Spanky & Our Gang
Although not noted for many recordings during their career, Spanky
and Our Gang was what I called a great summer time folk song group. I came up with that description
particularly because of the two songs "Sunday Will Never Be The Same" and "Lazy Day.' They just remind you of
summer days. Their music always consisted of great harmonies and melodies of fun. The group consisted of
Elaine "Spanky" McFarland, Nigel Pickering, Paul "Oz" Bach (1966-1967) , Malcolm Hale, (died in 1968 of carbon
monoxide poisoning), John "the chief" Seiter, 1967-1969, Kenny Hodges 1968-1969, Lefty Baker
The group derived its name from the "Our Gang" comedies. Members
of the band said Elaine resembled George "Spanky" McFarland probably only because of her last name.
The group's first album, simply titled Spanky and Our Gang, was
released by Mercury Records on August 1, 1967, and included three popular songs that were released as singles.
These were "Sunday Will Never Be The Same" (their biggest hit, which reached number #9 on the U.S. Billboard Hot
100 chart in the summer of 1967) followed by "Making Every Minute Count" and "Lazy Day" (both of which made the Top
30 that fall). Both "Sunday Will Never Be The Same" and "Lazy Day" sold over one million copies. "Sunday Will Never
Be the Same" was written by Terry Cashman and Gene Pistilli. In an interview by Cashman with the Songfacts website,
he revealed that the song was originally written as a ballad. However, Cashman said the group "changed it, and they
added the vocal, 'Ba-da-da-da-da,' which was a great hook."
Their second album, Like to Get to Know You, was released in April
1968. Two singles were released: "Sunday Mornin'" in the spring, which reached #30, and "Like To Get To Know You",
which reached #17 in the summer of 1968. The album version of "Sunday Mornin'" begins and ends with humorous
conversation. The single's B-side, "Three Ways From Tomorrow", also received considerable airplay. The album also
included their rendition of the classic "Stardust" and a version of "Everybody's Talkin'", best known as a hit
single for Harry Nilsson and the theme song for the movie Midnight Cowboy.
"Give a Damn" was released as a single in the summer of 1968. In
spite of being banned in several states because of the profanity in its title - and in some cases due to the fact
that it was a comment on racial equality that became the theme song for the New York Urban Coalition - the song
became a regional hit where released and overall made #43. It was also performed live on an episode of The Smothers
Brothers Comedy Hour, resulting in CBS Standards and Practices division receiving numerous complaints about the
song's title being used during 'family viewing hours'. One such complaint reportedly came from Richard Nixon (Tom
Smothers, 'Geraldo' Interview, 1987). Ironically, "Give A Damn" would become John Lindsay's campaign song during
his successful run for Mayor of New York.
In October 1968, the group suffered a tragedy when at age 27 their
lead guitarist Malcolm Hale died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty space heater (Hale's death has also
been ascribed to bronchopneumonia). The group disbanded shortly afterwards. Mercury released a third album,
Anything You Choose b/w Without Rhythm or Reason, in January 1969. It contained two popular songs, the previous
summer's hit "Give a Damn" and "Yesterday's Rain".
After the band's break-up, "Spanky" enjoyed some success as a solo
artist. She also toured for years with the Mamas & the Papas, singing primarily the parts previously performed
by the late Cass Elliot.
The group briefly reformed in 1975 and recorded an album "Change"
for the Epic Label.
Because of their continued popularity, Mercury has released album
collections of their greatest hits in 1969 (Spanky's Greatest
Hit(s)), 1994 (Give a
Damn), and 2005 (Spanky and Our
Gang). In addition, Hip-O-Select has issued a limited edition anthology of
their complete Mercury recordings including never released recordings and extensive liner notes.