4th January 1965

Wayne Gibson and the Dynamic Sounds were the brain-child of Shel Talmy, a freelance producer born in Chicago but who worked predominantly in the UK and whose artist roster was particularly impressive. He produced early hits for both The Kinks & The Who and also worked, at one time or another, with Manfred Mann, The Easybeats, The Creation and a very young David Bowie before entering into the world of folk/jazz fusion with the unique Pentangle. Talmy was apparently responsible for putting The Dynamic Sounds together back in 1963 but it’s hard to see where they fitted into his grand scheme of things. The band were originally known as The Tornadoes and released at least 6 singles, of which 4 were rumoured to be Talmy productions. Of these only ‘Kelly’ (co-written by Del Shannon and another track to feature the talents of young Jimmy Page on guitar), made the charts, scraping in at No.48 in 1964. Despite being the regular backing band on the BBC Television program “Beat Room”, the band split in 65 but not before releasing a version of “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” from “The Wizard Of Oz” as a single. Gibson went solo, and achieved a belated No.17 hit in 1974 with a fine version of The Stones “Under My Thumb” that was originally recorded in 1966. The release was denounced by Mick Jagger (alongside a selection of other Stones covers) but it has earned a healthy reputation amongst Northern Soul followers as something of a “floor filler”. Apparently Gibson later became the first white male English singer to have a single released by the Motown corporation when his version of Paul McCartney’s “For No One” from “Revolver” was issued by that label but by the mid-1970’s he was back with Pye Records and achieved marginal success with a series of disco releases.

Wayne Gibson & The Dynamic Sounds – Kelly (1964)

11th January 1965
Pat Wayne & The Beachcombers

18th January 1965
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders

The Game Of Love – Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders (NME Pollwinners Concert – 1965)

1st February 1965

From Norwich, the band enjoyed a brief spell in the UK charts when “The Letter” reached No 30 in September 1964. Produced by a pre-glam Mike Leander, it was originally recorded in the States by Don & Dewey but was revived by it’s composer Sonny Bono as the debut release by Caesar and Cleo, or Sonny & Cher as they were later called. The Long & The Short reached the UK Top 50 a second time in December 1964 with the forgettable “Choc Ice” but that was the end of the band’s love affair with the charts. They stuck around long enough however to appear in the film “Gonks Go Beat” in 1965. Directed by Robert Hartford-Davis, the All Movie Guide’s film synopsis is sharp and to the point “This rock comedy features an alien who tries to distribute peace, love and understanding around Britain”. Further inspection is probably futile as apart from the fact that it’s an extremely rare film and consequently hard to track down, any movie that includes “Carry On” stars Kenneth Connor and Terry Scott as well as Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and John McLaughlin as “themselves” should either be avoided at all costs or a “must see” depending on how warped your sense of humour is.

The Long & The Short – The Letter (1964)

8th February 1965

The Beat Merchants were from the leafy West Sussex town of Horsham, a quiet respectable suburb of Brighton. Formed in late 1962 by guitarist Ralph Worman, they were originally called The Hustlers and were pieced together from a motley selection of Worman’s schoolmates all of whom were aged between 14 and 16. They were initially an instrumental band based, inevitably, around the music of The Shadows but after the addition of vocalist Peter Toal they plundered the Chuck Berry catalogue and, often billed as Peter & The Hustlers, began to play local gigs. By mid-1963 they were confident enough in their own ability to record some demos and submitted them to EMI, where A&R chief Norrie Paramour expressed some interest in the band, promising to arrange a recording test. Meanwhile on August 3 1963, Peter & The Hustlers were booked to play Horsham’s Saint Leonard’s Hall as the opening act to an up and coming group of London scruffs called The Rolling Stones. The Stone’s first single, “Come On” had just entered the charts and over 600 punters were crammed into the 400 capacity venue. As hometown boys, the Hustlers got a warm reception but the Rolling Stones simply blew the Horsham band away. Having been caught unawares by the Stones cocky swagger it was wisely decided that Merseybeat covers were not where it was at and, suitably inspired, the Hustlers switched their allegiance to R&B. With vocalist Pete Toal emigrating to Australia, the band’s transformation continued. Now calling themselves The Merchants (the “beat” part was added later) the clean cut image of sharp suits and regular visits to the barber were replaced by long hair, leather and a heavy dose of perspiration. The decision to change was almost immediately vindicated by a resounding victory in the National Boys’ Club Beat Competition held at the Brighton Dome, though 1st place was only achieved after the judges had asked for a repeat performance as they had been too loud initially. Norrie Paramour’s promise of a session with EMI eventually bore fruit, the group travelling to Abbey Road for their recording test and after impressing, a deal with Columbia Records was mooted. But when the company took their time to respond, the band grew impatient and arranged another test with the much younger and certainly much hipper Mike Leander, Decca’s A&R man. The band were swiftly rewarded with offers of contracts from both record labels but Decca was the preferred option as Leander had been far more successful in capturing the band’s new sound than the slightly old-fashioned Paramour had achieved. Nevertheless, it was Columbia that successfully secured the band’s services in a deal that was signed possibly out of a sense of loyalty. In August 1964 the band recorded their first single, a group composition called “Pretty Face”, releasing it during the last week of September. Reviews were positive and the single reached No.44 in the UK charts but achieved greater success locally with impressive showings in both Manchester and Birmingham. This harmonica-driven single may lack melodic structure but it’s high energy performance is regarded amongst “Freakbeat” aficionados as one of the most primal slabs of British R&B released during the 60’s with a sound that invokes early Stones or Yardbirds. They were quickly sent on a nationwide package tour with a number of artists that bore little or no resemblance to what the band were producing musically at the time. The tour included pop combos The Honeycombs, The Applejacks & Lulu & the Luvvers, teenage ska sensation Millie and “old boy” Gene Vincent. The tour was a huge learning curve for the band with one group member suggesting that it was during this jaunt that they actually learnt how to play. A second single, “So Fine” was released in February 1965 but despite being more polished than their debut effort, the band were not entirely happy with the final results and it failed to chart. It did succeed however in providing the band with an unexpected source of revenue when it appeared erroneously on the “B” side of Freddie & The Dreamers US release of “You Were Made For Me”, a 45 that eventually achieved gold record status. If “So Fine” had been a band composition, the royalty payments received would have been considerably higher.

Meanwhile back in the U.K. the Merchants found themselves stuck on the touring treadmill with nothing to shout about in record sales terms and this eventually took it’s toll. There were frequent disagreements that resulted in the proverbial personnel changes but it was the departure of founder Ralph Worman in particular that threatened to tear the band apart. The Beat Merchants re-shuffled however and became a 4-piece, toughening their sound still further and gaining a more than creditable reputation as a top-notch live band. Unfortunately it was at this point that they were handed a huge blow when Columbia decided to drop the group despite the fact that it was a decision that may have been avoided had the band’s manager not mis-interpreted the finer detail of the original record contract. Believing that they had a 2-singles a year deal for an unlimited period of time, the contract actually stipulated that it was for 1 year only with an offer to renew after the first 12 months. With the first year complete, and with neither band or manager making any noises over a possible extension, Columbia sensed a lack of commitment and promptly cancelled. The Beat Merchants were undeterred, but from this point on effectively became a live band, making what little money they could from touring. With a heavier emphasis on their own material, more demos were recorded at R.G. Jones’ studio in Morden towards the end of 1965. Those who have heard these recordings suggests that it’s as good as anything that was being issued at the time by bands of a similar ilk with the song-writing in particular showing some originality and sophistication. Nevertheless, despite shopping these recordings around to various labels, no-one would sign them. A few weeks after the sessions, the Beat Merchants headed across the Channel for some Christmas dates in Germany and France, also playing a New Year’s show in Munich. They continued to tour Europe at the beginning of 1966 but despite a triumphant return concert in their hometown, the band grew disheartened by their inability to secure a record deal and after a final gig in Worthing they disbanded. 2 band members, Geoff Farndell and Gavin Doneski, attempted to set themselves up as songwriters for other artists and successfully obtained a contract with Screen Gems, but after stockpiling approximately 100 songs, only one was recorded and that, an item called “Rich Girl” by The Merseys, was never issued. With only two singles to their name, the bulk of the bands recordings remained unreleased for many years but the obscure Circle record label finally put them out on a 2004 compilation called “The Beats Go On”. It was a belated end to yet another “what-might-have-been” band history.

The Beat Merchants – So Fine (1965)

15th February 1965

Just Four Men were a common or garden Merseybeat band that made a couple of singles for Parlophone during 1964-65 but who achieved no success with either. From Huyton, they were formed in January 1963, and were originally called both The Silhouettes and Dan Fenton & The Silhouettes, before changing their name again to The Four Just Men, which was also the title of a popular 1959 American TV series. But after being threatened with a court injunction by another bearing that name, EMI suggested a subtle alteration and despite sounding like a 1960’s under-arm deodorant, Just Four Men released “That’s My Baby”/”Things Will Never Be The Same” in 1964 and “There’s Not One Thing”/”Don’t Come Any Closer” the following year. All 4 songs were penned by singer-guitarist Dee Fenton (born Dimitrius Christopholus) and guitarist Johnny Murphy and suggest that given a little more time and effort, the band may well have achieved something but after touring with stars like Del Shannon, The Rolling Stones, and The Searchers they were dropped by EMI. In 1966, they changed their name to Wimple Winch and became one of the very few Liverpudlian bands to attempt the transition from popular beat combo to psychedelic men of mystery and it is for this latter period of their career that they are most fondly remembered.

Just Four Men – There’s Not One Thing (1965)

22nd February 1965

The town of Weybridge in Surrey has had some notable residents. E.M.Forster wrote “Howards’ End” here between 1908 and 1910 and during the mid-1960’s at least three Beatles lived in this leafy London suburb with Lennon moving to his place in the country during July 1964. Weybridge is also responsible for spawning The Nashville Teens, formed in the summer of 1962 from the dying embers of two local bands, the original Nashville Teens and The Cruisers Rock Combo. Their very brief history is as follows. Formed in 62 – went to Hamburg 63 – cut musical teeth – several personnel changes later, got discovered by producer/pop impresario – signed to major label – achieved 2 Top 10 hits, the first of which employed the talents of one Jimmy Page – after subsequent singles failed to make any impression, gained reputation as hard-working live band – split up. It’s hard to avoid sounding familiar, but this truncated version of events is almost a carbon copy of so many other band’s histories from this period that one need only change the name of the artist and the story’s synopsis would stay the same. Some of these groups achieved their 15 minutes of fame, as The Teens did, others faded into oblivion. But…………we need to put a little flesh on the bones regarding The Nashville Teens turn of events despite the danger of creating a little Deja Vu. Whilst the name of the group was taken from an Everly Brothers song called “Nashville Blues”, this 6-piece band featured the slightly unusual format of having two lead singers – Ray Phillips and Arthur (Art) Sharp. The band did indeed earn their pedigree during an extensive period of gigging in Hamburg in 1963, temporarily augmenting their line-up with the introduction of a 3rd singer, Terry Crow, who didn’t last very long. During their Hamburg engagement, they earned a residency at the infamous Star Club and were asked to play as backup band to visiting American rock & roll superstar Jerry Lee Lewis. The collaboration (achieved without any of the band’s vocalists attending) resulted in the recording of what has been regarded as one of the great live albums of the era, “Jerry Lee Lewis Live at the Star Club”. American music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine suggested that “Live at the Star Club” is “extraordinary, the purest, hardest rock & roll ever committed to record”. I bet the guys at Sun Records would have had something to say about that. The performance earned them a solid reputation and pretty soon they were being asked to perform a similar function for other American acts, backing Carl Perkins on his single “Big Bad Blues” and playing regular gigs with both Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. It was at one of these Diddley dalliances that they were discovered by singer Mickie Most (his position as pop svengali was established a little later) and after signing a management contract with Don Arden, they were snapped up by Decca in 1964. Most, naturally, became their producer and they released their debut single, “Tobacco Road,” during the summer. A composition by North Carolina-born songwriter John D. Loudermilk (other credits included “Sittin’ In The Balcony” by Eddie Cochran, “Ebony Eyes” by the Everly Brothers, and of course “Angela Jones” by Michael Cox) “Tobacco Road” was itself inspired by a 1932 Erskine Caldwell novel depicting dire rural poverty among white southerners, quite a heavy subject for a songwriter more well known for his sentimental country-based ballads. Despite the overt American subject matter, The Teens, aided and abetted by Mr. James Page on guitar, gave a fine performance and the single achieved chart success both in the UK where it reached No.6, and in the States where it was assumed they were an American band because of their name.

The Nashville Teens – Tobacco Road (1964)

Their follow-up song, “Google Eye,” (not incidentally a song about a computer search engine but one of the very few ever written about a fish) was also penned by Loudermilk and reached No.10 in England but failed to make a dent in America and from this point onwards The Teens tried hard to maintain their high profile but couldn’t quite deliver. The following year the band made an appearance in the film, “Be My Guest” and after their success in the States they made a 2nd movie appearance in a forgettable Stateside flick called “Beach Ball” that also featured The Supremes. But further attempts to crack the US market were botched when in 1965 a visa mix-up forced the band to abandon a high profile American tour with the Zombies. Whilst stuck in New York they recorded their third single, the appropriately named “Find My Way Back Home”. Released in the month that they played The Town Hall, this stalled at No.34 in the UK charts. Other singles duly followed, including the Andrew-Loog Oldham produced “This Little Bird” (May 1965) but it was released in direct competition with a version by Marianne Faithfull whom Oldham also managed at the time and whilst Faithfull’s version eventually made the Top 10 the Teens could only peak at No.38. Of the rest, only the Shel Talmy produced “The Hard Way” (1966) made The Top 50 and when three more singles all failed to chart…. well you can guess the rest. It has been suggested that one of the reasons for their lack of success, apart from the want of a decent song-writer, was personality, or at least the lack of it. Good musicians they may have been and flexible to a fault but the band simply lacked character, a common problem that plagued about several hundred other groups from this mid-60’s period. Apart from their singles, their early Rhythm N’Blues based material sounds ill-suited and contrived and it wasn’t until they introduced folkier songs into their catalogue that they appeared more comfortable. Their situation was not helped by the fact that Decca Records never really promoted the band – in fact Decca Records never really promoted ANY of their rock acts which is why they had none left by the end of the 60’s apart from the Stones and the Moody Blues, and they handled their own affairs. The Nashville Teens retained their reputation as an excellent live band and continued to back Messrs Berry and Perkins during their frequent visits to England but despite plugging away, they fell victim to that age-old musical equation, no inspiration + lack of airplay = no hits. They were very quickly regarded as “old fashioned” and probably prolonged their shelf life beyond it’s date stamp, managing to soldier on before eventually splitting in 1973. “Tobacco Road” may be the only worthwhile part of their legacy that they left behind, but it’s a pretty good song to leave.

The Nashville Teens – Find My Way Back Home (released 26th February 1965)

This was a re-scheduled appearance by The Nashville Teens as what would have been their debut performance at the Town Hall on the 7th September 1964 was cancelled due to touring commitments.

1st March 1965

Another product of the Merseybeat factory, Tommy Quickly & The Remo 4 were an amalgamation of 2 separate artists, brought together by Brian Epstein in the vain hope of achieving some chart success. Quickly was a boyish-looking singer who had previously played a very small part in the Liverpool music scene whilst The Remo Four may well have started their career as a Merseybeat band in their own right but eventually became backing musicians searching for an enigmatic lead vocalist. The story begins with The Remo Quartet – formed in 1958 by Colin Manley & Don Andrew – two Liverpool Institute classmates of Paul McCartney. They progressed from playing local parties and beat contests to regular concert appearances, changing their name during the summer of 1959 and turning professional in 1961. During that same year, they were voted the third most popular band in Liverpool in the annual “Mersey Beat” poll behind Gerry & The Pacemakers and a bunch of no-hopers called The Beatles. During The Remo Four’s formative years they rubbed shoulders with The Fab Four regularly though this was hardly surprising as Liverpool’s beat movement was, at this point, a local phenomenon confined only to the city and it’s surrounding area. However The Beatles were regarded as “mates” and both groups were among the regulars at the Cavern Club during 1961 and 1962. The two bands also shared the bill with Gerry & The Pacemakers, Rory Storm & The Hurricanes and Ted “Kingsize” Taylor and the Dominoes at the historic “Operation Big Beat” concert held at New Brighton’s Tower Ballroom on the 10th November 1961. Organised by Sam Leach it was the first major concert promoting Merseybeat to take place in the city and it attracted between 3-4,000 fans. Like most of the Liverpool bands, The Remo Four sharpened their stage skills by touring Europe but unlike The Beatles they did not shuffle off to Hamburg, but in 1962 played American Air Force bases in France. By this time, Johnny Sandon, a refugee from The Searchers, had become the first of 4 vocalists that The Remo Four were paired with and despite being offered to both Billy J.Kramer and Cilla Black, The Remo’s stayed loyal to Sandon and it was this line-up that signed to Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises. (The opportunity to play with Cilla Black was denied by her boyfriend Bobby Willis who objected to the collaboration.) They cut “Lies” and “Magic Potion” for Pye in 1963 without success, so exit Sandon and enter young Tommy Quickly. Quickly (real name Thomas Quigley) had been the lead vocalist with a lesser-known Liverpool band called The Challengers, later called Tommy Quickly & The Stops. Epstein liked the singer but didn’t like his band so The Stops were ousted and the youngster was handed the vocal slot with the Remo’s. Signed to Piccadilly Records, Quickly’s arrival gave the band a commercial spring in their step and Epstein gave the band a song that he thought was a guaranteed hit, a Lennon/McCartney reject called “Tip Of My Tongue”. Almost everything that The Beatles touched in the early 60’s turned to gold but not this song. A relic from the 1962 Decca audition tape, it had been lying around for awhile only to be abandoned altogether by the Fab Four. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why as it’s not the greatest piece of music that John & Paul had penned. “Tip Of My Tongue” was a flop, as were the band’s next four singles plus a further two drum-heavy instrumentals recorded by the Remo Four on their own. A fifth single recorded for Pye, “The Wild Side of Life”, did reach No.33 in October 1964, but Quickly was unhappy. Apparently overwhelmed by the machinations of the music industry, and still disappointed with the ruthless treatment of his old backing band he was ill-prepared for the spotlight and with manager Epstein unable to push him any further, he retired from the music industry altogether in 1965, the same year that he made his Top 20 appearance. * The reasons for this swift departure are uncertain but during the mid-60’s Quickly developed a drug problem and this seems to have played a part in his disappearance. Sadly, in later years, a fall from a ladder resulted in serious head injuries that consequently caused brain damage.

* There is, in fact, a pretty good reason to doubt that Quickly actually played The Top Twenty at all. His name certainly appeared on the gig’s advertisement published by The Bridgwater Mercury but an autograph book owned by Stan Barnett, who was heavily involved with the club at the time, only features the signatures of the individual members of The Remo Four. Of course Quickly may well have been indisposed at the time that the book was signed but I have a hunch that he was due to appear but had already retired by the time the concert was due to take place.

Tommy Quickly & The Remo Four – Humpty Dumpty (1964)

As for The Remo’s post Quickly career, they released one single in 1965 called “Live Like A Lady” and by 1966 the acquisition of organist Tony Ashton had resulted in the quartet becoming a forceful fusion of jazz, soul and rock that was very much in keeping with a number of other bands that were around at the time such as The Graham Bond Organisation and Brian Auger’s Trinity. They played Hamburg’s Star Club fairly extensively and even recorded for the Club’s own record label, issuing an under-rated album’s worth of well-chosen cover versions entitled “Smile!” in 1967 that revealed what a fine combo they had become. Upon their return to the UK they were passed to yet another vocalist, though this time one with a much higher profile – Billy J.Kramer. Having turned down the opportunity to back Kramer previously, this time they accepted the offer, adopting the name “The New Dakotas”. Unfortunately Kramer’s career had long seen better days and consequently The Remo Four’s career floundered as Billy J.’s star continued to fade. One further moment of credibility was achieved however when their old “mate” George Harrison hired the group as his backing band for part of his first solo project, the soundtrack album to the movie “Wonderwall”. While the songs were mostly instrumentals, they did record one vocal with Harrison producing, the unashamedly pyschedelic “In The First Place”, though this remained unreleased until the 1990s. After their eventual split in 1970, two of their members, keyboard player Tony Ashton and drummer Roy Dyke joined forces with ex-Birds guitarist Kim Gardner to form Ashton, Gardner & Dyke. They subsequently achieved a hit in 1971 with “Resurrection Shuffle” whilst also recording a song called “Ballad Of The Remo Four”.

8th March 1965

The Riot Squad were a group with a major identity crisis despite the fact that there were a number of major musicians who were associated with the band. The reason for their shadowy history is that they suffered so many personnel changes that there is no such thing as a definitive line-up. Their situation was not helped by the fact that there were no less than 3 different bands all operating under the same name, with the dubious honour of being the first “Riot Squad” in existence belonging to an obscure Merseybeat band. The squad’s story begins in 1964 when producer Larry Page headhunted a selection of young but experienced session musicians whose formation seems to have been pre-meditated. The sound that Page was after was a poppier version of The Kinks and the original line-up of 17-22 year-olds included guitarist and some-time vocalist Graham Bonney (real name Graham Bradley) and John “Mitch” Mitchell on drums. They were to be called simply “Riot” but the intervention of a band member constituted in a subtle alteration to Page’s original monicker. Once assembled, this six-piece group discovered an affinity for bluesy, R&B inspired material and ended up developing this sound. This was much to Page’s consternation as this was exactly the opposite direction from what he had originally intended. They recorded a debut single “Anytime” in 1965, and a follow-up single, the Georgie Fame-like “I Wanna Talk About My Baby” appeared eight weeks later. Both received critical acclaim and earned considerable airplay but without shifting a lot of units. By this time the group had started to build a reputation as a live act but things started to go wrong just when it looked like the band were about to achieve a breakthrough. A high profile tour with The Kinks and The Yardbirds fell through when both headlining bands pulled out at the last minute. Even though The Riot Squad’s 3rd single, “Nevertheless” was also well received there were already internal stresses threatening the band and no less than 3 members, including vocalist Bonney, left in quick succession, the latter in favour of a solo career. The band effectively were dead in the water at this point, Larry Page losing interest and moving on to other projects whilst John “Mitch” Mitchell also left to become the drummer for Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames. But surviving member and saxophonist Bob Evans decided to salvage what was left of the wreckage by assembling Riot Squad (Mark II). His new recruits were a promising London-based outfit called The Chevrons, a band whose sound closely resembled that of the first line-up. Evans achieved a major coup by obtaining a recording contract with Joe Meek, the eccentric British producer. Meek was now in the twilight of his prematurely short career and in fact only had several more years in which to live, but the magic that had taken many a band into the charts during the early 60’s was still there and The Riot Squad’s first Meek produced single “Cry Cry Cry” (featuring future Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord doing his best Tornadoes impression on organ) made the lower regions of the British charts. But despite two more Meek singles and some regular work as backing musicians on some of his other records, the producer seemed unable to break the band nationally. It was during this period that the Squad achieved notoriety as the most popular group in, of all places, Venezuela. A chance encounter with “Cry Cry Cry” by a popular disc jockey had resulted in a massive amount of airplay, and the band became the South American country’s biggest sellers. Unfortunately in early 1967, Joe Meek died in a bizarre murder/suicide incident that also took the life of his landlady and suddenly the band were left without a producer or a recording contract. They still remained an “in-demand” live act however, receiving an offer to play behind Wilson Pickett on a British tour but the band could not survive on the road and lost more band members as a consequence. In 1967, Bob Evans — who had claim to the band’s name — continued with a third edition of the Riot Squad and it was during this particular year that a young whippersnapper called David Bowie arrived on the scene. Bowie was specifically looking for musicians to use on what turned out to be his debut solo album but only remained with the band for a period of about 6-8 months. No official recordings were released by this line-up though a few demos, including an embryonic version of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For The Man” were cut and have surfaced on a number of bootlegs. Bowie’s intention had always been to use the band on a temporary basis and once he had gone The Riot Squad died a slow death and in 1968 finally called it a day. Evans heeded the call of fate and took off for Venezuela in order to cash in on The Riot Squad’s reputation there whilst various ex-members achieved notable success. Graham Bonney had a minor solo hit with “Supergirl” in 1966 whilst the late lamented “Mitch” Mitchell, one of Britain’s most underrated drummers, left Georgie Fame after a very short tenure and consequently shot to stardom with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. As For David Bowie, he wrote a song about Major Tom and we all know what happened to him.

The Riot Squad – I Wanna Talk About My Baby (1965)

As there were at least 3 distinct Riot Squad line-ups, it is worth mentioning that it was the 1st of these – with Graham Bonney and Mitch Mitchell – that played the Town Hall.

22nd March 1965

Possibly the only publicity photograph of The Naturals in existence make the band resemble a bunch of chartered accountants on their annual day out and for all that is known about them, this may well have been their true vocation. They were from Harlow, Essex, and at one point were known as both the Blue Beats and the Cossacks (they recorded 3 E.P.’s for the Ember Record label as The Blue Beats) Having signed to EMI’s Parlophone label, they released a debut single, “Daisy Chain” which tried, unsuccessfully, to capitalise on the Blue Beat craze. Some bright spark from the band’s management team then hit upon the tried and tested formula of covering a Beatle song that The Fabs had not actually released as a single themselves and with plenty of items to choose from, The Naturals rendition of “I Should Have Known Better,” from “A Hard Day’s Night”, reached No.24 during the summer of 64. The record earned them the proverbial Ready! Steady! Go! appearance during August but despite releasing two further singles it became apparent that the band had already played their trump card early in their career and they were consequently unable to deliver any further releases of any real quality. One release of interest however is their third single, a rather tame Mitch Murray song called “Look At Me Now”. This boasts a Pete Townshend co-write called “It Was You” on it’s flip side, a Beatle-inspired ditty that, rumour has it, was the first song that he ever wrote. Inevitably by early 1965, no doubt having regarded playing Bridgwater as the peak of their career, the band had already called it quits.

The Naturals – Blue Roses (released 26th March 1965)

29th March 1965
The Checkmates

6th April 1965

The Joystrings are, so everyone will be aware, a Salvation Army “beat” group who have won considerable support for their originality and talent. These young Salvationists not only appeal to modern-day youth, but have also gained the respect of older people. Already following in the footsteps of The Joystrings are The Venturers, a similar group formed by members of the Bridgwater Corps of the Salvation Army. The Venturers were born last September, and have been giving performances for about three months. The Venturers are aptly named, because this is a venture and they are to be wished every success in it.

12th April 1965
The Gamblers

Decca “pop” group The Gamblers had a lot of time to look around Bridgwater be­fore their appearance on Mon­day at the Town Hall for the “Top 20” club. They travelled from Chippenham the previous day and booked a night at a local hotel. Unnoticed, the six members of the group went to the Odeon Theatre on Sunday where they saw a horror film “Peeping Tom,” and on Monday afternoon they paid another visit to the Odeon and watched a Western. Matthew Fisher*, the latest addi­tion to the Gamblers, who plays organ and piano, decided he would get a haircut before the show, and went to a hairdressers not far from where they were appearing, “We’ve also had our first taste of your famous Somerset cider,” Matthew informed me in between the group’s two perform­ances. ‘It really is quite strong!” Turning to Jimmy Crawford, 22-year-old lead guitarist, I asked him where the boys came from and what their plans were for the future. He replied, “We all come from Newcastle and back Billy Fury. In fact, we are in his first full-length film “I’ve Gotta Horse,” which is now on release.” “We performed in Bridgwater about a year ago,” he went on, “but since then we have had two changes in our line-up. In June we’re going back to Germany, but what we really want to do is to develop a cabaret act and appear in night clubs.” The other members of The Gamblers are: Ken Brady (tenor sax and vocals), Alan Sander­son (bass and vocals), Tony Damond {trumpet and vocals), and Barry Preston (drums). A large outfit, the group make a powerful sound, and are well to the fore with the popular brass sound. They wore stylish Bolero stage suits. Among the numbers they pre­sented for Bridgwater teenagers were “It’s Not Unusual,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “One Way Love,” and “Baby, I Need Your Lovin’.” Dusty Springfield, scintillating British Queen of Pop Singers, recently in the area, has a high regard for local audiences. “Bridgwater and West Country audiences are always very friendly,” I was told “They are very attentive, warm-hearted, and reserved.”
MIKE GUY – Bridgwater Mercury**
To the “Top 20” Club next Monday come one of the most exciting new groups of the moment — The Who, whose Brunswick disc “I Can’t Explain,” has entered the Top 10 this week.

*Matthew Fisher later joined Procol Harum and famously provided the organ part for “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”
** Mike Guy was a journalist that had been with the Bridgwater Mercury since the early days of The Top 20. He was almost single-handedly responsible for changing the newspaper’s rather dismissive editorial stance towards “pop” music and during 1965 began to incorporate pieces like that of the above into the newspaper on a regular basis, culminating in a weekly column that highlighted the latest releases and a Top 10 singles chart.

24th April 1965

SATURDAY DANCE! – Bridgwater Town Hall
Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs

26th April 1965


John Alec Entwistle was born in Chiswick on the 9th October 1944 and attended Acton County Grammar School. He joined the Middlesex Youth Orchestra as a kid studying piano, trumpet and French horn. Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend, also from Chiswick was a little younger having been brought into the world on the 19th May 1945. He was born into a musical family – mother Betty was a singer whilst father Cliff was a professional saxophone player in The Squadronaires, a Royal Air Force big band that performed both during and after the Second World War. After early exposure to Rock N’Roll (Townshend’s mother has suggested that young Pete watched “repeatedly” the 1956 film “Rock Around The Clock”) he obtained his first guitar at the age of 12, purchased for him by his grandmother. Townshend & Entwistle were school-mates at Acton County and they formed a Trad Jazz band called The Confederates with Entwistle playing trumpet and Townshend on banjo. Entwistle eventually left to play in a rival trad band but with the advent of rock n’roll, both musicians spent a period of time playing together in a number of Acton-based bands such as The Aristocrats and The Scorpions with Entwistle having now turned his attention to bass guitar. In 1962 Entwistle was returning from a Scorpions rehearsal with the aforementioned instrument when he bumped into a 16-year old trouble-maker called Roger Daltrey. Roger Harry Daltrey was born 1st March 1944 in Hammersmith but was raised in Acton. After attending Victoria Primary School he became another member of Acton County Grammar. Daltrey was something of a conundrum. A bright child, he showed academic promise, ranking at the top of his class for his 11 plus examination. His parents had hoped that he would continue to study at university, but Daltrey had other ideas. He instead became a self-confessed “school rebel” and developed a dedicated interest in the emerging rock and roll scene. After his father had bought him an Epiphone guitar in 1959, he formed a skiffle band called The Detours. Soon afterwards his rebellious streak got the better of him as he was expelled from school for smoking. Townshend believes that he was a model student up to the point of hearing Elvis Presley for the first time and then “It was obvious to a young man as intelligent as Roger that there was no future in conforming any more.” Daltrey became a sheet metal worker during the day, whilst practicing and performing with the band during the evening and not long after their initial meeting Entwistle agreed to join the Detours. “Roger told me they had some gigs coming up – which was a lie – and that they were making money – which was a lie – but I went along to the rehearsal anyway” Entwistle remembers. Soon afterwards the bass player recommended his school chum Townshend and by the end of the year, he too had become a Detour, joining as the band’s rhythm guitarist. The line-up at this point consisted of Roger Daltrey on lead guitar, Pete Townshend on rhythm guitar, John Entwistle on bass, Doug Sandom on drums, and Colin Dawson on lead vocals. Heavily influenced by The Shadows, the band were hardly any different from the dozens of other groups playing within the immediate vicinity. Gigs were played sporadically for anyone who wanted to hear them. Advertisements still sometimes listed the band as a “jazz” group and they were slow to make the transition from their skiffle origins but after Daltrey had become the lead vocalist on Colin Dawson’s departure the band’s dynamic suddenly changed. Dawson, who was older than the rest of the lads, had become engaged, was frequently regarded by other band members as “too square” and eventually quit after yet another argument with the strong-willed and sometimes violent Daltrey. About this same time Pete Townshend enrolled in a Graphic Design course at Ealing Art College, a period of his life that was have to a profound effect on the young guitarist. Apart from giving Townshend a great deal of self-confidence, the course’s curriculum included controversial ideas that questioned all pre-conceived notions of art and unsurprisingly Pete slowly began to exercise a greater influence over the band’s direction. During 1963 The Detours occasionally supported a number of bands of interest including Screaming Lord Sutch, Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers and Shane Fenton, but the artist that left the biggest impression was Johnny Kidd & The Pirates. The Detours supported Kidd at the St.Mary’s Ballroom in Putney on the 27th October 1963 and having had the opportunity to witness their presentation at close quarters, Townshend effectively adopted The Pirates musical template. A 4-piece band, Townshend was particularly impressed by The Pirates lead guitarist Mick Green, a supremely skilled musician who had adopted an unorthodox method of playing lead and rhythm guitar at the same time. Townshend soon developed this approach and with Daltrey eventually giving up his guitar chores – a consequence of battered fingers caused by his day job – Townshend became the chief axe-man. Under Pete’s guidance the band began to adopt a new musical approach, incorporating R&B and occasionally Blues into their repertoire. When, on the 1st February 1964 Pye Recording Artists Johnny Devlin & The Detours appeared on “Thank Your Lucky Stars” a name-change was suddenly deemed necessary. Group cohort Richard Barnes suggested The Who and Daltrey, still calling the shots, agreed, muttering to Townshend the following day “It’s The Who innit?”. Within a short space of time, The Who had acquired a manager, a Jewish German door-knob manufacturer and would-be Brian Epstein called Helmut Gorden, and a new drummer. Doug Sandom’s wife was becoming increasingly miffed about the amount of time hubby was spending with the band whilst Sandom himself was unhappy with the group’s new musical direction. At a demo recording session held on the 9th April 1964 for Fontana Records, mumbled comments were made by the label’s A&R man Chris Parmeinter about Sandom’s percussive abilities and Townshend, sensing that a possible record deal was about to be spurned, launched a ferocious verbal tirade against the drummer who promptly quit. Several replacements were considered, including the 17-year old “Mitch” Mitchell, but the last piece of the Who jigsaw finally arrived in the shape of Keith Moon. Keith John Moon was born in Willesden on 23rd August 1946 but was brought up in Wembley. He was an extroverted, hyperactive child who seemingly took more pleasure in causing mayhem at school than learning his reading writing and ‘rithmetic. After a brief interest in boxing, the germination of Moon’s musical seed began at age 12 upon joining the Barham Sea Cadets and being handed a bugle. He was given his first set of drums at age 16 and received his tutelage at the hands of Carlo Little of Screaming Lord Sutch’s Savages. He played in a variety of Wembley-based bands, including a combo called Mark Twain & The Strangers who got as far as submitting a demo tape to the BBC (they were passed over in favour of the Dave Clark Five.) Moon also unsuccessfully auditioned for Shane Fenton’s Fentones and in April 1963 joined a surfing band called The Beachcombers, a semi-professional outfit. Moon, at this point, was training as an electrician just in case his rock n’roll ambitions failed to materialise. The Who were approached one night at a gig in Greenford by a guy who proclaimed “My mate can play better than your drummer”. The “mate” in question was the baby-faced 17 year-old Moon and after being asked to audition by playing “Roadrunner” (“We hadn’t actually come across a drummer who could” admitted Entwistle) Moon proceeded to break the bass drum pedal and bugger up the hi-hat. He was in. Keith continued to play with The Beachcombers whilst weighing up his options and at one point The Who toyed with the idea of employing Brian Redman, an original member of The Four Jays (aka The Fourmost) But despite manager Gorden paying for an all-expenses paid trip from Liverpool for Redman so that he could appear at a especially arranged demo session, Moon joined the band and the transformation was immediate. “From the point we found Keith, it was a complete turning point” Townshend admitted. “He was so assertive and confident. Before then, we had just been fooling around”. Soon, the band attracted the attention of one Peter Meaden, a 19 year-old hustler who was friendly with The Stones manager Andrew Loog-Oldham and who had done some publicity for Oldham’s band. Meaden had a vision of “shaping” a pop group that would become the focus for the London Mod movement. Mods (taken from the word “modernist”) began as an elitist cult formed by teenagers, originally of middle-class origins, who centred their attentions around a few tailoring shops based in the Soho area of London. By 1964, the movement had grown to such an extent that they had their own music (Motown, R&B, American Soul, early ska), their own clothes (Fred Perry shirts, turned up Levi’s, bowling shoes), their own mode of transport (the Italian motor scooter) and their own drugs (Amphetamines). The movement regularly clashed with the style that it superceded, the greasy-haired, leather-clad Rocker which culminated in several well-publicised punch-ups at a variety of seaside resorts dotted around the British Isles. Having already tried his hand at managing a group called the Moments, featuring a 17-year-old called Steve Marriott, Meaden had now turned his gaze to The Who. Townshend and Daltrey were both keen on Meaden’s vision but their was some resistance to his sweeping changes, which included a whole new tailored image and yet another name change. The phrase “High Numbers” probably didn’t mean a great deal to anyone who survived outside of the London Mod bubble but it was a monicker that was chosen for specific reasons. A “Number” was hip-slang for an ordinary Joe Blow type of mod whilst being high was both self-explanatory and significant from a mod view-point whose drug intake was an integral part of their image. Meaden suggested that the band drop the most obvious material from their stage show to concentrate almost exclusively on Motown numbers, as the label had, at this point, not established itself in the UK. He also successfully arranged for The High Numbers to secure a one-off recording contract with Fontana Records and on 3rd July 1964, “Zoot Suit” backed with “I’m The Face”, both originally recorded the month before, became the band’s debut single. In retrospect, despite the undoubted quality of the band’s musical abilities, the single was nothing more than a calculated hype on Meaden’s part to “up” the High Numbers mod credentials. Both were blatant re-writes of existing songs, namely The Showmen’s “Country Fool” and Slim Harpo’s “Got Love If You Want It” , with “hipster” lyrics and mod references substituting the original text. It sold a meagre 500 copies with Meaden himself allegedly purchasing 50 45’s in a pathetic attempt to get the song into the charts. Fontana wisely chose not to renew their contract and pretty soon Meaden found himself out of a job.

The High Numbers – I’m The Face (1964)

One evening in July 1964, Christopher “Kit” Lambert, a 26 year-old assistant film director, saw a bunch of kids on motor scooters assembling outside The Railway Hotel in Harrow and he decided to take a closer look. Lambert was looking for a suitable group to appear in a documentary he and associate Chris Stamp were in the process of making and upon entering the small venue witnessed The High Numbers incendiary performance and was instantly bowled over. “The atmosphere in there was fantastic. The room was black and hot. Steaming hot. And the audience seemed hypnotised by the wild music, with the feedback that Pete Townshend was already producing from his guitar and amplifier”. Lambert had found what he was looking for.

The High Numbers – Oo-Poo-Pa-Doo/Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying – (Live at The Railway Hotel, 20th October 1964)

The High Numbers were initially signed by the duo to appear in a 20-minute film, which was to highlight a, as yet unfulfilled, “rags to riches” story but it soon dawned on the pair that they should take over as the group’s managers despite knowing next to nothing about the music business. The band had by now turned professional but were extremely disappointed by “Zoot Suit’s” lack of chart success. Helmut Gorden was completely out of touch and despite his good connections seemingly had no idea how to manage a modern pop group and with Peter Meaden hooked on a speed habit, Lambert & Stamp saw their opportunity. But the take-over only occurred after Andrew “Loog” Oldham had turned them down and some messy negotiations had ensued with Meaden that at one point involved a menacing character called “Phil The Greek” and eventually a £250.00 pay-off. The High Numbers were gaining a more than healthy reputation for being not only one of the loudest bands in London but one of the most animated. Townsend & Entwistle had discovered the technique of producing ear-shattering volume by purchasing several Marshall amps that were unceremoniously stacked on top of each other whilst Pete had developed his “windmill” action of guitar playing after witnessing Keith Richards produce the same move during a backstage “warm-up” at a Stones gig. With Townshend perfecting his feedback, Daltrey all malevolence and menace out front, and Keith Moon acting like a complete animal on drums it was obvious that this was a band to be seen and not to be messed with. It was during this period that, completely by accident, Townshend smashed his first guitar at a Railway Hotel gig. He accidentally broke his Rickenbacker on the Railway’s low ceiling and angered by this mishap took his frustration out on the instrument by smashing it to pieces. Word spread and by the following week, a large crowd of people had gathered to witness a repeat performance. When Townshend did not oblige, Keith Moon satisfied the crowd’s lust for violence by wrecking his drum kit instead. Kit Lambert was horrified but after realising that there was an audience demand for such theatre, he actively encouraged it. Lambert and Stamp also encouraged the band’s “Mod” connections but decided that The High Numbers was a “nothing name” “It implied the Top 20” Stamp explained “but “The Who” seemed perfect for them. It was impersonal, it couldn’t be dated” The Who it was then. A new venue was soon sought and after several unsuccessful attempts were made to take them away from The Railway, when the Marquee Club was moved to new premises at 90 Wardour Street in central London, Stamp & Lambert succeeded in obtaining the Tuesday night residency, normally a quiet night for the club. The managers spent a considerable sum on posters and handbills (including the iconic “Maximum R&B” poster), but only 30 people turned up to witness their Marquee debut on the 24th November 1964. Within three weeks however their Tuesday night residence had broken all attendance records. The next move was to secure a record contract. In October 1964, the band had auditioned for EMI as the High Numbers after Russ Conway of all people had recommended them as a favour. This unlikely combination had met backstage at a gig at the Palladium (even more unlikely was the vague suggestion that The Who would act as Conway’s backing band!) But EMI had expressed an interest in signing an act that wrote it’s own material and as Townshend had only dabbled with song-writing at this point and was yet to take it seriously, they were still effectively a “covers” band. “They said “We think you’re a great little R&B band, but The Beatles have set a trend of groups writing their own material so you’ve really got to do it” Townshend recalled. “So away we walked and about 8 to 10 weeks later, a song I’d written was in the charts” Through a band connection, The Who were introduced to the 23 year-old Sheldon Talmy. Talmy had already obtained a big hit with The Bachelors “Charmaine” and after unsuccessfully offering both Georgie Fame and Manfred Mann to Decca had redeemed himself by recording The Kinks as an independent producer, for Pye Records. After seeing The Who play, Talmy arranged for an audition in the basement of the legendary 2I’s Coffee Bar. He was particularly taken by a new song, Townshend’s “I Can’t Explain” though the songwriter admits that it was written deliberately as a Kinks derivative to attract Talmy’s interest. Talmy, smitten by the band’s youthful energy, took The Who into Pye’s studios for their debut session in early November 1964 but upon arrival the band were somewhat alarmed to discover that the producer had hired Jimmy Page to play lead guitar. In the end Page played on the single’s “B” side. “The solo (on “I Can’t Explain”) was so simple, even I could play it” Townshend remarked. “I Can’t Explain”/”Bald Headed Woman” appeared on the Brunswick label on the 15th January 1965 and initially received little attention. But with Lambert & Stamp carefully orchestrating their career, it wasn’t long before the band started to make some serious waves. As film men, The Who’s managers both understood how important a visual impact could be on a band’s career and in particular one who’s image and live performance was so striking. Lambert had arranged for the band to make their TV debut on the essential “Ready Steady Go!” on the 29th January 1965 but a week before the transmission it was discovered that the studio would be approximately 150 dancers short of their usual quota. Lambert pulled off a master stroke by inviting scores of Marquee punters along to the taping giving The Who the opportunity to play in front of about 100 of their most diehard fans. Their performance practically broke the band to the UK public and eventually “I Can’t Explain” reached No.9 in the UK charts.

Extracts from The Who’s March/April 1965 “diary”
9th March 1965 – The single reaches No.26 in the UK charts on it’s steady climb to the Top 10.
11th March 1965 – The Who are offered the “Tip For The Top” spot on “Top Of The Pops” as a last minute replacement for another band.
16th March 1965 – Apart from their usual Marquee engagement, the band also find time to record a session at Pye Studios. Two items from the Motown staple are recorded; Eddie Holland’s “Leaving Here” and Marvin Gaye’s “Baby Don’t You Do It”

The Who – Baby Don’t You Do It (Pye Demo) (1965)

19th March 1965 – The group convene at IBC Studios in Portland Place London with Shel Talmy. Cuts recorded include another version of Eddie Holland’s “Leaving Here” and Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man”
20th March 1965 – Goldhawk Social Club, Shepherd’s Bush
27th March 1965 – Rhodes Centre, Bishop’s Stortford – “I Can’t Explain” enters the Top 20 @ No.15.
1st April 1965 – The band play Harrow Technical College Students Rag Week Dance supporting Donovan and Rod Stewart and The Soul Agents. The gig makes £350 for charity but is marred by a mini-riot caused by a ticket forgery scandal.
8th April 1965 – Lambert invites Virginia Ironside from the Daily Mail and writer Nik Cohn to a gig at the Olympia Ballroom in Reading. Townshend responds by smashing a £400 Rickenbacker and Moon trashes his drum kit. Unfortunately Lambert and the journalists had been enjoying a drink in the bar during this performance and much to Lambert’s annoyance they miss the spectacle.
10th April 1965 – The Who’s debut single breaks into the Top 10.
11th April 1965 – The Majestic Ballroom, Luton 13th & 14th April 1965 – Another recording session at IBC Studios.
15th April 1965 – Victoria Ballroom, Chesterfield 17th April 1965 – 1 week before their Town Hall appearance, “I Can’t Explain” reaches it’s highest chart position @ No.9 18th April 1965 – Civic Hall, Town Hall, Crawley
22nd April 1965 – Waterfront Club, Cliff Hotel, Southampton Friday 23rd April 1965 – Oasis Club, Manchester
Saturday 24th April 1965 – Lynx Youth Club, Boreham Wood followed by the “All Nite Rave” at a club in Tottenham. Sunday 25th April 1965 – Trade Union Hall, Watford  Monday 26th April 1965 – The day before completing their 16-week residency at The Marquee the band play the Bridgwater Town Hall.

In the pantheon of great British rock bands, the Who probably rate third in the so-called Holy Trinity, right below the Beatles and the Stones. So says some Internet biographer. There can be no doubt that The Who’s appearance at The Town Hall was the pinnacle of The Top Twenty’s achievements as no other band booked by the Alford agency made anywhere near the cultural impact that this lot did. In fact, it could be argued that they are the most significant artists of any genre to have played Bridgwater throughout this town’s history. The problem with this statement however is that it comes with the huge benefit of hindsight. At the time, this gig was nothing more than a typical Monday Night Top Twenty concert by a band who were on their debut UK tour and who just happened to have a single in the Top 10. One would imagine that some of the punters who frequented the Town Hall gigs on a regular basis knew who “The Who” were, but my guess is that for the majority this was “just another night out”. Credit should be given to Graham Alford for having the foresight to book them in the first place but no-one could possibly have predicted the band’s future and the fact that within just 4 years, The Who headlined Woodstock, possibly the most famous concert in rock history, is nothing short of astonishing. However, this concert almost never happened at all. Messrs Lambert & Stamp tried to pull the plug on The Who’s appearance in Bridgwater for reasons that are unclear. Maybe the group’s itinerary in the wake of their new found success was beginning to take it’s toll, consequently a cancellation was required to ease the pressure. The general consensus however, is that the band’s profile, thanks to impressive TV appearances on “Ready Steady Go!” and “Top Of The Pops” was on the up and up and with their debut single moving steadily towards the Top 10, playing some tin pot town in the middle of Somerset was suddenly no longer on the group’s agenda as they now had bigger fish to fry. Graham Alford, quite rightly, claimed breach of contract and The Who duly performed. It is rumoured that they may have left their mark however by trashing, in finest “rock star” tradition, their Royal Clarence Hotel room prior to departure though one suspects that this is nothing more than a local myth invented simply becuase it was the sort of behaviour you would expect from such a band. Put it this way……..if it DID happen then no-one told the press about it.

When The Who played Trowbridge, Townshend was adamant that the band should use their own sound system, despite the fact that the contract categorically stated that this could not happen. In the end, a compromise was reached. Alford agreed that the band could use their own set up but should their be any complaints from the audience that they couldn’t hear anything, The Who would only be paid half their fee. Townshend surprisingly agreed. The Bridgwater Mercury’s Mike Guy interviewed Pete Townshend backstage at their Town Hall gig. The interview was not published by the local paper. During the day of this gig, The Who collectively popped over to the local “Maynards” cafe for a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie. They were, apparently, arrogant and elusive. Eye witness Jane Lee says that were so “up themselves” that she was surprised that they managed to order anything!

3rd May 1965

THE RIOTS with Paul Vernon

After the Lord Mayor’s show……………………..comes the dust cart.

10th May 1965
Just Four Men

15th May 1965

CHET & THE TRIUMPHS – Bridgwater Town Hall

17th May 1965
Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers

24th May 1965

The Toggery Five were the first of two successive Top Twenty bands to appear at the Town Hall that were further products of the Manchester Beat scene. Formed in 1963 they are yet another example of a group who, despite being handed several promising opportunities, ended up on the pop music scrapheap. Formed from an almagamation of a number of minor local bands that included Gaye & The Guys and Lee Shondell & The Premiers of Beat, leader Mike Renshaw had been kicking around since 1958 having started out in a skiffle band called The Swallows. The Toggery’s were managed by one Mike Cohen who, apart from also handling The Hollies’ affairs, owned a clothes shop in Manchester’s city centre called “The Toggery”. The boutique became a focal point for a lot of local musicians and also enjoyed a trendy clientele that included visiting luminaries The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Due to the band’s close association with the shop, they were named accordingly by Cohen’s then girlfriend Jennifer Moss, who played Lucille Hewitt in Coronation Street. In September 1964, The Toggery Five made it to the final of Redifussion TV’s prestigious beat group competition “Ready Steady Win!” Chaired by Brian Epstein, it featured a selection of musical luminaries as judges and it’s ultimate aim according to the programme’s advertising blurb was to find “the group that would replace The Beatles” – no pressure there then. Bill Haley, Brian Matthew and Georgia Brown judged the final which carried a first prize of £1,000 worth of equipment, a recording contract with Decca, a publishing deal with Keith Prowse Music and a deal with a leading London entertainment agent called Harold Davidson. The Runners-up on the other hand were given a Commer Van! The band gave strong performances throughout the competition and emerged as favourites to win the coveted prize but they eventually lost out to a Harrow-based band called The Bo Street Runners. (The painfully obscure The Thyrds ironically finished behind the Toggery’s in the competition’s pecking order.)

However…. a chance meeting between band member Alan Doyle and Brian Epstein in 1967 revealed that the Toggery Five had in fact won the contest but were prevented from claiming first spot as they had signed to Parlophone Records during the process of making it to the final, which was, apparently, against the rules. It wasn’t all doom and gloom however, as The Toggery’s were rewarded for their endeavours by walking away with a new set of wheels! (which was, after all, a vital component for every aspiring 1960’s rock n’roll band) Undeterred, just 2 days after the final was aired they released their first single, and so began a brief but extremely rocky relationship with pop chart success. A John Renshaw original entitled “I’m Gonna Jump” was chosen for their debut, a suicidal tale of love won and subsequently lost. Auntie Beeb declared that the song’s lyrical content was too close to the bone for it’s sensitive listeners and promptly banned it. Instead of giving The Toggery’s some much needed publicity the ban only served to prevent the record from gaining airplay and the record sank without trace. The Toggery Five recorded their second single in January 1965, a song whose credentials seemed to suggest a major breakthrough. “I’d Rather Be With The Boys” was a discarded Andrew Oldham/Keith Richards tune that The Stones had declared “too poppy” to release themselves. It was given a polished Ron Richards production but despite Renshaw’s best John Lennon vocal (which is also strangely reminiscent of Liam Gallagher), it also failed to chart. The band needed a hit badly and were unexpectedly provided one when a Clint Ballard Jnr.song called “I’m Alive” was given to them by fellow Mancunian Wayne Fontana. Fontana had decided, unwisely as it happens, that the song wasn’t for him and presented it to the Toggery’s to record instead. It was cut by the band at Abbey Road studios but was sadly never released. Someone (the finger of suspicion seems to point towards manager Cohen) had come to the conclusion that it was too good a tune to be wasted on a band that no-one had ever heard of and it was promptly given to Cohen’s fellow clients The Hollies. They not only succeeded in obtaining a release date that prevented the Toggery’s from issuing their own version but took the record straight to No.1. This unfortunate example of the dog eat dog world of popular music appears to have been the proverbial final straw as far as The Toggery Five were concerned and after John Renshaw joined forces with his old mate Fontana in 1965 after the latter’s split with The Mindbenders, the band went through a period of uncertainty that resulted in several changes of personnel, musical style and even band name. They became The Toggery Soul Band and later Paul Young’s Toggery, but despite the latter line-up boasting the talents of future Jethro Tull members Mick Abrahams and Clive Bunker, they finally split during the latter part of 1966.

Toggery Five – I’d Much Rather Be With The Boys (1965)

Manchester group The Toggery Five were faced with a problem following their “Top 20” club appearance last Monday at the Town Hall, Bridgwater. After travelling from their home town for the engagement, they planned to stay the night at a local hotel befor emaking the return journey the next day. But all the hotels where they sought accommodation were full. The boys, who arrived in Bridgwater some three hours before they were due to go on stage, made straight for a snack bar, where they ordered double egg cheeseburgers. Then two members found their way to the public library at Binford Place to look up books on a couple of their favourite subjects – Buddhism and Black Magic! Back in the Town Hall lead guitarist Frank Renshaw talked to me about dressing room facilities in ballrooms. “Some of them are pretty disgraceful and often we have to crowd into a tiny little room. Many are dirty as well, but the dressing room at the Town Hall is quite satisfactory” he reassured. Frank said their fan club was thriving, and he recalled that two of it’s members live in Taunton. While the Toggery’s set up their equipment – worth about £2,500 – they talked excitedly about a recording session they had for later in the week, out of which they hope to get their next single. “This will be our third release” piped in Frank again. “We wrote the first one “I’m Gonna Jump” which came out on Parlophone in September, and the second disc “I’d Much Rather Be Out With The Boys” was composed by Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones and The Stones manager, Andrew Oldham. This new disc, called “Maybe” should be released in two weeks time. Our previous release got into the Caroline Top 50″ The group, formed four years ago and whose average age is 20, included such songs as “Too Much Monkey Business” and “Heartbreak Ago” in their Bridgwater performance. The other members of The Toggery Five are Graham Smith (drums), Ken Mills (bass), Paul Young (vocals) and Alan Doyle (rhythm)……and when I came away they were still looking for a hotel.
MIKE GUY – Bridgwater Mercury

31st May 1965

The Country Gentlemen are a band whose history uncannily shares a number of parallel developments with The Toggery Five. Like the Toggery’s, they were formed in Manchester in 1963 by a local musician with skiffle origins, and apart from both bands sharing the ignominity of having their debut single banned by the BBC, The Country Gentlemen, at a point in their career when they couldn’t get arrested, had a potential hit song “stolen” from them by The Hollies. They were formed by a local musician called Peter Cowap. Cowap, like The Toggery’s Alan Renshaw, had started out as a skiffle musician having been a member of The Moonrakers in the late 50s before joining Deke Bonner & The Tremors in 1961. A fine guitarist with a Chet Atkins style of picking, in 1962 he was recruited to play with Jimmy Justice, a reasonably successful British recording artist who had had minor hits with “Spanish Harlem” and “When My Little Girl Is Smiling”, but after a row between the two musicians Cowap left to form his own group, The Country Gentlemen. Named after a USA-built Gretsch guitar that Cowap played, the band were initially a trio, featuring Cowap on lead guitar & vocals, Nick Duval from Cowap’s old group Deke Bonner & The Tremors on bass, and Leo Laherty on drums. Like many bands before them, they played the local circuit, notably opening for The Beatles at “The Three Coins” in Manchester and “The Co-Op Hall” in Middleton. Having secured a deal with Decca Records in May 1963, Cowap came up with a “beat” arrangement of the medieval tune “Greensleeves” and with Mike Smith as producer it was released as the band’s debut single in November 1963. However……. those paragons of virtue the BBC frowned upon the idea of updating what they considered to be an almost sacred tune, and just as they had done with The Toggery Five’s first single, promptly banned it, killing it off commercially in the process . Cowap’s unusual arrangement was not wasted however as it was later copied by fellow Mancunians The Scorpions, who took the song to No.22 in Holland in 1965. Future Toggery Five member Alan Doyle augmented the band as temporary rhythm guitarist, and the band toured around the UK in late 1963/early 1964 as the backing group for Billie Davies, who had just hit big with “Tell Him”. Doyle didn’t last long but the band maintained their augmented line-up to become a 4-piece. After local musician and aspiring songwriter Graham Gouldman had turned up at a Country Gents rehearsal, he played them a demo of his song “Look Through Any Window”.

Cowap & Co. were particularly keen to record it as their next single, but once again The Hollies were given priority, and their version reached No. 4 in the UK charts in 1965. Gouldman nevertheless took the band under his wing and The Country Gents resurfaced on record that same year, backing ex-Chimes singer Little Frankie on a trio of singles for the Columbia label, some of which were co-written by the future 10CC musician. Frankie, like most female “16-year-old teenage sensations” (as she was billed by the Bridgwater Mercury), had more than a touch of the Brenda Lee’s about her and one single with The Gents – “I’m Not Gonna Do It” – was not only a dead ringer for Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s” but was an energetic number that may have acheived greater success if it wasn’t for the fact that the vocals were recorded completely out of sync with the music! Despite boasting Gouldman as producer and the management team responsible for the career of Herman’s Hermits, not one of Little Frankie’s releases managed to find their way to the charts. The group continued to work with Frankie until 1967 but as Peter Cowap had started to gain recognition for his musicianship and song-writing skills, it was only a matter of time before they split. Cowap wrote songs and played on sessions for a number of artists during the 60s, including The Measles, The Downliners Sect, The Tony Jackson Group, The Magic Lanterns, The Pop Art and Herman’s Hermits. He wrote “How To Find A Lover” for Graham Gouldman’s group The Mockingbirds in 1966 and continued his close association with the producer by also appearing with Gouldman in the bands High Society and The Manchester Mob. Cowap later became a solo artist on Pye, before joining Herman’s Hermits in 1971.

Little Frankie & The Country Gentlemen – Make-A-Love (1965)

1st June 1965

That universally acclaimed Liverpudlian group The Beatles, once again in the news after it was announced that they had been awarded the M.B.E. paved the way for many other groups, some of whom have done well while others have got lost in the rush. This upsurge has been most noticeable in the provinces: Bridgwater, for example, now has more amateur groups than ever, and many achieve great popularity with local audiences. Now they have the opportunity of taking part in what promises to be an exciting contest. “The Battle Of The Beat 1965” is to be held at the Town Hall, Bridgwater in July and is open to all amateur “Pop” groups in Bridgwater and district. To be incorporated with a dance, the contest will offer a prize of £25 to the winners and £10 to the runners-up. A panel of three judges will award marks on appearance, musical ability, etc. and competitors are expected to be asked to perform three numbers of their own choice, which can include self-composed items. So that they may be entered for the contest, all groups are advised to write immediately to the organisers Reeves Promotions, 68 Belle Vue Road, Salisbury, who will forward further details about “The Battle of the Beat 1965”

14th June 1965

Another band to file under the “who on earth are they?” category, they were billed as “Pye Recording Artists from TV, Radio and Films – STUART, RICHARD, GEOFF & JAMES all add up to SHELLEY (a group that is on the way up)”. All I know is that they were originally called The Sabres and were formed in 1964 by an Eastbourne resident called Dick Plant. They enjoyed a big following in Scandinavia with Norway in particular going “Shelley crazy” during a 1966 tour but apart from that, there’s nothing further to add. Good job our roving reporter Mike Guy was on hand to obtain the lowdown on this band. 

THE WORLD OF POP – Shelley group at Town Hall
The new continental-type road signs which are appearing in the streets of Bridgwater are, for the present, confusing until motorists are able to tell without hesitancy what they mean. Drivers unfamiliar in the town find it twice as difficult, among them the road manager of the Eastbourne music group Shelley. Dave Hunt was driving the group to the Town Hall for their debut performance at the “Top 20” Club last Monday and nearly got booked for parking! Finding his way to the rear of the theatre at Clare Street, a one-way street, he drove the van the wrong way down the road which has the new “No Entry” signs. Dave immediately stopped and pushed the van the rest of the way. Local teenagers who saw Shelley can claim to be the first in the country to see the new look of this group. Up to now the four lads have appeared on stage in immaculate suits, but for future engagements they will wear casual clothes. Bridgwater was first on the list, and as the curtains drew back, it was tee shirts and light-coloured slacks that the audience saw. They brought a refreshing change to group performances at the “Top 20” club by introducing numbers not normally included in “pop” group programmes. Their first act was more conventional – one up-tempo number following another in quick succession with few announcements, but in their second act they included slower numbers, associated with such singers as Frank Sinatra, weaving them into their performance almost unobtrusively. Shelley told me they even include such classical music works as “Sabre Dance” on some dates. I was curious to discover why the group had chosen the unusual singular name “Shelley” and 20-year old Stuart Hinchcliffe (bass and vocals), who took on duties as spokesman for the interview, came up with the answer. “The famous poet came from the Eastbourne area – our home town – and we thought it would make a good name for the group. Calling ourselves The Shelley’s or The Shellies did not seem right” Recording for Pye, Shelley’s second disc “Stairway To A Star” created a great deal of interest, but failed to get off the ground. Now they hope it will be third time lucky for their new one “Where Has Your Smile Gone” due for end of July release. The boys have held the disc back until then because they are shortly off on their first overseas tour to Germany and, naturally, want to tie in television and radio spots here when it is released. Shelley was formed three years ago at a grammar school and the other parts are Richard Plant (19), lead and vocals, James Hazelden (also 19), rhythm and vocals, and drummer Geoff Cooper, the third 19-year-old.
Mike Guy – Bridgwater Mercury

Shelley – Stairway To A Star (1965)

21st June 1965

Formed in 1961, The Dennisons were your proverbial R&B based Merseybeat group, albeit one of the youngest on Merseyside. They were initially influenced by The Ravens (later known as Faron’s Flamingos), the resident band at their local youth club. The Dennisons began their career with a Saturday night residency at the BICC Club in Melling and quickly obtained a local reputation that suggested further Dennison-mania.

Bob Wooler, the Cavern DJ stated in Mersey Beat magazine that “They’ve created the biggest impression on Merseyside since The Beatles” and soon afterwards the band signed to management company Kennedy Street Enterprises and turned professional in early 1963. The Dennisons did what all Liverpool-based bands had done before them, making many appearances at the Cavern Club, some with The Fab Four. Their popularity on Merseyside soon attracted a lot of attention and they duly signed to Decca. Their debut single “Be My Girl”, apparently written backstage at the Cavern, appeared in August 1963 and reached No 46 in the UK charts whilst the follow-up, a version of Rufus Thomas’ “Walkin’ The Dog” fared slightly better, reaching No 36. For a band who were being touted on Merseyside as “the next big thing” these mediocre chart positions were hardly earth shattering and after foolishly turning down what would have been their meal ticket to success – the opportunity to record Lennon and McCartney’s “All My Loving”, The Dennisons career faded into obscurity. A final single, the Shel Talmy-produced “Nobody Like My Babe” appeared in July 1964 but did not chart at all. The band eventually split in 1967 but succeeded in leaving behind at least one lasting legacy, albeit not a musical one. After the band’s demise, drummer Clive Hornby became an actor and in 1980 landed the part of Jack Sugden in the popular TV soap, Emmerdale Farm. In 1997 the remaining three Dennisons were reunited for Clive Hornby’s appearance on ‘This Is Your Life’. Hornby sadly passed away in July 2008.

Dancers who attend the “Top 20” Club meetings each Monday at the Town Hall, Bridgwater, play a more important part than they think. The majority of guest groups have an extensive repertoire from which to compile a programme that will appeal to the majority. But the groups carefully listen to audience reaction after each number and if they find certain songs are better received than others, they will – during the interval – rearrange the second act to please their supporters. One of these considerate groups is The Dennisons, a quartet of Liverpool boys who gave their first performance in the town on Monday last week – and a very competent performance it was. Their first session on stage included the Gospel-flavoured “Got To Get You Off My Mind” which is associated with the coloured singer Solomon Burke, at present appearing in this country. Quite obviously, our local popular music-lovers are well acquainted with the composition becuase they accorded it a warm reception, liking the infectious lazy beat and lyrical construction. When I called at The Dennisons’ dressing room during their break they were making a decision to include another of Mr.Burke’s recordings in the closing act. “We frequently change our programme to suit audiences” 19 year-old Steve McLaren, lead guitarist and the only fair-haired member of the group said. “In some parts of the country they only prefer one type of song, and elsewhere something quite different” Certainly versatility is the right word to apply to The Dennisons, which is probably why they manage to cater for so many tastes. Perrenials like “Always” and “Making Whoopee” and show numbers such as “I Could Have Danced All Night” receive just as much attention from the group as beat tunes. A forthright team, they have strong views about musicians appearing with long hair and scruffy clothes. These are two things which the boys cannot tolerate. An unusual factor about the group is that the father of drummer Clive Hornby (21) travels with them on all dates as road manager and keeps a fatherly eye on the boys. Would Mr.Hornby advise other boys to take up a similar career to his son’s? “A few years ago I might have said “Yes” but now it is twice as hard for a new group to get known nationally” he said, as his son, together with Steve, Terry Carson (21, bass) and Ray Scragg (19, rhythm) returned to their audience. The second half featured their Decca hit, “Walkin The Dog” amongst others.
MIKE GUY – Bridgwater Mercury

The Dennisons – Nobody Like My Babe (1964)

28th June 1965

Sheridan’s Nightriders were among the forefront of the many bands that made up the Birmingham beat scene but despite obtaining an excellent local reputation, never achieved national notoriety. They are however, of great historic interest as they included within their ranks two extremely famous Midlands musicians, one of which was in the band at the time of their Town Hall gig. Mike Tyler started his career at the age of 19 by playing piano at a pub called the Maypole in the Kings Heath area of Birmingham. He was asked to provide accompaniment for an unknown singer in a local talent contest, which was designed to find “The Midlands Elvis Presley” but when the aforementioned vocalist failed to turn up, Mike took his place and walked away with the first prize. Soon afterwards he was asked to join local band The Chequers and after a number of gigs they morphed into Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders and soon established an extremely healthy reputation locally as one of the most accomplished bands on the Midlands beat scene. In June 1963, Shadows producer and songwriter Norrie Paramor arrived in Birmingham on a talent scouting mission and after extensive auditions had been conducted at the Moat House club in the city centre, 13 bands were chosen as potential signings. The Nightriders were amongst this baker’s dozen of local talent though Sheridan was somewhat surprised that the band had impressed as they had chosen to perform a tongue-in-cheek version of Bing Crosby’s “Gone Fishin” at the Moat House performance. (Amongst the bands who were not on Paramour’s “hit” list but who later achieved more success than Sheridan’s combo, was The M & B 5 – later known as The Moody Blues.) The Nightriders were duly signed to the Columbia label (along with Pat Wayne & the Beachcombers and Keith Powell & The Valets) and a couple of singles, “Tell Me What You’re Gonna Do”, and “Please Mister Postman” (the latter recorded on the same day President Kennedy was assassinated) were issued but despite healthy local sales and some national radio interest in the second single, neither charted. In early 1964, The Nightriders respected lead guitar player, Big Al Johnson, left the band and was replaced by a young whippersnapper by the name of Royston Wood. Roy Wood was born in Birmingham on November 8, 1947, had started playing drums and harmonica at an early age, turning to the guitar after being influenced by the twanging tremelo of Hank Marvin. At the tender age of 15 he joined his first band -The Falcons – and almost immediately started to write his own material. By 1963 he had become a member of Gerry Levene & The Avengers, a group that also included future Moody Blues drummer Graeme Edge but Wood’s association with this band lasted for approximately four months before he left to join Sheridan’s Nightriders. After answering an ad in the local Birmingham Post & Mail, Roy was chosen out of about a dozen applicants and his talent as a guitarist and singer became immediately noticeable. Sheridan however admits that he didn’t want Wood in his group initially but was eventually outvoted by the other band members. The first Nightriders single to be recorded with Wood was The Shirelles “What A Sweet Thing That Was” released in April 1964. In early 1965, Mike Sheridan & The Nightriders did the beat group’s equivalent of national service by playing Germany, and upon their return, changed their name to Mike Sheridan’s Lot releasing another unsuccessful single “Here I Stand” in the process. Despite Roy Wood’s increasing influence over the group, their next single, the extremely poptastic “Take My Hand” not only featured Roy on vocals but the “B”-side “Make Them Understand” was the first Roy Wood original to feature on record.

However, the eventual failure of a spirited cover version of Jackie De Shannon’s “Don’t Turn Your Back On Me” in early 1966 prompted Wood to leave the band to become a founding member of The Move. The single, produced by Beatle engineer and future Pink Floyd producer Norman “Hurricane” Smith was expected to do well with Smith himself pronouncing in true George Martin style that the Nightriders could have a No.1 record on their hands. He was, unfortunately, wrong and the single’s failure knocked the stuffing out of all concerned. Sheridan carried on as the frontman for a short time after Wood’s defection but he too jumped ship soon afterwards and for a short while became a milkman whilst planning his next musical adventure. The remaining band members continued under the name The Nightriders and it was at this point that the second significant member of the group entered the fray. A young guitarist named Jeff Lynne, a native of Shard End, joined in response to another advertisement in the local paper. A veteran of local bands The Andicaps and The Chads (later known as The Sundowners) Lynne quickly took control of the band and after the release of a final Nightriders single on Polydor entitled “It’s Only The Dog”, were re-named The Idle Race, and thus began Lynne’s long and tremendously successful career. Mike Sheridan continued to perform around the Midlands for a while both as Mike Sheridan’s New Lot, (they released a single in 1966) and as part of a duo with The Move’s Rick Price called, unsurprisingly, Sheridan-Price. Sheridan eventually retired from performing professionally in the early 70’s to start a successful business selling potatoes whilst an even more unlikely job found him teaming up with Roy Wood once again to run Wizzard’s fan club during the latter’s successful mid-70’s career.

Mike Sheridan & The Nightriders – Don’t Turn Your Back On Me (1966)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.