The Honeycombs, by Dr C

I’m in love with Honey Lantree, and anyone who cares about pop should love her too. Look at the cover of The Honeycombs ‘I Can’t Stop’ – she’s above the boys, looking to the left and slightly upwards, red lipstick and dark back-comb. If you could see her body, instead of just her head, you might expect to see her seated at a typewriter, clockwatching the last ten minutes of a working week, looking forward to tonight’s club, tonight’s friends, tonight’s music. She’d be wearing a skirt slightly too short for the typing pool and perhaps a little too much make up – but there’s no time to go home to the suburbs and change before the 100 Club. No time to waste.

Well, it’s not quite as ordinary as that. Although at one time a hairdresser, Honey Lantree was 60’s pop’s greatest drummer – The Honeycombs’ one woman popstomp explosion. For a week or more I’ve been immersed in the four Honeycombs songs on Castle/Sanctuary’s staggering new Joe Meek anthology The Alchemist Of Pop . Not only does Alchemist replace the fairly difficult to get hold of ‘It’s Hard to Believe and the various volumes of The Joe Meek Story as the definitive Meek comp, but it’s also absolutely compulsory listening for any pop fan. Hang on – I don’t want to talk about The Alchemist of Pop here – read Marcello Carlin’s Church of Me article for a brilliant overview of the whole thing – I just want to talk about The Honeycombs. About Honey.

Let’s take them one at a time. First – ‘Have I the Right’ – the BIG one. Where to start? A debut Number One in August 1964 – two minutes and fifty six seconds of hormones-out-of-control pop mayhem. As with all great records, the intro sets everything up perfectly – an urgent, slightly marching-on the spot, backbeat with tambourine topping and Meek’s trademark compressed beyond belief guitar and ice rink organ. Dennis D’ell’s weird growling and gargling delivery is one of the great pop vocals, cranking himself up to a frustrated howl on the chorus (“‘I’ve got some love and I long to share it!”) over Honey’s brutal thump. The slightly off-mike ‘Alright’ after the second chorus sounds as if D’ell has fallen to the floor unable to continue, leaving it to the guitar to carry the tune while he recovers. Here, Honey punctuates with skipping end -of phrase off beats – I told you she was good. The empty-cinema ambience of the production is amazing, Meek ensuring that you have to lean in and listen hard. But still you always feel that something in the mix is still out of reach, as yet unheard.