Its gorgeous, emotional break combines an out-on-the-highway slide guitar folded magically in with surf guitar. The intro casually noodles, then fires up into an ardent gallop that supports and then is overshadowed by the lead guitar riff.
One of the best among many good things about “Secret Agent Man” is that it was recorded “almost live” at the Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles, the ultra venue for Rock-N-Roll in the city in the 1960s.
Of course, the solo riff has become as familiar as an old shoe, but it still has magic if you’ve never heard it or if you haven’t heard it in a few years. Fabulously, Mesi’s guitar lead on “Secret Agent Man” does double duty not just as a grab from the James Bond file drawer but as a piece of surfing music, completely fitting and just for an L.A. While Cold War paranoia had subsided somewhat by the time Rivers got into the spy game, the romance of the lone wolf agent was still in high gear. Ironically, “Secret Agent Man’s” release year of 1966 was the only year from 1962 to ’67 in which no James Bond movie was issued. Together, Sloan and Barri were responsible for writing a few other giant hits like “You Baby” by The Turtles. Given the general philosophical bent of the 60s, (though virtually all the other characters knew Bond’s actual name both on screen and in the Ian Fleming novels), it’s easy to grasp that there was a bit of social commentary in the line about being given a number and having a name taken away.


This verse salutes Bond’s swinging lifestyle, getting all the girls but always being in some sort of poorly defined danger from them. There are no trick pens or ejection seats in Aston-Martins in “Secret Agent Man.” The number captures the heart of Rock-N-Roll in an especially American way.
It’s a great dance song that, without its lyrics, would be at home at any local sock hop, beach dance or cocktail party.
Paul McCartney is one of the least likely candidates to win the title “Founder Of Heavy Metal,” but here he nabs the crown.
The music carries it all forward on a tidal wave of troubled, chaotic, punkish, metallic sound. To do a stomping, bomping square dance with the grim reaper, dial up this inexorably evocative song by The Felice Brothers.
It might be that the absence of 007 allowed “Secret Agent Man” to slake the thirst of those missing M-I-5 action, sex and romance. On his own Sloan wrote the social protest classic “Eve Of Destruction” performed by Barry McGuire. He has one of the more unique singing accents, a cross between his early New York City upbringing and the influence of his family’s move to Baton Rouge, where he lived and absorbed sights and sounds of the Mississippi during his teen years.


Many people in the mid-60s were seeing the rise of the first computer intrusions into society. London in the mid-60s was known as “Swinging London,” not in the partner-swapping sense, but in the fun-time, go-out-and-party-all-night sense. Today, those two spots are as familiar as mayonnaise on a BLT, but then they were as unusual to Americans as were bouillabaisse and saag ponir. It comes as no surprise that it was used to lend a satirical gloss to 1997’s Austin Powers: International Man Of Danger. The ghosts of party animals now long past their prime can be summoned to once again dance the Chicken, the Frug or the Monkey.
In his delivery of “Secret Agent Man” you can also feel a winking attitude that hints discreetly at the satirical possibilities inherent in the music and lyrics.




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