The revival of interest in the music of the late 1950s and early 1960s that occurred in the mid-1970s hit Great Britain even harder than it did America. Bands like The Rubettes, Showaddywaddy and Wizzard scored huge hits on the UK charts with modern updatings of early rock sounds.
Here in the States, the hits were harder to come by, but one British import not only cracked the U.S. market, it became a bigger hit here than in its native England. The record was a tribute to the Beach Boys and the early 60’s surf music called “Beach Baby.” The artists behind the record were known in the UK as The First Class. In America, “the” was dropped and DJ’s simply called them First Class.
What’s the real story behind he song?
Like a lot of one-hit wonders, First Class began as a collection of session musicians. John Carter and his wife Jill Shakespeare wrote the tune and then recruited Tony Burrows (formerly of Edison Lighthouse) and Chas Mills to help them record it. The song did well enough in England, reaching #13. But across the Atlantic, “Beach Baby” reached #4 in the U.S. and #1 in Canada.
The album version of the song is quite a bit longer than the single (as was the fashion at the time). If you listen closely, you’ll also hear a touch of Sibelius's Fifth Symphony near the end of the song.
With “Beach Baby’s” tremendous success, there was a demand for the band to perform live. None of the session players had much interest in that. So, Carter recruited lead singer Del John, guitarist Spencer James, Robin Shaw on bass, Clive Barrett on keyboards and drummer Eddie Richards to be the “live” First Class. That’s the live group on the record sleeve – although none of the guys pictured actually played or sang on the record.
Unfortunately, although First Class (the studio guys) released 2 albums and multiple singles, they never came close to a second hit. Except for Tony Burrows. Besides having had hits with “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” and “Beach Baby,” Burrows also lent his voice to “My Baby Loves Lovin’” (White Plains), “United We Stand” (Brotherhood of Man) and “Gimme Dat Ding” (Pipkins) – making him a one-hit wonder 5 times over!