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3: 1962-63: I'll Never Get Over You

L-R: Frank Farley; Johnny Patto; Kidd; Johnny Spence

 

The departure of Kidd's first "power trio" naturally upset Kidd but the potential handicap of no backing group was solved with the arrival of the core of the Redcaps, a semi-professional rock 'n' roll act "discovered" at the same Wandsworth Town Hall once frequented by the Frederick Heath Combo.  Johnny Patto (guitar), Johnny Spence (bass) and Frank Farley (drums) had previously backed Cuddly Duddly, and had a single to their credit with Dudley, "Sittin' On A Train."  They were the recommendation of fellow Dormobile group Nero and the Gladiators, their acquisition probably made a bit easier by the fact their (and Dudley's) manager was one and the same Guy Robinson.  By the September they had signed a five-year management deal with the George Cooper organisation.

On December 1st, Kidd entered the studio for a new single featuring the Mike Sammes Singers and orchestra.  There were high hopes for this new approach and a bigger sound with Clive Westlake's interesting, bluesy "Hurry On Back To Love".  It garnered favourable reviews but didn't chart and as the singer noted previous good reviews for "If You Were The Only Girl In The World" and "Linda Lu" meant little when both failed to dwliver!!  The "B" side "I Want That "was another excellent, wild performance and who knows, it may even have been a better option for the topside, showing off Kidd’s powerful vocal delivery and featuring a rasping sax solo.

Johnny Kidd re-signed with EMI for another ten years, either an act of faith on the record company's part, or perhaps the 'new' band was viewed as having real potential despite having left the charts once. 1962 began with Johnny's contract being sold to the George Cooper Organisation under a new management and agency contract.  Cooper and partner Harry Dawson managed many artists of the day like Joe Brown, the Tornados, Marty Wilde, Heinz, and now the "Admiral Of The Beat" himself.  They would look after their roster arranging all radio and TV dates, attire, (even offering advice on investing their earnings) and filter through around two hundred songs for potential material.  At one stage, Cooper tried to persuade Johnny to split from the Pirates, a short-lived suggestion that was flatly refused by their leader as they were an important part of his stage act.  It would not be the last time such a plan would be suggested.

Sunday 11th February, 1962

 

By March 1962 Johnny Patto left due to ill-health (he was suffering from ulcers) but later turned up in the Frays, recording one single "Walk On" for Decca.  Spence and Farley then called in their old mate last seen in the Redcaps, Mick Green - they'd all known each other from the fifties having grown up in the same small area of Wimbledon.  May 14th saw them break from a tour to play the first of four consecutive dates at Liverpool's famed Cavern Club, becoming the first Southern English Beat group to play there.  There was fun onstage during their first appearance.

Mick Green - "Johnny would take out a cutlass while I was doing a heavy blues solo and at the crescendo of the solo he would throw the cutlass at my feet and it would stick into the wooden stage as part of the act.  Johnny had the cutlass raised above his head, I looked down at the stage and realised that where the lino had been worn away [it] was not wood but concrete..... I nodded my head and yelled 'no' but Kidd thought I was getting really into it and just threw it and it landed inches from my foot and bounced into the audience, one of whom ran out of the Cavern with it."

It took some time chasing by their Road Manager Johnny Irving before he managed to rescue it.  Cavern gigs proved not a little unnerving as many local group leaders were in the audience to pick up ideas, thus proving the band's popularity amongst the Beat fraternity.

Frank Farley - "We used to go and play the Cavern, lunch time session and evening session.  At each there would be local bands, i.e. the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Pete Maclaine and the Dakotas, the Big Three and another great band, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes.  They played a lot of R&B numbers from America that most of the bands and general public down South in London had never heard."

1963: (L-R) Spence, Kidd, Farley, Green

L-R: Spence; Kidd; Farley; Green.  Rare colour photo from the set of Rediffusion TVs' "Ready Steady Go!"

 

The new line-up made their first trip to Hamburg in July, topping the bill at the Star Club and breaking attendance records with over 4000 attendees on some nights of their four-week stint.  Whilst in Hamburg they came across many of the Merseyside groups doing the same rounds and playing a similar selection of R&B numbers.  The stint tightened up the Pirateís sound, Greenís unique style of combining inventive rhythmic figures with sudden savage attacks coupled with Farley's powerhouse drumming and Spence's thumping bass complemented Kidd's powerful voice, and on stage they were simply electrifying.

On this tour the Club give them a large backcloth on which was a galleon as if in port, painted by some local students.  The Pirates developed a quite striking image, wearing blousons, striped jeans and knee-high boots. Kidd, still wielding and occasionally throwing his antique cutlass as insurance allowed, left dents in stages, much to the annoyance of many venues' managers.  (Their Road Manager Johnny Irving was so impressed with the lighting in the club that he developed a small set-up for Kidd and Co.) Live, they were almost unsurpassable.

David "Screaming Lord" Sutch - "The curtains would part and a galleon, 20 foot high and 40 foot long, painted ultra-violet, hit you in the face. He'd stroll on clad in black leather, looking very sinister, with chains hanging from the cuffs of his jacket. His vocals were raw, but superb as he smashed his rapier to the beat."

At the end of this sojourn it came as no surprise to learn that "Shakin' All Over" was top of the German hit parade. On August 10th Johnny and the Pirates were supported by the Beatles plus Pete MacLaine and the Dakotas on a special Liverpool Riverboat Shuffle organised by the Cavern.  Pete Best drummed with the Beatles on that trip but only for a short while longer: within the week he'd been replaced by Ringo Starr.

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Johnny "Cutthroat" Kidd

Johnny Kidd, about to take over Broadcasting House

 

In November 1962, Kidd and his Pirates released Arthur Alexanderís "A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues", one of the favourites "borrowed" from the Liverpool bands.  Coupled with an equally strong "I Can Tell" (recorded earlier and actually Mick Greenís first recording) they proved themselves perfectly confident with the genre.  A great single, it was Kidd's first chart entry for nearly two years but being slightly ahead of its time helped prevent the single getting higher than number 48.

In January 1963, The Pirates cut "Spanish Armada" and "Popeye" which were both written by Green and often used for studio warm-ups and balancing purposes - they still exist but remain unreleased.  On the same session, they taped a superb version of Ritchie Barrett's "Some Other Guy" with Kidd, a potential follow-up to "Rhythm."  Again, this number was popular around Liverpool at the time when countless groups performed it, yet Johnny was in there first.  Inexplicably it remained in the can, perhaps understandably (perhaps not) while just a few months after "Rhythm" the charts were beginning to be awash with the first tide of Merseybeat's mix of commercial yet exciting sounds as performed by the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Searchers, et al.  Most of Johnny's contemporaries' charting career's would soon be washed away with a few notable exceptions; Billy Fury possessed looks that could kill and wrote his own material, while the evergreen Cliff Richard, whose effortless riding of the "Beat Boom" was doubtless helped by his associations with the Shadows, until then the De Facto British "group."  Even the still-popular teen idol Adam Faith felt threatened enough to re-invent himself by adding powerful backing group the Roulettes to beef up his sound.

May saw the Group embark on a two-week tour of the North of England, taking in Liverpools' Cavern on the 26th.  Later they appeared at Manchesterís Oasis Club, the largest coffee bar and rhythm club in the North.  A young Peter Noone saw the group play there and was so impressed he went on to form Hermanís Hermits and reach international stardom.  Local pre-Hollies band the Dolphins were influenced enough to stop Graham Nash plugging in his rhythm guitar.  After EMI withheld "Some Other Guy" Kidd was forced to watch the Big Threeís version reach no. 37 just a few months later.  Worse, the Liverpool power trioís single was actually taken off their audition tape for Decca who declined to allow the band to re-record it properly.  They simply decided to rush-release it to capitalise on the Merseybeat Boom.

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"Hungry For Love" promotional poster

Sheet music for "Hungry For Love"

 

Fed up, Kidd cut a song written and previously recorded by their current manager Gordon Mills. "I'll Never Get Over You", in its final form, borrowed freely from the current beat style.  The original recorded version by Gordon Mills' group the Viscounts was very much in the "Peggy Sue" mould of buddy Holly, and a similarly-styled version is sung by Tom Jones (and can even be heard on the Gordon Mills Tribute Site).  Kidd wasn’t too sure about the song’s potential and early run-throughs and takes were faster but by slowing things down a tad it came together in a commercial way.  Once everyone was happy with the main song the short closing riff was edited on to the end.  Kidd's friend Alan Wheeler, who was present at the recording session remarked that it sounded "commercial", which received blank stares as the Pirates considered themselves purely R'n'B orientated! 

Rumour has it that HMV thought to supplant Greens' solo with one from Big Jim Sullivan, but thankfully even if this was attempted it was quickly scotched and Green's effortless playing became the defacto element in the group's sound.  The single remains one of the most memorable offerings of the year.  Kidd and Green’s original "Then I Got Everything" was tucked away on the flip and ably showed off Green’s economical soloing.  Despite disquiet from long-term fans, this strong coupling sailed all the way to no. 4, giving the group some much-needed publicity.  In an interview with the New Musical Express, Kidd spoke of working through good and bad times.

Johnny Kidd - "When my subsequent discs [to "Shakin' All Over"] flopped I didn't feel nearly so disappointed as I did immediately after "Restless" because once I got over my initial gloom, I realised that I had really got to get stuck in and fight my way back no matter how long it might take.  Mind you during this time, we had been working pretty consistently... "I'll Never Get Over You" won't make much change to my way of life, we shall just continue touring as before, but of course it will mean improvement in conditions.  Now that we are back in the charts promoters will give a little more thought to our welfare. The standard of bookings will be better and the money will be more.  Yes, the future certainly looks brighter now.... I'm very happy with my group"

He had every right to be. However fate almost stepped in during Sunday 8th September when a car he was passenger in somersaulted on the London to Dover road.  Frank Farley says when it came to driving Kidd was unlucky, and quotes an example when they were on the Yorkshire Moors with thick snow all around.  The Kidd was driving slowly when he hit a lamppost, the only one for about 50 miles.  "How unlucky is that?" says Frank.  Thankfully serious injury was avoided.  Although it only reached number 20, Mills' "Hungry For Love, another double-tracked cut, rounded off the Pirate’s most successful year.  Also from the same session came its flip, Ben E. King's "Ecstasy," which bore Green's majestically floating solo.  Other tracks were recorded around this time but remain undiscovered within EMI's vaults.

1963's "Johnny Kidd" EP of recently-released material - but still no LP

 

Another two cuts by messrs. Green, Spence and Farley, also from the same session went on to form the Pirates "solo" single, "My Babe" and "Casting My Spell."  Both numbers were recorded in one take each, showing how much the band had tightened its sound in a few months - these were part of the Pirates 15-minute R&B-tinged slot before Kidd made his entrance.  The idea behind this 45 release in early 1964 - which was fully endorsed by Kidd - was to test the feasibility of splitting the act; the Pirates could carry the harder-edged R&B banner while Kidd would be promoted as a solo star.  Perhaps too many factors ranked against the plans' success.  The lower chart placing of Kidd's recent waxing wouldn't have helped and EMI may have wondered on how to promote the R&B Rocker in the land of Beat Groups.  Rival label Decca allowed a similar division to take place between Bern Elliot and his Fenmen, but garnered no noticeable success for one of Kent's top acts who'd sadly slipped from chart grace after two good-sounding top thirty singles ("Money" and "New Orleans"), plus one miss and a very unusual six-track EP.  (The more successful Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders would split in 1965, Fontana's former backing group actually bettering their former selves when making number 1 with "A Groovy Kind Of Love" in 1966.)

As a point of interest here, Kidd wanted to be able to re-create the band's sound faithfully onstage so had roadie Johnny Irving join him in the double-tracked numbers on a microphone hidden behind the stage!  Four cuts from recent 45's were issued on an EP and even the original "Shakin' All Over" EP from 1960 picked up steady sales, Kidd himself commenting that it was selling faster than when it was first issued!  Around this time plans for what would have been the first studio LP were made and the group joined "The Billy J. Kramer Pop Parade," tour, kicking off in Luton in November.  Hamburg's Star Club made it known that they wanted to capture the group's act for a live LP.  The Kidd was certainly riding high.

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