Essential Atlantic: Vanilla Fudge, VANILLA FUDGE

Thursday, December 10, 2020
Vanilla Fudge VANILLA FUDGE Cover

For the next several weeks (or maybe just until we decide that we want to stop doing it, since normalcy seems likely to remain on hiatus for the foreseeable future), will be spotlighting an album from the Atlantic Records discography that qualifies as “Essential.” And what rigorous standards and/or mathematical algorithm did we use to come up with the criteria to define “Essential,” you ask? None at all. You’ll just have to trust our instincts. But they’re really good, we swear...


Vanilla Fudge first came into existence in 1965, when Mark Stein and Tim Bogert – already playing together in the lineup of Rick Martin & The Showmen – found themselves so smitten by the organ-heavy sound of the Rascals that they decided to form a sonically similar band of their own. Vince Martell joined forces with the twosome, and so did one of their other fellow Showmen, drummer Mark Dolfen, but Dolfen was soon out in favor of Joey Brennan. At first they called themselves the Electric Pigeons, then they downsized to simply call themselves the Pigeons. By the end of ’66, Brennan was out and Carmine Appice was in, thereby finalizing the band’s seminal lineup.


Oh, and the name change? Yeah, they became Vanilla Fudge when Atlantic Records told them that they wanted to sign the band but didn’t want to sign one called the Pigeons, so they had to do something about it, fast. Per Appice, the new name came courtesy of a girl named Dee Dee who worked at a Long Island club called Page 2.


“She told us how her grandfather used to call her Vanilla Fudge,” Appice wrote in his memoir, Stick It! “Then she looked at us and added, ‘Maybe you guys should call yourself that – you’re like white soul music. We like it. We told our manager, Phil Basile. He liked it. We told Atlantic and they liked it, too. So Vanilla Fudge it was.”


And so it was that the band now known as Vanilla Fudge released their self-titled album in 1967, capturing a stunning number of fans with their organ-heavy covers of songs like “Ticket to Ride,” “She’s Not There,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and their biggest hit, “You Keep Me Hanging On,” which climbed to #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. As it happens, that’s also the same chart high that VANILLA FUDGE hit on the Billboard 200, with the album eventually going gold.


If you’ve never heard VANILLA FUDGE, you really ought to give it a spin. It’s a fascinating piece of work, with the band taking popular songs by other artists and truly making them their own.


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