I joined The Sombreros soon to change their name to Sight & Sound. Members at various times were: Grant Kearney - Peter Smith - Joe Dignam - Ken Underwood - Bob Doyle - Geoff Turton, Tony Collinge and me. At last I'd attained the Fender Strat and the Vox AC30. The repertoire of the new band was mainly Beach Boys and Four Seasons etc. I had loved vocal harmony sounds since childhood, as my Mom's brothers were all great singers. I was often taken to see them perform in choirs or barbershop quartet competitions. Grant Kearney, who had moved from guitar to bass when I joined, was a master at vocal harmony arranging. At the time I took his talent for granted but have since realised that he was the driving force behind the whole thing.
By 1967 Sight & Sound had turned themselves into a flower power group. We were suddenly all kaftans and beads and love and peace etc. The band worked hard under the management of Mike Carroll for two years. We went to Germany for a month because it seemed as if every band that did that came home famous. Sadly, we would be the exception to that rule. We would work fifty minutes every hour from seven in the evening until two in the morning. We could only finish early if the club was empty. Even one punter meant that you had to keep going. Because we weren't paid until the end of the second week, we had to live on tinned food that we had taken out with us from the UK. I can tell you now, that a diet of mainly baked beans is not at all compatible with seven hours on stage.
Various record deals came and went but no chart success. We released 'Ebenezer', 'Little Jackie Monday' and 'Alley Alley', all written by Mike Sheridan and me. I'm not sure how we came to write the 'A' sides, we had only just started writing together. Mike had been writing songs for a while, so was quite accomplished. I had only ever written the Cimarrons theme tune!! One afternoon out of the blue, Mike asked me over to his house in Northfield and it all started from there. He had an old steam piano at home with a microphone set so close to the strings that every note you played was accompanied by a percussive 'thunk'. It was very inspiring, like an early rhythm box.
Sometimes we'd write at my place, sometimes at his, usually about twice a week. The wives didn't approve, they thought it was another way of getting out of the decorating. While Roy Wood was penning such lyrics as: "If this perfect pleasure has a key" Mike and I were coming up with nuggets like: "He's the type of man who peels an orange in his pocket". When we weren't writing songs, we'd write plays. Well, we'd improvise them straight on to tape, both taking two or three parts, with the one who wasn't doing dialogue making mouth sound effects. You'd have to hear them to see the funny side. Our wives did and still didn't.
Pop radio in the UK was still very limited. Most lunchtimes the Light Programme had a live broadcast either from the studio or from some factory canteen or other. There would be a couple of resident singers (one boy, one girl) and a big band such as the Northern Dance Orchestra, whose hip name was the NDO. This line up would perform cover versions of the popular tunes of the day. Mostly songs out of the chart, but sometimes a newcomer got a chance. This is how we got to hear balladeer Vince Hill singing 'Ebenezer'. I wonder what he made of that?
GISS A JOB
By the beginning of 1969, flower power was over and Sight & Sound had become a harmony / comedy band. This seems like a strange mixture now, but at the time there were lots of groups doing the same sort of thing. Mike Sheridan was our Comedy Guru and the first version of our new act was mostly a poor copy of Mike's old act. It got us loads of work in social clubs all around the country though - so who cared? My part of the act included an uncanny impersonation of Wayne Fontana followed by a very unflattering impression of Roy Wood.
Roy came to see Sight & Sound at a club one dark January night in 1969. He swept in wearing a long black cloak - looking all mysterious and offered me a job with The Move. Presumably, he had missed the impression! I was a Move fan at the time and had even taken Jo on a date to one of their concerts. The original line-up of The Move was definitely the best. The strong four and five part harmonies were virtually unheard of in British pop music at the time. Added to that, they seemed to have a vast supply of obscure American material which was the envy of every other band. Before Roy swept in that night, I had never spoken to, or even met, any of the group. I was taken completely by surprise and, of course, said yes.
Well, it was just as if Elvis had offered me a job! 'Blackberry Way' was in the charts and headed for number one. There had been rumours for a while that The Move were looking for a new bass player, but most people expected it to be offered to Richard Tandy or Jeff Lynne. The job would not go to a relatively inexperienced chap like me. The Shadows had recently broken up for the first time so they even asked Hank Marvin to join.
All that night I talked it over with my Mom and my girlfriend Jo, and at seven o'clock the next morning, having not slept myself, I woke up Mike Carroll (The Manager) to tell him the news. When he saw me on the doorstep so early, he must have thought there had been a death in the family. My usual waking hours at the time were three in the afternoon until four in the morning. As he filled the kettle he said, "What's up? - Don't tell me you're leaving the band". When I said yes, most of the tea things ended up on the floor.
We had just spent five hundred pounds on new band photographs and publicity and all of it would now be out of date. He must have been very angry but he had the decency to sit me down and talk to me about the pitfalls of wealth and fame etc. and about the way my life was about to change beyond recognition. Eventually, we did part on good terms, although we have rarely spoken since. That's probably down to me because, supposedly, my attitude to people changed completely. I'm told I went through a period of being a complete twat.
It is hard to look at yourself in those terms, but over the years I have met plenty of newly successful 'turns' who have changed overnight when fame and money came their way. With this in mind, I'm prepared to accept the word of my alleged friends when they insist that I was once one of those flash tossers. Thanks Mick, thanks Laurie.
There were various versions of Sight & Sound under Mike Carroll's management for a long time after all the founder members had left the building.