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The legendary Johnny Kidd

Bits 'n' Odds

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JUKEBOX  HEROES

Jukebox Heroes was a series by Paul Pierrot Productions, made for the BBC and shown over late Summer in 2000.  The series included diverse artists from Petula Clark and Alma Gogan, through Billy Fury and the Small Faces, to Badfinger and Ian Dury.   What marked this edition out was that despite another round of queries to the film and television companies and archives no video or film footage came to light of Johnny Kidd in action, either with or without his Pirates.  What we did get though was a faithful reproduction of the era's atmosphere, plus some rare and never seen before photos of Johnny Kidd plus the rest of the group.  A few were in colour too, which brought an added dimension above that of the usual monochrome.

Pete Newman was interviewed, where he related the story of Fred Heath wanting him as a saxophone player joining his band despite the fact he was still learning the instrument!  Clem Catinni and Brian Gregg remembered the good times of the band in the early days, while Johnny Spence and Mick Green were both interviewed and videoed in action.  Spence had stuck with the Kidd through thick and thin for the best part of five years and was Best Man at Kidd's wedding to Jean in 1966.  He remembered fondly that Kidd would dive into the local betting shop at the earliest opportunity - possibly before the band had been paid!

It must have been for the cameras (it couldn't have been for the money) but they were persuaded to engage in a very rare performance of "I'll Never Get Over You" which, the program stated, was Johnny's biggest hit.  Actually, since 1960 and the number one (or three) of "Shakin' All Over", in terms of raw sales overall HAD increased somewhat, the new teenagers had a bit more money to spend and Pop promotion now had the pirate broadcasters in addition to the existing traditional outlets of the staid Auntie BBC and Radio Luxembourg with its variable signal.  The range of artists who covered this song, from Vince Taylor and Mae West to Suzi Quatro and David Bowie showed the high regard for the song across all camps

Period archive film clips were dropped in at various relevant points, including snippets of a colour film at the Cavern in Liverpool; Kidd and the Pirates were the first Southern Rock 'n' Roll band to be invited to appear there and added greatly to the atmosphere generated.  The little VW combi van making its way up the Great north Road(?) plus other film of roads and vehicles gave some flavour to proceedings.

These helped appreciate the difficulties of gigging in those days when making venues in time constituted non-stop cross-country marathons from Southampton to Aberdeen, from Cardiff to Newcastle in the days when motorways were in reality just the southern half of the M1.  It was on one of these trips as a supporting act with his New Pirates in tow when Kidd was killed in a car crash.  Also interviewed was Nick Simper, who was in the same car and remembers it well, plus Kidd's widow Jean Heath, who'd accompanied her husband on tour for the first time on that fateful trip.  It was evident that the memories for both were as strong as ever, and that they miss him still, as indeed did everyone.

Around 100 VHS copies of this and others in the series (some came with properly printed dust jackets) were made for promotional and preview purposes - I indeed bought a widescreen version which was fortuitous as to my knowledge the series has never been repeated anywhere.  Copies can be found very occasionally for sale on eBay and the like, going for somewhere between 10 and 25..

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