Terence Allen was born on May 26, 1944 in South Wales, and moved with his parents to Hereford around 1960. After seeing Pete Watts and Dale Griffin play with The Anchors at the Cabin in 1963, he decided to join a band. Having taken piano lessons as a child, keyboards were the obvious choice. He got a Vox Continental and joined local group The Inmates in August 1964, teaming up with Brian Pilling (lead vocals), Tony Breen (guitar), Jerrald Broad (bass), and Dave Scudder (drums). Scudder had previously worked with The Stormraisers, a band fronted by Stan Tippins.
The Inmates, 1964
After leaving the Inmates in March 1966, Allen took a job in a garage and turned down an offer to join Mick Ralphs and Pete Watts in the Doc Thomas Group. Terry Allen eventually joined Lee Starr and The Astrals, adding his organ to the four-piece in March 1966. The lineup at the time included Lee Starr (vocals), Dave Tedstone (guitar), Percy Francis (bass), and Rob Harris (drums). Dave Tedstone eventually left the Astrals, and went with The Doc Thomas Group to Italy as a second guitarist in the summer of 1966.
Lee Starr and the Astrals went to London in December 1966 to audition as the backing band for Jimmy Cliff. They got the gig, changing their name to the Shakedown Sound with a lineup of Verden Allen on Hammond organ, Jon Best (A.K.A. Jon Lee, A.K.A. Lee Starr) on bass, Sean Jenkins on drums, and Kevin Gammond on guitar. The Shakedown Sound name had been lifted from Gammond's previous outfit, a Worcester band that included vocalist Jess Roden and keyboard player August Eadon.
The Shakedown Sound
The Shakedown Sound toured relentlessly with Jimmy Cliff throughout 1967, although in October 1967 Kevin Gammond left the group to join Robert Plant's Band of Joy. Mick Ralphs was tapped as his replacement, because The Doc Thomas Group had pretty much fallen apart upon returning from Italy. In early 1968, Sean Jenkins also left, and Dale Griffin was brought in for the last three weeks of the band's contract. But during the first week of February 1968, Jimmy Cliff began using Wynder K. Frog as his backing group and parted ways with The Shakedown Sound. After the Shakedown Sound gig ended, Ralphs, Griffin, and Allen returned to Hereford to reunite with Pete Watts and Stan Tippins, cementing the final lineup of the group that became Mott The Hoople.
Jimmy Cliff and Verden Allen
After leaving Jimmy Cliff, the group continued to use the Shakedown Sound moniker in the UK. They worked as a four-piece, and were managed by Norman Dickens and the Norsan Agency. It was around this time that Verden acquired his Leslie cabinet to improve the Hammond sound he had begun developing with Jimmy Cliff.
Although they played out as the Shakedown Sound in the UK, the group reverted to The Doc Thomas Group when they returned to Italy in the summer of 1968. The group played engagements at the Pinetta Club in Milano Marittima, and the Bat Caverna in Riccione. As the season ended, Pete Watts remained in Italy with his fiance, Maria Jannelli, in anticipation of joining a 'supergroup' with members of the recently split I Giganti. But I Giganti reformed, and so Pete eventually went home.
Nearing the end of 1968 and back in Hereford, the band made one final push toward the big time. They bought a van and new equipment, and began using the Jay Vee agency in Swansea, Wales. They used the better known Shakedown Sound moniker while playing Hereford and the Midlands, but for gigs in Wales the band resurrected the old Silence banner. (The Silence had been Pete Watts and Dale Griffin's band before hooking up with Mick Ralphs in the Doc Thomas Group). Using Buffin's contacts at Rockfield, Silence recorded a demo tape which included The Rebel and Find Your Way. Despite the effort, though, the band still foundered. They unsuccessfully auditioned for Apple under the name The Archers, and also failed to distinguish themselves at an audition to back the Swedish band Paper Dolls.
Sensing the lack of success with Silence, Watts and Ralphs traveled to London to audition for Free, but apparently failed to impress producer Guy Stevens. When EMI rejected The Rebel at the last moment, Mick Ralphs took it to Stevens in London. The meeting went well enough for the band to scheduled an audition at Spot Studios, but at a Liverpool Cavern show on the eve of the event, Stan Tippin's jaw was broken during a scuffle. The band auditioned without Tippins, and won a second audition the next month for the entire group. In a story that has been retold tirelessly, Guy Stevens was reported to be so impressed with the band's ability to maneuver Verden's Hammond upstairs that he decided to take them on. He was not as impressed with Tippins, however, who voluntarily withdrew from the band rather than hinder the success of the others.
The Silence cast about for a singer-pianist, without much success. Finally, on June 5, 1969, Bill Farley of Regent Sound Studios rang Ian Hunter, who had been recording demos at Regent. Hunter at first balked, but after a few calls decided to take the bus down to Denmark Street. He played Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone to an indifferent audience, with the exception of Guy Stevens. Ian told Guy that he was on salary at Leeds Music, and would need regular pay. After a few rehearsals and a name change, Mott The Hoople were born.
The Silence, 1968
Mott The Hoople recorded four albums for Island records, which garnered critical praise but not much in the way of sales. Verden Allen's distinctive Hammond organ, run through a Leslie cabinet, distinguished the band from the rest of the British rock scene. But although his organ playing was influential, Hunter and Ralphs had staked out the songwriting turf as their own. It wasn't until their fourth and last Island album, Brain Capers, that a Verden Allen song (Second Love, sung by Hunter) was deemed worthy to appear on a Mott The Hoople album.
Brain Capers did little to help the band. They had also failed in their two recent attempts to record a single - both sank without a trace. On the train ride home following a particularly depressing gig in Switzerland in early 1972, the band decided to pack it in. The retirement didn't last, however, because a chance phone from Pete Watts to David Bowie led to their first hit, All The Young Dudes.
Mott The Hoople, 1972
But even as the band's fortunes soared, it's not surprising that Verden Allen became dissatisfied with his decreasing profile. His songs were generally dismissed by the rest of the band, with only Second Love and Soft Ground making in onto disk. The last straw was apparently an onstage fight at The Glen in Llanelli on January 18, 1973, because Verden played his last gig with the band on the next night at Sheffield University.
Soon after breaking from Mott The Hoople, Verden signed a solo deal with Polydor and released a single under the name Mooni: Wine Ridden Talks b/w Nightmare (UK Polydor 2058 367 1973). The B side was a song that Verden had demoed for Mott The Hoople. Verden didn't sing on the A side of the Mooni single, a concession to the record company that he has regretted ever since.
After his Polydor experience, Verden formed Cheeks with James Honeyman-Scott and drummer Martin Chambers, both later of the Pretenders. Martin Chambers had grown up in the Hereford area - coincidentally, his older brother Mike had almost become lead singer for the Anchors (Buffin and Pete's group) in 1963. The Cheeks lasted from 1974 to 1976, gigging extensively but not releasing any records. In October 1975, they entered Trident studios to record a few tracks, including On The Rebound, Sweet Sweet Girl, and Hypnotised.
In August 1975, Guy Stevens asked Verden to play keyboards on demos by a band called Little Queenie, a band that had originally included Kelvin Blacklock, John Brown, Eunon Brady, and Mick Jones (later of The Clash). Guy Stevens was approached, and agreed to work on the project but insisted that Jones was surplus to requirements. He wanted a Mott-like lineup, and demos were recorded with the remaining trio joined by Verden Allen and Theodore Thunder. Interestingly, one of the demos the band recorded was Mott The Hoople's No Wheels To Ride. But even after being re-christened Violent Luck, the project failed to take off.
After Cheeks, Verdens formed a band called High Mileage, which featured Martin Chambers on drums, Paul Oaldenall on bass, and guitarist Dave Tedstone. Tedstone was another Hereford local, who was well known to Verden through his stints with the Doc Thomas Group and Lee Starr and the Astrals. High Mileage soon gave way to Verden Allen's Seven Inches, which also featured Martin Chambers.
Verden Allen's Seven Inches led Verden into 1978, when he hooked up with latter-day Mott The Hoople guitarist Luther Grosvenor for a one-off single billed as Verden and Luther. On The Rebound / A New Way (UK Jet SJET 112) was released in July 1978 and was a promising start, but Luther's reluctance to play live with the band soon brought the project to an end.
In 1982 Verden released a single on his own Spinit Records (UK Spinit VA1), Colleen b/w Through and Through. Only a handful of copies were pressed, with most apparently being stuck in jukeboxes in the Hereford area. The record was soon re-released with Sweet Sweet Girl on the A side and Colleen relegated to B side status, using the same catalog number (UK Spinit VA1). These tracks were recorded with Luther Grosvenor on guitar, along with Norman Jarrett on bass and Martin Chambers on drums.
1983 saw the release of a second Spinit single, coupling This Way Now with About Tomorrow (UK Spinit VA2). The two songs were recorded with help from Dale Griffin and Overend Watts, and production credited to Mott The Hoople Minus Two. Verden soon hooked with an independent label association, and decided to reissue his Spinit singles. The first coupled Come On Back with Sweet Sweet Girl (UK Spinit VA3), and the second was a remix of About Tomorrow b/w This Way Now (UK Spinit VA2 RM).
Not much was heard from Verden in the late 1980s, but by 1991 he had joined a local band called The Business, with brothers Graham and Geoff Masters on guitar and drums, respectively. Verden edged out bass player Brian Jones and took over the band, which became Thunderbuck Ram in 1992 at the suggestion of replacement bassist Rob Hankins. The band gigged around the Midlands and released a CD called Long Time No See (UK Spinit SPCD 101) in 1994.
At some point between 1994 and 1997, Thunderbuck Ram was superceded by a new band, Flat Out, which also gigged in the Hereford area. The group consists of Verden, Rob Watkins (guitar), Simon Lewis (bass), and Matt Thomas (drums). In 1998 Long Time No See was reissued on Angel Air (UK Angel Air SJPCD036), with the inclusion of three bonus tracks: the 1975 Cheeks recording of Hypnotised, and 1995 Thunderbuck Ram recordings of Two Miles From Heaven and Chunnel Train.
On September 16th, 1998, Verden appeared at the Virgin Megastore in London with Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, and Blue Weaver to sign copies of the All The Young Dudes - The Anthology box set, and Campbell Devine's companion book All The Young Dudes - The Biography. Virgin had advertised a live performance by Hunter, Ralphs, and Allen, but it never materialized.
Verden Allen and his band, Flat Out, headlined First Annual Mott The Hoople Convention at the Robin 2 in Bilston (UK) on 17 April 1999. Other performers included Steve Hyams and Ray Majors, John Fiddler, and a one-off covers band called Nott The Hoople. While not part of the convention, Ian Hunter played two gigs at the club during the same weekend.
A Verden Allen CD entitled For Each Other was released on the Angel Air (UK) label on October 11, 1999. The albums was written and played almost entirely by Verden, who was helped out on just two of the tracks. The album contains all new recordings, although several of the songs date back to Verden early days with Mott The Hoople, Cheeks, and Verden and Luther. Re-recordings include Soft Ground, A New Way, and On The Rebound; and the first available version of 8 O'Clock At The Corner, the song that James Honeyman-Scott played when he auditioned for Cheeks in 1974.