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Members: CLEM CATINNI

Drums - 1960-1961

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Clem Catinni

 

Clem Cattini is one of the busiest drummers in the business.  His CV looks like a roster of top UK pop acts from the last half of the twentieth century, acts as diverse as P. J. Proby, Joe Cocker, the Bee Gees, Lou Reed, the Wombles and the Kinks.  At one point his popularity had him playing over twenty sessions a week and can put his name to a record 42 UK number one hits, not to mention the fact that two of these, the cool Shakin' All Over" and especially the driving instrumental "Telstar" helped put Britain on the world pop map before the emergence of the Beatles.

Catinni was a "war baby", having been born in Stoke Newington, London in 1937 but to escape the bombs he was evacuated to the Isle Of Man for the duration.  His first introduction to the world of music was through the Latin American rhythms in particular of Edmundo Ros, which instilled in the young Clem to think in terms of rhythm.  During his teens he took up Ice Hockey but decided to give it up after one injury too many in the arena.  His Italian father owned a restaurant and naturally wanted his son to follow him onto the catering trade but having his mind blown by the film "Rock Around The Clock" Catinni, with his desire to drum, was hanging around the cafes of Soho, including the legendary "Two I's".  He was unhindered too - most of his contemporaries entered the Army on National Service whereas Catinni's flat feet (!) got him a rating of 4B, otherwise he would have been happy to join up to be in an army band.  Instead, he became one of the youngest 'proper' rock 'n' roll drummers on the circuit, where many others were implanted (semi-)professionals, adapting to the new music.  His first band included a young Terry Kennedy, who'd go on to produce records and feature in Catinni's future.  In 1958 he married and has credited his success on his personal stability - his marriage has stood the test of time while many others failed.

The first break came with a role as a member of Terry Dene's backing group, but in Terry's starring film "The Golden Disc" after which the young drummer actually joined the band for real. His strong, powerful, yet economical style began to crystallize here, and afterwards when becoming a member of The Beat Boys, formed to back the roster of "Teen Idols" managed by Larry Parnes where he played alongside future Pirate Brian Gregg.  Their line-up consisted of Terry Packwood on lead guitar, Clive Powell on keyboards, Gregg on bass and Catinni on drums.  While with Parnes, Catinni discovered how the money side of the rock 'n' roll world really worked and began to fight his corner.  It was no coincidence that his manager was know as Mr. "Parnes, Shillings and Pence"!  Once stung by the difference a promoter would pay and what he himself would receive as one of the cornerstones of an act, Catinni would go as far as not signing a contract as part of a band, but directly, thus ensuring a fairer payout, even if it meant earning more than his fellow band members.  Catinni left the Beat Boys in the December of 1959 after being fired, and Gregg went with him.  Parnes re-christened Clive Powell as Georgie Fame and the group evolved into Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and eventually a sting of hits.

"Shakin All Over" on the ascendent

 

Catinni was tipped off about someone looking for musicians, who turned out to be Johnny Kidd.  Catinni and Brian Gregg joined up with Alan Caddy, a budding but shy young guitarist with plenty of potential.  Caddy was already with Johnny Kidd when the latter reorganised his backing band after the rest of the original members fell away.  With Catinni and Gregg joining, Kidd re-started rehearsals with Caddy fleshing out the sound to cover the lack of a rhythm guitar.  Kidd went to recruit a second guitarist to complete the line-up and brought in old friend Frank Routledge, only to dispense with his services when it quickly became apparent that Caddy, Catinni and Gregg already played a fully-rounded sound.  Caddy's developing chunky style filled in gaps traditionally taken by a second guitarist, all being underpinned by Catinni's full, fat drums and Gregg's solid basslines.  Apart from being a model of economy, the three-man line-up looked good onstage in practise: Kidd would take centre-stage in front of Catinni and be flanked by guitarists Caddy and Gregg on either side. This line-up played on all the major hits during this period but when "Please Don't Bring Me Down" failed entirely in the Summer of 1961 Caddy and Gregg decided to leave Kidd for an upcoming tour of Italy backing Colin Hicks.  They cajoled Catinni into going, which he eventually agreed to thinking of job security but he later admitted that leaving Kidd was a rash decision and regrets the decision to this day.  The Italian tour was a disaster and after a few weeks the trio returned to England without a job.

Now out of work, he replied to an advert for musicians and to his amazement, ended up outside no. 304 Holloway Road which was a Leather goods shop.  Above this however, was a three-floor maisonette rented by maverick record producer Joe Meek, who leased his powerful finished master recordings to the big record labels, EMI (Columbia, Parlophone, Top Rank and HMV), Decca and Pye/Piccadilly.  Having lost the services of his last house band the Outlaws out on the road to Mike Berry, Meek required another group to take their place and built one around his young protogee Heinz. Alan Caddy also turned up along with rhythm guitarist George Bellamy.  With the later addition of keyboard player Roger LaVern, this anonymous group were dubbed the Tornados with pretensions to the Shadows almighty throne.  With their second release, "Telstar", they nearly did just that.  At the height of their fame, they were locked into a crippling contract to back Billy Fury, whom Meek had an eye on to record at his home studios (which never happened).  The Tornados stage presence was restricted to playing "Telstar" for two-minutes, either side of which they faded into the background, looking pretty behind a top-flight singer who they were outselling by at least two to one. 

The world-famous instro, "Telstar"

 

The chance for the Tornados to tour America in the wake of Telstar was dashed when Parnes insisted they also take Fury, with equal billing.  Of course, they said "Who's Billy Fury?", Parnes lost interest and the group never went stateside, missing valuable promotion time for their follow-up, "Ridin' The Wind" which all but scraped into the bottom of the US Hot Hundred.  Subsequent bad luck plus lack of care and attention saw the bands' fortunes slowly plummet and Catinni was the last of original line-up to leave at the end of 1964 after a string of flops.  Around this time he actually had a "solo" single issued on Decca, credited to "CLEM CATTINI ORK", Impact"/"No Time To Think, Decca F 12135.

The following year saw in-demand vocal group the Ivy League emerge from being simply session vocalists (appearing on Kinks and Who sessions, amongst others) and make the charts in their own right.  They were produced by Terry Kennedy whom Catinni knew from his Soho days, and backing was supplied by the Fruit Eating Bears of whom Catinni was now a member.  Here, his steady style proved his making as he became ever more in demand for session work backing many artists over the following years.  He had been described as "technically unflawed, playing with an awesome economy.... though he can let rip if he so chooses."

"I started doing session in '66.  I couldn't read a note so I bluffed my way through it.  It was a case in those days of playing better than they had written.  It was the early days in pop an nobody knew what to write and most writers didn't know about pop anyway.  So I managed to get away with it.  About '66/'67 I was working with Jimmy Page, Jim Sullivan and John McLaughlin.  They'd never tell you which session it was in case you'd turn around and say you didn't want it."

So busy he became, in fact, that toward the close of the Sixties, he forgot to return a telephone call from Peter Grant, a respected pop manager who'd once had the Yardbirds on his hands.  Ex-session guitarist Jimmy Page joined that group as bassist but a reshuffle brought him forward in a novel twin lead guitar line-up with Jeff Beck before he blew up on drugs.  Page was now holding the fading Yardbirds together in their death throes so on final implosion, Grant built the New Yardbirds around Page, before being renamed as Led Zeppelin.  Catinni discovered this while chatting to Grant some years later.  It's interesting that Led Zeppelin was essentially a "Power Trio" behind a lead singer, not unlike the re-shuffled Pirates line-up of a decade before.

Catinni seen at the "Johnny Kidd Tribute Show" in 1986.

 

Catinni was part of the backbone of session musicians in the UK for many years, alongside other fairly (publicly anyway) unknown musicians such as Big Jim Sullivan, Joe Moretti, Eric Ford, Nicky Hopkins, Bobby Harrison and many more.  He holds the record for playing 42 number 1 records, amongst a mass of other chart hits.  He's also contributed to advert soundtracks and library LP's and CD collections.  The 1986 20th anniversary Tribute show to Johnny Kidd was the three Pirates - Caddy, Catinni and Gregg - play together for the first time in almost twenty-five years.  He also became involved with revival shows, such as the "Telstar Tour" that ran for four years, essentially a collection of Joe Meek-related acts.  In 1990 however, he revived the Tornados name but brought a female lead singer to front a wide-ranging touring show and yes - "Telstar" and other hits are on the playlist!  During the decade sessions became harder to come by but Clem kept busy with touring and limousine driving.  He found it ironic that despite having played on one of the biggest hits ever driving for  living was going to pay the rent!

He may be the only member of the original Tornados onstage but his group always puts on a good show.  I was privileged to see them in full flight in the "Superstars Of The 60's" show in Weymouth at the beginning of this millennium.  They not only had their own spot, but also supplied the backing for the other acts, Motown tribute band Mission Blue, Kenny Lynch, Billie Davis and ex-Shadow bassist Jet "Diamonds" Harris, with whom Catinni enjoyed plenty of humourous "rival" banter with!  Two hours in the drumstool, and he never took off his jacket, nor missed a beat despite turning the score pages at the same time.  That's professionalism.  Despite a heart scare he is still working, including stints with another surviving band from the sixties, the Kinks.

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