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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24, 1965

When I started off the Tuesday Timeline feature three months ago, I always assumed that I would have an easy time choosing a subject to feature in this space because so much happens on any given day.

Yet, for some reason, April 24 was one of those dates in history where I really had a tough time selecting a suitable topic for discussion.  Sure, there were lots of famous people born on April 24, such as Shirley MacLaine, Barbra Streisand, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Eric Bogosian, Michael O’Keefe, Cedric the Entertainer, Djimon Hounsou, David Usher, Stacy Haiduk, Melinda Clarke, Eric Snow, Lee Westwood, Thad Luckinbill, Danny Gokey, Kelly Clarkson, and Doc Shaw.  But, I’ve already done a feature on a celebrity birth this month, and didn’t want to go into overkill on that.

Since I featured a celebrity death last week, I didn’t want to do the same this week, although celebrities who did pass away on this date include author Lucy Maud Montgomery in 1942, Dutchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson in 1986, and cosmetics entrepreneur Estee Lauder in 2004.

Looking at significant historical events that took place on April 24th, there were quite a few happenings, but none I could really expand into a blog.  But, if you’re interested, here are some of the events that took place on April 24th.

1704 – The first newspaper in the United States is published in Boston, Massachusetts, with the name “The News-Letter”

1800 – The United States Library of Congress is established

1877 – Russian Empire declares war on Ottoman Empire during Russo-Turkish War

1885 – Annie Oakley hired by Nate Salsbury to be a part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West

1898 – The United States declares war on Spain in the Spanish-American War

1907 – The opening of Hersheypark by Milton S. Hershey

1913 – The Woolworth Building skyscraper is opened in New York City

1926 – Treaty of Berlin is signed

1953 – Winston Churchill is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

1967 – Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1 when his parachute malfunctions, making him the first person to die during a space mission

1980 – Operation Eagle Claw; Eight U.S. servicemen are killed as they try to end the Iran Hostage Crisis

1990 – The Hubble Space Telescope is launched from Space Shuttle Discovery

1993 – IRA bomb detonates in London, devastating Bishopgates area

1996 – Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 is introduced in the United States

2005 – Snuppy, the world’s first cloned dog, is born in South Korea

So, as you can see, there was a lot that happened on April 24th from the good, the bad, and the just plain bizarre.  But, I didn’t really have much information on some of those topics, while others would have sounded like a high school history essay if I attempted a blog on them.  For the first time since I began the Tuesday Timeline, I was stuck.

That is, until I found a site on Music History.  There, I found the date that we’re going to take a look back on.

April 24, 1965.

Coincidentally, that date happens to be the birthday of my brother-in-law.  This entry isn’t about him, but a happy birthday to him anyway.

No, this date is a significant date for a British man and his band.  It was the date that the band scored their highest ranking single in both their native United Kingdom, and the United States.  In the United Kingdom, they managed to peak at number two on the charts.  But in America, the band managed to do one better.  This song hit the top of the charts on April 24, 1965, and managed to stay there for one whole week before being dethroned by the Herman’s Hermits song “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” on May 1, 1965. 

Although the members of the band went their separate ways shortly after this song hit the charts, one member launched into a solo career while two of the others started up another successful band in the early 1970s.

So, what’s the song that hit the top of the charts exactly 47 years ago today?  Let’s listen.

ARTIST:  Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders
SONG:  The Game of Love
ALBUM:  The Game of Love
DATE RELEASED:  February 1, 1965
REACHED #1 POSITION:  April 24, 1965

That would be “The Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders.  The song was a huge hit for the band, and it was also featured in both the 1983 film “The Big Chill”, and the 1987 film “Good Morning, Vietnam”, starring Robin Williams.

But, I suppose that you’re probably wondering who Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders are, aren’t you?

Wayne Fontana (or Glyn Geoffrey Ellis, which was the name he was born with) was born on October 28, 1945, making him 66 years of age today.  When he was eighteen years of age, he expressed a desire to become a singer.  In 1963, he adopted the stage name Wayne Fontana (named after Elvis Presley’s drummer, D.J. Fontana), and went in search of a backing group to make his dream a reality.

Enter the Mindbenders.

The Mindbenders were made up of Bob Lang, Eric Stewart, and Ric Rothwell.  They took their name from the 1963 film “The Mind Benders”, which starred Sir Dirk Bogarde.

It took some time for the band to make it in the world of music though.  Their first four singles didn’t get much of a critical reception at all, although their debut song “Hello Josephine” did reach the British Top 50.  It wasn’t until 1964 that the band would get the taste of success with the 1964 song “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um”.

I’m not kidding.  That really WAS the title.

The song rocketed up to the #5 position on the British charts, which was a terrific improvement for the band.

And then the band released “Game of Love”, which ended up being the band’s biggest hit.

The funny thing about “Game of Love” was that it was a rather simple song lyrically.  The same chorus repeated itself at least three times during the just over two minute single.

The purpose of a man is to love a woman,
And the purpose of a woman is to love a man,
So come on baby let’s start today, come on baby let’s play
The game of love, love, love, love, la la la la la love

Not exactly Shakespeare, but it was a nice feel-good song for the time period it debuted in.

Regardless, the song should have put Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders on a huge high, scoring their first American #1 hit.  But as time went on, love definitely wasn’t the game that the band members were playing with each other at all.

The band’s follow-up singles to “Game of Love” flopped, which caused tensions to rise within the band.  Despite this, the band decided to tour America in 1965, hoping that they could win fans over across the pond.

Instead, that tour lead to the break-up of the band after Wayne Fontana quit the band DURING a concert performance!

I don’t know whether to call that ballsy, idiotic, or selfish.  Maybe it was all three.  To quit the band while you’re was certainly memorable.

If I were a member of the Mindbenders, I would likely be quite annoyed at Fontana.  Who knows?  Maybe they were at the time. 

But here’s the thing.  The Mindbenders regrouped and went on to continue recording WITHOUT Wayne Fontana.  When Fontana left the band, Eric Stewart stepped up to assume the lead singer position, and the Mindbenders released their first single post-Fontana.

“Groovy Kind Of Love” was released just months after “Game of Love”.  It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Charts in 1965, and ended up at the same position on the UK charts in early 1966.  For those of you who grew up in the 1980s as I did, you may also recall that singer Phil Collins did a cover version of “Groovy Kind Of Love” in 1988, which also did very well on the charts.

“Groovy Kind Of Love” managed to sell over one million copies, making it a success.  Yet none of their subsequent single releases performed as well as "Groovy Kind Of Love".  Despite this, they made an appearance in the 1967 film “To Sir, With Love” starring Sidney Poitier, and contributed a couple of songs to the soundtrack.

However, with the departures of both Rothwell and Lang (who were replaced by Paul Hancox and Graham Gouldman, the band continued to struggle musically, and in November 1968, they announced that the Mindbenders were calling it quits.  But just four years later, both Gouldman and Stewart would reunite to start up another band by the name of 10cc, who recorded hit songs such as “The Things We Do For Love”.

But whatever happened to Wayne Fontana after he left the Mindbenders?

Well, he attempted to start up a solo career, but he didn’t have many hit singles.  His highest charting single was this 1967 release, peaking at #11 on the UK charts.

In recent years, however, Fontana’s life reads almost like a storyline on Coronation Street or EastEnders.  In 2005, he almost went bankrupt, but managed to avoid that fate.  But just months later, Fontana was arrested after pouring petrol over the hood of a car, and setting it ablaze...with a bailiff inside whom he had argued with beforehand!!!


The good news is that the bailiff wasn’t hurt.  The bad news was that if convicted, Fontana faced up to fourteen years in prison for the crime.  To add to the insanity, shortly after his 2007 arrest, Fontana came into court dressed as the lady of justice, claiming that justice was blind, and then proceeded to fire his entire defense team in the trial!

Seriously, what the heck?

As far as Fontana’s ultimate fate went, he actually got off easy.  He was sentenced to almost a year in prison, but because of the Mental Health Act of 1983, he was let go under time served.

Talk about lucky.

These days, Fontana is still making music and still performs, and aside from a March 2011 arrest regarding an unpaid speeding ticket (charges were eventually dropped), he’s managed to stay out of the negative spotlight for now.

Isn’t it crazy what happens to band members after they break up?  Some become successful in other projects, while others seemingly lose the plot.  But despite the break-up of the band, none of the members gave up on their ultimate goal, which was to make music.  That’s commendable.

Though it’s also nice to know that at some point, the members of Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders once got along well enough to record a catchy and upbeat number one hit single.

A single that topped the charts on April 24, 1965.

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