Despite sounding like they were products of the Detroit music machine, The Foundations were actually formed in London, and consisted of members from the West Indies, Britain, and even Sri Lanka.
They first found success in 1967 with the song “Baby Now That I’ve Found You,” which went to number one on the UK Singles Chart, as well as reached the top 10 in the US. Interestingly, less than a year after that, lead singer Clem Curtis left the band, suggesting that perhaps some of the band’s members weren’t putting in as much effort now that they had a hit.
After auditioning 200 singers, the group settled on vocalist Colin Young, then promptly turned things around, and, in 1968, released what is arguably their most well-known hit, and also featured below — “Build Me Up Buttercup.”
After scoring one more hit in 1969 — “In The Bad Bad Old Days (Before You Loved Me)” — the band parted with their management at the beginning of 1970, then broke up completely near the end of the year.
While the band went their own ways and faded into the mists of history, the music remains — and sounds just as good as it always has. – AJW
Foundations rock group facing an identity crisis
By Allan Parachini – Simpson’s Leader-Times (Kittanning, Pennsylvania) May 14, 1969
A lot of young people are trying to find themselves these days, and you can add to this congregation The Foundations — financially a success, but still with lots of problems.
The Foundations, a group whose records have sold as well as any British group since the Beatles, have a collective identity crisis that has continued through a series of hit records and into the group’s present second American tour.
Five months ago, The Foundations were nowhere. They were a racially mixed group — one of the first to achieve success — and had sold a gold record quantity of “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You.”
But an earlier American tour ended in failure, to the of several thousand dollars. To add to the group’s troubles, disharmony had set in with the lead singer and a mutual agreement to replace him had been reached. Colin Young was selected from 200 applicants, and the group made a second single, “Build Me Up Buttercup.”
Then, last month, The Foundations returned to the United States for a series of engagements starting in New York. First stop — the Fillmore East, Mecca for the name and not-so-name of rock, blues, etc.
The seven Foundations accepted a gold record in their dressing room for “Build Me Up Buttercup,” then walked on stage where “they just absolutely bombed,” according to
their public relations manager, a former British newspaperman named Rod Harrod.
Next day, Harrod was contacted by officials of New York’s Copacabana night club, whose atmosphere is perhaps as different as night is from day from the Fillmore. They played an emergency fill-in at the Copa that night. Again, the group bombed.
Strange, because the Copa is the symbol of the nightclub entertainment “establishment” — the Fillmore the symbol of popular music’s “underground.” The Foundations, despite their record sales, pinned largely on the two hits, had been able to please audiences at neither.
“I think the underground audience tends to be very intolerant,” lamented bass guitarist Peter McBeth, “It’s the hardest type of audience I ever played to.” But if the underground scene was not where The Foundations were at, neither was the Copa crowd. “But the Copa was what we wanted in the first place,” Harrod said.
Meantime, Harrod’s typewriter has been clicking out page after page of “They’re not really one-hit wonders” copy. The group took seven pages in an issue of Billboard magazine, a trade publication — more in one issue than veterans of the record business could recall for any other group. [See some excerpts from that below.]
“We did it because we’re the biggest thing since the Beatles,” Harrod boasted. But the New York audiences had resoundingly disagreed. And The Foundations, gold records and all, climbed aboard a bus for a series of one-nighters — still trying to prove something.
The Foundations – Baby, Now That I’ve Found You, performed on Top of the Pops (UK – 1967)
The Foundations get $250,000 advance on unmade album (1969)
Billboard – April 26, 1969 (Advertorial)
Such is the success record of the Foundations that wholesalers and retailers throughout the world have backed their judgment in the group producing nothing but first-class material by placing orders amounting to over 250,000 before the album is even cut.
At the time of going to press, this figure was going up in leaps and bounds because of the rumors that the album tracks cut in London were some of the best even the Foundations had ever cut.
Certainly, this LP is the most ambitious recording project the band has undertaken to date. Not only is the album ambitious but the work involved extremely strenuous. The boys had been working at such a tight schedule on a British theater tour that the only time available for the album to be cut was two weeks immediately prior to their North American tour.
Their British recording company, Pye, allocated their studios for the complete period to the band and they commenced the backbreaking task of cutting the album from routining to recording at the rate of 14 hours in the studio a day.
At least, this was what was planned. What actually happened was different altogether. True to their reputation of recording at breakneck speed (most at their singles were completed, both sides, in three-hour sessions) the boys completed the six tracks written by themselves by 4 p.m. of the afternoon of the third day.
The band was able to take it easy from then on and it was decided, rather than continue at the same strenuous pace to knock out two of the days of recording, to give the boys a break between sessions. However, the Foundations still worked at the fast recording pace they seem to enjoy, and on a number of the remaining days, cut the scheduled daily quota of tracks by early evening.
The album was completed, with ease, 12 hours before the band left Britain for their American tour. The album sleeve, in itself an epic piece of design work, depicts the boys in convict uniforms, complete with picks and shovels, balls and chains, slaving away in a gravel pit. The title, naturally, “Digging the Foundations.” On the inside of the double sleeve the seven boys are uncomplimentary portrayed in individual “mugshots” with “wanted” life-line information on each one of the band.
The total cost of the album to produce is understood to be in the region of $25,000. The 12 tracks on the album, six of which were written by members of the Foundations, and the remainder by Tony Macaulay and John Macleod are: “In the Bad, Bad Old Days,” “I Can Feel It,” “Let the Heartaches Begin,” “Why Does She Keep On,” “Till Night Brought Day,” “I Still Get That Same Old Feeling,” “Take Away the Emptiness Too,” “A Penny Sir,” “My Little Chickadee,” “A Walk Through the Trees.” “Solomon Grundy,” and “Waiting on the Shores of Nowhere.” The LP is expected to be rush-released in the United States sometime in May, but is not expected to be released in Britain until after the summer.
10 million sales on 4 singles (1969)
Just before the Foundations left Britain for America, Pye Records announced that the sales of their first four singles, “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You,” “Back on My Feet Again,” “Any Old Time You’re Lonely and Sad” and “Build Me Up Buttercup,” had exceeded 10 million worldwide sales.
This is a phenomenal achievement. It is confidently expected that the world sales of “In the Bad, Bad Old Days (Before You Loved Me)” will bring this figure to around the 14 million mark. With the sales of extended play and long play records, the Foundations will then have sold nearly 20 million records in 20 months as recording artists.