146. Jet Harris and Tony Meehan – Diamonds (1963)

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The Shadows suffered the embarrassment of being knocked from number 1 by their old rhythm section, when Dance On! was replaced after a week by Jet Harris and Tony Meehan’s Diamonds. This instrumental was written by Jerry Lordan, the man behind the two best Shadows number 1s, Apache and Wonderful Land.

Harris, born Terence Harris in Willesden, North West London on 6 July 1939, earned the nickname ‘Jet’ due to his sprinting prowess at school. He went on to play skiffle in The Vipers before joining The Drifters, and it was Harris that suggested they become The Shadows to avoid legal issues with the US soul group.

As well as being one of the first UK musicians to play an electric bass, he also provided vocals for the group on their own songs and those of Cliff Richard. Harris married in 1959, but they separated within years, and he later attributed the start of his depression and alcohol problems to his ex-wife’s affair with Cliff. His waywardness and arguments with rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch led to him leaving the group. Other than Hank Marvin, Harris was the only real Shadow with frontman material due to his moody charisma and good looks, so Decca took him on as a solo artist, and he had success with covers of Besame Mucho and The Man with the Golden Arm. From there, he crossed paths once more with Tony Meehan.

Meehan, known in the music business as ‘The Baron’, was born Daniel Meehan on 2 March 1943, and was also raised in Willesden. He became interested in drums aged 10, and was in a band at 13, first meeting Harris in The Vipers. Meehan had his own unique style that proved influential to many. Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac was inspired to become a drummer after seeing him perform in The Young Ones (1961).

Depending on who you believe, in October 1961 Meehan either left The Shadows of his own accord to work with Joe Meek, or was sacked for tardiness. Only a few months later he had moved on to Decca, and during this time was involved in The Beatles auditioning for the label. He was unconvinced they were going to get anywhere.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, replacing Harris and Meehan with two men called Brian seemed to take away what little element of surprise and danger there was in The Shadows, and this theory is borne out by comparing Dance On! to Diamonds. There’s a lot crammed into the Harris and Meehan track, from Harris’s signature moody bass, to an outbreak of brass, and best of all Meehan’s scattershot drums – the most exciting and loudest drums we’ve heard on a number 1 yet (no doubt due to the drummer also being the producer). While you could argue it doesn’t all hang together so well, there’s no shortage of ideas, and Diamonds winds up sounding like the theme to some early-60s gangster drama.

Harris and Meehan, buoyed by their number 1 achievement, released further top 10 hits Scarlett O’Hara and Applejack. and future Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones joined them for some live shows (it’s also rumoured that Jimmy Page plays acoustic guitar on Diamonds). However, the duo split following Harris and girlfriend Billie Davis’s car crash. The injured Harris refused to promote Applejack, leaving poor Meehan to mime. He attempted a comeback with The Jet Harris Band in 1966, and was briefly in The Jeff Beck Group in 1967, but it was downhill from there, and the only time he made it into the newspapers was in reports of his drunken behaviour or misdemeanours. In 1988 he was declared bankrupt, and his old friend Cliff (Christian guilt for supposedly contributing to Harris’s alcoholism all those years ago?) helped him out by letting him and Meehan on stage to help perform Move It at his big concert at Wembley, The Event in 1989. Harris gave up drink and joined the nostalgia circuit, finding some peace with himself. Unfortunately he couldn’t give up smoking heavily, and he died of cancer on 18 March 2011.

Meehan remained on good terms with The Shadows, and briefly returned to the group when Brian Bennett was in hospital. He quit music in the 90s and became a psychology lecturer. Sadly he died after falling down the stairs to his flat on 28 November 2005.

Written by: Jerry Lordan

Producer: Tony Meehan

Weeks at number 1: 3 (31 January-20 February)

Births:

Actor Phillip Glenister – 10 February 
Long jumper John King – 13 February
Mountain climber Alison Hargreaves – 17 February 
Singer Seal – 19 February 

Meanwhile…

14 February: Just under a month after Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell’s shock death, the party elected 46-year-old Huyton MP Harold Wilson as its new leader. Gaitskell had moved the party to the right, but Wilson was more left wing, and had made an unsuccessful challenge for leadership in November 1960. He defeated George Brown and James Callaghan to become Leader of the Opposition just as the Government was weakening, and things would soon become even worse for Macmillan.

144. Cliff Richard, The Shadows and The Norrie Paramor Strings – The Next Time/Bachelor Boy (1963)

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1963 may have been a landmark year for the charts, but it started like any other. Elvis had been 62’s Christmas number 1 with Return to Sender, but was replaced on 3 January by the UK’s very own Elvis, Cliff. A year since he and The Shadows had ruled the charts with a film soundtrack (The Young Ones), they were at it again. The musical Summer Holiday was about to be released, and as the UK was still in the early stages of one of the longest, coldest winters of all time, it’s easy to see why this cheesy tale of escapism was about to become so huge.

Summer Holiday is the story of Don (Cliff) and his friends, who are London bus mechanics. One typically miserable summer’s day, Don tells his mates that London Transport will let them borrow a double-decker bus, to convert into a caravan and drive across Europe. This sounds like such a preposterous film, I’m almost tempted to watch it. Almost.

Along the way, Don and co are joined by a runaway female singer, who initially pretends to be a man, and they are pursued by her mother and her agent. They end up in Greece, for some reason, and I assume they all live happily ever after. I’d like to see a post-Brexit version, where Don and his pals never get out of the UK due to the feared customs gridlock. Cliff and The Shadows first release of 1963 was a double A-side of tracks from the film, which was released on 11 January, a week into their time at the top.

The Next Time is an average unlucky-in-love ballad by US songwriters Buddy Kaye (who co-wrote Dickie Valentine’s 1955 Christmas number 1, Christmas Alphabet) and Phillip Springer. In the film, Cliff sings this as he wanders around Greece in a string vest, like a young, depressed Rab C Nesbitt. I’m assuming he’s just had a fight or split up with his love interest, as his friends have advised him he’ll love again some day. The problem is, Cliff’s not sure there will be a next time as he’s still in love. It seems primarily designed for Cliff to look all doe-eyed and for his female fans to swoon at, but as far as this sort of thing goes, it’s okay, and Cliff puts in a good performance.

Bachelor Boy is the more famous of the two, and became one of the singer’s signature tunes, yet it was only an afterthought for inclusion in the film. Shadows guitarist Bruce Welch wrote the bulk of it, with help on a verse from Cliff, earning him his only number 1 songwriting credit. The chorus is fairly memorable, but what terrible lyrics. According to the song, Cliff’s father told him when he was young that he’d be a bachelor boy until his dying days. Cliff remembered this ‘advice’ when he fell in love at 16, and swiftly ditched his partner. Bit over the top, no? But the worst lyric (and I’m sorry but I can’t help wonder if this is the singer’s work) contains this dire rhyme:

‘As time goes by I probably will
Meet a girl and fall in love
Then I’ll get married have a wife and a child
And they’ll be my turtle doves’

‘Turtle doves’? He then goes on to sing the chorus again, smug in the knowledge he’s not actually bothered if this doesn’t happen, because he’ll die happy if he remains a bachelor anyway.

Of course, Bachelor Boy has become so identifiable with Cliff because that’s exactly what he is, and despite a number of high-profile romances in the past (and an affair with former Shadow Jet Harris’s ex-wife), the rumours over his sexuality have never gone away, and this song is often brought up ironically. It doesn’t help that in Summer Holiday, the song is performed by Cliff, The Shadows and Melvyn Hayes via the most camp skipping dance you’re ever likely to see. Take a look at the clip above, and try not to laugh…

Written by:
The Next Time: Buddy Kaye & Phillip Springer/Bachelor Boy: Bruce Welch & Cliff Richard 

Producer: Norrie Paramor

Weeks at number 1: 3 (3-23 January)

Births:

Presenter James May – 16 January 
Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow – 19 January
Journalist Martin Bashir – 19 January 

Deaths:

Mathematician Edward Charles Titchmarsh – 18 January
Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell – 18 January

Meanwhile…

18 January: The political world was stunned at the news of the sudden death of Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, aged 56. In December 1962 he was recovering from flu when he visited the Soviet Union for talks with leader Nikita Kruschev. He contracted another illness while there, and was admitted to hospital after returning home on 4 January. Two weeks later, he died from complications following a bout of lupus. Labour had been doing well in the polls and it was thought that Gaitskell had a very good chance of being the next Prime Minister, in much the same way that John Smith was considered to be the next PM before his shock death in 1994. Gaitskell’s death was so unexpected and sudden, conspiracy theories regarding his demise have remained ever since. The most popular involves an alleged Soviet KGB plot to ensure that Harold Wilson (supposedly a KGB agent) became Prime Minister. The claim returned to make news upon the publishing of the controversial book Spycatcher in 1987.