Ballantyne and his 'Trend' Discatron Promotion
first written May 2001, with several subsequent updates
|Love Around The World||David Ballantyne||(Columbia DB 7896)|
Record Mirror review: "Very good song, might well hit the charts"
Manager, David Katz, of the Harold Davidson Office, pulled out all the stops to promote Paddington protégé David Ballantyne's second single, but still failed to make him a star. In addition to a six-week period of massive media coverage, Katz shelled-out for promotional displays to be produced in 3-D! A company called Colourgraph 3-D of Weybridge supplied Diacora Process 3-D displays for Love Around the World. (Wonder if you needed red and green specs to appreciate them?)
One huge promotion was the following competition in the 14/05/66 edition of 'Trend' magazine. (Trend was, of course, a Big L advertiser)
WIN ONE OF THE WORLD'S FIRST TRULY PORTABLE RECORD PLAYERS
What a wonderful opportunity to show how way-ahead Trend readers can be! Win one of these portable record players as neat and easy to carry about as a portable radio and you'll be the envy of your crowd.
Up-and-coming singer with the voice and looks that are fast earning him star appeal - David Ballantyne is shown with this marvellous all-British invention. Keep your eyes and your ears on David. That record he's putting into the machine is his latest offering, Love Around The World. Got his eyes on the international set, has David! Winners of this competition will also receive a copy of David's latest record.
What You Have To Do:
Love Around The World is the title of David Ballantyne's new disc. Boys are fickle creatures we know if they can't find what they're looking for in their own backyard, they'll cast their eyes farther afield. Find out whether you know what makes the best girlfriend by putting the qualities listed below* in order of importance. Alongside each quality put the figure 1 against the one you think is most important, 2 against the second, and so on. Then say, in not more than 25 words, whether you think David would make a good boyfriend and why. The six most amusing or original reasons, plus an entry which in the opinion of the judges is best, will be the winners. The Editor's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
The six winners will be notified by letter and will be announced on Radio London. For those who live in or near London, David Ballantyne will himself present the winners with their Discatron machine, during the Radio London show at the Wimbledon Palais. Non-London winners will, in addition to the Discatron, receive either an LP or singles to the value of an LP.
*Needless to say, that aforementioned competition entry coupon is missing, so I am unable to tell all you eager females what qualities were deemed desirable to make you 'the best girlfriend' of 1966. Obviously, I had no idea, as I failed to win the contest, but six lucky girls did and we'd love to hear their 'amusing' suggestions as to why they thought David would make a good boyfriend.
Did you successful winners have a great time at the Wimbledon Palais, or did you all end-up sad Cinderellas, disqualified from going to the ball for having the temerity to be resident outside London? Most important of all, girls, did your Discatron make you 'way-ahead' and 'the envy of your crowd' as advertised, and have you still got your Discatron? In which case you must still be 'way-ahead' and 'the envy of your crowd' a quarter-century later! 'This marvellous all-British invention', which sadly proved not to be the smash-success of the Sixties, must be worth a few bob these days. You can see great pictures of a real-life, brand-new Discatron here!
Ballantyne's first single, I Can't Express It, had spent four weeks in the Fab earlier in '66, out-performing Bowie's Can't Help Thinking About Me, which charted around the same time January/February. I Can't Express It was also a Caroline Sure Shot, and David promoted it with a personal appearance on kids' TV show 5 o'clock Club - presumably meeting hosts Muriel Young and superstar owl Ollie Beak!
A piece of Anorak supertrivia is that in the first issue of Beatwave magazine, Dave Dennis (#12) is pictured wearing a baseball cap bearing David Ballantyne's name.
David went on to become a member of Just Plain Jones, a group which also included schoolchum Mike Read. One single, Crazy Crazy, was issued on CBS in 1971. In '72, a recording aimed to assist the charity Shelter with its campaign for the homeless was issued on Regal Zonophone. Titled Roof Above Our Head, it was credited to David Ballantyne and Solitude.
Just Plain Jones evolved into Saturday, then Esprit de Corps under which name two singles were issued on the Jam label in '73 and '74. One of the Esprit de Corps singles, If (Would It Turn Out Wrong) was on a compilation album (Rubble volume 14) and CD (Rubble volume 8), originally issued on the Bam Caruso label belonging to Phil Smee. The compilation also contained probably the second-most-popular Big L 97 track after Craise 'Frinton' Kirk, Jimmy Webb's first band Strawberry Children's Love Years Coming.Some of the Ballantyne information was gleaned from Vernon Joynston's Tapestry of Delights.
Update, December 2001
'The REAL David Ballantyne is alive and well and living in North Carolina'!
Having come across our Discatron man on the internet, we sent David a knee-mail and received the following reply:
"What a lovely surprise to hear from you just before Christmas!
I DO remember the Knees Club. It was one of those flowerings of
youthful innocence and silliness which couldn't really happen
anywhere else except England.
Your assumption about Muriel Young was absolutely right, but
it wasn't Ollie Beak; it was Pussy Cat Willum!".
As of June 2020, David has an active Facebook Page.
I've just been reading through your website - had a great time - thanks :)
I was particularly interested in your comments about Bowie, at the Target Club in High Wycombe. This date is previously undocumented. I'm trying to collate as much information for my website about Bowie. I know Bowie did several "promotional" visits around this period and in March '66, he made 10 appearances. I've managed to track down a few, but it's hard work filling in all the gaps. Some were just record shop promotional visits. I'm getting there slowly but surely.
I will email David and ask him if he remembers being Knees Club member #127 - his memory is brilliant at times.
Cheers and many thanks, Paul Kinder
I'm convinced that the appearance at the Target Club on Friday, March 18th
1966, was purely a promotional visit, presumably to plug Bowie's
second single, Do Anything You Say and Ballantyne's
Love Around the World, both of which were to appear as Big L climbers
a couple of weeks later, on April 3rd. For some reason, Bowie's record was
never to enter the Fab Forty, while Ballantyne's hit the dizzy heights of
Ballantyne had previously reached number 5 in the Fab Forty of February 13th, with I Can't Express It (which was also a Caroline 'Hot Shot') while Can't Help Thinking About Me had peaked at number 14 on Feb 20th. I recall not having sufficient pocket money at the time to buy Can't Help Thinking About Me, and later spent years searching for and eventually finding, a secondhand copy.
The Co-op Memorial Hall where the Target Club was based, used to be in Paul's Row, a part of High Wycombe long-since demolished. As I recall, the hall was not huge. It was in one of those nice old buildings that formed the heart of a town. You know, the ones that trendy Sixties architects ripped out in their hundreds and replaced them with soulless concrete edifices. It's likely the Target Club was merely a disco and that there wasn't really room on the small stage to accommodate a band. It's since occurred to me that I once appeared on that stage in a talent contest as a kid. Oo-er, I've appeared on the same stage as Bowie! It was funny at the time, going into the 'Target Club', because I had attended functions in that old hall countless times throughout my childhood. Now here it was with groovy lights (and probably oil slides), DJs and music.
If memory serves, Earl Richmond introduced the two Davids on stage and conducted interviews with them. I don't recall either of them miming to their records, although this tended to be the usual thing for those sort of promotions. That was certainly the case with the regular Radio London Club Saturday afternoons at the Marquee in Wardour Street. I was convinced that not all of the acts there did mime. They just did a short interview with the DJ and their record was played while they signed autographs. However, Gordon Sheppard, the Big L Promotions Manager contacted me and assured me that all of the acts who appeared did mime to their records.
After the two Davids chatted to Earl, they came off stage and signed autographs. I do recall very clearly that nobody else apart from myself and my friend and Knees Club Official, Lynn was in the slightest bit interested in obtaining their autographs. They may have been in the Fab Forty, but we did not have to fight anyone off to get near them! That said, the place was not exactly crowded and this was the Target's opening night. It's very likely that the main reason Lynn and I had gone there was because there was the strong Radio London connection. To us, Bowie and Ballantyne, having been in the Fab Forty, were huge stars,. Even better, they were accompanied by a Big L DJ, although I don't believe Earl's actual DJ-ing that evening extended beyond introducing his guests.
My memory is good, but not that good. It was certainly only a promotional visit. Although I did a number of Radio London promos with Bowie, I never shared a 'live' stage with him. More's the pity. I always thought he was a very charismatic performer, even in the days of the beehive hairdo and the outrageously large flares made of lining material more like a flamenco dancer's skirt than a pair of trousers.
If we did all travel together with Earl Richmond, then I have drawn a complete blank on the fine details of the travel arrangements. I remember that Earl Richmond came to my place (in Ealing) a couple of times, but I don't remember Bowie ever coming there. (He had a flat in Pimlico at the time.) If he had done, my sister Celia, who later married Julian Lloyd Webber, would have just about expired. She thought Bowie was the bee's knees (to use an expression!)
John 'Ego' Eager was the drummer in The Buzz, who were Bowie's backing band at the time, so the others in the band surely must have been with him? Earl Richmond was resonsible for naming them The Buzz. Members were: David Bowie (vocals, guitar, saxophone), John 'Hutch' Hutchinson (guitar), Derek 'Dek' Fearnley (bass guitar), John 'Ego' Eager (drums) and Derek 'Chow' Boyes (keyboards).
The Buzz certainly would not have been with him on a promo. I remember the drummer, who was known as 'Ego' and had a very posh voice.
(Back to Mary)
Had the other members of the Buzz been present, I'm sure they would have been signed up as Knees Club members too!
The address given for Bowie and Eager was 79A Warwick Square, Victoria. Ballantyne's was 2 Chelsea Embankment, SW3.
(Left) Paul Lewis, who runs Wycombe Gigs Website, discovered, enhanced and colourised the Bucks Free Press advert for the Target Club, which tells us quite a lot. Lynn and I attended the opening night gig – with a reduced admission price of 5/-(25p) and it cost 2/– (10p) to become a club member. Neither of the acts were major attractions at the time; David Ballantyne's name is not even on the advert and only one member of the Buzz attended. This does not bode well for a club opening night. I have never encountered anyone else who attended the Target Club.
Although a number of future attractions are promoted, how many of the bands actually appeared, is unknown. As I have mentioned above, the stage at the venue was very small to be accommodating a live band. I believe the Target Club venture was pretty short-lived and existed for maybe a matter of weeks. I can find nothing about the organisers, Elmdown Promotions.
Such a venture might have been expected to have been successful, being right in the middle of Wycombe, so who knows what went wrong. Probably, the atmosphere of the Co-op Memorial Hall was never right for a club? (DJ Patti Seeger, are you still around? We'd love to hear from you )
I mentioned to Paul that Big L jock John 'Purpleknees' Edward (real name John Edward Flux) had been a one-time member of Bowie's r 'n' b group, the Manish Boys.
John Edward - what a small world! I've been in regular contact with him about a new version of an old song he's done that he wanted Bowie to listen to and possibly sing on. I also gave him the address to post his CD to. I'm supposed to be doing an interview with John for my website or the new magazine I'm working on.
A photo of two ex-Manish Boys, 'Purpleknees' Edward and Woolf Byrne taken in 2001, can be found here. Another, taken in 2002, is here. They were DJs together on Radio City, before John joined Radio London. Both remain musicians and Woolf is an actor who has been known to appear as a senior police officer in episodes of ITV's The Bill and Never Mind the Buzzcocks (Jan 03).
Many thanks to David and Paul for their input and to Paul Lewis for the BFP advert.
We heard from Gordon Sheppard, who was the Promotions Manager of Big L (Radlon Sales Ltd) 17 Curzon Street London W1, throughout the station's life, from 1964 till the end in '67, and the man responsible for running the Radio London Club afternoons. Gordon has pages of memories and personal photos elsewhere in the Big L scrapbook, but his comments regarding Bowie at the Marquee are as follows:
In addition to other Radio London promotions, I ran the Marquee Big L Saturday Club. David Bowie's band was the resident live act at the Marquee on Saturday afternoons. I can claim that I was one of the very first to recognise David's superb talent. He was a nice, bright young lad, a great singer and performer, and we liked him a lot. Big L didn't believe in paying its artists big performance fees; it promoted them on-air instead. David Bowie used to play for me for £15 a gig. I wonder if he remembers me now?
David opened the Big L show (live) and he closed the show with a full half-hour live performance each week. On one occasion, he quickly packed up, as we all did, to shoot off to Wimbledon Palais to perform there as well in the Big L Saturday Night Out. Every artist appearing at the Big L Saturday Club at the Marquee, and the shows at Wimbledon Palais, Greenford Middlesex, Lowestoft and Ramsgate, mimed to their records and all signed autographs. I personally introduced every artist and ensured that they carried out this task. No one ever let me down.
Update, July 2007
We heard from John 'Ego' Eager, Knees Club Member 128
I came across my Knees Club membership card yesterday whilst having a sort out. Wondering if there was anything on the internet about it, I found your site.
Amazing—you must live and breathe Radio London. I (think) I do very vaguely remember your coming up to me and signing me up. Over 40 years ago!
I am still playing in and around Herts and Bucks . You can't stop an old rocker!!
Nice to talk to you
John "Ego" Eager
(Nobody for the last 30 yrs has called me that—I am always Archie Eager- strange the way you pick up these names!!)