Honeybus – In session for John Peel – November 19, 1967 – BBC Radio 1 –
Honeybus as a sort of quiet and non-confrontational alternative to our Classical offering tonight. Honeybus were one of those bands, like so many bands during the time; they were good, they were well-regarded by the press, they had support from dee-jays like John Peel and Kenny Everett and they had a top-10 hit single. But for whatever reason, they failed to make a bigger dent (i.e. the U.S. market) and eventually broke up, leaving unreleased material and a debut album that had little or no support from a band that had already left the scene and went off to solo careers.
During a period of time when harder Psychedelia was capturing attention, this softer version of Psych, with leanings more to Baroque Pop, failed to win broader appeal, most likely because the competition was stiff, and came in the form of Hendrix, Syd Barret era Pink Floyd, Cream, Traffic and a host of other bands who dominated the charts and record sales.
The band’s main composers were Dello and Ray Cane although other members contributed songs. The group’s supporters and critics, amongst them Kenny Everett, compared the band to Rubber Soul-era Beatles.
Honeybus had a major hit with 1968’s “I Can’t Let Maggie Go”, which was so popular that it earned the band a cover photo on the popular music magazine, Disc and Music Echo, for which they posed atop a red London bus. “I Can’t Let Maggie Go” reached Number 8 in the UK Singles Chart, in April 1968, staying in the Top 40 for over two months.
Dello resigned in August 1968. The band recruited Jim Kelly on guitar and vocals to replace him and Cane began songwriting and performing lead vocals. This line-up scored minor successes with “She Sold Blackpool Rock” and “Girl Of Independent Means”. Honeybus eventually disbanded late in 1969. Their 1970 album Story, without an active band to promote it, failed to chart. However, it is now highly collectable and sells for around £1,000 in perfect condition. It has since been re-issued on compact disc.
Dello, Hare and Kelly all went on to record solo material in the early 1970s that was critically acclaimed but failed to achieve significant commercial success.
The Dello line-up of the band reunited in 1971 to record a new body of songs for the Bell Records label and a complete LP, Recital, for the British division of Warner Bros. Records. A change in management at Warner Brothers meant that Recital was never issued.
“I Can’t Let Maggie Go”, was also a top 10 hit in Italy, with a version made by Equipe 84, entitled “Un angelo blu” (“A blue angel”). It enjoyed an unexpected reprise in popularity in the 1970s, when it was used as the soundtrack for a television advertisement for “Nimble”, a bread produced for slimmers.
So to refresh your memory or to introduce you to another overlooked band of the 60s, here is their first session for John Peel (mostly but not complete) at BBC Radio 1 in November of 1967.