His first love was playing football and as a young teenager he joined a boys’ team run by West Ham United. Aged 13 he skipped school a lot became a bit of a tare away before working in local markets and at the fairground. He would nip ‘up west’ to the Flamingo Club in Wardolf Street and listen to R&B groups where he fell in love with the sound of the drums. His father eventually bought him a second hand kit of drums and David quickly mastered the basics. He had a good singing voice and joined a local group called the Evertons. David gave up his apprenticeship as an engineer to pursue a career as a musician and was spotted by Derek Bowman who became his manager. David Cook became David Essex and formed The China Plates (Cockney rhyming slang for mates). The band split up soon after David Essex went solo releasing “And the tears came tumblin' down" for the Decca label in 1963. It failed to catch any attention. Bowman had confidence in the youngster and sent him for acting classes at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. David pursued some acting options and worked in repertory whilst still active as a singer. For a couple of years David toured with his band eight piece band, Mood Indigo but after he collapsed exhausted on stage at a gig and was forced to rest up for a couple of months. His dashing good looks got him a couple of small acting parts in films (Assault (1970) and All Coppers Are...(1971)), but otherwise David was on the brink of leaving show business when the 24 year old won the role of Jesus in Godspell in 1971.
Success on the West End stage brought him other film offers which included the starring role the retro-film, ‘That'll Be The Day’ (with Ringo Starr). The movie met critical success and when the soundtrack song "Rock On," (written by David and co –produced by Jeff Wayne) became a massive international hit, it catapulted him into pop stardom. His follow up single, "Lamplight,” charted in the Top 10 UK Singles Chart and he toured the UK. David Essex had a strong female fan base which ensured scenes of hysteria reminiscent of Beatlemania. The sequel to ‘That'll Be The Day,’ 'Stardust' also starred David with Adam Faith and was released in 1974. More hits followed and as his success as a pop star dwindled he went back to the theatre but not before he recorded a version of “Yesterday,” in 1976 for the musical documentary “All This and World War II.”
He was back working with Jeff Wayne two years later and featured on the concept album ‘War of the Worlds.’ In the same year David landed the part of Che, (Che Guevara), in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical Evita. David’s "Oh What a Circus" was released as a single and charted at number 3 in the UK. By the early eighties David was back in the movies and starred in Silver Dream Racer and the soundtrack song "Silver Dream Machine" gave David another Top Ten chart success. In 1985, he co-wrote and starred as Fletcher Christian in the West End musical Mutiny! The score produced two more hit singles, including "Tahiti." David keen to diversify has appeared in successful sitcoms and stage musicals since the 80s. He still performs and records. His last chart success was a cover version of “Everlasting Love” which appeared on the album Cover Shot in 1993.
Worth a listen
Rock On (1973)
Gonna Make You a Star (1974)
Hold Me Close (1975)
Oh What a Circus (1978)
Silver Dream Machine (Part 1) (1980)
Me And My Girl (Night-Clubbing)"(1982)
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