I saw The Pirates a few years ago on a Saturday night at the Ace Café on the North Circular near Wembley. The Ace is still a bikers' hangout, and that night I wore my oldest black leather jacket, a white t-shirt and blue jeans, drank too much beer and can’t remember how I got home.
         The Pirates, with the late Johnny Kidd (aka Fred Heath), were a key band in the lost world of pre-Beatles British rock'n'roll, a world that is endlessly fascinating to me and also encompassed Lord Sutch & The Savages, The Outlaws, The Crusaders, Heinz & The Tornados, Cliff Bennet & The Rebel Rousers, producer Joe Meek and a few others, but did not include those 'rockers' who became family entertainers, like Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard and Adam Faith.
         Like the pre-fame Beatles and their contemporaries up in Liverpool, these groups kept the rock’n’roll flame burning while all around them British record labels fobbed us fans off with tosh. From that world there graduated three guitarists who would find great fame and fortune in later years, Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore and the magnificent Albert Lee, and a few others (including Chas & Dave), all of whose adventures are documented in my mate Pete Frame's fabulous book The Restless Generation and his Rock Family Trees of the pre-1963 era. Writes Pete: “These are the pre-Beatles voyagers who criss-crossed Britain in draughty Dormobiles overladen with people and equipment, playing rock'n'roll for whatever rewards they could get.”
         They're all heroes in my opinion and I've had the privilege of meeting a few of them, including quite recently drummer Clem Cattini, the legendary drummer of the Tornados who played on ‘Telstar’ and who, in 1960 and for the first half of ’61, played with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates.
         Johnny Kidd, of course, wrote and with The Pirates recorded the magnificent ‘Shakin’ All Over’ which reached number one in June 1960 and ought to have brought about a realisation among record company A&R staff that that this was the kind of record that people liked. Alas, it didn’t and it took three more years for this to happen. Many years ago in my guide to the music of The Who I wrote: “With the possible exception of ‘Move It’, ‘Dynamite’ and ‘It’ll Be Me’ – the only decent records Cliff Richard has ever released – ‘Shaking All Over’ is the sole pre-Beatles UK rock’n’roll song of any serious merit, and also the best. With its startling guitar riff, heavy bass line, minor key and lyrics that really do shake and rock, ‘Shakin’ All Over’ sounds exactly like it could have been written by one of the great American Fifties rock songwriters, maybe even Eddie Cochran or Leiber & Stoller. Instead it was written by the leader of The Pirates, one of the first truly ballsy rock’n’roll bands in Britain. Contemporaries of The Detours (as The Who were then known), it was The Pirates, with their singer, guitar, bass and drums line-up, who convinced Roger Daltrey that he should abandon his own guitar, fire The Detours’ singer and occupy centre stage himself. That left Pete as their sole guitarist and he took no little notice of Pirates’ guitarist Mick Green whenever the two bands shared a bill, which was often."
         It was great to see The Pirates still out there rocking away that night at the Ace Café and I take my hat off to them. All together now:

Quivers down my backbone
I got the shakes down my knee bone
Yeah the tremors in my thigh bone
Shakin’ all over

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