Monday, February 26, 2018

Steve Ellis and The Love Affair

Stephen John Ellis was born in 1950 at Edgware, Middlesex. Although he learned to play drums at school he also had a good singing voice. Stephen fronted a group called Soul Survivors when he was just 15. The band consisted of Maurice 'Mo' Bacon (drummer and founder), Morgan Fisher (keyboards), Ian Miller (guitar) and Warwick Rose (bass). As their musicianship improved they moved from wedding singers to club performers featuring in many of the mod clubs in London and the South coast. Their first single was a cover of the Rolling Stones’ "She Smiled Sweetly" and was produced by Mike Vernon. Sadly, the single flopped.

They moved labels to CBS and now, Love Affair the line-up consisted of Rex Brayley (guitar), Lynton Guest (keyboards), Maurice Bacon (drums) and Mick Jackson (bass), with Steve Ellis on vocals. They recorded Robert Knight's 'Everlasting Love' (written by Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden) with a 40-piece orchestra. The song was a minor hit for Knight and the cover version was initially offered to Marmalade. They thought it too poppy and rejected it. The first recording of the song was produced by Muff Winwood (ex Spencer Davis Group) and featured the group playing all the instruments. CBS decided to re-record it with Ellis on vocals and supported by full orchestration and session musicians. The new version was produced by Mike Smith arranged by Keith Mansfield.

The session musicians included Herbie Flowers (bass) and Clem Cattini (drums) with Madeline Bell, Lesley Duncan and Kay Garner making up the female choir. The group was allowed to play on the B-side. The single started to slowly climb the UK charts. The impact of commercial radio stations on sales was well known and after an illegal backhander was allegedly paid to Radio Caroline the song rocketed up the charts. It became Number One in the UK in 1968. The average age of the band was under 19 and Love Affair became a teen sensation. The practice of using session musicians on a pop record was commonplace but rarely acknowledged. Many bubble-gum groups were inexperienced musicians and with studio time a premium professional musicians were used. This had the added advantage of freeing up the group to complete often punishing tours as well as maintain regular single releases. When Love Affair appeared live on Good Evening hosted by Jonathan King, the band admitted to not playing on their singles. The public hue and cry that followed saw the group branded a makeshift band and blacklisted from Top of the Pops.

Members of Love Affair were naïve and reacted arrogantly, which won them few friends. Their records however kept on selling. Other UK hits followed including: "Rainbow Valley, " and "A Day Without Love."

Most of their latter hits were written by Phillip Goodhand-Tait. In 1968 Love Affair rivalled only the Beatles for record sales in the UK. More and more the group became frustrated at being pigeonholed as teen idols and were further annoyed the group did not play on their A sides. By the summer 1969 cracks were showing and when the single “Baby I Know," flopped Steve Ellis announced his departure.

In his absence, the Love Affair struggled to maintain their profile and in 1970 CBS dropped the band. Despite several line-up changes, different musical styles and labels the group lost their fan base and eventually packed it in. Steve Ellis continued to pursue a solo career. He worked with several musicians and released a handful of singles, but was never able to recapture his initial success.

He formed the band Ellis (or the Ellis Group) with Zoot Money (keyboards), Jim Leverton (bass and ex Fat Mattress), and Nick South (ex-Vinegar Joe/Alexis Korner), Andy Gröber (aka Andy Gee guitar and ex-Springfield Park) and Davie Lutton (drums). His first album "Riding On The Crest Of A Slump", was produced by Roger Daltrey.

After the second album Why not (produced by Mike Vernon) was released in 1973 and did nothing Steve joined Widowmaker and signed to Jet.

The strength of Widowmaker, a heavy progressive rock band, was their live performances but record sales were weak.

Steve Ellis left the band after their first album due to artistic differences. Despite his undoubted talent he never would repeat the success of Love Affair and in 1981 retired from the music industry. He made a living as a docker until he had a serious accident leaving him with very badly crushed feet. It took until the 90s for him to recover. He decided to make a return and toured and recorded as Steve Ellis' Love Affair.

As the decades passed Steve has kept himself busy both recording and performing and is currently singer with The New Amen Corner.

Worth a listen
She Smiled Sweetly (1967)
Everlasting Love (1968)
Rainbow Valley (1968)
A Day Without Love (1968)
One Road (1969)
Bringing On Back The Good Times (1969)

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