Friday, 15 May 2015

If You Go Down To the Woods Today

Today’s brace of badness comes from veteran British rock ‘n’ roller Jackie Lynton – who same of you may know through his association with Status Quo – still rocking and rolling today after more than 55 years in the business.

Born John Bertram Lynton in Shepperton, Middlesex in 1940 Jackie first began singing in his church choir. However he was bitten by the rock ‘n’ roll bug early on – Elvis was a huge influence – and, after performing Blue Suede Shoes at a talent show he and his band (originally known the Plect-Tones, before changing their name to the Teenbeats) started to attract attention. In no time at all he was playing at the famous of rival agents: consequently, by the time he got around to establishing a residency at 2 I’s Coffee Bar in Soho: proprietor Tom Littlewood subsequently became Jackie’s first professional manager.

Under Littlewood’s guidance Jackie graduated to the Larry Parnes package tour circuit where he worked alongside Billy Fury, Vince Taylor & the Playboys, Wee Willie Harris, Terry Dene, Lance Fortune, Screaming Lord Sutch & His Savages (Jackie tells a story of how he and Sutch almost jumped into the Serpentine for a publicity stunt...until they both realised that neither of them could swim), John Leyton, Freddie Starr & the Midnighters and others. Soon after Littlewood managed to score a recording deal with Pye’s new Piccadilly label.

His first disc – a version of the Judy Garland showstopper Over The Rainbow - was an odd choice and it failed to chart, although it did pick up some decent reviews. Oddly, Lonnie Donegan also covered the song around the same time. Hailed by New Musical Express as ‘Most Promising Newcomer’, Jackie was widely tipped to make it big – but never quite did. The follow up, Wishful Thinking was a silly song with a ridiculous cha-cha-cha arrangement that – quite rightly – also failed to hit the charts. Then came a rocking version of the classic All Of Me, which marked the recording debut of blues guitarist Albert Lee.  The single was well reviewed, but despite selling steadily it again missed the charts. Similarly I Believe also failed to find an audience.

It was at this point that Jackie’s career took a bizarre twist: his next single – and the first of today’s tracks - was an insane version of the children’s song The Teddy Bears' Picnic. An utterly ridiculous record, it however went on to become Jackie’s best selling single and was the closest he came to scoring a bone fide chart hit. But, like all of the singles that preceded it, The Teddy Bears' Picnic also proved unsuccessful.

One of the many Brit rockers to find an audience in Hamburg, he recorded 16 tracks in the city in just one day in 1964, although these were released credited to Boots Wellington & His Rubber Band, as he was still under contract to Pye/Piccadilly. After a couple more releases, including decent covers of Chuck Berry and Beatles compositions, Jackie left Piccadilly records. The sessions he had performed on had been graced by some of the biggest names of the early 60s rock scene - Big Jim Sullivan, Jimmy Page (who played on Jackie’s version of the Lennon-McCartney song Little Child), Herbie Flowers, Clem Cattini and Albert Lee among them. There was even talk of him forming a band with the young Ritchie Blackmore as early as 1962: apparently the pair were to be mentored by legendary producer Kim Fowley. 

He issued one last single on Piccadilly, Laura, before he left the music scene for a while. However the stage still beckoned and, in 1965, he cut a number of independently-produced sides with Ray Horricks (who had produced Teddy Bears' Picnic) – two of which turned up on a Decca single (and one of which provides our next audio disaster) Three Blind Mice/Corrina Corrina – easily one of the most peculiar singles released by one of the vanguards of the first wave of British rock ‘n’ roll, a freakbeat nursery rhyme which never stood a chance of charting in the UK. An utterly loopy record, I can’t but wonder if David Byrne was channelling Jackie when he recorded his vocal for Talking Heads’ brilliant Blind.

Jackie went on to cut three singles for Columbia, all produced by Mark Wirtz – famous for his compositions A Touch of Velvet, A Sting of Brass and Excerpt From a Teenage Opera – but again he failed to score that elusive hit which would have finally taken him into the big time. With little in the way of steady income from his recordings Jackie maintained a day job, working as a painter and decorator (he worked on John Lennon’s Weybridge mansion) whilst gigging at weekends and cutting the occasional disc. During the 70s he became a member of Savoy Brown (and finally charted – in the US at least – with the album Jack the Toad) and, in 1974, finally issued his first full-length solo album The Jackie Lynton Album, which included his live favourite The Hedgehog Song.

He spent a few years dabbling in the pop ballad field: he recorded a few sides for European release (his band The People issued a 45 on the Spanish label Explosion), recorded the vocals for an Ennio Morricone song The Ballad of Hank McCain – which featured in the movie The Untouchables - for the Italian market and even made demos for smug repeat offender Mike ‘Ukip Calypso’ Read. Then, in 1978, Status Quo scored a massive hit with Again And Again, co-written by Jackie and Quo’s Rick Parfitt (Lynton had appeared as MC on the previous year’s Quo Live). The following year he assembled a host of old friends - including Parfitt, Clem Clemson, Chas and Dave and several members of Manfred Mann's Earth Band - to record his second solo album, No Axe To Grind. Since then he’s continued to gig and record (although he has now retired from painting and decorating), enjoying several successful appearances at the Reading Rock Festival and as a guest of The Quo. Jackie issued his most recent album - All's Fair in Love and Rock 'n Roll - in 2011.


1 comment:

  1. Jackie lets all hang out at the end of "Three Blind Mice" - "totally blind, totally blind". Ignoring the vocals, that is one swinging arrangement by the backing band.


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