Saturday, January 12, 2008

Brumobit: Rod Allen

Founder and leader of the Fortunes, Rod Allen, has died following a short period of illness.

Allen was born in Birmingham in 1944, and it was with schoolfriend Barry Pritchard that he formed The Fortunes in 1960s, a group he would lead for the next forty years. Initially trading under the name The Clifftones, the group swapped from acoustic to electric guitars to become The Merry Men, working as a backing band (almost inevitably) for a Robbie Hood. The backing role didn't appeal any more than the lincoln green stage outfits, and the Men soon stopped robbing from the rich to seek their own fortune. As The Fortunes Rhythm Group.

Benefiting from the happy combination of interest in British acts sparked by the Beatles and a wider range of inspiration than many of their peers (including classical and the work of Bacharach and David) allowed the band to build a solid, more mature fan base on both sides of the Atlantic. It didn't come quickly, though - it took five singles for Decca before You've Got Your Troubles found an audience.

The Fortunes' fame was so high that they were adopted as a voice of Coca-Cola, delivering the keynote "it's the real thing" on commercials for many years.

The band were at their peak during the late 60s, when You've Got Your Troubles scored a hit, and the band were lauded at the 1966 NME Poll Winners' Show:

There was a minor wobble the same year when the band admitted that they didn't actually play on their records - one of the many dodgy "common industry practices" of the era. A bigger wobble came in 1967, when their manager, Reg Calvert was shot. Calvert was also running Radio City, a London pirate station, at the time; his killer was connected with rival Radio London. (This bloodshed was the culmination of one of the stories that pirate radio afficiandos usually fail to mention when they get misty eyed for the days of unregulated pop stations.)

The hits continued into the 70s, but with diminishing effect; however, the band were able to turn their fanbase into a perpetual touring afterlife. They had been due to play a package this month (with Barron Knights, Marmalade, and The Tremeloes); initial statements from the band indicate they intend to continue as it's "what Rod would have wanted.")

Rod had been suffering from lung cancer; he had only been diagnosed two months before his death.