Mary Payne relates
A glance at any Big
L Fab Forty, Caroline Countdown of Sound or City Sixty reveals that offshore radio listings bore little resemblance
to UK's sales-based charts. Many frequently-played records on the
pirate stations, were hits as far as the listeners were concerned, but never became bestsellers. It's these lesser-known releases, the ones nobody plays
anymore, that always bring back the fondest memories of those much-loved stations. The immense popularity of Oldies Project speaks for itself and is reflected in the comments in its guestbook. Notice too, how
many requests on Radio Two's Saturday morning show Sounds of the Sixties contain messages reiterating
the sentiment that, "This was played regularly on the pirate stations,
but I haven't heard it since".
During the first Big L 28-day commemorative broadcast in 1997, the aim was to include as many songs as possible from the Fab Forties of the 1967 Summer of Love. Craise Finton Kirk by Johnnie (sic) Young had been on the Radio London playlist for the final four weeks of the station's life and it happened to be a track that I'd searched for without success for many years. It was wonderful to hear it again and it soon became clear that the single was on many people's 'wanted' list. It proved to be one of the most popular tracks featured on Big L '97 (along with Strawberry Children's Love Years Coming and Johnny Rivers' Poor Side of Town.** )
So popular did Craise Finton
Kirk become, that over the course of subsequent offshore radio recreations, it evolved into
a Big L anthem and was rechristened Craise FRINTON
Kirk, in honour of the original anchorage of the Radio London ship, Galaxy, three miles off the coast of Frinton-on-Sea, Essex. The RSL broadcasts reached only a limited number of listeners, but the single proved
a huge favourite once again, when rediscovered by a new and much larger audience of Sixties music
lovers, during the short Pirate
BBC Essex broadcasts of 2004, 2007 and 2009. It became one of the most-requested tracks of all three years.
Each of the Radio London DJs had a weekly 'climber' – a disc touted as his pick for imminent chart stardom, although the records selected from the pile of new releases were not necessarily self-chosen. We do not know if Willy Walker (left) chose Craise Finton Kirk as his climber for w/c 23/07/67, or whether the disc was assigned to him. The single entered the Fab Forty at #31 on 30/07/67, rising the following week to #27, just as Big L was forced to close down. The late Mike Ahern cited Craise Finton Kirk as being on Caroline's 'pay-for-play' list – records that usually appeared in the lower end of the Countdown of Sound.
Considering how fondly the record
is remembered for a song heard on the radio for only a matter of weeks, over
40 years ago, brings the realisation of what a massive hit it could have been
in the UK, had all the offshore stations remained on the air to play it. What nobody appreciated at the time, was that Craise
Finton Kirk was written by the Bee Gees, that the singer was their friend, who was already a huge
star Down Under and that the Gibb brothers also sang backing vocals on the single. The Bee Gees had arrived in England only five months earlier, but had already enjoyed two hits in their own right New York Mining Disaster and To Love Somebody, while their songwriting skills were fast becoming in demand for other artists.
This information was unearthed only when our good friend and Down Under Anorak Correspondent, John Preston, notified me of the existence of the Australian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. John did this because one of its inductees is none other than ex-Caroline, Radio England and Britain Radio DJ, Colin Nicol. When I visited the site to view Colin's entry, (a very interesting and worthwhile read) I noticed that another Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee was a Johnny Young. Could this possibly be..? As soon as I read Johnny's entry and saw mention of his having recorded Craise Finton Kirk, I knew that, spelling differences aside, this was our man!
Born John de Jong in Indonesia in 1945, Johnny Young grew up in Western Australia. His first job was as a trainee DJ on Perth Radio, and he began singing with local band, the Nomads. Johnny's first two singles were issued in 1965. In 1966, he scored huge chart success with the double A-side, Step Back/Cara Lyn (Cara Lyn was an Easybeats' song), which stayed at #1 for several weeks. This was followed by a chart-topping EP, Let It Be Me. He enjoyed several other hits in Oz before travelling to London in 1967, where he recorded Barry Gibb tracks, including Craise Finton Kirk and Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You both songs from on the Bee Gees' First album (The full title on the album, but not on the Johnny Young single, is Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy Of Arts). At that time, the Bee Gees' line-up was: Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb, Vince Melouney and Colin Petersen. Their own reading of the song could scarcely be more different to Johnny Young's, in fact one of the Bee Gees' fan sites describes the track as 'sounding as if it was recorded at the turn of the century' presumably meaning around 1900. Polydor did not issue the Bee Gees' own version as a single.
(Right) The Bee Gees, Mark 1
A clip of a TV interview with Johnny, posted on youtube, explains what the song was all about. Craise Finton Kirk was a real person - an eccentric Scotsman who used to parade up and down London's Oxford Street. He mumbled incomprehensibly as he made a meagre living by carrying sandwich boards, advertising passport photography.
Newly-arrived in London, the Bee Gees had asked him for directions, but found themselves unable to understand a word he said. A fellow sandwich board carrier told them that the mystery man's unusual name was Craise Finton Kirk and the Gibb brothers felt a song coming on! Apparently, the sandwich board star did know that he had been immortalised in song, as he had posed for publicity shots with Johnny! Where the Royal Academy of Arts part of the song title comes in is not discussed in the interview, but we might hazard a guess that Craise Finton Kirk's sandwich boards bore the name as part of the advertisement.
Johnny also comments ruefully on how the loss of offshore radio had adversely affected his budding career in the UK.
Johnny's take on Craise
Finton Kirk may have achieved only offshore chart action in the UK,
but a month after the closure of all our sea-based stations with the exception
of Caroline, the single hit #14 in Melbourne and #29 in Sydney.
Some confusion in the UK over the spelling of Johnny's name resulted in him being allocated two separate entries in the Record Collector Rare Record Price Guide, as both Johnny and 'Johnnie' Young. The British-recorded Craise Finton Kirk and its follow-up, Every Christian Lionhearted Man were both issued in the UK (not surprisingly) on Polydor, the same label as the Bee Gees.
Both came out in 1967 with the artist's
name spelt 'Johnnie'. However, two of the previous Oz hits, the 1966 smash
Step Back/Cara Lyn and 1967 success, Lady,
were also released in the UK in '67 on Decca, with a further single issued in
'68 on RCA. Step Back was Fab 40 climber on January 22nd 67. A possible explanation for the variation of the name-spelling could
be that the contractual complexities of two record companies both wanting to release
Johnny Young singles simultaneously.
In 1969, Johnny began carving a successful songwriting career. As well as a number of hits for Oz recording artists, he penned Here Comes the Star for Herman's Hermits. During the Seventies and Eighties, Johnny found further fame as the compere of his own TV talent show called 'Young Talent Time', which launched the careers of many youthful stars, including Tina Arena and Danni Minogue.
(Left) Trendy in paisley. For all we know, Paisley might have been Mr Craise Finton Kirk's home town.
Johnny returned to Perth in December 2000, to take over the breakfast shift on Curtin Radio 927. After a successful three-week stint, he took a break during which time the slot was covered by John Paul Young (another singer called Young who DID make the UK charts in 1978 with Love Is In the Air), but from Jan 29th, 2001, Johnny became a permanent fixture on the show.
For chart aficionados, John Preston discovered a superb site, the Oz Net Music Chart which listed the #1 hits for Oz, UK and the US for each week of each year from 1956 to present. In 1966, Johnny Young can be found holding the top Oz position for five weeks from Oct 22nd to Nov 19th with the double A-side Step Back/Cara Lyn. He then knocked himself off the #1 spot with his Let It Be Me EP, which remained at the top till Dec 10th when he was ousted by the Easybeats' Friday On My Mind. The Oz Net Music Chart webmaster took the trouble to compile a 1966 Top Thirty, based on chart performances in all three countries. Johnny Young holds position #22 with Step Back/Cara Lyn, beating both the Supremes' You Can't Hurry Love, (#25) and the Monkees' I'm A Believer (#29).
WEBMASTER NOTES and LINKS: (NB unfortunately, many links originally appearing in this article have had to be removed because the websites no longer exist)
A clip from the German programme
Beat Club shows Dave Lee Travis introducing Johnny Young miming
to Craise Finton Kirk. Johnny is followed
immediately by the Bee Gees themselves at number one with
Massachusetts! Did anyone at the Beat Club realise
that the Bee Gees sang on both recordings?
Read a full biography of Johnny Young and other Australian FF artists Lynne Randell and Normie Rowe on milesago.com, 'The #1 website for Australasian music and popular culture 1964-1975'.
A transcript of an ABC TV interview with Johnny is here
Chart info came from poparchives.com.au "The main idea of the site is to trace the original versions of songs recorded by Australian artists, mostly from the 50s, 60s or 70s."
The compilation CD Step Back With Johnny Young and Kompany contains all Johnny's singles, including his Fab 40 climber from January 22nd 67, Step Back. The album is available as MP3 downloads from Amazon.
** A nice bit of Anorak trivia: On Dec 12th 1966, while Johnny occupied #1 in Oz with Step Back, the US #1 was Johnny Rivers' Poor Side of Town. Two Big L favourites that never made it in the UK were hitting the big time elsewhere.
2CH Compilation (added 12/03/2010)
Graham Hall writes:
I'm a regular visitor to the site and anything to do with the good old days of the offshore era interests me. The company I work for recently took on a new member of staff, and during a quiet time at a recent trade show, the subject got round to music, and the pirates. Eric is quite a few years younger than me, but he is from Australia, so I thought, I wonder if he knows of Johnny Young? Eric had a vague recollection of the name, and I told him all about Big L, and all the listeners who would like to purchase Craise Finton Kirk, and he said he would do a bit of investigative work for me. As you will see from his note below, he's found it on a triple CD. Perhaps you would like to put the details on your site, as I'm sure many of the site viewers would want to purchase, best wishes, Graham.
I had a look at the YouTube clip. Quite easy to see why this was a popular song at the time as it is a very catchy tune, although I did laugh at the interview at the end. I don’t think the TV presenter appreciated some of the political statements Johnny chose to make regarding the BBC’s grip on the TV and music industry in England... and then he tried to give a plug to his airline! Classic live television.
I have had a quick look on the websites of a couple of music retailers in Australia and I have found a CD called Easy Listening Hits, a 3CD compilation complied by Sydney-based radio station 2CH. Craise Finton Kirk just happens to be listed as Track 18 on Disc 2. Even better, you are able to buy this CD online
Many thanks to both Graham and Eric. The compilation CD Step Back With Johnny Young and Kompany contains all Johnny's singles, including his Fab 40 climber from January 22nd 67, Step Back. The album is available as MP3 downloads from Amazon.
Crackle and Pop
John Preston adds:
My name is Sean Keppie and I live in Australia. I think yours is a great site to relive radio days.
I grew up in the late 1970's early 1980's and have been on air here. I still love the sound of the big AM stations that play around South East Queensland. The old songs and the big beat of AM will never be replaced.
I ran an oldies show of 50's & 60's songs for some time on FM and one of our most requested songs was Craise Frinton Kirk. (I only finished on the show 16 months ago). I was surprised when I saw your site today with the song being a real sizzler on the Big L. On my show we never used the computer and I played the original 45's on some occasions, so naturally when Craise Frinton Kirk was requested out came the real record. The listeners love the crackle and the pops on these songs!
In Queensland we get to hear Graham Webb every day on the 88fm frequencies that he broadcasts on. When I started in radio in 1983 the big station (before FM) was Stereo 10. It was an AM Stereo Station on 1008 khz that covered a huge area of South East Queensland. You could drive from Byron Bay to Gympie, a distance of about 300km, and never lose the signal. The station was originally called 4IP, Now it is called 4TAB, a racing station. Due to a format change from hot top 40 to 'lite and easy', everybody stopped listening and eventually the FMers took the lead, thus now they run the races. Everybody who was a teenager from 1960s to 1989 remembers Stereo 10.
One of the successes of the sound was the PAMS jingles. Its sister stations 2SM & 3XY had similar jingles. If you would like to hear them go to www.radioatwork.com.au (sadly this site was no longer there as of April 2006) then click onto the jingle shrine page and you will see the whole list of Australian Radio Stations old PAMS jingles that you can listen to.
Thanks for a great site. Regards, Sean Keppie
Russ Tattersall from New Zealand adds a new snippet of info:
Interesting to read Sean's feedback and his comments on Stereo 10. Well, that was the station I started on back in the eighties when I came here from the UK! The jingles were great, and I enjoyed them almost as much as the music, because it reminded me of Big L! They used a number of PAMS packages and it made the station sound very good. A shame they had to go, the top station on FM now sounds a lot like Stereo 10 used to sound.
Hello from New Zealand!
Whilst roaming around the Net, I came upon your feature about Craise Finton Kirk, much to my pleasure. At the time of its release, I was selling records in my birthplace, Tasmania. Johnny Young and his manager Carol Westaway had done an in-store promotion at our record bar in 1966 when he was touring to promote Step back/Cara-Lyn. The latter, a Feldman, Gotterher, Goldstein original from The Strangeloves if I remember correctly. Johnny's releases were on Martin Clark's CLARION label in Australia, distributed through Festival Records. I have always been under the impression that the Bee Gees sang backup on his UK material. I felt too that Robert Stigwood had a hands-on role in production. I hope you don't mind me interloping but even after all these years the music and the sixties still get me going much to my Pauline's chagrin.
Regards, Russ Tattersall.
There's no such thing
as 'interloping' on the Radio London site, Russ. Everyone is welcome
that's the Big L Family!
The Strangeloves' own version of Cara-Lin, on the Bang record label (Bang 508) was #39 in the US charts in Oct 1965. The cover versions spelt 'Lin' differently, for some reason.
In a 3-part BBC Radio Two documentary about the Bee Gees, (2000) nothing was mentioned of the Johnny Young collaboration.
In the February issue of online newsletter, The Radio Wave (Issue #14) editor Ian MacRae wrote about the sad loss felt in Australia following the untimely death of Maurice Gibb in January 03, and told how a local council has set up a website (sadly the site is no longer there as of April 2006) to document the Gibb brothers' early recording career which centered around the St Claire recording studio, a former butcher's shop storeroom in Hurstville.
Tony Allen from Sydney:
Following the sad death of Maurice Gibb, Johnny Young was one of his friends interviewed on Australian TV. He described how the Bee Gees looked after him during his time in London. One of the high points was when Maurice introduced him to John Lennon, describing Johnny as one of Australia's top performers. John responded with a single grunt of acknowledgement.... Oh well, at least Johnny got to see John Lennon.