Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jet Harris & Tony Meehan - Diamonds and Other Gems


Jet Harris and Tony Meehan began playing together as members of the Shadows backing Cliff Richard. Despite the success of the group in its own right, both of them decided to quit. Meehan had left the group at the end of 1961 with plans to take up a job in A&R with the Decca record company. Harris stayed with the group until 1962 deciding that he could probably do better for himself on his own. He was already a well known and popular artist, particularly with the female members of the Shadows audiences and Duane Eddy had shown the potential rewards for a 'solo' guitarist. This was a very risky decision as Jet found playing his own 'lead' quite different to playing bass guitar with the group.

Everything you could want is on this 20-track CD -- all six of Harris' 1962-64 singles (several of which co-billed Meehan), a few rare LP and EP tracks, an unreleased song, a solo single by Meehan -- every last available item, in fact, from Harris' heyday. An at times cool, but more often foolish, glimpse of British rock just before the Beatles changed the rules. It could have probably been boiled down to an EP of the few first-rate tracks without any harm done.
01 - Diamonds
02 - Hully Gully
03 - Footstomp
04 - Scarlett O'Hara
05 - Applejack
06 - The Tall Texan
07 - Song Of Mexico
08 - Kings Go Fifth
09 - Besame Mucho
10 - Chills And Fever
11 - Clap Your Hands (Once Again)
12 - The Man With The Golden Arm (Main Title Theme)
13 - Wild One (Real Wild Child)
14 - Some People
15 - Rave
16 - Man From Nowhere
17 - Big Bad Bass
18 - Rifka
19 - Lonesome Part Of Town
20 - Again

by Richie Unterberger
One of the more intriguing footnotes to pre-Beatles rock in Britain, Jet Harris first made his mark as the bassist for the Shadows. As they were megastar Cliff Richard's backing group and the most popular instrumental rock band in Britain, it was a shock when Harris left the group to become a solo act. But with frequent assistance from Shadows drummer Tony Meehan, Harris scored a half-dozen hits in a year and a half. (Meehan himself rates as an interesting footnote to rock history, having turned down the chance to record the Beatles in early 1962 when he was a producer for Decca Records.) Harris' biggest hit, the brooding "Diamonds" (including, it's been said, session guitar work by a very young Jimmy Page), vied for the number one spot with the Beatles' own "Please Please Me" in the U.K. in early 1963. There could have been few better symbols for the changing of the guard in British rock & roll. Harris' recordings typified British rock such as it was in the early '60s: sullen, restrained, disciplined instrumentals (often based on popular themes). Harris' singles were relatively unusual in that they made prominent use of the bass as a lead instrument, and the best of them -- "Diamonds," "The Man With the Golden Arm," and "Man From Nowhere" -- had a menacing, shuddering bass reminiscent of the best James Bond soundtracks. More frequently, however, his instrumentals sounded like a tame Duane Eddy or worse, with cornball adaptations of Western movie riffs. Harris had a couple more big hits after the Beatles broke, but the revolution the group ignited -- as well as a severe automobile accident, along with emotional problems in the wake of his early success -- brought his career to a skidding halt in early 1964. Unbelievably, he turned up in the first lineup of the Jeff Beck Group in February 1967, but never recorded with Beck, who revamped his outfit after a few weeks of rehearsal.

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