INTRODUCTION TO THE SOUND OF FURY (OFFICIAL BILLY FURY FAN CLUB) AND MAGAZINES 1997-2018.
At long last we have decided to put our magazines on-line, beginning with the first twenty, and we are grateful to Alan Coombe for facilitating this. They ran from April 1997 to the end of 2015 as three 40-42 pagers per year, switching to two 60 pagers per year until December 2018. Production costs, increased postage, the spectre of necessary repetition, stress, team and dependents ill-health, waning membership and frankly most of us being plumb worn out, meant it was time to stop. We felt that the magazines would become collectable as those more hard to find ones from the Fury Sound are to some fans, but as Harry Whitehouse founder of billyfury.com and the Peaksoft CD label once told me “Your magazines are a social history of events and people forming a part of the Billy Fury story and in particular the world following his passing, and therefore should be preserved.” Billy Fury fans owe Harry a debt of gratitude for all of his work in promoting Billy and especially in getting various CD releases out. Although now retired, his CDs are still largely available via billyfury.com. It will be miraculous indeed if the complete set of printed magazines survive intact for a future Antiques Road Show-in the almost totally electronic (and for me) appalling future with minimalist ‘hard’ possessions and space at a premium-everything on-line etc. So here we are-online! We no longer have regular income as there are no subscriptions so we ask those wishing to have hard copies of our newsletter to pay a small sum to cover the cost of printing and despatch.
We are, in addition, hoping to save on billyfury.com all of the work done by Harry and those who assisted him from around the same period as the Sound of Fury. If anyone from fan clubs prior to the tenure of The Sound of Fury has information about them and wishes to contact us with relevant information, corrections or additions they are most welcome.
Billy Fury had a great number of UK fan clubs during his sixties hey-day and even when he had moved to EMI/Parlophone at the end of 1966 there was still a fan club branch in London run by Michael Husband who still attends the fan gatherings at Mill Hill; where he is a mine of information. Around 1971-73 whilst working abroad (Hong Kong),I joined a club run from Dorset by Tony and Jackie Read but only received a couple of magazines and that was it until 1983. I have just discovered that in 1974, Janice Hopkins, appointed as fan club secretary was typing standard replies to fan letters, using the letter head address of Billy’s parents. Billy signed the letters only with his first name, and apparently supplied most of the information in the letters. In one line Billy says, “The fan club is supervised by myself, and one of the Midlands branch leaders, Phil Wright.” When Billy passed away in January 1983 his then manager was Tony Read. For a while during 1982 he had been a friend of mine (and was to be again for several years from the summer of 1983 onwards after we patched things up), and he got Alan and Carol Chapman (who knew both Billy and his long-term partner Lisa Rosen (later Voice), to form The Fury Sound. Tony had mentioned it earlier in passing to me but given my choice of career it would have been totally impractical for me to be involved in running a fan club. There was still around that time, as I saw on correspondence at Tony’s place, mention of Phil Wright who, together with his wife, was it Marie? , had, as we saw above, been a major light in the Midlands fan club until, presumable, Billy’s retirement in 1977. I never did find out why they didn’t seem to be prominent during the comeback in 1981/82 or why they didn’t carry on after the sad events of 1983. I would guess it may have been all too much emotionally after being so involved with the very much live Billy-their sadness would have been acute, like so many of us, but worse because they would have known him better than most of us. I once wrote to their published Midlands address asking if they still had copies of one of Billy’s birthday shows which was sold on cassette by the club-but perhaps they had moved because I got no response (If anyone out there has a copy of the tape do please contact the website or the Sound of Fury and if the Wright’s have tales to tell we would like to hear them here at The Sound of Fury). The Wright’s (not to be confused with our present dynamic duo Wendy and Phil), were to a degree still involved and in contact with Tony during 1982 and now I wish that I had made more effort via Tony to meet them. I spent so much time going round the record and resales shops in the Midlands during the mid to late 70’s it’s a wonder that I did not see an advert for the Midlands Billy fan club. Perhaps the saddest aspect to this fan club has been the loss of ‘Fury Friends’ over the years-something that never gets easier, and which really does diminish each and every one of us who has known them. Sadly we have not always been able to do them justice by way of a full tribute-but that in no way means we valued them or miss them. any the less.
Mill Hill fan gatherings at Salcombe Gardens.
These started I believe in April 1983 but at the beginning there was no formal get together after the graveside meet. What began to happen is that Frank Bull would invite some fans back to his flat over the undertakers in Enfield where he worked. With Billy memorabilia everywhere and a jukebox fans felt welcome. The first time I met Frank after 1982 I actually stayed over the night before Mill Hill; it would have been around 1985/86 I suppose, and by then I believe Frank had organised the Church Hall at Salcombe Gardens in Mill Hill. By 1989 I was buying photos from Billy’s mum, copying them and adding in my own bought that year in auction. Money went with Jean to Alder Hey Children’s ward and she bought receipts back to show us. I even raffled some of Billy’s clothing bought from Tony Read-and put photos in raffles, to supplement Jean’s prizes. The Fury Sound was present in the hall but sold only from a car boot. Eventually having to leave Salcombe Gardens because of a religious surge /demand having priority, understandably, over a rockers fan club, was disappointing given the memories, mostly good, that we all had-and the cosiness of the small hall, but we are at home on The Ridgway now, despite the increased cost to us. Many if not most magazines feature reviews of Mill Hill and other regular gatherings and although they may seem repetitive they do provide a social record of those who were present and active in their support Britain’s finest performer of his generation.
The bench seat and the grave
At some stage in 1983 I believe, a group of fans with the family, paid for a bench seat to be placed opposite the grave. I think it was driven by the Harris family, from what Frank Bull once told me. It was replaced by The Sound of Fury in the early 2000’s and a new one is planned. The grave in 1983 comprised only the head stone and the earth mound. Starting around 1986 I think Frank Bull, working with Hal Carter, Billy’s mum, and other friends of Jean’s such as Mo Bowden, Rita Smalley, Jackie Clark and others, obtained the permission from the Rosen family to place a surround and photos on the grave. Rita used to work for Lisa and is a warm and great friend to all of us in the team and the fans. Thanks to Frank the photos were crafted in Italy and the pictures chosen by Billy’s mum, with us all gathered around helping to decide. Jean opted for one from the 60’s and one from the 80’s. The fans of course contributed the money. Due to vandalism the pictures had to be replaced a few years later, as did the original dove.
The Fury Sound
The long-running Fury Sound (1983-1995 I estimate) produced a nice informative little magazine and promoted Billy with good taste, providing fans with the records missing from their collections. The Chapman’s (whom I respected greatly but disagreed with on some of their policy) also worked with Tony Read and Magnum Force label in giving us two LPs, Loving You and Sticks’n’ Stones, featuring some tracks we knew with half as many wonderful unreleased tracks and which later co-joined to become The Rough Diamonds and Pure Gems CD. That excellent title was voted for by fan club members. I voted but for a different title-cannot recall which. Whilst loving the material (mostly given to me on tape by Tony back in the summer 0f 1982), I have always hated the cover photo cheaply used on both albums and the CD. It’s a boy next door one from many years prior to the EMI period, and any album cover should always reflect the content (to at least within a year). In truth Alan and Carol would probably have had little or no control over the cover shot-in much the same way that years later Decca would not-at my request, pull the arty blue cover on the otherwise excellent Love Songs CD (crying out for years now for reissue with a nicer cover). I still love playing the EMI material in the car during the summer- especially whilst driving through beautiful Dorset not far from Tony’s old farm house-because every time it connects me even today with 1982-Tony, Billy and the most memorable year of my life.
First Billy Fury Website-Nalle Westman.
I thought that around the time the Sound of Fury was being formed in late 1996, there was an excellent website set up by Nalle Westman from Finland. Come to find out, my memory of the dates it was created seems to be false, because according to the site it was on-line on 15/5/98. In the event, this site won a legacy choice award for best Sixties site-I thought for either late in 1996 or in 1997. Now I am not sure-except that it was awarded, by 1998 at the latest. Sometime after 1998 Nalle disappeared from view –we had only just met him during his trip to Billy’s resting place, and all efforts to make contact since have failed. Nalle was helped by Mo Bowden with her knowledge of Liverpool locations and other things pertaining to young Billy-she had been a fan in Liverpool with lots of great memories of seeing Billy. Our treasurer Jean Prosser also helped and Clare and probably Jackie whilst I assisted with things like the discography. Around 1997/98 Harry Whitehouse started billyfury.com, as the syndicate was presumably happy with Nalle’s site, or slow off the mark, missing an opportunity. None of us had the expertise or time anyway and in the event we ended up working quite closely with Harry. About two years ago I quite accidentally found Nalle’s website on line, preserved. If you can find it its worth a visit, for the Liverpool trail etc. Just put in Billy Fury website nallew>fury and it comes up at the top of the list. I would like to express our gratitude to Nalle wherever he may be and apologise for obviously not impressing him when we met at Mill Hill. I remember thinking even then that I should have done more to show him our appreciation of his work-which was considerable, and he should not be forgotten. If not done already we should link our billyfury.com to his site. Of course he may have become ill or worse. The site was allegedly updated in 2000 I think, by someone-Nalle or a friend or family member I suppose. Sometimes over the years we have known really dedicated fan club members including Mill Hill regulars, lose contact and efforts to find out about them have drawn a blank.
The Billy Fury Appreciation Society
During the mid-90s I was at a Billy Fury Tribute event run by Ian Brady at a hotel in Hitchin I think- cannot be sure. Linda and I were then very close to Billy’s mum Jean and sat at her feet watching singer Paul Neon (now sadly lost to us) do his stuff. At some point during the day/evening friends of Jean,Peter and Brenda Basnett) (who knew Billy) asked me if I would set up a Billy Fury fan club on behalf of Billy’s mum. I was flattered but said that Alan and Carol were doing a good job and that it would not, in my view, be fitting right then for me to do so. Not long after several people, including Jean, Hal Carter, Jerry Vincent and my mate of many years, the much missed Frank Bull set up The Billy Fury Appreciation Society, which I joined, not wanting to miss out. The Society only lasted for about three of four newsletters I think. Where my copies are I don’t currently know. What I do know is that all fans should have been more grateful back then and even now for the dedication to Billy displayed by the Chapman’s.
The Sound of Fury Syndicate
Eventually, towards the end of 1996, almost certainly October, during a gathering at Mill Hill, six of us decided to form a fan club. Whether Billy’s mum or someone on her behalf had again mentioned it I cannot recall, but we just got together to agree who would do what and Jean Wycherley was over the moon. Billy’s Lisa bestowed her blessing on us in writing -which made us ‘Official’, and we were off.
Aside from Mick Hill’s experience with magazines none of us were really talented or qualified in literature or the arts (I had only had one article published by Record Collector around 1989,one draft Fury biography and one A4 ‘desk topped’ 8-10 paged Billy Fury Story with pictures), produced for Billy’s brother Albie for a charity night in Liverpool which we supported. We were just a group of very ordinary fans who wanted to give something back to Billy for all of the pleasure that his music had given us-especially during our teenage years. In the April I think of 1997 the first magazine came out and before long we were requested by Peter and Lynda Keller to help them run their brainchild-The Bronze Statue Project. Why a syndicate? We chose this title so we could be a democratic entity, no designated leader and so no-one to be unduly influenced by anyone outside of our team. We would go only in the direction of travel that we wanted to go. Hal Carter knew this and respected it, saying at Mill Hill how everyone should be grateful that some fans had given up their time voluntarily to run a fan club. Also we knew that if we went down the traditional route that there would be a lot of honorary members-which would add to the magazine and other mail out costs. Much as some of us had loved Billy’s mum Jean for several years, overall this neutral approach seemed the right thing to do. I have to admit to being very fond of Jean since the late 80s, and also, for many years now-Billy’s Lisa, who has been very good to us. Although my contact with Billy’s ex-wife Judith Wycherley was limited to one meeting and several phone calls, she was always courteous and helpful, (sometimes candid) and I liked her quite a lot. Regrettably I have not met Lee Everett-Alkin or Amanda Barrie in order to get their perspectives on all things Billy, but both have gone public with quite a lot of information and in Lee’s case, invaluable home cine camera footage. My last knowledge of Judith and Lee, was, sadly, that they were both very poorly, and that was several years ago now.
The syndicate thing was unpopular with Billy’s family for a number of reasons, not least that there would be no honorary members-which did not sit well-understandably so in hindsight. They also seemed to think the connotation was somehow rather sinister, shades of the Mafia -money making perhaps-which it wasn’t, and couldn’t be of course. There is little or no money in things Billy, other than sometimes on eBay with the right rare thing to sell. Looking back a few years later, and given how close Maureen Bowden, Jackie Clark and I had been to Billy’s mum, I came to have more understanding of where she and Billy’s brother Albie were coming from back then-it must have been quite unsettling and unfair to her for us, as friends of the family, to eschew tradition as regards fan club structuring and her and Albie’s place in it. Even so, no matter how painful for all concerned, we had, not only through mutual agreement but given what was rumoured about the ‘political’ the situation following Billy’s death, done the right and fair thing. This was whilst still being still very much there in support of Jean and Albie-but predominantly of course-Billy. Our dedication to Jean and Albie was never in doubt throughout the Bronze Fund years and what we did was often almost as much for Jean as it was Billy. This included eventually getting her name on the bronze statue unveiling plaque as Guest of Honour-publicly linking her to her famous son in perpetuity.
Following the Heritage Blue Plaque being placed outside Lisa and Billy’s home in Cavendish Avenue, St John’s Wood and the fund-raising party in London, (which the team also attended), our dear and still much missed friend Hal Carter wanted to bring Lisa fully back into the fan fold. This was after an unavoidable absence (prior to the blue plaque event) which was neither of her making or her wish, but which had been to do with her former personal circumstances. She had already kindly given her permission for Billy’s mum, Hal Carter, Frank Bull and others to make changes to Billy’s resting place. Lisa was also perfectly agreeable to the SOF continuing to fully support Billy’s family as it had been doing. As the head of the Billy Fury Estate and Billy’s long-term companion she had every right to be a presence among the fans, and was now at last able to do so, with most of us in the team wanting that to happen. Hal Carter was firmly behind this but sadly became terminally ill this time, and to lose a person of such popularity and stature in the Billy Fury world was a grievous blow to both the fans and our aspirations.
Regrettably ours was not an agreeable direction of travel for the SOF as far as Billy’s family was concerned. We were soon placed by them in a rock and hard place situation and saw no way out. In sheer desperation we attempted, at Mill Hill, to remedy the situation by way of a clumsy attempt at actually imposing a solution on the family-which would if followed, at least look like unity to the fans. This failed spectacularly. Soon after this and in response to the family’s wishes, the strength of which no-one should underestimate (as indeed I had done), Jenny Warwick and then Vic England left our team to form The Billy Fury In Thoughts of You Fan Club, and the rest, as they say, is history. Nevertheless, thanks to the support of the team and several loyal members we eventually got over it and from that time, despite occasional issues, kept going until 2018. It is worth noting that Billy’s mum, despite what had happened, told me during the week of the ‘split’ that she knew why I had done what I did even though she wished I had not done it. Whenever we met afterwards, she was always warm and courteous to Linda and I, including the last time we ever saw her; at an Adelphi Hotel Billy Fury Weekend I think. There were times, prior to 2005, when Linda and I, and some team members and many fans, had really enjoyed Albie’s company and performances, (one in particular in Surrey with Colin Paul and the Persuaders had been especially good and he was pleased when I told him so), and there is a mix of both joy and much sadness in looking back. I had wanted to patch things up with Albie as I had done with Jean, but sadly it just wasn’t possible. A mutual great friend of Albie and I, Colin Paul, offered to mediate at a Blackpool weekender once, but even Colin could not get this rift repaired. It had been a special 20 years, if sad in many ways after 2003/4. Fortunately In the last few years the Billy Fury world seems to have become united, as indeed it should be, in promoting Billy’s legacy, especially as our generation diminishes. I am very grateful to Jenny Warwick for pro-actively being prepared to bury the hatchet when we attended Danny River’s wake –a poignant time when we both thought, enough is enough. I am aware that Jenny and/or I are still anathema to some people –but as the two main protagonists for so many years, if we can manage to get along again, so might others. Life really is too short.
Billy Fury Tribute Acts
At different times in the life of the fan club various performers have been there, and to their credit, no matter the politics, mostly continued to support this club as we have them. I regret that we were unable to get to as many events as we may have wished , but to those who have been there at any time since 1997, always primarily for Billy of course, but also for us, I extend a heartfelt thanks. Some have been Billy Fury Tribute acts, others more general 50s/60’s entertainers-but all equally valued by us. Losing such a dear friend as Brian Lee (Doggett), a big voiced and larger than life character from the sixties, with a lovely family, was especially painful for Linda and I. Several performers are still (apart from Covid 19 or illness restrictions), active or ready to be when the time comes. One of the greatest privileges of being in the Sound of Fury has been that we get to call such talented and nice people our friends. You know who you are, from those we see regularly to some we haven’t seen for many years! This also includes of course, for many members of the team, former original singers and bands from the sixties.
The first magazines were assembled and edited by a great no-edge genuine and funny guy-Mick Hill, former soldier and thorough Teddy Boy, Londoner and proud owner of an old Standard 8, or possibly 10. He was already known for Rock You Sinners, the main magazine at the time for UK Rock’n’ Roll, and a Fury fan regularly attending Mill Hill ,so to cut and paste for us was natural for him. I emphasise magazine because we have never, until now, been a newsletter-although some people have used that term. That we are now a newsletter is thanks to the dedication of Lee Fry, who does so much to promote Billy on the internet. Sadly in just a few short years and long before the Bronze Project was finished, we lost Mick to cancer. I have to point out that the early magazines were only in black and white and quite rudimentary –but they were of their time and need to be appreciated as such. To physically upgrade them would be very time consuming and difficult. Mick did a good job and so we should enjoy them for what they are-especially for some of the nuggets of information tucked away in the pages. After Mick Hill passed our indomitable treasurer and key syndicate member, Jean Prosser, with husband Mike took over magazine editing and production until 2003, ending with the Bronze Statue day special- in colour. They too, did a fine editing job I thought. In recent years our so-hard working and dedicated Clare (Mehmet-Nugent) has also passed away from long-term illness. She would spend hours on the phone talking to fans-often at her own expense and had seen Billy numerous times in the London area. In 1998 she represented the fan club and all Billy fans on a BBC Radio 2 Tribute to Billy narrated by Marty Wilde. She left us just before the Bronze Statue day in order to pursue her other primary commitment-promotion of diabetes awareness. Regarding the magazines, in hindsight we should have put the magazine number and month on the front cover or at least inside the front page of every magazine but readers will have to assume that No 1 was from April 1997 and then followed every three months by the next in line, until we switched to just two per year. Eventually we did start to put that right, as you will discover. There was no plan except that I was supposed to serialise my manuscript ‘Like I’ve Never Been Gone’ typed in 1984 in Lisburn by a friends typist, bound (three copies) around 1986 and never printed (too many errors in the earlier section). In the event it was not until about magazine number 36 around 2009 that I started to write, sometimes using my ‘book’ for putting chronological aspects of the Billy Fury Story into the magazines in order to give us a renewed focus. Prior to that we had simply put whatever information was available or newly created into the magazine, irrespective of the year or topic. Some fans liked my very general column, This’n’ That whilst others bluntly informed me that they never read it because it wasn’t 100% Billy! Actually they missed Billy snippets in this way. There were three reason for the column-one we didn’t know just how much Billy material was out there, secondly we knew from feedback that quite a few, probably most Billy fans also loved other singers and third, rather forlornly as it turned out, I hoped to sway the more single-minded fans into listening to some of the other greats out there, famous and obscure alike. This gave rise to the irrepressible Mo Bowden, a warm and witty friend, our first Correspondence Secretary and a significant magazine contributor, taking the mickey out of my regard and support at any opportunity of ‘obscure’ rockabilly and 70’s country legend Narvel Felts, with mentions of roofing (felt). Ah-Scouse humour! This from someone who likes the music of Rose Maddox! I rest my case. Actually she and musician husband and nice guy Dave like Jerry Lee Lewis and many others as well as Billy-good for them. Mo also did a sterling job during her time in harness. I was surprised but pleased to discover last year that a great friend and supporter of ours from back in the Bronze Fundraising days, ‘Rocker Bob’ (Taylor), husband of the lovely Sheila, but sadly lost to us quite recently, loved the recordings of Bobby Vee, and had some played at his funeral despite being a major rock’n’ roll and Fury fan. Well frankly, if Bobby Vee is good enough for ‘Rocker’ Bob and Narvel Felts then he is surely good enough for anyone (In conversation with me in 1998 over lunch 1956 rockabilly star icon Narvel had only good things to say about Bobby’s music-whilst far too many rockers/rock n roll purists only criticise this wonderful recording artist). I used to take criticism of my column and love of Elvis and others to heart but if some folk are prepared to deny themselves the pleasure of the other great voices and songs of our generation-that’s down to them. I was heartened by the positive response towards the end of our magazine output period, to the Meridian Radio series made with my DJ friend Alan King-The Billy Fury Connection, pushed out on CDR with the magazines. Several fans were pleased to be able to hear songs linked in some way to Billy-and there are so many, including ones I never got around to-but intend to. Every now and again I discover a few more connections, often thanks to friends who come across them.
The Sound of Fury Team
The syndicate evolved in 2003 into the team and we ceased to be a democracy, at least in theory! Mo Bowden and Jean Prosser left because they could see which way the wind was blowing, and were replaced by the highly enthusiastic Jenny Warwick and Vic England. Following the fan club ‘split’ they in turn were replaced by a dedicated and really nice couple, Peter and Jen Davies from Lancashire. The strains imposed in the six years and four months or so of fund raising and without any one person being able to formally and authoritatively make a decision, had been too much for me, especially given my background, so I took charge once Mo and Jean had left, becoming Team Leader-although hopefully a benevolent one, but the focal point for complaints of course. To be honest it was normally me that had always copped the flak anyway when brickbats occurred, so it just formalised it. I recall being appalled when personally attacked on-line by a ‘Billy’ friend when it was revealed the statue would be placed temporarily in the museum courtyard until its permanent home could be arranged. Fans did not understand just how tight, expensive, and difficult it was just to get it where it was first placed-we were lucky to get the courtyard in time for the weekend unveiling. For the team, working with a single-minded perpetually worried perfectionist (who never actually attained it and now never will) could not have been easy. I will always be grateful to Ken and Cecilia Darvell in particular for their friendship (and cheap B +B), patience and good humour over so many years in allowing the draft magazine to pass back and forth between us so many times before it was ready for the publishers-a lot of hard work and strain all round as we got older. Ken did a fine job on those early editions and a particularly grand job I thought in assembling our later magazines, something I lacked the PC skills to even look at. We have wonderful memories of time spent with them and mutual friends, and of staying also with other members of the wider fan club who became, and are, good friends. Our only regret is not doing it enough-life really does get in the way and then the time has gone.
Forty pages every three months may not sound like much-but it is quite a commitment when it’s only a part time hobby-with everyday life with its trials still going on. The team evolved as some retired, others left to become part of the BFITOY fan club and the dedicated and wonderfully thoughtful and warm Jackie Clark and I, are the only originals from the syndicate who are still in some kind of harness. Some of us often disagreed, even in more recent years, sometimes vehemently, but in the end put Billy first, and carried on (for a while at least) before quitting. Clare was a great friend and although very poorly for years bravely soldiered on as long as she could. In later years our ‘Scribe from the North’, Peter Davies, suffered a life-threatening incident, only just getting to hospital in time, followed soon after by a hip operation-yet still carried on as treasurer and travelled down from Lancashire to Mill Hill gatherings for some time afterwards. They make them tough up North! Peter’s wife Jen was a dedicated and very well liked team member and both are the only, to date, appointed Honorary Team Members. Other members had health and family problems and all of us have been touched by the loss of family and close friends. Each syndicate/team member from the beginning brought something worthwhile to the table over the twenty years-and I thank them for their contribution and dedication. Some of us gave up going abroad during the bronze fund raising period, rather than be so long out of the loop, but no-one asked us to its true. Others like Jackie and Cecilia Darvell did their own individual fund raising for various good causes-and still do; they are just that sort of person. Dedicated Billy and rock’ n’ roll fan, Wendy Wright took over the treasurer post from Peter Davies and with support from another great friend to us all, husband Phil, (they make a lovely couple and are great on the dance floor), has kept us on the straight and narrow despite her day job. Being joined by young Lee Fry and on the website by old ‘Fury Fest’ friend Alan Coombe has been a bonus for us-especially those worried about the continuity of future promotion of Billy. It seems young (everyone is compared to us these day!) Ricky Gould also wishes to promote Billy on the web-and good luck to him too. We need young blood, in the way that the Elvis and Cliff fan bases will do in the future, both having a broad and extensive base at present. I understand Billy’s Facebook footprint seems quite large at present, and I must mention all the hard work done in that direction by our dear friend Pauline Barker and her contacts. When it comes to getting Billy material out there Colin Paul has been doing a great job on the internet and at live events for some time now; without him a lot of Billy material would not be seen by fans.
1. Some of the howlers committed by us (mostly me actually) on paper and verbally in public are monumental. How could I have said that Liquorice Locking “Was of course the drummer with the Shadows”. What a plonker and not picked up by anyone (or commented on at least) at the time other than by friend and guitarist Peter Williams. What induced me to change/amend my planned speech on the Bronze Statue unveiling day to an impromptu one referring to the bronze statue not being melted in the sun like the one in Suzanne In The Mirror; should have been Silly Boy Blue –my memory was dodgy even then it seems-‘Stupid Boy’, don’t tell him Pike! Only my late friend Frank Bull seemed to have noticed that error-perhaps others were too polite to let me know! Later on I reported that Freddie and the Dreamers had also recorded I Will-well, they did, but it was a different song! A nice one to. That good old friend of ours, Roy Harvey, one of the most devoted Billy fans ever, lost no time in pointing that error out to me. In sleeve notes (for initial K-tel CD release Wondrous Place), I once set the film I’ve Gotta Horse for release in 1964 (getting confused with the filming and recording sessions for the film), had Billy working at Joshua Reynolds store (should be Harris) in another CD and LP, and a few other errors over the years. Several folk when using my notes for their own research have actually repeated that major blooper in their own work! You may find all sorts of inaccuracies from any of us but we were just a bunch of fans, volunteers doing our best, from our hearts, often getting more brickbats than praise, and just carrying on. The magazine and the Mill Hill’s would have been enough for those of us with children, full time and stressful jobs, ill-health, ageing dependants and similar, but the statue project made it suddenly very serious-we could not fail yet it was, for the time, a monumental (pun intended) task and responsibility - with no wonderful Captain Tom then to help with our fundraising! All members of this fan club team-ably supported on the ground, especially over the Bronze Project, by the relatively small number of members (never more than 500) have, we feel, done all that we were able for Billy. Only a relatively small number of members wrote in over the twenty years, and much the same ones writing today are the same old friends of ours who wrote from the beginning. That small but dedicated support group has always been instrumental in keeping us motivated. We have at least all done our level best since our inception and whilst the personal ambitions of some of us have not yet been realised (on the CD, DVD and tribute concert/show front-by major UK artists,) the Fury Sound and the Sound of Fury have had recordings issued or at least assisted in their release-and for so many of us that’s what Billy Fury was about-the great music. We looked into becoming a charity-that was a no-go option and so was becoming a fully registered on-shelf magazine-the membership was just not there, which is why we remained a strictly amateur, basic magazine, doing our best to still comply with the rules of copyright etc, a bit of a minefield then as now. Having to pay VAT on CDs and other merchandise because our income was so minimal, made life difficult, especially when buying from Decca or Peaksoft (the latter was always generous) but as venues were limited to the same ones year in-year out in recent years, so CDs and other merchandise would sit in boxes for years in some cases-like now. It all meant we were always non-profit making as such, on a shoe-string and worrying each time whether we could afford to pay for hall hire and merchandise. We had to keep the subs low because whenever we raised them some fans baulked and walked, and we could not justify the kind of cost we needed because the magazine was not of sufficient quality to do so. There was never an income of any kind for any team member-only expenses refunded for money outlaid. Postage in later years became ridiculous as email meant less stamps sold so the more traditional/older of us, as all too often today, had to bear the higher costs-not on! It was a Catch-22 situation but we did our level best for Billy and for charity-all spare cash once raised after the completion of the Bronze Project has gone to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, The Billy Fury Memorial Fund (not enough in my view), Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital, and World Horse Welfare. Although we were highly supportive of Billy’s mother and brother until about 2004 (and courteous and respectful towards Jean right up until the end of her life), we were and are first and foremost the Billy Fury Fan Club-which should say it all. Please do enjoy our history and through it, our take on The Billy Fury Story, and remember that we continue, in so far as we are able, with a website, newsletter on-line or by post, or at Mill Hill, to promote the legacy of the late great Billy Fury as best we know how. We also, as with the 2018 Symphonic Sound of Fury CD release, hope to enable and/or continue to assist with such releases in the future-watch this space! That’s primarily why I first joined the syndicate/team-to get the music out there. We are proud of the CD and DVD releases we have been involved in, the bronze project, the charity contributions and these magazines, rudimentary or not, as they represent our dedication to a very special singer, songwriter, performer, animal lover and human being. All I would say to anyone now looking back over our work and perhaps passing judgement is this; we tried hard, lived it, for good or ill and it took a massive and irreplaceable chunk out of our lives- so ‘Before you abuse, criticize or accuse, (do try to) Walk A Mile In Our Shoes’, (Joe South/Elvis). The views expressed in this article are entirely my own; as are the inevitable errors. After initially producing a blow by blow account of the events leading to the already well-known fan club split, I have chosen to keep it very brief instead, but not bury it-for that would not be right. It is mentioned in one of the magazines anyway, and in a note sent with one of them I think, albeit without too much detail even then. I see no point in stirring up old grievances-we are all mostly too long in the tooth for that and the time has gone, so I hope it can be mentioned, which it should be, without bringing any rancour back. Also, although the facts may be often seem to be plain, and speak for themselves, there are always going to be differing viewpoints as to what happened, and why of course. Memory can be a very fickle thing too. I was a teenager and saw first-hand the impact that Billy Fury had on screen, TV and radio, during 1962-63 especially (and on the girls around me!) He was to me a massive presence; always on TV it seemed then (but in reality nothing like as often). Perception is a funny thing-often divorced from fact, but certainly in ’62 Billy was a massive presence in the UK-and that’s a fact brother! To many young rock writers over the years he was often just another Larry Parnes, pre-Beatle, manufactured teen idol-never to us though. We actually lived through that era, not so those later critics and today’s young music ‘experts’ in particular-although to be fair some of them adore Billy too. Our much maligned generations beliefs, musical and otherwise, shaped as they mostly are by the 50s, 60s and 70s should be respected equally by everyone- whilst we are still alive at least. Most of us prefer things, in so far as is possible, (medical advances obviously excepting), to be as they used to be-and that is as natural a thing as night and day. Currently in the media, Radio 2, you would think that the 80’s were the best generation ever musically-and so that will continue until those survivors get where we are now! Everyone, indeed everything, is or was, a product of their time, and allowances should always be made for that by subsequent generations, no matter how difficult that may be. Whatever happened in the past-right or wrong, happened, and cannot be changed as such, although of course lessons should be learned (but seldom are). Balance is something often lacking perhaps more today than ever before , where sound-bites/tweets and pure emotion, hysteria even, seem to hold sway over logic, facts and rationality; and this troubled world is already so different from that which we and our parents grew up in. At least the musical magic of the wonderful Billy Fury, Elvis (a veritable musical and cultural Colossus that history cannot deny-although a few writers have tried) , the still rocking and wonderful Marty Wilde and the other singers we love, is still a vital link to the better yesteryear that we miss so much. We should add to that of course, all those great ‘Movie’ stars and films of our era and even earlier, and all the great books too-wonderful stuff!
I have tried to be accurate, equitable and balanced in this introduction to our work, but it is of course written from my perspective. Chris Eley. July 2020