The Shadows: World’s Tiniest Rockers

Vintage Guitar Magazine’s well-researched history of the Vox musical equipment company contains a particularly delightful side story about “wee” instruments that were designed and manufactured strictly for marionettes!  Peter Stuart Kohman has the scoop:

“One of the most oddball Vox orders was for a set of miniature equipment for singing puppets, specifically, a set of toy-sized Phantom guitars and AC30 amps.  These were supplied for ‘The Beakles’ from The Pinky and Perky Show, a popular children’s program starring marionettes.  The Beakles’ gear was built to look like the real thing by prototype designer Mick Bennett and showed JMI [i.e., Vox]’s commitment to having beat groups on TV – even fictional ones – properly equipped.”

Unfortunately, the only good image of The Beakles that can be found online shows the avian instrumentalists merely playing acoustic guitars – definitely not the modernist, asymmetrical Vox Phantom:

The (unnamed) Beakles depicted on 45 picture sleeve for Pinky & Perky EP

Pinky & Perky's Beat Party

Beakles Spoof LPBeatles Debut LP

Kohman also points out that UK’s preeminent instrumental band, The Shadows, would be the recipients of similarly exquisite custom miniature gear in conjunction with their first full-length motion picture: “The Shadows also appeared in marionette form in the 1966 film Thunderbirds Are Go with miniature AC30s but ‘playing’ their signature Burns guitars.”

The (mini) Shadows can be seen backing Cliff Richard in this charming performance of “Shooting Star” from their big-screen debut:

“Shooting Star”     Cliff Richard & The Shadows     1966

According to Thunderbirds Wiki, “The real-life Hank Marvin loved his puppet so much, he tried so hard to buy it, but it was later reused for another character.”

Hank Marvin & FriendHey, Wikipedia tells me that that sound you hear at the beginning of “Thunderbirds Theme” is Hank Marvin himself (not bassist, Jet Harris) playing a Fender VI six-string bass!

“Zambesi”: Hank Marvin for President

What a revelation it must have been in the early 1960s when folks first encountered the clear, ringing tone of Hank Marvin’s Stratocaster on such soaring guitar instrumentals as “Mustang,” “Kon Tiki,” “Spring Is Nearly Here,” and “Thunderbirds Theme.”

Who else was getting that kind of sound out of an electric guitar at that time?   Answer:  nobody.

Shadows 1961 LP

Of course, it wasn’t Hank Marvin alone but the sound of the group – the strummed acoustic guitars, for instance, that command your attention in the opening of “Apache” – that made The Shadows, along with The Ventures, the two leading lights of the 1960s instrumental scene.

A great example of The Shadows’ group chemistry at work is “Zambesi” from 1964’s original 14-track release, Dance with the Shadows:

How fun to see the bass player picking off an exquisite little solo run at one point in the arrangement.  “Zambesi” – the final track of a 4-song Dance with the Shadows EP released in UK and Australia – was originally written by Nicolaas Cornelius Carstens, a South African accordionist and songwriter [click here for the original version].

Zambesi 45

Interesting to discover that Columbia also released “Zambesi” as a single, but where – in South Africa, perhaps?  It is unclear — this UK singles discography, for instance, does not show a 7-inch release for “Zambesi.”

Shadows 1964 LP

How predictable, and no less disheartening, to learn that the US version of the original UK EMI album, Dance with the Shadows, is shorn of a couple tracks.   Atlantic would release a 12-track version of the album in 1964 and re-title it, The Shadows Know!!!  (get it?)

Check out Hank’s guitar sound on 1962’s “Wonderful Land” – Dutch TV