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The Syndicats

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Biography

The Syndicats are mostly known as the first group that guitarist Steve Howe recorded with, although their most famous song, "Crawdaddy Simone," may well not feature him at all. One of the untold number of R&B-rock groups sprouting up around London in 1963, and one of the younger ones, they managed to release three singles on Columbia in 1964 and 1965, none of which were hits. The 45s are notable as being among the more obscure productions by Joe Meek, and also among the relatively few discs Meek worked on that fit into the hard-rocking British Invasion "beat group" mold. The Syndicats were a typical, if decent, group of their genre, distinguished mostly by the virtuosity of Howe, who even as a teenager was an audibly talented instrumentalist. Of the tracks they cut with Meek, their cover of Howlin' Wolf's "Howlin' for My Baby," with pounding piano and a revved-up British beat treatment, is a standout. So is "Crawdaddy Simone," the B-side of their cover of Ben E. King's soul ballad "On the Horizon," with one of the most genuinely far-out screeching British Invasion solos this side of Pete Townshend. A fine R&B-beat raver on its own terms, it really took off with the madly bashing instrumental break, with furiously wah-wahing lead guitar. On the fadeout uncategorizable, fiercely electronic ascensions and descensions of near-white-noise were produced by running a comb up and down the strings. Howe, however, doesn't remember playing on it; it's unclear who the guitarist is, but it might have been his replacement, Ray Fenwick. The Syndicats didn't release anything else after "Crawdaddy Simone," although its A-side, "On the Horizon," almost made the charts. They did some sessions for Meek after Howe's departure, but these were not released. They continued live for a while, sounding like "Crawdaddy Simone" gone ska," according to their drummer of the time, Paul Holm (as quoted in an interview with the fanzine Ugly Things). There is an unreleased acetate demo from 1966 with three songs featuring as many lead vocalists; they split up shortly afterward. Seven Syndicats tracks featuring Steve Howe -- both sides of their first two singles, "On the Horizon," and an unreleased single rejected by EMI -- appear on Howe's CD Mothballs, a compilation of various '60s tracks on which Howe played prior to Yes. "Crawdaddy Simone," alas, is missing, but it's been reissued on several compilations of British Invasion/freakbeat rarities. ~ Richie Unterberger