Andy Ellison John Hewlett
Chris Townson Geoff McLelland
John’s Children were one the 1960s’ more controversial groups but have claimed their place in the history of rock. The band consisted of Andy Ellison on vocals, John Hewlett on guitar and bass, Geoff McLelland on guitar and Chris Townson on drums. The band started as The Few in Surrey in 1964. They then became The Silence. They recorded three tracks as The Silence with Down Down appearing on the Mojo compilation from May 2016. Simon Napier-Bell became their manager and they became John’s Children.
They made two early singles for Columbia. Smashed Blocked, which had to be renamed The Love I Thought I Found, and Just What You Want Just What You’ll Get. Geoff McLelland was sacked from the band in 1967 and was replaced by a certain Marc Bolan. EMI refused to issue the third single, Not the Sort of Girl (You’d Like to Take to Bed), and a “live” album called Orgasm was also not released except in the USA. Actually, Orgasm was not a live album but a studio album with the screams dubbed on from A Hard Day’s Night, hence the screams for John, Paul, George and Ringo if you listen closely.
The first single with Bolan was Desdemona. This was covered later by The Jam apparently (I never heard The Jam do it myself though). It was also a controversial release and was banned by many radio stations which objected to the line “lift up your skirt and fly”. John’s Children toured Germany with the Who where their antics and unruly behaviour almost upstaged the headliners and aided Bolan’s departure.
Read more on Johns Children in Germany
Bolan departed in June 1967 after an argument about the new single A Midsummer Night’s Scene. Bolan was apparently incensed with the production techniques used by Simon Napier-Bell that the release was cancelled. In its place, the B-side of Desdemona, Remember Thomas A Becket was released with new lyrics and was called Come and Play with Me in the Garden. It was allocated the same catalogue number. The group carried on with Chris Townson on guitar and former roadie Chris Colville playing drums and released Go-Go Girl at the end of 1967. This was another Bolan song which became Mustang Ford in T-Rex days. There is also a John’s Children version of the song as Mustang Ford.
The group split soon after a disastrous tour of Germany. Hewlett became publicity manager for Apple Records and later the manager of Sparks. Townson played with various bands including being a deputy for Keith Moon in the Who (no easy job that). Andy Ellison made four solo singles, some TV commercials and stunt work. He later emerged as the lead singer in Radio Stars who had a UK hit with Nervous Wreck.
The group reformed in June 1997 for a one-off gig at the Borderline in London. Other gigs have followed since including the Steve Marriott Memorial Event in 2001 where they played Lazy Sunday.
In early 2002 a copy of Midsummer Night’s Scene was auctioned for £3,700. This has become one of the most sought-after singles in the UK in recent years. The single had been withdrawn prior to release.
Tracks recorded by John’s Children for various BBC radio programmes were issued as part of Marc Bolan At the BBC in August 2013.
Chris Townson died in February 2008.