Wednesday, March 23, 2011

KAREN VERROS - YOU JUST GOTTA KNOW MY MIND

The world of pop music is loaded with mysteries - one hit wonders, obscure records that suddenly become hits a few years after their initial release, artists who were major hitmakers in their day and are now completely forgotten; the list goes on and on. My favorite form of music mystery is the artist that only made one or two records on a big label, made appearances on the big TV shows of the day (American Bandstand, etc.) and then DISAPPEARED, never to be heard from again. Like Karen Verros.

Very little is known about Karen Verros. I don't know if she is alive or dead. The only things I do know are these - she released two singles on Dot Records in the latter part of 1965, appeared on "Where The Action Is" and "Hollywood A-Go-Go" in early 1966, and has not been heard from since (though I did see some website a long time ago saying that she was still owed money by some agency - it couldn't have been much). Judging by the Dot Records connection and access to those TV shows, I am assuming Karen was from California.

"You Just Gotta Know My Mind" was her first 45 on Dot, released in October, 1965. It was written by Donovan for his girlfriend Dana Gillespie, who recorded the original version (though it wasn't released until 1968). The track was produced by singer Mike Minor, who would later find fame on the TV show "Petticoat Junction" as pilot Steve Elliott (and would marry the series' star, Linda Kaye Henning), and Dave Hassinger, the man who, among other things, engineered the first few Rolling Stones albums. But the real work here was done by arranger and conductor Jack Nitzsche, fresh off of Phil Spector's "Wall Of Sound". It was probably through Nitzsche that Karen Verros was able to gain access to an unreleased Donovan song. Apparently, this was the only song recorded that day, because the flip side, "Karen's Theme", was simply the backing track with Karen's vocal wiped off. But what a track! A killer guitar riff runs through the song, and the vocals are LOADED with echo. The record was so good that, years later, it was comped on "Girls In The Garage, Vol. 2" and the original 45 now goes for big bucks (according to popsike.com, the last original copy that popped up on eBay went for close to 600 bucks - I paid 20 dollars for mine about 10 years ago). So, for her first record, Karen Verros was given a new song by one of the best folk-rockers in the world, produced by a future TV star and The Rolling Stones' favorite engineer, and arranged by Phil Spector's right-hand man.

The record stiffed, of course. Karen had better luck with her second single, a remake of the Crystals' "Little Boy", released in December, 1965. That record got some airplay in California and led to appearances on "Where The Action Is" and "Hollywood-A-Go-Go". To see what Karen Verros looked like on the latter show, click here.

After that record, Karen Verros vanished from the public eye. Part of the problem might have been the fact that there were a hundred other local girl singers who had better voices - saxophonist Steve Douglas remembers her as being "awful" - but this 45 is unforgettable.

One of the odd things about "You Just Gotta Know My Mind" is that there are two versions of it - one edited, one not. Strange for a non-hit record, but it happened. The first pressing runs 1:57, just as it says on the label. On second pressings (which are rarer, apparently - though this record is near-impossible to get either way), the label says 1:57 but plays at a duration of 2:12. I have the "long" version. The only difference, so I'm told, is Karen singing a few more repetitions of the title at the end.

Karen Verros - You Just Gotta Know My Mind (Dot 16780) - 1965

5 comments:

  1. VERY cool, I've only been familar with the Dana Gillespie version and a subsequent Swedish version by Steampacket II.

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  2. Great record, great clip too. Thanks for the nice post.

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  3. Thanks for the comments, guys! You both have great blogs yourselves!

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  4. I know Karen Verros and she is still very much alive and living in southern California, she is a dear and sweet friend

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  5. The longer version repeats the first verse after the guitar break, whereas the edited version does not. Great single! I prefer the longer version myself. Also noteworthy is Karen's version of "I Can't Remember Ever Loving You," the Hollywood-a-Go-Go performance of which is now on YouTube.

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