Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
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The Shadows and Me
I'm sitting on the school bus in Cyprus, coming home to Kohima Place from Dhekelia Primary School. It must be sometime in summer of 1961. I'm eight years old. Someone's got a tinny old transistor radio and it's playing FBI by The Shadows. The Shads had a very good early 1960s. There was Apache, The Savage, Frightened City, Theme For Young Lovers, Wonderful Land and – one of my very favourites Genie, With The Light Brown Lamp. This song is so boy-on-a-sunny-Saturday morning cheerful, that it's hard for me to describe. Politicians should be made to listen to it (twice) before they start work in the morning. It's FBI, though, which reminds me of Cyprus: the evening smell of orange blossom in the streets of Nicosia and Famagusta, the acres of red soil seen from a bus on parched days, the carob trees in the baking hot valley, the sheep flocks, the bad-tempered shepherd who lobbed a stone at me because another boy had shouted something rude at him in Greek. The Coke bottles bought in cafes in Cyprus were always icy cold. They still had that classic twisty 1950s design to them. It was all rather exotic after coming from the grey of post-war England. Over it all, was the impossibly heroic and boysie sound of The Shadows.
The importance of The Shadows as a musical gateway drug to the opiate 1960s cannot be underestimated. Their music, at the height of its popularity was stunning. As George Harrison said, “Without the Shadows, there would have been no Beatles,”
Two guitars, one electric bass and a drum kit. Think about that. Great idea, wasn't it? It must have been – people are still doing it. The effect on an eight year-old boy of hearing those heroic, cheery, twangy tunes was profound. They'd go around my head like a permanent soundtrack to whatever I happened to be doing. To this day, I still find the tunes more affecting than much other stuff which I also still cherish. The Shadows turned my little Pathe newsreel world into Eastmancolour film. But who were these guys? Brian Rankin and Bruce Cripps were a couple of Geordie grammar school boys, who came to London, changed their names to Marvin and Welch and got lucky. The George Martin of this story is probably – in my opinion, anyway – a man called Jerry Lordan. Lordan wrote Apache which he reportedly first played our to heroes on a ukulele. It was, of course, huge. Jerry Lordan also wrote Wonderful Land, Atlantis and a number of other songs, one of which was recorded by Dale ('Suzie Q.') Hawkins. Jerry was a mystery train all of his own. He got involved with a Cornish psychedelic band, Onyx at the end of the 1960s. In 1970 he released a rather strange and beautiful song, The Old Man and The Sea. You can see why it might not have been a hit during that rather dull juncture in pop. But the song definitely has something. Poor Jerry, died of renal failure in 1995, aged only 61. The earlier solo singles which he made with him singing on them, have an Adam Faith / Shane Fenton breeziness about them. He seems to have been one of those people for whom the 1960s were made. When that particular circus left town, it went without him. My own connections to The Shadows are scant, tenuous and rather strange. They exist however. More upon that later.