As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, Paul Weller tipped me off on to many a culture journey in my early years. In 1980 he wrote the sleeve notes for a compilation of the band The Action, called ‘The Ultimate Action.’ I picked up the album on the strength of Weller’s involvement, curious to learn more. That was what it was like pre-Google my children. You heard/read or was tipped off onto something and you investigated by laying down your hard earned.
‘Reg King stands as one of the best of the white soul singers. The Action had it in their soul.’ Weller wrote.
He wasn’t wrong. The vocals of Reg King made an immediate impact above all else. Actually, as I’ve just written the name ‘Reg’, I realise how English it seems up against other singers I was listening to back then, like Marvin, Wilson and Otis. But, what Reg had in common with that all time trio was indeed, the soul in his voice.
He and the band quickly became a firm favourite of mine and then I noticed the early music was produced by Georg Martin, knob twiddler to The Fabs and that left me perplexed as why I hadn’t discovered them before?
They were London boys, out of Kentish Town mainly and got together in the summer of 1963, then known as ‘The Boys.’
The original line up consisted of the aforementioned Reg on vocal duty, Mike ‘Ace’ Evans on bass, Alan ‘Bam’ King on guitar and Roger Powell on the drums. They did the rowdy German tour scene for a while and then ended up backing singer Sandra Barry (then often billed as The Boyfriends)
They changed their name to The Action in 1964, with Pete Watson joining on lead guitar duty not long after.
They signed up with Parlophone and began releasing singles, with covers of Motown tunes chosen to suit Reg’s voice. Tunes of the calibre of ‘In My Lonely Room’ ‘I’ll Keep Holding On’ ‘Since I Lost My Baby.’ Add to mix, songs like ‘Shadows and Reflections’ and the self-penned ‘Twenty Fourth Hour’ ‘Something Has Hit Me’ and ‘Never Ever’ and you have a fine body of work.
For reasons, which have long been discussed over a many a beer, they somehow managed to never trouble the charts. They made all the right moves, like appearing on ‘Ready Steady Go’ and had a very strong live group reputation, indeed they broke the attendance record at The Marquee, but it just didn’t happen for them.
It all began to fall apart in 1966, with Watson leaving the band after management problems and then, Parlophone dropped them.
They carried on with keyboards added courtesy of Ian Whiteman and Martin Stone picked up the lead guitar. They dipped their toe into Psych, with a touch of Folk, but then Reg left the band in 1967.
The rest re-appeared as Mighty Baby in 1969 with King taking over the singing duties. A real favourite of mine from this period is the tune ‘Egyptian Tomb.’
‘Bam’ King would later surface in 1975 with the band ‘Ace’ – Paul Carrack on lead vocal trivia collectors – who gained a decent sized hit with the song ‘How Long.’
Timeshift to 1980 and if nothing else, the compilation mentioned at the top of the page, begins the re-evaluation and fresh look at the output of The Action. Lost recordings released on the compilations ‘Brain’ from 1995, ‘Rolled Gold’ from 1998 and ‘Uptight and Outasight’ from 2004 all gain them a new audience. Tunes among many to check if picked by me would include ‘Something to Say’ ‘Strange Roads’ ‘Brain’ ‘Really Doesn’t Matter’ and ‘In My Dream.’
Amongst all that, 1998 also sees the original line up get back together for a gig on the Isle of Wight, in front of a rapturous crowd and I, plus hundreds of others, went to see them at the 100 Club a year or two later.
Drummer and actor Phil Collins was a super fan of the band and he played with them on stage in the year 2000.
‘For me, it was like playing with the Beatles’ he later recalled.
Reg went on to guest on Andy Lewis’s ‘Billion Pound Project’ in 2005, but sadly he was dead from cancer just 10 months later, aged 65.
So, ultimately, they never made a dent on the charts, but Mods of all ages loved them none the less and today they are still revered and very highly thought of.
All in all, not a bad legacy that.
The Mumper of SE5