Happy Anniversary: Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, “From a Window”
50 years ago today, Billy J. Kramer – backed by the Dakotas (guitarists Robin MacDonald and Mike Maxfield, bassist Ray jones, and drummer Tony Bookbinder) – recorded a song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney that would prove to be his final top-10 hit in the UK as well as his final top-40 hit in the States.
Not to dismiss any of his own musical accomplishments, but it’s fair to say that Kramer’s greatest claim to fame is that he was part of Brian Epstein’s roster of artists and, as such, benefited tremendously from Epstein being able to reach into Lennon and McCartney’s backlog of tunes and pull out a new single whenever Kramer needed one.
Kramer’s first hit: a cover of “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” backed with a previously-unreleased Lennon/McCartney composition entitled “I’ll Be on My Way.” That reached #2 in the UK, and the follow-up single – “Bad to Me” backed with “I Call Your Name,” both of which were also written by Lennon and McCartney – rose all the way to the top spot. Next up: “I’ll Keep You Satisfied,” which made it to #4. Bet you can’t guess who wrote that one, can you? Now, in fairness, at least the B-side, “I Know,” was written by someone else, but as the composer was George Martin, it’s not like Kramer was stepping that far outside of the Beatles for material. Martin’s connection to Kramer and the Dakotas was more than as a songwriter, of course: he also helmed the sessions for all of the aforementioned tracks as well as for those that produced “From a Window.”
When Kramer and the Dakotas recorded “From a Window,” both of the song’s composers were also in attendance, with one of them contributing an easily recognizable harmony vocal on the very last word of the song. Which co-writer was it? Well, we’ll give you a hint: his name rhymes with “Saul McFartney."
As noted above, although “From a Window” hit #10 in the UK and #23 in the States, it nonetheless proved to be Kramer’s last real hurrah, chart-wise, but he continues to perform around the world to this day and released a new album, I Won the Fight, only just last year. Plus, if you’re someone who enjoys a good graphic novel, you may be aware that 2013 also provided Kramer with the opportunity to pen the introduction to The Fifth Beatle, the story of Brian Wilson as told by Vivek Tiwary, Andrew Robinson, and Kyle Baker.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the recording of “From a Window,” we’ve put together a short but very, very sweet playlist which kicks off with the song in question and follows with the other five Lennon and McCartney compositions recorded by Kramer and the Dakotas. Unless you’ve really dug deep into the duo’s songwriting catalog, a couple of these tracks might be new to you, but we’re pretty sure you’ll find all of them just as catchy now as they were when they first hit the charts.