As a bridge between The Shadows at Hammersmith on the Saturday and at the Palladium on the Monday, Jim Nugent, with colleagues George Geddes, Alan Taylor and Spencer Scott, hit upon the idea of a Shadows evening in the Bonnington Hotel, London, with the proceeds going to Diabetes UK. The venue attracted a capacity audience with visitors from many different countries, and the programme, more of which later, was an excellent one. Even football addicts were catered for: though there was no bar in the function room, there was a very well-stocked one just along the corridor, and it had a big screen for those who sidled out from time to time to keep an eye on the big match.
The musical part of this Shadows Fan Gathering kicked off with LEGEND, a band already known and loved on the Shadows circuit: David Martin and Terry Carter alternating on lead and rhythm guitars, Chris Jarvis on bass, and Martin Verrill on drums. If you have never heard this hugely talented foursome, you have been missing out; their CD “In The Beginning” was reviewed by George Geddes in Shadsfax Issue 38, pp 4–5 and by Trev Faull in Pipeline Issue 56 pp. 41–42. As proponents of the Burns recordings (David Martin was sporting the new 40th Anniversary guitar, and very striking it looked too), they worked their way through a wealth of Shadows’ gems, beginning with a scorching rendition of TEMPTATION and closing with Graham Gouldman’s quirky composition (once considered as a single by the group, I remember hearing it on the radio as a “promo” in 1967, but it was dropped) NAUGHTY NIPPON NIGHTS. The latter is well out of the usual run of Shadstrax, and indeed novelty, or avoidance of constantly reworked material, is one of the many attractions of this outfit. It is not as if the Burns period was an arid one, far from it. For me the highlights of the eighteen numbers were MAIN THEME (does anybody out there agree with me that this must be one of the most underrated numbers in The Shadows’ extensive repertoire?), DEEP PURPLE (the bass underpinning this mover was indeed excellent), MAROC 7 (very punchy, as was ZAMBESI), and FRIDAY ON MY MIND (the whole group I thought really met this exhilarating piece full on). But in fact the entire set was memorable. David Martin explained to the audience early on that Legend moved in Burns territory (and Burns territory alone) because they loved the music of the period. And it showed, with David’s expression in particular reflecting the sheer joy of the occasion. Mind you, at that point England had not yet had that bit of late-match bother. BRIAN LOCKING was a special guest and performed at various points; needless to say, the audience were entranced by his fine musicianship, which was in evidence in the 60s not only on a number of Shadows’ classics but also on an amazingly diverse range of material (think of the fine Spanish or French songs for instance) recorded with Cliff Richard.
And now for something completely different. I was already the proud possessor of THE SECRETS’ CD ‘Top Secret’ (how do they dream up these titles?), in both Mark 1 and Mark 2 form: I gather than the CD on sale at the venue was Mark 3, presumably in an effort to establish at one blow a dozen alternative versions to provide a learned appendix for a second edition of Trev Faull’s excellent book. The Secrets are Jim Nugent (lead guitar), Ray Liffen (rhythm guitar), Peter Walter (bass guitar), Dave Burke (drums), and the above mentioned man of letters Trev Faull (keyboards). Let me quote from the sleeve notes of the CD (Mark 2), which talk of “rehabilitating 60’s instrumentals”: “We play music from our heroes the Ventures, Shadows, John Barry and more and we aim to add just a little bit of our own influences in the process”. In fact, fine as many of the instrumentals of the 60s are, the sound quality of the originals often leaves something to be desired, many of them being disagreeably shut in and lacking in dynamics, and here was a chance to hear them “opened out”, so to speak. From the word go, the sound was big and bold, with the band’s enthusiasm for their music shining through again and again. Once more, I will single out some highlights only: the iconic HIT AND MISS, a souped-up version of CUSTER’S STAND from the pen of the prolific Chris Watts (a musician complimented by Jim, and I can only warmly agree), a bouncy rendition of The Turtles’ (originally an instro outfit, as it happens) HAPPY TOGETHER (a great keyboard contribution here), and the Walter/ Nugent SPY SOCIETY (one could probably write a book about the influences at work here: first-rate). But for me the closing THEME ONE topped the lot: what a cracker! This is surely live stylistically diverse instro music, to adapt an expression which makes many a Shadows purist shudder, At Its Very Best. I would ask in conclusion: when is the follow-up CD (Mark 1) due lads?
In between, and in addition to a smoothly-run auction and raffle, Rob Bradford set a REALLY HARD SHADOWS QUIZ, and lived to tell the tale. As he stressed, he had been instructed to make the questions very difficult, and so they were: a shade above Mastermind Final level, I would say. A book-prize was won by George Stainsby, pictured here on the left (well done, George). A tie-breaker had to come into play to find a winner from four entrants who had scored four out of ten, which gives some indication of the trickiness of the questions set. On the right auctioneer Jim Nugent deals cooly with heckling and gesticulations from the audience.
Late on, relatively speaking, it was the turn of the outfit MEAN STREAK. They are: Steve Hammond (lead guitar), Steve Dowling (rhythm guitar), Graham Jones (bass guitar), Lloyd McSweeney (drums), with lead vocals from Gary O’Connor. Not a zimmer-frame in sight here, as these youngsters (again, relatively speaking), offered a selection of Shads instrumentals of early vintage (THE SAVAGE et al.), interspersed with Cliff vocals. It was the latter that really raised the roof and had people (well, some people), dancing in the aisles. Why on earth bother with such unremarkable songs as FEELIN’ FINE or SATURDAY DANCE, surpassed by many, when The Drifters/ Shadows, or some of them, at around this time, were involved so much more effectively with Cliff Richard, and record-buyers were snapping up such electrifying numbers, surpassed by none, as DYNAMITE, LIVIN’ LOVIN’ DOLL and MEAN STREAK? Believe me, I have come across people born long after the 60s were dead and gone who have simply been bowled over by these pre-Mistletoe and Wine rockers. The three above were on the menu, together with PLEASE DON’T TEASE, THE YOUNG ONES, DANCING SHOES, MOVE IT! and RAZZLE DAZZLE (as featured on the long-awaited Kingston set, much punchier than the unusually bland studio version, recorded in 1962, only to become one of the leftovers on the 1965 ‘Cliff Richard’ LP). I could have listened to this band all night. All in all, a great conclusion to the evening’s proceedings.
Here is a shot of three swingers (George Geddes, Malcolm Campbell and Roberto Pistolesi) in a performance that surely did full justice to DANCING SHOES. Times have definitely changed: Roberto’s ancestors built very tall walls to shield Italians from the bad influence of performers from remote northern regions, but now they are everywhere. Story has it that the authorities decided to go in for wall-building in a big way to keep the invaders in (rather than to keep the natives out): Roman soldiers, sorely missing the capital’s flute music and more especially the girls who played it at end of campaign parties, took to sneaking over the border in numbers to partake of aqua ignea fulva (loosely translated, ‘golden-brown firewater’), and to listen for days and sometimes months on end to a very strange stringed instrument which they labelled Gretschus versatilis. This was so called, according to a contemporary Latin historian, because in skilled hands (and if struck hard enough), it could be made to sound like anything you cared to think of, so bringing back to battle-worn veterans memories of the sounds of yesteryear, when everything was bright, sunny, and twangy.
£740 was raised for Diabetes Research, and the organisers are to be congratulated on that and for a truly marvellous evening’s entertainment.
Photographs 1–2, 5–6 & 11–12 © Richard Cowling; 3–4, 7–10 & 13–15 © Richard Campbell
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