band would endure.
Rumor has it that Hunt Sales’ addiction problems also played a role in the demise of Tin Machine. However, David Bowie invariably spoke about the Tin Machine project with great warmth. He said that he greatly enjoyed his time with the band, that he felt rejuvenated from his work in the group, and that he was proud of their accomplishments.
Bowie of course enjoyed a long and spectacular career in rock music before his death from liver cancer in January 2016. I have lost track of the Sales brothers, but hope that they are still rocking away.