The Honeycombs “All Systems Go!”

Before the dust settled on their million-selling debut single “Have I the Right?” produced by Joe Meek, the Honeycombs released their self-titled debut LP on Pye records in September of 1964.

Dismissed by some as a novelty act for having a female drummer (bandleader Honey Lantree), they cut consistently good material at Meek’s Holloway Road home studio throughout 1965 and released their finest effort All Systems – Go! on Pye in December of that year.

Mostly a mix of freakbeat and the bubblegum-pop of their singles, All Systems- Go! also features some great experimenting from a band trying to maintain their success. It’s these genre hopping tracks that make this a solid record, but also account for some of the lesser numbers.

There are a few throwaways, like the light R&B fare of “Ooee Train” (which starts strong but dies at the verse) and “Don’t Love Her No More” (which has a great guitar sound but a terrible chorus). The version of “I Can’t Stop” featured here is not as catchy as the single, but the Honey-sung “There’s Something I’ve Got To Tell You Baby” has been improved from the Glenda Collins version. This time it’s slowed down and more sincere, replacing the strings with a mellow organ and classical guitar musings. “Our Day Will Come” expands on the exotica vibe of “Totem Pole” and displays Honey Lantree’s strong prowess as a drummer. The rhythm section is especially tight on this album and really pops out.

“If You Should” could be mistaken for an early Brian Wilson production, and is easily among the best here. “Nobody But Me” stands out with its persistent guitar line and another solid performance from Honey, but the title track is the most single-worthy, with its anthemic full band chant of “ALL…SYSTEMS…GO!!”. Most of the songs here were written by Howard & Blaikley, with the exception of the Ray Davies penned “Emptiness”, which was never recorded by The Kinks. It’s very Kinks-like and bears a striking similarity to “Something Better Beginning” which had also been recorded by the Honeycombs earlier in the year. The disc closes with the Roy Orbison sounding “My Prayer” that works strangely well and highlights the uniqueness of Denis D’Ell’s voice.  Probably the most grandiose recording here, it shows the Honeycombs as far from their core sound as they ever got, but also comes across as the most confident.

Forty six years on and All Systems Go is still an interesting and rewarding listen. It’s full of unique sounds and rhythms and is definitely one of the best of the few LP’s Joe Meek recorded.

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“All Systems Go”

:D CD Reissue | 2fer | buy here ]
:) Original LP |  1965 | Pye | search ebay ]

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  • Brendan

    I think it was Jello Biafra who said you could hear a Meek track a mile away. Welcome aboard, Frank. Cool record and a great review.

  • Len Liechti

    Excellent review of an interesting subject. Definitely one of Joe Meek’s best products, though it has to be said that Meek also recorded plenty of dross, as evidenced by any compilation of his releases; he didn’t always have much talent to work with in those thin pre-Beatles days. “Telstar”, “Johnny Remember Me” and “Have I The Right” remain jewels of early British Beat. I recall seeing the Honeycombs on Ready Steady Go in early ’65 and being less impressed by their female drummer than by their set of three matching Burns Bison guitars.

  • Yair (Small Town Romance Blog)

    this is brilliant. Was just listening to I Hear A New World the other day. spooky and exciting!

  • Frank

    Glad you guys dug it. I will always be blown away by the one of a kind sounds Joe Meek created. Len is right though- he recorded thousands of songs in a relatively short period of time, a lot of which were terrible. This was mostly due to poor choice of material and poor singers (Heinz for one), but the common thread was always the unique sounds and production techniques.

    This album is one of the few that I actually sought out and loved immediately. The singers with creepy vibrato are a Meek staple, and I think Dennis really shines here.

    It’s really an honor to right for the Rising Storm. Thanks everyone for the warm welcome!

  • Great review Frank. A mate of mine plays drums for a Neil Diamond tribute act that plays around Melbourne. Neil is played by one of the guys from The Honeycombs. I’ll find out which one and get back to you.

  • Good for you Len Liechti for being more impressed with the matching Bisons than the female drummer. Martin was … well perhaps distraught is not too strong a word, that people saw Honey as a gimmick. It seems the more he protested that she was a good drummer the more they were convinced she was there as eye candy or a talking point.

    Personally I prefer the first album to the second. It is more consistent with only two non Howard and Blaikley tracks compared to the second which only has three H&B numbers on it.

    Apparently Denis D’Ell, having assumed leadership of the band with the departure of Martin Murray and he kept rejecting the writers offerings.
    The songs he turned down went straight to Dave Dee, Dozy Beaky Mick and Titch (whom Denis first discovered and introduced to H&B) who made hits out of most of them.

    Imagine if The Honeycombs had recorded stuff like The Legend Of Xanadu? Would they have stayed together longer? Would they now rank alongside the Kinks? Who knows?

    I would be very interested to know more of Lad Litter’s ex Honeycomb doing Neil Diamond??

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