Halfway to Paradise

from Chapter Six - THE YOUNG ONES

...In Britain the biggest story came with a partnership that had been forged on Drumbeat. The John Barry Seven, an instrumental group who had appeared on both Six-Five Special and Oh Boy!, got their big break with a six-month residency on the new show and, on Barry’s suggestion, Adam Faith also auditioned. He too became a regular, and after the series ended, the two men continued their association with the single ‘What Do You Want?’, which went to #1 in December 1959.

It was an unlikely success story, for Faith had already been around for some time – as Terry Denver he’d sung with his skiffle group on the 2Is edition of Six-Five Special – and had missed the boat several times; indeed he had already given up music and gone into the film industry, working as an assistant editor, when the call came from Barry. Now he was reborn as a new kind of singer, neither a straight rock and roller, nor a cheerful all-round entertainer, but a sharply dressed, articulate pop star whose image looked forward to mod, not backwards to Elvis.

He appeared in Queen magazine and, although he made the customary move into pantomime soon enough, he was also asked by the director Lindsay Anderson to appear in a production at the Royal Court Theatre.

For Faith was the first British rocker to be taken seriously by the artistic establishment. His 1960 appearance on the prestigious television interview show Face to Face, enthusing about Salinger and Sibelius, won him a reputation as the spokesman of his generation – ‘Adam seems to have done himself more good by TALKING than by SINGING,’ enthused the press – and by the time Donald Coggan, the Archbishop of York, decided to criticize his music and morals, he was more than capable of arguing his corner.

‘What Do You Want’ was featured in the classic film Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (1960), in a version sung by Barry Mason, and Faith even received the ultimate accolade of a name-check in ‘The Blood Donor’, the best known episode of Tony Hancock’s TV series: ‘There’s Adam Faith earning ten times as much as the Prime Minister. Is that right?’, reflected Hancock. ‘Mind you, I suppose it depends on whether you like Adam Faith and what your politics are...’

Adam Faith
Adam Faith
Harry Hammond (© V&A Images)