The Story and Music of The First Class

Introduction to The First Class

The First Class was a studio project for singer-songwriter John Carter, formed in the UK. They were rounded off by Tony Burrows and Chas Mills. A seasoned singer-songwriter as well as a record producer, Carter had found successes during the early 1960s under several acts The Flowerpot Men, Carter-Lewis and the Southerners and the Ivy League, along with another producer Ken Lewis. The First Class’ most notable hit was “Beach Baby” which became a hit in both UK and in the US in 1974 and has become a rare oldies music favorite. He wrote this song with his wife, fellow songwriter Jill Shakespeare. Reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ music, “Beach Baby” was sung by Burrows, who also crooned in other studio-manufactured bands such as The Brotherhood of Man, Edison Lighthouse, the Pipkins, and White Plains. After the success of “Beach Baby,”several other singles such as “Dreams Are Ten a Penny,” “What About Me,” “The Beginning of My End,” “Me and My Gemini,” and “This Is It” flopped. Carter severed the “group” in 1976, which had become a one hit wonder. After the song’s success, they released their first album The First Class.


The First Class’ early years

Famous  for their only smash single “Beach Baby” during the 70s music era, The First Class was a pop music studio-based group originating in England, United Kingdom. The act was gathered by John Carter, a British songwriter and record producer who was also considered as the veteran of the 1960’s beat music. The group was also completed by Chas Mills, Clive Barrett, Del John, Eddie Richards, Robin Shaw, Spencer Shaw, Tony Burrows and Carter who was the leader as well. Along with Carter, The First Class was also founded with Burrows and Mills. The First Class was initially formed as an outlet for Carter’s hit song which he also wrote with his wife, songwriter Gillian (or Jill) Shakespeare.



“Beach Baby” — The First Class’ only substantial hit

In May 1974, The First Class issued their first single called “Beach Baby” which was sung by Carter with American accent. Recorded and released on UK Records, the power pop track became a big hit for the band. In the US, it peaked at #4 on the pop chart while in the UK it reached the #13 spot on the singles chart. “Beach Baby” became the group’s only big hit, and although lesser chart hits followed with “Dreams Are Ten a Penny” and “Funny How Can Love Be,” they are still considered as a one-hit wonder.


After “Beach Baby’s” success

Following the release of the follow-up single “Bobby Dazzler,” The First Class was already getting some requests to embark on a tour and play live but Carter and Burrows refused to do so. Instead, Barrett and Richards formed an entirely different lineup to play for a number of tour dates under the name The First Class.

Further singles were released during in throughout the 1970’s such as “Dreams Are Ten a Penny (1974),” “Won’t Somebody Help Me” and “Funny How Love Can Be” (1975), but these singles weren’t able to repeat the success of “Beach Baby.” However in 1976, The First Class still managed to release a sophomore album called SST which became a flop. Following the release of the album, the so-called group disbanded.


Post-First Class years

Some of the members were still able to find musical employment after The First Class’ heyday; Burrows continued working as a sessionist and Carter became a jingle writer. Mills eventually quit making music and chose to manage his own restaurant in North London.