Skip Bifferty was an English psychedelic rock band formed in early 1966. The band featured future members of Ian Dury and The Blockheads. Skip Bifferty were formed when Newcastle upon Tyne band The Chosen Few (featuring Alan Hull, later of Lindisfarne) changed their name and recruited a new singer, Graham Bell, to replace Hull. Managed by Don Arden, father of Sharon Osbourne, the band were given a contract by RCA Records.
For RCA, the group released a number of psychedelic singles, including "Man in Black" (produced by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, both then in the Small Faces), and the 1967 album Skip Bifferty, most recently released with bonus tracks as The Story of Skip Bifferty on Sanctuary Records. Some of their songs were covered by established artists such as Cilla Black, The Tremeloes and The Kingsmen, and they built a following on the "live" circuit, including touring with The Who in October 1968. They also appeared in the 1960s cult film Smashing Time, featuring Rita Tushingham. However, a management dispute with Arden eventually led to the band's demise under that name in November 1968.
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Links to PeelPeel obtained a copy of Skip Bifferty's debut single "On Love" and played it on his Perfumed Garden show on Radio London and on his early Top Gear appearances on Radio 1 in 1967. He continued to support the band until its break-up, having them in session three times and writing the sleevenotes for their only LP. Among their other admirers was Melody Maker journalist Chris Welch, who wrote a couple of articles for the paper lamenting their lack of success and mentioning that Peel was impressed by them.
In 1969 the band became involved in a clever hoax, perpetrated by Time Out journalist John Leaver, who wrote an enthusiastic review of an LP by a non-existent band called Heavy Jelly, employing the standard cliches of underground press rock writing. Tony Elliott, Time Out's editor, explained to Jonathon Green (Days In The Life, London 1988, pp.286-7); ".....there was this whole kind of preciousness about records, especially from all these DJs...We just wanted to take the piss out of them and it actually had the desired effect which was that Pete Drummond, maybe John Peel, Jeff Dexter, they all had runners who would rush down the record shops to get the latest records before the other people and they were all rushing off looking for this hoax album".
In response to this demand the track "I Keep Singing The Same Old Song", recorded by Skip Bifferty, was released by Island Records as a single under the name Heavy Jelly, and later appeared on the popular budget sampler LP Nice Enough To Eat. It gained some airplay but the band did not build on its success - not least because soon afterwards another, rival band also called Heavy Jelly issued a single on Head Records.
After Skip Bifferty split up, Peel continued to show interest in the work of singer Graham Bell and reviewed a single by him in Sounds in 1973. The DJ also featured the band Arc in session in 1971; it included former members of Skip Bifferty, notably keyboard player Mick Gallagher, who was brother-in-law of Peel's producer John Walters. They later became Bell and Arc after the singer rejoined, and Peel introduced them on the In Concert programme of 27 June 1971. Gallagher also went on to appear on records by bands Peel liked - the Blockheads, the Clash and the Only Ones. And although existing playlists from 1967-68 don't show very many plays of tracks by Skip Bifferty, Peel liked the band enough to revisit their material when it was reissued on CD in the 1990s.
Festive Fifty Entries
Three sessions. Tracks available on The Story of Skip Bifferty (2xCD, 2003, Castle Music)
- On Love / Orange Lace / Yours For At Least 24 / Happy Land / Money Man
2. Recorded 1968-02-05. First broadcast 11 February 1968. Repeated
- When She Comes To Stay / In The Morning / Follow The Path Of The Stars / The Other Side Of Jesus Smith
3. Recorded 1968-07-09. First broadcast 14 July 1968. Repeated
- Once / Man In Black / Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood / The Hobbit
Other Shows Played
- 01 October 1967: On Love (single) RCA
- 21 July 1968: Man In Black (7") (RCA
- 03 November 1968: When She Comes To Stay (LP - Skip Bifferty) RCA
- 06 January 1995: (JP: 'This next is by Skip Bifferty. Now, old, old listeners to the programme will remember Skip Bifferty, probably, because they were much featured on the programmes I did at the end of the 1960s, Top Gear the programmes were called, and when they put out their only LP, I wrote the sleeve notes, and I was reading them again the other day, and pompous and self-serving they were too. My goodness me! I'm glad you can't read them. One of those lessons I learned too late, actually, not to write sleeve notes for records, because they do tend to come back and haunt you, but the LP has been reissued, thankfully without my sleeve notes, on Essex Records, and here's a track from it. It sounded pretty neat to me.')
- Time Track (CD-Skip Bifferty) Essex
- 14 January 1995 (BFBS): Time Track (CD-Skip Bifferty) Essex (JP: 'Rather good though, I think: it's stood the test of time, and a lot of the more notorious stuff from the same period certainly hasn't.')
- 17 September 1998: On Love (7”) RCA
- ABC Of Beauty
- Skip Bifferty (album sleevenotes)
- Peel On Record Cover Sleevenotes
- Peel Sessions Releases
- Melody Maker
- Melody Maker: 1968