Today we’re going to focus on British rock guitarist/singer Tony Newman, but don’t confuse him with the drummer of the same name, a contemporary of his who had a long career that included stints with bands like T. Rex and Boxer, and also accompanied David Bowie, Eric Clapton and others. Our Tony Newman’s career didn’t have the same kind of staying power, but his story does provide a good example of how crazy things were in the pop music era of the 1960’s.
It was in the small English city of Rugby (said to be the birthplace of the sport) that Newman and several others came together in 1965 to form a new band that they christened ‘The Liberators’. Of course, they wasted no time in changing it to the much sexier ‘Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours’, a name more in keeping with the era’s penchant for unusual band names. Before long they shortened it by dropping the ‘Assorted’ and then eventually became just ‘Pinkertons’. Joining Newman (he’s center-rear in the picture) was an ever-changing cast of bandmates, some of them continuing on through later group name changes, but more later about that. Newman also proved to have songwriting talents because he came up with the band’s one Top Ten hit, 1966’s “Mirror, Mirror,” on which he also sang lead.
The band was managed by Reginald Calvert and supported by Radio City, his well-known pirate radio station. But the group didn’t have a lot of success after that one hit record, so once again changes were made. Evolution always started with a name change, so the newly formed group became ‘The Flying Machine’. Again a little confusing because a band of that name backing James Taylor was around in the same era, but then Taylor’s group changed its name to ‘The Original Flying Machine’ so that made everything clear. . .I think.
At one time or another the Flying Machine’s members included — along with Newman — bassist Stuart Colman, drummer David Holland, auto-harpist Sam Kempe, lead guitarist Steve Jones and later, drummer Paul Wilkinson. (Most of them would eventually go on to join countless other bands, but this is all confusing enough without getting into that.) The newly formed band seemed to have a little more success than its predecessor, scoring a million-seller on “Smile a Little Smile for Me” in 1969.
The group’s success on “Smile a Little Smile for Me” was encouraging, and it was followed by “Baby Make It Soon.” Although it didn’t do nearly as well, the Flying Machine was able to add some other songs and cobble together an album. Ironically, the band’s records sold better in the U.S. than in Great Britain, but sales were still slow and the handwriting was on the wall. The combo managed another album but soon dissolved and its members went their separate ways, leaving behind a typical example of the wacky pop music scene of the 1960’s.