My blog about Bob Dylan was probably deliberately told to make me look as hip as possible from the earliest age. Before I’d discovered the wonders of Bob aged seventeen, I’d been into Elvis, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Gene Pitney and then The Beatles. Now for a bit of honesty, after a reminder I received earlier this week. In 1960 and 1961, when I was fourteen and fifteen, we’d play football all day on Bedford Park in Birkdale. Young ladies maybe a year or two younger would sometimes come to watch, though even at that young age, they were able to effect a studied air of disinterest. Their primary conversation was of pop music, particularly the relative merits of Cliff Richard and Adam Faith. For some reason, I decided to be an Adam Faith fan, perhaps because he was considered less wholesome than Cliff, although to be fair Cliff was more the rocker.
I was originally from the Blackpool area and in 1960 Adam played a summer season at the Blackpool Hippodrome. He topped the bill, with Emil Ford and the Checkmates closing the first half. The compere was a chap called Don Arrol who went on to do Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Adam had the leather jacket image but in fact came on in a suit and slim tie, for What Do You Want, Poor Me, Someone Else’s Baby etc. They were good songs written by the intelligent Johnny Worth, with great backing arrangements by the brilliant John Barry. The John Barry Seven had played their own slot earlier, including the wonderful Juke Box Jury theme, and then backed Adam, as they did on most of his records.
Not only that though. The other supporting act was The Lana Sisters, including Mary O’Brien, who were good if a bit screechy. Yes, Mary O’Brien. Dusty Springfield, before The Springfields, before she became Dusty on her own, and the greatest female vocalist of my life, by a mile. I was just naturally with it, wasn’t I?
1961 saw Adam booked for the Liverpool Empire. My sister worked at the Walker Art Library and got me a ticket. Aged 15. I went to the big bad city of Liverpool from Southport on my own. The comedian was that great master Jimmy James with his drunken routine (Policeman, “ Anything you day may be taken down…” JJ, “Trousers”). Then he was with his partner Our Eli and a small box which Eli claimed contained animals such as a giraffe and a lion. Finally an elephant was mentioned. JJ-“Where do you keep the elephant. In the box?” Eli- “Don’t be silly, you can’t fit an elephant in that box. He’s in a cage.” JJ- “And where’s the cage?” Eli- “In the box.” Still keeping my hip reputation, yes?
Unfortunately, down the bill was a singer called Gerry Dorsey, who seemed quite good. You might know he went on to become Englebert Humperdinck. Hipness quotient down to zero from hero? Yet I still had Bob Swarbrick sing “Am I that easy to Forget?” to his daughter in Where’s Sailor Jack? and it certainly was Englebert’s version.
After that I was off into Beatles, Dylan, Stones, The Who, The Kinks etc and forgot all about Adam. Then I did my Oxford entrance exams in December 1963 at New College. I finished there mid Friday afternoon and was travelling home on a Crosville coach overnight to Liverpool, followed by an early morning train to Southport. I had about eight hours to kill until the midnight departure time from Gloucester Green Bus Station. Appearing at the New Theatre was Adam Faith. I booked one of the last available tickets, filled my face at Crawford’s before hearing again the songs that had once charmed me. It was good. I caught the bus and train home landing back home for breakfast. Just over a week later I heard I’d got my Oxford place.
Of course Adam went on to have a fine acting career after a while in the wilderness. Rest in peace, Adam Faith, John Barry, Dusty Springfield and Jimmy James and long life for Englebert.