Michael George Farr
b.30 June 1941 – 18
Professionally known as Mike Leander
A music arranger and record producer for Decca Records in the 1960s and Bell Records in the 1970s and worked with such artists as Marianne Faithfull, Billy Fury, Marc Bolan, Joe Cocker, The Small Faces, Van Morrison, Alan Price, Peter Frampton, Keith Richards, Shirley Bassey, Lulu, Jimmy Page, Roy Orbison, Brian Jones and Gene Pitney. He is perhaps best known as co-writer and producer for Gary Glitter throughout the 1970s.
Leander also worked as a producer/arranger with Ben E. King and The Drifters on the Atlantic record label and was the arranger on The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home” from the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album (the only time The Beatles recruited someone other than their producer, George Martin, to provide orchestration.)
Jim Economides, a versatile American producer introduced Marc to Decca Records, who signed him on August 9th, and to the label’s Musical Director Mike Leander. Marc and Leander worked on some songs at Mike Leander’s house before recording at Decca London on the 14 September, ‘The Wizard’ and ‘Beyond the Risin Sun’ and an American folk standard ‘That’s the Bag I’m In’. Both Marc’s compositions were chosen as tracks for a possible first release and acetates were produced in early October
On November 12th Marc appeared on ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ promoting his debut single, The Wizard the performance didn’t go well with the backing track playing out of sync. Also appearing on the programme that night were fellow Decca artists The Small Faces, The Nashville Teens and Tom Jones, and, touring in the UK at the time, Wilson Pickett
THE WIZARD / BEYOND THE RISING SUN , was released on November 19th. Both tracks had full orchestral backing arranged by Mike Leander with backing vocals by The Ladybirds
As Marc had been promoting his name as ‘BÖlan’ (being spelt with an umlaut), when he received a demonstration copy credited to ‘Bolan’, he requested that the umlaut’s be added!
The single received a positive review from critic Derek Johnson of the New Musical Express wrote:
‘Try and catch Marc Bolan’s self-penned ‘The Wizard’ – it has a most intreaguing lyric, and his Sonny Bono-like voice is offset by a solid thumping beat, strings and ethereal voices…’
On November 23rd Marc performed The Wizard on TV’s ‘Five O’Clock Funfair’ On December 30th Marc returned to the studio for a second Decca session, again under the guidance of Mike Leander, looking for material for the follow-up single, and recorded four demos – Rings Of Fortune, Highways, Reality and Song For A Soldier. Acetates were produced but the songs were not used.
During the start of 1966, Leander, unable to secure a deal with any of the new material, lost faith in Bolan, however Economides pushed Marc for further material and was finally presented with a song that the producer felt was suitable for a new single. Taking him to De Lane Lea Studios in London, he brought in popular session bassist John Paul Jones to give the track some edge, this time Marc was fronting a ‘studio band’, playing his guitar and providing his own backing vocals, having the opportunity to double-track his vocal for the first time. The song …THE THIRD DEGREE / SAN FRANCISCAN POET was released on June 3rd 1966.