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From The Who to Tom Jones: A Romford boy’s story of 60s rock’n’roll

PUBLISHED: 12:54 23 October 2017 | UPDATED: 12:55 23 October 2017

The Candles in 1963 with with Kathleen Merrett, left, fan club secretary and Mary Bennett, right. Picture: The Candles

The Candles in 1963 with with Kathleen Merrett, left, fan club secretary and Mary Bennett, right. Picture: The Candles

The Candles

From supporting iconic acts like The Who and Tom Jones to violent clashes between Mods and Rockers, the life of Colin Stoddart was never boring.

The Candles performing at Quarles School, Harold Hill, in 1963. Picture: Romford RecorderThe Candles performing at Quarles School, Harold Hill, in 1963. Picture: Romford Recorder

And now the former musician has published a book charting the rise of his band The Candles from school, while also paying homage to 60s Romford.

Named Mods to Rockers, it describes Havering’s music scene at the time, the excitement of supporting famous bands and the clashes with police that made national news.

Born in Romford in 1943, Colin’s affiliation with rock‘n’roll began during his teenage years spent St Edward’s School, now based in London Road.

He recalls being “completely bored” with the show tunes and swing of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin that he was exposed to as a child.

A Romford Recorder report on the Candles. Picture: Romford RecorderA Romford Recorder report on the Candles. Picture: Romford Recorder

But this all changed upon hearing the then relatively unknown Elvis Presley’s 1955 release, Baby Let’s Play House.

“Wow”, recounts Colin, 73.

“That was my introduction to rock‘n’roll and wanting to play the guitar.

“I kept playing the record over and over again.”

The Candles supporting The Who. Picture: Arthurs, Woodchester, StroudThe Candles supporting The Who. Picture: Arthurs, Woodchester, Stroud

Rock’n’roll brought Colin together with his St Edward’s classmates John Wilkinson, Martin Palmer and John Rixon in 1959.

After a handful of shows at St Edward’s Youth Club, the group became Johnny Lonesome and the Travellers in 1960, and left school the next year with their reputation already growing.

The band frequently played

in Romford at Pettits Lane Youth Club and Lambourne Hall.

The Candles after their last gig. Picture: The CandlesThe Candles after their last gig. Picture: The Candles

Their real highs however, came at Wykeham Hall, in Market Place, where they performed numerous times across the mid 60s both as headliners, and as support for the likes of Johnny & the Hurricanes and The Dave Clark Five.

It was this venue, Colin believes, that helped put Romford on the musical map, as it hosted “live American and British groups performing”.

In many ways Romford in the 60s, he says, “was like most suburbs outside of London” complete with a “high street, a couple of cinemas and a local dance hall”.

Colin bemoaned how all that was on offer was “resident bands with saxes, trumpets or drums or records, but no live rock‘n’roll music!”.

Colin Stoddart's book about his band The Candles. Picture: Colin StoddartColin Stoddart's book about his band The Candles. Picture: Colin Stoddart

Perhaps the stand out moment of the band’s career came on March 13, 1965.

Under their new name, The Candles, Colin’s band were the main support act for The Who at Tottenham’s Club Noreik, just nine months before the release of their debut album, My Generation.

He remembers the night vividly and how “they [The Who] had managed, in one fell swoop, to surprise and capture everyone’s attention”

After the gig, The Candles realised what they had seen, but Colin details that none of them “wanted to admit that they [The Who] were very good and we felt threatened”.

As well as the band’s career, the book also addresses the widely reported violence between Mods and Rockers in the first half of the 60s. Colin challenges the conventional wisdom that the infamous 1964 clash in Clacton was the beginning of their conflict. He asserts that the press surrounding the event “fails to acknowledge that the first actual skirmish between Mods and Rockers took place nearly three years earlier”.

He writes that he was involved in this first fight in St Osyth, a small village five miles away from Clacton, in 1961.

He claims the violence resulted in local police rounding up “thirty perpetrators” and confiscating “two double barrelled shotguns, a single barrelled shotgun and a

selection of other small weapons ranging from chains, studded belts, a bayonet and a knuckle duster”.

Mods to Rockers is Colin’s

first work, and says his desire to write a reaction to a trend of big name rock biographies glossing over groups’ formative years and focusing on their fame and wealth.

Colin, who now lives in southern Spain, hopes his book will offer its readers something “a bit different”.

Mods to Rockers: A 60’s Rock‘n’roll Journey was released earlier this year, and is available on Amazon both as an e-book and in paperback.

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