Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Davie Allan & The Arrows—
Blue's Theme


Released 1967 on Tower
The Seth Man, December 2001ce
Session musicians are among the most unsung artists of them all: sometimes credited for their work (and oftentimes not) and spending their time propping up from the shadows of those who bask in the spotlight of fame, usually resigned to obscurity or at best: places where those who whisper reverentially about the records that Al Casey, Billy Strange, Joe Osbourne or Carol Kaye did or did not indeed appear on while sifting through rumours, discographies and piles of dusty and cobwebbed singles and albums with all the reverence of discovering newly unearthed gods and goddesses. We know not their faces, let alone their names. And it’s even tougher when we don’t even hear their voices. These session musicians toiled in studios for mere session fees as they unfolded miles of sheet music onto music stands or spending countless hours re-vamping arrangements, tightening up rhythms or endlessly running through the same song all night long just to satisfy some producer or artist’s vision or whim.

There is one such studio veteran: a guitarist by the name of Davie Allan. And his guitar playing is NOT OF THIS EARTH.

An innovator as well as a gifted guitar genius whose fusings of melody into an effortless outpouring of countless fuzz guitar-directed anthems, many of which graced many notorious American biker/drug exploitation films of the sixties, Allan was backed by a three-piece group who performed as Davie Allan & The Arrows from 1965 to 1968. Allan’s incredible guitar instrumentals were like a monoxide-mainlining version of The Ventures if they encompassed everything from psychedelia to slash and burn surf running amok to the gentlest of melodic themes. The Arrows released four albums during their five-year career between 1963-1968, and had a surreptitious double career as an L.A. session group under the direction of producer Mike Curb, who recorded many songs by The Arrows only to re-title or re-credit them under a flurry of unlikely band names like ‘The Sidewalk Sounds,’ ‘The Hands Of Time’ and even ‘The Back Wash Rhythm Band’ -- a Spector-esque ruse put into practise to give the impression a huge roster of hit ‘artistes’ under his own creative tutoring and command. Curb gained unlimited mileage out of tracks recorded by The Arrows. For instance, the title cut from the “Blue’s Theme” album also appeared not only on the soundtrack to “The Wild Angels” but on “The Wild Angles Vol. 2” as a different take re-recorded with vocals, as a single and then on at least two compilations in the sixties alone. But this was only the tip of the iceberg, as somewhere in the area of fifty songs Allan appeared on (either as a session player or fronting The Arrows) were given similar treatment as tracks re-appeared over and over again not only on proper Arrows albums but singles, soundtrack albums sometimes completely different outtakes which were used in the films produced by American International Pictures (A.I.P.) and their subsidiary companies.

“Blue’s Theme” was a massive enough regional hit (staying on regional American charts from March until September of 1966) that an album was quickly assembled around this great fuzz-toned hit instrumental which took a riff from “The Last Train To Clarksville” and unfolded over itself into a soaring ribbon riff across the sky forever. With this in mind, the “Blue’s Theme” album was a quick and cavalier cash-in by the record company. The cover is printed in one-color process cyan, and only three of the album’s ten tracks (all cover versions) were unique to the album at the time of its release, as this breakdown will attempt to show:

“Blue’s Theme” (re-recorded as "Blue’s Theme (Vocal)" and "The Last Ride")
“King Fuzz” (originally “The Twirl” by Harley Hatcher; retitled as “Mario’s World” for the soundtrack of “Albert Peckingpaw’s Revenge”)
“Theme From Thunderball”
“William Tell 1967”
“Action On The Street” (aka: “Make Love Not War”; with additional vocals retitled as “Teenage Rebellion”)
“Theme From The Wild Angels” (The instrumental version taken from “The Wild Angels” soundtrack)
“Theme From The Unknown” (aka: “The Dark Alley” off “The Wild Angels Vol. 2” soundtrack; aka: the single B-side, “U.F.O.”)
“Fuzz Theme” (aka: “The Young World”; re-recorded as “Mud Fight” for the “Thunder Alley” soundtrack)
“Sorry ‘Bout That” (a re-recording of “Rockin’ Angel” off “The Wild Angels” soundtrack)
“Ghost Riders In The Sky”

Confusing, isn’t it? But this illustration is not made to speak ill of the music, which holds in attendance the keenest sense of confidence, supersnazz and power that personifies Allan’s playing. Even at first aural glance the cover version of “Ghost Riders In The Sky” would appear to be a tad bit slow or dry in comparison to the combustive qualities of Dick Dale’s version. But successive plays present a different picture altogether that reveal an inner mastery of emotive constructs through not only its effortless riffing but its controlled tone and impeccable timing. Never a slave to the endless perfections of craft, Allan instead let loose a far more intuitive sense of timing in the execution of his leads, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the last track of side one: “Action on The Street.” It is a distorted, aggressive firefight played out through multi-tracked fuzz guitars in probably the sickest instrumental The Arrows ever cut as a ultimo, primo, possessed and descending psychedelic snarl-out that would’ve fit perfectly within the confines of their next album, “Cycle-Delic Sounds Of.” So would "Theme From The Unknown," another ever spiraling, drug-garage punker supreme. You hear whispered voices utter “...The unknown...” over the pummeling fuzz guitar riff and pounding drums and you can’t decide if its surf, psychedelia, garage or an unbelievably deft mixing of all three (hint: the latter.)

As one would guess by their titles, “King Fuzz” and “Fuzz Theme” have even more fuzztone use per square second than The Electric Prunes’ first three albums, and they’re total gaga instrumentals complete with Allan’s trademark disorientating ‘speed tremolo’; a technique he developed which bent the pitch of fuzz-played chords into oblivion. “William Tell 1967” isn’t exactly as fast as the version of “The William Tell Overture” that graced the soundtrack of “A Clockwork Orange” but it’s certainly fast enough to dispel all thoughts of the Lone Ranger forever AND it’s a rendition of the trippiest levity. The cover of “Theme From Thunderball” is about as sensual as a guitar instrumental can be: graceful, lithe and rhythmically smooth as the lines of a woman’s figure outlined in zero gravity silk. But even when Allan turns his Mosrite Fuzzrite fuzz pedal almost imperceptibly down for the lightly fuzzed pop approach on the sub-“96 Tears” goofiness of “Sorry ‘Bout That” it still maintains that undeniable presence of total class which Davie Allan, a true gentleman and guitarist, has always displayed in abundance.