Despite having released a series of flop singles on this side of the pond, it was the ever-magnetic Kenny Miller who worked his way into the London studio of producer Shel Talmy in 1965.
Outside of only George Martin, here was the hottest producer in the hippest city at the most happening time.
An American himself, Talmy gently guided Chad and Jeremy through “A Summer Song,” then turned around and unleashed the mod-thunder of the Who’s “My Generation.”
He’d oversee the Kinks evolve from the fuzzed-out garage ravers of “You Really Got Me” to the wistful, upright storytellers of “Waterloo Sunset.”
Then came his one and only American client. “Where does he fit? I thought Kenny had a good shot,” Talmy recalled. At the time, Talmy certainly didn’t have to bother. But Miller’s magnetic mojo was working at full strength. “I liked his attitude,” Talmy said. “I liked the way he sang.” For Miller, it was a last gasp at pop stardom. He’d previously worked with Glen Larson of the Four Preps, trying on a variety of styles in the studio. “None of them seemed to work,” Miller confessed. “He couldn’t quite find my niche.” Talmy was more than happy to assume the challenge, fitting Miller with a ballad, “Restless.” “During that time,” Miller said, “I was just so happy to be in the studio recording.” There’s a chance, Talmy said, that the session guitarist was Jimmy Page (a Talmy studio favorite before his Zep days). “And (pianist) Nicky Hopkins.”
But Miller did leave his mark.
For the B-side of “Restless,” Talmy suggested Miller cover a beat number titled “Take My Tip.”
Talmy had recorded “Take My Tip” with a short-lived band on his roster, the Manish Boys.
For the Manish Boys, it was the first time its lead singer, Davy Jones, had recorded one of his own songs.
“I used to take him over to a little pub,” Miller recalled, “because I knew he didn’t have any money. He would just bubble over. He had all these ideas.”
Just a few years ago, Miller met up with Talmy’s old secretary while visiting England for an autograph convention.
“I asked, ‘Whatever happened to Davy Jones?’ ” Miller said. “She looked at me like I just came from Mars.”
Not long after Miller left England, Davy Jones underwent a name change thanks to that other Davy Jones in the Monkees.
“I’ve never been so shocked,” Miller said. “I never knew David Bowie was Davy Jones.”
That made Springfield’s Kenny Miller the first to cover a David Bowie song.