Ray Columbus & The Invaders – C’mon & Swim
Ray Columbus & The Invaders were the most commercially successful of New Zealand’s R&B based beat bands. Formed around 1960 in Christchurch, they went through a number of lineup changes before disbanding in 1965. 1962-63 saw them move north to be based in Auckland before leaving for Sydney, Australia for 1964 onwards. Their early 1964 version of “I Wanna Be Your Man” is reputed to have had the apparent distinction of locally outselling both versions by the Stones & the Beatles, as well as being the first New Zealand 45 to chart overseas (Top 40 in Australia). Their cover version of a song called “She’s A Mod” was a huge local smash & topped Australian & New Zealand charts in mid-64. When Ray refers to the “Mod’s Nod” in this version of “C’mon & Swim” he is making reference to the dance associated with the earlier hit. In early 1965 the band toured Australasia with the Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison & the Newbeats, also serving as Orbison’s backing on the package. This 45 of “C’mon & Swim” was released while they were on the tour but despite the Invaders receiving increased publicity, the record didn’t do as well as previous releases. After the Rolling Stones tour the band were then sent out to open up for the Dave Clark Five on their 1965 tour. The band (maybe prematurely) called it a day in 1965 after frustrations over a lack of money & being unable to get the green light from the US consulate to get to the US, these frustrations led to key members leaving & so Columbus decided to fold the band.
After the band broke up Ray Columbus went to the US as a solo artist in 1966, where he stayed for a couple of years. Upon arrival in San Francisco he linked with local band the Newcastle Five who then renamed themselves the Art Collection. Ray Columbus & the Art Collection would work the Bay Area until Columbus returned to New Zealand in early 1968. During that time he released a couple of 45s (“Kick Me” on Colstar is probably the most highly regarded of these as a fuzzed out garage stomper), wrote & produced for other artists (his work appears on the San Francisco International Pop Festival compilation LP & he also wrote “I’m Good For You” for Oakland R&B band Fire). Overall a pretty interesting career, (not even including some of the projects other members of the Invaders have been involved with also). Ray Columbus is still singing & I was fortunate to catch a reunion show late 2007 where they were absolutely on fire playing a number of the old classics.