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Hello was formed in north London in 1971 by teenagers Bob Bradbury (vocals), Keith Marshall (guitar), Vic Faulkner (bass), and Jeff Allen (drums, brother of Ultravox's Chris Cross), originally gigging around the local youth club circuit as a covers band called the Age. It was in this guise that they were discovered by Argent songwriter Russ Ballard and the Zombies' old road manager David Blaylock -- then working as a plugger for the Chappell Music publishing company. The pair originally envisioned the group as an outlet for Ballard's non-Argent songwriting output -- their first-ever recording session saw Hello tackle "Can't Let You Go," a Ballard composition which would subsequently give '60s superstar Barry Ryan his first hit of the new decade. Weeks later, they recorded "You Move Me," the Ballard rocker which would become their Bell Records (U.K.) debut single in early 1972. The single did nothing and when another Ballard composition "C'mon" followed it into oblivion, Blaylock (now the band's manager) began looking elsewhere for material. Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, then riding high with hits by the Sweet and New World, offered one of their own latest compositions, "Dyna-Mite"; Hello recorded a dramatic version of the song, only for its scheduled release to be canceled by producer Mike Leander, in favor of the band's own "Another School Day." Chinn and Chapman took the song back, handed it to Mud and promptly scored a massive hit. "Another School Day," on the other hand, went nowhere and Hello disappeared from recorded view for much of the next three years. They continued gigging, however, and by early 1975 had built up sufficient acclaim to take seventh place in the New Musical Express' "Best New Band" readers poll. Riding this quite unexpected success, Hello's next single proved to be the breakthrough they had been searching for. A glam rocked rendition of the Exciters' early '60s hit "Tell Him" made number six and that despite the song having already appeared on another Mike Leander production, the Glitter Band's Hey album. Hello returned to the Glitter Band catalog for their next single, "Game's Up" -- a Top 30 hit in Germany, but an inexplicable failure at home. A similar fate awaited the quartet's next release, a version of Amen Corner's 1968 U.K. hit "Bend Me Shape Me." It took a reunion with Russ Ballard to break Hello out of the rut, as his "New York Groove" catapulted the band into both the British and German Top Tens and launched Hello into a period of staggering visibility. They were recruited to Australian comedian Barry Humphries' Side by Side movie, appearing alongside Mud, the Rubettes, and Stephanie De Sykes; the Side by Side soundtrack features reprises of "Game's Up" and "Bend Me Shape Me," alongside hit offerings from Fox, Disco Tex, Billy Ocean, and Gary Glitter. Their debut album, Keeps Us Off the Streets, was released, wrapped in a mock denim cover which looked great on the racks and the band's next single, Ballard's "Star Studded Sham" brought them another German Top 20 hit on the heels of a sell-out tour with Smokie. Strangely, however, the single did nothing in Britain and, by the end of 1976, Hello had all but permanently relocated to Germany. They released just one more single in the U.K., "Love Stealer"; henceforth, their releases would be available only in Germany and Japan (where they performed a string of sell out shows during 1977). "Dean," "Shine on Silver Light," and dynamic covers of "Hi Ho Silver Lining" and the Turtles' "Eleanor" were all hits over the next three years, before Hello broke up in 1979. Subsequently, guitarist Keith Marshall had a worldwide hit with "Only Crying," his first solo effort, while Bob Bradbury also attempted a late '80s comeback with the sizzling "Crazy About Dyna." The late '80s/early '90s also saw Hello's back catalog exhumed via a career-spanning retrospective on manager Blaylock's own Biff! label and an 18-cut summary of their British singles (and most legendary demos), The Early Years.
© Dave Thompson /TiVo


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