EVERY UK NUMBER ONE SONG: ‘Apache’ – The Shadows

What was the number one song in the UK on 25th August 1960?

By Hayley Beasley Dye

English instrumental band The Shadows were number one for 5 weeks with Apache.

So here’s The Shadows doing their thing without their mate Cliff. If you haven’t heard this classic instrumental track, then I would like a written explanation as to why from your mother by close of play today. The American western vibe of this tune will have you imagining stand-offs between cowboys and smokin’ guns. It’s actually quite a simple tune, but catchy nonetheless. Though having said that, I do start to get bored of it after listening to it for a minute.


English songwriter and composer Jerry Lordan came up with the tune. The title “Apache” reflects the source of Lordan’s inspiration: the 1954 American western film Apache.

The original recording was by British guitarist Bert Weedon in early 1960. It remained unreleased for several months. In mid-1960 the Shadows were on tour with Lordan as a supporting act. The band discovered “Apache” when Lordan played it on a ukulele. Lordan figured the tune would fit the Shadows; the band agreed.

The recording was done at the EMI Abbey Road Studio in London. Singer-guitarist Joe Brown had bought an Italian-built guitar echo chamber that he did not like and gave it to Hank Marvin, who developed a distinctive sound using it and the tremolo arm of his Fender Stratocaster. Bruce Welch borrowed an acoustic Gibson J200 guitar from Cliff Richard, the heavy melodic bass was by Jet Harris, percussion was by Tony Meehan and Cliff Richard, who played a Chinese drum at the beginning and end to provide an atmosphere of stereotypically Native American music.

Record producer Norrie Paramor preferred the flip side, an instrumental of the army song “The Quartermaster’s Stores”, now called “The Quatermasster’s Stores” after the TV series Quatermass. Paramor changed his mind after his daughter preferred “Apache”. It has been cited by a generation of guitarists as inspirational and is considered one of the most influential British rock 45s of the pre-Beatles era. In a 1963 NME article, The Shadows said, “What’s the most distinctive sound of our group? We often wondered what it is ourselves. Really, it is the sound we had when we recorded “Apache” – that kind of Hawaiian sounding lead guitar … plus the beat.

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