Friday, 18 March 2011

Jet Harris MBE 1939-2011

Jet Harris
The first album I ever got was The Shadows 20 Golden Greats. I always remember this because my mum was a staunch Cliff Richard fan for many years and when I was younger I listened to a constant diet of Cliff Richard records. These were frequently Cliff's early albums in particular his movie soundtracks but invariably always featuring accompaniment by The Drifters or as they later became known The Shadows.

"Are you sure you want this album?" my mother exclaimed, "There's no singing on it!". I can't even remember why I wanted an album for my ninth birthday. Though I'm rather proud I picked such a great compilation as my first record.

I played it to death, I still rate The Shadows as THE instrumental group of the sixties, of course there were others,  but many were imitators and frequently doffed their caps in respect to Hank, Bruce, Tony and Jet. Even The Beatles first recorded self composition (the only one credited to John Lennon and George Harrison) was an instrumental entitled Cry For a Shadow, a homage to The Shadows.

The Shadows in 1961
The Drifters came together to support Cliff Richard on his early hits Living Doll, Mean Streak, Never Mind and Dynamite, all featuring Jet's strong bass line. The Drifters then changed their name to The Shadows to avoid confusion with the American group of the same name.

By 1960 The Shadows were making records away from Cliff as well as with him and succeeded in knocking their boss off the top of the UK charts in July 1960 with their instrumental record Apache.

Jet Harris provided a hard bass line to many of those Shadows early hits, Apache, Man Of Mystery, FBI, Kon-Tiki and The Savage while his defining moment lay on the bass solo on Nivram (Hank Marvin's surname spelt backwards).

Jet left The Shadows in 1962 and teamed up with former Shadows Drummer Tony Meehan for a succession of hits  including Applejack and Diamonds.  Jet's chart career took a decline in the mid-60s, mainly due to alcohol addiction, a battle he struggled with for many years.

It's good to know that in the final years Jet got the recognition he deserved as one of the early rock n roll pioneers in Great Britain. He was awarded the MBE in 2009. I still love listening to all those early Shadows recordings and will continue to do so for years to come.

Thank you Jet for all the joy you have given and continue to give us!

Listen to a recording of Jet presenting Sounds Of The Sixties in 1985 on BBC Radio 2


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