Bill Sharpe

Shakatak-16 Bill 72After graduating from Birmingham University in 1975 with an honours degree in music, I started to work for the BBC as a studio manager. At the same time, I continued to play in bands as I did throughout my years at school. One of the bands was called “Tracks” which comprised of Roger Odell, Keith Winter and Trevor Horn who went on to international success as a record producer.
In 1980, along with Keith and Roger and producer Nigel Wright, I formed Shakatak. We toured the UK extensively during the early eighties and signed with Polydor records. In 1982 we had our first top 20 hit with “Easier Said Than Done”, one of the hits that I wrote for the band. Others include “Night Birds”,”Invitations”, “Dark is the Night”, “Down on the Street” and “Mr Manic and Sister Cool”. In 1983, international success began for the band in Europe, America and particularly in Japan where “Night Birds” became one of the biggest selling international albums of all time.
As the band’s success continued through the 80’s, I released my first solo album “Famous People” in 1985. One song on the album featured Gary Numan. Called “Change your Mind”, it became a top 20 hit and also heralded the start of a successful collaboration with Gary under the name of “Sharpe and Numan”.
Apart from working with Gary , I also found time to write with and for other artists all over the world. From Yusuko Agawe in Japan to Annabella from “Bow Wow Wow” in the UK. As the 90’s began , Shakatak and I found ourselves touring less and recording more due to the demand for recordings particularly in Japan. Our music was becoming very popular in America in the contemporary jazz market where they had two consecutive number 1 albums. At this time, since the band’s schedule was less hectic, I found time to start writing music for television which has remained an interest to this day. In 1996, through my consultancy work for Technics keyboards, I met the great jazz musician Don Grusin and after spending time helping with the design and specs for some new Technics products in Japan, we became good friends. In 1997, I had the time and opportunity to record my second solo album and asked Don Grusin to co-produce the record with me in Los Angeles. This enabled me to work with some of my favourite American musicians including Alex Acuna, Paulinho da Costa, Abe Laboriel as well as the great soul singer Jeffrey Osborne. The album is titled “State of the Heart” and has received critical acclaim worldwide. In recent years, outside of the band I’ve been working with Don Grusin and we recorded an album entitled “Geography” which was recorded in london and los angeles and featured some great guest musicians. We also toured the album in Japan and as well as Don and I , the band included Kazumi Watanabe, Tetsuo Sakurai, Masato Honda and Masayuki Muraishi. That was a lot of fun as you can imagine.
Also in 2006 I recorded a solo piano album which featured most of the well known Shakatak songs.
In 2007 I plan to record another album with Don and play a few dates with him. The rest of the time will be spent touring and
recording with Shakatak.

Jill Saward

Shakatak-15 Jill 72Jill was born in Tooting, London in 1953. There was never any doubt she was going to be an entertainer, always showing off and trying to steal the limelight at functions and celebrations. When Jill reached 16 she knew it was time to get serious and break into the business. In the seventies women played a small role in the British music scene, there were the pretty pop girls, American soul trios and aggressive rock chicks with little or no femininity. Jill was a big fan of progressive rock and decided this should be the first style of band she should look for.
The Melody Maker was the musician’s bible and all great acts were generally formed from this paper. Jill saw an advert looking for a great male vocalist ‘with balls’ and thought the job should be hers! Needless to say she got it through sheer cheek and determination. The band was called Fusion Orchestra and set out to dominate the British club scene from 1969 through to 1972. Fusion Orchestra gained a massive fan base and later secured a recording deal with EMI. Their first album ‘Skeleton in Armor’ received critical acclaim and is still now regarded a collectors piece and a highly sought after record. In fact Jill herself is looking for an original gatefold copy, any offers?
Jill played a revolutionary role in Fusion Orchestra, she was young, blonde, powerful and above all sexy. The group were banned from many towns because of the explicit stage show, it was press grabbing material, tame stuff looking at it now, but at the time it really was scandalous!! And to think Madonna was still only an twinkle in her mum’s eye! After Fusion Orchestra Jill took a completely different road and got involved with an all girl group called ‘Brandy’ a total change of music, almost bubble gum, but still great fun.
Brandy were snapped up by Polydor who tried to emulate the all girl group ‘The Runaways’ Brandy spent three years touring the UK and Europe but finally split in 1976. Jill had always written her own material and took a year out developing her songs, whilst in the studios she was singled out for session work by various artists and producers and made a good name for herself on the session scene. A band leader called Nicky North just happened to be recording a soul cover album and decided to offer her a job at the world famous ‘Cats Whiskers’. Jill jumped at the chance and once again was thrown into a totally new musical area. The experience she gained with the band was invaluable, every month she recorded a cover album and also backed some of the finest American soul and cabaret artists of the seventies.
During one of their shows a French producer from Orpheus Productions decided Jill was the ideal female vocalist to build a super group around. The french production team had a dream to create a female pop sensation that would be as big as ‘The Beatles’. There were five girls, Jill’s image was to be a wild gypsy, and the other characters were an American cheerleader, a space queen, a sporty type and a cute baby looking type, does that sound a little familiar? Well it was back in 1979, the Spice Girls was also still eggs in their mums tums! The band was called ‘Citizen Gang’ and yes, you’ll find some rare footage on this web site. Jill still kept her ties with Nicky North and the band and continued making cover albums. Nigel Wright and Roger Odell were also in the band, and it was through them Jill got to record some vocals on an experimental track called ‘Steppin’ which of course went on to be Shakatak’s first white label single. Shakatak were born and Jill was asked to be part of the group and embark on a national tour.
Although Shakatak are busy year in year out, Jill still manages to find time to get involved in her new passion which is developing new artists for her production company FSP. Jill has several new and exciting acts lined up for future stardom, but she’s not moving out of the spotlight just yet. Jill moves so quickly and seems to be involved in so many different projects it is impossible to end this biography, so I will just sign off until the next update, I’ll keep you posted!

George Anderson

Shakatak-12 George 72Well, where shall we start ? … I was born at an early age in 1958 and got into music from playing the bass trombone in the school orchestra. After auditioning, I was good enough to be chosen for the  London Youth Orchestra.  This gave me the buzz for music.  It was a terrific hot house environment playing different types of music, ranging from classical, folk and marching band styles.  It was only when we attempted to play jazz (finger in ears etc!!) that it opened up a yearning to hear more !!  So I followed the yellow brick road…. ! Wait a minute WRONG STORY!  I started listening to proper Jazz i.e. Kenny Ball… NOT ! You know Miles Davies, John Coltrane etc.  My interest in the trombone began to lessen, and my ears were drawn to the bass guitar.  I got my first bass at 16 and set about learning how to play it.  At that times I was interested in Soul and Funk music – well after all it was the mid 70’s and disco was King !  A lot of music at that time was bass driven and I became hooked.  I spent many a day /evening practising my craft.
It was while I was at college doing ‘A’ level art that I was invited to play in lunch time jam sessions with other students.  We played tunes like ‘Running Away’ by Roy Ayers and stuff by Lonnie Liston Smith amongst others !!  Wow – those were the days!  I joined a number of bands playing Jazz/Funk & soul stuff.  I then joined a band that had Junior Giscome (‘Mama Used to Say’ fame) and Paul Gendler (Modern Romance and top session player!) called …hey don’t laugh ……. Atlantis.  We were a cross between Parliament and the Isley Brothers.  As fate would have it, Junior was signed up by London Records which meant the band split up.  It was time to find another band.  The Musicians bible at the time was the Melody Maker.  If any band wanted musicians they would advertise there.  I answered such an ad…. And yes, the band was Shakatak – THE REST IS HISTORY !!!
In 1984, I began my association with JD Customs Guitars which still continues today and was instrumental in the development of the GA24 model bass.  Of course, I have used other basses, but JD basses remain my favourite!!  JD can be contacted via their website
Among the many highlights being in Shakatak was co-writing the song ‘Day by Day’ which was sung with Jill Saward by one of my musical heroes AL JARREAU – this was like a dream come true for me !!  As my confidence grew I co-wrote, produced/engineered and played on Jill’s solo album ‘JUST FOR YOU’ featuring Jason Rebello on keyboards.
Today I am busy touring/recording with Shakatak whilst pursuing other projects with various artists/songwriters, either playing bass or engineering/producing!
The future is bright, the future is SHAKATAK !
I can also be contacted via my own new website or via Facebook: Look forward to hearing from you……

Roger Odell

Shakatak-8 Roger 72I first began playing drums at about the age of 14 in a band that we formed at my school, Buckhurst Hill County High, and later I played in various bands in the Essex/Herts area. In my late teens I formed a modern jazz group and played regularly at The Greyhound in Harlow, and this led to my meeting up with jazz pianist Alan Gowen.  The trio we subsequently formed with John Hosey on bass continued to play in the Harlow area, and as a rhythm section we accompanied most of the top names on the UK jazz scene.  I also played in a student big band run by members of the John Dankworth Orchestra in London.
Around this time I met with Phil and Steve Miller, who were running a band called Delivery which featured saxophonist Lol Coxhill.  I began to play in various experimental “free-jazz-rock” ventures with these musicians plus our trio and other like-minded players from the Harlow/Bishops Stortford/Cambridge region.
I turned fully professional in the 70’s with the Cambridge group C.M.U., touring throughout the UK and Europe and recording two albums for the Transatlantic label.  These were called “Open Spaces”, and “Space Cabaret”, and have just been re-released on one CD on the See For Miles label- SEECD373.  This group featured my wife, Larraine , as lead vocalist.
At the demise of C.M.U., I joined the band Northern Lights, and began to record regularly as a freelance session musician in London.  This band included the singer Tina Charles and bassist Trevor Horn, who became a top Producer. Later Jill Saward, Nigel Wright (then playing keyboards) and bass-player Steve Underwood joined the band.
Towards the end of the 70’s I formed a jazz-rock band called Tracks with Trevor on bass, Bill Sharpe (keyboards) and Keith Winter (guitar).  When Trevor left to form Buggles his replacement was Martin Elliot, now with Michael Nyman. Ian Hamlett, formerly of C.M.U., and bassist John Dover also played with Tracks.  We recorded an EP which we released on “white label”, and sold at our regular Sunday lunch-time gig at Triad Arts Centre in Bishops Stortford.
Resulting from session work for Les McCutcheon with Nigel Wright producing, a group consisting of Bill, Keith, Steve Underwood, and myself, recorded four tracks written by Bill.  One of these was “Steppin'”, which became a big club hit and led to a recording contract with Polydor.
Vocalists Jill and Jackie Rawe were added later, and with George Anderson replacing Steve, this became the first official line-up of Shakatak.  Apart from Jackie’s departure, and Keith leaving due to ill health, this is the personnel that continues to tour and record to this day.
As well as being a member of Shakatak, I free-lance in other situations and I also run my own bands, often featuring my wife Larraine as vocalist.  Our son Jamie (Jimpster, Audiomontage, DJ, Re-mixer) is a keyboard playing Producer/Engineer rapidly making a name for himself with a variety of projects and we have a daughter, Maxine, who graduated from Coventry University with a degree in Culture, Communication and Media, and is now living and working in London.
In late ’99, early ’00, I co-produced my own CD with Jamie, which features among others, Larraine and Jacqui Hicks on vocals, Mornington Lockett on saxes, Jamie on keyboards, Maxine on backing vocals, and myself on drums.  The group is called Beatifik, and the CD is entitled “The Blue Window”. In 2015 I released the second Beatifik album “Intrigue” and in 2019 the 3rd album “The Long Drive Home” was released.