August 11, 2008
Vic Flick, Guitarman
(Paperback - 192 pages)
by Vic Flick
reviewed by Geoff Leonard
The John Barry Seven only existed for about eight years, and in truth was only really successful for around half of that time. Yet all four of the men who led the band during its relatively short existence have now written or had biographies written about them. John Barry was the first, followed by drummer Bobby Graham, trumpeter Alan Bown and now guitarist Vic Flick becomes the fourth. His is a fascinating book concerning the life and career of a man who always wanted to make his living through playing the guitar. By no means a household name on either side of the Atlantic, we learn how Flick nevertheless became the leader of the incomparable John Barry Seven and eventually the man to turn to for those crucial studio recordings.
he book includes a vivid account of growing up in the UK during the Second World War, before a brief attempt at a non-musical career faltered when the lure of playing music professionally proved too strong. The atmosphere of Butlins Holiday Camps at Skegness and Clacton in the fifties is perfectly captured, as Vic becomes a member of Les Clark and his Musical Maniacs & The Vic Alan Quintet. We re-live the days of endless, tiring, variety tours with The Bob Cort Skiffle group, leading to a meeting with John Barry on a Paul Anka tour which became the first big break for him when John later asked him to join the JB7.
There are tales of the nerve-wracking "live" performances on BBC TV's Drumbeat show - the series which introduced Adam Faith to the general public. Also the JB7 recording sessions at the famous Abbey Road Studios and at CTS Bayswater - where the original version of The James Bond Theme was recorded, and on which Vic played solo guitar. There is even an extract from his diary verifying the time and date on which the recording of probably the most famous film theme of all time took place!
The book is full of hilarious anecdotes of both off and on-stage antics at pop concerts, touring with Adam Faith & Shirley Bassey, characters he worked with and for at recording sessions at virtually every studio in London, often at four different ones in a day. The idiosyncrasies of the powerful session "fixers", meeting and working with star names at both recording sessions and on TV shows. Painful and seemingly endless recording sessions with Burt Bacharach and Tony Newley, embarrassing ones with Angela Morley and Basil Kirchin. Clashes with Sacha Distel and Lita Roza. What happened during a drowsy moment on a Parkinson show recording on which James Stewart was the guest.
There are also some poignant and moving moments, when we learn that the career of a freelance musician is not all roses, including the devastating moment when he eventually discovered he had been denied the chance to become "Britain's answer to Duane Eddy" when executives at EMI were told he was under contract to John Barry during the early sixties - which was not the case. He was later denied the chance of another stab at fame, when his recording with Eric Clapton on a James Bond film theme was ultimately replaced by a pop-ballad.
“Names” are scattered like confetti throughout the book, but never gratuitously. This is simply a reflection of the variety of people he encountered during a long career as one of Britain’s foremost session guitarists. What is apparent is the integrity and honesty of the writer, whose career was well-supported by his family. If you want to read a factual and absorbing account of the life of a professional musician during the heady days of the fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond, this book is thoroughly recommended.