Clem Cattini

Born: August 28, 1937 in Stoke Newington, North London

As with most pop music, rock’n’roll generally places its focus on the singer and the ideas being conveyed in the lyrics. In its first decade of existence, however, rock also featured a large number of groups that specialized in instrumental music. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, instrumental artists like the Ventures, Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, and Link Wray (the man credited with inventing the power chord) played an important role in codifying the new sound of rock. For starters, they helped to firmly establish the guitar as rock’s lead instrument, a role it has yet to relinquish to this day. However, the lack of vocals also allowed the drummers in instrumental groups to shine. Drum-centric hit records of the period included Cozy Cole’s “Topsy Part 2,” Sandy Nelson’s “Teen Beat,” and the Surfaris’ omnipresent “Wipe Out.”

Rock instrumentals were also exceedingly popular on the British scene. We’ve already mentioned the Shadows, who were closely followed in stature by another important group, the Tornados. The Tornados were the creation of the legendary Joe Meek, Britain’s first independent rock producer. Like Phil Spector and other producers in the U.S., Meek made incredible-sounding recordings on his own terms, and leased them to labels for distribution. In 1961 he formed the Tornados, featuring drummer Clem Cattini, and they released the futuristic “Telstar.” It was the first British rock’n’roll record to top the American charts, reaching number one in December 1962, more than a year before the Beatles broke the U.S. wide open.

Cattini’s tenure with the Tornados lasted until 1965, when he graduated to the “trenches” of studio work. These players worked long hours for low pay, often pumping out an album in a day or two, many times completely unaware of the artist for whom they were actually working. Mostly self-taught, Cattini’s philosophy in the studio was “Simple is better.” It served him well, and his solid feel can be heard on thousands of tracks, many of them huge hits by the likes of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates (“Shakin’ All Over”), Joe Cocker (“With a Little Help from My Friends”), Lou Reed (“Going Down”), and the Bee Gees (“Run to Me”). Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, his résumé also included the likes of Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, the Bay City Rollers, Lulu, and Jeff Beck, plus a twelve-year house gig on Britain’s biggest rock TV program, “Top of the Pops.”