thu 18/09/2014

Jet Harris, the original Shadow RIP | New music reviews, news & interviews

Jet Harris, the original Shadow RIP

Farewell to The Shadows' original bassist, one of the architects of British rock'n'roll

Jet Harris: The dark heart of The Shadows in the early Sixties

Jet Harris was one of the architects of British rock'n'roll. His death rams home just how distant that era now seems. A former skiffler, he joined The Shadows after a spell backing Terry Dene, British rock's first bad boy. In time, Harris became a bad boy too, setting the template for the self-destructive lifestyle that would become a cliché. But his moody image will survive too. His rumbling bass guitar will forever be synonymous with those evocative Shadows' hits.

The Shadows' world-changing moment came in August 1960 when they topped the British charts with “Apache”. Everything in British pop was American before The Shadows hit Number One. Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde – they all looked to Elvis and America for inspiration. Then, from behind Cliff, The Shadows stepped out.

They were our boys. They weren’t cute: their instrumentals launched a thousand schoolboy dreams. Deep Purple’s Roger Glover salivated over their Fender guitars. Harris was an inspiration to session bassist John Baldwin, who played on some of his post-Shadows singles – he later became John Paul Jones and joined Led Zeppelin.

And just before wiping the pop slate clean, when recording their first original number in Hamburg, The Beatles chose an instrumental. It was titled “Cry For a Shadow”. Everyone wanted to be The Shadows. Jet Harris was their dark heart.

Watch The Shadows perform “FBI”

As the owner of Britain’s first electric bass, Jet Harris was The Shadows’ blonde and moody bottom end between October 1958 and April 1962 (pictured below). The name Jet was a school nickname, coming from his prowess at running. They were still The Drifters when Harris joined and the new name, The Shadows, was chosen by him.

He was a hard drinker. His first wife, Carol DaCosta, is the only woman that Cliff Richard admits to having had an affair with. Tensions between Shads' guitarist Bruce Welch and Harris led to his departure for a solo career. Success seemed assured: Harris’s debut 45 “Besame mucho” hit the charts in May 1962. “Diamonds”, made with fellow ex-Shad Tony Meehan, hit Number One in 1963. But in September 1963 Harris was injured in a car crash with pop-girl girlfriend Billie Davis. As he was married to DaCosta, the story became tabloid fodder and he never regained the momentum.

He cropped up regularly on the revival circuit, in recent years with Shadows’ tribute band The Rapiers. He was awarded an MBE in 2010. Although his manner could seem cantankerous, I always found him charming and ready to chat. It’s a cliché, but he was a rough diamond.

Watch Jet Harris perform "Main Title Theme (from The Man With the Golden Arm)"

I last spoke with him at length in early 2009, before the Cliff and the Shads farewell tour. On relations between him and the rest of the band, he said, “There’s absolutely no malice, we all speak to each other, but I automatically thought they’d have me – maybe as the first six or so numbers, the ones I played on. A lot of fans can’t believe it and have said it won’t be right. It doesn’t seem right that I won’t be playing ‘Apache’. But the powers that be have decided. I’m not losing sleep over it as I’ve got Jet Harris gigs, and we’re filling them.” Needless to say, he wasn’t invited onto the tour.

Jet_Harris_cGeoffSimmonds_jetharris.bizOn choosing the band's name, he told me, “Me and Hank Marvin had Lambrettas and we were out in Ruislip. We were outside the Six Bells pub drinking Guinness – which we probably shouldn’t have been. After an a hour of talking about names I said, ‘How about Cliff Richard and the Shadows?’ Hank’s eyes lit up. We’d been through everything: The Tsetse Flies, The Zodiacs, The Zephyrs.”

But he left the band he’d named in 1962 and went solo. "I made up my mind and announced it, and that was it. I had an alcohol problem.” (Pictured right in 2007 by Geoff Simmonds, jetharris.biz.)

Describing his approach to music, he said, “I suppose we’ve all got different ways of playing, I give it some welly.” Sadly, he won’t be giving it welly any more.

Terence Harris. Born 6 July 1939. Died 18 March, 2011.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Watch Jet Harris play “Diamonds” and “Big Bad Bass” after winning the Musician of the Year prize at the 1964 New Musical Express poll-winner’s concert

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Comments

A sad sad day, we will miss

A sad sad day, we will miss you Jet. The Shadows were instrumental in bringing their exciting and innovative brand of English rock and roll to Australia and all over the world. I first heard Apache in early 1960's, and it is still one of the best guitar instrumentals ever, and probably forever. Jet certainly bossed and pioneered the electric bass guitar, brought it to the forefront and the attention of fans and other rock and roll players.
REST IN PEACE LEGEND,NOW ITS TIME TO SHOW THE ANGELS HOW TO ROCK NROLL GOD BLEES JET,,JANET, AND THE FAMILY WE WILL ALL MISS YOU SLEEP WELL OLD FRIEND XXXXXX
Premiere fois que j'entends "Main Titte Theme"....SUPER La troisieme vidéo...Quel Document!...j'aime! MERCI pour ces Documents Amitiés bernard
an angry man who could be compared to james dean,marlon brando ,van gogh and others of very special talent ---the world will miss you never to be replaced.
Jet was one in a million. So sad he has gone. My thoughts and love go to Janet and the family.

He was a great artist. :(

He was a great artist. :(
Jet and I have been friends since 1957,I was with a group called Les Hobeaux, Jet played for Larry Page the teenage rage,he said to me that page was the worst singer he ever heard.Jet was a good photographer, he came to stay with my wife and i and brought his hasalblad camera with him he took some wonderful pictures of us and my pets,my wife dyed my hair blond in 1958, and Jet loved it,he said would she do mine which she did,years later i hadnt seen jet for a few years i got a call out of the blue from him,after talking for a while i said remember when terrie my wife dyed your hair.he said.yeh thats why i went fucking bald.I had my first Bass Guitar in 1957 Jet saw it and said that fucking thing will never catch on,he was playing double bass then and was into jazz, its strange that Jet became famous for having blond hair and playing Bass Guitar,he was a grumpy git at times but i loved him RIP Jet ile never forget you.Brian Gregg I

Hi Brian Our old Mum reckons

Hi Brian Our old Mum reckons Jet was up in Edinburgh 57 or 58, says she speaking to him for ages. If it's true , where would the venue have been? Dave
I saw Jet back in 1977 in the Fiesta club, Stockton when he was attempting a comeback and I purchased his album recorded in Gloucester Prison the following year. I'd been a fan for some time and was privileged to see him at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall when he appeared there last year with Marty Wilde and Eden Kane. I've got all his CDs and play them often. A top performer and my condolences to his relatives on his sad demise. R.I.P. Jet you were a great star!
RIP Jet Harris. I saw Jet on several occasions and met him a few times. A great Entertainer, Musican and a Gentleman. He inspires me everytime I pick up the Guitar. Cheers Steve and Sue
I was a 12 years old in 1963 but Jet Harris and Tony Mehan when the bees knees...........I tried to see him .........but every time I booked up it was cancelled. For what I have seen of him,he was down to earth and would have loved to have met him....God Bless him
JET HARRIS AND THE REST OF THE SHADOWS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SO MANY YOUNG BUDDING GUITARISTS PLAYING FOR 50 +YEARS. I AM PLEASED TO SAY THAT I WAS MASSIVELY INFLUENCED BY THE SHADOWS MUSIC AND AM STILL GIGGING TODAY PLAYING THESE TIMELESS TUNES TO AUDIENCES AROUND EAST ANGLIA. I HAD THE PLEASURE OF SEEING JET PLAY ABOUT 4 YEAARS AGO IN HUNSTANTON AND AM SORRY TO LEARN OF HIS DEATH. REST IN PEACE ROGER WILLIAMS
He(Jet Harris was a fab.guitarist. And now looking back, I realy think that he should have been with Cliff And the Shadows at their Anmniversary,at least in London. I feel so sad about that,he would have loved it,but maybe he was too sik already at that time. Rest in Peace mr. Jet Harris
It's sad to see another legend of the 60'S pass away, especially when you have known him. He was a part of my life in the late part of the 70's when he played bass for the band I fronted which was Vintage. We took Jet to Manchester and toured for around a Year. I would like o thank hoim for all the experince he gave us. On behalf of Vintage and myself, God Bless. RIP Norman Jay
I have been a life long Shadows fan and as sad as the passing of Tony Meehan now it is also sad of the passing of Jet Hassis

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