Twanging, Honking, Plinking & Stomping – The UK Instro Scene Vol. 3

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Brit-Pop Instros of the immediate pre-Beatles era (for a recap, check out Vol.1, RHGB 21 / Vol.2, RHGB 30). As we have learned, broadly speaking, the “Golden Age” of UK Instrumentals occurred between the late 50s and the early 60s, peaking in 1961 & 62 following the arrival of The Shadows as a chart-topping phenomenon in their own right, before grinding to a halt in 1963 upon the arrival of The Beatles and the ensuant Beat Boom. The tracks on this set are all drawn from this rich seam of Instromania. The oldest side herein features The Shadows in their earlier incarnation as The Drifters, with ‘Chinchilla’, from the movie Serious Charge. Within a few months they were trading under their new branding, although it would take a while longer for them to fully develop their twangular style. The first signs they were getting there came with ‘Bongo Blues’, from Expresso Bongo; shortly afterwards they recorded ‘Apache’, and the rest writes itself. Also included their second UK No.1, ‘Kon-Tiki’, its follow-up ‘The Savage’, and a pair of classic album tracks. The Shads’ unparalleled success overhauled the sound and style of your average UK Instro. Virtually overnight, honking saxes were deemed anachronistic and although bands like The Flee- Rekkers, Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers and Sounds Incorporated continued to prosper on the live circuit – their record successes were fewer and further between. Although the Joe Meek-produced Flees briefly dented the NME charts with ‘Sunday Date’ in October ’60, it would be their chart swansong, whilst another Meek production, ‘Redskins’, appeared on the flip of Peter Jay’s lone chart entry, ‘Can-Can 62’. Conversely, Sounds Inc (whose debut 45, ‘b’, was clearly lifted from The Wailers’ ‘Mau Mau’) took evasive action and ultimately went on to carve out a mighty reputation as the UK’s premier backing band, consistently in demand to accompany touring US singers.

Cut from essentially the same musical cloth were combos like The Stonehenge Men (their ‘Big Feet’ was yet another saxy RGM production), The Diamonds, The Vigilantes (actually The Pete Chester Group, incognito), The Les Dawson Syndicate (whose ‘Last Chicken In The Shop’ was a ‘Yakety Sax’-styled novelty item) and former danceband leader Frank Weir & The Werewolves. Even The Dave Clark Five, before reinventing themselves as a Beat Group, started off with Instros – their very first disc, ‘Chaquita’, was based unashamedly on ‘Tequila’. Of the groups most directly heavily influenced by The Shads, The Outlaws, The Fentones, The Eagles and The Hunters were probably the best. The Outlaws – who also doubled as indie producer Joe Meek’s ‘house band’ – registered a couple of hits, which can be found on Vol.1; here, we have ‘Valley Of The Sioux’ (A-side), ‘Ku-Pow!’ (B-side), and ‘Husky Team’ and ‘Dream Of The West’ (from their LP). The Fentones – aka Shane Fenton’s backing group – are represented by ‘Lover’s Guitar’ and ‘Just For Jerry’, the B-sides to their two hits (which can be found on Vol.2). The Eagles, who were never as successful as they deserved, have four sides herein: ‘The Desperadoes’ (A-side), ‘Special Agent’ and ‘Johnny’s Tune’ (both B-sides), and ‘Theme From Maigret’ (EP track). The Hunters also failed to make the charts, despite cutting a trio of magnificent 45s (on Vols 1 & 2) and two excellent LPs; here we have a B-side, ‘Santa Monica Flyer’, and a tremendous Instro version of Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’, from their second album. By now, even some of the ‘old guard’ were taking their lead from Hank, Bruce, Jet & Tone. Bert Weedon had been around since the early 50s – he was, in essence, R&R’s first session guitarist – and even enjoyed sporadic singles’ success; here, we have him twanging away on a couple of A-sides, ‘Mr Guitar’ and ‘Ghost Train’, and an earlier flip, the theme to the BBC Light Programme’s ‘Easy Beat’.