Jan 05

I Know It’s Crazy But I Can’t Stop

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It’s no surprise that they never equalled ‘Have I The Right’, spending the rest of their short career casting around for another big hit. Follow-up singles either failed to chart or ran aground well short of the top ten, although they did manage a sizeable hit overseas with ‘I Can’t Stop’, which oddly was never released as a single in Britain. To put it bluntly ‘I Can’t Stop’ is fucking mental. An obviously speeded up Dennis D’ell yelps and growls over a stripped down and scratchy R+B/Merseybeat hybrid. The bridge is bonkers – D’ell squeaks a camp ” A-we can’t go on kissing – like THIS” while Honey alternates thundering rolls with a proto-glam thud. Martin Murray’s guitar solo, meanwhile, battles against insane amounts of compression which at times reduces it to a high whistle and only Alan Ward’s Vox Continental escapes the crush as Meek runs riot on the desk. D’ell declares in the second bridge, “You’ve driven/ me wild/ from the start – WOW!” and we go around again until Honey’s cymbal flaying finishes it. Genius!

The third Honeycombs track on ‘Alchemist’ is a 1965 Kinks cover, ‘Something Better Beginning’. While the original is a pretty good, slightly Mersey-cheesy album track from ‘Kinda Kinks’, this version is gigantic – the best Kinks cover I’ve heard. Better even than The Raincoats’ ‘Lola’ or The Nomads ‘ I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ – that good. From the off Meek punctuates another cavernous production with a blend of groaning baritone sax and muted trumpet, gliding in ballroom strings halfway through the first verse. This time Honey’s beat is pure driving pop-Motown, pushing D’ell’s hopeful vocal to a dramatic falsetto conclusion. Massive – but it only struggled to number 39 in the charts.

There was one last hurrah – a summer 1965 number 12 hit with re-recording of the Howard/Blaikley ballad ‘That’s The Way’ from the previous year’s album ‘The Honeycombs’. Here Honey gets the microphone, joining a mixed-down D’ell in a soaring bubblegum duet and she sounds, well – heartbreakingly beautiful. A few more singles stiffed in 1965/66 before the band ground to a halt sometime in 1967. Well, maybe not quite – The Honeycombs have existed in various forms on the clubs and pubs circuit until just about the present day, usually featuring Dennis D’ell as the only original member. Honey Lantree never featured again except for a rumoured 1996 attempt to put the original line-up back together. I read somewhere that her mother had kept Honey’s sixties drum-kit in her basement in Hayes and that she planned to use it again, but somehow it never happened. I just can’t imagine how the heck the kit had survived the beatings she must have given it thirty years before.

So that’s why I love Honey and her Honeycombs. Sometimes everything- the sound, the look, the songs – is so irresistible that you can’t help yourself. You can’t help making them part of a story, part of a dream. And that’s the way you fall in love.

(All text copyright 2002 Dr C.)

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