Week of August 27, 2000

Alvin Stardust

Alvin's performances as the 'man in black who never smiles' during the mid-1970's earned him reviews such as, "He comes on lean and glistening, wrapped in a tight skin of reptilian black leather. He is a great panther pacing the stage with graceful majesty..." from Disc Magazine in 1974. Whatever the fanciful similes used in reviews the point was the image in creating a persona irresistible to the teenage pop market of the time. Always seen in one piece black leather suits with huge flares, black leather gloves, plus outlandish jewelry, the Alvin Stardust character was perfectly cultivated and marketed. Which resulted in a string of 7 hit singles between 1973-1975 on the then new Magnet Records label. The other principal players were Maurice Levy, Magnet Records owner and Alvin's manager, and Peter Shelly, singer/songwriter who had his own hits such as "Gee Baby" and "Love Me Love My Dog". It was Shelly who, with a fine ear for the current commercial sound, wrote all the Magnet hits for Alvin, as well as producing most of Alvin's work at the time too. Spreading the word was greatly helped by Alvin's many TV appearances on shows like Supersonic, 45, Saturday Scene, Liftoff with Ayesha and Top Of The Pops with other pop icons of the time like Rod Stewart, Gary Glitter, Status Quo, the Bay City Rollers, and in Europe, especially Vienna, Munich and Brussels. In fact, Alvin's first appearance on stage under the Stardust mantle was at the Midem Gala, at the Palais de Festival, Cannes, on January 23, 1974. All this multimedia world exposure was a far cry from the first attempt Alvin made towards a singing career.

Born Bernard Jewry (27/9/1942) and growing up, as any 50s teenager, going to youth clubs, listening to Radio Luxembourg, collecting Gene Vincent records, the first event happened from "sitting in" with Johnny Theakston and the Tremeloes throughout 1959. Through circumstances, Alvin ended up as the lead singer, and just prior to sending a demo to the BBC, the name Shane Fenton was suggested to him. The "Shane" came from Albert Shane who had written material for idol Gene Vincent, and Fenton - from Fenton's Garage in homeland Mansfield. Alvin's legal name is now Shane Fenton, as it was changed by deed poll in 1960. Signed to Parlophone, Shane Fenton and the Fentones had 4 U.K. hit single hits in 1961/1962. Although a striking and popular live act, the timing was unfortunately wrong as the records were issued as one pop phase ended and another began.

Shane Fenton in gold lame suits was fine for the Billy Fury and the Shadows era, but not so hip for the Beatles/Merseyside boom. Therefore, the story leaps forward to 1973 when Shane Fenton, through his then-manager Hal Carter met Peter Shelly (who at the time was writing songs with Marty Wilde, also managed by Hal Carter). The meeting and subsequent rehearsals resulted in both a new name and the first hit. Elvin Greenbody was the starting point, the first name coming from a combination of Elvis and Vincent, but was soon changed to Elvin Starr. For a better ring to the surname, Starr was then extended to two syllables, "Stardust", and was chosen just in time to credit the first single. "My Coo Ca Choo" was recorded on an eight-track machine at a cost of 700 B.P. and went on to sell 750,000 copies in Britain and 1.5 million worldwide. Added to the zest of a fledgling record label and talented songwriter/producer were Alvin's years of experience on the club and cabaret circuits of Europe during the mid-sixties. His stage craft had absorbed the finger-pointing of Dave Berry, the mean leather look of Gene Vincent, and by now was finely developed so that on the new tours and television a very professional act performed these new hit songs. Success lasted until 'chalk and cheese', punk and disco, took over the pop charts and world markets. Even so, Alvin, like Mohammed Ali, managed a third successful title shot in the early 1980's. At this time, with the more lightweight pop rock'n'roll of Shakin Stevens attracting millions, Alvin produced "I Feel Like Buddy Holly" and "I Won't Run Away". Augmented by several series of the Rock Gospel show on BBC TV which starred Alvin in his new, laid-back, more sophisticated image.

Lee Connolly, 1990
Taken from Connoisseur's "Greatest Hits" CD compilation, Document, CSAP CD 105, 1990

Born on 27 September, 1944 in Muswell Hill, London, his real name is Bernard Jewry. He moved to Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, where his mother bought a boarding house, when Bernard was just two years of age. Many of the quests were theatre and music hall acts and much of the razzmatazz rubbed off on young Bernard. His first stage appearance was at the age of four as a 'babe' in the traditional pantomime, Babes In The Wood. He originally came to prominence in Shane Fenton and the Fentones, as Shane Fenton. The Fentones were fairly big in the 1960s, having hits, plenty of package tour spots and a lot of radio and TV exposure; their big hit was "Moody Guy". The constant travelling and touring began to get to him and he quit while still at the top.

After a short break he went into management - the first group he handled were the Hollies - and song-plugging (most of Lulu's hits for instance). Again, Alvin got fed up as he was not too keen on the desk-bound life, and went on a round-the-world holiday, only coming back when his cash ran out.

He decided to start singing again and tried cabaret, but it was too tame for this seminal rocker. He reformed the Fentones before becoming the first act to sign to Magnet, and after changing his name to Alvin Stardust his chart career began afresh with another series of hits.

Written off at that time (along with Gary Glitter) as an old duffer, he was no doubt surprised to see the youth of the late 1970s remembering him fondly. Despite the hits on Magnet drying up, he's never stopped working and still pops up in the areas where they show 1979/80 versions of Oh Boy.

He has appeared in pantomime as Robinson Crusoe and is married to actress Lisa Goddard.

Including his Stiff hits, his total chart entries now amount to ten.

Taken from "The Hits Go On" CD compilation, Stiff Records/Disky, StiffCD 18, 1993

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