I'll Know Better (Next Time) / Roses and Heartaches - 7"
Gaiety - 1966
Brian Wilson once admired him and Phil Spector was allegedly scared of him, but these days no one really remembers Gary Paxton. The erstwhile svengali behind such early hits as 'Alley Oop' by the Hollywood Argyles and Bobby 'Boris' Picket's 'Monster Mash' spent much of his life on the fringes, writing and producing songs for little-known singers on his own equally obscure labels like Garpax, Paxley and Star-Burst.
In fact, Paxton's life is a veritable Hollywood movie-in-waiting. His childhood was one of soul-busting poverty that included rickets, adoption, sexual abuse, spinal meningitis and, as he told the Christian website Cross Rhythms in his usual half-flippant way, "for the first eight years my bed was a pile of sheep rock in the front room". He would eventually make his way to Los Angeles, by way of Tucson and Tacoma, where at the age of twenty he enjoyed his first taste of success in the form of a top-twenty pop hit as the latter half of the singing duo Skip and Flip.
Paxton, almost inconceivably after such an unfortunate start to life, had a knack for cranking out spry, catchy pop songs, sometimes as a writer and other times as a producer or arranger. Unfortunately, by the mid-sixties he was seeing many of his records miss their targets, and often by a pretty wide mark. One such song that failed to trouble any chart was his fetching 'I'll Know Better (Next Time)'. That tune somehow managed to find its way up the coast to Vancouver and into the hands of Don Grashey, a small-time record exec whose big claim to fame was that he helped launch the career of Loretta Lynn (though Lynn omitted such details in her best-selling memoir Coal Miner's Daughter, a thorn that stuck into Grashey's side till his death in 2005).
Grashey claims to have discovered her singing at a place called The Chicken Coop, a converted old hen house at the southern end of Vancouver proper. Those who frequented the BYOB weekend hoedowns at The Chicken Coop use words like "rat hole" and "a distinctive fowl odour" to describe its rough-hewn ambience. Lynn's memories of her performance there are hazy. But one person who was in attendance that night was a teenaged Sandi Loranger, whose aunt and uncle owned the place. She told the Vancouver Courier's Rob Howatson in 2012 that "I was more into pop music than country...but I do remember that Loretta was well received by the pickers who were there that day."
Loranger, a.k.a. Sandi Shore, was herself a budding singing sensation, having won a local talent contest for radio station CKNW when she was barely into her teens. She could often be found singing around town - under her parents' chaperonage, naturally - at places like the Cave, Isy's, the Arctic Club and the Orpheum Theatre. She issued her first single (Grashey's 'Tears of Joy Fell in the Chapel') as Sandi Loranger in 1959. By 1966, Shore had matured into a silky-voiced dynamo who sounded more like Petula Clark or Sandie Shaw than the fifties pop of her early days. For Grashey, she must have seemed just the one to take Paxton's pop/soul crooner right up to the top of the charts.
'I'll Know Better (Next Time)' was recorded in Hollywood and released just in time for the summer of 1966. The record did well enough on the home front, staking out a top-40 position locally for the week of July 2. But even with Paxton's taut songwriting skills and Shore's powerful performance, it never managed the sort of success Grashey surely hoped for south of the border. Shore would issue a couple more singles, 'Welcome to the Fold' and 'Like a Madness', but by the end of the decade, she had left the music business entirely to start a family of her own. As for Paxton, after spending much of his time stoned out of his gourd as well as nearly dying on the operating table after an attempt on his life, he made a turnaround of biblical proportions, becoming a born-again Christian and even winning a Grammy - his one and only - for Best Inspirational Performance in 1977.
('I'll Know Better (Next Time)' can be found on the Edsel label's superfine comp Boy Trouble - Garpax Girls, which came out in 2004.)
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Little White Lies / Frustration - 7"
London (Canada) - Mercury (USA)