the curse of evie sands
This is becoming an oft told tale, but was Evie Sands the unluckiest woman in 60’s pop?
In 1965 a teenaged Evie was signed by Leiber & Stoller’s Blue Cat label and teamed with producers Chip Taylor & Al Gorgoni. (Taylor is, of course, the brother of Jon Voight and the guy who wrote “Wild Thing” made famous by The Troggs.) Taylor and Gorgoni recorded a classic debut single with Evie called “Take Me For a Little While.”
So far so good, but here’s where the bad luck starts. A pre-release copy of the song fell into the hands of an A & R man from Chess records. Chess artist Jackie Ross had just had a big hit with “Selfish One,” and the label were looking for a follow up hit. The white label of “Take Me For a Little While” was taken to Chicago, and a version recorded with Ross and rush released before Evie’s original came out officially. DJs around the US started playing the Ross version believing it to be the original & dismissing Evie’s as the cover. A legal dispute between Blue Cat and Chess resulted in the Jackie Ross version being withdrawn – but the damage was done and Evie’s single never gathered the neccessary momentum to become a hit.
“Take Me For a Little While” was written by Trade Martin, the follow up “I Can’t Let Go” was written by Taylor & Gorgoni themselves. Another classic, but somehow not a hit for Evie. Perhaps the whole Jackie Ross “Take Me for a Little While” affair had left some with the incorrect impression that it had been the Evie Sands camp who’d been in the wrong. Whatever the reason, the single went nowhere, but the following year the song was an international smash hit for The Hollies.
Although Evie left Blue Cat and joined Cameo records she continued to work with Taylor & Gorgini, who produced further singles. In 1967 they must have thought they’d struck gold – Chip Taylor came up with arguably the greatest song of his career, and it was the perfect vehicle for Evie. It was recorded as a single. It came out. It started to get air play. It started to sell – but the curse of Evie Sands struck again. The Cameo label folded and the single disappeared. The song was “Angel of the Morning.”
Yes, that “Angel of the Morning.”
P.P. Arnold, Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts:
“Just call me Angel of the Morning, Angel.”
A song so robust even Shaggy couldn’t kill it, though he gave it a damn good kicking in 2001.
And so, despite 3 or 4 years of trying and producing a bunch of great singles including three stone cold classics, Evie Sands just couldn’t get a hit. If the material wasn’t up to par, if Evie was untalented or unattractive there might be an excuse, but not only is she a fox, she has a really good voice, an impressive range and a distinctive sound. Taylor and Gorgini had found or written & arranged material that suited her down to the ground. And anyway, to steal a line from Steve Jordan, you could’ve had Deputy Dawg singing these songs and still have had hits. How could she miss? And yet miss she had.
Strike three – but Evie wasn’t out quite yet. Chip Taylor hatched a plan. He’d given Evie his best new songs only to see other artists get the hits. So, this time, he took a song of his that had already been a hit, on the basis that no one was likely to record a spoiler version. The song was “Any Way That You Want Me” previously recorded by The Troggs. Chip came up with a new arrangement and a new bridge with more than hint of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and the result was – at long last – a monster hit in 1969. Here she is performing it live in 2006 with the BMX Bandits in Glasgow.
Evie is still musically active – check out her Myspace page, I think she maintains it herself. She’s still in great voice as demonstrated by “While I Look at You” the track you’ll hear there. You can hear clips from her last album Women in Prison, here. And you can buy CDs of her two early 70s albums from those nice people at Revola records, and I recommend that you do.