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The Nocturnals

The Nocturnals - Do What You Want / Detroit - 7

Do What You Want / Detroit - 7"
Embassy - 1967

Michael Panontin
The Nocturnals were actually part-owners of the cleverly named Grooveyard, a happening nightclub over in New Westminster, B.C. that played host to r'n'b acts from 1965 to 1968. The band had been kicking around the lower mainland since at least the late fifties when they got their start as the Rousers out in suburban Haney, but by 1965 they had gelled into a taut six-piece churning out a mix of Brit-style Merseybeat and more revved-up r'n'b. The popular sextet of singer/drummer Bill McBeth, guitarist Ron Henschel, organist Chad Thorp, bass player Wayne Evans, and the twin saxes of Roger Skinner and Carl Erickson managed to score a couple of local hits on the Regency label, 'Because You're Gone' ( #9 in 1965) and 'This Ain't Love' (#5 in 1966). From there, they shifted eastward, relocating to Ontario and hopping over to the Montreal-based Trans-World label for a trio of singles, the best of which was probably this flaming ode to the Michigan car capital.

Despite kicking off with some killer fuzz guitar that could just as easily have come from the Ugly Ducklings or even fellow Vancouverites the Painted Ship, the frantic 'Detroit' (released on Embassy in the U.S. and on Trans-World up here in Canuckistan) seems to owe more to Junior Walker and his Fox Theater throwdowns than to anything else. When the lads belt out lines like, "I'm going back to Detroit...my home, Detroit," I'm guessing there's more than hint of wishful thinking here. So no surprise, I suppose, that the record gets the occasional spin or two at some of those mod revival shindigs these days.

However, despite scoring the gig of a lifetime at Expo '67, the straight-legged Nocturnals found themselves in a world of bell-bottomed hippies, be-ins and flower-powered psychedelia. And with the black world being blown wide open by James Brown and his defiant and freewheeling funk, there was little room left for a bunch of west coast boys plying old-school r'n'b. So without much fanfare, the Nocturnals packed it in sometime in 1968 and headed back to Vancouver, never really to be heard from again.

(The two-disc CD The Nocturnals - Greatest Hits And More! was issued back in 2007 on the Neptoon label.)

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