Innovative song-writer in an era before the Beatles

Alan Clayson
(from The Guardian, Thursday May 25, 2000)


In the early 1960s, Geoff Goddard, who has died aged 62, was the soul, in-house composer, general factotum and eminence grise of record producer Joe Meek's RGM Sound. Operating out of a tiny flat-cum-studio in north London's Holloway Road, RGM was a cauldron of other-worldliness, funfair vulgarity, tunes drenched in echo and technical innovations that changed studio procedures forever.

It was Goddard who, in the middle of the night, fingered the keyboard melody on the Tornados' multi-million selling Telstar in 1962 - for which he was uncredited. It was Goddard (aboive, left) who wrote the melodramatic Johnny Remember Me (1961) for singer and actor John Leyton (right).

Apart from music press coverage and an outing on Harpers West One, an ITV drama series, the disc featured in Psychic News, since Goddard had claimed that his muse had resulted from an interest in spiritualism dating from his spell in the army. Thus, during one of the twice-weekly Holloway Road seances, contact had been made with Buddy Holly who, via the tumbler, had affirmed the record's hit potential.

Goddard's later hits for Leyton included Wild Wind and Son This Is She. A perpetrator of the death disc par excellence, Goddard also specialised in tribute songs such as Mike Berry's BBC-banned Tribute To Buddy Holly, and Just Like Eddie, an Eddie Cochran homage from sometime Tornado guitarist Heinz Burt (obituary April 11).

Born and bred in Reading, Berkshire, Goddard was a chorister in a local church before studying viola and piano at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Following national service, he made inroads into pop music, and met Meek. He performed as a pianist, optimistically projected by Meek as "Anton Hollywood", complete with candelabraed concert grand - even if he more resembled a saturnine Harpo Marx. "I was seen," he told me, "as a sort of mixture of Russ Conway and Liberace".

One of Goddard's first published compositions was Lone Rider, an instrumental to which he added lyrics - about a ghostly motorcyclist cautioning the living against "taking risks for kicks". In 1962 that too was recorded by Leyton.

Two years later the Meek-Goddard partnership shattered forever. Goddard lost a legal battle over whether the Honeycombs' Have I The Right chart-topper infringed the copyright of his own Give Me The Chance. Meek meanwhile, in the wake of the success of the Beatles and a new musical era, was facing increasing commercial and mental disintegration. Goddard quit RGM Sound and Holloway Road.

Weary of the shabbier aspects of the music industry, his withdrawal into anonymity was of his own choosing. The artistic motivation seemed to have gone out of his life. The most notable post-Meek ripple he made was in writing My Head Goes Round for Cliff Richard's Tracks And Grooves album (1969).

Later the once vastly successful songwriter took a job in Reading University's catering department. He just did the clearing up, he told me, he was nobody of any importance, he thought - although once in a while he did get recognised.

Yet he was not a recluse, neither did he renege on his past. Last year I gave a talk at Reading University's sociology faculty on "mortality in the popular song" - and there he was, with his sometime RGM colleague Lord Sutch (obituary June 19 1999). And he was always pleased by public attention, as when Just Like Eddie, transformed, became the (mildly lucrative) Just Like Shreddies for a television commercial. As for Johnny Remember Me, it was frequently revived - by anyone from Showaddywaddy to Dave Vanian and his Phantom Chords.

By the mid-1980s the royalties had been drying up. Then his London music publisher got in touch, asking Goddard to drop by. The songwriter went down to Reading University's students' union, found a telephone and rang the publisher. Thus was he told that he had a platinum disc waiting for him; Bronski Beat and Marc Almond's medley of Donna Summer's I Feel Love and Johnny Remember Me had sold more than 300,000. Goddard, completely out of touch with the modern music business, had never heard it. However, its success prompted him to resume song-writing.

In 1991 he was interviewed on a Channel 4 documentary on his sometime collaborator Joe Meek, who, finally deranged, had committed suicide after murdering his landlady in 1967. In the 1990s Goddard was heard on piano at various university functions, notably at end-of-term Christmas celebrations where students could wonder why the clearer-up inserted ancient pop songs like Johnny Remember Me and Just Like Eddie in among the carols.

•: Geoffrey Goddard, songwriter, born 1938; died May 15 2000

Geoff Goddard also wrote the Heinz hit, Just Like Eddie.  This is Geoff's demo that he recorded for Joe Meek.