Unparalleled Success - Luck or Magic?

Performing and Interpreting Shadows' Music

Unparalleled Success - Luck or Magic?

Postby (admin) » Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:36 am

When I look back at the Shadows' chart success I am amazed by the number of chart toppers that they had. It is fair to say that no other instrumental group in the US or the UK rivaled this success. Instrumental hits dropped off in both the UK and the US from 1964-1967 seemingly do to the strong competition resulting form the British Invasion.

Apache - The Shadows (UK) - 1960
Kon-Tiki - The Shadows (UK) - 1961
Wonderful Land - The Shadows (UK) - 1962
Dance On - The Shadows (UK) - 1962
Foot Tapper - The Shadows (UK) - 1963

Was the success of The Shadows in the UK a little bit of luck or the magic of their performances.
Life, as with music, often requires one to let go of the melody and listen to the rhythm

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Re: Unparalleled Success - Luck or Magic?

Postby (royclough) » Sat Apr 12, 2008 11:06 am

Certainly not Luck, back in the years 1960 to 1963 nearly every young kid wanted to be Hank Marvin, most groups who played local youth clubs, pubs etc always had Shadows numbers in their set.
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Re: Unparalleled Success - Luck or Magic?

Postby (admin) » Sat Apr 12, 2008 11:09 am

Roy: If you are leaning toward magic, as is my persuasion, what was it that appealed to his audience in the early 1960s moreso than other instrumentals of the day.
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Re: Unparalleled Success - Luck or Magic?

Postby (royclough) » Sat Apr 12, 2008 11:33 am

I see it as being the fact that towards the end of the 50's the elctric guitar was coming into prominence.

Instrumental hits in UK certainly number ones (figures indicate number of number 1's) before that, featured Piano the likes of Russ Conway, Winifred Atwell (2)
Trumpet Eddie Calvert(2) Perez Perado
Saxophone Lord Rockingham's XI
Orchestra Mantovani

Apache was the first guitar led instrumental to make number 1, young kids relaised that they could create that sound or get near it.

Plus The Shadows were young themselves and appealed to the young audience.
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Re: Unparalleled Success - Luck or Magic?

Postby (admin) » Sun Apr 13, 2008 11:47 am

Marvin did show the young guitarists of the day what they might accomplish with an electric guitar. At the risk for looking too deeply at reasons for the Shadows' success, I offer the following.

Luck Or Wonderful Land Hypothesis

With regard to the luck or "Wonderful Land" hypothesis, it would seem that there were a number of factors that set the stage for the Shadows'road to the top of the charts. Were Marvin and the Shadows simply at the right place at the right time? To some extent I consider that this is true.

To begin, Hank Marvin was a young adolescent when Leo Fender's Stratocaster arrived timely on the scene. Moreover, he entered the guitar instrumental world ushered in by Dick"reverb" Dale and other surf kings who had been testing the waters. Their success with the Stratocaster certainly came to the attention of, at the very least, Cliff Richard. The features of the instrument itself allowed for ease of play, full access to the fretboard, increased volume for larger gatherings, recent improvements on annoying feedbackand an effective vibrato arm. Marvin made effective use of all of these.

Add to this Marvin's good fortune to have had Cliff Richard acquire the famous fiesta red Fender Stratocaster and the stars were in alignment.

One of the most significant bits of luck for The shadows was the compositional genius of Jerry Lordon who knew how to capture the interest and imagination of the listener for the entire "two minutes"required in the early days. Had Lordon not written "Apache" the groups' success may never have happened. "Wonderful Land" is not hard on the ears either.

Magic or Foot Tapper Hypothesis

In reference to the innovative and skill factor or the "Foot Tapper"Hypothesis, Marvin had a number of tricks up his sleeve. What did Hank bring to the stage that kept him in the game over the years? Was it simply his guitar playing that allowed for his success?

Marvin was quick to incorporate the "whammy bar" into his dynamic playing style which became an important part of "that sound." His mechanical use of this Stratocaster feature was so consistent that some have mistaken his dexterity for an electronic tremolo. His picking away from the neck pickup and his hand vibrato also produced a tonality that separated him from other Stratocaster players. Those trying to copy his artisitry soon realized that they needed more than an electric guitar to be successful.

Hank was quick to realize that playing instrumentals was a challenge that required interesting interpretations and effects in order to hold the attention of the audience if not the group members themselves. In this regard, he offered two additional aspects that allowed his skill set to shine. To begin, he experimented with the tape echo which allowed for a unique sound that intrigued the listener. This effect allowed him to transcend the simple reverb that was making the rounds in America. Add too the Vox amplifiers, AC-15 and AC-30 which produced a sound very different from the Fender amplifiers used in the United States. Long before the British Invasion, Hank Marvin took the Iconic American Stratocaster guitar and made it his own through the use of European technology.

To this day, those choosing to emulate Marvin's sound are still turning themselves upside down and inside out to achieve this end. It may be argued that even Marvin today cannot achieve this sound. Moreover, Marvin along with the other Shadows began to write his own compositions which kept his fans in the early 1960s busy trying to keep up with him.

Finding Atlantis

Marvin was first to introduce a number of technical effects to the instrumental world that in the early 1960s had not be used in the United States. That he was never successful in the United States is hard to comprehend when one considers his contribution to instrumental music of the day. To my way of thinking the single strongest argument that luck played a role in the Shadows' success is his failure to make a dent in the US market.

The brilliance of The Shadows has loomed largest in Europe and in some respects seems to have been lost elsewhere. With the advent of the Internet and music forums around the world music enthusiasts are able to see the talents of artists that were not judged initially by some to have been important or worthy. Alas, in the case of the Shadows, Atlantis has been found.
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