My interest in The Shadows goes back to the 1960s, and I have taken a keen interest in their activities ever since. In my case it wasn’t just APACHE, or FBI, or KON-TIKI, or WONDERFUL LAND that impressed me, but the early stuff with Cliff Richard as well, in particular the LP Me And My Shadows, which I played and played again on my Bush record player: by some miracle, my two copies (in both mono and stereo: remember you have to have both!) still play pretty well, though the higher frequencies have suffered a bit.
The Beatles of course came along and things would never be the same again, (though looking back now I would say that all the original Albums released by the Shadows in this decade, which could essentially be dissociated from the work of the new beat groups by virtue of being instrumental or nearly so, have stood the test of time amazingly well). I remember buying Beatles For Sale and not getting past the opener ‘No Reply’ for ages. The Beatles were then, and are now, untouchable. Of course there was plenty to admire in the 1960s apart from them, Del Shannon, for example, or the brilliant if at times wayward Byrds, though I found surprising, to put it mildly, the assertion by a well respected music critic that their series of singles, taken as a whole, were actually superior to those of The Beatles. There was plenty as well that was not impressive: the vastly overrated Beach Boys for instance; and, to take one example of many to remind us of the many less attractive sides of this decade, the clownish PJ Proby with his comprehensive butchering of ‘Somewhere’, demonstrating what cheap showmanship can achieve (still, he went right up in my estimation with his choice for his next single, ‘I Apologise’).
When the 1970s dawned I was hoping for another Album to match the 1969 solo effort from Hank Marvin: what a pity he didn’t do a bit more in this vein. Still, Marvin Welch & Farrar came along to compensate (some of their songs at any rate have weathered well), followed up, for purist Shadows fans, with a superlative Album Rockin’ With Curly Leads, though personally I consider the original compositions on Specs Appeal (1975) and Tasty (1977) to be often as good and sometimes even better. The second half of the 70s was lit up by the new supergroup Abba, who came up with the goods just when people were beginning to think that artists with a mountain of catchy songs to offer were things of the past.
My sons Michael and Richard saw me through the 80s and 90s and beyond, so much so that my record shelves are full of artists like (in alphabetical order) The Charlatans, Lloyd Cole, Del Amitri, Dido, Embrace, The Fine Young Cannibals, The Lightning Seeds, Oasis, The Pet Shop Boys, The Proclaimers, Roxette/ Gyllene Tider/ Per Gessle (the master of power pop beyond a doubt), Shed Seven, Teenage Fanclub, Wet Wet Wet and others. All the talk of a catastrophic decline in pop is in my opinion nonsense. There are plenty of good things still coming out, and plenty of pretty dire things too: that’s the way it’s always been. To take just some very different examples purely at random, I would say that The Pasadenas’ ‘I’m Doing Fine Now’ (1992), or The LAs’ ‘There She Goes’ (1989), or Jane Wiedlin’s ‘Rush Hour’ (1988), or Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ (1987) or Billy Ocean’s ‘Loverboy’ (1983) were easily as good as anything in similar vein that emerged in the 1960s, and better than most.
I only seriously considered writing on The Shadows when, one day in the late 1990s, I was sitting making a rough and ready inventory of what tracks were to be found on what CDs in my not inconsiderable collection, and was suddenly struck by the thought that a more worked-up version might be of interest and use to others. As a teacher in one of the UK’s oldest Universities, with over a dozen books published at that point on my specialism, writing a book seemed a natural step to take, but also an audacious one, given that my previous contributions to the subject of The Shadows’ recorded work did not extend much beyond letters to John Friesen about this and that. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. After working on the Guide, things followed on automatically from there, since I wanted to look into the EMI years and then the Polydor period from a discographical standpoint, and in the case of the latter, from a sociological standpoint too. Writing reference books is all about familiarising oneself with a subject and then passing on the findings in a coherent way to interested parties. Over all three books, I was struck repeatedly by the uncertainties surrounding much of the group’s recorded legacy. Some I have resolved to my satisfaction, some I have not, and many are sure to remain dark: very often evidence for a whole range of details (release dates, for example, especially for overseas product) is wholly absent and almost certainly now beyond recall. Fortunately for me, a number of dedicated Shadows enthusiasts and collectors gave freely of their time in trying to help me sort out some of the many problems, and I am very grateful to them all. In addition, collaboration with Les Woosey for the updated CD Guide has shed much new light on various issues.
MC, August 2005
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