"I’m Telling You Now" / Freddie & the Dreamers
MAY IS BRITISH INVASION MONTH!
After that first Beatles show, we got used to having new British bands debut on Ed Sullivan. The Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones, the Animals…by 1965, I felt compelled to check in every week, enduring hours of Topo Gigio and Senor Wences just on the off chance I’d see the next Invasion sensation.
So I was glued to the set the Sunday night Freddie & the Dreamers came on. I’d never heard of this band, but from the very first shot of Freddie Garrity catapulting onstage, letting loose a maniacal giggle, I was captivated. He was skinny, his dark hair fell charmingly into his eyes, and he wore Buddy Holly glasses. (Eventually my weakness for rock stars in glasses would lead me to Elvis Costello.) They launched into “I’m Telling You Now,” a deliciously catchy tune with an energetic skiffle beat – to which Freddie and the Dreamers proceeded to DANCE, spastically flailing their arms and alternate legs out to the side. Just try doing that sort of thing while playing a guitar – no wonder the arrangement was so simple.
It WAS a great tune, starting off with a joyous octave jump from “I’m” up to “telling you now.” The lyrics were ultimately simple-minded – “I’m telling you now / I’m telling you right away / I'll be staying for many a day / I'm in love with you now,” with minor variations in later verses – but for sheer exuberance this track couldn’t be beat. Considering the general goofy performance, the bridge was particularly apt: “Do you think I'm foolin' / When I say "I love you"? [I love you, echoed the Dreamers] / Maybe you'll believe me / When I'm finally through / Through / Through / Through” with a big clanging guitar chord on each “through.” Freddie’s playful voice had more than a bit of Buddy Holly hiccup in it, and somehow he conveyed that he KNEW it was a trivial song (“I know it’s been said before”) -- but he was having so much damn fun, he didn’t care. And that fun was contagious.
They were a sensation – everybody in my sixth grade class was talking about it the next day – and sure enough, Freddie & the Dreamers were soon back on Ed Sullivan with the follow-up single, “Do The Freddie” (a single that wasn’t even released in the UK). The odd thing was, “I’m Telling You Now” had crested on the UK charts a year and a half earlier. Freddie & the Dreamers had three UK top ten records in 1963, and three in the top 25 in 1964, but by 1965, when they came to America, Freddie & the Dreamers were already slipping down the UK charts. I wonder what happened. Why weren’t they exported in 1964 with all the other British bands? Why, when they finally came over in 1965, did they choose such an old song to launch them?
In the end, Freddie & the Dreamers were a novelty act here, a trivia question only boomers of a certain age could answer. But last winter, my UK friends seemed genuinely saddened by the news of Freddie Garrity’s death -- to them, he represented 1960s rock & roll in a way he never did here. (His later stints on children’s TV no doubt endeared him to them even further.) Somewhere in between skiffle and psychedelic rock, rock & roll seemed to lose its sense of humor. Freddie & the Dreamers was a reminder to us all that, sometimes, music could just be a lark.