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Theatre Royal, Windsor
Saturday 4th November 2007.
By Graham Hunter.

Clem Cattini, Jess Conrad & John Leyton

Top West End producer Bill Kenwright appeared backstage to say hello to everyone on the bill (See picture) and to indulge himself with music he loves and as he said “Grew up with”. A staunch supporter of the arts, Bill had every reason to be thrilled with the “Icons Of The Sixties” show as it had sold out to every available seat.

By 2.30pm on the afternoon of the show band calls were taking place, in order of the nights appearance, Jess Conrad ran through his set first, then Craig Douglas and John Leyton, all backed by The Tornados with Clem Cattini at the helm. Today the band are a male four piece and sometimes add a female vocalist for functions.

Craig Douglas, Jess Conrad & John Leyton

I was pleased to be asked to introduce the artists for the evening and to watch the pro’s at work. As the stage curtains raised I introduced The Tornados with Clem sitting behind his drum kit centre stage on a riser, the rest of the band came in one by one to take their places to thunderous applause, they breezed through their set opening with the Surfaris “Wipe Out”, The Drifters’ “Saturday Night At The Movies” with lead vocals by lead/rhythm guitarist David Graham, who from the wings bears an uncanny resemblance to Gerry Marsden.
We were treated to the Tornados 1963 hit “GlobeTrotter” next, with a nice raw keyboard sound coming from Brian Miller on Korg and Yamaha keyboards, a medley known as “Cattini Medley” was neatly slotted in to the set to show how many hits Clem Cattini had played on as a session drummer , take for example Johnny Kidd’s “Shaking All Over”, Tom Jones’s “It’s Not Unusual”,” Green Green Grass Of Home” to Brotherhood Of Man’s “Save Your Kisses For Me” and many in-between, (Some 45 number one hits.) That Joe Meek mono distorted sound is hard to re-produce ‘live’ on stage, he had such a distinctive production sound but the guys today play the familiar hits like “Robot” and “Telstar” with passion and leave no note unturned, Andy Grosart’s bass guitar adds the underlining mood to the hit numbers. Their group activities aside, they are all top musicians and it must be said ‘comedians’, but most of the jokes we heard during rehearsals wouldn’t ever make the show!
“Telstar” closed the Tornados set, it has a haunting melody you could play to almost anyone today and they’ll probably sing along.

It was time to introduce the first soloist, Jess Conrad. For years he’s been opening his shows with Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and it’s still a great rocker. Johnny Burnette’s “You’re 16” came next, then a break for some very humorous self effacing patter. Jess in his pink suit showed that he really has come of age with his act and is a fine comic and raconteur with some fabulous roots steeped in rock ‘n’ roll and variety history, having toured with people like Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran to name just a few. Next he paid tribute to Gene Vincent with “Be Bop A Lula” and spoke of touring with Gene and Brenda Lee back in 1962. Jess’s 1962 Decca record “This Pullover” has become a ‘cult classic’ for the the wrong (right?) reasons and Kenny Everett placed it as one of the World’s Worst Records, it wasn’t a big chart hit for Jess but he’s done it in his show for years, so on this occasion I asked him why he didn’t sing “Mystery Girl” his biggest hit from 1961, he told me “I haven’t sung it for years, must be at least thirty!”, I convinced him to dig out the old music charts for the song and he gave it a couple of run-throughs in the afternoon, that night it was ‘in’ and was a big hit with the audience all over again.
After much hilarity and tongue in cheek pose Jess left the stage with the sounds of “Halfway To Paradise” (Paying Tribute to Billy Fury) and “It’s Only Make Believe” ringing in our ears.

Craig Douglas is every inch a gent, from the moment he arrived at the theatre in his tweed jacket he was ready to rehearse with his band charts under his arm in separate folders that bear his name on their covers, covers that have travelled the world over the last 49 years and could tell a few stories and as Craig reminded me that next year 2008 he will celebrate his fiftieth year in showbusiness. For me Craig presents very much a bookends show, first he invites his audience to “Come On Over To My Place”, croons his way through Scott Walkers “Joanna” (Which Craig also recorded more recently for one of his CD’s “Looking Back”) sings a very well arranged medley of his hits opening with “Time” winding his way around “Pretty Blue Eyes”,”A Hundred Pounds Of Clay” to name a few. Then he warms us with the lyrical and melodic Neil Sedaka song “The Hungry Years” which Craig told us all holds special memories for him as Sedaka played it for him after just having written it when they toured together some years back. To bookend his set the 1959 hit “Only Sixteen” had everybody singing and after much applause Craig re-appeared to pay tribute to his old pal Bobby Darin with “(Up A) Lazy River”. Another hit for Craig that evening was the crisp deep blue suit he wore that took to the follow spotlight with real style.

It’s very evident that John Leyton has a strong fan base, the majority of his big hits were also produced by the legendary Joe Meek(Johnny Remember Me, Wild Wind, Son This Is She, Lonely City) and as most readers will know John has also appeared in some Hollywood blockbusting movies (The Great Escape, Von Ryan’s Express).
Dressed from top to toe in black leather, the jacket studded and with initials ‘JL’ on the back John arrived on stage as if he’d just ridden in on a Harley Davidson motorbike on some black and white surf/teen movie. He graciously accepted his welcome and went straight into his favourite sixties stage set opener “Shout” (Knock Yourself Out). I had always thought of John as a kind of reluctant pop star, he would tell anyone that he is first and foremost an actor and only returned to singing in the last few years realising that so many sixties music lovers wanted to hear those songs again and today the ‘actor’ is singing his hits. “Wild Wind” is an atmospheric number, well received, that instrumental break in it really pays dividends. Next Johnny Tillotson’s “Poetry In Motion” and great to hear John include his last chart hit from 1964, the old 1954 standard originally a hit for Jo Stafford, “Make Love To Me” which really works well with it’s rocking guitar. Johnny Burnette’s “Dreamin’” is not a song I get to hear anyone sing ‘live’ these days, it suits John Leyton well.
Reminiscing about his time filming The Great Escape and his ‘advice’ from Frank Sinatra John shows a fondness for his past credentials and an eagerness to please his fans who couldn’t wait any longer for “Johnny Remember Me” to fill the auditorium with its mysterious tones. The Tornados David Graham made up for the lack of a female soprano voice to sing the tag line “Johnny Remember Me”, the audience “helped out” too.
The last of the evenings ‘icons’ had all but finished his set, with calls for more John returned to take his bow and sang a medley of Bill Haley’s “Razzle Dazzle” and Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise”.
The Tornados all fine (music) readers backed everyone wonderfully, it’s no wonder they are a busy band. Yep, a boy band that can play instruments!

During the interval Jess and The Tornados signed autographs and CD’s and posed for photographs for fans in the foyer of the theatre, something they could never have done forty years ago for fear of being mobbed. Today it’s great to see these artists meeting the people who bought the records and screamed at the concerts all those years past. Both Craig and John came out after the show to meet and greet the audience as they left too.

The success of this show has brought calls for more ‘Icons Of The Sixties’ concerts and hopefully in 2008 we’ll get to see a few more up and down the country. Indeed three of the shows ‘Icons’ Jess and John and Clem Cattini appear in the new Nick Moran film “Telstar-The Movie” out next year about the life and times of Joe Meek.

I must add that I was pleased to meet some BEAT readers in attendance at the show, glad you enjoyed the night. A word of thanks to all the crew at the Theatre Royal for their hard work. See you on the next one!

Photographs and text ©2007 Copyright Graham Hunter.
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