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The Shadows

+ {Marvin, Welch & Farrar}

A more laid-back, quintessentially English counterpoint to the pre-surf, beat instrumentals sweeping the American West Coast (forerunners DUANE EDDY and The VENTURES two major protagonists), The SHADOWS’ sound was hugely influential on a raft of young guitarists who mirrored their side-steps way back in the early 60s. Proteges of, and stalwart backing band to ELVIS-cloned lip-curler CLIFF RICHARD, the celebrated group struck the top spot no less than five times on their own before the British Invasion took hold in ‘63/’64.
Lead guitarist Hank Marvin, a ringer for the sadly-missed BUDDY HOLLY – complete with geeky glasses and humour to boot (LENNON and McCARTNEY were huge fans of both) – “The Shads” were quite unique in their own special way; the fact that the {*10} 20 GOLDEN GREATS rocketed to No.1 in punk year ’77, was indeed testament to their effervescence and durability; rock on… `Apache’, `Man Of Mystery’, `F.B.I.’, `The Frightened City’, `Kon-Tiki’, `The Savage’, `Wonderful Land’, `Guitar Tango’, `Dance On!’, `Foot Tapper’, `Atlantis’ – classics all.
Formed in London, England in 1958, as The Five Chesternuts, fed up skifflers Hank Marvin (from Newcastle-based Railroaders), rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch and drummer Pete Chester (son of comic Charlie Chester), along with singer Gerald Hurst and bassist Neil Johnson, inked a deal at Columbia Records. Following a one-off flop 45, `Teenage Love’ (b/w `Jean Dorothy’), that autumn, the vocal quintet were spotted by CLIFF RICHARD’s manager, John Foster, who needed a replacement for guitarist Ken Pavey. Six-string wizard Hank (aka Brian Rankin) agreed to join on the condition that Welch was also hired; the subsequent additions of bassist Ian Samwell and sticksman Terry Smart fleshed out a unit which was now trading under The Drifters moniker. In November, RICHARD replaced Samwell (who became their manager thereafter) with Jet Harris, as the new-look beat combo backed up Cliff the quiff on his famous `Livin’ Lovin’ Doll’ smash.
Further upheaval followed at the tail end of the year as Tony Meehan (from The VIPERS SKIFFLE GROUP) superseded Smart, who went off to join the merchant navy! By this point, the quartet had managed to sign off a couple of singles in their own right, `Feelin’ Fine’ (b/w `Don’t Be A Fool (With Love)’) and `Driftin’ (b/w `Jet Black’). Neither was successful and to compound their problems, the group had an injunction slapped on them by US R&B outfit The DRIFTERS.
After a final flop 45 towards the end of 1959, `Saturday Night’ (featuring a rare vocal), things took a serious turn for the better the following summer, as the rumbling “Wild West”-style guitar atmospherics of `Apache’ saw them scale the charts. A benchmark track that saw the bespectacled Marvin embraced by many young wannabe guitar heroes as their role model, the track was not a hit Stateside where the home-grown VENTURES were preferred. It also signalled the beginning of an incredible – largely instrumental – chart run that lasted right through until the hippy revolution of the mid-late 60s; the double-header `Man Of Mystery’ / `The Stranger’, kicking off the feat. After topping the charts again, this time with THE SHADOWS (1961) {*6}set – an LP with no hits! – drummer Brian Bennett subsequently filled the shoes of Meehan for the November release of their bafflingly lowest-placed hit so far, `The Savage’.
Prior to sealing another Top 5 smash in `Guitar Tango’, a fresh bassist Brian “Licorice” Locking (ex-MARTY WILDE’s Wildcats) was found to replace Jet (aka Terence Hawkins), who splintered with his own reasonably fruitful instrumental duo, JET HARRIS & TONY MEEHAN (`Diamonds’ hit No.1 in February 1963).
Meanwhile, the quartet’s sophomore set, OUT OF THE SHADOWS (1962) {*6}, was paralleled chart-wise when `Dance On!’ and `Foot Tapper’ soared to the top slot; pursued by a place at No.2 for all their non-LP dirges by way of their GREATEST HITS (1963) {*8}. While still a regular fixture on the chart (and with Cliff), The SHADOWS continued to compete with the bulging British Invasion brigade; John Rostill (ex-Interns) replaced Locking prior to reaching No.11 with `Geronimo’ (not a patch on `Apache’).
There was definitely a hint of MOR when `Theme For Young Lovers’ stalled outside the Top 10, while the group-penned `The Rise And Fall Of Flingle Bunt’ (the idea conceived by actor/friend Richard O’Sullivan), restored some faith with the British buying public. Although not readily available on summer of ‘64’s DANCE WITH THE SHADOWS {*5}, it found its way on to the band’s solitary Stateside equivalent, THE SHADOWS KNOW!!! {*5}.
Hank Marvin and Co began losing their instrumental identity as they added more vocals to their repertoire towards the middle of the decade; `A Little Bitty Tear’, `Five Hundred Miles’ and `Let It Be Me’ (from THE SOUND OF THE SHADOWS (1965) {*5}) all featuring standard lead vocals by the group themselves; Marvin in particular. Ditto 1966’s SHADOW MUSIC (1966) {*4} and 1967’s poor showing of FROM HANK, BRUCE, BRIAN AND JOHN {*4}, but not the instrumental-only Top 10 breaker, JIGSAW (1967) {*5}.
As psychedelia grew ever stronger, their (lone) star was really beginning to fade and, after the October ‘68 release of joint CLIFF RICHARD set, “Established 1958”, The Shads split to concentrate on solo projects, only to return to the Top 30 in 1970 with the funky/heavy/R&B-styled covers monstrosity that was SHADES OF ROCK {*2}.
While BRIAN BENNETT’s material failed to spark much interest, MARVIN’s eponymous 1969 solo LP cracked the Top 20. 1969 also saw the guitar man dueting with CLIFF RICHARD on Top 10 hit, `Throw Down A Line’; following it up in 1970 with `Joy Of Living’. MARVIN and WELCH (the latter engaged to OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN), then got together with Aussie guitarist, (John) FARRAR to form a vocal trio, although the project again proved relatively short-lived and commercially unsuccessful; MARVIN, WELCH & FARRAR (1971) {*6} and SECOND OPINION (1971) {*5}, out of sync with the day’s glam and prog.
The SHADOWS re-formed for a third time in 1973 with a line-up of Marvin, Welch, Farrar and Bennett (plus bassist Alan Tarney); the self-scribed ROCKIN’ WITH CURLY LEADS {*3} also featured “Shades”-styled meanderings by way of re-takes of The WHO’s `Pinball Wizard – See Me, Feel Me’ and The BEACH BOYS’ `Good Vibrations’.
Welch now undertaking vocal duties for their cheesy 1975 Eurovision runner-up, `Let Me Be The One’, the ballad did furnish them with a much needed No.12 hit. This pushed the poignantly-titled SPECS APPEAL {*6}, where a blend of vocal and instrumental pieces led it into the Top 30. 1975’s LIVE AT THE PARIS OLYMPIA {*6} and 1977’s TASTY {*5} did not fare so well; for the latter set, Francis Monkman – keyboards (ex-CURVED AIR, pre-SKY), replaced Farrar, who returned to Australia, while Alan Jones – bass, replaced Tarney.
After their aforementioned “20 Golden Greats” tested the fortitude of bewildered punk-rockers, a period of transition between 1978 and 1980, brought about another resurgence for The SHADOWS’ main core of Marvin, Welch and Bennett. Lying somewhere adrift of another CLIFF/SHADOWS Top 5 collaboration, `Thank You Very Much – Reunion Concert At The London Palladium’ (1979), a horizontal, instrumental cover of Evita tune, `Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’, plus a Top 10 rendition of JOHN WILLIAMS’ `The Theme From `The Deer Hunter’ (Cavatina)’, and an almost equally fulfilling `Riders In The Sky’ – all from the best-selling STRING OF HITS (1979) {*5}, registered the band higher than they’d ever been. Covers from all walks of musical life, everything from BLONDIE’s `Heart Of Glass’ and GARY MOORE’s `Parisienne Walkways’ to `Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto De Aranjuez’ and `Classical Gas’), played their part in their fridge-cool tapestry of heavenly delights.
Though The SHADOWS wouldn’t hit the Top 40 pop charts again (`Equinoxe (Part V)’ – from CHANGE OF ADDRESS (1980) {*4} – and `The Third Man’ – from HITS RIGHT UP YOUR STREET (1981) {*5} – would hover just outside the perimeters), the group stepped into middle-age with a winning formula of fine but not “spec-tacular” (sorry) easy-listening renditions of classics from every genre and era of music history. They made regular appearances in the album charts throughout the remainder of the decade (from 1982’s LIFE IN THE JUNGLE {*4}, 1983’s anniversary XXV {*4} and 1984’s GUARDIAN ANGEL {*4} to MOONLIGHT SHADOWS (1986) {*4}, SIMPLY SHADOWS (1987) {*5} and STEPPIN’ TO THE SHADOWS (1989) {*3}). After the formula-driven REFLECTION (1990) {*4} set went Top 5, it was decided that another decade of old standards might alienate fans of their early pre-BEATLES heyday.
HANK MARVIN would carry the can into a semi-fruitful solo career; well into the 90s, working alongside the likes of BRIAN MAY and MARK KNOPFLER. To mark one last stand, The SHADOWS trio took to the stage for THE FINAL TOUR (2004) {*6}, a fine selection of their best work in all periods from their lengthy timespan.
© MC Strong 1994-2002/GRD // rev-up MCS Dec2015

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