The Magic Highway


An Interview with Clem Cattini

Clem CattiniWHEN Tony Christie's revamped Is This To Way To Amarillo topped the UK charts in 2005, it further enhanced one of the most remarkable achievements in British pop history.
    The drummer on the single, first recorded in 1971, was Clem Cattini .. and its arrival at No 1 meant Clem had played on an incredible 43 chart-toppers. That's more No 1s than Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts put together. As well, Clem has featured on countless other hits and album tracks which, although not peaking at the top spot, are just as well-known.
    Those songs included San Bernadino, and these tracks from Christie's first album: Put Your Money Down; New York City; Down The Mississippi Line; and Here I Am. Although credited on the album, Mike Blakley never hit a drumstick in anger in those sessions. The rest of the tracks featured ex-Zombies drummer Hugh Grundy.
    (It has also been rumoured that Clem played on Yellow River. But, as most pop historians know, it was The Tremeloes who provided the backing for that song, and therefore the drummer who featured was Dave Munden, who in fact provided the lead vocals on the Trems' version of the song.)
    Clem rose to fame as drummer with the instrumental group The Tornados, which included legendary producer Joe Meek and whose biggest hit was Telstar. After Clem left The Tornados, he carved out a reputation as the epitome of the reliable session musician — turning up on time and immediately being able to perform on whatever music was required, a talent that allowed a record to be made in cost-effective fashion during a time when pop songs were simply being churned off the production line.
    "My motto was there's another record to make; go make it," Clem said. "People ask me now if I realised I was the busiest session man; I didn't. I thought everybody was as busy as I was."
   During his most frantic period of employment, including the Christie sessions, Clem had to haul his own gear around London, either in a car or in the subway. "Nobody told me when I started playing drums that I would have to carry the things," he laughed.
   Clem was born in London, and his fateful start came after he and his mates watched the movie Rock Around the Clock.
    "My mate, a guitarist, said "Let's form a group"," he said. "He said "You play the drums". I said alright .. I never thought that 50 years later, I'm still doing it. I've spent my life just hitting things."

Some of Clem's No 1s:
Telstar: The Tornados; You're My World: Cilla Black; I'm Into Something Good: Herman's Hermits; You Don't Have To Say You Love Me: Dusty Springfield; Green Green Grass of Home: Tom Jones; Release Me: Engelbert Humperdinck; Massachusetts: The Bee Gees; Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde: Georgie Fame; Everlasting Love: Love Affair; Legend Of Xanadu: Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich; Those Were The Days: Mary Hopkin; Love Grows: Edison Lighthouse; Son Of My Father: Chicory Tip; Billy, Don't Be A Hero: Paper Lace; I Love To Love: Tina Charles; So You Win Again: Hot Chocolate; Save Your Love: Renee and Renato; Is This The Way To Amarillo: Tony Christie