Friday, February 17, 2017

The Madness of Adam Ant

Jack Good : From Six Five Special to Shindig and beyond

Jack Good was born in 1931 in Greenford, London. He studied at the London Academy of Music and Drama and was later president of Oxford University Drama Society. In 1955, he appeared in "The Queen And The Rebels" at London's Haymarket Theatre, and the following year, he teamed up with producer Trevor Peacock to present a comedy double-act at London's famous Windmill Theatre. Aged 26, he became a television producer for BBC TV and produced the Six Five Special. The program aired in 1957, and was the first attempt at a live rock and roll program in the UK. The Six-Five Special was broadcast on a Saturday night (1957 - 1968) with Jack Good as the original producer and presenters, Josephine Douglas (co-producer) and disc jockey, Pete Murray. Murray’s catch phrase was "Time to jive on the old six five". The show opened with film of the Coronation steam train breaking the speed record at 112mph, and accompanied by the theme tune originally performed by the Bob Cort Skiffle Group. When the fad for skiffle passed the theme tune was re-recorded by the show's resident band, Don Lang and his Frantic Five. Pete Murray introducing the program with :

'Welcome aboard the Six-Five Special. We've got almost a hundred cats jumping here, some real cool characters to give us the gas, so just get on with it and have a ball.'

The program was carefully scripted by Trevor Peacock, Spike Milligan and Bernie Winters.

Unsure at first, how best to make a program specifically for adolescents, BBC executives envisaged a magazine format but Jack Good wanted a more informal atmosphere more like a club with music and a lot of movement. He arranged for special sets to be built to keep his masters happy, but just prior to going to air he had the sets removed and the floor space filled with a milling audience and performers. This gave the program an impromptu feel which worked perfectly and Six Five Special instantly became popular with a weekly viewing audience of between 8-12 million. The show was originally scheduled to run for six weeks, but the viewing figures meant the series became open-ended.

Concerned at the potential ill effects of American Rock and Roll on impressionable young minds, the BBC had a policy to promote British acts only, and whilst many emerging UK Rock and Roll stars like Tommy Steele and the Steelmen, Adam Faith and Jim Dale were given their television debut, skiffle was given a higher profile. In pre-Beatle times many younger adults enjoyed Trad Jaz and the music of the mouldy figs also featured. Pop too was promoted with regular contributions from Petula Clark, 'Little' Laurie London, and Michael Holliday.

In quick order, American acts began to feature including Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochrane.

There were a string of Six-Five Special regulars including the King Brothers, and The Mudlarks. The programme was influential and helped promote acts and their record sales. The Diamonds' 'Little Darlin' was an early beneficiary and Jim Dale, a singer who subsequently became the show's presenter. Marty Wilde and Adam Faith also benefited their careers from appearing on the program.

Jack Good launched the hand jive with an instruction book, Hand Jive at Six-Five. A priest in a dog-collar came in and did the hand jive to prove that the church was ‘with it’ and alive and kicking.

When the BBC started to interfere with Good's vision of the show by including educational and information elements., the relationship between Good and the BBC became strained. Jack Good was sacked as producer in 1958 and artistic differences over a stage version of the program were cited. Good promptly took his talents to rival network, ITV and created Oh Boy!. Ironically it was Oh Boy! that effectively killed-off Six-Five Special. Following Jack Good's departure, Jim Dale assumed the mantle of host, and former boxer and TV personality, Freddie Mills joined the regulars to present a sports item. Novelty features such as how to do the latest American dance crazes failed to attract attention and the show quickly lost its zest.

Sadly none of the Six-Five Special productions shows were taped, so they are lost forever. There was a low-budget film based on the show which survives.

Oh Boy! (1958 -1959) was the first teenage all-music show on British TV. Jack produced two pilot shows which were only broadcast in the Midlands. After they proved popular, Oh Boy! was given a national ITV slot on Saturday evenings, from 6.00pm – 6.30pm, in direct competition with 6.5 Special. The show was broadcast live from the Hackney Empire and featured a broad spectrum of music including ballads, jazz, skiffle and rock and roll. The house band were Lord Rockingham's XI. In the studio, Jack Good played and recorded with Lord Rockingham's XI and appeared on their hit singles "Fried Onions" and the chart topping "Hoots Mon".

Jack Good through the vehicle of Oh Boy! launched Cliff Richard to stardom. Initially Cliffs fist single was "Schoolboy Crush," but Good lobbied EMI to flip the single over to "Move It," and it became Richard's breakthrough hit.

After Oh Boy !, Jack went onto produce and appear in other teenage musical programs, Wham! and Boy Meets Girls (1959), which starred Marty Wilde and gave Joe Brown his break to stardom. When Gene Vincent appeared on the show, Good insisted the singer was dressed from head to toe in black leather with a silver chained medallion draping from his neck. He also was asked to pronounce his limp for the cameras. The image of rogue biker was right and Gene's popularity duly soared. Jack appeared in front of the cameras with different line ups in both Wham! and Boy meets girls as Jack Good's Fat Noise and Jack Good's Firing Squad respectively.

Away from the TV studio, Good temporarily managed a number of early rock and roll stars, including Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, Jess Conrad and Cliff Richard. He also moved into music production with Billy Fury's extraordinary. Sound of Fury 10" LP. Many believe this to be the definitive UK rock album of the 50s.

From 1958 till February 1963, Good had a weekly column in the British music paper Disc. In 1962, Jack Good went to the US, where he worked intermittently as a stage actor and had a cameo appearance as an uptight naval officer in the comedy film, Father Goose (1964). Seeing the potential to have a US pop program, he self-funded and produced a pilot show called "Young America Swings The World", However, at the time the television executives showed no interest and Jack returned to England. There in 1964, Brian Epstein commissioned him to make a one-off program, ‘Around the Beatles’ with the Fab Four and featuring other artists.

Once the full impact of the English Invasion took hold in the US, ABC television executives, desperate to cash in, invited Jack Good to work with them and produce Shindig. The weekly show (1964-1966) was broadcast nationally and soon became the premiere, prime-time, viewing for teenagers in the States. Shindig showcased the best of English beat groups as well as featuring US new comers like, Righteous Brothers and Sonny & Cher. The program also included a range of diverse black artists from Howlin' Wolf to The Chambers Brothers. What started as a weekly half hour spot soon grew to an hour-long program, before switching to twice-weekly half-hour episodes. In 1966, Jack fell out with ABC executives and walked out and the show was cancelled to make room for Batman (TV series).

The series house band, the Shin-diggers (later renamed the Shindogs), featured a young Glen Campbell, Joey Cooper, Chuck Blackwell (drums), Billy Preston, James Burton, Delaney Bramlett, Larry Knechtel (on bass), Leon Russell (on piano) and Glen D. Hardin. Ray Pohlman was the show's musical director, and he was also a member along with, Campbell, Knechtel, and Russell of "The Wrecking Crew." The Blossoms, were an all-female vocal group featuring Darlene Love.

In 1967, he once again made a film appearance as a hotelier in Elvis' "Clambake" movie. In the same year Jack Good put together a band of musicians under the name of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as a promotion for the Beatles album of the same name. The band toured venues in the UK for 5 months.

In 1968, Jack put on a rock adaptation of Shakespeare's "Othello" with Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago, the Devil incarnate in a Los Angeles theatre. The stage version later moved to London where P.J. Proby assumed the Lewis role and Good played Othello. Catch My Soul was later made into a film in 1974 with Richie Havens as Othello and Lance LeGault as Iago. The movie was produced by Jack Good and Richard M. Rosenbloom, and directed by Patrick McGoohan (DangerMan and The Prisoner). The film appeared at the same time as Jesus Christ Superstar. It failed as an arthouse film, was retitled "Santa Fe Satan", and reissued as a drive-in exploitation film.

Later in 1969, he worked with the Monkees on the TV special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee starring the Monkees. Jack Good also produced specials for Andy Williams and a network rock special that featured Jethro Tull, the Nice, and Ray Charles.

"Elvis", a biographical musical was conceived and directed by Jack Good and Ray Cooney. The West End production opened in 1977 with Presley played by by P J Proby (James Proby), Shakin' Stevens, and Tim Whitnall through the decades. The live musical accompaniment was provided by the rock and roll revival group, Fumble. The London run came to an end in 1979 before it went for a National Tour. It was later revived in London in 1996, and toured the UK until 2000.

Jack Good revived Oh Boy! For the theatre before reintroducing it to television in 1979 showcasing the retro rock and roll stars of the day, including Shakin' Stevens, Alvin Stardust (Shane Fenton), Joe Brown, Lulu, Bogdan Kominowski, Freddie 'Fingers' Lee, Les Gray, Johnny Storm (now performing with the Johnny Storm Band), the Shades and Fumble.

Let’s Rock (1981 -1983) followed the Oh Boy TV show and was broadcast across Europe and in the US in the early 1980s.

In 1992, Good was back with another musical "Good Rockin' Tonight". This was based on Good's life, and opened at the Strand Theatre in London. After the show transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre and closed after a 327 rock 'n' rolling performances. Once in his sixties, Jack Good decided to step away from show business and took up painting. He converted to Roman Catholicism and devoted his time to Christianity. He lived in New Mexico for many years, but returned to England to live in Oxfordshire.

Monday, February 6, 2017

2 Tone Records (1979 - 1986)

The label was started in 1979, by Jerry Dammers of the Specials in the wake of the UK ska evival. It catered mainly for the musical tastes of skinheads, rudies and mod revivalists and released ska- and reggae-influenced music. Dammers also tried to broaden the label's musical output, to include funk and pop. In the seven years of operation (1979 – 1986), the label had 20 hit singles in the UK. A unique feature of 2 Tone Records was the acts they signed were allowed to leave the label after releasing just one single. The first release was a double A side Gangsters (The Specials) and The Selecter (by label stablemates, The Selecter) and reached No 6 in the UK singles chart.

Dammers, with the assistance of Horace Panter and graphic designers John "Teflon" Sims and David Storey, created artwork for 2-Tone Records.

The Walt Jabsco logo portrays a man in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, pork pie hat, white socks and black loafers. The fictional character was based on an old picture of Peter Tosh (The Wailers). The logo from tracing an old picture of Peter Tosh (The Wailers). 2 Tone Records signed The Selecter, Madness and The Beat. On my radio by the Selecter, was released in 1979 and reached reached 8, on the UK charts; The Prince by Madness was released in the same year and peaked in the UK music charts at number 16; Tears of a clown by The Beat hit Number 6.

The Beat were the most successful of the 2-Tone bands in the USA. They left after releasing "Tears Of A Clown" and set up their own Go Feet label following The Specials example. Madness went on to become the most successful band in the UK to have ever signed with 2-Tone. They left 2-Tone after their first hit because they needed more resources to put out albums. Madness signed to Stiff Records. In 1980, The Bodysnatchers were signed to 2 Tone and released double A side "Let's Do Rock Steady" and "Ruder Than You". (UK No. 22). The band were invited to appear on Top of the Pops, to tour with The Selecter and to record a session for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. Their second single "Easy Life" reached number 50, before the band broke up. Some members formed The Belle Sisters, but the Bodysnathcers lead singer, Rhoda Dakar collaborated with The Specials, duetting with Terry Hall, "I Can't Stand It", and appearing on the album, More Specials. She also joined The Special AKA, and sang on both "The Boiler," which reached # 35 in the UK Singles Chart in 1982; and "Free Nelson Mandela" (UK No 10).

Elvis Costello & The Attractions almost issued a single on 2-Tone, when in between contracts they recorded "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down." The single was pressed and scheduled for release, but at the last minute a new contract with F-Beat label meant they released the single which went to No. 2 in the UK in 1980. The original 2-Tone pressing of "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down." is now a highly prized collector's item.

In 1981, documentary maker, Joe Massot, decided to make a documentary film on the 2 Tone music genre. He had previously met Madness on a US tour and wanted to know more about Ska revival in the UK. The film, featured performance footage of Madness, The Specials, The Selecter, The Bodysnatchers, the Beat and Bad Manners on their UK tour.

The Higsons signed to the 2 Tone Records label and their first single, "I Don't Want to Live with Monkeys", was released in 1981. It was a blend of high-energy funk and groove which was a slight departure from Ska. In 1982, they released "Conspiracy", which is considered to be their finest work. The band broke up in 1986.

The Apollinaires joined 2 Tone Records in 1982, and were a ten-piece band. Their debut single, was "The Feeling's Gone" featured Rhoda Dakar. The band continued for several years but inevitably split up due to the difficulties of coordinating their large numbers.

After 2-Tone failed to sing UB40, then Dexy's Midnight Runners turned them down, the label started to faulter. The last record Dammer made for his label was "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend" and "Alphabet Army" by The JB All Star's was the last 2-Tone release in 1986.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Specials (and Fun Boy Three)

The Coventry Automatics (previously The Automatics), were formed in Coventry in the early 70s. Founder, Jerry Dammers had played with local punk band, The Sissy Stone Soul Band, but after he was thrown out for playing his instrument with his elbows, he formed The Coventry Automatics with vocalist Tim Strickland (vocal), bassist Horace Panter (a.k.a. Sir Horace Gentleman), Silverton Hutchinson (drums), and Lynval Golding (guitar /vocalist). The new band played ska and wore mod-gear with mohair suits, loafers and pork pie hats. When Roddy "Radiation" Byers (guitar), Neville Staple (roadie/vocals), joined the line up, they changed their name to the Special AKA. Shortly after the band's formation, Terry Hall replaced Tim Strickland. They played at local gigs, and after Joe Strummer (The Clash) saw them he invited the band to open on the "On Parole" UK tour. This gave the Special AKA a new level of national exposure. Bernie Rhodes, manager of the Clash signed them and the group shortened their name to The Specials.

Being a racially integrated band and playing bluebeat, they were influenced by the Rock Against Racism movement. Jerry was determined to put across an anti-racist message and bravely decided to dress the band like the people whose attitudes they were trying to change. He was taken with the fashions worn by the skinhead elements of the National Front attending the Clash concert to recruit members of the audience. The Special AKA wore mod/rude boy/skinhead-style two-tone tonic suits, along with other elements of late 1960s teen fashions. When Chrysalis Records expressed an interest in the band in 1979, Dammers arranged a label deal, to fund 15 singles a year and release them through 2-Tone label. They were also able to sign other acts to record. Dammers, with the assistance of Horace Panter and graphic designers John "Teflon" Sims and David Storey, created artwork for 2-Tone Records. The Walt Jabsco logo portrays a man in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, pork pie hat, white socks and black loafers. The fictional character was based on an old picture of Peter Tosh (The Wailers). The logo from tracing an old picture of Peter Tosh (The Wailers).

Silverton Hutchinson left the band and was replaced by John Bradbury. Now The Specials, their debut single "Gangsters", was a reworking of Prince Buster's "Al Capone" (1964). It was released as a double A-side along with The Selecter. "Gangsters" went on to reach no. 6 in the UK charts in the summer of 1979.

Elvis Costello produced the first Specials album entitled, The Specials, which featured a mixture of original material and several covers of classic Jamaican ska tracks. The guitar was brought to the forefront of the mix which revived and invigorated the original blue beat. Both Dick Cuthell and Rico Rodriguez featured playing horns, but would not be official members of the Specials until the second album. The live version of "Too Much Too Young" was released later on a five-track EP, The Special AKA Live!, went to number one on the UK charts. "'A Message to You, Rudy" was also released as a single.

In 1980, The Specials successfully toured the US. The record company even persuaded the owner of the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, Los Angeles to allow them to paint the outside of the club in the band's black & white chequered logo. On their return, they toured the UK with The Bodysnatchers and American band The Go-Go's. While on that tour, Terry Hall co-wrote "Our Lips Are Sealed" with the Go-Go's guitarist Jane Wiedlin. It became a hit for both The Go-Go's and Fun Boy Three.

A second album, More Specials, produced by Joe Dammers, was released in 1980, It went Top 5 in the UK album charts but only barely broke into the Top 100 stateside. The album featured collaborations with The Go-Go's members Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey, and Jane Wiedlin; Rhoda Dakar from The Bodysnatchers; and Lee ‘Kix’ Thompson from Madness. The lyrics, like the previous album, were intensely political.

In 1981, traditional industries were closing and there was poverty everywhere. Under the UK Tory Government, unemployed was rife and there was much social unrest with violent riots in many inner cities as kids took to the street in protest. "Ghost Town" was a non album single and was inspired when the band saw the poverty and hardship in Glasgow when on tour. "Ghost Town" became the anthem of UK summer of 1981, when and the single topped the charts.

Constant touring and bickering over musical direction saw the original Specials’ line-up split. Golding, Hall and Staple left to form Fun Boy Three. With a more mainstream sound, the band enjoyed six UK Top 20 hits, including "The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)", "It Ain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)", “Summertine”, "Tunnel of Love" and "Our Lips Are Sealed". After a tour of the US the band split in 1983.

The Specials continued meantime, as "The Special AKA," and released their third album, In The Studio in 1984. It was very expensive to produce and although it did contain the Elvis Costello produced hit, "Free Nelson Mandela" the album did not sell as well as previous releases. Soon after, Dammers dissolved the band to pursue political activism. He did occasionally perform with his band, The Spatial AKA Orchestra, and now regularly works as a nightclub DJ.

Golding, Staples and Roddy Radiation reformed The Specials for a tour of the US and released the album, "Guilty Til Proved Innocent". The reformed group continue to perform and record with varying line-ups.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Ritchie Valens (1941 - 1959)

Richard Steven Valenzuela was born in Pacoima, (near Los Angeles), California in 1941. His parents were of Mexican descent and young Ritchie Valenzuela grew up hearing traditional Mexican mariachi music, as well as flamenco guitar, R&B and jump blues. His father encouraged him to take up guitar and trumpet, and later he taught himself the drums. A left hander, Richie learned to play the guitar with his right hand.

At junior high school, he brought his guitar to school entertained his friends. Richard joined a local band, the Silhouettes, as a guitarist, when he sixteen. They played at local gigs and when the main vocalist left the group, he assumed the position. On stage, Ritchie began improvising new lyrics and adding new riffs to popular songs. He soon caught attention, and his growing fans referred to him as "the Little Richard of San Fernando". Bob Keane, the owner and president of small record label Del-Fi Records in Hollywood, came to see him and signed him to his label. Richard Valenzuela became Ritchie Valens to widen his commercial appeal. Valens demoed several songs in Keane's studio that he later recorded at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood. The demos primarily consisted of Valens singing and playing guitar.

Still at High School, Richie recorded "Come On, Let's Go", and "Framed", at Gold Star Studios in 1958. Released days later it became a local hit. Double A side, “Donna/La Bamba" followed and sold over one million copies. Richie Valens left High School to concentrate on his career.

"La Bamba", was a spirited reworking of an old Mexican huapango (or Mexican fiesta dance) often played at weddings. The song melded traditional Latin American music with rock and roll and was the first pop song to be sung entirely in Spanish. Ironically, the Valenzuela family spoke only English at home, and he knew very little Spanish. Valens learned the lyrics phonetically in order to record "La Bamba" in Spanish.

Keane wanted to capitolise on Ritchie’s new success and set a fevered pace of gigs and personal appearances across the States. The teenager had a morbid fear of flying after one of school friends was killed and others injuried in a freak plane collision over his school playground. For the sake of his career he overcame his fear and travelled by air to Philadelphia to appear on Dick Clark's American Bandstand television show; Hawaii, where he performed alongside Buddy Holly and Paul Anka ; and New York to appear on Alan Freed’s 1958 Christmas Jubilee. After returning to Los Angeles, he filmed an appearance in Alan Freed's movie Go Johnny Go!

In January 1959, Ritchie Valens joined the Winter Dance Party tour. The tour featured such acts as Buddy Holly, Dion and the Belmonts, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. Over three weeks, these performers were set to play 24 concerts in the Midwest. After the show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, they were set to perform the next day in Moorhead, Minnesota. Conditions for the performers on the tour buses were abysmal and bitterly cold and Carl Bunch (The Belmonts) developed frostbite on his feet and had to be hospitalised. Several others, including Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, caught the flu. Buddy Holly chartered a small plane and Ritchie Valens won a seat on the plane in a coin toss with Holly's guitarist Tommy Allsup. J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson also traded places with another original passenger, Waylon Jennings. The plane took off, during a light snowstorm, but only travelled a short distance before crashing into a cornfield. All four passengers and the pilot were killed.

Ritchie’s first, self-titled album was released shortly after the accident and did well on the charts. Despite his age and a recording career that lasted only eight months, Ritchie took Latino music into mainstream rock. He is now considered to be the forefather of the genre known as Chicano and Latin rock, inspiring many other musicians of Mexican heritage.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Fourmost

The Two Jays were formed in 1957, when friends, Brian “Owie” O'Hara and Joey Bower joined together as a singing skiffle duo. They were both 13 and got a summer job at the Isle of Man. Later in 1959, after winning a local talent competition, they became the Four Jays with the addition of Billy Hatton (bass) and drummer, Brian Redman. The group were one of the better semi professional harmony combos working Liverpool and played the Cavern Club in Liverpool before the Beatles, then with the Beatles in the early sixties. When Joey left, Mike Millward (Bob Evans and the Five Shillings) joined the line up as rhythm guitarist in 1961, and Dave Lovelady (Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes) replaced Brian Redman on drums, in 1962. The group changed their name to the Four Mosts and would later shorten it to The Fourmost. By which time, Brian Epstein had become their manager when in 1963, they signed with NEMS, and soon after were auditioned by George Martin for Parlophone. The group recorded “Hello little girl,” a Lennon and McCartney song puportedly written when Lennon was sitting on the toilet. It reached No 9 in the UK charts in 1963.

The follow up single was another Lennon and McCartney song, "I'm In Love," (1963) which barely broke into the UK Top Twenty, and failed to chart in the US. Their next single "A Little Lovin'" (1964), written by written by Russ Alquist, reached No 6 in the UK, and gave them their highest charting success. “How Can I Tell Her” reached No 33 in July 1964.

The Fourmost became part of a long-running variety show at the London Palladium called Startime, featuring Tommy Cooper, Frankie Vaughan and Cilla Black in 1964. The Fourmost were the first Beat Grup is appear at the Palladium but sadly during their run, Mike Millward was diagnosed with leukaemia but continued playing.

A year later the group guested on Ferry Cross the Mersey (1965), with Cilla Black and Gerry and the Pacemakers.

The Fourmost released their first album, aptly titled ‘First And Fourmost’ in November 1965. Unfortunately, none of the band were song writers and the track included a mixture of country, comedy songs as well as some rip-roaring rock'n'roll. Girls, Girls, Girls was released as a single and reached No 33 in the charts. The popularity of the Beat groups had dwained and the album failed to chart. Like many of Brian Epstein's artists, the group felt Epstein was spending too much time with the Beatles.

Tragically Mike Millward died in 1966 and due to his illness had stopped appearing George Peckham took over then he in turn was replaced by Ian Edwards (of Ian and the Zodiacs). They recorded a version of the Beatles, "Here, There and Everywhere", followed by a cover of George Formby's "Auntie Maggie's Remedy" in 1966. Neither single would chart.

After the death of Brian Epstein in 1967, the band switched to cabaret, and worked the clubs successfully before touring the world. Joey Bower rejoined the group in 1968, and the group released a version of Paul McCartney’s “Rosetta.” The single was produced by McCartney, who also played piano. Easy Squeezy was released later the same year but again failed to chart. After this the group stopped recording to concentrate on their live work.

The Fourmost split in 1978 with Hatton, Lovelady, Bower and Joey Hatton’s wife to form a semi-professional quartet Clouds, which performed in Liverpool clubs until 1993. Brian O'Hara continued as the Fourmost with three local musicians, but, after a few years, sold them the name, for a reputed £1000. The Fourmost continued performing with no original members. In 1990, O'Hara, Hatton, Lovelady and Bower set aside their differences to perform at a tribute concert for John Lennon at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool. They never performed again. Brian O'Hara, died in Liverpool in June 1999.