The Infinite Jukebox: Almond Marzipan’s ‘Marie Take a Chance’

Some songs belong on The infinite Jukebox just by chance. In themselves, they’re of no great significance, just a song to be enjoyed when heard. There are hundreds of them in my head, music of a time that arouses vague impressions of who I was and what I was doing, pleasant enough, but unremarkable. Some of them, though, find themselves tied to rather more specific memories.
I wouldn’t remember ‘Marie Take a Chance’ if it weren’t for a moment of frustration.
My first radio was an old-fashioned affair, with a grille, lit from behind, full of old, vanished radio station names. You turned a dial to scroll a bar from left to right and back again, lining it up against the names on the grill to hear the broadcasts, or rather hear silence, or a hiss, or a burst of static. My Dad had installed it for me in the bottom half of a small wooden bedside cabinet, some years before. I used it to listen to ‘Junior Choice’ on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Throughout 1970, I used it to listen to Radio 1 in every spare moment I had.
It was old, it was decrepit, it was on its last legs. It would be replaced at Xmas that year by my first transistor radio. It was prone to random bursts of background static, cutting into and across whatever song I might be enjoying at that particular moment, sometimes so badly that it completely blotted out the sound.
I was horribly untechnical, and if it were something Dad could have fixed it for me, the time had passed when he could even have tried.
Almond Marzipan’s cover of ‘Marie Take a Chance’ got a decent amount of daytime airplay that late summer. I knew, and still know, little of them, except that they were a six-piece band who appear to have only recorded two singles: four tracks, three of them good, tuneful pop. ‘Marie’ was the second of these: I didn’t even know it was a cover until earlier this year, discovering via the inevitable YouTube that the original came from late Sixties pop band, Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours (subsequently Pinkerton’s Colours and even Pinkeron before they reached the logical point of removing the name entirely and split: they had one hit, ‘Mirror Mirror’, a no. 9 in 1968).
Almond Marzipan were already out of date in 1970, a good, not spectacular late Sixties pop band of the kind that had already been displaced by the swerve towards ‘heavy music’ that kicked off the new decade. ‘Marie’ is bright, it’s breezy, it has a decent energy of it’s own, and a clear, well-formed chorus. Boy asks girl to give him a chance, he’s hooked on her and he hopes she’ll be hooked on him.
Whether she fell for him is something left to ponder. She may have done: he was sweet and naïve and no doubt he’d grow out of it one day. Not that I ever did.
I wanted to tape it but that meant keeping a fast ear open and an even faster finger for my old-fashioned reel-to-reel tape recorder. At last I got the chance, the last time I heard the song played. But the static kicked in about half a minute into the song, a constant background presence that suddenly switched gears into an aural burst that all but drowned out the song, before mysteriously clearing for the last twenty seconds ago, as if some evil mastermind had had his doomsday machine switched off by Steed or Mrs Peel.
It was the only version I had into the digital age, and I still expect to hear it when I play the song now. The Infinite Jukebox holds both versions, but even no longer permit you the true version, a blast of already outgrown music from my formative year, and the radio my Dad made for me. There are three different versions of the song to be heard, with the version by Clem Curtis (ex-lead singer with The Foundations for ‘Baby Now That I’ve Found You’) coming closest in arrangement and energy to the Almond Marzipan take.

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