Miki Dallon is a well known songwriter and record producer from the 60's and 70's who also had his own performing career from the late 50's to the mid 60's. As a songwriter and producer he scored with The Sorrows ‘Take a Heart’ and Neil Christian ‘That’s Nice’, the songs were also major hits by a variety of artists in most European territories. Miki undertook further independent production work for many Major labels throughout the 70's and 80's, having previously run the Strike and Young Blood labels as outlets for his productions through the '60's and '70 's. Back in 1958 Miki began his music career as a rock'n'roll pianist with Vince Taylor and Marty Wilde. He followed up with his own group the Medallions appearing on TV shows like 6.5 Special, before teaming up with Mickie Most as a group The Minute Men in 1964.
The songwriting began at this point and Miki's first published work was a Mickie Most b-side called ‘That’s Alright ‘on which Miki also played piano. The song writing, performing and production work all combined in Miki for the next few years with Millwick Music. His trademark being swaggering beat pop and r&b, strident piano and heavy choppy guitar epitomised by his production of his own song ‘I'll Give You Love’. As a result Miki's own singles fared very well on the pirate radio stations and club scene.
Miki Dallon 'That's Alright' (RPM, 2003) was the first ever collection of Miki Dallon's singles which also brought in previously unreleased session recordings by Miki. In addition there were key productions bearing the Dallon sound and some very rare covers of Miki's best songs. All recordings span 1964-1966, and highlights include Ritchie Blackmore's guitar on The Sessions ‘Let Me In’ and Jimmy Page's guitar on Neil Christian's ‘I Like It’.
The album was well received within the industry, as quoted here:
"I'll Give You Love by Millwick A&R producer Miki Dallon, is gloriously tough R&B flavoured British Invasion stomp in the mould of The Sorrows." Ritchie Unterberger / AMG
"This mid 60's label (Strike) and its GO subsidiary were the brainchild of composer-producer Miki Dallon, regarded by many as an unsung hero of British pop." Alan Clayson / Record Buyer & Music Collector
MIKI DALLON – THE EARLY YEARS
1953 – I was thirteen and although didn’t know it at the time, was soon to be part of a newer and more rebellious breed of 13 – 19 year olds, - Collectively known as ‘teenagers!’.
In those days just about every two up and two down had an old piano in the front room – a sort of holy place where ‘kids’ were not allowed except on Sunday afternoons when the ‘grown-ups’ staggered back from the local for a family get together and that’s where I first stood up to sing ‘My Mother's Eyes’ which always left Nan crying in her Gin, meat pudding boiling over in the kitchen!. My dad was a lovely pianist having been forced to take lessons at an early age by his own Father. My brother Vern and I would sit and listen for hours while he played and knew just about every old song in the book by then.
I’d always hoped to play like him but lessons were expensive. Still, he could see my interest and finally agreed to send me for a beginner’s course with a local teacher. I hated it. Going up and down the scales bored me – all I wanted to do was play! - 3 months later, I got kicked out- my frustrated teacher telling Dad – ‘Can’t read, can’t go up the scales – waste of time, waste of money’! Dad was equally disappointed but after a while agreed to teach me himself.
By the end of the year, and although still unable to ‘read or do scales’, I’d mastered all the basic cord structures enough for Dad to leave me alone – ‘fill in the rest yourself in your own way and in your own style’, he said. I became reasonably good. ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ etc. I got a longer Sunday front room spot now!
Big Bands were still popular, fronted by so-called heart throbs like Dickie Valentine and Dennis Lottis, but most youngsters thought they were boring.
‘54 and Teddy Boys were in the news. Draped suits, velvet collars, topped and toed with a D.A. haircut and thick soled ‘Creepers’………..seeds were being sown!
New Year 1955 and all I was interested in, after leaving school at Christmas was getting to work and buying my own Drape – then almost overnight something else happened – ‘Rock & Roll’.
The old Empire Cinema in Edmonton had seen nothing like it. Hoards of youngsters and Teds, spilling over into the street, queues twice round the block. Film of the week ‘Blackboard Jungle’ – the song ‘Rock Around The Clock’ by Bill Haley and the Comets. Everyone went crazy when it came on. Couples started jiving in the Aisles, ‘Teds’ trying to rip out the front row seats to make a dance floor! Scuffles broke out with the ushers who tried to stop them - Then the cops arrived! The papers were full of it - first in London, then everywhere else it played. Headlines of ‘Police battle riots’ here – rampaging Ted there – Devil’s Music!! Of course at many places it did get out of hand but contrary to most reports, it wasn’t premeditated vandalism or a deliberate excuse to confront authority, just a younger and previously ignored generation venting instant approval of what they saw and felt was at last – ‘Their Music’.
Haley dominated ’55 – sweeping everything else aside with sounds that continued to encourage and fill our young appetites completely. We demanded more ………and got it!
‘56 saw the emergence of Elvis, then Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, and at the end of the year an explosion within and explosion Little Richard! Hearing him was one thing but seeing him was something else. He not only hammered a piano, (while singing with an incredible high gospel type voice) but did it all standing up!
I started copying him – learning all his piano riffs and mimicking his style of vocal – Rip it Up, Long Tall Sally. My old Dad’s piano took a right bashing!
‘57 and Chuck Berry became another new darling of us ‘Rockers’. But then, just as I thought it couldn’t get any better, somebody else erupted on the scene who for me really was the ‘business’ - I’ll never for get it – a Saturday night at the ‘Royal’ Tottenham. Me and my pals had come to see, what is now known as a ‘D.J.’ who for the first time was going to ‘warm up’ the audience with a half hour spot of ‘Rock & Roll’ records before the regular ’12 piece’ dance band came on. It was early so we stood on the balcony overlooking the stage where he was setting up this strange box like equipment – pints in hand, ready for the evenings ‘bird watching’. Once set up he tested the ‘mic’ and carefully placed the first record on the turntable. The place was still only half full so we shouted down ‘whatever it is – turn it up! He smiled, nodded……… then let the arm go. The intro itself paralysed me – a combination of unique pounding piano, bass and drums followed by an almost haunting vocal, pitched in echo, making the whole thing sound like it was recorded in a field. C’mon over baby, whole lotta shakin’ going on! It didn’t have the frenzy of Little Richard, but a beat and an arrogance that was later to become the hallmark of this particular rebel and my all time rock’n’roll favourite – Jerry Lee Lewis.
Next day, I ordered the record, and re-styled my playing to that of ‘THE Killer’. Although barely old enough to drink in pubs, me and my pals used to sneak in to them anyway especially if one had a band playing which many did on a weekend. It was usually a trio of Piano, Bass and Drums, made up of ‘old-timers’ who’s interpretation of Rock ‘n’ roll stretched to a bit of Pat Boon and Terry Dene..
One Friday, I was in a pub called the ‘Top House’ in Enfield where it happened to be talent competition night – the winning prize – Two Quid and a ready cooked Chicken!!! Which the mainly older Frankie Laine and Johnny Ray sing-a-likes always had a go at winning. They had a trio of Drums, Bass and Saxophone so my mates dared me to get up and have a go too - come on Mick ‘do it for a laugh’. They had an old upright in the corner so I said OK, but let’s have a beer first! A few more beers and a few more after that, I asked the band if they knew any Rock’n’ Roll numbers – which they didn’t, so I said well just play a fast 12 bar in F and follow me. Everyone was looking – it wasn’t usual to see a young‘un like me up there, especially one that was about to sit down at a piano……then it was foot down on the ‘loud’ peddle and crash into ‘Tuttie Fruitie’. The crowd loved it so it was straight into Great Balls of Fire and Long Tall Sally. Everybody wanted to buy me a drink after including the ‘Guvnor’ who before announcing he’d get me back the following night, said ……‘don’t forget your chicken!’ On the bus home, my brother Vern stuffed his hand up its arse like a puppet and ran around scaring all the girls and old grannies. Needless to say we didn’t ‘pull that night’. I arrived the next night on the back of my mate Nigel’s scooter – sporting a pair of gleaming white shoes, bought from my previous night’s winnings. (Nigel later discovered Twiggy and changed his name to Justin De Villeneuve!!!).
Word must have got around because it was packed inside with what seemed a lot more younger people. Everybody was raring to go, so I decided to take the whole front off the piano this time and make it even louder and which in itself brought yells of anticipation – then again, it was crash – straight into it. 10 minutes turned into 20 and then 30 but the guvnor didn’t care. The Punters loved it and he was taking bundles of money. I went back again and again over the next few months adding a young local guitarist, Billy Kuy to my little set. Then one night I found myself chatting to Jimmy, another rocker, who like me idolised Jerry Lee and Little Richard. He joined us for a couple of numbers and went down really well, so eventually we decided to team up together as the Two Dynamoes – and soon appearing in pubs and clubs all over north-east London – me doing a ‘Jerry Lee’ and him topping it with a fantastic sound alike ‘Little Richard’. We started entering and winning competitions and in early 58 won The All London Rock ‘n’ Roll Finals at Wimbledon Palais. Jim had a steady girl and was looking to get married so we drifted apart after that. I decided to form my own band, The Medallions and after a while even started getting bigger gigs outside of London. Although doing alright, I was still having to find casual work during the day to keep up the expense of travelling, and more fancy clothes! I got a job in a saw-mill on the River Lea and of all things, nearly severed off my left hand which after 36 stitches and two hours of surgery my local Middlesex Hospital managed to save for me. I was told it probably wouldn’t be totally usable again. Mum and Dad were inconsolable – I was just gutted at the thought of never being able to play again. Still, I persevered with the physio and after a while surprised even the doctors with the improvement. In three months, I was squeezing on a tennis ball and a month later lifting light weights. Soon I’d surprise myself.
It took over 6 months to heal properly after which it was time to lift the lid and test the old ivories again. I always had small hands, but with one now another half inch shorter than the other, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Still again, I persevered and eventually found that by changing my former left hand boogie style to a much shorter honky tonk vamp, I was able to get by – albeit on the easier C,F. &G white notes only!. Rock’n’Roll was still going strong – TV shows like 6.5. Special, and Oh Boy, made sure of that, while Radio Luxembourg ruled the airwaves.
I’d had plenty of time to keep up with it all while my hand was mending so in early 59 and with hope of bigger and better things, set off for London’s famous 2 I’s coffee bar, from where it all still seemed to be happening and where Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard, Billy Fury and a whole new breed of other home grown rockers had made their names. Turning into Dean Street, I was stopped by two Mounted Police who were trying to control a huge crown outside the 2 I’s. It was Wee Willie Harris’ doing a photo shoot. I flashed the ‘white shoes’ shouted up ‘I’m with the band’ and to my surprise was let through. I was stopped a second time at the door so again had to ‘wing it’. Piano player for Vince Taylor – yea OK – see Tom Littlewood at the bar. Tom Littlewood, whose he! And what the ‘f’ does he look like! Fortunately, once inside no-one took much notice so I just mingled – must have been those lucky white shoes again!
First person I got talking to was Bobby Woodman who asked what I was in for so again I just blurted out – audition - Piano Player for Vince Taylor. ‘You sure’, he said, I’m his drummer! – He laughed when I told him the truth and we became good mates after that.
He introduced me to Tom Littlewood who apparently not only managed the 2 I’s, but quite a few of the artistes and who, on Bobs recommendation, didn’t even bother to look up while putting my number in his little black book………. Dallon, Piano Player!
He then introduced me to Joe Moretti Marty Wilde’s guitarist and the three of us ended up next door in ‘Heaven and hell’ club where we spent the rest of the afternoon drinking espresso’s and playing the Juke Box. I arranged to see Bobby again the following Saturday but it turned out 6.5 Special were filming Cliff inside that day so the crowds were bigger and security tighter – I just couldn’t get in.
I went to a pub over the road and waited, propped against the bar next to a hard looking geezer who in a gruff cockney voice said, ‘got a light cock’ – 5 pints later me and a then unknown Tommy Bruce were hitting it off famously. I really felt at home up here in the ‘lights’ but couldn’t make it back for a while – I was so broke. Then I got a phone call – ‘Littlewood here’ – ‘You the Piano Player!’ Got a gig for ya – 2 o’clock here tomorrow – don’t be late! ‘Er, yeah Tom, great, who with and….’ but the line was already dead. To be safe, I arrived early to find a dozen more muso’s who I soon found out were also awaiting their allotted gigs for the evening. I never realised that only the ‘Top Boys’ could afford to retain their own regular groups of musicians and that most of the others often chopped and changed their ‘line-ups’ from the ‘best of the rest’! . Everybody knew each others songs, sets and numbers anyway so no problem – Littlewood arrived – clip board in hand. ‘Right, listen up’ – so and so, Dickie Pride – Gaumont Manchester, so and so , Tony Sheridan – Corn Exchange Leeds, Dallon – Screamin’ Lord Sutch – Kings Hall Stoke. ‘Christ’ that was me! Then it was load up and hit the AI with his band ‘The Savages’ – who reassured me the whole set was just a slow or fast 12 bar and to just play loud and ‘wing it’. Sutch arrived separately by way of a large black Cadillac – said Hello and gave me a run down of the night’s numbers. I was surprised how quiet he was until the show started and he appeared out of a coffin – Top hat and Cloak and wielding a huge knife that frightened the crap out of everyone –including me – ‘Jack the Ripper, Jack The Ripper’!. The crowd loved it, so did I! The fiver came in handy too!
Supporting us that night was another London outfit called Rory Wild and the Wildcats and after the gig we all headed back to London and met up in the A1 café, a famous ‘late nighter’ where most of the muso’s returning from their respective gigs ended up – ‘Eggs and Bacon’ swimming in grease, just right for 3 o’clock in the morning.!
Over the next few months I practically lived in the 2 I’s. It was great and I got to know and occasionally play with ‘em all. Wee Willie with his red hair, Larry Page with his green, the tall blond Most Brothers.
I eventually found myself gigging again with Rory Wild. After the show he told me he was booked to do a summer season at Butlins and asked me to join him. 3 months regular work at £25 a week, expenses and free accommodation starting June and ending September. I said O.K.! In those days, Butlins was quite a prestigious number where a lot of named artistes appeared and where many more were discovered – a bit like Hamburg a couple of years later. Cliff and his ‘Drifters’ were there year before us. I was quite looking forward to it but it turned out harder than we all thought. We were the main attraction claiming the large Starlight Ballroom where we played one set from midday to 3 pm and another in the evening from 7 –10.30pm –6 days a week, and sometimes a1 hour special with some of the other artistes in the camp every other Sunday. Still it was fun and I made a couple of new pals. One was Roger Cook, a great songwriter, who went on to front Blue Mink with Madeleine Bell, the other a redcoat comic, later known throughout the variety world as Jimmy Cricket.
They organised a beach party for my 20th birthday in August and it was there I met Pearl. The season finally ended and we all headed back home The ‘Wildcats’ as I knew them - never getting together again. Pearl announced she was pregnant so on Christmas Eve ’59, we were married. My son Lea was born the following May. I was now also a Dad and ‘over the moon’ – but not for long. A week later, I got my ‘call up’ papers and the following month found myself in the Royal Infantry Regiment of Fusiliers at the Tower of London. I hated that too! And went ‘over the wall’ several times spending a miserable 21st banged up in the famous Tower – but then a double stroke of luck. First I was being transferred out of the Infantry and down to a place called Bovington somewhere and then while waiting, actually got a gig playing piano in the Officer’s mess for an extra £1 a night! ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ and all that again, but I didn’t care. Bovington turned out to be another awful place – little had I realised I was being transferred to a bloody Tank regiment! – down in ‘Dorset’. Again, no way I thought, and before long was staring at another ‘guard house’ wall. But then, I got a third and what was to be a final stroke of luck. On ‘report’ once more, I was given a punishment duty in the armoury cleaning off the tough wax like material that brand new rifles came wrapped in. A piece got caught in my ‘dodgy’ hand and it started to bleed so I shoved it in a bit more! A medic cleaned it up and I was sent home on sick leave for a few days. Unfortunately, it got infected so I went back to the Middx hospital to have it checked and of all people, by the Surgeon who originally saved it for me. He was appalled – said I shouldn’t have been taken into the army at all and wrote a ‘stiff’ letter to the regiment’s chief medical officer who on my return immediately sent for me. Two weeks later and I was waving my ‘pink slip’ and saying bye bye to my stint as a soldier. Returning home was great and in early ‘61 we moved from our cramped room in Edmonton to a bigger place in Enfield. Having a wife and son to look after was a big responsibility so for a while I had to give up all thoughts of returning to the ‘bright lights’ and knuckle down to getting a ‘proper’ job supplemented with a couple of weekend spots in the ‘locals’ again – one being The Kings Head on Edmonton Green and the other The Top House – back to the beginning again!.
One night, Billy Kuy came in – said he heard I was home and we got chatting over a pint or two. Billy was now a full time pro in a band called ‘The Outlaws’. Come and see us sometime and meet the boys, he said - so I did. First person I saw was their drummer, Bobby Graham who I went to school with and bass player, Chas Hodges, who I’d casually seen and rubbed shoulders with on the circuits before. They were a terrific band, who played in an unusual Rock Country style - tight and heavy and a match for any group on the night.
We got quite pally and I later got Bill and flat next to mine. One night he knocked me up and said ‘The Outlaws were playing locally in Edmonton Town Hall - come along. They invited me up to do a couple of Rock ‘n Roll numbers – Chas was a bigger Jerry Lee fan than me so I did a medley of numbers by the ‘Killer’ which went down well, (Chas to my constant envy later, got to play with, write for, and befriend the grand master himself). I did quite a few spots with the boys after that – travelling to different parts of the country – mainly at weekends as I was still working during the day. We often shared billing with some of the groups and guys I’d known from my 2 I’s days and had some great and often funny times which more or less ended for me when they teamed up with singer Mike Berry and really started to make the big time. Meanwhile, Pearl announced we had another little package of responsibility on the way, so in ’62 we moved again to a bigger flat in Tottenham. Unfortunately she miscarried which left us both miserable for a time, so I gave up the gigs for a while, choosing to try my hand at song writing instead. A few months later I was at White Hart Lane watching the then mighty Spurs when a voice shouted -– ‘Miki Boy’. It was Chas, another Lilywhite fan (who like me later made a chart record or two in recognition of ‘our’ team). We arranged a get together and after mentioning I’d been doing a bit of song-writing, offered to help me put a few demos together – (little realising he’d still be doing that three years later). He then arranged for me to meet the ‘The Outlaws’ record producer, the legendary Joe Meek, who after hearing a few numbers, signed me to his famous stable of artistes. Silk suits, photo shoots and regular recording sessions, but it seemed I was up against a brick wall. We made a great version of a song , me and Chas had demoed earlier called, ‘Stairway To A Star’ but Joe thought it would be better for one his bigger blue eyed stars, John Leyton,. Then ‘Take A Heart’, which he thought better for Mike Berry and so on and so on. In the end, he insisted I record a couple of his own songs which maybe he wanted all along and which I just made a complete mess of, so finally ended up being one of his ‘ also ran’ after that. It should have been a ‘gee up’ for me when in ‘66, and now having a successful career elsewhere, I went back to see him – but he wasn’t his old self. He went on and on about everyone letting him down, pointing to a framed picture of a sad young boy on his wall with a caption underneath - ‘poor Joe’. He looked tired, lonely and close ‘to it’ then I thought. ‘I discovered you first he said’ as I was leaving……….. Don’t forget that! – I won’t Joe, I won’t.
Fortunately my immediate set backs didn’t last long! Chas phoned to say Mike Berry was ill so did I fancy filling in and doing a spot at a club where they were booked in the Midlands somewhere. On the same bill was Chris Farlowe and The Thunderbirds and an old acquaintance from my 2 I’s days – Mickey Most, who was doing a guest spot like me with another group. Mickey had just returned from South Africa where he’d become somewhat of a Rock’n’Roll hero. We put a band of our own together, The Minute Men and once again I found myself ‘treading the boards’ in another re-hash of ‘one nighters’.
That winter of ’63 was particularly long and miserable so after spending a freezing night caught in a blizzard somewhere up in picturesque Scunthorpe, and digging the van out of a snowdrift the next morning, thought – this is it for me – my time on the road was over – Mickey’s too I think.
Chas called – ‘get on a rattler’ and come to IBC Studios – doing a session with a few of the boys and need a couple of songs. We ended up cracking out a few things including a little ‘Rocker’ ‘Let Me In’ which I put a vocal on as well. Can’t recall what it sounded like – I’ve never heard it since!
Pearl was pregnant again so we moved to a little two up, two down back in Edmonton where On January 25th 1964 my second son Clay was born. Mickey set up a club in a basement somewhere up town and for a while we did a kind of residency there a few days a week. Between that and a late-night shift at our local Watneys Brewery proved difficult at times, and I started missing out on some of the dates. It often led to a ‘fall out’ with the band - but they didn’t have a wife and two kids to look after like me.
Still, we carried on and a bit later ended up in Kingsway Studios, Holborn which Mickey had booked to cut a few tracks for Columbia. He put one of my songs ‘That’s Alright’ on the B side of his next single – a first for me - then took me up to Tin Pan Alley, and got me a publishing deal for the song with Roy Berry at Ivy Music – and for a ‘fiver’ cash advance!.- another first for me. We ended up having a pint and a game of darts in Charing Cross Road to celebrate.
I liked being around Mickey, he was different, astute and business like under his ‘rocker’ surface. We’d often go whizzing round the West End in his little Porsche, he was always having a meeting somewhere or the other. One day, he said he’d had enough of treading the boards himself and was looking at going into record production with an R & B band he’d found called ‘The Animals’!!Meanwhile, he introduced me to Jack Heath who was about to get involved with a new publishing company called Millwick.
Next thing I knew, I was sitting in their plush Upper Berkeley Street office with a contract and Ten pound a week retainer!
Millwick was ‘owned by Adrian Jacobs and Lionel Segal. Adrian was a businessman who had many other company interests but knew little about music, leaving that side of things to Lionel – who was also a writer and musician like me, but more on the theatre and film side having previously worked for MGM etc. As their first signing, I was presented with a pair of superb Ferrograph tape recorders, which Chas and I could now use to make better demos…….Right Chas!
We built a ‘Studio’ in one of my upstairs bedrooms – control room, vocal booth, - the lot. Lionel even managed to get me a baby upright and soon we had our own little ‘Meeksville’. One of the first things we demoed was a number I’d just written called ‘You Got What I Want’, the drum track of which we nicked and dubbed from an old Sandy Nelson LP . Chas took part of it and made a ‘loop’ which just went round and round on one tape recorder which then served as a backing for the rest of the instruments to be overlayed.
He got the idea from watching a similar loop in the little Watkins Echo Box we used for vocals. I don’t think anyone had done that before – not even Joe! We knocked out a whole batch of other songs over the next few months which the guys up at Millwick were excited about and one day I was called into a meeting and told that Millwick were also expanding into Record Production – finding new artistes and producing recordings themselves to license on to the more established majors. They would then not only own the publishing but masters and artiste management too! Treble bubble!!
They started signing a few acts that Lionel initially wrote most of the songs for, among which were a couple of numbers called ‘Do You Call That Love’ and ‘Apple Pie’ which he then suggested I record as Millwick’s ‘first produced artiste’ ‘No way’ , I said, I’m finished with all that singing game. Rock ‘n’ Roll was dead, kicked in the teeth by the Beatles and I couldn’t really sing all that ‘other stuff’ anyway. Still he insisted –said it would get me a bigger profile for my writing etc. He finally convinced me after agreeing to at least let me use some of my own muso’s and Rock ‘em up a bit! ‘Do You Call That Love’ Featured on the front page of NME in February ’65, along with 3 or 4 other Millwick releases, and one of which , a re-make of one of my old numbers - Stairway To A Star – doing well and getting quite a few covers in Europe too. My rock-a-long then got picked up by RCA in America through Steve Sholes - who of all things was one of Elvis Presley’s executive producers! - and with good reviews charted in a few regional’s. Next I found a little outfit called ‘Boys Blue’ who Jack and Lionel liked. They said, ‘produce it yourself’ – so I did with a couple of my own numbers, ‘Take A Heart’ and ‘You Got What I want’ formerly of Chas’s ‘loop’!! That got released too, first on EMI, UK, then on ABC Dunhill in the States where it was a minor hit. I then warbled out another single for RCA, a ‘bluesy’ ballad, ‘I Care Bout You’ and an out and out Rocker called ‘I’ll Give You Love’, with a motly little collection of muso’s and I think Chas himself of Bass, Billy Kuy on Lead Guitar, Clem Cattini on drums and Billy Grey on Rhythm. It did OK and I appeared on a few radio and TV shows but before long was back writing and sitting behind a studio consul – feeling comfortable again.
Clubbing It one night, I bumped into another old acquaintance, Neil Christian whose band The Crusaders featured a young Jimmy Page on guitar (later of Led Zeppelin fame). (Neil had a thing about guitarists – Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Beck and Albert Lee being other ‘greats’ his stage or recording line-ups saw at times). Lionel booked us into Pye Studios round the corner to Millwick’s offices – and we cut another batch of my old song demos – Gonna Find A Cave, Let Me In, I Like It, Jimmy Page on guitar, Carlo Little –former Savages – on drums, me and Nicky Hopkins on Piano (Nicky was so young, his mum used to bring and pick him up from the studio – he went on to play for everybody -Stones/Clapton/ all the greats) Neil’s titles got placed with a few companies in Europe, and as an EP was a small hit with Barclay in France and Vogue in Germany.
Another local to Millwick’s offices was The Masons Arms – 50 yards away on the corner of Upper Berkeley Street and Seymour Place and where all the Pye Recording artistes gathered during and after sessions.
One night I got talking with a Pye ‘house’ Producer, John Schroeder who was looking to find material for a new group signing of his ‘The Sorrows’ . I told him to contact Jack Heath who later sent him a batch of my songs among them the Boys Blue and Neil Christian titles. ‘Just what I was looking for’ he beamed – ‘I’m gonna record the lot!
‘Take A Heart’ hit the charts soon after release followed by a second single, ‘You Got What I Want’ then an EP featuring ‘Let Me In’ and ‘Gonna Find a Cave’, and finally topped with a great album – called ‘Take A Heart’ featuring the lot!. John was true to his word alright- great producer - lovely man - and still a mate.
‘Take A Heart’ in particular got over 30 covers worldwide and became mine and Millwick’s first million selling copyright. I got a raise to £15.00 a week and a car.
Me and Chas got slaughtered on VP wine and were ill for a week. He was going on tour with Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers at the time and missed his plane next morning!
In early ’66, Millwick formed a sister company Strike Records, and then another off shoot – Go Records. They’d signed quite a few acts by then and now wanted full independence via their own label and distribution set ups. ‘No longer would our productions be farmed out to others’, said Adrian – ‘same goes for our best songs’. I had no idea what these moves would later bring, but for now everything looked ‘rosie’.
Millwick’s office was situated on the third and top floor of a small apartment block called Exel House. With the expansion of Strike, it took on more staff, and leased the second floor to house it all.
Derek Green, (who later went on to head A & M) was taken on as record plugger and a young Phil Swern (now a BBC Executive) first as office boy, then junior assistant looking out for the artistes and in particular running around and helping me – great kid was Phil. More writers and artistes were signed. Roy Harper, Sugar Simone, Carl Douglas, Jimmy Powell, Kenny Woodman, Alex Welsh etc. It was a busy little place now. I’d written a few new songs – a couple of which ‘That’s Nice’ and ‘That Can’t Be Bad’, Georgie Fame and Marianne Faithfull were looking at recording but ‘in-house’ rules dictated that Strike got first shots. Lionel produced ‘That Can’t Be Bad’ with model Samantha Juste and I was more than happy when my old mate Neil Christian signed up as a solo act and I produced a more commercial version of another of my old numbers, ‘That’s Nice’ which became Strike’s first international hit and made a bit of a star out of Neil throughout Europe. He became my priority over ensuing months – singles of ‘Oops’, ‘Two At A Time’ followed (when they weren’t banned for ‘innuendo’ lyrics!). Meanwhile, ‘That’s Nice’ got covered by dozens of other artistes around the world and soon became Millwick’s second million selling copyright. I got another raise!
A Strike off-shoot, Go Records was formed and the first floor of Exel earmarked for that until someone else beat us to it. I was in the lobby waiting for the lift one morning when a brightly dressed crowd of muso’s came charging out –guitars in hand, limo waiting – ‘Miki – how ya doing – what’s up’ - it was drummer Mitch Mitchell a mate from my old pub gig days. The guy alongside him shouted ‘come on Mitch, let’s go we’re late’ – It seemed Jimmy Hendricks and his Experience had moved in instead!
RCA contacted Jack Heath again about another single, but again it was suggested that any new tracks might be better cut for Strike instead. By now, being a ‘performer’ was of little interest to me – certainly not a priority – I cut a few tracks and whacked a few vocals over some of the tracks (Cheat & Lie, What Would Your Momma Say Now) I’d previously made with Neil Christian plus ‘Two At A Time’, ‘That’s Love’ for Europe – at least enough for Jack and Lionel to release what they wanted over the next 6 months. Meanwhile, Jack sent a couple of my old songs ‘Full Grown Doll’ and ‘As From Tonight’ which Chas and I had demoed back in ’62 and which I’d written in ‘Cloud 9’ hope that they ‘could be good for Elvis. Of course, we heard nothing back but Ironically a few years later, Freddie Bienstock – owner of Carlin / Hill and Range Music and publisher of many of Elvis’ songs – administered my own publishing company too and did at least get Elvis to ‘demo’ them – so he told me. Who knows, maybe they’re still in those old RCA archives somewhere waiting to be put on some future album as ‘Out-takes’ or bonus tracks!. – same as those very originals by me and Chas on this CD!!
Apart from writing and producing, I’d also started doing a bit of general promotion mainly with the Pirate Stations, London and Caroline, whose ‘jocks’ had always given me a lot of airtime. Strike released a couple of singles – ‘What Would Your Momma Say Now’ got a lot of airplay and few small local chart entries here and other territories in Europe but that’s all. I never recorded as an ‘artiste’ again after that.
We were look at signing The Sorrows’ lead singer, Don Fardon, so in anticipation wrote a few songs and demo-voiced a couple of backing tracks for him to learn and put a master vocal over – ‘Mr. Stationmaster’, ‘I Need Somebody’, ‘The Dreamin’ Room’ among others.
On the surface, all seemed to be well - certainly to us writers, producers and artistes at Exel. Only later were we to learn that underneath Strike was having problems. It was a combination of many things – some of which we’ll perhaps never know - that started the slide in mid ’67. Certainly, part of it was Strike’s distribution service which relied on all manor of independent companies – some not even remotely connected to the music business - to deliver it’s product to the various record shops and outlets throughout the country. They were inadequate, slow and only reached half of them anyway. Smiths, Max Factor, Lugdens and the rest didn’t compare to those set–ups that majors like RCA, DECCA, PYE, EMI enjoyed. It didn’t help either that many of our best songs were being reserved for some of Strike/Go’s lesser known talent when far better and bigger artistes were keen to record them – Millwick Publishing was suffering too. Adrian was also playing the business market and juggling any profits including our own to keep all his balls in the air. Jack, Lionel, in fact no-one I don’t think, was fully aware of what was going on. - It seemed like one day it was all there – next it wasn’t!
Still, the details of Millwick and Strike’s decline and final demise are not needed here. I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of my time there – the things I achieved – the friends I made – the challenges – the pitfalls – it was all part of a combined learning and for many of us an experience that enabled us to go on and do even bigger and better things in the future.
I formed my own company Young Blood Records, and then ironically, with Lionel’s continued support, acquired both the Millwick publishing and Strike/Go records catalogues, which an ever growing number of enthusiasts find so collectable today, and which memorabilia labels like RPM so uniquely promote.
MIKI DALLON – MAY 2003.
Neil Christians top 20 hit ‘That’s Nice’ in 1966 was the first release on the then new STRIKE Records label. This was the outlet for Millwick Productions, a company leasing their production masters to other labels for release, such as The Sorrows to PYE. STRIKE and its spin off subsidiary imprint GO only lasted from 1966-1968 but in that time released a terrific cross section of singles that embraced the full spectrum of the mid 60's UK pop scene: Brit Girls Jackie Bond and Samantha Juste, soul legends Carl Douglas and JJ Jackson, garage beat from the Washington DCs and the Drag Set, folk rock from Roy Harper, and beat pop from Neil Christian and Miki Dallon.
Miki Dallon as well as being a sometime artist was in also the man in the Producers Chair who steered the labels and their upbeat sounds. After STRIKE folded Dallon continued producing for his own label Young Blood which grew out of the ashes of STRIKE. His first artist being Don Fardon, lead singer with the Sorrows.
Young Blood Records
Miki Dallon started Young Blood in 1969 following the demise of his previous company paymasters that owned Strike, in 1968. Bringing with him the key artist Don Fardon, ex lead singer of the Sorrows, Dallon scored huge international hits with Fardon in particular ‘Belfast Boy’ and ‘Indian Reservation’.
This was very much an International operation with the UK charts only one part of Dallon’s target market. Mac & Katie Kissoon scored hits in the USA, Canada, Australia and their record ‘I've Found My Freedom’ hit No.1 in Holland, Belgium and France. (Their version of Chirpy Chirpy made the top 20 in the US, Middle of the Road never even charted). A made up group name of Apollo 100 (in reality Miki Dallon and Tom Parker) reached no.6 in the US singles chart with ‘Joy’ and achieving the 2nd best instrumentalist award in Cashbox.
The label ran from 1969-1972 as Young Blood Records and from 1972 until its final singles releases in 1974 as Young Blood International. It represents a fascinating microcosm of the early 70's UK music pop sound with the emphasis on the hit pop record that was good for the discotheques. In 1969 Mac Kissoon’s record ‘Get Down With It’ is great Northern Soul from the 60's, by 1974 the sounds incorporate heavily laden drums and synthesised, keyboard riffs and Billy Oceans debut with the group Scorched Earth shows the way things will go in the second half of the decade. At the same time Young Blood also dabbled in other fields with the blues/rock of Python Lee Jackson, the folk rock of Dando Shaft and the Prog rock of Julian’s Treatment and Salamander.