THE STORMSVILLE SHAKERS and CIRCUS with PHILLIP GOODHAND-TAIT.
The first time I was asked to provide a five-piece band was when I was 15 years old. The request came from the President of the Mess Committee (‘D’ Company), 5th Battalion of the Queen’s Royal Regiment for a dance at the drill hall in Woking, Surrey in 1960. I was offered five pounds.
At that time, I regularly sang in local groups on the Bushy Hill Housing Estate, Guildford, where we lived and my friend Paul Demers played drums. The local Surrey Advertiser newspaper gave us our first publicity in May 1961 but we still hadn’t settled on a regular line-up or name. I was with The Royphillians at school. I was Phill Tone with the Midnighters on “jive nights” or simply the singer with The Vibrants. We played mainly Youth Clubs but an instinctive drive had me trying everywhere to better what I was doing, with various combinations of Guildford musicians or even solo.
I imagined I was Jerry Lee Lewis pounding ‘Whole lotta shakin’…’ on a piano in a tent at the Surrey County Show in a talent competition. They couldn’t lift the old upright on to the stage. It didn’t matter to me. I was shameless and played and sang from among the audience. For such audacity I came second, to a yodeller who gargled raw eggs before beginning his act! My real reward, however, was to be approached, following my performance by two young lads who said they played in groups in youth clubs nearby in Farncombe, near Godalming. They introduced themselves as ‘Kirk’ Riddle, who played bass and his best friend, Ivor Shackleton, who played guitar. They suggested we form a four-piece with me singing (pianos were heavy and unreliable) and Paul Demers on drums.
Thus The Stormsville Shakers were born. The name was Ivor’s idea. “Stormsville” was taken from a Johnny and the Hurricanes album sleeve and “Shakers”… well, we did shake up the places we played, but it was an in-vogue expression of the time and the name of a dance style.
From December 1962, when The Stormsville Shakers received good publicity in the Surrey Advertiser following a charity gig in aid of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (OXFAM), we didn’t lack for local bookings. But the watershed time came in 1963 when competing in the Red Cross Rock ‘n’ Trad Band Competition and the All-Surrey Rock Competition! We were judged to be the winners thanks to the deciding vote of Mark Ackerman from the Surrey Advertiser newspaper.
Subsequently, Mark colourfully described the two finalist groups: “The Kossacks, Shadows clones in their appalling matching suits and … the leather-clad heroes of the R‘n’B revolution – the Stormsville Shakers”. With such acclaim, the Stormsvilles began the journey from Guildford alongside other home counties talent, The Yardbirds, John Mayall, Alexis Korner and of course The Rolling Stones, but it was as regulars on the Ricky-Tick club circuit based in Windsor that brought us into contact with top visiting names from the USA such as Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Screaming Jay Hawkins, John Lee Hooker and many more. Perhaps the most memorable of these was Larry Williams, whose hits included rock‘n’roll standards ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’, ‘Bony Maronie’ and ‘She Said Yeah’.
The Shakers were invited to accompany Larry Williams and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson on a nationwide tour and then recorded two barnstorming albums in 1965 with Larry on Decca (The Larry Williams Show Featuring Johnny 'Guitar' Watson With The Stormsville Shakers, produced by Mike Vernon) and Sue (Larry Williams On Stage – Recorded Live!). Decca also released a single, ‘Sweet Little Baby’ and a re-rendering of Williams’ classic, ‘Slow Down’.
I should stress that we were a bunch of kids who, at the beginning of the 1960s, had hardly learned to play our instruments. No surprise, then, that recording studios were places of mystery. The only reason to enter them was in hope of emulating our ‘pop’ heroes. Album vinyl releases, playing at 33 1/3 rpm, were usually stacked, available in record stores, in categories such as “male vocal”, “instrumentals”, “female vocals”, “folk” or “modern or traditional jazz”. The latest single releases (on 45 rpm vinyl) were kept behind the counter and other, lesser-known singles were sold off in racks of bargain vinyl. Before buying any record, the buyer could request to hear the music over headphones in a record booth.
In my case, I was friendly with Betty Thornton at the local record shop, Barnes & Avis, High Street, Guildford, who allowed me to play repeatedly American imports while her assistant, who could write shorthand, took down the lyrics for me. Because I had piano lessons, I could work out a key that was comfortable for me to sing a song and then suggest it to The Stormsville Shakers. Often, the original recorded keys had been altered in the manufacturing process (speeded up or down) or the original recordings were made in keys that were particularly good for featured instruments i.e. A or E for guitar, C for piano or Bb for brass instruments.
As a vocalist, I learned to stretch or scream to keys that were most suited for the other band members. I often had a sore throat as a consequence, particularly when The Stormsville Shakers played multiple gigs on successive nights. Some of the recordings we made in the 1960s illustrate this only too well! (Listen to the ‘live’ recordings made in Paris.)
Like most bands in the early 1960s, The Stormsville Shakers looked for that ‘hit’ song. A Top 50 chart ‘hit’ would treble our live date performance fees. The established route was to adopt an American hit. It worked for all the Liverpudlian groups who simplified American recordings, reducing them to four or five-piece approximations of the originals. Successive “mop tops” used this formula. Even The Beatles, who were smart enough to ‘A’ side their own compositions, covered the Isley Brothers (‘Twist And Shout’) and Barrett Strong (‘Money’) as well as Chuck Berry and other American originals in this way. The Rolling stones, too, helped themselves to Chuck Berry’s ‘Come On’ before releasing Lennon & McCartney’s song, ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’.
Chris Andrews could’ve been our Rolling Stones’ Lennon & McCartney had we been able to release ‘Long Live Love’. In early April 1965, prior to our first date with Larry Williams, Chris arrived at the Plaza Ballroom, Guildford for a rehearsal, with a set of lyrics written on the back of a cornflake packet and a tune and chord sequence. He was only one step on from Lionel Bart in music-presentation at that time! The Stormsville Shakers gave him a ‘Blue Beat’ rhythm and a sax riff that not only helped turn ‘Long Live Love’ into a number one but also provided Chris with a formula that established ‘Yesterday Man’ and his subsequent fame. The Stormsville Shakers, of course, learned the appeal of Blue Beat at the Flamingo/All-nighter Club, paying their dues for £12 per night less £2 commission in Wardour Street, London.
Instead, as lead singer, I became fixated on writing songs for the group. My feeling was that at least no-one else would get first chance of releasing them. It wasn’t easy. Although I’d hidden my classical piano training from the Stormsville band members in order to become the undisputed lead singer, getting the band to try out my fledgling compositions in rehearsals required Machiavellian manoeuvres at times. But there were days when the band was receptive and both Mel Collins and I had the benefit of input from the rest of the group.
I would credit Chris for propelling me towards professional song-writing. Firstly, he showed me the importance of hooks and alliterations. Secondly, he showed me that in the cut and thrust of professional song-writing, a writer had first control over who recorded their compositions but that would always be swayed by who'd make a success of them. Of course, he never explained this to me. I learned it from working alongside him briefly in the early ‘60s.
These two lessons were vital to me. Pretentious twaddle of either lyric or music, seldom reaches, let alone appeals to the public. Hit them with a hook, a drop-dead chord change, or an idea a.s.a.p. because otherwise they're off getting a coffee and will miss it and not care anyway. Second lesson was that the Artist(e) most likely to turn a song into a hit is the one who will be best placed to get the song. Sadly, perhaps, artistry and integrity count as nought next to commercial appeal. I still believe that The Stormsville Shakers would have had a top 20 hit with ‘Long Live Love’ – we recorded the version you hear on this cd at Regent Sound Studios on May 18th. But the reason we didn't was because Evy Taylor, her manageress, knew that Sandie Shaw would have a number ONE with it. My regret being that the song could’ve helped The Stormsville Shakers to chart success for the first time and who knows where that would have led.
I contend too, to this day, that Chris Andrews himself expected The Stormsville Shakers and me to have the single released of ‘Long Live Love’ which is why we recorded an intended B side, ‘I’ll Do The Best I Can’. Or maybe Chris Andrews intended The Stormsville Shakers to be his own band, like Cliff Richard & the Shadows, each with chart successes, an idea that might’ve worked well with him supplying material. Mick Douglas, “Dougo”, a friend and guitarist, introduced us to him. Dougo probably meant well. He's always taken payment in “popularity” rather than in hard-earned, even today. Good old Dougo.
My own song-writing spin-offs from this period and to this day are our only tangible reward from Chris Andrew's work with the Stormsvilles. I produced a TV show with Sandie Shaw in the '80s and she never knew how and from where ‘Long Live Love’ had come about. Of course not. Why would any management give credit to a bunch of unknowns? But today, if you listen to ‘Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)’, you can hear how much we'd learned about putting across a 'hit' song with a Blue Beat rhythm a la Chris Andrews. By then, of course, others had popularised the genre better.
We moved on from the disappointment of ‘Long Live Love’. It was a gradual process becoming comfortable, working in recording studios. Initially, they were places where microphones distorted our on-stage performance so that when we heard a playback, we were horrified. Truth be told, 50% of our performances were genuinely meritless and 50% made worse by our lack of recording technique. It took time to learn both. R.G. Jones’ studio in Morden, Surrey was the least uncomfortable.
Performing at London’s All-Nighter, Flamingo and Marquee clubs, backing Memphis Slim or Rufus Thomas or sharing billing with Georgie Fame, Zoot Money, Chris Farlowe, Cliff Bennett or The Animals had become routine. THAT October, Ian Jelfs replaced Ivor Shackleton on guitar. By the end of 1965, we ventured to the continent with shows in France and later Italy. A residency at the Palladium Club in Paris led to a recording session produced by Claude Bollins, a respected jazz musician and producer with an English engineer, Phil Wood, working the sound desk. An EP was eventually issued on Odeon containing four original songs, ‘The Society For The Protection Of Love’, ‘Gettin' Ready’, ‘L'amour Se Lisait Dans Ses Yeux’ and ‘Number One’. We also recorded a clutch of live recordings at Le Weekend Club, which appear in this collection.
Back in the UK, a deal ensued via our management (Christopher Cassap and Stephen Komlosy) with EMI’s Parlophone label, which began promisingly. Hal Shapa’s publishing company had access to the US Kent label releases and through it, I discovered releases by Z.Z. Hill, who was virtually unknown at the time in Britain. We found ‘What More (Do You Want)’ in this way but our first Parlophone release was a cover of Alvin Robinson’s ‘Gonna Put Some Hurt On You’. We recorded the song several times, with additional personnel (The Carols – girl vocals and Gus Galbraith on trumpet). We were convinced it could be a hit. The B-side, ‘It’s A Lie’, found its way into an episode of the popular UK TV series Danger Man, which helped ‘Gonna Put Some Hurt On You’ into the lower reaches of the influential Melody Maker charts. Meanwhile, Mel Collins replaced Greg on sax.
Our second Parlophone release (August 1966) was one of my songs, ‘No Problem’. A major part of its construction was due to bass player ‘Kirk’ Riddle, who had a habit of distracting the band by playing repetitive bass riffs loudly in rehearsals. On this occasion, he’d adapted an Otis Redding riff and insisted on repeating it as if he were in a coma. Finally, I sang a tune and made up some words. I suggested breaking up the Otis riff with chords I’d heard by Ray Charles. There was no obvious title. Kirk has a propensity even to this day (in his current band Straubenzee) for in-jokes and that’s why ‘No Problem’, almost the final words of the song, was adopted as the title.
Unknown to me for almost 50 years, there was a ‘cover’ recording released in Australia with the title changed to ‘No Worries’. It was one of the first (if not the first)publications of the phrase, now in common use in Oz. I wonder if I can claim a little piece of Australian culture. ‘No Problem’ was less successful than ‘Gonna Put Some Hurt On You’. Z.Z. Hill’s ‘What More Do You Want’ was a more than worthy B-side.
Up until this point, our Parlophone tracks had been made at R.G. Jones’. R.G. Jones, a pioneer in multi-track recording, engineered all our recordings. He was similarly involved in the first UK recordings of artists such as The Yardbirds, David Bowie, Eric Clapton and many others. He was a dear old man who encouraged many of us, despite our musical shortcomings, and in those times, many recordings were cut directly to acetate disc. He had his own studio label, Oak, and these Oak label demos today are sought-after and historic.
The third and final Parlophone release by Phillip Goodhand-Tait & The Stormsville Shakers, ‘You Can’t Take Love’, (December 1966) was our only departure from R.G. Jones’ studio and it proved to be an unhappy experience as we were also assigned an independent producer, Ken Pitt, who had his own ideas of what our sound should be. Pitt disregarded our years on the road ‘paying our dues’ and instead, tried to create a recording sound akin to Detroit, Tamla Motown’s famous Four Tops. We were subjected to endless hours of multi-track hand claps while Pitt, possibly under the influence, enjoyed his experimenting. Most of it didn’t reach the final mix.
We returned to R.G. Jones, by then our spiritual home, to record a B-side. Tenor saxophone player, David Sherrington and Kirk wrote the instrumental ‘J.C. Greaseburger’, paying homage to the soul records we’d heard at London’s Flamingo Club the many times we played all-nighters there.
Similarly, we employed a Blue Beat rhythm to Lloyd Price’s ‘Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)’ and hoped that the latter would be chosen as the A-side. However, in December 1966, ‘You Can’t Take Love’ was coupled with ‘J.C. Greaseburger’ and ‘Where Were You’ remained hidden in the vaults.
The Stormsville Shakers were renamed Circus in 1967 when Manfred Mann’s talented vocalist, Mike D’Abo, took an interest in producing and giving the group a more “progressive” sound. I began actively seeking ‘covers’ for my songs with other artists and continued making my ‘demo discs’ at R.G. Jones’ studio. Mike took the group into CTS Studios in London to record one of his own songs, ‘Sink or Swim’ and my ‘Gone Are The Songs Of Yesterday’ which were released August 1967. (Around this time, we played some shows in Italy and performed “You got me humming” in an Italian film “Main City”.
Perhaps because Mike was held in high regard with the Manfreds, Parlophone agreed to release this recording. Mike D’Abo’s name also helped bring the group positive reviews in the music press and we threw ourselves with gusto into publicity stunts, such as wearing a ‘multi-person pullover’ for a photograph that appeared in The Daily Mirror.
The final Parlophone release (March 1968) was our only venture into a psychedelic style and Mike employed considerable skill at EMI Studios on ‘Do You Dream’, adding phasing effects and harmonium as well as the sound of seagulls and breaking waves. The record achieved more radio play than anything else we’d recorded and, even to this day, the refrain “do you dream, castles in the sky” remains memorable from the time when British pop music was world famous.
The B-side, ‘House Of Wood’, owed much to Donovan’s vocal style on ‘Sunshine Superman’. We’d shared billing with him at London’s Saville Theatre and although he was famous, we found him to be friendly and kind. Perhaps, too, the saxophone-led instrumental style of ‘House Of Wood’ contains echoes of The Stormsville Shakers.
Despite radio play, ‘Do You Dream’ wasn’t a hit record and, as a Mike D’Abo-led Manfred Mann achieved No.1 with Bob Dylan’s song ‘The Mighty Quinn’, a new group burst into pop prominence with a phenomenal record, ‘Everlasting Love’, which was destined to replace ‘The Mighty Quinn’ at the top of the charts. The group was The Love Affair and, much to my surprise, on the B-side of ‘Everlasting Love’, Steve Ellis sang my song ‘Gone Are The Songs Of Yesterday’. Our Parlophone recording days were over and I was now a fully fledged professional songwriter.
Prior to working with Mike D’Abo in England, a young man named John Palk produced a Lennon & McCartney song with us. John claimed to have found an unknown Beatles’ demo of ‘One And One Is Two’ in a South African publisher’s office and, with everything written by Lennon & McCartney succeeding, he was determined to produce a hit with us. Despite misgivings about the song (the lyrics seemed particularly trite), we gave it our best efforts. With our two tenor saxes, ‘One And One Is Two’ had a feel akin to early Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers, great heroes of ours.
‘One And One Is Two’ was never released at the time (it was recorded in March 1967 just prior to renaming ourselves Circus) and subsequently, the song has been described as the worst song that Lennon & McCartney ever wrote! (I don’t recall ever seeing a Beatles release of it.) John Palk’s assertion that he had found an unknown Beatles’ composition was later disproved when we discovered that a Liverpool group had actually released it!
It seemed like I’d been with The Stormsville Shakers all my life. I’d started the band as a four-piece with Paul Demers, ‘Kirk’ Riddle and Ivor Shackleton and seen it through changes in popular music from raw rock‘n’roll, to sax-led rhythm‘n’blues, then soul and on in to psychedelia and Pop Art. I had moved with the music throughout the 1960s until… Jimi Hendrix.
Supporting Jimi Hendrix at the Saville Theatre in London finally convinced me that I could not empathise with these latest feedback-laced, guitar-led indulgences. I knew then, in 1967, that I was a song man and as luck would have it, some songs I’d sent in response to a Melody Maker advertisement (“hit group wants hit songs”) found their way to the Love Affair, who recorded my song ‘Gone Are The Songs Of Yesterday’ as a B-side to their smash hit ‘Everlasting love’.
The Love Affair had a great management team in John Cokell and Sid Bacon and I tried to interest them in managing The Stormsville Shakers/Circus. John was open-minded enough to come and see the band at a gig but the Atlanta Ballroom in Woking was half empty on the night and we were far from impressive. The only offer was made to me… to become a solo singer and songwriter. I left Circus on 1st January 1969 to pursue a solo career (the band subsequently recorded an album for Transatlantic). By then, Steve Ellis and the Love Affair were a huge teenybopper success and I respected John Cokell, who knew a hit song when he heard one. My professional relationship with John thus began in 1967 when I left Circus, and continued until 1976.
John guided me to hit songs for the Love Affair and we co-wrote ‘Bringing On Back The Good Times’ together. My solo singer-songwriter career also developed in the early 1970s with DJM Records under John Cokell’s management. It was an enormous wrench leaving the guys in Circus. We’d been through good times and bad together for the best part of a decade. The first Saturday night arrived when I didn’t have a gig with the band. I felt lost. But the decision had to be made and I put my heart and soul from then on in to song-writing.