Johnny Kidd & the Pirates were an English rock and roll group led by singer/songwriter Johnny Kidd. They scored numerous hit songs from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, including 'Shakin' All Over' and 'Please Don't Touch', but their musical influence far outshines their chart performance.

Their stage act was theatrical in a way which anticipated theatrical rockers of the 1970s such as Alice Cooper (while echoing that of their contemporaries Screaming Lord Sutch & the Savages) and included full pirate costumes, complete with eye-patches and cutlasses.

More importantly, and unusually for bands of the time, they had only one guitarist (not two), alongside a bassist and a drummer. Kidd did not play any instruments on stage. This was very influential on the rock bands of the 1970s: Led Zeppelin had such a line-up and tapes exist of them covering many Johnny Kidd songs in rehearsal, and it was after seeing Johnny Kidd & the Pirates that the Who decided that their singer Roger Daltrey should abandon playing guitar on stage.

Early days[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The original group was signed to HMV in 1959 under the auspices of Walter J. Ridley. Their first single was the raw "Please Don't Touch". This became a minor hit reaching number 25 on the UK singles charts in 1959. The song has since been covered many times, most successfully by the team of Motörhead and Girlschool known as Headgirl.

After this initial success the band was reorganised to streamline the sound and visual appeal. Kidd would naturally take centre-stage at the front, but with Clem Cattini (drums) directly behind. Flanking Kidd on either side would be Alan Caddy (guitar) and Brian Gregg[1] (bass). Kidd would high-kick in time to the beat. In an attempt to re-create the feel of his recordings Kidd employed an echo unit to process his vocals, one of the first instances of a UK rock act attempting this on stage.

When the group appeared on Saturday Club between 1959 and 1961 Mike West and Tom Brown shared the vocals with Kidd.

Shakin' All Over[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Kidd and the Pirates' finest moment might have been the powerful song "Shakin' All Over", which features memorable opening guitars and solo from Joe Moretti,[2] and reached number one in the UK singles charts in 1960. The song and the group's proto-power trio line-up both made a strong impression on the Who, who would cover it in their 1970 album Live at Leeds, whose CD liner notes proclaim the original to be the UK's best pre-Beatles rock single and covered again in 1984 by the California band "Pegasus" with Tedd Armstrong and Steve Caton on their "Pegasus Takes Flight" EP. Music critics Roy Carr and Tony Tyler would later write that "Shakin' All Over" was the second-ever genuine British rock classic, following Cliff Richard's "Move It".

Despite some interesting cuts the hits tailed away in the shadow of "Shakin'". The swansong recording of this line-up in 1961, the B-side of "Please Don't Bring Me Down" turned out to be a minor UK rock 'n' roll classic. The follow-up "So What" featured a racy piano solo from Thunderclap Jones. Some of the Pirates (namely Clem Cattini, Alan Caddy and later Brian Gregg) decided to jump ship, and went on to join Joe Meek's the Tornados. Kidd cut a "solo" single backed by a bigger band sound. "Hurry on Back to Love" was more bluesy than anything Kidd had previously attempted and indicated a possible new path for him.

A new Pirate trio was recruited, Johnny Spence (bass),[3] Frank Farley (drums)[4] and Johnny Patto (lead guitar), who had recently backed Cuddly Dudley as "The Redcaps". Patto soon left and was replaced by Mick Green (lead guitar), who had also backed Dudley. The new line-up's first single with Kidd, "A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues" (coupled with "I Can Tell") was way ahead of the game, but only managed to enter the lower reaches of the charts toward the end of 1962. Nevertheless this classic disc is considered the bridge between British Rock & Roll and British R & B.

Over time, a very visual show had developed. The group would deck out in 19th century pirate costume in front of a huge backcloth of a pirate galleon, Kidd toying with a cutlass to great effect. Many a wooden stage received scarring from this prop until insurance cover could not be obtained for it. The group's German tours tightened their sound, as it did with many Liverpool combos who also made the trip. A projected single in keeping with the new sound, "Some Other Guy" was left unreleased in early 1963 allowing the Big Three to score their first chart entry.

The explosive rise of the 'beat groups' outshone the slow-burning R&B scene, and Kidd opted for the safety of Merseybeat with "I'll Never Get Over You", which reached number 4 on the charts in the summer of 1963. The recording session for the follow-up, "Hungry For Love", which also broke into the top twenty saw the Pirates record their own single. Both sides, "My Babe" and "I Can Tell", were powerhouse R&B that put many of the Liverpool bands in the shade, with both tracks being recorded in one take. Green left to join Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas in 1964, and was replaced by John Weider. They also added organist Vic Cooper.[5]

The later days[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The hits again tailed away and the long-awaited debut album, featuring the expanded line-up with Vic Cooper on organ/piano duties, was never mastered for release. One step behind the Beatles and losing ground, Kidd abandoned dual-tracking his voice and switched back to R&B, with mixed results. Green left to join Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas to form a twin lead guitar line-up, alongside Mike Maxfield. Eventually the group and singer parted company. The Pirates recorded one single, "Shades of Blue", for Polydor before calling it a day.

Kidd kept recording. His single "It's Got To Be You", and an unreleased version of Otis Redding's "I Can't Turn You Loose", showed that a mix of R&B and soul may have been where Kidd's future lay.

When Kidd was on the verge of a comeback with a promising 'New Pirates' group—Mick Stewart (lead guitar), Nick Simper (bass), Ray Soper (organ)[6] and Roger Truth (drums)—on returning from a cancelled gig, he was killed in a car accident in BuryLancashire, on 7 October 1966, with companion Nick Simper being injured.

The single "Send For That Girl" was released posthumously in November but failed to chart. This line-up of the Pirates (with John Kerrison replacing Truth) carried on in tribute until mid-1967, although there were no further recordings.

Post-Kidd[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The best-known line-up of the Pirates, Mick Green, Johnny Spence and Frank Farley, reformed in 1976, surprising everyone with their powerful brand of R&B. They played at 'Front Row Festival', a three-week event at the Hope and Anchor, Islington, in late November and early December 1977. This resulted in the band's inclusion, alongside the likes of Wilko Johnsonthe Only Onesthe Saintsthe StranglersX-Ray Spex, and XTC, on a hit double album of recordings from the festival. The Hope & Anchor Front Row Festival compilation LP (March 1978) reached number 28 in the UK Albums Chart.[7]

Although officially quitting in the mid-1980s, the band still performed occasionally until 2010, although due to ill-health Frank Farley was sometimes deputised for and was replaced by Mike Roberts (former drummer for indie band Minifish). They recorded a number of reunion albums since 1978's well-received Out of Our Skulls and still performed "Shakin' All Over" in their set. The band dissolved on the death of Mick Green in January 2010.

Another set of Pirates, with Joe Moretti (guitar), and re-uniting original Pirates, Brian Gregg (bass) and Clem Cattini (drums), has also played occasional gigs in recent years. A little-known fact is that Joe Moretti actually played on "Shakin' All Over" and its follow-up "Restless", and went on to play on countless hit records as a session musician, including "It's Not Unusual", "Don't Sleep in the Subway" etc. However, in this Pirates line-up it is Joe Moretti's son, also called Joe Moretti, on guitar.

Legacy[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The B-side of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' 1964 single "Always and Ever" was a cover of "Dr Feel-Good", by the American blues pianist and singer Willie Perryman (also known as "Piano Red"), who recorded the song as "Dr Feelgood & the Interns". The name of the song is slang for heroin. The band Dr. Feelgood took their name from the Johnny Kidd & the Pirates recording.[8]

Former members[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Spinoff bands[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The (New) Pirates (1976)[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • Nick Simper - bass/vocals (1976)
  • Roger "Truth" Pinner - drums (1976)

Kidd Kane & the Pirates (2005)[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • Kidd Kane - vocals (2005)
  • Joe Moretti jnr - guitar (2005)
  • Brian Gregg - bass (2005, original Pirates member)
  • Clem Cattini - drums (2005, original Pirates member)

Johnny Spence & Doctors Order[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Current members[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • Johnny Spence - vocals (2009–present; original Pirates member)
  • Teppo "Teddy Bear" Nättilä - bass/vocals (1998–present)
  • Arto "Lil' Archie/Grande-Archie" Hämäläinen - guitar (1998–present)
  • Kimmo "Mighty Man" Oikarinen - drums (2007–present)

Former members[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • Timppa "Madman" Väätäinen - drums (1998–2003)
  • Kaj Erik Ensio Takamäki - harmonica (2002–2006)
  • Harri "Dirty Harry" Tuominen - drums (2003–2007)

Discography[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Singles[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • "Please Don't Touch"/"Growl" (May 1959)
  • "If You Were the Only Girl in the World"/"Feelin'" (1959)
  • "You Got What It Takes"/"Longin' Lips" (1960)
  • "Shakin' All Over"/"Yes Sir, That's my Baby" (June 1960)
  • "Restless"/"Magic of Love" (September 1960)
  • "Linda Lu"/"Let's Talk About Us" (March 1961)
  • "Please Don't Bring Me Down"/"So What" (September 1961)
  • "Hurry On Back to Love"/"I Want That" (January 1962)
  • "A Shot of Rhythm and Blues" b/w "I Can Tell" (November 1962)
  • "I'll Never Get Over You"/"Then I Got Everything" (June 1963)
  • "Hungry for Love"/"Ecstasy" (November 1963)
  • "Always and Ever"/"Dr. Feelgood" (April 1964)
  • "Jealous Girl"/"Shop Around" (June 1964)
  • "Whole Lotta Woman"/"Your Cheatin' Heart" (October 1964)
  • "The Birds and the Bees"/"Don't Make the Same Mistake I Did" (February 1965)
  • "Shakin' All Over '65"/"I Gotta Travel On" (May 1965)
  • "It's Gotta Be You"/"I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" (April 1966)
  • "The Fool"/"Send for that Girl" (posthumous, November 1966)
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