b. 5 June 1944, Hammersmith, London, England, d. 24 March 2002, Hammersmith, London, England. A highly praised songwriter in the rock tradition, Spencer failed to achieve the commercial success his richly diverse material deserved. He worked in book publishing before playing solo gigs at colleges and folk clubs during the early 70s. In 1974 he formed John Spencer’s Louts with multi-instrumentalist Johnny G (b. John Gotting), Dave Thorne and Chas Ambler. Spencer himself played lead guitar. Performing his wry, literate and passionate compositions such as ‘Mary Lou And The Sunshine Boy’ and ‘Bye Bye 69’, the Louts built up a following on the London pub and club circuit. Recording contracts were signed and broken by three labels before Beggars Banquet Records issued the band’s only album. Spencer’s evocative, gravelly voice and the quality of his lyrics brought favourable reviews but poor sales.
Soon afterwards the Louts disbanded with Gotting and Ambler pursuing other projects. Spencer formed Spencer’s Alternative with ex-Gryphon members Graeme Taylor (guitar) and Malcolm Bennett (bass), and Michael Gregory (drums). This outfit released ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ (1980) but was not heard to full effect on record until Dutch label Any Time issued Out With A Bang. In the meantime, Spencer’s ‘Cruisin’’ had been a Swedish hit for Jerry Williams and was also covered by Texan artist Augie Meyers. With Taylor the only survivor from the original line-up of his band, Spencer recorded the tougher-sounding Break And Entry which was issued by Irish-based Round Tower Records. The same label reissued all Spencer’s earlier recordings in 1991.
In 1990 Spencer formed the semi-acoustic Parlour Games, who recorded a self-titled set and Sunday Best for Round Tower. Spencer also wrote futuristic thrillers and worked with actress Susan Penhaligon in poetry and music performance settings. He died of cancer in March 2002.