Sunday, 1 March 2020

Bulls Head Bob Mar 2020 - GROUP INSTRUMENTALS OF THE 60's, not adapted by Jeff Lynne.

Howdeedoo Maties,

Well we've had some weather haven't we?   you watch, in a couple of months they'll announce a hose pipe ban.   Of course if the water companies hadn't stolen all the natural water to make more money then the old rivers wouldn't have silted and dried up everywhere which, in turn would have permitted the massive downpours we have suffered to flow through the river systems and out to sea.    It's not simply climate change, its unending greed and million pound bonuses for the fat cats who have created a lot of the damage.  When I was a kid you could swim in the River Cole now you'd be lucky to see any water in it at all.   But those were better, honest times.

Once in a while there are instrumental records that get into your head and then the charts and don't leave for a while, however, in the 60's there were more instrumentals in the charts than at any other decade.  It's probably because of the electrification of guitars which had become the instrument of the youth of the day.  The Shadows had their first hit with Apache in 1960, I read recently that they were the first "proto-surf rock band" whatever that means.  I would argue that, as we Brits didn't surf in the 60's let alone swim in the freezing cold waters of GB except for the last week of July and first week of August,
that assumption is a tad wide of the mark.    Nonetheless The Shads were our "go to" band for instrumentals. The surf assumption is probably based on the fact that US act Santo and Johnny's "Sleepwalk" (1959) was played on the pedal steel guitar which of course had that Hawaian feel and Hank was the master of  the tremelo making his Strat sound like a hawaian guitar.

There were many orchestral instrumentals from films and TV series that I wont count in this blog and I'm only counting hits by Groups here and although there were many more, these are the ones that really stood out for me.

Newly formed groups were beginning to widen their horizons musically and of course every group had their own version of Hank Marvin who would be busting at the gills to show how good he was and attract a few of the girls in the audience, so there was a hunt to find your own piece of music to transform into an instrumental with a beat. 

One of the first of those that attracted my and many others attention was a record by Nero and The Gladiators called "Entry of The Gladiators".  This band had been formed in London just after returning to the UK from Italy where two of them had been members of The Cabin Boys, backing Tommy Steeles brother Colin Hicks.  They wore gladiator clothing that they had bought from a sale of stage wear from the film Quo Vadis.

There was a follow up 45 too "Hall of the Mountain King" and Joe Moretti was bought in as lead guitarist, Moretti would later go on to play the solo on British rock anthem Shakin All Over.    I think we all played this instrumental, and not too long ago some guy wrote in announcing that it had been a young Jeff Lynne who had adapted it, that of course is plain Bollocks although Jeff probably believes he did. 

American guitarist Duane Eddy had preceded these bands by having an instrumental in the British charts as far back as 1958 with Rebel Rouser followed by The Peter Gunn Theme and specialised his tunes to be played on the lower strings of his guitar, normally a Gretsch Country Gent or something big and horrible.  I was not a fan.
They called him The Rebel Rouser but when I saw him live at The Cedar Club I said to myself that I shouldn't be predjudiced because he could be stupendous, after all he'd been around a long time but I thought he was average at best, he didn't Rouse any Rebel in me and was never one of my guitar heroes, his sax player was incredible though.   Eddy wasn't a guitarists guitarist by any means but I did realise his great value a little later in that because of the simplicity of the tunes he played a major role in encouraging those who were learning because of, at the end of a couple of hours practice, you couldn't play his tunes you were never gonna learn!  

Having said all that The Peter Gunn Theme written by Henry Mancini is still played by bands today including Mr Jeff Beck and occasionally me too when I'm playing to Bikers.  It is a dramatic tune to play and hypnotically heavy for a band to get into so perhaps I've been wrong about him all these years...well maybe just for this one tune, so thanks Duane.   He is still performing today!!

The Surfaris 1962
Now this was definitely "proto plasm surf dudeastic rock at its surfiest man"
I just loved this and so did every drummer on the scene as they featured so heavily in it with its surftastic pounding floor tom-tom throb.  The track opens with someone laughing and shouting "Wipe Out" then they let the drummer out of the cage and..whoosh! bedlam for 2.30 minutes.   The guitarists would have worked out a stage routine of holding their guitars at certain angles at the many breaks in the tune as was the way we did things then without a hint of embarrassment at all, after all, the girls would think you looked the part, Percy the Perfect Pop Star.

It became the opening song for the iconic Friday night rock show "Ready Steady Go", the weekend starts here, great stuff, full of youthful vitality.  The Surfaris looked like nerds.

Joe Meek became a household name along with The Tornadoes after releasing this Instrumental worldwide hit starting with whirling special sound effects and then feeding in the music through the whooshing and gurgling.  Written, imagined and recorded by Joe Meek this record flew up the charts both in the UK and the USA both reaching No1.   The clavioline was the featured instrument throughout the tune with a short bridge break on guitar.   It was considered something dynamically new in the sound field but the 1961 hit Runaway by Del Shannon had a clavioline playing the instrumental solo and no-one mentioned how revolutionary it was then.    

The Tornadoes were, in effect, Joe Meeks studio session musicians and included Clem Cattini and Alan Caddy, both original members of The Pirates.   The bass player Heinz was Meeks love interest and he promoted him as a solo act with the song "Just Like Eddy" he was replaced by Brian Gregg who was the third member of the original Pirates to hop on the Tornadoes satellite.

The Tornadoes made a good living for many years from this record.  Sadly Joe Meek killed himself.

1962 could be considered the zenith of Instrumental hits and this one was a
blast to play especially with the run down sequence on the guitar neck where you could pose like a local hero.   This hit had a great sound to it, rich and warm with hints of mechanical tremelo pulsating through the entire track as supplied by a Fender Rhodes piano. The middle eight bars were filled with brash guitar which changed the whole atmosphere before returning to the half note, two string riff.  I recall learning this at a practice with one of my early groups, we loved it.

It was a hit for American band, The Chantays who had the all-american boy appearance that made them all look around 30 years of age.   

I believe this band is still functioning at functions!!

B Bumble and The Stingers got us all rocking with this amazingly good instrumental "Nut Rocker" which was an adaptation of "Flight of the Bumble Bee" by Rimsky Korsakov.   Once again it was recorded by a trio of session men in Louisiana.  

It was a boogie woogie adaptation through and through.  It has been a real evergreen piece of music and was latterly recorded by Emerson Lake and Palmer.    They must have felt "In the Moog" for that hohoho.

It wasn't adapted by Jeff Lynne.

Not to be outdone, Birmingham group Second City Sound had a piano based minor hit with "Tchaikovsky One" in 1966. yet another reworking of a classical piece of work.
In 65 we were all playing a different style of music and I for one had no interest and never saw them live but they did have a couple of follow up singles.  This wasnt written by Jeff Lynne either.

There were many, many instrumental groups around, both in the UK and American with The Ventures being their big band.  However, they never reached the worldwide success of The Shadows, during the early sixties, during 61 to 63 they had 13 singles chart successes and two number one LPs. By far the best instrumental band of all time.   What finished that instrumental phenomenon was the arrival The Beatles in September 1962, once they arrived everything changed and instrumentals went out of the window, although the Fabs did record one instrumental for Magical Mystery Tour themselves and that was "Flying", a bit of a throw away tune really and not anything I rate.

I really believe that the amount of instrumentals through those early 60's years were the basis for the mammoth British guitarists who followed in the later 60's but had all been raised on a healthy diet of instrumentals with which they could hone their skills and Hank Marvin, the best of the best.   I was in the Shadows fan club and went to see them anytime I could.  It upsets me when Hank is berated by some pimply youth these days.  It all had to start somewhere and Hank was the man who did it, bearing in mind he was only 17 at the time of Apache, the worlds greatest group instrumental.

FINALLY...Not Adapted by Jeff Lynne
On the ELO website there is an article about Jeff Lynne suggesting that he adapted Tchaikovskys Swan Lake to a beat tune when in his teenage band The Andicaps in the 60's......once again absolute bollocks.  "Saturday Night at the Duckpond" was an instrumental by Bristol band The Cougars who adapted swan lake, the record was actually banned because music critics said it was "a travesty of a major classical work".  Jeff has indeed written some great songs but Mozart he aint.  Just to keep the record straight you understand?

OK guys, have a lovely weekend and hopefully March will be a beautiful month of spring flowers and the like, well, after the current storm has passed!
Take Care

Copyright:  Bullsheadbob

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