Tuesday, February 10, 2009

John Fred & His Playboy Band - Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)

(Paula, 1967)

Do you like the caps lock? You do? Good, get ready to LOVE this next sentence! MAY THE LATE JOHN FRED BE FOREVER PRAISED FOR THIS SINGLE, HIS ONE PERFECT CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD OF RECORDED SOUND. And really, do records get much better than this unfugginforgettable and totally-outta-nowhere blast of – here, lemme put on my adjective hat – loopy strings, punchy brass, weird moaning, and nonsensical lyrics? Well, I can tell you that I’ve spun a whole lotta spinny-discs in my time and have heard few hits that come anywhere close to matching the nutso joy of “Judy in Disguise”’s randy, out-there soulpop, so my money’s definitely on ‘no.’ Even the backstory on this one’s a hoot, as Fred apparently misheard the lyrics of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” and was so disappointed upon later learning the actual words that he went off and wrote his own song… which then went on to bump “Hello Goodbye” off the top of the singles chart. Haw! Really not much else to say here; “Judy” is simply one of the best, ballsiest, and brassiest left-field hits of the psych-pop era, and any world in which such a thing becomes a radio fave and continues to get played 40 years later is a world in which I want to breathe air. Lucky guy, me!

It’s just too bad that nothing else on the Agnes English LP comes anywhere near the footloose wackiness of “Judy in Disguise” – what we get instead (as on B-side “When the Lights Go Out”) is a blend of Boyce & Hart’s teenyboppery and the psychedelically-informed blues-pop of the Animals’ mid-period. The rest of the record suggests a competent party band that was in a little too far over its head as it tried to change with the times, but for that one song where it all comes together… MAN!!!


Donald Brown said...

Boy does that label bring back memories: Paula Records, with a cameo! Unreal.

This one was an anomaly for sure; made you almost believe "anyone" could "do" the Beatles pop inventiveness. I still hear this song from time to time, on perma-play in retro diners, and I say thee yeah. And it was doubly strange to hear actual ad copy in a song: "cross your heart with your living bra." That was a TV ad at the time.

I guess we know who crowns your heap of one-hit wonders!

Anonymous said...

Back in the late 1990s when I was workin' as a bagger at the supermarket, I got into an argument with a customer over this song. I can't remember how it came up, but I mentioned "Judy in Disguise". The customer insisted that there was no such song and that I was actually thinking of the Beatles song. We went back and forth a few times, voices getting louder, until I decided to shut up, not get fired, and let the idiot go on thinking that John Fred's song was a figment of my imagination.