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Hi Ho Come On England
John Leyton & The Orients

England Football Online's interview with John Leyton


John Leyton & Chris Goodwin, 25 May 2006

To most younger readers of this website, the name John Leyton conjures up very little, if anything.  So then I must direct you to the great IMDb website, (but remember to press your 'back' button,) then follow that with a look at the 45-rpm.org.uk website, (and follow that with the 'back' button,) you have just become acquainted with him!  So to our older readers, you should then be thinking 'Oh! yes, him!'.  Unfortunately, to our younger readers, I fear they would still be none the wiser.  Essentially, John Leyton was part of the team that changed the face of modern music, he sang 'Johnny, Remember Me', the history-making record that reached the pivotal heights of number one in 1961, and was later covered by Showaddywaddy and sampled by Bronski Beat.  Still none the wiser?  Well, try this one - when the England Supporters Band, and originally the Sheffield Wednesday Supporters Band, bang their drums and play their brass section to annoying proportions on the terraces, they will more often than not, be playing the theme from 'The Great Escape'.  Well... that was from a movie made in 1963 starring John Leyton as Flight Lt. William Dickes, you know the one, the tunneler.
It is that seamless link that takes us to John Leyton's newest adventure, instead of tunnelling out of a camp, he is trying to make some dents in the music charts, and trying to break a few records at the same time.  Despite releasing a re-write of 'Hi Ho Silver Lining', John's original idea was to put words to the theme of 'The Great Escape', but as he explained, the transition between an instrumental and a sing-a-long proved too difficult, it just did not sit right.  Then someone else suggested a second terrace chant, that of 'Hi Ho', which was easier to adapt, as it already had a melody written to it.  The primary reason for this record, like most of John's exploits, was the fun-factor, the job satisfaction and John cannot regret anything that he has enjoyed doing. 
One of John Leyton's early regrets was that of leaving the production stable that was Joe Meek's.  Although in this interview, we speak of Joe with great affection and applause, both John and myself agree that no offense or upset is meant to be caused to the Shenton family.
It was Robert Stigwood, Leyton's manager, who introduced John to Joe Meek in 1960.  After a few failed auditions with other producers, Meek took an instant liking to Leyton, not for his singing capabilities, but for his boyish good-looks.  It didn't matter if you could sing to Joe Meek.  Joe could turn any looker into a superstar, and he often did.  The first time the two met, Leyton tested Meek's sound equipment in his flat in Lansdowne House, Holland Park, alongside Charles Blackwell on the piano. The sound that came back, the distortion and echo that would become Meek's trademark, made Leyton stand back and notice.
Meek took on Leyton and following a couple of failed singles, Leyton starred as Johnny St. Cyr in a TV series called 'Harper's West One', as a singer.  Robert Stigwood managed to manipulate the show's producers for Leyton/St. Cyr to perform a song.  Joe Meek, along with Geoff Goddard rapidly wrote a song that was to become 'Johnny Remember Me'.  Its three appearances in the show ensured the song as a sure-fire success, which it was.  It was the song, or the production that would re-write history, because it became the first independently produced single.
Joe and John were a success, if John forgot the lyrics, Joe would roar with laughter, but Stigwood grew tiresome and took his singer away to EMI and Abbey Road studios.  Leyton's singing success decreased rapidly and he moved to Hollywood for 12 years, where his acting career took off once more.  Joe Meek died in 1967 in tragic circumstances, for him and the Shenton family, the same year 'Hi Ho Silver Lining' was released.  Joe was always one for fate and destiny, and the most bizarre of coincidences!
 I asked John if he thought Joe would like his World Cup song - the answer was an arousing 'yes'.  Simply because of his recollections of Meek were positive ones, always having a laugh, alway's fun and happy times, and never frightened to experiment.  We wondered that if Joe Meek was still with us, how his production skills would have unfolded, and as John agreed, Joe was way ahead of his time, and his sound would be nothing like we have now, and what we do have now is a lot of World Cup songs - some good, some bad, and some down-right atrocious, and John had not heard any of them - some may say, lucky him.
So is John Leyton any good at football?  (Another seamless link I wonder?)  Actually, he is, or was.  He played inside-right for his school team.  John then proceeded to reel off the old style of play, the 2-3-5.  I was very impressed that this singer, this actor, knew so much about playing football.  I was doubly impressed by him being an Arsenal supporter.  His childhood was spent in North London, and the connections are obvious.  A fondness for Queen's Park Rangers was also spoken of.  But Leyton Orient will always be in his heart too, simply because of the name, a special affinity, that can never be replaced when it is made in childhood, much akin to myself and panini football stickers, I still cannot stop collecting, swapping and then cursing.  Anyway, because Orient shared his name, it was always John's to cherish, and time and wisdom can never change that, no matter how good Arsenal got!
John watched the 1966 World Cup final at a cinema in Hollywood.  No such luxuries for 2006, like many of us, he'll be watching the World Cup from his armchair.  Hopefully watching Theo Walcott, hopefully praising Sven-Göran Eriksson's courage in bringing in such a youngster.  It's the pace of the youngster that we all wish to see, and more importantly, work for our cause.  John know's that if England play positively, and kick the negativity into touch, England can be a great team, with great aspirations, and have every possible chance to win the World Cup.
With that, John wished England all the luck in the world. 
And to you John, we wish the same, and with one of the more decent World Cup singles on the market - All the best.
John is recording a new album due to be released in September.

This interview is based on an actual conversation between John Leyton and Chris Goodwin.

For further information about the single Hi Ho Come On England, click here - www.johnleyton.com/media/come_on_england/come_on_england.html