JACKIE LYNTON (By Colin Kilgour)
Born John Bertram Lynton, 27 February 1940, Shepperton, Middlesex
I was playing the CD to which the following notes relate ....... and thought they would be an interesting read for several Shakeroos, containing as it does many references to other players and performers of the age. They're not for the faint hearted though ..... but they are amusing and self-deprecating (and a little blue). The notes were written a decade ago. Jackie had an interesting and varied repertoire and was a man (after my own heart) who clearly loved an old standard (e.g. Laura, Answer Me and Only You) and what a hoot to hear 'Teddy Bear's Picnic' rocked up. He's still gigging often around the Godalming/Staines area. Jackie's website is: http://www.onlineonair.com/jl/
With his prodigious talent, larger-than-life personality, and engaging, earthy humour, Jackie Lynton really should have been a massive star. A powerful and charismatic live performer, back in Pop's golden era - viz: those early 60s - he was a huge favourite on the one-nighters' circuit where he'd carved out a reputation for his stagecraft and wild vocalisings. And more to the point, during this period he gunned out the string of bizarre-yet-magnificent singles which comprise this compilation. Far too off the-wall to achieve commercial success at the time, a couple of 'em nonetheless clocked up some tidy old airplay - with Teddy Bear's Picnic very nearly breaking his chart duck, picking up heavy airplay in the summer of '63. Yet although he is nowadays regarded as something of a legendary figure in British R&R, in a near-forty year career his only *real* brush with the Big Time was as the vocalist in a dodgy 70s Blues and Boogie band. And ironically, despite Jackie's own inherent "Englishness", that success was pretty much restricted to the United States. But it's Jackie's "pre-history" we're interested in here, so let's take a closer look at it...
Born JOHN BERTRAM LYNTON in Shepperton, Middlesex, on February 27th 1940 (1942? - naah, forget it ...... those early PR releases were a load of cobblers!), Jackie first began singing in his church school choir. However, he got bitten by the R&R bug early on - his first idol (of whom Jackie remains a dedicated fan to this day) was Elvis - and by his late teens he was thoroughly infatuated by popular music. However, his own musical inclinations were never restricted by narrow parameters, and Jackie was equally as keen on standards and oldies as he was the hot hits of the era.
Back in the late 50s Jackie and his mates used to hang out at a weekly hop at The Playhouse, a youth club in Walton-on-Thames, where they'd sip cokes, jive to the latest R&R releases, shape up, look hard, and ogle the crumpet. Sometimes they'd even pluck up the courage to chat to 'em. Every now and then a live group would be booked, and one week a special "talent show" was organised, at which young local hopefuls were encouraged to try their luck. And although our hero had never actually sung in public before (and claims never to have had any great desire to do so) he was persuaded - by club proprietor Dennis Cordet - to get up and have a chirp. To young Jack's astonishment, not only did he perform moderately well, he actually won the competition: ".... yeah, I got up and did 'Blue Suede Shoes'...it was about the only song I could remember all the words to. It was unbelievable, when you think about it ...I was just a kid, about 17 or 18, and I'd never really sung properly before. But Dennis, the bloke who ran the gaff, had heard me singing under an archway one night, and he thought I sounded OK. He persuaded me to go for it... "
Jack had been backed on the talent show by the Plect-Tones. a young, local combo - their personnel included guitarist Roger Brown (who later turned up in Mike Berry's Innocents, and would go on to be a founder- member of Stealer's Wheel in the 70s) and future Moody Blues' keyboards wizard Mike Pinder - with whom he began working regularly, playing pubs, clubs and dances. Shortly afterwards they changed their name to the Teenbeats, and with Cordet by now installed as their manager/agent they began to get plenty of local bookings. Jackie soon built up a reputation as a powerful and exciting singer, eventually attracting the attentions of rival agents: consequently by the time he got around to establishing a residency at the 2i's Coffee Bar in Soho he was pretty much in demand and 2i's proprietor Toni Littlewood subsequently took over as his first professional manager.
Under Littlewood's guidance Jackie's career really began to motor, and he quickly graduated to the Larry Parnes one nighters/package tour circuit where he worked alongside early rockers like Billy Fury, Vince Taylor & the Playboys, Wee Willie Harris, Terry Dene, Lance Fortune, Screaming Lord Sutch & his Savages. Nero & the Gladiators, John Leyton, Freddie Starr & the Midnighters. Radio sessions beckoned in the shape of programmes like Saturday Club and Music With A Beat - and the *real* bonus, Littlewood managed to score Jack a recording contract with Pye's new Piccadilly subsidiary. His first disc - a Tony Hatch produced revival of Over The Rainbow - was an odd choice, perhaps, for an aspiring Rocker's first single: but as Jackie recalls "I've always liked the old songs. the standards ..... I used to do `em live, and I always tried to do something different with them. They always went down well." So, although this failed to chart it picked up encouraging reviews, was viewed as a promising debut and served to lay down some guidelines for Jackie's early recording career. As anyone who remembers seeing him in the early 60s will readily confirm, with his off-the-wall set - which juxtaposed heads-down rockers alongside souped-up arrangements of standards - Jackie was by far the most eclectic performer on the circuit, and regularly upstaged more established bill-toppers.
Indeed such was his impact that pretty soon nobody wanted to follow him onstage. Hailed by New Musical Express as a 'Most Promising Newcomer', Jackie was widely tipped to crack the Big Time - and with his engaging personality and powerful stage performances it really did seem only a matter of time before he'd chalk up that elusive first hit. But as with one or two other equally-talented members of his peer group (Duffy Power and Vince Taylor spring immediately to mind), that all-important breakthrough chart record proved an impossible obstacle to negotiate. He was given an original song to tackle for his second single, but Les Reed & Johnny Worth's (aka Les Vandyke) "Wishful Thinking" was clearly unsuitable (with its sub Well I Ask You arrangement, it would have been far more suitable for Eden Kane) and summarily failed to hit the spot. This allowed Jacko to sneak in one of his customised oldies - and his first really great single, All Of Me - for his next release. Issued in August '62, it was a landmark disc in that it marked the recording debut of one of the UK's most talented and enduring session guitarists, Albert Lee. Well-reviewed, it went on to garner considerable Radio airplay that summer and autumn, sold steadily, and although it missed the charts it certainly served to make people sit up and take notice.
Albert had stepped into the frame earlier in the year after the Teenbeats had split, and Jackie subsequently began working with the 2i's in-house band The Jury, sharing them with fellow-Tom Littlewood protégés Vince Eager, Keith Kelly and Lance Fortune. A superb band, initially comprising guitarist Albert Lee ("a great bloke. fantastic guitarist ...... even back then no one could touch him - except perhaps Big Sullivan"), Bob Xavier on sax ("a funny bloke, Bob always threatening to leave ... he wanted to be the singer, really"), Pat Donaldson, bass ("another really great bloke . . . I worked with him again later when he was in Heads, Hands & Feet.") and drummer Roy Mills ("He worked with Alan Price later, but after that he committed suicide ... effin' good thing really, I never did like the c*nt. Sure, he was a good drummer, but he was effin' mad"). Although their personnel would change radically over the three years they backed Jackie, this was the line-up who backed him on All Of Me. Other members passing through their ranks at various stages included Bob Scholes (saxes), guitarist Dave West, and bassist Mike Brunning. Jackie's next single was an up-tempo revival of I Believe - potentially a real killer, but ultimately a mighty disappointment: 'effin' useless...they mixed it all wrong ; - and this was in turn followed by perhaps his most memorable single `A Teddy Bear's Picnic: "..we got effin' loads of airplay with that one. I thought I was away with that, to be honest ... all the airplay it got, particularly on Saturday mornings. We did an alternate take, a faster version...wonder if they kept it?" It was indeed a significant turntable success, generating considerable air play - and it did evince early signs of becoming a hit. Certainly, Piccadilly re-pressed it a couple of times - which meant that it must have shifted quite a few copies: however, it presumably sold through non-chart return shops, as it never quite managed to put in an appearance in any of the published listings. The next time out Piccadilly took the decision to pitch Jackie headlong into the Beat Boom, getting him to cover a couple of R&B standards, Chuck Berry's I'm Talkin' 'Bout You and Lloyd Price's Lawdy Miss Clawdy. However, the topside was merely a workmanlike reading, and it failed to make any impact.
But hit records or not, Jackie's 60s output remains a memorable, eclectic body of work. Although the Jury backed him on a couple of sides, he usually found himself working with the leading session muso's of the era - guys like Big Jim Sullivan, Joe Moretti, and Jimmy Page (guitars), Herbie Flowers (bass) and either Clem Cattini or Bobbie Graham (drums) - plus each different session's producer/arranger (usually either Tony Hatch or Les Reed) on piano. Jackie reckons he would probably have originated (i.e. "suggested") much of the material, and the arrangements of these songs would certainly have been based on his live performances - although in one or two instances he was clearly "steered" by record company A&R policy: the most obvious example of this being his unlikely, soulful reading of the Lennon/McCartney opus Little Child, from the With The Beatles album: "naah...that was the record company's idea, to do a Beatles" song. I didn't like it ....... it wasn't really up to much ...it wasn't me" (NB: nonetheless this remains a highly-collectable artefact, being not only one of the rarest Beatle covers, but also featuring a fine solo from Jimmy Page).
Nonetheless, despite his lack of chart success Jackie's live performances had earned him a big reputation, and he continued attracting the attentions - not always wanted ('fakkin' poofs - not that I've got anything against 'em, mind') - of various pop impresarios, but for the time being he hung on in there with Tom Littlewood. Among others, Larry Parnes tried to woo him with promises of exotic ladies' underwear (which I guess is just about all we dare say about that particular episode!), following which Robert Stigwood showed a brief interest, which waned when Jackie made it clear he was not interested in moving to The States to become "the new Joe Cocker". Jackie had been one of the early British Rock & Rollers to visit Hamburg, back in '62. They'd taken to his extrovert personality and he was a big favourite out there, returning several times - although he never seems to have gone over with his full band: "...I only ever went out with half a band, even that first trip. None of 'em could come, and the money was lousy. I went out with just a rhythm guitarist - somebody-or-other Steele, I think, can't remember his name - and that effin' drummer I couldn't effin' stand, Roy Mills. Tony Sheridan played lead guitar with us out there, and we just used to busk it. We went out twice a year, for two months at a time, for a couple of years."
He also recorded in Hamburg, albeit in ever-so-slightly-dodgy circum- stances: "...a geezer came up to me in the club one night and said he wanted to record me. I told him I was already signed to Pye, in England, and he said 'that's no problem, we'll use a different name.' We did around 15 or 16 tracks, all in one day...they all came out in Germany on different LPs." Jackie in fact cut 16 tracks in Hamburg that day in '64, backed by a session band which included Rikki Barnes (sax), Roy Mills (drums) and Emmerdale Farm actor Fraser Hines' brother on keyboards. And sure 'nuff these sides did all eventually turn up on various kraut Beat Group compilations, credited to the unlikely pseudonym Boots Wellington & His Rubber Band. A rousing version of Ray Charles' What'd I Say, from an LP colourfully entitled 16 Beat Groups From The Hamburg Scene is featured herein (NB: Jacko's running mates on this LP included the Beatles, Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes, Tony Sheridan & the Beat Brothers, and Alex Harvey - so he was in pretty good company!) Following one last single for Piccadilly - a revival of Laura from the old Gene Tierney movie (which finds Jacko in particularly fine voice) - his singing career went into limbo for a while as he concentrated on building up his painting and decorating business. But he continued to play low key gigs and during 1965 he cut a number of independently-produced sides with Ray Horricks (who'd produced Teddy Bear's Picnic) - a couple of which were paired up on a Decca single, Three Blind Mice/ Corrina Corrina - following which he signed with EMI's Columbia label in 1966. Jackie cut three singles for Columbia, revivals of He'll Have To Go and Answer Me, and a Tony Colton/Ray Smith original Decision, all produced by Mark Wirtz - but once again, as good as they were, still none were able to break his chart duck. Jacko himself penned a couple of his Columbia B-sides, Sporting Life and I Never Loved A Girl Like You, the latter featuring Zoot Money on piano.
During the late 60s Jackie had continued doubling as a painter & decorator - he recalls working at John Lennon's Weybridge mansion for many months: "Lennon used to get up about midday, wander into the kitchen, say 'mornin ', painter' to us lot, make himself a coffee, and go over to his Jukebox and punch up all the old Little Richard and Chuck Berry records. One day we got there early, opened the jukebox up, and sneaked a copy of my version of 'All Of Me' on - in place of 'Long Tall Sally' or something. He got up as usual -'mornin' painter' - fixed his coffee, wandered over to the jukebox, and instead of just punching in all his usual numbers, he actually looked at the bloody things. He stood there, looking all confused, like... then he opened the lid, reached in, took my record out, looked closely at it, put it on the effin' side, shot us lot a dirty look, and punched in all his usual stuff. Story of my effin' life, really!" In 1969 Jackie hooked up with former Casuals producer David Pardo (remember Jesamine?) to cut a series of covers for the European market - specifically, for Germany and Italy. During these sessions he also recorded Ennio Morricone's The Ballad of Hank McCain, the theme tune of the John Cassavetes movie Gli Intoccabili, which was released in Italy on the Joker label. A further spin-off of the sessions was a pair of obscure UK Decca singles, on which Jackie duetted with Pardo's wife Andee Silver: in May `70 they teamed up as "Spring Fever" for My World Could Be Your World/You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (the flip a revival of the Righteous Brothers' biggie), and a couple of months later as Purple Heart on a cover of Bacharach & David's Close To You. Released in August `70, it was issued in direct opposition to the Carpenters' US #1 and fell comprehensively by the wayside: included here is its flip Audrey, one of Jackie's own songs.
The "Purple Heart" billing was retained for at least one further single - certainly, for a cover of Rare Bird's Sympathy (which appears only have been issued in Germany and Italy) - whilst a further trading style was "People", under which name Jackie's version of the Cook/Greenaway song I Am The Preacher appeared in 1970 (he was up against a version by Deep Purple on this one!). And really, as far as this compilation goes, that's Jackie's story just about done and dusted. Following his split with Pardo some fairly serious disillusionment set in, and he packed it all in for some eighteen months or so, returning to the building and decorating trade. But - inevitably perhaps - the lure of R&R proved too strong to ignore, and by the middle of '72 he'd put a new band together and had begun playing a few low-key pub gigs. And then suddenly, his life changed: one week he was working on a building site in Surrey and singing in the local pub a couple of nights a week; the next, he was headlining at the Fillmore East, fronting Savoy Brown:- "I guess it was unbelievable, really".
Their manager - he remembered me from the old days - saw me singing with my band at the Greyhound, in Fulham. They'd just lost their lead singer, and he wanted me. I'd come straight off the building site, had just put a really good little band together and didn't really want to know. But he kept phoning, offering me the gig. I put the phone down on him at first I'd never even heard of Savoy effin' Brown ... just thought it was bullshit - and I'd heard all the bullshit, a million times over. Then he started talking about an American tour. I was working on a building site for forty quid a week and he went and offered me three grand for two months work. Then I had to tell my hand... it broke their hearts, 'cause we hadn't been together long, just a couple of months. But you can't turn that kinda dough down". And that really was how it happened. Savoy Brown were well and truly up crapola creek, sans paddle: their last album Hellbound Train had been a huge success, making the US Top 40, and they were about to set out on a major coast-to-coast US tour to promote the follow-up album Lion's Share. But lead singer Dave Walker had absconded to Fleetwood Mac just weeks before the tour, leaving them without a recognised front line vocalist: they needed an experienced, bluesy frontman virtually overnight, and Jackie seemed the answer to their prayers.
"Going to America with Savoy Brown was effin' amazin'. We were going on second on the bill to bands like the Doobie Brothers, Deep Purple. Rod Stewart & The Faces - and then we were headlining as well. Status Quo opened for us! (mind you it was the other way round when we toured the UK supporting them). One night, even ZZ Top opened for us, in New York." Naturally enough, Jacko has a million and one anecdotes about his stint with the SBs - but as this CD is all about his 60s singles, this really ain't the forum for 'em (ugh!). His stay with Savoy Brown lasted some 18 months, from September '72 to February '74. He certainly made his presence felt, writing the title track (and four further titles) for the Jack The Toad album - which made a strong showing on the US album charts peaking at #84. Indeed, when Jackie left, it took two men to replace him (Miller Anderson and former Chicken Shack perennial Stan Webb) - but like so many of Rock's staffing changes, his departure took place amid some acrimony: "Savoy Brown chucked me out in the end...( I was taking over a bit too much, writing all the songs - and I wouldn't let the Simmonds brothers (viz: their bandleader and their manager) have songwriting credits on my songs. Not that it did me any good...I still never got effin' paid!" It indeed still rankles with Jackie that he never received writer's royalties for any of his Savoy Brown material: and what really rubbed salt in the wound was when Three Dog Night revived one of the songs Coming Down Your Way, as the title track of a platinum-selling 1975 album. In 1974 Jacko put together the first of what would be many line-ups of the Jackie Lynton Band, and set about establishing himself on the burgeoning pub-rock circuit. He cut his first solo album later that year (guest muso's included Rory Gallagher and assorted members of Heads, Hands & Feet) - whilst the following year, in a slice of typically lousy luck, Jacko missed the boat with an off-the-wall revival of I Only Have Eyes For You, which came out the same week as Art Garfunkel's more traditional version (guess who got to #1?!) "I reckon that's about the best bloody thing I ever done...(was well effin' sick about that!". Conversely, he had a nice little earner in the late 70s when Quo recorded his Again And Again - Jacko's homage to Chuck Berry, whom he'd supported on a highly successful mid-70s tour.
That song was co-written by Jack and Rick Parfitt. Having been a long standing friend of Ricky Parfitt, Jackie had been involved in co-writing other early Quo hits with Rick. Their friendship is still strong and Jackie has often been invited to do a guest spot on Quo's gigs incl. Status Quo's 2001 Wembley Gig where Jack got up with them and sang the Beatles\ old hit 'I Saw Her Standing There' to a packed audience. It was during the 70s that Jackie really started giving free reign to his earthy humour, and his gigs took on an increasingly surreal aura as he began incorporating his philosophical monologues and poems into his set, alongside the heads-down rockers. These were, of course, extremely off colour affairs, and numbers like The Hedgehog Song, Ain't I Lucky? and Nice One soon won him a new, younger audience - and eventually led to a published volume of his written works (NB: fans interested in Jackie's observations on life and the universe are advised to check the cut-out bins for If I Could Sing I'd Tell Jokes - Lynton Books. 1981).
Jackie saw out the 70s. 80s and 90s (to date) in much the same manner, gigging, putting a new band together every few years, cutting the occasional single and/or album - and it's pretty much Business As Usual as be approaches the Millennium in excellent shape. Outside of Rock & Roll, he continues to earn a living toshin', augmented by occasional appearances as an extra on The Bill and/or Eastenders, whilst a year or two back he was writing comedy material for Jim Davidson. But the bottom line is that Jacko remains a dyed-in-the-wool Rocker who simply can't stop gigging. Continually name checked by Rock's elder statesmen as a crucial early influence, he has no trouble getting big name artists to endorse his occasional albums with guest appearances - and as recently as 1996 he and his road band were invited to support Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow for several nights at the Hammersmith Apollo. He recently had two great "new" CDs released - one a compilation of classic 70s and 80s cuts, the other a live double, recorded in 1996 - which appeared on the ambitious indie label A New Day. Do yourself a favour and check 'em out: they're a pair of real stormers. In closing, just why didn't Jackie Lynton go all the way to the top? Well, personally, I reckon it's simply down to his own modesty - the man's self-effacing to a fault: "Legend? me? - naaaah, that's a load of old bollocks! I like to think of myself as some sort of entertainer - I can tell a joke, and carry a tune - but I was never gonna be a star. I probably drank too much or more probably, I was just too much of a c*nt'. And that's Jacko's last word on the subject. But being mindful of the fact that far lesser talents have enjoyed significant commercial success, perhaps it was his underlying lack of arrogance which ultimately held his career in check.
Notes by N.E. Fulcanwright - written: 1996/7. More at http://www.onlineonair.com/jl/page1.html
As with the modern way of things many musicians these days are playing in more than one band and so Jack found himself with a diary full of deps who could stand in when one of his regular musicians was off playing elsewhere. On needing a drummer he called on his old friend from the early days of the band Greg Terry-Short who started standing in on a more than regular basis. When Jack's drummer left to join another band Jack asked Greg to join the band again while he looked for a replacement. With the addition of Colin Pattenden on bass (ex Manfred Mann's Earth band) the band suddenly sounded a bit like it used to. Giving Jack the inspiration to get back in the studio and triggering some prolific song writing. Since leaving the band back in 84 Greg Terry-Short had followed a musical career playing with many famous names and spending much time in studios recording albums. So he was delighted at the thought of doing another studio album with his old friend Jack and offered to produce it. Breaking away from A New Day Records for this one. Released 2001 'Cereal Thriller' (produced and mixed by Greg Terry-Short who has now become a permanent member of Jack's band again), is a double CD offering one studio CD with original material and one X-rated CD of monologues, poems and jokes extracted from the Jackie Lynton archives of his four decades playing live. Whilst recently in the studio recording this latest album "Cereal Thriller" he wrote another twenty songs, so Thriller 2 will follow.
Compiled: Colin Kilgour for SAO Sept. 2007
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