Half Past Midnight / Weatherman - 7"
Capitol - 1967
Following on the success of early rock 'n' rollers the Esquires, Ottawa's most successful sixties group got their start in 1963 as the backing band for local DJ and singer Dean Hagopian, releasing a seven-inch the next year ('Just in Case'/'This is the End'), before striking out on their own as the Staccatos. A residency at the Chaudiere Club over in nearby Hull, Quebec sharpened their young chops, while attracting the notice of the Esquires' manager Sandy Gardiner, who took the lads under his wing, and produced their first single 'It Isn't Easy'/'Please Come Home' (Allied) a mere three weeks later. The young rockers must have been thrilled when the song reached number one locally, selling a "massive" 1,800 copies in the national capital. The band then signed with Capitol Records, releasing their debut Initially...The Staccatos LP, and a string of Vern Craig-Les Emmerson-penned singles that carried them through 1966 and 1967.
But the Staccatos' biggest hit, the airy, upbeat 'Half Past Midnight', would catapult them to national fame, spending three weeks on the RPM top ten charts nationally and winning an RPM award for best produced single - though this was hardly a surprise for a record recorded in no fewer than six different sessions in Montreal and Toronto. It was Canada's spring that year, with Expo '67 wowing the world in Montreal and a flowering freak scene getting under way down in Toronto, and the vaguely psychedelic vocals and sweeping background strings of 'Half Past Midnight' must have struck a chord in a youthful nation in thrall to its own centenary celebration. Over on the b-side is the quaint Merseybeat of 'Weatherman', which I'm guessing was no doubt a little incongruous for 1967 - and for North America for that matter - and is probably best forgotten.
Of course, the Staccatos' toils would ultimately bear fruit south of the border as well. A name change on the ambiguously titled Five Man Electrical Band LP in 1969, and a subsequent #3 US smash with their early seventies AM staple 'Signs' would see to it that the band's niche in pop history was permanently etched in stone.
(All you ever wanted to hear by the Staccatos, including 'Half Past Midnight', is available on Pacemaker's swell 51-song 2-CD First Sparks - The Anthology 1965-1969, released in 2009.)
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