ROCK OF AGES 1955-1963 – COLIN COOK

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Heart (B Mann/C Weil) 1964 and Heebie Jeebies (Jackson/J Marascalo) – Colin Cook and the Strangers 1965

Sax player/guitarist/singer Colin Cook (1942) emigrated with his family  to Melbourne (Aust) from Bangladesh, via the UK in 1952, he studied at Haileybury College (Melb), and after stints with the Sapphires, the Thunderbirds, and the Strangers, playing at such legendary local dances as Earl’s Court, Mentone Rock, and the Dandenong Town Hall, he pursued a solo career and became the support act on Fabian’s 1962 tour of Australia. Colin was one of the big three of the Melbourne rock scene in the early 60’s along with fellow W&G stablemates Johnny Chester and Merv Benton, and regularly appeared on Bandstand and Johnny O’Keefe’s Sing, Sing, Sing. Below The Thunderbirds L-R-Peter Robinson, Harold Frith, Colin Cook, Billy O’Rourke, Billy Owen, Murray Robertson.

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He first charted in January 1963 with a top 40 cover of Ricky Nelson’s It’s Up To You which featured harmony backing singers the Thin Men and the peerless musical accompaniment of the Strangers, but Colin was more than just a Presley/Nelson clone, although clearly influenced by their early recordings, like many of his contemporaries.

Gentle Pop Rocker from CC.

Colin displayed an impressive vocal range and was equally comfortable with frenetic rockers, teen idol pop and as displayed here on his cover of Kenny Chandler’s 1963 charter Heart, which Cook took into the top 40 in January ’64 – sob-in-the-throat climactic ballads reminiscent of Roy Orbison and Ray Petersen. This Mann /Weil Brill Building composition pulses along in a cadence that mimics a heartbeat, a thumping bass and strings and swelling backing vocals, rising and falling, to reflect the emotional state of mind of the singer and his unrequited love and the heartache he feels, it was an under-appreciated rock classic from the early 60’s, in this country.

Colin Cook’s biggest hit, a pulsing ballad of great intensity.

Cook followed Heart with two convincing covers of US artists in 1965, Blue Ribbon Baby which had been a hit for Tommy Sands which charted #49 locally for Cook which he followed in September with a cover of Crash Craddock’s Well Don’t You Know which had been a #8 hit for Crash in 1960, and Colin Cook backed by the Strangers, took it back into charts at #39.

Heebie Jeebies, was not released as a single, but has appeared on several compilations of early Australian rock songs, Cook amply demonstrated here that he could cut it with the most outrageous performers of the day. Co-composed by the prolific US songwriter John Marascalo it was originally written for Little Richard and was an out and out rocker, and Cook gets close to investing it with the same urgency, fervor, intensity, and turbo-propelled frantic showmanship, that one Richard Penniman would have brought to this song.

An outta control rock raver by Cook, in an homage to Little Richard.

The early rockers like Colin Cook became teen idols of the local scene, homegrown musical heroes that aspired to a level of fan adulation that erupted at live performances, Colin Cook had many devoted female fans, who also had jealous boyfriends, and as the following excerpt from album sleeve notes by David McLean “Colin Cook – His Greatest Hits”, graphically illustrates, these could be dangerous times for rock idols “Colin’s performance included a routine where he’d leave the stage and run up one aisle through the audience, and then down a second aisle back to the stage…over 700 screaming teenage girls had sold out the Town Hall and were  grabbing at his clothes, seeking a genuine trophy to treasure…on the return run a hairy arm of a resentful boyfriend came out among the smaller hands and struck the singer across the face…Cook stumbled, blood gushed from his face, his white Italian sweater turning claret red, security guards rushed to assist, the band played on…the singer returned to the stage to complete his finale, then staggered back stage and collapsed …his nose had again been badly broken.”   Below L-R- Colin Cook x2, Group Shot – L-R – Jimmy Little, Judy Cannon, Colin, and Col Joye.

Cook relocated to the UK in 1967 and subsequently enjoyed a successful career performing there in such West End London productions as Hair, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar in the 1970’s as well as many British TV series including The Two Ronnies, Dr. Who, and The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Colin suffered a stroke several years ago but has made a fully recovery, and although now well into his 70’s, he recently performed at a Go!! Show Golden Reunion event at Melbourne’s Palais de Dance, and was warmly received. Below Colin Cook and Wendy Stapleton

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