Thursday, 6 September 2018

Impish Behaviour

An act that issued their only single in the twilight of Britain’s short-lived but hugely influential skiffle craze, The Imps were a five-piece band from Lancashire, so named because the boys were aged around 12 - although I understand that an Imp Father played guitar for the blossoming boy band. Discovered by talent spotter Carrol Levis, they came from Miles Platting, a suburb of Manchester, and they disappeared almost swiftly as they arrived, issuing their sole 45, Let Me Lie and Dim Dumb Blonde on Parlophone at the start of 1958.

According to Chas McDevitt’s book, Skiffle: The Definitive Inside Story, the line-up of The Imps was made up of “Danny McGee with his granny’s washboard; Don Ainsworth with his father’s fishing line attached to an old soap box and his mother’s broom handle; Geoff Wood, Jeff Tranter and Howard Tonge each played a miniature thirty-shilling plastic guitar,” although newspapers of the day referred to these instruments as ‘plastic ukes’. The novelty act appeared on Britain’s first rock ‘n’ roll TV show, 6-5 Special, in February 1958, and the A-side of their single, Let Me Lie, was featured in the film The Golden Disc.

Issued in America as The In-Between Age, The Golden Disc starred early British teen idol Terry Dene, alongside avuncular DJ David Jacobs, singer Nancy Whiskey (who sang lead vocals on the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group's Top Five hit Freight Train) and others. Dene had a tempestuous career, falling out with his management, the press, his wife, the British army and often falling down drunk. After disappearing from the UK pop scene he re-emerged in Sweden, having found God and become a preacher.

Although the disc’s label may lead listeners to believe that The Imps appeared in the movie, the film version of Let Me Lie was not performed by our bunch of pre-teen tearaways, but by the defiantly (and definitely) adult Sonny Stewart and his Skiffle Kings: in fact, Stewart is credited as the song’s author. Sonny Stewart’s real name was the slightly more prosaic Arthur Chamberlain, and like a number of skiffle and rock ’n’ roll acts, the band first drew attention playing at the 2I’s coffee bar in Old Compton Street, Soho. Sonny Stewart and his Skiffle Kings had issued their own version of the song, on Philips, at the end of 1957, although bizarrely Arthur’s publishers, Pan Musik Limited, didn’t get around to copyrighting it until February 1958, shortly after The Imps’ version was released. Despite The Imps replacing the original guitar break with a whistling solo, neither recording was a hit.

The flip side of The Imps’ single, Dim Dumb Blonde, is a horribly-dated slice of 50s sexism, and an odd choice for a bunch of boys not even in their teens to sing. Mind you, the plug side is a song about death, an even more peculiar junior choice. Dim Dumb Blonde was written by Eric Spear, who had spent his career writing music for minor British movies and who would go on to greater fame as the composer of the theme tune to the world’s longest-running soap opera, Coronation Street. Go man!

“The Imps make Tommy Steele seem positively senile, with their shrill unbroken voices,” said reviewer Arthur Reeves in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, “Although it is a pity they do not have the colossal and infectious beat that young Tommy generates.” Apparently, the lads found it hard to find work, as many of the clubs around Manchester refused to put them on because they were so young. I have contacted former Imp Don Ainsworth: should I hear back from him I shall update you all.

Enjoy!

Download Lie HERE



Download Blonde HERE

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