Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mickie Most (1938 - 2003)

Michael Peter Hayes was born in 1938 in Aldershot, Hampshire. His family moved to Harrow, North London in 1951 where Michael grew up. As a young teenager he soon became a devotee to skiffle and early rock 'n' roll and left school, aged 15, to become a singing waiter at the 2i's Coffee Bar, Soho.

Michael made many friends including his future business partner, Peter Grant, Terry Dene and Wee Willie Harris, and singing partner, Alex Wharton (aka Alex Murray, who later produced the Moody Blues single, Go Now). Michael and Alex formed a short lived duo called Most Bros. The Most Brothers worked in the famous The 2i's Coffee Bar before touring the U.K. with Marty Wilde, Colin Hicks (younger brother of Tommy Steele), The Tony Crombie Big Band, Cliff Richard, The Kalin Twins, and Wee Willie Harris. In 1957 they scored minor hits with Whistle Bait and Takes a Whole Lotta Loving to Keep My Baby Happy before disbanding the act in 1958.

In 1959 Michael officially changed his name to Mickie Most and got married before immigrating to South Africa. There he formed a group called Mickie Most and the Playboys and recorded cover versions of mostly US material. The songs of Ray Peterson, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochran featured prominently.

Mickie Most and the Playboys became one of South Africa’s top groups but in 1962 Mickie decided to come home and try his luck in the UK. At first he continued to perform and record with modest chart success but Mickie was interested in other challenges. He started in retail, selling records in stores by displaying them on racks so after he joined Columbia Records as a producer. UK was in the middle of a white boy blues revival and Mickie took the Animals from Newcastle into the studio and recorded Baby, Let Me Take You Home, which reached number 21 in the UK charts.

The House of the rising sun was a follow up single and became an instant worldwide hit establishing Mickie Most as a credible hit maker.

Soon he was working with other acts producing other smash hits. Harvey Lisberg asked Mickie to work his group Herman’s Hermits. I'm Into Something Good, went straight to #1 in 1964, and began an incredible run of single and album sales (ten million units over twelve months) by the band.

Mickie’s strengths were his down-to-earth handling of the band, his business acumen and his unerring knack for selecting hit singles. More success came with the Nashville Teens and Tobacco Road.

In 1964 he worked with Brenda Lee and recorded Is It True which became a hit in the UK and US.

In 1966 he produced as string of hits for Donovan with Mellow Yellow, Jennifer Juniper, Hurdy Gurdy Man, and had success with Lulu’s To Sir with Love, The Boat That I Row, Boom Bang-A-Bang and I'm a Tiger.

He produced The Seekers singles Days of My Life and Love Is Kind, Love Is Wine, in 1968.

Mickie Most's productions were regularly backed by top London session musicians including Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass guitar and arrangements, and Nicky Hopkins on piano. By the end of the decade he was producing Jeff Beck's hit singles Love is Blue and Hi Ho Silver Lining.

Despite his massive success Mickie Most had a formulaic approach which contrasted sharply with the heavier rock movement of the late sixties. Peter Noon (Herman) reported the push to record stereo typical English pop whilst commercially successful stifled Herman’ Hermits which prevented them from developing and inevitably led to the break-up. Similarly Mickie’s work with The Yardbirds on their album, Little Games, found major differences in artistic direction. The album did not sell well and the group changed producers as did a heavier and rockier, Donovan.

Determined to continue in commercial pop Mickie Most in conjunction with Peter Grant started their own label called RAK (named after the record filled shelves he used to tack) in 1969. As Peter Grant became more involved with The Yardbirds, soon to evolve into Led Zeppelin, Mickie Most was left to control the company. Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman were engaged as staff song writers who wrote many hits for Suzi Quatro, Sweet and Mud.

During the 70s Mickie Most worked with Hot Chocolate, giving them two major hits, including You Sexy Thing.

Other luminaries to record with RAK Records or be produced by Mickie Most were The Arrows and I love rock’n’roll, Julie Felix and El Condor Pasa, Mary Hopkin with Knock Knock Who's There? and Temma Harbour.

Alexis Korner's CCS, and Chris Spedding also signed to RAK Records. In 1976, Mickie Most produced Chris Spedding's self-titled album "Chris Spedding" which marked the beginning of what would be considered New Wave.

In 1980, Mickie Most discovered singer Kim Wilde and produced her hit single Kids In America.

As the decade passed Mickie took less to do with recording and production and worked as a panelist on various television talent shows as well as managing his extensive publishing catalogue. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, peacefully passing away in 2003.

Worth a listen:
Mickie Most
Mister Porter (1963)

Most Bros
Takes a whole lot of loving to keep my baby happy (1957)

Moody Blues
Go Now (1964)

Baby, Let Me Take You Home (1964)
House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Herman’s Hermits
I’m into something good (1964)
Nashville Teens

Tobacco Road (1964)

Sunshine Superman (1966)
Mellow Yellow (1967)
Jennifer Juniper (1968)
Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968)

To Sir with Love (1967)
The Boat That I Row (1967)
I'm a Tiger (1968)
Boom Bang-A-Bang (1969)

Suzi Quatro
Can the can (1973)
48 Crash (1973)

Tiger Feet (1974)

Brenda Lee
Is It True (1964)

The Seekers
Love Is Kind, Love Is Wine (1968)

Jeff Beck
Hi Ho Silver Lining (1967)

Ballroom Blitz (1973)

Hot Chocolate
You Sexy Thing (1975)

The Arrows
I love rock’n’roll (1975)

Julie Felix
El Condor Pasa (1970)

Mary Hopkin
Knock Knock Who's There? (1970)
Temma Harbour (1970)

Alexis Korner's CCS
Whole lotta love (1970)

Chris Spedding
Motor Biking (1975)

Kim Wilde
Kids In America (1981)

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