Edit
Adam Faith Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trivia (9)  | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (4)

Born in Acton, London, England, UK
Died in Stoke-on-Trent, England, UK  (heart attack)
Birth NameTerence Nelhams
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (1)

In an interview in "Disc" magazine published in June 1959, following the release of his third (and ultimately unsuccessful) single, Adam Faith declared that his ambition was to become an actor/director--not a singer. Nine years, 35 singles, 24 chart entries, 15 EPs and seven albums later he finally decided to leave the record industry to concentrate fully on fulfilling his thespian dream. Over the next 34 years Faith was to achieve at least the major part of this long-held ambition by becoming one of Britain's most popular stars of stage and screen. However, during his singing career with EMI, he vied with Cliff Richard as the UK's most popular male singer and pop idol.

Adam Faith was born Terry Nelhams in Acton, London, on June 23, 1940, the third of five children. He attended John Perryn secondary modern school in Acton and from the age of 12 was able to demonstrate his entrepreneurial skills by means of a series of paper rounds, which enabled him to finance his own clothes budget. This was augmented further when he started selling papers from a pitch to enable him to pay for more than 100 pounds worth of other "gear", including a record player and an impressive bicycle, both costing around 28 pounds--a large sum indeed by 1950s standards. All this was achieved before he left school, at which point he embarked on his first full-time employment as an odd job boy for a silk screen printer close to his home.

After only a few weeks with this company he heard of a vacancy for a messenger boy at Rank Screen Services and was taken on at the princely sum of 3 pounds ten shillings per week, dedicating himself to the task of obtaining a transfer to the studios. However, after a year elapsed without any sign of his move, he left to join a company in Wardour Street, Soho, known as TV Advertising Ltd. This was a period when he, like many of his peers, was bitten by the skiffle bug which was then sweeping Britain. His first great idol was Lonnie Donegan, who inspired him to form his first group with colleagues from work. They called themselves "The Worried Men" after one of their most popular numbers, "Worried Man Blues". According to Nelhams, they played all the local Soho expresso coffee bars--Mars, The Cat's Whiskers, Orlando's, The Skiffle Cellar and, of course, the famous Two Is, where they eventually became resident.

Nelhams was becoming exhausted, which was not surprising in view of his extra-curricular activities. He had been promoted to assistant cutter at TV Advertising and not only did he combine evening performances with his day job, but he also decided to take managerial responsibility for the group's affairs. Jack Good's Six-Five Special (1957) TV program had a reputation for originality. One idea was to broadcast a show direct from the Two Is. Naturally, as the resident band, The Worried Men opened and closed the program--valuable exposure and, ultimately, Nelham's first big break.

Good was impressed with Nelhams' performance but not necessarily with the group as a whole. He invited Nelhams back on the show as a solo singer, convinced of his potential as Britain's answer to James Dean. Nelhams, encouraged by this optimism, gave up his job as a film cutter and turned professional. Good not only secured him a recording contract with EMI's HMV label on the strength of the TV appearance, but also helped him choose the now familiar name Adam Faith. Faith's debut disc combined "(Got a) Heartsick Feeling" with "Brother Heartache & Sister Tears", and was released in January 1958. It received very little publicity, either in the form of music press coverage or from EMI's own advertising department. Not surprisingly, it failed to make any impression on the charts. Despite all Good's confidence in him, Faith also failed to make any immediate impression on television, but Good gave him another opportunity when he booked him to appear in his stage show version of "Six Five Special" (The John Barry Seven were also on the bill and this brief first meeting with composer John Barry was later to prove of vital importance). However, the stage show wasn't the success Good envisaged, and after just four performances Faith found himself out of work.

Faith, ever the survivor, swallowed his pride and made the painful decision to abandon his show-biz career by returning to the film cutting world. Despite this, HMV released his second single in December of the same year, a cover of Jerry Lee Lewis' "High School Confidential", backed with "Country Music Holiday" Apart from scant attention in the music press, mainly to the effect that he was covering a Jerry Lee song, it attracted no publicity whatsoever. After a couple of temporary jobs back in the business, he found a job as a cutter at National Studios at Elstree. It was while he was there he received a phone call from John Barry in March of 1959, inviting him to audition for Drumbeat (1959). This new program was an attempt by BBC Television to counter ATV's popular Oh Boy! (1958) show. After sufficiently impressing producer Stewart Morris, Faith landed an initial contract for three shows, which was later extended to the full 22-week run.

Fortune once again smiled on Faith when Barry introduced him to his own manager, the redoubtable Eve Taylor. Taylor, whose father was a show-business impresario of some renown, was steeped in the tradition and was herself part of a comedy and tap-dancing act during the 1930s. Since becoming an agent she had established a reputation for never accepting anything less than the best for her clients, and many an errant theater manager had experienced the lash of her biting tongue! She readily agreed to take him on, and immediately set about changing his image and appearance, securing him another recording contract, initially with Top Rank.

His only record for them ("Ah, Poor Little Baby" / "Runk Bunk") was released on June 6, with only the former side benefiting from an arrangement and accompaniment by John Barry. Both sides, incidentally, were produced by Tony Hatch, just prior to his appointment as A&R manager at Pye/Piccadilly Records. Unfortunately, this record also failed to attract the attention of pop pundits, but on this occasion Faith was clearly hindered by a total absence of publicity caused by the release date--unluckily coinciding with a national printing strike! Despite the failure of his first three records, Faith was becoming very well known and popular through his 'Drumbeat" appearances. Acting still had a hold on him, and in August he announced his intention to take drama and elocution classes in order to enhance his acting potential. It was about halfway through the "Drumbeat" series when Faith attracted the attention of film producer George Willoughby, who was searching for a young pop singer to appear in his new film, Wild for Kicks (1960), then in pre-production. Although Faith had little record success up 'til then, Willoughby was struck by the young man's stage presence and signed him on the strength of this. The script called for Faith to sing only a couple of songs. As Barry was by then arranging not only Faith's recordings but also his live "Drumbeat" material, it came as no surprise when the film company asked him to write the score to accompany Faith's big-screen debut--Barry's own very first steps into the world of film music composing.

Faith's success on "Drumbeat" enabled Eve Taylor to secure him another recording contract, this time with Parlophone. The quest for suitable material to launch the Parlophone debut began in earnest and was eventually resolved out of a friendship built up on "Drumbeat". A study of the "Drumbeat" scripts reveal how Faith had initially concentrated on singing a large proportion of cover versions; the majority, up-tempo slices of American rock 'n' roll. A significant turning point ensued when he asked to perform his own version of the current Cliff Richard hit "Living Doll". It became apparent to Barry that Faith's vocal delivery was more attractive in a gentler mode and, as a result of this discovery, he decided to concentrate on delivering this kind of material. Nevertheless, before this first Parlophone single was issued, Faith made his label debut on the live "Drumbeat" album, recorded on May 10 at Abbey Road Studios, London, and released two months later. On this LP, the rock 'n' roll influence remained. Faith sang three numbers--"Say Mama", "C'mon Everybody" and "Believe What You Say", all accompanied by John Barry.

The "Drumbeat" LP also showcased the performing talents of one Johnny Worth, a member of Jackie and The Raindrops vocal trio, better known as Johnny Worth (also known as Les Vandyke). Worth was to become the final piece in the Parlophone backroom jigsaw that catapulted Faith from contender to champion in the pop market place. Worth, born in Battersea, London, on June 21, 1931, began working as a draughtsman prior to his compulsory two-year hitch in the army. On returning to civvy life he was determined to stay out of office work and make his name as a singer. Like many singers, he also aspired towards song writing, although his first three attempts were rejected out of hand by music publishers. However, when Faith, striking up a friendship with him on the "Drumbeat" set, asked if he had any material suitable for recording, Worth approached JB7 pianist Les Reed to help him arrange a demo of one of these initial songs, "What Do You Want?". Barry has always been credited with the idea of using pizzicato strings (inspired by Buddy Holly's "It Doesn't Matter Anymore") but according to Worth, this was entirely his own brainchild. Because he was still under contract to Oriole, Worth felt the need to adopt a pseudonym while writing songs, and so was born Les Vandyke. This was derived by combining Reed's own first name with Worth's London telephone exchange!

Barry was impressed enough with the demo to commence working on an arrangement for the song, using that same Buddy Holly-influenced pizzicato style. According to Faith, the singing style he adopted for this now legendary recording was based on coaching he received from Roy Young, another "Drumbeat" cast member. Having heard Faith rehearsing it during a shared car journey, Young made a number of suggestions, in particular persuading him to alter his pronunciation of "baby" to "bay-beh". "What Do You Want?" (b/w "From Now Until Forever") was recorded at Abbey Road Studios on September 25, 1959, a mere month after "Drumbeat" ended. At the same time Faith was also signed to appear in an episode of Rediffusion's No Hiding Place (1959) TV series. Norman Newell, Faith and Barry's A&R manager, was unable to produce the recording session. As a result, assistant John Burgess took the helm in his absence, and was to do so for the remainder of Faith's EMI career. According to Barry, on hearing the record, Newell publicly declared his disapproval, vowing that Barry would on no account ever be allowed to take part in any more sessions! After the recording Barry admitted that both he and Faith were despondent following previous commercial failures. This time they were determined to impose their own personal tastes far more emphatically than they had done previously, when the flavor of the day tended to override aesthetic considerations.

Despite favorable reviews of "What Do You Want?", on its October 24 release date in both The New Musical Express and Disc, manager Eve Taylor still insisted that Faith's future lay in acting. Keith Fordyce, writing in the former, praised Barry's arrangement and choice of instrumentation --Jack Good, columnist in its rival, applauded the production, tipping chart success on both sides of the Atlantic. EMI, perhaps scenting success, mounted a strong advertising campaign promoting the single far more vigorously than either of Faith's first two HMV releases.

In the following issue of "Disc", Eve Taylor, recognizing good copy when she saw it, claimed Faith had definitely made his last record to concentrate on acting, citing his appearance in a 90-minute drama for Rediffusion TV at the end of year as evidence. Despite this, "What Do You Want?" was given a considerable boost when it was played and voted a unanimous hit on BBC TV's Juke Box Jury (1959), and when Faith sang it live on an edition of ATV's "Boy Meets Girl".

On November 14 the first tangible sign of chart recognition was apparent when The Record Mirror's "British Only" chart listed "What Do You Want?" as a new entry at #9. Clearly, interest was growing, to a point when it entered the NME charts at #18 the following week. Adam Faith, singer, had clearly arrived. His mentor, Jack Good, while applauding his success, claimed his acting actually improved his singing. He also mentioned that the song was initially rejected by Johnny Kidd, although Worth denied this, maintaining that he had refused permission for Kidd to use it when the singer had wanted to give it a rock 'n' roll treatment. Another surprise arrived with the revelation that the orchestral backing consisted of just four strings, with two tenor saxes suggesting the sound of a cello.

By December Faith was #1 in the NME charts. He confessed to being terrified of becoming just another overnight sensation and was therefore determined to continue to develop his acting skills by way of special training at the Royal Court Theatre. He admitted to enjoying Frank Sinatra, Peter Gunn (1958), Jean Sibelius' "1st Symphony" and playing golf--tastes considered rather esoteric and sophisticated for a typical teenager of the period! At this stage he still lived at home in Acton with his parents, an older sister, a twin brother & sister, another brother having already married and left the roost.

Any one-hit wonder will tell you of the problems associated with finding an equally memorable follow-up. Not surprisingly, the Faith management decided to rely on the Worth / Barry team for inspiration, and this proved a wise move. At the recording session John Burgess again took charge of production, since Norman Newell was afraid of upsetting a winning formula. On January 15 "Poor Me" was released with "WDYW" still at #2 on the charts! Faith had finished recording his "Beat Girl" songs just three days previously and had signed to appear in another film - "Moment Of Truth". The following day he received a silver disc for "What Do You Want", awarded for sales of 250,000, and appeared on BBC Radio's "Saturday Club", following this with a guest appearance on the Beverley Sisters' TV show on January 25, where he sang "Poor Me". This song, another originally rejected by several music publishers in its original incarnation as "Poor Man", shot to #1 on the UK charts.

After the success of "Poor Me", Faith--the "reluctant" pop-singer--revealed how much he wanted to sustain his chart success. His new film, now retitled Never Let Go (1960), commenced shooting on February 22, starring Peter Sellers and Richard Todd. With his newly acquired wealth generated from two #1 singles, Faith announced his plan to buy a new car, a new house for his parents and to invest the rest (a significant move in light of his subsequent financial success).

Although his next record, "Big Time" / "Someone Else's Baby", released on April 8 while "Poor Me" was still at #15 on the charts, just failed to become his third consecutive #1 (it was beaten by The Everly Brothers' "Cathy's Clown"), during the next few years Faith went on to score many more hits. His albums were successful, too. "Beat Girl", for example, issued at a time when the film had yet to surface in the cinema, attracted excellent reviews and reached the top ten in the UK album charts. Though this was in the main a John Barry instrumental album, three songs were sung by Faith and this fact alone could only have enhanced sales. One of these songs, "The Beat Girl Song", written by Barry and Trevor Peacock, failed to appear in the film itself.

December brought two more significant events in the ever-changing world of Adam Faith. First he bought a Hampton Court house for 6000 pounds, where he moved with the rest of his family from the Acton council house. Second, he was invited and agreed to appear on BBC TV's controversial yet prestigious Face to Face (1959)--a major coup for Faith. Transmitted live on December 11, Faith surprised many a viewer by dint of his resolution and alertness in the face of some tough questioning from presenter John Freeman.

Faith's third film, the comedy What a Whopper (1961), premiered during the summer, although the title song was not considered strong enough for single release. Instead, he chose a song from the film, entitled "The Time Has Come". written--as usual--by Johnny Worth. This reached #4 on the charts and fared better than the film, which opened at the Rialto, London, on September 28 to a terrible pasting from the press.

In March of 1962 Faith undertook an 11-day nature cure at a Surrey rest home. He had not stopped touring and recording for eight months and was completely fatigued. At the Surrey retreat he read the script for his next film project, Mix Me a Person (1962), which was due to start filming immediately after this short period of recuperation. August dawned with good reviews for the film, which opened in London. This, his fourth picture, was a thriller in which his character (Harry Jukes) spent a great deal of time behind bars. He did manage to sing a couple of songs, however, en route: the title song and a version of "La Bamba".

One of the biggest news items in the music industry that autumn stemmed from the surprise decision from the Barry and Faith camp to sever musical links--a purely amicable arrangement designed to enable both parties to develop alternative projects. Barry explained the motives behind this move more fully in an interview with Record Mirror's Peter Jones: "In the early days Johnny Worth, Adam and I were concentrating on one thing, Adam's records. We were after bread. We were all starting in the business and we were all ambitious. But towards one end only. We were all in the same boat but eventually you reach a climax in all that channeled activity. I'd say it is impossible for three people to stick together permanently in this way. You are bound to develop into different adult channels. We wanted financial gains. When you've got those, you can relax and choose your work. It's a matter of sitting back and considering precisely what you want to do in your career. Do you want to be tied by the boundaries of pop music? Do you want to include all kinds of music? Or all art forms? As an artist, a musician, you can learn something from all forms . . . From literature, films and comedy. So no, it wasn't a surprise I left. But you might say it was a surprise I stayed so long."

Initially the hits continued almost unabated, first with Johnny Keating taking over as arranger and accompanying Faith with his orchestra, and then accompanied by a new group, The Roulettes.

Faith flew to Australia in October with John Leyton for an 18-day tour that also encompassed New Zealand and Hong Kong, returning to his new home in Esher, Surrey, a "manor-type" house set in an acre of landscaped garden. The house itself included a ground floor-billiards room and a blue-carpeted bedroom housing a white, silk-covered king-sized bed--with an adjoining wardroom. What's more, he employed a butler, maid, gardener and valet! How times had changed from those childhood days in Acton.

However, the hits eventually began to dry up. In 1967 his biggest "hit" was his marriage to former dancer Jackie Irving. Quite possibly his biggest commercial coup was in persuading Sandie Shaw to perform and record "Puppet On A String", a decision she was later to regret. Not only did it become the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, but it also reached #1 in the UK and in many other European countries. Faith convinced her it was in her best interests to sing it, after she had fallen out with their mutual manager over its merits as a song. Her gratitude to Faith for his advice was somewhat tempered, however, when Taylor revealed much later that he had a financial interest in her and the song's publishers! Clearly Faith's aptitude for spotting an investment opportunity had not diminished.

Adam Faith released his last single for EMI in 1968, "You Make My Life Worthwhile". Arranged and conducted by Ken Woodman, it was an excellent recording that deserved a better fate than it got, but with Faith opting to make his stage debut playing Feste in William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", he was in no position to promote it. In view of this, both he and EMI decided to part company; Faith, the actor, was consigning Faith, the pop star, to the annals of music history.

Faith's success on stage and screen was hardly unexpected, given his thirst for knowledge and capacity for hard work. He decided to learn stagecraft from first principles in repertory theatre, out of which a number of small parts initially emanated. This stood him in good stead, when he was given a more substantial role in "Night Must Fall", playing opposite Dame Sybil Thorndike. In effect, this amounted to his big break; his stage equivalent of appearing on "Drumbeat"! In autumn of 1969 he took the lead in a touring version of "Billy Liar", and 18 months later found renewed television fame in the title role of Budgie (1971).

Apart from one comeback album for Warner Bros in 1974 (borne, one suspects, out of a desire to celebrate in song his full recovery from a near-fatal car crash a year earlier) and an original cast recording he made of the musical version of "Budgie" in 1988, Faith concentrated almost solely on acting and went a considerable way to achieving his ambition expressed so lucidly back in 1959, prior to his 19th birthday.

During the 1970s he impressed both moviegoers and critics alike with convincing performances in Stardust (1974), Foxes (1980) and McVicar (1980), and also found time to immerse himself in the management side of the rock industry. Budding agent and song-writer Dave Courtney (who Faith knew as a result of his association with The Roulettes) introduced him to former busker Leo Sayer. Instantly impressed by Sayer's vocal prowess and songwriting ability, Faith immediately set out a strategy for launching his protégée, and as a direct spin-off, also produced a solo album for The Who's Roger Daltrey, which contained a selection of Sayer/Courtney songs.

The 1980s saw Faith once again reinvent himself in the public eye, this time in the form of a self-appointed financial guru; he even wrote a column for "The Mail On Sunday", aptly titled "Faith In The City", which epitomized the "get-rich-quick" philosophy espoused in that Margaret Thatcher-drenched decade. It ended on something of a sour note when he was prevented from issuing a free fact sheet that promised to make its recipients millionaires! This was also a period when Faith was often heard to be scathing about his own recording legacy, holding it chiefly responsible for scuppering his attempts at securing a lasting acting career. As guest at a dinner party where his old hits were being played, he was chastised by the host for criticizing them so harshly, for rubbishing the very music he had enjoyed as a youth. Faith was rather taken aback by this accusation and was forced to re-appraise his feelings for his pop career.

Judging from subsequent comments made in the media, he has clearly done so. On the eve of the release of a brand-new album, "Midnight Postcards" (released in November '93), he told "The Daily Mail" that he was no longer dismissive about his pop star roots and saw no incongruency in combining an acting with a singing career. "I retired from singing 20 years ago so I could be an actor. I had begun to hate my pop association because I so wanted to act. In those days you couldn't really do both. Now I realize that the two things I do best are singing and acting. I'm only sorry that it has taken me so long to combine the two."

On stage for some years he performed the title role in "Alfie" around the provinces, played the narrator in "A Chorus Line" and toured the UK in "Love & Marriage". Often in demand for television, following his initial success with "Budgie", in the 1990s he starred in the highly successful BBC TV drama Love Hurts (1992), with Zoë Wanamaker; and in 2002 made the less popular The House That Jack Built (2002), also for the BBC.

He had a heart bypass operation in the mid-'80s, but had enjoyed reasonable health from then onwards. However, the failure of his cable TV channel, The Money Channel, a couple of years ago resulted in his bankruptcy, and may have taken a toll on his health. He was planning a one-man stage performance tour of Britain the next year, in which he would act out his career, including some of the songs that launched it. He died at the age of 62 from a heart attack, a few hours after finishing a performance of "Love & Marriage".

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Geoff Leonard and Pete Walker (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Spouse (1)

Jackie Irving (19 August 1967 - 8 March 2003) ( his death) ( 1 child)

Trivia (9)

British pop singer
In the 1980s, during a severe decline in his career, he became a financial advisor and journalist, but still continued to perform.
Former messenger for the Rank Screen Studios.
Was a top British teen idol in the pre-The Beatles 1960s era, along with Cliff Richard and Billy Fury.
Suffered multiple injuries in a serious car crash in which he nearly lost a leg; it had to be rebuilt.
Had one daughter: Katya Nelhams-Wright.
His headshots were used as the portrait models for the character John Tracy of the popular animated series Thunderbirds (1965). Faith's boyish and dashing appearance and attractive blonde hair were perfectly matched by talented model artist Mary Turner, who also used headshots of Charlton Heston for the character's profile.
Was nominated for the BAFTA Award as Best Supporting Actor in the musical drama Stardust (1974).
Received the Best Actor Award for the musical drama Stardust (1974) at the Taormina International Film Festival.

Personal Quotes (1)

[Last words] Channel 5 is all shit, isn't it? Christ, the crap they put on there. It's a waste of space.

See also

Other Works |  Publicity Listings |  Official Sites

View agent, publicist, legal and company contact details on IMDbPro Pro Name Page Link

Contribute to This Page


Recently Viewed