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The Mirage

An accomplished band whose talent outstripped their luck in the music business, the Mirage seemed poised for a breakthrough numerous times during their 1964-1970 lifespan, but they never landed the hit record that would have made their fortune. However, they've earned a following among fans of British rock of the '60s for their solid instrumental skills, splendid harmonies, savvy songwriting, and a creative arc that encompassed Beat-era rockers, gently lysergic Beatlesque pop, crunchy pre-glam guitar swagger, and even prescient roots rock. The Mirage never released an album in their original incarnation, and some of their best work appeared on radio recordings and unreleased demos, but the 2022 collection The World Goes on Around You: The Anthology offers a thorough, definitive study of their career. The roots of the Mirage lay in Hunsdon, a village in Hertfordshire in the South of England. Hunsdon was home to a beat combo called the Venders, whose members had previously been part of a skiffle act called the Missin' Links and a more rock-oriented outfit called Del Vincent and the Delmen. The Venders featured Del Vincent on lead vocals, Pat Hynes on lead guitar, his brother Pete Hynes on rhythm guitar, Percy Bishop on keyboards, Colin Felstead on bass, and a third Hynes brother, Dave, on drums. Playing local venues and the occasional American air force base, one of the Venders' more successful peers were the Diamonds, featuring lead guitarist Ray Glyn Mynott, who owned a Fender Stratocaster, then hard to come by in the United Kingdom. When Pat Hynes hurt his finger and was unable to play a gig, the Venders asked Mynott to fill in for him, and they were happy enough with his work to invite him to join the band full-time. Mynott agreed, and after shuffling a few members, the new Venders lineup was Pete Hynes on lead vocals, Mynott on lead guitar, Pat Hynes on rhythm guitar, Dee Murray on bass, and Dave Hynes on drums. They made their debut as the opening act for the Tornados (of "Telstar" fame) in Bishop's Stortford, a nearby Hertfordshire town, on Christmas Eve, 1964. In early 1965, the band decided they wanted a hipper sounding name, and they rebranded themselves the Mirage. Several members of the Mirage were accomplished enough that they were working as session musicians in their spare time, and this moonlighting put them in contact with Dick James, one of England's most successful music publishers. James had installed a recording studio in his London office complex in order to cut songwriting demos, and the Mirage became one of James' house bands, as well as being signed as staff songwriters for his firm. After meeting at the studio, the men of the Mirage struck up a friendship with Graham Nash and Allan Clarke of the Hollies, and on their recommendation, the Mirage landed a record deal with CBS. Their first single, "It's in Her Kiss" (a gender-switched cover of the Betty Everett hit) b/w "What'ye Gonna Do 'Bout It," was issued in June 1965. It didn't chart, but they had better luck with their second release, "Go Away" b/w "Just a Face." Issued in November 1965 and produced by Nash and Clarke, the A-side earned respectable radio airplay. Despite the modest success of "Go Away" and the use of a Mirage track, "I'm Gonna Leave Her," in the hit film Georgy Girl, CBS was reluctant to authorize a third single, and the band bided their time, writing songs and committing them to tape at the Dick James studio. CBS eventually let them go, and music entrepreneur Larry Page, an associate of James, signed the Mirage and made a deal to release their material through Phillips Records. (As part of the deal, the members of the group were forbidden to do session work for acts not signed with James or Page; unhappy with this arrangement, Ray Glyn Mynott changed his stage name to Ray Glynn as a way around the restriction.) Dick James handled publishing for the Beatles, and he arranged for the Mirage to be able to cover "Tomorrow Never Knows," from the then-unreleased Revolver, for their first Phillips single. (A group original, "You Can't Be Serious," appeared on the flipside.) However, conflicting opinions at Phillips led to the single not appearing until December 1966, months after the Beatles' recording of the tune had come out, and the Mirage recording suffered at the marketplace. Undaunted, the group cut a second single for Phillips, "Hold On" b/w "Can You Hear Me" (both group originals), which arrived in March 1967, and May 1967 saw the release of "The Wedding of Ramona Blair," a charming bit of pop psychedelia backed with "Lazy Man." "Ramona Blair" was spun regularly by British pirate radio outlets, and received a smattering of BBC Light Programme play, but it wasn't enough to make it the hit it deserved to be. Phillips dropped the Mirage, and they found themselves plying their trade as sessionmen, cutting publishing demos, and backing other artists in the James/Page stable; they backed up promising songwriter Reg Dwight on an album called Regimental Sgt. Zippo that went unreleased until 2021, by which time Dwight had found greater success as Elton John. They also kept up a steady schedule of live work, and in August 1968, they made a memorable appearance at The Great South Coast Bank Holiday Pop Festivity on the Isle of Wight, where a crowd of 10,000 were on hand to see Jefferson Airplane, the Pretty Things, the Move, Fairport Convention, and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. The Mirage landed a new record deal when Larry Page brought them aboard for his new Page One label. However, much to the group's consternation, the A-side for their Page One debut (issued July 1968) was a bit of pop fluff called "Mystery Lady" that was co-written by Page under the nom de plume Larry Stein. Their second Page One release, September 1968's "Here Comes Jane," wasn't even released under the name the Mirage, with the group credited as the Yellow Pages. A month later, Page One released "Carolyn," another substandard number written by Page, and the Mirage were at the end of their rope. They broke up in order to free themselves of their contract with Larry Page, and a few months later, Ray Glynn, Dave Hynes, Pete Hynes, keyboard player Kirk Duncan, and bassist Jeff Peters signed with Carnaby Records, a new label launched by music promoter Mervyn Conn. Unable to use the name the Mirage, the band adopted the banner Portobello Explosion. Their first release for Carnaby was "We Can Fly," a Hynes brothers original backed with a cover of the Bubble Puppy's Texas psych hit "Hot Smoke and Sassafras." The disc made little impression, and it appeared at a transitional time for the group -- Dave Hynes and Kirk Duncan had been bowled over by the Band's first two albums, and they wanted to shift Portobello Explosion's music into a sound that more closely resembled that band's rustic country-rock. The name was changed once again to Jawbone (taken from a song on 1969's The Band), and their self-titled debut album, a unique mixture of Beatles-influenced pop and rootsy Americana, came out in May 1970. Reviews were tepid, and Jawbone played no live gigs in support of the release. Predictably, it was not a commercial success, and the band broke up. Except for Pete Hynes, the members of the group would sign on to join another rootsy rock band, Brown's Home Brew, led by veteran British rocker Joe Brown. The Mirage's story ended with a whimper rather than a bang, but they would be belatedly celebrated by fans of British Beat-era music and psychedelic pop aficionados, who collected their rare singles, especially "The Wedding of Ramona Blair." An unauthorized Mirage collection, You Can't Be Serious, appeared in 2000, collecting most of their single sides as well as demos, alternate takes, and highlights from BBC live sessions. An authorized Mirage collection was issued by the British RPM label in 2006; Tomorrow Never Knows – The Pop Sike World of the Mirage: Singles & Lost Sessions similarly collected most of their rare 45s as well as demos and BBC tapes. The reissue label Grapefruit Records delivered the definitive Mirage collection in 2022 with The World Goes on Around You: The Anthology. It gathered all their singles as the Mirage, the Yellow Pages, and Portobello Explosion, along with BBC live material, an abundant sampling of rare and unreleased demos, and the complete Jawbone album.
© Mark Deming /TiVo

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