3rd January 1966
The Pack were a band who were not so much obscure but temporary. They appear to have released one solitary single on Columbia in 1965 – a version of The Lovin Spoonful’s debut “Do You Believe In Magic”? and after receiving extensive airplay on both Radio’s London & Caroline (to whom the song was presented whilst the band were reclining on Mickie Most’s yacht) they briefly threatened to outsell the original recording, reaching a peak of No.22 on the pirate charts.
However neither The Pack or The Lovin Spoonful’s version of this song cracked the official BBC Top 40 and after it’s release the band promptly disappeared. They came originally from the tiny Wiltshire town of Calne and credential-wise were well-set, boasting the aforementioned Most as producer and future Led Zeppelin manager/henchman Peter Grant as “Business Manager”. Perhaps the most interesting feather in the band’s cap personnel wise was ex-Johnny Kidd & The Pirates bassist Brian Gregg. The co-writer of “Shakin All Over”, was talked into joining the band in 1964 and eventually took over as the group’s manager. “It’s second time round for Brian Gregg” “Do You Believe In Magic?” was a good start on disc for The Pack. It didn’t shatter the charts, but made enough impression to get the group’s name known. They are five from the West Country and as we said in “Have You Heard?” last month, they are the first from this part of the world to have a hit since the days of The Cougars and The Eagles. Without any doubt, the bloke responsible for their success is Brian Gregg, bass guitarist with the group, who is no stranger to the business having played with Johnny Kidd, Billy Fury, Eden Kane and The Tornadoes to name a few, apart from composing “Shakin All Over”. Brian left Tin Pan Alley about a year ago to move to Calne in Wiltshire to run a club of his called “The Pad”. In the process of booking groups he came across The Pack. He was impressed with them and on his next visit to London told his friend Mickie Most about the group and asked if he had any suitable material for them to record. The result was “Do You Believe In Magic?” and Brian was asked to play on the session. All the boys were mad keen on him joining the group full-time after hearing the playbacks. Brian accepted and is back once again in the hustle and bustle of group life. Brian, aged 24, could be onto a very good thing because, although the group play mostly rhythm and blues on stage, they can produce a very commercial sound in the studio. They are a colourful enthusiastic lot – Andy Rickell, 19, was an electronics testing engineer before turning professional and plays rhythm; Ian McKay, London-born, a keen antiques preserver and a fan of Ray Charles plays lead guitar; Bob Duke, 19, who also worked in electronics before turning to music is the drummer; and doing all the lead singing is Rod Goodway, 19, who used to work in his father’s grocery shop. He had a narrow escape when he was younger being nearly killed in an accident. It was seven weeks before he regained consciousness. How about the follow-up to “Do You Believe In Magic?” Mickie Most will again produce this, and has great faith in the number he has found for the group. It’s an American song called “Searching For Some Place”.
10th January 1966
The Swinging Blue Jeans
“THEIR DISC SLAMMED”
Pop blast-off at The Top 20 Club, Bridgwater, last Monday when The Swinging Blue Jeans starred. The group had just released a brand new disc called “Don’t Make Me Over”, a Burt Bacharach composition previously recorded several years ago by Bacharach protege Dionne Warwick—the famed American songthrush. Two evenings before the group appeared in the town their disc was, to put it bluntly, slammed by the “Juke Box Jury” panel when it was played on the programme. Catherine Boyle said she didn’t like The S.B.J.’s version, Peter Murray gave a similar opinion, and Dee Dee Warwick was guarded in her views (which was only natural since she is Dionne’s sister!] Not surprising then that they voted it a “miss”. But the most outspoken remarks came from the fourth panel member, Paul Jones, who as fans will know, is lead vocalist with another top recording group, Manfred Mann. He said of the Swinging Blue Jeans 1966 version of “Don’t Make Me Over”: “They have destroyed a beautiful song. Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick created something beautiful with this song but The Swinging Blue Jeans have turned it into a nursery rhyme. It’s dreadful!” The loaded remarks against the disc from people “in the business” does not end there. Come in Cilla Black, one of this country’s top girl singers, who herself recorded a Bacharach composition recorded by Dionne Warwick “Anyone Who Had A Heart”, and got a number one hit with it. She guested on Radio Caroline’s “Star Verdict” the day after Juke Box Jury. Again The Swinging Blue Jeans disc was played, and Cilla—while not being as controversial as Paul Jones—said: “I like most of their records, but not this one.’ At Bridgwater Ray Ennis (S.B.J. vocalist) replied to the critics “They are entitled to their opinions,” he said., “but for Paul Jones to say our version is a destruction of the song is a bit much. How can he say this when he has recorded numbers like “Do Wah Diddy”’ “It is a good number and one which we wanted to record for a long time. We have not set out to copy Dionne Warwick’s disc. We have adapted it to a group sound. “Anyway, we have just come back from Paris and when we over there we met Dionne. She said she liked our version and has asked us to send her a copy of the record. She also told us she hoped it was a hit” This opinion, coming from Dionne herself, puts things in their right perspective. Personally, I prefer Dionne’s stylistic rendering to The S.B.J.’s, but I like this new version and hope it will become a hit. I think it will! Certainly the group would be glad of a hit after a lean 12 months, hit-parade speaking. They were one of the first Liverpool groups to emerge when The Beatles got to the top, and had hit after hit. Although they have been absent from our charts for a while, massive chart successes have continued in places like Israel, Australia, and the Scandinavian countries. At home the adulation from girl supporters goes on at near fever pitch. For instance, Top 20 club members gave their warmest welcome to a visiting group I have seen for a while. the applause and screams were justified. The group has a solid, entertaining sound, and Norman Kuhlke’s drumming is always worth hearing. The boys decided not to make the long journey back to Merseyside after the Bridgwater performance. Instead they stayed overnight at a Burnham hotel. “We never book in at hotels in the places where we are appearing because of possible worrying from the fans” explained Norman. Yes, The Swinging Blue Jeans are still swinging – very much so.
MIKE GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
11th January 1966
“TOP 20” CLUB FACES CRISIS
Shock news that the “Top 20” Club beat shows and dances at the Town Hall, Bridgwater, have reached a grave, financial crisis came last week. For six years Mr.Graham Alford, of Trowbridge, has been presenting the shows regularly on Mondays and provides the town’s teenagers with their sole source of “live” professional entertainment. Since the Town Council increased the rental charge of the Town Hall he has been unable to make the shows pay and he wrote asking for a reduction. But at their meeting on Wednesday the Council turned down his request on recommendation by the Commerce and Development Committee. While several hundred youngsters danced to top group The Pack, unaware that the future of the Club is in jeopardy. Graham was explaining to me backstage the position he faces in 1966. “When I started the Club the hire charge was approximately 8 guineas. Then in June last year the Council doubled the charge to 16 guineas. On top of this I have to pay for lighting, heating and other expenses which raises the cost to about £25. “On a good night we may get 400 teenagers, which, on an average admission price of 5s, brings in £100. But by the time I’ve paid a group their fee of £75 – and this is the fee you have to pay for a reasonable group – plus the £25 for expenses and the hire charge, it means that I am just about breaking even. “And this is on a good night. Now we rarely get 400 teenagers along; since last May the number has ranged from 300-350. It’s gone back to what we used to get five years ago before The Beatles came along and started the group boom. This slackening off of audiences at pop shows and dances is common all over the country.” Mr.Alford went on: “I am not complaining about the size of the audience. In relation to the size of the town this is a fair figure and I do not expect to get 700-800 here every week. But a 50 per cent reduction on the hire charge would make the difference profit and loss. “When the Council increased the charge we had been getting execeptionally good audiences – between 600 and 700 – and I did not mind paying double the price of the hall. Then they steadily dropped, and after giving this a six months trial period I cannot go on running the Club at a loss.” Did this mean that the “Top 20” club xould have to close in Bridgwater? “I do not want to have to do that. I get tremendous pleasure from presenting these shows each week, quite aside from the business angle. This is the only entertainment of it’s kind in Bridgwater and the teenagers have told me how much they enjoy it.” Mr.Alford thought the only solution now was to approach the Council again, asking if they would reduce the hire charge of the hall if he ran the shows for charity. Mr.Alford also runs “Top 20” Clubs in Trowbridge and Chippenham.On their way to Bridgwater from their headquarters at Calne, Wilts, The Pack (guest group for the evening) were fortunate to escape serious injury when the car in which they were travelling collided with another vehicle in a patch of dense fog at Shepton Mallet. Next week the Salisbury group with the long and unusual name Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich star at the club. The group currently have a huge chart success with their disc “You Make It Move”. Coming shortly – The Alan Price Set. As many fans will know, Alan played organ with The Animals.
MIKE GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
Nobody knew it at the time, but The Top 20’s days as a provider of live entertainment were indeed numbered. Gigs continued throughout 1966 but became more sporadic as the year progressed.
17th January 1966
DAVE DEE, DOZY, BEAKY, MICK & TICH
Alternatively known either by their full name, the acronym DDDBM&T, or simply “The Dozies”, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich were the latest in a series of Top Twenty bookings who originated from the county of Wiltshire. The band’s story began in the late 50s as “Ronnie Blonde & The Beatnicks”, a conglomeration of Salisbury musicians that had come together from a number of local bands. Trevor Davies (Dozy) was an original member of the Beatnicks whilst Ian Amey (Tich) arrived from Eddy and the Strollers with David Harman (Dave Dee) and John Dymond (Beaky) coming from the Big Boppers. It is unknown as to who Ronnie Blonde was but when he failed to appear at one of the band’s gigs, Dave Harman took over the vocal duties and became their front man. With the addition of drummer Michael Wilson (Mick) towards the tail end of 1961, Harman’s promotion necessitated a change of name and the band became Dave Dee & The Bostons. By this time they had already turned professional, despite the fact that it was to be several years before they met with any success, various group members having given up their day jobs in order to find fame and fortune. Harman/Dee in particular had already succeeded in cementing his place in rock n’roll myth by being first on the scene of the car crash that killed Eddie Cochran and seriously injured Gene Vincent. Dee was a police cadet at the time and was summoned to the accident after a burst tyre had hurled the rock stars car into a lamp-post near Chippenham. Dave “apparently” salvaged Eddie’s Gretsch guitar from the wreckage and gave it a strum or two before it was returned to Cochran’s family in the USA several weeks later. The Bostons paid their dues in both Britain and on the continent, with a proverbial stint in Germany proving most useful, playing venues such as The Storyville in Cologne, and the Top Ten Clubs in both Hanover and Hamburg. Whilst the exhausting workload succeeded in sharpening the band’s musical chops, by 1964 they were still without a recording contract and were in danger of being forgotten, especially as most of their contemporaries had already signed deals by this time. But they were still in demand as a live band and a summer season in the Butlins holiday resort of Clacton-On-Sea not only gave them a continued source of revenue but eventually led to the big breakthrough. Moonlighting from their Holiday Camp show they were booked for a gig in Swindon as support to The Honeycombs and were spotted by the headlining band’s manager Alan Blaikley. Blaikley and partner Ken Howard took them on and aware that the group needed a gimmick to set them apart from the rest, instantly changed their name to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Despite sounding like an alternative list of Snow White’s Dwarfs, they were, in fact, the band’s real nicknames (Michael Wilson, it could be argued, got off lightly.) The ruse worked as it not only got the group noticed but also secured them a recording contract with Fontana. They were originally teamed with Joe Meek, but the experience was not successful. One of Meek’s more eccentric production techniques was to record bands at a very slow speed and then quicken the tempo of the performance artificially in the studio prior to cutting the disc. He had used this bizarre method with great success on a number of occasions, most significantly on The Tornadoes “Telstar” but when Dee and Co refused to co-operate with the producer, Meek threw them out of the studio. They were eventually teamed with Steve Rowland and in November 1964 cut their first single at the London Phillips-Studios. Their first 45, “No Time” was, it has to be said, pretty awful and seems to have been influenced by that contemporary giant of popular music Richard Strauss, whilst the 2nd single “All I Want” was at least a little more contemporary. Neither however were successful and the lack of chart action, coupled with a bank balance hovering dangerously close to the red, took it’s toll. On the verge of splitting up, managers Howard & Blaikley cajoled the band into continuing and in late 1965 their perseverance was rewarded when their third single “You Make It Move”, a Howard/Blaikley original, reached No.26 in the UK charts.
With Howard & Blaikley now responsible for all of the band’s songs, in March 1966 “Hold Tight”, another of their creations, finally broke the band reaching No.4 in the UK. Released during the year in which England famously won the World Cup, the song’s sturdy opening beat, complete with handclaps, was taken directly from the football terrace and was an early indication of Howard & Blaikley’s penchant for producing manufactured material. The rather similar sounding follow-up, “Hideaway”, also reached the Top 10 in June but from this point onwards, Howard and Blaikley became aware of the danger of repeating a winning formula and alongside some conventional releases adopted a bizarre, but nevertheless successful, process of using the band as a platform for a series of kitsch novelty songs. These were, for want of a better word “cosmopolitan” by nature but were cartoonish in their delivery. The slightly salacious “Bend It” – the lyrics were altered for the USA’s consumption – absorbed Zorba The Greek, “Save Me” channelled a Latin cha-cha rhythm – “Okay” introduced a Balearic gypsy dance – their crowning moment “The Legend of Xanadu”, a No.1 in 1968, had a Mexican tilt that famously used that under-developed percussive instrument, the bullwhip whilst the equally ridiculous “Zabadak” seemingly had no idea of it’s country of origin, and contained the memorable chorus “Zabadak Karakakora Kakarakak – Zabadak – Shai Shai Skagalak” However absurd these records were, the band enjoyed a healthy stint at the top with 12 consecutive hits and continued to be successful until Dee, apparently concerned about the band’s lack of credibility, left to pursue both a solo and an acting career in 1969. The remaining band members continued, with little success, under the name DBM&T until they called it a day in 1972. Dee returned to the fold for a brief reunion in 1974 and in later years became an A&R man for WEA, famously turning down The Sex Pistols in 1976. He was also a justice of the peace in Cheshire up until 2008 but sadly died in January 2009 after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer.
ALMOST STOPPED THE SHOW!
Teenagers who ecstatically greeted the star group at the “Top 20 Club” last Monday little realised that they were being analysed by the guest recording artistes. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich—for that is the name of the group in question—are the most systematic outfit yet to appear at the Club. Dave Dee explained how the scrutinising of the audience helped them present an act that almost stopped the show at Bridgwater – an act containing real variety, top songs or today and yesterday comedy, and impressions. “Anyone can get up on a stage and strum away at a guitar. We try and give young people something more than beat tunes. It is a case of keeping them interested. The girls are usually all right because they come to look at a group anyway, but we want to get the boys interested as well” said Dave. “First the rest of the group go on and play some numbers they can all dance to. Then I come on stage and sing with them. By that time most of the audience is interested and then we can try and give them different things, like throwing in a comedy sketch, or doing a few impersonations. It usually works. I hope it will tonight,” remarked Dave hopefully. Dave and the group need not have worried, for the reaction of Club members was fantastic. After the fans had been won over by the group, Dave appeared and they went into the comedy part of the act. Everyone stopped dancing to watch the group impersonate such fellow stars as Herman, The Who, Kathy Kirby, and The Walker Brothers, and they continued to have the audience in stitches with an hilarious Western sketch formed around the number “High Noon.” During the interval Dave revealed how they had analysed the fans. “We sensed that they enjoyed the comedy and so we included more of it. If it had not gone down so well then obviously we would have had to change material and tried them with something else” Why had the group chosen such a long name for themselves? ‘ Originally they were known as Dave Dee and The Bostons, said Dave, but they thought that stringing together all their nicknames would be more unusual. This had it drawbacks at first, but once people got to know the group it actually aided their popularity. It was as Dave Dee and The Bostons that the group first appeared at the Top 20 Club more than two years ago. They all come from Salisbury, and have been professional for three years, so this is a tried ant trusted group. Along the way they made two discs, which didn’t get into the hit parade and then it was third time lucky because ” You Make It Move’ has become a huge hit. Currently, the disc is way up in the local chart, and shows in all of the national lists. The song was written by the Howard • Blakely team, who penned the boys’ previous “A” sides and their next one, called “Hold Tight” and scheduled for February release. Dave Dee believes in recording a sound which can be reproduced on the stage. Now ‘suddenly Dave Dee and his group are in demand, and in a few weeks they start their first big nation-wide package show, sharing the bill with two top American singers, Gene Pitney and Len Barry. Soon there will be no excuse for not knowing their name. How could anyone forget a title like Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich.’ MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
Due to the somewhat inclement cold snap that Bridgwater was suffering at the time of this gig, the band were asked to prepare for the concert by getting changed in the Town Hall’s kitchen. As this was being used at the time by the providers of the evening’s refreshments, Dave Dee & Co had to suffer the embarrassment of disrobing in front of the caterers. The idea of the group providing Brian Rix-type merriment with various band members running around in their underpants perhaps takes their idea of “comedy entertainment” a little too far.
24th January 1966
LES FLEUR DE LYS
Les Fleur De Lys (the English translation means “Flower Of Leaves”) were a band with an interesting and somewhat complicated history. This is partially due to a succession of personnel changes that occurred within the band’s 5-year career span but they were also a group with a split personality that adopted, particularly during the latter stages of their career, a number of various aliases and musical genres. Formed in late 1964 in Southampton they were first and foremost a prime exponent of “Freakbeat”, a term that I have used previously but whose meaning has yet to be explained. “Freakbeat” as a musical genre was invented in the 1980’s by music journalist Phil Smee and was used to describe a number of groups and artists that transcended the period between mod and psychedelia. “Freakbeat” reached it’s peak in 1966/67 but as most of the bands that fell into this category appear to have had desperately short careers, there are no real examples of an archetypal freakbeat band obtaining mass public acceptance. The Fleurs are a group that most aficianados of the genre would regard with awe, but during their 5 years together they released just 8 singles and shared another common thread amongst most “Freakbeat” artists – a lack of commercial success. In 1965, after being spotted at a London gig, they secured a recording contract with Andrew Loog-Oldham’s hip and happening Immediate label and, given Jimmy Page as a producer, issued their first single, a version of Buddy Holly’s “Moondreams” which sank without trace. The band disbanded almost directly afterwards, but regrouped around drummer Keith Guster (in fact Guster is the only musician to have remained with the band until they broke up in 1969). New recruits at this point included pianist Pete Sears, a musician who eventually played on almost every one of Rod Stewart’s solo albums up to 1975 and who later joined both Journey and Jefferson Starship and bassist Gordon Haskell – the same grey-bearded gentleman whose 2001 No.2 hit “How Wonderful You Are” became one of the most played record in Radio 2’s history. Along with guitarist Phil Sawyer and with Page once again handling the production chores, this new 4-piece line-up released the excellent “Circles”, a Pete Townshend song that The Who had recorded but which was only included on the USA version of their debut album “My Generation”.
Despite receiving heavy rotation on the Pirate radio stations, once again the general public couldn’t be bothered and the band responded by augmenting their line-up with vocalist Chris Andrews. This is not, incidentally, the “Yesterday Man” Chris Andrews but a singer who, like Steve Marriott, had been an ex-child actor who had once appeared in the 1964 London production of Oliver. A move to Polydor in the summer of 1966 appeared to give the band a new lease of life but more personnel changes saw the unreliable Sears sacked and guitarist Sawyer replaced by Bryn Haworth, a fine musician and John Peel favourite who appeared on the DJ’s show as a solo artist extensively throughout 1974 & 1975. This 3rd line-up released “Mud In Your Eye”, another fine but consequently un-chartworthy 45 and it was at this point that the band began to branch out. The group were introduced to a producer/manager called Frank Fenter. Fenter had been responsible for a young South African singer called Sharon Tandy, who in turn became the first white female vocalist to sign with the famous Memphis-based soul label Stax. Fenter employed the Fleurs as Tandy’s backing band and they appeared on at least 3 of her Atlantic singles as well as supporting the singer on a tour of Holland.
It was through their association with Tandy that they also succeeded in providing soul giants Aretha Franklin & Isaac Hayes with musical muscle during their respective tours of the UK. In the spring of 1967, Les Fleur De Lys underwent a further transformation, recording a single with friend and guitarist Rod Lynton under the name Rupert’s People. Rupert’s People were another Frank Fenter creation, the Lynton-penned “Reflections Of Charles Brown” was the outcome of their collaboration, a none-too-subtle rip-off of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” (which itself took it’s inspiration from “Air On A G String”) Despite it’s startling lack of originality, it was a fine record and in certain parts of Europe it proved successful. The problem was that neither Lynton or The Fleurs were interested in promoting it (vocalist Chris Andrews being the exception to the rule) which left the band’s manager with a conundrum that was only solved by employing an entirely new band (featuring Lynton) to plug the single’s release. Despite the purchase of expensive advertising jingles on Radio Caroline, the song still failed to make an impression in the UK and the beleagured manager responded by sacking his scratch band, replacing them with yet another set of musicians who then recorded two more singles under the Rupert’s People monicker.
As for The Fleurs, they continued as a three-piece, occasionally working with Sharon Tandy both on record and radio (in particular a John Peel “Top Gear” session in October 1967) whilst as Les Fleur De Lys further unsuccessful attempts were made to crack the Top 40. Singles included “I Can See The Light” with Bryn Haworth on lead vocals, the rather uninspiring “Tick Tock”, released under the pseudonym Shyster, and a 1968 piece of Gordon Haskell lyrical whimsy entitled “Gong With A Luminous Nose”, based on a nonsense poem by Edward Lear. In demand as a backing band (they appeared on albums by Donnie Elbert and William E.Kimber as well as issuing a single with the mysterious Waygood Ellis.) Haskell eventually left due to lack of commercial success, whilst further personnel changes plus a move to Atlantic Records appeared to dilute the group’s direction still further. Final releases included the Stax-flavoured “Stop Crossing The Bridge” – a record under the name of Chocolate Frog called “Butchers And Bakers”, and finally the Bryn Haworth-penned “You’re Just A Liar”, a track that looked ahead to the “rock” years of the 1970’s. Les Fleur De Lys’ colourful but ultimately unsuccessful career finally came to an end in 1969 but they are still regarded reverentially by followers of mid-60’s beat music.
GROUPS NOT ALWAYS TO BLAME!
Record buyers who feel that a top pop group does not sometimes record the right kind of material should not always blame the group itself. Very often the choice lies with the artistes’ recording manager, and the stars have little or no say in the matter. Nine times out of ten the recording manager – strange to say – knows more about the current trends than the groups. He may decide that song “A” has more chance of becoming a hit than song “B”, even though the group prefers the second number. Taking the advice of their recording manager has often resulted in “surprise” chart successes for groups. But in the case of Les Fleurs De Lis (who starred at the Top Twenty Club last Monday) this did not work. Jimmy Page, their recording manager, said the boys’ debut disc should be a re-make of the old Buddy Holly ballad “Moondreams” The disc was duly released on Andrew Oldham’s Immediate label last November – and was not a hit. Now Les Fleur De Lys will be aiming for the charts again in March, and this time hope to make the top side one of their own compositions. There is also the possibility that it will come out on a different label. For the second week in succession a group has appeared at the club with an unusual name. In this instance the boys were given a number of group names by their manager and they picked on the French title. But leader Frank Smith was unable to shed any light on why the manager included the title in his “short list”. Frank is joined by Keith Guster (drums), Alex Chamberlain (organ), and Gordon Haskell (bass). Keith and Gordon also support Frank on vocals. They are Southampton based and have had a long, hard struggle to get where they are today becuase the opportunities for groups in Southampton are practically nil. Numbers featured in their act included songs closely associated with coloured American artists like Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding etc., which is not surprising since they told me like listening to these people. MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
31st January 1966
THE ALAN PRICE SET
The arrival of Alan Price at the Town Hall gave the regular Top Twenty punters the opportunity to see a performer who had already established himself as an artist of some repute. At the time of his Bridgwater appearance however, Price was in the process of kick-starting a solo career that had barely got off the ground having just left The Animals – the band with which he had made his name. Price was born on April 19, 1942, in Fatfield, County Durham and as a self-taught youngster had quickly earned respect locally as a musician of some skill. Price played in a variety of local bands throughout his teens and in the process of doing so, crossed paths with a number of future Animals. At one time or another, Price played in the groups The Pagans, The Kansas City Five, The Black Diamonds, and The Kontours. He eventually formed his own band in 1961, which he named The Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo. The line-up of this band fluctuated at first but soon settled down to include Eric Burdon (vocals), Hilton Valentine (guitar), Chas Chandler (bass), John Steel (drums), and of course, Price on keyboards. Despite the band’s name suggesting otherwise, the group were initially a jazz-flavoured combo but the arrival of Eric Burdon in 1962 not only gave the band a harder edge, but musically created a counterpoint to Price’s jazz leanings whilst also introducing some tensions within the line-up. Vocalist & keyboard player were in constant competition for the position as band leader with the strong-willed Burdon continually attempting to undermine the moody and introspective Price’s position as head honcho. They secured a residency at the local Downbeat club, a Geordie version of The Cavern, before moving to the more prestigious Club A-Go-Go, two venues that were owned by future manager Mike Jeffrey. The band’s reputation began to spread and eventually promoters and agents took notice. The breakthrough occurred in December 1963, when Giorgio Gomelsky offered the The Alan Price R&B Combo a deal that resulted in them “sharing” venues with the manager’s main charges, The Yardbirds. This set-up gave Price and Co an opportunity to introduce themselves to London audiences whilst also providing opportunities to work as a backing band to travelling American bluesmen such as Sonny Boy Williamson, a performer with whom they recorded a highly-acclaimed live album at the Club A-Go-Go in 1963. In early 1964, the band made London their home and, armed with a 4-track demo EP, and a change of name they continued to enhance their reputation. Price, understandably, resented the name being altered but had no choice in the matter, the group having taken a “democratic” vote over the decision. No-one seems to know for certain where “The Animals” came from but Price believes that it was from an aside made by a member of the audience, concerning the band’s raw and exciting stage act. Whilst in the capital city, they based themselves at The Scene club in Soho and within weeks were being hailed as the “hottest group to come out of the North since The Beatles”. Record producer Mickie Most paid them a visit at Eel Pie Island and offered to record them. He set up a licensing deal with EMI but obviously felt that the band were too raucous to be accepted by the general public, consequently his production on what eventually became The Animals debut single was not to the group’s liking. ”Baby Let Me Take You Home” was a song that Most had discovered on one of his trips to the States and was a cover version of a track by a band called The Mustangs that itself had originated from ”Baby Let Me Follow You Down” a traditional tune that Bob Dylan had included on his eponymous debut album. Despite the band’s reservations, it reached No.21 on the UK singles charts, it’s position boosted by a couple of appearances on “Ready Steady Go!” But it was their follow-up single that broke The Animals nationwide and it came courtesy of an Alan Price arrangement of another Dylan-influenced song. “The House Of The Rising Sun” was released in June 1964 and sold several million copies, teaching No.1 in both the UK & the USA making The Animals the first British group after The Beatles to reach the top of the charts in the States. The track had been another traditional tune that Dylan had recorded on his debut album, though Dylan had in fact “nicked” it from fellow New York musician Dave Van Ronk, a larger than life character who was credited with the song’s original distinctive arrangement. Price’s take on the song is apparently very similar to that of Van Ronk’s but the difference is that the NYC folkie did not have the benefit of The Animals backing him. With it’s distinctive opening guitar intro and Price’s driving organ playing to the fore, it was a powerhouse performance. Word has it that Mr.Dylan was impressed, if only by the idea of electric instruments transforming a folk song into something else altogether. The Animals went from strength to strength. “I’m Crying” (written by Price and Burdon), “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, and Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me” followed rapidly and by the spring of 1965 they were established as one of the biggest, and most popular R&B bands in the world. However, their were internal problems. After a tour of the USA, Australia and the Far East had left Price exhausted to the point of collapse, he announced his departure on May 5, 1965. The official line given for his abrupt disappearing act was his fear of flying, which at least had an element of truth attached to it. Price later explained that he “couldn’t stand the pressures of the pop world anymore” and on the eve of a tour to Sweden, had caught the train back to Newcastle where he stayed at his mother’s house. There were other reasons for the departure however. Price had felt for some time that his contributions to The Animals were not being fully appreciated. He told BBC Radio London’s Stuart Colman in a 1982 interview: “The Animals were originally my band, the Alan Price Rhythm & Blues Combo. Then, when we decided to give it the big try and we came down to London, we made it a co-operative, a democracy, because everyone was taking an equal risk. I played a Wurlitzer electric piano, which was one of the very few in the country at the time. I’d only had it 10 days, when after a gig, the roadie left it on stage and it was stolen. Being that we were now a co-operative group, I asked the guys to chip in so we could get a new one. They refused. The moment I wrote out the check for the new Wurlitzer was the moment I realized I would leave The Animals.” Price spent some time hanging out with Dylan during the singer’s debut UK tour and consequently appeared in the fly-on-the-wall D.A. Pennebaker rockumentary “Don’t Look Back”. Musically, it took a while for Price to get back into the scheme of things and at one point he even considered giving up the music business altogether. But, based once again in Newcastle, he eventually put together a new group called The Alan Price Combo, using local musicians he had known from his pre-Animals days. He began playing the Club A-Go-Go a couple of times a week, but seemed intent to keep everything low-key to the point of anonymity. Eventually, arranger Ivor Raymonde helped Alan to overcome his reluctance and apart from playing on several high-profile sessions (including Dusty Springfield’s “In The Middle of Nowhere”), Price eventually moved back down to London, and assembled a new Alan Price Set that retained some of the musicians from the Combo formed earlier. (This included trumpeter John Walters, the future Radio One producer/broadcaster/nutcase and all-round good egg that ended up producing John Peel’s Radio One show). Signing to Decca Records and with Raymonde as producer, they debuted in September 1965 with a cover version of the Chuck Jackson R&B hit “Any Day Now”.
Although it wasn’t a hit, it was the follow-up single that took Price back into the singles charts. In March 1966, Price once again relied on his intuitive skills as an arranger to record a version of Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You”, and it climbed to No.9 in the UK. Featuring an innovative baroque intro and a blistering organ solo, the single not only re-established Price as a major artist but also succeeded in finally laying the ghost of his old band to rest. He continued to achieve chart hits throughout the remainder of the 60’s and well into the 70’s with items such as “Hi Lili Hi Lo”, Randy Newman’s “Simon Smith & The Amazing Dancing Bear”, “The House That Jack Built”, “Don’t Stop The Carnival” and “Jarrow Song” and, at the height of his powers, hosted his own TV show for the BBC.
THIS PRICE WILL NOT BE GOING SKY-HIGH
It takes courage and determination for a young professional musician to leave one of this country’s most highly respected and successful groups and start afresh in the same business. Yet this it precisely what Alan Price did. Alan used to be organist with The Animals, the Newcastle group who rank with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann and The Hollies as being Britain’s top pop outfit, until he left of his own accord last year. Since, then he has got together a new group, and on Monday the Top 20 Club presented The Alan Price Set, which features brass in the line-up. Who are these Instrumentalists who have the honour of playing with what many people— both fans and show business personalities consider to be one of t the finest organists in the pop world today? All of them are top musicians. Clive Borrows on tenor sax was with Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band. Trumpet-player John Walters used to be a music teacher; Boots Slade (bass guitar) formerly played with Georgie Fame; second tenor sax man Steve Gregory swung at one time with Tony Colton’s Jazz-band; Roy Mills the drummer has been playing ever since rock and roll first erupted. The Hammond organ belongs to Alan, of course. A six-strong personnel seems a powerful unit and it is, but not in the sense that it produces a lot of noise. The sound s expertly balanced and at a very tolerable level. To call The Alan Price Set a pop group would be an injustice. Admitted, they sometimes play pop numbers and they appeal to pop fans but really these boys, belong to the Ted Heath/Joe Loss spectrum. For Bridgwater The Alan Price Set compiled a programme consisting mainly of “soul” items, with awe-inspiring arrangements. For instance they played the blues opus “What’cha Gonna do,” and incorporated the famous ” Peanut Vendor” They deservedly received plenty of applause. It is interesting to note that at recent meetings Club members have shown their appreciation in this way, rather than by screaming or cheering. Alan thinks the trend is to brass with groups and a lot of people agree with him. This might have been the reason why he left the guitar-dominated Animals, but, as Club members will recall, the main factor which caused Alan to ” step down” was because he has a fear of flying. Such a famed group as The Animals have to honour a lot of overseas engagements and the quickest mode of travel is to go by air. In the quietness of the Town Hall dressing room Alan enlarged on the fear which cost him a place with The Animals. “I’ve always been frightened of flying ever since I was young, and when I was with The Animals the number of air-trips was Increasing all the time. Now, if The Set get any engagements abroad I can afford to go the-long way—by sea.” Changing the subject, I ventured to ask whether Alan considered himself to be more of a Jazz musician. “No. I like all forms of popular music, I started out playing stuff by people like Jerry Lee Lewis, went through the trad fad, then on to jazz, and now it’s soul. Popular music goes through a cycle” commented Alan, who is far from being the withdrawn person one thinks he is when they first meet him. There was time for just two more questions before the group were due back on stage. What was his opinion of the pop business today? “It’s not as good as it used to be” came the reply “And the commercial radio stations hasn’t helped either” As someone who has respected his equipment, what regard did he have for The Who? “I met their drummer Keith Moon last week. I like them because they are original” Out front once more The Alan Price Set their next and second Decca single, out in a few weeks. It is the very well-known Nina Simone blues song “I Put A Spell On You”. With another very beautiful arrangement, I’m tipping this one for the charts. So concludes the strange story of Alan Price, the man who has gone back to square one and is starting all over again. MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
Alan Price – I Put A Spell On You (1966)
7th February 1966
The Beatstalkers were an R&B group formed in Glasgow in 1962 and by 1964 they had become so popular north of the border that they were dubbed “The Scottish Beatles” and even enjoyed a spot of Beatstalker-mania when a June 1965 open-air concert held in Glasgow’s George Square was abandoned due to rioting fans. And this was BEFORE they had signed a record contract. They began their career by concentrating on obscure soul and R&B songs but never succeeded in transferring their live performances or their Scottish popularity into chart action. They were likened to the Liverpudlian moptops on the strength of the feverish actions of their fanbase and not primarily due to any similarities in their music. In fact early records suggest a North Of The Border Small Faces with singer Davie Lennox possessing a gutteral vocal technique similarly employed by Steve Marriott. A band with a definitive image that championed their Scottish heritage, (apart from the odd bout of kilt wearing, check out the trews in the picture), after signing to Decca Records they issued three singles in quick succession during 1965 & 1966, “Everybody’s Talkin’ ‘Bout My Baby”, “Left Right Left” and the Motown cover “A Love Like Yours” but none of these got anywhere near the singles charts. One has to ask the question, if their popularity in Scotland was so intense, why were they not more successful? It has been suggested that their debut single, a cover of a wilfully obscure artist called Roger Peacock, sold 80,000 copies in the UK, which under normal circumstances would have provided the band with a sizable hit. But as there were only 2 record shop outlets in Scotland that were used for chart statistics, sales of only 5,000 were registered. The Beatstalkers moved to London in 1967 where they secured a residency at the Marquee Club. Live concerts could be a little unconventional as apart from a brief period where they introduced a limbo section to their performance, they also appeared occasionally with their very own go-go dancer who revelled in the rather unglamorous name of Cilla Slope. Having switched to CBS, the group were still unable to achieve a major breakthrough despite changing their style somewhat to fit with the new musical landscape. Their first record for the company, “My One Chance To Make It” was a soulful ballad that occupied the same territory as The Walker Bros. They were taken on by a new manager, Ken Pitt, who also had on his books a young English wannabe called David Bowie. Bowie was going through his Anthony Newley period at the time and three of his compositions, “Silver Treetop School For Boys”, a song written after reading a tabloid expose on pot smoking at British public schools, “Everything Is You” and “When I’m Five”, were all released by The Beatstalkers in succession, with the first of these distinct Bowie items issued as an A-side and featuring the songwriter on backing vocals. The reverse of this 45 also featured a rare group composition called “Sugar Chocolate Machine”, a song that somehow manages to squeeze in three “sections” into its 2’19 seconds. The Bowie experiment was neither an artistic nor commercial success primarily as the material was far too idiosyncratic for public consumption though each of these songs, from an historic perspective, are fascinating examples of the embryonic songwriting talents of a unique artist. After their equipment was stolen from their van in 1969, the band promptly split up and of their personnel, latter-day drummer Jeff Allen joined East Of Eden, whilst original bass player Alan Mair was later a member of the critically acclaimed The Only Ones. On the 23rd December 2005, at The Barrowlands in Glasgow, Mair reformed The Beatstalkers for a triumphant reunion gig which proved at least that their devoted Scottish fans had not deserted them even if Dame Fortune had.
THEY BELONG TO GLASGOW!
They are five very polite people, with sensible, likeable personalities. They believe in what they are doing, make interesting conversationalists, and are co-operative. They wear hipster slacks and polo-neck sweaters, but one could not describe them as out and out Mods. Their hair is short and well- groomed. On stage their performance bears the same stability and tidyness. They stand neatly spaced apart, each taking a hand with lead vocals, casting aside gimmicks in favour of getting down to the job in hand. They sincerely believe in what they are doing, their repertoire is like a breath of fresh air, their singing and instrumental harmony truly magnificent. It sounds like a hand-out from their publicity agent, but it’s not. This is what I think of The Beatstalkers, who starred at the Top 20 club on Monday. Once again club promoter Graham Alford has made it impossible to criticise. Using his almost uncanny knowledge of what is best in pop today he selects artistes who please both the fans and the critics alike. Strangers to The Beatstalkers should not be put off by their “selling” name, because—as has already been said—they do not depend on gimmicks. I honestly believe The Beatstalkers (they come from Glasgow) are destined to be a big attraction this year; but then again you never know with this fickle branch of entertainment. They are an extremely underrated group. For further proof of their dedication and ambition listen to Beatstalkers’ singer David Lennox. “Originally we were a three-guitar line-up, but that didn’t give much scope to our music, so we added bass guitar and organ. We regularly meet for rehearsals twice a week and they go on all day, and once a month we learn new numbers. Musically, we believe in being broadminded and pleasing audiences” To watch The Beatstalkers in action is to see style, and to feel happy. These boys look on singing and playing as something inwardly satisfying to them quite divorced from financial gain. They are happy, and they spread happiness to all who come to hear them. Organist Eddie Campbell is practically classical in his playing at times, drummer Tudge Williamson and guitarists Ronnie Smith and Alan Mair have artistry far exceeding the limitations of a pop group, while David has one of the best voices I have heard. Comparatively unknown, down here in the Deep South, they have broken the ice, so to speak, with their first Decca disc, “Everybody’s Talking Bout My Baby” (A follow-up is on the way soon!) An unfortunate mix-up in the release of that disc meant the loss of a lot of potential sales. Strangely enough, the disc is selling again North of the Border thanks mainly to airings by Britain’s newest and greatest commercial radio station, Radio Scotland, on 242 metres, which is also playing the other side. Disc jockey Peter Bowman has played it a number of times in his very fine “Blast Off” show, heard every weekday between 10.30 p.m. and midnight. The Beatstalkers have a big following in Glasgow. Apparently open-air performances are given in the city’s George Square, and on one occasion they played there to a crowd of 7.000. Not surprising that all traffic came to a stop. David says it is more difficult for a group to get started in Scotland. But he added that Scottish audiences are most receptive simply because they cannot see a group every day of the week like those in London for instance.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
Rumour has it that during their height of popularity, The Beatstalkers succeeded in selling out the Dennistoun Palais without even being there. The event, billed as “Not The Beatstalkers,” saw fans purchasing tickets to see a revolving stage revealing full-size cutouts of the band whilst band member Davie, calling by phone from London, wished the audience a good night.
14th February 1966
21st February 1966
THE HOT SPRINGS
COLD COMFORT FOR HOT SPRINGS!
The Hot Springs (last week’s Top 20 Club guests) have certainly had their full share of bad luck. Like their van breaking down on the way to dance halls time after time, or losing out on bookings which have been cancelled at the last minute without them being notified. Now to top it all they said their lead singer, Paul Vernon, was leaving at the end of the week to go into private business. All this has happened since they turned professional nine months ago. A West Country outfit, it is no surprise to hear that with a name like The Hot Springs they have headquarters in Bath. There are seven of them – four come from Bath, two are Bristolians, and another hails from Devizes. Bass guitar-player and vocalist Mike Brice is a member of the Bridgwater Angling Club and often fishes in the Huntspill area. Bad luck has even dogged them with their first disc release. Called “It’s All Right” this was a “cover” of the Tamla-Motown song by The Impressions. Quite a good disc I thought, but The Hot Springs said that it was not an example of their style. Apparently it was only an audition tape which Columbia released against their will. Members had a chance to catch The Hot Springs’ true style; bluesy, brassy, and soul-inspired, featuring counter harmonies in instrumentation and vocalising. A full-bodied rounded sound. The other members are Tony Durke (lead guitar and vocals), his brother Colin (organ). Rod Measham (drums and vocals), Brian Dancer (tenor and baritone sax and vocals), and Vernon Stokes (tenor and alto sax). In addition Mike and Colin also double on piano. This is the most extensive line-up I have yet heard of in a popular group. Host of them read music, and each one has been around with other groups since the early days of beat, so this has been a valuable grounding for them. They go on to say that because they are a seven-piece outfit, expenses are heavy and things aren’t too good financially at present. But it should be looking up for them soon. A new disc is on the way (one they have written themselves), they have a new manager who gets them bookings all over the place, and their perseverance and showmanship deserves to pay dividends.
Top 20 Club fans will be pleased to hear there is every possibility of the marvellous Glasgow group, The Beatstalkers, making a return appearance at the Club soon. After a lot of technical trouble, Club promoter Graham Alford has installed the new equipment at the Club, details of which several months ago. The system was put into operation for the first time on St.Valentine’s day and there is quite a noticeable improvement in the reproduction of discs. The sound is now sharp and clear. Altogether, the complete system cost £485 – a great expense – but one must remember that the same equipment is used at Graham’s two other weekly dance shows at Trowbridge and Chippenham and also in connection with his cine film concern. Valve trouble with the Philips amplifier in this system caused the hold-up in putting into use. The system consists of two Gerrard 401 record players (the type used by all radio stations): the amplifier pushing through 140 watts of power: two speaker cabinets, each accommodating one 50 watt speaker. This set-up is described as giving a “live” recorded sound. In other words the discs are as clear as if a group were playing on stage.
THE MEDDY EVILS “We’ve been very busy and had lots of work.” This was the welcoming news The Meddy Evils had to tell when they starred recently. The group were reporting on their progress since being launched by the Top 20 Club last September. When The Meddy Evils look through compositions they try and find the ones that make good listening appeal, trying to keep a balance between what the record buyers like and what they like. Just to jog the memory. The Meddy Evils come from Southampton and consist of Tony Benson, brothers Roy and John Roberts, and Martin Smith. On Tuesday, March 15th, they star in their own programme, “Sound Off” on the West of England Home Service. The boys record this on March 2nd at the B.B.C. Bristol studios.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
28th February 1966
After Wayne Fontana had gone AWOL, the rest of the band soldiered on with Eric Stewart taking a more prominent role as the focal point of the group. Initially, they threatened to be far more successful without their front man than they ever had been with him as their career as a 4-piece got off to the perfect start. Their debut 45, the Carole Bayer Sager/Toni Wine composition “A Groovy Kind Of Love” (apparently written in just 20 minutes) reached No. 2 in both the UK and, far more significantly, in America, where it was denied the coveted No.1 spot by Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman”. But this was very much a question of the band hitting a high that they were never going to be able to maintain and largely due to a series of questionable single releases, it wasn’t long before any momentum that they might have gained was lost. The follow-up single, “Can’t Live With You (Can’t Live Without You”) struggled to make the Top 30, so the band, perhaps wisely, decided to return to a winning formula, with a 2nd Bayer Sager/Wine composition called “Ashes to Ashes” giving them a respectable No. 14 chart position in the autumn of 1966. But at least with the success of “Groovy” in the States they were able to enjoy a fairly high profile across the Atlantic and a tour of the USA, playing support to James Brown, found them playing to a capacity 25,000 crowd in Atlanta and a concert at the prestigious Fillmore West. Despite continuing to look for material from outside of the band for single releases, Stewart had started to write songs of his own and with newly found confidence the group, somewhat ambitiously, decided that their next project should be a concept album entitled “A Woman In Mind”. It’s been a bone of contention as to what the first concept album actually was, with both “Tommy” and “S.F.Sorrow” the front runners for that dubious distinction, but by all accounts, The Mindbenders got their first as this album pre-dated both of them. (Without wanting to sound pedantic my own personal choice would be Sinatra’s “Songs For Swinging Lovers”). Surprisingly, considering their American success, the album never appeared Stateside and apart from apparently featuring strong material by Stewart, Rod Argent and Graham Gouldman, record sales did not match were extremely disappointing, with the accompanying single, the 3rd Bayer/Wine composition to be released by the band, “We’ll Talk About It Tomorrow” also failing miserably. The band did make an appearance alongside Lulu in the 1967 Sydney Poitier movie, “To Sir With Love” and contributed a couple of songs to it’s soundtrack but their last chart entry was a cover version of The Boxtops “The Letter” which only reached No.42 in the latter part of 1967. Despite the arrival of Graham Gouldman in March 1968, only one further single was issued before the band called it quits though the pairing of Gouldman & Stewart, initially through the acquisition of Strawberry Studios, pointed the way to future projects which eventually resulted, via the one-hit wonders Hotlegs, in the formation of the hugely successful 10CC in the early 70’s.
MINDBENDERS BRING IN THE FANS
Teenagers went mad in Bridgwater last Monday night. More than 700 young people packed the Top 20 Club at the Town Hall to see The Mindbenders – the biggest gathering the Club has had for a long time. The appearance of this Mancunian group at the Top 20 Cub, coincided perfectly with the arrival at the top of the local Hit Parade chart of their disc “A Groovy Kind Of Love” The disc is also currently at number three in the national charts. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, the fans surged forward to get a closer glimpse of Eric Stewart, Bob Lang and Ric Rothwell as they embarked on 90 wild minutes of music and song. And afterwards, girls queued for over half-an-hour in the corridor leading to the stars dressing room in the hope of getting autographs.. Most of them were lucky. Without a doubt The Mindbenders are the most popular guests ever to star at the Club. They are old friends of members. Their first visit to Bridgwater as “unknowns” several years ago has been followed by regular successive appearances (on average they head the Club’s bill twice a year), and each time they come they are a greater attraction in terms of countrywide popularity and disc successes. This latest engagement was, of course, the first time they have been here since their lead singer Wayne Fontana parted from the group to go solo. Ironically. Wayne’s debut disc on his own got nowhere, while The Mindbenders’ first one in their own right has climbed right up the lists. “A Groovy Kind Of Love” could be regarded as a “sleeper” though, because it was released as far back as December 10th and did not become established in the charts until fairly late In January. The Mindbenders get a fine “live” sound, although there is only the three of them. To find so small a group as this today is unusual, but the boys said it was compact, they were happy with their results, and were not considering recruiting more members. Footnote; Bridgwater Town Council, meeting on Wednesday, decided for the second time not to reduce the hire charge of the Town Hall for the Top 20 Club. Club promoter Graham Alford said the dances were likely to continue on a charily basis, and then the hire charge would be cut by half. All profits would be donated to local charities. MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
The Mindbenders – It’s Getting Harder All The Time (From “To Sir With Love” – 1967)
7th March 1966
The Eyes were another critically acclaimed exponent of the Freakbeat phenomena. Formed in Ealing in 1964 they were a band who seemingly spent their entire career looking for their true identity. Originally called The Aces, they then became The Arrows, who in turn became an instrumental band called Dave Russell & The Renegades, who morphed into Gerry Hart & The Hartbeats after the addition of a vocalist. The name The Eyes was penned in 1965 and, hanging on to The Who’s coat tails, they quickly embraced pop art though the resulting image – hooped Rugby shirts with either the band’s faces or the “third eye” emblem emblazoned on the front seems a little naff in hindsight but then I get the impression that this was a band who made the most of what they had, even if it a lot of it was borrowed from somewhere else.
Their superb debut single “When The Night Falls” appeared on Mercury Records in 1965 and is their crowning moment of glory being arguably one the finest pieces of vinyl released under the “Freakbeat” genre. Three other singles followed, all of which borrowed heavily from The Who’s back catalogue. Their debut single’s “B” side, “I’m Rowed Out” is another track that, quite rightly, brings a tear to the eye of the most avid Freakbeat follower but is a re-write of both “Anyway Anyhow Anywhere” and “I Can’t Explain” whilst the flip of their second single “The Immediate Pleasure” (which was, due to it’s “suggestive” lyrics, banned by the BBC ) was called “My Degeneration” – a spoof Who parody about “coffee” which itself was Modslang for sex. Finally, the third single “Man With Money” was an Everly Bros cover that had been taken directly from The Who’s live show. To their credit they were the first band to advertise themselves on railway hoardings and London buses with the somewhat cryptic message “The Eyes Are Smashed To Fragments” first appearing to confused commuters in 1966 but this had no effect on record sales and their final single was a fairly accurate representation of The Beatles “Good Day Sunshine” from their “Revolver” album released under the nom de pleum The Pupils. After being approached by Philips Records, The Pupils also made a rather pointless Rolling Stones tribute album called, strangely enough, “The Pupils Tribute To The Rolling Stones”. A rather tawdry end to an altogether unsatisfactory career that promised much but ultimately delivered very little.
THE EYES HAVE IT!
Asked for their views on the star group at last Monday’s Top 20 Club, Bridgwater. much of the audience would probably have said: “Yes, they were very good, but they copied The Who.” Nothing is further from the truth, but no-one could be blamed for getting this wrong impression. Their opinion would have been based on earlier seeing the group—The Eyes—knocking over cymbal stands, hitting a tambourine on drum skins, and occasionally playing the so-called “pop art” music, all in the manner very like that of The Who. What they did not know was that the group were “sending up” The Who in the nicest possible way. Without announcing over the microphone that they were going to imitate vocally and visually another group, The Eyes went ahead and did it. This is the feature of their act. The Eyes make audiences work hard by not explaining the reason for everything they include in a performance. With so many groups around, The Eyes have something new to offer by matching a happy-go-lucky act with a serious aim to make a success of the group, They are intent as a group on being distinctive and having individualism. Coming from Ealing, they were formed two years ago and released two discs—”When the Night Falls” and in January “The Immediate Pleasure”- on Philips’ Mercury label as a cautionary means of judging mass response to them. Throughout their existence The Eyes have remained semi-professional. and that means keeping on to their jobs. Singer Terry Nolder and bass guitarist Barry Allchin work for a packing firm; stix-man Brian Corcoran is an apprentice electrician: lead and rhythm guitarist Chris Lovegrove is a Civil Servant, and Phil Heatley [another lead and rhythm guitarist) works in the advertising department of “The Times” Fortunately for them those two discs, achieved very satisfactory sales, so The Eyes will be leaving their daytime jobs in May to turn professional. Proclaiming that the ‘In” crowd was “out,” Terry revealed that this was the first time they had played in the West Country. The praised the p.a. system used by Graham Alford. Top 20 club promoter, saying it was the finest set-up they’d come across so far. On April 22nd the third Eyes’ disc comes out. Composers of many numbers, they will put one of these originals on the “B” side, while the top side may be “Please Don’t Cry”, an old Everly Brothers song: or a number penned by David Simon of the Simon and Garfunkel folk team. For the first time this year, the Club breaks for a week. Because of a play being presented at The Town Hall later next week, there will be no meeting next Monday. MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
14th March 1966
THE CARNABY ONE PLUS FOUR
Carnaby 1 Plus 4
Carnaby One Plus Four (recent Top 20 Club guests) have hit on a new and extremely attractive idea of combining vibes with organ. This produces an almost jazzy sound which is both melodic and light. Tony Member plays vibes with Pete Leakey on organ and with the rest of the boys, Keith Neile (guitar), John Godfrey (bass guitar) and Dave Box (drums), they make music that is off the “beat-en” track. Its progressive yet retrospective, and easily digestible. The title of the group gives the impression that they hail from London (not far from Carnaby Street, maybe), but in actual fact this is a Bristolian (band). Carnaby One Plus Four are devoted jazz and classical music lovers. They have just found the beat sound they want after changing the line-up slightly only a month ago. Now their next task is to cut a disc, which they hope to do as soon as possible. On the flip side will be their own song, ‘That Was Long Ago,” but the main song is still undecided. Even without a disc on the market, it seems as if the group are popular. They have won over two of the most critical audiences – that at London’s Marquee Club, and the other at Bristol’s Students’ Union. Listeners may also have heard them on the B.B.C. West Region radio show, “Sound Off”. We all thought The Who were going to make it when they came to the Club last year, but none of us expected them to hit the top in such a big way. An indication of just how much interest they create came last week when “The Observer” splashed a colour picture of the group across the front page of its colour magazine. Inside was to be found a long, factual article on the boys, complete with more pictures. Which proves how trend-setting The Top 20 Club is. MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
28th March 1966
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
ON THE CREST OF THE WAVE
That strangely monikered group Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich paid another visit to the Top 20 Club at Bridgwater last Monday. This time they came as top stars at the moment, riding high on the crest of the wave with their disc “Hold Tight” which is number four at the time of writing in the Bridgwater Top Ten Chart, and number 11 in the National Chart. Even these five, ordinary Wiltshire-born lads must be surprised at the adoration lavish upon them in recent weeks after playing for two years without hitting the headlines. On every night for two weeks the group have been touring the country with top America singer Gene Pitney and Len Barry, then they appeared on “A Whole Scene Going” for B.B.C. Television, followed quickly by Television spots on A.B.C’s “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” Rediffusion’s “Five O’Clock Club” last Tuesday, and a number of appearances on “Top Of The Pops” Then the boys have been busy designing much of their colourful stage clothes, given countless interviews to newspapers, and started work on their first L.P for probable release in early May under the title “Hold Tight” While they all took a breath before, apparently preparing to reel off another string of engagements, I took the chance to butt in and enquire how the tour went. “Marvellous!” they echoed. Gene Pitney wanted to take us back to the States for a show he’s organising, but there was trouble over work permits and visas. Unless you have a current hit in America it’s a job to get them.” And the L.P. they had mentioned? What is going to be on that? Oh, beat numbers, slow ones — all new things we haven’t recorded before,” came the reply. Since their last Top 20 Club visit about eight weeks ago the group have been signed up to one of the big agencies—Arthur Howes — but they have not parted company altogether with Avenue Artistes Ltd., the Southampton agency, which promoted them for so long before they hit the big time. The boys go to Germany and France soon, and will star in their first pantomime sometime up North next Christmas. This fame hasn’t changed the boys one bit, but it is amazing to see how many suddenly want to know them after they’ve been doing the rounds for so long. It is also fantastic to watch where a group can go between one Top 20 Club visit and another.
4th April 1966
TONY RIVERS & THE CASTAWAYS
Tony Rivers & The Castaways (or, according to the Bridgwater Mercury’s advertisement, Pony Rivers) started life as The Cutaways in Dagenham, Essex, sometime in 1960. The early line-up did not feature their popular vocalist (real name Tony Thompson) but included, at least at some point in their early history, a guy called Bobby Rio who later worked for Joe Meek. Rivers took over the vocal chores towards the end of 1961, having been approached by The Cutaways after he was spotted singing at a local pub called the Cherry Tree. Within 8 months of Rivers arrival (his name had been taken from the Pat Boone song “Moody River”) the band had turned professional and had obtained the two things that any aspiring 60’s band could not do without – a manager and a van. The latter was originally adorned with the immortal words “Passingham’s Pork Sausages” prior to it being painted over with the group’s name in claret & blue (they were from Dagenham after all). Whilst manager Terry Oates was contemplating the possibility of turning The Cutaways into an instrumental group, the band secured a couple of recording tests with Decca and EMI and with Pony eventually retained as their front man, they were signed to Columbia and recorded their debut single at Abbey Road. At the outset the band plowed the proverbial R&B/soul furrow though the source of their material was always slightly unconventional, chosen, as it was, by producer John Burgess. Their first 45, “Shake Shake Shake” released in October 1963 was a Jackie Wilson song whilst the single’s “B” side was the show tune “Row Row Row” a ditty that had originally appeared in the movie “Ziegfield Follies of 1912”. 1964 may not have been a particularly memorable year commercially for the band but The Castaways had it’s fair share of high’s and low’s during the latter part of it. Having played with The Beatles at London’s Pigalle nightclub in 1963, August 64 found them supporting The Rolling Stones at a gig played for the Marquis of Bath at Longleat House and in November the band cemented a strong friendship with The Beach Boys whilst the latter were on their debut UK tour. Being on an EMI label gave the group the opportunity to witness a show that The Beach Boys were recording in London for Radio Luxembourg and such was the bond between the two bands, Carl Wilson invited the group to attend a number of other radio shows and TV programs that the Beach Boys were playing as part of their itinerary. During December 1964, The Castaways released their 3rd single, a song called “Life’s Too Short”, originally recorded by the obscure American vocal band The Lafayettes. Unfortunately the song’s title proved to be tragically prophetic as the band were involved in a horrendous car crash on the 5th December that seriously injured most of the group whilst killing the driver of the car, drummer Brian Talbot. Talbot was sadly buried on his 21st birthday and, due to their injuries, it took a long time for the group to recover, both mentally and physically. Hardly surprisingly the band came close to quitting but were bailed out with the help of a £300.00 gift given by their good friends The Tremeloes to keep their heads above water. Having eventually re-grouped, the band began recording poppier material starting with “She” from 1965, a song penned by Paul Jones of Manfred Mann-fame. Rivers had also started to write his own material by this time but these original compositions were relegated to the flip side of their singles. In between the groups 5th and 6th EMI releases, Rivers & the Castaways moonlighted for the Immediate label and were also signed to Brian Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises. Their solitary single for the label was “Girl Don’t Tell Me” produced by Andrew Oldham, a Brian Wilson tune that had originally been issued on the B-side of “Barbara Ann”. The discovery of Wilson’s music, along with the American songwriter’s growing maturity as a songsmith was something of a musical epiphany for Rivers and the band changed their style accordingly to become a vocal harmony group. Ironically, The Beach Boys version of “Girl Don’t Tell Me”, probably the most Beatle-influenced song that they had recorded to date, was a rare bird as it featured just Carl Wilson on vocals. On Oldham’s instructions, the Castaways version featured the sort of classic three-part harmony arrangement that The Beach Boys themselves would have been proud of, though it was also the producer who also suggested the rather tacky “Four Seasons” fade-out. With another Wilson composition, “Salt Lake City” on the b-side, hopes for a hit were high but despite plugging the record to death, the record failed to make it’s mark and commercial success continued to elude them. The Beach Boys link almost came in handy in 1966 when Rivers ran into Beach Boy Bruce Johnston at The Waldorf Hotel in London. Johnston played Tony a new song that had been recorded for the forthcoming “Pet Sounds” album and suggested that Rivers cover it as they had no plans to release their own version as a single. The song was “God Only Knows”. The Castaways were understandably keen to record a composition that was eventually voted by Mojo magazine as the “13th greatest pop song of all time” and it duly became the band’s next single, this time for Parlophone, having been produced by the band themselves. Unfortunately, Johnston was not true to his word and despite The Castaways providing some temporary competition, it was long forgotten well before The Beach Boys version had reached No.2 in the singles charts. After their Top Twenty appearance The Castaways continued much as before, a band still looking for that big hit despite being managed by both Robert Stigwood and Brian Epstein in quick succession. The latter bizarrely prevented the band from issuing a cover version of The Beatles “Nowhere Man” as he did not feel that this would be a good career move! After moving to Polydor for a final single the band eventually “split” in 1967 but the durable Rivers managed to maintain his career well beyond The Castaways demise. His next move was to form Harmony Grass in October 1968, a band that were effectively The Castaways in all but name but with a slightly different image. The change of identity appeared to work as they secured a hit with their first single release, “Move In A Little Closer Baby”. Eventually Harmony Grass disbanded in August 1970 but Rivers became a house producer with CBS Records whilst maintaining his career as an in-demand vocalist. He appeared on a number of records as a backing singer, and also as a singer on the “Top Of The Pops” series of albums that were produced by the Hallmark label in the 70’s & 80’s. After a chance conversation with Bruce Welch of The Shadows, Rivers then worked extensively as a vocalist for Cliff Richard, appearing on hits such as “Miss You Nights”, “Devil Woman” and “Daddy’s Home” in a collaboration that lasted for almost 10 years. Largely through his association with Cliff, Rivers also appeared with both Elton John & George Michael at the “Live Aid” concert in 1985 before touring with both Elton and also Shakin Stevens. Tony is still out there and is currently singing with his son Anthony.
THESE BOYS ARE GOING PLACES!
Appropriate to the season, Tony Rivers and the Castaways presented happy, bouncing music at the Top 20 club, Bridgwater. Experts, in the West Coast surfing Beach Boys style (four-part harmonies and smooth falsetto), this unit surely gave the best singing ever heard at the club. To listen to their ultra-professional vocalising is like basking in golden Spring sunshine. “Barbara Ann” “I Get Around” “Rag Doll” and “Let’s Hang On” were only four of the American ‘outdoor’ numbers Tony Rivers and The Castaways do so well. I shall be reviewing their act later on, but meanwhile let’s state a few facts about this group I am lavishing all the praise upon. No wonder they are so tip-top. They belong to Nems Enterprises, and for the uninitiated this is the agency formed by none other than Mr. Brian Epstein, who manages The Beatles, Cilla Black, and all the other stars who mean anything today. Nems only choose the best, and after hearing these boys I can see why they signed them up. How did the Nems signing come about, I asked Tony. He said that last August they were on a show with The Byrds, and were spotted by Nems artist Tommy Quickly, who has also been to the Top 20 Club. Brian Epstein was duly taken by surprise when he saw them, and the contracts were drawn up. After building a fine reputation over three years with fans and other groups, but never getting anywhere with discs, one can imagine what a wonderful moment this move to Nems was for the boys. Now with the correct projection from the agency, this group are able to develop along the right lines, and I am certain they will stand the test of time and become international stars. Part of this development is taking place shortly, with dates in Monte Carlo next week (Brian Epstein is travelling with them), and future trips to Denmark, Hungary, and Manila. They are also getting into cabaret and winning over the often-hard-to-please cabaret audiences. Tony Rivers and The Castaways come from Essex. The group consists of another Tony – Tony Harding (lead), “Lon” (rhythm), Ray Brown (bass), and Brian Hudson (drums). To completely achieve the close harmonies, they also have Kenny Rowe doing vocals full-time. Tony Rivers is also predominantly a vocalist, although he sometimes sits in on drums. Now they’re on Andrew Old-ham’s Immediate label, making their debut here with “Girl Don’t Tell Me” released a few weeks ago. They say their recording manager with Immediate spends more time getting the sound they want This new disc is worthy of a place in the charts in my opinion. To type the group as Britain’s answer to The Beach Boys would not be right or correct because the boys also include ballads, near-jazz, and blues in their performances, and their versatility means they can handle these other numbers extremely well. Examples of this in their Bridgwater act were “Unchain My Heart” and a Four Freshmen’s setting of “Charade” which the local fans – who quickly recognised their straight, beautiful singing – demanded to hear again. This group are way above most people’s conception of a pop outfit. Indeed they cannot be classed as a pop group. A much more accurate description is that Tony Rivers and The Castaways’ are quality performers. Good luck to them.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
18th April 1966
PADDY, KLAUS & GIBSON
It would be tempting to call Paddy, Klaus & Gibson a Merseybeat “supergroup” but that would be stretching it a bit as despite the fact that at least two of the group members have “form” whilst the other can boast of a major Beatle connection, they only ever belonged to the minor league. Gibson Kemp had been Ringo Starr’s replacement in Rory Storm & The Hurricanes, after Mr.Starkey had defected to the Fab Four. In February 1963 Kemp joined Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes, but in June 1964 The Dominoes decided to break away from their rotund leader and recruited Paddy Chambers in the process of doing so. Chambers has probably played in more Merseybeat bands than most, though none of them could be described as pioneers of the Liverpool beat scene. By 1961 he was a member of a band called Steve Bennett & the Syndicate but after trying their luck at the 2 I’s Coffee Bar in Soho, Chambers moved to Paris and joined a jazz trio. Upon returning to Merseyside he discovered a burgeoning music scene and quickly became a part of it joining firstly, Faron’s Flamingos and then The Big Three in November 1963. Within 8 months Chambers had moved on to join forces with Kemp in the Dominoes but after just a few weeks, Chambers, Kemp and another ex-Domino called John Franland jumped ship and, after recruiting bassist and future Mojo Lewis Collins, formed a new group called The Eyes. The Eyes (incidentally not related to the band that played The Top Twenty in March 1966) left Liverpool and moved to Hamburg where they were soon employed backing Tony Sheridan just as the Fabs had done back in the early 60’s. However when bassist Collins departed, drummer Kemp decided to recruit Klaus Voorman as his replacement, despite him having never been in a band before. Voorman was actually living in London at the time, and had been staying in the same London premises as George Harrison & Ringo Starr, but when the call from Kemp came, Klaus finally decided to learn how to play the bass guitar that he had purchased from Stuart Sutcliffe in 1961 and moved back to Germany to join the band. Voorman is the closest that The Top Twenty ever got to seeing a bona-fide Beatle, having been one of the art school crowd that they had befriended during their visits to Hamburg back in the early days, a friendship that remained strong throughout Voorman’s lifetime. The Hamburg scene by the mid-60’s had seen better days and in March 1965, the band were reduced to a trio with the departure of John Franland and after returning to Liverpool were re-christened “Paddy, Klaus & Gibson”. They became the first signings for a young ex-graduate called Tony Stratton-Smith, who was just getting into group management. Stratton-Smith, later the founder of Charisma Records, helped secure a contract for the band with Pye whilst booking them into the Pickwick Club based in London’s Piccadilly. They released three rare singles during this period, none of which charted. (Included amongst these, was the theme music to a BBC children’s adventure series called “Quick Before They Catch Us”) It was during a performance at the Pickwick that they were approached by Brian Epstein and he subsequently bought out the groups’ contract. But despite this auspicious start to their career Paddy, Klaus & Gibson only lasted for a little more than a year, with the band releasing no new material at all during their tenure with NEMS, who kept them on a retainer without, it would seem, finding them any work. Unsurprisingly, the band finally called it a day due to their lack of commercial success, disbanding just two months after their Top Twenty performance. Chambers went on to join a later version of The Escorts, Gibson Kemp married Astrid Kerchherr in 1967 and as for Voorman – his skills as a bassist found fame in Manfred Mann where he replaced Jack Bruce, after the latter had left to join Cream. Voorman is, of course, best known for his Beatle connections and for designing the album sleeves of both “Revolver” in 1966 (for which he was paid £40.00!) and “The Bee Gees 1st” in 1967. In later years Voorman became a successful session musician appearing with Harry Nilsson, Carly Simon & James Taylor amongst others. He joined Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band and appeared on arguably some of the finest post-Beatle solo albums including Lennon’s “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” and “Imagine” and George Harrison’s debut album “All Things Must Pass”. After retiring in 1989, Voorman returned to his first love by designing the covers for the Beatles Anthology series of albums in 1996. He has since returned as a musician too, recording with both Eric Burdon in 2008 and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) on a charity cover of Harrison’s “The Day The World Gets Round” earlier this year.
In these days when five seems to be the accepted number for a pop group, it made a pleasant change to see just three musicians on the stage of the Town Hall, Bridgwater last Monday for the latest meeting of the Top 20 Club. They were Paddy, Klaus & Gibson – the second NEMS Enterprises group in succession to play at the Club. This trio, who use their real names for their group title, are quite different to their stablemates Tony Rivers & The Castaways, seen by members two weeks earlier. These three boys specialise in a deeper, driving sound as compared with the other combo’s high and light singing. “As there are only three of us it means we have to work a lot harder,” said Gibson Kemp, who plays drums in between arranging the running order of the evening’s programme, which mainly concentrated on Tamla-Motown material. “Naturally we cannot do numbers which need brass, but it is no real problem, and the fact that there are only three of us is quite advantageous for playing in smaller theatres like this one. “With so many groups around it gets more difficult to be different and as we only got together a year ago, we are still experimenting. We may sound and look like any other group but there is coming the time when we are going to change. You cannot do this just like that.” A bit of background information now on how they were formed. Gibson and Paddy Chambers (lead guitar) were in Germany for a spell with a group called The Eyes (not the same Eyes as those recently guesting at the Club). Liverpudlians Gibson and Paddy didn’t have German-born Klaus Voormann (bass) with them at that time. Strangely enough, the tables were turned, for Klaus was in London then working as a commercial artist, while the other two were in his native land! Gibson and Paddy got word of Klaus’ musical talents and invited him back to Germany to join The Eyes. When the fourth member of that group dropped out, the remaining three decided to form a new outfit, and Paddy, Klaus and Gibson were born so to speak. When the trio returned to this country they performed in a London beat club, and that’s where they were seen by The Beatles, resulting in them joining NEMS. It’s a complicated story but now Paddy, Klaus and Gibson are sorting themselves out, and getting going with trend-setting discs like their latest for Pye, “No Good Without You Baby.” The group’s next waxing, scheduled for May 24th release is exceptionally interesting. It could turn out a double A-side. The top side at the moment is their revival of the old Eddie Cochran song “Teresa.” Eddie, you may remember, was one of America’s leading “rock” singers in the late Fifties, who was killed in a car crash near Chippenham at the end of a British tour. The other side is called “Quick Before They Catch Us” and it is the theme of a forthcoming new BBC-1 series replacing “Dixon of Dock Green” on Saturday evenings. The boys were asked by the B.B.C. to play this, so it could end up being the main side of the disc.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
25th April 1966
Another group with great credentials but relegated as also-rans during the 1960’s, The Action are now heralded in some circles as a vastly under-rated group that were probably one of the best of the “should have made it” mid-60’s artists. In fact it has been suggested by one observer that due to the mod doctrine that says that commercialism is unhealthy, by being largely ignored by the general public, they are the ultimate mod band. They were formed in London in 1963, with three members of the band originating from Kentish Town whilst Mike Evans, a Camden boy, had briefly appeared in the same semi-pro outfit that included a 13 year-old Keith Moon. Originally called The Boyfriends, they were the backing band for an aspiring actress from Hampstead called Sandra Barry. The Boyfriends recorded one single for Decca as Barry’s pick-up band called “Really Gonna Shake” (written by vocalist Reggie King) and after the Barry contract expired, the band turned professional and “paid their dues” by spending some time in the sweaty German clubs of both Hanover and Brunswick. After the addition of extra guitarist Pete Wilson their name was shortened to The Boys for a single of their own, the Kenny Lynch produced “It Ain’t Fair” released on Pye in November 1964. The single failed to make an impression but the band secured an important residency supporting The Who at The Marquee Club and it was during this period that they became The Action and started to attract a loyal following. An excellent live band – Steve Marriott suggested prior to his death that they were one of the best group’s he’d ever seen – rumour has it that their stint at The Marquee caused a little friction as The Who’s management team were unhappy at the response they were getting from the local audience. An attempt to get them replaced failed and in the end, The Action were given a residency of their own. (Drummer Roger Powell also tells the story of playing a Mod club called The Birdcage in Portsmouth – “Whenever we went there, loads of Mods would be waiting on the outskirts of town to give us an escort to the club on their scooters”) The subject of a BBC documentary that examined the trevails of life on the road, after being turned down by a number of record labels (including Decca – who never turned anybody down!) the band decided that the only way to gain attention was to make themselves known to the people that mattered the most. A female who worked for the band’s booking agency cheekily pestered Beatle producer George Martin to come and see them. In the end, Martin caught them at a Bedford Hotel gig in Balham and suitably impressed, paid off their debts, secured them a deal with Parlophone and suggested to Brian Epstein that he manage them. Epstein agreed in principle, but it soon became apparent that he did not have enough time to devote to the band and they were eventually handled by Ricky Farr. The Action were one of the first groups to record at Martin’s Air Studios and released 5 quality singles between 1965 and 1967, all of which mysteriously failed to chart. With Reggie King’s under-rated skills as a blue-eyed soul vocalist well to the fore, their thoughtful cover versions of soul and Motown records seemed to capture the spirit of the originals more than anybody else though there are suggestions that they tempered their studio recordings somewhat due to their “real” talent which was to be found in live performance. Singles released included covers of the Chris Kenner song “Land Of 1000 Dances” (October 1965), later a hit for Wilson Pickett, The Marvelettes “I’ll Keep Holding On” (February 1966, which reached No.47 in the charts), “Baby You Got It” backed by The Temptations “Since I Lost My Baby” (July 1966) and a couple of good original songs released in 1967, “Never Ever” and “Shadows and Reflections” that suggested that there was a good to great pop group hiding in there somewhere just waiting to break out. Due to the band’s lack of commercial standing, Parlophone eventually, and one would like to think reluctantly, allowed them to leave the label. Undaunted, the band recorded an album’s worth of material called “Rolled Gold” and attempted to hawk it to various record labels but no-one was interested. After the “lost album” became hugely sought after by fans of the band, the demos for this album were eventually released in 2002.
It’s surprising, considering their connection with George Martin that he was not approached to help the group in their time of need and the band admitted that they were in contact with the Fab Four intermittently but never thought to ask them if they could spare them a song or two but in the end it was probably a lack of artistic focus that seemed to dilute The Action’s commercial potential. After some subtle alterations in personnel, the group adopted some interesting changes of musical style towards the end of their career with the soul classic “Harlem Shuffle” quickly followed by material recorded during 1967 that explored the burgeoning folk-rock scene. An intended 6th single called “Little Girl” apparently proved to be too psychedelic even for EMI and they were dropped from Parlophone’s roster. Band member Mike Evans suggested “We didn’t know if we wanted to be a pop band, a soul band , or a show band. It was a lack of proper management, lack of direction and possibly a lack of really trying”. Demos recorded in 1968 briefly interested Polydor Records but nothing came of it and during the same year they temporarily renamed themselves Azoth, in reference to both the Philosopher’s Stone and the changing musical trends of the time. The name was short-lived however, though by this time it was apparent that the band were heading for new musical territory and by 1970 they became Mighty Baby, a British equivalent of The Grateful Dead. Mighty Baby released a couple of acclaimed albums before splitting themselves in 1971. Of The Action’s alumni, band member Alan “Bam” King later became an original member of the band Ace and appeared on their fine hit single from 1972, “How Long” whilst vocalist Reg, released a very hard to find solo album on Universal Records in 1971 that is something of a collectors item, featuring Steve Winwood on organ, (billed as “Mystery Man), Mick Taylor on guitar and Doris Troy contributing vocals. Despite existing for just three years they are still fondly remembered, Paul Weller and Phil Collins (who used to see them regularly at The Marquee) are both lifelong fans and thanks to a couple of compilations, their music has succeeded in filtering down to a new generation of fans. They temporarily reformed in 1998 at a mod gathering on the Isle of Wight and in 2000, returned with a triumphant sell-out series of concerts that fittingly featured Phil Collins as a guest drummer. Remarking on the experience Collins stated “For me it was like playing with the Beatles”.
“We all tried our hand at getting that [Motown] sound you know… all the bands in the mid ‘60s. The best ones at it were the Action… They were an amazing band.” Steve Marriott
Parlophone recording group The Action live up to their title. They take the infectious shuffle rhythm of Tamla-Motown material and incorporate into it their own pulsating, powerhouse style to produce a dynamic magnetism, as illustrated in their gig at The Top 20 Club last Monday. It’s just what the doctor ordered for the “in” clubs like The Marquee, London, where The Action regularly play, but I felt that it was somewhat out of place at this date. Their numbers – lasting five or seven minutes in duration were far too long to sustain interest at the Top 20 Club, which is a more concise pop presentation than those of it’s London counterparts. The Action come across on stage right enough, but their expansion of songs was not ideally suited to this atmosphere and made for repetition and sometimes monotony. I am all in favour of transporting the London club acts to the provinces and several groups who are resident at these establishments have really gone down well at the Top 20 club in the past. The Action, though, seemed out of their natural environment. Armed with this view, I next called at their dressing room to give them, in fairness, the opportunity of commenting on my opinion. Lead singer Reg King confessed to the group not bending to anybody’s demands. They liked playing obscure stuff he said, material they personally enjoyed, and usually they followed the policy of lengthening songs by reprises. On disc The Action are limited to the confines of the normal three minutes playing time. They’ve cut two to date – “Land of 1,000 Dances” and “I’ll Keep On Holding On,” should have a third out soon, and during the next few months will be in the studios recording their first L.P. The Action are managed by Ricky Farr, a son of the famous boxer and brother of Gary Farr who with his group the T-Bones, performed at the Top 20 Club earlier in the year. For the record, the rest of The Action are Alan King on rhythm: Mick Evans, bass; Roger Powell, drums; and Pete Watson, vocals.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
The Action – Shadows and Reflections (1967)
9th May 1966
THE NITE PEOPLE
GROUP OF THE FUTURE
If you are spending your holiday this year at Bournemouth the chances are that you will hear many of the young “locals” raving about a bright group down there called The Nite People. And if you were at the Top 20 Club on Monday you will know they have good cause to get excited. For on that evening The Nite People occupied the star spot at the Town Hall and they made a deep and favourable impression with members. In fact their act epitomised the true purpose of the Top 20 Club—to present sensible, good quality popular music from up-and-coming musicians. And it was even more gratifying to find this being provided by a West Country group. Their material performed at the Club was of an exceptionally high professional standard, it catered for most musical tastes and was executed with precision care, and neatness. Good examples of this were their arrangements of Mel Torne’s sultry blues speciality, ‘I’m Coming Home” and “Shake” the number we shall always associate with the late Sam Cooke. There are five Nite People, but upon hearing them one gets the impression there are seven or eight playing because the sound—not overpowering—is so expansive. Meet them. There’s Barry Curtis rippling away on the keys of the Hammond organ; Chris Ferguson occupying the drum stool; Jimmy Warwick strumming guitar and doing vocals: Francis Shipstone on bass and helping out with the singing, and Patrick Bell, an experienced tenor sax player and flautist, who used to be with Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames. Terry Rolph is their young, go-ahead manager and the group belong to Avenue Artistes Ltd. that trend-setting Southampton agency who also have under their wing Dave Dee and The Meddy Evils, two groups very familiar with Club members. The boys have secured engagements in all the prominent London clubs, at ballrooms in different parts of the country, and weekly Summer seasons at such resorts as Torquay and Newquay. The holidaymakers should love em! Undoubtedly these five, unassuming players have the best things still to come. Born a year ago, The Nite People, if they continue to pursue their present policy, will find themselves at the keystone of Britain’s future popular music developments. They are a group of the future.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
Despite Michael’s background on this band there isn’t a lot of biographical information readily available. Mike suggests in his preview of their Top 20 concert that, by 1966, they had been together for just 12 months but I have found details of a concert played at The Cellar Club in Poole dating from the 1st April 1964. They were apparently formed by the Shipstone brothers and despite not having a record contract at the time of their Top 20 appearance, eventually recorded singles for both Fontana and Page One Records, the latter of which was owned by Larry Page. Their first 45, “Sweet Tasting Wine/Nobody But You” appeared in September 1966 whilst other singles included a version of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” which was used for a short time as the theme to a Radio One lunchtime program, the Spencer Davis-produced “Morning Star” in 1968 and “The Tra La La Song” recorded under the alias “The Banana Bunch”. The latter was a version of the theme music for the popular TV series “The Banana Splits” first shown on British television in 1967/68 and was no doubt The Nite People’s attempt to cash-in on the “Split phenomenon”. It is uncertain as to when the band finally put their career to bed but the 1970 album “P.M.” is a much-sought after album on E-Bay (description – “Very rare late 60’s progressive rock album”) and includes, amongst other things, an eclectic array of cover versions. There’s a Vanilla Fudge-like take on The Four Tops “Reach Out I’ll Be There”, a rather dull attempt at “Rock Island Line”, Frank Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia” and “Delilah”, the Tom Jones song of drunken sing-song repute. All fairly lifeless if truth be told with soul and feeling replaced by instrumental prowess and musical “chops”. Prog Rock beckons!
POP PULSE QUICKENING!
The pop pulse in Bridgwater is quickening. With The Top 20 Club sessions taking place almost every Monday at The Town Hall, another beat organisation announced last week that they were going to put on a dance presentation for one date at the same venue. This is the Shepton Mallet-based agency known as Mid-Somerset Promotions who will offer keen competition to local fans with their show at the Town Hall this coming Saturday between 8 p.m. and 11.45. As the star attraction, they have booked The Uglies, a recording group with a big following who have made several successful discs. Mid-Somerset Promotions have signed another group – The Drovers – to play at the same evening show. The groups will alternate on stage and when there are breaks between acts, teenagers will be able to continue dancing to the current hit discs.
14th May 1966
As suggested above, not a Top Twenty concert and an interesting first choice for the Mid-Somerset Promotions Agency. The Ugly’s were a Birmingham band originally called The Dominettes whose origins date back to the 1950’s. In 1960 they obtained a new vocalist, ex-plumbers apprentice and Elvis Presley nut Steve Gibbons. During their formative years the band played several local venues and despite harbouring a rougher than most image they attracted quite a following. By 1963, The Dominettes had been re-named The Uglys and eventually secured a recording contract with Pye Records in 1965. Their first release was an original song entitled “Wake Up My Mind”, which wasn’t a hit in the UK but nevertheless obtained a reasonable chart position in Australia. The arrival of John O’Neil from the Walker Brothers touring band coincided with the release of their second single, another original called “It’s Alright” which secured the group an appearance on “Ready Steady Go!” whilst reaching No.2 on some pirate radio charts. Other Ugly 45’s were released during 1965 and 1966, including their final single for Pye, the Ray Davies-penned “End Of The Season”.
From this point on, the band seemed to lose their way somewhat, unable to hang on to members of personnel for very long whilst struggling to find a record deal that would provide them with a platform for success. In 1967 they released a single for CBS called “Real Good Girl” but were quickly dropped by the label. Future Fairport Convention bassist Dave Pegg joined The Ugly’s for a year before leaving to become part of the Ian Campbell Group. Other new arrivals came and went with alarming speed, most of which ended up playing with the various permutations of The Move, one of the biggest Birmingham bands in existence. Ugly Dave Morgan co-composed the song “Something” with The Move’s vocalist Carl Wayne and it ended up on the b-side of their chart-topping single “Blackberry Way”.
Appearing on that chart-topping single was keyboard player Richard Tandy. Tandy became an Ugly in 1968 en route to The Electric Light Orchestra whilst latter-day Ugly drummer Keith Smart later joined Roy Wood’s Wizzard. By the end of 68, Steve Gibbons was the only remaining original member left, the final-band line-up recording a projected single for MGM called “I’ve Seen The Light” that was never issued. Hardly surprisingly, The Ugly’s finally called it a day with Gibbons eventually teaming up with another Move man, guitarist Trevor Burton and The Moody Blues Denny Laine in April 1969 to form the “blink-and-you-will-miss-them” band Balls. Gibbons and Burton hung around long enough to form the hugely successful Steve Gibbons Band, a group that attached itself to the burning embers of pub-rock and who achieved a Top 10 hit in 1976 with the not-so-well known Chuck Berry composition “Tulane”. The now grey-haired Gibbons can still be seen playing the length and breadth of the country and has recently been appearing in “The Dylan Project” which is a fairly self-explanatory combo that has re-united Gibbons with ex-Ugly bassist Dave Pegg.
Incidentally, support act The Drovers were a five-piece Bridgwater band featuring members of the 1st Battalion of The York and Lancaster Regiment. Described as having a “predominantly Country & Western flavour” they were, apparently, rather big in Cyprus!
16th May 1966
DIANNE FERRAZ & NICKY SCOTT
A CUT ABOVE THE ORDINARY
A chance encounter 2,000 miles away from this country in the sun-drenched, tropical Canary Island called Las Palmas, was responsible for the live entertainment provided at the Top 20 Club, Bridgwater, last Monday. To these shores came one Miss Diane Ferraz, aged 20, a coloured West Indian hailing from Trinidad. Occupation — a model. There she met, quite by accident Mr. Nicholas Scott, also 20, an English boy from Stratford and a former ladies’ hairdresser, who was spending a holiday in the romantic Atlantic isle. Neither had sung before (although Diane was intending to come to London to be a singer), neither dreamed of teaming up to form a singing duo, neither even thought they would be making records, appearing on television, featuring in theatre shows … or being described by people “in the know” as the best tip for stardom. Yet this has all happened for them since that meeting of a year ago. Remember the names, Diane Ferraz and Nicky Scott – that’s their stage title – for I believe these two charming so-polite people will be up there entertaining people of all ages several decades from now, long after the pop bubble has burst. They are my two favourite singers on the popular music front, and I was delighted they had been signed to head a meeting of the club here in Bridgwater. But I was also bitterly disappointed at the surprisingly low number of teenagers who attended. A great pity that such a noteworthy act could not have drawn in more admirers. Diane and Nicky present up-tempo numbers with that bit of class and sincerity – and dare I say it – professionalism, that is very frequently missing in other pop performers. Effervescent Diane, dressed in an off-white woollen trouser suit, and likeable Nicky, who wore a contrasting outfit comprising black, open-necked shirt and matching slacks, punched their way through a most commendable programme. Watching them, who could have failed to be won over by the togetherness of this pair. Their glances and smiles at each other, their formation dancing, their strong. powerful, clear singing, and the marriage of two, unusual voices were the little extras that made this act so different and delightful, and, I felt, so special. Using hand mikes, the duo aired “Let’s Hang On.” “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” (the Doris Troy song), “I Can’t Help Myself” ‘Take Me For A Little While,” and, among others, their first two gorgeous Columbia singles, “Me And You.” and “You’ve Got To Learn” The group you saw backing them are their own group and they are called Simon’s Triangle, which is only to be expected I suppose since there are three musicians! Mike Liston (rhythm), Mick Fitzpatrick (bass) and Gerry Wood (drums). Nicky said during the interval that they had to round up some accompanists fairly quickly once the first disc started moving. When discs sell, the public want to see you in person and you’ve got to have someone to provide the music on stage! These boys are a good “find”. They make a perfect match for Diane and Nicky, having the same feel for music. In fact, Simon’s Triangle are a group in their own right, and Club members saw two acts for the price of one since they (the group) did two spots on their own – and sang and played extremely well too. Putting much thought and planning into their act, Diane and Nicky hope to go into cabaret in London and the North soon. They recently did a tour with America’s Walker Brothers and want to go over to the States to perform for a spell. Diane Ferraz and Nicky Scott are managed by Simon Napier-Bell who penned their debut waxing, part-composed Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” and arranges the duo’s recording sessions. For an act that has been in existence for only about five months, Diane and Nicky have collected a remarkable amount of praise from journalists, fellow performers, disc jockeys and the record buying public. They have a full list of engagements to fulfil at present, but when they do take a holiday, I wonder if they will spend it in Las Palmas!
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
Despite the above’s enthusiasm for this couple, they ended up being nothing more than a peripheral act with a handful of singles to their name – and not the world beaters that Mike suggested they would be. Regarding the stories of their meeting in Las Palmas, one gets the impression that this may have been a fabrication – a fancy tale spun by their manager Simon-Napier Bell to suggest that the duo’s background was a little ritzier than the dull truth. I get the impression that Ferraz & Scott were a “manufactured” act that their manager thought would look good together, the fact that they could sing was an added bonus. Certainly the idea of pairing a white male with a black female partner was a little risky back in the Mid-60’s, but the idea undoubtedly appealed to someone like Napier-Bell, an individual who knew that ANY publicity is better than no publicity at all. Napier-Bell was very much a larger than life character, openly homosexual, and a flamboyant entrepreneur with a flair for overt publicity. Ferraz & Scott barely get a mention in his entertaining book “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”, at least 75% of which sounds like is was made up. That the duo do not feature heavily in Napier-Bell’s history is hardly surprising as they were the first act that he had control of and eventually he found bigger fish to fry. It was his handling of this couple that gave Napier-Bell the opportunity to become The Yardbirds second manager (after Giorgio Gomelsky). As for their manager’s thoughts on Diane & Nicky, there is but one Napier-Bell comment about them that I have found; “I’d been doing too much swinging around London and a very pretty blonde boy came into my office and said that I’d promised him something or other. There was also a nice young black girl who kept doing the same. To be frank, I was bored and desperately wanted to get rid of them. So I asked one of the press secretaries if they could sing. It turned out they could and they were a very pretty couple together. So we made an album and it was quite a good record. We sent out huge glossy pics of them both to every record and TV producer knowing full well we’d be woken up in the morning by the banging of the buzz on the door. It was a hit, got to No. 5 I think” As for Napier-Bell suggesting that he he owed them both a favour, it has been suggested that Ferraz had previously worked with him on a television commercial whilst Nicky Scott was an ex-boyfriend who was causing him grief. The duo went on to make several records together, most of which were harmless pop fodder penned by Napier-Bell and which suggested that this act were very much a question of style over substance. Both recorded as solo artists, Nicky Scott seems to have fallen into the hands of Andrew Loog Oldham at some point as two singles by the singer appeared in quick succession on Immediate Records, the first of which, “Big City” was closely followed by a charming accordion-led version of the Jagger/Richards song “Backstreet Girl”. As for Ferraz, she inherited what was left of the duo’s backing band Simon’s Triangle and the group eventually became known as a sextet called The Ferris Wheel (the title of the band was a playful pun on Diane’s surname). The Ferris Wheel also featured ex-members of The Checkmates, contained three vocalists and became a popular club act with a healthy mix of soul music spiced with the influence of psychedelia. The band, according to the All Music Guide web-site were a UK version of the American vocal group The Fifth Dimension with the added suggestion that “Ferraz showed herself capable of crossing swords with Diana Ross or Martha Reeves” The group were signed to Pye Records by producer John Schroeder and their debut release was an album entitled “Can’t Break The Habit” from which a trio of singles were taken but none of them charted. The band remained together for a couple more years but Ferraz eventually left show business altogether to raise a family and was subsequently replaced by firstly Marsha Hunt and then Linda Lewis.
23rd May 1966
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE PARAMOUNTS?
It is sad and alarming to see a consistently good group like The Paramounts stagnate. When they starred at The Top 20 Club 18 months ago they were received enthusiastically by a large crowd. Everyone wee confident they would become one of the top attractions in this country, especially when Brian Epstein signed them to his Nems empire. They brought out a regular supply of discs, but none of them made the charts – and gradually they were left behind in the race for star honours. The Paramounts came beck to the Club last Monday and it is true to say they are in a worse position now then when they visited the same venue in December 1964. But the group has not changed much in that time. The boys are still their cheerful selves and they continue to play well. Why they have deteriorated in popular appeal is a mystery. They were performing to a half empty Town Hall and by the time they reached their last two numbers there were only about a dozen people present. When I called on them they gave me their frankest interview to date. Lead guitarist Robin Trower honestly said: tonight was not a good night for us. I suppose it’s a combination of good weather keeping them away and our last five discs not being hits. We are worried that we have not had a record out since last October, but we’ve had a lot of troubles lately. We weren’t proud of that last disc. ‘You’ve Never Had It So Good.’ because it lust was not us. But we couldn’t do any thing about stopping it’s release as Nems had the control over what was to be issued. We have since left Nems. Now we hope to get another single out soon that is more in our style. Did they feel embittered that so many new groups had overtaken them while they remained in a static position? “No, but it’s hard luck. It’s the risk you take in this business. We’ve had the same chance as everybody else,” continued Robin. “There is a vicious circle. You cannot get television bookings unless you have a hit record. We can not perform on B.B.C. sound radio because we’ve failed our audition three times. Our earnings have dropped by a quarter and we have had to economise. But at the moment there is no question of the group breaking up or anything like that. “We still want to keep going. We do well out of overseas engagements. For instance we shall be working out of England for three months this year, going to such places as the South of France, Majorca and Denmark. We wont give up!” The Paramounts come from Southend. With Robin are Gary Brooker (electric piano), Graham Derrick (bass), and Barrie Wilson (drums). They are four musicians who should have got further. But if their next disc makes it, they’ll soon be back in the running. That’s the way it goes with pop!
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
6th June 1966
THE QUIET FIVE
The Quiet Five (not a particularly clever name for a bunch of rebel rousing rock n’rollers) were formed in London during the early 60’s, originally as The Trebletones and then as The Vikings. The Vikings were yet another band in the mould of The Tornadoes, in other words an instrumental group with a passing interest in science fiction as demonstrated by the single “Space Walk” which appeared early on in their career on one side of a 45 rpm single. This curious arrangement was never going to propel The Vikings to dizzying heights, but Columbia saw some potential in the record and re-released it under the new title of “Gemini”. The Vikings remained The Vikings until 1964, but then took on a new name, and a new job, backing singer Patrick Dane, whose previous band (called The Quiet Five) had gone AWOL.
After some personnel changes, The Quiet Five split from singer Dane to go it alone and, signing with Parlophone, were handled by Ron Richards, The Hollies producer (and George Martin’s right-hand man). Their debut single was a song written by band member Kris Ife for Marianne Faithfull entitled “When The Morning Sun Dries The Dew” (The Quiet Five actually backed Faithfull on a 1965 EP). This folky composition would have suited Faithfull’s wispy vocal style but the band decided to record it themselves and were rewarded with a chart position in the bottom half of the Top 50. All in all, they released five more singles, four for Parlophone and a final 45 for CBS but apart from a version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” which also achieved a Top 50 placing, they appeared to be another band who could never make up their mind as to what style suited them best. Their second single was an ill-conceived cover version of Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose” but there were certainly high hopes that the follow-up “Homeward Bound” would propel the group to the top of the charts. But Simon & Garfunkel released their own version of the song and The Quiet Five’s above average cover version suddenly got left behind. The Five were a pleasant enough band but their music lacked immediacy and occasionally they tended to sound like a swinging 60’s version of The Bachelors. Kris Ife left the group in 1967 to record as a solo act with MGM, and is best known for his late-’60s version of the Joe South song “Hush,” as it was his arrangement of the tune that inspired the cover hit of the same song by Deep Purple. In fact The Quiet Five’s legacy (if indeed they have one) was to provide other bands with hit material. Both “I Understand” by Freddie and The Dreamers, and “Silhouettes” by Herman’s Hermits were contained on a 1964 Quiet Five demo that producer Mickie Most subsequently pilfered after hearing the songs in question.
Someone, either The Bridgwater Mercury or the Top Twenty’s advertising department, made a bit of a cock-up with this concert as the advertisement that appeared in the local press advertised a band called The Knack but they did not appear at The Town Hall until the end of the month (see below)
PRAY SILENCE FOR THE QUIET FIVE!
Popsters extraordinaire — that’s The Quiet Five, who were on last Monday’s Top 20 Club bill. The modest title gives little indication of the group’s amazing background and their widely- separated achievements since they entered the show business profession 18 months ago. It is only by getting into long conversation with them that the accolades come to the surface, but even then they are revealed with equal modesty. They helped to write a children’s open – yes, an opera! – with Benjamin Britten adding songs in popular music styles to his score, and seeing the completed work performed at a Suffolk art festival. Then they filmed a television commercial for a leading cereal firm, but it was never shown, although the jingle they penned is being used in the company’s other small screen ads. They’ve been praised by the notable American composer, Paul Simon, for their setting of his song “Homeward Bound’ and their lead guitarist, Roger McKew. Has an extensive knowledge of classical music, having studied it for 10 years, and can also play cello and piano. As if this wasn’t enough—even the boys’ collective name, The Quiet Five is unusual. For a start, there are six of them and they are far from quiet. “We got the name from a Duane Eddy album” explained Kris Ife (rhythm), whose fellow players are Richard Barnes (bass), Tex Marsh (drums), John Howell (organ). Satch Goswell (sax) and Roger, The offstage versatility of this London group is reflected in their performances. Something of everything for everybody could be a fitting description. Their Top 20 Club show (and ‘show” is the right word) included pop, folk, r and b, country ‘n’ Western, soul, hits, misses, impersonations and comedy! They competently handled them all, switching Instruments and lead vocalising duties. In terms of variety and laughter-making, The Quiet Five rival Dave Dee. I can think of no other Club artistes, apart from Dave, who have given members such an entertaining, happy evening. They work extremely hard, have affable personalities, dress tidily and get much pleasure out of playing to audiences. All these qualities make The Quiet Five a winning combo. Donning wigs and costumes, they gave hilarious take-offs of Peter Paul and Mary; Sonny and Cher, Sandie Shaw, and P.J. Proby. But the swiftly-changing moods which characterised this act also proved how well they can switch to serious singing with the same success. The Quiet Five obtain a good, “rich brown” sound, the blend of sax and organ greatly contributing to this end. They have had three hit-worthy Parlophone singles issued – their own “When the Morning Sun Dries the Dew” in April 1965; a new version of the oldie “Honeysuckle Rose” in July; and then. last March, Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” Members heard them preview their next disc out this Friday. It’s their own arrangement of The Rolling Stones’ “I Am Waiting” on the “Aftermath” album. I am sure The Quiet Five are going to have a very big hit on their hands with this one. On the other side of the record is the Crispian St.Peters composition “Without You.” The Quiet Five, whose television appearances include “Discs A Go Go” and “Westward Diary” represent all that’s good in popular music. I hope they can come back to the Club at a time when more can see them.
STOP PRESS Many members tickled pink with The Quiet Five impersonations…….Dramatic stage lighting flashes by Graham Alford during Tex’s drum solo on Monday brilliant….
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
13th June 1966
THE SONS OF FRED
Another obscure British beat band from the mid-1960’s, The Sons of Fred are a perfect example of how time can easily distort the truth. Most biographies for this group (and that aren’t that many) suggests that they were originally from Great Yarmouth, that they lasted for approximately three years and released during that period, one single for every year of their existence, two in 1965 and one in 1966. Details regarding their recorded output are correct but they were based in Dulwich and Beckenham, whilst other musicians came from Chislehurst and Hayes, two other London suburbs. The group was the first professional outing for the 16-year-old bass player Pete Sears (see Les Fleur De Lys) and also included a guitarist of some renown called Mick Hutchinson. Their original sound, as featured on their Columbia 1964 debut single “Sweet Love” revealed an R&B influence but after switching to Parlophone the following year their sound became more commercial. According to Mick Hutchinson however, his memory suggests that The Sons Of Fred were not exactly certain as to which direction they should take. “The band kept coalescing into different things. It went from being a kind of Everly Brothers close harmony thing through being a soul band, into improvised jazz, some Eastern stuff and eventually turned into a sort of noise band, total anarchy really with no chords and completely atonal. People would expect a pop band to turn up and find themselves faced with this bunch of lunatics making all this noise” Two final singles appeared, though once again biographies seem unable to determine the order in which they were issued. They were “I-I-I (Want Your Lovin)” and a spirited cover of the Jimmy Reed song “Baby What You Want Me To Do” that included a freak-tastic guitar solo from Hutchinson and upon which The Sons Of Fred’s reputation was made. A couple of appearances on ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ and ‘Ready Steady Go’ is about as far as many bands got to that elusive breakthrough and in this respect The Sons Of Fred were no different from the rest. Hutchinson however also hints at another potential television performance that could have made the band a household name. ”At one time we did a pilot programme for Kenneth Williams. We were to be a band called ‘Crud Murky and The Germ Spreaders’, a kind of dirty band as bands were supposed to be then and the idea was that Kenneth would start spraying us with this stuff because we were so grubby!”. According to Hutchinson the sketch was abandoned when The Sons Of Fred’s lead singer took umbrance to the idea and exacted revenge on the comedian by spraying him back! Another Fred myth is that the band later changed their name to Odyssey and enjoyed a minor hit in 1968 with “How Long Is Time” – Not true apparently. We do know that Hutchinson eventually left the band to pursue his increasing interest in jazz and Indian music and later appeared in a band called The Sam Gopal Dream before forming a “successful” partnership with keyboard player Andy Clark that resulted in “four semi-legendary LPs of drug/scatter/raga-blues between 1969 and 1971”
Rumour has it that The Sons Of Fred’s performance at the Town Hall was so poor (Mike Guy branded it as “atrocious”) that it was halted by the curtain being brought down mid-concert.
20th June 1966
I’d like to think that everyone has a soft spot for The Troggs. They made some cracking singles from 1966 to 1968 but to a certain extent it’s always been hard to take them seriously. Here’s the evidence. Reg Presley. The simple fact that we have the lead singer of a rock n’roll band called…….Reg is bad enough, but a singer with a distinct west country burr named after the king of rock n’roll with a self-interest in the development of crop circles? Need I go any further? And that’s before we get to “The Troggs Tapes”. Getting The Troggs to play the Top 20 in June 1966 was yet another happy coincidence for Graham Alford as the band were riding high in the charts with the anthemic riff-laden “Wild Thing”. The arrival of the group could not have come at a better time as recent attendances at the club had been poor. The band were originally called The Troglodytes and hailed from that hotbed of British rock n’roll, Andover. After the original group had disintegrated, only two members survived, vocalist Dave Wright and bass player Reginald Ball. Meanwhile, in another part of town, local band Ten Feet Five, were suffering similar upheavals with bass player Peter Staples and guitarist Chris Britton the only survivors. At the suggestion of their respective managers, the two acts amalgamated, but with Dave Wright moving on to another local band called The Loot, Ball emerged as the band’s new vocalist and with the addition of drummer Ronnie Bond, the now renamed Troggs were born. In 1965, The Troggs hooked up with producer/label owner/manager Larry Page after the producer had apparently received a call from the band telling him how wonderful they were. Page is reported to have told them to get back to him in a year’s time, which they did – on the same day – exactly 12 months later (This is one of several Trogg tales incidentally that should be taken with a very large pinch of salt). Page obtained a deal with Fontana but later added the band to his own Page One record label though the debut single “Lost Girl” appeared on CBS after Page had leased the song out to the company. Having failed to make an impression with the record, during the same year, Larry Page stumbled across a song that established The Troggs on both sides of the Atlantic. The Wild Ones, a house band for a posh discotheque run by Richard Burton’s ex-wife Sybil had recorded a song called “Wild Thing”, written by an American called Chip Taylor, brother of actor John Voight and a performer in his own right. During a business trip to New York, Page had heard the demo of Wild Thing, but had wanted the Troggs to record it as a B-side, reserving the A-side for “The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?” The band however were not keen on this idea as The Spoonful’s song was too “flowery” for they heavy-handed approach. At a recording session for The Larry Page Orchestra, The Troggs were told to wait outside in case some valuable and expensive studio time became available. When the session ended 45 minutes ahead of schedule The Troggs were given the green light and “apparently” recorded both “Wild Thing” and a Reg Presley song called “With A Girl Like You” in just 10 minutes “Wild Thing” was released and instantly began to get airplay, but the band had not yet turned professional. Lead singer Reg Ball was still working as a bricklayer and heard “Wild Thing” being played on the radio at a job site. When the record stopped, and the DJ announced that the single had moved into the Top 10, Reg “apparently” threw his trowel down and quit his job on the spot. Reg also decided to change his name on the advice of New Musical Express journalist Keith Altham who suggested that by doing so, Reg Presley might attract some attention from Elvis fans (though one wonders whether Altham’s tongue was firmly “in cheek” when the suggestion was made) “Wild Thing” was a huge smash, reaching No.2 in the UK and topping the Billboard charts despite an administrative cock-up that resulted in the single being released on two different labels simultaneously in America with the records follow-up single appearing on it’s “B” side. “Wild Thing” was a primitive beast in the hands of The Troggs, as explained in the following piece.
“As subtle as your local brontosaurus poking his head through your window, as unprofessional as you yourself on your very first day of guitar playing, and occasionally, as catchy as your local national anthem.” Hendrix played it at Monterey in 1967 (and on numerous other occasions memorably inserting the Americanism “Why don’t you ssssssssssssock it to me one time” during his performance.) The single established the band in this country but The Troggs were unable to consolidate their success in the States mainly due to the fact that they didn’t tour America until 1968. But in England they were a hot property for a few years and made some fantastic singles, most of which were self-penned. The wonderful “With A Girl Like You” reached No.1 in July 1966, “I Can’t Control Myself” No.2 in September 1966, “Anyway That You Want Me” No 10 in December 1966, “Night Of The Long Grass” No.17 in May 1967, and “Love Is All Around” No.5 in October 1967, a single that returned the band to the Top 10 in the States in May 1968. During the release of these records, The Troggs, and Presley in particular, gained a somewhat laughable reputation as a corruptive influence on the minds of the young people who bought their records. “Wild Thing” was vaguely suggestive (and in the hands of Hendrix, downright filthy) whilst the song “I Can’t Control Myself” landed the band in hot water due to the lyric “your slacks are low and your hips are showing” which the BBC thought was too lascivious for daytime audiences, resulting in a ridiculous ban. Chart success became a little harder after 1968 and after falling out big time with Larry Page in a High Court action that made English Law, they eventually disbanded the following year, with first Ronnie Bond and then Reg Presley releasing solo singles. But it wasn’t long before they were back together again with former Plastic Penny bassist Tony Murray replacing Peter Staples, and in 1974, after an unsuccessful spell on Pye Records, re-united with Page, by this time running Penny Farthing Records. Whilst releases of a cover of the Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” and a reggae version of “Wild Thing” suggests that the band were scraping the proverbial barrels, The Troggs reputation was enhanced for all the wrong reasons by the release of a notorious bootleg that appeared in the 1970’s and which is now simply referred to as “The Troggs Tapes” These tapes were of an aborted recording session and feature an hilarious account of a band unable to find any inspiration and at loggerheads with each other. As the band struggle to find an arrangement for a song called “Tranquility” that they think is “a certain No.1” frequent arguments among band members are interspersed with a barrage of four letter words, all delivered in a Farmers Yokel accent. More Derek & Clive than Reg & the boys, the album contains the following words of wisdom on how to make a hit record. “You have to sprinkle some f***ing fairy dust on the bastard”. Thankfully in latter years The Troggs have been fondly remembered and consequently Presley’s pension fund has been significantly boosted by the success of just one song. Wet Wet Wet recorded a radio-friendly version of “Love Is All Around” in 1994 for the film “Four Weddings And A Funeral” and it spent 37 weeks on the chart, 15 of them at No.1. However, the infinitely more hip and groovy R.E.M. re-discovered this song first as it began to appear in their concert performances as early as 1991. This led to a successful re-emergence of The Troggs as a bona-fide band and in 1992 the R.E.M. produced “Athens Andover” album was released to some acclaim, featuring contributions from both Mike Mills and Peter Buck. Apart from Presley’s increasing fascination in UFO’s and crop circles (he has poured a lot of money into attempting to discover an explanation for their formation) and, believe it or not, a version of “Wild Thing” featuring Alex Higgins and Oliver Reed, The Troggs have not really capitalised on their comeback record but then again, maybe they don’t need to.
TROGGS? THE ANSWER LIES IN THE SOIL
Half a bag of stale crisps disappeared so fast down four throats that you’d have thought they were banning eating. The throats belonged to The Troggs, the new four-man beat group from Andover, Hants who burst into the MM Top 50 last week with “Wild Thing” “We’re starving” said Reg Presley looking not a bit like his famous namesake. “This is all we’ve had since breakfast” As it was five o’clock on a very wet afternoon, it didn’t seem the ideal image of a pop group with a hit record. “We’ve been so busy today that we haven’t had time to eat” went on Reg. Perhaps that’s why they were all prostrate on the floor when I interviewed them. The Troggs – Reg Presley, who plays bass guitar, Pete Staples, who also plays bass, Ronnie Bond, the drummer and Chris Britain on lead guitar – have been together only four months, and in spite of their hit, they didn’t know whether they were semi-professional or professional; in other words they didn’t know whether they’d all been sacked from their day jobs. “We haven’t been back this week” said Chris Britain “We came up to London last week and we haven’t been back to our jobs” “We’ve more or less given them up I suppose. I don’t think we’d be welcomed back now anyway” So, Andover has an electrician, a bricklayer, a carpenter and a camera operator less this week – but a hit pop group in return. Where did they get the name? “It came from Troglodytes which are supposed to be earthy creatures” said Reg. “We play earthy music so we thought it was a good name” “Also, with all these trogs in Derbyshire lately, the name’s in the public eye anyway” Their manager Larry Page spent hours searching for the right number for their second disc – the group released “Lost Girl” on CBS on February which made no impression – and found “Wild Thing”, which is a Chip Taylor number, in the early hours of the morning. “I’d listened to about 400 numbers before this one. When we’d found it we rehearsed it very hard before going into the studios. We recorded this one and another called “With A Girl Like You” in about an hour thanks to the close routining.” Reg summed up the musical policy of the group. “We’re wild on stage. We feel that a lot of the visual excitement has gone with many groups – people like The Stones can get the fans going of course – but we think there’s room for wild music. Everything’s getting a bit too pretty! Melody Maker magazine.
CAN TROGGS MAKE IT A HAT-TRICK?
Will a third mod beat group become lasting stars following their appearance at The Top 20 Club? This is the question directed at the virile Troggs who were scheduled to perform at the Town Hall last night (Monday). First it was The Who and then The Small Faces who went to the lop of the tree, and have stayed there, after guesting at the Club. Can The Troggs make it a hat trick ? Many seem to think so. Promoter Graham Alford signed them to his Bridgwater show weeks before their Fontana disc “Wild Thing” started moving. By the time they came to Bridgwater their disc had bounded up to the heights of the popularity charts, including the local top ten, where it reached number one. Certainly The Troggs have that name raw, earthy image that The Who and The Small Faces stir up. They also play uninhibited music in a style not unlike their’ two predecessors at the Club, The stratospheric sounds are made by Reg Presley (lead singer, also tambourine man); Chris Britton (lead guitar): Peter Staples (bass) and Ronnie Bond (drums). Every Trogg comes from Andover. For those wondering about the origin of their name, they’ve taken it from the word ‘Troglodyte’ which means a primitive cave-dweller, hence the reason why people frequently connect them with something to do with Cheddar Caves. The word was actually used as the former title of the group, and the change of name brought them a change of luck, for the boys suddenly went from nowhere right into the popularity stakes. “We’re stunned.” they echo. “We like the feeling of newness in the group. When you’ve played together for years and years you get a bit stale. We feel everything is exciting” The Troggs have much to thank ace recording manager Larry Page for. It was he who got them known, securing dates on such television shows as ” Ready, Steady Go!”, “Thank Your Lucky Stars”, “Top of the Pops** and “Now!”, and leading radio programmes, including “Saturday Club”. Like “Wild Thing”, the quartet have chosen another of their own distinctive compositions for the second single, which will be released shortly. They have nearly finished their first LP. “From Nowhere Came The Troggs” Fast work for a group that has only been going for five months.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
27th June 1966
The Knack have been, at various times, a 60’s American garage band originally called The Mustangs, a Greek garage band from the same period, a Canadian folk-rock group from Toronto who were later called The Dickens and the American combo that had a huge hit towards the latter part of the 70’s with “My Sharona”. But none of these have any connection with the version of The Knack that played the Top 20 in June 1966. This Knack were formed in Ilford in 1963 by hairdresser Paul Curtis (real name Paul Gurvitz). Originally called The Londoners they played American military bases in both Germany and France, and upon returning to the capital city were offered the plum gig of backing a somewhat inebriated Gene Vincent during one of the latter’s soirees in the capital city. This opportunity had come directly from Curtis’ father Sam, who was not only Vincent’s road manager at the time but had worked in the same role for The Shadows. Sometime later The Londoners were hired to play a six-month residency at the Star Club in Hamburg and whilst there they cut their first single, a version of the ballad “That’s My Desire” for the Star Club’s in-house record label. Returning to Blighty once again, the band wisely decided that the name The Londoners was too provincial for the UK public and changed their name using Dick Lester’s 1965 “Swingin” London film, “The Knack… And How to Get It” for inspiration. Sam Curtis was instrumental in providing the group with their first record contract and they duly signed to Decca. They were initially labelled as a proverbial “mod” band though this was more to do with their snappy apparel than any musical influences they may have had. The first Knack single was a cover of the b-side of The Kinks “Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy” entitled “Who’ll Be The Next In Line,” which had been suggested to the group by former Shadow Tony Meehan. Released in September 1965, it sold well enough to keep Decca sweet but it was not a commercial success. For the follow-up, the band issued two songs that had originally been released by the London band The Clique with A-side “It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)” having appeared previously as a February 1965 Pye single produced by Larry Page. Page was, at this time, “advising” The Knack and no doubt played some part in choosing their material, but his expertees were not sufficient enough for the band to gain any chart action and Decca duly dropped them. Sam Curtis – who by this time was working as road manager for the Kinks – once again pulled some strings and due to his Kink Konnections helped secure a deal with Piccadilly Records, a subsidiary of the band’s label, Pye. Working with pop producer John Schroeder, The Knack released four Piccadilly singles starting with a cover of the Lovin Spoonful’s “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind” in April 1966 and then continuing with an item called simply “Stop”. “Stop” was easily the most commercial song they had released to date and proved popular with various pirate radio stations, climbing to No.22 on the Radio London chart.
But despite the pirate’s backing, the record buying public continued to show indifference to both it and the next single “Save All My Love For Joey” though Piccadilly persevered with the band. The next waxing, which turned out to be their last, was a self-penned piece of whimsy entitled “(Man From The) Marriage Guidance & Advice Bureau” the first, and probably the last, song to be written by band member Brian Morris. But by now Piccadilly were floundering financially, (Pye eventually absorbed the label in 1967) and The Knack’s days as a viable recording band were numbered. Paul Gurvitz subsequently appeared very briefly as a member of the touring band version of Rupert’s People (see Les Fleur De Lys) alongside younger brother Adam whilst The Knack continued to tour. One final recording, Gurvitz’ “Light On The Wall” was made with Denny Cordell in the summer of 67 but was never released, and sensing the need for change, the band finally changed their name to Gun and, adopted a “hard-rock” approach to embrace the oncoming rush of Prog-rock. Gun started their career with a BBC session transmitted on 12 November 1967 for John Peel’s “Top Gear” programme and eventually expanded to include brother Adam Gurvitz whilst future Yes vocalist Jon Anderson was a band member for just a few months. After signing to CBS in early 1968, they finally scored a Top 10 hit with “Race With The Devil” in October of that year, a song that Jimi Hendrix occasionally included in his live act. But the band didn’t last long and split in 1970. Brothers Paul & Adrian Gurvitz continued playing together, initially in the heavy rock trio Three Man Army and then, after the addition of ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker, The Baker-Gurvitz Army. Since that band’s demise, the brothers have continued to find success, primarily as songwriters. Paul sang on the original film soundtrack of Tommy, Adrian Gurvitz achieved a minor hit with the song “Classic” in 1982 whilst both have had several compositions recorded by a variety of different artists including “Find The Time”, which Paul Gurvitz co-wrote for the “15-minutes of fame” pop band Five Star.
WEAR JEANS ON THE STAGE? – NOT LIKELY!
The Knack are probably better known in most of the Continental countries as The Londoners than they are in Britain. Since they were formed about four years ago they have often played abroad, but now they are turning down tempting foreign offers so that they can make their name at home. The group were booked to appear at the Top 20 Club last night (Monday). They hope to achieve success through their discs, issued by Piccadilly. Their first single was a good one called “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?” written by the American unit known as The Lovin Spoonful, who have recently taken their own version to the top of. the U.S.A. charts. But unfortunately The Knack had competition in Britain when another new group (The Writ) also chose the number for their disc debut and this divided sales and killed any chance of a chart entry for either group. Based in Ilford, the group consists of Brian Morris (18), lead vocalist and lead guitarist; Paul Curtis (21), rhythm guitarist and vocalist; Graham “Topper” Clay (21), drummer, and Mick Palmer (20), bass guitarist. The only change in line-up since their formation has been Nick who joined two years ago. All the boys say they are determined to be entertainers and when they formed the group they turned professional immediately. After three weeks of intensive rehearsal the group —then known as The Londoners — went to France to play at American bases. They stayed for six successful months and returned to one-night stands in Britain. They then played at American bases in Germany and on returning to England, became Gene Vincent’s backing group. They describe themselves as a vocal group who do a lot of harmony work. They play many American numbers but not numbers from the hit charts. The clothes they wear on stage are casual but not too casual. “We re not scruffy.” they say, “We would never go on stage wearing jeans as we think this is taking the whole thing too far” Now The Knack are hoping that no other group will spoil their chances of getting a hit out of their second waxing, just put on the market by Piccadilly and called, “Stop! (Before You Get Me Going)”. At the last count they hadn’t heard of anyone else recording the same song so they are just going to keep their fingers crossed!
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
4th July 1966
A PLEASURE TO SIT DOWN & LISTEN
The familiar sight at the Bridgwater Top 20 Club is of young pop fans fervently dancing to big maelstrom sounds from guitar groups. So it was a surprise, somewhat of a pleasant shock, and a delight to find everyone at last Monday’s meeting listening in hushed silence to one lone girl singing folk songs from the Town Hall stage. Lindsay Dear is the name of the 17-year-old Devizes thrush who won over the beat-conscious mass, and received a tumultuous, spontaneous ovation at the end of each number in her 15-minute spot. Members were immediately attracted to the conviction, purity, and style of her act, calling for more when the curtain came down. Standing close to the mike, gently strumming her acoustic guitar, Lindsay — with the light brown hair and hazel eyes — exuded confidence coupled with amazing maturity for her age and unshakeable determination. For a comparative newcomer who has not had a disc released yet, she is getting star treatment from television and radio producers. You will have seen her on T.W.W.’s ” Cider Apple ” folk programme, “T.W.W. Reports,” possibly “Westward Diary” and heard her on the West Region radio show, ” Folk Club.” Songwriters are composing specially for Lindsay, she has already made an L.P. for September release on which she sings several of her own numbers, and has a long contract with United Artistes Records (guaranteeing her disc releases in America); in fact everything that could happen for a performer seems to be happening for Lindsay. A modern folk singer, it is therefore no surprise to discover Lindsay likes Joan Baez and Bob Dylan She says she prefers cabaret work, but enjoys performing to young people at such events like the Top 20 Club. “They usually listen” says the girl with a winning personality, who will put her first single on the market at the end of August. Lindsay started singing at the age of 13. Her love of folk music came after she had sung with two West Country attractions The Sorel Trio and the Trutones. Now she is poised for the big time. Lindsay Dear (that’s her real name) stands a good chance of making it. Monday’s meeting was unusual, for not only did it spotlight folk but also presented two “live” attractions on the bill instead of the customary one. The other guests were The Voids, that fast rising unit from Weston-Super-Mare who have just made a dent in the record world with their first Polydor disc “Come On Out”. There are four in the group, which is led by Graham Alva, who used to work at Wellworthy’s, Bridgwater, where he served his apprenticeship. Out of all the Somerset groups, The Voids seemed to have made the most progress towards national acclaim. They also have this determination to get to the top. Managed by Westside Promotions, Street, expect a fan club to be started for them soon and their second single in August. Now that they are so busy working up and down the country, The Voids have turned professional. Rest of them are Bill Edwards (rhythm and vocal), Harvey Coles (bass), and Dave Bateman (drums), who combined to give two splendid stints of a very high standard. They spent all of May touring Germany and have been seen in an edition of B.B.C. Television’s “ Points West” Close harmony is The Voids’ trademark. At last it seems a Somerset group is really getting somewhere. With Lindsay Dear plus This Voids, Monday’s show was quite something.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
This was the first Top Twenty concert to be in aid of a charitable concern, namely the N.S.P.C.C. and from this point on, all shows were performed for this children’s charity.
11th July 1966
THE FORCE WEST
Despite the fact that a number of Top Twenty patrons seem to remember this band with some fondness, they are a hard group to track down with precious little information available regarding their history and material hard to come by despite having a sizable discography of singles recorded under a number of different names. They were originally formed from the amalgamation of two local Bristol bands, Danny Clarke and the Jaguars and Johnny Dee and the Diatones and were signed to Columbia for which they recorded their debut single “I Can’t Give What I Haven’t Got” in 1965. They could be classed as a vocal harmony band I guess, with a number of their songs strongly reminiscent of another group plowing a similar, but more successful, furrow, The Fortunes. Wikipedia states that “a number of singles were released during the 1960’s but no commercial success was forthcoming”. 6 in all as a matter of fact, released between 1965 & 1968, all perfectly acceptable, professional, polished, pop that, for some reason, failed to capture the public’s attention. As with a lot of bands from this period, the obligatory name change to something more um “psychedelic” (in this case “The Oscar Bicycle”) resulted in one single, the “B” side of which “The Room Revolves Around Me”, is apparently regarded as a “Psychedelic Classic” (note the capital letters.) However having taken the acid test only to score a D- they returned to normality with 2 more 45’s under their old name before becoming a 4-piece band under the name “Shakane”, reinventing their sound and image with the same negative results.
UP AMONG THE STARS
Force West – newest Top 20 Club recording group from Bristol – have found the answer to their travelling problems between one theatre and another over Britain’s congested roads, they just glance at the traffic jams and then take to the air, for the Columbia stars have their own aeroplane, a six-seater Piper. “Our manager is a pilot, and he bought the plane so that we could get to our faraway dates more quickly, I think he got fed up with the long, tedious road journeys. We just hop into the plane and he flies up there. He knows all the private airstrips; we can usually find one quite near to where we are appearing” enthused lead linger Danny Clarke. Force West are the only British group I know to own an aeroplane. Oh. and in case your are wondering, no they didn’t come to Bridgwater in their plane. It’s near enough to Bristol for them to have used the “old” mode of travel, the motor car! This outfit are yet another West Country attraction to build up a firm national following through discs and personal appearances. Their debut single (for Decca last August) was “I Can’t Give What I Haven’t Got”, but the one which established them was “Gotta Find Another Baby”, issued by Columbia on Friday the 13th of May. This week sees the release of their third for Columbia, “When The Sun Comes Out”, a very good number, but a vital one for them, because if it takes off then Force West will turn professional. They concentrate on getting a big vocal effect, like The Fortunes, and an orchestra is added to their recording work. With Danny Clarke are Brian Trustler (lead guitar and vocals), Adrian Castello (guitar and vocals), John Strange (baas and vocals), and Sid Phillips (drums and vocals). Their Top 20 Club performance put the accent on melody, while the singing was of a high standard.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
ARRIVED BY AMBULANCE
Quite a few heads turned in the High Street, Bridgwater, on Monday afternoon when an ambulance painted in a myriad of colours and literally covered with messages and drawings innocently drove by. It stopped people in their tracks. They looked on in bewildered amazement, almost rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the sight before them. The clue came when the vehicle eventually parked near the Town Hall. The ambulance was carrying the seven members of the Brum group The John Bull Breed to their Top 20 Club engagement in the town that evening. Following closely on the heels of Force West and their ‘plane, The Breed must rival them for using the most original form of transport. Eager to find out more I spoke with John Lodge, spokesman, bass guitarist and vocalist of this new outfitIn this column next week John tells the full story of why they decided to buy an ambulance.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
18th July 1966
THE JOHN BULL BREED
A Birmingham band who’s background remains sketchy, primarily as they appear to have operated on the periphery of the Brum Beat scene. The John Bull Breed lasted for precisely 2 years and “paid their dues” as many bands did back in the day by building a decent reputation locally and making at least 4 visits to Germany. In the same year of their Top 20 appearance (6th May to be precise) they released just the one single for Polydor, a version of a rare Ike Turner song called “Can’t Chance A Break-Up” backed with a version of Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man”, the latter of which was apparently a crowd favourite. And that was that as far as the sum total of their recorded output is concerned, splitting up after an appearance on TV failed to secure chart success. The Breed or Bulldog Breed as they were sometimes called, are fairly significant as they provided future Moody Blues bassist John Lodge with an early foray into the wonderful world of pop music. Lodge had been around before The John Bull Breed, having appeared in a band called The Carpetbaggers and before them, El Riot & the Rebels, a local group that also included future Moody’s Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder. When Lodge went to Technical College and Pinder joined the army, the band split up and in Lodge’s absence The Moody Blues were formed. Aided and abetted by Denny Laine they secured a huge hit in 1964 with the Bessie Banks song “Go Now” but internal problems saw Laine and another band member leave, and en route to the effective re-incarnation of the band, Lodge and another local boy Justin Hayward were brought in as replacements. Prior to that, the Breed’s split occurred when 2 members of the band were asked to reform one of their old groups (who subsequently were re-named The Question) and 2 other Bull Breed members (including the aforementioned Mr Lodge) went with them. Their legacy may be small but apart from leaving behind their one and only 45 and a very rare promo film with which to advertise it, it has been suggested that the “B”-side, a somewhat frantic version of “I’m A Man”, was a huge influence on Bowie’s “The Jean Genie”.
Wherever they go – it’s by ambulance. The new seven-piece Birmingham outfit, The John Bull Breed, are an extraordinary lot in the nicest sense, as I found out when they were recently at the Top 20 Club, Rainbow-coloured ambulances, animal hospitals and rigid group policies were some of the assorted topics that came up during the interview. They travel about in a brightly painted ambulance. John Lodge (bass guitarist, spokesman and vocalist) explained, “We discovered the ambulance was due to be cut up for scrap. Because we are a big group we thought it would be ideal for us so we acquired it in part exchange for a 35-ton furniture removal truck which we were then using. The truck was a bit too large for us and uneconomic to run. “We took all the beds out, took down the partition and put up seats making a separate place in which to put our equipment. Then one afternoon we got to work with the paint brushes. The inside roof is covered with messages as well. In fact we add to it all the time—and so do the fans” That rigid group policy of theirs is that each player must be unmarried. This ruling has resulted in numerous changes in line-up. With John at present are Mike Heard (lead guitar), Ev Griffin (organ and tenor sax), Graham Norton Green (tenor and baritone, sax and flute), Gene Graham (drums) and two full-time vocalists, Mark Stuart and Andrew Mungin — Andrew being the only “foreigner”. He came from Scotland to join the Birmingham boys. Describing the material they perform as commercial blues, The John Bull Breed are to be applauded on getting away from the usual musical make-up of a group. With several successful tours behind them, they are now searching for disc hits. Their first for Polydor is “Can’t Chance A Break-Up”
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
9th August 1966
GALAXY OF STARS
After it’s annual Summer break, the Top 20 Club resumes sessions at Bridgwater Town Hall next Monday. This Autumn an even more glittering array of stars will line up, and one of the first bookings confirmed is a return appearance by the popular Quiet Five on August 22nd.
In the absence of any Top Twenty news, Mike Guy began a regular column called “Top 20” Newsbeat which focused on the latest gossip surrounding some of the bands that had played The Town Hall. These reports mixed details of new releases and TV appearances with the mad and mundane.
….Nicky Scott (of Dianne Ferraz and Nicky Scott ate 30 bananas for a bet!……on train to Liverpool, Dave Dee aggregation had breakfast with Mr. & Mrs. Harold Wilson….Alan Price’s trumpet player John Walters (24) has married teacher Helen Gallagher….Swinging Blue Jeans exchanged copy of “Sandie” for a copy of “The Executive’s Cookbook”…….Rumours that Keith Moon turned down Bob Dylan’s offer to join his backing group……..Dave Berry guests in all-star musical film “The Ghost Goes Gear”……..Troggs very annoyed at Jonathan King’s recent remarks that if you liked or bought “A Girl Like You” you are “the very lowest common denominator in the pop audience”……..
15th August 1966
PETE BUDD & THE REBELS
Despite Mike Guy’s enthusiasm in the report above, The Top Twenty began it’s slow decline, and with due respect to the bands that played during this period, the quality of the artists appeared to decline with it. Already noticeable was a tendency to book bands from the locality, which was a return to the policy that The Club had when it first began back in 1960. We’d had The Voids from Weston-Super-Mare and Force West from Bristol and these were quickly followed by Pete Budd & the Rebels, another Bristolian band. Whether this policy was due to lack of funding is not certain, but the Top Twenty’s heyday was, by this time, over and attendances continued to decrease on a weekly basis. Regarding Budd & His Rebels, Pete was born in Brislington, but was brought up in nearby Keynsham – Horace Batchelor country. Pete got a job at the local Fry’s Chocolate Factory but having caught the rock n’roll bug, played guitar in a number of local bands. In the early 1960s he joined Les Watts And The Rebels as the band’s guitarist and backing singer and was subsequently voted West Country’s No 1 guitar player in a ‘Western Scene’ poll. When leader Les quit the band, Pete eventually took over as head honcho and they were consequently renamed Pete Budd and the Rebels. Apart from a newspaper clipping from 1963 that has the band playing in front of a crowd of 9,000 at Eastville, the old Bristol Rovers ground, that’s about it regarding The Rebels biography, a sketchy history to say the least (cue Michael Guy below). Besides a brief stint with Pye, Pete did make a few records in the late 1960s in a band called The Rainbow People, a six-piece outfit that held a residency at the Locarno Ballroom. Since then, Budd has established himself as one of the most well-known Somerset performers in the country. After The Rebels demise, Pete replaced Reg Quantrill as the Wurzels’ guitar and banjo player and in fact he was the only member of the 1970’s line-up that was actually born in this county. His distinctive vocals are all over their chart hits, including their number one hit “Combine Harvester” and the follow-up “I Am A Cider Drinker”. Pete is still with the band today, and is therefore the second longest serving Wurzel after Scotsman Tommy Banner.
NEW SEASON OPENED
Bristol’s Pete Budd & the Rebels opened a new season of Top 20 Club dance shows at Bridgwater Town Hall on Monday, last week, and provided a fine send-off to the series. In two sets they must have included all types of popular music. The fans were with them all the way as they delivered their songs with polish and charm. Putting the accent on music rather than wild, embarrassing antics was all to their favour while in addition they are considerate enough to keep the sound at a tolerable volume and how much more pleasant this was. They shone on “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” “Whatc’ha Gonna Do About It” and “I Put A Spell On You” which found them at their best. But some of the comedy items only served to cheapen the act. Bearded Pete, who plays guitar, is joined on stage by Mel Taylor (vocals) Dave Radford (bass) Jules Bailey (drums) and Alex Gillis (organ), who must rank as one of the best organists in the West Country. He should be fronting a group of his own. The Rebels have been around in one form or another for the last 10 years. Jules used to back Peter and Gordon and then David and Jonathan; others were once with The Allisons. Their engagements book is full and they are hoping to follow their recent Pye debut (“Hey Joe”) with one of their own numbers.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
22nd August 1966
The Quiet Five
WANTED – ONE GOOD NEW SONG!
Wanted, one good new song for next single by The Quiet Five. They are looking for a composer who can come up with a really strong number to put them in the charts following the comparative failure of their last waxing, “I Am Waiting” which was written by Keith Richard and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. Lack of recording material is something worrying a number of groups just now. It seems the very large number of discs released each week far exceeds the output of songwriters, hence this heartfelt plea from The Quiet Five, when making their second visit to the Top 20 Club last Monday. The only disc project the lads have lined up at present is a number for the American market called “On The Path To Glory” written by Petula Clark. It will be in the U.S.A. disc bars on September 1st. Why weren’t they going to issue this in Britain? “It wouldn’t go here at the moment. This is a song about war in the Barry Sadler idiom, which people in America seem to like much more than those over here” But the group continue to give exceptionally fine stage performances and the have a lucrative future booking which will take them to Venice for four days to star at the Palace of Volpi. Although their act was similar in content to that presented at the Club in June, it’s entertainment value made it worth seeing again. Impersonations of fellow popsters scored with a receptive audience, who also warmed to their striking vocal work and friendly personalities. That The Quiet Five swelled the meagre attendance figures of recent Summer weeks is proof of their popularity.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
“Great atmosphere at the Club last Monday with everyone joining in singing “Yellow Submarine”
Ahead of the next concert at The Town Hall, Mike prepares another “Newsbeat” item for the Bridgwater Mercury. Hidden amongst the latest news items is the comment “Big name group badly needed to revitalise Top 20 Club……”
12th September 1966
THAT GROUP (with Bob Martin & Denise)
Yet another band from the Deep South. In this case, Southampton. That Group were a “soul” band of sorts fronted by guitarist Bob or Robb Martin and featuring six members in total with an average age of just 23 which is somewhat surprising considering the historic local pedigree of the musicians involved. 17 year-old Denise O’Farrell was the lead vocalist and was later married to organist Roger Rickman. 22 year-old guitarist John Hatch had been a member of The Jaguars, the backing band for 1961 Top Twenty artists The Nevitt Bros, whilst drummer Tony Burnett, at age 24, was by far the most experienced musician having appeared in umpteen bands including, so I understand, Tex Roberg’s group, another artist who had previously made a 1961 appearance at the Town Hall. Along with Rob Chance & The Chancers “R” (see 31st October 1966 entry), That Group successfully won their way through to the semi-finals of a Melody Maker Beat Contest in 1966 having triumphed over such household names as The Rogues from West Bromwich, The Hi-Hats from Liverpool and The Astro-Beats from Spalding in Lincolnshire. Over to Mike…………………
“TOP 20 CLUB” COMPETITION
The Top 20 Club is to hold a surprise competition at next Monday’s session. It will be open to all who attend. Make sure of qualifying for entry by being present. Last week’s guests, Southampton’s That Group, made good music. Their two sets had polish and class. A semi-pro outfit that has been around for only six months, they got better with each number, making the trip up from Hampshire very worth while. Most numbers were announced in advance — a helpful service not always given by groups – and each item flowed smoothly into the next with the minimum of talking. The five lads dressed casually but smartly, displayed personality arid showed evidence of developing into an act that will win them more admirers in the future. Visually, they were considerably aided by a girl singer – Denise – who fronts the group with another soloist, Robb Martin. Constant changes in the vocal line-up kept things happening, while their choice of material made it clear they can tackle most modern styles. Standouts were an exciting “All join in” version of “Land of 1,000 Dances” a belting “Dancing In The Street”, “Barefootin'”, Ike and Tina Turner’s “Finger Poppin'” and “In The Midnight Hour” (how many times have we heard this song performed at the Club?). There were shades of Dianne Ferraz and Nicky Scott in the duets between Denise & Robb, which I found captivating. “Ain’t That Lovin You Baby” proved how well these tow exhilarating voices blend, and – on her own this time – Denise brought female charm to Chris Montez’s recent hit “The More I See You”, giving it vigorous treatment. John Hatch (lead guitar), Gerry Sansome (bass guitar), Tony Burnett (drums) and Roger Rickman (organ) had their time cut out matching the pace set by the two full-time swinging singers, but gave a solid sound which contained both tone and colour.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
19th September 1966
THE IDES OF MARCH
The band that were originally scheduled to appear on the 19th September were Southampton-based Rob Chance & The Chancers, but due to their unavailability, this group replaced them. Billed simply as a “New Modern Group” there was an Ides Of March based in Chicago from this period that scored a USA million seller in 1970 with the Blood, Sweat & Tears-ish “Vehicle”. So, the question is, did they arrive all the way fron the windy city in order to play the Town Hall? The answer of course is no. The British Ides Of March were from Wolverhampton, were originally called The Moments and apparently first came to local prominence when the Radio Luxembourg Talent tour reached the Midlands town. The group included a number of musicians only known to Wolverhampton-folk such as John Beattie, later a member of another local band called The Bossmen and later still part of the German group Spectrum and vocalist John Bradford who recorded under the names John Ford and Eli Bonaparte. The closest the band got to “making it” was a trip to London for a recording session, which unfortunately proved unsuccessful. They were apparently a throwback to the blues boom groups of the early 60’s, heavily influenced by Elmore James and the like and according to one web-site were “Very much an acquired taste, rather than a typical pop group who attempted to woo the teenage audience”. Sadly, not really the sort of band with which to thrill the dwindling Top Twenty audiences.
26th September 1966
THE PEOPLE’S PEOPLE
CONGRATULATIONS ARE IN ORDER!
Congratulations to Margaret Elkins, of 7 Penlea Avenue, Bridgwater, and Johan Pidgeon of Castle House, Enmore! These two girls won our competition at The Top 20 Club on Monday. As their prize both will receive two tickets to see the stage show at Taunton Gaumont on Thursday, October 20th, which stars Top 20 Club groups The Nashville Teens and The Small Faces, plus The Hollies, Paul Jones, and Paul and Barry Ryan. After the show it is hoped that Margaret and Johan will be able to go backstage to meet the artists. The competition took form of guessing the disc. Three discs were played and members were asked to identify the artists on two of them. The first two people to come to the dressing room with the correct answers would claim the prize. Margaret clearly spotted the singers way before anyone else. An apprentice hairdresser, she told me she is most looking forward to seeing and probably meeting The Hollies. She likes all of their discs, but says she doesn’t buy any records because she can tape them at home. A Radio London fan, Margaret has never won a competition before. She added that she would most probably ask her boyfriend to see the UK show with her. Johan has said she will invite her friend Vicky Bromley, of 21 Wares Lane, Wembdon, to go to Taunton with her. I discovered that both Johan and Vicky know The Four Pennies personally, and when The Pennies had played at Weston Winter Gardens the previous Saturday they had invited them to spend part of their week-end with their families. Two members of the group — Lionel Morton and Hick Wilsh — stayed with the Pidgeons, while Alan Buck and Fritz Fryer stayed with the Bromleys. , The group told them that they hoped to have a now single out soon called “Sad Song” followed by an L.P. Like Margaret, Johan and Vicky are most eager to see The Hollies at Taunton. In case some of you are still wondering who the artists were in the competitions, the discs were: in order of playing, Paddy, Klaus and Gibson, “Quick Before They Catch Us”, Neil Diamond “Cherry, Cherry” and The Beach Boys, “You’re So Good To Me.” The evening’s guest group were People’s People, who are managed by Avenue Artists Ltd., the Southampton-based agency which has supplied a number of talented attractions at the Club in the past. This newest arrival in the stable did not let the side down . There is a robust framework in the group and the performance pleased. Keeping mostly to Hit Parade material they laced together songs such as “I’m A Boy” “Working In the Coal Mine” and “God Only Knows”. With perfect harmony they also included a couple of Manfred Mann specialities — “Just Like A Woman” and “Pretty Flamingo” An adaptable group, their freshness came over on stage. People’s People come from Bournemouth and got their name from a “group title” competition run by the Poole and East Dorset Herald. They say they are going to live up to their name by giving the public the kind of music it wants. The group consist of Colin Alner and Bob Frampton (guitars), Pete Bellman (bass), and Richard Cartridge (drums and lead vocalist). On Monday, Pete was playing with them for the first time. The group ran into bad luck the previous Saturday when some of their equipment got damaged In a road accident on the Winchester by-pass. People’s People, who have been in existence for sir months, report business is healthy for music groups in their home town. Expect them shortly to cut their first disc with Polydor. The record company is interested in the group and is currently finding material which might prove suitable for them to wax. When the ball really starts rolling for People’s People they could very easily follow in the footsteps of another Bournemouth group, Zoot Money and The Big Roll Rand. Let’s wish them success.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
17th October 1966
Another band with which a process of elimination is required in order to determine exactly who they were, or to be more precise who they were not. They were not, for example, John’s Children, a psychedelic conglomeration, managed by Simon Napier-Bell and featuring a young urchin called Marc Feld (Bolan). They were also not the American band called The Children that sprung from the San Antonio garage scene during the Mid-60’s. They were…..well who knows? The advertisement states that they were a “new and exciting” group from London, which narrows it down a bit, but as the mercurial Michael Guy did not produce a report on this concert, they remain a totally unknown quantity.
18th October 1966
THE COST OF FORTUNE
How much money can the Top 20 Club groups command for a Monday night gig at the Town Hall? What are they paid before they hit the road for the long, cold journey back to the Midlands or the North? Does a hit record make all that difference to their earnings at stage appearances The answers come dramatically from the Terry Blood Agency, which is responsible for many of the artists who come to the Club. The agency has revealed to me details of booking fees and they make interesting reading, A group whose discs regularly get into the charts will take home at much as £150 more for one dance date than the group who have never had a hit. Those who can think themselves lucky if they are handed £40 at the end of the evening include Club stars The Mighty Avengers. The Just Four Men (now The Wimple Witch), The Eyes, The Remo Four, and The Toggery Five. And also in this bracket are The Cops and Robbers, The Paramounts, and Jimmy Powell and The Five Dimensions, although they might be fortunate enough to get an extra tenner – that’s £50 to split five or six ways between them. At the other end of the scale are the ‘big name’ boys – the Top 20 Club groups whose fortunes run high in the Hit Parade, a cost which has to be paid in full by dance promoters. People like The Small Faces, The Who, and Wayne Fontana fill their wallets with £200 a time at each stint. It could be even more if they have a number one. In between these two extremes there are an amazing number of artistes who were, once lop stars. Now their records don’t make the popularity lists, so the fee is knocked down accordingly Remember these former hit makers — Sounds Inc., The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Fourmost, The Sorrows. Them, The Nashville Teens? All of them will now get between £100 and £135. Then in the £60-£100 class, here’s The Downliners Sect, The Action, The T-Bones, Peter Jay and The Jaywalkers, The Checkmates, and The Mojos. But they get more than The Gamblers, The Bo Street Runners, Tommy Quickly, and The Lancastrians, who will be paid £40-£60. So it seems that unless a group have a good chart representation, they may only just break even on a Top Ten Club date.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
31st October 1966
ROB CHANCE & THE CHANCES “R”
The Top Twenty continued to rely on bands within the locality and were once again heavily indebted to the Avenue Agency based in Southampton who provided this band, billed as Rob Chance & The Chancers but known, particularly during the latter part of their career under the above name. For sheer staying power, Chance’s band outlasted many of the other bands on the Avenue roster, their career spanning the period 1964-1968 whilst the general consensus appears to be that they were one of the best bands to emerge from the area. They did eventually record for CBS, releasing three singles in 1967 (after an interesting visit to the CBS studios wardrobe department) but most of their career was spent on the outer regions of pop’s star galaxy. The first line-up played The London Palladium, and recorded two unreleased tracks at a London studio in 1965 whilst just before their Top 20 appearance they had finished in the Top Five of a Melody Maker contest to find “Britain’s best Amateur Band”. But most of their acclaim was achieved locally where they held down two residencies at the Southampton & Bournemouth Ice Rinks. In fact Avenue Artists seems to have signed the band during the latter part of their career and, with spirits no doubt soaring after the Melody Maker result, it wasn’t long before the proverbial record deal was signed and an attempt at stardom was attempted. Unfortunately, after the third and final single failed to make it, Chance dropped out of the music scene altogether and was replaced in the band by Glen Conway. A 5-month stint backing American singer Jack Daley followed but the band eventually split in 1968.
WEST GROUP AMONG BRITAIN’S BEST
“Melody Maker” finalists Rob Chance and The Chances R played at the club recently. The Southampton boys were placed fifth in the annual contest run by the weekly pop paper to find Britain’s best amateur music groups. “It made a tremendous difference to us ending up so high in the competition” enthused Rob. “We have since had a flood of engagements and have now secured a recording contract. Our first disc will be out in the New Year and it may be a number we have written ourselves” The contingent, who play all types of pop, are sticking to their respective daytime jobs , until the future is clearer for them. This means they have to make a quick dash from work to wherever they are performing. In fact they only just made it for this Bridgwater engagement! Since the contest there have been a few minor alterations in the line-up. A new recruit makes the group a sextet, while a replacement has been found for one member who left. The personnel now reads; Rob Chance and Mike Davis (vocalists); Thomas Bannister (lead) Peter Cortes (rhythm); Ron Callaway (bass) and Graham E’abo (drums).
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
1st November 1966
A NIGHT WITH THE STARS
Four local teenagers were in a pop fan’s paradise recently when they met and talked with the stars of a giant nationwide package show which pulled into Taunton Gaumont. For Johan Pidgeon of Castle House, Enmore and Margaret Elkins of 7 Penlea Avenue, Bridgwater, it was part of their prize in winning a competition run at Bridgwater’s Top 20 Club. Each was allowed to take a friend backstage between houses to share in the excitement of coining face to face with many of Britain’s current idols. Johan invited Vicky Bromley, of 21 Wares Lane, Wembdon, to go along with her, and Margaret was accompanied by her boy friend. First call was at dressing room No.2, where recent chart-toppers The Small Faces were taking a breather after the first of their two energetic acts. The Nashville Teens obligingly looked in to say hello. Then it was along the corridor to visit Marlon Ryan’s now famous twins, Paul and Barry. The Hollies and Paul Jones were not in the theatre at that time so the competition winners returned out front to enjoy the second part of their prize – seeing the whole of the second house from reserved seats in the dress circle. The Hollies left me in no doubt that they were the group to top the bill. They work hard together creating music that is streets ahead of anything else in this class. The Small Faces whipped up a storm with all their hits featuring their distinctive crashing guitars and defiant approach; Paul Jones made a very successful debut as a solo singer and proved he need not have The Manfreds behind him; Paul and Barry Ryan are real professionals, their close harmonising and actions getting a lot of screams, while The Nashville Teens showed they are an underrated group. Excellent supporting acts came from Peter Jay & the Jaywalkers, and Robb Storme & The Whispers. Linking the programme was compere Ray Cameron. I had an exclusive interview with Graham Nash, and in a future Top 20 Club column will be telling you about The Hollies discovery of a wonderful source of music.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
8th November 1966
“POP” DANCES MAY FINISH NEXT MONTH
Decision by Bridgwater Town Council on Wednesday not to reduce the hire charge of the Town Hall for the Top 20 Club means the weekly pop dances will probably finish at the end of the year. The promoter, Mr. Graham Alford, has been paying eight guineas for the hire of the hall since June, by running the shows on a charity basis and giving the net proceeds to the N.S.P.C.C. He says he is unable to pay the commercial rate of 18 guineas because attendances have fallen sharply. Members of the Council heard that the regional secretary of the N.SP.C.C had received sums of two guineas from each dance, but that the Borough Treasurer, Mr. William Popham after examining Mr. Alford’s accounts was “unable to accept his contention” The Council agreed with their Commerce and Development Committee in not being prepared to accept the dances were now organised on a charity basis and to continue charging Mr, Alford the full amount. Before the Council’s decision Mr. Alford said on Monday last: “I have paid for the hire of the hall up to the end of the year. But if the Council pass the recommendations of the committee I am afraid I shall have to stop running the dances after that” Attendances have been falling off over the last 18 months. At the peak we used to get up to 650 teenagers here a week, but now the number is down to about 100. “I started to run the dances for charity because I could not make them pay. I don’t want to discontinue them but during the last three weeks they hare been making a loss, and I have been paying the groups and costs out of my own pocket. “If the attendances go up again I shall once more organise the dances on a commercial basis, but with the situation as it is at present I am unable to pay the full rate” Mr. Alford continued: “This committee report makes me out to be a liar, in effect. I would like to invite Council members to come to one of the dances and see the position for themselves. And I should be quite happy, in fact I would like to go through my accounts with the Borough Treasurer”. Mr. Alford has been running the Top 20 Club dances in Bridgwater for over six years. He has brought many top professional recording artistes to the town, including The Troggs, The Who, The Small Faces and Dave Dee and his group, besides launching a number of West Country units. For the teenagers of the Borough it has been their sole source of “live” top pop entertainment.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
14th November 1966
MIKE RAYNOR & THE CONDORS
THE CONDORS ARE GOING PLACES
Throughout this year it has become more and more evident that the standard of music attained by groups who have yet to make a record have reached an all-time high, The amateur boys are quite decidedly striving for perfection, using a wider range of instruments, and displaying a greater amount of musical skill. Aldershot’s Mike Raynor and The Condors are one such outfit and after seeing them at The Top 20 Club last week I should think they deserve that chance to make a disc which Tom Jones’ manager, Gordon Mills is currently planning. The boys are commercial, versatile, and their music has class. They have already toured Holland and Germany, where they got wild receptions, and this Christmas they are returning to Germany to star at the Savoy Club, Hanover. A tour of Greece is also in the offing. Their set had so many good things. Laurie Jenkins, doubling on sax and trumpet, put bite behind Mike’s singing, and there was some solid, forceful stuff from fellow members Bob Bigg (lead), Paddy Lavelle !bass) and Keith Barnard [drums). Material spanned a goodly number of years. Evoking pleasant memories with such old popsters as The Marcels “Blue Moon” and The Markees ‘Last Night.” they switched to modern compositions like Cliff Bennett’s “Got To Get You Into My Life” And there were some midway between the two, The Temptation’s “It’s Alright” for example; But the stand-outs were “Nobody Needs Your Love* and the Mariachi sound of ‘Sunday and Me” with Laurie blowing a great trumpet.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
21st November 1966
The Spectres, quite possibly the last band EVER to play The Top Twenty, were formed in 1962 by 5 guys from the Bath OPB Youth club. Over the next 3 years they built a solid if unspectacular following, playing as the regular support band at the Bath Pavilion to a number of well-known headliners. In 1965 the band won the Bath heat of the Musicians Union Beat Contest and representing the city in the final, held at the Colston Hall, they emerged victorious. Shipped of to London as part of their first prize they recorded probably the only two songs that the original Spectres ever committed to tape, one of which was a cover version of Roy Orbison’s “Indian Wedding”.
Upon returning to their native Bath they obtained a lucrative Sunday night residency at the “famed” Regency Ballroom and it was during this period that the band gained a sizable local following. With crowds packing the Pavilion on a weekly basis, the decision was taken to turn professional but the move proped unpopular with at least one band member, drummer Brian Higgs, who decided to leave. Re-naming themselves The Mirror, they recorded a couple of singles, the first of which “Paperboy”, failed miserably despite the hope that national newspaper The Daily Mirror might adopt the single in an advertising campaign that never quite took off. The second single, “Gingerbread Man” sold well by comparison, particularly on the continent, and it’s sales earned them a stint in Germany that culminated in an appearance on the popular TV program “Beat Club”. Unfortunately it was 6 months into this tour that the group broke up due to undisclosed “contractual” problems, causing an absence from the music scene that lasted some 25 years before they re-united in 1992.
THE NAME’S THE SAME!
Controversy over more than one pop group using the same title flared up again last week at The Top 20 Club with an appearance by The Spectres, a semi-pro group from Bath. The trouble is that there is another outfit called The Spectres, who hail from London and are professional recording artistes, their latest Picadilly single, “Hurdy Gurdy Man” being released only a week or two ago. Spokesman for the local Spectres, rhythm and bass guitar player Brian Neathey claimed last Monday: “We used the name first. We called ourselves this when we formed nearly three years ago. I don’t think the other group have been going for so long” Is the situation harming their own career? “Well, it is a bit of an embarrassment and it can be a handicap” They enjoy playing Tamla Motown music, but their sound balance at the club was decidely cloudy. You can judge the potential of the group for yourselves when they perform in the Tuesday, December 13th edition of Ted Ray’s new T.W.W. show “Tonight’s The Night”. It will be screened at 7.30 p.m. The lads, who have played all over the West of England. are in a wide variety of occupations from salesman and printer, to shoe operator and civil servant. There are six members in all.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
….And that was it. With The Spectres, the Top Twenty effectively ceased to function and even though the name was retained for a slightly new venture, this semi-pro outfit from Bath were the last band to play “live” under it’s banner. I think it’s fair to say that the Top Twenty ended with a wimper and not the big bang that I had hoped for. Due no doubt to financial constraints, a series of semi-pro bands like The Spectres were responsible for seeing out the last few months of it’s existence and what had been such a vibrant local scene was now gone. Incidentally, the “other” Spectres that hailed from London mentioned in the above report? They left Picadilly Records, signed to Pye and in 1967 changed their name to Status Quo. Now if only THEY had played the last gig!!!!????
29th November 1966
NOW A BRITISH DISC DEBUT
Former Westover schoolboy’s rise to fame. A former member of The Pressmen – one of Bridgwater’s original beat groups – has become a a famous pop artiste on the Continent and cut his first British single with E.M.I. The remarkable success story is that of 24-year-old Peter Gibbs, who used to live at 6 Sunnybank Road, Bridgwater, where his parents still reside. He went to London five years ago to pursue a career as a professional in the world of pop music. He joined a group called The Cliftons whose bass guitarist was Bill Wyman, later to become one of The Rolling Stones. After about a year, Peter left The Cliftons and played with four or five other groups over a period. His rise to international fame began about two years ago when he adopted the stage name Lee Grant and formed his own unit, billing the group as Lee Grant & The Capitols. They gained valuable experience, working most of the London clubs. But their real luck came when they secured bookings in Majorca in June of last year. Lee Grant and The Capitols never looked back. Their name spread farther afield, and soon the boys were honouring engagements in many parts of Spain. The numbers of their fans grew ever larger, so it was not long before the group were taking the next natural step forward – into the recording studios. A contract was signed with the Spanish recording company Belter, and to date they have had three discs released in Spain and several other Continental countries, the last of which sold over 14,000 copies. These discs are E.P.’s too, becuase very few singles are made on the continent. Peter (or Lee) and his colleagues have performed on numerous television and radio shows over there, and played in thousands of theatres throughout Spain, Portugal, and France. Their popularity and resultant continuous demands for public appearances have kept them on the Continent ever since they left our shores in June 1965. But five weeks ago Peter brought the group back to their homeland, and it has been since then that arrangements were finalised for their British disc debut. Last Friday E.M.I.’s Parlophone label nationally released a Lee Grant and The Capitols single called “Breaking Point”, a song published by The Shadows music company. Speaking from London, Peter said last week: “We shall be staying in this country to see what happens to the disc and we hope we might be able to perform it on B.B.C.’s Saturday Club.” He is planning to visit Bridgwater shortly to see his parents – his father works at British Cellophane Ltd – and some of his old friends. Peter also hopes he may be able to contact other members of the now disbanded Pressmen, who appeared in many local shows, including the Bridgwater Carnival Concert and The Top 20 Club. He was educated at Westover school and worked at the Van Heusen factory before going to London. For the record his group consists of Terry Dutton (lead), Chas Knight (bass), Ev Owen (organ), and Nigel Pegram (drums). Their average is 20.
20th December 1966
INNOVATION AT THE TOP 20 CLUB
Three weeks ago The Top 20 Club completely altered it’s format by going over to a discotheque presentation, featuring non-stop music and screening coloured slides of the big stars who have appeared at the Club in the past. It was an ambitious move, but now it can be reported that those sweeping changes seem to have found favour with the fans. The Bridgwater Discotheque, as the event is now called, is believed to be the first dance show in the West Country to include films. Two separate programmes of slides are being slotted into the evening’s proceedings, using the back projection method to beam them onto a giant screen at the front of the stage. And now The Bridgwater Discotheque has gone one better by showing some old comedy movies in a great Mad Movies spot – an innovation for any ballroom in the country, it is thought. This fast-moving production aims to play the best of the new discs, always with the accent on a danceable beat. It has it’s own Top Ten: Chart Challengers; a Disc of the Week, and an exciting selection of brand new releases. More than that, The Bridgwater Discotheque is often airing Exclusives – discs which aren’t available to the public for several weeks to come.
MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury
3rd January 1967
Bridgwater’s Top 20 club has finished. After nearly a year of speculation that the weekly Monday night shows at the Town Hall would fold up, the news will still come as a bitter blow to thousands of local pop fans. The beginning of the end was as far back as May 1965. Up to that time, between 600 and 700 teenagers had attended every week – but then numbers started to fall off, until they were down to about 300 st the end of last year. About 12 months ago, Graham Alford, the Trowbridge promoter who ran the dances revealed that the Club had reached a grave financial crisis. He explained that because attendance figures had fallen and because the Town Council had earlier doubled the hire charge for the Town Hall from 8 to 16 guineas, he could no longer make the shows pay. Graham stated, however, that the venue could be booked at a cheaper rate if the Club was run on a charity basis. This meant donating a portion of the profits to a charitable organisation. Later, in 1966 he was, in fact, to do this. From June onwards, proceeds were given to the NSPCC. But then in November a meeting of the Town Council heard that sums of 2 guineas had been received by the regional secretary of the NSPCC from each dance. And that the Borough Treasurer, Mr William Popham, after examining Graham’s accounts, was “unable to accept his contention”. They decided not to reduce the hire charge of the Town Hall to 10 guineas. In the meantime even fewer fans were going along to the Club each week. They dropped to under 100, and after one night last November, when only about 80 were present to hear a group, Graham decided there would be no more “live” entertainment. Determined not to disappoint local pop music followers by closing down altogether, he decided to carry on and changed over to a discotheque presentation. For four weeks the Club featured discs, coloured slides and mad movies on a big screen set up on stage. Attendance figures recovered slightly to just over the 100 mark, but Graham hinted that the club could not continue with such meagre interest. Last week he told me over the telephone from his home that he could not see the position improving. Consequently, he has decided to close down the dances in Bridgwater “for a few months”. But as things stand at present, it seems unlikely they will ever re-open. Graham Alford has been running the Top 20 Club in the town for six years. During that time, he has provided teenagers with their only source of “live” pop. He has brought countless numbers of Hit Parade artistes to Bridgwater during this period. In addition, his great insight and knowledge of the pop world enabled him to present some of the stars of tomorrow. The Club built up a name for being well run – and on professional lines. Now it is no more. But the post mortem raises the question : Why did young people stop going to the dances? One thing is certain: the Club had not seen a “big name” since The Troggs booking at the end of June. Would a star attraction have revitalised the shows? Graham’s Top 20 Club programmes at Trowbridge and Chippenham are still going strong – and they showcase top artistes.
Another group that appears in Stan’s autograph book for which there is no Bridgwater Mercury date, The Silkie played Trowbridge and Chippenham in successive days on the 18th & 19th February 1966. However there is no available slot for a Bridgwater performance on or around that time so I can only suggest that they MAY have played our Town Hall on the 21st March, as this is the nearest date on the Top Twenty calendar for which no information has been provided. The Silkie were a folk quartet formed in 1963 by students based at Hull University. Taking their name from an old folk song called “The Great Silkie Of Skule Skerry” their first ever recording was a flexi-disc from 1964, that was cut specifically for it’s use during the university’s rag week. Heavily influenced by Dylan, and in particular the American trio Peter, Paul & Mary they continued performing after graduation, holding down a summer residency at the Devon Coast Country Club in Paignton. Whilst at Paignton, they rubbed shoulders with an ex-member of an obscure Merseybeat band called Steve Day & The Drifters and this meeting may have resulted in their big break as a 1965 appearance at The Cavern, alongside local folk band and national institution, The Spinners (who were big enough to have their own BBC television series) captured the interest of Brian Epstein. He installed his personal assistant Alistair Taylor as their manager and they embarked on a stunningly short recording career that promised much but sadly failed to deliver despite a helping hand from 3 of music’s biggest luminaries. “Blood Red River”, their debut 45 was released in June 1965 and, like plenty of other singles from this period, enjoyed the unwanted distinction of being a great success in the pirate radio charts, reaching No 14 in Radio London’s Top 40 whilst achieving Sweet FA in terms of national chart action. However, enter The Fab Four, or to be more precise, The Fab Three. Epstein’s connections not only gave The Silkie the opportunity to record another one of those Beatle “singles that never were” (in this case, “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” from the just-released “Help!” album) but they also received direct input from three of the most famous musicians in the world. On the 9th August 1965, The Silkie’s gentle rendition of the Lennon ballad was recorded at IBC Studios in London. John Lennon handled the production chores, Paul McCartney strummed a guitar and apparently came up with the song arrangement whilst George Harrison kept time by tapping the back of an acoustic. After the conclusion of this session, Lennon was so enthusiastic about the recording that he telephoned Epstein to tell him that they had just cut “A No.1 record”.
The Silkie – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (Beat Club – 1965)
In fact The Beatles as a unit seemed terribly enthusiastic about the band’s future with Macca even offering them a long and best forgotten song called “One And One Is Two” as suitable follow-up material. As for Lennon’s chart prediction? Not quite. The single reached No.28 in the UK, but fared better in the States where it got to No.10 on the Billboard chart. In an attempt to capitalise on this success in America, appearances on both “American Bandstand” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” were hastily booked but the band were refused work permits and visas and the tour was cancelled. Two further singles, “Keys To My Soul” and “Born To Be With You” appeared in 1966, after which, the band promptly split up. Original members Mike Ramsden and Sylvie Tatler married in January 1966, and continued using the band name during the next 35 years though primarily on a local basis, appearing regularly at their local Devon pub in Dartington. Sadly Ramsden died in 2004 after a long battle with kidney disease.
THE NEW VAUDEVILLE BAND
This is a long shot. After the unfortunate conclusion of the live concerts in November 1966, The Top Twenty re-invented itself as a “discotheque”. A typical Monday night at The Town Hall at this point would have involved the spinning of discs interspersed with films of some of the bands that had played the venue previously. Hence the somewhat confusing arrival of several Bridgwater Mercury advertisements that suggested appearances by The Troggs, The Who, The Small Faces etc. but which, on closer inspection, were posters for videos of these bands, and not actual live performances. For the December 12th club gig, an advert appeared in the paper stating that that evening’s highlight would be an “appearance in scenes on the visual screen” by The New Vaudeville Band. If the idea was to specifically feature footage of group’s who had played the Top Twenty before then this would suggest that the makers of “Winchester Cathedral” and “Finchley Central” had played the Town Hall at some point. It’s a theory backed up by the fact that The Vaudeville’s did indeed play Chippenham on the 5th November, two days before a potential Town Hall gig on the 7th, another “missing” date for which I have no information.