If there's one thing you're likely to know about Tony Burrows, it's that he's the only man to appear on a single episode of Top of the Pops three times with three separate bands. That was in early 1970 when his session-career was at its peak and records by The Brotherhood of Man ('United We Stand'), White Plains ('My Baby Loves Loving'), Edison Lighthouse ('Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes') and The Pipkins ('Gimme Dat Ding') were all in the charts together. All of them featured him on vocals (alongside Sue and Sunny in the case of the original Brotherhood of Man).
To get to this position, Burrows had already put in a decade of work. Through the 60s he had got to know most of the songwriters who went on to dominate the early years of the next decade - writers like Tony Macauly, Tony Hiller, Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. The later two he played with in The Kestrels, a band which went back to National Service days and which supported The Beatles in the early days (teaching them, according to Burrows, how to bow in advance of the Royal Variety Show).
He subsequently joined The Ivy League (after their most successful years, unfortunately) and was still with them when they changed their name to The Flowerpot Men and had a hit with the fakeadelic classic 'Let's Go To San Francisco'. Apart from this one-off, the decade failed to reward one of the loveliest and most versatile voices in British pop, and by 1969 Burrows had had enough - he resolved to give up touring and instead made himself available for session-work on the promise that, although he'd promote stuff on TV, he wasn't doing gigs.
He was in instant demand and the series of hits in early 1970 date from the last few months of the previous year when his recording diary was full. The fact that they all hit virtually simultaneously was something of a poisoned chalice for Burrows. At the end of that record-breaking edition of Top of the Pops, he was approached by a staff member and told that he'd been unofficially blacklisted from the show - apparently it was starting to look like a bit of a fix, having him on every other record.
For the next four years, although he continued to sing on countless hits (he reckons it's somewhere around 100 top twenty hits during the 70s), he wasn't invited on TV and found his own records didn't get played on the radio. The record that broke that streak was probably his best: 'Beach Baby' by The First Class, a beautiful recreation of 60s high school pop written by John Carter, another one of The Flowerpot Men. I was also quite fond of the follow-up, 'Bobby Dazzler', which took the piss out of 70s pop manipulation and which was consequently ignored by the industry.
Burrows is still singing, though his love of cricket seems to be even more important to him, and is gradually starting to get the recognition his work deserves. Admittedly there's some ropey stuff in there, but even on the weak material, his singing is almost always worth hearing.
Brotherhood of Man
1970 United We Stand (#10)
1970 Where Are You Going To My Love (#22)
1970 United We Stand (#13)
1970 Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) (#1)
1970 Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) (#5)
1974 Beach Baby (#13)
1974 Beach Baby (#4)
1970 Gimme Dat Ding (#6)
1970 Gimme Dat Ding (#9)
1970 My Baby Loves Lovin' (#9)
1970 I've Got You On My Mind (#17)
1970 Julie Do Ya Love Me (#8)
1971 When You Are A King (#13)
1973 Step Into A Dream (#21)
1970 My Baby Loves Lovin' (#13)