For the first years of the swinging 60s, the unique sound of The Shadows held sway over the airways, a hit factory that was responsible for such inimitable instrumental hits as "FBI", "Kon Tiki", "The Savage", "Wonderful Land", "Dance On", "Foot Tapper", singles which effortlessly recall an era. The Shadows dominated the hit parade, clocking up more weeks on the charts than The Rolling Stones, The Beegees, The Who... The most successful British group of all time apart from The Beatles. As a testament to The Shadows influence, one of the earlier Beatle compositions and the only John Lennon/George Harrison collaboration was an instrumental entitled "Cry For A Shadow".
A generation grew up admiring the look and sound of The Shadows - Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Queen's Brian May and Roger Taylor and Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, are only some of the home grown superstars who have testified to The Shadows influence. While in Toronto, a teenage Neil Young was to later admit that hearing Hank Marvin's guitar was his first formative musical experience.
The history of The Shadows is also the history of British pop. While Punk sent the walls of the rock establishment crumbling during 1977, the album which held the No 1 slot for six weeks during those turbulent 12 months was The Shadows 20 Golden Greats!
Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch had come down to London in 1958 when Skiffle was the thing. Along with Bassist Jet Harris and drummer Tony Meehan, they fell in behind a teenage singer called Cliff Richard who was causing quite a storm! First as "The Drifters", then from 1959 on as The Shadows, they backed Cliff on all his biggest hits, as well as furthering their own extraordinary career.
Drummer Brian Bennett joined the group in October 1961 and since then Hank, Bruce and Brian have "danced on" together for over 30 years. It was that distinctive Shadows sound that encapsulated the time, a fact which the makers of the film Scandal recognised when they used The Shadows' Apache on the film's soundtrack. Similarly Phil Collins, who testified to Brian Bennett's inspiration to him as a drummer, ensured that room was found for The Shadows' Atlantis on the soundtrack of his film Buster.
They were the first British rock group to make any real impact - a whole generation swung their tennis rackets in unison practising "The Shadows Step" - before thousands of bedroom mirrors; admirers of The Shadows coveted Jet Harris' unique Framus Bass and Hank Marvin's distinctive red Fender Stratocaster. For years, The Shadows simply were British pop.
On this album some of the greatest musicians in the world pay homage to the music that for most was the defining experience which led to them first picking up the guitar. Above all this collection shows the genune love and affection which all the contributors feel for The Shadows and their music.
"I remember an evening in 1959/60. I was slightly wet, walking home in the rain from a rehearsal with the Confederates. The band was led by Pete Wilson, an acne plagued boy, tall and highly strung, not a great talent at guitar but charming and energetic, we rehearsed at his home in East Acton every week. I was carrying my guitar, and maybe an amplifier - the walk was about four miles and I would usually be tired by this time. On this occasion I was ebullient and inspired. In my head, for the whole walk, rang the sound of a song I had heard on the radio for a few weeks, which Pete Wilson had played at the practice - it was Apache by The Shadows. At that time, on that evening, I had no idea what the title was, or even very much about the band that had recorded it. A strange fact, because for years I had been playing rhythm guitar in Pete Wilson's band, and Pete Wilson was Hank Marvin's greatest living fan. His dream was to own a Fender Stratocaster, a pink one, like Hank's and to front a group playing Shadows material. It was a narrow brief, but it was music and I enjoyed playing with him especally as my friend John Entwistle was on bass. The song I heard seemed to embody everything that was prerequisite in a pop song. The fact that I could actually remember every single note of the melody, the shape and the haunting quality of the song after a few listens speaks volumes for its perfection in that medium. But what was keeping me so high on my toes, on this long, damp, walk home, was the sound that rung in my head. The Shadows version of Apache had such a perfect sound.
As I arrived home, to a room without a record player at that time, me and my guitar started to face the future with a new feeling. I felt incredibly young even at fifteen; immature I probably was but I mean young at heart. The Shadows' existence elevated me, intimidated me, but somehow being able to hear their sound in my head so completely made me feel that I could aspire to create music of my own and to move on. Three or four years later, again with Pete Wilson's help, I did create my own music when we recorced my first song "It Was You", at Barry Gray's home studio. Barry was a friend of Pete's father. We went to help Pete to live out his fantasy of sounding like Hank on record. By this time he had his beloved Stratocaster, the most important detail about them being not the sound or the shape, but the fact that the screws in the scratchplate were American type Philips screws. These screws are common in Europe now but in the early 60's they were an American trademark, a mystery, a wonder. Absurd? Of couse not. So many young musicians dream about owning a particular musical instrument or article of clothing sported by their heroes, today it is spikey hairdos and a computer synthesiser, then it was a Fender guitar with cross head screws.
I know my story must be roughly the same as dozens of other musicians who took up the guitar post-skiffle in the late 50's. Some of them might have seen The Shadows play live, even met them, I am glad I didn't. The Shadows will always be a living myth to me - a legend - even though I can now prop up the bar with anyone of them - talk music, family, religion. They are frozen in my mind as one of the greatest passions of my life, one I have not after 30 years come close to outliving."
Copyright, Pete Townshend/Eel Pie Publishing Ltd. April 1983
Sleeve design: Abrahams Pants, London
Look out for these others great releases from Pangaea:
Tribute To The Ventures Twang! Volume 2
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This compilation (P) & (C) 1996
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