School friends Brian Robson Rankin and Bruce Cripps left Newcastle in the late fifties and travelled to London where they struggled to survive until they joined up with Daniel Joseph Anthony Meehan and Terence Harris in 1958 to become members of The Drifters – Cliff Richard’s backing band. Soon after they changed their name to The Shadows and the individual members became better known as Tony Meehan, Jet Harris, Bruce Welch and Hank Marvin.
Tony Meehan left in 1961 to be replaced by longtime drummer Brian Bennet and Jet Harris left in 1962 to be replaced by Brian “Licorice” Locking, one ponders Hank Marvin’s relief at having changed his name when he did. John Rostill replaced Locking in the long term. Meehan had left to produce and arrange, Harris to continue as a musician but the two of them formed a duo and continued to have hits in their own right, their first, Diamonds going to No.1 in the UK in 1963 and featuring Jimmy Page on rhythm guitar. But the success story of the Shadows is unprecedented as they emerged from behind the star they were supposed to be backing – the three most successful singles acts in the UK are Elvis, Cliff and The Shadows.
When you see these videos and think of the times, in the Apache clip Jet Harris’ ‘attitude’ with his cigarette would have been seen as rebellious. The dance routine that followed in the FBI clip performing on popular kid’s show Crackerjack, reflects the cabaret and variety show tastes of the day that all bands complied with however rebellious they were. Innovators and influential, Harris has been credited with introducing the Fender bass to Britain and Marvin with popularising the Fender Stratocaster. What’s most interesting is that a band could be so successful as an instrumental group – that too reflects the times.
Jet Harris died aged 7i in 2011, a heavy smoker he had struggled with alcoholism for many years before finally quitting. Tony Meehan died in 2005 aged 62 after falling downstairs at his home. John Rostill died in 1973 after being electrocuted in his home studio, it was Bruce Welch that found found the body.
An archive without the Shadows wouldn’t be an archive, there would be gaping hole as there is now in the Hip Hop department. On that subject, IDMA needs sub departments, dedicated to the music that I don’t listen too so much, but then the classical department although stocked with records needs an expert to expose them to the people. In the meantime with The Beatles being streamed from today along with lesser known talents, be glad that there is so much music out there to discover from Erykah Badu to Vashti Bunyan, Stravinsky to Anette Peacock, Black Sabbath to FKA Twigs and someone you’ve never heard of.
A very Happy Christmas from the secret corners of the archive’s treasures, from the obscurities and the unrealised gems hidden in plain view. Now who wants to help me find or even invest in a nice big building to hold this treasure trove of inspiration from 2016 into the future – any location in the world would most certainly be considered. Archive, cafe, daycare, studio, concert venue, guitar lessons, lectures, songwriting workshops, record store – a factory of music for everyone to discover, create and perform – bring it on and thanks for reading.