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Foot Tapper - the Shadows

While many musicians have acknowledged Duane Eddy's influence, few carried the torch of his musical legacy more proudly and overtly than Hank Marvin of the Shadows, who in turn inspired a generation of would-be British guitarists. While having no US hits at all, the Shadows are the most successful instrumental UK group ever (20 Top twenty hits in the six years 1960 - 1965 including 5 number ones!)

Given that Hendrix was American, Marvin might even be the surprise winner of a poll on who was the best British guitarist, especially if the voting was confidential given his decidedly uncool appearance to modern eyes. Okay, okay, you'd have Beck, Page, Clapton and Peter Green, but he'd be up there.

Among many terrific and underrated Shadows' tracks from the early sixties, "Foot Tapper" most feels like the soundtrack to the movie of my childhood. Marvin's fluent guitar jauntily embraces the day-to-day bustle of life and Brian Bennett's driving yet relaxed drums lend the track a carefree optimism that raises your spirits and makes you feel like dancing.

Small wonder then that the song was written at the request of genius filmmaker Jacques Tati for the soundtrack of his movie masterpiece "Playtime". Tati requested they write a song for him after seeing the Shadows in concert in 1961, but after waiting two years, they released it in 1963, shooting for the film having been delayed indefinitely due to shortfalls in funding. "Foot Tapper" reached number one.

The brilliant and hilarious "Playtime" began filming in 1965 and finally came out in 1967. Around 1980 I happened to hear Spike Milligan being interviewed on a local radio station. The interviewer introduced him as a "comedy genius" but Milligan demurred, saying he wasn't a genius, and that the word should be kept only for the very best and should not be used lightly. When asked who he therefore thought WAS a comedy genius, he said he could only think of one living example and that was Jacques Tati. Amusingly the interviewer had never heard of Tati.

Another very funny man is poet and performer Martin Newell who I was lucky enough to programme a couple of times in the nineties and who nailed the great influence of Hank Marvin to his bedroom door in his confessional poem "I Hank Marvin", simultaneously a paean to lost youth and the poetical equivalent of the Who's "Pictures of Lilly".

I Hank Marvin

I Hank Marvinned

We all did

With cricket bats

In front of a mirror

In our bedrooms

After school

I Hank Marvinned

Quite regularly

My mother nearly caught me

What were you doing?

Nothing Mum

Cricket bat still warm

I Hank Marvinned


On the bed sometimes

Standing up

I knew the dance steps

I thought I'd grow out of it

When I got married

But the other day

When she was out

They played Apache

On the radio

And I Hank Marvinned

In the living room

I straightened the place out


But somehow she found out

I'd been seen

You Hank Marvinned

At your age?

She made me burn my cricket bat

And see a psychiatrist

I go to special group now

Once a week

They give us all cricket bats

And blackframed spectacles

And we have to do it

Hank Marvin

In front of everybody

It's pathetic

Half a dozen men

In their late thirties

Cricket bats in hands

Spectacles on

Doing the dance steps

Grinning inanely


Of our former selves

-Martin Newell, The Independent 18/12/90.


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