Although Tommy Steele and Marty Wilde had got started well before him, St. Cliff notched up rather more hits, and cultists will point to Vince Taylor and Johnny Kidd, there is no real doubt that the outstanding British Rock’n’Roller was Billy Fury.
He had more charisma than the rest of ’em put together, was a far wilder live performer (indeed, his mike standshagging antics would get him banned in Ireland!) and notwithstanding Wilde and Kidd’s own sterling efforts, he was a far better songwriter. Furthermore, Bill did ‘wounded vulnerability’ better than any other British performer, particularly once that story about his dodgy ticker had been leaked to the public. But the absolute clincher, of course, were Fury’s seismic good looks.
The Sound Of Fury was an absolute revelation, sounding wholly unlike any British LP before (or since, come to that). Good and Fury had assembled a remarkable session group, comprising Joe Brown (guitar), Reg Guest (piano), Alan Weighell (electric bass) Bill Stark (upright bass) and Andy White (drums), whilst those Jordanaires-styled backing vocals were supplied The Four Jays, a vocal group who were particular favourites of Billy’s, having toured with him. The songs themselves were all killers. Although the album was released in mono, true stereo versions exist of nine of the ten tracks (Disc 2, tracks 3-11).
The Sound Of Fury would prove to be one of the very last times that Billy had any real artistic control. His next A-side was an American song, ‘Wondrous Place’, originally recorded by Jimmy ‘Good Timin’ Jones - and whilst it has, of course, gone on to achieve iconic status in Billy’s pantheon (indeed, it became a minor hit all over again in 1999, after being featured in a TV commercial for Toyota Yaris cars), it surprisingly struggled to make the Top 30 the first time around. Billy’s final release of 1960 was a cover of an American R&B hit, ‘A Thousand Stars’, by Kathy Young & The Innocents, which restored him to the Top 20. Presumably, Bill must have sourced this one himself as it was a song with which he retained a great affection, even reprising it in his tongue-in-cheek role of ‘Stormy Tempest’ in the 1973 David Essex/Ringo Starr movie, That’ll Be The Day. So, by the end of 1960, Billy’s Rockabilly adventure was firmly behind him and he was about to undergo a major shift in