Jet Harris ~ Me and my Shadows

February 7, 2012

In 1958  two Geordie boys came down to London not to visit the queen but to appear in a talent contest their names were Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch and the name of their skiffle band was The Railroaders, sadly they didn’t win the talent contest and as the rest of the band unhappily returned north Hank & Bruce decided to stick it out and with guitars in hand went for coffee in the 2 i’s coffee bar in London’s Soho district. Later the Geordie boys then met Cliff Richard’s manager John Foster who was putting together a backing band called the Drifters to back Cliff on a UK tour, so in early 1959 with Hank on lead guitar and Bruce on rhythm guitar along with blonde and moody and magnificent Jet Harris on bass and the very young Tony Meehan on drums they set off on the road. The classic Shads line up was born!

This line up had all the girls screaming for the good looking  blonde haired Jet Harris and the boyish smile ofTony Meehan.

EMI records producer Norrie Paramor who also produced Cliff Richard on seeing the boys on tour signed them to their own recording contract. They released two singles as the Drifters both with vocals before changing their name to the Shadows because of the American soul band also called the Drifters.

Their second release as the Shadows was an instrumental song called  ‘Apache’ written by Jerry Lordan and it made it all the way to No. 1 on the charts replacing Cliff ‘s ‘Please Don’t Tease’ at the top. An instrumental classic then and now! more hits were to follow with ‘Man of Mystery’ and  ‘FBI’. 1961 saw the release of their first album which stayed on the charts for a year! 1962 saw the Shadows  appear in the Cliff film ‘The Young Ones’ in which they looked brilliant and they hit the top of the charts again with another brilliant Jerry Lordan composition ‘Wonderful Land’.

Who remembers the Shadows dance steps!.

Music shops at this point saw an upswing in the sale of guitars as everyone wanted to play like Hank Marvin from the Shadows.    

The Shadows personnel was to change during this period with Tony Meehan being replaced on drums because of his constant lateness on by the great Brian Bennett and the blonde Jet Harris being replaced by Brian ‘Licorice’ Locking on bass. Jet Harris has said that he left the band because Cliff was having an affair with his wife and unfortunately Jet has hit the bottle for the rest of his life but Jet & Tony both had great success in the UK charts with ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ and ‘Diamonds’ which are great 45s in their own right and just as good as the Shadows. Sad that both players have now passed away. Brian ‘ Licorice’ Locking would later  be replaced on bass by John Rostill and it is was said that Locking was getting a religious hold over Cliff and the band as Cliff found religion and Hank became a Jehovah’s Witness as Locking was himself. The Shads was to lose their permanent bass player and a good songwriter in 1973 when John Rostill  died  from electrocution in his home recording studio. Very sad. All the way through the Shadows long career Bruce Welch and Hank ruled the band with an iron fist making all the decisions and the direction the band would go in.

The Beatles changed everything in the world in 1963 with the beat boom from Merseyside but the Shadows held on with my Shads favourite song ‘Foot Tapper’ and also ‘Shindig’  topping the charts and once again they appeared in the blockbuster Cliff film ‘Summer Holiday’ which is still a great film today.

This was a great period for the much~loved  British instrumental group of all time and all the great British guitar players as youngsters all took their cue from Hank Marvin and to see Cliff and the Shads on the final reunion tour was a fitting reminder of how great these lads are!

Plenty of Twang!

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The One and Only Billy Fury

November 4, 2011

In the 50’s the arrival of American Rock n Roll had a huge impact on the youth of Britain.

Ronald Wycherley was born in Liverpool on April 17th 1941 and he was one of those teenagers that loved the American rock n rollers! Records by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent stirred the blood of the young teenage Wycherley as their records raced up the British charts week after week! When it came to British rock n roll there wasn’t much out there and the British imitators were sometimes on the feeble side, but Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates did try and give it a good go!                                                                                              

A lot has been written about how Billy Fury was discovered which was a good bit of PR orchestrated by his manager Larry Parnes, the Brian Epstein of the 1950’s who had an eye for quasi ~ talented, good~looking boys and Billy Fury became the jewel in his pop crown. Billy was the boy pop star with the smoldering good looks and little boy lost look, slicked back hair cut, a cross between Elvis and Eddie Cochran. What teenage girl could resist him with his heavy~lidded vaseline eyes, singing the atmospheric ‘ Wondrous Place ‘. The girls went mad!

Billy’s first three top twenty hits were all written by him which is a remarkable achievement at a time when every singer did cover versions of the big USA hits,long before Lennon & McCartney era came along and made it commonplace for artists to record their own songs!

Billy Fury released the wonderfully authentic sounding 10″ album ” The Sound of Fury. ” A true British rock n roll statement, featuring tracks like ‘ That’s Love ‘ and ‘ Turn My Back On You ‘ which features the storming rockabilly twanulations of that cheeky cockney chappie Joe Brown on guitar.                               

What might have been if Billy Fury had stuck to his rock n roll path.

By the early 60’s in a Presley attempt to make him appeal to a wider audience, his management and Decca record company transformed him with huge success into a clean~cut ballad singer. Billy is best remembered for the song ‘ Halfway To Paradise ‘ with reached No. 4 in the UK chart and was quickly followed by the big melodramatic ‘ Jealousy ‘ and ‘ I’d Never Find Another You ‘. Whatever chance of continuing to write his own rock n roll songs has disappeared and fans of Billy’s brand of rock n roll were left to wonder ~ What if ~ as he was now on the conveyor belt of producing hit records ending up with 26 Top 50 hit singles in the 60’s which is pretty impressive.

At the peak of his career whirlwind tours, radio and TV appearances and his films like ‘ Play It Cool ‘ and  ‘ I’ve Gotta Horse ‘ kept him busy and a couple of his many backing bands were the Beatles who Billy thought would be trouble and the Tornadoes who went on to have an enormous worldwide hit with ‘ Telstar ‘ which was produced by the legendary British producer Joe Meek.

By 1964 with the onslaught of Beatlemania and the Merseybeat, solo singers were all struggling but Billy managed to keep the hits coming and by the end of the 60’s only Elvis, The Beatles and Cliff Richard could claim more UK hits than Billy Fury, but the time they were a changing and the hits started to dry up as Fury was starting to sound as old as his records.                                                                                                           

Lots of personal problems existed at this point but in 1973 Billy was offered a cameo role in the classic British rock n roll film ‘ That’ll Be The Day ‘ starring David Essex and Ringo Starr. Fury played Stormy Tempest a rock singer leading the Butlin’s style holiday camp band in the late 50’s which included Keith Moon and Dave Edmunds. Well worth seeing if you haven’t. With his voice and good looks still intact, Billy steals one particular scene by cradling the microphone in one hand close to his mouth while the other hand steadies the mike stand across his thigh all the time looking and performing to the pretty girls in the audience one by one.

Ronco released an LP for the soundtrack and also a 5 track EP of the songs Billy performs in the film and this EP has become very collectable. Rumour has it that during the filming the entire film crew was banned from every hotel on the Isle of Wight because of Ringo’s and Keith Moon’s high booze intake and the resulting mayhem that followed with everyone involved after the days hard shoot.

In 1981 while I was working for Polydor Records in London I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sign Billy Fury to a new recording contract and reach the lower reaches of the UK chart with the 45’s ‘Devil or Angel ‘ and ‘ Love or Money ‘ and we was recording an album with producer Stuart Coleman ( Shakin’ Stevens) and a great studio band which featured  Terry Williams (Rockpile and Dire Straits) on drums, Pete Wingfield on keyboards, Billy Bremner (Rockpile) on guitar, and Mick Green (Johnny Kidd & The Pirates) on guitar. The album was only released after Billy’s untimely death at the age of 42 in 1983.                                                                             

Two things I personally remember about Billy is one time being in the studio with him to record a vocal track and we had to turn down the lights in the studio very low because of his shyness but when he started singing out came this perfect voice which even after twenty years he had not lost! and also a Buddy Holly night at the Lyceum Ballroom in London which was put on by Paul McCartney which I attended with Billy’s manager Tony Read. When Billy Fury was introduced to the crowd he nearly brought the house down with his many fans that were there that evening. Fury also showed great respect to his excited  fans by taking the time to talk to them and to sign every last autograph for then. A true star!

I got really close to Billy Fury in his last years of his life and we became good friends. I remember him as a shy guy almost unsure of himself and his talent. A singer who had been totally ripped off and mismanaged in his career, but his time spent on his farm in Wales in his later years was where he was most contented, there he bred horses and spent a great deal of time bird watching of the feathered kind ~ two of the great loves of his life, far removed from the Fury and bright lights of the music business.                          

I still miss him ~ like many others.

If you visit Liverpool then don’t forget to see the beautiful bronze statue of Billy in the city.


First Encounters of the Vinyl Kind

October 31, 2011

My first encounter with vinyl records was in England when I was 5 years old, the year was 1957 and rock n roll was everywhere. My Auntie Gwen had the 78 rpm record versions of ‘All Shook Up’ and ‘Hound Dog’ by Elvis Presley. I knew all the words to those songs as she played them so much and I loved Elvis’s voice, but it was the guitar solo and the machine gun snare drum fills on ‘Hound Dog’ that really caught my ear!

Christmas 1962 and my Mum (God bless her) & Dad bought me my first record player. It was a blue & cream Dansette player which was real hi~fi in those days! Along with the record player came five 45 rpm records that Christmas day and what a present they were!. I remember I stacked them up on the Dansette and watched in awe as they dropped down and played one after the other, down the record would drop and across the arm would come and gently drop down on the record. The pleasure I got from this player and the five records will always hold a special place in my heart.

Here are the records I received Christmas 1962

Elvis Presley was still dominating the British charts back in 1962 and this Christmas week he was at No. 1 with ‘Return To Sender’ on the RCA Victor label. At nine years of age I didn’t really know what ‘Return To Sender’ meant by I loved the record anyway!

 Britain’s answer to Elvis, Cliff Richard was at No. 4 with two songs from his film ‘Summer Holiday’ the A~side was ‘The Next Time’ but it was the B~side that I really loved and played to death, the classic ‘Bachelor Boy’ with Hank Marvin and the Shadows playing behind Cliff. Great words!

At No. 6 this week was Let’s Dance by Chris Montez with the spoken count~in 1 2 3 4 , then that driving back beat Indian drum sound and that memorable organ solo which still sounds great today!.

The big Christmas record that year was at No.9 ~ was by Brenda Lee called  ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ with that raw Boots Randolph sax solo ~ brilliant and it’s still my favourite Xmas record.

At No.10 in the charts was the futuristic ‘ Telstar ‘ by the Tornadoes with the equally brilliant ‘Jungle Fever’ on the B ~ side. Produced by the one and only Joe Meek, this record was the first British instrumental to top both the British and American charts and started my love of instrumental groups.

The dawn of a new era was just around the corner ~ very soon the Beatles would arrive on the charts and take over the world and almost overnight any act that came before them was all washed up and out of date.

The very first record I went out and bought with my pocket-money was by the Kinks and called ‘All Day and All Of The Night’ for the huge sum of  money six shilling and 8 pence from the big department store in Gray, Essex.                               

Great days ~ Long ago and worlds apart                                                                                                                 

How I loved those records ~ still do!

  


45 rpm ~ A Single Pop Revolution

October 4, 2011

I love the 7 ” inch records that play at 45 rpm (which means ~ revolutions per minute). I have 4000 or so of the blighter’s and in the days before Sgt. Peppers and the then huge sales of LPs ( Long Players) these were the iPods of their day!         

Very simple, they are just an A side and a B side on a 7 ” vinyl record called singles and came  in a record company paper bag.   The big companies in the UK in the 60’s were Decca, Pye, EMI, RCA and  Philips

These records were played on pirate radio stations like Radio Caroline and at the Beeb, sold at local  record stores and their sales made up the music charts of the day in  the UK .

 Teenagers loved them!

On  Thursday evenings the whole family would sit down in front of the telly and watch “ Top of the Pops ” the weekly chart show with DJs (Disc Jockeys) like Jimmy Saville with his long white hair from out of a bottle and a cigar in one hand and a 45 in the other telling us what group or singer had moved up the chart that week. Other DJs on the show were Pete Murray, Stuart Henry and the one and only Tony Blackburn, also let’s not forget Pan’s People dancing up a storm.      

On Friday evening we would watch the stylish Cathy McGowan and the irritating Keith Fordyce present ” Ready Steady Go” with the slogan ” The Weekend Starts Here” and boy it did in one way or another! Cue theme music “54321 “by Manfred Mann and away we go! Essential viewing for any mod teenager who was a dedicated follower of  fashion in swinging London in the 60’s.

On Saturday evening we had the pleasure of  Brian Matthews and ” Thank Your Lucky Stars”  and the unforgettable teenager Janice Nichols of ‘ Oi’ ll give it Foive ‘ fame. and would it be a Hit or a Miss on ‘ Juke Box Jury ” with David Jacobs and how lucky we were to have all these TV shows showing us the best sparkle of the British beat groups and ballad singers. One night in December 63 the Beatles appeared on the “Juke Box Jury” show as the panel of judges and voted the latest Elvis Presley 45 a hit!

Sunday evening we finished it all off with Alan (not ‘alf) Freeman’s  Pick of the Pops ” radio show. After that it was all downhill as the depression set in that evening because Monday morning you would be back at school.                           

Some of the great artists that appeared on these shows were: Dusty Springfield, PJ Proby, The Searchers, Billy Fury, Stones, Sonny & Cher, Beatles, The Seekers, John Barry, Phil Spector and Marianne Faithfull and many more!

The first 45 that I bought was by the Kinks All Day And All Of The Night” c/w “I Gotta Move ”  on Pye Records. This was their second single after ” You Really Got Me’ but more about the Kinks soon pop pickers!


Ho, Ho, Ho …..Who’d be a Turkey at Christmas

December 5, 2010

Yes folks! It’s that time of year again when we dig out the snow and the Christmas music classics.

MY TOP TWENTY CHRISTMAS FAVOURITES.

1) ROCKIN’ AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE by BRENDA LEE 1962 : For me this is the sound of  Christmas and was one of the first records I owned and I still have it somewhere ~ My all~time fave. Love the Boots Randolph sax solo.

2) MERRY CHRISTMAS ( War Is Over) by JOHN LENNON & YOKO ONO 1972 : John & Yoko were so in love and it shows on this record. Great words ‘ So this is Christmas and what have you done ‘ I wonder what John would have to say about the state of the world today. Nothing’s changed really!

3) MERRY XMAS EVERYBODY by SLADE 1973 : Noddy & the Boys with their great Christmas party sing~a~long record. Great loud shout of  ‘It’s Christmas’ from Noddy at the end of this record. I can still see them performing it on Top of the Pops in my mind’s eye and let’s not forget Jimmy Saville.                                                                                                                                                                                

4) DRIVING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS by CHRIS REA 2002 : My Dad’s favourite Christmas song and great lyrics ‘ Can’t wait to see their faces ~ top to toe in tail lights~ I’ve got red lights all around’. Drive safely your be home soon! Also love the words to Chris’s other great song  The JOY of CHRISTMAS.

5) I BELIEVE IN FATHER CHRISTMAS by GREG LAKE 1975 : A magical record from the King Crimson/ELP front man. It was his only UK hit but it gets played every year.  

6) FAIRYTALE IN NEW YORK by The POGUES featuring KIRSTY McCOLL 1987 Kirsty and Shane living it up on this song which always bring a lump to my throat as Kirsty is no longer with us and Shane has had his fair share of troubles but both great talents on a classic performance.                                                                                                                                     

7) The CHRISTMAS SONG by JETHRO TULL 1968 : Tucked away on the B ~ side of  their UK single ‘LOVE STORY’ this is a beauty!. Also new version available on the Tull Christmas CD. Hey Santa ~ Pass us that bottle!

8) The WREN in the FURZE by The CHIEFTAINS 1991 : From the great CD The BELL of DUBLINthis one makes you want to dance a jig ~ a ~ jig and have a few wee drams.                        

9) CHRISTMAS IS GOING TO THE DOGS by The EELS 2000 : From the soundtrack to the Dr. Seuss movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas ‘. The songs rocks along with great words. Love it!

10) SILENT NIGHT by MAHALIA JACKSON 1959 : What a wonderful voice,  just relax, pour yourself a drink and listen! In fact, her whole Christmas CD is a must have!

11) WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEW YEAR’S EVE by ELLA FITZGERALD 1960: From the Swinging Christmas album ~ Ella at her melancholy best on this Frank Loesser song. Again the whole album is just great! and a must have!  What a voice!

12) JINGLE BELL ROCK by BOBBY HELMS 1958 : Let’s face it! it’s not Christmas without this little gem ~ be sure to play it nice and loud. All together now!

13) CHRISTMAS in PRISON by JOHN PRINE 1993: Love this song and love his voice always takes you there !  like an old friend or a 12 year old bottle of whiskey.                                                                                           

14) MARY’S BOY CHILD by HARRY BELAFONTE 1957 : It’s Christmas eve and time to tuck the kids in bed….Santa’s on his way….everything is peaceful….and the lights shine bright!….sing it Harry. Also hats off to the 1978 dance class classic by Boney M.                            

15) I YUST GO NUTS AT CHRISTMAS by YOGI YOUGESSON 1947 : Christmas with the relatives who can drive you mad and they often do. Just play this, listen and smile!

16) PARADE of WOODEN SOLDIERS by The CRYSTALS 1963 : You can pick any track from the Phil Spector Christmas album A Christmas Gift To You’  in glorious Mono, they are all great!, full of goodies from the Crystals, Ronettes, Darlene Love and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. Brilliant from start to finish. A must have for any collection.

17) I WISH IT COULD BE CHRISTMAS EVERYDAY by WIZZARD 1973 : Roy Wood the mad wizard  with the crazy hair from the Move and ELO fame with his well~known Christmas standard. All very tongue in cheek!

18) MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY by CHUCK BERRY 1964 : B side of the 45 ‘Run Rudolph Run’ and Chuck wrote it! It’s getting late, set them up  Joe and listen to Chuck sing the blues. very intimate and relaxed!

19) LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! by Dean Martin 1959 : Well the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful and since there’s no place to go……. Baby it’s cold outside. SAY NO MORE!

20) HO! HO! HO! WHO’D BE A TURKEY AT CHRISTMAS by Elton John 1973 : B side of  ‘Step Into Christmas’ and Elton and Bernie at their humourous best! It rocks!

Pass us that bottle Santa will yer ! ~ Merry Christmas


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