Pop Archives

The Groove - What Is Soul (1968)

(Ben E. King - Bob Gallo)
Australia Australia
#13 Melbourne #30 Brisbane

B-side on Columbia July 1968.

A soul-oriented band formed in Melbourne in 1967, The Groove was something of a supergroup. Its members had worked with The Clefs (Tweed Harris), Max Merritt & the Meteors (Peter Williams), The Librettos and Normie Rowe’s Playboys (Rod Stone), Black Pearls and Running Jumping Standing Still (Jamie Byrne), and Steve & the Board (Geoff Bridgford).

Further reading: For a thorough account of The Groove, see Paul Culnane’s article at Milesago which draws on the recollections of Groove guitarist Rod Stone.

Simon Dupree & The Big Sound - What Is Soul (1967)

(Ben E. King - Bob Gallo)

On album Without Reservations June 1967 by British soul-rock band, also on the retrospective Kites, 1994.

There never was a Simon Dupree. Lead singer was Derek Shulman from Portsmouth, who formed the band with his brothers Ray and Phil. The three Shulmans were multi-instrumentalists, covering guitars, saxophone, trumpet and violin amongst themselves. They were joined by drummer Tony Randell and bass Pete O’Flaherty.

Sources, further reading: Band biography by Bruce Eder and album review by Richie Unterberger, both at All Music.

Benny Gordon & The Soul Brothers - What Is Soul (1967)

(Ben E. King - Bob Gallo)

Single on RCA April 1967. Produced by Paul Robinson, arranged & conducted by Teacho Wiltshire.

Benny and his Brothers were one of those great – but anonymous – soul bands that made a bunch of wicked 45s for different labels (RCA, Wand, Estill and others) and then faded into the ether.

Larry Grogan at  Funky16Corners 

Thanks to Karel.

Rob Hoeke Rhythm & Blues Group - What Is Soul (1967)

(Ben E. King - Bob Gallo)
Netherlands Netherlands
#32 Netherlands

Single on Philips April 1967 by one of several groups led by Rob Hoeke, influential Dutch jazz-blues pianist, singer and harmonica player (1943-1999).

Further reading: 1. Rob Hoeke page at Alex Gitlin’s Nederpop Encyclopedia. 2. User review at DutchCharts.nl.
Thanks to Karel for version alert.

Johnny Hallyday - Je suis seul (What is soul) (1967)

(Ben E King - Bob Gallo - Georges Aber)
France France

Je suis seul est une chanson emblématique de Johnny Hallyday.

Opening sentence of French Wikipedia’s article on the song

On Philips EP Hey Joe March 1967 by legendary French music idol and actor.

See Johnny Hallyday – C’est Le Mashed Potatoes and other examples at this site.

The French title Je suis seul means I am alone, an adaptation by Georges Aber (1930-2012), frequent collaborator of Petula Clark and a prolific songwriter and adapter. At this site, see under Yvonne Barrett – You’re The One and Lynne Randell – Heart, or browse all mentions.

Recorded at Talent Master Studio, New York with the participation of co-writer Bob Gallo, credited for direction & enregistrement on this track (spotted by Philippe, merci).

Further reading1. Johnny Hallyday biography at RFI Musique. 2. The EP at Encyclopédisque.fr.

The Ferris Wheel - What Is Soul (1967)

(Ben E. King - Bob Gallo)

On 1967 Pye album Can’t Break The Habit by highly regarded but commercially unsuccessful band formed partly by members of Emile Ford’s Checkmates.

The Ferris Wheel were one of England’s great lost musical treasures of the middle-late 1960’s — immensely popular among club audiences, they were never able to translate their ability to win over crowds into chart success, but they made some great records while they were trying.

Bruce Eder, Ferris Wheel biography at All Music. See also album review.

Ben E. King - What Is Soul (1966)

(Ben E. King - Bob Gallo)
Original version

Single on Atco November 1966, co-written by multi-skilled musician, arranger and producer Bob Gallo.

The first hits of Ben E. King (Benjamin Earl Nelson 1938-2015) were as the mellow lead singer of the re-formed Drifters 1959-1960, beginning with the breakthrough hit There Goes My Baby (1959, #2 USA) and peaking with Save The Last Dance For Me (1960, #1 USA), The Drifters’ biggest hit.

The original Drifters had been around since 1955, but Ben E. King had been one of The Crowns, the group recruited to become the new Drifters in 1959. King’s post-Drifters solo career produced such classics as Spanish Harlem (1961), Stand By Me (1961) and the original English version of I (Who Have Nothing) (1963).

Bill Millar, in his book The Drifters (1971), reckons that Ben E. King sang on 8.9% of Drifters recordings 1955-1970.

References: 1. Bill Millar, The Drifters (Studio Vista, 1971). 2. Phil Hardy et al, Encyclopedia of Rock Vol 1 (Granada/Panther, 1976).

Ben E. King & The Average White Band - What Is Soul (1977)

(Ben E. King - Bob Gallo)
Later version

On 1977 Atlantic album Benny And Us by Scottish band of soul fans with former Drifter and solo star of the 60s and beyond. See the review by Jason Elias at All Music.

The Furys - What Is Soul (1963)

(Harlan - McEachin)
Red herring

Same title but not the same song as ‘What Is Soul’ by The Groove.

Single on Mack IV September 1965 by Californian doo-wop vocal group. The Furys were a renamed configuration of The Cyclones who went back to the early 1950s.

Further reading: Detailed history of The Furys at Doo-wop.blog.org.

The Real Thing - What Is Soul (1970)

(Gardner - Stuart)
Red herring

Same title but not the same song as ‘What Is Soul’ by The Groove.

Reissued on Double Shot Of Soul, a retrospective of the Los Angeles Indie label Double Shot whose biggest hit was Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction (1966).

(This is not, I think we can say, the British soul group of the 70s also called The Real Thing.)

Funkadelic - What Is Soul (1970)

(George Clinton Jr. - Eddie Hazel - William Nelson)
Red herring

Same title but not the same song as ‘What Is Soul’ by The Groove.

On 1970 album Funkadelic by popular 70s band led by George Clinton along with Parliament.

Paul Shaffer - What Is Soul (1989)

(Don Covay - Steve Cropper - Paul Shaffer)
Red herring

Same title but not the same song as ‘What Is Soul’ by The Groove.

On 1989 Capitol album Coast To Coast. Paul Shaffer is Music Director of The Late Show with David Letterman.