Of all the Liverpool bands desperate to escape the long shadow of The Beatles in the 60s, The Clayton Squares (named after a city centre landmark) were, ironically, the most worthy heirs to the Fab Four’s throne.
A headlining Cavern draw, the Scouse sextet possessed an infectious mod swagger with which they infused the two cracking singles they cut for Decca during 1965 and 1966, plus a handful of long-lost recordings made for Pye under the aegis of the Stones‘ manager and producer, Andrew Loog Oldham.
The Clayton Squares first hit their stride when bassist Arthur Megginson was replaced by Geoff Jones, of local Merseybeat act The Georgians, in 1964.
With original rhythm guitarist Brook Williams also gone, Jones joined former Flintstones guitarist Peter Dunn, and sax players Mike Evans and Les Smith in the Squares’ best-known lineup.
But it was only after Denny Alexander, a natural, charismatic frontman, stepped into Terry Hines’ shoes in February 1965 that the sextet made headway on the recording front – albeit with a crude taping of three tracks cut live at the Cavern (where the Clayton Squares headlined three or four nights a week – thanks to the fact that they were managed by owner, Bob Wooler).
The resulting EP contained workmanlike renditions of Watch Your Step, Hey, Good Looking and Tell Me How You Feel.
On 31 March 1965, the group joined Gene Vincent, Sandie Shaw, Petula Clark, Manfred Mann and The Kinks for a French TV special filmed at the Cavern. Unbeknownst to the band, London music impresario Don Arden was in the audience and was “blown away” by the scousers’ dynamic stage set.
Arden asked Bob Wooler for a 50% share in The Clayton Squares in return for a recording session with Andrew Loog Oldham.
The band cut an EP’s worth of material in the first week of April. Unfortunately, Arden and Loog Oldham soon fell out and the recordings vanished.
Disappointing as that was, it wasn’t long before the band were summoned to the big smoke to cut their debut single, the infectious mod stomper Come And Get It, which was coupled with original composition And Tears Fall – complete with a slightly out of tune flute part courtesy of Les Smith.
The band appeared on Ready, Steady, Go! and the single stormed to the top of the Liverpool charts, punching its way to #2 on Radio London. Nationally, however, it stalled at a measly #68, but proved enough of a success to warrant a US release on MGM later that year.
Saxophonist Les Smith made way for Albie Donnelly and over the next six months, The Clayton Squares shared the bill at London’s Marquee club with a who’s who of British rock royalty, including The Yardbirds, The Action, The Move and The Troggs to name but a few.
Further lineup changes took place before the release of their second (and final) single, a cover of John Sebastian’s There She Is, produced by legendary producer Glyn Johns. The 45 stiffed.
Despite a memorable residency at the Star Club in Hamburg that summer, Don Arden had lost interest in his charges and The Clayton Squares started to unravel, finally calling it a day after a gig in Southport.
A Spanish club owner offered the musicians a three-month contract at the Imperator Club in Madrid so, substituting singer Karl Terry for Denny Alexander, and drummer Tommy Maguire for Bobby Scott, the band renamed themselves The Squares and decamped overseas (where they were billed as Los Squares).
Escalating tensions between the British and Spanish governments over the ownership of Gibraltar meant that the band were suddenly given 24 hours notice to leave Spain – or face arrest.
In recent years, The Clayton Squares’ tracks have surfaced on numerous LP and CD compilations.
Les Smith was killed in a freak motorcycle accident in the early 70s, while Lance Railton and Bobby Scott also passed away, in 1989 and 2010 respectively.
Mike Evans became a noted music critic, and Albie Donnelly earned critical and commercial plaudits for his work with Supercharge.
Denny Alexander and Geoff Jones returned to Germany, working separately in different bands before eventually abandoning rock music as a career.