By this time our line-up had changed, for
the first time, and was something we became quite
good at! Vic Larkins, our ace lead guitarist,
was not allowed to turn 'pro' (by his dad!) and having
got through the recording tests, spent the rest of his
life working at Barking Power Station wondering what
might have been. Mick Johnson, rhythm guitar, had also
gone, and had been replaced by John 'Lon' Lyons, and we
were joined for a very short period of time by, Ricky
West on lead guitar, who then went, in a swap for Steve
Scott from the Tremeloes! This was the 'Castaways'
on those early records. I would do the lead vocal, with
Lon Lyons sharing the 'mike' with me for his
harmony part, while 'Shirt' would play drums and sing his
harmony 'live' on an overhead 'mike'! Three songs
in three hours live! We made six
singles for EMI between the years 1963-1966. In
between the 5th and 6th EMI single we recorded one song
for the Immediate label, Girl Don't Tell Me.
This in my opinion was our best single. It was
produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, recorded at IBC Studios
in London. A Brian Wilson song, that had been released as
a B-side by the Beach Boys. Their version, unusually, had
no harmonies, but Andrew thought it would be great as a
harmony record. We did a 'Beach Boys' on it. I love
it, apart maybe, from the end section, (Andrew Oldhams'
idea to do a bit of 'Walk Like A Man'). However,
the great British public never even got to hear it, due
to lack of airplay, which seems amazing to me now. We
must have appeared on more live or pre-recorded
BBC radio shows, than almost anyone, but when it came to
playing our singles they didnt!
Remember, way back then, there was only the BBC, or Radio
Luxembourg, to plug your records, no independant stations.
Interestingly the sixth, was self produced and was, 'God
Only Knows', a song played to me by Bruce Johnston, of
the Beach Boys, when I met him at his hotel, the
'Waldorf' in London. It was a track from their new album,
not yet released in the UK, 'Pet Sounds'. He
suggested we should record it, as they had no plans to
release their version as a single, Ha! The rest, as
they, say is history!
We had changed personnel again by this time and it was
Brian Hudson (drums/vocals) Tony Harding (gtr/vocals)
Kenny Rowe (vocals) 'Lon', Ray and me. We recorded a demo
version of God Only Knows at Dick James
studio, and while we were recording, we heard a
Californian drawl say, "I sang on the original
version of this". It was Terry Melcher, Bruce
Johnstons partner in US duo Bruce and Terry
and co-producer of the surf/hotrod group the Rip
Chords. I've never actually read confirmation
that he was on the Beach Boys record. We
made the record at Regent Sound just off Tottenham Ct. Rd.
and produced it ourself!
Tony Rivers & the Castaways 1967 promo
pic. Robert Stigwood Brian Epstein era.There was a
gap of 9 months or so, after our seventh single. During
this time we were still recording, and of course the
group had changed personnel yet again. Ray Brown
and me were still hanging in there, and we had recruited
3 guys from the Sugarbeats (a local harmony group in the
style of the Castaways). Martin Shaer (vocals),
John Perry (gtr/vocals), Geoff Swettenham (drums/vocals)
and shortly after, managed to get Pete Swettenham (gtr/vocals)
to join his brother in the band. This was a very
strong line-up both vocally and instrumentally. Due
to management changes, none of the songs we recorded saw
the light of day, until recently, (EM Records (Japan) and
Robert Stigwood who we were signed to at that time, gave
us a Gibb Bros. song to record, it was 'The Turn Of The
Century', and we recorded 5/6 other songs with this line-up,
but no releases. John Perry, Geoff and Pete
Swettenham later moved on to form Grapefruit for Terry
Doran (John Lennons friend), and soon had a
hit, with a song taken straight from the Castaways stage
act, 'C'mon Marianne'. A little bit after that,
Martin Shaer emigrated to Vancouver B.C. and ended up
discovering first, Nik Gilder and then Bryan Adams!!!
Things could have turned out quite differently had Brian
Epstein, our new manager, not stopped us releasing our
version of 'Nowhere Man' (EM Records and RPM), which was
scheduled for release, before being withdrawn. It's
not that Brian didn't like it, he just thought that it
wasn't good for our career to cover a Beatles song! (Would
the Overlanders ever have had a hit
without Michele? Having just been signed by him, we
were in no position to argue. How could you
argue with the man who managed the Beatles, the biggest
group of all time?
Our final single as Tony Rivers and the Castaways was on
Polydor. 'I Can Guarantee You Love' written by
Graham Dee and Brian Potter. Tony Harding, Kenny
Rowe and Brian Hudson were back and joined I think, by
Tom Marshall. This was another good record, but
once again got no 'airplay' and disappeared without trace.
We did as we were told, but we still couldn't get that
elusive first hit. We'd toured all through the 60's
playing dance halls, clubs, including many gigs
headlining at the Marquee in Wardour St, and even
appeared at the Cavern in Liverpool in 1966. We
were also playing the University circuit (and for two
consecutive years, we were voted the most popular group),
which is quite an accolade, when you realise that every
major band in the U.K. played the University circuit,
from Fleetwood Mac to any band you could name at that
Tony Rivers and the Castaways, on the
roof at the EMI offices, where many artists
had been photographed before!
Brian Hudson, Tony Harding,
‘Lon’ Lyons, Tony Rivers,
Ray Brown and Kenny Rowe
TR with Beach Boy Bruce Johnston and the Tremeloes at Streatham Ice Rink late 60’s.
TR and the C’s v Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Regents Park, 1964
1967 promotional picture
‘67 Castaways, looking pretty ‘moody’.
Lon Lyons, outside the ‘original’
Waiting for the club to let us in for our debut.