JULY 16, 2017
“I’M NOT SURE WHAT I WANNA DO” (WRITER: CHIP TAYLOR)
ARTIST: THE CYRKLE
RELEASED 1967 ON NEON LP
The Cyrkle, a pop band from New York City via Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, attracted the attention of Beatles manager Brian Epstein through his friend Nat Weiss, who in 1965 saw the group play in Atlantic City.
Through Epstein, the trio—Don Dannemann, Tom Dawes, and Marty Fried—snagged a contract with Columbia Records and enjoyed two big hits in 1966: “Red Rubber Ball,” written by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley of the Seekers, and the follow-up, “Turn-Down Day,” a perfect summer song penned by vet songwriter Jack Keller and jazzer David Blume.
They opened for the Beatles on their last American tour and appeared on several TV shows. Their singles were also big hits in other countries. Another hit would establish the Cyrkle among the country’s top groups; their third 45, then, would be critical.
Following the Beatles concerts, the Cyrkle, now with new keyboardist Mike Losekamp in tow, hied back to New York to work again with John Simon, a Columbia staff producer who had helmed their previous discs. (Simon later produced The Band, Big Brother & the Holding Company, and Blood, Sweat, and Tears.)
In October 1966, Columbia leaked to certain radio stations and some in the industry that the new Cyrkle 45 would be “I’m Not Sure What I’m Gonna Do,” a song written by Chip Taylor, whose “Wild Thing” had just been a mammoth hit for the Troggs. In its October 29 issue, Record World pegged “I’m Not Sure What I’m Wanna Do” as #4 on its list of 50 “up and coming” singles.
“I’m Not Sure,” a midtempo guitar rocker, was right up the Cyrkle’s alley; it was both commercial and slightly challenging, with slightly downbeat (and borderline obscene) lyrics, strong harmonies, a fuzzy guitar solo, and a solid arrangement.
For some reason, however, somebody at Columbia decided, at the last minute, that “I’m Not Sure What I’m Gonna Do” was not going to be the single.
The proposed single release was quickly recalled and another tune immediately chosen in its place: a baroque pop tune called “Please Don’t Ever Leave Me” written by the otherwise obscure Susan Haber. The very next week, Record World noted that it “should hit,” Billboard predicted it would reach the top 20, and Cashbox also made it a “Pick of the Week.”
It’s a pleasant number, very much in tune with late 1966, but wasn’t distinctive and didn’t hit with radio even after Columbia purchased full-page ads in the trade papers. Amazingly enough, it didn’t even make top 40 on New York’s big rock stations, WMCA and WABC; this is something I find hard to believe could have occurred without having been caused by some weird subterfuge. “Please Don’t Ever Leave Me” barely made top ten in any markets. It topped out at #50 on the Record World chart, #50 on Cashbox, and #59 in Billboard.
Did Columbia think the single was too weird, too progressive, too out-there? Did someone pull a favor and get “their” tune put out on the 45 instead? Neither Don Dannemann nor Mike Losekamp of the Cyrkle recall the reasons for the change, and producer John Simon has not responded to my request for comment.
The next Cyrkle 45 was “I Wish You Could Be Here,” issued in early 1967. A strong song, but perhaps not a perfect single due to its hushed tone and acoustic instruments, it also failed; after a strong beginning, the chance at super-stardom was gone. Each single they released charted lower than the previous one, despite their quality, and the group essentially ceased to exist by the end of the year.
Thanks to Scott Langley of the reformed Cyrkle for getting my query to Dannemann and Losekamp. See these guys if they're in your town.
Here is "I'm Not Sure What I Wanna Do" in its original, and more powerful, mono mix.