Stuart Tann (glasses),
Vic Elmes, Mike Blakley and Ian Jansen.
Before joining Christie, Vic Elmes and Mike
Blakley were members of a group called The Epics.
The group had started life in the early '60s
as The 4 Zodiacs with Vic, Ian Jansen, Stuart
Tann, and Bill Fifield on drums. Influenced by the skiffle
craze, the East London group played at parties, weddings and
pubs and were managed by Ian's mum!
When Bill left to play with
Marc Bolan, he was replaced by Mike Blakley, and the
group changed its name to The Epics. The band rehearsed
hard and became a tight little unit, recording songs like
the Spotnicks instrumental Rocket Man,
Buddy Holly's Heartbeat and the
old rocker, You're So Square.
Stuart recalls: "Not long after
this we got to record for Pye under recording manager Tony
Hatch. We released two records at Pye, Just
No Pleasing You, written by Jackie DeShannon,
and Just How Wrong You Can Be,
by PF Sloan."
The flipside to the first single was a piece
penned by Vic Elmes and Stuart, called My
Little Girl. "You could tell it was our first
effort," Stuart said, but it does show off Vic's emerging
guitar skills. Later, of course, he would write more songs
The 'B' side of Just
How Wrong ....
was Blue Turns To Grey,
by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. "This was to have
been our next single, but we were prevented from releasing
it because Cliff Richard was about to!!" Stuart said.
Indeed, The Epics' Blue
Turns To Grey is
an outstanding arrangement, and far outshone the version by
Cliff. Just How Wrong You Can Be
and Just No Pleasing You were
also fine, melodic tunes in their own right. The group was
an impressive outfit with a sound not unlike Gerry and the
Pacemakers. Stuart's lead vocals were excellent, as was Vic's
electrifying guitar work.
Stuart adds: "Vic has a great soul voice,
and used to sing for example
Midnight Hour, Sweet Soul Music
and Purple Haze.We both took
individual part lead on You've Lost
That Loving Feeling then we all had harmony
parts for Beach Boy stuff! Both Vic and Ian had great falsetto
When the group's contract with Pye was not renewed,
it moved to CBS with recording manager Mike Smith. Travelling
Circus was the only
release and only nudged the hit parades despite good airplay.
The song and the flipside, Henry Long
- both incorporating a psychedelic sounds arrangement - were
written by Tremeloes members
Alan Blakley (Mike's brother) and Len Hawkes.
The Acid Gallery:
A new pschedelic look, with new member Alan Ross (second
from left) and really groovy Vic Elmes (right).
The bright and beautiful Blossoms, after the name
change from The Epics.
During this time the group were
touring in Europe, particularly in Denmark, and achieved an
unlikely hit when they helped produce a cover version of Chris
Man. The band's Danish
roadie Johan Lind, himself a singer with another band, asked
the group to back him up on the song. The Epics agreed, but
forfeited any payment for the job. "This record was released
on the Metronome label and was in fact Denmark's first stereo
single release," Stuart said. The song, backed by a cover
of Every Day, made the Danish
A little later The Epics became Blossom,
for a very short period; when Stuart left, he was replaced
by Alan Ross, and the group became Acid Gallery.
They recorded Dance Round The
Maypole, written and produced by Roy Wood
at CBS studios, along with Jeff Lynne. Roy sang on lead and
Jeff sang backing vocals on the disc and the unmistakeable
sound of The Move permeates the record.
The flipside to this much sought-after single
was a song which simply evolved from a jam session. According
to Ian Jansen, the group "started off with a 12 bar blues
and developed it from there". "If I remember rightly,
Alan Hawkshaw, a very well-known piano and session musician
and composer was with us at the time and joined in the fun!"
The piece features some searing guitarwork from Vic.
The band eventually broke up when Ian left, and
Mike and Vic took office jobs, much to Alan Blakley's relief.
Alan said: "At least Mike had a steady job that would
bring him money."
But the call of the music industry would prove
too hard to resist. A few months after, Mike and Vic joined
Jeff to form Christie.
Just No Pleasing You/My Little Girl
How Wrong You Can Be/Blue Turns To Grey
Round the Maypole/Right Toe Blues