As we have already learned (check out UK Instros Vol.1, RHGB 21), the “Golden Age” for British Beat Instrumentals occurred between the late 50s and the early 60s, peaking in 1961 & 62, following the arrival of The Shadows as a chart-topping phenomenon in their own right. This second set of predominantly twangy and/or keyboards-driven toons concentrates largely on 1962, with just a couple of handsful of goodies left over from 1960/61 which were omitted from Vol.1 due to lack of space.
There can be no doubt that The Shads’ unparalleled success changed the sound and style of your average UK Instro. Overnight, the sounds of rasping saxes were relegated to a supporting role, and although the likes of The Flee-Rekkers and Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers continued to thrive as live bands - notably in the nation’s dancehalls, where a fuller sound was often required to get the punters up on their feet - their record successes were fewer and further between (indeed, the latter’s only chart entry, the preposterous ‘Can-Can 62’, already sounded wildly anachronistic when it breached the NME Top 30 in November ’62.
Meanwhile, The Shads’ own monumentally successful ‘Wonderful Land’ (9-weeks at No.1 in the NME) presented a new variant on their allconquering blueprint, introducing Norrie Paramor’s strings to the party (NB: the basic track was nearly a year old and featured original drummer Tony Meehan - just to be perverse, we’ve included that original, undubbed/unadorned Shads-only version!) Its immediate follow-up, ‘Guitar Tango’, took adornments a stage further, adding mariachi horns to the mix, although it was back to basics with the twangular ‘Dance On’, which gave them another UK No.1 (also included herein is the latter’s unusual, bouzouki-driven flip, ‘All Day’).
When bassist Jet Harris quit The Shadows in the Spring of 1962, it sent shock waves through UK Pop music. He re-emerged as a solo artist a couple of months later with a powerful revival of ‘Besame Mucho’, whilst the Bluesy ‘Rave’ (which featured Cyril Davies on harmonica) appeared on an eponymous EP. Former Shads bandmate Tony Meehan drummed on these sides, in a precursor of what was to come (wait for UK Instros Vol.3!). Of the groups most heavily influenced by The Shads, the best were probably The Eagles, although their only taste of chart action was as the backing group for the lamentable Valerie Mountain. Yet they recorded a fine body of work, ‘Bristol Express’ making for a great debut 45, while ‘Exodus’/‘March Of The Eagles’ was probably as good a double-sider as you’d find.
Elsewhere, although their commercial success was modest, the shortlived Krew Kats - whose personnel included the era’s outstanding guitarist, Big Jim Sullivan - cut two magnificent 45s; ‘Jack’s Good’ was the flip of one, whilst the unfeasibly-rare ‘The Bat’was their unissued third A-side. Likewise, Shane Fenton’s backing group, The Fentones, cut a pair of bona-fidé UK Instro classics during 1962, ‘The Mexican’ and ‘The Breeze And I’, both of which dented the Top 50.
But the big new Instro sound of 1962 was that of the keyboards - specifically, the clavioline - as envisioned by mad indie producer Joe Meek for Billy Fury’s backing group, The Tornados. Although their first single, ‘Love And Fury’, failed to do much business, ‘Telstar’ (b/w ‘Jungle Fever’) more than made up for it, topping the UK and US charts and selling in its multi-millions (rare stereo mixes of both are included here). ‘Ridin’ The Wind’was the plug track on the chart-topping Sounds Of The Tornados EP.
Other Joe Meek productions included The Outlaws (whose ‘Last Stage West’ and ‘Sioux Serenade’ were big jukebox favourites), The Flee- Rekkers (both ‘Stage To Cimmaron’ and ‘Sunburst’ were, ironically, better than their earlier hits), The Moontrekkers (‘Hatashiai’ made a great B-side, ‘Return Of The Vampire’ was unreleased at the time), The Stonehenge Men (‘Pinto’ was another great flipside), The Packabeats (their ‘The Traitors’ was the theme music to a long-forgotten B-movie), the aforementioned Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers, and The Spooks (whose eerie, atmospheric ‘The Spook Walks’ is a great RGM favourite).
Talking of the clavioline, that instrument’s other great exponent was Ted Taylor, whose Four were another band with an instantly-identifiable sound and style. But whilst their discs were popular and remain great favourites among UK Instro aficionados, they were never able to register a breakthrough hit, although it certainly wasn’t for the want of trying. Their final two A-sides, ‘Jericho’ and ‘Sunspot’ (the latter, the theme music to the Talent Spot radio show), were as good as anything they released.
Indeed, several other names featured on this set fall into the “it wasn’t for the want of trying” category, each with a string of excellent releases yet little or no commercial success to show for their efforts. Certainly, names like The Hunters, Bob Miller & The Millermen, The Scorpions, Dennis Newey, Judd Proctor and The Johnny Howard Group all exude a strong feel of ‘ubiquitousity’ (I may have just made that word up!) Rather more successful - and certainly betterknown - were The Cougars, Nero & The Gladiators and Rhett Stoller, all of whom enjoyed brief chart action.
Among the ‘older guard’, Joe Brown rarely tarried with Instros after scoring his big breakthrough hit in 1962 with ‘Picture Of You’ - although ‘Hava Nagila’ certainly stayed in his live set for a good few years, while ‘Popcorn’was a popular LP track. The John Barry Seven’s celebrated guitarist Vic Flick can, of course, be heard to good effect on the perennial ‘James Bond Theme’, which is probably the number most readily associated with him. Arranger/writer/bandleader (and later, producer) Charles Blackwell had worked with Joe Meek since the 50s, arranging many big RGM hits. He started releasing his own discs in 1962, starting with ‘Taboo’ (which is actually believed to be an older, Meek production) followed a few months later by the atmospheric ‘Death Valley’.
‘Manhunt’ was clearly perceived to be a good name for an instro around this time, as there are a couple of unrelated numbers bearing this title. For starters there was Bob Miller’s disc, from 1960, while The Sunsets recycled the title the following year, on the flip of their ‘Cry Of The Wild Goose’. Bizarrely, Sunsets’ guitarist Pete Dello’s twangy tune was itself revived a year later by Frank Weir & The Werewolves, this time as an old-fashioned raucous rocker, all keyboards and saxes.
Mention of British pianists usually conjurs up images of Russ Conway or Winifred Atwell, but unsung hero Reg Guest was the major session plinker of the era, playing on dozens of hit records. He also recorded under his own name, as Earl Guest (the wild ‘Winklepicker Stomp’/‘Honky Tonk Train Blues’made for a blinding two-sider), and he also led The Nashville Five. A band comprised of leading UK sessionmen, their personnel fluctuated wildly, although Big Jim Sullivan, Eric Ford, Alan Weighall and Bobbie Graham almost certainly played on the ‘Earl Guest’ 45 and both ‘Like Nashville’ and ‘More Like Nashville’.
But ultimately, there are far too many artists included here to discuss them all. The Dave Clark Five, Tony Hatch and Barry Gray would go on to become major players in the 60s, while conversely, groups like The Barons, The Phantoms, The Echoes, The Jesters and The Dukes were sadly all destined to languish in obscurity, their legacies restricted to just one or two great tracks.
With very special thanks to Trev Faull This compilation is dedicated to the late Bernard Futter