The First Class
(Read all about First Class after the Video)
The First Class were a British pop music studio-based group, put together by songwriter and record producer John Carter.
The First Class was the studio creation of the British singer-songwriter John Carter and singers Tony Burrows and Chas Mills, as an outlet for material Carter wrote with his creative partner and wife, Gillian (Jill) Shakespeare. Carter was the veteran of the early 1960s beat music, most notably Carter-Lewis and the Southerners, a band Carter formed with fellow producer Ken Lewis. That band dissolved when Carter and Lewis began working extensively as studio singers, appearing on the hits "It's Not Unusual" (Tom Jones), "I Can't Explain" (The Who), "Hi Ho Silver Lining" (Jeff Beck), "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me" (Sandie Shaw), "Excerpt From A Teenage Opera" (Keith West), and "Out of Time" (Chris Farlowe).
The band's biggest hit, "Beach Baby", was written by Carter and Shakespeare in the summer of 1974. After it, Carter immediately enlisted the help of Burrows and another session singer, Chas Mills, to record the song for Jonathan King's UK Records record label under the name The First Class. In 1974, the song became a hit in the UK (where it peaked at #13), and in the US, where it peaked at #4.
The group recorded a follow-up single, "Bobby Dazzler", and material for their eponymous first album, The First Class. While there was some demand for live performances by the group, neither Carter nor Burrows had the time for or interest in touring. So, a group including bassist Robin Shaw, lead singer Del John, guitarist Spencer James (lead singer with The Searchers), keyboardist Clive Barrett, and drummer Eddie Richards was assembled to perform a number of dates as The First Class. Although that quintet was pictured and credited along with Carter, Burrows, and Mills on the cover of the band's first album, none of the "live" quintet actually performed on "Beach Baby" or any of the album's other tracks.
"Bobby Dazzler" and later singles, "Dreams Are Ten a Penny", "Won't Somebody Help Me", and "Funny How Love Can Be" (a remake of the Ivy League hit) failed to chart. After releasing an unsuccessful second album, SST, in 1976 (with a drawing of the Concorde supersonic transport airliner featured on the cover), Carter, Burrows, and Mills saw no need to continue under the First Class moniker and the group effectively ceased to exist.
Chas Mills subsequently retired from the music industry to run a restaurant in North London. Although Tony Burrows did not have another hit single other than "Beach Baby" with First Class, Tony Burrows became known as the sole artist with at least five hit tunes attributed to him under five different groups, the artist known as "A one hit wonder...five times." Tony Burrows was also the lead singer on the song "Love Grows (Where my Rosemary Goes)" with Edison Lighthouse (although some You Tube videos of the era show other singers lip syncing to his vocals, it was Mr. Burrows' voice on that hit song. You can view him singing "Love Grows" when it was aired on "Top of the Pops" via You Tube). Tony Burrows also sang on the hit song by White Plains, "My Baby Loves Lovin'" with his frequent collaborator Roger Greenaway. Tony Burrows sang lead male vocals on the hit by Brotherhood of Man, "United We Stand," also with singer and song writer Roger Greenaway. Tony Burrows and Roger Greenaway were also paired in their early years as musical group "The Pipkins," with a top hit song called "Gimme Dat Ding." Mr. Burrows and Mr. Greenaway individually continued on to numerous successful ventures and occasionally perform together reviving their former hit songs. John Carter remained active writing jingles and managing his back catalogue. Carter later reflected on The First Class: "Making the First Class albums was a very happy and creative time. Who knows if we ever come up with another suitable song, maybe we will all get back together one day and record under that name again?"