Johnny Kidd & The Pirates

TrackSingle / Album
Please Don't TouchHMV POP 615
Feelin'HMV POP 674
Shakin' All OverHMV POP 753
Linda LuHMV POP 853
I Just Want To Make Love To YouThe Very Best Of ...
Please Don't Bring Me DownHMV POP 919
I'll Never Get Over YouHMV POP 1173
Dr. FeelgoodHMV POP 1269
It's Got To Be YouHMV POP 1520
Send For That GirlHMV POP 1559

Johnny Kidd photo 2

Johnny Kidd & The Pirates (l to r):
Johnny Spence, Frank Farley, Johnny Kidd, Mick Green



Johnny Kidd playlist


Contributor: Dave Stephens

“When McKeirnan got really drunk, really into it, late at night and smashed on pills, it was their records he’d put on, their songs he’d sing, thrash along to, playing air guitar. ‘Please Don’t Touch’, ‘Shakin’ All Over’, ‘Linda Lu’.”

From “Flesh And Blood”, written by John Harvey, published in 2004 with the action taking place in then current time. Alan McKeirnan is a baddie who, many years ago had auditioned for a bass guitar role with Johnny Kidd’s Pirates. Kidd had pulled his amp lead out mid-number, laughed in his face but given him a job as a roadie.

Fiction but Harvey was pulling at those memory strings.

I stumbled over that after Googling “Shakin’ All Over Linda Lu”.

Why? Because I felt sure that someone other than me must have spotted that the riff that dominated “Shakin’” was essentially the same as the one in Ray Sharpe’s “Linda Lu”, a record that (a) had been released before “Shakin’”, (b) was released in the UK (which didn’t happen to all that many US platters particularly from indies), and (c) was recorded and released by Johnny & the Pirates two discs further down the line from “Shakin’”, so they probably knew it when they cut that little monster.

I said “essentially” but really there was no difference other than the rhythm: “Linda Lu ambles along quite amiably to what’s known as a ‘Texas Blues Shuffle’ (and with Ray coming from Fort Worth, that was hardly a surprise). The beat that powers through “Shakin’” though, is stentorian, almost martial.

Anyone who’s read my Toppermost on Mr Sharpe will have heard much of that before. However, in that piece I did comment: “I don’t think that there was any attempt to copy the Sharpe disc by Johnny and strangely enough he and the Pirates put out a version of Linda Lu less than a year later. I hardly think they would have done that so blatantly if they’d been guilty of cribbing first time around.”

I’m less sure now. What my Googling also uncovered was an entry in SecondhandSongs which stated with no equivocation:

“Shakin’ All Over is in fact a fusion of two older songs. The guitar riff at the start is “borrowed” from No Good Lover (from Mickey & Sylvia – DS) and the guitar/bass line is “borrowed” from Linda Lu.” The quotation marks are theirs.

Quite how Joe Moretti – who played the lead on “Shakin’” – would have got to hear Mickey Baker’s axe work on No Good Lover remains a mystery: The record wasn’t released in the UK.

BUT not one smidgeon of that matters. Shakin’ All Over was the best British rock and roll record ever. I’m not going to attempt to describe it. You MUST know it.

Not only that, Johnny & the Pirates had already cut what would have been an earlier contender for that position via Please Don’t Touch, their debut disc roughly a year earlier (with strong competition for the ‘title’ from a certain Mr. Richard’s Move It). I’d like to think that I recognise greatness when I hear it but whether or not that’s actually true, I do retain fond memories of hearing the number more than once on Saturday Club at the tail end of the fifties, contrasting strongly with the thin gruel we got from the average Brit act at the time. Like “Shakin’” (and in spite of those alleged sources above), “Touch” didn’t really relate to much else in rock and roll as we knew it at the time. Not only did it not sound like any British artist(s), it didn’t actually sound like any from the country that invented rockˈnˈroll. If pushed you might draw a comparison to Holly & the Crickets but that would really only be because of the usage of male back-up singers, or perhaps to Gene Vincent & the Blue Caps round about his third and fourth albums i.e. once he’d eradicated out-and-out rockabilly from his records and replaced it with shimmering guitars courtesy of Johnny Meeks and, yes, back-up singers.

It wasn’t just the guitar work, the echo, the slightly unusual melodic construction of the songs, or even the more explicit manner in which singer Johnny expressed his feelings about a lady than many narrators on records hitherto …

Ah, well there ain’t no other woman that makes me feel this way
(Don’t you touch me baby ‘cos I’m shakin’ so much)
When she comes up close, well I just ain’t got a word to say
(Don’t you touch me baby ‘cos I’m shakin’ so much)

… with hints of sublimation in the fade on the later record: “Well, you make me shake and I like it, baby”.

It was the Kidd voice. It was distinctive. At that time, every Brit singer imitated America and particularly Elvis. Johnny didn’t. His diction was fine to the extent that, on later records if he hit a bum note you felt that it was deliberate. There wasn’t a great deal of depth to the voice and the first adjective that usually comes to me is ‘cold’ which might be unfair but I’m holding back the even less attractive one of ‘sinister’. Below is Please Don’t Touch which, whatever else you might say about that voice, was an absolute cracker of a debut.

“(Please Don’t Touch is) the most melodic song I’ve yet written. I played all the chords I knew and then began switching the order to form different combinations. Eventually, I stumbled on a pattern of chords that intrigued me and this became the foundation of “Please Don’t Touch”. I thought of a title for the song before I tackled the lyrics. I wanted a well-known phrase, something like “No Smoking”, and I finally settled for “Please Don’t Touch”. Then I built the words around the title.”

(Quote from Johnny in the excellent piece on himself and the Pirates from Adrian Barrett’s website)

He was born Frederick Albert Heath on 23rd December 1935 in Willesden, North London. While history doesn’t record him playing with a plastic cutlass and an eye patch (yelling “argh Jim Lad”) in his back garden, he does seem to have been spotted playing guitar in a skiffle group known as The Nutters (originally “The Frantic Four”) circa 1956. Which makes sense because virtually every British artist from the late fifties or early sixties had ‘skiffle’ on their CV. With regard to the eye patch, the Irish Times in a feature entitled “Cult Heroes – Johnny Kidd” and dated 17th August 2002, stated:

“… the handsome and raffish Kidd wore an eye-patch from an early age to hide a bad squint that got worse as the night progressed (without it, he’d start a gig as Johnny Depp and end it as Marty Feldman).”

I would add a note of caution to that claim in that the words that started that sentence were “Born Frederick Heath in London in 1941 …”. I haven’t seen any dispute elsewhere about Kidd’s birthdate – a suitable image of his gravestone appears on the Find A Grave site so the appearance of “1941” suggests very poor proofing or a degree of invention.

Before leaving the subject of skiffle I would note that the Kidd story as documented by Adrian Barrett states that the Nutters appeared on BBC Radio’s Skiffle Club, the precursor to Saturday Club, and I have no reason to disbelieve Adrian.

With some changes in personnel, the Nutters turned into Freddie Heath and the Nutters whose stage act was focussed more on early rockˈnˈroll rather than skiffle (though according to Adrian, the original Nutters favoured an admirably eclectic grouping of songs). Fred also started making attempts to write songs himself. According to various sources, Please Don’t Touch was his 31st. Anyway, he managed to sell it and the number appeared as the second single from the Bachelors. This is it (and I should state that these Bachelors were nothing to do with the Irish Bachelors whose recording career kicked off in 1962). EMI who had released that record under their Parlophone imprint, also showed interest in Fred and his band. Which resulted in the single. And which apparently resulted in the name – and later, image – change: Freddie Heath And The Nutters became Johnny Kidd And The Pirates. According to Adrian, quite whose idea resulted in the change wasn’t divulged to them; they were merely given a slip of paper with it on. The most likely sources would have been either producer (though officially only chief engineer) Peter Sullivan or then manager, Guy Robinson.

Please Don’t Touch reached #25 in the UK Chart. It even resulted in a US cover from a minor rock cum pop artist called Chico Holiday.

At the time of recording their first single, the backing ensemble for Fred/Johnny consisted of Mike West and Tom Brown as back-up singers – they had worked with him in a transitional outfit called the Fred, Mike And Tom Show – plus Alan Caddy (lead guitar), Tony Doherty (rhythm guitar), Johnny Gordon (bass) with Ken McKay on drums (though the last named was replaced on the session by Don Toy, “… as Ken McKay’s timing was out”) (Source: The Adrian Barrett piece.) Alan Caddy was still a Pirate when they cut their 4th single, Shakin’ All Over / Yes Sir, That’s My Baby, but by then they had shed vocalists Mike & Tom and reduced to a three piece instrumental outfit with Caddy on lead guitar (but dropping to rhythm for that record and certain others), Brian Gregg on bass and Clem Cattini on drums. While the reduction in band size was helpful economically (and when travelling), Kidd also claimed to like the sound produced and said that it was in part inspired by the Johnny Burnette Trio.

Single #4 from Kidd & the Pirates was originally intended to be the oldie Yes Sir That’s My Baby but the boys were given carte blanche to come up with a flip. In the words of bass man Brian Gregg (from the Adrian Barrett piece):

“We were due at Abbey Road studios to record “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” as a single and the record company had given us the B side. On the day before the session, we went to the Freight Train coffee bar (Skiffle star Chas McDevitt’s place) in Soho, went downstairs, sat on some Coke crates and wrote “Shakin’ All Over” in six minutes or so. We recorded the song live – first take – and left the studios convinced it was going to be the B side.”

And it was the boys themselves who brought in Joe Moretti rather than producer or record label – see Footnotes.

HMV certainly recognised what they had on their hands with the track and the sides were flipped prior to release to ensure that “Shakin’” got the plugging. Jack Good, arbiter and promoter of most things good in British popular music in the 50s and 60s, included the boys with the number in his Wham TV show and the record started its ascent of the British pop chart. It hit the top spot and remained in the chart for a total of 19 weeks.

The follow-up, a predictable (but very presentable) clone entitled Restless, almost made the Top Twenty – it got to #22 in October 1960 – but successors failed to crack the Top Forty. That is, until 1963 and I’ll Never Get Over You which signalled a David Bowie style reinvention from Kidd and the band. No doubt adopting the slogan “if you can’t beat ˈem, join ˈem”, Johnny had gone for a Willesden equivalent of Merseybeat with a song composed by budding songwriter and music manager, Gordon Mills. If, in some alternate universe you had an appreciation of Merseybeat, which had after all taken on board most of the UK with the exception of Greater London (which was certainly how the US public saw things), and never heard this record before, then you could have lumped it into that all-embracing category.

For me, and I’m ready to be shouted down for this, the record compares well with several early Beatles efforts. There are threads of both folksiness and stridency running through it which evoke Love Me Do at one extreme and I Want To Hold Your Hand at the other. Note in particular the adrenalin rush as the (excellent) middle eight switches to the chorus – “… But in the meantime … I’ll never get over you”. Note also the nod towards Buddy Holly’s guitar work in Mick Green’s solo …

… which reminds me that I hadn’t mentioned that Kidd had a new band on board or a new set of pirates to push that pun a tad further. Gregg, Caddy and Cattini had jumped ship – sorry – in order to go on tour with Colin Hicks’ Cabin Boys (and to this day that puzzles me, even if the group they left was languishing a little in terms of chart action at the time). The new Pirates whose unveiling came with A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues coupled with I Can Tell right at the tail end of ’62, consisted of Green (guitar), Johnny Spence (bass) and Frank Farley (drums). Both records are fine covers of American black R&B tracks (from Arthur Alexander and Bo Diddley respectively) and it’s probably only the fact that I love the originals so much that kept either/both of the tracks getting into the Ten.

This was arguably an intermediate reinvention featuring JK getting into the form of music to start appearing from southern – particularly London based – UK bands like the Stones, Yardbirds, Things etc., from ’63 onwards. (Though one shouldn’t ignore the fact that some northern bands like Kingsize Taylor (plus the Dominoes) and The Big Three favoured such material and that Johnny and the Pirates had spent time in Liverpool in ’63 and would have seen such bands.)

The quality of I’ll Never Get Over You was rewarded with the #4 position in the UK chart. The follow-up, Hungry For Love was also written by Gordon Mills – surprise! – but wasn’t quite as good as I’ll Never Get Over You, in spite of a professional performance from the guys. It didn’t do quite as well in the chart either, just squeaking into the twenty.

There were to be six more singles including a revisit to “Shakin’” but only one more minor hit – Always And Ever in late spring ’64. There were plans for an LP, possibly one of Gene Vincent songs, but it didn’t happen. Band members came and went. He actually called his final outfit, the New Pirates though the ‘newness’ wasn’t echoed on record labels.

Johnny died on 8th October 1966, in a head-on car collision three miles south of Bury, Lancashire, while travelling back from a gig.

The better rock history books probably state that Johnny Kidd made two classic records plus one that didn’t quite reach that level – I’ll Never Get Over You – but was still surprisingly fresh sounding and up to date for a man who would probably have been seen as past it by pop buyers in the summer of ’63. I’d love to say that there were some undiscovered nuggets elsewhere in the Kidd oeuvre but, while there were plenty of interesting records, indeed some very fine ones, not one rivalled the top trio. But we’re going to look at ‘The Best Of The Rest’, so let’s get rolling:

Feelin’ –I just can’t understand what HMV were doing with this record. A standard practice in the music business since the year dot, had been to follow up a hit with something that sounded similar.

Feelin’ was just such a record and coming straight after Please Don’t Touch you’d have expected it on the A-side but no, it was banished to the flip so didn’t get the plugs. No, it wasn’t as good as “Touch” but was still better than most British efforts with the duetting between Kidd and lead guitar Alan Caddy retained and extended.

Linda Lu – I’ve already made reference to this record. What I didn’t say was that it was a very respectable cover of the Ray Sharpe original which I don’t recall ever getting any plugs in the UK. To this day it’s not a well-known record on this side of the pond. From a totally new intro onwards, Johnny makes the song his own. And I suspect that if you’d come across his version prior to said original you might well prefer it.

I Just Want To Make Love To You – In which Johnny takes a black American original – take your pick between Etta and Muddy, it doesn’t matter because neither are evoked here – and makes it part of the Please Don’t Touch / Shakin’ All Over stream. OK, it’s not “quivers down my backbone” stuff; the narrator has grown up a little and is happy to be more direct in his language. He’s also more relaxed but there’s a familiar Kidd/Pirates bassline rumbling away underneath it all just to keep the urgency level up. This one didn’t get released at the time. Perhaps it was too grown-up for the early to mid sixties.

I said “early to mid sixties” but I’ve just checked with Adrian’s excellent document and he has this track down as being cut as early as 31st January 1961. Hence it would have been cut with the original Pirates and at a time when the Stones were little more than a fantasy in Brian Jones’ brain (and a whopping 22 months before the release of the R&B From The Marquee LP from Blues Incorporated).

Please Don’t Bring Me Down – Don’t be put off by the first few bars where another guest guitarist, this time Big Jim Sullivan, does the high notes stuff while Alan Caddy shares the bass line with Brian Gregg sounding for all the world like “Shakin’” revisited, there’s a real tune to follow; Johnny was definitely getting better at putting those chords together. While the band erected the usual Pirate style framing extremely well, I do wonder whether a completely different arrangement might have given Johnny a better chance of a hit. Please Don’t Bring Me Down is not to be ignored. It’s almost worth selection for the Sullivan solo alone.

Dr. Feelgood –I might have been a bit snooty about JK measuring himself up against prime American artists in Messrs Alexander and Diddley – and he had the brass neck to do the same with The Killer on Let’s Talk About Us (nice try though) – but he really pulled it off on one record and it’s this one. His take of Dr. Feelgood relegates both Piano Red’s original and the first UK cover by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes to the slow lane. Credit must go to the power trio backing him but I can’t think of too many other UK singers riding the storm the boys create and coming out on top. The best way I can describe the record is US Garage before anyone had invented the term (and this was early ’64). If this was an early Kinks record it would be worshipped.

It’s Got To Be You – During the period when Farley, Spence & Green wore the Pirates’ vests but sales had largely dried up, an experiment was conducted. Since there was a growing tendency to put Kidd in record settings that were more pop oriented than the increasingly R&B flavoured stage act, someone had the idea that two record audiences could be cultivated; one featuring just the Pirates on the harder driving material and the other with Johnny solo i.e. with non-piratical backing. One single was issued from the Pirates coupling the old warhorse My Babe with the Johnny Otis Show number, Castin’ My Spell with Johnny Spence on vocal. It was a decent record but wasn’t rewarded with chart action thus putting paid to any possibility of follow-ups of the same nature until the boys split from Johnny. Meanwhile under the Kidd name only, two singles were issued, Hurry On Back To Love / I Want That and, considerably further downstream, It’s Got To Be You / I Hate Getting Up In The Morning. Given the approach adopted you wouldn’t have expected any of these tracks to be quite my cup of tea but the A-side of the last named does have its attractions. It’s Got To Be You shows some resemblance to certain Tom Jones singles of the mid sixties and while Johnny doesn’t quite have the sheer exuberance of the Welsh boyo, he makes a very good fist of the delivery with the result sounding a little more like a big band soul styled item than an upbeat ballad. With plugging this should have been a hit. I don’t believe it got such promotion but confess my attention was largely elsewhere in spring ’66.

Send For That Girl – Kidd’s final single and I can’t decide whether I really like the track or not. What can’t be denied, though, is that it’s striking and, on that basis, deserves more attention than it got at the time. The New Pirates are heavily supplemented by a full-scale orchestra with Harry Robinson playing the George Martin role as arranger. Apart from the full-on chorus, Kidd himself is as restrained as I’ve heard him on record, somewhere between contemplation and that early period mild menace. The record was released on 11th November 1966 by which date the UK equivalent of the psych era was in full flow; the Robinson-supplied trippy accompaniment is thus “of its time”. Another significant thing about the date is that it was after Kidd’s death in that horrific car crash making the single a posthumous release and a sombre one at that.

Although the comparison has never hit me before, I’ll go out on a limb and mention Jim Morrison in the same sentence as Johnny. Both had ‘cold’ voices. Both favoured minimalist accompaniments (with certain exceptions in both cases, and note that Kidd did deploy an organ within his group in the later days). Both had a liking for the theatric (though Jimbo took it way over the top). Both died early.

But Johnny was our rocker.



Johnny Kidd advert



1. I’ve mentioned the Adrian Barrett biography of Kidd on several occasions within the main text; it has been a constant source of information throughout the process of putting this document together. And if Adrian ever gets to read this, thanks for all your hard work and I hope my selections don’t clash too strongly with your favourite Kidd/Pirates discs.

2. The term ‘nutter’ is used to describe a person who gathers nuts, or is British slang for a deranged person or an engaging eccentric (c.f. nut, nuts, nutty, nut case and nut house). Whilst checking its origins I came across references to “1958” and “first recorded from the 1950’s”. I can roughly recall first hearing it circa 1957/58 after which it spread through school like wildfire. Date wise this would fit with Freddie’s selection of the word as a group name.

3. There’s a sentence in Adrian’s biography which runs:

“Heath, Lazell, Donelan and Rouledge (The Nutters – DS) even cut two tracks, “Shake, Rattle And Roll” plus “Blood Red Beauty” at Wilkinson’s Radio Shop, which still exist today.”

They do indeed. This is the Nutters’ take on the Joe Turner masterpiece and here’s the Kidd original, Blood Red Beauty with a performance that demonstrated Johnny/Freddie’s early penchant for the blues.

4. Please Don’t Touch and certain other Kidd songs had (Heath Robinson), or sometimes (Heath, Robinson) on the line devoted to the composer(s) on the record. The “Heath” came from Freddie of course and the “Robinson” came from Guy Robinson, the band’s manager in the early days. However, the lack of a separating comma on the earliest appearances of these credits had some buyers at the time scratching their heads. Had such a thing happened these days those reactions would have been multiplied by a very high number.

William Heath Robinson (1972 – 1944) was a cartoonist, illustrator and artist. He was famous for his drawings of ludicrously complex and wildly implausible machines often put together in order to tackle relatively simple tasks. The term “Heath Robinson contraption” entered the English language during the First World War (according to Wiki). I would have heard it from my parents but I’d assume usage of the term these days would be minimal (though Wiki does state that a Heath Robinson Museum opened in 2016, housing a collection of 1,000 plus original artworks).

5. There’s a rather surprising dearth of online information on Chico Holiday considering that 45cat list him as having released 15 singles in the US between 1958 and 1969. He also released two singles and an EP in the UK. I did though, find the following underneath his clip of Young Ideas on YouTube:

“Chico Holiday was born Ralph Vergolino in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1934. He had several recordings on several labels, including a Billboard charted hit in “Young ideas” written by Sonny James. He later became a gospel singer.”

I did discover though, that the flip of Young Ideas, a ditty with the title Cuckoo Girl was a rather engaging teen rocker.

6. Joe Moretti was a Scottish guitarist who “moved from his birthplace of Glasgow to London in November 1958 with his wife Pina, and instantly became part of the burgeoning rock and roll scene based around The 2i’s Coffee Bar in Soho” (source: Wiki). His very deserved claims to rock and roll immortality are based on his contributions to Shakin’ All Over and Vince Taylor’s Brand New Cadillac. It was Joe himself who came up with the unique sound you hear on “Shakin’” caused by him running a metal cigarette lighter up and down his guitar’s fret board. He worked with Taylor’s Playboys and several other early bands from this timeframe including, most notably, Johnny Duncan’s Bluegrass Boys. Unlike Jimmy Page, he was never a session guitarist as such. Within Adrian’s biography he quotes bass player Brian Gregg confirming this point:

“Joe wasn’t a session man. The session men in those days were people like Bert Weedon, Roy Plummer, Eric Kershaw. They were guys left over from the era before. When we asked Joe to play on “Shakin” we rang him at home. He certainly wasn’t signed to any of the studios as a session man. I had first met Joe in Glasgow when I was working on the Larry Parnes tours. I suggested to him to come to London and get into Rock ‘n’ Roll. When it was arranged to do the session for “Shakin” we thought we’d better have another guitarist. We decided let’s get Joe, he is a great player. Alan said “let Joe play the lead and I’ll do the high pitch”. It was nothing to do with EMI, we got Joe in, we wanted to earn him a session fee.”

7. Gordon Mills, who had been born in India but brought up in Wales, started in show biz early. He was something of a child prodigy on harmonica and would go on to win a European Championship on the instrument; he started out playing pubs and clubs at the age of 15. He joined an outfit called Morton Fraser’s Harmonica Gang but then he and two others split from the band to form a singing trio called the Viscounts. They were signed by Larry Parnes who got them a record deal with Pye. They had a couple of minor hits with covers of US records, Shortnin’ Bread (1960) and Who Put The Bomp (1961). Mills then branched out into song writing. This is the Viscounts’ version of I’ll Never Get Over You. Gordon penned further songs for Johnny and other artists including Cliff Richard, Freddie And The Dreamers and the Applejacks. He co-wrote Tom Jones’ It’s Not Unusual along with Les Reed.

Mills also moved into management starting with Tom Jones (still Tom Woodward at that time) and then picking up Engelbert Humperdinck and Gilbert O’Sullivan.

8. Colin Hicks is the younger brother of Tommy Steele who made his own bid for fame by following big bro to The 2i’s Coffee Bar in Soho. He got himself a manager in the shape of Larry Parnes, Tommy’s first manager, and with his backing group The Cabin Boys, released three singles in the UK, the first of which was Empty Arms Blues. Unusually for a British group at this time, Colin and a second iteration of the Cabin Boys (some of whom came from Johnny’s Pirates) found success in Italy, releasing the grand total of 15 singles on the Italian Broadway International label and appearing in the films, Europa di Notte (Europe By Night) and Vacanze alla Baia d’Argento. According to a fascinating biography of Hicks, I’m also informed that he hung out with Chet Baker when in Italy. I can vouch for the latter’s presence in Milan due to a conversation I had with a lady restaurateur in the Navigli district of the city who had photos of Chet along with other jazz notables on the walls of her (excellent) restaurant.

9. After 6 weeks on tour with Colin Hicks, Cattini and Caddy returned to England. With nothing else to do they answered an advert for studio session musicians for producer Joe Meek. They got the job and evolved into the Tornados, and that’s another story.

10. Something that I’ve not mentioned in the main text is just how much future blues rockers owed to Johnny & the Pirates. Although I was a little dismissive about their take on the mighty Diddley’s I Can Tell, the record should be seen in the context of its release date. No one in the UK (or the US) was creating records like this in 1962. To future Spooky Tooths and Deep Purples such records would have been eye and ear openers. There’s a bootleg that’s floating round on the internet called Led Zeppelin: A Tribute To Johnny Kidd And The Pirates which consists of sound checks and jamming in 1970 and ’75. Three (in a row) of the 28 tracks are Kidd covers.

11. There was no attempt on my part to note down all of JK & the Pirates chart hits. For the sake of convenience I thought that having them in one place might be more helpful. So …

Jun 59 – Please Don’t Touch (#25)
Feb 60 – You Got What It Takes (#25)
Jun 60 – Shakin’ All Over (#1)
Oct 60 – Restless (#22)
Apr 61 – Linda Lu (#47)
Jan 63 – A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues (#48)
Jul 63 – I’ll Never Get Over You (#4)
Nov 63 – Hungry For Love (#20)
Apr 66 – Always And Ever (#46)

(Courtesy of “British Hit Singles 15th Edition”)

12. A connection I always make with the song I Just Want To Make Love To You is an alternative punch line I heard Eric Burdon sing (in Animals days) in, I think, the 100 Club. That line was “I just want to wrap my legs around you”.

13. As many readers will be aware, Mick Green of the second major iteration of the Pirates went on to achieve semi-legendary status as an acclaimed guitar hero, albeit of the relatively restrained type. He worked within a number of bands in the seventies and eighties which included a reformed Pirates with whom he made four albums. Moving on towards the nineties Mick found himself in demand from major artists, both on record and live. Such names included Robert Plant, Bryan Ferry, Paul McCartney and Lemmy. He also worked for several years with Van Morrison appearing on several of his albums.

Mick died of heart failure on 20th January 2010. And to quote Wiki: “On 27th November 2010, the Mick Green tribute gig was held at the 100 Club and featured the Animals and the Wilko Johnson Band.” Wilko himself was one of Mick’s biggest fans. The We Are Cult site interviewed Wilko on 15th June 2018 and he stated:

“I heard Mick Green, with Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, I tried to copy Mick Green, I wanted to sound like that. So you could sum up my style as a guy who tried to copy Mick Green but never quite succeeded [laughs].”

The band Dr. Feelgood took their name from the Johnny Kidd & The Pirates recording.

14. The reader may or may not be aware that several versions of Shakin’ All Over were cut. The one that hit the US Chart – #22 in 1965 – came from a Canadian Group called Chad Allan and the Expressions but named The Guess Who? for this record. The Who (without the “Guess” bit) regularly used to feature the number in their stage act and it got included in Live At Leeds in 1970. There were others and Wikipedia has an extensive write-up. However the only one that I’m really partial to (apart from the original) is the medley version from Van Morrison on 1994’s live A Night In San Francisco album. It would have been nice to have had a live clip but the album track’s still all right in my book:

There was a group called Johnny Kidd and the Pirates … … … …

When you move in right up close to me
That’s when I get the shakes all over me

15. Much as I love the Van version, the final Shakin’ All Over has to be from the Pirates; that is, the Farley, Spence, Green Pirates with a live clip from the 1978 Reading Festival. It’s preceded with a few words from Mick Green:



Johnny Kidd photo 1


Johnny Kidd (1935–1966)

Mick Green (1944–2010)

Frank Farley (1942-2018)

Alan Caddy (1940–2000)



Johnny Kidd & The Pirates – Adrian Barrett’s website

The Pirates official website

Johnny Kidd & The Pirates Discography

Johnny Kidd biography (AllMusic)

Dave Stephens is the author of two books on popular music. His first, “RocknRoll”, is described by one reviewer as “probably the most useful single source of information on 50s & 60s music I’ve come across”. Dave followed this up with “London Rocks” in 2016, an analysis of the early years of the London (American) record label in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @DangerousDaveXX

Read the Toppermosts of some of the other artists mentioned in this post:
Arthur Alexander, Johnny Burnette, Bo Diddley, Dr. Feelgood, Buddy Holly, Wilko Johnson, Tom Jones, Kinks, Alexis Korner, Led Zeppelin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey & Sylvia, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Johnny Otis, Pretty Things, Cliff Richard, Ray Sharpe, Spooky Tooth, Big Joe Turner, Gene Vincent, Muddy Waters, Who, Yardbirds

TopperPost #867


  1. Andrew Shields
    May 19, 2020

    What a brilliant record ‘Shakin’ is. And it is good to find out the rest of the story. Superb piece as always

  2. Peter Viney
    May 19, 2020

    Thanks, Dave. A great summary. I saw them live – I think it was Bournemouth Pavilion. Up close. They were a phenomenal live band, and I particularly remember A Shot of Rhythm & Blues because back then virtually every band played it on stage, e.g. Gerry & The Pacemakers. But Johnny Kidd & The Pirates were so far the best version that I’ve never forgotten it. Also everyone used to do Dr Feelgood, and again. their live version stood out. Phenomenal live band. i’m not sure the recordings captured how good they were.

  3. Ian Ashleigh
    May 22, 2020

    Growing up in Wembley in the early 1960s, my mum’s hairdresser was (at the time) Johnny Kidd’s girlfriend. I have a distinctive memory of her arriving with card eyepatches that were black on one side and green on the other. The green side left ink on the face around the eye but if you wore them green side out, the black side didn’t. We had a copy of Shakin’ All Over on a 7″ single too. Thanks for the essay Dave and resurrecting a 57 year old memory

  4. Alan V. Karr
    Dec 30, 2021

    Another wonderful and instructive article, my comments:
    1) I’ll Never Get Over You predates the Beatles’ and Searchers’ late ‘63 hits so it slots into the increasingly tougher sounding series of Merseybeat hits fine;
    2) A Shot/I Can Tell is not only a great 2 sided disc (the debut of Mick Green) it is nothing less than the bridge disc between British RnR and British Beat, released just a few weeks after Love Me Do.
    In truth, even Adam and Billy were trying out some tougher fare at that time like Watch Your Step and Baby What You Want Me To Do but it suits Kidd much better;
    3) Please Don’t Bring Me Down, the final “Shakin’” band edition single tries much too hard to meld “Touch” and “Shakin’” and fails but its flip “So What” driven by the barrelhouse piano of Thunderclap Jones deserves high praise -a brisker alternate version of the top side aka “Frantic Guitar” may well be superior;
    4) Hungry For Love, my intro to the Pirates proper via an imported mid-70’s MFP LP collection (which I bought with a discount from my mom who worked the ladies dressing room at a local outpost of a NY City department store, E. J. Korvettes, which had a great record/tape department) probably had its sales diluted by The Searchers’ IMO weaker LP/ EP (#17) version-cover versions (A-Cads; Revillos) seem to follow the more robust Pirates template;
    5) Kidd issued a few discs credited as solo; Hurry On Back To Love/I Want That from early ‘62 between “Please Don’t Bring…” and “A Shot” may have been a misstep into Bobby Darin territory but if the A sounds like the “Grinch” theme gone film noir the B is a brassy show tune Frankie Vaughan couldn’t attempt;
    6) In the immediate post Green era where Kidd lost momentum I do like the B side of the terrible Birds and Bees cover, Don’t Make The Same Mistake As I Did from the Kenny Lynch-Clive Westlake-Mort Shuman team (although the leadin to the bridge sounds cribbed from Dusty’s take of Wishin’ And Hopin’);
    7) Joe Moretti wasn’t a session man at the time he played on Shakin’ but within a few years he was certainly one of the session mob, after playing in Harris/Meehan’s band, many of their post-Diamonds discs, and many many more.
    Let’s be clear, any of the Kidd collections will be among the best recordings you’ll ever own. No one is immune to the Kidd’s charms-40+ years ago my college gf younger brother (maybe 16 then) spied then played the then-recent Colin Miles EMI collection I lent her and he Pirated it!

    • Dave Stephens
      Jan 7, 2022

      Alan, thanks for your opening words. The penny hadn’t really dropped from your other mails that you lived in the US though it was evident you were keen on, and extremely knowledgeable about, British artists and bands from a particular time frame. In the UK and particularly in the 50s and 60s, quite a few of us kids (at the time) tended to look towards your country for our inspiration. As a consequence the majority of my Toppermosts have been of US artists though I did make certain honourable exceptions most of which I listed in another response. What is good to know is that you really appreciate our guys.

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