THE SHADOWS – “Greatest Hits” (Columbia SCX 1522) re-issue 1974
Another recent £2 purchase in Scope, my local charity shop. The Shadows are well represented in the bargain bins but this one appealed to me because most of the cuts are in stereo, although two tracks “F.B.I” and “The Boys” are mono recordings electronically reprocessed to give a stereo effect on HI-FI equipment.
The Shadows’ story began long before their first Chart entry. It started when a young singer named Cliff Richard walked into London’s “Two I’s” coffee bar in search of a backing group – and came out with four young men who, in those days, chose to call themselves The Drifter. And as Cliff developed into one of Britain’s top attractions, so the group rose to fame with him.
In September, 1959, the boys elected to change their name to The Shadows, owing to confusion between themselves and an American group called The Drifters – confusion which was sparked off when Cliff’s “Living Doll” was released in the States.
Soon the Shadows were recording in their own right. Their first release, which enjoyed moderate sales, as “Feelin’ Fine” – and by mid-1960 four of their discs had been issued, of which the biggest seller was “Saturday Dance”. Then came the number which was to boost the Shadows into the top bracket of British recording artists – the forerunner of an unbroken string of releases, every one of which was to achieve hit parade honours.
APACHE was an unexpected and unheralded top table entry in July 1960. While on tour with singer-composer Jerry Lordan, the Shadows had asked him to write a number for them – and he duly came up with this, his first-ever instrumental composition.
At the recording session, Cliff Richard sat in as a bongo player. In August, it dethroned Cliff’s “Please Don’t tease” as Britain’s No. 1 hit, retaining this position for six weeks. Sales subsequently passed the million mark, and the Shadows were awarded a Gold Disc on “Thank Your Lucky Stars” the following April.
By now the boys were a huge attraction in their own right. The group – consisting of Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan – played its first bill-topping concerts (without Cliff) in September, and the following month were voted Britain’s top small group in NME Popularity Poll. The same poll voted “Apache” the best record of the year.
MAN OF MYSTERY, written by Michael Carr as the title number for an Edgar Wallace mystery film series, reached No. 6 spot towards the end of 1960. The Shadows had beensceptical about recording it, since it was a complete departure from the style they had created on “Apache” – with Hank Marvin playing the solo on the treble strings throughout.
With the success of this release, they came to realise the value of varying their style with every disc. At the time, however, they preferred the other side, namely:
THE STRANGER, which was released as a double-A coupling to “Man Of Mystery”, and secured Chart success in its own right.
F.B.I., released in February 1961, shortly before the Shadows accompanied Cliff Richard on their first South African tour, reached No. 4, and is still one of the Shadows’ most-requested stage presentations. It was coupled with a descriptive item of mood music, MIDNIGHT, written by Bruce and Hank.
THE FRIGHTENED CITY was released at a time when the Shadows were heading a touring one-nighter package, while Cliff Richard was making “The Young Ones”; between times, they were fitting in their own contribution to the movie. Written by their recording manager, Norrie Paramor, as the theme music to the British thriller of the same name, it entered the best-sellers in May, 1961, and reached No. 3 position.
KON-TIKI, dedicated to the raft which crossed the Pacific from Peru to the Pacific Islands (and which the boys actually saw in Oslo during their midsummer, 1960, Scandinavian visit), was another Michael Carr composition – remarkable that a writer of so many British song hits since pre-war days could adapt himself so admirably to teenage demands!
The disc (which climbed to No. 6) was released during the Shadows’ Blackpool summer season with Cliff, and coincided with Tony Meehan’s departure – to be replaced by Brian Bennett. The other side “36-24-36” was written by the Shadows themselves – the identity of the girl in question has never been disclosed, but the tune suggests plenty of wiggle as she walks!
THE SAVAGE and PEACE PIPE were both featured by the boys in “The Young Ones” movie. They were never actually intended for singles release – but owing to the boys’ out-of-town commitments preventing them from recording new material, they were issued in November, 1961.
Both numbers were written by Norrie Paramor, and “The Savage” reached No. 9 – just when the Shadows were opening in their first pantomime, “Dick Whittington”, without Cliff.
WONDERFUL LAND. Norrie Paramor, ever on the look-out for a new way of presenting his Artistes, added strings and horns to this side, which, incidentally, had been recorded almost a year before its release.
The boys were away on one of their long tours, but Cliff happened to be in London at that time and came along to the recording studio to hear “The Shadows with Strings” – he was tremendously enthusiastic about it and you know the result – No. 1 for 9 weeks.
It happily coincided with the Shadows’ triumphant bill-topping season at the Paris Olympia in March, 1962. It was coupled with STARS FELL ON STOCKTON, a number written by the boys while in the pantomime in that town. “No special significance in the title”, they explained. “We might just as well have called it “Moonlight in Wigan”.
GUITAR TANGO had been suggested to the Shadows six months before they actually recorded it, but they awaited a satisfactory arrangement before doing so. Strings and cornets were added – the cornet “sound” was the idea of Mike Conlin, Cliff’s Road Manager – again in the boy’s absence, this time while they were filming “Summer Holiday” in Greece.
A complete departure from their previous styles, it featured the Shadows on acoustic guitars, and climbed to No. 4. Jet Harris was still heard on this track, even though he had left the group in April, 1962, to be replaced by Brian ‘Licorice’ Locking.
THE BOYS, the title music from the Richard Todd-Jess Conrad film which was actually featured in the movie by the Shadows, was released in this country only on an E.P. It enjoyed outstanding success abroad, where it was released as a single – particularly in Australia, reaching No. 3 in that Continent.
DANCE ON enjoyed a three-week stay at No. 1 in January 1963 – coinciding with the opening of “Summer Holiday”, and the boys second South African tour with Cliff. In search of new material, Bruce Welch came across a demonstration disc which had been sent to him a year earlier by Norrie – it was “Dance On” composed by the Avons.
Surely there could not be a more appropriate title with which to end this tribute to the foot-tapping team which so deservedly wears the crown as Britain’s foremost small group!
charity shop purchase @ £2