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About The Chosen Few

Newcastle's The Chosen Few were a very good band that failed to connect, despite the presence of several prodigiously talented members who were to go on to much bigger success in groups like Lindisfarne and Ian Dury & the Blockheads. They were formed out of the remains of two earlier Newcastle bands, the Unknowns and the Cresters, and came along at around the same time that Eric Burdon, Alan Price, and company were forming up what would become the Animals. The Chosen Few were similar to the Animals in many respects, performing American-style R&B with an organ-and-guitar lead instrument pairing, and a charismatic lead singer -- their keyboard player, Mickey Gallagher, had even subbed for Alan Price on his exit from the Animals. They were also different from the Animals in that lead guitarist Alan Hull wrote original material that shared space in their repertory with covers of Tamla-Motown songs and other R&B from America.

The quintet recorded two singles for Pye, and got picked up for a publicity campaign by Hohner organs, but the records failed to sell, and they began breaking apart in 1966, after being dropped by their label following the failure of their second single, "Today Tonight and Tomorrow." The latter, written by Hull, was a beautiful, lyrical, almost pop-like number (ornamented by some gorgeous and not complicated guitar and organ flourishes by the composer and Gallagher), with catchy hooks and superb singing -- not sounding like the Animals or any other familiar band, but uniquely The Chosen Few.

Hull and bassist Alan Brown exited around this time in 1965, Brown out of music altogether while Hull moved into more of a folk music idiom and joined another Newcastle outfit, Downtown Faction (later the Brethren), which later became Lindisfarne, for a time one of the most successful rock bands ever to come out of Newcastle and one of the hottest groups in England.

Meanwhile, their replacements in the Chosen Few were John Turnbull (guitar) and Colin Gibson (bass). When vocalist Rod Hood departed, they and Gallagher, with drummer Tommy Jackman, reorganized the group under the name Skip Bifferty, a pop-psychedelic band who recorded for RCA. Gallagher and Turnbull later formed Arc, and Bell & Arc, played on Dana Gillespie's third album, and passed through a group called Loving Awareness, whose drummer and bassist, Charlie Charles and Norman Watt-Roy, formed the core of Ian Dury & the Blockheads, with Gallagher and Turnbull joining up on their second and third albums. As a solo guitarist, Turnbull also played with former Chosen Few guitarist Alan Hull during one of his solo career stints in the '70s, between his intermittent involvement with Lindisfarne. ~ Bruce Eder

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