Beg, Borrow & Steal, The Ohio Express

Posted on January 2, 2013 by

ARTIST: The Ohio Express
TITLE: Beg, Borrow & Steal
LABEL: Cameo 20,000
RELEASED: 1967
Beg, Borrow & Steal – The Ohio Express

“Beg, Borrow & Steal” is a great pop-rock single. It is obviously based on the “Louie, Louie” chord changes but it employs British invasion harmonies. The Ohio Express is the same band that would go on to score the huge bubblegum hits, “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” and “Chewy Chewy” as well as “Down At Lulu’s.” Or was it the same band?

In 1966, The Rare Breed, a band out of the Bronx released a single on the Attack label called “Beg, Borrow & Steal.” It went nowhere. Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffrey Katz, operating under the guise of Super K Productions, produced the song. The Rare Breed recorded one more single with Super K at the helm, “Come & Take A Ride In My Boat,” but the band had a dispute with the producers, so they would never work together again. (“Come & Take A Ride In My Boat” went on to be a big hit for Every Mother’s Son a year later).

Kasenetz/Katz would remix “Beg, Borrow & Steal” and release it on the Cameo label under the name of The Ohio Express, a name they owned but there was no band attached to it. When the record broke, Super K had no band to tour to support the song, so they hired a band out of Ohio called Sir Timothy and the Royals and changed their name to the Ohio Express. So in reality, Sir Timothy and the Royals, as the Ohio Express, went out to promote a song recorded by the Rare Breed.

The strength of the single prompted the recording of the album. A majority of the album is New York studio musicians with Sir Timothy & The Royals / The Ohio Express’ lead vocalist Dale Powers. There are a couple of band originals on the record. Keyboardist Jim Pfahler contributed the Byrd-esque “Had To Be Me” and also stole a riff from Wilson Pickett’s “Ninety Nine & A Half Won’t Do” for the cut “Hard Times.” He also wrote the second best number on the record, “I Know We’ll Be Together.” The track is derivative sixties rock, venturing into the Rascals’ “You Better Run” but never getting caught with the riffs they are lifting.

Drummer Tim Corwin is credited with “It’s Too Groovy” which should have been written under an alias. It’s one of those throwaway numbers that are supposed to sound humorous. The Monkee’s “Gonna Buy Me A Dog” would be the pinnacle of such creativity and “Groovy” would be at the other end of the spectrum.

As Super K attempted to reap the Ohio land for more bands, the Music Explosion supplied them with “Little Bit of Soul.” They also auditioned a band called “The Measles featuring a young Joe Walsh, later of James Gang and Eagles fame. There are two Measles songs, recorded by the de facto Ohio Express on this LP, “And It’s True” and “I Find I Think Of You.” The latter is credited to Walsh and it’s a hazy piece of sixties pop. “And It’s True” is a ballad in the style of the Beatles with its strength being the instrumental break; a subdued guitar solo worthy of being a background track for a Nescafe commercial.

“Soul Struttin’” was co-written by Tony Orlando and Marty Thau. It’s an attempt to create a new dance craze song that name drops James Brown and it sounds like it was rescued from the dumpster outside of a Mitch Ryder recording session. The Temptations’ “I’m Losing You” riff was also “borrowed” for this session. But no one is begging to hear this stolen track.

The Kasenetz/Katz originals are more realized productions, but they too are very derivative. “Let Go” has that pronounced French Ye Ye march. “Stop Take A Look Around” is a cross between The Clefs of Lavender Hill’s “Stop! Get A Ticket” and the Hollies’ “Look Through Any Window” all sung in a faux rock-folk idiom.

The closing track on side one is a cover of the Standells’ “Try It.” The snidely vocals of the Standells’ Larry Tamblyn is nowhere to be found, but the song is a turning point in the history of The Ohio Express. “Try It” was co-written by Joey Levine. His later demo of “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” was released under the name of The Ohio Express, thus ushering them into the world of bubblegum. None of the touring band members contributed to the song. It has been said that when “Chewy, Chewy” broke, the band had not been informed of it and were unable to play it at their shows.

Beg Borrow & Steal is more interesting as a history piece than it is as a pop album. It’s a better reflection on the music industry than it is as a representative of good sixties pop rock. The stories are better than the songs.

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