Goin’ back – early days
ADAM FAITH: turning our gaze towards Britain’s pop scene of the early 60s and one Adam Faith.
Lest we forget, by 1960 Adam was one of the hottest pop commodities in the UK and enjoying a total of no less than 20 chart hits. Beginning, of course, with “What Do You Want”, Adam’s career got into high gear thanks to the musical foresight of trumpeter/band-leader John Barry who laced Adam’s recordings with those familiar piccicato string arrangements, lifted from Buddy Holly’s final studio recordings.
But before he found success, Acton teenager Terry Nelhams-Wright was one of the young hot-shots caught up in the skiffle craze. Calling himself Terry Nelhams and looking for all the world just like James Dean, with hair combed back and collar turned up, the cock-sure aspiring young singer got together with singer/guitarist Freddy Lloyd, Terry’s cousin Dennis Nelhams on guitar, Chas Beaumont on electric guitar, Pete Darby on bass, and Terry’s best mate Roger Van Engel (nicknamed ‘Hurgy’) doing the honours on wash-board.
They called themselves The Worried Men, named after the song “It Takes A Worried Man” which just about every other skiffle group around would include in their reportoire. By May ’57, the group had started performing around Soho with Terry now adopting the more ‘skiffle-friendly’ moniker of Terry Denver, and looking cool in the band outfits of matching silver grey slacks and dark blue shirt.
Making a bid down at the 2i’s coffee bar in Soho, then London’s prime venue for emerging young talent, The Worried men took over as resident group after the Les Hobeaux group left to go on tour. However, it appears that it was The Worried Men’s guitarist Chas Beaumont who became the centre of attention with his fluid, dynamic guitar-playing, much to Terry’s chagrin.
Down the 2i’s, the band would also accompany other young performers who got up on stage, like Wee Willie Harris and Mickey Hayes, who would become Mickie Most.
Receiving a visit from TV producer Jack Good, who used the 2i’s for a live broadcast to celebrate the 1st. birthday of the TV show 6-5 Special on November 16, 1957, and would include a performance from The Worried Men. This aroused the attention of Decca Records who put together a 10” compilation album titled “Rockin’ At The 2i’s”. This early exploitation of British rock’n’roll included The Worried Men performing the skiffle/gospel number “This Little Light Of Mine” and “900 Miles From My Home” with a couple of tracks by Wee Willie Harris and other more obscure names.
Capitalising on the popular TV show, Decca also released “Stars Of The Six-Five Special”, with The Worried Men performing the Bobby Helms’ US country hit “Fraulein” showcasing Beaumont’s fluent guitar and Terry’s distinctive vocals. Over the next few months, The Worried Men went through several changes with Terry leaving the group to
go solo, on Jack Good’s advice. Signing up with agent Teddy Summerfield who, envisaging Terry as ‘Britain’s singing James Dean’, he quickly secured a recording deal with HMV.
But, attempting to create an image of a ‘rebel without a cause’, Terry couldn’t quite meet the bill. A change of name was needed and with the help of Jack Good, up came Adam Faith. Under the name, his first disc release in January 1958 coupled “(Got a) Heartsick Feeling”, a pop-country item, with Adam shouting some of the lyrics intermittently, and “Brother Heartache and Sister Tears”, a pacey item featuring some hot guitar from studio musician Ernie Shears. Performing the top side live on 6-5 Special, Adam unfortunately looked close to death. Not put off by the lack-lustre performance, Jack Good gave Adam a part in the 6-5 Special stage show, which, unfortunately, only ran for four weeks.
For Adam’s next release, he did what most young British singers did at the time and covered an American hit. Unfortunately for our boy, his version of “High School Confidential”, although quite exuberant, paled in comparison to Jerry Lee Lewis’s storming original. The B-side was the Bacharach/David song “Country Music Holiday”, a bright and breezy piece of contrived sing-along pop. After another failure, Adam, or Terry, returned to his day-job as a film cutter at Elstree Film Studios. But bandleader John Barry obviously saw some potential in the singer and invited him to audition for a new BBC TV rock show to compete with the success Jack Good was having on ITV with Oh Boy!
The show was Drumbeat and Terry (now Adam again) was given a three-week contract by producer Stewart Morris, extended to 22 weeks. By now the recording contract with HMV had expired, but Adam contributed a track for a ‘Drumbeat’ EP on Fontana Records, with his version of Conway Twitty’s rockin’ opus “I Vibrate”.
Signing up with John Barry’s manager, Eve Taylor, secured Adam a recording contract with the new independent Top Rank label. His one single with the label featured “Ah Poor Little Baby” and “Runk Bunk”, two more rock items, both of which were produced by Tony Hatch. The record’s failure was blamed on lack of publicity due to a printing strike within the record industry, but the single did get publicised within Top Rank’s advertising campaign and, in reality, the disc probably failed because it was simply, contrived rubbish.
Despite his lack of success on record, Adam was becoming popular by way of his weekly appearances on Drumbeat. As a result, he was lined up for a role in the 1960 British pop film ‘Beat Girl’. In it, he played the part of a dead-pan beatnik and sang the title song and “Made You”. John Barry would supply the score and the film signalled the start of his career in film music.
Another 1960 film appearance for Adam was as a thug in the crime drama ‘Never Let Go’ featuring a rare straight and gritty performance from Peter Sellers as a nasty and sadistic bent garage owner. On record Adam had now signed with Parlophone and, under John Barry’s supervision, recorded a song by Johnny Worth, which had initially been intended for Johnny Kidd, “What Do You Want”. With Barry’s arrangement and Adam’s vocal styling, suggested to him by fellow Drumbeat performer, Roy Young, it was a winning combination and the beginning of a long and successful career in music and eventually as an acclaimed actor.