The Sandstorms were a hopeful in the Sixties rock and roll race
MANY is the teenage dream of rock 'n' roll superstardom, denied to all but a tiny few. But far more exciting is the pursuit of that dream.
Which is exactly what Poole-based guitarist Roger Downton chronicles in his new book, The Sandstorms: A Well Spent Rock' n' Roll Youth (£5.95, the sandstorms.co.uk).
Like countless other baby boomers, Roger was entranced by Elvis, Cliff and The Shadows, Duane Eddy and Chuck Berry. He got hold of a hand-me down electric guitar, made his own amplifier and set about taking the world by storm – first in a school-based instrumentals group, then in The Sandstorms.
Alongside Dave Hitchings (drums), Tony Haberfield (guitar), Mike Brown/Eddie Hodges (bass), Joss/Dean Fane (singer) and Dave Woodbury/John Hutcheson (occasional keyboards) they appeared at a host of local venues, including the Pavilion Ballroom, the 45 Club, the Bure Club, the Ritz and the Royal Ballrooms.
Active from the late 1950s until 1964, they enjoyed a sizeable local following, had their own fan club and played alongside some of the biggest names of the day, including The Bachelors, The Who, Manfred Mann and The Moody Blues.
The book recounts a host of anecdotes that will be familiar to anyone who's ever played in a band – finding rehearsal space, changing personnel, transport, run-ins with the police/fans/ other bands – as well as some specific to the story of The Sandstorms, like squabbling over Hank Marvin's plectrum, the singer without a surname and almost playing with the Beatles. As a result it also provides a fascinating snapshot of how it felt to be young and in Bournemouth in the early 1960s, touching on the Mods and Rockers scraps in The Square, the coffee bars where the in-crowd met, their clubs, dances and hairdressers.
They were fast-moving times and what was hip one day was likely the very antithesis the next, so The Sandstorms also worked as a tight-knit R&B band called The Dynosonic Jerks, while Roger also earned a crust fronting Roger & the Rallies, the rock offshoot of the famed Jan Ralfini Orchestra, the Pavilion's in-house dance band.
Towards the end of The Sandstorms' story fashion forced their quiffs and dance steps out in favour of mop tops and head shakes.
The Sandstorms: A Well Spent Rock' n' Roll Youth is a raw account of its times, untutored and unspoiled by literary finesse, it reads like a conversation and therein lies its strength.
As Roger says in the book: "It took me decades to realise that I really didn't know all I thought I knew; and now I know that all I know is that life is nothing like I thought it was going to be, but just what it always was."
Nick Churchill. Bournemouth Daily Echo, 9:00am Tuesday 2nd February 2010