Top Twenty Club

A history of artists that appeared at Bridgwater's Town Hall - 1960-1966

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Location: Bridgwater, Somerset, United Kingdom

Rapidly-approaching-old-fartdom individual who is simply trying to spread the music gospel - A male Singing Nun if you like......actually on second thoughts....

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Addendum

It has become apparent whilst researching this blog that the list of artists that appeared in Bridgwater is not as complete as I'd hoped it would be. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I have been informed of several "eye witness" reports regarding Town Hall performances by musicians that I have no knowledge of ever playing our home town, and even though these reports should sometimes be taken with a very large pinch of salt there is evidence to suggest, particularly when the memory appears to be so vivid, that they actually happened. Secondly, there are so many missing dates in the Top Twenty calendar that one imagines that some of them must have been filled by a concert that, for whatever reason, was never publicised in the local newspaper. In order to corroborate these "lost" performances I am currently in the process of cross-checking these missing dates with the Trowbridge and Chippenham Top Twenty gigs that took place during the same period. Graham Alford was sometimes known to cut costs by obtaining an artist's services in a "block booking" that would require the performer in question to play more than one TT venue over the space of a week. In these circumstances, discovering who had played a Top Twenty gig elsewhere just a few days before or after the missing Bridgwater date in question may provide me with a clue as to the likelihood that we were included in their tour itinerary. Unfortunately, the evidence that I have obtained so far only serves to confuse rather than clarify though it does appear that from 1963 onwards, a pattern begins to emerge, particularly where the more established performers are concerned, with Bridgwater "sharing" the booking with other venues. However this does not explain why artists such as Johnny Burnette or Sounds Incorporated, for example, seemingly played Bridgwater but nowhere else. The idea behind this addendum is to discuss the possibles and maybes, the performers who "may" have graced us with their presence, depending on the strength of the information provided. Artist's not appearing in this section however include The Shadows, Alma Cogan and Russ Conway, all of whom were mentioned in a Bridgwater Mercury dispatch back in 1960 as possible contenders for future gigs but who were never seen in the vicinity of the Town Hall and The Byrds, Rod Stewart & The Faces and, perhaps most implausibly, Jim Reeves whose "appearances" have been provided by people who, whilst remaining convinced of their first hand knowledge of these concerts, appear to have developed a second hand memory of such events having taken place.

JOE BROWN

The chances of the lovable cockney geezer having played Bridgwater are pretty strong. There have been two "sightings" in total with the most intriguing evidence being offered by Stan Barnett, the ex-Taylor's employee who was heavily involved in the organisation of the Bridgy branch of the Top Twenty during it's infancy. Stan says that Joe Brown was invited back to his house for an after gig knees-up that undoubtedly included copious amounts of jellied eels and pie & mash whilst Joe banged out "Roll Out The Barrel" on the Barnett's old joanna*. Brown played Trowbridge, along with Dean Prince & The Dukes, on February 9th 1962 and Chippenham on December 1st 1962 with Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs in tow. The latter date looks promising as the 26th November 1962 gig is absent from the Bridgwater diary.

* As it turns out, Brown was born in Lincolnshire but was brought up in the East End of London.

DAVE DEE & THE BOSTONS

We know that Dave and his chums Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich played Bridgwater on at least two occasions during 1966 but what about Dave's previous incarnation as leader of the mysterious "Bostons"? Whilst there may be no local adverts proclaiming that they ever set foot in our town, according to Mike Guy, the trustworthy "Bridgwater Mercury" reporter and Top Twenty devotee, "It was as Dave Dee and The Bostons that the group first appeared at the Top 20 Club more than two years ago". Mike wrote this after DDDBM&T's triumphant debut appearance in Bridgwater in February 1966 and even though Mike could have been referring to a performance from another venue, it does suggest that Dave had been here before. Dave Dee & The Bostons made their debut at the Trowbridge Town Hall on April 26th 1963 and returned 6 months later. Chances are that he squeezed in the odd Bridgwater gig during this period as well.

THE SHOTS

Here's an interesting one. I know that The Shots played the Town Hall, but when exactly? Thanks to Stan Barnett's autograph book, it is apparent that they did make an appearance in Bridgwater but I have not been able to find an advertisement that tells me when this event took place. Equally, I had no idea who The Shots were until just recently. From York, they were originally called The Moonshots but upon moving to the capital city, shortened it to simply The Shots. One half decent single for Columbia entitled "Keep A Hold Of What You've Got" flopped despite reaching No.8 in Radio London's Fab Top 20 in 1965. So far, so what? After the departure of one group member the band changed their name to The Smoke (named after their London residency) and released a psychedelic classic called "My Friend Jack (Eats Sugarlumps)" which may have only reached No 45 in the UK singles charts but obtained the lofty position of No 2 in Germany and a cult following amongst aficianados of all things hippy and trippy. The bizarre footnotes to this story? The Shots were apparently managed by The Kray Twins without realising who their suitors were when they signed the contract. Subsequently, various attempts to "free" themselves from this arrangement were made without them realising that they could just wake up one morning with their collective heads nailed to a coffee table. The other piece of useless information regarding this band is that bassist "Zeke" Lund eventually became Boney M's sound engineer during the sparkly German's brief period of world domination. As for that "missing" date, an educated guess suggests either October 25th or November 8th 1965 as the band played Chippenham just two days before the October date.

THE SHOTS - Keep A Hold Of What You've Got (1965)

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THE SILKIE

Another group that appears in Stan's autograph book for which there is no Bridgwater Mercury date, The Silkie played Trowbridge and Chippenham in successive days on the 18th & 19th February 1966. However there is no available slot for a Bridgwater performance on or around that time so I can only suggest that they MAY have played our Town Hall on the 21st March, as this is the nearest date on the Top Twenty calendar for which no information has been provided. The Silkie were a folk quartet formed in 1963 by students based at Hull University. Taking their name from an old folk song called "The Great Silkie Of Skule Skerry" their first ever recording was a flexi-disc from 1964, that was cut specifically for it's use during the university's rag week. Heavily influenced by Dylan, and in particular the American trio Peter, Paul & Mary they continued performing after graduation, holding down a summer residency at the Devon Coast Country Club in Paignton. Whilst at Paignton, they rubbed shoulders with an ex-member of an obscure Merseybeat band called Steve Day & The Drifters and this meeting may have resulted in their big break as a 1965 appearance at The Cavern, alongside local folk band and national institution, The Spinners (who were big enough to have their own BBC television series) captured the interest of Brian Epstein. He installed his personal assistant Alistair Taylor as their manager and they embarked on a stunningly short recording career that promised much but sadly failed to deliver despite a helping hand from 3 of music's biggest luminaries. "Blood Red River", their debut 45 was released in June 1965 and, like plenty of other singles from this period, enjoyed the unwanted distinction of being a great success in the pirate radio charts, reaching No 14 in Radio London's Top 40 whilst achieving Sweet FA in terms of national chart action. However, enter The Fab Four, or to be more precise, The Fab Three. Epstein's connections not only gave The Silkie the opportunity to record another one of those Beatle "singles that never were" (in this case, "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" from the just-released "Help!" album) but they also received direct input from three of the most famous musicians in the world. On the 9th August 1965, The Silkie's gentle rendition of the Lennon ballad was recorded at IBC Studios in London. John Lennon handled the production chores, Paul McCartney strummed a guitar and apparently came up with the song arrangement whilst George Harrison kept time by tapping the back of an acoustic. After the conclusion of this session, Lennon was so enthusiastic about the recording that he telephoned Epstein to tell him that they had just cut "A No.1 record". In fact The Beatles as a unit seemed terribly enthusiastic about the band's future with Macca even offering them a long and best forgotten song called "One And One Is Two" as suitable follow-up material. As for Lennon's chart prediction? Not quite. The single reached No.28 in the UK, but fared better in the States where it got to No.10 on the Billboard chart. In an attempt to capitalise on this success in America, appearances on both "American Bandstand" and "The Ed Sullivan Show" were hastily booked but the band were refused work permits and visas and the tour was cancelled. Two further singles, "Keys To My Soul" and "Born To Be With You" appeared in 1966, after which, the band promptly split up. Original members Mike Ramsden and Sylvie Tatler married in January 1966, and continued using the band name during the next 35 years though primarily on a local basis, appearing regularly at their local Devon pub in Dartington. Sadly Ramsden died in 2004 after a long battle with kidney disease.

THE SILKIE - You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (1965)

THE NEW VAUDEVILLE BAND

This is a long shot. After the unfortunate conclusion of the live concerts in November 1966, The Top Twenty re-invented itself as a "discotheque". A typical Monday night at The Town Hall at this point would have involved the spinning of discs interspersed with films of some of the bands that had played the venue previously. Hence the somewhat confusing arrival of several Bridgwater Mercury adverts that suggested appearances by The Troggs, The Who, The Small Faces etc. but which, on closer inspection, were advertisements for videos of these bands, and not actual live performances. For the December 12th club gig, an advert appeared in the paper stating that that evening's highlight would be an "appearance in scenes on the visual screen" by The New Vaudeville Band. If the idea was to specifically feature footage of group's who had played the Top Twenty before then this would suggest that the makers of "Winchester Cathedral" and "Finchley Central" had played the Town Hall at some point. It's a theory backed up by the fact that The Vaudeville's did indeed play Chippenham on the 5th November, two days before a potential Town Hall gig on the 7th, another "missing" date for which I have no information.

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