Sunday 24 October 2010


I don’t know where to start. I’ve sat here all day trying to think what to write. What can you say when you wake up to find reports that your all-time favourite singer from your all-time favourite band has died?

What I have done is play The Ultimate Action three times, Rolled Gold once, Reg King once, Missing In Action once, “It Ain’t Fair” by The Boys, and I’ll get to the rest later. I humbly suggest you dig out a few too.

I first met Reggie in 1994. Dave Edwards, to my eternal gratitude, put me on to him and I sent Reg a copy of my Something Has Hit Me fanzine asking if he’d be interested in being interviewed. I received a slightly bonkers letter back from “Reginald King” suggesting we meet for a chat when he could tell me about Jimi Hendrix, John and Yoko, Eric Clapton and Robert Plant. I didn’t want to know about them.

I’d only seen a handful of pictures of Reg back in his Action heyday so had no idea what to expect when I turned up at his flat in Thamesmead on a dark winter’s night. I buzzed. The door eventually opened. A little chap in big glasses, sporting a mullet, wearing a waistcoat too small for him answered the door. He looked like a down-at-the-heel Cliff Richard or Mike Read. “Are you Reggie?” He was. He invited me in and we chatted for an hour and half until he started itching to get to the pub and I made my excuses and left.

It was one of the greatest evenings of my life. Sat amongst piles of yellowing newspapers and rubbish, drinking milky tea, we went through the Action in detail as he kept unbuttoning and buttoning his waistcoat and quietly belching. He was fairly nuts and his memory was obviously shot to pieces for more recent events (he lent me some photographs which he said were a year old – they must’ve been at least 15-20 years old) but his recall of the early 60s was incredible. No one had paid him any interest for 25 years yet he was talking as if events had happened yesterday.

The thought of an Action reunion seemed like a ludicrous idea to me but it eventually happened and Reg reveled in it. Having the band back appeared to give him some purpose and focus and if his expectations were unrealistic it was lovely for him to see the high regard he was held in. I saw him a few times at those gigs including a memorable all-nighter in Spain when he was sat with a very young leggy lady straddling him and snogging his face off. “I’ve still got it” he said on the journey home. It certainly looked that way.

The last chat we had was backstage after a gig in 2004. I tried to convince him that The Action’s “Since I Lost My Baby” was/is better than the Temptations’. He wasn’t having any of it, complaining – incredibly - that he was never happy with his vocal, but at least I made him believe I thought it was. It is. It’s the greatest Motown cover ever. Reggie said in 1965 of The Action, “it’s American rhythm-and-blues without the blues; it’s sort of rhythm and soul”, and he was exactly right.

Reg was to my mind the finest soul singer this country ever produced, and The Action - a bunch of white kids from Kentish Town – produced some its finest soul records. But that wasn’t all. The later Rolled Gold material showed a comfortable progression with the times and there are tracks on Reg King that can also send a shiver.

Earlier this year Mick Evans died (see here) and now, it's been confirmed, Reggie died on the 8th of October. I still don’t know what to say without sounding like an idiot. Maybe I’ll go and play “Since I Lost My Baby” again, or “Wasn’t It You”, or “In My Lonely Room”, or “Something Has Hit Me”, or “Gone Away”, or, or, or…


  1. Word has reached me too. Another one, as Mike said to me.

  2. Very sad news, indeed... but a lovely tribute to the man & the legend that was Reg King. Well done. I never had the opportunity to meet him, nor did I ever get to see The Action play live (too young for the original shows, and sadly, they never came to Canada for reunion shows)... but that didn't matter, as the Action, and Reg King's voice in particular, touched my life in ways I can't even begin to explain, and continue to do so to this day. I thank the heavens for the day the I was introduced to The Action. I don't think there is a week I can remember over the past 20 years when I didn't play one of the Action records at least once. They are a band that will be with me for life, and I am truly thankful. Reg King had a voice unparallelled and was completely, and utterly believable in every word he sang. You said it best here when you said: "Reg was to my mind the finest soul singer this country ever produced"... I couldn't agree with you more. Such a sad day... my heart goes out to his friends and family. Thanks, Reg... you will be greatly missed.

  3. Not an easy subject to write about when it's one of your heroes and not some random faceless person responsible for the one obscure record you've heard by them. I'm still in shock of it all and if I'd read it anywhere else but here I'd be skeptical but as I've written in my blog itself, I wouldn't second guess if I hadn't read it here first. Well done old friend and fellow long-time Action fan!

  4. I first heard The Action in 81 with Ultimate Action! Since then that and Rolled Gold has been one of the great soundtracks to my life - ageless and tireless. In my band back in the mid eighties, after a gig, Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie described our lead singer as sounding like Reggie King - I corrected him saying that he was not even in the same league, nay planet, as the great man. This morning I had The Action playing solidly in the car on the way to the office - and that without realizing the sad news. RIP Reggie King - another unsung hero for whom time will no doubt recognize the greatness of him and his band....

  5. Sad News, `Since I Lost My Baby` holds fantastic memories for me.

  6. What a loss! Great sound that I grew up listening to. Really sad to hear this news.

  7. very sad news,first heard the action in 81, as a young Mod,then got to see them in 2004,brillant,reg was amazing, what a voice.Its some thing Ill never forget.R.I.P.

  8. Martin Stone has commented '50,000 miles in the back of a Transit and every mile a blast, into the hereafter' It really is sad, what a sad year. I have been told his funeral was yesterday (Tues 26 Oct)

  9. Thanks to everyone for their memories.

    Yes, Reggie's funeral took place yesterday in a small chapel in Bexleyheath. A lovely service which spoke of Reggie's talent and vitality. Hearing "Since I Lost My Baby" must've been very hard for those close to him, but sounded beautiful. My condolences to all who cared for him.

  10. spent a few hours on a train today (with iPOD) reliving and reloving the output of a truly great talent..... RIP Mr King, time flies by when the soundtrack is so great

  11. thank you Mark, a lovely tribute to Reg and the Action.

  12. something has hit me ,o so sad reg has gone .first saw " THE ACTION" (when they first started playing down there they were called THE BOYS ) when i was a 15 year old little mod down the goldhawk social shepheds bush, early 60s, some times they played friday nights other times saturday nights, from 7.30 - 11oclock, lots of groups played there then went on to be famous, one of the groups there the high numbers / detours played the same sort of music as "THE ACTION "
    but they could not hold a candle to "the action" THE ACTION WERE THE BEST EVER . i never forgot them ,when my son started getting into music i used to tell him about them, my son had a chance meeting with pete ,from the group and as they say the rest is history. not long after that they reformed . i went to see them 3 times when they reformed, with the same boy(now my husband of 42 years)& girls as i saw them with the first time around.
    we danced all night just the same as we did the first time around. last time was at the 100 club . it was video'd ,and i am sure my friends &i are on that video more than the action.!

    we spoke to them after the gig about old times ,
    also spoke about GENO WASHINGTON as he played down the goldhawk alot
    fondest memories of happy days .

  13. Thanks for sharing that Gwyneth - it's always good to hear from people who were there and can vouch for the fact they were as good as I'd like to think.

    I'm going to post that old interview with Pete Watson that Darren organised and did with me on here later this week.

    Hope you're well.