Sunday, 11 December 2011

Somebody stop them! The Fulminators cover "Secret Agent Man"


You may not have heard of Johnny Rivers. He didn't really trouble the UK charts, but he had a string of hits in the US in the mid-to-late 1960s, mainly with covers of old Rock 'n' Roll standards recorded in what was known as the "Go Go" style: think brightly-lit discotheque, a live audience, carefully coiffed hair, lounge suit, and mini-skirted dancers - Las Vegas for the younger set. But surprisingly, the music wasn't bad. Between them, Johnny and the Beach Boys were about the only white rock acts holding up the American end against the British invasion.

Johnny Rivers' first big hit was a decent enough cover of "Memphis Tennessee", for which he pinched the arrangement Elvis had used on an unreleased version - pissing off the King mightily in the process. There were another 10 Top Ten hits to follow, the last of which came in 1972 ("Rockin' Pneumonia and Boogie-Woogie Flu"). My favourites amongst the intervening platters were the Willie Dixon-penned "Seventh Son" and the one I've covered here - "Secret Agent Man" - which was written by P.F. "Eve of Destruction" Sloan and Steve Barri and originally recorded in 1963. It was used as the theme song for  the UK hit series Danger Man when it aired in the US. Due to its popularity, Rivers re-recorded a live version at the Whiskey a-Go Go and that went to No. 3 in 1966 (yes, I know how train-spottery this all is). The cheekily simple repeated four-note guitar riff is sublime and is what makes this a classic. And, yes, it does sound like he's singing about an undercover Indian intelligence operative - the "Secret Asian Man".

There have been tons of cover versions - my favourite is probably the instrumental  version by The Ventures (but they should have ditched the girl chorus singers). The worst is undoubtedly Mel Tormé's horribly misconceived effort. On this occasion, the Velvet Fog even manages to make me sound good!

For those of you interested in the home recording process (don't all raise your hands) I may have found a way of recording my voice. I normally woofle away at the bottom of my range, but that doesn't suit this number, so I sang higher up, and placed the result just off-centre. Then, following some online advice, I created two copies of the track, added chorus on both, placed them at the extreme left and right of the stero spectrum, and chose the same volume setting for all three tracks. An improvement, I think.


  1. Can I just check that everyone understands the Constitutional rôle of fulminating?

    I have started Professor GW Keeton's 1952 book,The Passing of Parliament, recommended by SDG.

    In Chapter 2 – The Road to Moscow – Keeton argues that delegating powers to Whitehall departments bypasses both Parliament and the common law:

    .. If this is so, is it not clear that 'the rule of law' and 'the sovereignty of parliament' have both become polite, and increasingly meaningless fictions?

    The procedure by means of which the departments take powers to amend the constitutive Act,
    or any other Act, is usually included in what is known as the “Henry VIII clause”, significantly named, not only from the most powerful English king, but also from the Statute of Proclamations which conferred upon Henry, alone of English sovereigns, the power to make proclamations with full legislative force. Since, where this clause exists, there is no possibility of attacking it in any court, appeals to the ordinary courts upon the effects of this clause are practically non-existent ... When anything which a Minister does can be embodied in statutory form, then abuse is naturally impossible, for the sufficient reason that opposition can never be effective. We have, in fact, reached the threshold of tyranny. I may, for example, regard an order of the Minister of Town and Country Planning as contrary to the principles of natural justice, as made in violation of every principle of the common law, and as destructive of my livelihood, but there is nothing I can do about it in the ordinary courts. My protests will be considered by administrative authority throughout, in accordance with administrative practice. In Great Britain, we do not even have, as some Continental countries have, a uniform system of administrative tribunals, with a uniform procedure, or the possibility of an appeal to an administrative Court of Appeal, in which the judicial element is preponderant. The position has been grimly emphasised in recent years in the case of Franklin v. Minister of Town and Country Planning ... Henn Collins J. in the King’s Bench Division held that the [Stevenage New Town (Designation)] order must be quashed, since the Minister had failed to act judicially in considering the objections. If he reached any other decision, he said, he would be forced to the conclusion that the procedure of public enquiry, as prescribed by the Act, was a sham, which gave the subject ‘a right to fulminate and nothing more’. Both the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, however, decided that the order must stand. This decision was reached, not on any variation in view between them and Henn Collins J. in respect of the proceedings at the enquiry or of the conduct of the Minister, but simply on the ground that the Minister, in making the order, was acting administratively, and not judicially, so that the question of bias was irrelevant. In matters such as this, therefore, it is evident that the subject has simply a right to fulminate and nothing more, for he is far beyond the reach of any assistance from the courts ...

  2. Hey, like Moss ever thought about jacking in this massive philosophy quotation groove and kinda bang out some licks on your axe instead?

  3. That's an interesting point (Moss's, that is) and prompted the following thought. The situation described in the quotation has been overtaken by events, the most significant of which is the development over the years of the system of judicial review of almost any decision of the executive. The second most significant is the development of a body of law based on some fairly far-reaching interpretations of Council of Europe Treaty rights and EU legislation. Could it be that these were an unconscious collective response over the years by the judiciary to a succession of British cases in which individuals sought to challenge executive decisions which were not rooted in the powers prescribed by primary
    legislation? I've not seen this theory advanced before which probably means it's flawed. But so many other post-war changes have been due to the unintended consequences of badly thought through Government policy that there might be something in it.