In December 1959 TV producer Jack Good went to the airport to meet American rock and roll star Gene Vincent with a view to putting him on his show. Good was met by a casually dressed quiet spoken polite individual. This was a bit of a let down for Good. Vincent seemed too nice, too normal.
In retrospect this seems quite improbable, Vincent was in a lot of pain following a motor cycle accident which had crushed his leg, he was prone to drink heavily and relied on pain killers of the opiate variety. This was a man who actually tried to shoot Gary Glitter a few years later. Still maybe he had had a good flight over.
Good took Vincent away and did one of rock’s first makeovers on him. Vincent emerged as a kind of rock and roll Richard III. Hunched over a microphone dressed in black leather, a medallion and, most significantly for the purposes of this story, black gloves. Clad in this style he went on to make an impression on audiences in Britain and the continent.
Fast forward to 1972, the golden years of glam rock are about to commence. Peter Shelley ( no not the guy with Buzzcocks) has written and recorded a record. ‘ My Coo Ca Choo’ has lyrics that could have been written by a 6 year old but its shiny piece of glam boogie and too good to waste. It’s future is helped by the fact that Shelley has co founded Magnet records so he’s effectively got a record deal already. Strangely, unlike 99% of the rest of the population Shelley does not fancy poncing about on Top of the Pops so he holds auditions with business partner Michael Levy to find a singer who can front the record.
Day one of auditions a blond 31 year old man turns up stating he is Shane Fenton who had a small career in the early 60’s. Shelley and Levy liked Mr Fenton but were looking for someone a bit ‘moodier’. Day two Fenton turns up with died black hair, black leather, clunky jewellery and , most important for the purposes of this story, a black leather glove. He got the job.
Within days Fenton was christened Alvin Stardust and was miming his way to No1 with a song he didn’t even sing on.
He had already had a bizarre life. Born Bernard Jewry, he had spent most of his life growing up in Mansfield Notts, theres a lot I could say about Mansfield, I know it quite well but suffice to say it will never be referred to as the Athens of the Midlands. It does however appear that he was not typical of that fair town. His parents owned a large house and rented out rooms to travelling actors and musicians, young Bernard went to the prestigious Southwell Minster School and his stage debut was in pantomime.
In the early 60’s he was helping out a bunch of unknown teenagers called Shane Fenton and the Fentones. They had just mailed a demo tape to the BBC when unfortunately their lead singer Johnny Theakstone died. The band were devastated, he was only 17 years old after all. Not surprisingly the band gave up only to receive a letter stating the BBC had liked their tape and invited them to London to audition. Johnny’s mother gave them her blessing. Their ex roadie took on the role of Shane Fenton the band passed the audition and ended up with a contract from Parlophone records with sustained the band for a couple of years.
Somehow during this period Jewry/Fenton had infiltrated the Liverpool scene, eventually marrying Iris Caldwell, sister of Liverpool legend Rory Storm and ex girlfriend of at least two Beatles. In fact John Lennon later commented on Stardust’s success ‘I’m so glad for Shane, he really deserves this success, he’s a great bloke and performer’
And great bloke he was. His career continued in acting, musical theatre and the odd record until his death three years ago. As befits a man who seemed willing to swap names to maintain a career he never stuck to one form of music. This meant he was never out of work but he wasn’t superstar material. I last saw him on TV, looking about 10 years older then he did in the 70’s(the names changed, the face remained the same) ,he was talking about a crappy old acoustic guitar he owned which had actually been signed by all sorts of famous people such as the Beatles and even Buddy Holly who Jewry/Fenton/Stardust had run into in the course of his career. The guitar was spectacular in it’s crapness but worth a small fortune and yet again he had the last laugh.
Here’s his second hit and one that actually features his vocal .