208. ‘Keep on Running’, by The Spencer Davis Group

We skip on into 1966, where the first number one is, perhaps unexpectedly, neither folkey nor baroquey. It’s a straight-up rocker!

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Keep on Running, by The Spencer Davis Group (their 1st of two #1s)

1 week, from 20th – 27th January 1966

A dirty drum and bass riff kicks it off, and then we get a blast of some kind of feedback-slash-scuzzy chord couplet. It makes you sit up, makes you take notice. Keep on runnin’, Runnin’ from my arms… It’s not as heavy as The Stones have been recently, but it’s not as poppy as anything from the Merseybeat days. It’s like a perfect marriage of the two…

Actually, it’s got a real soul vibe to it too, as if Sam Cooke was now fronting a Beat combo. It’s cool – catchy and funky. I love the Hey! Hey! Hey!s, and the way that the intro riff returns for the now customary wig-out at the end. It’s clear that any self-respecting rock record in 1965-66 has to fade-out with the lead singer going a little bit crazy…

I know this song, but know very little about the band – The Spencer Davis Group (don’t ‘The Spencer-Davis’s’ sound like a posh couple that you avoid in Sainsbury’s?) I would have bet they were American, with their funky soul sound, but no. They were from Birmingham (and not the one in Alabama.) Interestingly, ‘Keep on Running’ isn’t a cover of a soul song, but a cover of a reggae hit from the year before. Check it out here… Unsurprisingly, it sounds completely different. I’ve never been a huge reggae fan – something that I’m sure will crop up in this countdown as the genre grows in popularity – so I’ll take The Spencer-Davis’s version, thankyouverymuch.

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It’s a great record. Though I feel, before we go much further, that the lyrics need some scrutinising. They’re a bit… overbearing? That’s putting it politely. The title refers to a woman who, try as she might, will not be able to escape the singer’s attentions. One fine day I’m gonna be the one, To make you understand, Oh yeah, I’m gonna be your man… It gets worse when you realise that he’s motivated not by love, but because his mates are laughing at him: Everyone is talkin’ about me, Makes me feel so bad, Everyone is laughin’ at me, Makes me feel so sad…

Hmmm. The more you think about them, the worse they get. But hey, this was the sixties. Different times, different levels of tolerance for possessive wierdos… File under ‘Catchy but Creepy’, with ‘What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?’ and ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’.

The Spencer-Davis’s will be back, and very shortly, for the second part of their chart-topping brace. They had had a few low charting singles in the previous couple of years, but ‘Keep on Running’ propelled them to another level entirely. It’s not quite a classic, a standard, but it has a hook that most people could sing. And, despite what I said about the lyrics, I do really like it. It’s fun, and a little rough around the edges. Like all the best rock songs should be… A great way to kick off a new year.

4 thoughts on “208. ‘Keep on Running’, by The Spencer Davis Group

  1. badfinger20

    That is dirty! The recording is somewhat distorted…they had to record it in the red on this one. I never heard this before…I like it a lot…
    Yep…on the lyrics…he is quite determined.

  2. Pingback: 212. ‘Somebody Help Me’, by The Spencer Davis Group – The UK Number Ones Blog

  3. Pingback: Random Runners-up: ‘Gimme Some Loving’, by The Spencer Davis Group – The UK Number Ones Blog

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