Jack London & the Sparrows: Jack London & the Sparrows (1965)


A kind of missing link in the history of Canadian rock, Toronto beat group Jack London & the Sparrows formed in Oshawa, Ontario, in early 1964. Singer London (born Dave Marden) was recently transplanted from London, England, when he founded the group with lead guitarist Dennis Edmonton, whose brother Jerry was soon installed on drums. After relocating to Toronto, the lineup solidified with the additions of ex-Swinging Doors bassist Bruce Palmer and keyboardist C.J. Feeney. Their British Invasion-inspired beat sound quickly found an audience, and London & the Sparrows were soon staples of the Toronto scene, headlining clubs including the Jubilee Auditorium (which just happened to be owned by the Edmonton brothers' father). After signing to Capitol, the band reached the number three spot on the Canadian charts with their 1965 debut single, "If You Don't Want My Love."Palmer, however, felt confined by the Sparrows' sound and soon exited to join the R&B-flavored Mynah Birds. (He and fellow Mynah Bird Neil Young later resurfaced in the legendary Buffalo Springfield, while the group's frontman, Rick James, went on to record funk classics including "Super Freak.") With Palmer's arrival in the Mynah Birds, the band's previous bassist, Nick St. Nicholas, joined London & the Sparrows. Keyboardist Art Ayre replaced Feeney around the same time, and this iteration of the group soon entered the studio to record their sophomore single, "I'll Be the Boy," which cracked the Top 20. Its follow-up, "Our Love Has Passed," returned the group to the Canadian Top Ten, and London & the Sparrows issued a self-titled LP that boasted a more acid punk sound than their earlier material. However, internal squabbling resulted in London leaving the group to mount a solo career. The remaining Sparrows carried on and recorded a final single, "Give My Love to Sally," that reached the number 13 spot. In September 1965, Ayre left the group and singer John Kay and keyboardist Goldy McJohn signed on. Rechristened the Sparrow, they traveled to New York City to record a single for Columbia, "Hard Time With the Law," before splitting with Dennis Edmonton (who continued performing under the name Mars Bonfire) and relocating to California. There the Sparrow renamed themselves Steppenwolf, and would go on to record the hard rock classics "Born to Be Wild" and "Magic Carpet Ride."


Jack London & the Sparrows' self-titled debut was one of the earliest albums in Canada (and indeed, one of the earlier albums in all of North America) to bear a heavy British Invasion influence, coming out in the spring of 1965. The British Invasion influence started, indeed, with the name of the artist, Jack London having changed his name from Dave Marden. Still, Jack London & the Sparrows was a bit on the tepid and wimpy side of the early British Invasion sound, with some dolorous melodrama in songs like "Our Love Has Passed" (which did make the Canadian Top Ten). "If You Don't Want My Love," their biggest Canadian hit, opts for the more energetic side of early Merseybeat in its brisk perkiness, though "Sparrows and Daisies" and "Give My Love to Sally," by contrast, go more toward the Peter & Gordon/Chad & Jeremy end of things. In all, the material (also including a couple of other Canadian Top 20 singles with "I'll Be the Boy" and "Give My Love to Sally") makes Jack London & the Sparrows sound like a minor-league 1963-1964 Liverpool band with some similarities to Gerry & the Pacemakers and the Searchers, though they seem more obviously imitative than either of those groups. It's passably catchy, innocuous stuff, but a little on the undeveloped side. Though Nick St. Nicholas is credited as the bassist and Jerry Edmonton as drummer, there's no hint of the heavy approach of Steppenwolf, the hit band they'd later join (who'd have a smash with "Born to Be Wild," written by guitarist Dennis Edmonton, by then known as Mars Bonfire).




Maximiliano said...

Excelente disco, muy melodico, pleno de canciones beat, de amor. Muy lindo, al parecer estos muchachos se burlaban de si mismos, o no se tomaban muy en serio, esto se deduce de la descripciĆ²n de cada integrante en la parte de atras del disco.

Muy buena eleccion.

Dmitrich said...

Thanks for your Blog!!! very similar tastes.
Welcome : http://onwingsdream.blogspot.com/2008/04/john-kay-and-sparrow-collectors-item.html

John Kay And The Sparrow - Collector's Item (1966)

Anonymous said...

Hola Pablo

Gracias otra vez.

I have the LP, but nice to have the digital for other places than the record room!

Marc (Canada)

Anonymous said...

Greatalbum with great music.
Thank you very much!