Jan 05

THE HONEYCOMBS – “Have I The Right?”

Popular28 comments • 6,037 views

#176, 29th August 1964

In which, if you like, post-punk gets invented eleven years (or maybe two weeks) before punk. Which is to say, when I listen to the instrumental break on this record, bright guitar and sharp keyboard slicing tuneless chunks out of each other, it’s not 1964 I’m hearing. In its way “Have I The Right?” is as odd as “Telstar” (they share Joe Meek as producer) – one foot in a phantom era of steam-powered record production, the other in a future where music and life are a little wider, a bit more free.

But unlike “Telstar”, this is also a mostly-conventional pop stomper, a stab at fitting in with the new Beat Group rules. And in that context its private, primitive sonics are like the strange, slow kid shuffling by himself in a corner of the disco. The singer wants nothing to do with transatlantic cool, in fact ‘cool’ in general isn’t much help when you’re trying this hard to please, so away it goes, replaced with stagey, chewy bravado. The flourishes of yesterday and the splintery sound of tomorrow – all Honey Lantree on drums has to do is tie them together, a barely probable job which of course she aces.



  1. 1
    Anonymous on 1 May 2005 #

    Sorry to see that all the old Haloscan comments are gone. I’ll start by repeating what I said weeks ago, before the old comments vanished: This is one incredible, downright BRILLIANT recording. Everything Tom said about it is absolutely spot-on. No one should even dream of omitting “Have I the Right” from any overview of sixties Britpop.

    If that weren’t enough, it’s a quintessential expression of the raging, hormonal angst without which pop music simply could not have come into being. Chthonic, as Camille Paglia might say. (Whatever happened to HER? I remember when all US academia lived in fear of her. . . .)

    Now, all these marvellous things said, let there be no mistake about the Honeycombs: This truly incredible recording is one of those freak examples of a one-hit wonder band whose one hit was probably the ONLY worthwhile thing they recorded. Half a listen to any Honeycombs anthology reveals an embarrassingly amateurish group that sounded as if it belonged in the fifties rather than the sixties, and was grasping for straws in trying anything remotely “hip”–“remote” is the operative word here–without any particular sense of direction or style. They remind me of nothing quite so much as the sort of provincial dance bands that make their brief and sad appearances in so many New Cinema films of the late 50s and early 60s. In other words, godawful.

    Still, I would recommend that everyone interested in the period have a listen to any Honeycombs anthology one can find. From a historical point of view, it serves as an illustration of the sort of music and performance that was probably widespread during the period during which the Beatles and the Stones were in their ascendancy–but that was rarely recorded and subsequently forgotten.

    One might also find a few real howls in the lyrics; my own fave is from “Colour Slide”: “I’ve got you on my wall / I’ve got you ten feet tall / I’ve got you on a colour slide.” Ah, the erotic possibilities technology provides! You’ll not often find lyrics like that.

    Doctor Mod

  2. 2
    Joe Williams on 31 Aug 2005 #

    Agreed, brilliant record, especially the moment when they launch into the ‘Come right back…’ of the chorus (a chorus that doesn’t include the title, unusually).

  3. 3
    bramble on 8 Sep 2006 #

    The Honeycombs weren’t a one-hit wonder band. Thats the Way was a top ten hit and Eyes and Something Better Beginning made the top thirty.Honey Lantree didnt deserve the misogynist comments of the likes of Keith Moon -‘Leadfoot Lantree’ – though the drum sound on Have I the Right was given a bit of weight by Joe Meek stomping on bare boards in the bathroom and the rest of the group arrayed down the stairs and stomping on the steps. What finished them was going off on an endless tour of Australasia, Indonesia etc at a time when
    they should have been promoting their hits back home. Like the man who took a bet in 1912 to walk round the world pushing a pram, by the time he got home again in 1920 everyone had forgotten about him

  4. 4
    Lena on 4 Sep 2007 #

    The incredible stomping in the chorus is like Meek trying to knock down the door to the future in all ways.

  5. 5
    rosie on 28 Jul 2008 #

    A first number one for those tireless songwriting workhorses of 1960s British pop, Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley. Who didn’t get as many number ones as they deserved, perhaps.

  6. 6
    DJ Punctum on 28 Jul 2008 #

    Authorship disputed by Geoff Goddard who said that it was based on a song he and Meek wrote about a year earlier entitled “One More Chance.” He took Meek to court but lost the case and, embittered, retired from songwriting forever, ending his days working in a school canteen, and Meek’s career pretty much nosedived commercially thereafter.

  7. 7
    wichita lineman on 28 Jul 2008 #

    They were patchy, but the Honeycombs shouldn’t be dismissed quite so lightly.

    Eyes is minimal and chilling – I’ve always assumed Meek recorded a fuller production then stripped it back. Even the lead vocal has such an odd melody it sounds like it should be a harmony. This Too Shall Pass Away is as grandiose as its total, Meek’s death wish on tape (World Of Twist covered it as it was one of singer Tony Ogden’s favourites). That Loving Feeling is a kitchen sink, minor-key job that sounds distorted even on mint original vinyl; do I hear a harmonium?

    As with the ever-ridiculed Heinz (eerie Merseybeat You Were There pre-dates The Kinks’ See My Friend with same subject matter, and I’m Not A Bad Guy is FEROCIOUS!), there are gems to be found in the less obscure parts of the RGM catalogue.

  8. 8
    DJ Punctum on 29 Jul 2008 #

    My nomination for Meek’s death wish in a record is “You’re Holding Me Down” by Edinburgh’s The Buzz which I still think astonishing for 1965, especially the ending which is essentially total noise, Tam White screeching incomprehensibly like Birthday Party-era Nick Cave, the rest of them screeching “GO BACK! GO BACK!” and Meek sounding as though he’s smashing up his studio and his life’s work.

  9. 9
    wichita lineman on 3 Feb 2009 #

    When Meek first saw them, The Honeycombs had a residency at the Mildmay Tavern on Balls Pond Road, mere yards from a Freaky Trigger ‘convention’ last week. And, of course, today is the anniversary of Joe Meek’s messy end.

    Felt obliged to mention this and show some luv for RGM!

    I love the interview with Honey L where she tells a reporter, with winning sarcasm, “I make the tea”.

  10. 10

    Very good site some fair and unfair comments. Why do people look into things that are not there,its like walking round an art gallery listening to the people xplaining to each other what the painter was trying to say, when all the time he /she was trying to say this is my work, do you like it or not. Its that simple.

  11. 11
    larry.kooper on 14 Jun 2010 #

    I had no idea this record hit #1 in the UK! In the USA I was told about it by Miriam Linna (drummer of Cramps, Zantees) during the punk era, and I’ve loved it since.

  12. 12
    Billy Smart on 28 Jul 2010 #

    TOTPWatch: The Honeycombs performed Have I The Right? on Top of the Pops on five occasions;

    5 August 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas and Manfred Mann. David Jacobs was the host.

    12 August 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Dave Berry & The Nashville Teens. Jimmy Saville was the host.

    19 August 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Dave Berry, The Kinks, Dionne Warwick, Brenda Lee, The Bachelors and Manfred Mann. Pete Murray was the host.

    26 August 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Kinks and The Zombies. Alan Freeman was the host.

    24 December 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas, Herman’s Hermits, Manfred Mann, Sandie Shaw, The Animals, The Beatles, The Four Pennies, The Kinks and The Searchers. Jimmy Saville, Alan Freeman, Pete Murray & David Jacobs were the hosts.

    None of these editions survives.

  13. 13
    Lee on 1 Nov 2010 #

    Dennis D’ell also sang solo on ATV’s new faces in 1975

  14. 14
    Olli on 25 May 2011 #

    Unbelievable comments from anonymous at the top. There were some fantastic songs in The Honeycombs repertoire that could easily have made the top ten or even number one had circumstances been slightly different. The record company prevented them releasing That’s The Way as their second single, which later got to number 12 (top ten in some charts). It showed a completely different side from “Have I The Right” also the band were against “Eyes” as a single because they felt it was too advanced for the market at the time, and they were right as it didn’t even make the top 40.
    They were abroad quite a bit because Have I The Right was a global hit, and as a result they did not promote their later releases so well at home.
    But some of the best songs IMHO were Without You It Is Night, Eyes, Something Better Beginning, Colour Slide, That’s The Way, Can’t Get Through To you, and This Year Next year.
    Their first album “The Honeycombs” or “Its The Honeycombs” in the USA is all killer no filler and should be on anyone’s list of essential albums.

  15. 15
    punctum on 16 Jun 2011 #

    Amen to that! Here’s the amazing “Can’t Get Through To You”.

  16. 16
    Anne Dunning on 29 Jul 2011 #

    I thought The Keys sang Colourslide far better also their Sleep Sleep
    My baby has more harmony

  17. 17
    Anne Dunning on 29 Jul 2011 #

    Bring on The Keys

  18. 18
    winb on 22 Jan 2012 #

    I agree Anne D harmony was excellent by The Keys



  19. 19
    hectorthebat on 28 Mar 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  20. 20
    lonepilgrim on 20 Mar 2015 #

    with stompers like this (and to a lesser extent Doo Wah Diddy) there’s a sense of the floodgates opening in 1964. Despite the suits worn by the bands and their polite demeanour when interviewed the music was powerfully primitive. ‘Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command’ spelled out in simple chords and thumping rhythms

  21. 21
    Carol Long on 10 May 2015 #

    I loved the honeycombs brill voice and ever so handsome denis maybe if they had a different producer they might of lasted a lot longer I have cd and I love the songs takes me back to when I was fourteen.sadly denis passed away only 61 yr old but his music lives on.

  22. 22
    Phil on 20 May 2015 #

    I’m sceptical about how much of anything one remembers from before about the age of five – the cool web of language and all that. So this has a particular appeal to me (above and beyond being a perfect pop record, with that air of being beamed in from the future), as I’m pretty sure I’ve always known it. Well, always since June 1964 or soon afterwards – at which time I was still only three. It must be one of my very earliest musical memories – perhaps only surpassed by a vivid memory of being sat down in front of the test card(!) with Beverley from next door by my (no doubt harassed) mother, and noticing a bit where the music went “doing!” very amusingly. Childhood, eh?

  23. 23
    Lazarus on 16 Nov 2017 #

    The ‘earliest musical memories’ theme is one I find very interesting. In recent years I’ve found myself increasingly pulled back to the early seventies (youtube proving particularly helpful for this) and I’m not sure why exactly. I tend to tag ‘the first record I remember’ as ‘Those Were the Days’ (I was five) but I suspect that was getting regular radio play for 2-3 years after its chart run, much as ‘Get Lucky’ or ‘Happy’ do nowadays. The likelihood is that the first records I remember from their original chart run are from 1969/70, such as ‘Two Little Boys’, ‘Sugar Sugar’ and ‘All Kinds of Everything’ when I was of an age to watch them on Top of the Pops. The music you get into between the ages of 10 and 14 say, when you start putting your own record collection together, is another matter again, I guess. There must be a good feature on this somewhere.

  24. 24
    chrisew71 on 19 Apr 2018 #

    I love this song. Perhaps I need to check out more by them, but I have to confess to being disappointed by the Honeycombs album I bought back in the ’90s. One of the rare instances in which I actually paid a collector’s price for vinyl, not just picked something up used at a garage sale or flea market, simply because I loved this song and their presence on CDs was pretty negligible at that point.

  25. 25
    enitharmon on 28 Dec 2018 #

    So it’s farewell Honey Lantree. RIP Honey.

  26. 26

    Absolute tune. And some of its covers are too, well at least the Dead Kennedys one, when the civil war between the frantic drumming and fraught vocals, and the mantra “to hell with time signatures”, for better or for worse, accidentally invents Black Midi.

  27. 27

    I Can’t Get Through to You is also brilliant, way ahead of its time, and accidentally invented the B-52’s.

  28. 28
    Gareth Parker on 2 Jun 2021 #

    Not too keen on the vocals, but a decent song, good production and an appealing stomp imho. 6/10.

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