Spectropop remembers

IAN SAMWELL (1937 - 2003)

The composer of the British rock'n'roll classic 'Move It'; without him, Cliff Richard might still be Harry Webb, retired clerk.

Born in London, Samwell was brought up in Harrow, Middlesex. A member of a local church choir, he wrote some hymns in a skiffle style and then, on National Service at Royal Air Force Hendon, bought a guitar and continued to compose. Looking for an opening in a pop group, he frequented coffee bars, including the 2 I's in Soho's Old Compton Street. It was there, just before his demobilisation in May 1958, that he heard a credit control clerk, Harry Rodger Webb, accompanied by two chord-slashing guitarists. Afterwards, Samwell offered his services as Webb's lead guitarist. The singer was to confess that "but for that meeting with Ian, I might still be Harry Webb, clerk." The following weekend, Samwell played his first engagement as one of what was to become Cliff Richard and the Drifters.

When EMI's Norrie Paramor contracted Cliff Richard, he planned that the singer's first single should be a cover of Bobby Helms' minor American hit 'Schoolboy Crush'. Richard persuaded Paramor to let Samwell play with the session musicians. Moreover, the B-side was to be 'Move It', completed on the bus en route to the studio. 'Move It' fired the enthusiasm of Jack Good, producer of the ITV pop show, Oh Boy! Its reception on the show led to its elevation to the A-side, and in September 1958 it became a top five hit.

Samwell was also responsible for the follow-up, 'High Class Baby', which was coupled with 'My Feet Hit The Ground'. Samwell wrote 'High Class Baby' standing at a rainy bus stop in Barnet, north London, "imagining I was playing Jerry Lee Lewis's piano." By the time this dropped out of the Top 10, Samwell had been edged out of the group and was offered a songwriting deal. The Drifters - soon to be renamed the Shadows to avoid confusion with the American Drifters - recorded Samwell's 'Feelin' Fine' as their first release without Richard. Further Samwell hits for Richard included 'Dynamite', 'Mean Streak' and, with the Shadow's Hank B Marvin, 'Gee Whiz It's You'. In 1959, visiting New York, he placed 'Say You Love Me Too' with the Isley Brothers, which was, claimed Samwell, "possibly the first R&B song by an English writer to be recorded in America."

In 1963 he co-wrote 'You Can Never Stop Me Loving You', with Kenny Lynch. It was a hit for Lynch in Britain and for Johnny Tillotson in America. By then Samwell had become a London ballroom disc jockey and was doubling as a record producer for Sounds Incorporated, Georgie Fame, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and other acts. It was through Samwell, too, that the Small Faces' career began. With a title borrowed from Doris Troy and a chord sequence from Solomon Burke, Samwell and Brian Potter wrote 'Whatcha Gonna Do About It', a 1965 British top 20 hit.

By the end of the 1960s, Samwell was in-house producer at Warner Brothers' London office. He brought Linda Lewis, Al Jarreau and the group America to the label. The latter's million-selling 'Horse With No Name' was made under Samwell's aegis. He worked, too, with Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian and The Grateful Dead. Samwell spent his final years in Sacramento, California, recording mostly local talent. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Alan Clayson -The Guardian

Ian Ralph Samwell, songwriter and record producer: born January 19, 1937 - died March 13, 2003.