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The Silkie

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The Silkie is known almost solely for their hit cover of the Lennon-McCartney song "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," which made the Top Ten in 1965 (and, curiously, only made the bottom of the Top 30 in their native Britain). The song, which had appeared on the Beatles' Help! album (and in their Help! film) just before the Silkie had a hit with it, was one of the Beatles' most Dylan-influenced recordings. The Silkie gave it a somewhat more pop-folk treatment, complete with male-female harmonies, its prospects boosted by a Lennon-McCartney production credit. The Beatles connection didn't end there, as they were also managed, somewhat indirectly, by Brian Epstein. The Silkie was a quartet of Hull University students: Ivor Aylesbury (guitar), Kevin Cunningham (bass), Mike Ramsden (guitar), and Sylvia Tatler (vocals). According to Ray Coleman's Brian Epstein biography, The Man Who Made the Beatles, they were signed by Epstein after they sent a tape to him, although he appointed one of his assistants, Alistair Taylor, as their manager. Three of the Beatles were involved in the Silkie's "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" cover, as Paul McCartney contributed vocals and possibly guitar; George Harrison added percussion via guitar taps and tambourine; and John Lennon, according to the Beatles Undercover book that documents the group's appearances on other records, did most of the producing, although McCartney is sometimes credited as co-producer with Lennon. "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" was actually not that typical of the Silkie's material and arrangements. They usually stuck to more pop-folk-oriented efforts, somewhat in the Peter, Paul & Mary style, although without as much personality. Their You've Got to Hide Your Love Away album, though it included their hit single, was dominated by Bob Dylan songs -- no less than eight of them, in fact -- at a time when Dylan covers were all the rage, as the folk-rock craze reached its peak. They did write a couple of originals for the LP, and also wrote three of the four songs that appeared on their pair of subsequent 1966 singles. (These four songs were added to the CD reissue of You've Got to Hide Your Love Away on One Way.) Those two singles were a bit more in the folk-rock style than the more straight pop-folk that comprised most of the LP, but did not chart on either side of the Atlantic, after which the group split. According to The Man Who Made the Beatles, a contributing factor to the breakup was their failure to appear in the United States, although some appearances (including one on The Ed Sullivan Show) had been lined up. The Silkie, this story goes, was ready to go, but could not get a work permit; although Alistair Taylor was told that a cash payment of 1,000 dollars to someone would obtain the work permit, Epstein refused to authorize it, more out of principle than because of the relatively small expense. Surprisingly, as of 2000, a version of the Silkie was still performing, including original members Mike Ramsden and Sylvia Tatler (now Sylvia Ramsden), performing most Sunday evenings at the Cott Inn in Dartington, England. ~ Richie Unterberger

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