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Simon Dupree and The Big Sound

In an era of cash-in records that stretched all the way from The Flower Pot Men to Alf Herbert & His Marijuana Brass, a handful of British psychedelic pop 45s transcended their original intention of being tongue-in-cheek send-ups of the ‘flower power’ movement to masquerade as genuine cultural epiphanies.

Derek Shulman began the band in 1965 – originally as The Howling Wolves – with his brothers Phil and Ray. Their other brother, Terry, was their road manager.


Joined by Eric Hine, Tony Ransley and Pete O’Flaherty, Simon Dupree and The Big Sound scored a trio of minor hit singles, before asking their management in 1967 to come up with a song that would finally provide them with a genuine chart breakthrough.

Manager John King went to Robin Music and came back with Kites. The band hated the song, recorded it under duress in two-and-a-half hours and went off to tour Sweden.

Written by the old-school team of Lee Pockriss (who also wrote Catch A Falling Star and Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini) and Broadway lyricist Hal Hackady, Kites was transformed by the group from a traditional romantic pop ballad (albeit one with an unusually florid lyric) to a kitsch but spellbinding slice of British flower-power, replete with gongs, woodblocks, finger cymbals, Mellotron and swirling wind effects.

Derek Shulman’s sonorous lead vocal was counterbalanced beautifully by actress Jacqui Chan’s evocative but incomprehensible spoken contribution.

simondupree_33Although Jacqui (pictured) tended to play stereotypical Chinese and Japanese characters, she was actually born and raised in Trinidad and couldn’t speak Chinese.

The band quickly brought in a local Chinese restaurateur to write a few lines that Jacqui (who at the time had a degree of notoriety as Lord Snowdon’s mistress) then recited phonetically.

The result was a mini-masterpiece that reached the Top 10 over Christmas 1967.

Later records – including the superb For Whom The Bell Tolls – flopped and the cabaret circuit beckoned. The Shulman’s achieved something of a makeover when they formed progmeisters Gentle Giant in 1970.

Derek Shulman
Ray Shulman
Guitar, violin, trumpet, vocals
Phil Shulman
Vocals, saxophone, trumpet
Eric Hine
Pete O’Flaherty
Tony Ransley