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BIOGRAPHY

Chicory Tip are best known for their worldwide number 1 single from 1972, "Son Of My Father," but they also had two other British Top 20 hits - "What's Your Name" and "Good Grief Christina."  Although they charted just three times their recording career spanned five years from 1970 from the first single, "Monday After Sunday," to the final 45, one of their best ever tracks, "Survivor." 

Despite recording 12 singles in the UK they only ever made one album, "Son Of My Father," which came out in 1972, but depending on what version you bought back then, you had either "Excuse Me Baby" (on earlier versions) or "What's Your Name" as the final cut on Side One.

Let's go back to the beginning though. As infants Rick Foster and Barry Mayger were chums - they went to the same school and as they grew up, in the early 1960s, they decided to start a band called The Sonics, named after the guitars they both had which were Burns Tri-sonic guitars.

Barry and Rick were joined by Geoff Baker on Drums and Derek Nye (Rhythm Guitar) to form the original Sonics. Two years later Rick left with Geoff to form The Blue Beats. In came Robin Huckstep on Bass and Jock Law on Drums. The Sonics fizzled out in 1965 but after a two year gap they re-formed.

That band now included lead singer Peter Hewson and drummer Mick Russell along with Barry Mayger and Rick Foster and in 1967 the change of name to Chicory Tip gave them a change of fortune.

"We wanted to get away from names which started with the word 'The' as there were so many around like 'The' Shadows and 'The' Beatles," explained Rick in a recent interview which you can hear on the Audio page of this website.

"We were in an army barrack just outside Maidstone and on with another band called The Mannish Boys featuring David Bowie," he recalls.

"We came off stage and Barry saw a brand of coffee (probably Camp Coffee) which had Chicory in it and featured that fact on the label. He said 'What about Chicory Tip for a name?' and I agreed, so we went with it."

Peter Hewson became lead singer after an audition. Rick and Barry wanted to concentrate on playing guitar and the then rhythm guitar player suggested Peter. He was a year above the two of them at the same school, South Borough School in Maidstone in Kent. Not only are Chicory Tip the only band from that school to have made it into the charts, they were the only band from Maidstone to have any musical success! 

Just before the lads embarked on their successful recording career Mick decided to leave the band in pursuit of love, got married and moved to Wales. In came Brian Shearer; and this was the line-up in place for the first seven singles.

So how did the record deal with CBS, one of the biggest record companies in the world, come about?  The girlfriend of a friend of Rick's knew a record producer and record plugger called Roger Easterby, who managed chart act Vanity Fare. She recommended Chicory Tip to him and he went to see them. He liked what he saw and when he came across a song called "Monday After Sunday" he knew he had found the perfect track for Chicory Tip to record. The deal was done in 1970 and the first single came out on 19th June that year.

"Monday After Sunday" got airplay, as did the follow-up, "My Girl Sunday", but neither single troubled the chart compilers. The third single, "Excuse Me Baby," got them a lot more airplay, including from Radio 1 DJ Alan "Fluff" Freeman who made a jingle out of the song, and played it frequently on his show.  The band made the very low reaches of the charts and attracted "Top of the Pops" coverage. It was a re-make of the old Magic Lanterns hit and was featured on one edition of the world famous programme - sadly the clip has been long wiped by the BBC and unless any pirate copies were made back then it is unlikely we will ever see that performance.

But it got them noticed and the fourth single, "I Love Onions", was expected to do better. The song had just been released on November 5th 1971 when all promotion was stopped because producer Roger Easterby, who was in charge of their productions with Des Champ for their whole career, was given a copy of Giorgio Moroder's version of a song called "Son Of My Father."  Giorgio was a German singer-producer who had written the music to the song and his partner Pete Bellotte wrote English lyrics to it. It was a German hit record by Michael Holm (who wrote the German lyrics for the song called "Nachts Scheint Die Sonne."  Easterby was a record plugger at the time and decided that he wanted his band to record the song and get it out as a single before Giorgio's version got up a head of steam.

Back then anyone could cover a song as long as it had already been played on the radio in the UK, so he took it along to his local station, got it played, and then set to work getting Chicory Tip in the studio to record it. It was such a secretive operation that he daren't even get a copy of the proper lyrics. Instead they jotted down what they thought were the words - they were ALMOST right! - and away they went.  The big gimmick though was the use of the moog synthesizer which was claimed to have been played by engineer Chris Thomas, but this was disputed by Rick Foster when interviewed on the subject. He said that while Chris programmed the moog it was actually someone else who played on the record. He couldn't recall the name of the musician but it was the same guy who performed the song on "Top of the Pops" on the most viewed Chicory Tip clip of all time. If anyone can throw some light on who it actually was we will be delighted to name him here!

The single was recorded in George Martin's own studio, Air Studios. George was probably the most famous producer in the world having worked with The Beatles and produced some of the best work ever to come out of a studio in the 1960s, so when he arrived at the session to give his verdict on "Son Of My Father" his actual words were "It smells like a hit to me!"

The song was recorded on Christmas Eve, rush released by CBS, and within three weeks it was ready to be issued - quite an achievement when most of the record industry were still on their Christmas vacation!  The song was released on January 14th 1972. It came in at number 30 the next week in the charts, followed that up with a huge 19 place leap to land at number 11. It then shot to number 2 on its third week, nestled behind T.Rex's "Telegram Sam", and after a month on the charts it made it to number 1, staying there for three weeks before losing its crown to Nilsson's "Without You" in early March.  But the song hung around for another seven weeks in the Top 40 before eventually dipping out of the charts.

It went on to become a multi million seller and a hit in many countries including the USA where it made number 91. They were known over there as just "Chicory" without the Tip! It is hard to check exact figures but it is claimed that in Spain the song stayed at number 1 for "several months."

The follow-up single was "What's Your Name" also written by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Roger had made his peace with Giorgio after stealing his thunder on "Son Of My Father" and it worked out well for the songwriting pair as they penned the next five singles for Chicory Tip and of course enjoyed the royalties from the number 1 smash.

"What's Your Name" was also recorded at George Martin's Air Studios and was released on April 28th 1972 in the UK - even though the previous hit was still being promoted and in the charts in other countries throughout the world. That meant the band couldn't do as much promotion as they would have liked on the new record.  Nonetheless it charted in mid-May at a lowly number 39 position before climbing to 26 then 23 before creeping up to 21. It then shot up to 13 where it looked set to become another Top 10 for the boys. However, in an incredible about-turn, the song crashed 14 spots to number 27 for no apparent reason, and then slid out a few weeks later. It was a major disappointment and a real rollercoaster chart ride.

It was just after this release that Rick Foster decided to leave Chicory Tip. He was concerned that the band were losing their pop sound in favour of a more progressive rock style, and he was to spend the next 25 years playing with Edison Lighthouse.  In came Rod Cloutt and the single, "The Future Is Past" was issued. It was a lot heavier than anything they had done and the moog was right back in the mix for this one. The B side, "Big Wheels Rolling," which was written by the band, certainly showed off this new heavier sound which Rick had referred to.  The song didn't dent the charts and a decision was made to return to the winning formula featuring the synthesizer. Rick later admitted that had "The Future Is Past" not been chosen as the next single, he would probably have stayed in the band, particularly as the next single was a return to the hit sound.

Along came "Good Grief Christina" which did the trick and this saw Chicory Tip back in the charts.  It was another rollercoaster as far as chart positions were concerned.  It was released on 2nd March 1973 and charted in April at number 32. It climbed a healthy eight notches to 24 before slipping back a place the following week. It rebounded to 23, then up to 21 before sliding again to 23. It then took off again to land at 19, but the next week would see it drop down to 21 before going up again to its peak position of number 17. It then dropped down the Top 40 for three weeks before disappearing for good. It would turn out to be their final chart action in the UK.

"Cigarettes, Women And Wine" was released at the end of July and immediately got off to a flyer on Radio Luxembourg. It was Fab 208's Power Play and received unprecedented airplay from the station. Meanwhile back in Britain the BBC banned the record because of the title and lyrics of the song. They felt it would corrupt the nation's teenagers and airplay was not available for one of the best records, and certainly one of the most iconic singles, in their career with CBS Records.

The Bellotte/Moroder writing team were still employed for the next single, "I.O.U." which was a thumping anthem complete with powerful drums and hand claps, but while the Chicory Tip sound from the past couple of releases was endearing to the Glam Rock brigade (and the band's costumes became more and more outrageous to fit in to that genre!) this single would also fail to deliver a chart record for them.

These days record companies don't give acts many chances if they have a couple of flops. Back then CBS in particular stayed faithful to the band even after the first four singles failed to chart, but the label's faith in Chicory Tip paid off when "Son Of My Father" did the business in spectacular fashion.

But with two records missing the charts a new direction was needed, and in 1974 out went the songwriting team which had brought them their three hits, and in came Ken Howard and Alan Blaikely who had written for Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. "Take Your Time Caroline" was released but would end up being the last single by Chicory Tip on CBS. Incidentally on "The Singles" album released on the 7T's label the writers were wrongly credited as Alan Howard and Alan Blakely of The Tremeloes. The key here is the different spelling of Alan Blaikley (Dave Dee) and Alan Blakely (Tremeloes).

Howard and Blaikley had penned "Have I The Right" for The Honeycombs and "The Legend Of Xanadu" for Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, but there was to be no chart success for this fresh sounding and catchy piece of pop music. The song itself was excellent, with a stripped back sound to showcase Peter Hewson's vocals. He had never sounded better, but despite airplay the song would fail to give the band that much-needed hit. 

Brian Shearer left Chicory Tip in 1974 to be replaced by John Longley while Barry Mayger moved on a year later, leaving Peter Hewson as the only original member left.

CBS and Chicory Tip parted company but there was to be one final single release. Roger Easterby started a new label, Route Records, and his first release was a sensational record called "Survivor" which ticked all the boxes. It had all the hallmarks of the Chicory Tip sound we all knew and loved. It was two and a half minutes of perfect pop complete with the moog synthesizer well and truly up front as lead instrument.  It was a certain hit to all who heard it but it just didn't take off. Lack of airplay and much less promotional and financial clout than a major label the size of CBS didn't help.

This song was not written by Moroder and Bellotte, although it was very much in the style of those two. It was in fact penned by Zack Laurence and J Weston. Zack played piano on the 1970 No.2 hit "Groovin' With Mr Bloe" by Mr Bloe and actually replaced the original piano work recorded by Elton John. He would go on to perform it on "Top Of The Pops."

There was an extraordinary connection between Zack and the two writers, Alan Blaikley and Ken Howard, who wrote Chicory Tip's penultimate single, "Take Your Time Caroline." In 1981 Laurence, Blaikley and Howard would get together to produce the music for the Hayley Mills film "The Flame Trees Of Thika." We have no information on J Weston, the co-writer on "Survivor" so if anyone can help please get in touch.

All the cards had been played and even returning to the sound that gave them their success wasn't working. Music had moved on and the punk era was just around the corner. The disco scene was booming and getting bigger and bigger. In short, the Chicory Tip sound, along with the glam acts of the early to mid 70s, failed to become relevant anymore, and the game was up.

Following a brief tour of Scandinavia Chicory Tip broke up. It would be 20 years before they would work together again. There had been several "Chicory Tip" bands in that 20 years including Peter Hewson with musicians John Wilson and Trevor Price. There were others too but none involving the original members and certainly none which delivered the sound the way the original line-up had done in their purple period between 1972 and 1975.

In 1996 however, for Rick Foster's 50th birthday, a surprise party saw Rick, Brian Shearer and Barry Mayger re-unite for a one-off special show.  Peter Hewson couldn't make it as he had work commitments and was also suffering from throat problems.  They had such a good time they decided to get back together again.  Peter attended rehearsals but with his throat causing him grief (if you pardon the pun) he decided to opt out but gave the rest of the boys his blessing.

In 2000 the first new Chicory Tip music came out for 25 years. The "Chicory Tip In 2000" CD album featured new versions of the three hits along with cover versions. There were also a couple of Christmas songs used on various compilation CDs but beware of three online digital albums - "Barbara Ann", "Son Of My Father" and "The Best Of" which contain some songs recorded by Edison Lighthouse featuring Rick Foster of Chicory Tip and other tracks which have nothing at all to do with the original Chicory Tip. If you are looking to invest in one Chicory Tip album on iTunes, the best one to get hold of is the 27 track all-original collection called "Greatest Hits" which features all but three of the 30 original songs recorded on CBS. It's retailing at just 4.99 so you cannot go wrong. The three not included (but which are available only on the Japanese "Son Of My Father" CD are "Marianne," "Arizona" and "I Couldn't Spend Another Day Without You."

While the three hits were played at gigs their shows featured cover versions of hits from the 1960s and 1970s, but it was good to see the band's hits at least being played again by the original artists. The three of them enjoyed over 10 years of playing together until recently when Barry Mayger moved to Portugal to live, leaving Brian and Rick to continue. They have now been joined by Peter Giles, and in a lovely little twist, Peter was also at the same school as Peter, Rick and Barry!

So will Peter, Barry, Rick and Brian ever get together again? The encouraging news is that this has "certainly not been ruled out" by Rick Foster. Peter went back into architecture and hasn't been involved with music since recording a single with Yazoo's Vince Clark in the 1980s although he did join them for appearances on TV show "Unforgettable" (see video) in 1983 and in 1999 performed with the boys on the Clive James TV Show to close the show in a shortened version.

While there's a will there's a way, and if it does happen I, for one, along with many others, will want to be there!

For the record we all know what happened to Giorgio Moroder! He eventually went on to get chart success in the UK but it was as a producer with Donna Summer where he had his finest moment.

Richard Easterby went into the Horse Racing business where he became The Tote's director of Parliamentary Affairs. Sadly co-producer Des Champ died of cancer aged 77 in 2006.  Rod Cloutt is living in Australia.

Birth Dates of the key members of Chicory Tip:

Lead Singer Peter Hewson (1.9.45 in Gillingham)
Guitarist Rick Foster (7.7.46 in Maidstone)
Bass Guitarist Barry Mayger (1.6.46 in Maidstone)
Drummer Brian Shearer (4.5.51 in Lewisham)
Guitarist/Keyboards Rod Cloutt (26.1.49 in Gillingham)
           

                        Biography by Stuart Cameron, Feb 2014

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