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faq

The Fivepenny Piece FAQ

This page lists many of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about The Fivepenny Piece. If you have any questions, please look here first - there's a good chance your question may be answered here. If not, then you can contact us.

Here's a list of the questions answered on this page:

Who are The Fivepenny Piece?

January 1969 photoThe Fivepenny Piece are a five-piece band formed originally in 1967 in Stalybridge in northern England - all members of the band were from Stalybridge or nearby Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire. Originally called The Wednesday Folk, they used to meet up at Ashton's Broadoak Hotel on Wednesday evenings to entertain the locals. This is an early publicity photo of the band from January 1969 looking seriously folky! Click on the small picture to see the full-size version.

The original band members were:

  • John Meeks (guitar, vocals)
  • Lynda Meeks (vocals) - John's sister
  • Eddie Crotty (guitar, vocals)
  • George Radcliffe (bass, vocals)
  • Colin Radcliffe (guitar, vocals) - George's brother

Colin Radcliffe and John Meeks formed a prolific songwriting partnership and penned many of the band's songs, although the other members also contributed material, notably Eddie Crotty's humorous Lancashire-style songs.

The band continued with the original line-up until 1981, when John Meeks departed, to be replaced by Trevor Chance. A year or two later Lynda left and was replaced by Andrea Mullins (a former member of The Caravelles). The band broke up in 1985, but it was subsequently reformed and is still occasionally gigging today. By 1996 the line up still included Andrea, Eddie and George, with the addition of Pete Brew and famous Lancashire singer/actor/comedian Bernard Wrigley.

Sadly, George Radcliffe passed away in December 2002, leaving Eddie as the only member of the original band in the line-up. Even Eddie has had health problems and for a while Norman Prince (formerly of the Houghton Weavers) stood in for him at gigs. The Fivepenny Piece continued to perform for a while with the last recorded line-up being Eddie Crotty, Andrea Mullins, Alan Taylor, John Eatock and George's replacement Paul Johnstone.

Although the other three original band members Colin, Lynda and John had retired from the music business; in 2004 came the great news that John Meeks had returned to the studio and recorded a new CD, with some old favourites from the Fivepenny Piece days, plus some brand new songs.

What type of music do they play?

A difficult one to answer, is this! The Fivepenny Piece are usually categorised as "folk", but this is misleading, as they rarely played true folk music - whatever that is! They played mainly original material which covers a broad spectrum of styles which makes them difficult to pigeon-hole. The music ranges from what might be described as 'pop-folk' (typified by The Seekers), to Easy Listening/Pop, to 'Lancashire' music - songs in the Lancashire idiom reflecting their roots.

The apparent simplicity of the songs and the accompaniment is belied by the complexity of many of the lyrics which are by turns meaningful (as in folk protest songs); humorous (Lancashire humour, of course!); surreal (occasionally verging on being nonsensical); and romantic (love songs) - but even that doesn't cover the full spectrum of their work. The variety of material nearly always makes for interesting listening.

Particular strengths of the original band were the Lancashire humour illustrated best by Eddie's vocal contributions; the strong songwriting partnership of John and Colin; Lynda's pleasantly agreeable - oh, go on then - gorgeous voice; and George's excellent bass playing at the heart of the rhythm section - not to mention his lugubrious expression and famous floppy hat! The excellent harmony singing of the whole band on many of their songs should also not be overlooked.

The current band has a multi-talented line-up and features Andrea, Alan, John and Eddie variously on vocals, with Alan on violin and mandolin adding a bit of musical colour to the guitar-based sound. As ever, the humour comes from everyone in the band!

How well-known are they?

The Fivepenny Piece are best known and remembered in their home territory of Lancashire and nearby areas of the North-West of England, but they were widely known across the UK during their heyday in the 1970s, thanks to their many TV appearances in those days. Their big break came in 1968 when they won the popular TV talent show New Faces, still under their original name Wednesday Folk. As well as getting a new name, they were signed up by the prestigious Noel Gay agency and given a recording contract with EMI records. Their public profile was enhanced by a residency on Esther Rantzen's weekly BBC-TV programme That's Life, which was watched by huge numbers at its peak. They also had their own BBC TV series, following one they shared with fellow "Lanky" funny man and singer Mike Harding. For more details of their TV appearances, see the 5PP on TV page.

The band may not be quite so well known these days, but they have still got plenty of loyal fans all over the world, who remember the Fivepenny Piece's music and Lancashire humour with great affection.

Have they made any records?

The Fivepenny Piece made more than a dozen albums throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, as well as a number of singles. Their first single was issued in 1969 on EMI's UK Columbia label. Their EMI records were initially produced by Bob Barratt, who seems to have specialised in regional acts - which is what The Fivepenny Piece were - such as the West Country's favourite sons The Wurzels. See the Fivepenny Piece Discography for a list of all their records, with full track listings, release dates, etc.

Were their records successful?

The Fivepenny Piece's chart career was brief - none of their singles got into the national charts, but they did make the Top Ten UK albums with their 1976 magnum opus King Cotton, and the earlier 1973 album Makin' Tracks made the top 40. However in the early and mid-1970s their records sold in large enough numbers to satisfy EMI, especially in their home area of the North-West, where the locals were happy to buy recordings of songs with titles like Stalybridge Wakes, I'm Powfagged and The Ashton Mashers.

Later in the 1970s the group's popularity outside their home area appears to have tailed off, and their EMI contract is assumed to have not been renewed. The band switched to Polygram where they had a couple of albums released. Following the departure of Lynda Meeks, the album Here We Are Again was issued on a small independent label. This consisted of some new songs, some covers and reworkings of some of their previous records, such as Big Jim.

One much sought-after record Lanky Spoken Here!, issued on EMI, featured The Fivepenny Piece with other Lancashire artists including Gary & Vera Aspey, Bernard Wrigley and Bob Williamson. The record was a Lancashire dialect tutorial, interpersed with humorous songs. The 'Lanky' words and phrases were 'translated' into English by the posh-voiced former BBC newsreader Robert Dougall, among others.

Are any of their records available now?

The short answer is - yes, but not enough of them! Although the band in their 1970s heyday made over a dozen albums for EMI and Polygram (not including compilations), only two compilation CD of this prodigious output is available at present.

A significant recording featuring the Fivepenny Piece and also available on CD is the 1978 recording Lanky Spoken Here! - a must for anyone learning the Lancashire dialect!

The shameful lack of availability of the Fivepenny Piece's material is something the band and their fans are pledged to rectify - if you have any influence over the record companies concerned, please try to put pressure on them!

Meanwhile, it's not all gloom - we are pleased to announce that founder member and leading composer John Meeks has brought out a CD in 2004, with new versions of some of the old songs, plus some brand new ones. The CD is available exclusively from the band at out online shop.

What is their proper name?

Is the band properly known as "The Fivepenny Piece" or just "Fivepenny Piece"? The band's correct name has always been unclear - other variants are "(The) Five Penny Piece" (with "Five Penny" as two separate words) or even "5 Penny Piece". Many people have asked this question, as the confusion makes it difficult when searching for information about the band on the Internet.

This hasn't been helped by the band themselves or the companies issuing their records. Both Fivepenny Piece and The Fivepenny Piece have been used by the band members, and all of the variants above have been used at different times on record covers or labels, right from the very start. The demo version of the band's first single gave their name as Five Penny Piece whereas the regular issue label showed Fivepenny Piece. Then the group's first album was titled The Fivepenny Piece, and the four LPs following were credited to the same. After that, the rest of their EMI albums reverted to Fivepenny Piece. To sum it all up, the single Save Your Last Kiss For Me showed The Fivepenny Piece on the sleeve, and just Fivepenny Piece on the label. Confused? You should be!

So, the answer is that either Fivepenny Piece or The Fivepenny Piece is correct, but the other variants are not. 5 Penny Piece was used as a kind of logo for the band on the covers of three of their albums issued in 1977-1978, which is probably how this particular one started. However a glance at the labels show that the band's proper name was Fivepenny Piece - at least, it was at that time! The name 5PP is simply an unofficial shorthand for the band's name.

Anything I can do to help?

If you know anything of interest about The Fivepenny Piece, want to point out any errors in this website, or simply want to 'e-natter' about the band, then contact us. We are particularly interested in knowing about any records not listed in the Discography.


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