Who was the very, very first rock band in Britain? Fred knows!
Which was Britain’s first rock’n’roll band and who had the first British rock hit record? A. Durban, via e-mail
Fred says: The answer in both cases is Tony Crombie’s Rockets. Jazz drummer Crombie (born Anthony John Kronenberg) formed his band the Rockets in 1956 after hearing Bill Haley And His Comets at the start of the 1955 movie Blackboard Jungle. While Rex Morris, the tenor player with the Rockets, would lay flat on his back and honk gloriously, Crombie put down a steady rock beat and, for several months at least, the band (which would later feature The Shadows’ future bassist, Jet Harris) pulled in a sensational number of British teenage admirers, and even notched the first-ever UK rock’n’roll hit single with the Norrie Paramorproduced We’re Gonna Teach You To Rock, which reached Number 7 in October 1956. Crombie was also a talented songwriter, his compositions including So Near, So Far, which was recorded by Miles Davis for his Seven Steps To Heaven long-player, released in 1963. He also played with Stan Tracey, and accompanied singers as varied as Annie Ross and Wee Willie Harris, among many others. Crombie, who became house drummer at Ronnie Scott’s club, left us in 1999.
WAS THERE AN EURYTHMICAL SCORE PROBLEM?
Is it true that there are two versions of Michael Radford’s 1984 film Nineteen Eighty-Four around – each with a different soundtrack? Ray Soames, via e-mail
Fred says: There were actually three versions. In summer 1984, the Eurythmics were commissioned to compose a soundtrack for Radford’s then-upcoming adaptation of the George Orwell novel, unaware that the director had commissioned a score by Dominic Muldowney, which he used on his original cut. However, as Virgin Films had commissioned the film – and Eurythmics’ single Sexcrime (Ninety Eighty-Four) had reached Number 4 in the UK charts on the Virgin label – the movie was quickly reassigned a mixed Muldowney/ Eurythmics score. NME later reported on a cut of the film using the Eurythmics score exclusively! It was very confusing – David Bowie must have felt relieved that he’d turned down an invitation to write a soundtrack in the first instance.
WHAT WAS CHER’S OTHER GUISE?
How many records did Cher make under a pseudonym?
Chas Dempsey, via e-mail
Fred says: Just one, her debut single for Phil Spector, she recorded under the name Bonnie Jo Mason. Released on the Annette label in 1964, the A-side was Ringo, I Love You, while the B-side, also credited to Bonnie Jo Mason, was an instrumental called Beatle Blues. This also turned up as Uncle Kev, Bside to a Spector production by Harvey & Doc With The Dwellers. Oddly, there was a mania for Ringo tributes at this time, two being pop columnist Penny Valentine’s I Want To Kiss Ringo Goodbye (1965), and Ella Fitzgerald’s 1964 song Ringo Beat!
WHO SUPPLIED DENZEL’S SOUNDS?
I saw the Denzel Washington film, Roman J. Israel Esq., about a year ago – rather a slow movie saved by Washington’s superb performance. At one point the soundtrack featured some great jazz tenor and, later, a piano piece that sounded like Bill Evans. There was also some terrific funky stuff. Can you provide a soundtrack listing and tell me if there’s an album available? Steve Drake, via e-mail
Fred says: Unfortunately, the only soundtrack album, on Sony Classical, features James Newton Howard’s score and doesn’t include the funk and jazz material which abounded in backdrop snippets. The jazz tenor piece is Elevation by Pharoah Sanders and you were right about Bill Evans, whose trio is heard performing Peace-Piece. The funk segments include songs by Eddie Kendricks and The Spinners, among others.
Further to Oliver Hill’s letter about there being 58 groups all called The Boys on Discogs (Ask Fred 294) – there are lots of songs called The Power Of Love, Call Me, Hold On, Freedom, etc, so what’s the all-time most popular song title in pop and rock? Chris O’Donnell, via e-mail
I walked with a Crombie: Tony (left) prepares for lift-off; (right) Annie Lennox scorns Big Brother; (inset right) Denzel Washington’s soundtrack; (below) seminal Cher wax.