Friday, November 24, 2017

The Downliners Sect

In 1962 Mick O’Donnell started a band called the Downliners. Their name was taken from the Jerry Lee Lewis song, "Down The Line" and they soon were playing locally in Twickenham. After a short but ill-fated tour of US air bases in France, the band broke up. A year later, Mick O’Donnell (now Don Craine) and Johnny Sutton (drummer) formed the Downliners Sect who quickly established themselves as a popular r&b act playing many clubs in London. The line-up was Don Craine (rhythm guitar and vocals), Johnny Sutton (drums), Keith Evans/Grant (bass), and Melvin who was quickly replaced by Terry Gibson. The Downliners Sect were raw much akin to the Pretty Things but a most definitely the match of the early Rolling Stones and Yardbirds. The band’s interpretation of blues classics was both loud and aggressive and they gathered a loyal following.

Rod Steward, Stevie Marriot (Small Faces) and Van Morrison (Them) were all fans of the group. On stage, as a gimmick Don Craine wore a Sherlock Holmes-hat which he felt added to the mystique of their name. Their first recording in 1963 was an EP (extended player later known as maxi single) featuring the band playing live at Studio 51, London. The release had minor impact in the UK but became popular in Sweden mainly due to airtime given to it by a Swedish pirate station (Radio Syd).

Although the band did other recordings these were not released for two decades, by which time recordings by the Downliner Sect were collectable. The Sect became the resident band at Eel Pie Island and Ray Sone (harmonica) joined them in 1964 with his distinctive harmonica playing. They signed with Columbia and released "Baby What’s Wrong" which again failed to make it to the charts in the UK.

Their first album "The Sect" was recorded later that year and although it too did not sell that well it would become a classic album of the 60s R&B genre.

Unsure of their lasting appeal as an R&B outfit, Columbia released ‘Little Egypt’ which was a novelty single. Little Egypt shot up the charts in Sweden and gave the group a Number 2 hit.

Pip Harvey replaced Ray Sone in 1965 and the Sect went to have a successful tour of Sweden. On their return the group followed up this Scandinavian success with the release of a four-track EP called "The Sect Sing Sick Songs".

This was a quartet of death songs, a genre which had enjoyed some popularity in the charts at the time, including hits by The Shangri-Las’ (Leader of the Pack) and Twinkle’s (Terry). Eccentric, Screaming Lord Sutch also enjoyed some chart success with Jack the Ripper and whether ‘The Sect Sing Sick Songs’ was an endeavour to jump on the bandwagon of rhythm and horror genre is not quite clear but the band had abandoned their R&B roots. The songs were banned by the BBC which gave them some degree of cult status but little else. This was followed by a county album, called the Country Sect which was a complete commercial disaster.

Country music had been predicted as the likely successor to the English Invasion but it did not quite happen. The group’s change in style had not endeared them to their old fans nor had it won them many new fans. In 1966 they released "Glendora" which was an attempt to emulate Ray Davis’s satirical Dedicated follower of fashion, but it did not hit the spot.

Now reduced to a four-piece (harmonica player Pip Harvey had left) they tried to retrieve past glories by returning to R&B basics with the album "The Rock Sect’s In." However, the quality was not there and punters were no longer listening to white boy blues. Terry Gibson and Johnny Sutton quit the band and although Don and Keith Grant carried on as Don Craine’s new Downliners Sect it had little success and in 1968 the Downliners Sect split up. Whilst the band seemed to lose their direction by either trying to follow popular trends or just being mis-managed they slipped out of the main stream. However, the impression the Sect left with younger listeners was to prove important to their future in the decades that followed. In the 70s many of the punk generation regarded the Sect as early forerunners to punk music. Realising this Charly Records re-released the three original Sect albums plus the EP "The Sect Sing Sick Songs" and the band was resurrected. They reformed with some of the original members and more or less have continued to entertain and record ever since. Currently they enjoy a following on the retro circuit.

Worth a listen
Baby what’s wrong (1964)
Little Egypt/Sect Appeal (1964)
Be A Sect Maniac (1964)
Green Onions (1964)
Leader Of The Sect (1965)
Bad Storm Coming (1965)
Glendora (1966)
I Want My Baby Back (1965)
Glendora (1966)
Too Much Monkey Business (1966)
Fortune Teller (1966)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Chinnichap (aka Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn)

Mike Chapman was born in 1947 in Queensland, Australia and moved to the UK where he played with Tangerine Peel. In 1970 he met song writer, Nicky Chinn (born 1945) and they started to write songs together. Nicky was less of a musician and had only taken up an instrument in his mid-twenties. His talent lay in writing pop songs and his previous success with Mike d'Abo (Manfred Mann) included writing songs for the film There's a Girl in My Soup. Mickie Most signed the pair to RAK Records as house songwriters and producers. They specialised in writing hit singles with heavy derived hooks to grasp the attention of the listener. They definitely had the Midas touch and between 1973 until 1978 scored an enviable run of hit singles. Many of their early hits Chinn were conceived and completed overnight. They claimed to create their songs by first thinking of a title, around which they then wrote the lyrics. Their music definitely had mass appeal and younger listeners lapped it up. The intensity of Mike in particular was sometimes the source of friction as most of their groups, outgrew Chinnichap ‘bubblegum’ music. Mike Chapman held a tight grip on the output of the artistes whose works they produced. Keen to reduce production costs, RAK under Mickie Most would frequently use professional session men to play on the records much to the consternation of the instrumentalists in the groups. In the end the means was justified as the hits racked up. Glam Rock was gaining popularity and bands like the Sweet depended upon professional writers to give them catchy works to record. Chin and Chapman did not fail and wrote several a string of hits including "Little Willy", "Wig-Wam Bam", "Hell Raiser", "Teenage Rampage", "Blockbuster!" and "The Ballroom Blitz".

When Sweet eventually outgrew bubblegum, the songwriters turned their attention to Mud. More success followed with massive hits like "Tiger Feet" and "Lonely This Christmas".

Micky Most discovered Suzie Quatro in Detroit and brought her over to the UK. When he failed to produce a hit he handed the task to Chinn and Chapman and they wrote and produced four hits for the leather clad rocker "Can the Can", "48 Crash", "Daytona Demon" and "Devil Gate Drive" all sold well.

Unlike the others, when Smokie came along there were seasoned musicians and Chinn & Chapman decided to move away from their formulaic approach and produced 11 Top Twenty singles for the group.

The songwriters had enjoyed immense success in the UK and Commonwealth but the US was more of a challenge. In 1975 they temporarily moved to the US and it took two years before they finally established himself with a number one hit with Kiss you all over, by Exile.

At the end of the decade Mike produced albums and singles for Blondie and The Knack. The pair formed the Dreamland record label in 1979 which Chapman ran until it folded after two years later. As the popularity for Glam Rock passed and Punk replaced it, Chinn and Chapman fortunes dwindled. Then in 1982 they had an international hit with Toni Basil and Mickey but by the middle of the decade their partnership was dissolved.

Both pursued their separate careers and Nicky Chinn co-wrote "Dancing in the Dark" for Kim Wilde, (1983). Mike Chapman remained in demand through the 1980s and 1990s as a songwriter and producer. His compositions have included Tina Turner's "Simply The Best" (co-written with Holly Knight), while he has produced albums for Altered Images, Australian Crawl, Agnetha Fältskog, Divinyls, Rod Stewart, Lita Ford, Pat Benatar, Baby Animals, Material Issue and Bow Wow Wow.

Worth a listen
The Arrows:
Touch Too Much (1974)

Toni Basil
Mickey (1981)

Hanging on the Telephone (1978)
One Way or Another (1978)
Picture This (1978)
Sunday Girl (1978)
Heart of Glass (1978)

Kiss You All Over (1979)

The Knack
My Sharona (1979)

Crazy (1973)
Hypnosis (1973)
Dyna-Mite (1973)
Tiger Feet (1974)
The Cat Crept In (1974)
Rocket (1974)
Lonely This Christmas (1974)

New World
Tom Tom Turnaround (1971)

Lay Your Love On Me (1978)
Some Girls (1979)

If You Think You Know How to Love Me (1975)
Don’t Play Your Rock ‘N Roll To Me (1975)
Something's Been Making Me Blue (1976)
I'll Meet You At Midnight (1976)
Living Next Door To Alice (1976)

Suzi Quatro
Can the Can (1973)
48 Crash (1973)
Daytona Demon (1973)
Devil Gate Drive (1974)
The Wild One (1974)

The Sweet
Funny Funny (1971)
Co-Co (1971)
Poppa Joe (1972)
Little Willy (1972)
Wig-Wam Bam (1972)
Block Buster (1973)
Hell Raiser (1973)
The Ballroom Blitz (1973)
Teenage Rampage (1974)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Hot Chocolate (Errol Brown 1943-2015)

In 1969 Errol Brown and Tony Wilson started writing songs together. Tony Wilson was an established session musician and they were both signed to Apple as songwriters and demo singers. The song writing duo penned hits for Herman's Hermits, (Bet Yer Life I Do), and Mary Hopkin, (Think About Your Children). The latter was a hit in 1970.

Errol and Tony recorded a reggae version of "Give Peace A Chance" and Errol changed some of the lyrics. At the time all Lennon’s material needed to have his seal of approval and when he heard the cut, he was impressed.

There are different stories on how the group got their name, one was after Lennon heard the demo, he declared them hot chocolate; the other is an Apple secretary named them the Hot Chocolate Band. Either way the band released their version of ‘Give Peace a Chance’ on Apple. By this time the Beatles Company was in receivership and the Hot Chocolate Band was signed to Mickie Most’s RAK records. It is he who is given the credit for shortening their name to Hot Chocolate. Their first single on RAK records was a Brown and Wilson composition called Love is life and it reached Number 6 in the UK charts.

Unlike other bands of the time, Hot Chocolate took the decision not to rush release a follow up. When “You could have been a lady, another Brown and Wilson composition was eventually released it gave the band their second hit record.

By the time of their third release, I believe in love, in 1971, pre-sales guaranteed the single entered the Top Ten.

Again the group refused to rush into a follow up and with now three hits had not released and album nor were the group seen to perform live. By now the band had chart credibility but continued to remain unperturbed about quick follow ups. Occasionally this meant some of their singles failed to reach the charts but at the same time the band cleverly avoided being typecast as they were seen to follow the popular music trends of the time. The group finally went on tour in 1973. The lineup was Errol Brown (vocalist / songwriter); Tony Coonor replaced the original drummer Ian King; Larry Ferguson (keyboards); Harvey Hinsley (guitarist); Patrick Olive (congas) and Tony Wilson (bassist / songwriter). They were a two tone band with two white musicians. Cicero Parke was released in 1974 but met with a poor response whilst their singles continued to enjoy large sales.

Influenced by African American soul and R&B the group released “Brother Louis” (featuring Alexis Corner).

The subject matter dealt with racial tension and a cover version of the single went to Number One in the US. Disappointed not to have been able to break into the US charts themselves they release Emma in 1974 and that gave them their first US hit.

Tony Wilson and Errol Brown fell out and Wilson left the band in 1975 to follow a solo career. Hot Chocolate recorded a couple of hits written by other composers including Russ Ballard (So you win again -1977); and Don Black and Geoff Stephens’ (I’ll put you together again – 1979).

More hits followed with 'You sexy thing,' and 'Don’t stop it now.' in 1975 and 1976 respectively; then 'Every 1s a winner,' and 'No doubt about it.'

In 1981 Erroll Brown went to live in LA and see if he could get inspiration this seemed to work because a year later Hot Chocolate were back on the top of the charts with 'Girl Crazy,' 'It started with a kiss.' and' What kinda boy you looking for (Girl).'

Over a fifteen year career the group amassed a total of over 30 hits and became the only group in the UK to have a hit for fifteen consecutive years. In 1985 Errol left the band to spend more time with his family and the band disbanded a year later. Hot Chocolate’s success was a combination of high production standards, strong song writers and tight harmonies. Errol Brown died of liver cancer at his home in the Bahamas on 6 May 2015.

Worth a listen
Give Peace a Chance (1969)
Love Is Life (1970)
You Could Have Been a Lady (1971)
I Believe (In Love) (1971)
Brother Louie (1973)
Emma (1974)
Disco Queen (1975)
You Sexy Thing (1975)
Don't Stop It Now (1976)
So You Win Again (1977)
Every 1's a Winner (1978)
I'll Put You Together Again (1978)
No Doubt About It (1980)
Girl Crazy (1982)
It Started With a Kiss (1982)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Old Grey Whistle Test (1971- 1987)

The BBC2 television music show ran from 1971 to 1987. Unlike other contemporary music programs OGWT featured non-chart music with a preference for serious rock music and album songs. Rowan Ayers devised the program and Mike Appleton was the executive producer. The program had shoe string budget and bands performed live in an empty studio (no audience). The studio was only 32x22 feet (approx. 10 x 7 metres) and left little room for a set once the cameras and band were in. Despite this, the OGWT archives which are available on DVD are of immense importance to the social history of rock of that time period. The program was originally presented by Richard Williams (features editor of the Melody Maker); then in 1972, “Whispering” Bob Harris ran things until 1978 when Anna Nightingale took over.

In the early 1980s Andy Kershaw, David Hepworth, Mark Ellen and Richard Skinner all took turns as presenters.

The theme tune was Stone Fox Chase by Area Code 615 and was played over the opening animation of the 'Star Kicker.' In 1983 the programmed was moved to a live mid-evening slot and retiled Whistle Test. The title credits and music were changed and the final show was broadcast at the end of 1987. The origin of Old Grey Whistle Test is thought to be a 'tin pan alley' phrase used to test reaction to a new record. The office char ladies (some references cite door men) were asked to listen to the new songs and if they could remember it by whistling the tune then the record passed the old grey whistle test.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Top of the Pops (1964 – 2006)

Top of the Pops was made by the BBC and broadcast for the first time on 1st January 1964. Initially there were plans only for a short run but the program proved so popular it ran for 42 years and was closed in 2006. The format featured a dance floor come discotheque type set with a host DJ and regular ‘disc girl’ (Samantha Juste) to spin the discs.

The show featured top 20 singles and showcased the bestselling artists for that week. It was made in BBCs Studio A in Manchester and the first show was presented by Jimmy Savile other early presenters included Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman, Pete Murray and David Jacobs.

Each week there were a couple of new releases played followed by a selection from the top 20 bestselling singles with final countdown to the Number One. At first playlists included only songs which had risen in the charts and the same single could not appear on consecutive weeks unless it was at number one. This changed in the mid-nineties as the organisers attempted to appeal to the musical tastes of the time. TOTPs reached peak figures in the 70s and attracted an average of 15 million viewers each week. The program went out on a Thursday night (the day the pop singles charts were published), until 1996 when it moved to a Friday night show. Prior to the introduction of music videos, Pan’s People were a troupe of leggie lovelies who filled in when an act was unavailable to appear in person.

Whilst there were many changes to the set and presenters over the four decades TOTPs stated more or less in its original form for most of its run. In the 1990s, the show's format was sold to several foreign broadcasters in the form of a franchise package, and at one point various versions of the show were shown in nearly 100 countries. The last show went out at the end of July, 2006. At first all performers mimed to the commercially released record, but in 1966 miming was banned. Although some acts bravely tried to recreate their recorded works after a few disasters permission was given to use a backing tracts provided all the musicians on the track were present in the studio. Johnnie Pearson’s Top of the Pops Orchestra augmented the tracks when necessary. Some well known acts refused to appear on the show because of the live component and eventually in the early 80s pre-recorded backing tracts were accepted.

The original theme music was ‘Top of the Pops’ by Dave Davani Four, this was later replaced by CCS’ Whole lotta love.

There were three other theme songs; Phil Lynott’s Yellow Pearl (1981 -1986); Paul Hardcastle’s The Wizzard; and Red Hot Pop by Vince Clarke.

Worth a listen
The Baron Knights
Call up the groups (1964)

Whole lotta love

Vince Clarke
Red Hot Pop

Dave Davani Four
Top of the Pops (1964)

The Dubliners
Seven Drunken Nights (1967)

England World Cup Squad
Back home (1970)

Flying Lizards
Money (1979)

Paul Hardcastle
The Wizzard (1986)

Kursaal Flyers
Little does she know (1976)

Leapy Lee
Little Arrows (1968)

Phil Lynott
Yellow Pearl (1980)

The New Vaudeville Band
Winchester Cathedral (1966)

Sam the Sham and the Pharoes
Wooly Bully (1965)

Terry (1964)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ready Steady Go! (1963-1966)

Following on the success of Juke Box Jury (JBJ) and Thank your lucky stars (TYLS), Associated-Rediffusion (later Rediffusion) wanted a program which caught the attention of mods in London. Elkan Allan devised Ready Steady Go! as a platform for the fashionable faces and acts which were popular mainly on the London Club scene. The program was produced by Vicki Wickham and became incredibly influential and a must for all Mods nationwide. RSG! was recorded in small studios at Rediffusion's headquarters in London and had a club atmosphere with guests and audience in close proximity. Paul Gadd (aka Paul Raven and Gary Glitter) was for many years the warm up act and also help with studio security. The show caught the mood brilliantly and went out on Friday with the banner “The weekend starts here!” Keith Fordyce and Cathy McGowan were the main presenters but others occasionally guested.

Cathy McGowan became a ‘face’ and Queen Mod but she was originally cast to represent 'a typical teenager.’ To begin with her interviews were erratic and she would often stumble over her lines especially in the presence of charismatic pop stars. The selection proved most effective and Cathy McGowan became a professional trendsetter.

At first the theme tune was “Wipe Out” by the Sufaris but later this was replaced by Manfred Mann’s ‘5-4-3-2-1’: then at the end of the run by Manfred Mann’s ‘Hubble , bubble, toil and trouble.’

Guest artists mimed to their records but by late 1964 some performed live and the show switched to all-live performances in April 1965. Artists performed the full version of their songs which was something that had not been previously encouraged. A similar latitude was later taken in BBCs, Old Grey Whistle Test. All the popular acts of the era appeared on RSG!. Donovan was promoted as a discovery and UKs answer to Bob Dylan.

The show was also responsible for introducing UK viewers to Jimi Hendrix. However, like JBJ and TYLS, RSG! gained its highest ratings when the Beatles appeared.

Once the Mod culture passed the viewing figures dropped and RSG! was axed in 1966. Despite its popularity in the UK and content it was never shown in the United States. Part of this was due to the program being made in black and white.

Dave Clark (DC5) did have the foresight to buy the rights to RSG! after the show was cancelled. In the 80s with the flurry of retro, Clark negotiated to have RSG! episodes shown on the US Disney Chanel. Although Clark has never married he was once romantically linked with Cathy McGowan.


Worth a listen
You cant do that (1964)

Dave Clark Five
Catch us if you can (1965)

Catch the wind (1965)

Jesse Fuller
San Fransico Bay Blues (1962)

Jimi Hendrix Experience
Hey Joe (1966)

Manfred Mann
5-4-3-2-1 (1964)
Hubble bubble toil and trouble (1964)

Wipe out (1962)

ACDC - Behind The Music [Documentário legendado em PT-BR]