Where are they now?
Crispian St Peters.
by Bill Turney
Back in 1965 a handsome young singer by the name of Crispian St Peters burst on to the British (and later the worldwide) pop scene like an exploding thunderbolt. For the rest of that year, and throughout the whole of 1966, he could do no wrong, with a string of hits that soared up the record charts. The first massive hit in late 1965 was 'You Were On My Mind' which climbed to number two in the charts and stayed there for no less than fourteen weeks. This was closely followed by another smash hit 'The Pied Piper,' perhaps his best remembered song, which also hit the charts and peaked at number five staying in the charts for a further thirteen weeks. His third song 'Changes' in September 1966 also charted. In fact, from the day 'You Were On My Mind' first hit the charts in January 1966, he spent an incredible thirty-one weeks of that year in the top fifty. Remember that this was at a time when the competition from other singers and groups such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones was ferocious.
Nor was his success limited to these shores, he also had a massive string of hits in the USA, Canada and Germany amongst others, hitting the upper echelons of the charts in all of them. Hastily arranged tours were laid on first in Europe, then the far east and finally America. Around twenty other records were released through the rest of the sixties, mainly on the Decca label. An LP titled 'Follow Me' was also released in 1966 to accompany these successes.
Then, almost overnight, the bubble burst and gradually the name of Crispian St Peters faded; first from the record charts then from radio and television. Although he released another twenty or more records, including a second LP, 'Simply......Crispian St Peters' on the Square label in 1970 with many of the songs arguably much better than his biggest hits, his days as a major pop star were over.
Why did this happen? Why was it allowed to happen? How could a singer with a superb voice and a talent which allowed him to write almost all of his own songs (and even make his own guitars) fall from grace so quickly? At the height of his fame he was compared more than favourably with legends such as Elvis Presley, Gene Pitney and PJ Proby, his songs had the touch of greatness, his stage and television appearances were highly acclaimed yet, once he started to fall from grace, he plummeted rather than fell. The appearances dried up, his 'friends' deserted him and soon he was back to playing and singing the country music that he loved in pubs and working men clubs just trying to earn a living.
Many people would say that he was his own worst enemy, that he engineered his own destruction, some even that he deserved no better. The reason for this vitriol was largely due to comments made by St Peters regarding other groups. Mainly derogatory. He said that he was 'a better songwriter than Lennon and McCartney', could sing 'as well as Elvis Presley', was 'sexier than Dave Berry' and 'more exciting than Tom Jones'. Much of what he said was suggested by his then manager who thought this kind of comment would get him noticed. It did - and how! Soon he became widely known as the Cassius Clay of show business and the fans started to drift away. Even then however, much of what he said was just for fun and certainly not meant to be taken seriously. His tongue was placed firmly in his cheek. Crispian is basically a very shy, and gentle man with a heart of gold. Neither he, nor his manager, could have expected, or been prepared for, the incredible furore that ensued. The pop newspapers lapped it up and exploited it to the full at every opportunity.
Elvis fans, Beatles fans, Tom Jones fans, in fact virtually everybody turned against him. The pop music papers continued to revile him as did television shows who, just weeks earlier, were literally begging him to appear on their shows. Even Decca, his record company, apparently turned against him by withdrawing his last single ironically titled 'So Long'.
Crispian St Peters never knew what had hit him. From being a potential world superstar just a few short weeks ago he was now virtually an outcast.
Despite many heartbreaking years trying, he never had another chart success.
Many people suffered greatly in the sixties, some from poor management, others from the fickle hand of the record buying public. Few, I doubt any, have suffered so much or for so long as Crispian St Peters. During the seventies he suffered three nervous breakdowns one after another, his wife left him taking his two children and he became largely dependent on alcohol. His health deteriorated steadily over the years and he has lived most of his life since those days in pain and poverty. More recently he has suffered a stroke and been left partially paralysed in his right arm. Yet, even now, he has still managed to retain his shy good humour and can laugh at many of his past exploits and misfortunes, though it is plain, even after more than thirty years, that he is still hurt by how he was treated. Amazingly, after all the years of heartbreak, he is still singing occasionally in the pubs and clubs around Kent though now mainly to raise money for charity. Even more amazingly, his voice is still as strong as ever, a little deeper, more husky perhaps, but still with that magical ability to move.
He has managed to release several cassettes over the years often at his own expense or with the help of friends. He released 'New Tracks On Old Lines' a collection of new country songs mainly written by Roger Rounce in 1990 on cassette. 'Night Sessions -Vol1' with his backing group 'Old Crow,' another country collection, followed in 1993. This was also on cassette though a new CD version has now been released. He is currently working on 'Night Sessions - Volume II' which is due to be released next year. Some of his best self-penned country and pop songs are available on 'The Anthology' a CD released by Repertoire in Hamburg in 1996 who also released his first LP 'Follow Me' on CD in 1991 with extra rare tracks added. These are not easy to find but are still available. I can strongly recommend them to anyone who likes a good song, well sung.
Crispian has now written well over two hundred great songs and recorded more than half of them. His style has changed little over the years, retaining the warm vocal quality which made him a star. He still sings the old standard hits, along with a little rock and roll, some gospel and lots of country music, which has always been his first love. His songs and records have also encompassed, monologues, pop, western, comedy, and gospel.
If you get the rare chance to see him perform live take it, you will not be disappointed. If you can obtain his records they are still a great bargain, though they are now collectors items and becoming increasingly rare and expensive.
It is time to finally forget the past and judge Crispian St Peters solely on his ability as a singer and songwriter. He will not be found wanting.
With warm thanks to Crispian St Peters for his generous help.
This article has been reproduced in several magazines including 'The Beat Goes On' and 'Record Buyer'
© Bill Turney