The Downliner’s Sect were the band that got away. They appeared like sweet mountain dew and promptly evaporated into the magic air without achieving the fulfilment of their promise.
They were my band. I specialised in delighting in the discovery of brilliant obscure bands and songs that never garnished the charts. It bemused my contemporaries. The Sect were one of my discoveries. I found them nestling incongruously in the small record rack in our local electrical goods store in Walton on Thames. It was a store not renowned for stocking anything other than standard chart material. I used to peruse the wares every now and again. The cover called to me. I was instantly enchanted. I took a chance. For some reason my expectations were high. I got a thrill from simply holding and looking at the album. I could see from the track list that it was the type of stuff that would appeal. I was not disappointed.
It was the Summer of 1964. The Stones were leading the mad charge of British R&B. The Stones were wonderfully uncouth and surly. Their music was seminal. The Yardbirds were doing the same sort of things but seemingly on large doses of Amphetamine. The Pretty Things scowled and were even more extreme and then there was Them, the Animals and a host more. They were all mining the same rich vein of Chicago Blues.
It wasn’t until I got home that I could put the truth of my instincts to the test. From the moment I slipped it on my turntable and the needle went down I knew it was the business. This was the ultimate R&B band. They were punchy, earthy, pacey, wild and distinctive. I had discovered the lodestone of British R&B. No other band was was as original/.
That should have been it. They had the look, sound and music to go with it. 1964 should have been their year. It never happened.
They must have had the wrong management. The singles did not match the album. They deviated from the raw R&B. The breakthrough never materialised.
It did not bother me. It meant I had them to myself. Their album took pride of place in my collection alongside the Kinks, Who and Chuck Berry albums. I was confident that the second album would rectify the problem.
I got an EP instead. It was a bemusing EP entitled The Sect Sing Sick Songs. Good but a change in style.
Then the second album arrived – The Country Sect – it was a mish-mash of Country and Folk. Where was the raw R&B? They’d left their R&B fans high and dry.
This was baffling. What were they doing? They appeared to be jumping on every trend going. It gave their credibility a kicking. Not only that but they were falling short.
What we wanted was another dose of that driving R&B they were so brilliant at – that searing guitar, wailing harp, thumping bass and drum pounding to the manic vocals – the self-penned quirky songs. This was just confusing.
The singles were humorous originals and the EP and albums were all different.What did they believe in? Were they serious about anything?
The next album confirmed it. It was an attempt at Rock and Pop. That sealed their fate.
The Downliner’s Sect were never going to be recognised as a great R&B unit as they might have been. They’d missed the boat – or rather scuttled it!
Still we had that one glorious album. It was enough to establish their credibility as an outstanding band.
It just should have been so much more!