Sunday, 1 October 2017

Legendary British TV and music producer Jack Good and the Cary Grant film "Father Goose" - synchronicity strikes again!

I was watching Cary Grant and Leslie Caron in the WW2-set romcom Father Goose (1966) the other night in a fairly desultory fashion (it's an enjoyable film, but I've already seen it at least twice and it was past midnight). There are several scenes... which a British naval commander (Trevor Howard, obviously) and a rather goofy, stiff-backed young lieutenant hold radio conversations with Cary Grant, the rackety skipper of a small boat which the old rogue uses to smuggle contraband. Grant has found himself stranded on a deserted island surrounded by Japanese military forces and unexpectedly playing host to teacher Leslie Caron and a gaggle of British and French schoolgirls (don't ask). There was something vaguely familiar about the actor playing Trevor Howard's clueless subordinate, Lieutenant Stebbings. But the iPad was recharging, and it was time for bed.

I was leafing through the Telegraph the very next morning when I happened upon the obituary of Jack Good, the West London grammar school boy and Oxford graduate, Jack Good. Reading it, I came across a reference to his role in Father Goose, and everything fell into place. If I once knew that the thrusting young man who revolutionised the way pop music was presented on television in the '50s with the BBC's Six-Five Special and ITV's Oh Boy! and Boy Meets Girl and, later, Shindig in the US had tried to forge a career as a Hollywood actor - well, I'd forgotten the fact. I knew that he'd gone on to produce music shows for the theatre - including Catch My Soul (a musical version of  Othello), and the excellent Elvis the Musical - and some US TV specials, and that he'd eventually taken up painting and become a bit of a hermit. A busy, productive and - when it comes to popular culture - a hugely influential life. But, for me, it's the early rock 'n' roll part of his career that matters.

Legend has it that when a record plugger played Jack Good Cliff Richard's first single "Schoolboy Crush" in 1958, Good flipped it over, listened to "Move It", the proposed B-side, and suggested Columbia release that as the A-side. It was - without a doubt - the first authentic British rock 'n' roll record, and it reached No.2 in the British charts.

In 1960, Good produced Billy Fury's revolutionary 10" album, The Sound of Fury, which broke the mould by consisting of nothing but songs composed by the singer, and - thanks in part to Joe Brown's guitar-playing - was the first British recording to capture the sound of American rockabilly to perfection:

And when the American rocker Gene Vincent flew over to appear on one of Good's shows, it was the TV producer who kitted him out in black leather motorcycle gear and made him perform on a set which emphasised the sad fact that the singer had been left crippled for life in a motorcycle crash - Good apparently kept yelling "Limp, you bugger, limp!" during his performance. I can't find that clip online, but here's Gene Vincent, still dressed in leather from head to toe, on Italian TV the following year:

I doubt it's a coincidence that The Beatles spent their early years bedecked in black leather. 

The Telegraph's Jack Good obit is excellent, but as it's hiding behind a paywall, here's a decent one in the Grauniad.

Here's my portentous thought for the day: without Jack Good, British pop music's invasion of the rest of the civilised world in the '60s wouldn't have happened, and the revival of so many pioneering US rockers' careers in Europe after their native country had all but forgotten them wouldn't have happened either. A lot of people have a lot to thank Jack Good for. RIP, old man - after a while, crocodile.


  1. You may be right about Jack Good.
    I thought Gene Vincent injured his leg in the same car crash that cost the great Eddie Cochran his life?

  2. Of course the car crash would be far too mundane.
    Thanks for a great post. You've wetted my appetite.