Spectropop remembers

DICK ST. JOHN (1940 - 2003)

With partner Dee Dee, purveyor of the classic 'The Mountain's High'.

Richard St. John Gosting, otherwise known as Dick St. John of the duo Dick & Dee Dee, has died following a fall at his home. He was 63.

It is often stated that there was little of merit in popular music between the explosion of rock'n'roll in the mid-'50s and the British beat boom of 1963. But many excellent records stem from the early-'60s, one being the extraordinary single by Dick & Dee Dee, 'The Mountain's High'. On first hearing it is hard to tell whether this high-pitched screeching with a raucous backbeat was intended as a parody of rock'n'roll or the real thing, but time has revealed it to be a great record.

Dick St. John began singing and writing songs in high school. He was impressed with another student, Mary Sperling; they worked out their harmonies and wrote songs together, notably 'I Want Someone', which became the B-side to 'The Mountain's High'. They recorded a demonstration record of 'The Mountain's High' for $15, but Rona Records would only accept it if it was reworked as a cha-cha. Undeterred, St John went to Lama Records and they recorded it with production by the Wilder brothers. With Sperling supplying some bizarre harmonies, St John took the melody, overdubbing high falsetto to complete the record. It was released under the name of Dick & Dee Dee and reissued under the banner of Liberty Records as they had national distribution. They performed it on the television show American Bandstand, and it soared to No 2.

In the UK, the duo competed with local cover versions of their song from the Mudlarks and Ronnie Carroll. When David Jacobs offered Dick & Dee Dee's record for the panel's opinion on Juke Box Jury, the mechanism went wrong and it took four attempts to play it. It only scraped into the UK Top Forty. They had further success in the US with 'Tell Me' and then, moving to Warner Brothers, entered the charts with 'Young And In Love' as well as two tunes they did not write, the folksong 'Turn Around' and John D. Loudermilk's 'Thou Shalt Not Steal', on which they emulated the frenzy of 'The Mountain's High'. They toured with the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, and recorded versions of Jagger and Richards's 'Blue Turns To Grey' and 'Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind', both produced by the Stones' manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. Their success worked against them, however, as several other duos became popular - Paul & Paula, Dale & Grace, and Nino Tempo & April Stevens - and so created competition, where none had existed. Dick & Dee Dee came on promotional visits to the UK, but, despite their efforts, 'Use What You Got' (1965) failed to chart. They were regulars on Jack Good's US TV show Shindig! but none of their later songs captured their early success.

In 1969 they split up, shortly after recording 'We'll Sing In The Sunshine'. They married different partners, and Dick revived the duo, this time with his wife, Sandy. Together they wrote The Rock & Roll Cookbook (1993) with Pamela Des Barres, which featured recipes from such unlikely cooks as Iggy Pop, Michael Jackson and Little Richard.

Spencer Leigh -The Independent

Dick St. John Gosting, singer and songwriter: born 1940 - died December 27, 2003.