'The Bognor Beat Scene' - "C'est Seulement Rock et Croissant"

The South Coast Beat Scene of the 1960s by Mike Read
ISBN 1-903953-14-6
Radio London Review by Mary Payne

Musician and DJ Mike Read is to be congratulated on producing a wonderful social history time-capsule. Many Sixties' bands began their musical careers well before the start of the decade and the book illustrates how the mid-Fifties advent of a new race of humans known as 'teenagers' affected one small area of England with their youth culture.

The title might give the impression that this tome is of limited appeal, telling the tale of what local rags of the time eagerly dubbed 'The Bognor Beat Scene' and 'The Hove Sound'. However, the fact that many of the bands remained unknown outside of that area soon becomes irrelevant. The south coast music scene's story of the slow shift from skiffle to psychedelia could well apply to any part of the country.

A smattering of scruffy posters and dog-eared flyers throughout the pages captures the essence of the times while evoking that 'archive smell' of yellowing paper. Mike also includes a marvellous selection of photographs, many of them rescued from personal collections, where innumerable clusters of musicians try desperately to look moody and seductive for the camera.

As the music changes, the band names are updated and fashion dictates the current 'stage uniform', not to mention the frantic attempts on the part of managers to make 'their boys' stand out from the crowd.

In 1959, Deke Arlon and the Tremors, with hair styled in the obligatory DA, wear matching Mum-produced sweaters. In the early Sixties, The Eggheads briefly (and uncomfortably) sport fake bald pates; much later in the decade they pose for David Bailey as the trendy, paisley-shirted Aztecs. On the roof of EMI in 1965, The Noblemen attempt to convey someone's image of 'nobility', via buckled shoes and frilly shirts, with waistcoats enhanced by a 'heraldic crest'. The Untamed find themselves ill-advisedly forced by their manager to don doublet and hose to become (thankfully briefly) The Elizabethans.

(Front cover photograph: Relieved to be back in the second Elizabethan Age, Linsey Muir of the Untamed. Click on book jacket to purchase)

Mike has unearthed so many great stories. His own group, Amber, which he formed in 1967, were allowed to live at the home of Julie Andrews' mother, Barbara, rehearsing in the house's ballroom! There's Deke Arlon, the singer who starred in the wobbly ITV soap, 'Crossroads' as... a pop singer. And who could fail to relate to the tale of Tim Rice having his name changed via the columns of a typically-inaccurate local paper, to 'Jim Price'? Then there's eccentric vocalist Tony 'Binky' Baker from the comedy band, Camp, who later released the eponymous musical homage to offshore legend, Tony Blackburn. Binky was also responsible for penning the memorably-titled C'est Seulement Rock et Croissant.

There are also the sad, 'might have been' tales; Glenn Elgood, the singer with the Diamonds, who died in a car crash; the lad from Four and Seven Eighths whose Dad's refusal to allow him to play the Star Club in Hamburg, was in turn to quash that (possibly golden) opportunity for the entire band. Here, too, are the disillusioned musicians who left the profession to become a postman or an accountant.

Mike's book contains plenty of connections to Radio London and other offshore stations. The Untamed famously recorded jingles for Dave Dennis, and were in the Fab Forty in 1965 with James Brown's I'll Go Crazy; Mike's book reveals that the Untamed went through more line-ups than Scotland Yard in an average month. Then there's Barry Benson, who hit the Fab with every one of his five singles. Summer Set achieved a Fab entry in November '66, with their reissued single Farmer's Daughter. Two members of the band later joined up with another Fab Forty alumni, Guy Darrell, as The Guy Darrell Syndicate. The strands of the South Coast scene were so closely interwoven that it can become pretty difficult to work out who played with which band, when – especially when some musicians played for more than one outfit at a time!

A reproduction of a poster for the Alberts Museum Discotheque, advertises the appearance of mis-spelt Big L onshore DJ and sometime singer, Mike 'Quin'. Promoted as 'coming soon' to the venue were Kenny Everett, Dave Cash, Tony Windsor, Ed Stuart (sic) and Emperor Rosko (without mention of their watery connections). Another poster for the Bognor Regis Shoreline Club promotes the 'Wednesday night Radio Caroline Nite'.

Those who loved the sounds of the Fifties and Sixties and enjoyed their local music scene, whether as musicians or fans, will find much to appreciate in The South Coast Beat Scene of the 1960s.

(More about the Untamed here)

© Mary Payne 2002

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