Following the break-up of the Newlanders, a very successful Witney (Oxfordshire) soul band, we formed The George Street Ideal to support our very talented vocalist, Martin Hester. We ‘found’ a new drummer, George Schwyzer, and the other members were Simon (Sam) Needler on Hammond Organ and Marc Pawley on guitar who also began to write songs together. We started to do a few gigs locally with some success and rehearsed in my parents’ house in the village of Shipton-under-Wychwood.
A wealthy Faringdon-based businessman, Rodney Harnett, approached us, said he would promote us, and eventually he became our Business Manager. We made a few demo’s and he managed to get some interest from John Schroeder, a legendary A&R man at Pye records. John introduced the song ‘Never Trust in Tomorrow’ and got Pye to sign us. However, one of the conditions was that we changed our name to Gentle Influence. They particularly loved Martin’s soulful ‘black’ sounding vocals. Sam and Marc wrote the B-side. We recorded the single in the famous basement studios of Pye Records in ATV House just off Marble Arch in London.
We were all semi-pro at the time and Rodney, with ambitious ideas, persuaded us to go fully professional and move to London. Gentle Influence was planned to be Pye’s answer to the new rave group ‘Love Affair’. Although ‘Never Trust’ got a lot of radio airplay on its release, and it was a Radio Luxemburg ‘Hit Pick’, it failed to sell enough and didn’t chart. Meanwhile we were rehearsing hard and doing a few gigs in and around London. One was the legendary open air Oxfam concert at Wembley Stadium on 13 July 1969 with a host of famous 60’s bands such as Love Affair, Status Quo, Grapefruit and Jimmy James & The Vagabonds.
It was very disappointing and rather worrying as we had all given up our jobs and had moved to London in expectation of great success. Rodney persuaded John Schroeder for Pye to fund and release a follow-up, ‘Always be a Part of My Living’ but this single also ‘bombed’. By the end of 1969, Rodney ended his management contract and we returned to Oxfordshire, got new jobs and resumed a semi-pro career for Gentle Influence. We were busier with gigs than we had ever been before, playing all over the southern part of UK!
At this time the BBC got in touch and asked us to record some live tracks for their daily Radio shows. Apparently the UK Musicians Union were becoming upset that there was too much airplay given to American records and curiously insisted that a certain percentage of music played should be recorded ‘live’ by the BBC. They hoped this would boost the involvement of UK professional musicians? So we started a very productive period of traveling up to BBC studios in Maida Vale, London most Sundays to record 6 live covers of popular songs in 6 hours. One track was then played each day of the following week to boost the percentage of recorded ‘live’ music on the BBC radio stations.
Eventually in 1970, the group ‘folded’ and we all went in completely different directions. I lost track of George, Martin took a welding job in Witney (a great waste as he was truly a much better singer than many who have achieved great fame and fortune), Sam took over the management of his family’s Sportswear and Skiwear Chain, Marc returned to work for Readers Digest in Swindon and I started my own business as a Used Car Dealer.
Above: A Flyer with photograph taken on the Victoria & Albert Bandstand in Hyde Park, London
Above: 1. The group on a houseboat on the River Thames, Kew, London 1970
2. The group assembled on a farm gate: Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire December 1969
Above: 1. George Schwyzer – drummer 1970 2. Simon (Sam) Needler & Marc Pawley 1970
Left. Jeff Arundell – BassistRight. Martin Hester – Vocals
Many thanks to Jeff Arundell for all of the above. Image copyright remains that of Jeff Arundell.
The B side to their second single can be heard HERE