Spanky and Our Gang
Spanky and Our Gang (1968)
|Origin||Bloomington, Illinois, United States|
|Labels||Mercury Records, Spectra Records|
Spanky and Our Gang was an American 1960s sunshine pop band led by Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane. The band derives its name from Hal Roach's popular Our Gang comedies of the 1930s (known to modern audiences as The Little Rascals), because of the similarity of her surname with that of George McFarland (Spanky). The group was known for its vocal harmonies.
The group's first album was released by Mercury Records on August 1, 1967, with three popular songs that were released as singles. These were "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" (their biggest hit, which reached number No. 9 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1967), followed by "Making Every Minute Count" (reached No. 31/No. 23 in Canada) and "Lazy Day" (reached No 14). Both "Sunday Will Never Be The Same" and "Lazy Day" sold over one million copies. "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" was written by Terry Cashman and Gene Pistilli. In an interview of Cashman on the Songfacts website, he revealed that the song was written as a ballad, however, the group "changed it, and they added the vocal, 'Ba-da-da-da-da,' which was a great hook."
Their second album, Like to Get to Know You, was released in April 1968. Two singles were released: "Sunday Mornin'" in the winter, which reached No. 30 on February 10-17, 1968, and "Like to Get to Know You" in the spring, which reached No. 17 on June 8, 1968. The latter single's B-side, "Three Ways From Tomorrow", also received considerable airplay. The album included their rendition of "Stardust", and a version of folksinger Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'", a hit single for Harry Nilsson and the theme song for the movie Midnight Cowboy.
"Give a Damn" was released as a single in late Summer 1968. Although not receiving airplay in several markets because of the curse word - and because it was a comment on racial equality that became the theme song for the New York Urban Coalition - the song became a regional hit and reached No. 43. The band also performed the song live on an episode of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, resulting in CBS' Standards and Practices division receiving numerous complaints about the song's title being used during "family viewing hours". One such complaint reportedly came from President Richard Nixon. "Give a Damn" would become John Lindsay's campaign song during his successful run for mayor of New York. The song reached #26 in the Canadian RPM magazine charts.
On October 31, 1968, the group's lead guitarist Malcolm Hale was found dead in his Chicago home, and news reports at the time attributed the death to an attack of bronchial pneumonia.  Almost 39 years later, a 2007 book stated that Hale "died on a Sunday at age twenty-seven from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a bad heating system"  and that account has been repeated in later books. [discuss] Regardless of the cause of Hale's death, it was a devastating blow to the group; the multi-instrumentalist did much of the arranging and largely kept the band together. Hale's death, along with the group's satisfaction over what they had achieved already, led to the decision to disband early in 1969. Mercury released a third album, Anything You Choose b/w Without Rhyme or Reason, in January 1969. It contained two popular songs, the previous summer's hit "Give a Damn" and "Yesterday's Rain" (#48 Canada). The group briefly reformed in 1975 and recorded an album (Change) for the Epic label.
After the band dissolved, McFarlane had some success as a solo artist. She toured with The New Mamas and the Papas, singing the parts which had been performed by Cass Elliot. She was seen April 2011 on stage in Ferndale Repertory Theatre's production of South Pacific portraying "Bloody Mary".
Because of the band's continued popularity, Mercury released album collections of their greatest hits in 1969 (Spanky's Greatest Hit(s)), 1989's budget (Give a Damn), and 2005's (The Best of Spanky & Our Gang: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection). In addition, Rhino issued the 1986 (The Best Of Spanky and Our Gang) and Hip-O Select issued a limited-edition anthology of (Spanky and Our Gang's Complete Mercury Recordings) that includes never-before-released recordings and extensive liner notes.
|Year||Songs (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
|Peak chart positions||Album|
|1966||"And Your Bird Can Sing"
b/w "Sealed With A Kiss"
|1967||"Sunday Will Never Be The Same"
|9||Spanky and Our Gang|
|1967||"Making Every Minute Count"
b/w "If You Could Only Be Me"
b/w "(It Ain't Necessarily) Byrd Avenue"
|30||Like To Get To Know You|
|1968||"Like To Get To Know You"
b/w "Three Ways From Tomorrow"
|1968||"Give A Damn"
b/w "The Swingin' Gate"
|43||Anything You Choose b/w Without Rhythm Or Reason|
b/w "Without Rhyme Or Reason"
|1969||"Anything You Choose"
b/w "Mecca Flat Blues"
|1969||"And She's Mine"
b/w "Leopard Skin Phones"
b/w "It Ain't Necessarily Bird Avenue" (from Spanky and Our Gang)
|126 (cashbox)||A side is the same song as "Echoes"|
|1975||"When I Wanna"
b/w "I Won't Brand You"
b/w "Standing Room Only"