In 1963 my mother bought her first and, I’m fairly sure, last pop record. I was five – and this is it.
For years it sat in a pile alongside her 78s by Stanley Holloway and Noel Coward and some cheap musical theatre soundtrack LPs – Gigi, Salad Days, My Fair Lady, The Sound Of Music, being brought out occasionally to be played on an ancient gramophone. It was called Just Like Eddie and it was by someone called Heinz.
The song is notable chiefly for its insistent circular guitar riff which I now discover, to my amazement, is played by a teenage Ritchie Blackmore. Yes, THAT Ritchie Blackmore.
The single was produced by Joe Meek, a budget British version of Phil Spector famed for creating innovative recordings in his flat above a shop on the Holloway Road – and for finding pretty young boys to sing on them. One of those was a German lad called Heinz Burt, the bass player in another Meek band The Tornados, who had topped the charts with Telstar.
Meek was in love with Heinz and determined to make him a solo star despite the obvious drawback of his terrible voice, which meant another singer’s vocals had to be dubbed over his first single. Indeed, his singing was so bad that was attacked onstage when he toured with Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis – and had baked beans thrown over him.
Ritchie Blackmore had begun working as a session guitarist for Meek when he was only 15 and performed in his house band, The Outlaws – also including Chas Hodges – who backed Heinz on this song. Both would become more famous – Hodges as one half of Chas & Dave and Blackmore as the rock superstar in Deep Purple and Rainbow.
Heinz was less fortunate. Just Like Eddie, a homage to his hero Eddie Cochran, who had died in 1960 in a car crash near Chippenham – he yells “C’mon everybody!” in the middle and the intro references that song – was his only hit.
He lived briefly in Meek’s flat but fell out after ill-advisedly introducing his girlfriend to his infatuated landlord and mentor. He then moved out after a row about royalties, leaving beside some of his possessions, including a shotgun – the same shotgun Meek used to kill his landlady, and himself, on the anniversary of Buddy Holly’s death in 1967.
Heinz’s later efforts included a country single as bad as its memorably awful title Diggin’ My Potatoes, and a peculiarly jaunty take on Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright) before turning his hand to acting, appearing in panto in the Seventies, and even in a David Hare play – in which he played a dim-witted wannabe rock star.
He also worked for a while in advertising at The Dagenham Post before returning to music on the revival circuit – his backing band in a 1972 rock’n’roll show included Wilko Johnson and John B Sparks of Dr Feelgood. He carried on performing even after a stroke and a diagnosis of motor neuron disease left him wheelchair-bound in his fiftires, right up to his death in 2000.
He was, appropriately for his name, aged 57.