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Feb 04

LORD ROCKINGHAM’S XI – ‘Hoots Mon’

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#77, 28th November 1958

‘POP ROT! CALL A HALT NOW!’ screamed the Melody Maker on November 8th. Of course it was too late. It had probably been too late for years, but by June 1958 the game was absolutely up ‘ ITV launched its music show Oh Boy! and pop in Britain went multimedia. By the end of ’59 British teen stars, handsome boys whose take on rock was just as pretty, were hitting #1 regularly. Before them came Lord Rockingham.

Oh Boy! was not the start of British music TV. That was 6-5 Special on the BBC, launched in 1957 and off the air within six months of its rival’s first broadcast. Its remit took in skiffle and the Melody Maker-approved trad jazz, and the sole notable thing about its house band seems to be that Jon Pertwee played in it. But Oh Boy! focussed on the new pop thing and its house band were Lord Rockingham’s XI, a mixed-race, mixed-gender eleven-piece which included jazzman Benny Green on sax ‘ he wore shades on the show because he was embarrassed to be playing rock and roll. Which was perhaps a mistake, since if ‘Hoots Mon’ was anything to go his new band were white hot.

Let’s rewind three years to ‘Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White’, the last big band instrumental to top the charts and a useful point of comparison to ‘Hoots Mon’. That record kicks off with a thrilling horn line but then sidesteps into a polite dance workout. ‘Hoots Mon’ has a superficially similar structure. But what the newer record twigs is that you don’t have to stay polite ‘ you can keep raising the energy levels, thickening the mix, adding more and more elements until the record is jumping off the player. You also ‘ and it’s no surprise that a band of cynical jazzbos worked this one out ‘ don’t have to be sophisticated either. If your audience are going mad on the floor they don’t necessarily want complexity or suavity: they might just want to go madder.

The first 5 seconds of ‘Hoots Mon’ are gobsmackingly dumb and wonderful ‘ the horns blaring, the organ sounding like it’s been stabbed, the rest of the band setting up a kind of snarling hum like a gang of lairy Buddhists. And once the main riff’s got going all these things recur – plus handclaps, shout-outs and the ‘Hoots Mon!’ chant that gives the record its title-cum-gimmick. It’s proper musicians having a laugh who sound for a moment like cavemen having a go. It’s a calculated, compressed party. It’s a great record.

(In his 100 Un-Guilty Pleasures, which every Popular reader should enjoy, Marcello pegs the XI as the 6-5 Special band, not the Oh Boy! one. Every other source I’ve found suggests this is wrong, plus Oh Boy! fits my narrative better! But Marcello knows his historical stuff, and the same man ‘ Jack Good ‘ was behind both shows, so it may well be that some musicians went over to ITV with him. Not, sadly, Jon Pertwee.)

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Comments

  1. 1
    Pete Lavill on 25 Aug 2008 #

    I was one of the fortunate fans of Oh Boy to make it to London from the Midlands to see the show and after listening to HOOTS MON usually at full blast on the now ubiquitous Dansett it blew me away to actually see them on stage.
    A band never to be forgotten,

  2. 2
    Billy Smart on 13 Jul 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Lord Rockingham’s XI were the house band for ‘Oh Boy!’. Only two editions survive;

    OH BOY!: with Jimmy Henney, Michael Holliday, Cherry Wainer, Lord Rockingham’s XI, Peter Elliott, Cliff Richard, The Dallas Boys, Neville Taylor and the Cutters, The Drifters, ‘Cuddly’ Dudley (1958)

    OH BOY!: with Tony Hall, Jimmy Henney, Cliff Richard and the Drifters, Marty Wilde, The Dallas Boys, Cherry Wainer, Lord Rockingham’s XI, Don Lang, Red Price, The Vernons Girls (1959)

  3. 3
    Waldo on 7 Aug 2009 #

    I agree with Tom. This is a bunch of pro musicians having a bundle. It’s tremendous. Och aye!

  4. 4
    Rory on 29 Sep 2009 #

    Just been acquainting myself with this excellent romp, and blow me doon if its writer and producer wasn’t also responsible for the string arrangements on my favourite Nick Drake track.

  5. 5
    thefatgit on 11 Mar 2010 #

    All of a sudden I have a craving for wine gums!

  6. 6
    Ken Shinn on 26 Mar 2012 #

    Lord Rockingham himself was apparently (nameplay ahoy) Harry Robinson, who later went on to do a lot of composing work for Hammer Films. Twins Of Evil (its almost spaghetti Western main theme in particular) is a very fine example of his more straight orchestral work.

  7. 7
    larry.kooper on 3 May 2016 #

    For fans of Marcello, here’s a Wayback Machine link to the 100 Un-guilty pleasures:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20040813085148/http://nostudium.blogspot.com/2003_10_01_nostudium_archive.html

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