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The Betterdays

A tough R&B-influenced rock band from the Southwest of England, the Betterdays were heroes in their hometown and seemed on the verge of bigger success before a lack of proper management and poor promotion led them to break up before they could reach their full potential. However, among fans of U.K. rock of the 1960s, the Betterdays have a reputation that rivals the Rolling Stones and the Pretty Things as one of the wildest and most powerful R&B acts of the day. Though they occasionally wrote originals, the foundation of their repertoire was in American blues and R&B covers, with the guitar work of Richard Broczek generating plenty of menace, reinforced by Bob Pitcher's harmonica and keyboards and Mike "Shayne" Hayne's lead vocals. The Betterdays released just one single in their original incarnation, but reunited in the 1990s to cut studio sessions that would be released in 2017 on the album Backlash. The 2022 collection Hush Your Mouth: The Betterdays Anthology features the lone 1965 single and unreleased demos and live material from the '60s, as well as the reunion sessions issued on Backlash. Hailing from Plymouth, a port city on the South coast of Devon in southwest England, the Betterdays story began with an instrumental group called the Saints (no relation to the influential Australian punk group). Following the example of Hank Marvin and the Shadows, the Saints featured guitarists Richard Broczek and Oakley St. John Petts and drummer Frank Tyler. When the group's bassist dropped out, blues fan Mike Weston stepped in, and tried to sway the band to an edgier R&B sound. While the band was initially reluctant, they did change direction by adding a vocalist, Mike "Shayne" Hayne. Though his bandmates were increasingly interested in taking on a bluesier sound, Petts was not, and he dropped out of the group. They soon changed their name to the Saints Beat Combo, but after the addition of Bob Pitcher, who handled piano and harmonica and could pitch in on guitar, they adopted a new name, the Betterdays, in 1964. With their long-for-the-time hair and cool threads, the Betterdays stood out in Plymouth, and initially had trouble landing gigs with their repertoire, heavy on blues and short on crowd-pleasing pop. However, it wasn't long before word spread about their powerful live show, and they were soon gigging regularly in Leeds and Sheffield in the Southwest and as far afield as Wales. The Betterdays made a name for themselves in London, sharing stages with the Pretty Things and the Paramounts (the latter featuring a pre-Procol Harum Gary Brooker), and after cutting a handful of demos at a studio in the South London town of Morden, they attracted the attention of Polydor Records, who offered them a record deal. In 1965, Polydor released a Betterdays single, "Don't Want That" (a rare group original written by Bob Pitcher) backed with their take on Bo Diddley's "Here 'Tis." It was a solid piece of work, but the group had rubbed the Polydor staff the wrong way when they refused to record a cover of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" as suggested, and as a consequence, the record was poorly promoted and made little commercial impact. The Betterdays also discovered that not having a manager with pull in the business was holding them back, and while they had enough work in the Southwest that they felt no need to leave Plymouth for London, it kept them away from the heart of the British music business. When R&B fell out of favor as psychedelia and freakbeat gained popularity, their career took a serious hit. By the end of 1966, the Betterdays had broken up. In 1990, Mike Weston and Frank Tyler, who were both still living in Plymouth, happened to see one another and struck up a conversation. The idea of playing a Betterdays reunion show came up, and they reached out to Richard Broczek, Mike "Shayne" Hayne, and Bob Pitcher, all of whom agreed to participate. A concert in Plymouth was a rousing success, and after staging a few more shows, the Betterdays formed their own N.T.B. label, first issuing a pair of seven-inch EPs featuring unreleased recordings from their '60s heyday. The Betterdays booked studio time, intending to make the album they should have cut in 1965. The result was No Concessions, a storming set of R&B classics played in their trademark style. In 2017, N.T.B. expanded the album into a 27-song two LP set, Backlash, that won praise from fans of British R&B and beat music, with critics comparing it favorably to their rare original recordings. Finally rescued from obscurity, the British reissue label Grapefruit included an unreleased Betterdays track on their 2021 box set Box of Pin-Ups: The British Sounds of 1965. In March of 2022, Grapefruit honored the Betterdays again with Hush Your Mouth: The Betterdays Anthology, a thorough collection of their material from the 1960s and the 1990s.
© Mark Deming /TiVo


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