This music video is called Terry Dene – Candy Floss.
Terry Dene’s still alive!
(Tuesday 02 October 2007)
IN PROFILE: Terry Dene
IVAN BEAVIS welcomes original 1950s rock’n’roll superstar Terry Dene back into the musical fray.
So, you thought that Terry Dene was dead? Well, so did I, actually, until I learned that Britain’s first rock’n’roll star was headlining a show at London’s prestigious 100 Club.
I remember Terry Dene from the 1950s. He was a star at 17 years old. This was a time when the nearest thing to a musical multiple orgasm for Britain’s restless youth was a song from Edmondo Ros halfway through the Goon Show on radio.
The 2 I’s Coffee Bar in Old Compton St in London’s Soho in 1956 attracted youngsters who were anxious to emulate the new rock’n’roll and rockabilly coming from Elvis and others in the US.
Every would-be star would climb on to the tiny stage to strut their stuff, but, when Terry Dene got up with his strong voice, stage presence and sultry good looks, he blew most of his contemporaries away.
It would be two years more before Harry Webb from the same place got famous as Cliff Richard.
Before he knew it, Dene had been signed up by top West End agent Hymie Zahl and was on the road to the top.
His breakthrough came when he played a four-song set to 5,000 fans during the interval of the World Wrestling World Championship being held in the Royal Albert Hall. An appearance on the legendary TV show Six-Five Special followed and Dick Rowe, the record company executive later to famously reject the Beatles, signed him up, told him what to sing, what to wear and put out a record called White Sports Coat that took the country by storm.
Mass hysteria reigned with thousands wearing the badge “I’m a Dene-Ager” to demonstrate their rebellious independence from the rest of grey, conformist and war-ravaged Britain.
Every concert was accompanied by a riot, as thousands tried literally to get a piece of Dene. Soon, he was the number one bad boy in Britain as he turned to the bottle and bizarre public behaviour to relieve the pressure of unrelenting fame.
For an 18-year-old, already traumatised by growing up during the blanket bombing of south London in World War II, it soon became all too much for him psychologically.
It was then that Dene got called up to the army for his national service. The clowns then running the army thought that this would be a good opportunity to cash in on the Dene phenomenon so that, when he joined up, his arrival was greeted by maximum media coverage, the red carpet and preferential treatment.
This alienated his fellow recruits who bullied him unmercifully and, within two weeks, Dene had a nervous breakdown and was discharged.
All kind of abuse followed and, just as quickly as he had risen to the top, so he descended to the bottom of the heap.
Failure was something that Dene had to get used to over the next 20 years. The bookings dried up and, when he played, he had to endure the mindless taunts about his past fame, discharge from the army and break-up of his marriage to Edna Savage.
For a time, the Kray twins took him under their wing in the East End. However, it was when he walked past the Mobile Evangelistic Crusade Mini Van in Trafalgar Square that Dene decided to follow Christ.
He became an evangelical singer and, through this, he was able to find some sort of inner peace.
He travelled all over Britain and Europe and found himself in Sweden singing in Gothenburg, where he met his second wife Margaretta and, for the next 20 years, became a bit of a star on the gospel circuit. However, at heart, Dene will always be a rocker.
A coming show at the 100 Club on Sunday will give him a rare opportunity to showcase the talent that sent the country wild all those years ago.
Listening to the songs on the four-track EP that will be available exclusively at the gig, Dene still has the voice that set him apart from his mates at the Two I’s.
“I want to do some of the old classics as well as some of my new songs.” Dene told me. “I have a really good band who know me and my music. I think some of my old musical pals will also turn up and we should have a great time.”
The gentle 69-year-old whom I spoke to seems a long way from the wild and vulnerable kid whose talent was ruthlessly exploited by the music business for other people’s profit.
He is settled with new partner Lucia and, together, they are determined to continue to do what they can to declare solidarity with those exploited like he was.
They have a continuing enthusiasm for projects to help the poor and oppressed and are involved in all kinds of activity.
But, for now, Dene is back where he wants to be, singing rock’n’roll to anyone who wants to listen. If you are around Sunday night in London, pop along to Oxford Street and catch a true original.
Terry Dene plays the 100 Club in Oxford St on Sunday. Doors open 7.30pm, tickets cost £15.
Tony Hancock: comedy, class and conformism in the 1950s in Britain: here.