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The Shadows - The Legend
The Shadows, The UK's Premier Instrumental Guitar Group
The Shadows, arguably the UK's most successful instrumental group ever. Of course we all loved the early Cliff Richard singles with Hank Marvin's wonderful guitar backing, so different to anything the UK had produced at that time, however the single Apache opened up a whole new world. The original four; Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan created a revolution in the UK music scene in the early sixties and gave us the 3 guitars and drum line-up which became almost a standard for the emerging group scene. Man Of Mystery, The Savage, The Frightened City, Wonderful Land, Kon Tiki and Guitar Tango. The list of their hits in the first few years of the 1960s helped to define the UK top twenty.
The enduring icon was the lead guitar player, Hank Marvin. His personal image ( the specs) and his use of the tremelo arm on his red Fender Stratocaster became synonomous with the group.
I intend to introduce a short history of The Shadows, for those who do not remember or who are to young to remember. Who were the Shadows? Why were they so successful and why did they have such an impact on me and so many young men who went into the music industry? What became of them and where are they now?
In this lens, I want to try to answer some of these questions and a describe their music and a little of their career.
A pocket guide to their music can be found on Malcom Campbell's web site, their history is told by reference to their music. A wonderful legacy from a wonderfully inspiring group. The guide is now available as a free download from Malcolm.
The Early Days, The Drifters
1958 - 1959
Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch were boyhood friends who moved to London in 1958 to make a mark on the emerging music scene. They formed a band called The Five Chesternuts with Pete Chester. They made one unsuccessful record for Columbia Records but Hank Marvin was eyed up by Cliff Richard's Manager , as a potential guitarist for Cliff's new backing group. Hank agreed as long as Bruce Welch was also taken on, the group was to be known as The Drifters. Ian Samwell and Terry Smart made up the foursome which played on Cliff's single, "Livin', Lovin' Doll".
Ian and Terry were soon replaced by Jet Harris and Tony Meehan and because of a writ from the USA issued by The Drifters, the name of the group was changed to The Shadows. Three singles were issued on Columbia in 1959, although one of these was issued in the USA under the name, The Four Jets.. None achieved any chart success but the instrumentals were released on a live Cliff Richard LP , called simply Cliff. The album was recorded live in front of a studio audience, and on a personal note was the first long playing record that I ever bought. It was an inspiration to me and I still love the raw emotion generated by that live session.
Success For The Shadows
In July 1960, a 7 inch vinyl record was issued by The Shadows on Columbia DB4484. It was to change the world for me, and many other teenage boys in the UK and around the globe. Apache made it to number one in the UK charts and stayed there for 21 weeks. It was also a success in many other countries but in The USA it was covered by a little known guitarist whose version got all the plays.
Unfortunately at that time, America was still a very difficult market for foreign acts. Because of the surf music instrumentals sweeping The USA at that time and groups like The Ventures and The Surfaris, The Shadows found it difficult to break into that market. The rest of the world from Japan to Brazil and Europe to Australia took them to their hearts but they have remained unsuccessful in The USA.
This was followed by more hit singles and eventually in 1961 by a number one, hit album simply entitled "The Shadows". A retrospective review in Total Guitar (2010) covers each of the fourteen tracks, with many of the songs available to listen to. The artwork is shown in the introduction photo.
The Shadows continued to provide backing for Cliff Richard for some time to come, and helped to establish the four-piece group line-up which was so instrumental (no pun intended) in ushering in the groups later in the sixties.
Do The Shadows Mean Anything To You
Are You A Fan Of The Shadows?
Changes In The Shadows' Line-Up
1960 - 1968
The initial successful line-up was:-
Hank Marvin, lead guitar
Bruce Welch, Rhythm Guitar
Jet Harris, Electric Bass
Tony Meehan, Drums
Because of inevitable personality clashes, the early line-up was soon to be changed. First Tony Meehan and then Jet Harris were replaced. First Brian Bennet replaced Tony Meehan and then Brian 'Licorice' Locking replaced Jet Harris. Jet and Tony had a briefly successful ride in the charts, even knocking their old mates off the top spot with "Diamonds" released in January 1963.
The Shadows had a wonderfully successful run in in the UK charts over the next few years, with seven number ones and their singles were guaranteed a top ten spot. They also had considerable chart success with LP and EP records. The rise of the Beatles and the groups eventually had an effect upon The Shadows Chart success but even then they had many records in the top 20 up until 1967. During this time there were one or two more changes, John Rostill had replaced Licorice Locking in 1963 and keyboards were added to the repertoire.
The group split up in late 1968.
A Brief Interlude For The Shadows
1969 - 1970
Alan Hawkshaw, on keyboards, was bought in to replace Bruce Welch when The Shadows were briefly reformed. A critically acclaimed single, "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue" was released without chart success and an album of covers of classic rock songs, "Shades Of Rock". Again this was not a commercial success, it was in a very different style to The Shadows successful hits and it appears that many fans did not like the change. I have to say that I personally found it intoxicating. Some of my favourite songs, done in a different way, an amazing rock album.
Herbie Flowers, Dave Richmond and Brian Hodges were playing bass for the group at this time. A permanent bass player was not taken on board.
Marvin, Welch And Farrar
1971 - 1972
Since 1969, I had got married, we had had our first child, and I had completed an MSc. I had lost track of my heroes. But I remember one morning in early 1971 getting ready for work and listening to the radio, the station was featuring as Album Of The Week, a record entitled, Marvin Welch And Farrar. I couldn't believe it. Here they were, AND singing. The whole album consisted of vocals. I was in heaven. I had always loved their featured vocals, of which they did one or two on each of their previous albums or included in their stage act. This was different however, a close harmony, west coast style. I passed a record store on the way to work and ordered it that morning.
John Farrar was an Austraian guitarist who had had experience with vocal harmony arranging.The three members were augmented by Alan Hawkshaw, Dave Richmond, Clem Cattini (Drums) and Peter Vince ( organ).
Unfortunately, the fans always wanted to hear the old Shadows' hits whenever they performed on stage. This made it very difficult for the new act and bought this phase of their development as musicians to an unfortunately early end. A second album was released, and both had singles taken from them but with no real chart success.
Because of personal problems, Bruce did not appear on the third album, which was released under the title of Marvin and Farrar. These have all been released on CD by the See For Miles label.
The Shadows On Video - A Mixed Bag Of Videos Available From YouTube
A selection of The Shadows Videos from You Tube, lots more chosen because of individual performances in the featured lens referred to above.
The Shadows Reformed
In 1973, The Shadows reformed with a line-up of:- Hank, Bruce, Brian Bennet and John Farrar. Alan Tarney was playing Bass. Another marvellous (instrumental) album, “Rockin’ With Curly Leads”, was released that year and bought them to the attention of the UK’s Eurovision selection team. The Shadows sang the UK’s entry “Let Me Be The One” which came a very close second. The vocal on this song was performed by Bruce, who incidentally had released a solo, vocal single. It was unfortunately not successful, although the haunting flip side is one of my absolute, all-time favourite songs. The first few times I heard this song It almost had me in tears. Very few songs have ever done that.
A succession of minor hits and fabulous albums followed during the seventies and early eighties, but they did not achieve their former stature. By the middle eighties they were producing a string of relatively successful cover albums with songs chosen by focus groups, or at least it seemed that way. Great sound but the originality was lacking.
The Shadows eventually stopped recording and Hank went on to record several solo albums and undertake a number of tours. The old fans were always there, as long as the old hits were served up. Hank did well to add originality to these by using new arrangements and even touring with his son, also an excellent guitarist in his own right. This especially added a spiced up performance of some of these old hits.
The Shadows undertook a final farewell tour to celebrate 50 years, which was so successful in The UK they had to add dates in Europe. The Kings are dead. Long Live The Kings.
A life-long inspiration to me, I have grown old with The Shadows, but what do they mean to you? Everybody of my generation in many countries of the world will know them but they have had less exposure to later generations and in the USA. Has this lens wakened a desire to hear more, perhaps learn more about them. Let me know what you think, please.