And so the Top 20 entered it’s 4th year and due to it’s increasing popularity this 12 month period saw one major change in the itinerary. Previous years had always seen the concerts broken up by the inclusion of a 3-month recess period lasting from June to the beginning of September. In 1964, this period of inactivity was shortened to just 1 month (July) which meant there were now more live gigs in Bridgwater than you could shake a stick at.
6th January 1964
CARTER-LEWIS & THE SOUTHERNERS
By 1964, most of our major UK cities had developed a healthy local music scene and with the British Beat movement now in overdrive, many bands and artists that had only previously achieved local success were being plundered by the music moguls as record companies went searching for “the next big thing” (One exception to this rule was Bristol, a city that supplied very few chart acts during the 60’s) Whilst Liverpool & Manchester had dominated 1963, during the following year, Birmingham supplied a healthy selection of artists for The Town Hall*. The first exponents of “Brum Beat” to play Bridgwater were Carter-Lewis & The Southerners, a group whose individual members became far more well-known after the group’s demise whilst still remaining largely anonymous. John Carter (real name John Shakespeare) & Ken Lewis (James Hawker) were songwriters primarily having first met in school, forming a skiffle band mysteriously called LVI in the late 1950’s. They wrote and performed extensively for the BBC programs “Easy Beat” and “Saturday Club” and also recorded covers of the latest chart hits with jazz musicians such as Marion Montgomery & Marion Ryan. Sometime during 1960, Carter & Lewis had spent an entire day peddling 6 songs that they had written to a variety of London publishers based in Denmark Street. Only Noel Gay Music offered the duo a contract and with Terry Kennedy signing up as their manager, it was the latter that suggested that forming a band would be the best way to get their songs heard and the group started recording with Joe Meek as early as 1961. Early material revealed a strong Buddy Holly influence and they scored a No.18 hit for Mike Sarne called “Will I What”, a follow-up to the hugely successful “Come Outside”. Ironically, despite their songwriting background, very few of their singles featured their own compositions, none of which achieved any great success though “Your Momma’s Out Of Town” (mentioned in the Top Twenty’s advert) did reach No.22 in 1963. Described as a band that operated within “the wimpish end of the market” their 3-part harmonies became a trademark of sorts particularly when Carter, Lewis & fellow band-member Perry Ford (Bryan Pugh) formed The Ivy League late 1964, achieving Top 10 success in 1965 with both “Funny How Love Can Be” and ”Tossin And Turnin”. Perhaps the most significant (and certainly less wimpish) member of The Southerners was James Patrick Page – a red hot guitar gunslinger who achieved a reputation pre-Led Zeppelin as an in-demand session musician. In fact Page played on so many records during the early 60’s that it’s surprising to find him holding down a regular spot with any group from this period. Page certainly helped to beef up The Southerners insipidness, but despite appearing on a couple of singles in 1963 and, most notably, on a superb version of “Skinnie Minnie” in 1964, his tenure as a band member was so brief that I thought it unlikely that he could have played our home town. Even though one web-site has Page leaving The Southerners in late 1963, it has been suggested that Page’s career with the Carter-Lewis conglomerate spanned a period that was just long enough for him to have played Bridgwater before promptly leaving the group directly afterwards though one would like to think that the two incidents are not related. However the definitive evidence regarding the question “Did Jimmy Page play the Town Hall?” was supplied by the man himself in an interview conducted for MOJO magazine towards the tail-end of 2013. Page may well have appeared on several Carter-Lewis singles and even posed for some publicity photographs with the band but, Page admits, his role within the group was confined strictly to the studio and he never appeared on stage with them. Mystery solved. As for the main protagonists, Carter and Lewis went on to forge successful careers as writers of commercials and jingles whilst also developing a solid reputation as backing vocalists. They provided harmonies on a number of major hit singles including “There’s Always Something There To Remind Me” by Sandie Shaw, “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones, “Out Of Time” by Chris Farlowe and “Hi Ho Silver Lining” by Jeff Beck, as well as a number of the Who’s early recordings including “I Can’t Explain”. Post Ivy League, they reached No.4 in 1967 as leaders of the Flowerpot Men with their borderline hippie satire “Let’s Go To San Francisco” whilst Carter sang lead vocal on “Winchester Cathedral”, by The New Vaudeville Band in 1966, a Top 10 UK hit and a No.1 in the US of A. He also later became a member of the band First Class, whose 1974 summer hit “Beach Baby” was written by the duo.
*’Liverpool started the ball rolling. Now the Midlands is ready to take over. We have the groups. Let’s hope they have the luck the Merseysiders have enjoyed.’ Midland Beat monthly magazine.
13th January 1964
THE ROCKIN BERRIES
The Rockin’ Berries were not only the second Brumbeat group to play The Town Hall but they were also the second band from Birmingham to have a hit record (The Applejacks “Tell Me When” was the first.) Another band with “wimpish” overtones, their history is a little convoluted but guitarist Brian “Chuck” Botfield appears to be the main constant for a group who have had more than their fair share of personnel changes. Botfield and future Berrie Geoff Turton both attended Turves Green School and upon leaving, Botfield formed a skiffle group called “The Bobcats”, a band that at one point included a young female piano player called Christine Perfect, who for the uninitiated became Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. Botfield re-named the band “The Rockin’ Berries” and after they had split he was invited to play guitar for a combo that included another future Berrie, drummer Terry Bond. Botfield agreed to join on the proviso that the new group adopt the name of his previous employers and The Rockin’ Berries Mk II were born. They gained a good reputation locally and enjoyed the novelty of having two vocalists, one of which, Jimmy Powell, was regarded as one of the best singers in the West Midlands. In November 1961, the band were boosted by the double filip of obtaining a Decca Records audition with promoter Jack Good whilst also securing some dates in Germany, but unfortunately the group failed to obtain the record deal despite vocalist Powell impressing. The Berries returned to Deutschland for a second stint, but when the band were offered an extension to their original European contract, several members expressed dissatisfaction over remaining abroad and the band promptly split down the middle with Jimmy Powell taking up Jack Good’s original contract offer and becoming the first “Brumbeat” recording star in the process. Powell was replaced by Botfield’s old school cohort Geoff Turton to complete the Germany engagement, a singer that possessed a Frankie Valli-inspired falsetto that was used by the group to great effect and after returning to the UK they were contacted by the same label that had previously turned them down and became Decca recording artistes. They released two singles, the second of which, “Itty Bitty Pieces” got them a TV appearance on Ready Steady Go! but neither Decca 45 made any headway and after just one year they were dropped by the label. Signed to the Pye subsidiary Piccadilly by talent scout and new manager John Schroeder, their first release for their new employers, the rather fey “I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You” was a minor hit and featured the band copying The Shirelles original female vocal delivery note for note. During a performance at London’s famous Marquee Club they were spotted by American record producer Kim Fowley, who suggested that they record a version of a song written by Gerry Goffin & Carole King called “He’s In Town”, originally issued by the American vocal group The Tokens. Released as a single in October 1964, the song went to No.3 in the charts. After the record company had turned down Carter & Lewis’ “Funny How Love Can Be” as the follow-up (see above), the next Rockin’ Berries single was less successful but “Poor Man’s Son”, originally recorded by American vocal group The Reflections returned the band to the Top 10 in May 1965. Chart success was at a minimum however and the band slowly drifted into Barron Knights territory, developing a live routine that placed heavier emphasis on vocalist Clive Lea’s impersonations of Norman Wisdom and George Formby. On their 2nd album, a brief glimpse of their immediate future appeared with a cover version of “The Laughing Policeman” and from that point onwards they were doomed as a beat group. Their hugely successful cabaret show however earned them a spot at the 1967 Royal Variety Performance and in later years Clive Lea joined local comedy group The Black Abbotts as a replacement for Russ “I Love A Party With A Happy Atmosphere” Abbott. Geoff Turton meanwhile embarked on a solo career in 1968 under the pseudonym “Jefferson” and enjoyed a No.22 hit with Barrie Ryan’s “The Colour Of My Love”
20th January 1964
The early 60’s were littered with the discarded backing bands of late 50’s rockers like Marty Wilde and Adam Faith. The Gamblers were primarily Billy Fury’s combo though according to Fury’s web-site, they did not achieve that distinction until January 1964, the very month that they played the Top Twenty. Originally formed in Newcastle-on-Tyne in the early ’60s, they were a flexible group with the ability to adapt to different styles of music and Fury, who had previously been backed by both The Blue Flames & The Tornadoes snapped them up when the latter band’s defection created a vacancy. The group appeared in Fury’s 1964 autobiographical film “I’ve Gotta Horse” and due to their connection with the Liverpudlian they were placed 9th in the world male vocal group section of the Record Mirror readers’ poll in 1964, ahead of Gerry & The Pacemakers. After Billy had moved on elsewhere they secured a residency at Newcastle’s Majestic Ballroom and were briefly employed by Fury’s record label Decca and periodically were allowed to release their own singles. Their version of Smokey Robinson’s seminal “You Really Got A Hold On Me”, not an easy song to sing unless you are John Lennon, appeared before hooking up with Mr.Wycherley, whilst 1964’s “It’s So Nice” reached the lower regions of the Top 30 and “Now I’m All Alone” in 1965 was a modest seller. A cover of the Supremes theme tune for the USA teen-exploitation film “Doctor Goldfoot (And His Bikini Machine”) is probably best forgotten. Unfortunately, but hardly surprisingly, nothing that they produced made much impact and after four attempts with Decca over a period of as many years they jumped to Parlophone in 1967, finally ending their career with a cover of the Julie London hit “Cry Me A River”.
3rd February 1964
Colin & Bruce with The Detours
10th February 1964
The Dowland Bros with The Soundtracks
The Overlanders are best remembered for their chart-topping version of Paul McCartney’s “Michelle” in November 1965 and consequently have been saddled with the epithet “one-hit wonders”. Due to “Michelle’s” success they are also frequently referred to as a “covers” band but the All Music Guide suggests that they were more than that, whilst providing a strong argument for their re-discovery. Paul Arnold, originally from Bretford near Rugby, was invited to London after submitting a demo tape of his songs to Harry Hammond, an ex New Musical Express photographer who had branched out into group management. Whilst there Arnold was introduced to a duo called “Peter & Laurie” – namely fellow vocalists Peter Bartholomew and Lori Mason and The Overlanders were born. They started out as part of the early-’60s British folk boom, and were influenced by American artists like The Kingston Trio, whose repertoire formed a part of their own alongside the compositions of Woody Guthrie and some original material. But the emergence of The Beatles in 1963 changed the laws of British music and The Overlanders adapted their style, incorporating beat group harmonies and arrangements to fit around their folky leanings. Signed to Pye Records in 1963, they became comparable to The Searchers, with whom (not coincidentally) they shared the same producer, Tony Hatch. They debuted with “Summer Skies and Golden Sands” in July 63, which didn’t sell but which the AMG suggests was “a step toward the development of folk-rock in the U.K.” Three months later the beat-oriented “Movin'” was issued but it was their third single, and their first cover version that gave them a minor hit. Chad & Jeremy’s “Yesterday’s Gone”, reached No.75 in the Billboard Hot 100, appearing at just the right moment when all things British got airplay in the United States. That was to be the group’s sole success in America, and their last chart action anywhere for more than a year. The Overlanders released six more singles, but despite positive critical acclaim they could not achieve the sales to match. In 1965, the band expanded to a 5-piece which consequently toughened up their sound, adding Terry Widlake on bass and David Walsh on drums. It was this line–up that recorded “Michelle”, one of several “Rubber Soul” tracks that The Beatles felt were not worthy of single release but which were hungrily set upon by a variety of artists looking to feed off the Fab Four’s scraps. The Overlanders pleasant but slightly lightweight version of Macca’s ballad rode the top spot for three weeks but the band were unable to follow up with another British hit and Paul Arnold eventually left the group to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by Ian Griffiths on vocals and guitar, but the Overlanders’ fate was sealed with the advent of the Summer of Love, their music increasingly regarded by many as outdated.
17th February 1964
THE REBOUNDS with VERN ROGERS
Billed by the Mercury’s advert as “The group that backed Johnny Burnette”*, there’s not a lot to be found on the mysterious Vern apart from the fact that he was once backed by a band called The Hi-Fi’s and had a single released by Oriole Records called “Be Everything To Anyone You Love”. There is one other piece of info available however and it comes from, of all places, a David Bowie web-site. Taken from the “Beckenham & Penge Advertiser”, it’s an account of a pop concert that was held in 1963 in West Wickham near Croydon called, with startling originality “Wickham Goes Pop”. The Bowie connection is that his fledgling group The Konrads also appeared at this mini festival along with many other glorious unknowns and of course Rogers and The Rebounds. The review concludes “The Rebounds immediately impressed the audience with their obvious professionalism. Surrounded by a forest of electronic equipment, the Rebounds were undoubtedly the highlight of the show. Their vocal numbers were tremendous, and the addition of an electronic organ to the group produced interesting effects. Vern Rogers, on the other hand, was disappointing. A “shouter” of the old “rock” school, he was unpopular with teenagers at the show.” Like, get with it man!
24th February 1964
CHRIS SANDFORD & HIS GROUP
Soaps have got a lot to answer for. Ever since the depressing popularity of programmes like “Eastenders” and “Neighbours”, we have been introduced regularly to an annoying selection of thespians who hold the somewhat dubious distinction of being able to sing AND act, though in many cases it’s worthwhile to use both descriptions very lightly. However, back in these pre-Anita Dobson days Chris Sandford may well have been the very first soap star to hold down two careers simultaneously. Born in London in 1939 he was originally employed by Radio Caroline in their sales department. Apparently, like a lot of the early “wunnerful” radio-type employees, Sandford came from a theatrical background and first achieved notoriety as “The Singing Milkman” Walter Potts in television’s “Coronation Street”. The synopsis of Walter’s story is that part-time singer became pop star and in a perfect example of fiction becoming fact, the song featured in the programme, “Not Too Little, Not Too Much” became a Top 20 hit for Sandford in 1963 though upon listening to the song in question, one observation is that maybe Walter should have stuck to selling gold top. In order to prove that he was indeed a pop singer, Sandford released a number of other singles including “You’re Gonna Be My Girl” with The Coronets, a band that featured Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell. Sandford was eventually promoted within the Radio Caroline hierarchy and DJ’d for Caroline North, but only for a period of about six weeks in 1964 or 1965. Chris continued to make records, including a Bob Dylan spoof called “I Wish They Wouldn’t Always Say I Sound Like The Guy From The USA Blues” but largely concentrated on his acting and voice-over career. Apart from appearing sporadically in series like “Dad’s Army”, “Danger Man” and “The Liver Birds” he also lent his considerable acting skills to that cinematic masterpiece “Up The Chastity Belt” in 1971. In recent years, Sandford has made a name for himself as a fishing expert, hosting “Just Fishin’ . . . with Chris Sandford” on the Discovery Channel and writing a regular column for Angling Times.
As we have already seen throughout The Top Twenty’s history, artists have occasionally made “in-store appearances” at our local record shops with Taylor’s the chief exponent of presenting these stars to their adoring public. Of all the people that have graced Bridgwater’s Town Centre, Sandford was apparently the most popular. Stan Barnett, Taylor’s Record Manager at the time said that “Eastover was packed” for The Coronation Street star’s visit, so much so that windows were broken and Sandford thought about escaping out the back to avoid the crush. Ah, the power of Television! Incidentally, rumour has it that Graham Alford’s mother may have had something to do with Sandford being booked by The Top Twenty as she was, apparently, a huge Corry fan!
2nd March 1964
Originally from Ilford in Essex where they formed in early 1961., The Ramblers were another band “attached” to producer Joe Meek. They had auditioned initially as a vocal band but Meek was more taken by their instrumental abilities. Their one and only single “Dodge City”, had been written by Geoff Goddard and had originally been recorded under the title “Outcast” by fellow Meek artists The Flee-Rekkers in 1962. Featuring the songwriter on organ, it was released by The Ramblers on Decca in November 1963 and featured a typical “kitchen sink” Meek production. By late 1963 however, Meek’s work was already sounding out-dated and hardly surprisingly, the single failed to make an impression. They continued to work with the producer and recorded a handful of vocal tracks at Meek’s 304 Holloway Road, Islington studio, but none were issued. Prior to signing to Meek the band had toured extensively in Denmark, Sweden and Germany and during a visit to the latter, had been filmed during an appearance at The Star Club in Hamburg. In later years they also appeared in a TV commercial for Burns guitars, and prior to disappearing for ever, cut a couple of vocal tracks for the South London-based Oak record label.
13th March 1964
CALLING ALL CATS! Twist and Shake at the BLACK CAT STOMP featuring “The Rapids” All-Star Group. Held at the Bridgwater & Albion Rugby Clubhouse.
16th March 1964
MARTY WILDE & THE WILDCATS
A rather belated appearance at The Top Twenty for one of the brightest stars of late 1950’s UK pop. He was born Reginald Leonard Smith in Blackheath on April 15, 1939, and grew up in Greenwich, Southeast London. The son of a professional soldier, he lived in various parts of England throughout his childhood but spent his mid-teen years in the capital city, just as Lonnie Donegan was kick-starting the skiffle boom. By 1957, the 17-year-old Smith was, like 100’s of other teenagers, planning to be discovered by playing the city’s coffee bars and clubs and it was a performance at one of the latter, the Condor in Soho, that he was discovered by Lionel Bart who recommended the youngster to Larry Parnes. Playing under the distinctly un-rock n’roll name of Reg Patterson, for just £1.00 a night (plus a meal), Parnes was suitably impressed and Reg Smith was instantly renamed Marty Wilde. Wilde proved so popular on the subsequent package tour that Parnes had arranged for him that the next step of getting him on to television, and signing him to a recording contract with Philips was a relatively simple task. His first single, “Honeycomb,” failed to chart, and it wasn’t until the release of a fine cover version of the doom-laden Jody Reynolds hit “Endless Sleep” in the summer of 1958 that he saw any success with the record reaching the U.K. Top 5. Wilde became a permanent fixture on the television programs “6:5 Special” “Oh Boy!” and “Boy Meets Girl”, and was a major rival to Cliff Richard from mid-1958 until the opening months of 1960. According to the All Music Guide “Both were powerful singers, but Wilde had a different kind of voice and presence, with a dark, brooding quality that came out in his rock & roll ballads” Wilde did not trouble the charts for the remainder of 1958, but the following year he hit a winning streak with three consecutive Top 3 singles. Cover versions of Richie Valens “Donna” (No.3), Dion’s “A Teenager in Love” (No.2) and Phil Phillips “Sea of Love” (No.3) were followed at the end of the year with another Top 10 success, “Bad Boy,” which he wrote himself. This dark, threatening ballad was big enough to reach the lower regions of the American charts.
Since 1958, Marty had been backed by The Wild Cats, a raucous combo that had very quickly gained a healthy reputation that was significant enough for them to back both Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent when the two US rock n’rollers played Britain. Noted for their wild, over-the-top stage antics, their original line-up included top session man Big Jim Sullivan on lead guitar, though the best Wild Cat line-up contained the future Shadows rhythm section of Brian Locking and Brian Bennett on bass and drums respectively. In 1959, Wilde married Joyce Barker, a member of the singing group the Vernons Girls — they had their first child Kim a year later. By the end of 1960, however, Wilde was struggling to maintain his career with the baton having already been passed to Billy Fury and in particular Cliff Richard, who, as Wilde’s main rival, took Marty’s mantle as the UK’s premier teen idol. Wilde decided on a change of image and in 1960 announced that he would be specializing in Frank Sinatra-style ballads. He hosted the TV program “Boy Meets Girl” for a number of months and also appeared in the West End production of “Bye Bye Birdie”. Manager Parnes however, wanted Marty to take the “all round entertainer” image one step further by suggesting that Wilde take up acting but the singer was reluctant. On record meanwhile, he was never able to replicate his previous success though he did reach the Top Ten once more, in 1961, with a cover of Bobby Vee’s “Rubber Ball”. Despite dwindling record sales, he maintained a top-flight band in later years with members including a youthful guitarist named Justin Hayward, later of the Moody Blues but by 1963, when the Liverpool sound came along, he was effectively regarded as part of music’s past. His subsequent recordings were all-but-invisible, although he enjoyed continued success as a composer in the mid-60’s with “Ice In The Sun” by Status Quo, “Jesamine” by the Casuals, and Lulu’s “I’m a Tiger” all notable hits as a songwriter. Working under the pseudonym “Shannon” he obtained a minor hit in 1969 with a little ditty called “Abergavenny” though a Alvin Stardust-type attempt at jumping onto the glam rock bandwagon as “Zappo” proved less successful. Whilst daughter Kim emerged in the early 1980s as a pop star vocalist in her own right, her old man has never entirely given up performing and can still be found travelling the length and breadth of the country despite turning 80 in 2019. In 2017 Wilde was awarded the MBE.
The advertisement for this concert intriguingly includes the following message: “YOUNG MEN WITH UNTIDY HAIR AND LONG COATS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED IN THE DANCES. TIDY SWEATERS AND JEANS ARE ALLOWED” Sounds like a bit of Ethnic Teddy-Boy cleansing to me.
Marty Wilde – Money (That’s What I Want) (1964)
23rd March 1964
EDDIE LANGDON & THE CRACKSMEN with “French Film Star” BRIGITTE BOND
Langdon was billed as the “new singing star from London’s 2 I’s Coffee Bar” on the advertisement, but by 1964 it’s hard to imagine that this once vital part of the London music scene was still influential enough to be shaping the careers of the new generation of pop singers. The band were certainly doing the rounds at about this time as they appear along with the delightful Brigitte Bond on a web-site highlighting gigs that were played at a venue called The California Ballroom in Dunstable. But apart from that……nothing. As for “French Film Star” Bond, once again the All Movie Guide, usually a dependable source, either knows nothing or is not saying. However…..there was an obscure and, it has to be said, fairly excruciating single by Brigitte released in the same year as her Town Hall appearance. “Oh Yeah Baby” coupled with “Blue Beat Baby” featured her backing band The Blue Beats and appeared on The Blue Beat label. Blue Beat, in case you did not know, was the British term for the Jamaican style of music known as ska, and if the message wasn’t already obvious enough this single was a blatant attempt to cash in on what was, at the time, a fairly new musical phenomena. So, a French female ska-singing movie star. Actually, it turns out that “she” was none of those things. One play of this awful record not only calls into question whether Brigitte was actually French, but also proves quite conclusively that she couldn’t sing. And as it turns out, she wasn’t even female either. She was, apparently, an outrageous trans-sexual stripper from Malta who became fairly well known around 1963/1964 in the Soho area of London.
28th March 1964
ROCK! TWIST! SHAKE! JAZZ! Featuring “Kenny Pimm & The Royals” “Graham Saunders & His Jazzmen” “Barry Shane & The Graduates” and “The Fabulous Harlequins”. Held at the Bridgwater Town Hall.
6th April 1964
PAT WAYNE & THE BEACHCOMBERS
Another Birmingham band, Pat Wayne & The Beachcombers were very much a bunch of local boys who unfortunately didn’t make good. Along with Keith Powell’s Valets and Mike Sheridan’s Nightriders, The Beachcombers were amongst the city’s top live acts in the early 60’s but they were unable to substitute their live reputation for vinyl success. Patrick Curley was from Ladywood, Birmingham and worked as a waiter at the Grand Hotel in Colmore Row. Upon forming a skiffle group called The Deltas in 1957, he changed his name to Pat Wayne. The Deltas gained a solid local following both for their musical chops and for their taste in clothing, the band resplendant in matching bright red suits. They won a BBC Six-Five Special talent contest held for local bands at the Gaumont cinema but despite a brief appearance by Denny Laine as bass guitarist, Wayne soon lost interest and bailed out to front another combo called The Rockin’ Jaymen. The Rockin Jaymen’s line-up remained constant until 1962 when they were joined by two of the best saxophone players in Birmingham – Dario Capaldi and Monk Finch. This gave the band a distinctive stage image whilst providing a trademark sound that set them apart from the other groups playing the circuit. In June 1963, Cliff Richard & The Shadows producer Norrie Paramor paid a visit to Birmingham with the sole intention of signing new talent for Columbia Records. Auditions were held at the Moat House Club in Digbeth and Pat Wayne’s Rockin’ Jaymen were one of the first bands to be signed. They were rewarded with a visit to the famous Abbey Road studios where they recorded a number of tracks under Paramor’s direction. But prior to the band’s first single release, the record company showed some concern regarding the group’s name and it’s similarity to Peter Jay and The Jaywalkers. This problem was solved when someone from the “band naming department” at Columbia came up with “The Beachcombers” as an alternative and suddenly The Jaymen were no more. (There were in fact two other bands operating under the name “Beachcombers” at the time including a London-based line-up whose personnel included a certain Mr.Keith Moon.) With their new monicker intact, “Go Back To Daddy”, composed by Birmingham songwriters John Chesterton and Bob McNally, appeared as the A-side of the first single backed by a raucous “dance version” of the Hank Williams classic “Jambalaya”. Columbia decided to take advantage of the Beachcombers’ instrumental prowess and in October 1963, their own sax-laden instrumental “Mad Goose” appeared on 45. But chart success was proving to be a tough nut to crack for both singer and band so Columbia reverted to that tried and tested ploy called ”the cover version”. In November 1963 they returned to Abbey Road to record Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” Strongly rumoured to feature Jimmy Page on guitar, Beachcombers chief axe-man at the time Geoff Roberts has suggested otherwise. Roberts is also credited with the comment that the track probably influenced The Beatles recording of the same song stating, “If you listen to their version there are similarities”. One possible reason for those “similarities” is that The Fab Four cut the track on 30th July 1963 some 4 months before Roberts and co committed Berry’s song to tape. Regardless as to who got their first, The Beachcombers single succeeded in selling more than 80,000 copies and probably deserved to do better as it’s a strong performance of a song that became part of the staple diet of every beat group in creation. But shifting 80,000 units in 1963 was not enough to make a single a hit so, after the failure of one Chuck Berry original, The Beachcombers, now minus Geoff Roberts, decided to record another. “Bye Bye Johnny” was released as a single in April 1964 but once again failed to make any impression. Sax players Capaldi and Finch left the band later that year and after the release of a final single, Pat Wayne decided to go solo, recording a further three singles in 1965 and 1966, but after being dropped by his label he eventually re-joined The Beachcombers whose only significant contribution to pop’s history during their latter stages was the brief inclusion of a young drummer called John Bonham in 1966. Bonham didn’t last long however as he was far too aggressive for the band’s music and was promptly dismissed for being too loud.
13th April 1964
ME AND THEM
The All Music Guide says the following about this band “This quintet were probably courting disaster with their name, given the existence of a well established band called Them on Decca. They released three singles on Pye in one year that failed to chart, and disappeared despite having finally gotten it right with a superb third single, “Show Me You Mean It Too,” written by lead guitarist George Davies.” And that’s it. No line-ups, no hard luck stories, no splitting due to “musical differences”, no band members achieving notoriety as backing musicians for Leapy Lee, just a void of information. I do know however that the three singles released in the same 12-month period all appeared in the same year that they played the Top 20 and were namely, “I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself” (January), the aforementioned “Show You Mean It Too” (April) (which was their 2nd, not 3rd single release)and a version of the Fabs “Tell Me Why” from the “Hard Days Night” album, (August). Due to it’s somewhat controversial title “I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself” was, perhaps unsurprisingly, banned by the BBC. However, the song in question would appear to be as dangerous as a cardboard box full of fluffy kittens.
20th April 1964
LINDA LAINE & THE SINNERS
“Gazing into my crystal ball this week, I see a girl looming large in the hit parade. What happened was that Brian Poole told me his agent had a marvellous girl singer called Linda Laine, backed by a good group with the naughty name of The Sinners. Well, thought I, if Brian Poole says she’s great, I’d better investigate! So I got a copy of her record “Low Grades and High Fever” and found he was right – Linda is fab! This dark-haired 19 year-old started singing at a concert at the Stevenage factory where she worked. The Sinners’ manager asked her to do a booking with them – and that, you could say, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. “She’s great to have with the group” said Del Hidden, the group’s lead guitarist. “She looks after us like a Mum!” Vans used by pop groups are usually very higgledy-piggeldy – but not The Sinners. Frilly curtains hang at the windows and the seats have covers to match. The rest of the group consists of Len Crawley, the drummer, rhythm guitarist Peter Belotte and Russ Maxwell on bass guitar. The boys are very sound musicians as well as being nice and easy to get on with. They even said if I wanted to be a singer Linda & The Sinners would show me how! Who knows, I might stare into the crystal ball one fine day and see myself!”
This rags to riches tale paints a perfect picture of cozy domesticity and comes from an unknown source. Despite it’s patronizing tone it supposedly provides us with a glimpse of Linda’s origins. Plucked from the wilful obscurity of the factory production line to “Top Of The Pops” stardom! The reality is actually a little different as Linda was already in a band before she joined The Sinners in 1960. From Stevenage, Kent, Linda (real name Veronica Lake) previously sang with The Nightshades but when The Sinners decided to go professional, Ms.Laine signed on the dotted line and became their full-time vocalist. In 1962 the group added another lead vocalist in Terry Topping. They were with Columbia for just one year and during that period released 5 singles altogether, “I Can’t Stand It” “Don’t You Know, Don’t You Know, Don’t You Know” “Low Grades & High Fever” “It’s So Exciting” and “Don’t Do It Baby”. The latter, a synthesis of The Beach Boys “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Help!” period Beatles instrumentation reached No.73 in the “Record Mirror” chart whilst the snappy “Low Grades & High Fever” (which is strongly reminiscent of teenage Lulu) did very well in the States, almost making the bottom regions of the Top 50. Linda was a youthful 19 years-old when she made her one and only Top Twenty appearance but despite receiving good press and possessing a fine voice, The Sinners became just another band who were one good song and some decent promotion away from stardom. Linda herself believes that due to the quality and sheer volume of the “female vocalist” opposition the band were fighting a losing battle. “We continued our touring in the UK, but due to many other good female singers, such as Dusty, Sandy Shaw, Lulu, Cilla and Shirley Bassey we didn’t seem to quite make it so we went to Germany for 3 years” Germany was a good place to be and apart from constant gigging the band were signed by the “Hansa” label and released a batch of 45’s, including a version of The Silhouettes “Get A Job” that reached No.5 in the German hit parade in December 1965.
My thanks to Linda for allowing me to use her music and her photograph, many more of which can be found on her Facebook profile. I am also pleased to report that she is still in rude health and continues to perform on a regular basis.
21st April 1964
“FIGHT BROKE OUT AT TOWN HALL DANCE”.
“Policeman assaulted as he went to Steward’s Assistance : Youth fined £10.00”
Arresting a youth for assaulting him in a melee at a dance in Bridgwater Town Hall. P.C. Ian Stone was jumped on by about 15 young men, Bridgwater Borough Magistrates were told yesterday. Ronald William John Comer (19) of 29 Quantock Road, Taunton, was found guilty of assaulting the officer in the execution of his duty and was fined £10. He was granted three weeks in which to pay.P.C.Stone told the court that in response to an emergency call in Bridgwater police station he went to the Town Hall where a dance was in progress. He found a group of 10 youths arguing with some dance stewards, one of whom was a woman. P C Stone went on “I dispersed them and returned to the entrance of the hall. While I was standing there Comer approached me and said “You coppers are all the same” and he prodded my left arm with his fingers. I warned him as to his conduct and he moved away. A few minutes later I was approached by a steward and asked to return to the dance hall as a fight had broken out. “Entering the foyer I saw a group of 10 or 12 youths assaulting a dance steward. As I went to the steward’s assistance, Comer turned and struck me in the chest with his fist. With the assistance of P C Russell who was there in plain clothes I removed Comer from the hall. Attempts were made by about 15 youths to remove Comer from my custody and after a struggle he was taken to Bridgwater police station. On oath, Comer said “There was some trouble with some chaps and I was watching and trying to get my mate off. P C Stone came over and grabbed me around the neck and dragged me out. As he put his arm around my neck my elbow must have gone in his chest”.
23rd April 1964
“A well-known Liverpool group visited Bridgwater over the weekend. But they were not The Beatles and neither did they sing “pop” numbers. They were the folk-singing Spinners, making their debut in the town”. This concert took place at The Bridgwater Arts Centre, and was something of a departure from their classical repertoire.
28th April 1964
“4 belts with photographs of The Beatles incorporated in the buckels were provided by Detective Sergeant Kenneth Thorne at a juvenile court at Bridgwater on Tuesday. Before the court was a 15-year-old schoolboy who admitted breaking into the shop of F and A Hook Ltd in Eastover, Bridgwater and stealing the belts valued at £1 15s 8d. Thorne said he had made a statement to the police in which he said he entered the premises by climbing on a roof and forcing a window. Fining the boy £5.00 the chairman told him “We are shocked by this becuase it was a deliberate offence” She asked the father to see that the boy paid the fine from holiday earnings and pocket money”
4th May 1964
ROBB STORME & THE WHISPERS
Another band from The Top Twenty’s dark, dim past. Despite some reports suggesting that they were yet another band from Birmingham, they were in fact from Hornsey, London N8 having been assembled by a guy called John F. Eddowes who acted as their mentor and general representative. The wonderfully named Robb Storme (real name – Robert Scales) released, either as a solo artist or with The Whispers, at least 10 singles during the first half of the 60’s and appears to have had more record contracts (Pye, Piccadilly, Decca, Columbia) than Bill Wyman has had teenage girls (………OK perhaps not) and appear to have had something of a chameleonic career.
Apart from Mr.Storme, the only other members of the band that we know of were drummer Pete Wilson, and guitarists Kenny Street & Norman Shapiro. The latter joined as a fresh-faced 17 year-old in 1960 but by the following year had already flown the nest eventually joining Gene Vincent’s backing band. Storme seems to have initially released singles under his own name and in fact was something of a comparative veteran with his debut single, the curiously titled “One Thousand Nine Hundred And When” being released as early as October 1960. Under the circumstances it’s surprising that it took this artist so long to make his Top 20 debut but this was a band who seemed to be in constant need of an identity and by the time they had played Bridgwater they were a different animal to the one that had tentatively started their career 4 years earlier. The first single released with the fabulous “Whispers” appeared in June 1961 whilst the follow-up was a rather ill-advised up-tempo cover version of the doo-wop classic “Earth Angel” with a B-side that bore the snappy title of “Transistor Sister” and which included an instrument that every rock n’roll band should not be without – the Accordion. In January 1963 they travelled to Germany, where they held down the obligatory residency at The Top Ten Club in Hamburg. They also appeared as the backing band for both Colin Hicks (Tommy Steele’s brother – with whom they toured Italy) and in June 1963 Italian pop singer Rita Pavone, re-naming themselves The Rokes in the process. The move to Piccadilly eventually yielded a “memorable” (according to one journalist) cover version of Phil Spector’s classic tear-jerker “To Know Him Is To Love Him” in January 1964, but after it’s failure to excite the record buying public the band did not release anything for another 14 months. It would appear that another new label was required to kick start a career that stubbornly refused to take off and even though their stay at Columbia only yielded 2 singles they seem to have undergone a major musical transformation during the process. “Where Is My Girl?” from 1965, is undoubtedly their most intriguing creation, a song that bears the distinction of being ripped off by Pete Townshend whilst a version of The Beach Boys “Here Today” from Brian Wilson’s masterpiece “Pet Sounds” apparently “outdoes” the original version (according to another reviewer). As for Townshend’s pilfering, the Chris Charlesworth book on The Who states the following; “Pete had heard “Where Is My Girl?” a little known 1965 single during a “Melody Maker” interview. That song very conveniently provided the melody during the verses of “Substitute”. So there you have it. The band, to their credit, did make an attempt, albeit unsuccessfully, to change with the times and after a period as “The Robb Storme Group” re-emerged in 1967 as the overtly psychedelic “Orange Bicycle”. They released a few singles of which their first, “Hyacinth Threads” is also their most treasured. They performed at the Isle of Wight music festival on August 31st 1968 wearing matching black and orange suits (nice!) Significant ex-members of “Orange Bicycle” include keyboardist and Iron Maiden producer Will Malone and future Supertramp drummer Kevin Currie. As for manager John Eddowes, he eventually became the victim of the fickle world of pop business, not once but twice. Having secured the band’s recording contract with Decca, his talents were almost immediately dispensed with in favour of some “professional” management, a situation that had also befallen Eddowes after he had “discovered” the singer Emile Ford at Paddington Tech.
(picture kindly supplied by Dierdre Nicholls, John Eddowes sister.)
11th May 1964
The Barron Knights
25th May 1964
The Rockin Berries
The Rockin Berries – He’s In Town (1964)
1st June 1964
ROD & CAROLYN with THE SOLITAIRES
Billed as the proverbial “Recording Artistes from “TV & Radio”, Rod and Carolyn Braddy were a brother and sister duo who recorded four singles for Pye between May 1963 & October 1964, the final release of which was the rather pleasant “Love Is Where You Are”. I have no idea who “The Solitaires” were but they later obtained the services of backing band The Tremors, a group that were once attached to another Top Twenty artist (see December 1964) before signing to Decca and changing their name to The Martells. However, their stint with this label was painfully short as it yielded just the one 45, the rather prophetically titled “Time To Say Goodnight’. It would appear that at some point in their career, they enlisted the help of one Tony Hiller who wrote some of their material. Hiller went on to pen songs for, amongst others, Harry Secombe, the cast of Eastenders, and at least FIVE different football teams with no obvious allegiance to any of them. He is however most remembered for masterminding the career of The Brotherhood Of Man which means that he is the individual to blame for both “Save Your Kisses For Me” and “Figaro”. With numerous personnel changes over the years the group continued in name until they decided to call it a day in 2001 although they have since reformed as a three piece and were still performing as of 2017. Despite the fact that their name sounds like the proverbial cabaret fodder, this little ditty, the “B” side of their single “Young Love” may suggest otherwise.
8th June 1964
DAVE BERRY & THE CRUISERS
Dave Berry & Joe Cocker were Sheffield’s premier R&B singers in the 1960’s. Berry (real name David Grundy) started out at the tender age of 18 after quitting his job as a welder to go professional. Re-named in homage to the great Chuck, Dave was initially part of an Everly Bros harmony duo but was asked to join a band called The Chuck Fowler Group who had just secured a residency at Sheffield’s Esquire Club but whose lead vocalist, the aforementioned Fowler, had just left. Now called The Cruisers, solid gigging in the UK inevitably led to them being discovered and they were “spotted” by Decca A & R man Mike Smith. A demo, produced by freelance record producer Mickie Most, resulted in a Decca recording contract and in October 1963, The Cruisers reached into the extensive back catalogue of Berry’s namesake to release a rather tentative version of “Memphis Tennessee”. This resulted in a surprise No.19 hit, only 14 places below the original version. The single may have got the enigmatic lead vocalist noticed, but the backing band were deemed “not suitable” by Decca studio boss Smith and they were replaced on record by the “new wave” of session men that included Big Jim Sullivan, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. Two more covers of familiar fare – namely Arthur Crudup’s “My Baby Left Me”, plundered from Elvis Presley’s Sun recording and Bacharach/David’s “Baby It’s You” followed and whilst both reached the Top 30, the former was fairly unspectacular despite the inclusion of the stellar musicians mentioned above and a sparkling Page solo, whilst “Baby It’s You” probably deserved greater success. The breakthrough arrived when he obtained a song written by Geoff Stephens called “The Crying Game”, a song he wasn’t keen to record at first. Berry’s rather slight wispy voice had always been better served by ballads despite his love of Rhythm & Blues and in “The Crying Game” the singer had found a real gem. The single rocketed to No.3, Berry became a star and in the wake of his sudden exposure, the general public were introduced to an artist who had developed a rather intriguing image. Berry, like many others before him, had borrowed squarely from the Gene Vincent model by dying his hair black and wearing jet black items of clothing, including leather gloves and cape. He also perfected slightly unsettling stage mannerisms that included the strange habit of concealing himself whilst singing, either behind his microphone or the upturned collar of his jacket. It has been suggested that the singer had had the unusual ambition to appear on Television completely hidden from the camera but the nearest that he got to achieving this was one “Ready Steady Go!” performance in which he sang half a song behind a stage prop. It was an act that, in later years, was pilfered to some effect by Alvin Stardust but where the latter could not really be taken seriously, Berry seemed slightly creepy by comparison. “One Heart Between Two”, another fine Stephens composition from the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” school of songwriting may have borne a strong resemblance to it’s predecessor but probably due to this reason, only reached No.41 in the charts. Some lost momentum was regained when, in April 1965 Berry took Bobby Goldsboro’s “Little Things” to No.5 in the charts but the biggest hit of his career failed to make much of an impression in the UK. The superb “This Strange Effect”, written by Ray Davies of The Kinks, was not only a No.1 hit in Belgium and established the singer as a major star on the European circuit but was voted “the biggest selling single of all time” in Holland. In 1966, Berry achieved his third UK Top 5 hit with the sugary “Mama” written by BJ Thomas, but he swiftly became another singer whose career was swallowed up by psychedelia. Berry enjoyed a healthy return to the limelight in 1992 when both his and a Boy George cover version of “The Crying Game” were used in the Neil Jordan film of the same name though the most surprising endorsement of Berry’s back catalogue came from an unexpected source. The flip side of his biggest hit, and the best slab of R&B that Berry recorded, “Don’t Gimme No Lip Child” was performed by The Sex Pistols during their live concerts in 1976.
Berry continued to record singles sporadically right up to October 1970 and despite now being at the ripe old age of 77 is still performing live with his band The Cruisers. He may well be part of the “Swinging 60’s” and is consequently regarded by some as a relic of a golden age but this has not stopped him from enjoying the spoils of a fondly remembered vocalist. These include a star turn at the Alexis Korner tribute concert in 1995, an appearance at a Dusty Springfield tribute concert held at the Albert Hall in 2010 and a personal invitation from Ray Davies to appear at the prestigious Meltdown Festival at the South Bank one year later.
Dave Berry – This Strange Effect (1965)
“I enjoy touring. I’ve just done about 12 shows over in Europe, so I’m very excited. What do you want to retire to? It’s a fantastic life. Where else can you be a grown-up teenager?” Dave Berry – 2019
15th June 1964
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders
22nd June 1964
Tony Bolton & The Federals
29th June 1964
THE PRETTY THINGS
Now here was a band………….. The roots of The Pretty Things are inextricably linked to The Rolling Stones, so much so that for a short period of time in 1964, it was touch and go as to who would make the bigger impact. Future Pretty Thing Dick Taylor was there from the start, appearing in a school group with a certain Mick Jagger called Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys. Taylor also attended the same Sidcup Art School as Keith Richards and after all three had witnessed Brian Jones playing with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated at the Ealing Club in early 1962, by the middle of that year the quartet had formed a band called the Rollin’ Stones, Taylor moving from guitar to bass to accommodate Jones’ arrival. When the Stones turned professional, Taylor chose to remain at art school to complete his studies but after teaming up with a fellow Sidcup student called Phil May (born Phillip Arthur Dennis Wade), together with guitarist Brian Pendleton and bassist John Stax, they became The Pretty Things in homage to a Bo Diddley song. Initially, drummers posed a problem, a succession of them passing through the band’s line-up which by now had secured a residency at the 100 Club in London that in turn, had yielded a Fontana recording contract. However, soon afterwards they found their missing piece when ex Carter-Lewis & the Southerners drummer Viv Prince joined the group. Prince, despite being a little raw, fitted in perfectly with the rest of the band but he was also an absolute nutter whose antics matched those of fellow skin-basher Keith Moon at his best (or worst.) During 1964, their first single “Rosalyn”, written by Jimmy Duncan, only reached No.41 on the charts despite being one of the best debuts of the year, but the superb follow-up “Don’t Bring Me Down” achieved a No.10 position in November and the Pretties had arrived.
From the outset The Pretty Things were saddled with an image problem. They were considered wilder, rougher and more outrageous than any other beat group and very quickly became the band that the establishment loved to hate. I will willingly admit that I have never been much of a rebel. During the great “Beatles vs Stones” debate back in the early 60’s, my 6 or 7-year-old moral code put me squarely in the Fab Four’s camp partially becuase I thought that Jagger & Co. were far too scruffy and uncouth for their own good. But The Pretty Things were something else. They were the Bash Street Kids to The Beatles Lord Snooty & His Pals. Their early singles may well have been impressive but watching them on TV gave me a slight feeling of unease. My young imagination probably thought that by the simple act of playing their music, the band would come to your town, ransack your house and then nick off with your sister. And then there was their hair. Way before the psychedelic period of the mid to late 60’ s when it became fashionable to grow as much facial fungus as humanly possible, Phil May’s barnet was twice as long as anybody else’s whilst Dick Taylor seemed to embody the idea of teenage rebellion simply by wearing a beard. The untamed look didn’t do them any favours as most of the headlines they created were entirely for the wrong reasons. Phil May has suggested that the band were picked on but with Viv Prince terrorising entire countries there appears to have been no smoke without fire. The book “British Beat 1960-1969” states “Shows often ended in riots, particularly on the continent, and one classic advertisement byline stated “Last month in Liverpool they made tough men cry!”. Another journalist confirmed “With an estimated 61 convictions, ranging from drug to weapon possession, they were kicked out of hotels and restaurants worldwide and claimed to have invented the rock tradition of throwing furniture out hotel windows”. Success in the States stalled when “Don’t Bring Me Down” was banned due to a misconstrued lyric and even though their follow-up “Honey I Need” got to No.13 in the UK, the band’s manager Bryan Morrison made the mistake of sending them off on a gruelling tour of New Zealand with Sandie Shaw for two weeks rather than concentrate on cracking the American market. Whilst in New Zealand, Viv Prince showed his hand. “Prince came into his own: being openly drunk, setting fire to stage curtains, chopping up stages with an axe, and staging live crayfish races in hotel lobbies. The New Zealand tabloid press bayed for blood and the group were thrown out of the country” He was sacked shortly after their return to the UK but the damage had already been done. Prince survived long enough to appear on the band’s first two albums, both released in 1965. Their eponymous debut failed to capture the excitement of the band’s live performances and was largely a selection of R&B cover versions, the likes of which bands like The Stones and The Animals had already produced to much greater effect. Follow-up “Get The Picture?” was an improvement with a heavier emphasis on original compositions. The album still revealed a brash R&B influence but May & Taylor’s embryonic songwriting partnership at least succeeded in providing the group with a greater sense of identity. Despite releasing several high quality singles, including the excellent “Midnight To Six Man”, a paean to the all-nighter lifestyle, they were never again a force in the British charts and did not manage a hit at all in America but despite their lack of success, The Pretty Things embarked on a career of continual musical growth.
They were one of the first groups to embrace the psychedelic culture – the B-side of their “Come See Me” single in 1966 was called “£$D”, and despite the title’s suggestion that it was a monetary tribute to the old librus, solidus, demarius, it’s still something of a giveaway. In 1967 their 3rd album “Emotions” was a major departure, a set of “pop” songs punctuated by brass and orchestration that was apparently added against the band’s wishes. This record not only tipped a musical hat to The Kinks, but also featured a more than healthy dose of Ray Davies-type social commentary in it’s lyrics. During the same 12 month period they also worked under the alias The Electric Banana, a nom de plume used to record a number of musical pieces for The De Wolfe Music Library, a corporation that provided incidental music for Horror & Soft Porn movie soundtracks. The Pretty Things moved to Columbia Records towards the tail end of the 60’s and despite completing only a short tenure with the label, it was the material released by this company that helped to cement the band’s cult status. They issued two mind-expanding singles, the bizarrely complex but mightily impressive “Defecting Grey” and the comparatively straightforward “Talking About The Good Times” but both were again overlooked by the same record buying public that were busy putting Englebert Humperdinck to the top of the charts. In 1968 however, the band released their magnum opus, an album that is generally regarded as being both the first ever concept album, and the first so-called Rock Opera. “S.F.Sorrow”, released in December of that year was taken from a short story written by vocalist Phil May. Recorded at Abbey Road with Norman Smith whilst The Beatles were working on Sgt.Pepper and Pink Floyd were busy tinkering with their debut album, it features experiments with the latest sound technology and included instruments like the Mellotron that had hardly been heard on record before. In fact the band often employed gadgets and techniques that were devised on the spot by Abbey Road’s white coated technicians. As with most concept albums, it’s sometimes hard to fathom exactly what the record is about though part of it’s obtuseness is due to the fact that the LP’s sleeve contained parts of May’s completed story line which were intended to be read in conjunction with the song’s lyrics. In retrospect, listening to the record in 2009 suggests that even though the album’s ambition ultimately outweighs it’s expectation, it still stands as a fine record and is regarded by many as something of a lost psychedelic “masterpiece”. More importantly it was, at the time of it’s release, something that no-one had ever done before. “S.F.Sorrow” was critically acclaimed by fellow musicians and journalists with a modicum of sense but once again the album was criminally ignored and failed to make an impression. Pete Townshend later suggested that the record had NOT acted as an inspiration for The Who’s “Tommy” despite the latter appearing just one year after “Sorrow’s” birth, but this is somewhat hard to believe as apart from the general idea of issuing a “themed” album, the two LP’s share a number of characteristics including parts of the story line. In many ways “Tommy’s” success and “S.F.Sorrow’s” comparative failure sums up a career that was stubbornly refusing to happen and despite it’s pioneering qualities, “Sorrow” has been unfortunately confined to a lifetime of cult status. Original member Dick Taylor departed directly after the album’s release as he felt that the record could not be surpassed and the band subsequently moved to the newly-formed progressive label Harvest. They made their bow with 1970’s confident “Parachute” – the band’s “Abbey Road” to S.F.Sorrow’s “Sgt.Pepper” if you will – and it received the accolade of being voted Rolling Stone’s “Album Of The Year” ahead of records like Simon & Garfunkels’ “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Neil Young’s “After The Goldrush” and Van Morrison’s “Moondance” but, sadly, no-one was listening. In later years, despite becoming the first band to issue an album on Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label (1974’s “Silk Torpedo”) and intermittently releasing records of some worth, The Pretty Things became the archetypal “nearly famous” band, vastly under-rated who never got the credit they so thoroughly deserved. And they are still out there, Dick Taylor and Phil May having re-formed the group in 1990. 2007’s “Balboa Island” was their first new studio platter for 8 years, in 2013 they celebrated their 50th Anniversary with dates in the UK & Europe and in 2015 released a new album entitled “The Sweet Pretty Things (Are In Bed Now Of Course…)”. Just when it seemed that the band were invincible, they finally announced their retirement in 2018 and played their last tour dates as a consequence with their final gig taking place at the O2 in London with special guests Dave Gilmour, Van Morrison and um…Bill Nighy. God bless em.
The Pretty Things- Road Runner (From “Beat Club” – 1966)
6th July 1964
RAY STARR & THE CHEROKEES
A bit of a Top Twenty conundrum. The Bridgwater Mercury advert’s blurb stated that they were one of “London’s top bands” and that they were also “Decca Recording Artists”. But despite history suggesting that the latter fact was indeed correct, The Cherokees geographical origins were Northern as they originally heralded from Leeds. The other mystery surrounding this band is the inclusion of Ray Starr as band leader/lead vocalist. Biographies of The Cherokees are thin on the ground but I have yet to find one that mentions Starr as part of it’s line-up. So what do we know about them? After one 1964 single with Decca called “You’ve Done It Again Little Girl”, they fell under the watchful guide of producer Mickie Most, moved to Columbia and as The Cherokees, issued four more singles including a fine cover version of Billy Fury’s “Wondrous Place” and Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances”. The latter coincided with the release of several other versions released by a variety of artists and consequently The Cherokees got trampled in the rush for the charts. Their finest moment therefore would appear to be a No.33 chart placing for “Seven Golden Daffodils” in October 1964, another much covered song which was originally a Lonnie Donegan “B” side. This single apparently achieved it’s lofty chart position due to incessant plugging by several pirate radio stations. As for the mercurial Ray Starr, mystery solved thanks to Bruce Welsh from Canada who tells me that “Starr was the pseudonym used by their vocalist John Kirby Wollard through the end of 1963. The nucleus of the group eventually evolved into the New York Public Library” Bruce was in the process of writing an encyclopedia of 60’s UK groups which should hopefully have been published in early 2012.
Intriguingly, according to the Bridgwater Mercury, The Cherokees played Bridgwater Town Hall twice within 3 days as they were advertised as the headline band for a “TWISTERAMA” on the Friday before their Top 20 concert. Also appearing at this gig were The Invaders.
13th July 1964
With The Top Twenty entering it’s 1-month period of rest, it’s temporary disappearance once again prompted an opportunity for other promoters to use The Town Hall as a temporary residence for “Beat concerts” and the first of these appeared on Friday….
17th July 1964
THE TOWN HALL
From The Cavern, Liverpool – Parlophone Recording Artists
LEE CASTLE’S BARONS plus “Taunton’s Brightest Group” Roger & The Sabres.
20th July 1964
THE TOWN HALL
THE BERLINGTON BERTIES plus THE COUGARS (Parlophone Recording artistes) – courtesy of Wessex Promotions
28th July 1964
“BE LIKE THE BEATLES” Pupils told.
“Strive to be aces in the same way that the Beatles are” was the advice given by Miss A.D. Cadwallader, headmistress of the Diocesan Girls’ Secondary School, Bath, when presenting prizes to Westover Junior Girls, Bridgwater on Tuesday. Although admitting that she did not enjoy the Beatles music, and that the tunes she played on her violin were not quite like theirs, nevertheless there was much to be said for them. “They give a great deal of pleasure, they work as a team, and if they quarrelled they would not be successful” added Miss Cadwallader.
10th August 1964
Two more “Town Hall” presentations starting with….
Q.M.A. presents THE SHAMROCKS – An exciting R&B Group in the “Stones” style plus at your request, Roger & The Sabres.
17th August 1964
From The Star Club Germany, Bobby Sansom & The Giants plus The New Invaders.
24th August 1964
Billed as “London’s own Pearly Beat kings”, they were the first of two successive Top Twenty bands whose apparel was seemingly more significant than their attempts at pop stardom. A quartet signed to the Philips label, The Cockneys appeared on stage in flamboyant Pearly King costumes befitting a band from the capital city. Originally called The Falcons, they released one single under this name in December 1963 called “Stampede”. Apart from their debut single, a Beatle-esque ditty called “After Tomorrow”, they only issued one more record, “I Know You’re Gonna Be Mine”, before biting the dust. Their debut single was re-released however, as it was used during the opening and closing credits of that huge box office smash “Go-Go, Big Beat”*. Consequently the song appears to be their one lasting legacy in popular culture. The only other interesting point of reference is that guitarist Mick Grace once had a brief spell as a member of The Kinks, replacing Ray Davies in 1966 when the latter went AWOL due to a mental breakdown.
The Cockneys – After Tomorrow (From “Go-Go, Big Beat”)
*”Go-Go Big Beat” (or “UK Swings Again” as it was known in this country) is a 27-minute documentary that was released in America during May 1965. It ran into trouble by suggesting that the film contained music by The Beatles and consequently Brian Epstein filed a lawsuit. Their music DOES appear however, but only in a short ballet sequence.
31st August 1964
Another group who had the gift of the garb, but who were also highly rated for their musical ability. Initially from Coventry, The Pickwicks began life as Tony Martin & The Echo Four but under the guidance of their flamboyant manager Larry Page, an impresario who in later years gave us The Troggs, the group were re-invented as Dickensian dandy’s with top hats, breeches, frock coats and stick-on whiskers. Featuring John Miles, Malc Jenkins, Alan Gee and the aforementioned Tony Martin, the band obtained a residency at Coventry’s Orchid Ballroom and a recording contract with Decca. Their first single was a “beat” version of the old 1920’s song “Apple Blossom Time” which, perhaps understandably, failed to take root in the charts but behind the façade of their slightly ridiculous image, they were responsible for some fine singles in the category now lovingly known as “freak-beat”. It has been suggested than one reason for their lack of success was down to some dodgy decision making over the choice of their singles with each subsequent 45 featuring a stronger strong on it’s flip-side. The band desperately tried to get Decca to switch their 2nd single, “You’re Old Enough” for it’s “B” side “Hello Lady” which was written by former Harley Street specialist Michael Julien, a songwriter who had already provided hits for Cliff Richard (“Constantly”) and Shirley Bassey (“Kiss Me Honey Honey”). But despite being the catchier song, the record company refused to listen. After switching to Warner Brothers in 1965, the “B” side curse continued with “Little By Little”, another song “rumoured” to feature Jimmy Page on guitar, featuring the superior Ray Davies song “I Took My Baby Home” on the flip. Result? No hit. Drummer Malc Jenkins once did a magazine fashion shoot with Cilla Black with Jenkins in full Pickwicks gear and Cilla in her best Mary Quant but the band eventually reverted to type and were effectively de-frocked by the end of 1964 as they couldn’t find anyone to clean their costumes! John Miles explains “It was so hard to find a cleaner who knew how to clean and press all the ruffs and frills, and when we eventually did find one, it took about a week to get them back, so it was easier to just give them up.” The band eventually split in 1966 but the general consensus appears to be that they were somewhat underrated. A question of their musical chops being as impressive as their mutton chops perhaps?
With great irony The Top Twenty chose this concert to once again remind all patrons that “Any person with unconventional hair styles or attire will not be admitted” This ruling obviously did not apply to the artists.
5th September 1964
TOWN HALL BRIDGWATER
Roy, Mike & the Mexicans – An exciting group from Bath plus Roger & the Sabres.
7th September 1964
Previously an instrumental band known as both The Vibros and The Fireballs respectively, The Rustiks were a band from Paignton, Devon that won a talent contest organised by Westward Television’s “Beat” program. Brian Epstein and Dick Rowe were among the competition’s judges and apart from their first prize of £100.00 and a recording contract with Decca Records, they also inherited Brian Epstein as their mentor with the Beatles manager announcing upon presenting the prize that they would be signing to NEMS Enterprises. In fact “The Fifth Beatle” not only became their manager, but also their record producer despite a non-existent track record for studio production. Their debut single “What A Memory Can Do”, released on the 4th September 1964 apparently features some Epstein knob-twiddling which makes The Rustiks and Rory Storme & The Hurricanes the only artists that have benefitted from Epstein’s vast studio knowledge. The NEMS connection worked well for the band initially, by October 1964 they were appearing on the Beatles’ Autumn tour but their brush with fame and fortune was short-lived as their contract was not renewed upon expiry. In Epstein’s book ‘A Cellarful of Noise’ he mentions signing The Rustiks to his stable of artists. ‘The Beatles may move more and more into films; most of the remaining artistes will endure and mature but I am anxious to build on the foundation of the beat groups and create other enterprises……………. in 1964 I signed two non-Liverpool groups – The Ruskies (sic), and Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers,’ One final single “Not The Loving Kind” was released on 15th January 1965 but by the following year they had been discarded. Drummer Bill Covington takes up the story. “In 1966 the strain of dealing with The Beatles was all that Epstein could bear and he decided to trim his ‘enterprises’ by sorting the wheat from the chaff. In March 1966 I remember walking over to John Lyndon’s office to meet with Brian Epstein. It became a stormy meeting as accusations of ineptitude and mis-management were thrown Epstein’s way by us. In return, Epstein railed on us for not producing any quality material and therefore he decided not to renew contracts with The Rustiks. The last time I saw Brian Epstein was at that meeting, surrounded by press photographers and reporters demanding to know what his future plans were for his ’empire.’ An empire that did not include a band from Torquay obviously.
The Rustiks were actually a replacement for The Nashville Teens whose Top Twenty show had to be cancelled due to a tour of Scotland.
14th September 1964
The Original Checkmates
20th September 1964
“DOUBLE BEAT NIGHT” Dick Delmont & The Strangers – Wiltshire’s Top Pop Group plus The New Invaders.
21st September 1964
One of the most obscure bands to have played The Top Twenty during this period, the only description of the group available comes from the Bridgwater Mercury’s own advertisement. From London – Shortly recording on the E.M.I. label. 2 girls & 4 boys playing Pop, R & B, Blue Beat and Country & Western. Notice the addition of “Blue Beat” as one of their musical specialities. Another band jumping on the latest bandwagon?
28th September 1964
A Merseybeat band who never reached the heady heights of some of the other Liverpool artists but who remain fondly remembered even if their commercial impact was slight. Formed in October 1962 with a line-up of Terry Sylvester, John Kinrade, Mike Gregory, Ray Walker, their original drummer was Ringo Starr’s cousin John Foster aka Johnny Sticks. They secured an early residency at the Liverpool venue The Blue Angel and won a talent contest held at Liverpool’s Philarmonic Hall despite rumours that the competition was “rigged”. Judged by heavyweights Dick Rowe, George Harrison, Ringo Starr & Cavern DJ Bob Wooler, the band turned professional the day after their success but the “prize” of a Decca Recording contract and management by top London impresario Harry Lowe failed to materialize after Decca turned them down and Lowe suddenly lost interest. It wasn’t until their “contract” was bought out by Jim Ireland that the band were able to move ahead and Fontana eventually added them to their roster. In April 1963 Foster left to join The Dions and Walker departed for a life of domesticity. With Sylvester now on lead vocals and new boy Pete Clarke instated as the band’s percussionist, they were voted the “9th best band in Liverpool” in 1963 by “Mersey Beat” magazine readers, though their debut release of Larry Williams “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” (recorded before The Beatles got hold of it the following year) was passed over by the general public. In fact only one of their remaining five singles reached the charts, their second effort “The One To Cry” scraping in at No. 49 in June 1964. Subsequent singles were what you would have expected from a second-generation Mersey band – catchy and melodic but not memorable enough to gain them chart success. Some unfortunate choices in the cover-version department did not help matters as songs were chosen that were in direct competition with other recordings made by more prominent groups – The Drifters “I Don’t Want To Go On Without You” was recorded by both The Searchers and The Moody Blues whilst The Everly Brothers “Let It Be Me” became a minor hit for Peter & Gordon. In January 1966 Clarke left and was replaced by Tommy Kelly but it was the departure of Sylvester, that left the band floundering. He initially joined another Merseybeat band on the rocks, The Swinging Blue Jeans in 1966, and later replaced Graham Nash in The Hollies in January 1969. Sylvester’s replacement was Frank Townsend, but his tenure as an Escort didn’t last long and in May 1966 Paddy Chambers, another Mersey musician who had “done the rounds” in bands such as Faron’s Flamingoes, The Big Three and Paddy, Klaus & Gibson joined the band. Despite getting none other than Paul McCartney to play tambourine on their swansong release, a version of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles “From Head To Toe”, they finally split in 1967.
The Escorts are considering recording an R&B number for their next disc John Kinrade told “MERSEY BEAT” “If we do decide on this kind of number it will be one written by our manager Jim Ireland and our publicity agent John Chilton. I would probably play harmonica and John Chilton might play organ for the recording session. The boys current disc “The One To Cry” is selling three times as fast as their first disc “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and they are hoping that it will make a chart showing. The group is just back from a highly successful 3-day tour of Scotland. “We were mobbed in Glasgow” John said. “We couldn’t play our full spots and Terry Sylvester and I were dragged off the stage. Terry even lost his shoes and I had to be passed over a crowd of girls, football style” After playing two dates in Glasgow and one in Perth, the boys travelled down to Leicester and then to Surrey before returning to Liverpool. “We’ll be playing at local venues mostly during the next week or so” said John. Talking about the group’s recent “Ready Steady Go!” appearance John said that he and the rest of the group didn’t even manage to see it. He explained, “We dashed to catch a plane home after recording the show but there weren’t any seat vacancies, and we had to wait until 10.30 pm to get seats. Then storms delayed us so we didn’t get home until the early hours of the morning. If we’d have come home in the van we’d have been home hours earlier” The boys will have new stage outfits. John described them – Black Watch tartan shirts with black collars and cuffs, blue leather waistcoats and black mohair trousers. He added “We found that our suits were too bulky for stage wear and started wearing them without the jacket, just the waistcoat and found it more comfortable. Two of the group have just bought new cars. John has bought a pale blue Zephyr and drummer Pete Clark has bought a second hand Mercedes for £1,000. But the first night that Pete took the boys out in the car it broke down in the Mersey Tunnel causing chaos in rush-hour traffic. Everything’s fine now, apparently, but the rest of the group suggested that bicycles should be strapped to the roof – just in case! Asked if he thought that beat was dying, John said emphatically “No. We talked to kids all over the country and they’re as keen as ever. But we have found that The Beatles popularity is waning – everyone’s raving about The Rolling Stones now” Commenting on the number of ballads in the charts at present John said “It’s odd really, because we intended recording “Blue Moon” instead of “The One To Cry” but it was decided that the first wasn’t commercial enough because it was a ballad”
From “MERSEY BEAT” magazine 1964….. Ah, the hectic life of a would-be pop star! (My sincere thanks to Mersey Beat editor Bill Harry for the kind use of his info.)
5th October 1964
Apart from the infamous Who concert in 1965, Them were one of 2 other artists to play The Top Twenty whose subsequent achievements marked them as more than just “another beat group”. But back in 1964 they were as unknown to Bridgwater’s audiences as any other band that had played The Town Hall and were very much in their infancy having only been together for about 6 months. The reason for their lofty position within pop music’s Premier League? Van “The Man” Morrison. George Ivan Morrison was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on August 31, 1945 – his mother was a singer, his father a music enthusiast who collected American jazz and blues recordings. At 15, Morrison quit school to join local R&B band The Monarchs, touring military bases throughout Europe, particularly Germany, before returning home. In April 1964, local Belfast entreprenuers Jimmy Conlon, Jerry McKenna and Gerry McCurvey (known as the “3Js”) were instrumental, along with Morrison, in the creation of a new R&B club called Club Rado situated at Belfast’s Maritime Hotel. Having recently vacated a group called the Golden Eagles and with the anticipated opening night for the new club rapidly approaching, the unemployed vocalist needed new musicians post haste to fulfil his forthcoming engagement. He had recently been introduced to The Gamblers, a Belfast East group formed in 1962 by Ronnie Millings, Billy Harrison, and Alan Henderson. Schoolboy Eric Wrixon was recruited as a keyboard player and with Morrison eventually augmenting the line-up on saxophone, harmonica and vocals the band was complete. The proverbial name change occurred following a suggestion by young Wrixon, with the Gamblers becoming Them after the 1954 sci-fi horror movie of the same name. Rehearsing above a bicycle shop, the curiosity of the local patrons was aroused by the appearance of several cryptic advertisements in a Belfast newspaper the first of which asked the question “Who Are? What Are? Them!” This clever marketing ploy coupled with a word of mouth reputation based on the band’s incendiary performances at Club Rado created so much interest that queues appeared around the block well in advance of each gig. It was at The Maritime that Them created their legend. Steeped in R&B and Blues, they introduced Belfast audiences to the music of Bobby Bland, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker & Jimmy Reed amongst others, Morrison ad libbing furiously, creating his songs live as the concert unfolded. The creation of what became the band’s anthem “Gloria” happened on stage at this venue with the song lasting for as long as Morrison wanted it to, depending on his mood. The band reached the unlikely ears of The Bachelors manager Phil Solomon who recommended Them to Dick Rowe at Decca Records. Rowe rushed over to the Maritime to hear the band and, suitably impressed, signed them immediately whilst arranging for a recording audition at Decca’s West Hampstead studios on 5th July 1964. Augmented by session musicians, seven songs were recorded, amongst them both “Gloria”and what turned out to be their first single “Don’t Start Crying Now”. Released in August 1964 just 2 months before their Bridgwater date, this obscure Slim Harpo song was a strange choice for a debut single as it was one of the most un-commercial items recorded at the Decca sessions. Unsurprisingly, it failed to chart though predictably it sold well back in Belfast. As a follow-up Solomon and Rowe hired Jimmy Page, Peter Bardens and Bobby Graham to back Morrison on a cover of Big Joe Williams “Baby Please Don’t Go”, though Billy Harrison provided the song’s guitar solo. Released in November 1964, the following month Them made their TV debut on ”Ready Steady Go!”, Solomon using his connections to have the song played as the weekly signature tune for the television show. The single, which featured the now-legendary “Gloria” as its B-side, gave the band their first hit finally reaching the Top Ten on the UK singles chart.
In January 1965, Them toured England for a second time but already the toll of constant one-nighters had accounted for band members Wrixen & Mellings. These two became the first sacrifices in a bewildering array of personnel changes that continued throughout Morrison’s tenure with the group. It was also around this time that the band started to earn a dodgy reputation amongst journalists for bad manners during their interviews. Billy Harrison explained the attitude problem on Anti-Irish sentiments that were prevalent on the continent at the time but the truth was that success sat uneasily on the group’s shoulders, particularly Morrison’s, an individual who has never been comfortable playing the role of “pop star”. Interviewed by a reporter from the Irish Independent, the journalist remarked “They were the most boorish bunch of youngsters I’d come across in my short career”. Another female reporter was met with an arrogant display of complete indifference. “They would just sit and mutter monosyllabic grunts to themselves and give her off-the-wall answers”. It was an interview technique that Morrison was to perfect to a fine art during his solo years. Regardless of the band’s social shortcomings, Solomon’s next move was to bring in the American producer and songwriter Bert Berns. Berns had written “Twist And Shout” amongst many other American hits and like his predecessor showed a lack of confidence in the band’s musical ability by hiring session musicians Phil Coulter and Andy White. “Here Comes The Night” another Berns composition reached No.2 in the UK and No.24 in the US Billboard Hot 100, establishing the band as a major force in the growing wave of BritPop that was sweeping America. On 11th April 1965 Them made an infamous guest appearance at the NME Pollwinners Concert at Wembley Empire Pool. This 1965 showcase remains one of the finest gatherings of the British pop aristocracy with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Animals, The Searchers, The Moody Blues and Dusty Springfield all making an appearance. Ordered to play their current hit, Them audaciously segued from “Here Comes The Night” into a seven minute version of “Turn On Your Lovelight”, a Bobby Bland song that had been part of Them’s early Maritime repertoire and which had been the catalyst for Phil Solomon’s original interest. This audacious act of defiance was yet another example of Morrison’s refusal to do as he was told. In June 1965 the band released a raw but slightly sterile debut album called “The Angry Young Them” that failed to capture their superb live performances and when their next two singles failed to chart, the record company started to get a little nervous. The band responded by going through a 4-month period of almost constant line-up changes.
Them – Mystic Eyes/Gloria (1965)
Firstly, Jackie McCauley was replaced, despite having been in the band for just a few months and then in July his brother was also sent packing from the band. Founder member and Gamblers stalwart Billy Harrison was the next to go and finally in September Morrison and surviving member Alan Henderson decided to go the whole hog and sacked the entire band. Things were beginning to disintegrate. By early 1966, the situation had turned into pantomime when a bogus Them, featuring various sacked ex-members of the group and assembled by managers Reg Calvert & Terry King suddenly made themselves available for bookings. Phil Solomon responded by not only slapping a lawsuit on the perpetrator’s of this scam but in a tit-for-tat move, “borrowed” the names of Calvert & King’s top acts The Fortunes & Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours and demanded that Decca pay him their royalties! Solomon’s bravado worked and Them Mk II sank without trace. Meanwhile, the band were going down a storm in America culminating in a June 1966 three-week run at the famous Whisky-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles with The Doors appearing for the final week as the band’s opening act. But Them were already beginning to self destruct. They went on to headline at the The Fillmore in San Francisco and played Hawaii but it was here that things got nasty, with disputes erupting among band members and management over financial arrangements. Upon returning to the UK, Morrison, not for the first time, was incensed to discover that Decca had released a single against his wishes and without consulting the band and citing this as the last straw promptly left the group to return to Ireland. Them continued without him but were never able to replace the talismanic singer who continued as a solo artist with tremendous success, issuing some of the most exceptional music, particularly during the 1970’s.
23rd October 1964
TOWN HALL – BRIDGWATER
Q.M.A. presents the dynamic U.S. recording group on the London American label. THE BRUINS
27th October 1964
“BERTIES” at new dance
Saturday 31st October will see the start of Saturday night dances at the Co-Op Hall, West Quay, Bridgwater. The two beat groups engaged for the all important first night are no newcomers to the “Beat Scene”, namely Bristol’s top group “The Diplomats” and the clowns of rock, the “Burlington Berties”. One of the organisers is no newcomer to Bridgwater’s beat groups, as he already plays an active part in managing bookings for the up and coming local group “the Bluebeats”. It is hoped that if the first prove successful, to make these regular dances, with local as well as national talent.
31st October 1964
2nd November 1964
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders
9th November 1964
THE MIGHTY AVENGERS
Originally called Dean Law & The Avengers until Law’s departure, they may have sounded like a bunch of super-heroes but they were in fact a quartet of mere mortals based in Rugby who just happened to fall into the radar of Rolling Stones manager Andrew “Loog” Oldham. Having failed with their first single “Hide Your Pride” released on Decca in 1964, Oldham took the band under his wing. The group (featuring the wonderfully-named Biffo Beech on drums) released four singles in two years, and no doubt due to Oldham’s influence made a habit of recording songs that Jagger and Richards deemed unsuitable for their “band”. These included “So Much In Love”, “Blue Turns To Grey”, later a hit for Cliff & The Shadows and the Spector-ish “(Walkin’ Through The) Sleepy City”, the latter of which was released in 1965. Of these only “So Much In Love” charted, reaching the lofty position of No.46, but the song bears the distinction of being included in a batch of 142 7″ singles marked “personal favourites” that were discovered gathering dust at the home of the late great John Peel after his death. Loog-Oldham eventually abandoned them for some other “latest thing” and in 1966, lead guitarist Tony Campbell left to become part of the band Jigsaw who charted with “Sky High” in 1975.
There may have been no “Top Twenty” gig on the 16th November but it was a bumper week for all the “tots and teens” of Bridgwater with no less than 2 separate gigs in the town centre. Not sure about the credentials of Eddy Dark and The Salvos but there was a welcome return for of the old Town Hall favourites Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs.
21st November 1964
WESTSIDE Promotions presents….. TOTS and TEENS SESSION! JOHNNY HASTINGS and the TRIBUTES
22nd November 1964
Recently a prophecy which many people have made has been coming true – a revival in folk music. This form of music, perhaps closer to all of us than any other kind, has, for quite some time, been laying dormant, enjoyed by only it’s staunch supporters in folk clubs. Then, about two years ago in the United States, students in colleges “discovered” a group of folk singers – Peter, Paul & Mary. They achieved international fame, have recently completed a very successful tour of this country, and were primarily responsible for bringing folk music to the fore again. Now, to understand and appreciate folk music is to be “right-up-to-date”. New folk clubs are appearing like wildfire all over the country – recently one was opened in Taunton. Surely, the time is right for one to be formed in Bridgwater. Somerset is rich in folk songs, and there is a large section of the local community, particularly younger people who, it is certain, would support the formation of such a club. The possibility of a folk song “gathering”, if it is not the formation of a club, may cement with the opening last Friday, of the Bridgwater Youth Coffee Bar, at Queen Street. With the hope that the coffee bar will be a success, after the great amount of planning and work which has been done, this could be the ideal place for folk song singalongs, not to mention other interests, all of which would be encouraged. BRIDGWATER MERCURY Letters page.
“Something is happening and you don’t know what it is”
23rd November 1964
JIMMY POWELL & THE FIVE DIMENSIONS
Jimmy Powell grew up in the West Heath area of Birmingham and after leaving school, he apprenticed as a lathe operator in Kings Norton while at night he fronted a local band called The Detours. For many years revered as one of the best vocalists to have emerged from the “Brum Beat” scene, his powerful vocal style soon began to attract attention and in 1961 he turned “pro” after joining an up-and-coming local group called The Rockin Berries. Powell’s tenure with The Rockin Berries has already been discussed elsewhere, suffice to say that after the band split during one tour of Germany too many, he was snapped up by Jack Good and signed to the Decca label. Powell consequently became the very first Birmingham artist to secure a recording contract and his first release was an energetic cover of Buster Brown’s “Sugar Babe” in 1962, produced by a very young Chris Blackwell. Whilst the record did not chart, it’s a significant release as at this point Britain’s R&B scene had barely been established and yet Powell was suddenly at the forefront of it. Two more singles followed in 1963 but the sudden arrival of The Beatles heralded the rise of the “beat group” and Powell was frozen out. Jimmy decided to try his luck in London, becoming involved with the local blues scene at London’s famous Marquee Club. New manager Malcolm Nixon introduced him to a hot blues act that he’d named “The Five Dimensions” and Powell was soon given the position of lead vocalist. Included in the line-up at that time was another vocalist/harmonica player who was born in Archway, North London, on the 10th January 1945 under the name of Rodney David Stewart. This line -up survived a tour of Scotland though the inevitable rivalry between the two singers due to Powell’s promotion and Rod’s comparative lack of vocal opportunities led to Rod’s departure, apparently in December 1963, playing his final gig with the band at the Ricky Tick Club in Windsor.
In 1964, Powell’s Chris Blackwell connection came to good effect, when the Five Dimensions were hired to provide the backing for Jamaican singer Millie Small on her hit recording of My Boy Lollipop. One of rock’s great myths is that Rod Stewart played the harmonica solo on the record – a story he has not only denied, but despite various candidates being offered as the likely candidate, Rod has himself suggested that it was the otherwise unknown Pete Hogman who provided the instrumental break. However, according to Jimmy Powell, he was the culprit. “I played harmonica on My Boy Lollipop and Mike Carroll did the clapping” says Jimmy. Powell has also suggested that he played the harp on P J Proby’s “Hold Me” as well, though whether he did or did not is not known. Powell & The Dimensions signed to Pye Records during 64 and released a number of singles. The first of these, “That’s Alright” appeared in June whilst the second – a re-make of “Sugar Babe” featuring Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and drummer Clem Cattini, was released in November. Neither charted and Powell eventually cemented his reputation as a fine live performer, playing Hamburg’s Top Ten Club and a little later the UK college & university circuit but success on record proved elusive. In 1966, Powell’s throaty rasp could be heard belting out a number of soulful sides on the short-lived “Strike” label and he later signed to “Young Blood” records in 1969 for which he recorded an album as well as various single releases. But despite continuing to record in the early 1970s and retaining his popularity as a live singer, Jimmy Powell later faded from the music scene. However he remains, without a doubt, one of the strongest blues vocalists to have emerged from the West Midlands in the 1960’s.
30th November 1964
THE DOWNLINERS SECT
The story of the Sect begins in 1956 at the Gunnesbury Grammar School in Middlesex and the formation of the skiffle group The Kool Three featuring future Downliner Mick O’Donnell. The Kool Three became The Downliners in 1959, naming themselves after the Jerry Lee Lewis song “Down The Line” and having completed their formal education, the nucleus of the group moved to Twickenham. After a disastrous tour to France, the band split at the beginning of 1963 but O’Donnell and drummer Johnny Sutton re-grouped by placing an advertisement in a national music paper which resulted in a new line-up. A second drummer, Keith Evans, was one of the first to join but could only be accommodated by switching to bass guitar. The name of the new band was immediately changed to Downliners Sect, with O’Donnell and Evans also adopting new identities, becoming Don Craine and Keith Grant respectively. After O’Donnell’s mother Joyce became their manager, The Downliners obtained residencies at both Eel Pie Island and Studio 51, the original home of skiffle, and their reputation as a hard hitting Rhythm N’Blues combo, comparable to both The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds soon gathered pace. One journalist offered the following observation.“Of all of Britain’s R&B bands The Downliners were arguably the rawest. The Sect didn’t as much interpret the music of Chess Records as attack it, with a finesse that made The Pretty Things seem positively suave in comparison. Long on crude energy and hoarse vocals, but short on originality and songwriting talent” The band entered the studio in 1963 but their initial recordings were not issued, consequently the first official release was a live-EP “At Nite In Newport Street” recorded at Studio 51. The record was financed by the band themselves and only 400 copies were pressed but it achieved an underground status in, of all places, Sweden with a copy finding its way to the Swedish pirate radio station Radio Syd where it was played on heavy rotation. In the process it created for the band a very strong Swedish following. The Downliners no frills approach to R&B was championed by such luminaries as Van Morrison, Rod Stewart & Steve Marriott with both Rod & Steve apparently being overlooked for the position of harmonica player in favour of Ray Sone who joined the Sect in 1964.
Their record contract with Columbia was signed during the same year and they promptly released a cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What’s Wrong” with the single reaching the bottom regions of the UK chart. Close inspection suggests that it’s surprising that the record charted at all as it was performed with an almost primitive rawness that seemed unsuitable for commercial success. The band played with a wild abandon whilst vocally, lyrics were delivered with a growling ineptitude (In my opinion, the lack of a decent vocalist has plagued The Sect since Day One.) Follow-up singles were issued to no effect with early 45’s adopting the idea of plundering the band’s name for a series of punned song titles. Their first three releases featured B-sides entitled “Be A Sect Maniac”, “Sect Appeal” and “Insecticide” respectively. This slightly irreverent attitude extended to their image which revealed itself in Don Craine’s constant wearing of a deerstalker hat both on and off stage. Unfortunately blues and R&B purist’s took this joviality as a sign of weakness and quickly alienated the band. As if to underline their “jokey” image, in September 1964 The Downliners recorded a version of The Coasters novelty hit “Little Egypt” that failed in the UK but reached No.2 in Spring 1965 in their beloved Sweden. Their popularity in this country was such that when they played the Ice Stadium in Stockholm more than 10,000 punters appeared with the police twice threatening to pull the plug on the gig if the audience didn’t calm down. Back home, their debut album “The Sect” was released at the tail end of 1964 and was more of the same with the proverbial Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry cover versions rubbing shoulders with original material that continued pretty much in the same wild and abandoned vein. Having lost some of their core audience, The Downliners decided to court controversy by releasing a fairly self-explanatory EP called “The Sect Sing Sick Songs”. Included was an answer record to the Shangri-La’s doom-laden “Leader Of The Pack” called “Leader Of The Sect”, but the EP’s most debated track was “I Want My Baby Back”, an item originally recorded by the obscure American singer Jimmy Cross. This song, about a gruesome car accident, contained such classic lines as “Over there was my baby, and over there was my baby and way over there was my baby” It was of course banned by the BBC. At this point, instead of releasing some material that could have helped them to regain a foothold as a chart-bound band, The Sect decided to change musical tack and the release of the “Wreck Of The Old 97” single in early 1965, proved to be a shape of things to come, an album of mostly old-timey Country & Western songs called “The Country Sect”. “Country Rock” was a term that became more common place towards the latter part of the 60’s, with The Byrds’ Gram Parsons-inspired “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” album, released in 1968, largely responsible for it’s creation though Parsons had begun the process of incorporating country songs into his repertoire as early as 1966. But here we have The Downliners, a British band no less, delving into a distinctly American genre of music that had not really been explored in popular music before, approximately 12 months before anyone else had thought of the idea. To be honest, it wasn’t an idea that really worked. First and foremost, “The Country Sect” is not a very good album, The Downliners somewhat ramshackle performances giving the distinct impression that they were not suited to the material. This brave but ultimately bewildering career decision was commercial suicide at the time but the Sect were a band who were seemingly uninterested in the trappings of success. The 1966 album “The Rock Sect’s In” wisely abandoned the country leanings but was effectively an album’s worth of cover versions that, whilst spirited, were the sound of a band struggling for direction. Hidden however amongst covers of “Hang On Sloopy” and Vince Taylor’s “Brand New Cadillac” was a song called “Why Don’t You Smile Now?” written by a pre-Velvet Underground Lou Reed & John Cale. Two interesting singles released in 1966, “Glendora” – a tale of love between man and mannequin – and Graham Gouldman’s “The Cost Of Living” showed great potential but with both failing to chart, the Sect began to slide. After several more personnel changes they re-named themselves Don Craine’s New Downliners Sect but then Craine himself hung up his deerstalker for good in 1967 and the band’s entertaining but subsequently unsuccessful career finally ended in 1968. Treasured by various members of the pub rock fraternity their debut album was re-released in 1976 after the band had been name-checked by those “in the know”. The band consequently re-formed for one final hurrah to cash in on their new found popularity.
7th December 1964
The origins of this band go back to a talent contest held at the Palace Hotel Dance Hall in Southend during the early 60’s. Contestants included local bands The Coasters, Mickey Law & The Outlaws, The Raiders and Bob Scott & The Clansmen amongst others. Law won the contest somewhat controversially with The Coasters coming a close second though there were suggestions that Law had somehow fixed the vote. Organizer and local entrepreneur Peter Martin hit upon the novel idea of putting together a Southend “super group” by combining the best members of the competing combos together in a single line-up. He ended up with vocalist Bob Scott, The Raiders Robin Trower and Chris Copping on guitar and bass respectively, Mick Brownlee the Outlaws drummer and 14-year-old Gary Brooker from The Coasters on keyboards. The band were assembled by somewhat dubious means, Brooker joining on the false promise of having been told by Martin that his previous employers had been informed of his departure from their band when nothing of the sort had been arranged. Huge R&B fans, singer Scott was the odd-man-out as he preferred the repertoire of the hip-shaking Elvis and Ricky Nelson. As vocalist, the band generally played what he sang, but when Scott failed to turn up for a gig, the teenage Brooker found himself pressed into service as the singer, and the band ‘s material changed. In 1961, Robin Trower’s father bought the Penguin Café situated on Southend’s sea-front and The Paramounts began playing in the basement, christening it “The Shades” after Southall band Johnny Harris & The Shades, a recent and regular Southend attraction. Fellow Southend musician John Denton explains the “scene”. “The cellar club was run by the genial Len Trower. It cost me a shilling to descend into the dimly-lit cavernous room, formed of two dark areas fronted by a small dancing space and low stage. Behind the stage, a zany mural depicted The Paramounts’ cartoon replicas. In the two back chambers, one could perceive youths sipping cola, while girls danced effortlessly to the juke box sound of ‘Thumbin’ A Ride’. The dance area was to fill as The Paramounts plugged in and commenced to rock. Egg boxers bedecked the ceiling, serving as primitive sound-proofing; the cluster of ‘backing vocalist’ fans was so effective in this environment despite the throbbing sound; the people around the stage were executing what would be termed The Pogo some fifteen years later. This was the most exciting music I’d ever heard.” There were several changes in the line-up between Christmas 1962 and Autumn 63. In December 62, Copping had left the band to attend university and was succeeded on bass by Diz Derrick, an old skiffle cohort of Brooker’s. Apart from his obvious musical talent, Derrick also received the backing of his financially well-off parents with his father funding the purchase of a commer van which was quickly adorned with the words “Paramounts R&B” on it’s rear in gold letters. Drummer Brownlee also exited after deciding that marriage and bricklaying was more exciting than being a rock n’roller, Barrie (B.J.) Wilson from Orpington arrived after answering an ad in the Melody Maker. Learning their trade quickly, they turned their attentions away from their Essex roots to the capital city and began playing venues that had been previously been musically pillaged by The Rolling Stones, consequently by mid-1963, they had turned professional and had become one of the more advanced R&B outfits in London, having abandoned the good old rock n’roll of Chuck Berry in favour of the sophisticated soul of James Brown and Bobby Bland. More obscure material was procured from the record collection of future record producer Guy Stevens, with Brooker suggesting that at this point, any white singer was quickly omitted from the band’s repertoire with the exception of Bobby Darin. A demo tape that included versions of The Coasters ‘ “Poison Ivy” and Bland’s “Farther On Up The Road.” was recorded at IBC Studios with Glyn Johns engineering. “Poison Ivy” was manager Peter Martin’s choice but the band were reluctant to cut it citing The Coasters music as “sacred”. Signed by Parlophone Records in late 1963 “Poison Ivy” was given the professional treatment by George Martin’s assistant, producer Ron Richards. The single skirted the lower regions of the Top 40 and the proverbial appearances on both Ready! Steady! Go! and Thank Your Lucky Stars earned them a good reputation. After appearing on the latter program with Mick, Keef & the boys, The Stones proclaimed that the Paramounts were “The best r&b band in the country”. Unfortunately it was an endorsement that seemed lost on the rest of the UK as the group were never able to capitalize on the publicity. A second single, Thurston Harris’ “Little Bitty Pretty One” was quickly followed by an excellent version of The Impressions “I’m The One Who Loves You”. Driven by Gary Brooker’s Hohner piano, this track proved conclusively that when the band were given material that they were sympathetic to, they were indeed as good as Jagger & Richards had suggested. The release was also notable for the inclusion of the Brooker/Trower composition on it’s B-side, “It Won’t Be Long,” the first song ever written from within the band and penned after producer Richards suggested that money could be made by recording their own material. After another Coasters cover “Bad Blood” was banned by those paragons of virtue the BBC (“Bad Blood” is apparently an obscure euphemism for VD) the string-laden “Blue Ribbons” written by Jackie De Shannon and P.F.Sloan’s “You Never Had It So Good” seemed like last ditch efforts on behalf of EMI to break the band commercially despite neither being suited to the band’s soulful style. The latter single, which the band hated, at least features another fine Brooker/Trower original on it’s B-side called “Don’t Ya Like My Love”, a track regarded in some circles as the best thing the band ever recorded. B.J.Wilson temporarily left the band in 1965 to pursue a gambling career in the South of France whilst the band were relegated to backing Sandie Shaw & Chris Andrews. With single sales poor in late 1966, the Paramounts broke up. Diz Derrick left the music business altogether, whilst Trower and Wilson joined other bands. “When our repertoire was no longer sacred, we jacked it in. By early 1966, I became disillusioned myself, and started writing my own songs. You see, you could play at The Scotch, and perform a song, and five minutes later they’d play the record, and wipe you off the floor That couldn’t have happened in earlier days, because only Guy Stevens had the record!” We came upon a situation where our repertoire was, in fact, available in every disco in town – it hadn’t always been that way. Otis Redding had come from being a sort of underground artist, to becoming a public property. Suddenly it wasn’t ON any more. We’d lost the exclusivity of repertoire we’d enjoyed in previous years.”The story doesn’t end there however. Brooker began writing songs with lyricist Keith Reid and in 1967, they arranged to cut a song that they’d written entitled “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which was recorded by a studio band credited as Procol Harum. When it became a No.1 hit, not only were new recordings needed, but a live band was required to complete tour commitments. Brooker enlisted old cohorts Trower & Wilson and with Matthew Fisher, an ex-member of The Downliners Sect, on organ and David Knights on bass, the band embarked on a hugely successful career. When two years later, Fisher and Knights departed, The Paramounts connection was strengthened still further when Chris Copping returned to the fold as bass guitarist. Nearly all of their recordings for EMI can be found on the album “The Paramounts At Abbey Road 1963-1970”. 1970? Hang on, I hear you say, weren’t Procol Harum formed in 1967? Well yes they were but in 1970, having completed the album “Home” the Procol’s ran through some old rock n’roll standards that the Paramounts used to play whilst producer Chris Thomas tested his studio equipment. They enjoyed this exercise so much that Abbey Road was re-booked so that they could record some more….a lot more actually, 45 songs in one session by all accounts. Unfortunately the tapes of this material went missing and did not re-surface until the 1990’s where they were finally released on an album called “Ain’t Nothing To Get Excited About” by a band called Liquorice John Death. This curious monicker had apparently been penned by a mutual friend called Dave Mundy who used to suggest that their rather boring “Paramounts” band name should be substituted for something more obscure. When Mundy died in 1972 he gave most of his belongings to guitarist Robin Trower and included amongst them was an album title and the artwork for the record. These, along with Mundy’s preferred epithet were subsequently used when the album finally surfaced.
11th December 1964
TOWN HALL – TEEN BEAT Presenting the West of England’s TOP Pop Group who have already recently opened with The Hollies. THE MUSTANGS
14th December 1964
The Cymerons were from Swinton in Manchester and would have been largely anonymous if it were not for the fact that their band name pre-dates that curious psychedelic habit of spellyng thyngs in a slyghtly unconventional manner. Band names like The Cyrkle and The Syn cropped up fairly regularly during 1965/66 but The Cymerons appear to have adopted this idea earlier than most as they were up and running as early as 1963. The band certainly did not appear to have any psychedelic tendencies as far as their choice of music is concerned, in fact they appear to be – dare I say it – a little “old fashioned”. The web-site “Manchester Beat” features various comments from ex-followers of the band and in the first paragraph the words “Everly Bros” “high kicking routine” and “Elvis Presley covers” are all mentioned. They were originally known as “Eddie & The Cymerons” despite having no band member called Eddie, in fact their lead vocalist was originally someone named Mike Lynch and he soon left to form the equally obscure The Chapters. Being Mancunian, they not only played The Cavern in nearby Liverpool but also appeared at most of the local haunts like the Oasis Club, the Forty Thieves, The Spiders Web, the Twisted Wheel (later made famous for it’s Northern Soul connections) and finally the Roaring Twenties Club at which they had a residency, playing regularly on Friday nights during 1963. More importantly they managed to squeeze out a couple of singles “I’ll Be There” appearing on Decca in 1964 and “I Can See You” on Fontana in 1966. Two 45’s in three years tells it’s own story and apart from the fact that they once had the novelty of a female manager and that they returned to play The Top Twenty in 1965, they remained largely unknown outside of their beloved Manchester.
28th December 1964
DAVE CURTISS & THE TREMORS
The Dave Curtiss & the Tremors fact file isn’t that interesting. Originally from Clacton, Curtiss was their bass guitarist and vocalist. The band recorded for the Philips label releasing “You Don’t Love Me” and “What Kind Of Girl Are You” in 1963 and Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” backed by The Coasters “I’m A Hog For You” the following year. They recorded a “beat” version of “Que Sera Sera” (one can only imagine what that sounded like) and at least one other song (“How I Cry”) on the extremely obscure Karate label. The Tremors eventually ended up backing Rod & Carolyn whilst Curtiss’ career is far more interesting post backing band. He played as a session musician in France backing Vince Taylor amongst others and was very briefly involved in the embryonic Deep Purple though his involvement with the band never got beyond the “planning” stage. Later he appeared, along with future Yes guitarist Steve Howe, in the original line-up of the British psychedelic band Bodast. By far the most intriguing historical snippet is that in 1972 he was in a duo called Curtiss Maldoon that wrote and recorded, on their hard-to-find debut album, a song called “Sepheryn”. In 1998, Curtiss’ daughter suggested to what was her current employer at the time that it would be cool to use some of her old man’s lyrics. Madonna (for it was she) duly plundered “Sepheryn” as inspiration for the hit single “Ray Of Light” but then discovered that “old man” Curtiss wasn’t happy and litigation ensued. Despite the fact that the similarities between the two songs, beyond the first verse, are marginal, the end result is that “Ray Of Light” now enjoys the complex song-writing credit of Madonna/William Orbit (her producer) Dave Curtiss/Clive Muldoon and Christine Leach (Curtiss’ daughter).