SHAKIN' STEVENS

The Prince Of Wales

by Shaun Mather


Not since the heydays of the fifties had rock 'n' roll enjoyed such hit status as it did in the early eighties. As early as 1976 Hank Mizell's Jungle Rock had inexplicably entered the British charts on a Charly reissue and climbed all the way to the top three. When I was a kid growing up in rural mid-Wales all my school mates were into the punk bands of the day or the likes of Culture Club, Wham, Duran Duran later on. Since '77 me and my sister Sharon had been listening to mums Elvis Greatest Hits Box Set and I'd started getting into other rockers like Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. The turn of the 80's proved a great time for rock 'n' roll fans in Britain with the charts starting to house people like the Stray Cats, the Jets, Matchbox and a hip-swivelling Welshman, Shakin' Stevens. By the end of the decade Shaky had become the biggest selling artist in Europe, clocking up 28 Top 30 hits in the UK. The media referred to him as an Elvis soundalike, which was grossly unfair as he sounded like Shaky to me - if anything he was more like Ricky Nelson! He even had a small Dutch hit in the early '70's with Ricky's Lonesome Town. The void left by Shaky has never been filled and perhaps it's time this was rectified, either by Shaky himself or someone like Darrel Higham.

His story began on March 4th,1948 when he was born, Michael Barratt in the Cardiff suburb of Ely, the youngest of eleven kids. As a youngster he was introduced to rock 'n' roll by his brother Roy and it was also during this time that he first heard a friend use the name Shakin' Stevens. There was a rocker band in Cardiff, managed by entrepeneur Paul Barrett (no relation) called the Backbeats whose lead singer Rockin' Louie became Shaky's idol, with the young Shaky sometimes getting up on stage to sing with the band.

After leaving school unqualified, he became a window cleaner but his carefree ways didn't help at this or other trades he tried like furniture upholstery. He had by now fronted various bands like the Cossacks, The Olympics and the Denims. But it was in 1968 when the legendary Shakin' Stevens and The Sunsets formed that things started to become more serious. For nearly ten years the group toured all over the UK and released a couple of albums and singles (Phil will deal with Shaky & Sunsets elsewhere.). Their gigs were wild affairs played to anyone from rockers to hippies to college students. One night at the Greenford Hotel in London, sax madman Tony "Twizzle" Britnall started blowing flames out of his mouth using lighter fluid which was soon all over the floor. Pretty soon the piano burst into flames and Shaky ran and jumped onto it and leapt forward onto a light fitting and swung backwards and forwards over the hysterical crowd. Next thing, the light fused and sparks started flying off it, landing in a teddy boys quiff which erupted into flames. What a sight, the floor burning, the piano covered in fire, Shaky dangling above the crowd on a sizzling light and people slapping a rockers head, trying to kill the flames! Needless to say, he didn't repeat this type of thing when he started appearing on Top Of The Pops.

In 1977, Jack Good produced a West End musical called Elvis, and after seeing Shaky at a London gig, persuaded him to audition for the part of the prime time King. Mike Hurst negotiated a healthy wage for Shaky rising from 100 a week during the rehearsal stage to 200 when the show was up and running. Following one last drunken concert with the Sunsets on October 25th at the Broon in Woolwich, London, Shaky started a new phase in his career, without his mentor Paul Barrett.

During this time Shaky signed with Track Records as a solo act and both artist and label must have been optimistic of success given the exposure Elvis would be giving him. Three singles and an album "Play Loud" were issued but nothing happened and the label went bankrupt. An album was cut for CBS with producer Mike Hurst but they rejected it on first hearing in July '79. That same month also saw the end of Elvis' West End run, but by now Shaky was working with Good on the ITV show Oh Boy and a 26 programme series Let's Rock which even made it onto American television. CBS decided to give him another crack of the whip and with Mike Hurst at the helm they went to the Eden Studios and laid down some rock 'n' roll tracks including a cover of Buck Owens' Hot Dog. Shaky also signed a management agreement with Freya Miller. Three singles on CBS subsidiary Epic had already failed to ignite, but Hot Dog was to change everything. Benefiting from some great Albert Lee licks, Hot Dog entered the UK charts in January 1980 and climbed to the number 24 spot. The album "Take One" was released the following month but only charted for two weeks peaking at 62.

An excellent stab at Hey Mae failed to score but his take on the Blasters' Marie Marie went to number 19 but again the resultant album Marie, Marie, featuring such guitar greats as Welshman Mickey Gee, Albert Lee and Eddie Jones, disappointed, only reaching 56. Shooting Gallery from the album also missed the spot.

For the next single they chose to update Rosemary Clooney's 1954 hit This Ole House. A powerhouse version by Shaky tore up the charts reaching number 1 in the spring of '81. The album rose to number 2 and for the next ten years Shaky had a permanent residency on the UK and European charts, with hits like You Drive Me Crazy, Green Door, Oh Julie, Shirley, It's Raining and A Rockin' Good Way, a duet with fellow countryman Bonnie Tyler. By the end of the eighties, the songs had become more pop styled but their was the occasional rocker amongst them like Phil's favourite, I Might.

Following a lengthy break, Shaky is now back touring, he's just blown through Britain with the Killer's sister, Linda Gail Lewis. Could he be about to hit the charts again - if he does I hope he continues to use Darrel Higham on guitar, they're one hell of a combination. I caught two of the shows in Cardiff and Porthcawl and was knocked out by the great rockin' sounds. Shaky looks and sounds unbelievably good and both shows were near sell-outs. The crowd was a real mixture of young and old with a surprising number of teenagers. He had a great new phrasing on This Ole House and did a belting Marie Marie. The duets with Linda Gail, Real Gone Lover and A Rockin' Good Way were high spots which were well received. True Love Travels On A Gravel Road was superb and would be an obvious choice when he next records (rumour is that won't be far away). After raising the house lights and paying tribute to the Sunsets in the crowd he went wild with Tear It Up, a breathtaking version with loads of Darrel Higham licks, moving into Heebie Jeebies, Rip It Up etc. It was great fun and I can't wait until November when he could be touring again. It was also good to see producer Stuart Colman playing bass on the tour, its a step in the right direction and hopefully will be the start of another prosperous association. Shaky it's time to sort out our bloody charts again!!





SHAKY'S UK SINGLES
DATE SONG LABEL POSITION WEEKS
Aug 78 Treat Her Right Epic EPC 6567 -- --
Aug 78 Treat Her Right Epic EPC 6567 -- --
Jan 79 Endless Sleep Epic EPC 6845 - -
? 79 Spooky Epic EPC 7235 - -
Feb 80 Hot Dog Epic EPC 8090 24 9
May 80 Hey Mae Epic EPC 8573 83 2
Aug 80 Marie Marie Epic EPC 8725 19 10
Feb 81 This Ole House Epic EPC 9555 1 17
May 81 You Drive Me Crazy Epic A1165 2 12
Jul 81 Green Door Epic A1354 1 12
Oct 81 It's Raining Epic A1643 10 9
Jan 82 Oh Julie Epic EPC A1742 1 10
Apr 82 Shirley Epic EPC A2087 6 6
Aug 82 Give Me Your Heart Tonight Epic EPC A2656 11 10
Oct 82 I'll Be Satisfied Epic EPC A2846 10 8
Dec 82 The Shakin' Stevens EP
(Blue Christmas, Que Sera Sera,
Josephine, Lawdy Miss Clawdy)
Epic SHAKY 1 2 7
Jul 83 It's Late Epic A 3565 11 7
Nov 83 Cry Just A Little Bit Epic A 3774 3 12
Jan 84 A Rockin' Good Way
(with Bonnie Tyler)
Epic A 4071 5 9
Mar 84 A Love Worth Waiting For Epic A 4291 2 10
Sep 84 A Letter To You Epic A 4677 10 8
Nov 84 Teardrops Epic A 4882 5 9
Mar 85 Breaking Up My Heart Epic A 6072 14 7
Oct 85 Lipstick Powder And Paint Epic A 6610 11 9
Dec 85 Merry Christmas Everyone Epic A 6769 1 8
Feb 86 Turning Away Epic A 6819 15 7
Nov 86 Because I Love You Epic SHAKY 2 14 10
Dec 86 Merry Christmas Everyone (re-entry) Epic A 6769 58 3
Jun 87 A Little Boogie Woogie Epic SHAKY 3 12 10
Sep 87 Come See About Me Epic SHAKY 4 24 6
Nov 87 What Do You Want To Make
Those Eyes At Me For
Epic SHAKY 5 5 8
Jul 88 Feel The Need In Me Epic SHAKY 6 26 5
Oct 88 How Many Tears Can You Hide Epic SHAKY 7 47 4
Dec 88 True Love Epic SHAKY 8 23 6
Feb 89 Jezebel Epic SHAKY 9 58 2
May 89 Love Attack Epic SHAKY 10 28 4
Feb 90 I Might Epic SHAKY 11 18 6
May 90 Yes I Do Epic SHAKY 12 60 2
Aug 90 Pink Champagne Epic SHAKY 13 59 2
Oct 90 My Cutie Cutie Epic SHAKY 14 75 1
Dec 90 The Best Christmas Of Them All Epic SHAKY 15 15 3


SHAKY'S UK ALBUMS
ALBUM NAMERELEASEDHighest Position Weeks on Chart
Take One08/02/80622
Marie Marie17/10/80566
This Ole House27/03/81228
Shakin' Stevens (Hallmark) 08/08/81345
Shaky04/09/81128
Hot Dog09/04/82326
Give Me Your Heart Tonight01/10/82318
The Bop Won't Stop26/11/832127
Greatest Hits17/11/84822
Lipstick Powder and Paint16/11/85379
Let's Boogie31/10/87597
A Whole Lotta Shaky19/11/88428
There's Two Kinds of Music...20/10/90652
Merry Christmas Everyone28/11/91358
The Epic Years31/10/92572




Recommended Listening

TAKE ONE!
Epic EPC 83978
SIDE ONE
Lovestruck
Hot Dog
Is A Bluebird Blue?
That's Alright
Without A Love
Shame, Shame, Shame
   SIDE TWO
Shotgun Boogie
I Got Burned
I Guess I Was A Fool
Ah, Poor Little Baby
Little Pigeon
Do What You Did
Produced by Mike Hurst
Recorded at Eden Studios, Chiswick
MUSICIANS:
Albert Lee, Lead Guitar
Stuart Colman, Bass
Roger McKew, Rhythm Guitar
Howard Tibble, Drums
Geraint Watkins, Piano
B.J. Cole, Steel Guitar
Tony Hall, Tenor Sax
Sid Phillips, Baritone Sax
The album gets off to a cracking start with the Jerry McGill & the Topcoats 1959 Sun stop-start rocker Lovestruck which must have been a contender for single release. The next track was the first to get chart action, a corking version of Buck Owen's Hot Dog with BJ Cole shining. Cole and Welshman Geraint Watkins feature heavily on the fine mid tempo version of Conway Twitty's, Is A Bluebird Blue?, with Shaky giving a masterful vocal performance. The next two are okay, before side one closes with the fabulous big band rocker, Smiley Lewis's, Shame, Shame, Shame. The sound is augmented by saxes and Albert Lee takes a great solo. Lee is fine again on a driving rock version of Tennessee Ernie Ford's Shotgun Boogie. Ral Donner's I Got Burned was tailor made for Shaky who turns in a good cut of this Elvisy rocker. The little known Buddy Holly song I Guess I Was A Fool is a lovely ballad which could easily have been Elvis circa 56. Crash Craddock's Ah Poor Little Baby and Chuck Sim's Little Pigeon are two great rockers with Watkins again in fine form. Side two finishes like its counterpart, a full throttle sax led rocker, with Shaky giving some rasping vocals to match the Thurston Harris original. It's a splendid album and should have risen higher than 62 - it's Phil's favourite Epic album.



MARIE MARIE
Epic EPC 84547
SIDE ONE
Hey Mae
Baby If We Touch
Marie, Marie
Lonely Blue Boy
Make It Right Tonight
Move
   SIDE TWO
Slippin' And Slidin'
Shooting Gallery
Revenue Man
Make Me Know You're Mine
Two Hearts
Nobody
Produced by Stuart Colman
Recorded at Eden Studios, Chiswick
MUSICIANS:
B.J.Cole, Steel Guitar
Stuart Colman, Bass Guitar
Mickey Gee, Lead and Rhythm Guitars
Eddie Jones, Electric Guitar
Albert Lee, Lead Guitar
Roger McKew, Rhythm/Lead Guitar
Howard Tibble, Drums
Geraint Watkins, Piano
Tony Hall, Tenor Sax
Sid Phillips, Baritone Sax
My favourite Shaky Epic album was the second one to chart, again only reaching a lowly 56. The lead off track and single was a terrific rockin' version of the Kershaw's cajun classic Hey Mae. The self penned Baby If We Touch was a playful mid tempo item featuring one of Shaky's favourite instruments - the hand claps together with some great guitar and arguably his best ever vocal displays. Marie Marie took him into the top twenty and what a way to do it. It's a fantastic rockin' take on the early Blasters song. The atmospheric blues ballad Lonely Blue Boy followed with brilliant Conway Twitty vocals - it's impossible to listen to this without turning up the collar, curling the lip or growling like a Conway cat. Two uptempo rockers with lashings of steel and piano finish off side one.
Slippin' And Slidin' does the Georgia Peach credit before the moody stroller of Shooting Gallery. There's a great version of Revenue Man with trademark Mickey Gee guitar and ole Possum would have been proud of Shaky's slurred vocals. Shaky is again brilliant on another Twitty song, Make Me Know You're Mine, a bluesy mid tempo hip swiveller which would have been ideal for Billy Fury. Two Hearts from the pens of Jesse Stone and Otis Williams is too poppy for me with too much echo on the drums. When this album was rereleased as This Ole House later in the year, Two Hearts was sacrificed for the hit. A cracking album is rounded off with the live favourite Nobody. The whole package is topped off with a great cover photo, Shaky looking like a moody rocker who's just had his blue suede shoes stepped on.



SHAKY
Epic EPC 10027
SIDE ONE
Mona Lisa
You Drive Me Crazy
I'm Knockin'
Don't She Look Good
Green Door
Don't Bug Me Baby
   SIDE TWO
Don't Tell Me Your Troubles
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself a Letter
It's Raining This Time
Baby You're A Child
Don't Turn Your Back
Let Me Show You How I'm Looking
Produced by Stuart Colman
Recorded at Eden Studios, Chiswick
MUSICIANS:
Mickey Gee, Lead and Rhythm Guitars
Stuart Colman, Bass
Roger McKew, Guitars
Howard Tibble, Drums
Geraint Watkins, Piano
Tony Hall, Tenor Sax
Sid Phillips, Tenor & Baritone Saxes
B.J. Cole Steel, Guitar
The times were changing by this album, the make-up on the cover photo made him look more like Esquerita than Eddie Cochran. The stuff between the grooves was still on the mark, although the steel guitar work of BJ Cole was less in evidence. None more so than the opener, Mona Lisa, a better version than either Carl Mann or Conway in my opinion with Shaky and Mickey Gee starring. You Drive Me Crazy was a great number 2 hit, I can just see Shaky doing it on Top Of The Pops now. Gee is superb again, playing some great stuff even as the song fades away - should have carried on for another few minutes. I'm Knockin' is pretty average but the next up, It's Raining, more than makes up. It's my wife Julie's favourite, Shaky's first non-rocking hit, which benefits from more great vocals and some lovely Watkins piano. Green Door was a biting version of Frankie Vaughan's 1956 hit of the Jim Lowe tune with Mickey Gee driving the song along. Don't Bug Me Baby was easy for Shaky, it's the type of rocker he'd been doing for more than ten years (roll over Cliff and tell Milton Allen the news!). Don Gibson's .. Troubles was another goodie helped in no small part by the rhythm of Howard Tibble and Stuart Colman and would you be surprised if I said that Mickey Gee played a blinding solo? I'm Gonna Sit - was a loping mid tempoer with This Time (written by Chips Moman) sounding like something else Billy Fury could have tackled. Fine, fine, fine. Baby You're A Child was a Tommy Sands soundalike rocker complete with great split tempo ending. The next couple were okay but nothing special before the album closer, I'm Lookin', a great rocker with hot-potato-in-the-mouth vocals and cold-finger-in-the-hot-pie picking from Mickey Gee.



GIVE ME YOUR HEART TONIGHT
Epic EPC 10035
SIDE ONE
Josephine
Give Me Your Heart Tonight
Sapphire
Oh Julie
I'll Be Satisfied
Vanessa
   SIDE TWO
Boppity Bop
Don't Tell Me We're Through
Shirley
You Never Talked About Me
Too Too Much
(Yeah) You're Evil
Que Sera, Sera
Produced by Stuart Colman
Recorded at Eden Studios, Chiswick
GUEST MUSICIANS:
B.J.Cole, Steel Guitar
Stuart Colman, Bass Guitar
Mickey Gee, Lead Guitar
Howard Tibble, Drums
Geraint Watkins, Piano and Accordion
Pete Wingfield, Piano
SHAKY'S MUSICIANS:
Dick Bland, Bass
Billy Bremner, Lead Guitar
Roger McKey, Rhythm Guitar
Gavin Povey, Piano and Accordion
Chris Wyles, Drums
The RUMOUR BRASS:
Ray Beavis, Tenor Sax
John "Irish" Earle, Baritone Sax
Chris Gower, Trombone
Dick Hansen, Trumpet
By the time this album came out, Shaky was a firm fixture at the top of the charts and another four hits were yielded from this collection. The albums kicks off with a neat New Orleans brassy rocker before moving to the Latin rhythms of the title track complete with accordion and fine romancing from Shaky. As pointed out by Phil, this could be the best Ral Donner song that Ral Donner never recorded (then again Phil's old and silly). Big Danny Oliver's Sapphire from tunesmith extraodinaire Jack Hammer was giving a fitting piano/sax treatment that would sound good in his stage act. Oh Julie was another great accordion rocker, ideal for serenading the wife, if you can sing and her name's Julie (one out of two ain't bad!). A belting version of I'll Be Satisfied followed, better than Jackie Wilson I reckon, although grumpy Phil saw Jackie in North Wales and disagrees. A rollicking Vanessa from the pen of kindred spirit Billy Swan and Dennis Linde finished the first side in fine style. Boppity Bop was an enjoyable slab of nonsense followed by Don't Tell Me We're Through, a One Night type song with loads of sax and accordion and oodles of smouldering from the Shakester. The chances of taking a John Fred song into the charts these days is either grim, slim or dim, but Shaky did just that in '82 with this cracking version. Elvis writers Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote You Never Talked About Me but it's only average really. Too Too Much is a neat stroller with strong vocals and (Yeah) You're Evil is a good sax rocker. However, Que Sera, Sera is crap. It's rubbish and I can't believe I'm still writing about it. It's a tidy album, but what a shameful way to finish it. Phil, it's two bob.



LIPSTICK, POWDER AND PAINT
Epic EPC 26646
SIDE ONE
Lipstick, Powder And Paint
Bad Reputation
Don't Lie To Me
I'm Leaving You
The Shape I'm In
Don't Knock Upon My Door
   SIDE TWO
Turning Away
Love You Out Loud
As Long As I Have You
With My Heart
Ain't It A Shame (You Win Again)
So Long Baby Goodbye
Produced by Dave Edmunds
Recorded at Maison Rouge and Eden Studios, Chiswick
SHAKY'S MUSICIANS:
Dick Bland, Bass
Ian Aitken, Lead Guitar
Roger McKey, Rhythm Guitar
Gavin Povey, Piano and Synthesiser
Chris Wyles, Drums
The RUMOUR BRASS:
Ray Beavis, Tenor Sax
John "Irish" Earle Baritone, Sax
Chris Gower, Trombone
Dick Hansen, Trumpet
For 1985's Lipstick Powder & Paint, he was reunited with fellow son of Cardiff, Dave Edmunds and a lot of the songs reflect his influence. The title track, a cover of the Big Joe Turner classic, kicks off the proceedings in fine rockin' style. Bad Reputation is a nice enough, easy paced pop song which features in his live act. Don't Lie to Me is more like it, a typical Dave Edmunds cajun stroller. I'm Leavin' You is okay pop. The Shape I'm In is faster than Johnny Restivo's original and the vocals are top notch. All the song needed was Dave to plug himself in (well, his guitar) and give up a trademark solo as Ian Aitken's seemed to lack the sparkle that Mickey Gee or Albert Lee would have given it. Dave returned to this song himself and cut it in great bayou style. Billy Fury's Don't Knock. was again speeded up. The song suited Shaky by the heavy drumming spoilt it a bit. Turning Away was an enjoyable commercial pop bopper with backing vocals. Love You Out Loud was a poor pop song with atrocious backing vocals sounding like Pinky & Perky. I can't believe that Shaky or Dave Edmunds could be involved in such crap really. Things perk up next with some nice guitar, piano and singing on the When it Rains.. soundalike. With My Heart features more stirring guitar and piano work and Ain't That A Shame (You Win Again) is a New Orleans stroller with some fantastic vocals. He returns to the Dave Alvin (Blasters) songbook for a fabulous cajun romp, So Long Baby Goodbye. It's my favourite Shaky vocal performance and I'd love to see him do it live with Dave Edmunds. Having said that, I'd be happy to see them together, making a cup of tea. The sound changed from here and became a bit too pop for my tastes but hopefully a new album will be forthcoming and will show a return to his early style. We live in hope.


Shaun Mather.
shaky@lsmather.freeserve.co.uk

SEE THE PHIL & SHAUN WEBSITE

"There are plenty of Shakin' Stevens sites on the internet but I recommend you take a look at these two:

http://www3.mistral.co.uk/steven
http://home7.swipnet.se/~w-72165/home/home.html