The Glitter Band

Nov 2019 The Glitter Band

By Ian Woolley

“All that glitters is not gold”, an aphorism which means that not everything that is precious or true turns out to be so.

For the Glitter Band this was to prove very ironic.

Originally, they started as the Mike Leander Showband back in 1965, when they backed a lot of artists on tour. Founder Glitter Band member John Rossall recalls: “We backed the likes of Susan Maughan and Mike Preston to name a few and we went on to form the Boston Show band in Hamburg. I asked Paul Raven if he would like to come out to Germany with us, and after joining us for a few years, we went back into the studio to record Rock & Roll Pts 1 & 2 (under the name of the Glittermen).

“The song did nothing chart-wise. It wasn’t until DJ Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman started playing it that,suddenly, it started climbing the charts once more.

A second drummer, Pete Phipps, was added to the live session, as the original recorded track had two layers of drums on it. I asked Pete how this came about and how he got there in the first place. “After, I unsuccessfully attempted to learn the piano and violin, my father came back from abroad and gave me an African drum as a present. At that time a song called Wipeout was riding high in the charts and I found that I was a natural at replicating the sound with my makeshift sticks.

Pete Phipps

“So, at just 11 years old, drumming became my obsession. At 15, I was in a soul band called Fascination and the organist’s dad was a milkman, and he would drive us all around from gig to gig in a milk float – we all smelt of milk! “After I got out of that band, I bumped into Jeff Hanlon and he, with his business partner Vic Billings, had employed me to back several songs of the Elgins, one of many Tamla Motown bands they brought over to the UK at that time.

“A while later, he called me to ask if I was interested in becoming the second drummer for an act they were putting on. I had already heard the track from one of its engineers, a song called Rock & Roll (part 1 & 2) which bombed in the 1971 charts when it was initially released. Producer Mike Leander realised he had a Top 10 record but no band, and so, after ringing up John Rossall, who had worked on the track in Germany with his band, got us all together to rehearse the song – but now using two drummers.”

From 1972 to 1977, during the Glam Rock era, they dominated the charts, having seven UK top 40 hits, and three hit albums. Many years later, GG tried his best to scupper the band from having further success, jealous of the fact somehow that his backing band had cracked the States when he had not.

I asked Pete what followed that era.

“One day we were in the studio waiting for John Springate to turn up, with our producer, Gerry Shephard, Harvey on sax and myself jamming when this song came out of it all. The result become ‘the Hey Song’ as it’s now known called Makes You Blind, ironically the only Glitter Band song to make the US Billboard charts.

“When our band split up shortly afterwards, John Springate started a studio and we worked together on and off with me and Gerry going on tour with the XTC, Mike Rutherford and the Eurythmics. We also supported Peter Gabriel at the time, when we were working with Hit & Run Records. “Then, in 1985, the year I was getting married, I was asked by Roger Chapman to tour with his band Family, in Germany, for a year, but chose instead to back GG in the States on a few gigs he was doing. We all got back together at that time with John, Gerry, Eddie Spence and myself, before splitting up for good.”

John Rossall

Differences in how the band was being managed resulted in the break-up,, and after several court decisions on the name of the band and who could use it, both John and Pete parted company with their own bands, which are still both doing the circuits today.”

Pete admits that shaking off the leader has been very difficult for the band.

“Gerry and I had run the band for 12 years, from 1987 to 1998, quite successfully, and after the infamous court case in 1998, we were told we couldn’t be booked anymore. The name of Glitter was to be our downfall for many years after”.

Both John and Pete have some exciting things in the pipeline – John Rossall has just completed a new album – out in the New Year – and Pete

Phipps has recorded some new stuff of his material which had been in the vaults for some years.

Of the original band members, Gerry Shephard died in 2003, and sax player Harvey Ellison passed away in 2017. More recently though, things are changing, with their appearances on Top of The Pops re-runs and more BBC radio airplay.

In fact Rock & Roll (part 2) is used in the new 2019 film soundtrack of The Joker.

Once again, royalties are maybe starting to roll in for Mike Leander. Or should that be Rock ‘N’Rollin’!