The Italia Conte theatre school has turned out a hell of a lot of actors and actresses in its time, but traditionally has been a bit thin on pop stars. David Van Day is the exception. His training at the school included a bit of singing and dancing and after leaving he found himself a job with the Young Generation, a dance troupe who were regulars on light entertainment TV series like The Rolf Harris Show.
By the end of 1974 he was appearing in a stage production of The Wombles in Manchester when he was contacted by Julie Forsyth - another former pupil at Italia Conte. She'd been approached by the songwriting team Arnold, Martin & Morrow about joining a new harmony pop band to be called Guys & Dolls. They already had a single recorded - featuring all the usual suspects like Tony Burrows and Sunny - and just needed half a dozen pretty faces to front it for TV. The only other offer on the table was an HTV pilot about a space-boy called Sky and, as David says, 'being a pop star is more fun,' so he joined Guys & Dolls.
Even though he was a member of the group, he says his first exposure to the single - 'There's A Whole Lot Of Loving' - was, like the rest of us, on the Tony Blackburn show on Radio One. Blackburn played the single to death in early 1975 and almost single-handedly pushed it to #2. It was, let me hasten to add, a deserved success: it's a superbly over-the-top song set against one of Andrew Jackson's lushest orchestrations.
But what should have been the first step in a career to rival that of The New Seekers turned out to be pretty much a one-off. There were two problems: firstly, Arnold, Martin & Morrow wrote some great songs, but they didn't write very many of them, and the follow-up, 'Here I Go Again', wasn't much cop. (Actually they'd given the obvious follow-up, a song called 'Love Matters' from the first Guys & Dolls album, to a new band, Chips, who promptly disappeared without trace.) Secondly, the band decided that they wanted to get involved in making the records. So 'Here I Go Again' was sung by lead vocalist Dominic Grant in his Scott Walkeresque voice, which didn't sound anything like David Martin's delivery on 'There's A Whole Lot Of Loving', to which he had previously mimed. Very confusing for us pop kids, it was.
The group continued for a couple of years and had one more big hit with a cover of 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me', but that was 1976 - punk and disco were just arriving and this was no time for a semi-established band to be getting any attention.
David Van Day and Thereze Bazar, as the two youngest and most glamorous members, decided to leave the band but were fired before they could jump. Having successfully taken their case of unfair dismissal to an industrial tribunal and won compensation, they formed Dollar and started a more substantial run of hits. They even, once they began working with producer Trevor Horn, became fashionable in the early 80s amongst critics like Paul Morley at the NME.
Those hits can still be heard in concert, performed curiously by a version of Buck's Fizz, in which David Van Day now sings alongside Mike Nolan.
1975 There's a Whole Lot of Loving (#2)
1975 Here I Go Again (#33)
1976 You Don't Have to Say You Love Me (#5)
1976 Stoney Ground (#38)
1978 Shooting Star (#14)
1979 Who Were You With In The Moonlight (#14)
1979 Love's Gotta Hold On Me (#4)
1979 I Wanna Hold Your Hand (#9)