There have been two periods of rock’n’roll popularity in Britain: the first being approximately from 1956-63 (true rock’n’roll) and the second, which began in c 1972 and continued to the end of that decade. These two YouTube videos entitled Torquay Rock’n’Roll and More Torquay Rock’n’Roll [to be featured next week on the PRSD] concern themselves with the second period and are illustrated mainly by photographs of Torbay’s premier rock’n’roll band of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, Rocket 88. Other photographs in the videos are of two other well-known Torquay bands of the ’70s and ’80s, The Riff Power Band, and The Oomigooli Band, both of whom included rock’n’roll in their repertoire, but were primarily rock and blues bands.
Rocket 88 was formed in January 1975 and performed their earliest gigs at The Drum Inn, Cockington, and The Abbey Inn (now demolished). Some press photographs of the original line-up were taken at The Abbey Inn and may be seen on these videos. The original line up was: Buddy G (vcls, gtr), Del Ray (dms), Jerry Iles (bs), Shaky Starlite (sax) and Zero Silverman (vcls, pno), plus Eddy Falcon (disk jockey). Some of the band’s most successful gigs took place in 1976 at The Palk Arms, St. Marychurch (now flats) and may be seen on these two videos. The band still plays gigs today, though with a much-changed line-up.
The Oomigooli Band was formed in 1984 and lasted for two years. Many of the band’s gigs took place at The Globe Inn, Torre, where the bandleader was landlord. The original line-up was: Spike Holt (vcls, pno), Shaky Starlite (sax), Tommy Norton (vcls, gtr), Dave Carstairs (gtr), Rockin’ Ronnie (bs) and Biggles [aka Nick Ramsay-Whale] (dms).
The Riff Power Band, which existed between 1976 and 1980 never had a settled line-up. Its main venue was the Pelican Inn, Torre (now demolished) and, unlike the other bands on these videos, preferred original material. The line-up during my spell with the band was: Mike Windus (vcls, gtr), Spider Speakman (dms), Ricardo Walton (bs), Glenn Turner (gtr) and Shaky Starlite (sax). A further non-playing member of the band was their lyricist, Paul Green.
While photographs and memorabilia of Rocket 88 are quite numerous, those for The Oomigooli Band and for The Riff Power Band are very scarce indeed. All three bands had, at various times, write-ups (with photographs) in the Herald Express. I will publish these on YouTube in a forthcoming video.
There is very little recorded material for these three bands, although in 2003 Rocket 88 produced a CD. Nevertheless while they were in their heyday these bands were very popular in Torbay. There will be many readers and viewers who will have heard them during their time. Today rock ‘n’ roll still exists in Torquay, but its time is past. Such material that does exist, then, is exceptionally valuable in recording a brief, but exciting time in Torquay’s underground culture.
(image: a still from Michael Williams’ first Torquay Rock n Roll film on YouTube)