ALMOST FAMOUS... lost bands of the 60s ALMOST FAMOUS... lost bands of the 60s.
Originally The Nightriders, you've probably heard of the group's lead singer and main writer: Jeff Lynne would later find superstardom with ELO.
Idle Race had an influential supporter in Roy Wood, of chart-toppers The Move, who let them use his London studios and wrote their first single.
Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree was actually the B-side of The Move's big hit, Flowers In The Rain.
Unfortunately, The Move's version was receiving substantial airplay in the UK, so Idle Race's 45 was never released in this country. In fact, the Race's first UK single, Impostors of Life's Magazine, was penned by Lynne and released in October 1967. It failed to chart, as did Lynne's follow-up, The Skeleton and the Roundabout.
Idle Race, however, were gaining a massive underground following and respect from fellow musicians. DJ Kenny Everett feverishy championed the band on air, but commercial THE APPLEJACKS THIS six-piece from Solihull created their very own slice of pop history. Their single Tell Me When was the first single by a Birmingham group to crash the top 10.
The catchy Decca disc peaked at No 7 in 1964. Their fortunes fluctuated after that, with the follow-up Like Dreamers Do reaching No 20.
The line-up was: Al Jackson (vocals), Martin Baggott (lead guitar), Phil Cash (rhythm guitar), Megan Davies (bass/vocals), Gerald Freeman (drums) and Don Gould (organ).
Interestingly, the members had a common link - they were members of the 1st Olton Scouts Troop, which is not the kind of roots expected of rock'n'roll legends.
They were formed in 1961 as The Crestas, then became The Jaguars before finding fleeting fame as The Applejacks.
The Applejacks enjoyed a residency at Solihull Civic Hall before being scouted by Decca in '63. They struck gold with debut Tell Me When which stayed in the charts for 13 weeks and earned The Applejacks slots on popular TV shows Ready Steady Go and Thank Your Lucky Stars.
The follow-up release was penned by Lennon and McCartney but, despite very high hopes, failed to cash in. A third single limped to No 23, but it was a slide into the shadows: a string of releases, including their own version of Chim Chim Chiree failed to excite the record-buying public.
Musically, the middle of the road beckoned. In 1966, The Applejacks signed a cruise liner contract and performed on The Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I and II.
The band imploded soon afterwards, but reformed briefly for the 1986 Heartbeat charity concert at the NEC, and again in 2010 for another charity gig.
THE RENEGADES THEY failed to find lasting success at home, but this Perry Barr four-piece has a story that's pure Spinal Tap.
They may have been able to walk through Birmingham high streets unnoticed, but The Renegades were superstars in Finland.
Bigger than The Beatles, in fact.
The original line-up was Kim Brown (vocals), Denny Gibson (guitar), Ian Mallet (bass) and Graham Johnson (drums). After establishing themselves on the club circuit, The Renegades tasted stardom in 1964 when they flew to Helsinki for a couple of gigs.
The reception from pop-starved Finns was so overwhelming that the band, who wore American civil war uniforms, stayed for seven weeks.
The rock'n'rollers hit the Finnish charts in 1964 with Cadillac, which reached No 2. Seven Daffodils and Matelot also charted before The Renegades eyed Italy. Singles Un Giorno Mi Cercherai and L'amore e Blu were commercial successes, although the group could never trouble the British charts.
The Renegades disbanded in 1971, but reunited in 1997 for a comeback tour - in Finland.
IDLE RACE glory did not follow, despite many of their songs being covered by other bands.
Their first album, The Birthday Party, was seen as heavily influenced by The Beatles. It wouldn't be the first time Lynne was linked with the Fab Four's sound. The beginning of the end came in January 1970, when Jeff Lynne joined The Move as replacement for Carl Wayne. The band continued to tour and found fame, of sorts, in Argentina. Their final album was released in 1971.
FINDERS KEEPERS IT'S A cliche, but Finders Keepers were so nearly famous. The Wolverhampton group also spawned some illustrious careers.
Ian "Sludge" Lees found fame as a stand-up comedian, while Glenn Hughes and Mel Galley went on to join Deep Purple and Whitesnake respectively. Drummer Dave Holland became a member of Judas Priest.
They began life in 1965, although Galley and Hughes didn't join until four years later.
Managed by Roger Allen, Finders Keepers were pushed hard, performing eight times every week. Not surprisingly, singer-guitarist Ralph Oakley soon tired of the tough schedule and quit in 1966 to join The Montanas. They thrived on the Northern Club circuit, but a bottom-ofthe-bill place on a February 1966 Dudley Hippodrome concert that featured The Walker Bros, The Kinks and Twinkle proved pivotal.
Single Light (written by John Stewart, who also penned Monkees classic Day Dream Believer) followed in September 1966, but failed to shine brightly, barely troubling the Top 50.
Finders Keepers had two more cracks at chart stardom. Their final vinyl, novelty song Sadie The Cleaning Lady got a lot of media coverage but didn't sell, although a cover of it, by Australia's JohnFarnham, proved a massive hit Down Under.
THE MONTANAS THEY didn't create waves nationally but The Montanas gained legendary status in the Black Country.
Interestingly, lead singer Ian "Sludge" Lees, who joined the Montanas in 1969, went on to find fame as a TV comedian, although the real driving force is considered to be West Midlands music stalwart and bass player Jake Elcock.
The Montanas were guided by manager Roger Allen, dubbed Wolverhampton's Brian Epstein, who handled a number of local bands from his Merridale Road offices.
The band were known for their R&B sound, but chose a slow ballad for their 1965 debut single All That Is Mine Could Be Yours. Both that and the follow-up, That's Where Happiness Began - now highly collectable - failed to ignite the public's imagination.
The Montanas were gaining an army of supporters on the concert scene and had begun injecting comedy into their act. Drummer Graham Crew's PJ Proby impersonations proved particularly popular.
The big breakthrough came when they were selected to support The Walker Brothers on their 44-date tour. Other acts included The Troggs, Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich, and Clodah Rodgers.
The Montanas began to spread their wings and performed in Holland and Germany. Back home, the blend of comedy and music made them a draw on the clubland scene.
It seemed the group couldn't fail in 1967 when single Ciao Baby was unanimously voted a hit on TV show Juke Box Jury by panelists Alan Freeman, Maggie Clews, Simon Dee and Julie Foster. It was also a Radio Luxembourg "power-play".
It failed to hit the UK charts, but sold more than 10,000 copies.
In all, the band endured four distinct line-ups before folding completely in 1978.
The Sunday Mercury is indebted to superb website Brumbeat - a chronicle of the area's rich pop music heritage - for providing information on the five lost bands. Visit www.brumbeat.net
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|Publication:||Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)|
|Date:||Jul 10, 2016|
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