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Last Night In Soho - thumb

Some songwriter credits can be very deceiving. If you look at the writer credit on Elton John & Kiki Dee’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart you’ll notice it being credited to Ann Orson and Carte Blanche which is actually Elton John and Bernie Taupin under a pseudonym. The songs Only Sixteen and Wonderful World are credited to one Barbara Campbell, which is actually the collective name for Sam Cooke, Lou Adler & Herb Alpert, but in reality it was Sam Cooke’s wife’s name. If you check the writing credits on The Honeycombs’ Have I the Right, the three hits by The Herd and all of Dave Dee Dozy Beaky, Mick and Tich’s hits you’ll see Howard Blaikley who is not a person, but an amalgam of Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley.

Dave Dee was born David Harman and was a member of police force before getting into music. It is well documented that he was the first copper on the scene at the fatal Eddie Cochran car crash in Wiltshire in 1960 Following that, he decided to recruit five local friends namely; bass player Trevor Leonard Ward-Davies, rhythm guitarist John Dymond, drummer Michael Wilson and bassist Ian Frederick Stephen Amey.

In 1964, two songwriters, Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley saw them and showed an interest in recording them. Contact was made with Joe Meek and a recording session was arranged. It was a complete failure and Dave Dee once stated in an interview that, “Joe had very strange recording techniques. He wanted us to play the song at half speed and then he would speed it up and put all these little tricks on it. We said we couldn’t do it that way. He exploded, threw coffee all over the studio and stormed up to his room. His assistant, Patrick Pink, came in and said, ‘Mr Meek will not be doing any more recording today.’ That was it. We lugged all our gear out and went back home.”

Soon after they signed a deal with Fontana records and continued working with Ken and Alan. “We changed their name to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich,” Ken recalled, “Because they were their actual nicknames and because we wanted to stress their very distinct personalities in a climate which regarded bands as collectives.” They penned some wonderfully catchy and clever songs which caught the public’s imagination as eight of their 13 hits make the top 10.

Dave Dee’s personal favourite of all their hits was 1968’s number eight, Last Night in Soho. In an interview with Ken Howard, he told me, “Like most of the Dave Dee and Co songs, Last Night in Soho came quite suddenly to us with a strong visual image of how it might be presented. I had grown up, living not far from Oxford Circus, so as I child I knew Soho quite well, wandering on weekends alone through its streets. Of course in the 50s it was quite a rough place, full of pimps, prostitutes and petty criminals, porno cinemas and sex clubs. Not the ideal milieu for an impressionable kid! I suppose most of all, having been subjected to innumerable songs glorifying foreign cities, Paris, Rome, New York, San Francisco etc, Alan and I wanted to write a British song, and, if possible, one that featured London. There weren’t many others around. Dave did a terrific vocal job on it, and hugely enjoyed playing the gang member who ‘let his life go’ in Soho. It is certainly our favourite too of all their hits, and I particular love the wail of the detuning Hammond organ that represents the arrival of the cops!”

That was their last top 10 hit. Their final three hits were The Wreck of the Antoinette, Don Juan and Snake In The Grass which reached numbers 14, 23 and 23 respectively. In the three and half year career of DD, B, M & T they spent 141 weeks on the UK chart.

In September 1969 Dave Dee left the group for a solo career that amounted to one minor hit with My Woman’s Man which, incidentally was also written by Ken and Alan. D, B, M & T carried on without Dave and also managed one hit with the self-penned Mr President that peaked at number 33. Dave later moved into production and became a house producer for Magnet records.

In the 1970s he became a founder and a committee member of the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy charity and was actively involved in it for more than 30 years and helped in fund-raising and increasing the charity’s profile.

In the 90s D, B, M & T reformed with Dave and continued touring. Dave also became a Justice of the Peace firstly in Brent, north London and then in Macclesfield in Cheshire until he retired from the bench in 2008 due to ill health. In September the same year he made his last appearance with the band at Eisenburg in Germany. Dave died on 9th January 2009.

Ken and Alan went on to write two West End musicals, Mardi Gras (1976) and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (1984), and two BBC TV musicals Orion (1977) and Ain’t Many Angels (1978). Additionally they also wrote music and lyrics for the 1990 UK tour of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Ken will celebrate his 74th birthday on Boxing Day and is currently the director and producer at the television production company Landseer Productions in north London.