Steve Allsworth transcribes another of this great group’s memorable instrumentals, so turn your echo on, grab that whammy and go!
It’s easy to underestimate in today’s current musical climate, the mass appeal, success and influence that the Shadows had, especially in their early years. they had 69 UK chart singles in the five decades from the 1950s to the 2000s, with just over half credited to them purely as an instrumental group and the rest as Cliff Richard and The Shadows. Third only behind Elvis and Cliff in the UK singles chart, they are also credited as being the world’s most successful backing group. As the original pioneers of the four-member rock group format, they also played a pivotal role in the development of the many thousands of guitar-based groups both in the UK and the abroad. In the pre-Beatles era from 1958 to 1962, the Shadows and Cliff were arguably the only major group.
Hank’s famous fiesta red Strat, played through a combination of Vox amps and an Italian Meazzi echomatic echo unit, is an immediately identifiable sound that no doubt played its part in the development of instrumental guitar music as we know it today.
This month’s track is one of The Shadows’ lesser-known tracks, despite reaching the number two spot in the UK when it was released as a single in 1963 and staying in the charts for a further 17 weeks. The track was written by Jerry Lordan, who had already found success with Apache, first recorded by Bert Weedon. Lordan wasn’t keen on Bert’s version, so he played Apache backstage on a ukulele while on tour with The Shadows and the band decided to record it there and then. When it was finally released in 1960 it topped the charts and stayed there for five weeks. Lordan went on to pen further instrumental hits such as Wonderful Land, and Diamonds (for Shads’ bassist and drummer Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, although Licorice Locking and Brian Bennett played on Atlantis).
After the band split in 1968 The Shadows received a second wave of success from the late 70s until their final breakup in 1990, but Hank has continued to release solo material ever since, plus there have been various ‘reunion’ gigs. Like many of The Shadows’ best tracks, Atlantis features a simple melody that uses chord tones effectively, especially over the latter part of the theme (which uses a non-diatonic D major chord for example). It also plays heavily on quarter-note triplets, although don’t feel that these and many of the other rhythms need to be absolutely perfect. Much of Hank’s musicality comes from letting these rhythms ebb and flow to give the melody more of a lyrical quality.
I bumped into George Harrison in Abbey Road and he told me how much he loved the single [My Baby Blue]. ‘Take my advice’, he said, ‘forget about being an instrumental group and follow up on the vocals.’ We didn’t. We were idiots. Nice boys, but idiots. Hank Marvin