I will admit that Freddie and the Dreamers weren't one of the best groups to emerge from the 1964 British Invasion, but while the other English bands of the time were more exciting to listen to, or to see on television, none were funnier to watch. The Manchester-based group wasn't particularly musically inventive -- in fact, their few hits ("I'm Telling You Now", "You Were Made For Me") were all written in waltz-time or something close to it -- but they won my heart, and many others, by wearing their winky, eye-batting, high-kicking, merry-making charm on their sleeves. Chubby Checker may have topped the charts with "The Twist," but Freddie and the Dreamers topped the charts by acting like twits -- years before Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Freddie Garrity (right), the group's zany, gravity-defying frontman, was also one of the very first pop stars to have his own name and unique style of dancing commemorated in a hit song:
Kick your feet up
Swing your arms up too
Move your head both ways like you see me do
Then just repeat to the swinging beat
Do the Freddie!
Silly twaddle, to be sure. But "Do the Freddie," written by Dennis Lambert and Lou Courtney, was very catchy and it was a dance that kids could easily do without feeling self-conscious. I remember seeing it performed on school playgrounds and even at dances for years after the Top 20 song had vanished from the radio.
On a more pretentious level, you could say that this song (along with Ricky Nelson's earlier "Teenage Idol" -- a hit that Ricky personally hated to sing) marked the beginning of rock's self-mythification. Without lyrics like these to blaze the trail, could Jim Morrison's Lizard King have been able to do "anything"?
(Some interesting things I learned at the All Music Guide: "Do The Freddie" was never issued on record in the UK, nor did any of the Dreamers play on the record. And the aforementioned Chubby Checker was the first to pay tribute to Freddie's moves, beating him to the punch by recording a different song, "Let's Do the Freddie," written by Doc Pomus and Dave Appell! Freddie, being the real deal, had the hit, though.)
All this cute trivia is my way of beating around the sad news that Freddie Garrity passed away two days ago, on May 19, at the age of 65. Apparently Freddie had suffered a heart attack in 2004, after completing a British Invasion tour here in America, and his health never recovered; he'd been wheelchair-bound for the last two years and finally succumbed to circulatory problems. (Original Dreamers drummer Bernie Dwyer died at the end of 2002.)
Freddie appeared with the Dreamers in one of my favorite "Beach Party" knock-offs, OUT OF SIGHT (1966, featuring the unjustly forgotten Jonathan Daly and Norman "Woo Woo" Grabowski), and he earned a place in the fantastique, as the star of a weird British kids show called LITTLE BIG TIME, which ran from 1971-73 and sounds like fun. You can read/see more about it here. A live Freddie performance from 2000, played with a new Dreamers line-up, can be enjoyed on Image Entertainment's DVD, THE BRITISH INVASION RETURNS.
The image of Freddie Garrity and the infectious joy he spread will always be fond memories of my childhood. But when all is said and done, what I treasure most about his legacy is that he once penned this single, adorable stanza:
You were made for me
Everybody tells me so
You were made for me
Don't pretend that you don't know.