Fifth Estate
Primarily remembered today for their 1967 top 20 smash song “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”, The Fifth Estate was in actuality a multi-talented group whose strong recorded output often times surpassed that sole novelty hit.  From folk rock to psychedelica to renaissance dance pieces – and demos and jingles - the band touched all bases and their versatility provided them ample opportunity to write and record a variety of excellent tunes.  It’s easy, when looking back, to wonder if things might have been different for the band if they were allowed to take their career in a different direction after the success of their signature tune.   Drummer Ken “Furvus” Evans, however, is nonetheless content with the legacy of The Fifth Estate.

Furvus, in fact, has created MySpace pages for The D-Men and The Fifth Estate.  And budding filmmakers take note: Furvus has also recently completed a screenplay entitled Garage Band, about the formation and success of his '60's band.  Any interested parties may contact him via this website.

1966 photo of The Fifth Estate on the front steps of Allen Freed's old house in Stamford, CT, the band's home town just outside of NYC. Pictured is the stairway "Mr. Rock n Roll" used every day for years. The picture also includes Chuck Legros (grey bell bottoms) who sang with the band for almost a year in 1966.
Ken "Furvus" Evans
An Interview With Kenneth "Furvus" Evans

60sgaragebands.com (60s): You had previously been a member of Three Hits & A Miss. How long was that band together? Did you record?

Kenneth Evans (KE): The band was together for about two years and did not record. But for me the real early band that got me going was The Coachmen. This was from '58 to '61, so I was 14 when this already existing group of twenty-year-old guys hired me. We had as large a bar and college circuit around the East as anyone at that level at that time. We were sort of a Bill Haley/Kingsmen/Stones-singing and playing band, even though The Stones did not yet exist. There were not many other singing and playing bands around then. To be able to sing and play your instrument at the same time for real was something very new. Hardly any big names did that, maybe only Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee who were just starting that trend. Most groups were musicians fronted by a singer or just a vocal group.

When I was with The Coachmen - a five piece, two guitar, bass, drums and sax band - we did record several times. I was probably about 15 at the time. Unfortunately, I couldn't say exactly what we recorded and they were never released and the tapes probably no longer exist. There probably was at least one original and three covers done of tunes something like “Long Tall Sally”, “Red River Rock”, “Great Balls of Fire”, and “Johnny Be Good.”

60s: The D-Men recorded four demos at Dick Charles Studio in '64. Other than “Miserlou” and “Don't You Know”, what were the other songs recorded?

KE: “That's What They Say About You” was one and we are not sure of the other. But I do remember the engineer continually saying, "Crazy, let's make it" just before each take. It's totally amazing how some of these seemingly insignificant moments became burned into our memories, even our psyches, during those sessions. I think the concentration was so intense. One thing that happened when we were recording “Miserlou” was that about half way through the recording (as it is on the retrospective) the headpiece of my headphones swung down over my eyes and I couldn't see a thing. Well that is when the band's montra in live performance was once we start playing a tune we don't stop for anything until it is done, no matter what!, came into play. So we didn't and the take didn't come out too badly. You can hear a little something weird about the middle of the song, but after that I don't think anyone would ever know!

60s: The group also cut five more songs at A&R Studios in New York. Do you recall these sessions?

KE: Yes - pretty much. We recorded “That's What They Say About You” (I don't think it was ever released), “Messin' Around” (written by Rick and me and released as the B-side of our first release which we also then recorded, “No No I Just Don't Care”. The other was “No Hope For Me,” which became the B-side of our second release which we rerecorded (“Don't You Know”) and which I believe made some form of bubbling under noise, and was a 1010 WINS (NYC) Murry the K pick of the week after winning his call-in contest. “Messin' Around” was the original title of the song later released as “Moussin' Around.” Why they changed the title before release I am not sure except I vaguely remember that it had something to do with a joke Soupy Sales had done at that time and a song he released around that. The real title according to me - one of the writers - is “Messin' Around!”

These sessions were all particularly memorable to me especially being a drummer. At that time with the limited number of tracks available if we didn't record in live mode, everything at once, we recorded (for separation and control purposes) in layers a few instruments at a time - usually bass and drums first and maybe a guitar if I was lucky. Trying to put feel into these pieces often without so much as a scratch vocal track was difficult at best and nearly impossible at times, although by the time we later recorded “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead”, we were pretty good at this. Its original track is just bass and drums and it felt good enough to break the top ten in New York City - and almost nationally. Although, I do remember Wayne standing with us and sort of humming along to keep us in place, but so low that it cannot be heard on the final mix, I don't think?


Media
"Sylvia Bottomley", an Unreleased Fifth Estate Song
Media
"It's Waiting There For You", a Fifth Estate Demo
The D-Men

60s: What do you recall about The D-Men's appearance on HULLABALOO?

KE: The biggest thing was - with our sound and style - that they had us on at all! We truly had a garage sound then (basement really - that's even lower), with a lot of what later would be known as a punk attitude, but for us it was real - not prefabricated. We just didn't know any better I guess. All the acts on HULLABALOO had hits and were usually in the Top 10. We had just released our first single, but were somewhat well known around the Metropolitan area. We had been on several other TV shows and had continuous live playing dates in and around NYC, but nevertheless we were all surprised.

60s: Do you recall which other shows the band appeared on?

KE: Several others and a very popular New York City TV rock show hosted by Clay Cole. We did this show several times. These were pre-taped and as I recall we were on a taping session with The Stones just as they were beginning to get known in this country. They had just done their thing and had finished with the dressing room we were now using. All I can recall was the rather "heavy air," shall we say, left behind by The Stones. Also a minor bird was in there that Chuck McCann, a children's show host, had taught to say every foul (almost said fowl) word known to man and then some. The bird was really rollin' the night we were in there. Between this and the smell, we were really ready to rock when we went on and as I recall we did. We also did quite a number of other TV shows around the country, but the one that sticks out was a local TV show we did down in Philadelphia, I believe. We were to lip-synch it, so to make it a bit more interesting we plugged our guitars into each other and I went out into the back alley and brought in a bunch of trash cans to pound on for drums. It was probably the birth of trash music as it is played today.

Now we also remember being on other TV shows in Philadelphia and also in South Carolina...Greenville I believe.  Also in Kansas city and then at least twice on Upbeat in Ohio, once with our friends The Music Explosion and also with another of the Greenwich Village bands, The Velvet Underground.  We did most of these shows several times.  It was always a good sign when you got invited back.  We usually did.  But not always.  That's rock and roll!

60s: The Fifth Estate filmed on stage clips of the band lip-synching five songs. Do you recall which five songs? What was the film used for?

KE: Let's see now...we were set up on a stage in a theater up at Dartmouth College and I guess we were using the available movie and Drama Department's equipment. The lighting, I think, was all intense white (no color) but as we were in our Greenwich Village ART/Mod Rocker garb that we more often than not picked up at the Brick Shedhouse down there, we supplied about all the color and maybe more than anyone would ever want. As Doug and I recall we did “Tomorrow Is My Turn”, “That's Love”, “I Wanna Shout”, “Morning Morning”, and probably a cover of  “Purple Haze”, which was just released and was not even a hit yet, I don't think. We are not that sure (about performing “Purple Haze”) since we don't recall prerecording it, unless we did it live?

We had hoped to use it as a promo video is used today.  I think it actually was. I'm sure it's around somewhere, if the film hasn’t disintegrated. Hopefully it has. I don't recall it being very good. We really didn't know what the hell we were doing. There was no audience and a filmsetting made it hard to get the same feeling!


Media
"Morning Morning", great Jubilee Single
Media
"Night On Fire", Unreleased 1968 Demo
Screenshot of the Fifth Estate's promo reel

60s: What prompted the band to change names to The Fifth Estate?

KE: Probably to protect the guilty! No, seriously (I think?), our manager (might as well lay one on him) had suggested the D-Men idea, probably thinking it was memorable and "cute" or something like that. We went with it for a while, but it really didn't fit, certainly wasn't "cute," and was often spelled wrong. Many spelled it The Demon. This lost us a lot of church hall gigs, which were common when we were starting. So we decided to "upgrade." The Fifth Estate was chosen for a couple of reasons. It was a take off of the Estates system (sort of class system) in France after the French Revolution, which worked its way down from the leader, then clergy and then nobles, being the First, Second and Third Estates. The press became known as the Fourth Estate. The Fifth Estate then was the people, the common people, and the populous. We saw ourselves in some sense anyway, as able to speak to the thoughts and feelings of this group. Hey that's Rock & Roll, huh?  Actually, it is! Not really simple though, was it? But a real straight forward reason and second reason for using the name is that there was a porn magazine out of Chicago called The Fifth Estate, which we discovered when we were there doing a Blues Club tour. Yep, we were capable of doing that, harmonica playin' white boys. This Chicago magazine was a lot like Screw Magazine from New York and for those of us who were not sure about the French connection, this clinched it! The Fifth Estate we were, having both ends of the spectrum covered, from the “sublime” to the "obscene." It was perfect!

60s: What were the primary differences between the periods when the band was known as "The D-Men" compared to as "The Fifth Estate"?

KE: There was a flow between those periods without missing a beat let's say, but The D-Men were the earlier form that evolved into The Fifth Estate. So the D-Men experienced all the early growing pains and The Fifth Estate had most of the fun.

60s: Would you say you were more popular as The D-Men, or as The Fifth Estate?

KE: The D-Men were known in the East and in New York City in particular and our local fans in Fairfield County were just incredible, especially that young lady who handcuffed herself to me and then dropped the key down her blouse. Doesn't sound like much today, but then no one had ever heard of such a thing. I certainly hadn't anyway and I and been around a little bit. Unfortunately we had security people with us who sort of made her hand the key over. I would rather have attempted to solve that problem myself. Hum. But I digress. As The Fifth Estate, we had more radio success and the hit with “Ding Dong” and became nationally known, traveled and played more widely all over the country several times with bands like The Turtles and The Loving Spoonful, and a major package tour with names like The Easybeats, The Music Explosion, The Buckinghams and Gene Pitney.

60s: Are there many songs in the vaults that were never released?  Have any live tracks survived?

KE: Many did not make it and remain in the Abbey Road vaults, I believe. In fact, my favorite and the favorite of many if not most people who really know the band is “Tomorrow Is My Turn” (maybe this holds a hidden meaning?) and that is not on there, except for a bit of a demo of the track only. Plus, the final and best recording of “Number 1 Hippie On The Village Scene”, which is a gas-gas-gas as far as I am concerned, is not on there. There are many that we cannot get the masters for, as the cost of what is being looked for does not seem justified at the moment. Now that the band has been reintroduced, as it were, with the retrospective “Ding Dong The Witch Is Back”, available through Boston Skyline Records (Boston, Massachusetts) it would be great, I think, if the ultimate Fifth Estate CD could be released. The retrospective was just that. It was put together for collectors primarily.  It shows the many different things the band could do and the different writing approaches Wayne and Don took.  It really was a monumental effort.  A new CD would simply be a "best of album" of 20 or so of the best cuts (some unreleased) from a relatively good, very creative '60's rock & roll band, that may not have gotten for one reason or another as much attention then as it could have. But then again - that's Rock & Roll! Yeah...there are live tracks. We have some around.  In our minds at the time they were not so much intended as recordings to be released as much as just to allow us to hear ourselves live at future practice sessions.  We couldn’t tell at all how we sounded live while playing since monitors did not exist. If the sound system speakers where turned in towards the band so the singers could hear each other the mikes would just feed back.  We really had to know our parts and hope for the best.  Things were especially interesting for me when we played in a big place and I was up on a riser behind the amps down in front.  Then I didn’t even have that much to listen to.  It was only drums that I could hear on many nights.  We played six sets a night, six nights a week for months at the Downtown in Greenwich Village, our Hamburg Star-Club I guess. This was before our major tours and it really prepared us for these larger venues.  This and those live tapes really helped us and held us together.

60s: The D-Men/Fifth Estate recorded jingles for Proctor & Gamble, Ocean Spray, and McGregor. Do you remember other jingles you recorded?

KE: This I really couldn't say. I wasn't big on the idea of doing that crap. The bands that made it big enough didn't need to and it also used up a few fairly good songs where the words were changed to make it into a commercial. I thought that part of it in particular was a poor idea.

60s: The D-Men/Fifth Estate recorded some really strong/excellent songs (“I Just Don't Care”, “Love Is All A Game”, “So Little Time”) yet it is “Ding Dong” that the band is primarily remembered for today. What are your thoughts on that?

KE: Thank you for your kind and unusually perceptive comments and question. Now you have come to the heart of it! Is it as simple as a novelty tune that kills a band? I don't think so. I think it is more that the creativity and therefore novelty of the band was not fully understood before “Ding Dong,” and without this context for a fan base to understand against – “Ding Dong” was so different that people did not know what to make of it, nor did the radio people then understand where we were coming from with follow-ups. Not knowing the band they wanted moreDing Dongs” Imagine if The Beatles had not fully surfaced until a point where “Rocky Raccoon” was their first major hit. Would things have gone differently? Maybe somewhat, though probably not in the long run because they were so freakin' great. But with us, more marginal talents to be sure, it did make a huge difference that people did not already know that we were a legitimate (whatever that means) hard rocking band with punk and pop rock instincts and with a very high dose of creativity. Many of the styles and sounds we played we made up. “So little Time” was the heaviest thing anyone had heard to that point. These were not common styles and sounds at the time. We were creating all the time. All are influenced from what went before to be sure, but many, as they were played by us, were leaps forward (although there were some that were definitely leaps backwards too - I think we buried most of those). Although most sound common today, many of these styles and beats (“No No I Just Don't Care”), sounds (eight string guitar inThat's Love”), and musical combinations (a renaissance dance piece plus a movie score in “Ding Dong”) had not previously existed, at least not that we were aware of anyway. One thing that has always confirmed all this in my mind is that Brian Epstein, The Beatles manager, knew of us before “Ding Dong” and  became serious about signing us. This, unfortunately for us, was ended by Brian's untimely death. But prior to his death we were checked out by him and invited to parties put on in New York City by Nemporer, the U.S. arm of his management business. We also understood that George Martin rather liked what we had done with “Ding Dong” by combining classical music, harpsichord and rock. Actually another reason he may have liked it is because it probably sounded so familiar yet still different to him. This was partly because on that one I didn't make up anything, I simply stole Ringo's beat on “Nowhere Man” But on all this we will never know. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. Ahh, now that is Rock & Roll. You gotta love it and I do!


Media
"Love Is All A Game", Live in1967
Media
"I Wanna Shout", Live in 1967

60s: What were your personal thoughts when first hearing “Ding Dong”? Bubblegum/novelty or not...the song is admittedly catchy.

KE: It’s neither bubblegum nor novelty.  I’d say it’s creative! When I first heard “Ding Dong” or “The Witch is Dead” as I prefer to call it,  played by Wayne on piano only, what stood out to me was the Renaissance dance section in the middle, which I thought was a marvelous vehicle for Wayne to showcase his harpsichord skills, which were considerable for a 19/20 year old. I then tried to figure out what kind of rock beat would pull all these diverse elements together and as I have already said, I simply ripped off Ringo's “Nowhere Man” beat. I hope he forgives me. Management certainly tried to sell it under the label of bubblegum, but it didn't fit. It was too complex and sophisticated for that market. But it is true that radio programmers treated it as a novelty and they had no idea where the band was coming from or how creative it was when with the follow-ups they simply wanted more of the same, another “Ding Dong.” For this reason I don't feel they ever gave the follow up releases that were a more "average us" a good listen or a fair chance. It wasn't what they wanted and already expected, so that was that.

60s: Would you have been satisfied with the band's accomplishments had The Fifth Estate never recorded Ding Dong?

KE: Wow – this “Ding Dong” thing is going to be ringing in my head tonight. I haven't thought about it this much in quite a while. But, to answer the question, no - I am glad we did it. We may never have had the opportunity to do many of the other things we did do if it wasn't for that song, but as I said I would have liked that hit after we had had a few others first. Hey, who wouldn't? But I would have sacrificed a Top 10 “Ding Dong” hit for, lets say, a Top 20 hit of one of our less quirky rock tunes. This could have been and probably would have been better in the long run for the band if it ever had happened. But that's a big IF! Who knows...we might still be playing today if it did. But to give up the success we had due to “Ding Dong” without having another hit in its place, no way!
The D-Men in 1964 with Burt, the band dog
The Fifth Estate in 1966
The Fifth Estate in 1969