Billy Nicholls

Billy Nicholls is an English singer, musician, and songwriter who recorded the 1968 limited release Would You Believe, a chamber-pop artifact of later cult renown. In the mid-seventies, he cut a single on The Who‘s Track Records label and formed White Horse, which cut a 1977 Capitol album with the much-covered “Can’t Stop Loving You” (Leo Sayer, Outlaws, Phil Collins). Roger Daltrey scored a UK Top 20 hit with the Nicholls-penned “Without Your Love” from the soundtrack to the 1980 crime biopic McVicar.


Background

He was born William Morris Nicholls Jr. on February 25, 1949, in London’s White City district. His father, Billy Nicholls Sr., was a double-bassist in the house bands of Hammersmith Palais (The Oscar Rabin Romany Band) and the RAF (The Squadronaires).

In 1967, Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham hired the eighteen-year-old Nicholls as a staff writer at Immediate Records, whose roster featured an array of soul-pop singers (Chris Farlowe, PP Arnold) and freakbeat acts (Les Fleur de Lys, Small Faces).

Nichols’ first-recorded composition was “Led Along,” a 1967 Liberty a-side by American pop-rock singer Del Shannon. His earliest appearance on record is an uncredited backing vocal on the November 1967 Immediate single “The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack” by psychedelic rockers The Nice.


Would You Believe

Billy Nicholls released his debut album, Would You Believe, in April 1968 on Immediate Records. Immediate’s financial problems limited the album’s release to 100 copies. 

1. “Would You Believe?” (Jeremy Paul, 2:41)
2. “Come Again” (2:34)
3. “Life Is Short” (3:07)
4. “Feeling Easy” (3:12)
5. “Daytime Girl” (2:14)
6. “Daytime Girl (Coda)” (1:36)
7. “London Social Degree” (2:20) English soul-rock singer Dana Gillespie covers this song on her 1968 debut album, the London Records release Foolish Seasons.
8. “Portobello Road” (2:05)
9. “Question Mark” (2:26)
10. “Being Happy” (2:28)
11. “Girl From New York” (3:16)
12. “It Brings Me Down” (4:39)

Recorded late 1967 – early 1968
Studio Olympic Studios and IBC Studios (London)
Producer Andrew Loog Oldham; except “Would You Believe?” by Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane

Billy Nicholls – vocals, acoustic guitar, background vocals
Joe Moretti – electric guitar
Steve Marriott – electric guitar, background vocals
Big Jim Sullivan – acoustic guitar
John Paul Jones – bass
Ronnie Lane – bass, background vocals
Jerry Shirley, Kenney Jones – drums
Nicky Hopkins, Ian McLagan, Caleb Quaye – keyboards
Barry Husband, Denny Gerrard – background vocals
Arthur Greenslade, John Paul Jones – arrangements; except “Would You Believe?” arranged by

The Small Faces
Alan O’Duffy – recording engineer for “Would You Believe?”


Discography:

  • Would You Believe (1968)
  • Love Songs (1974)
  • Under One Banner (1990)
  • Snapshot [archival] (1999)

Sources:

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