British rock and rollers of the fifties didn't come any bigger than Marty Wilde (he is six foot four tall after all). Nearly all his big hits, including Endless Sleep, Teenager In Love, Donna and Sea Of Love, were covers of American hits. I dislike covers with a vengeance but his were credible cover versions, not wishy washy imitations. And he bucked the trend by having his self-penned Bad Boy covered by an American (Robin Luke). He was a star of 6.5 Special, Oh Boy and Boy Meets Girls, before his career declined in the early sixties but, as the dad of Kim Wilde, he has been involved in the music business ever since his first Philips 78, Honeycomb, in 1957.
These days Marty appears frequently with his band the Wildcats in theatres around the UK so it was
good to see him in the much more intimate surroundings of the Half Moon in Putney. Marty still looks good and his voice remains strong but this was not so much an night of rock and roll as an evening of nostalgia. The crowd, many of them women of a certain age from Hartlepool apparently, was enthusiastic and sang along throughout, making it more like karaoke at times. But Marty couldn't really be blamed for that: it's what his loyal fans expect.
He stuck to well known numbers, beginning with Promised Land and Runaround Sue and moving on to Danny, his version of Conway Twitty's Lonely Blue Boy, before leaving the stage to the band, led by Neville Martin on guitar, for a few numbers, including Nut Rocker and Runaway. After a good version of Endless Sleep he whipped up the crowd with a couple of cowboy songs - Ghost Riders In The Sky and Rawhide - before finishing the first half with a tribute to his fellow Larry Parnes stablemate Billy Fury, Halfway To Paradise, then his cover of Sea Of Love and a lively Viva Las Vegas with noisy audience participation.
The second half was more of the same, although Roy Orbison's I Drove All Night was a surprise, but with even more of a karaoke feel to it, with a string of oldies including Magic Moments, Wooden Heart, What Do You Want and Living Doll. Highlights were his original Bad Boy, decent stabs at Little Sister, Matchbox and Rock Island Line and three of his biggest hits - Frankie Laine's Jezebel, Donna and Teenager In Love. He finished off with just a hint of rock and roll with Roll Over Beethoven. His final number, the slowish I Was Born To Rock And Roll, really sums up Marty's life. After all these years, and at the age of 74, he's still at his happiest, it seems, performing with his band. It may not be rock and roll, but his fans like it. And why not?