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Rama Lama Plus 4 Bonus Tracks, CD (£7.43)
The first Rocky Sharpe LP which featured their hits Rama Lama Ding Dong, Imagination and Love Will Make You Fail In School plus B-sides that have never been released on CD before and one previously unissued title.
by JAN PODSIADLY
It's 25 years since Rama Lama Ding Dong hit the UK charts and launched the recording career of Rocky Sharpe and the Replays. While drawing on a wide catalogue of doo wop and rock'n'roll Rocky, Johnny, Helen and Eric found a sound that was modern and individual enough to gain chart success yet authentic enough to share an 80s billing with Del Shannon, Jess Conrad, Karl Denver and Screamin' Lord Sutch and not seem out of place. With covers of the Earls, the Moonglows, the Skyliners, the Velvets, the Stereos, the Orlons and more it seems hardly surprising.
Rama Lama Ding Dong was the song that underpinned the commercial success that allowed the Replays to revive some of the classiest 50s/60s doo wop that lay buried in record company and collectors' vaults. It sold more than a quarter of a million records and, although a modest #17 in the tough and competitive UK chart, was Top 5 in Spain and a highly respectable #1 in Bavaria, Catalunia and the Canary Islands, ensuring frequent visits by the band to Madrid, Munich, Hamburg and Berlin for TV appearances.
Rocky and the Replays found fun in the music. Who could name their girlfriend Rama Lama Ding Dong? Who could put shoes on their hands to record stamping? Who could fill their album sleeve with backing lyrics? But joining in the fun was a register of class musicians spearheaded by the irrepressible Pete Wingfield and defined by the searing saxophone of Steve Gregory. Turn the volume up loud and pick out some virtuoso performances captured forever in the backing to some timeless classics alongside some unique, less accessible, tracks.
Although the emphasis was on doo wop covers there are a large number of self-penned tracks from the Replays, primarily B-sides and an occasional album track. The Dance Craze Ooop Doop Doop (Pts 1&2) is great example, where the Replays sing a verse each. This track enjoyed considerable radio play in Austria where everyone Oop Dooped Dooped. Three early B-sides are included on this CD with the first, When The Chips Are Down, an offering from Pete Wingfield and Mike Vernon that partnered Rama Lama Ding Dong.
It's worth pointing out here that producer Mike Vernon also doubled as bass vocalist Eric Rondo. Mike's musical pedigree, with deep affection for the blues and R&B witnessed through his Blue Horizon record label and his success with Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack, found great resonance with the Replays doo wop selection.
Rocky's voice and performance were made for doo wop. His tonsils walk a high wire, soaring into falsetto without the aid of a safety net. Listen to Rocky sing Never. It has a harder edge than the Earls' smooth original yet bounces as high if not higher. Check out the final night" in Tonight (Could Be The Night) where the sky is the only place to go and Rocky goes interstellar.
Accolades also go to Olympic Runner De Lisle Harper, who not only played bass on Rama Lama Ding Dong but arranged and directed all the orchestral parts on the album-.-and darlin' parts they are too.
Helen Highwater [Blizard] features in the duets Devil Or Angel and I Knew From The Start as well as lead on Don't Hang Up and Love Will Make You Fail In School. The latter enjoys a listing in the Guinness Book of Hit Singles but clearly did not prevent Helen succeeding out of school as you'll see if you scrutinise the scriptwriting credits at the end of EastEnders-.-she often appears there now.
And me, Johnny Stud? Master of gibberish backing lyrics, Buzzcocks' mystery guest and reviewer of forthcoming Replays' CD. Well, I was there when it all happened. All I can say is play the CD loud and sing along. There's a part in it for you.
The Replays split at the end of 1984 but not before producing three albums of doo wop par excellence on the Chiswick label. (A fourth album exists on Polydor but is not part of this series.) The other two LPs "Rock It To Mars" and "Let's Go" (retitled "Shout Shout") will be released later this year, also featuring bonus tracks."