He’s still swinging after all these years
By Martin Hutchinson
YES, it’s that time again. The annual Sensational 60s Experience from October to Spring.
It gathers arguably some of the best of the sixties artists, half a dozen of them – as well as the terrific New Amen Corner, who back the solo acts.
Mike Pender, original voice of The Searchers who – with his trusty Rickenbacker guitar – be belts out classics such as Sweets For My Sweet, Needles And Pins, Sugar And Spice and Don’t Throw Your Love Away.
Mike was a part of last year’s tour and makes a welcome return. Also returning is Chris Farlowe, whose blues-tinged set features his all-time great Out Of Time and Handbags And Gladrags. Mike and Chris are backed by The New Amen Corner, who perform some sixties classics and hits like If Paradise Is Half As Nice and Bend Me Shape Me.
Hermans Hermits are on for the final time, entertaining the audiences with Silhouettes, I’m Into Something Good and There’s A Kind Of Hush and a host of others. The Dakotas’ hits – Bad To Me, Do You Want To Know A Secret and Little Children with Billy J Kramer as well as The Cruel Sea by themselves; join the tour with The Fourmost who had hits with Hello Little Girl and A Little Loving among a half-dozen chart entries.
The Swinging Blue Jeans only had five hits during their chart career, which lasted from 1963 to 1966, but what hits they were.
Don’t Make Me Over, Good Golly Miss Molly, You’re No Good and who can forget Hippy Hippy Shake? Alan Lovell of The Swinging Blue Jeans (whose bassist Pete Oakham wrote A Picture Of You for Joe Brown) said: “Sadly, there are no original members from the sixties. I joined the band in the nineties.”
“I’d known them for years. We played on the same bill many times and we had the same management. Then original member Colin Manley passed away, my manager asked me to join. I said I’d love to, but it would have to be in a couple of weeks as I was in Sweden at the time, touring with P J Proby. My first ‘proper’ tour with the band was in 2000.”
Over the years, the band has continued, despite the retirements and deaths of original members. Now the line-up consists of Alan on lead guitar and lead vocals, Peter Oakham on bass, who joined in 2004, as well as drummer Graham Hollingworth and keyboard player Jeff Bannister, who both joined in 2010.
“We all really love playing in this band. I’ve made about 10 albums so far – mainly abroad. My favourite is Hippy Hippy Shake.”
One of the reasons Alan loves that song so much is that it probably saved the band. The SBJ’s chart career stuttered to a halt in 1966, and Alan is in no doubt why it happened.
“Bad management at the time. The band just faded, the hits dried up due to the changing trends and the band’s management just weren’t interested.”
“But when you have a hit like Hippy Hippy Shake you can keep going. There was the cabaret circuit and then foreign tours, which showed that the band was still very popular, and these package tours help keep the light burning.”
With so many artists on the bill, time will be limited.
“Yeah, we’re only on for about 20 to 25 minutes, which means we can play all the hits and probably one or two rock-and- rollers, basically a shortened version of our usual two-hour set. The band’s two-hour set includes hits, album tracks and some rock and roll standards, also some Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, who we love.”
The package tours have proved popular over the years and Alan has a reason why the audiences keep coming back.
“It’s the songs, definitely. The audience all have a good time and the songs take them back to when they were youngsters.”
But what about the artists themselves? Some of them do the tour every year.
“It’s because it’s what we do.” Alan said. “It’s in our blood and it’s a privilege. It pleases us to give pleasure.”
Bands have come and gone, but The Swinging Blue Jeans carry on giving pleasure.
“Yeah, we will carry on as long as we can. We have a great line-up and it’s been very successful.”
The tour takes in the whole country, and including the Amen Corner hits, the artists on stage have been responsible for no less than 30 Top Ten Hits with eight N0.1s. What’s not to like?
The Sensational Sixties Experience, starring Mike Pender, Chris Farlowe, Hermans Hermits, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Dakotas, The Fourmost and The New Amen Corner tour the country until June.