Due to their hit singles concerning the antics of Snoopy, the wise beagle in the “Peanuts” comic strip, the Royal Guardsmen were branded a novelty act. Although there’s no denying these tunes were fun and frisky, the Ocala, Florida based band actually took their craft quite seriously, and Anthology (One Way Records) reveals an array of attributes.
Snagging a deal with the Laurie label in 1966, the Royal Guardsmen found themselves sitting proud and pretty at No. 2 on the charts by the end of the year with the silly and spunky “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron.” Come March of 1967, the band nabbed a No. 15 winner with the similarly inclined “The Return Of The Red Baron,” while “Snoopy For President” and “Snoopy’s Christmas,” equipped with ringing sleigh bells, continued to document the adventures of the famed dog.
Just as the Snoopy formula was beginning to run dry, the Royal Guardsmen’s first single, a sensitive ballad, “Baby Let’s Wait,” which tanked upon its initial release and was also recorded by the Young Rascals, received the resurrection treatment and skirted the top forty early in 1969. The success of this song indicated the band was fully capable of garnering success sans a Snoopy connection. But life soon skidded to an abrupt halt for the Royal Guardsmen, and by 1970 they were history.
Along with the aforementioned tracks, Anthology contains the killer diller “Leaving Me,” a mean and moody slice of garage rock glory pinned to a wall of wheezing fuzz guitars and ghostly choruses, and the tight and tasty “Shot Down” that additionally taps into the tense and tougher side of the band.
Blanketed with lovely Beach Boys styled harmonies and big and bright melodies, “Any Wednesday” is a pure pop jewel, and the generation gap themed “Mother, Where’s Your Daughter” transmits a progressive rock consciousness, as it swells and swerves with complex structures and the kind of orchestral organ passages associated with Procol Harum.
Paying lip service to the Yardbirds, the Royal Guardsmen’s recycling of “I’m A Man” strikes an aggressive nerve, and an instrumental version of the Byrds’ “So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star” is performed in a neat and nifty manner. Glazed with a buzzing psychedelic finish, “OM” stands as another accomplished instrumental, and then there’s an ambitious remake of the Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By” that strongly suggests the Royal Guardsmen had been absorbing the haunting, heavy dynamics of the Vanilla Fudge. Peppered with exotic belly dancing rhythms, “Searching For The Good Times,” which was rendered by Teddy and the Pandas as well, checks in as a platinum-plated pop rock piece.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with bubblegum music, but because the Royal Guardsmen were stereotyped as such a band, their non-Snoopy songs have regularly been overlooked and underestimated. However, Anthology, with its share of cool entries, should set the record straight and encourage folks to give a listen more of the band’s work.