“Records with teenage appeal…
…Records made for the Hit Parade”
By far the most collectable label of its era, TRIUMPH RECORDS was in existence for less than a year – effectively, between February and November 1960 – during which they registered one major top 10 hit, a couple of more modest chart riders, and issued just fourteen singles and an EP. Moreover, scarcity and novelty value apart, the only real reason that this tiny label is of interest to collectors is the involvement of the man whose initials gave Triumph its RGM catalogue prefix, ROBERT GEORGE ‘JOE’ MEEK. Yet because of Meek’s involvement, all manner of myth, legend and nonsense surrounds the label, to the extent that even its latter releases – which were produced by Johnny Keating – nowadays change hands for a small fortune (indeed, a Keating production, Carol Jones’ ‘Boy With The Eyes Of Blue’, is perhaps the rarest, most sought-after Triumph single).
The chief elements of fantasy and theory are the holes in Triumph’s catalogue, most notably the “missing” numbers between RGM 1002-1007, and 1012-1022 – although over the years, a couple of almost obscenely-rare white label acetates have surfaced, which have enabled us to fill one or two of the gaps in. But over and above these, several other Meek productions – some of which eventually came out on other labels – are either known or rumoured to have originally been recorded for Triumph, and these are often erroneously assumed to have been the “missing links”. The following essay tells the fascinating story of this tiny label, and attempts to tidy up some of the loose ends concerning these “stray” tracks which for some reason or another never made it out onto the evocative turquoise blue and off-white label…
When Joe Meek stalked out of Lansdowne Studios in November ’59, following yet another contretemps with proprietor Denis Preston, it’s doubtful he nursed any ambitions to start a record company. He almost certainly had no idea what he would do next – no irons in the fire, and certainly no long-term game plan. At the back of his mind there was the nagging ambition that he might somehow eventually be able to become a wholly independent operator, but in order to do that he’d need his own studio, and the facilities he had at that stage were inadequate. So, meanwhile, having cut off his nose to spite his face, he had to try and find another job. His immediate target was to establish himself as a recognised producer, having already carved out a reputation as a brilliant (if ‘difficult’) sound balance engineer, with an impressive CV of hits. In the short term he freelanced a few sessions for Decca and Top Rank, but then an unexpected windfall – a substantial royalty cheque, for Tommy Steele’s recording of his ‘Put A Ring On Her Finger’ (which had appeared on the flip of Tom’s cover of Ritchie Valens’ ‘Come On Let’s Go’) – allowed him the opportunity of considering other options. Enter Saga…
Saga Films was originally set up by concert pianist Leonard Cassini, whose intention was to make a series of informational films about classical composers. He duly recorded a number of sound beds but then ran into financial difficulties, at which point he approached Major Wilfred Alonzo Banks, an entrepreneurial chartered certified accountant who’d established a reputation as a business rescue specialist. Although Banks was unable to interest anyone in the films, as they were perceived as being too highbrow, he issued their soundtracks as cut-priced LPs. And in doing so he launched Saga as the UK’s first significant budget record label, undercutting the established record companies by selling LPs at twenty-five shillings each.
Within a year the catalogue had been expanded to include jazz, shows, musicals and MOR, and the label had established a powerful presence in the UK market. Indeed, it was Saga’s success that directly led to Decca and Pye countering with their own Ace Of Clubs and Golden Guinea budget ranges, respectively. Meanwhile, Saga had also been issuing series of EPs and singles, and word got out that under the direction of their ambitious new MD, William Barrington-Coupe, they were contemplating launching a new label, aimed specifically at the emergent Pop market. Meek was already known to Saga, having engineered some of their releases at Lansdowne (notably an LP by George Chakiris), and he’d impressed them. Consequently, once he’d discovered their plans, he immediately approached them.
From both sides’ perspective, it must have seemed a match made in heaven. For a control freak like Joe, who’d been obliged to toe other peoples’ lines for the past four or five years, this would have seemed like the perfect job spec; the opportunity to set up a brand new label, A&R its talent, and produce its output. He jumped at it, sinking a large chunk of his recently-acquired royalty cheque into the new company, which was in turn matched by Barrington-Coupe, and the Triumph label came together in just a matter of weeks.
Saga already owned a tiny manufacturing company called Triumph, and its name was duly annexed for the new label. It was set up as a mainstream indie Pop label, utilising Saga’s manufacturing and distribution facilities (the latter being considerably less than adequate for a Pop label), and was jointly owned and fronted by Barrington-Coupe – whose flair for publicity would prove a major factor in establishing Triumph’s profile – and Meek. Its launch represented a hugely ambitious venture at that time, as no independent label had come even remotely close to breaking the EMI/Decca/Philips/Pye monopoly (only Oriole had registered significant Pop hits in recent years). Yet the very fact that they were able to break into the charts with three of their first eight releases – with two others only just missing out – speaks volumes for the quality of their output.
From the very outset, Triumph was marketed as being rather different to any other UK record label. Promoting themselves proudly and rather pompously with sales messages like “Records with teenage appeal”, “Records made for the Hit Parade”, and “The first label to produce discs exclusively for the juke-box generation”, they launched with a highly-visible and aggressive advertising and PR campaign, aimed both at the teenaged record-buying public and the more traditionally conservative retail trade. One of the first UK labels to make extensive use of excessive hype in their press releases, they achieved a remarkably high profile in the industry’s trade paper Record Retailer (the forerunner of Music Week) and implemented above-the-line marketing devices like hard-sell, in-store point-of-sale material, and poster advertising (the latter in the form of a heavy campaign on London’s Central Line Underground stations). And in addition to the more-or-less obligatory ads in the weekly Pop mags, they took out a series of press ads in the more widely read teenaged Girls’ mags, and also hosted their own weekly Radio Luxembourg show.
Following a wildly-successful (in PR terms) launch party at The Lotus Room, a well-known showbiz restaurant, Triumph kicked off with two singles – ‘Just Too Late’/‘Friendship’ by Peter Jay & The Blue Men (RGM 1000) and ‘Magic Wheel’/‘Happy Valley’ by Rodd, Ken & The Cavaliers (RGM 1001) – plus the ‘I Hear A New World – Part 1’ EP by The Blue Men (RGX-ST 5000). These appeared in late February accompanied by a flurry of gung-ho, overenthusiastic press releases (their PR was handled by the expansive Leslie Perrin), a veritable orgy of advertising, and some surprisingly positive record reviews. The portents were indeed encouraging.
Both singles – their topsides written by Meek, using his ‘Robert Duke’ pseudonym – had been recorded clandestinely at Lansdowne the previous November (whilst Lansdowne boss Denis Preston had been at home, safely tucked up in bed, one presumes), whilst the tracks on the EP had been recorded at Joe’s tiny flat in Ladbroke Grove, during December ’59. All three releases featured ‘new’ artistes: Peter Jay (no relation to the drummer who later fronted The Jaywalkers) was a 19-year old Welshman – real name Peter Lynch – whom Joe had discovered singing in a West End Club, whilst The Cavaliers and The Blue Men were one and the same, viz: the former West Five, a skiffle group he’d discovered in Ealing (NB: The West Five’s seven-track audition for Joe is included on Work In Progress – The Triumph Sessions, RPM 121, whilst the West Five/Cavaliers/Blue Men’s story is told in full in the liner notes to I Hear A New World, RPM 103).
Blue Men/Cavaliers leader Rod (aka ‘Rodd’) Freeman was a crucial backroom boy at this stage of Meek’s career, his role being pretty much the same as men like Dave Adams, Charles Blackwell and Chas Hodges, in later years. One of the first musicians to have to try and ‘translate’ Joe’s distinctly unmusical “la-la”-ings into something that his group could actually play, Rod was arranger and musical director on the first two Triumph singles, and the entire ‘I Hear A New World’ project.
The Cavaliers’ ‘Magic Wheel’ is chiefly memorable in that it gives an early indication of some of the special effects which would go on to become RGM’s ‘trademark’, notably on its B-side, ‘Happy Valley’, where the hawaiian guitar is used highly effectively to recreate the feel of an accelerating railway train. It is a pity, though, that this otherwise-excellent disc is marred by the inclusion of the speeded-up voices at the end of the track – a feature which also, unfortunately, seriously flawed a couple of the ‘I Hear A New World’ tracks.
The singles picked up encouraging reviews, attracted interest and airplay, and – given their rather limited distribution – even sold reasonably well. But from Meek’s perspective, Triumph’s most important early release was the EP.
The legendary ‘I Hear A New World’ EP is, of course, just about the most rare/collectable/valuable/lusted-after release in the entire RGM canon. A four-track sampler drawn from Joe’s beloved, but ill-fated, Outer Space fantasy LP – which was destined never to reach the record stores in his lifetime – it represented his most ambitious project to date, the work he was convinced would make the record industry finally sit up and acknowledge him as a serious, important, and potent creative force. Meek was so besotted with the project, he even wrote the sleevenotes to the EP; a series of child-like, whimsical sketches of what he believed “life” on the Moon to be like.
Priced at 12/7d – a couple of shillings more than conventional EP’s cost at that time – the sales mail-out to the retail trade recommended that dealers use this disc to demonstrate their new stereo equipment. The same release sheet-cum-order form also announced details of the forthcoming LP, from whence the four tracks had been culled, which was listed for a March release. Full tracklisting details and catalogue numbers were given – TRX-ST 9000 (vinyl) and TRT 1000 (pre-recorded tape) – and it’s interesting to note that both were priced well in excess of standard market costs at that time, coming in at 35/91/2d and 55/- respectively. The album was mastered, prepared for release, and a dozen or so white label promo’s sent out to reviewers (which suffered a vicious bout of bootlegging in the early 80’s – beware of pirate copies!) However, it never made it into the stores – possibly, because in the final analysis, the EP failed to make any significant commercial impact. In truth, it really wasn’t quite the masterpiece Joe had thought; ultimately, it ended up far closer to ‘Martian Hop’ than it did ‘Telstar’. But for 1960, it was pretty startling, ambitious stuff and served to demonstrate Joe’s inventive use of primitive sounds-effects (NB: the album finally appeared more than thirty years later, in 1991 – check out RPM 103).
‘Let’s Go See Gran’ma’/‘Believe Me’ by Joy & Dave (RGM 1002) and ‘With This Ring’/‘Don’t Tell Me Not To Love You’ by Yolanda (RGM 1007) were released in March, the former proving to be Triumph’s biggest seller to date, very nearly breaking into the Record Retailer/Record Mirror Top 50 on a couple of occasions. Both singles were arranged by Charles Blackwell, and marked the debut of what would become the full, echo-drenched RGM sound (notably on the latter). ‘Let’s Go See Gran’ma’ was a novelty disc, written by longterm Meek sidesman Dave Adams, who’d first recorded for Joe with sister Joy back in 1957 (NB: Adams’ RGM output is anthologised and his story told in full on The Dave Adams Story, Diamond GemCD 013). Yolanda – from Ceylon – was a rather more well-established, jazz/big band-oriented singer (she’d even recorded for Saga), with whom Joe had recorded a highly-rated MGM album a few years earlier. But quite why anyone thought ‘With This Ring’ was suitable teen fodder, is anyone’s guess.
By April, Triumph’s PR campaign had succeeded in generating an unfeasibly high profile for a label which remained hitless – a profile which in turn escalated to new levels upon the launch of their own weekly show It’s A Triumph, on Radio Luxembourg. A 13-week series, it kicked off on April 6th and broadcast every Wednesday between 9.15 and 9.30, presented by Ricky Wayne (NB: one week Joe presented the show himself, under the pseudonym ‘Johnny Watts’). For its signature tune they utilised the label’s latest release, a raunchy, Johnny & the Hurricanes-inspired revival of ‘Greensleeves’, titled ‘Green Jeans’ (backed with an equally-frantic revival of ‘You Are My Sunshine’), by the splendidly-named Fabulous Flee-Rakkers (RGM 1008) – who also backed Ricky Wayne on the magnificent ‘Chicka’roo’/‘Don’t Pick On Me’ (RGM 1009), which was issued the same week. By far Triumph’s strongest releases to date, these really were at last the “records with teen appeal” that their trade press advertising had been promising!
The Flee-Rakkers were a septet from Putney whom Joe took a shine to, dumped their singer, and proceeded to cut a whole series of great, bootin’ instro’s with (NB: an eight-track audition/demo tape by The Flee’s is reproduced on Work In Progress, RPM 121, whilst their later recorded output can be found on Green Jeans – The Fabulous Flee-Rekkers’ Anthology, Castle Music CMQCD 1435). One of R&R’s great ‘nearly’ bands, they were hugely-popular package tour perennials, but somehow never quite achieved the levels of success which their talent merited. Ricky Wayne was a powerfully-built young body-builder from the West Indies, who’d been wowing ’em in the London clubs with his hip-swivelling R&R routines when Joe discovered him (NB: his original demo of ‘Chicka’roo’ can be found on Work In Progress, RPM 121). Rick was another underachiever, musically-speaking – although he more than made up for it in the world of muscle-men, later going on to win the Mr World and Mr Universe titles.
Boosted, no doubt, by its Radio Luxembourg airplay, ‘Green Jeans’ became Triumph’s first chart entry some six weeks later, going in on May 14th at No.29. Surprisingly, perhaps, it was joined in the Top 50 a couple of weeks later by ‘Heart Of A Teenage Girl’ (b/w ‘Always Chasing Rainbows’), by George Chakiris (RGM 1010), which had been issued in mid-April. The toothsome, handsome American singer/actor/dancer/heart-throb – whom Meek had produced previously, for Saga – was at that time based in London, appearing in the West End production of West Side Story (he would later, of course, be cast in the movie). But there’s an interesting postscript to this story; back in the early 90’s, broadcaster Spencer Leigh played the disc on-air to Chakiris, who was guesting on his Radio Merseyside show, and George good-naturedly denied all knowledge of the track. So, who is it singing? Dave Adams later recalled putting down a guide vocal, for Chakiris to follow, but maintains the finished version wasn’t him, whereas Charles Blackwell – who arranged the disc, and played piano on it – has subsequently assured me that it most emphatically was Chakiris! Whatever, t’weren’t a major success, just one week at No.49 (Craig Douglas, of course, stole the chart honours with this song). But two concurrent entries in the Top 50 did bode well for Triumph.
The Big One was of course the release of ‘Angela Jones’/‘Don’t Want To Know’ by Michael Cox (RGM 1011) on May 28th, the week that Chakiris had dented the Top 50. Cox, a Jack Good discovery who’d established himself as a regular on Boy Meets Girls and Wham!, had previously recorded a couple of unsuccessful Good-produced singles for Decca. However, with Charles Blackwell’s arrangement and Joe’s superb production, Cox’s cover version of Johnny Ferguson’s minor US hit knocked the original into a cocked hat (NB: Mike’s career is anthologised in detail on Angela Jones, Zircon Zirc 1005). Boosted by a sensational performance on Wham! the disc charted high the week of its release, and began selling in such heavy quantities that Saga/Triumph’s limited resources could not cope (NB: due, presumably, to an administrative cock-up, ‘Angela Jones’ was wrongly indicated as the B-side on the record label – presumably, by the same miscreant who’d similarly mislabelled George Chakiris’ ‘…Teenage Girl’!).
By mid-June, the disc was so successful (and its very success had in turn reactivated interest in Triumph’s back catalogue to the extent that re-orders had begun to flood in from the retail trade), that in a sensational move Triumph pulled out of its parent company, Saga, and announced that it would be setting up its own, wholly-independent distribution network. But then a week later, they announced a joint venture with another new independent label, Ember Records, in which both companies would pool their (admittedly, limited) distribution resources, thus giving both labels a higher profile and market penetration. In effect, they pioneered the type of joint indie distribution deal which would become commonplace a dozen or so years hence (NB: it was this liaison which led to the appearance of ‘Angela Jones’ on Ember S 103, which was pressed up in the UK for export only).
Meanwhile, Joe was basking in the reflected glory of Triumph’s chart success, giving joint interviews with Mike Cox – as he told Record Mirror (or Record & Show Mirror as it was billed back then): “…we call Michael our Golden Boy, and the label has some very fixed ideas about following up his success. I’m planning an LP for him full of quiet swinging songs with perhaps a hint of Country & Western. It’s the sort of thing that suits Michael…”
But despite the commercial breakthrough, all was not well. By now, Joe Meek had realised that the joys of being independent were severely outweighed by the practical disadvantages. He was uninterested in the day-to-day problems of running a record company, and was deeply peeved; moreover, he was becoming thoroughly frustrated by the financial and administrative problems which as far as he was concerned had “robbed” him of a No.1 record. Had it been on EMI or Decca, ‘Angela Jones’ would almost certainly have topped the UK charts – it was No.1 for several weeks in the then-substantial chain of Keith Prowse stores – whereas it had peaked at No.5, No.6, or No.7, depending on which of the weekly Pop mag’s listings you preferred. He was further irked that other proposed Triumph releases had had to be put on the back burner, as they had neither the resources nor funding to cope with them. Indeed, two singles had been scheduled for June, and were actually listed by Record Retailer as ‘New Releases’ on June 23rd. But in the final analysis, neither ‘The Boy With Eyes Of Blue’/‘Cinderella Jones’ by Carol Jones (RGM 1012) or ‘Lover And His Lass’/‘Lonesome Traveller’ by The Charles Blackwell Orchestra (RGM 1013) made it into the stores. It was at this stage that Joe’s relationship with Barrington-Coupe took a serious turn for the worse.
Having lost confidence in his business partner, Meek walked out of Triumph in July, but the sting in the tail was that he took the cream of Triumph’s talent, and a whole batch of unreleased masters, with him. He’d signed a consultancy deal with Top Rank (themselves a relative newcomer to the UK record biz), who promptly reissued ‘Green Jeans’ (JAR 431) and ‘Chicka’roo’ (JAR 432). They also scheduled a new recording, John Leyton’s ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’/‘Goodbye To Teenage Love’, for immediate release (JAR 426). However, within a couple of weeks Rank had in turn gone belly-up and been absorbed by EMI, and ‘Tell Laura’ wouldn’t actually make it into the stores until mid-August – by which point EMI had two versions of the song out (Leyton, of course, missed out to Ricky Valance, who made it all the way to No.1).
Meanwhile, Triumph – and particularly, an astonished Barrington-Coupe – were left high and dry with virtually no artists, no head of A&R, and no in-house producer. Moreover, they found themselves obliged to delete virtually their entire catalogue, as ‘their’ artists had all actually been signed direct to Meek rather than the label. They disposed of their old stock in a most unlikely manner, at an equally unlikely venue, knocking them out for half-a-crown each at the National Boys & Girls’ Exhibition at Olympia (which guaranteed the wily Barrington-Coupe maximum media coverage). However, ageing record collectors (with appropriately long memories – stand up Jim Blake!) will recall huge stacks of Triumph singles turning up in various North London second-hand shops and market stalls during the sixties, usually several dozen copies each of just two or three releases.
Johnny Keating took over Joe’s role as in-house producer, and Triumph mounted a major comeback offensive the first week in August with three releases – ‘T’Ain’t What You Do’/‘Out There’ by former Decca artist Don Fox (RGM 1022), ‘Chicken Sax’/‘Snake Eyes’ by Rex & The Minors (RGM 1023: Rex Morris had been lead sax player with David Ede’s Rabin Rock), and ‘Ricky’/‘Dear Daddy’ by Pat Reader (RGM 1024) – followed by a new, Keating-produced version of ‘Boy With The Eyes Of Blue’/‘I Gave Him Back His Ring’ by Carol Jones a week later. The latter had been re-recorded, with a new B-side, but for some reason the original catalogue number had been retained (NB: another version of the ‘Robert Duke’-penned topside was issued around this time, by The Lindy’s, on Decca – which is presumably why Keating/Triumph re-cut Carol Jones’ version).
Although they were four first-rate releases, none of these discs charted, despite receiving heavy publicity and advertising support (what they’d needed was radio play). Meanwhile, Triumph kept up the pressure on the Music press via an intense PR campaign, variously announcing forthcoming releases, scams, signings, sessions, tours, talent competitions, etc. Much mileage was made of a Johnny Dankworth LP, supposedly recorded with The London Philharmonic (which never saw the light of day), and they went into a media frenzy when they managed to sign the relatively well-known Barbara Lyon (an early Radio & TV “soap” star, via her role as the nice, polite daughter in Life With The Lyons). But Barbara’s ‘My Charlie’/‘Tell Me’ (RGM 1027) turned out a real clinker, by far the worse release on the label, in early October.
Ironically, Triumph’s swansong was their strongest post-Meek release, ‘Tell Tommy I Miss Him’/‘I’m Sending Back Your Roses’ by undertaker’s daughter Laura Lee (RGM 1030), the “answer-disc” to ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’. This one actually sounds like a Meek production, and for many years was believed to have been. A cover version of Marilyn Michaels’ US original, it generated considerable publicity, got itself banned by the BBC, and sold well, very nearly making the charts. But ‘Tell Tommy’ proved to be Triumph’s last throw of the dice. Without any hits since Joe had left, they’d run into even more serious financial difficulties, and they collapsed under an avalanche of unpaid debts shortly afterwards (apparently, one of their largest creditors was the unlucky advertising agency who ended up footing the bill for Barrington-Coupe’s grandiose marketing and publicity schemes).
So, what of the unissued material, and those gaps in the numerical sequencing? Well, there have always been a few off-the-wall ideas, and plenty of conjecture. An oft-repeated tale (which was, at one point, regarded as factual) concerns ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’, by John Leyton, which is reputed to have been pressed up on Triumph RGM 1003 and then had Top Rank labels pasted down on top. Certainly, my copy doesn’t appear to have a Triumph label beneath the Top Rank label, and chronologically this is impossible as RGM 1003 would have come out in March, and Joe Meek didn’t actually record Leyton’s version of ‘Tell Laura’ until after he’d quit Triumph. Moreover, a genuine white label acetate bearing the number RGM 1003 actually turned up in the early 90s, which indicated that this catalogue no. had been intended for Chris Williams & His Monsters’ ‘Kicking Around’/‘Midnight Rocker’. Nonetheless, an earlier Leyton track, ‘Three Cute Chicks’, had certainly been recorded as a Triumph single (check out Work In Progress, RPM 121), and was even played on It’s A Triumph (on Radio Lux) one week as a “forthcoming new release”. This is believed to have been scheduled as RGM 1006, before Leyton’s manager, Robert Stigwood, pulled the plug on it (NB: ‘There Must Be’ – later, the flip of ‘Johnny Remember Me’ – had been designated as its B-side).
A second Blue Men EP was scheduled for release, ‘I Hear A World – Part 2’, again featuring four tracks culled from the forthcoming LP, viz: ‘Glob Waterfall’, ‘Dribcot Spaceboat’, ‘Love Dance Of The Saroos’ and ‘The Bublight’. A catalogue number – RGX-ST 5001 – was designated, and sleeves even printed (featuring more of Joe’s child-like liner notes). But for some reason it seems never to have made it onto vinyl (unless anyone knows better).
In addition to the shelved single RGM 1013, a Charles Blackwell Orchestra LP was mastered and prepared for release. A white label copy turned up a dozen or so years back, bearing the catalogue number RGX-ST 4000. The working title for this project is believed to have been Charles Blackwell & His Orchestra…With Pizzicato Strings, although according to Meek’s biography, Joe used to refer to it as “Those plucking strings!” Indeed, that’s the title RPM gave this fascinating album when they finally cleaned the acetate up for commercial release in 2006 (check out RPM 310).
When Joe formally purchased the rights to various Triumph masters, the following were included in the schedule:-
‘Chick’ Lewis • Cool Water/Early In The Morning (Pye 7N 15292, Sept 1960) *
‘Chick’ Lewis • With Someone Like You/North Wind
Ricky Wayne • Make Way Baby/Goodness Knows (Pye 7N 15289, Sept 1960) *
Ricky Wayne • Put A Ring On Her Finger/Hear My Plea
The Flee-Rakkers • Isle Of Capri/Crazy Train (Pye NEP 2414, May 1961) *
Michael Cox • Along Came Caroline/Lonely Road (HMV POP 789, Sept 1960)*
Peter Jay • Paradise Garden/Who’s The Girl (Pye 7N 15290, Sept 1960) *
John Leyton • The Girl On The Floor Above/Terry Brown’s In Love With Mary Dee (HMV POP 798, Oct 1960) *
Joy & Dave • My Very Good Friend The Milkman/Doopey Darling (Decca F 11291, Oct 1960)*
Iain Gregory • Time Will Tell/The Night You Told Me A Lie (Pye 7N 15295, Sept 1960) *
Danny Rivers • Can’t You Hear My Heart/I’m Waiting For Tomorrow (Decca F 11294, Nov 1960) *
Keith De Groot • No More Tomorrows/Let Me Walk You Home (HMV POP 823, Jan 1961) *
Lee Sutton • Not For Teenagers LP
Smiley • EP (untitled)
Several of these (marked *) were given a contemporaneous release, on either Pye, HMV, or Decca, as indicated, whilst Chick’s great lost single ‘With Someone Like You’/‘North Wind’ was later included on Work In Progress (RPM 121). Also included on Work In Progress were a couple of snatches of Lee Sutton’s gin-fuelled rehearsals for Not For Teenagers. Sutton, an off-colour supper club entertainer, went on to earn a big reputation as a female impersonator and later recorded several albums for EMI, cornering the top shelf end of the Danny LaRue market.
‘Smiley’ is believed to have been Joy Adams’ young son – who in turn is believed to have been Bryan Taylor, who had one single, ‘The Donkey’s Tale’/‘Let It Snow On Christmas Day’, released on Piccadilly in 1961. This disc is believed to have been produced by Joe, as tapes for these two sides are among the other Triumph masters in the legendary tea chest tapes. Consequently, it’s just possible that these might have been a couple of tracks from Smiley’s untitled/unissued EP; although this is all merely conjecture.
NB: although not included on the above ‘schedule’, The Flee-Rekkers’ Pye single ‘Sunday Date’/‘Shiftless Sam’ – their follow-up to ‘Green Jeans’ (which had peaked at #23 in a three-month chart run) – was also recorded for Triumph.
Fifties danceband singer Eve Boswell cut a single with Meek in 1960, ‘Bridge Of Avignon’/‘Hey ’Round The Corner’, which appears only to have been issued in Italy, on the Durium label. Again, this one is known to have been cut for Triumph (check out Work In Progress, RPM 121), and it’s even been suggested that it may originally have been allocated RGM 1014 status; someone I know (but don’t always believe) once told me that they’d seen an acetate.
Over and above these, a number of other names cropped up in various press reports as having been signed by Triumph but never had discs issued, most notably Annette Roberts (who appeared on their very first Press Releases), The Edison Brothers, Ricky Bowden, and Ronald Rogers. And certainly, the Official Receiver must have copped a hell of a lot of their unissued post-Meek material. If Triumph really did have Johnny Keating producing even half as many sessions as their press releases would have had us believe, there must have been hours of the stuff left in the can (and whatever happened to that Johnny Dankworth LP?).
Finally, another name linked to Triumph in the Autumn of 1960 was Jimmy Justice, who’d just cut his first single, ‘Bloodshot Eyes’, an independent production by Emile Ford. It eventually came out on Pye, although Melody Maker had run an editorial squib announcing Jimmy as “Triumph’s newest recording artist”. Jim himself remembers none of this, and claims never even to have heard of Triumph – so make of that what you will!
In closing, another of Triumph’s fascinating little foibles were those threepence (or sometimes fourpence or fivepence) three-farthings MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) stamps, which were affixed to several of their releases. It seems that because they were a new label, and more pertinently, one which The Industry was distrustful of, they were obliged to pre-pay composers’ royalties. Being mindful of the fact that ‘Angela Jones’ is reckoned to have sold around a quarter of a million copies in the UK, can you imagine the grief that must have caused? Imagine licking & sticking two hundred and fifty thousand stamps!! In many ways, it rather sums Triumph up.
Acknowledgements: thanks to Charles Blackwell, John Repsch, Alan Blackburn, Chris & John Norman, Mark Newson, Jim Blake, Steve Fay, Paul Pelletier, Sandra Meek, Christine Freeman, Trev Faull, Pete Reynolds, Nick Watson, Melody Maker, NME, Record Mirror, Record Retailer, Record Collector, RPM Records, and anyone else I may have overlooked/forgotten, due to the ravages of time.
RGM 1000 Peter Jay & The Blue Men • Just Too Late/Friendship
RGM 1001 Rodd, Ken & The Cavaliers • Magic Wheel/Happy Valley
RGM 1002 Joy & Dave • Let’s Go See Gran’ma/Believe Me
RGM 1003 Chris Williams & His Monsters • Kicking Around/Midnight Rocker (unissued)
RGM 1006 John Leyton • Three Cool Cats/There Must Be (unissued)
RGM 1007 Yolanda • With This Kiss/Don’t Tell Me Not To Love You
RGM 1008 The Fabulous Flee-Rakkers • Green Jeans/You Are My Sunshine
RGM 1009 Ricky Wayne & the Flee-Rakkers • Chicka’roo/Don’t Pick On Me
RGM 1010 George Chakiris • Heart Of A Teenage Girl/I’m Always Chasing Rainbows
RGM 1011 Michael Cox • Angela Jones/Don’t Want To Know
RGM 1012 Carol Jones • Boy With The Eyes Of Blue/Cinderella Jones (unissued)
RGM 1012 Carol Jones • Boy With The Eyes Of Blue/I Gave Him Back His Ring
RGM 1013 The Charles Blackwell Orchestra • Lover And His Lass/Lonesome Traveller (unissued)
RGM 1022 Don Fox • T’Ain’t What You Do/Out There
RGM 1023 Rex & the Minors • Chicken Sax/Snake Eyes
RGM 1024 Pat Reader • Ricky/Dear Daddy
RGM 1027 Barbara Lyon • My Charlie/Tell Me
RGM 1030 Laura Lee • Tell Tommy I Miss Him/I’m Sending Back Your Roses
RGX-ST 5000 The Blue Men • I Hear A New World (Part 1)
RGX-ST 5001 The Blue Men • I Hear A New World (Part 2) (unissued)
TRX-ST 9000 The Blue Men • I Hear A New World (unissued)
TRX-ST 4000 The Charles Blackwell Orchestra • Pizzicato Strings (unissued)
TRT 1000 The Blue Men • I Hear A New World (reel-to-reel tape version) (unissued)
Recommended further reading….
The Legendary Joe Meek, The Telstar Man by John Repsch (Woodford House Publishing/Cherry Red Publishing)
Record Collector magazine, February 1995 (issue No.186)
The Blue Men • I Hear A New World (RPM 103)
Various Artists • Work In Progress – The Triumph Sessions (RPM 121)
Charles Blackwell & His Orchestra • Those Plucking Strings (RPM 310)
Joy & Dave/Burr Bailey/etc • The Dave Adams Story (Diamond GEMCD 013)
Various Artists • History Of A Label: Triumph Records (Diamond GEMCD 029)
The Flee-Rekkers • Green Jeans – The Fabulous Flee-Rekkers’ Anthology (Castle Music CMQCD 1435).
Michael Cox • Angela Jones (Zircon Zirc 1005)
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