Star line-up for Sensational 60s Experience at Ipswich Regent next year

The Fortunes

The Fortunes - Credit: Archant

Weighing in at more than 60 dates between October and next June, The Sensational 60s Experience is just about the biggest show dedicated to the music of that decade.

The Ivy League

The Ivy League - Credit: Archant

This time, the line-up is colossal, with one single artist and five – yes five - groups.

The sole solo act this time is the ever-popular Chris Farlowe, whose rendition of Handbags ad Gladrags is always a showstopper. This year is special though for him, because it’s 50 years since England won the football World Cup and Chris’ worldwide smash hit Out Of Time was on the top of the charts on that historic day.

He will be backed by The New Amen Corner, who will be performing the hits of the Welsh band such as Bend Me Shape Me and If Paradise Is Half As Nice.

Hermans Hermits, stalwarts of the tour in past years, will once again perform their 1960s hits with I’m Into Something Good, No Milk Today, Silhouettes and There’s A Kind Of Hush still getting the crowd on their feet and singing.

Hermans Hermits

Hermans Hermits - Credit: Archant

The Swinging Blue Jeans will also be along playing the likes of Hippy Hippy Shake, You’re No Good and Good Golly Miss Molly.

The Fortunes, whose hits spread over into the 1970s with You’ve Got Your Troubles, Here It Comes Again and Storm In A Teacup, are making their debut on the tour. As guitarist and singer Mike Smitham tells me, they nearly did the very first tour almost a decade ago.

“Another tour came up and we did that instead.”

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It’s a decision he has come to regret.

Chris Farlowe

Chris Farlowe - Credit: Archant

“Yes, we made a mistake there. The Geordie Boys (promoters Alan Wearmouth and Billy McGregor) always put on a great show and they always look after the bands.”

Mike has been with The Fortunes for more than 30 years and is really looking forward to the tour.

“I am really up for it. We still love touring, especially when we’re up on stage. The worst part of it is the travelling as I do all the driving,” he adds laughing. “Seriously though, I’ve been a professional for 45 years and it’s the best time ever.”

Mike loves the music and is in no doubt why it is still popular.

“The music evokes a special time in people’s lives – a candle that burned brightly and everything that has happened since has been a pastiche. I still get a shiver when I hear the music.”

As there are so many acts on the tour, time is limited.

“We’re only doing about 25 minutes or so and obviously people want to hear the hits. We’re all well-oiled musicians and all good friends so it’ll be a blast.”

The lack of time does mean keyboardist Bob Jackson won’t be able to play the songs from his other band, Badfinger.

Sometimes Geoff Turton of the Rockin’ Berries plays keyboards with the band, but not on this tour.

“I keep telling him that he’s too old for The Fortunes,” laughs Mike. “And he cheats at golf.”

The lack of time is something that will affect The Ivy League, but singer and bassist Jon Brennan puts a positive slant on it.

“We’re only getting 20 minutes this time. We got 28 the last time, but there are so many acts on the bill. It’s very limiting, but it’s good for the fans as they see more artists.

“For us though, it seems as if you’re just getting going and you have to stop. It makes for a quick show though and we like to please everybody, so we’ll still get in the hits (which include Funny How Love Can Be and Tossing And Turning).”

Jon loves the Sensational 60s tours.

“This will be our third, and I compered one when the usual compere, Alan Mosca from Freddie and The Dreamers was unavailable. We absolutely enjoy these tours, because the audience have paid money to see you, they are already on your side as you take the stage and that’s enjoyable.”

The enjoyment of the tour will be tinged with sadness as after the tour ends, The Ivy League are calling it a day.

“Tell Jon I want his suit,” Mike interjects.

“That’s right,” Jon says with a hint of regret in his voice. “The actual truth is our drummer Dave wanted to retire. We have been together 48 years now and decided if either of us wanted to retire we’d give each other a year’s notice.

“We’re doing it reluctantly and it’s never the right time, but we wanted to finish with something nice rather than waiting for the phone not to ring. We do have two more gigs after the tour ends next June and then that’ll be it, a complete stop with no one-off shows.

“If it has been a few years ago, we might have suggested getting someone in, but none of us are getting any younger and what better way to bow out than with such a great show. The music will never die.”

The Sensational 60s Experience featuring Chris Farlowe, Hermans Hermits, The Fortunes, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Ivy League and The New Amen Corner will be appearing at the Ipswich Regent next March 4.

At every show there will be the chance to win a guitar signed by all the acts on the bill – and in the tour programme is a very special music quiz by yours truly.