The group’s management then turned to ‘Philips’ to further their recording career and the first offering in 1973 was ‘Suffer Little Children,’ a religious ballad recorded with a children’s choir. It was re-issued on the President label in 1981. Copies of both are very hard to find.
1974 produced a further single from Philips and the first of two albums. ‘Sing Me a Song to Make me Happy’ was a great C and W number. It was by far, the best single they had issued for years.
Radio play and several ‘guest’ spots on TV shows failed to impact on sales and sadly, the record did not chart. Interestingly, the ‘B’ side is the former Decca ‘A’ side ‘Oh How I Miss You (1967).’ This pressing is in stereo (much better for it) and the only place it can be found in that format.
The album ‘Bachelors ‘74 was meant to re-launch the group with a more modern image. Vocally it is a superb album, but somehow, the arrangements (in my opinion) do not represent the richness and depth of their later Decca offerings. There is an excellent cover of ‘Rambling Rose,’ but the highlights are most definitely the powerful ‘Wolverton Mountain’ and the inimitable Bachelors handling of ‘I’ll Take Care of your Cares.’
Their final offerings with Philips came in 1975. The first was a single ‘Roxie.’ This song recently enjoyed a whole new audience and popularity as part of the musical score of ‘Chicago.’
The album ‘Bachelors Sing-along’ was released to coincide with BBC TV’s six episode ‘The Bachelors Show,’ aired during February/March 1975 and produced by the legendary Ernest Maxin.
This album contained 32 songs in 12 tracks, eight of which are medleys produced in the ‘Sing-along’ style popularised by Max Bygraves. The Bachelors were definitely back on track with their listening public and it sold well.
Unusually, John Stokes made a welcome and effective lead vocal appearance on the tracks ‘Happy Anniversary’ and surprisingly, Hurricane Smiths ’Oh Babe what would you say?’
The Bachelors departure from ‘Philips’ heralded the demise of their recording career. Decca continued to maintain most of their back catalogue well into the 80’s and the occasional release of compilation material threw up some surprises.
The 1973 double album ‘The Very Best of The Bachelors’ contained nine tracks that had not previously been released in the UK. ‘I Climbed the Mountain’ was most definitely hit single material and it is a pity that it surfaced after they had left the label.
Predictably there were countless ‘budget’ compilations on ‘Pickwick’ and ‘Contour,’ the latter throwing up a ‘new’ number ‘Streets of London’ on the compilation ‘Stars on Sunday Volume 2’ album of 1976.
Between 1977 and 1979 three singles appeared on the Solomon’s ‘Galaxy’ label. Two of these were surprising cover versions, the 1st being ‘Torn Between Two Lovers’ which was put out after the hit version by Mary Macgregor. Labelled as ‘The Bachelors featuring Con Cluskey,’ the Tony Hatch production did little to enhance its chances against the original.
The ’b’ side was a GREAT song however! The Hatch composition ‘Old Fashioned B-Side’ was a bouncy, happy number, much more suited to their style. The concept of a ‘B’ side asking to be played so it would become a hit was novel … maybe it would have been!
This was quickly followed by ‘Save The Last Dance for me.’ Produced by Mike Hurst (The Springfields), the release of this single went completely unnoticed – even by their fan club! This is easily the rarest of all Bachelors UK 45’s and there are many collectors who would pay a good price to get their hands on a copy. Some even doubt it ever existed, so for the non-believers, it is pictured on the site, complete with spelling mistake on their name! Batchelors make tinned peas, not records!
The group’s third Galaxy single was to become their last. ‘Travellin’ Home’ was a sentimental ballad timed for Christmas 1979. Complete with bagpipe backing this Dick Rowe production did not chart even though it received good reviews, lots of airplay on Radio 2 and a TV airing on ‘Pebble Mill at One.’
John Stokes recently recalled their views at the time:
“We were convinced that Travellin’ Home would put us back into the charts. It was a great song and timed for the Christmas Season (though not an Xmas song). We were very disappointed when it didn’t become a hit.”
1979 did yield one huge chart success though. The Warwick compilation of their hits climbed to number 38 and went on to sell over 250,000 copies.
The original line up went into the recording studio(Livingston in North London) for the very last time on July 4th 1983. On this date, they re-recorded ‘Diane’ for the US compilation market, with instructions to make it as close to the original as possible. The backing track had been recorded and sent over from the States and, some 19 years later, John, Con and Dec were able to record it in one take! I was privileged to be invited by Con to witness this recording, though I had no idea of its historical significance at the time. This version of ‘Diane’ was later issued on the K-Tel compilation listed in the discography.