Tony Burrows sang on a handful of familiar, early-70s bubblegum records, but don’t bother flipping through your parents’ box of 45s, because you probably won’t find his name or face on too many of the labels. Tony was the uncredited British session singer who “fronted” a handful of those one- and two-hit-wonder bands whose hooks are still taking up considerable space in your author’s unconscious. But, you sure don’t see his face popping up too often in the promotional videos and performances for the songs he helped make famous.
“Love Grows” by Edison Lighthouse? That’s Tony (though lip-synched here by some other handsome fellow). “Beach Baby” by First Class? That’s totally Tony (although, again, that’s not him jivin’ and a’mimin’ in the video either). “My Baby Loves Lovin’” by White Plains? Oh, you better believe that’s Tony (and nope, for the hat trick, that’s not Tony in the video either — That’s Robin Shaw, one of First Class’ backup singers).
But! As for Tony’s appearing in the flesh: friends, it happened that on one weird day in 1970, Tony Burrows did something that’s still unprecedented (captured in part on the video shown above). Tony Burrows performed three times on the same episode of “Top of the Pops” — singing with three different chart-topping bands of the day. A record that remains unbroken and which, at the time, instantly made him a persona non grata to the BBC:
When Brotherhood of Man were announced, out came Tony Burrows to sing the hit song. After completion, he strolled offstage to make room for another act, White Plains — who just happened to be represented by Burrows, who once again took his place in front of the microphone. At the show’s conclusion, when the No. 1 hit was finally announced, chart-toppers Edison Lighthouse were invited up to perform — and, yes, it was Tony Burrows once more.
The show’s producers were aghast, and after wiping the egg off their faces, the reportedly unofficially banned the three-timing Burrows from ‘Top of the Pops’ out of sheer embarrassment.
A few record covers
So, I’m just guessing somebody got sacked a couple weeks later when, again according to this awesome article, Tony snuck onto TOTP for a fourth appearance — this time to sing the paint-peelingly awful/catchy “Gimme Dat Ding” by The Pipkins.
There’s an exhaustive Tony Burrows fansite with an informative rock family tree, plus sleeve art and more information on the man’s many other appearances, including “United We Stand” by Brotherhood of Man, and — we’re going deep catalog here, kids — Tony’s 1967 psych-pop band The Flowerpot Men, who gave us the lovely, Brian-Wilson-escent “Let’s Go to San Francisco.”
The man got around.
The man who — before producing Barry Manilow and before being invited by George Plimpton to be publisher of the freaking Paris Review — was the uncredited voice of The Archies on hits like “Sugar, Sugar”.
Seriously. Don’t even get me started.
—Merlin (for the vacationing Jeese)