"Well I woke up this morning, you were on my mind...I got troubles...I got worries...whoa woe!"
Those poignant, touching and as it turned out, prophetic lyrics made an instant impression on the Sixties pop scene, when they were delivered by a shy young singer with a soft, melodious voice.
In the wake of 'You Were On My Mind', his first smash hit, Crispian St Peters was hailed as the best new voice of the era. Here was a British singer who could rival the giants - PJ Proby, Gene Pitney even Elvis himself! The good-looking balladeer became an overnight sensation as 'You Were On My Mind' and 'The Pied Piper' plucked him from obscurity and thrust him into stardom.
Crispian made as much as he could of the sudden media interest. He became a pop star with attitude, who launched a tirade of outspoken comments guaranteed to hit the front pages.
The new star told the world he could write better songs than the Beatles, and sing as well as Elvis Presley. "I'm gonna make Presley look like the Statue of Liberty. I'm sexier than Dave Berry and more exciting than Tom Jones and the Beatles are past it".
There was a storm of outraged complaints from Elvis and Beatles fans, but Crispian didn't seem to care. Money poured in from hit records and world tours and a bright future beckoned. On stage Crispian proved adept at blending ballads, rock-n-roll and country music and the new singing 'find' seemed set to follow Proby into the big time.
Crispian St Peters certainly enjoyed his new found fame. He lived it up and rubbed shoulders with show biz celebrities as he roamed swinging London's night clubs.
But behind the facade of pop success problems mounted and danger lurked. His boastful image, entirely the work of his manager, backfired as the weekly music papers started to castigate the upstart.
After a year or so the hits stopped coming and the flow of money proved illusory. Over a slow period of decline Crispian St Peters found himself broke and abandoned. He carried on working. There were tours and club gigs. He never stopped singing. But his magical moment of stardom had passed.
The long term effect of this fall from grace would prove disastrous. Many of his contemporaries would fade away, but few Sixties pop stars suffered quite as badly as Crispian. His brief years of fame and success were to be blighted by a life of poverty, rendered worse by illness and neglect.
Yet life seemed bright and full of fun and promise when Crispian St Peters, an enthusiastic ex-soldier called Robin Peter Smith, first found himself at the top of the international pop charts.
Smith was born in Swanley, Kent on April 5, 1939 in the house where he still lives today. When he was growing up Swanley was still a compact rural village. He has childhood memories of the fields and farms when Kent was still called the 'Garden of England,' before it became encroached upon by a network of motorways and shopping malls. Swanley is now an awkward, shapeless piece of ribbon development on the southern fringes of Greater London. I met Peter, as he's better known to his friends, in a Swanley pub one summer's day in 1996. He was happy to talk about his life and the songs featured on this 'Best Of' tribute CD. He chatted with good humour, interspersing wry jokes and asides, as he recalled his past brushes with the music industry. "I was crazy!" he laughed, when he admitted he'd sometimes sign contracts without even reading them. For Crispian, business was always a mysterious affair, best left to the experts. This laissez-faire attitude has not always been to his advantage. Over the years he has suffered from three nervous breakdowns, a divorce and most recently a stroke which left him paralyzed in one arm. But he carries on doing what he knows best, performing for all those who appreciate a good song, sung with Crispian's special warmth and feeling.
Sipping a pint of Guinness Crispian recalled his childhood. "I was a war baby. I remember the doodle bugs (V1 flying bombs) coming over and landing in the farm land. They used to make great big holes in the potato fields.!"
At school, like most kids of his generation, he was inspired by the skiffle star Lonnie Donegan who had caused a sensation when he started a one man folk and blues revival.
Says Crispian, "I started out singing with a six piece Skiffle group back in 1956. You only had to know three chords and you were a musician! We used to work down at the Chislehurst Caves for three pounds a night." They also played at the legendary Skiffle Cellar in Soho's Greek Street. After a while skiffle began to pall and Crispian and his mates delved into rock-n-roll and country music. They began to play songs by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Hank Williams.
Leaving school,Crispian worked by day at a nearby paper-mill, and played gigs by night. Then his skiffle career was interrupted by National Service in the Army. While he was training he managed to escape from the barracks to see a concert by Gene Vincent and Sounds Incorporated. It was an inspiring occasion and Crispian was determined to get back into the music business. He began writing his own material and dreamt of forming a group.
"I eventually came out of the army and began singing in working men's clubs in a duo called the 'Two Tones'".
Crispian quickly tired of this limited format and started a more dynamic rock-n-roll band called the Beat Formula Three, sometimes called the P-Mix. "We began touring and then in 1964 I met a record company man called David Nicolson who would become my manager. That's when it all started."
Nicolson was working for EMI in their music publishing department. After hearing some of Crispian's demos he signed him to his own Cash Records company for a ten year management and production deal. He arranged record distribution with the Decca label and gave his new artist a new name. Henceforth Robin Peter Smith would become Crispian St Peters. The idea of using a stage name was no problem. In skiffle days Crispian had been known as Woody Smith.
In the process of grooming him for stardom, Beat Formula Three were dumped and replaced by the Puppets from Preston. They were deemed a more professional group who had backed top singers like Jess Conrad and Tommy Bruce.
Nicolson's protégé released two singles for Decca, 'At This Moment' and 'No, No, No' which were nail bitingly unsuccessful. In some desperation Nicolson persuaded Crispian to cover a plaintive American song called, 'You Were On My Mind' which had been recorded by the American quintet We Five. Their version got to number No. 3 in the US Top 40 in July 1965. Recalled Crispian: "David said 'Try the song, please' and I said 'No. it's horrible! I don't want to do that.' He got down on his bended knees to my mother and said: 'Please get him to do this, it's going to be a hit'. And of course it was. I wish I'd had the money for it though."
The record was produced by David Nicolson at Advision studios, New Bond Street, London in 1965, and was recorded on a simple 4-track Ampex machine. Backing was provided by organist Harry Stoneham with Vick Flick from the John Barry Seven on lead guitar. Intriguingly a young Jimmy Page also played rhythm guitar and got paid the princely sum of £12.00 for the session.
Crispian believes Rex Bennett was on drums and Ronnie Seabrook played bass. The 'soft-loud' arrangement was quite unusual in it's day which enabled Crispian to show off his vocal range. The single was almost lost in the pre-Christmas rush of 1965, but carried on selling well into the New Year. By January 'You Were On My Mind' was rocketing up the UK Top Ten peaking at number 2. It was an American hit a year later when Crispian's version got to number 36 in the Billboard chart.
St Peters further established his hold on the charts with follow up single 'Pied Piper' which leapt to number 5 in the UK and got to number 4 in the States during a 12 week run. "It was also Number One in Canada!" says Crispian proudly. "I appeared on TV and did 'Ready, Steady, Go!' and 'Top of the Pops' several times. I even did a tour of America but everything was thrown together to quickly."
After 'Pied Piper' Crispian had another hit with a Phil Ochs song called 'Changes' which got to number 47 in the UK in September 1966. While the royalties were slow in coming Crispian was getting some financial reward from all his hard work through touring. "I bought a Jaguar Mk11 which I'd always wanted, which I later gave to my road manager! Then I bought myself a new 3 litre Rover, which was a lovely car.
In an age when every word a pop star uttered was splashed on the front page, Crispian became an increasingly controversial figure. "They called me the Cassius Clay of pop because me and PJ Proby were always arguing. But it wasn't me saying all that. It was Nicolsons idea. I don't normally say boo to a goose. It was all a big show that I put on. Deep down I'm really shy."
Crispian boldly carried on living it up. "After the shows, I enjoyed the women, sex and booze!" He loved going to clubs and remembers seeing Jimi Hendrix for the first time at Blaises. "The Beatles were in the audience and Jimi was really outstanding. After the clubs I spent most of my time at Heatrow Airport going off to tour Germany, America and even Singapore. I'd pick up a group in each country. The best backing band I ever had was in Australia."
Everything seemed to be going well. Then gradually he found himself playing working men's clubs. "It was a nightmare really, I just did it for the money, which wasn't a lot."
In 1970 he stopped touring when he had his first breakdown. "It happened after I got married. I had married the wrong one. I was in love with a fraulien who incidentally, I haven't seen now for thirty years. Then I had another breakdown and then another one all during the Seventies. It was caused by the music business....and adultery."
Crispian split with his old manager and later began working with composer Roger Rounce who wrote such tunes as 'Oh Caroline', 'It Ain't The Same' and 'Country Roads (I Almost Made It Back). The latter tune was intended as a sequel to the old standard 'Take Me Home Country Roads which Crispian recorded under the name of 'Wheels' in 1971.
In 1990 Crispian recorded an album called 'New Tracks On Old Lines' which Roger Rounce produced and included 'Country Roads (I Almost Made It Back)' and a Rounce/St Peters composition 'Sailing Deep Water'. Crispian wrote a variety of country ballads over the years such as 'You'll Forget Me Goodbye', 'Please Take Me Back' and 'That's Why We Are Through'. His songs provided insight into his turbulent personal life. 'Sweet Dawn, My True Love', 'You'll Forget Me Goodbye', and 'At This Moment' were, he explains, all true stories about past girlfriends. 'Wandering Hobo' was written for his Uncle Arthur.
Crispian: "Arthur lived on the road for a while, as a tramp. 'Monumental Queen' was a sort of dream song, and I wrote 'Do Daddy Do' when I got married. 'Oh Caroline' was a song I did for Roger Rounce. It's very high pitched and I can't sing it anymore! He wrote 'It Ain't The Same' for the B-side. I don't know quite what I had in mind when I wrote 'Please Take Me Back'."
This song and 'Love, Love, Love' were both produced by David Nicolson and arranged and conducted by Big Jim Sullivan for the 1970 album. 'Simply' released on Square Records.
"Big Jim was a wonderful guitar player. Funnily enough I hardly ever played any of these songs on tour. When you come on stage, you need to have confidence in your material, and most of them just wouldn't come out properly. I chose to do old fashioned country stuff on stage and a lot of rock-n-roll."
Crispian admits he is now exhausted by his years in the music business.
"I can't do too much on stage any more. But I have done some shows in Germany with just myself singing and Tim Adams of the Runaways playing the guitar for me."
Crispian has also toured and recorded extensively with local group Old Crow, with whom he performs such favorites as 'Shenandoah', 'Senorita Rosalita' and 'Eighteen Yellow Roses' displaying all his old skills at delivering a lyric with a tender touch.
Looking back over his career Crispian says ruefully: "This rock-n-roll business - it wears you out. I worked it out that I only ever earnt £37,000 in forty years, which is chicken feed. But I can't blame my manager. At least he made me famous. It was always my ambition to be a pop singer but it's been a struggle. I only just scratched the surface. I've not really made it even now, but I had a good go. I'm getting tired now. I want to pack it up. I want other artists to do my songs because I'm getting too old. But then George Burns makes me look silly. He died aged 100 and he was still going strong."
CHRIS WELCH, London, 1996.
Extract from the sleeve notes of 'The Anthology' CD.