Piccadilly was also known in the business as ‘Piccalilli’ as in ‘Pie with piccalilli.’ As it came into being around the same time as Pye’s Marble Arch label there was no hidden foodie intent on the wordplay. Maybe they were going around the tube stations. The Kinks later did Waterloo (Sunset) plus Victoria, and Donovan did an ode to (Sunny) Goodge Street.
The design was bold: don’t give me any of those gaudy colours, just give me good old red and yellow. And black. Piccadilly stood out in the racks.
Unlike other Pye labels (Pye Jazz, Pye International, Pye Plus Nonesuch …) its name was freestanding.
Piccadilly Records was launched in April 1961 to showcase ‘newer’ Pye acts, such as Joe Brown & the Bruvvers, Emile Ford & The Checkmates and Clinton Ford. Early on they had Joe Meek’s production of The Flee-Rekkers. Later that expanded to include The Rockin’ Berries, Sounds Orchestral, The Ivy League and The Sorrows.
Joe Brown was moved from Pye’s plum label to launch the label with Crazy Mixed Up Kid. His A Picture of You was the biggest hit, reaching number one in most charts, but only number two in Guinness’s chart books. Joe Brown comments on this in his stage shows. It was celebrated as a chart topper at the time and was certainly #1 in New Musical Express. It was intended as the B-side of A Layabout’s Lament, Joe’s second single from the film What A Crazy World (Link to review).
It got flipped. So Joe got to have an LP … but this indicates Pye / Piccadilly’s focus on singles and EPs … the LP was straight onto Pye’s budget label, Golden Guinea. It was one of my first three LPs, at Christmas 1962. So were Piccadilly underselling him at 21 shillings rather than 32 shillings full price? The album went to #10 and was in the album chart for fifteen weeks. In those days the album chart was the preserve of musicals, or major established stars like Elvis, Cliff Richard or Sinatra. It was a radical move after a number one hit, but it paid off.
Joe Brown was the most consistent Piccadilly artist. Joe Brown had cut his teeth in the house band for the Boy Meets Girl TV show, backing every American artist who appeared, and was playing guitar behind his back long before Hendrix arrived. When Ronnie Hawkins played the show, he was so impressed that he tried to lure Joe back to Canada to become a Hawk, in the role Robbie Robertson then took. Joe Brown has later said he wished he’d gone with them … In 2013, he also was asked by Record Collector what he would answer questions on if he were on Mastermind, and Joe said, ‘The Band.’
Piccadilly were unusual in giving Danny Storm’s Honest I Do a picture sleeve in April 1962. In common with other Pye labels, any TV or film tie-in was in with a chance of a black and white picture sleeve which was still unusual in for any label, let alone one so parsimonious with sleeves as Pye. One assumes that the B&W photo set within a drawing would be from the same designer as A Picture Of You album.
The Kestrels were a Bristol UK covers band, notable because songwriters Greenaway & Cooke were members. They played the first Beatles tour (both of them subsidiary to headliner Helen Shapiro and crooner Danny Williams) and went on to cover There’s A Place as a single, thus one of the earliest Lennon-McCartney covers. The first Lennon-McCartney cover ever was Kenny Lynch’s Misery and he was on that tour too. The Kestrels also had a shot at covers of Wolverton Mountain and Walk Right In as 45s.
The Kestrels are a little footnote in British beat group history, as they were recording in 1959, well before The Beatles, but only covers of American hits. They were switched from Pye to Piccadilly when the label started. They’re very much like Brian Poole & The Tremeloes who beat The Beatles to a Decca contract, which then consisted of recording Big Big Hits of 62 an LP with 16 rapid short cover versions. The Kestrels did the same for Pye’s Piccadilly label with Smash Hits with 12 covers, starting with their “near hit” their cover of Walk Right In. Where they win easily over Brian Poole is that they have a full orchestral backing directed by Johnny Keating, which is much better than two guitars, bass, a touch of piano and drums.
On the same LP they went from Walk Like A Man to Will You love Me Tomorrow to Michael (Row The Boat) to Please Please Me and Speedy Gonzales (which Brian Poole also covered). For one of the rear cover photos they donned Mexican hats and moustaches and subtitled the photo “Speedy Gonzales. Their main virtue was having four proper singers, but while they can hit the notes for Sherry it just doesn’t sound as good as Frankie Valli. When I Fall in Love and Lazy River, the last two tracks sound like the mid-50s and are on the easiest possible edge of easy listening.
The odd thing about Smash Hits is that it was just like those 1970s Top of The Pops covers albums, but it was a full price Piccadilly LP. Yet Joe Brown, following a #1 hit single, gets put on a budget label. Also, Smash Hits is rated at £30 mint in Rare Record Guide, while A Picture of You LP doesn’t reach the £10 cut off. Such is the value of rarity over quality.
Their single Don’t Wanna Cry is on the album, though on the 45 version Pye made sure it was spelled Don’t Want To Cry. The careful stutter backing is annoying.
Early Piccadilly EPs
Joe Brown Hit Parade: Joe Brown & The Bruvvers, EP, 1962
All Things Bright & Beautiful: Joe Brown & The Bruvvers, EP, 1962
Z Cars: Johny Keating and The Z Men, EP, 1962
I Know Where I’m Going: The Countrymen, EP 1962. “Clothes by Playsport” according to the rear sleeve
The line between Pye and Piccadilly is blurred. CD compilations always mix them, and Pye used the same catalogue prefix letters for Pye, Piccadilly and Pye International. In 1966, Pye released a Hitmakers EP with Pye artists The Honeycombs and Petula Clark, and Pye Jazz artist Kenny Ball. It appeared on the Piccadilly label inside the sleeve, but says Pye on the outside.
If Piccadilly was supposed to be the “newer” act label, why were The Searchers and The Kinks on Pye, but Sounds Orchestral, Clinton Ford and Johnny Keating on Piccadilly? Then Cleo Laine singing Something’s Got To Give from the film Daddy Long Legs was an October 1961 Piccadilly release. As she had been on Phillips generally, you could say she was “newer” on Piccadilly, but hardly a newer act.
It appears random. Pye may have looked at EMI’s three domestic labels, Columbia, HMV and Parlophone and realized there was benefit in having three different label heads with different sets of “ears.” Similarly, Philips ran two parallel labels, Philips and Fontana.
Brian Epstein’s signing Tommy Quickly debuted on Piccadilly before moving to Pye. His first Piccadilly release was Tip of My Tongue written by Lennon & McCartney. It’s the only one of their singles compositions never to have made the Top 75. Having seen Quickly, completely out of his depth, floundering on the 1963 Beatles Summer show package at Bournemouth Gaumont, you can see why. The Liverpool backing band he was put with, the Remo Four, went on to release a couple of singles, I Wish I Could Shimmy and a cover of Sally Go Round The Roses without success.
Dominic Behan was a surprise traditional folkie on the label. He mentions Merseybeat extensively on the sleeve notes to the Liverpool Lou EP. That’s the only connection.
Another Irish link was Dickie Rock & The Miami Show Band, recorded at Eamonn Andrews Studios in Dublin. They had seven Irish number ones. Irish Show Bands turned up along the ballrooms on the south coast of England too, and combined lachrymose country like From The Candy Store on The Corner to The Chapel On The Hill (#1 in Ireland in 1964) a cover of Tony Bennett’s 1956 hit, with straight rock and roll (the B-side of From The Candy Store was a flat out cover of 20 Flight Rock). Van Morrison played in both the Monarchs Showband and The Manhatten Show Band in the same vein.
Enter John Schroeder
John Schroeder moved to Piccadilly in 1964, with much the same task as he’d had at Oriole. Create an identity. Schroeder said:
I was given the Piccadilly label. I had heard that it was rumoured to have the reputation of being Pye’s junk or down and out label … the label had no direction, too many people were involved in it with a hit and miss attitude.
John Schroeder, Sex and Violins, 2009
Schroeder had a point. Look at the near complete Piccadilly 45 discography on 45cat. The number of releases was very high compared to the number of hits. They persisted with no-hopers like Danny Storm for far too long and the Piccadilly Heather list was dire (see below).
An example of early Piccadilly output comes on the 60 track 3 CD set The Piccadilly Story. This is one of those “pre-December 31st 1962” releases, where every track is out of copyright, so anyone can release them, and they do at under £7 for the lot. So these 60 tracks cover just twenty months, and are selected too, it’s by no means everything:
Tony Hatch ran Pye, Schroeder ran Piccadilly. It was virtually a relaunch for Piccadilly, with Schroeder immediately moving the previous signings over to Pye, and seeking to create his own distinct list.
Piccadilly’s most prolific producers and arrangers were Johnny Pearson, John Schroeder and Johnny Keating. You couldn’t go far wrong at a Pye marketing meeting if you said, ‘Great. Did John (cough) produce it?” Les Reed worked for Piccadilly too, before moving to become a mainstay at Decca.
One thing I learned about being a Label Manager and producer at Pye was that you could not afford to rest on your laurels… Louis Benjamin made it painfully obvious that the sole purpose of Tony Hatch and I being employed as record producers was to make money. He enjoyed spelling this out to us at every A&R meeting and I knew it annoyed Tony Hatch intensely because he was a musician at heart and despised Benjie’s attitude of having total disregard for the true value of music. I had to agree with him even though I did appreciate where Benjie was coming from.
John Schroeder, Sex and Violins, 2009
Rockin’ Berries on EP
Schroeder’s first signing had been The Rockin’ Berries from Birmingham, and their second single provided the necessary hit with He’s In Town (UK #3). The band had had two unsuccessful singles on Decca before meeting Schroeder. The first single I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You was a minor hit, then Kim Fowley offered the Goffin-King song He’s In Town. Subsequently What In The World’s Come Over You was #23, and Poor Man’s Son was UK # 5. Their sound was beefed up by the addition of Bobby Thompson from Cliff Bennett and The Revel Rousers, and before that Rory Storm and The Hurricanes. Cliff Bennett lost bass players regularly: Frank Allen to The Searchers, Bobby Thompson to the Rockin’ Berries and Chas Hodges to Chas & Dave.
They’re a band I saw twice nightly, six nights a week for a whole summer in 1967 of working backstage. Their career was definitely angled to ‘showbiz’ of a type that Louis Benjamin and Lew Grade approved of. They had two assets, rhythm guitarist Geoff Turton’s falsetto voice, and the comedy impersonations by Clive Lea. By the second album, Life Is Just A Bowl of Berries in 1966 the comedy was taking over with silly voice covers of Benny Hill’s Harvest of Love, I Know An Old Lady, The Laughing Policeman and When I’m Cleaning Windows.
The 15 minute variety show act was He’s in Town (to massive recognition applause), a series of impersonations, and the latest single, Smile. I saw them on lighting rehearsals too, and they were extremely good – harmonies and music. Geoff Turton left for a solo career under the name Jefferson, and released three Piccadilly singles and an LP. Colour of My Love was a UK #22 hit.
Rockin’ Berries on LP
The Ivy League
Schroeder also brought in the Ivy League, which developed out of Carter-Lewis and The Southerners, who had been produced by Schroeder at Oriole. They brought their harmonies and session singer expertise to the label, and appear uncredited on many mid-60s records.
Bill Simpson (TV’s Dr Finlay) got a picture sleeve in 1964 with (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons, then The John Schroeder Orchestra got a picture sleeve for The Fugitive Theme. The TV series was extremely popular, so they must have had high hopes. It didn’t chart. The Power Game TV theme got a matching design. John Schroeder awarded a picture sleeve to Sounds Orchestral’s version of Lara’s Theme from Dr Zhivago in 1966 … a film so popular that in Bournemouth it was still running in early 1968.
(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons: Bill Simpson, single 1964
The Fugitive Theme: John Schroeder Orchestra, single, 1964
Lara’s Theme: Sounds Orchestral, 1965
Schroeder’s proudest career moment was Cast Your Fate To The Winds under the name Sounds Orchestral. The American original by Vince Guraldi was brought to him by young bassist Tony Reeves, then working as an 18 year old at Pye. Schroeder saw the potential, and he had Johnny Pearson play piano on the session. Reeves reward was being allowed to play bass.
John Schroeder: I thought I could come up with a more commercial arrangement but I didn’t think I was good enough to play the piano myself. I heard Johnny Pearson on Radio Luxembourg and knew he would be ideal.
Interviewed by Spencer Leigh, Record Collector No. 379, September 2010
When it sold a million he had pangs of guilt about Johnny Pearson’s £8 session fee, and he and Pearson formed a genuine Sounds Orchestral as a partnership which went through umpteen albums.
John Schroeder: When I took the acetate to Pye’s A&R meeting, Louis Benjamin said, ‘Are we employing producers to make jazz records now? Everyone knows they don’t sell.’ Fortunately Tony Hatch supported me and told Louis Benjamin that this was a fantastic record … We got orders for 10,000 records a day, and for the first time since I joined the company Louis Benjamin said ‘Good morning’ to me and also bought me a new chair and wastepaper basket! The record sold a million, went Top 20 in the States, and set Johnny Pearson and I up for seventeen albums.
Interviewed by Spencer Leigh, Record Collector No. 379, September 2010
Sounds Orchestral Piccadilly LPs
Schroeder often mentions A&R meetings. Clearly Pye and Piccadilly were regarded as two parts of a single entity by management. Only the first three albums by Sounds Orchestral were Piccadilly- they were shifted to Pye, as was John Schroeder. They hit upon the wheeze of irrelevant photos of girls on the sleeves, more or less an international sign of Easy Listening. These later were adopted by the 70s budget covers of hits albums.
The Sorrows Take A Heart was a hit (UK #21), and this is a collectible classic mod band from Coventry. The song was written by Miki Dallon, and they were produced by John Schroeder. The band included Don Fardon, later to have a hit record with Indian Reservation on Miki Dallon’s Young Blood label.
Take A Heart: The Sorrows 1965, classic mod single, open centre Generic Pye sleeve
Jump and Dance: The Carnaby 1965, valuable Piccadilly single. Closed centre
David Garrick had two charting UK singles in 1966 … Lady Jane by Jagger-Richards (UK #28), and Dear Mrs Applebee (UK #22). Dear Mrs Applebee went to #1 in Germany and #3 in the Netherlands.
The most sought-after Piccadilly singles are by The Spectres and Traffic Jam, and they’re so sought after that Rare Record Guide has a counterfeits warning. The first three singles were produced by John Schroeder. I (Who Have Nothing), Hurdy Gurdy Man, and We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet are all in the £300 area in mint condition.
The Spectres became Traffic Jam for another flop, then The Status Quo. They sold so few copies that Rare Record Guide notes that demos are more common than stock copies, and worth less. The Carnaby, with Jump and Dance, are also the rare collectable zone. In this case, it might be the Mod name of the band. The Bystanders were from Merthyr Tydfil, and were basically Man minus Deke Leonard. They had five Picadilly singles, but only their cover of 98.6 charted. They were BBC cover version specialists for several years in the days when ‘needle time’ was restricted by union agreements.
Liverpool Lou (EP): Dominic Behan 1965, pipe, no logo
Dandy (EP): Clinton Ford 1966, pipe, no logo
Hi! (EP): Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band 1966
Towards the end, the two hardest working soul bands in the country were both on Piccadilly; Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band and Jimmy James and The Vagabonds. Both had a vigorous and vocal live following, translating into successful live LPs for Geno, as well as minor hit singles. Schroeder realized that Geno wasn’t a great singer, but was an astonishing showman with a red hot band and a repertoire of soul classics. When he was on stage he was flicking sweat over at least the first six rows of adoring watchers and he never paused for breath – the show was one long medley.
Schroeder created a live show inside the Pye studio with invited members of the fan club. The resulting LP, Hand Clappin’, Foot Stompin’ Funky Butt … Live! was Pye’s biggest selling album for three years running. He reports that Geno Washington and Jimmy James loathed each other (Jimmy James was a better singer, Geno had a better act) and a major issue at Piccadilly was ensuring they never ran into each other.
Gallery: Geno Washington … click to enlarge
SEE ALSO: Dancing Bands and Watching Bands
Geno Washington had been stationed in Britain with the US Air Force. He stayed in Britain and fronted a British band with his authentic American accent. He had a #3 album hit with his first album … Live, naturally. It stayed in the chart for 38 weeks. Then he had a #8 UK album hit with his second. Look at the track list for the first … soul’s greatest hits … Philly Dog, Ride Your Pony, UpTight, Road Runner, Hold On I’m Comin’, Don’t Fight It, Land of 1000 Dances, Respect, You Don’t Know Like I Know … plus the singles Michael, and Que Sera Sera.
Gallery: Jimmy James
Jimmy James & The Vagabonds had a longer run, continuing on Pye into the late 1970s. Their 1966 Piccadilly album, The New Religion had the sides divided:
Mood Red: You Feel Like Leaping
Mood Blue: You Feel Like Digging Deeper
Jimmy James was from Jamaica and is described as having an ‘eight handed coloured band’ (wouldn’t that be sixteen handed for an eight piece?) He moved to the UK in 1964 and his first album was ska. When he got the soul band going (pretty quickly) his range of songs was less obvious than Geno, and on the Mood Blue side, harder to do … they added strings for some tracks.
The Ray King Soul Band were fronted by Vibert Cornwall from Coventry (as “Ray King”), and after Behold on Piccadilly (1967) and When You Are Gone (on Pye), they went on to a minor soul classic on CBS’s Direction label, Live At The Playboy Club. Their Piccadilly single Behold has a strong ska influence … Vibert Cornwall was of West-Indian descent, and is interesting in showing the way for Two-Tone.
The Time Box was another mod favourite, starting on Piccadilly before achieving greater success on Deram (with Beggin’). Their Piccadilly tracks I Wish I Could Jerk Like My Uncle Cyril, I’ll Always Love You and Soul Sauce were for afficiandos only at the time, but have since appeared on countless Mod compilations.
Further soul / mod cred came with Keith Powell, who had several solo singles before teaming up with Billie Davis and doing credible versions of When You Move You Lose and You Don’t Know Like I Know.
A Band of Angels featured Mike d’Abo before he replaced Paul Jones in Manfred Mann, and their Piccadilly single Invitation is such a soul mod classic you can’t believe it wasn’t a hit. The B-side Cheat & Lie is equally good. Collectable prices (£70 mint) reflect this.
Piccadilly was closed in September 1967 (just as the Mods and soul fans were beginning to pick it out as a “special” label), with the artists being moved to Pye. Shortly afterwards Dawn Records was started, again with John Schroeder as Head of A&R, but it’s wrong to think of it as the direct replacement. For example, The Bystanders were moved to Pye for two more singles, and in 1968 when they became Man, their album Revelation was on Pye. By the follow up in 1969 (2 oz of Plastic With A Hole In The Middle) they were moved to Dawn.
Lone Rider: The Flee-Rekkers, 1961 Joe Meek production, push out centre
He’s In Town: The Rockin’ Berries 1964, closed centre
The Pye group only have a few closed centre pessings. It may have happened earlier when a disc sold unusually well and they had to out-source pressing extra copies. Later closed centres appear more often and on some discs that sold very few.
The sleeve and label design changed to the Pye group pink in January 1965, at catalogue number 35217, The Rockin’ Berries What In The World’s Come Over You. Several records which were in the charts across the change exist in both designs, e.g. Cast Your Fate To The Wind.
STOP!(Before You Get Me Going): The Knack. 1966 … UK mod band, not the US band, closed centre
Hi Hi Hazel: Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band. 1966. Open centre
Pretty Flamingo: Sounds Orchestra, demo, 1966
Behold: The Ray King Soul Band, demo, 1967
Piccadilly Heather was Pye’s equivalent of EMI’s Waverley or Decca’s Beltona: the dedicated Scottish and Irish label, and like them released more EPs than singles. Heather covered Ireland and Scotland, though a majority of releases were Irish. It was introduced in April 1963 with the launch party held in Dublin.
My Big Kilmarnock Bunnet: The Alexander Brothers, 1963, red label. Heather Series logo is vertical
Cailin Mo Ruon-Sa by The Alexander Brothers, 1963
Cailin Mo Ruon-Sa by The Alexander Brothers, 1963, later pressing switches to green
Cailin Mo Ruon-Sa by The Alexander Brothers, 1963, pressing on pink label post 1965
Titles include Cailin Mo Ruon-Sa by The Alexander Brothers, The Kilt Is My Delight, and Sing To Me The Auld Scots Sangs by Moira Briody as well as the obligatory Irish fare: Galway Bay, My Lagan Love etc. The Irish material included Dickie Rock & The Miami Show Band with There’s Always Me, an Irish number one record in early 1964. Chuck Winter and Maureen Miller both had early singles and EPs which were more chart-directed than skirling bagpipes or Irish mist. Why Heather got tacked onto Piccadilly rather than Pye is a mystery.
Westering Home: Elaine and Derek, EP, 1963
The sleeve of Westering Home by Elaine and Derek, fourteen year old twin prodigies from Belfast, contrasts sharply with Sounds Orchestral on the main label. Derek Thompson went on to play Charlie Fairhead in the TV series Casualty. He was born in Belfast, and Elaine and Derek on to form an Irish folk trio, Odin’s People, who recorded for Major Minor between 1966 and 1968.
Ireland or Scotland …
Revived Piccadilly 1980
The label had been abandoned before Pye started Dawn. It was revived briefly in 1980 under PRT. Perhaps someone at parent company ATV realized the folly of giving up their Pye brand (being unwilling to pay Pye Electronics £2000 to use the Pye name) and realized they could continue as Piccadilly.
They could and should have branded the whole continuing Pye operation as Piccadilly or Dawn (or both) instead of PRT, which always sounded too close to PMT.
Rather like the original Piccadilly label and Pye, the line between the 1980s Piccadilly and PRT was extremely fuzzy. Acker Bilk and Max Bygraves both appeared on PRT and Piccadilly, separately and for the dreadful I Like Beer, together. Don MacLean is spelled differently to Don “American Pie” McLean. All the releases are 1980.
Selected Piccadilly singles
|Joe Brown & The Bruvvers||Crazy Mixed Up Kid||1961||–|
|Emile Ford & The Checkmates||Half of My Heart||1961||42|
|The Flee-Rekkers||Lone Rider||1961||–|
|Al Saxon Orchestra||There I’ve said It Again||1961||48|
|Johnny Keating Orchestra||Theme from Z Cars||1962||8|
|Joe Brown & The Bruvvers||What A Crazy World||1962||37|
|Danny Storm||Honest I Do||1962||42|
|Emile Ford||I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now?||1962||43|
|Vince Hill||The River’s Run Dry||1962||41|
|Joe Brown & The Bruvvers||A Picture of You||1962||1|
|Joe Brown & The Bruvvers||Your Tender Look||1962||31|
|The Countrymen||I Know Where I’m Going||1962||45|
|Joe Brown & The Bruvvers||It Only Took A Minute||1962||6|
|The Dave Clark Five||First Love||1962||–|
|Joe Brown & The Bruvvers||That’s What Love Will Do||1963||3|
|Joe Brown & The Bruvvers||Nature’s Time For Love||1963||26|
|Joe Brown & The Bruvvers||Sally Ann||1963||28|
|Tommy Quickly & The Remo Four||Tip of My Tongue||1963||–|
|The Remo Four||I Wish I Could Shimmy||1964||–|
|Rockin’ Berries||He’s In Town||1964||3|
|Sounds Orchestral||Cast Your Fate To The Wind||1964||5|
|Bill Simpson (Dr Finlay)||(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons||1964||–|
|The Rockin’ Berries||What In The World’s Come Over You||1964||23|
|The Ivy League||Funny How Love Can Be||1965||8|
|John Schroeder Orchestra||The Fugitive Theme||1965||–|
|Rockin’ Berries||Poor Man’s Son||1965||5|
|The Carnaby||Jump and Dance||1965||–|
|The Ivy League||Tossing and Turning||1965||3|
|The Sorrows||Take A Heart||1965||21|
|David Garrick||Lady Jane||1966||28|
|The Spectres||I (Who Have Nothing) / Neighbour Neighbour||1966||–|
|Geno Washington||Hi Hi Hazel||1966||45|
|David Garrick||Dear Mrs Applebee||1966||22|
|Geno Washington||Que Sera Sera||1966||43|
|The Spectres||Hurdy Gurdy Man||1966||–|
|Geno Washington||Michael (He’s A Lover)||1967||39|
|Clinton Ford||Run to the Door||1967||25|
|The Time Box||I’ll Always Love You||1967||–|
|Jimmy James & The Vagabonds||No Good To Cry||1967||–|
|The Time Box||Soul Sauce||1967||–|
Pye Anthology CDs
Budget Piccadilly compilation CDs: