Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Fortunes (Rod Allen 1944 - 2008)

Rodney Bainbridge was born in in 1944 in Leicester and developed an interest in skiffle, as a pre-teen. The family moved to the Sparkbrook district of Birmingham where Rod grew up. He formed an acoustic guitar group, the Clifftones, with friends Glen Dale and Barry Pritchard. They switched to electric guitars in 1963 and despite being a vocal group their first recording was an instrumental called "Cygnet Twitch," which appeared on a compilation album, called Brumbeat, (Dial record label) highlighting local Birmingham beat groups."Cygnet Twitch" was a working ofTchaikovsky's "Swan Lake".

Under the management of Reginald (Reg) Calvert the line-up was complete with Andy Brown (drums) and David Carr (keyboards) and the band were renamed The Fortunes Rhythm Group. Rod dropped the name Bainbridge and chose Allen from a telephone directory, The Fortunes signed with Decca and their first single was a cover of The Jamie’s 1958 U.S. hit "Summertime, Summertime." It made no impact on the charts.

The second Fortunes single the following year, was "Caroline" written by Perry Ford (Ivy League) and Tony Hiller. It was produced by Shel Talmy (who later worked with The Who and The Kinks) and adopted by the pirate radio station Radio Caroline, as its theme tune. Popularity of both station and its theme tune established The Fortunes as hit makers. "You've Got Your Troubles", was written by Roger Greenaway & Roger Cook, and the song suited the band's image perfectly with lavish instrumentation and their trademark 3-part harmonies featuring Rod Allen's lead. The record broke into the Top Ten in both UK and US in 1965.

With a hit formula now established, a follow-up "Here It Comes Again" (also composed by Greenaway and Cook) was released soon after and gained a No. 4 chart placing. With this success, The Fortunes were able to undertake a package tour of the U.S.A. along with Peter & Gordon and The Moody Blues. On return from the US Tour the group released “This Golden Ring” (1966). The success was slightly marred when the Fortunes admitted in a magazine interview that they had not played the instruments on the recording. None the less it put the band back in the Top Twenty charts. 1966 was a water shed for the group when their manager Reg Calvert, was shot to death in a dispute over pirate radio stations and later Glen Dale left the group, replaced by Shel McCrae. The Fortunes next three singles ("You Gave Me Somebody to Love", "Is It Really Worth Your While?" and "Our Love has Gone") all failed to chart.

In 1967, The Fortunes were reunited with Shel Talmy after they switched labels to United Artists. The group decided to record self-composed material and although "The Idol" by Rod Allen and Barry Pritchard failed to impact chart wise, it did meet some critical acclaim. The group switched to making "advertising jingles", most notably "It's The Real Thing" for Coca-Cola, which was a version of the theme tune, "Things Go Better with Coke". After David Carr left the group in 1968 and they carried on as a four piece. A failed attempt to cover The Move's hit "Fire Brigade" for the US market, saw the Fortunes join a number of bands on the Club Circuit.

In 1971, the band switched to the Capitol Records label and were once again partnered with writers/producers Greenaway and Cook. Two more hits followed: “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling” and “Freedom Come, Freedom Go.” In 1972, “Storm in a Teacup”, co-written by Lindsey De Paul and Barry Blue, also made it into the top ten. These successes renewed demand for live appearances by the Fortunes and the group kept on in steady work. During the 70's, the band’s make up changed as they tried to adapt to changing musical styles.

Eventually The Fortunes turned to comedy and entertained with both songs and musical impressions. Always popular on the Retro Circuit, The Fortunes continued to tour the world built on their reputation as one of the finest harmony bands from the 60s. Sadly Rod was diagnosed with liver cancer and passed away on Jan 10th 2008. The band continues to entertain with Eddie Mooney (The Dakotas) as their lead singer.

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