The Poets – Alone Am I / Locked In A Room
As a special treat for the festive season, we present a depressing and maudlin Christmas ballad! For many years it was thought that this 1968 single was one of many by cult Scottish beat group The Poets, and given that they recorded on the Decca, Immediate and Strike Cola (!) labels between 1964 and 1971, it is not unreasonable to guess that they might have recorded for Pye as well, especially as the ‘B’-side is an excellent freak-beat song which has been featured on many psych collections in recent years. The truth, however, is that these Poets were a completely separate group from Dublin about whom little is known.
It seems that The Poets’ story began in 1965, when Pat Devine (guitar), Gerry Martin (guitar), Steve Gilchrist (bass) and Bob Murphy (saxophone) formed The Heartbeats. By 1967 they had become a semi-pro showband, with the addition of Paul Conroy (organ), Charlie Herbert (lead guitar, with Devine switching to saxophone) and Gary Power (lead vocals). It was noted at the time that Herbert and Power were writing a lot of original material – specifically, “slow ballads” – which might help them win national attention. However, Power left for a solo career at the end of 1967, and it may have been in the fall-out from this that the band became The Poets. All that can be said for sure is that both sides of this single were credited to Charles Herbert. The exact line-up isn’t clear, but ‘Locked In A Room’ features some strong lead guitar (from Herbert himself?), saxophone, vocal harmonies and an urgent drum beat, while ‘Alone Am I’ is led by harmonica and organ, and certainly fits the description of a “slow ballad”. The Christmas theme might suggest a release date of very late 1968.
In 1969, soul-influenced showband The Arrows were launched, with a core line-up (Devine/Gilchrist/Murphy/Herbert) inherited from The Heartbeats and also, presumably, from The Poets. The Arrows’ first single paired two covers but the second single, ‘One Step, Two Step’, was written once again by guitarist Charlie Herbert. Other early members of the group included keyboard player Pierce Turner (later with Turner & Kirwan of Wexford) and singer Eamonn Gibney, but when frontman Mick Roche left in 1972, The Arrows became cabaret star Dickie Rock’s anonymous backing band.
01 Alone Am I
02 Locked In A Room