Wednesday, 27 September 2017


Brian Lawrence Bennett was born in Palmers Green, North London, on February 8th, 1940. His interest in music dated from an early age, and as a small child he used to listen to radio broadcasts from the Aeolian Hall. Soon he was hooked on the sounds of Glenn Miller and the other Big Bands of the era.

He became fascinated by drums and percussion and lists Gene Krupa, Louis Bellson and, especially, Buddy Rich as his early musical heroes. By 1953, Brian had saved up enough money to purchase a rudimentary drumkit and he practiced constantly. Before long he was performing regularly with his school orchestra and youth club big bands.

He began playing professionally even before he left school, with his own Tony Brian Trio and The Esquires Dance Band. He also began composing music and writing songs from the age of fourteen onwards.

Brian's initial background was in Jazz and Swing, but by 1956 - the year he left school at sixteen to play drums in a Ramsgate skiffle group performing for holiday makers - he was equally adept at playing Rock'n'Roll. «It wasn't originally by choice», recalled Brian, «but there were more and more jobs being offered and I didn't want to turn them down!».

A teenage prodigy, he became the house drummer at the legendary 2i's Cofee Bar - now known as the birthplace of British Rock'n'Roll - in London's Soho, backing artists like Tony Sheridan, Terry Dene, Vince Eager and Vince Taylor, and from there he earned a regular spot on the Jack Good's legendary TV music showcase Oh Boy!.

By 1959, Bennett was regarded as one of the top Rock & Roll drummers in England and one of the most sought-after percussionists around. That year he joined The Wildcats, the backing band of Rock & Roll singer Marty Wilde. He remained with Wilde for two years, also playing outside live gigs with stars such as Tommy Steele, and in 1960 he embarked on the legendary tour featuring Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Marty Wilde.

When Marty embarked upon a career in films and musicals, The Wildcats evolved into The Krew Kats and cut a brace of fine instrumentals, including a stunning version of Chet Atkins' "Trambone". After a brief stint as an orchestral pit drummer, in October of 1961 lightning struck for Bennett's career when Tony Meehan - then regarded as the top drummer in England - quit The Shadows, who were then the top Rock & Roll British band as well as the backing group for Cliff Richard, the top singer in the field.

The opening was one of the most coveted in the country - The Shadows were regularly topping the charts in their own right, and their concerts with Richard were riotous affairs, huge sell-outs in front of hordes of screaming fans across England - Bennett was offered the spot. He accepted and was with the group across a string of hit singles and albums, lasting through their intended official breakup in 1968, on the occasion of the group's tenth anniversary as a professional band.

His drumming talents were but one aspect of his monumental musical contribution to the band. He wrote or co-wrote over 100 tracks for them, as well as over 20 compositions for Cliff Richard... He also earned his first Ivor Novello award for composing the title theme to the movie "Summer Holiday", which starred Richard and the band - he also contributed songs to their subsequent movies, up through "Finders Keepers".

A favourite feature for the audience at any Shadows' concert was always his drum solo, with "Little B" - a must showcase for every Beat-Drummer in the pre-Beatles era - perhaps being the best known and highly regarded piece which has inspired countless drummers over the years and is still performed now by budding young drummers at Shadows' music clubs throughout the U.K.

Many drummers back then considered each new Shadows' record as a drum lesson - learning how to play the fills in classic tunes such as "The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt" and "Foot Tapper".

In 1967 Bennett released his first solo LP exploring Jazz and Easy Listening territories with the aptly entitled "Change of Direction", which was followed in 1969 by "The Illustrated London Noise", a return to Rock and Funky music.

Following the 1968 "farewell" Shadows concert, he participated along with lead guitarist Hank Marvin and bassist John Rostill in the band's brief 1969 reunion for a tour of Japan.

By the early '70s Brian was a highly successful and much sought after session drummer working with a vast array of different artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Olivia Newton-John, Engelbert Humperdinck, Richard Harris, The Walker Brothers and many more.

With The Shadows on extended hiatus, Bennett turned to other areas of music. He'd already developed some insights into the mechanics of music through his work as a songwriter, and he took a correspondence course in arranging and orchestration that, when added to his natural ability as a composer, ended up reshaping his whole career. He'd always provided vocals on the Shadows' own recordings, and now he re-established his performing credentials on the piano as well as the vibraphone.

He became Cliff Richard's musical director and formed The Brian Bennett Orchestra touring the world including the first Western rock concerts performed in Russia. Even more important, amid the string of hit albums with Richard that followed, he also started writing music for movies / television and part of this huge load of work was published on many library records by specialized labels like KPM Music and Bruton Music.

Brian Bennett in his studio, circa late '70s

In 1977 he published his third proper solo album, "Rock Dreams", available here and credited to the Brian Bennett Band, which was followed the next year by "Voyage - A Journey Into Discoid Funk", a Disco/Funk opus that was recently remastered and re-released on vinyl and digital download. 1979 was also a busy year for Bennett, who was commissioned a Disco album by EMI; the result was "One Step Ahead", the subject of this post, credited to the Heat Exchange project.

Later on, Brian developed yet another career composing music for films. During the '80s, he was awarded his second Ivor Novello award (for 25 years services to music) and wrote music for a wide range of programmes including "Dallas", "Knotts Landing", "Pulaski", The Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer (!!!), the "BBC Golf" theme, "The Sweeney", Dennis Hopper's film "The American Way" and Ellen Barkin and David MacCallum's "Terminal Choice". In 1990, he won his third Ivor Novello award for Best Score For a Television Series (The Ruth Rendell Mysteries).

From the 1990s to 2000, he was in demand more than ever and he composed music for the long-running series "The Knock", "Nomads of the Wind", "Global Sunrise", "Living Britain", "Dirty Work", "David Jason In His Element" and Hansjörg Thurn's film "The Arpist".

In 2001 Bennett was the proud recipient of the Gold Badge Award given by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. He also won the Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards 2000/2001 for Best Original Title Music for "Murder In Mind". In 2004 he was awarded an OBE and collected his award from The Queen at Buckingham Palace.

In 2009 and 2010 Cliff Richard and The Shadows embarked on a 50th anniversary tour with 36 shows in the U.K., Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. More recently, Bennett wrote with his son, Warren, 24 episodes of the award-winning TV series "New Tricks". He also recorded and produced an album with Cliff Richard and The Shadows.

In 2015 he worked on a musical called "Soho" and the music for a production called "Starchild". His latest album, entitled "Shadowing John Barry - New Recordings for Guitar and Orchestra", was released in February 2016... Although he will always be associated with The Shadows, playing drums for them is merely one aspect of a glittering musical career.

"One Step Ahead" contains the following tracks:

01. You're Gonna Love This (7:07)
02. Shake Down (6:55)
03. Love Is the Reason (7:58)
04. One Step Ahead (6:25)
05. Check It Out (5:52)
06. Lost On You (7:04)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl and CD re-issue in September 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with complete artwork reconstruction and printable PDF files.

As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download links.

"One Step Ahead" was released in the U.K. by EMI with cat. number EMC 3306 sometimes in 1977. The album was also released on cassette with cat. number TC-EMC 3306 and spawned a 12" single that featured "Shake Down" b/w "You're Gonna Love This" (12EMI 2988); edited versions of the same tracks were also released as a 7" single (EMI 2988).

In 1994, the album was re-released on CD by See For Miles Records under their C-Five Records inprint. The booklet offers precious information about Bennett and the album. The original notes were compiled by Rob Bradford, the following is a slightly edited and updated version:

«In 1985 Brian Bennett was delighted when he was commissioned to provide the complete score for the film "Terminal Choice". «Basically», he remarks, «I got that job because it was financed and set up in America. To the Americans, I was just another composer and they judged my music purely on its own merits. That was great. No preconceptions, you see? The majority of Americans have never even heard of The Shadows». In conversation it's a theme he returns to over and over again. The dangers of being musically typecast or pigeonholed. He cites many instances where he feels that his music has been dismissed as out of hand. Something along the lines of: "Brian Bennett? Isn't he The Shadows' drummer? We're looking for a musician, a composer - not a drummer!" In actual fact, playing drums for The Shadows for almost thirty years is only one facet of Brian's immense musical talent. His contribution to The Shadows was monumental and he will always, inevitably, be associated with them. However, Brian's other musical ventures have been both numerous and varied and his output of music as a composer has been truly prodigious.

Brian was always much more than just a beat group drummer. He studied the violin and musical theory for many years and successfully completed a course on orchestral arranging. In 1967 he released "Change of Direction", thus making him the first Shad to release a solo album. It was to be the first of many such projects. During the '70s Brian became a top session drummer as well as beginning his prolific output of library, TV and film music.

Heat Exchange was a commission that Brian undertook in 1979. He'd heard that EMI were looking for an album in the style of the then current Funk / Disco craze. «It all sprang from the New York club scene,» recalls Brian, «The Bee Gees struck lucky with "Saturday Night Fever" and then everyone went disco crazy. But one of the true originators was a guy called Sylvester. He was my starting point.» Sylvester James, Jr. was the doyen of disco music singers; his biggest hits were "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" and "Dance (Disco Heat)".

As ever, Brian assembled a talented team of musicians including: Rickie Hitchcock (guitar), Les Hurdle (bass) and Mike Moran (keyboards). The vocalist we are not at liberty to divulge. I can tell you that he was British and has had chart success in his own right... «Guaranteed anonynimity was one of the conditions he insisted upon. He only did it as a one-off, for the money. But, I have to say that he was utterly brilliant. I've a feeling that Cliff Hall was on some tracks as well. For "Shake Down", I got Chris Lawrence to play the bass line. He had a genuine, groovy, pumping funk-disco style. I'm no lyricist. I enlisted a guy called Dave Jordan. He and I were on the staff of ATV music. He was someone I knew from weekly team meetings. I also had a brass section on there. I was thinking of stuff like Earth, Wind & Fire... Isaac Hayes and so on. I'd go over the scores with them... make suggestions... while we were all sitting around with drinks. All very relaxed. I wanted a party atmosphere. Then, they'd just cut it... live in the studio... hit a groove. I was delighted with it. When the whole thing was completed, I took it to Stirling Sound Studios in Manhattan to get it cut and mastered, to achieve that big 'Tuff' sound. Another thing that's worth mentioning is that all the drumming and percussion is yours truly. By that I mean that there are no drum machines, drum boxes, samplers, synth drums or whatever. No effects at all.»

It certainly does sound remarkably authentic. So authentic that it would have surely been chart material if given to a 'name' disco act to cover. This wasn't pastiche, it was Brian composing in a definite style. I asked Brian if he was pleased with the end product, particularly with regard to its authentic Disco style. «I was quite pleased with it. As a composer, you should be able to adapt to any particular style. Very few people realised it was me. It had the words 'Produced by B.L. Bennett' somewhere on the sleeve, in very small print. That was deliberate. The reviews were great in that they said things like... 'A tight set obviously recorded by top New York session men.' Great. It just goes to show that some critics don't know who they're listening to, or what they're talking about!»

"One Step Ahead", original rejected front cover artwork reconstruction

My copy of the album contains some notes - handwritten by the previous owner on the Side 2 center label - about the musicians featured on the recordings. Some of them are confirmed by Bennett himself in the interview that is quoted on the 1994 CD re-release; unfortunately the name of the singer remains a mystery... The picture above is based upon a tiny image included on the booklet of the aforementioned CD album.

Here's the credits and personnel list of "One Step Ahead":

Les Hurdle: bass
Chris Lawrence: bass on "Shake Down"
Rickie Hitchcock: guitar
Mike Moran: keyboards
Cliff Hall: additional keyboards
Dave Lawson: additional keyboards
Frank Ricotti: percussion
Brian Bennett: drums
Vicky Brown: backing vocals

All songs by Brian Bennett, except "Lost On You" written by Brian Bennett and Warren Bennett.

Lyrics on "Shake Down", "Love Is the Reason" and "Check It Out" by Dave Jordan.

Arranged and produced by Brian Lawrence Bennett.

Mastered at Sterling Sound, New York.

Brian Bennett playing drums

The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered album, enjoy!

More information about Brian Bennett is available here:

If you have any other useful information about Brian Bennett, Heat Exchange and "One Step Ahead" - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!



    If you download this file please consider leaving a comment, your feedback is important!

    Please let me know if the link is broken and I'll do my best to quickly fix it.

  2. I am digging this. Love me some whistles.

  3. Thank you so much. As always, amazed by the quality and musical taste. Thumbs up!

  4. many thanks .....i love heat exchange lp,production is proper tight. who is singing please?

    1. Hi, as Brian Bennett explains in the notes included in the 1994 CD reissue of the album, it's a sort of 'secret': "I can tell you that he was British and has had chart success in his own right... Guaranteed anonynimity was one of the conditions he insisted upon. He only did it as a one-off, for the money."

  5. thanks for prompt reply. i was hoping to find some more similar disco grooves with the vocalist. i like to think i know my 'disco/70s dance music' tunes as i have been sampling them for 20 years to make house music and i just love how tight the production is. your gonna love this and love is the reason are two very special tunes for me and the mrs. great website, keep up the good work.

  6. It is my belief that the main vocalist on this album is Labi Siffre.
    Interesting also to note the (additional) credit to Vicky Brown (Joe's late wife) on your record label. I can hear her vocalising in a similar way on the Dennis Waterman track "Something Called Love", taken from the album "Waterman", on which she is duly credited, and which I have only just (joyfully) rediscovered after a number of years.
    By way of recommendation of Something Called Love, you will go a long way to find a funkier British track than this and I commend it to this site!

  7. Great article on this album.
    The song Lost On You is co-written by Brian Bennett & Warren Bennett.
    Warren Bennett :-)

    1. Wow! Warren, my pleasure, thanks for your visit and comment!

      Sorry for the wrong credit, it's fixed now, thanks again.

  8. DOPE. Just thank you my man.


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