1960s U.K. Group, The Shadows

emerged amidst Beatlemania as the top instrumental group of the day. They had 69 charted singles (35 by themselves and another 34 with singer Cliff Richards whom they backed for a decade). Hank Marvin, the lead guitarist, played a terrific twangy tremolo guitar and his stylings and guitars influenced Eric Clapton, Andy Summers, and in Winnipeg–where I grew up–Randy Bachman and Neil Young.

The rest of The Shadows featured Bruce Welch on amazing rhythm guitar (his ‘back-up’ work was as interesting as Marvin’s melodies and lead work) and Brian Bennett on accompanying and solo drums, and the three were the core of the four-man guitar-based group from the 1950s to the 2000s.

In North America, The Ventures (of “Walk, Don’t Run” and the “Hawaii Five-o” theme were their counterpart, but in terms of longevity, continuous performing, and catchy original material, The Shadows were superior IMHO.

I remember first hearing them at my friend Hugh’s house around 1964-5. In particular, “Little B” which featured a long intriguing solo by Bennett stood out. Later, Hugh and another musical friend Glen told me that the local group The (Burton Cummings) Deverons, featuring Ron Savoie, had listened to it on the same LP during a break at a community dance, then came out and played a pretty reasonable facsimile of it.

In grade 10, I bought the Canadian version of their Dance with The Shadows 14-cut (always loved those of the time) album and was blown away by a variety of covers and originals like “Shindig” and another cool Bennett-driven piece with the unlikely title of “The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt”. I can remember asking the early Guess Who (Chad Allan and The Reflections featuring drummer wunderkind Gary Peterson) at dances to play it, and they confidently did, spot-on. The album also contained two nice Beatles/Buddy Holly styled vocals: “That’s the Way It Goes” and “Don’t It Make You Feel Good”, showing they could harmonize every bit as good as The Beatles.

Flash forward to 1990, when I finally caught up to the band via The Shadows Original Chart Hits 1960-1980 double CD album pictured here. Later I snapped up The Final Tour 2004 live concert on DVD with 21 classic hits. The trio was nicely backed by yet another bass player and a keyboardist. They were in excellent form for this very special gig.

A lot of 1960s British Invasion fans missed The Shadows the first time around because they were never on the charts in North America like the vocal groups. They also never toured here across the pond to the best of my recollection, sticking with their long-standing U.K. home base success that made them the unique-sounding special band they were. If you’ve never heard this band, check out any of the three works I’ve illustrated here and expand your musical horizons.

*The super bass player with The Shadows, John Rostill, deserves a special mention given how many of his intriguing basslines were outstanding and anchored the band, as in Dance with the Shadows and “The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt”. Tragically, he committed suicide in 1973 at 31, depressed and on barbituates at the time.

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