After two very successful tours of Bulgaria – 4/5/70 to 22/5/70 with a young Welsh vocalist, Derek John Tilley and female singer Marilyn Powell, and Romania - 12/6/71 to 14/7/71 with ex ‘Federals’ singer Tony Bolton (The backing band ‘Icarus’ included guitarist John Etheridge), the promoter David Stones approached Shirley, John and Mel to do just a couple of shows in Budapest supporting Jose Feliciano. They did, on 28/3/73. On drums was Alan Buck (ex Four Pennies), on bass their mate Shep. What an experience!
Shirley did the demos for Olivia Newton John’s Eurovision Song Contest entry in 1974. From memory there were three songs from which the choice was to be made by the great British public. We seem to remember Chris Gunning was one of the contributors along with Gary Benson and Dave Mindel. Sadly we are unable to trace the tapes of that session which was at ‘Orange Studio’ in Compton Street, WC2. on 27/11/73. ‘Long live love’ was finally chosen as the UK entry.
1972 and an ex Philips man Richard Swainson was now at RCA standing in for the head of A&R who had a long-term illness. So the kids made their way down to see him, reels of tape in hand. A contract for two singles and an album was signed and recording started at Audio International studios in Rodmarton Street W.1. soon after. A new arranger was employed for this project. Des Champ was a well-known musician and MD on various BBC radio shows at this time plus he and his partner were responsible for a number of hits including 'Son of my father' by Chicory Tip. Des seemed to have an affinity with the kids from day one. A number of tracks were recorded on the first session including a ‘Three Dog Night’ cover, ‘My impersonal life’. This was coupled with one of Mel’s songs ‘Lovely to see you’ as the first single for ‘Wheeler, St. James & James. Guess what! It wasn’t a hit! Sadly for W,St.J&J the RCA man Mike Everett who had been off sick returned to work and decided to have a bit of a spring clean and acts that were not making money were axed, so back to the drawing board, again. Although they did retain the master tapes and rights to the songs recorded during that period.
When live work was rather slow they were, on occasion, fortunate to pick up some session work. On 13th December ’72 they recorded some jingles for Radio Luxembourg. ‘Fabulous 208’ was the theme; they were written by one of the jocks, Mark Wesley and produced by Dave Symonds (ex Radio One DJ). They were played often on air for a number of years.
Mel and John did a couple of sessions at Audio International and on one occasion, Des Champ was the arranger and we think Nicky Chinn was the producer, Mel and John played guitar and John did some vocal backing for a guy called Jacques Pascal. The so-called backing singer he brought in couldn’t sing in tune so John offered his services. As far as we’re aware the tracks were never released.
RCA publicity shot 1974
Mel - Shirley - John & Pooch
RCA and Beyond....