Keyhole Street: Demos 1966-67 by Pete Ham, review by Jerre Trout

Keyhole Street:
Demos 1966-67
reviews compiled by Tom Brennan
last updated: November 03, 2014

2014 Review by Jerre Trout (Elkton, MD):

The Keyhole Street Demos were recorded in 1966-67 and reflect this evolutionary period in rock music history. Pete creates his songs using a Revox two-track sound-on-sound recording deck to layer each track with his own arrangements. He takes advantage of this mid-sixties technology and overdubs 6-7-8 times and still manages to make very good recordings. They are literally hundreds of separate recordings by The Iveys period Pete Ham. He completes his entire arrangement for guitars, lead vocals, backing vocals and harmony vocals on most tracks. Iveys bandmate Ron Griffiths adds bass to six tracks and Pete plays piano on one track and drums on one track. Pete experiments with a broad range of different effects from tapping his cheeks to recording at different tape speeds. Pete Ham makes great demos. I loved his solo demo CDs, 7 Park Avenue and Golders Green, at first listen. Keyhole Street Demos takes longer to absorb. It contains about four albums worth of recordings on two CDs. These songs really grow on you the more you listen. The sequencing of tracks is well done. The packaging and cover is first-rate. I believe Pete would be happy and surprised with the good sound quality of these CDs.

Both CDs begin appropriately with Pete counting off, testing recording levels. On Grand Prix and Graham Hill, he uses his equipment to generate a realistic sound of race cars and dubs a serious race car announcers voice on top of it. There are 49 more tracks with three being guitar instrumentals. On Ostrich, Pete creates a psychedelic rock masterpiece. This is a first-rate recording. A great lead vocal, georgeous backing vocals and a psychedelic break that is expertly done. Pete achieves a great distorted sustain lead-guitar sound and uses it to great effect. This song has a great rhythm and the lyrics are good. I can't imagine The Iveys or Badfinger doing this any better than Pete. Down Down Down is a great psychedelic pop song. Pete crafts a beautiful melody and creates a very moving track. There is a touch of humor and a lot of experimentation. Some guitar parts seem to be recorded at a slower speed and some sound as if recorded backwards. There is some excellent guitar added in places. Outstanding vocals and very well done. A gem of a recording. How Much Is The Sky is a good psychedelic pop love ballad. It is an experimental mix of good melody, vocals, backwards guitar and psychedelic effects. It is very good in places. I've Been There Once Before is piano based psychedelic pop with interesting lyrics. Pete double-tracks his voice in a way that it doesn't sound like Pete. Open Your Mind begins and ends with a beautiful refrain and has a short but great pschedelic solo. He seems to write and perform this style of music very well. Pete will create a masterpiece in this style in 1973 with Timeless.

The song Keyhole Street is a very good well-crafted pop song. Ron Griffiths adds a great bass track to this pleasant and nostalgic song. The lyrics are very good and Pete gives a fine vocal performance. This song has a sophisticated arrangement and a beautiful melody. It is first-rate song-writing. Mrs. Jones is another very good, well-crafted pop song. Pete's lead vocal exudes confidence and the Beatles-inspired backing vocals are fantastic. Ron Griffiths adds a bass track and Pete adds an acoustic guitar to this exuberant recording. There are many more fine pop songs. Black And White Rainbows and Dress Myself In Black both feature some excellent harmony vocals. Little Sue and Knocking Down Our Home are finely-crafted folk pop. Come A Bit Closer and Girl Next Door In The Mini-Skirt are great examples of good pop music.

I'm Alone is a blues song written and performed in the style of Elvis Presley. It is very easy to imagine Elvis doing this song. Pete records a stunning first-rate lead vocal in the style of Elvis. He adds backing vocals Elvis-style and plays a great blues guitar on this amazing recording. Get Up is a first-rate comedy track about a young man who finds it hard to get up in the morning. It is a charming, catchy and a very well done pop tune. Pete expertly mixes in a whistle and explosion at the end to good effect. He has a great sense of humor and it shines on this track. The Raven is an amazing mix of heavy blues-rock, beautiful acoustic folk, hauntingly great vocals, a good dose of humor and a large amount of experimentation. He creates his horror-film sound- track by connecting some very good song segments with horror sounds and effects. Pete uses his equipment to generate every haunting and spooky sound possible. The song segments make this an enjoyable track.

Pete records many good songs in many different styles. There are upbeat rock songs like Come And Join Us and Horse With A Green Tail. Minor key rock such as Another Day, Think Twice and Heartburn. Ballads like Joker, Weep Baby and Memories. Motown soul-influenced pop such as I've Cried and I'll See You Tonight. I Need You is an acoustic blues done with humorous lyrics. Hampstead Heath is an instrumental featuring two acoustic guitars. Pete displays great skill on this beautiful recording. On Cavalier Club Rock and Blackjack he plays some great blues-rock electric guitar riffs. Pete Ham is a first-rate guitarist. His lead guitar solos are greatly enhanced by his genius for melody. Whether playing electric or acoustic, rhythm or lead, Pete always plays with great skill and excellent taste.

I've listened to Keyhole Street Demos many times this summer. What stands out most on these recordings is Pete's vocal work. His vocal arrangements are amazingly good in both composition and performance. Pete is a first-class vocalist and has a unique genius for melody. He has a great ability in shaping and altering vocal phrasing and tone. In my opinion, Pete Ham has the best voice in rock music. The diversity and range of song writing is impressive. It is amazing that a 19 to 20-year old could create these recordings. They are quite sophisticated compositions for such a young man. When you compare Pete Ham at the time he recorded these demos to other rock songwriters at a similar age, it is truly astonishing. John Lennon (1959-60). Paul McCartney (1961-62). George Harrison (1962-63). Ray Davies (1963-64). Pete Townshend (1964-65). When you consider his overall skills as a singer, guitarist and songwriter, Pete Ham stands second to no one. These demos reveal Pete's great determination and drive to be a songwriter and musician. They are truly an amazing accomplishment considering the difficulties and limitations of sound-on-sound recording. The dedication and hard work he shows on these recordings lead him to create classic masterpieces with Badfinger like Baby Blue, No Matter What, Day After Day and many more. I can't express my joy upon hearing these recordings. I have the greatest respect and admiration for Pete Ham and that admiration only deepened after hearing these excellent recordings. Keyhole Street Demos, more than any other recordings, are proof of the musical genius of Pete Ham.

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