When Motown’s Four Tops wanted to make it big in the U.K., they looked for a little help from a new friend: Beatles manager Brian Epstein. He booked the Tops at his London Saville Theatre in 1966 in a performance that has since become legendary in England.
“He told us that he had seen us perform, and if you give me your top performance, I’ll guarantee that when you come back, you’ll be front-page news,” says Four Tops founding member Duke Fakir. “We did do one of our best shows and he was so happy, he was almost crying. The audience was standing in the aisles calling for more and more and he said, ‘You guys did it!’”
“When we came back, we were front-page news, and it was like that for years.”
The concert is regarded as a transition point in the U.K. from the Chuck Berry-ish rock of the early British Invasion bands to the more soulful and sophisticated pop sound which would soon emanate from England.
Epstein, who would pass away the following year at the age of 32, threw a party for the Tops at his home following the Saville triumph.
“Everybody was there — The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Small Faces, you name it. Anybody who was doing anything in England,” Fakir says. “They respectfully asked us questions about our music and it was almost like a loving thing — they really embraced us.”
The rest of the world has also embraced the Four Tops. The gentlemen of Motown have a catalog of enduring hits: “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch),” “It’s the Same Old Song,” “Bernadette” and more. The Tops — Fakir is the last surviving original member — come through the area with the Temptations in a show at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside.
If you go
The Four Tops
Friday, 8 p.m.