Masters – Stax Interview

This entry is part 1 of 20 in the series Masters1

To listen to the podcast, click the play button in the left hand corner of the Podcast Player below! Et Voila!


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Stax – Behind the Scenes Interview

A conversation between Rob Bailey, renowned international DJ and promoter; myself (Eron Falbo), editor of the NUTsMag; Eddie Floyd, legendary singer and songwriter; and Steve Cropper, one of the world’s best guitarists.

The Highlights from the Legends:

Steve Cropper:
“… they ask you… ‘what was it like workin’ with Otis Redding?'”
“Before Wilson Pickett we had Lance Finnie, Joe Stubbs, Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops Brothers…”
“His [Wilson Pickett’s] manager had a demo and they sent it to Atlantic Records.”
“We already had two hits and a half and we were ready for the next one!”
“Al Bell who ended up being Vice-President… was a DJ when I met him.”
“… what I would kind of key as a style was a guy named Lowman Pauling of the Five Royales… that was one of my influences, and the other one I’d have to say was Bo Diddley… my other main influence was Billy Butler with Bill Doggett… Last night [at the Mojo Honours Awards] they opened with Link Wray’s ‘Rumble’… just two chords, but a great record… one of the first songs that I learned to play.”
“[regarding unreleased material for Stax]… We didn’t really make demos at Stax… When we turned the red button on it was for real!”
“The reason Isaac Hayes was at Stax was that Booker [Booker T.] took off and went to college!”
“[regarding the rumour that MG’s originally stood for the name of a car] That’s right, but Duck changed it to ‘Musical Geniuses’… the car company drew us a letter saying ‘we will not endorse Rhythm & Blues’… ‘we will not endorse Rock & Roll Music’… so we told them we changed it to Memphis Group… Memphis Group’s”
“the first single… went to number three… the Royal Spades who changed their name to the Marquees… I did one half a tour with them and then I fired myself… about a year later we did Green Onions”
“We missed Al Green by 10 minutes”
“[what do you think about the current soul music?] Is there a current soul music?… Eli Reed… he’s legit”
“If that’s what you call R&B fine… I don’t know… but it ain’t Stax!”
“The industry’s coming back to real bands and real music…”

Eddie Floyd:
“Philadelphia, if you need me call me… Pittsburg, call me… Ohio, call me… Detroit, call me…”
“As we go pick him up [Wilson Pickett], there was another car sitting there… that was the end of the Falcons… We quit… nobody could sing ‘I Found the Love’ except for Pickett”
“Atlantic were basically the mother company of Stax…”
“When I came to Stax, I came with all the intentions of being a singer… but… I wrote songs too and Pickett didn’t…”
“Anybody who would be in the house could come and be on the record.”
“Marv Johnson… Berry [Berry Gordy] and him were supposed to start a company together… but Berry started his, my uncles started his because of me…”
“I remember Smokey [Robinson] ask ‘How do you guys get a hit record?'”


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Eron Falbo - EDITOR

Brazilian polymath Eron Falbo came to London in 2009 after leaving his band ‘The Julians’ to pursue a solo career and become a cosmopolitician. Falbo began writing at the age of 11 for the school newspaper. By the age of 16 he had got his first job as a journalist. His experience in other magazines stretches from film critic to travel writer, passing through much but never leaving the culture spectrum. Apart from writing, Falbo is also an emerging singer. He was invited to record an album in one of the best studios in Nashville, Tennessee by none other than legendary producer Bob Johnston, who recorded the best material by the likes of Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash (all acclaimed writers). As of yet he’s only released one single, ‘Beat the Drums’ which was featured on Dermot O’Leary’s “Go Buy Monday” (single of the week) for BBC Radio 2, among other media. Currently, Falbo fronts the band ‘the Kyniks’ in venues in London and around the UK and can be occasionally spotted prowling the scene of the New Untouchables taking notes.

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January 29, 2012 By : Category : Articles Front Page Interviews Podcasts RnB UK Tags:, , , ,
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Masters – Roberto Carlos (LP Review)

This entry is part 2 of 20 in the series Masters1

Eron Falbo re-visits ‘Splish Splash’ by Brazilian musical legend Roberto Carlos

Production Notes:

Artist: Roberto Carlos
Album:
Splish Splash
Rating:
3 stars and a half
Release Date:
1963
Label:
CBS
Time:
29:36
Styles:
Rock & Roll, Beat, Rockabilly

Borrowing it’s title from an obscure 50’s hit by Bobby Darin, Splish Splash is a fine example of an early 60’s rock & roll album with a formula similar to that of the Beatles. What is most interesting about Roberto Carlos is that he explored the same influences as the Beatles – girl group, R & B and 50’s Rockabilly – while predating the Beatles and becoming far more successful than the fab-four to Brazilian audiences.  Other successful early-60’s rock acts around the world would depend on the Beatles’ success to launch their careers; Carlos was already a teenage sensation by the time the fab-four showed their faces to the world.  While Beatlemania increased Roberto Carlos’ fame immensely, his career had already been launched before the release of Please Please Me (the Beatles’ first album), thus showing him to be quite independent of the Beatles in his career and success.  Splish Splash, then, is an album by a well-established Brazillian pop icon released in the same year as the Beatles’ phenomenal rise to stardom, and therefore is as interesting a first-hear as were Please Please Me, With the Beatles, or Beatles for Sale, all of which follow similar methods of song placement: four or five hit singles, three or four love ballads, a focus on cover versions and a variety of rhythmic styles.

Splish Splash contains only two songs written by Roberto Carlos himself (alongside his Lennon/McCartney-esque writing partner, Erasmo Carlos), namely “Parei na Contra-mão”, an instant success in Brazilian pop charts and the daring rhythmic variation of “É Preciso ser Assim,” a Samba-oriented dancing favourite among the Brazilian 60’s youth.  Other notable additions to the album are the two translations of recognised 50’s successes, “Professor de Amor”, translated from “I Gotta Know”, probably taken from the Elvis Presley rendition of it, and the aforementioned title song “Splish Splash” by Bobby Darin.

The album does extrapolate on love ballads and thus misses the mark of the near perfect Beatles production formula.  Roberto Carlos is well known in Brazil for his over-the-top love ballad compositions, though admittedly, his ballads are the summit of his repertoire throughout his career. In Splish Splash however, the ballads are weak and lacking in energy, and could be seen as nothing more than redundant copies of 50’s love ballads, as opposed to his genial poignant innovations in arrangements to be seen in his later compositions.

In short, Splish Splash is a must-hear, must-own to any ‘60’s rock & roll world’ enthusiast. Its production is nearly comparable to that of the Beatles’ early albums and the original song compositions are easily to be placed among the greatest hits of that year worldwide. Its power isn’t as convincing and jovial as early Who, or Kinks, but the Beach Boys’ suave, summertime, politically correct posture is well remembered here.


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Eron Falbo - EDITOR

Brazilian polymath Eron Falbo came to London in 2009 after leaving his band ‘The Julians’ to pursue a solo career and become a cosmopolitician. Falbo began writing at the age of 11 for the school newspaper. By the age of 16 he had got his first job as a journalist. His experience in other magazines stretches from film critic to travel writer, passing through much but never leaving the culture spectrum. Apart from writing, Falbo is also an emerging singer. He was invited to record an album in one of the best studios in Nashville, Tennessee by none other than legendary producer Bob Johnston, who recorded the best material by the likes of Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash (all acclaimed writers). As of yet he’s only released one single, ‘Beat the Drums’ which was featured on Dermot O’Leary’s “Go Buy Monday” (single of the week) for BBC Radio 2, among other media. Currently, Falbo fronts the band ‘the Kyniks’ in venues in London and around the UK and can be occasionally spotted prowling the scene of the New Untouchables taking notes.

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February 6, 2012 By : Category : Beat Front Page Music Reviews Scene USA Tags:, ,
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Masters – July Interview

This entry is part 3 of 20 in the series Masters1

Eron Flbo took time to interview Brit Psych legends JULY as a preview to the 8 HOUR TECHNICOLOUR DREAM HAPPENING on Friday Night at this years Le Beat Bespoké 8 Event.

July are a psych rock band from Ealing, West London, that were mainly active between 1968 and 1969. The band’s music was a blend of psychedelic rock and pop-sike, with subtle yet lush harmonies, folky guitars, flutey keyboards, and intricate lead guitar patterns. Although none of the band’s records managed to chart in the UK or the U.S., July are today best remembered for their  classic songs ‘My Clown’, ‘Dandelion Seeds’, and ‘The Way’, which can be found on various compilation albums available over the years.

A Casual Conversation with July

July, a conversation about Psychedelia, the 60’s and the mind.  The guys from the band say what they think about Mods & Rockers, the current scene and their new sound. We begin with a new concept I’m exploring, which I explained to them before we began. It’s a poetic live review, that is, a review of a performance written during the performance, in verse.

This was my first attempt at it, written whilst watching July live from the back where the sound engineer was. They asked me to read it to them:

“Marble statues made of styrofoam are getting in the way
Hand written neon signs lay between us
Icarus incarnates the bones and stays
Inside even the marrow of the steamed lust

Slow and powerful the sound of future visions
Hand made axes of the Northern deities
Intrepid prophecies in collision
With those who stand between me and a maybe”

 

ABOUT INFLUENCES, PSYCHEDELIA, MODS & ROCKERS

Tom: Yeah, we started withThe Shadows

Tom:  Yeah, the problem was we didn’t know we were a psychedelic band till way after this.

Alan: We were looking on the internet and we saw ‘this is the best psychedelic band from the 60’s’ I didn’t know we were psychedelic. ‘Cause at that time we just thought Pscychedlia was colours.  John Lennon had a psychedelic car because it had all these swirly patterns all over it.  It wasn’t really used a term for bands in those days, even Floyd.

Tom: Well it wasn’t used as deeply. I think what happened as well, when the term was coined in the 60’s it kind of applied to that Hendrixy wishy washy kind of… and then of course Sgt. Pepper, and you know, so… It was very much the oil wheel light shows and that kind of stuff but it hadn’t developed.  And it was obviously… you know… potheads… you know, were involved.  They were the people who went to these gigs.  But it hadn’t developed into a very deep sort of culture at that time.  It was just like a pop genre.  It was a very pop genre because it was the Beatles that started it and Hendrix.

Tom: So, Mods are suits psychedelics are colours, Heavy metal is bikers

Alan: We’re very popular with Mods as well, so you could so ‘oh we’re a Mod band’, but we would never sort of pigeonhole ourselves.

Alan: One thing that we didn’t do is we never got influences from other bands

Tom: What? Apart from the Beatles.  We did, we got it.  Well, I did…

Alan: We got the R & B sound from Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf all those sort of people.  And that’s what we were interested in.  Tom then started writing words.  And then we suddenly evolved into a different way of doing it.  Cause we’re just one of several hundred thousand bands that copies Chuck Berry, so we can’t carry on like this.  Then we changed and this young man here started writing.

Tom: Yeah, me and Pete. Yeah, but at the time.  my recollection… It’s a bit kind of hazy, it was years ago, was that we were just trying to make money in the pop industry.  We’d gone through the kind of doing… Look, listen, the whole reason for getting into a band in the very first instance was that I had three chords in the guitar and I liked skiffle, I liked Rock Island Line and you know, the kind of Jump bands and stuff, you know…  but as soon as it became… when I met Allan and Pete and Chris, when we formed the Tom Cats.  He Suddenly, and we started to do Shadows numbers and then we got into Eddie Cochran, and you know, we were doing pop covers… you know… we hadn’t written anything by this time.  And then we went into R & B, and R & B in those days were kind of Benny King and Chuck Berry and you know that was…

Alan: Then the Blues!

Tom: And then we got into Blues and then we got influenced by the Beatles.  Once we got influenced by the Beatles we did some Beatles covers in our set and the girls started screaming and we suddenly started to think that… because we were good at the Beatles covers… And that’s when we started writing really…  But it was at no time… None of us did drugs anyway, we were all…

ABOUT THE LYRICS

Tom: It’s terrible! It was just made up… I had to say this but it was… we were trying to… do what the Beatles did on Sgt. Pepper really… So you make lines literally out of nowhere and you don’t have to be stoned to do that.  If you’ve got a reasonable kind of literary background. Make up some lines!

You can make up stuff fairly easily if you, you don’t…. without … I don’t ever remember… well, some of my songs were to do with lost love you know… because I was a terrible romantic… I got dumped

No, No No, it was very much personal adolescent situations.  I fall in love very easily, and… I was a smelly Rocker as well and I got dumped very quickly because the girls I fell in love with were nice clean girls and I was this foul stinking rocker covered in spots and I would get two dates and then they’d dump me and I’d write a song about that.

Alan: He was a Harley Man

Tom:! I was a rocker, yeah!  I built Harley Davidsons out of basket cases and fumbled about at the Ace caff and things like that.

The Mods got in first if you weren’t careful, they’d stick a bottle in your face.  So it wasn’t, yeah.  The point I was trying to make is we didn’t consciously write deep lyrics.  We wrote what we thought were fantastical lyrics on the most simplistic level that you can think of.  At the time, no one was well read; I’ve since read lots.  You know… I’m fairly well read now.  I’m not very well read.  I’ve dabbled in Gurdjieff and Crowley and all that, the mystics.

ABOUT NEW SONGS

When we wrote music, we wanted to be July still, we had that in mind…

Tom: The whole point… we’ve got two albums kind of ready to go.  One’s called ‘temporal anomaly’, which we’re trying to kind of fit in an interesting poetic concept about coming back from the past into now if you like but still having the mental attitudes that we had in 1969, you know what I mean? But having developed older and hopefully wiser bodies but we’ve still got the masculine stupidity of a 17-20 year old, you know?

Pete writes the really Psychedelic songs!  And I was just trying to say that the whole concept of playing again now and the songs that you’re writing now.  I’ve only written two or three songs that have gone in this bunch of stuff.  Because I can’t get me head into the place that his head’s never got out of.  He’s still a twenty year old on a scooter.

He writes incredibly honest songs about his own… what’s going on in his head.  And I tend to write airy fairy songs about what I think might be going on somewhere, you know, so…

I’m very aware of the multiple personalities.  I’ve got millions of them.

ABOUT ACID

Tom: I tried it once when I was in Canada, in Vancouver. All it did was make everything… all the straight lines went bendy. I felt separated. There’s a detachment.

Pete: But you don’t need drugs if you’ve got a dysfunctional mind.

Tom: Probably drugs just introduce dysfunctionality.

Pete: I’ve never taken drugs. I don’t need drugs. I’ve got a dysfunctional brain. It don’t work normally. I talk shit. I write shit.

ABOUT THE CURRENT SCENE

Pete: I love Simon Cowell, I think what he’s doing is fabulous. I think this manufactured plastic music is just what the kids want. I think it’s beautiful!

Alan: He did admit to being dysfunctional!

Tom: He might write this now!

Pete: You should fear nothing, what’s the worse that can happen? Well… lots of shit. Bad things can happen.

Tom: The Horrors are very exciting! We went to see them the other week, last week. And they’re very exciting. It was the Horrors, or one of the Horrors, that got us back into playing, Rhys. He claims that it was July that got him into music in the first place. It would be lovely if that were true.

Pete: Any band that gets people wanting to see them is doing ok. That’s what it’s about.

Alan: I read a quote by Evan Dando (from the Lemonheads) that said exactly the same. That he’s trying to get people listening to July. Somebody said on Facebook ‘What have you done to ‘Dandylion Seeds’ ‘He said ’ We did screw it up, but if it leads one person to listen to July then…‘he’s ’… done no wrong.’

ABOUT LE BEAT BESPOKE

Tom: We’ve been told that the audience that are into the ’68 album want to hear it as close as they can to the actual record.

Pete: We play as we would’ve done now.


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Eron Falbo - EDITOR

Brazilian polymath Eron Falbo came to London in 2009 after leaving his band ‘The Julians’ to pursue a solo career and become a cosmopolitician. Falbo began writing at the age of 11 for the school newspaper. By the age of 16 he had got his first job as a journalist. His experience in other magazines stretches from film critic to travel writer, passing through much but never leaving the culture spectrum. Apart from writing, Falbo is also an emerging singer. He was invited to record an album in one of the best studios in Nashville, Tennessee by none other than legendary producer Bob Johnston, who recorded the best material by the likes of Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash (all acclaimed writers). As of yet he’s only released one single, ‘Beat the Drums’ which was featured on Dermot O’Leary’s “Go Buy Monday” (single of the week) for BBC Radio 2, among other media. Currently, Falbo fronts the band ‘the Kyniks’ in venues in London and around the UK and can be occasionally spotted prowling the scene of the New Untouchables taking notes.

More Posts - Website

February 6, 2012 By : Category : Bands Front Page Interviews Music Podcasts UK Tags:, , ,
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Masters – Arthur Brown Interview PT1

This entry is part 4 of 20 in the series Masters1

Arthur Brown: The Mind Beneath the Fire – Part One

What was your recent tour with Alice Cooper like? Where did you guys first meet, what were some of the greatest moments between you?

The recent gig with Alice Cooper was a one off. It was specially for the English audience and it was a wonderful experience for me. He showed how humble and generous he is. Everyone in my party was greeted and treated with respect and kindness. The band had great fun doing the ‘Fire’ song. They told me that they had played it at the sound check at the previous 10 gigs. That was their only rehearsal. I was told to get to Alexandra Palace at 3pm for rehearsal. I arrived and was taken upstairs to the dressing room. Mark St John, who negotiated the whole thing for me, said I would do my tune at the end of the sound check – between 4.00 and 4.30. But as I sat in the dressing room I heard the tell-tale rhythm and chords of ‘Fire’ belting out (it was the band doing there final run through before going through their own material). I was later told by them that it was the first time they had got it right all the way through. They had based their version on one from the Internet, where I sang with the SAS band featuring Josh Phillips on keyboards and Mark Bzezicki on drums. They had had to make changes, as they had no organ in Alice’s band.

I went down to the stage and was spotted by Shep Gordon, Alice’s manager. He said, “Come and meet Alice now.” Up on stage I went, just as the last chords were played. Alice smiled and clasped my hand. “Well,” he said to the band, ” might as well do it now with Arthur.” The band got ready – including his new gorgeous female guitarist.

I said to Alice, “In the press it says we will duet.”

He said, “no you sing it. I’ll just sing some ‘Fires’ in the background.”

” Wow! What about the fire helmet?”

“Oh Yeah!” he said.

“And what about the original make- up?”

Alice, of course, had borrowed this later for his own image and I didn’t want to have any awkwardnesses arising. “Yeah!” he said, “You just go out and perform it the way it is natural for you.”

The run through was flawless, and there were smiles all round. “I see you still have that big voice” said Alice. When I got off stage, I asked Shep Gordon when in the show I would sing. He said, “You are the encore!” – the final song of the night. Alice was giving me the final song of the night! A supreme act of generosity from any performer. I said what a generous gesture that was. Shep said, “Whenever asked, Alice always says “Without Arthur Brown, no Alice Cooper.” In all my meetings with Alice across the years, he has always been approachable and human. In the middle of a high profile world tour, here again he proved to be considerate and generous, and, whilst aware of his own stature as an artist, entirely humble. In that regard, he reminds me of Peter Gabriel.

The whole night was thoroughly entertaining and a huge success, filmed in 3D?

A far cry from the early days, where I, already with the ‘Fire’ hit under my belt, was spending time with the GTO’s (Girls Together Only) a girl group in LA who were working under the tutelage of Frank Zappa. One of the band, Miss Christine, was my favourite. And we did have time together. Her other boyfriend was Alice Cooper, as yet without his later image. Strangely, another figure in LA. at that time was Kim Fowley, who, sporting a beard down to his waist, I met on a rooftop. A few years later, at a time when a certain band later named Kiss were wondering what to do, he said to them, “Take Arthur Brown’s image. he’s no longer using the make up.” And they did.

How would you describe what you are currently doing, what are your band like?

The current Crazy World is a young band. There are 3 guys in it and 3 women. We lift each other up when we’re down, we party, and we give each other space. When Z-Star, the great female vocalist did a guest spot with us at the Queen Elizabeth hall, she said what struck her most was the love we all have for each other in the band. So this spills over into the music and performance. The performance is musically disciplined, but this allows us a great deal of freedom when we want to let it all hang out.

The rhythm section is dynamic and powerful. Sam Walker is a wild man on the drums as well as being a solo singer in his own right, and Jim Mortimore is pulverising and melodic by turns on the Bass. Jim is also the MD, he is very direct and spots deviations from the arrangements instantly . Hawkeye is his other name.

Lucy Rejchrtova on keyboards is a dynamo. She plays exceptionally well, and also dances, gestures, and generally is a show-woman of the highest order.

Nancy Gromniak is the still mountain next to Lucy’s fire. But watch her blaze when it comes to a solo.

When we were deciding how to enlarge the line up, we were thinking of a sax. But we opted for a dancer instead. Angel proved to be a huge asset, with her exotic costumes and flawless dancing.

We wear masks sometimes and generally provide a spectacle. With this band, I enjoy dancing, with rhythms varying from soul, through dub reggae to folk and flamenco. And I can be crazy or just move aside a bit and let the others be crazy. On the larger gigs, we use projections custom made by Malcolm Dick. Expect the unexpected. We will be in the middle of recording a new lot of songs when we do this concert. There is also a vinyl only album of a live performance at The High Voltage Festival last autumn featuring this band. You can get it through the website arthurbrownmusic.com

Being an eccentric performer, even for the 60’s, do you get equally eccentric fans? What are some fan stories you can share with us?

One female fan had her boyfriend change his name by deed-poll to Arthur Brown – so she could truthfully say she was sleeping with Arthur Brown! One fan at a festival built his own fire helmet. It worked from a butane tank and could shoot flames eight feet into the air Two young girl fans booked an apartment for two weeks so they could have me to themselves. It was conditional upon me wearing my stage make-up when we went to bed. One fan works for the railway, but likes to come to concerts dressed as a psychedelic Bishop and sets himself up in the entrance on a podium, welcoming the crowd, and advising them. His advice, if taken, would ruin many people’s lives. I have one fan who took two cars, smashed the roof of one, the floor out of another, welded the two together, the floorless one on top of the other, and now lives in it. I have fans who live in nudist communities. You should hear what the women say about the size of men’s appendages. One nudist liked to dress himself as a salad, complete with a ring of Parsley round his whatsit.

During the Foundations years, what was your role, did you give creative input to shape their sound?

Well, it started as some kind of ‘peace intervention’ because when I walked into the audition, one band member had a spear at the throat of Tim the drummer, who was bent back over the coffee bar. They both stopped rather sheepishly when I announced I was there to sing. After that, I enjoyed singing with Clem Curtis. We had some good fun with the music and I loved soul. I learned quite a lot from Clem, as it was the first time I had done duets with a guy. I wasn’t with them long and I don’t know if I had any effect on their music or stage performance.

What motivated you to leave the Foundations and to create the Crazy World of Arthur Brown?

Well, at the time I joined them, The Crazy World was actually already going. But we only got about two small gigs a month. Then, during the time I was with the Foundations, the Crazy World was invited to play the UFO club. I really loved the atmosphere and creativity down there. The band were talented and all of them quite wild. So, when one day the Foundations manager walked in with a record contract which was for three years and would require me to focus on that for those years, I was faced with a choice. I loved singing soul and liked singing with Clem. But the Crazy World allowed me to explore artistically, musically, and develop my showmanship as a performance artist. So, although The Crazy World was still only earning 30 pounds a week – not enough to live on – I chose them. Four months later, the Foundations had their first big hit. The Crazy World were still paupers. But I never regretted it and within a few months we had signed with Track and were ourselves on our way.

What do you remember about the original ‘Technicolour Dream’ event at Alexandra Palace? Can you remember much about your performance and what songs you played?

I remember it as a vast event of which I was somewhat suspicious. It seemed like a lot of the bands were not really anything to do with UFO. The underground was becoming overground, and getting watered down. In retrospect it introduced new ideas of music and performance to lots of people – including John Lennon. There were the bands from the underground, but it was more of a treadmill than the very informal, though efficient, way things were handled at UFO. We did ‘Nightmare,’ ‘Give Him a flower,’ ‘Fire,’ ‘Witchdoctor (a theatrical rendering of the John Mayall number),’ ‘I put a Spell on You,’ ‘I got Money,’ and ‘Come and Buy’.

How true is the Italian legend which includes your hair being set on fire, stage nudity and deportation?

Well at the time, I had gone into my second theatrical period. I left behind the theatrics of The Crazy World and often did concerts that were totally improvised . So I was artistically naked. I improvised lyrics and melodies, and the band improvised often atonal avant-garde sounds. In order to be truly free from normal bounds I decided I would sing naked. I did this round Europe with varying effects. When I appeared naked at the Marquee club in London, one young woman fainted, but otherwise it was accepted as “Oh yes, Arthur Brown!” In Sicily, indeed, I was put in the maximum security prison, where I had many adventures, and caused a riot. I had a trial, which is reported elsewhere, and too lengthy for this interview. I eventually escaped because Dennis Taylor, who was tour managing me did a deal with the local mafia and gave them all our gig money to spring me out. It was chaos. There were people marching through the streets with huge billboards – cartoons depicting me naked – some suggesting I be thrown out of Sicily as being “Filthy Beast” and others saying “Set this hero free!” It stopped the whole festival while the police tried to restore order. The Palermo Pop Festival lasted for three nights, and featured the Duke Ellington Orchestra and Aretha Franklin, among others. That night I performed with Pete Brown’s Piblokto, and we did not improvise it all. In fact, we did ‘Fire.’ This was part of the contractual requirement. The promoter said he was counting on me for something unusual and exciting. I think it was both.

Where did you get the idea to start wearing heavy make-up on stage, that later influenced so many artists?

In 1965, when I was performing in Paris at a club called the Bus Palladium, which for a while was the epicentre of the new wave of music in France, one night a mother brought a seven year old child into the dressing room. He said “You should black out your teeth. The next night, when I performed, I blacked out all my front teeth. The audience loved it. I also occasionally dressed as a woman and wore a little Mascara. I also found my first fire helmet – a crown with candles on it – in the corridor of the hotel. The combination of flaming crown and blacked out teeth really struck the audience. Then, when it came to UFO, one night both Drachen, the drummer, and I decided to wear make up. The Death’s Head idea came out of conversations with Mike Reynolds, an artist living in the same lodgings as me. I later changed the outline slightly away from the original skull pattern. It was a product of feeling. I needed to really take the audience into a different dimension than was usually offered in concerts. And the songs were about mystical things – so the possibilities were opened up image wise.

 You were an inspiration to many acts from the 60’s beyond, you also worked with a plethora of them, what are some of your favourites?

Of course, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. Alan Parsons. Alice Cooper, Kula Shaker. Van der Graff Generator, Mothers of Invention, Peter Gabriel and the Prodigy

What was it like working with Pete Townshend as a producer?

Pete Townsend came to see us play at UFO. Track records had dithered about signing the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and lost them. So Pete, as talent scout for the Track set up, took me for a drive in his swank American car. The band decided that Track seemed the only company – out of the dozens that wined and dined us – that would allow us to go artistically where we wanted to go. Pete took us to his studio, and we set about demos. He was a useful creative force, particularly as the band had almost no experience of recording. When I said I was working on something that was incomplete, Pete asked what it was. We did a rough version of Spontaneous Apple Creation. He asked what was incomplete about it. I said I hadn’t come up with a melody for the song. He said, “I think it’s complete as it is.” We listened again, and agreed – it did sound good spoken. A lot of our performance in those days were improvised and often I would end up chanting or speaking in rhyme – so Pete’s idea was not out of keeping with our performances. Pete played rhythm guitar on some tracks but later it was decided to keep the basic unit as the band. We worked in pretty much harmony to produce the demos. The actual album was produced by Kit Lambert and Pete gave his input between Who gigs. So, Pete was pretty definite when he needed to be but did not attempt to dominate the band. He was excited with the ‘concept’ idea, which at that time was something new. I went to his house, and became aware of the scope of his imagination, which would later lead to Tommy. People claim to have been the first to develop the concept album but the truth is, it was in the air, and no one can say for certain who first had the idea. He was for me the opener of a door to the possibilities of realising things as yet unheard in popular music.

What are your memories of Track Records?

My memories of Track are that it employed more criminals than any other company I know. I remember two dynamic guys – Lambert and Stamp – who wanted to be film directors. They directed the High Numbers towards op art and drum smashing, and the band became The Who. Lambert was outrageous. Stamp was cool. Lambert was a creative force and was responsible for Hendrix’ rock hits. But they both succumbed to the lure of drugs. They nevertheless put me to the top. They were brilliant promotion men with artistic flair. They were bright and unstoppable in the beginning. But when my ex drummer sued them they became bankrupt as a company. Track’s office might have in it Jim Morrison, Hendrix, Ritchie Havens, Jonathan King, Thunderclap Newman, Marsha Hunt, Terence Stamp, (Chris’ brother.), John Fenton (publicist for Brian Epstein and manager of a Third World War and who at one time had 6 records in the top ten as a publisher); all manner of people to do with The Who – Wiggy, their tour manager was a favourite – and of course all the Who band members were in and out. There were beautiful women, Linda Keith for one, and journalists and radio figures. It was like a who’s who of the rock industry. Lord Sutch was a favourite of Lambert’s. I met David in Track’s office. Of course while the Bosses were partying, the accountants were siphoning off the money. So to me, a newcomer to the rock industry at that time, it was a revelation of what business was like in those years.

What was the intent behind ‘Kingdom Come’ do you feel you took it to where you felt it belonged? Also, please tell us your more recent memories of the 2005 performance that afforded you Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘Showman of the Year’.

Kingdom Come sprang from a decision to go inwards and find myself. At the time, I felt this would be achieved either by going to study at the Samye Ling monastery in Scotland, or by a band. In the end, I chose the band, an active route. The name came when Dennis Taylor and his wife Astrid, and Jeanette, my first wife, and I were walking in Glastonbury by the Tor. I said, “Well, let’s name it according to the legend that King Arthur will return – let’s call it Kingdom.” Dennis said, “Why not Kingdom Come?” so Kingdom Come it was. It seemed to tie in nicely the Pagan element with the Christian who co-opted the Pagan mythology. My thinking was coloured by my time in the US. Hippie philosophy had dared come up against money, greed, and had to encompass the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Timothy Leary publicly manifested a gun. The war in Vietnam gave an object lesson in how money and power can change both invader and invaded. So the forces of change and inertia were gathered against each other. Ronald Reagan proposed putting hippies in a concentration camp. Many of those who aspired publicly to a spiritual realm were seduced by money, power and security.

Kingdom Come was financed by German Polydor, and English Polydor, who had refused us, did their best to block every move. I wanted, with the band, to represent the feelings that the above mentioned confrontation brought up in me on my journey towards myself. I wanted also to see how far my body could go in terms of drugs and alcohol etc.. It was a balance between discipline and fun. We did musical exercises – for instance a game much like musical chairs, but swapping musical phrases round every member of the band instead of chairs. At the same time, I wanted to explore multimedia presentation. So we had muslin screens, and costumes. And a lightshow and lightsman. We recorded Galactic Zoo, and in a conversation with Manager Mark Radcliffe, the idea arose of crucifixion as the theme of the piece . Some people take it as specifically Christian. But that was not it. Where the timeless meets the timebound events of this world is maybe a good starting point for that image. We were experimenting with non-traditional management structures, and seemed to consequently suffer from lack of money. But in the end that line-up received glowing reports, and played alongside Alice Cooper at the Rainbow, a major London venue. He referred to what we were doing as “true psychodrama.” A couple of years later and after much soul searching the band morphed into its electronic configuration, where synthesisers replaced the Hammond and I personally played the first robot onstage, when we used a drum machine instead of a drummer. It was the first time a band had been based on beats instead of a drummer. And the response varied from utter astonishment, to disbelief. The idea was for the band to have the simplicity of a string quartet. It also gave equal importance to all the instruments, as opposed to being based around a lead figure backed by others. I wanted to explore music as an objective expression as opposed to being a diary of personal feelings. We had projections on a screen – but now they were Yantra, geometric patterns and some of the great master paintings that transcended the personal. We were reaching for a multimedia presentation that would satisfy all the senses. I am still aiming for that, and will one day take it to its next level. That said, though we had no commercial success, we were liked in Europe, and opened for Duke Ellington amongst others, at cultural events. We were revolutionary, but we couldn’t quite make it into the heights controlled by the major financial league. We experimented with group living, drugs, sex, music, art, and life itself, and produced what are now regarded by many as two Classic albums. A worthwhile journey! In the end, I decided I had gone as far as I could go with a band form in the quest to find myself. So we disbanded.

This concert arose out of a series of concerts I did in the Brighton area where various artists did short sets before I came on. I remember our promoter losing faith three weeks before the gig, so we had to put in a completely new team. Billy Jones  and Phil Rose took the Helm, and we managed to get a large crowd. My personal memories were that at 2.30 in the morning of the day, I found my then girlfriend naked downstairs with the carpenter. I had only just recovered from flu and my voice was extremely questionable. In the end, it was fine. Bruce Dickenson did the DJing because he wanted to, but his manager didn’t want that fact advertised. I did three sets with three different line-ups, and didn’t actually see any of the other artists. I didn’t get to chat with any of them. But they were great. They all did it basically for expenses. Howard Marks did a superb job of MCing the whole two and a half hour event. Everyone on the bill did it out of love, and I am still overwhelmed at their response. A DVD of the event is finally coming out this summer.

What were the songs like that you created for ‘Healing Songs Therapy’, is it possible to listen to some?

A healing songs session was where a friend of mine, an excellent counsellor, would talk to a client about their problems and I would listen, just picking up the threads and feelings that were undercurrents and often not stated. I would then take the guitar and improvise – I mean not like make new words for an existing tune but rather totally improvise both words and melody in the moment – and we would record it. The client would take away the result on a tape. We had glowing reviews, and Life magazine did an article, ‘From God of Hellfire to Singing Shrink.’ We got excellent reviews from psychologists and counsellors as being a potent new avenue for counseling. This was in Austin,Texas. When I got back to England, I called Pete Townshend about the method and suggested he might want to do some counseling of others in his AA program. He said he was not ready for that. But I heard a year or so later he developed his own variation of the Healing Songs method. Not improvising in a session but getting people to write in their problems and then creating a song which he sent them. Because it was poetry, people found the images fruitful for a long time. I think my counseling buddy, Jim still has some of the song tapes.

Do you have any mystical/occultist influences, what are they, in terms of writers and books?

Well when it comes to mystics there are many. Rumi, Gurdjieff, Ibn Arabi, Hallaj, Meister Eckhart, William Blake, Tennyson, Etc. A book for the occult is by Manly P Hall (who was Elvis Presley’s Guru). It is called Secret Teachings of all Ages. The Urantia Book is quite a volume. Books by Alice Bailey can be revealing of the occult. Bhagavad Gita is beautiful. To know what is really hidden, and what hides it, look at ‘I Am That’ by Nisarghadatta Maharaj. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

Did Robert Plant tell you why he invited you to work with him? What was that partnership like?

When I was contacted by Robert Plant’s management to do a tour supporting him with my acoustic trio, I was very flattered. It was during a period when I was also doing a tour with The Pretty Things. Miraculously, the two tours only conflicted on two concerts. Although it was only four weeks to the tour, everything was soon sorted out. Robert proved to be a very good host, and we had lots of laughs. He had just come off a stadium tour with the Who in the US. He took his cooks and three long trailers on the road for this tour. One night he joked that he would disband his line-up and work with a trio like mine. That way the expenses were kept down. He struck me as someone who had kept his integrity in the face of great fame and wealth. We never discussed why he wanted me on the tour, we were more likely to discuss the necessity of fisticuffs if necessary, or the place of magic in life. But his personal secretary said he had called from America, and said, “I want someone like Arthur Brown.” It may have been because his band at that time gave the music a psychedelic slant. I must say, he was well known for doing whatever he wanted to musically. When his success with Alison Krause came, I for one was well pleased that he had found a new niche for his talents. He is currently living in my old home town in Texas, Austin.

What have you got prepared for us for Le Beat Bespoké 8 2012 performance?

It’s what I haven’t got prepared that will thrill people -the unexpected in the moment happenings that are the hallmark of creativity. Of course it will be a full show with costumes, Fire helmet and such. I think it will above all be good fun. And danceable!


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Eron Falbo - EDITOR

Brazilian polymath Eron Falbo came to London in 2009 after leaving his band ‘The Julians’ to pursue a solo career and become a cosmopolitician. Falbo began writing at the age of 11 for the school newspaper. By the age of 16 he had got his first job as a journalist. His experience in other magazines stretches from film critic to travel writer, passing through much but never leaving the culture spectrum. Apart from writing, Falbo is also an emerging singer. He was invited to record an album in one of the best studios in Nashville, Tennessee by none other than legendary producer Bob Johnston, who recorded the best material by the likes of Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash (all acclaimed writers). As of yet he’s only released one single, ‘Beat the Drums’ which was featured on Dermot O’Leary’s “Go Buy Monday” (single of the week) for BBC Radio 2, among other media. Currently, Falbo fronts the band ‘the Kyniks’ in venues in London and around the UK and can be occasionally spotted prowling the scene of the New Untouchables taking notes.

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February 8, 2012 By : Category : Articles Bands Front Page General Interviews Tags:, ,
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Masters – The Trashmen Interview

This entry is part 5 of 20 in the series Masters1

What’s the current line-up of your band, how did you come together in the first place?

Current group consists of Tony Andreason, lead guitar and vocals, Dal Winslow, rhythm guitar and vocals, Bob Reed, bass and vocals and Rob Reed, drums and vocals. The original drummer, Steve Wahrer, Tony and I, (Dal), started playing together in high school back in 1957. Bob joined the group in 1962, one year before we cut Surfin’ Bird.

Steve died of cancer in 1989. Tony’s brother Mark played drums for us for several years before Rob took over about three years ago.

Were there many line-up changes along the way?

It has always been the original group until Steve died. The three of us are the original guys that started back in the early 60’s.

Is everyone in the band from Minnesota?

Bob is from North Dakota, I am from Nebraska, Tony is from Minnesota and Rob, who is Bob’s son, now hails from Florida. Steve and I graduated from the same high school in suburban Minneapolis.

Did you stay there in the 60’s or did you move to somewhere like Los Angeles or New York City after you went professional?

We have always remained in Minnesota.

What are some of your memories from playing in London in the past?

We have never played London or Great Britain before. We were supposed to do a tour in 1965 but it was cancelled after the British music swamped the U.S.

Is there going to be any interesting reissues coming out? A box set perhaps?

There is a new best of the Trashmen compilation coming out this year. Hopefully prior to our gig in London.

What do you think makes London unique, why do think rock n roll lovers flock here?

It naturally is deep in history from the Beatles and Stones to Nick Lowe, etc.

Are there any thoughts behind recording new material? What are your plans for the future?

We have given it plenty of thought but have yet to come up with any material.

What have you got prepared for us for Le Beat Bespoke 2012 performance?

Trashmen songs. Every song we play is one we have recorded in the past. Either in the studio or on live performance. All are available on the Sundazed label.

Did you participate in the recent promotions of ‘Surfin’ Bird’ by the Family Guy cartoon, iTunes and Facebook? Did you expect another surge like this and returning to the charts after so many years?

We were very excited and honored when Seth and Fox chose Surfin’ Bird for the Family Guy Episode. The song continues to amaze us by popping up periodically. It is used on TV, Movies and a couple of video games.

How does this compare to the first time you heard yourself on the radio in the early 60’s?

It is always a thrill and kind of bizarre.

A lot of people describe you as Surf Rock, do you think that is a suitable label for the genre you play?

We are categorized as Garage, Surf Rock and Punk. Mojo has listed us as one of the top Punk groups of all time…

I guess we don’t like to pigeon hole ourselves and feel we probably fit in to all three catagories…

Some would consider “Surfin’ Bird” to be the first ever example of a Punk Rock track. What is your take on that? What is your take on Punk Rock in general?

It sure was not intended to be Punk, since that term was unknown in ’63. It was simply a thing we did one night at a gig that expanded into the full Surfin’ Bird.  Punk Rock is like other forms such as Garage, Surf, etc. You have some really great groups and some pretty sad ones…

On a radio show in New York Ringo said he didn’t like the Trashmen. How did you react to that and how did/do you rate the Beatles work?

We heard that remark and never gave it much thought. We were kind of stunned by the initial popularity of the Beatles but liked their sound. Did not care much for their later works…Undoubtedly, John and Paul were amazing song writers…

It seems your music was recognised by many bad boy film directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Stanley Kubrick. Do you rate their films and do you think their choices depict the true nature of the songs?

They are both highly respected directors. Always been a fan of both. After hearing first hand reports of Vietnam veterans and how they used Surfin’ Bird in the war, we were humbled by the use of our material…

We found some ‘classic tunes’ such as ‘Hava Nagila’ and ‘Greensleaves’ and were very interested in the unique idea of ‘surf rocking’ the classics’. How did this idea arise? Are there more rare releases or unreleased versions somewhere?

These were just ideas that came during practice. Malaguena was another example of this. No unreleased versions that I am aware of.

What’s the story behind the so-called “Trashmen’s Lost Album”?

This was the album we finished to be the follow up to the first Surfin’ Bird album. Our producers decided not to release since it was during the British music trend and they thought it would not be cost effective. Our ties with these goons separated due to this.  We obtained all of our masters and thanks to Sundazed, the album was released about thirty years later…

We’ve heard you say that ‘Surfin’ Bird’ came up almost accidentally in a live gig at Chubs Ballroom, how was the recording process? When you saw it was a hit did you wilfully try to come up with other similar sounding tracks?

That’s true. We had heard another band do a bit of Bird is the Word in Wisconsin and thought we would just try something different one night. Steve said “just watch me for the chord changes and I’ll stop and do something bizarre in the middle”. The result was overwhelming. The DJ said we should record this due to the crown reaction. We cut a copy in George Garrett’s record store basement. Took this copy to the DJ and he said to cut down to two minutes and refine the sound. George said he would pay for the session in Kay Bank Studios, even though he hated the song. The follow up, ‘Bird Dance Beat’, did fairly well but kind of locked us into a gimmick band mold. We spent more time trying to get out of that than trying to duplicate the bird.

Do you have anything special planned for this year as we believe it’ll be the 50th anniversary of the band? Will this coincide with your Le Beat Bespoke performance?

We have a new unit coming out on Sundazed…kind of a best of the best…This is the 50 year anniversary of the Trashmen and next year will be the very same for Surfin’ Bird.

When you were playing ballroom dances in the early days did you ever expect such international admiration and success and so many long years of the band’s survival and triumph?

Never…Only wish Steve was hear to soak it all in…

Band Promo Links:
www.myspace.com/thetrashmenband


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Eron Falbo - EDITOR

Brazilian polymath Eron Falbo came to London in 2009 after leaving his band ‘The Julians’ to pursue a solo career and become a cosmopolitician. Falbo began writing at the age of 11 for the school newspaper. By the age of 16 he had got his first job as a journalist. His experience in other magazines stretches from film critic to travel writer, passing through much but never leaving the culture spectrum. Apart from writing, Falbo is also an emerging singer. He was invited to record an album in one of the best studios in Nashville, Tennessee by none other than legendary producer Bob Johnston, who recorded the best material by the likes of Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash (all acclaimed writers). As of yet he’s only released one single, ‘Beat the Drums’ which was featured on Dermot O’Leary’s “Go Buy Monday” (single of the week) for BBC Radio 2, among other media. Currently, Falbo fronts the band ‘the Kyniks’ in venues in London and around the UK and can be occasionally spotted prowling the scene of the New Untouchables taking notes.

More Posts - Website

March 12, 2012 By : Category : Articles Bands Front Page Interviews Music Tags:, ,
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Masters – Don Fardon (The Sorrows) Interview (2)

This entry is part 6 of 20 in the series Masters1

Peter Markham from Ugly Things talks to Don Fardon, lead singer of the Sorrows. PART 2

GOODBYE WEBB STACEY, WILL PITY, DON MAUGHN – HELLO DON FARDON!

UT: After you left the Sorrows in ’66, you decided to give up the music business altogether, even swapping your Jaguar for a Morris Minor?

DF: When I left the Sorrows in ‘66, I had no job to go to, a new baby boy who was two-years-old and not very much money. My wife had a ladies’ hairdressers shop, which just about paid the bills, but left nothing over. So the first thing that went was the Jaguar. I met a guy who played rugby football with my brother-in-law, who had a cheap car for sale. It was a battered Morris Minor, which he agreed I could have and pay him for it when I got the money. I didn’t realize that he used to take the whole football team out in it on Saturday nights. We used it for about six months, when one day my wife called to tell me the front wheel had dropped off in the middle of the main street in Coventry and was blocking traffic! The front axle had snapped off.

We were now in real trouble, no money, we couldn’t pay to repair the car, bills were piling up and the pantry was almost bare. I was too proud to ask my father for help, which he would have given to us. My father had a huge house and gardens the size of a football field. So to supplement our food bill, when it was dark I used to go up there and grab a few cabbages and carrots to go with the two sausages we had for Sunday dinner. I don’t think times were ever as bad as they were then. But, by god, does it teach you to appreciate things. Something we have never forgotten. We had to sell my wife’s jewelry, and I remember making a promise to her then that one day I would make it all back and more.

UT: You were eventually convinced to return to singing and signed on with top London manager Eve Taylor, who also had Adam Faith and Sandie Shaw in her fold.

DF: I managed to get a job back in engineering with a company my father had once been a director of, and it was whilst I was there that one day the works security police came to tell me a car was waiting outside the factory gates. As I left work I went over to the car and the driver informed me that he had come from a London recording company and that I was to go with him back to London to arrange the contract. I told him to push off as I wasn’t interested, as I had just sorted my life out and had found a steady job at last. People had been to tell me the car from London had returned. I went to the driver and said, “Look, mate, what part of NO don’t you understand?” He said, “Why don’t you just talk to them? What have you got to lose? You can still walk away if you don’t like what you hear. It won’t cost you anything to listen, will it?”

So I went to London with him to see what it was all about. The record company said, “What will it take for you to sign a contract with us?” I said I wanted the equivalent of my annual engineering salary for at least two years in advance, paid into my wife’s bank account. They said, “OK, you got it!” I was back as a solo artist.

UT: Then you were signed by CBS as a solo artist, and were about to release your debut single, “It’s Been Nice Loving You” (written by Burt Bacharach and arranged by Percy Faith), on which production costs ran up to £6,000. But you ran into some problems with your old record company?

DF: My recording manager was Miki Dallon, who arranged for me to meet big time manager Eve Taylor, who said that I would be the next big thing to hit the scene. She went to a Christmas party at ATV Studios and whilst she was there she told everyone about this new singing sensation she was about to sign. Louis Benjamin, the head of Pye Records, heard her and whether through jealousy or what I don’t know, but he went back to Pye and said to his legal department, “What do we know about Don Fardon?” They checked their records and said, “He was signed to us with the Sorrows.” So the swine slapped an injunction on me which was in place for eight months before we could get it dropped. By that time Eve Taylor had moved on. I couldn’t record or work during this time, so it was back to square one—although the record company still paid me my wages, thank god.

INDIAN RESERVATON AND THE SOUL MACHINE

UT: Around this time you also fronted a band called Don Fardon & the Soul Machine, which was a popular stage act that toured all over Europe backing Ben E King, Arthur Conley and Aretha Franklin. Tell me a little more about that particular band.

DF: Back home I was getting restless, I knew some guys from Birmingham and approached them about forming a band so that I could earn some money. It became Don Fardon’s Soul Machine. After a couple of weeks gigging around, an agent saw us and offered me a tour of Germany. We set off for Berlin. All was well until we arrived at the East German checkpoint, when the drummer found out he had lost his passport! The keyboard player said he had his brother’s passport that he picked up by mistake, so we could use that. They looked nothing alike! Can you imagine how I felt as I handed over the eight passports? I hoped that by giving them in a bundle the East German border guard might not notice! I was crapping myself. And would you believe it, we got through. But when we arrived on the other side they made me fly him back to the West. During that tour I played on stage with the greatest names that the soul music world had every produced, including Otis Redding, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett. (Black soul singer Chester Riggon replaced Don as the frontman of the Soul Machine, rechristened the Atlantic Soul Machine, who are amazingly still together – Ed.).

UT: Then you ran into Miki Dallon who signed you to his new label, Young Blood, and set your sights on Germany and France instead of the UK. The single “The Letter” sold over a million copies in Germany alone. How come you turned to the continent?

DF: We started releasing records in Germany first because I had established a name there. The first three records I released there were all chart entries, I was flying!

UT: In ‘68 “Indian Reservation” entered the charts in the US. How did that song come into your repertoire?

DF: My producer went to America, and returned with a fistful of demos for me to listen to. One of which was a song written by a housewriter at Acuff-Rose Music Publishers in Nashville, Tennessee called “Indian Reservation” which they thought might be a chart song, so I recorded it—along with, over the next six years, over 200 other tracks. “Indian Reservation” became a massive worldwide hit for me.

UT: You continued to tour the club circuit doing cover versions mixed with your own songs?

DF: I had found a Scottish cabaret band called A Touch of Raspberry and joined the cabaret circuit for three years.

UT: Your success in Germany allowed you to have your own radio show, and you also worked as a journalist for Axel Springer?

DF: My status in Germany was growing, and at this time it was probably one of my biggest markets. I received offers from all kinds of people. I started writing a pop column for a national German newspaper, and also used to record a weekly show which was pumped over the border into Eastern Germany. It was heady days.

I realised quite early on that if I wanted to make it big in Germany, I had to try and master the language. My German record company at first provided me with a driver/chaperone who was an attractive English speaking female. So when I arrived for my second tour, I asked if I could have someone who did not speak English. That was when they provided me with a male driver/bodyguard. When you spend a month, 14 hours a day, traveling all over Germany with someone who doesn’t speak your language, then you are forced to speak theirs. And it worked! That he turned out to be an ex-SS officer is another story. But my lasting memory of him was that if drinking booze became an Olympic event, then I had been in the company of the gold medalist! They say that when he moved house there were so many empty bottles in the back garden it put 10,000 DM on the value of the house! And when we flew to France and back, he drank so much on the plane I had to pay duty on him to get him back into the country!

UT: You also had a venture into the film business and did a film called ‘The Long and Short’?

DF: The German record company put my name forward to appear in a film, which was to be the German entry for the annual Golden Rose of Montreux [Rose D’Or] Awards. I as it turned out was to star alongside the French legend Charles Aznavour, who was one of the nicest guys I ever met. He was a walking history book on everything French. And of course a close friend of Edith Piaf, whom I adore.

UT: Two years later, “Indian Reservation” was reissued in the UK and became a hit.

DF: In ‘68 “Indian Reservation” became a hit all around the world, except in the UK. I don’t to this day understand why not. Miki Dallon told me it only sold three copies, and I bought two of those! When I was working on the Northern cabaret scene in the UK in 1969 I became very friendly with Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis. I used to stay at his family home in Manchester if I was working in the area. His mum was like a second mum to me; it was like home from home. Except for the giant fruit bat that shared my room with a three-foot wing span—and it wasn’t in a cage!

I arrived back from a gig one night late, and Dave was waiting up for me. He’d been to the pictures to see a film called Soldier Blue all about the demise of the Red Indians. He said, “I reckon if you re-release your ‘Indian Reservation’ now, it will be a hit.” I said, “No chance, buddy, the record company will never go for it.” So unbeknownst to me, he called them the next day, and as they say the rest is history.

UT: As promotion for the record, you went to the States to do some publicity. Could you tell me a little about your time Stateside?

DF: There was a Swedish guy called Jan Olafsson who worked at Young Blood. He had something to do with ABBA in the early days. He called me up and said that the Americans would very much like to have me over to do some publicity calls, so I agreed. We drove down to Dallas where we picked up some movie producer, and headed off to Oklahoma to the Cherokee reservation at Talaquah. It was the 150th anniversary of the Trail of Tears festival. To remember the uprooting of the Cherokee Nation from Colorado and the forced march in the middle of winter to their re-settlement in Oklahoma. There were over 3,000 Indians present when we arrived; it’s one of the most moving things I have ever witnessed. Also it was a bit terrifying, to be the only white people there. And they allowed us to film it. I presented a copy gold disc to the current chief of the tribe, a Wilma Mankiller, and we still keep in touch from time to time.

UT: In 1970 you toured Scandinavia and recorded an album in Sweden with English producer Roger Wallis. The Master of Ceremonies was Kim Fowley. How did that all come about?

DF: In September of 1970 I set off for my first ever Scandinavian adventure and I loved it. We recorded a 50/50 live/studio album backed by my Swedish session band, who were a great bunch of guys. I remember as we were on our way to Norway, it began to snow, I mean big time! At four in morning we were the only car on the road. I say a car, but we were in a converted ambulance, which had aircraft seats, very comfortable. We hadn’t seen another vehicle for an hour when in the middle of nowhere we came upon a traffic jam. It was -20 outside, so we sat for what seemed ages. Then I and the lead guitarist went to see what was wrong. Two guys in a VW Beetle had come round a corner and hit an elk, which had come through the windscreen, killing the driver and pushing the passenger into the backseat, and he was trapped under it!

The following day they took me to the top of the ski-jump. Who the hell decided it would be a good idea to strap two bits of plastic to your feet, go to the top of the tallest tower you can find and leap off? I am still in awe of the experience. Before I left Sweden, Roger Wallace, the record producer introduced me to Kim Fowley, and they said, “Why don’t you let Kim introduce the LP?” So we recorded a piece at a nightclub to put on the front of the record. What a loon!

UT: Did you have much to do with the other artists on Young Blood, like Jimmy Powell?

DF: At Young Blood it was just like one big family. We were all good mates with each other. Mack and Katie Kissoon used to do a lot of the backing vocals on my records. Z Jenkins, who was a session guitarist and played on the Carpenters’ records and played on “Baker Street” for Gerry Rafferty, came on the road with me for three years and acted as my musical director. Jimmy Powell and I worked together for a showbiz agency in Wolverhampton for a couple of years as booking agents, and we actually managed a local band called [Ambrose] Slade. One Monday morning, Jimmy, who at the time was skint, quietly sold them to Chas Chandler for £200! The pillock!

UT: In 1970 you released “Belfast Boy” about George Best. Tell me a bit about how that song came about.

DF: In 1969 or early in 1970 I got a telephone call from some guy who said he was an independent film producer and had been commissioned by the BBC to make a television documentary about the life of the world’s greatest footballer, George Best. He’d heard me singing in a show in the West End of London and said he would like me to sing the title song for the program. I told him that I didn’t do session work, and that I was under contract to a record company, so it wouldn’t be allowed. He said, “If they say you can do it, would you?” So I said, “Yes I would.” He phoned Young Blood and we got the OK, and into Abbey Road Studios I went to sing “Belfast Boy.”

At the end of the session he was over the moon with the result. He said “Don, that’s fantastic. Let’s go and have a drink to celebrate.” I said, “It’s 4:30 in the afternoon, all the pubs are shut.” “It’s OK,” he in- formed me, “we can go to my club.” So we’re sitting in this club, in a booth having a beer, when he notices some people in the other booth and waves to them. He got up and went over to them. I couldn’t see them from where I was sitting, but when he came back he said, “They want us to join them,” so over we went. It was really quite dark in the bar, so to my surprise, as I sat down in the booth, I looked over to be introduced to his friends, and sat looking at Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor!

The TV show came out the following Wednesday night at nine o’clock and from 10 o’clock for the next five hours the phone lines to the BBC were jammed. When would the record be available, what label was it on, etc. So my record company had a meeting with the BBC and licensed it and released it in 10 days. George and I spent many days together promoting it around the country and it became a hit. We remained friends till his death, and I did the epitaph on TV to him on the day of the funeral. When I am asked what he was like, I always say that he was the most ordinary guy you could every wish to meet. His most favorite things in life were a cup of tea and hot buttered toast. I’m sure he will be remembered for his football and not the other things that flawed his genius.

UT: In 1971 you left Young Blood and stopped working with Miki Dallon.

DF: In 1971 I had started to feel a bit stagnant. I was just cruising along the showbiz highway aimlessly. I met a guy who was a big noise with a brewery company, and during a meal we had a conversation about pubs and restaurants. He said, “If you ever fancy a crack at the license trade, give me a call.”

I had a young baby son whom I never saw, and a wife whose company I really enjoyed. I asked her one night if she fancied becoming a publican, and to my amazement she said yes. I informed the record company I was coming off the road and we purchased our first pub eight weeks later, the first of five we were to own over the next 20 years. There’s another book on this subject alone!

UT: You continued to release records on various labels up until 1976 when you retired from the music business. How did that come about?

DF: Although I continued to record, the restaurant life was so intensive, working 16 or 17 hours a day, I found that it took all our time and effort, so it was with a sad heart that in ‘76 I decided to retire from music altogether.

In ‘96 I joined the BBC to present a weekly show on music from the ‘60s and ’70s and then they asked me to do a daily show, so I was on seven days a week, and I loved it. It’s one of the best times of my life, and I got the bug back. I formed a country band to back me and wrote a musical called Line Dance Fever, got 12 female dancers and the best line dance teacher in the USA, Angelique Fernandez, to come over and off on tour we went for two years.

UT: Last year there was some renewed interest in your version of “I’m Alive.”

DF: I was on holiday in Spain last year, when one day my wife called me from the garden to say there was a phone call from a firm of lawyers in London who wanted to speak to me. They represented a mineral water company who would be interested in using one of my songs for an advertising campaign, and would I be agreeable? They wouldn’t tell me at first who the company was, but after much probing I found out it was Coca-Cola. I was delirious! The campaign was to be used on national TV and the ad company responsible called me to ask if I would audition to do the voiceover as well, which I did, and I got the voiceover too!

UT: Tell me a bit about your present day musical activities as well as the reunion of the Sorrows?

DF: Things and the moment are really great. I met a guy in Medem in France, a couple of years ago. and he called me out of the blue and asked me if I would like to do a country album. We did it in Nashville and it was released on December 6. As we speak, they have informed me it’s selling well in the US and Ireland, so I’m hoping for more tours later this year. I have also been contacted by a company who would like me to appear in some music festivals in France this summer, so it’s still “GO GO GO!” I am also trying to get a couple of the remaining Sorrows together to do a small nostalgia tour, but that’s still ongoing. •

SORROWS LIVE DATES 2012

Sat 2 June – Midlands Mod Weekender, Birmingham
Friday 29 June Festival Beat – Salsomaggiore Terme (Parma) Italy
Sunday 5 August Euro Ye Ye – Gijon, Spain

DON FARDON & DC FONTANA LIVE DATES 2012

Thursday 2 August – Euro Ye Ye, Gijon, Spain

 

THANKS: to Beau & Miki Dallon, Gered Mankowitz, Pete Chambers, Rolf Rieben, Mary Payne and Rayanne Byatt.


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Peter Markham

I am a veteran of the Scandinavian garage punk scene, with an obsessive compulsive interest in 60's music and culture. I have been writing for fanzines on-and-off since the mid 80's and I am currently contributing to Ugly Things magazine, quite possibly the world's foremost journal of obscure and forgotten musical gems of the past. I am also the co-founder and one out of five DJ's for Club Mau Mau - the long-running Copenhagen based 60's inspired beat club. I am of English/Danish descent and believe that life, in fact, begins at 45 rpm.

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May 22, 2012 By : Category : Articles Bands Front Page Interviews Psych Tags:, , ,
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Masters – Don Fardon (The Sorrows) Interview

This entry is part 7 of 20 in the series Masters1

Peter Markham from Ugly Things talks to Don Fardon, lead singer of the Sorrows.

Who was the greatest male British blue-eyed soul singer of the ‘60s? That question has been asked many times. Some people’s preferences are, with very good reasons: Steve Marriott, Reg King, Chris Farlowe, Van Morrison, Georgie Fame, Steve Winwood, Steve Ellis, Zoot Money, Duffy Power, Eric Burdon, Long John Baldry, Dave Berry, Jimmy Powell… and the list goes on. My favorite, though, without a doubt, is Mr Don Fardon, a native of Coventry—sometimes known as the “Detroit of England” (home of the Rolls Royce and almost every other British automobile). Fardon basically helped define the term “freakbeat” with his former band, the Sorrows, of “Take a Heart” fame.

Donald Adrian Fardon was born on August 19, 1943 and stands an impressive six-feet seven inches tall (that’s taller than both Long John Baldry and Mick Fleetwood!), and he possesses a big powerful voice of a wide range to match his spectacular frame. Fardon did stints with various local Coventry beat groups, before forming the Sorrows in 1963. After a handful of singles and one very underrated album, ‘Take a Heart’, he went solo in ‘66. Fardon didn’t achieve any real success in his home country, and was, in fact, unable to release any records for a short time due to contractual issues, so he instead set his sights on Germany and France, where he went on to become a hugely successful pop star in the late ‘60s, with a string of stunning singles recorded for the Young Blood label in the UK and issued by the Vogue and Hit-Ton labels on the continent.

While most New Untouchables readers are doubtless already familiar with the Sorrows, Don’s 1967-69 solo output is hugely underrated. His material was mostly rearrangements of other people’s songs, but transforming them into his own distinctive versions with the help of ace record producer, arranger and songwriter Miki Dallon, who also penned ‘Take a Heart.’ These brilliant sides of hip ‘60s club sound with big bold brass, swinging string arrangements, rocking guitar and groovy Hammond, backing Fardon’s rich baritone have been filling up floors at modernist events for quite some time. File them under “Mod R&B groover / blue-eyed soul dancer / garage fuzz dance floor filler”—terms that are used to much annoyance on eBay listings nowadays (I recently saw a Jimi Hendrix 45 listed as “Northern Soul!”). I personally can’t imagine ever DJ’ing without spinning at least one or two Don Fardon 45s!

John D Loudermilk’s “(The Lament of the Cherokee) Indian Reservation” was a massive hit for Fardon, with its pulsating beat, atmospheric horns and fuzzy guitar. (The Raiders cut their own version later and scored their only #1 US hit). Fardon’s version was initially released in ‘68, but topped the European charts in ‘70 and went on to sell an estimated three million copies worldwide (other sources claim one million, but that’s still quite a lot).

The early ‘70s saw Fardon with another unexpected hit single, “Belfast Boy,” a tribute to perhaps the greatest footballer of all time (that’s soccer to you yanks), the legendary womaniser, boozer and top striker for Manchester United and Northern Ireland, George Best. The quality of Fardon’s records fizzled out a bit up until the mid ‘70s, when he retired from the music business. He returned to performing in the ‘90s with some country & western “Line Dance Party” themed discs recorded in Nashville (which this writer has not heard for obvious reasons), as well as various compilations of his ‘60s output.

Last year saw a surprise resurrection of Fardon’s career when his version of Tommy James’ killer “I’m Alive” was used in a TV commercial for the Five Fruit Blend soft drink 5 Alive, complete with dancing dodo’s and a music video featuring a cameo appearance from Don as a gardener in an old age pen- sioners’ home full of senior citizens rocking out! Also upcoming at the time of writing is the reunion of the Sorrows, and a Coventry all-star rock’n’roll outfit called Don Fardon’s Rock-it.

After a few months of searching for Fardon on the information superhighway, I was able to track him down in his hometown of Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire (roughly midway between Coventry and Birmingham in the West Midlands, close to Rugby, the birthplace of the gentleman’s sport of the same name), which he has called his home for the past 30 years. An engineer by trade, he has also been a radio presenter for BBC Coventry and worked security with former British wrestler Tony “Banger” Walsh. Now in his late sixties, Fardon has been managing a series of local country pubs with his wife Susan and son Richard, in between the odd club gig and recording sessions, as well as being a grandfather. It doesn’t look like he has any plans for retirement any time soon!

THE HAWKS, THE VIKINGS, JOHNNY & THE REBELS, AND THE MILLIONAIRES

Ugly Things: You were born during World War II. What was it like growing up in post-war Britain in the industrial West Midlands?

Don Fardon: Yes, I was born during the Second World War, in one of Britain’s most bombed cities, Coventry. I always wondered as a child why Coventry was chosen as target. I now know, having lived near here for the past 60 years, that Hitler decided to show that the Germans DO have a sense of humor! My father had an engineering business, which the Luftwaffe duly flattened, and as his company was on essential war work, the government moved us 50 miles away to a shadow factory to enable his work to continue. I have here in the house a wine cabinet that the directors of Rolls Royce presented to him in 1945 which states “For the continuous supply of tooling from 1939-1945 with our immense gratitude for your aid to the war effort.” He made the tooling for the total production of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine that was used in the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster bombers. The war years were dire. Hardly any food, fruit or meat. I never saw a sweet until I was six or seven years old. The first banana I saw my brother ate with the skin on! All this went on till I was at least 10 or 11. So you can understand why we all went barmy in the ‘60s when things returned to normal and the shops for the first time in our lives were full of goodies!

UT: What was your earliest interest in music, did you begin in skiffle groups like many other musicians from that era?

DF: My first interest in music began at an early age. I went to a boarding school as my father was always away on business and in 1948 I had a shock that still reverberates through me to this day… my mother died. I used to spend hours on my own listening to the radio—no TV then, not for another five years. On Sunday evenings when I started work I used to go to the Hippodrome to the big band concerts in Coventry. All the world’s best dance bands came and I loved it.

UT: You were born close to where William Shakespeare was born and for a time you considered a career as a Shakespearean actor?

DF: Although I lived right next door to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, I, like most children of my age, was completely turned off by the Bard. The stories were OK but the dialogue was undecipherable to most teenagers. We were more interested in the Goons.

UT: Tell me about your first band, the Hawks, where you went under the name of Will Pity.

DF: Whilst I was working as an engineering apprentice, I used to supplement my wages by working at the Locarno Ballroom. It was there that I saw my first electric band, the Hawks, and I was blown away. As I was leaving the ball- room at 1:30 in the morning, I saw the band outside. It was pelting down with rain, and all their gear was outside on the pavement. I asked what they were doing and they told me they were waiting for the van to come to pick them up, as the driver had taken his girl home. I said, “You should sack him!” And they said, “We can’t, it’s his van.” I said, “You should get a manager then.” The following Sunday my father told me, “Some people are asking for you at the front door.” It was the band, and they offered me the manager’s job! Which I took. Hello, show business!

Four weeks later we were at a cinema in Rugby and the singer hadn’t arrived. The cinema manager said, “I have 350 in there waiting for a show, if you aren’t on stage in three minutes I shall cancel the performance and sue you.” I really panicked as my name was on the contract, so I said “Right, on stage now, boys. I’ll sing!” and the rest, as they say, is history. When the singer did turn up I sacked him and became the permanent vocalist.

UT: Your next band was the Vikings, where you appeared under the name Webb Stacey.

DF: The first band that I actually formed was the Vikings. I had seen a fantastic lead guitarist in Coventry called Jim Smith, and he knew how to get a gig at the 2i’s Coffee Bar in London, where all the big names got started. So we formed a band so that we could play there, which we did, with Cliff [Richard] and Marty Wilde. But nothing came from it, so it was back to Coventry. I was with the Vikings for 18 months when I was approached by the management of the top Coventry band at that time called Johnny & the Rebels. They were having trouble with their lead singer and asked me to replace him. So I did. After a couple of years I became disillusioned with the Rebels. We were all on wages, and I could get more money alone, so I gave notice and left.

UT: You then formed your own band, Rockin’ Lord Docker & the Millionaires. What’s the story behind that dashing band name?

DF: I formed a band called Rockin’ Lord Docker & the Millionaires and walked on stage with a St Bernard dog, top hat, gold cane and a cloak. It was a “wow”—that is until a solicitor’s letter from Sir Bernard Docker—the chairman of the Daimler Motor Company arrived, informing me that unless the name was dropped I would be sued for defamation. So we became the Millionaires. (Don was replaced by not one, but two singers in the Millionaires, Beverley Jones and Ricky Dawson, known as “The Duke & Duchess” – Ed).

A SORROWFUL BUNCH

UT: In 1963 you formed the Sorrows with ex-members of several other Coventry beat groups. How did you get together?

DF: At about this time all the bands around the West Midlands used a late night café called Val’s. It used to stay open till four in the morning, so it was a great place to eat after a gig. It was here that I met Pip Whitcher, and after another meeting we decided to put a band together that would be different. He knew a bass player and I knew a drummer, and the bass player knew another guitarist. So we had a band.

UT: How did you settle on the name the Sorrows?

DF: We practiced in Pip’s mum’s front room, and as she came in to listen to us she remarked, “Well! You do look a sorrowful bunch.” We had a name.

UT: You had to come up with a stage name in the Sorrows?

DF: It was decided that as lead vocalist I should have a stage name, as was the custom back then, as in Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, etc.. So as we were called the Sorrows we looked for something sad, or lonely or miserable. The word that we found collectively was ‘mournful’, so I became Don Maughn, for about six weeks, until we played the Fairfield Hall in Croydon with Susan Maughn, who at the time had a huge hit in the charts with “Bobby’s Girl.” So I said, “Knickers to this! I’m using my own name from now on,” and so it was.

UT: The Sorrows were the most successful group to come out of Coventry. What was the local beat scene like back then? There was other groups like the Mighty Avengers, the Ivy League and the Orchids.

DF: The local beat scene back then was great. Because of our location, we were next door to Birmingham, which is only 18 miles up the road, so we, as a top band, were able to fill our date sheets, which kept us working round the clock. We worked with all the top bands of the time. The only group we never appeared on stage with during a six-year period was the Beatles. But we met them off stage on a couple of occasions. We became really great pals with the Who. Their drummer, Keith Moon, followed us everywhere. He really thought we were the bee’s knees. God, he was a mad sod! I nearly ended up in jail in Brussels because of his crazy antics. I had been doing a pop show for Belgian TV with the Who and Mud and several other British groups, and after it finished Moonie asked me to join them for a meal at a real top restaurant. It was the swankiest place I had ever seen. At the end of the meal we were chatting and Moonie said, “Did anyone see Tommy Cooper on TV last week?” He’d done a trick where he took hold of a tablecloth on a table full of crockery and whipped it away, leaving all the stuff on the table intact. “I can do that trick!” So he walks to a table away from where we sat where four business- men were dining, and said “Excuse me.” He then grabbed their table cloth and pulled all the contents onto the floor, leaving everyone in the place open-mouthed. He simply said, “Oh, sod it, it worked last time!” The whole table of ours promptly got up and legged it out of the place, except me who sat stunned and waited for the police to arrive. I was taken to the local nick, and whilst I was making a statement Moonie arrived and paid up for the damage, and I was released without charge.

UT: Tell me about some of the local Coventry venues like the Locarno Ballroom, Mercers Arms and the Orchid Ballroom.

DF: The local scene around Coventry was buzzing in the ‘60s/’70s: the Flying Club, where all the local groups played; the Matrix, where we saw the Beatles and Jerry Lee Lewis played regularly; the Orchid, where I booked an act that I’d seen in London called Chris Farlowe & the Thunderbirds and we supported him, and packed the place, and I made money like I’d never seen before. (The other booker at the Orchid Ballroom was a certain Larry Page, a for- mer singer who went on to discover the Troggs and run his own successful record label, Page One – Ed). Leamington Spa, our neighbor, had a magnificent park called Jephson Gardens where we played with five other local bands one Sunday afternoon, again packed with several hundred people. Our manager decided to book the biggest theatre in the Midlands, and organised a Battle of the Bands. Twelve of the best of the Midlands local bands played that night. A top A&R man from Pye Records in London was invited and first prize was a recording contract with Pye International. Guess who won? We did!

UT: One of the biggest acts on Pye was the Kinks. Did being on the same label as them affect your choice of material—to have a harder edge, so to speak?

DF: No, we already had developed our style by the time Pye signed us, and our A&R man John Schroeder looked out for material to suit us, and no one else.

UT: Despite being a successful local act, the first two Sorrows singles didn’t do too well in the charts. This must have been quite frustrating at the time?

DF: Not frustrating that the first two records were not hits. We were by this time playing all over Europe seven days a week, so we did not have time to think. In hindsight we maybe should have done more in the UK to promote them, as we did with our first hit.

UT: Pye/Piccadilly then paired you with producer Miki Dallon, who would mean a lot to your career in the rest of the ‘60s. How did you meet him?

DF: We never met Miki Dallon until the song he wrote called “Take a Heart” became a hit for us. He came to one of the TV shows we were doing to say hello, and that’s how we met.

UT: “Take a Heart” was previously recorded by Boys Blues. How did that song come into your repertoire?

DF: John Schroeder, our producer at Pye, found it for us amongst several demos he passed to us at the time.

UT: The single really started taking off after the pirate radio stations like Radio London and their DJ Kenny Everett started hyping it?

DF: We were becoming really big on the London scene at this time, we were playing all the big London gigs, and had created a strong fan base in the London area, so we got every TV show that was going that’s what I believe put us in the charts.

UT: Your drummer Bruce Finlay didn’t actually play on “Take a Heart,” but session drummer Tony Fennell did?

DF: Tony Fennell did play the drums on the actual recording that day as Bruce Finlay’s wife was in hospital. But Bruce spent a full two days with him to show him what to play prior to us going down to Pye studios. It shows how busy the studios were then, as they couldn’t rearrange another date to allow Bruce to come with us later.

UT: When “Take a Heart” became a smash hit, you recorded both German and Italian language versions. How was it like for a Midlands lad to try and sing in a strange language?

DF: I already had a fairly good command of the German language as we had toured the club scene all over Germany, so the German version wasn’t a hassle for me. However, the Italian version was a different matter. I had to write it down exactly as it sounded in English and we recorded it line by line!

UT: The Sorrows were a hard working band. You held several residencies at various clubs and even played at Coventry City’s Highfield Road ground during halftime?

DF: We were the favorite band of the chairman at Coventry City Football Club. He looked on us as a good luck charm. We played at a party when they were promoted from the fourth to the third division. So next year when they went from third to second division, we played at that celebration as well. So the next year as they were heading towards the first division, any crucial cup games we were asked to go down and play on the pitch prior to the kickoff. And it worked; they stayed in the first division for over 20 years.

UT: Having a record in the charts also meant that you got to appear on Ready Steady Go! and shows like that?

DF: There was not a TV pop show in Europe we didn’t do. We toured with all the chart names from America and the UK. I became friendly with some of the biggest international stars of the time, and still am.

UT: Would you care to name any names?

DF: The artists I have remained friends with are PJ Proby, Dave Berry, John D Loudermilk, Dave Lee Travis, the Hollies, the Tremeloes, James Burton from Elvis’ and Ricky Nelson’s bands. And I was friends with Roy Orbison until his untimely death, but still have contact with Barbara his widow, who is a super lady. Roy and I shared an interest in motorbikes, I still ride a Kawasaki ZRX1200; it’s a real adrenalin rush, It accelerates so fast it feels like it’s trying to pull your arms out the sockets!

UT: You and bassist Phil Packham left the Sorrows at the same time in 1966. What lead to the split?

DF: The Sorrows split because Phil Packham decided he had met the girl he wanted to marry. Unfortunately her father wouldn’t allow his daughter to marry some longhaired git in a pop band! So to our surprise he turned up one day for a gig with a short back and sides, and announced he was leaving to get married. We were all dumbfounded, and none of us believed it would happen. But we were just about to embark on a four month tour in Italy, which I thought was too long to be away, on one hit. I also didn’t like the idea of a change in band members, and the two or three people they were suggesting. So I decided to call it a day as well and go do it alone. Not a bad move as it turned out was it?

UT: What was your initial reaction when the band continued in Italy with Roger Lomas as lead guitarist and Pip Whitcher switched to lead vocals?

DF: My reaction when the Sorrows split was as it is when anything comes to an end, Ah well, that was that then, time to move on. I have made it one of my main focuses in life not to dwell on the past, always look ahead. You can’t change [the past], so live with it and move on.

UT: I am sure that you know that the Sorrows nowadays are classified as “freakbeat.” What do you think of that?

DF: I have come across this expression, “freakbeat,” but I don’t know what it means. Someone in this world is always trying to pigeonhole everything. We were just a bunch of guys who had a raw and exciting sound for the time we were together, and it made us stand out from the crowd. I have always believed that had we had better management we could have been one of the biggest bands around. The people who had hold of the reins were amateurs, and as such missed thousands of opportunities to promote and advance us.


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Peter Markham

I am a veteran of the Scandinavian garage punk scene, with an obsessive compulsive interest in 60's music and culture. I have been writing for fanzines on-and-off since the mid 80's and I am currently contributing to Ugly Things magazine, quite possibly the world's foremost journal of obscure and forgotten musical gems of the past. I am also the co-founder and one out of five DJ's for Club Mau Mau - the long-running Copenhagen based 60's inspired beat club. I am of English/Danish descent and believe that life, in fact, begins at 45 rpm.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

February 6, 2012 By : Category : Articles Beat Front Page Interviews Music Psych Tags:, ,
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Masters – The Poets Interview

This entry is part 8 of 20 in the series Masters1

The Poets are rightfully hailed as legends for their originality and ground breaking song writing in the mid-60s, as any (freak)beat aficionado will be well aware. This didn’t go unnoticed by the youth of Scotland at the time, and they were treated as such with hysteria wherever they played. Needless to say it wasn’t long before the Rolling Stones’ manager and producer, Andrew Loog Oldham, came a-calling, signing them to Decca (and subsequently Immediate).

Despite penning such pioneering classics as ‘Now We’re Thru’ and ‘That’s the Way It’s Got to Be’ the Poets infamously underwent many line-up changes and, in terms of commercial success, never fully met their true potential.

It took a very long time in coming, but after many long discussions with beat-garage sensations – and most importantly faithful fans – the Thanes, original singer George Gallacher, and 1965-67 guitarist Fraser Watson agreed to go into the studio to see if they could recreate the Poets’ sound. And after being lucky enough to help promote their first come back show at EWO in December last year, I’m delighted to say they have done an impeccable job!

Here we talk to George, and Lenny Helsing of the Thanes, about the Poets in the 60s, what we can expect from them this year and at Le Beat Bespoke 8.

NUTs – Despite only having released a few singles, you’re known as the best Scottish beat group of the mid 60’s. What was the scene like in Scotland?  And were you based in London or in Scotland when the band was most active?

George Gallacher – The Scottish scene was vibrant with loads of great bands and great musicians, but completely lacking in originality; we were the only ones writing and playing our own material.

Lenny Helsing – During their heyday the Poets did actually stay mostly in London, mainly flitting between two hotels, the Aaland, and the Adrian. The former also housing at that time Them, Little Walter and one of the group’s earliest industry champions, Jimmy Saville.

NUTs – How does the success you achieved in Scotland differ from what you felt from the rest of the UK?

GG – It was easy in Scotland because we had little competition ‘the big fish in a small pool’ syndrome but in England we had to prove ourselves to be something other than a provincial success; I loved playing in England and loved the buzz in London.

NUTs – Were there ever plans for a full album release, or will there still be any?

GG – No the concentration was on singles. It may have been different if we had had more significant success. However, the fan club had concocted an optimistic story from summer 1965 onwards saying that the group were busy planning and arranging the recording of an LP, and that the group and management hoped it would be released in time for the fans to have it in their Christmas stocking. However, the reality is that only the singles, and a few extra tracks here and there, were ever recorded.

NUTs – In your BBC radio interview you mention Donovan sending some unreleased tapes of the Poets in their heyday to you, have you listened to them and what did you think?

GG – Yes we’ve now listened to the tapes that Donovan found in his archive. We think the material is excellent, and the quality of some of it is really quite exceptional.

There were three reel-to-reel tapes containing the original two-track mono masters for the following tracks: ‘There Are Some’ (B side of ‘Now We’re Thru’), ‘I’ll Cry With The Moon’ (B side of ‘That’s The Way It’s Got To Be’), and also ‘Loving This One’ (unissued at the time, but subsequently issued, in a much rougher-sounding acetate version, on the ‘Scotland’s No 1 Group’ CD and the more recent ‘Try Me Again’ CD/DVD set, both released on the Distortions label from Philadelphia, USA). One reel also contained the original tracking session for ‘Some Things I Can’t Forget’ (B side of ‘Call Again’), and ‘It’s So Different Now’ (unissued at the time, but also heard in a much rougher-sounding acetate version on the Distortions cd’s).

NUTs – Will any of this material see the light of day on a new Poets release?

GG – Currently, plans are afoot for Andrew Oldham to issue some, or all of these tracks, both on vinyl and CD. It is hoped that this idea will come to fruition sometime during 2012.

NUTs – Do you feel your association with Andrew Loog Oldham worked against you because of his focus on The Rolling Stones?

GG – No! Never! The time Andrew spent in the studio with us was incredible and it allowed him to indulge his imagination in something very different from the blues based, rock stuff of the Stones.

NUTs – Did you have any sort of relationship with the Rolling Stones? Were there tours you did together or plans for such? How about the Small Faces?

GG – There was really only a minor relationship going on between the Poets and the Rolling Stones. The groups didn’t ever really get together on a social basis, as both groups would always have such busy schedules, leaving no time to meet up. No tours were ever considered, or done together with either the ‘Stones, or with the Small Faces.

NUTs – Why were there so many changes to the original line-up of the band? Who made these decisions for change?

GG – Well Andrew made the first change getting rid of our drummer Alan Weir simply because he didn’t fit the image, this led on to his best friend Tony Myles (our rhythm guitarist) then leaving. I was next to leave simply because I was disillusioned with our relative failure and with what happened after, with which I had no interest.

NUTs – What are your plans for the current reunion of The Poets. Are any recordings planned?

GG – We have discussed the possibility of recording something now that the group has new life. We don’t really think there’s much point in re-recording any of the group’s already legendary-sounding singles, although it’s thought that it may be worth giving some of the old demo material another shot.

NUTs – What are some of your dearest memories of the 1960’s? People you worked with? Parties and the Music Industry scene?

GG – I have no particular memories of great importance just the wonderful zeitgeist itself. I mean we met loads of those who are now recognised as ‘giants’ of rock but at the time they were nothing special to us, only others pursuing the same dreams as ourselves.  If there is one thing that did impress me it was the live performance of the Pretty Things. I saw them live in the 100 Club in 1964 before we signed to Andrew — They were sensational!

NUTs – Are there any un-released songs that you feel could be released in the near future?

GG – There are certainly unreleased songs but their release would depend on the interest of others.

NUTs – What can we expect from your current live performance? How does it differ from the way it was in the 60’s?

GG – You can expect to hear a lot of what the Poets would have actually played live in the 60s, ranging from most of the original material that was released on disc, but also including some of the more eclectic R’n’B styled covers that the original band did at the time. The approach to playing the old material is as authentic as you would want it. But certainly one of the things the Thanes have brought is a much edgier sound to the overall proceedings, and they have also toughened up the feel of some of the more ‘ballady’ sounding, whimsical songs, for example the likes of ‘There Are Some’, but also ‘Call Again’ and ‘I’ll Come Home’. The group has also now developed a looseness which we like, and some songs are played at a slightly faster pace than they were originally played, but this also seems to work really well.


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Holly Calder

I’m one half of Eyes Wide Open in Glasgow, where we run a club, a label and now the Double Sight Psych & Garage Weekend, which takes place at the start of October. I love psych, garage, freakbeat, popsike, and have even been known to enjoy a wee bit of R&B! Always enjoy travelling to 60s clubs and weekenders around Europe, whether I’m there to DJ or just to mingle and dance!

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March 12, 2012 By : Category : Articles Bands Front Page Interviews Music Tags:, ,
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Masters – The Action (Roger Powell)

This entry is part 9 of 20 in the series Masters1

If ever an excuse was needed to chat about the life and music of mod’s favourite sons, the Action, the forthcoming biography of the band ‘In The Lap of The Mods’ by Ian Hebditch and Jane Shepherd surely provides it. A decade in the making, the book features contributions from all original band members: Reggie King, Mike Evans, Alan ‘Bam’ King, Pete Watson and Roger Powell; over 200 images including many previously unpublished photographs, flyers, posters and press cuttings; first-hand testimonials from fans and musical contemporaries; a complete guide to their gigs; and an examination of how the band’s mod following at clubs like the Birdcage in Portsmouth and the Marquee in London influenced their decision making as a band. In addition, this year also finally sees the release of an amazing new album on Circle Records of Reggie King’s post-Action demos, ‘Looking For A Dream,’ recorded with his ex-band mates during the late 60s. With these hugely exciting projects nearing completion it was a real honour and privilege to share a coffee and croissant with the Action’s drummer Roger Powell.

MR: – It was a wonderful surprise to recently see on the ‘In The Lap of The Mods’ website footage of The Action outside the Royal Albert Hall performing “I’ll Keep Holding On” for the Dick Clark Show. What do you remember about it?

RP: – Not a lot. It was a bit embarrassing to be honest. There were all these people throwing paper airplanes and generally just being shitty and we were miming and we used to hate miming. You couldn’t hear anything and had to pretend you were really getting in to it. We didn’t really like anything like that; we were pretty anti-social, anti-establishment.

MR: – Do you think that might have been why you didn’t go as far as you could’ve?

RP: – Oh yes. When we played with the Move they were saying you’ve got to do all these outrageous things, tie yourselves to railings and wear outrageous clothes, and we thought that was moving towards show business.

MR: – Did your manager Rikki Farr try to push you into a more commercial market and get a hit?

RP: – Yes, we knew we needed a manager as we needed publicity to get gigs. We’d built up a really good following on the circuit and could’ve carried on just doing that but Marquee Artists and Rikki obviously wanted to make money and get the right record for us because we were on £100 a night and once you had a hit record you’d be on £500 or more and go to gigs in cars, have roadies and stay in nice hotels. But none of the records I felt were anything near a hit record or anything edgy enough people would remember. We never felt comfortable going after a hit even though we went along with it putting records out but they weren’t really doing anything. I think “I’ll Keep Holding On” got to number 39 in the charts.

MR: – Was it disheartening to keep putting records out that didn’t hit?

RP: –  It wasn’t disheartening because we were there for the music; we weren’t there for the hit record although all the people around us were getting them: the Kinks, the Small Faces, the Who, Spencer Davis Group, Manfred Mann. It seemed everyone we played with at the Marquee had a hit record except for us.

MR: – Why do you think that was?

RP: – I think because they were doing original stuff and we were doing covers. And we never got an original cover. Something like “Ride Your Pony” would come out in America and someone else would do it in England. At the time we didn’t consider writing our own songs as there was so many cool records to explore we just enjoyed playing them. If we’d had an original cover first we might have had a hit record.

MR: – “Shadows and Reflections” was a very original cover.

RP: –  Yes but it didn’t get played, it didn’t get marketed, no machine behind it. It was who you know not what you know. You needed just the right contacts, like the Who had with Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. They had the key contacts, the money, and were right in with all of the faces of the time, although I think they would’ve hit anyway regardless.

MR: – Having George Martin as your producer must’ve helped.

RP: –  Being with George at Abbey Road helped but although “I’ll Keep Holding On” was alright and “Never Ever” was okay, you couldn’t do it without the machine behind you. You really needed the publicity, to know people at the BBC to actually plug it. And a lot of people bought their records in to the charts. They’d get a little sniff into the charts, once it was there, the DJs would play it, you’d get on the telly and you’d be away.  So from an initial investment of say ten grand you could make it back.

MR: – Mike Evans said when “I’ll Keep Holding On” got to number 39 that was when you needed to start buying up all the records.

RP: –  At that point there was a bit of a woo-hah about it. Early on you had a list of all the special shops they took the chart returns from so you could send boys and girls in to buy a copy of this, two copies of that. There were as many as twenty or thirty record shops in London where they took the charts from, so if you knew the right shops…

MR: – You still managed to get on Ready Steady Go a few times.

RP: –  I think we did it three times. We did it with Pete Stringfellow who was brought down from the Mojo Club in Sheffield to compere it and we played a couple of songs live on there. It was the first time anyone played live on Ready Steady Go and it gave us that appeal for the mods on the circuit and we got a really good following from it.

MR: – The book is titled In The Lap of The Mods, is that how it felt?

RP: –  Someone said it to me that we were in the lap of the mods and I thought it was great, so we used it as the title. That’s how it felt. They’d meet us on their scooters and we’d meet them in the pub before the gigs. We were like mates; there was no differentiation between us and the audience. We were all regular guys; we didn’t put on any airs and graces. It was all, “You got any leapers? Yeah, great”.

MR: – We refer to the Action nowadays as a Mod band but did you consider yourselves Mods? Did you think in those terms?

RP: –  No, I don’t think anybody did. I don’t think people had this idea early on of being this thing called mod. It was just smart blokes. We used to like mohair suits and very smart Italian clothes. We never really had a concept of what it was. I would say we were a sort of soul band.

MR: – The Small Faces had accounts the length of Carnaby Street for their clothes, where did yours come from?  Did you buy them yourselves?

RP: – Yeah, John Stephens, Carnaby Street, all those. We bought them ourselves. There’s a picture of us in the book outside Harry Fenton’s, once we’d put the clothes on and had our photograph taken we had to put the clothes back. “The Action supplied by Harry Fenton” but they never gave us anything. It was the same with drums. If I wanted to play Premier drums I had to buy them, you needed a hit record before they’d give you anything. Keith Moon got a contract with Premier.

MR: – Were you mates with Keith Moon and The Who?

RP: – Sort of because we did a lot of gigs with them and used to support them for quite a while so we were sort of friendly but they were always a bunch of piss takers so I didn’t really want to spend too much time around them. I remember at the press release at the Marquee for “Never Ever” Moonie was throwing peanuts at us.

MR: – Your drum kit had a two bass drum set-up which others also used, where did that idea come from?

RP: – A lot of people may tell you otherwise but I was definitely the first person to get two bass drums at the Marquee. Definitely. Then Moonie got two, Ginger Baker got two, Mitch Mitchell got two, and then most of the other drummers got two. So then I took mine away and just had the one. Buddy Rich had two bass drums and I thought it looked really smart, but it was nice with the tambourine as it gave that off-beat. We didn’t have someone playing the tambourine so when I was playing I didn’t use the hi-hat, just used the bass drum for the off-beat with the tambourine, which was important for The Action’s sound. You could do some amazing things with the two.

MR: – It gave you that good Motown sound. Where were you hearing those kinds of records?

RP: – We got them through Mike’s mum who worked for EMI so she used to get us all these obscure records. We weren’t really into the mainstream Tamla, we were into Stax and really obscure stuff. There was also the DJ at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester. We used to go back to his house after the club to hear them and Guy Stephens used to give us stuff. That’s where we got a lot of the info. Then we’d learn them and try to put our own little spin on them.

MR: – When you did the all-nighters how many sets were you playing throughout the night?

RP: – Sometimes we’d do three sets. Three quarters of an hour each and usually you’d be the only band. They’d be records, we’d do a set, more records, then yet another set.

MR: – There must be a lot of songs you played live but didn’t record.

RP: – In the book there is a playlist of every song we ever played. We didn’t repeat songs in a night. We might occasionally do one twice if it was really popular. We wouldn’t repeat “Land of a 1000 Dances” or anything but “Needle in a Haystack” we might do twice or “Heatwave” as people loved that. We had a good lot of songs and we used to rehearse all the time.

MR: – The collector’s edition ‘In The Lap of the Mods’ includes your audition disc of The Temptations’ “Girl (Why Do You Want To Make Me Blue)” you made for Decca. What do you remember about that and Decca turning you down?

RP: – Nothing! I remember going in to this big executive office at their studios. We played three songs but only one was actually taped which was that one. Jane bought it on eBay. Mike knew it was genuine but was saying it wasn’t, so as to put off the other bidders!

MR: – Did you stay for the all-nighters after you’d played them?

RP: – Yes it wasn’t worth going back. They’d finish at six in the morning and we’d stay up and drive back with a little help so we weren’t falling asleep at the wheel.

MR: – Were you taking many drugs?

RP: – We were all on leapers most of the time because we were doing all-nighters and otherwise you just couldn’t keep going. We got busted at the Birdcage for amphetamines. We were all in the dressing room when suddenly all these policemen came in. Everyone was dropping stuff. I think they found some amphetamines in Mike’s pocket and took him away to the police station so we had to go and try getting him bailed out so we could finish the gig.

MR: – How did LSD enter the scene?

RP: – In the early days we were one of the first people to take acid because it had just come over from America and we knew people in Pond Street who had gallons of LSD. These people came over just to turn on London. And when we were staying with Nick Jones in Bognor this guy came down to turn us on and that was our first acid trip. I couldn’t believe it.

MR: – Was the trip arranged beforehand?

RP: – Yes, it was a party and it was about twelve o’clock and this guy was about to arrive.  We didn’t want to trip with all these people around so we thought we’d better try and get rid of them so we put on a crazy Albert Ayler LP and everyone said “I gotta go now”. He gave us this stuff, I think it was me and Mike, maybe Bam, but not all the band wanted to take it. I remember sitting there about half an hour later and looked at Mike and he looked at me and we just started laughing and laughing and laughing.  It made life so funny and so stupid. We tripped all night and went out to the beach. To be honest it did destroy people, I know a lot of people who didn’t make it. You needed a strong inner core and need to be comfortable with yourself.  We tripped actually on Ready Steady Go, me and Mike and then got spiked afterwards. We’d gone back to this guy’s house and were coming down from the trip and he gave us some toast and we started freaking out again wondering what was happening. He’d put more LSD on it. It was only when he told us that we thought thank goodness for that.

MR: – There seemed such a huge shift from the mod days once 1967 arrived.

RP: – By ’67 all the underground stuff started happening in London with the UFO Club in Tottenham Court Road. A lot of the psychedelic bands were self-indulgent nothing.  I didn’t like Pink Floyd or any of those bands, I couldn’t get into it. The all-nighters at the Roundhouse people were all over the place. The drugs had changed. With the old amphetamines everyone liked a chat, wanted to be your mate, it was brilliant. When people were taking acid it was totally different. It’s an important thing drugs and culture, they’re a totally interlinked thing. I mean, but even if the mods weren’t taking uppers they were very chatty, friendly people. At the Roundhouse people were isolated in their own heads, doing their own thing. It was like chalk and cheese. Mod gigs and the Roundhouse, unbelievable difference. I didn’t like the Roundhouse, it was too self-indulgent.

MR: – So what was it like when you were then playing one song for 45 minutes?

RP: – I wouldn’t call it psychedelic by any means. It was more jazzy, rock-jazz, but I liked the three minute things. In the space of half an hour you could get loads of brilliant records rather than one long thing. We lost touch with the club scene after a while, at the end of the Action, and got a bit disenchanted with it. The early days of the Action were the most exciting, when we were playing the Birdcage and stuff like that. That was an incredible time in the clubs.

MR: – When The Action got back together in 1998 it was great it was all original members, which is very unusual. How did that feel?

RP: – It had to be. We wouldn’t have done it otherwise. It was exciting and it felt like there was unfinished business, that somehow we hadn’t really closed the circle.  We knew it wasn’t going to be the same as we weren’t twenty anymore, so we knew it was going to be different but it was still worth doing as it was nice for people to see us again. It was awesome. I’m really pleased we did it as we got to meet people like Jane and Ian, Rob Bailey, yourself.

MR: – On some of the reunion shows you even included a sax player and some percussion; would you have liked to have had a Hammond player or a sax player back in the day?

RP: – I think so, it would have been great. That’s what I liked about Jimmy James and the Vagabonds; they had a nice big fat sound with an organist and a sax but the vocals were the main thing with the Action.

MR: – Did you help arrange the vocals harmonies?

RP: – Oh no, I wasn’t musical at all. Reg used to say, “Just shut up and bang the bloody drums!”  People used to call him Reg, and he’d say “Mister King, to you.”

MR: – Reggie was quite a character.

RP: – Reg was always a bit of wild card. He just started going funny, a bit out of control, towards the end of the Action days. We were playing a gig at the Blue Lagoon and all of a sudden Reg started climbing up this palm tree. The bouncers came up, Reg jumped off the tree, we’re still playing and the bouncers are chasing him around the audience whilst he’s still singing. “You’ll never play here again!” Then he got arrested on the M1 at the Blue Boar services. We’d eaten and had come out and were sitting in the van, ready to go, and it was “Where’s Reg?” We looked around, couldn’t find him and twenty minutes later this policeman comes up and knocks on the window. “Do you know Reg King?  He’s just been arrested for threatening someone with a plastic knife.” I don’t know what it was about, something about where he wanted to eat his egg and chips. Eventually we just decided, a sort of mutual thing, to move on. But he got his head together a bit and we worked with him on his album. The trouble was once we started doing stuff like John Coltrane’s “India” what was he going to do while we played that for half an hour? Stand there and go “Elephants… Elephants”?

MR: – Did you think Reg leaving would give the band more freedom or did you think that was going to be the end?

RP: – No, you just go through a transition you don’t think “Oh I’m changing now into something else.” It was very subtle. It’s only when you look back in retrospect you realise you’ve changed from A to B. So it didn’t affect us that much. After Reg, Rod Stewart was going to join the Action at one point. We knew him quite well and when Reg didn’t make a gig at the Twisted Wheel Rod sang a few songs with us. But it didn’t materialise as he then got into the Faces as they’d had some hits and were bigger than we were.  We also tried to get the organist Keith Emerson. I went round to his flat to ask him if he’d be interested and he said he would’ve been but was just joining the Nice. We got Ian Whiteman and Martin Stone in and became more of a jazz-funk-jamming band.

MR: – How did that go down with your audience?

RP: – It depended where we played. Some people were bored with it; some people sort of liked it. We got to a point where we didn’t know where we were and the audience didn’t know quite what we were doing.  It took us a bit of time to find our direction with Mighty Baby when we started writing our own stuff.

MR: – How long did you keep the Action name after Reg left?

RP: – About six months I think. It was sadly a bit of a mess really. We did want to somehow change. Pete Watson left, even when Reg was still with us people would come up to us at gigs and say “Oi, you’re not the Action!” which was fair enough really because we were doing new stuff we’d written and  we were all wearing Granny Takes A Trip suits. It was a transition period. We started getting into West Coast, Captain Beefheart, Love. Things like “Dustbin Full of Rubbish” which Ian Whiteman wrote was still the Action, but it wasn’t the Action. We didn’t have a new name basically until we went with John Hurd at Head Records and we said we had to change the name and he came up with Mighty Baby, which I wasn’t that keen on as it felt a bit silly but in retrospect it was all right and we then did a couple of albums.

MR: – Do you look back at the periods of the Action and Mighty Baby differently or is it one continuous thing?

RP: – No, as different lives, definitely. The Action was very exciting. The whole scene, the music, the atmosphere in the clubs was brilliant. As soon as you walked in those clubs, the Marquee, the Birdcage, you could feel people were really into it. With Mighty Baby you had to create an atmosphere with the music, you really had to win them over, which was more difficult. With Mighty Baby we were searching, it was a time of introspection and because we’d all downed massive amounts of LSD what we thought was real wasn’t real. Once you’d taken acid, tables were like vibrating with energy and flowers were absolutely stunning, you know. You have to rethink totally who you are and what life’s about. We became like travelling philosophers. I was listening to one of the Mighty Baby tracks on the train coming down, “Tasting The Life”, which is all about seeking, searching, holy islands.  Whenever we’d do gigs as Mighty Baby if there was a castle we’d go there, Stonehenge we’d stop there, so we were always seeking some meaning in life through our music. In Mighty Baby we were analysing life, who we were. In the Action we weren’t, we were just being the life.


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Mark Raison

I've spent three-quarters of my life wandering the mod path with detours down its side streets and dark alleys. From an enthusiastic youth to a still-enthusiastic-but-harder-to-tell grizzled old goat, I've dabbled in all parts of the scene from writing fanzines 'Round Midnight and Something Has Hit Me; to promoting bands; attempting to manage bands; singing in the mighty garage combo The Electric Fayre; putting on indie, psych and soul clubs including Freak Scene, Orange Sunshine, and Shake!; writing liner notes for Reg King releases on Circle Records; and, in fitter times, tucking away the odd goal for the New Untouchables. I still DJ from my box of R&B humdingers but more often you’ll find me tapping away on my blog at monkeypicks.co.uk. I like the poetry of Charles Bukowski and dislike the taste of cheese.

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May 21, 2012 By : Category : Articles Front Page Inspiration Interviews Scene UK Tags:, , , ,
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Masters – Tjinder Singh (Cornershop) Interview

This entry is part 10 of 20 in the series Masters1

There has always been an individual spark about Cornershop, While Paul Morley, the Observer, has said, ‘as interesting and adventurous as the Beatles’ and fans have described them as ‘instant aural sunshine for a grey day’. In the live arena they have toured extensively in mainland Europe and America with the likes of Beck and Oasis. Man about town, Darius Drewe, caught up with Tjinder Singh of Cornershop for an exclusive interview for NUTSmag.

DD: Why such a massive gap between albums? Five years passed between ‘When I Was Born’ and ‘Handcream’ and then a further seven before ‘Judy’. Are you perfectionists, extremely busy or just lazy?

TS: ‘When I was Born’ and ‘Handcream’ had a Clinton album between them, and between Handcream & Judy I did a film and we released a couple of singles through Rough Trade, and then set up our own ample play label.  Also we all had kids except our percussion who bought more congas and became a qualified nurse. In the last three years we have had three albums out. The average is plain to see even if you are not a further maths prog rock tutor. More seriously though, there is no point in pushing albums out unless you play the game, and we are not in it as part of the game.

DD: Back in the day you were photographed burning pictures of Morrissey due to a throwaway comment made and a misinterpretation of a lyric. How do you look back on all that 22 years on?

TS: Here was a person whose music with The Smiths we had all liked, putting out dubious feelers using Skinhead imagery, unqualified lyrics, Union Jack drapery, and like his denial on his sexuality (which is his right) not elaborating on the issue.  The unfortunate thing is that not elaborating on the issue of fascism still breeds race crime, from someone whom was very influential at the time. As an Asian at a time when Asians were seeing increased street violence this wasn’t something I, and we could let pass.  All these years later, I think we did the correct thing, and our stance on other issues has borne out that we did it with the right intentions.

DD: You were away for a few years, then returned with quite a different style, and a runaway no.1 hit thanks to the remix of ‘Brimful of Asha’. For five minutes, it looked like world superstardom beckoned, but somehow that never quite happened. Why do you think that was?

TS: After the ‘Women’s Gotta Have It’ album we spent a lot of time in America and then the ‘When I Was Born’ album did very well there. We would have been happy as we were to be John Peel’s festive 50 no. 1, but the Brimful Mix change things somewhat.  Even the label gave up on things after that, but for us we had started a Clinton album and that needed to be finished, and we continued as we were.

DD: The album ‘When I Was Born for the Seventh Time’ was very influential and innovative in that it took the ‘Britpop/indie pop’ template of the time (and the usual retro trappings thereof), your own Asian influences, and married both to hiphop beats, breakbeats and samples. Do you feel that, in a way, you were paving the path for a lot of the DJ culture that has followed? And prog rock men, the likes of Gruff Rhys and Gary Cobain, bringing guitar tunes to dance sets mining Eastern playback music?

TS: That is a lovely thought.

DD: What do you think of the recent compilations of Bollywood and Lollywood psych that have been doing the rounds? Do you think the compilers are finding the best tunes? And if not, give us the names…

TS: I’ve not heard much of it in comp’ed form, but there is some great stuff out there, as the music makers at the time mimicked western sounds, sometimes to hilarious results, and sometimes with the passing of time proves how great music can be.

DD: The album ‘Disco and the Halfway to Discontent’ came out under the name Clinton rather than Cornershop. Why was that? And will there be another Clinton record?

TS: Clinton was done so we could work with other people and take a fresh approach to what and how things were done. The music was not radically different, but more of the technology test department of what Cornershop did. In fact, the two are so similar that there probably won’t be another Clinton album. We are very pleased though that some say it predates much music by a decade, and even more pleased that not a week goes by without an inquiry about Clinton.

DD: After that came my personal favourite ‘Shop album, ‘Handcream for a Generation’ and the single, ‘Lessons Learned from Rocky I to Rocky III.’ The single itself, and some of the rest of the album, bore the influence of 1970s glam, while other tracks such as ‘Spectral Mornings’ delved further into the trance-like psych rock hinted at on ‘When I Was Born’. Who are the lyrics on that single referring to, the ‘soft rock shit’ and the ‘overgrown supershit’?

TS: Very glad you favour that album, and that’s why I said earlier that the record company gave up on us.  A lot of brain cells and effort went into that album.  Otis Clay opened it, & by touring with Oasis we had Noel on Spectral Mornings, and Guigsy did the bass on …Rocky I to Rocky III, then we had East London’s Nazerite reggae vocalists on Motion The 11, from USA we asked Rob Swift to help produce a couple if tracks. At the time I think I considered a lot of American groups as being ‘soft rock shit.’ I’m from the Black Country so considered groups like Metallica and Maralyn Mason as ‘soft rock shit’ and overgrown ‘supershit’ but in the fullness of time, I think they’re just shit. They certainly deserve everything that can be chucked at them.

DS: ‘Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast’ seemed to consolidate that same early 70s sound, as if the band had finally reached their ‘happy home’ in an almost retro-rock World. Are you all a bunch of old mods and rockers at heart? And who are your greatest influences throughout? The first thing you tend to notice is a lot of Velvet Underground in the song construction and guitar riffing, and a lot of “soul-chick” backing vocals, which could hint at either the Stones or the Floyd, but how knowledgeable are you on your obscurities?

TS: ‘In terms of production I like the 70s sound, mainly because I lived through the 80s and no musician got out of the 80s unscathed. I liked the rawness of a lot of Indian music, so that always played a part too. In terms of influences, there has never been a strong defining one.  I think the Velvets are a big influence…

DD: The promo videos from that period, particularly ‘Who Fingered Rock N Roll’ all seem to be similarly retro as if you’re hankering after a Britain long past. Isn’t that the imperialist, semi-racist and narrow-minded Britain that you once railed against?

TS: The Who Fingered Rock N Roll video used old footage because friends of ours were helping certain London Borough to archive such footage. The line from the song of ‘Who built the city’ seemed to go well with such footage so that was that.

DD: And now to 2012, and ‘Urban Turban’ Where would you say Cornershop stand in relation to the 2012 music scene?

TS: The Urban Turban album only became an album after a series of singles under the banner of ‘The Singles Club’ were released. I had a good few songs that we not related in any way, and it seemed a good way to put them out, and give something different to our supporters. Then, the tracks seemed to work with each other once they were mastered, and so it became the album.

It’s good to be able to do that, to just put things out, and in relation to the music scene of now, we feel that we are happy to continue as we always have done, without much regard for what others are doing.  People seem to be slowly catching up with Cornershop, and that’s an even bigger thing we have in common with the Velvets than just their music.

We look forward to hearing their well crafted and unique psychedelic sound of sitars and guitars at Le Beat Bespoke 9 on Thursday 28 March 2013.


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Darius Drewe

Darius Drewe was born in East London in 1974. As a small child, both parents inflicted their musical tastes, from The Beatles and The Moody Blues to Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis, on him, and he was never the same again. Despite being born and bred a 'Cockney tosser', Drewe actually spent his teenage years in and around Birmingham, attending his first 60s/50s-themed nights there at The Ship Ashore, before "coming home" in 1993 to the South, where, with the exception of three years spent in Glasgow between 2007-2010, he has remianed ever since. In the almost two decades that have passed he has trod a strange meandering path from a shy 60s/70s-obsessed teen with no 'scene' to speak of to a Metalhead, sleaze-glammie, Goth, indie kid, glam-punker, garage-rocker, eventual Mod and psych freak (first attending Mousetrap in 2000) In that time he's also written for Shindig! Britmovie, DarkSide, Black Velvet and Get Ready To Rock, promoted various vintage and veteran acts at Camden Underworld, Glasgow Ivory Blacks and several other venues, DJed everything from psych, garage and soul to Metal at practically every well-known club in central London. Drewe is trying to build a time machine that will enable him to visit any period between 1960 and 1980 but still be able to use a mobile and Facebook. His ambition, aside from directing films and building said machine, is to morph into a cross between Jason King, Timmy Lea, Jerry Cornelius and Richard Hannay, and drift about the ether having adventures in a kipper tie, pinstriped flares and camel hair coat.

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February 5, 2013 By : Category : Articles Bands Beat Front Page Interviews Modern Psych Tags:, ,
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Masters – Omar (Omar & the Stringpoppers) Interview

This entry is part 11 of 20 in the series Masters1

Watching Omar on stage is like watching a tornado unleash. The StringPoppers live show never disappoints, setting records for encores at all of the major Rockabilly festivals. Omar’s talents extend beyond the stage as he is the Head Sound Engineer and session musician for Wild. Don’t miss a rare chance to see one of thee WILDEST Rock n Roll acts of the 21st century here in London this Easter at LBB9.

DR: Omar, When did you first come to Europe to play?

O: I believe it was 2003, we did a series of gigs starting in Germany then England, Switzerland, Holland and Spain.

DR: How much do you think you have changed as a musician since then?

O: It has changed me a lot. It has showed me that there is a massive world out there that loves music. Different kinds of it too, which keeps it very interesting for us all.

DR: What are your biggest influences and inspirations in the style of music you play?

O: Well, Hayden Thompson and Jimmy Wages are my favourites on Sun Records, but I also really look up to Bob Luman along with Marty Robbins and the very talented Jerry Reed.

DR: We know you’re a huge Sun Records fan, who are your favourite artists on the label and why?

O: Like I said, Hayden Thompson because of his very cool, suave flamboyant style, Jimmy Wages ’cause he’s a nut-case, and Charlie Rich, ‘cause he has the voice of an angel.

DR: Who did you listen to as a kid and has your musical taste changed much over the years?

O: A lot of different artists. My dad was a fan of surf and the Beatles so heard a lot of that. I myself am not a fan of the Beatles, but I am a fan of my dad having a good time, so I listened to the records with him. It was around the age of 14 that I heard proper Rockabilly from my lifelong friend Victor Arreguin. My musical taste is so varied that some people think that I’m not a “true Rockabilly”.

DR: At what age did you first pick up and guitar and learn to play?

O: When I was eight. My dad showed me a few chords and I’m still trying to perfect them.

DR: You were the first artist on Wild Records, what impact has it had on your musical career?

O: Actually Luis Arriaga was the first, I just jumped on board. It has made me fulfil my little dreams of working with music in many, many levels.

DR: Do you prefer to play live or record bands at the ‘Wild’ studio?

O: It all depends on my mood, but I actually love doing both.

DR: Which artists are you most fond of today?

O: Funny enough, my friend/label mate Alex Vargas and also Rusty Pinto, Big Sandy and Barrington Levy.

DR: How many releases have you had on Wild Records and do you have favourite?

O: I have four in total. I really dig the song we covered on my 45rpm ‘Shake the hand’.

DR: What other styles of music do you listen to apart from rockabilly?

O: Reggae/ska/rocksteady, soul, blues, country, house and some old hip hop and a lot of indie due to where I live.

DR: Is there any particular country in the world you most like playing and why?

O: Every country I’ve played so far is special in its own way, they all seem to have friends of mine there that make it fun and special.

DR: What about the future?

O: I’m not sure, but I hope I can keep people happy and still have them enjoying my music and shows.

DR: And finally. Elvis or Gene Vincent?

O: Elvis! Cool hair, cool style and a lot of ladies!


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Keith Charlie

Cosmic Keith - Long time collector and owner of the small independent record label ‘Boparama’ since 1992 and the ‘head honcho’ in London's Metro & Boston Arms Rockabilly clubs .

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February 5, 2013 By : Category : Articles Front Page Interviews Music Tags:, ,
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Masters – Ian O’Sullivan (the Aardvarks) Interview

This entry is part 12 of 20 in the series Masters1

Along with the Clique, the Aardvarks transformed the Mod and Sixties live music scene in London during the late eighties and nineties. Up front in this cool quartet the suave Pietronave brothers Mark (guitar) and Gary (lead singer/semi acoustic) were accompanied by a tight rhythm section, including Jason Hobart, and later Kev White, on bass with Ian O’Sullivan on drums. We caught up with Ian ahead of their much anticipated live performance at Le Beat Bespoke 9 in London this Easter.

DR: When and how did the Aardvarks get together?

IOS: (Ian O’Sullivan) Gary and Mark started the band at their school back in ’83. They were knocking out standard Kinks, Beatles, Stones and The Who covers. They were initially a 5-piece with an occasional keyboard player. One of the guys I worked with was at school with the Pietronaves, and knowing that I was well into my 60s stuff, suggested I hooked up with them. I’m a little bit older and was at college so it did seem a bit weird sitting in this little office at their school where they rehearsed.

DR: What bands influenced the Aardvarks in your early days?

IOS: Apart from the obvious ones, we were into early Deep Purple, Vanilla Fudge, Cream – heavy stuff. I liked US garage and UK freakbeat so started making tapes for Gary and Mark, which I think got them into that side of things a bit more. Bands like The Chocolate Watchband, The Litter, Creation, Birds are all part of the canon now of course but back then you were definitely showing off by citing bands like that. The Prisoners were a seminal influence of course, and their appearance on The Tube in 1984 was one of those seismic moments for a lot of youngsters putting bands together.

DR: Where were the bands early performances held and what memories do you have of those gigs?

IOS: The first gig I did was at Gary and Mark’s school social. Playing to all these mums and dads I remember the DJ introducing us as ‘The Hard Fucks’ and just playing to a swathe of empty floor while the parents just nattered away at their tables. We did a posh girls’ school one Christmas and went down a storm there. After that, we did a couple of gigs at the Swan in Kingston, a tiny pub by the river with a function room out the back. There were some Hell’s Angels in there one night who thought we were all hilarious in our paisley shirts and what-not. They came into the back room and starting spitting beer over people. After that we became regulars at the Clarendon in Hammersmith until it closed down. Downstairs at The White Horse in Hampstead was another brilliant venue. That was the early days of the Zombie Club. Captain Sensible used to come and see us back then; he was a bit of a fan.

DR: Your debut EP was recorded with Billy Childish how did that come about and are there any other unreleased tracks from that session?

IOS: I can’t remember if it was his or our idea to make it an EP but that’s how it turned out. I don’t think we’d given much thought to the logistics of how and where we would record it so one night in November ’89 we’d supported Thee Headcoats at the Falcon in Camden and I drunkenly asked Billy Childish whether he’d produce. He agreed and a few weeks later we’re trundling down the A2 to Rochester on a freezing night to meet him in a pub.

Billy was still drinking back then so the night turned into a boozy affair. We went from the pub back to his old house. I remember Gary trying to convince Billy about the merits of The Marmalade and then going off to puke. We eventually crashed out in a cold, empty room. I’d had the foresight to bring a sleeping bag I remember the others just lying on the floorboards in their clothes, and the wind rattling on the old sash windows.

Three hours later Billy’s shouting up the stairs: “Get up you shower of shit! You fucking psychedelic wankers.” We come out and he’s going: “What were doing in there? I didn’t mean that fucking room I meant the OTHER room!” Sure enough, in the adjacent room were blankets and pillows.

There aren’t any unreleased tracks I’m sorry to say. It was a miracle that we recorded the four tracks that are on it.

DR: How did the James Whale television performance come about and what did you think of your performance?

IOS: Jason got it in mind to write to the James Whale show. I don’t remember him telling us. I just remember him calling me to say that he’d written in and that we were going to be on it. I always thought it was live. It was a pretty ramshackle show and was scheduled perfectly for the post-pub crowd. I couldn’t believe it when it turned out to be pre-recorded on a Monday afternoon in a little studio off Carnaby Street. They recorded two shows back-to-back and ours was the second programme.

The first programme was all about the music industry so they had all these industry big-wigs and Radio DJs in the studio discussing the state of the business. I can’t remember which band played on that show, or even if there was one, but I do remember thinking that it would have been good if we’d got on that show in front of all those people. As it turned out, we were on the second show and the theme of that was testicular cancer.

We were setting up and Mike Mansfield came down and said hello which was exciting. I used to love watching Supersonic on Saturday mornings when I was a kid so it was great seeing him with his mane of swept back white hair. Arthur C was a bit shaky but Fly My Plane was great I thought. All our mums and dads had their videos on.

DR: As a massive fan of the band I remember many great live performances what shows stick out in your mind and why?

IOS: Sometimes you just know that everything’s going good and you’re doing a great set. I fondly remember The Purple Weekend back in 1999 being particularly good. Saarbrucken was brilliant too. No mean feat given we were the last band on in a four day festival and hadn’t slept for days. The live tracks on the live LP which I mentioned earlier bear that out.

We did some great gigs in the early days at the Clarendon. I recently heard a tape of us from 1987 from there and it’s real hi-octane stuff. There were no flies on us that night.

DR: I also remember shall we say some more casual performances during the bands lifetime, what was the most disastrous and humorous?

IOS: Yes, we could be a bit, err, “loose” in that way sometimes. I think complacency used to rear its ugly head from time to time. We played a real stinker one night at the St John’s Tavern in Archway and it got reviewed in a fanzine which quite rightly didn’t pull any punches. The points made were totally valid and I think it gave us a bit of a kick up the backside.

I don’t think we’d ever have gone abroad just to turn out a crap performance. I’ve fallen off my stool a few times (most memorably at Dingwalls supporting The Creation), Gary’s puked up once or twice and I remember a bass amp falling on Jason midway through a number. Playing at a strip club in Hamburg, which had been an old boxing gym—in fact, the stage still had the ropes around it—and trying to talk an enthusiastic fan out of getting The Aardvarks tattooed on his arm.

DR: How did the Cherry Red best of the Aardvarks album come about and when will it be released?

IOS: John Reed at Cherry Red is an old friend and he was keen to get the idea off the ground again about a year ago. Richard Allen from Delerium and Dizzy at Detour Records have helped out a lot too. It’s been fun doing it and we’ve called upon some old pals to help us out. Dan Abbot is an amazing graphic artist and primarily works with Storm Thorgussen who is of course famous for designing the covers for Pink Floyd albums. Dan used to design the most incredible gig flyers – absolutely psychedelic and very witty. Dan did the titling on the original Arthur C Clarke EP back in 1990 so it was great to have him back on board.

Andy Morten in another old mucka whose band The Nerve used to play with us a lot. Andy’s even sat in for me on the drums on a few occasions. These days he does a lot of the artwork for Cherry Red releases as well as producing the marvellous Shindig! magazine. My good friend Lenny Helsing has done the liner notes, which is a real thrill for me as an old Green Telescope/Thanes fan. It also features lots of great photos taken by Darren Russell too.

DR: Are there anymore unreleased recordings not included on the best of and will they ever see the light of day?

IOS: The well has pretty much run dry I’m afraid! Given how long we were knocking around for we didn’t actually record that much. There were a few things which we would have included but were limited by the physical capacity of CDs.

The two live cuts from the Saarbrucken weekender in 1994 (Stephanie Knows Who, and When the Morning Comes) didn’t make the final compilation sadly. Pity, as they give some idea of the band live. There’s also a demo of Mr Inertia but I’m sure Mark’s not losing any sleep about that not being included. The session which produced Drive Me Wild also resulted in covers of The Chocolate Watchband’s “Are You Gonna Be There (at the Love-In)” and the Kinks’s “I’m Not Like Everybody Else – both are pretty decent. I doubt they’ll be released now but I think you can catch them on YouTube!

DR: When was the last Aardvarks show and why did the band decide to finish?

IOS: Funnily enough, our last show was actually at the first Beat Bespoke back in 2004. I think we’d had one or two “last shows” before that but LBB1 was definitely the last one. I guess we just decided that after such a long time and not having written any new stuff for quite some time, that there wasn’t much point in going on with it.

DR: Your gig at Le Beat Bespoke 9 this Easter is eagerly anticipated how are rehearsals going and what do you have in store for the fans?

IOS: I think we’re clearing the pipes and shaking off the rust pretty well so far. Just knocking things into shape really and trying to ensure the harmonies are at least passable! We’ve called upon another old pal, Parsley, to enhance the sound a bit with keyboards. Hopefully we’ll catch up with a few old faces and hopefully turn on some of the younger crowd too. Can’t wait!


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drrobert

I run The New Untouchables organization and events like the Brighton Mod Weekender, Le Beat Bespoké Festival (and compilation series of the same name) and I co-organize Euro Ye Ye with the Trouble & Tea crew. I have run many clubs over the last 20 years in London, where I live and current nights include Timebox, Zoo Zoo, Crossfire, 100 Club and Mousetrap allnighter which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011. I have been lucky to DJ all over the globe including Japan, Canada, USA and Europe and met some great people on my journey. I run RnB Records to offset my vinyl addiction: newuntouchables.com/rnbrecords for rare vintage vinyl.

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February 5, 2013 By : Category : Articles Front Page Interviews Tags:, ,
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Masters – Count Sputnik: The Soundsystems’ third man

This entry is part 13 of 20 in the series Masters1

The Third Man

There was a third man present at the birth of Britain’s early sound systems along with who never secured his rightful place in history as one of the first modern DJs in the UK. But after two years searching Scotch Martin tracked down this elusive figure to a minibus garage in north London and interviewed him exclusively for NUTSmag.

Count Suckle and Duke Vin feature large in the story of Black music in the UK, but I first became aware of a third, more shadowy character who was present at the genesis moment of UK reggae through two Jamaican friends, themselves now in their 70s, who remembered an older soundman well-established in the Harlesden area when they first arrived in the UK in the very early 1960s.

One of the two, Patrick Alvaranga, was a DJ at the Railway Hotel in Harrow in the mid-60s and a young mod. We were discussing the ‘old days’ and he remembered dancing to a DJ when he was, ‘just a kid’ at various clubs in the Harlesden area. I volunteered the names of Suckle and Vin, but he was sure it was neither of them – he was also clear that out of the three this ‘third man’ had the best tunes, hands down. That’s quite a claim, given the competition.

As this was nearly 50 years ago the memories are patchy, but over a few months in 2011 while working in Wembley I started to piece it together and eventually the name Count Sputnik came up – not much, but a lead at last. More significantly, Patrick believed he was still in the area.

In the late 1950s the 31 Club in Harlesden (opposite the Stonebridge Hotel) was the Palmer brothers’ (PAMA) first basement venue (later they went on to run The Apollo, which is still standing in Willesden, and PAMA records (around the corner on Craven Park Road).

The 31 Club was ‘the’ place for Jamaican sounds in north London in 1961 and it was probably there that my friend heard the man who I would eventually track down to a minibus company where he works as a valet, despite being almost 80-years-of-age.

Count Sputnik (real name Vince, which was all he would give) moved to the UK in 1958 from Jamaica just as The Trojan and Downbeat sound systems were coming to the fore. His day job when he settled in Harlesden was a car mechanic with the local Hillman garage. Work was easy to come by as Britain flourished after a decade of post-war austerity. Vince wasn’t initially involved in music professionally. Later I found out that he played through the 70s and 80s, retiring in 1990.

“I knew two friends who had sound systems, Count Suckle and Duke Vin, I was the third one in the UK after them,” says Vince. “I knew them from home and they put me onto a Black man who built amplifiers (Vince doesn’t have a name for him but it’s almost certainly the ‘African man’ sourced at the timeby Duke Vin and recalled by Jah Vigo in Scott Bradley’s book, Bass Culture. The African was the only person at the time prepared to provide heavy equipment to sound systems, or more accurately, provide it to Black people).

“I started out with a 100 watt box, and one turntable, not really talking between the records, it spoil the music all that attitude. People dancing away and then (makes a muffled sound like a DJ talking over a poor quality mic).

“I took one record off and another on, double quick. I never moved to the two turntables and some still do use the one turntable now as a tradition. I was always doing the blues parties too, parties in people’s houses, in those days everything finished at 10.30pm so we always had parties. There were no other systems in Harlesden at the time so we’d go straight from the club to the house and after midnight the police would come.”

Vince knew legendary record producers and DJs ‘Coxsone’ and ‘Duke Reid’ personally, and went on to buy records directly from Coxsone, getting many pre-release tracks ahead of any other DJs outside of the Island, which would explain why my friend, Patrick, rated him so highly.

The first place he bought records in the UK was from Peckings (the late George Price), who’s son, Chris, still runs the Studio 1 franchise in London. He reveals that back in Jamaica, Duke Vin was a DJ for Tom (the Great) Sebastian and when he came here started his own soundsystem (again backing up Scott Bradley’s book). “I used to buy stuff from Peckings, he was the main man for records and almost all the records coming into the UK came in through him. He therefore had a direct route into Coxsone.

“Because I had a car working in a garage, I used to take Peckings to the customs office to pick up his goods. Because of that I had first choice then; I got to hear the best tunes first. Back then money was tight in Jamaica, you would do everything on one reel of tape, press up a few tunes then erase the tape, so maybe just a handful of copies would be made, these were pre-release 45s on blank labels normally, there would be no archive.

“Later on Sonny Roberts had a record shop in Harlesden Lane. There was a furniture shop in Harrow Road that sold Jamaican records and Peckings eventually opened a shop in Finsbury Park in the 70s, and of course PAMA in Craven Park latterly.”

Back in the early days Vince bought records from the Jamaican shops such as Randy’s and Muzik City via mail order using postal orders. But it’s the recurring significance of Peckings in the story of Jamaican music in Britain that comes through strong.

I asked Vince about the competition at the time. He looks at me square and says, “Well it seem to me that many of them was afraid of me, afraid to compete.” He’s smiling, but not kidding. For the first time during the interview I can see past this 80-year-old valet to a more youthful man, perhaps a bit taller and more imposing.

“In the mid 60s there was one man, Lord Koos he call himself. He was one of them rude bwoys, you know, a tough guy. He came up around that time. But competition wasn’t really an issue. I had a reputation, a reputation for getting my stuff together – if you know what I mean?”

Part II of Martin’s interview with Count Sputnik covers the mid 60s and the Q club, standing in for Count Suckle, and playing to the mods. Watch out for it later in the year.


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Scotch Martin

Since the local youth club in the early-eighties Martin’s been Djing with records of one sort or another. Spots at the CCI National Mod Rallies across Britain in the 80s were followed in 1990 by the first in a line of successful northern soul and mod clubs in Glasgow. With four others he started Goodfoot in 91, with Acid Jazz-influenced playlists of Blow Up in London, and Brighton Beach in Leeds. Goodfoot arguably paved the way for a new generation of mod-influenced clubs in Glasgow over the past 20 years. Living in London in the late 90s Martin DJ’d at neuvo-modernist clubs including Where’s Jude and Lordy Lord, as well as regularly spinning at Duffer of St. George parties and other happenings. A career highlight was supporting legendary organist, Jimmy Smith, as well as pulling off 10 consecutive club nights during the 1995 Glasgow Jazz Festival. By 2001, back in Glasgow, Caledoniasoul launched. A definitive milestone in the Scottish soul scene, the club ran for six years and brought Butch, Mick Smith, Mick H, Arthur Fenn, Mike Ritson, Dave Rimmer and Ady Croasdell to Scotland for the first time to experience the sweaty, full-on atmosphere for themselves. As a journalist Martin has always written about music. In 2004 he tracked down singer and organist, Bill Bush, whose soulful, jazzy rarity, I’m Waiting on Ronn, was hitting on the northern soul scene. After visiting Bill in the USA and interviewing him for Manifesto he brought the band over to perform in the UK, complete with Hammond B3, and has helped Bill profit for the first time from the 1968 b-side. Martin is married to Caroline, has two children, lives in the London suburbs. Still collecting after 30 years!

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June 3, 2013 By : Category : Articles DJs Front Page Rocksteady Scene UK Tags:, , ,
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Masters – The Fabulous Carousels Interview

This entry is part 14 of 20 in the series Masters1

In the history of popular music The Fabulous Carousels are a footnote. But their story includes names such as superstar guitarist, Chet Atkins (creator of the Nashville sound); hit producer Robin Hood Brians (Judy in Disguise); Stan Lewis (owner of
Jewel /Ronn
/Paula); Sax legend, Boots Randolph, to name just a few of the people they met and worked with in just two years together.

Their melodic, blue-eyed soul track on Towne House records “Would You Love Me” commands £150 / £200 these days and was also a big popcorn record on the continent in the 1970s. Their harp and piano player was Bill Bush, who would go on to make the monster Northern Soul track, I’m Waiting. I asked Bill about the Carousels when he was over in the UK at Easter 2013 and attended the NUTS Crossfire allnighter.

The Carousels were based in Munro, Louisiana, and were Bill’s first professional band. Born in 1943 in the town he still calls home, Shreveport, he had a small group at High School and played piano at the mercy of whatever hicksville venue they were playing at using an upright piano and hoping it was in tune: “Most times it was not,” he says. They played on the local TV station and around Shreveport, which was a hotbed of R&B, Rockabilly and country music at the time, with the Civic Centre hosting the famous Louisiana Hayride.

“In 1961 I was going to join the navy,” says Bill. “The day before I was going a guy called Jerry Hawkins called me, he was Dale Hawkins’ brother, and he said he wanted me to join his professional band as keyboard player. He offered me $75 a week to play with ‘Jerry Hawkins & The Jayhawks’ – and hell, that was a lot of money. He told me we were going to play at the Stork Club in Bossier City, which was a nice place, so I jumped at it.

“My life would have been very different if that call had not come through because I didn’t join the navy. My Mother had to sign as I was just 17 and she asked me what I would prefer to do. I though about it for one second and told her that I’d rather play piano. When the recruiting officer turned up the next day my Mother said, ‘He’s changed his mind,’ and that was it – I think she was very relieved.

“At the time I loved Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bobby Bland, all R&B and very Black sounding material. There was no internet, no decent TV so music was a big deal, people in Louisiana like to dance, so being a musician was a very reasonable career choice.”

Jerry Hawkins, whose brother Dale had just hit with ‘Suzy Q’ bought Bill a Wurlitzer electric piano, the kind Ray Charles used on ‘What’d I Say’, and Bill was the first person in Shreveport to own one.

Bill played with Jerry for a few years improving his skills before meeting the Carousels, already an established professional band in Louisiana. He says: “They were based in Munro, LA, and playing occasionally in Bossier City, they were very tight. Band leader, Rocky Nelson, approached me in 1962 to take over piano, which I agreed to do. My first enduring memory of playing with the band was being in New Orleans the week JFK was shot.”

By the time he joined the Fabulous Carousels Bill Bush had bought a Wurlitzer organ and had still to discover the B3 sound that would later become his trademark. The drummer and leader was Rocky Nelson, the guitar player was Van Norman, both from Shreveport, on bass was Lloyd Radcliffe from Rayville, LA and Joe Auenson was on sax / vocals, Bobby Ship was on lead vocals (singing lead on ‘Would You Love Me’). Louis Melançon, who Bill occasionally plays with still, joined later on trumpet.

Interestingly, the line up above was also the band that recorded Little Johnny Clark’s grinding R&B track, Black Coffee, which has had some plays in the UK on the mod scene. Bill explains that there was no ‘Johnny Clark’, but that Chet Atkins sat in on guitar for that session. “We were in Nashville playing at the Pink Poodle in Printer’s Alley. The club across the street was owned by Boots Randolph so we’d go over and see him play, he was magnificent. We recorded ‘Black Coffee’ in a little studio there in Nashville I think. Joe Auenson sang the lead on that track but felt his Norwegian name awkward, so he changed it. We had stars hanging around the studio and it really was a great time – it was the same time that we did ‘Would You Love Me’ – the same band in Nashville.” Bill has no information about the Town House record label but it was recorded 1964.

(The Black Coffee / Now, Now, Now, credited to Little Johnny Clark may have been recorded at Robin Hood Brians studio in Tyler, Texas (still there) as the Carousels did some recording there just after the studios opened in 1963. Bill has no hard information, but the fact that this record came out on a label called Sherwood seems like too much of a coincidence, but it could be just that.)

Like so many bands of the time, The Fabulous Carousels were a working, touring group and their wives and girlfriends went with them on the road. The band was based at the Dynasty Lounge in Munro, LA, but would be on tour often. Bill recalled: “We played a series of gigs at Louisville, Kentucky; seven-nights-a-week and the club was called, The Office. After hours I would go across the River and play with the black bands, take my harmonica and just sit in. Life was much easier in the 1960s and there was very little crime compared to today, they were very welcoming and it really was a lot of fun.

“I married Judy, and we’re still married, but in 1964 we were getting tired of living in a 7ft x 12ft trailer and took the decision to return to Shreveport. When we were on tour we lived on trailer parks and other sites and each member had a car and trailer (caravan), which must have made for quite a scene as hundreds of similar outfits to ourselves, Black and White; R&B and country, cris-crossed the southern states from Nashville to Little Rock.”

This return to Shreveport marked the end of the Carousels after two years of performing with the band, and the line up drifted apart and each went their own way. The newly formed Bill Bush Combo took up residence at the Gold Rooms in Bossier City, where the owner bought him a Hammond B3 for $1800, paid up over two years. It was in 1965 and after leaving the Carousels Bill recorded ‘I’m Waiting’ at Donald Dobbs TV repair shop in Bossier City, and pressed 100 copies on Stan Lewis’ Ronn label. Incidentally, the chords are C-minor and B-flat, but the C-minor is paired with the C bass and B-flat with the G bass, which gives it that unique sound.

Bill chose regular work as a live musician rather than take his chances as a recording artist, which went very well. His popular gigs featured R&B material rather than country music. Playing casinos on the Red River, combined with running a successful nightclub business for over 20 years, kept him and his family very comfortable.

Picture: Bill Bush (centre) with his new combo shortly after leaving
the Fabulous Carousels

 


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Scotch Martin

Since the local youth club in the early-eighties Martin’s been Djing with records of one sort or another. Spots at the CCI National Mod Rallies across Britain in the 80s were followed in 1990 by the first in a line of successful northern soul and mod clubs in Glasgow. With four others he started Goodfoot in 91, with Acid Jazz-influenced playlists of Blow Up in London, and Brighton Beach in Leeds. Goodfoot arguably paved the way for a new generation of mod-influenced clubs in Glasgow over the past 20 years. Living in London in the late 90s Martin DJ’d at neuvo-modernist clubs including Where’s Jude and Lordy Lord, as well as regularly spinning at Duffer of St. George parties and other happenings. A career highlight was supporting legendary organist, Jimmy Smith, as well as pulling off 10 consecutive club nights during the 1995 Glasgow Jazz Festival. By 2001, back in Glasgow, Caledoniasoul launched. A definitive milestone in the Scottish soul scene, the club ran for six years and brought Butch, Mick Smith, Mick H, Arthur Fenn, Mike Ritson, Dave Rimmer and Ady Croasdell to Scotland for the first time to experience the sweaty, full-on atmosphere for themselves. As a journalist Martin has always written about music. In 2004 he tracked down singer and organist, Bill Bush, whose soulful, jazzy rarity, I’m Waiting on Ronn, was hitting on the northern soul scene. After visiting Bill in the USA and interviewing him for Manifesto he brought the band over to perform in the UK, complete with Hammond B3, and has helped Bill profit for the first time from the 1968 b-side. Martin is married to Caroline, has two children, lives in the London suburbs. Still collecting after 30 years!

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September 20, 2013 By : Category : Bands Front Page Interviews Music Tags:, ,
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