Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Roger Lomas - From the Sorrows to Award Winning Producer

Click here for the New Roger Lomas article

Another piece from the prolific pen of  Pete Clemons - from The  Coventry Telegraph..

The story of Coventry's only Grammy winning musician and record producer - Roger Lomas

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rocking at the Ritz - Coventry Venue

Back in the early 60's the Ritz (in Longford Coventry) was the place rock it out. Pete Clemons takes you back there via his Coventry Telegraph article...

Rocking Out At The Ritz. 
Pete Clemons 

THE Ritz in Longford was another of those art deco style fronted buildings erected during the 1930s.

During its last days of activity it was a prominent Asian cinema and was the centre of the Longford community up until it closed. In fact it has remained empty and unused and was due to be demolished as far back as 1982.

But despite the various threats that have hung over it for over 30 years the building still stands on the Longford Road at the junction of Windmill Road and Dovedale Avenue although nowadays there is little more than the shell of it left to give an indication of its former life.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, and for the youngsters back then, rock 'n' roll was king and Coventry, like many other towns and cities up and down the country, was awash with teenagers forming their own bands and organising dances.

All manner of pubs and coffee bars readily accepted this trend and put on the bands. But one of the larger venues who were very accommodating was in fact the Ritz cinema. And for approximately a two-year period between 1960 and 1962 the front half dozen rows of seat would be removed in order to create a dance floor and a space for the bands to play in what became known as the Sunday Club. During the late 1950s The Ritz had been managed by Wilf Jones, the father of Beverley and who had also managed The Lyric in Holbrooks, but it seems that later on in the early 1960s it was taken over possibly by a Welshman known as Mr Powell. Either way each Sunday and on some Friday evenings a couple of bands would play after the showing of the film of the week.

If you were aged between 16 and 96 you were welcome at The Sunday Club, or so it was advertised. For three shillings and sixpence, which included a membership fee, you could join this club and enter the various jive and twist competitions as well as being entered into the spot prizes. And together with whatever film was showing that week you could also be entertained by a top Coventry area band.

The Vampires, Johnny Washington, Max Hollyman, Bob Tempest and the Buccaneers, Johnny Wells and the Strangers, Johnny Ransom and the Rebels and a certain Jackie Lane and the 4J's, along with a host of other bands, all became regular performers at the club.

Nigel Lomas recalls when his band back then, The Zodiacs, would play at the Ritz on a Sunday afternoon/evening. Their line-up at that time was Maurice Redhead vocals and guitar, Alan C. Owen lead guitar, Terry Wyatt guitar, Ollie Warner bass guitar and Nigel on the drums.

And after playing a lunch time session at the Stag and Pheasant pub on Lockhurst Lane, where incidentally they would make PS2/10 shillings (PS2.50) between them plus what was collected on the tray, they would then take their gear on the No. 21 bus and make their way to The Ritz.

So, with all their instruments in tow the band would make the short walk up to Courtaulds and wait for the No. 21 bus. After loading it up and stashing everything away the bus would then travel up the Foleshill Road to where they would disembark conveniently, outside The Ritz, just after it had turned into Windmill Road.

After unloading, the bus would then continue its journey up Windmill Road before carrying on to its final destination of Wood End. And it was at that their stop off point that they would then meet up, and often perform, with Beverley Jones (aka Jackie Lane) who of course later became a Coventry icon in her own right due to her incredible vocal talents.

It needs to be noted that the buses back then were the Daimler step on step off version with the grab handle pole and the band make full use of the stairwell that existed to the rear of the vehicle. Nigel and Maurice also fondly remember that on one Friday evening gig, lead guitarist Alan Owen had draped his coat over one of the footlights on the floor at the front of the stage. These lights were not switched on at the time as the band was just setting up but when the lights came on the jacket caught fire and two huge scorch holes appeared.

As the club grew so did the entertainment and spin-a-disc sessions that played your top twenty requests, along with Miss Personality competitions, were added to the variety of the club's entertainment.

Like many of Coventry's cinemas, The Ritz closed during the late 1960s. And as mentioned, it was acquired by the Asian community. During 2004 and as part of an Asian Cinema Exhibition a film was produced and directed by Dr Nirmal Puwar.

It pulled together the memories and photographs of the Coventry Asian cinema scene from the period of the late 1960s and through the 1970s and featured many classic clips of The Ritz. The film does contain some quite eerie and dark scenes that capture the building's current state of lifelessness but it is well worth checking out on YouTube and other media.

The reformed Sorrows playing live after decades in 2012 and featuring some of the guys mentioned in the article like Nigel Lomas

Monday, February 11, 2013

Don Fardon - From the Sorrows to Indian Reservation

Pete Clemon's takes up the story of  Don Fardon from the early days to the Sorrows and beyond. From his recent Coventry Telegraph article...

A big Don on the scene; Your memories: 

Pete Clemons 

SOME Coventry people might remember him more from when he ran the Alhambra pub in the city centre.

Others will surely know of him from his time at the Plough at Eathorpe. But one thing is for sure. This giant of a man and his achievements in the world of music will long be remembered. Over the years much has been written about Don Fardon. August 2013 will see him celebrating his 70th birthday so I think it is fitting to mark that fact by way of a brief overview of his musical career.

Don's interest in music began at an early age when, on Sunday evenings, he would to go to the Coventry Hippodrome to see the big band concerts performed there.

Later on, when he had begun work as an apprentice draughtsman with an engineering company, he took on an extra job at The Locarno. It was there that he saw his first 'electric band' The Hawks. Soon afterwards Don became their manager. A month later he had them booked to do a gig in Rugby. The band's lead singer failed to arrive.

Don duly took over vocal duties and when the singer did arrive he was sacked. During his time with The Hawks Don's stage name was Will Pity.

Next up for Don was The Vikings, a band he had formed himself along with Coventry guitarist Jim Smith. Jim had contacts in London and was able to get them a gig at the 2i's coffee bar in Old Compton Street, Soho. Known by now as Webb Stacey, it was there that he would rub shoulders with the likes of Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde.

After 18 months with The Vikings, Don was approached by the management of Coventry group Johnny and the Rebels who asked him to become their lead singer. This he did for the next two years but over time he found himself becoming more and more disillusioned. So he gave notice and left. Then came Rockin' Lord Docker and the Millionaires who duly dropped the 'Lord Docker' part after a solicitor's letter from Sir Bernard Docker, the then chairman of Daimler, threatened to sue if it didn't happen. After this setback they simply became known as The Millionaires.

After Don formed The Sorrows in 1963 vocal duties with The Millionaires were taken over by both Beverley Jones and Ricky Dawson who went on to become known as 'The Duke and Duchess'.

Don Fardon remained with The Sorrows for almost three years.

But after the groups reshuffle in 1966 he decided to give up the music business altogether. Shortly after though things became hard for him, and his family, so he returned to engineering. After a brief stint back in the factory he was persuaded to return to the music industry.

A debut single 'It's Been Nice Loving You' was recorded for CBS but conflicts between past and current record companies frustratingly stalled things. However, despite the protracted start to his solo career things began to pick up very quickly.

Between 1967 and 1969 Don built up an incredibly successful solo career in territories like Europe the U.S. and Australia. He did particularly well in Germany and France. In fact the first three records he released in Germany were all chart entries and Don was now becoming a big name over there.

During '67 and '69 Don released at least 20 singles across several countries. These songs had that big dynamic feel to them which was so prevalent during the late 1960s and this was mainly down to the production skills of Miki Dallon. Miki had also produced The Sorrows 1965 hit 'Take a Heart'. One of the earliest of those releases from October 1967 was called '(The Lament of the Cherokee) Indian Reservation'. Although some of these singles were being released in the UK on the Pye International label they were, by and large, going unnoticed, Where Don was scoring success in the UK though was with the very popular 'Soul Machine', the band he fronted between 1967 and 1969. Not only were they popular in the UK but they also secured some incredible tours with soul legends such as Otis Redding, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and many others. After Don left he was replaced by another Midlands legend, Chester Riggon.

1969 saw Miki Dallon start up a new record label called Young Blood. One of his first signings to the label was Don Fardon. August 1969 saw Don's first, and the label's third release, a cover of Tommy James and the Shondell's song 'I'm Alive'.
Don's next significant hit for Young Blood was Belfast Boy. The song itself had originally been recorded for a BBC documentary about the prestigious talents of the Manchester United footballer George Best. But it proved to be such a success that it spent five weeks in the UK charts. The song was inevitably re-released following Georges death in 2006.

His fourth release for the label came in October 1970. It was a reissue of one of his earlier songs and the title had been shortened to 'Indian Reservation'.

The song, as most will remember, became a massive hit in the UK. On October 24 it entered the chart at number 32 and steadily climbed to the top of the charts where it peaked at No 1. By the end of that year it was still on the charts at number 13 and went on to become one of Young Bloods biggest ever sellers. It had really caught the imagination of music lovers everywhere.

After Don left Young Blood in 1971 he moved into the pub licensing and restaurant trade. This he continued to do for the next 20 years but he had not given up music altogether. During that period Don formed a country and western band and spent time in Nashville recording line dance albums.

Current activities have seen Don hook up with Tamworth based soul band DC Fontana who have just completed some festive gigs at the Ricoh Arena and who have recently recorded a six-track EP with Don called 'Pentagram Man'.

Occasionally he can be seen perform Coventry super group 'Rock it' who also include ex-Lieutenant Pigeon member Rob Woodward, drummer Nigel Lomas and bass player Phil Packham. 'Rock it' tend to concentrate on the classic rock 'n' roll era but they also touch on the successes of these great artists by incorporating songs such as 'Indian Summer' and 'Mouldy Old Dough' into their sets.

Finally Don is, of course, pivotal in the current version of the reformed Sorrows whose success just seems to go from strength to strength. After invited visits to Italy, Spain and various UK Mod weekenders during 2012 the band are preparing for a series of similar dates for 2013 which will mark the bands 50th anniversary.

Despite this being his 70th year Don, thankfully, shows no sign of slowing up. Here's hoping he can long continue with his stage work as long as he wishes to.

Pink Floyd at the Coventry Locarno 1972

Pete Clemons on the Lanchester Arts festival gigs at the Coventry Locarno 1972. 

For the Coventry Telegraph.
(Readable Text below the graphics.)

Pink Floyd's Great Gig in the Sky Blue city; YOUR nostalgia.

Pete Clemons - for the Coventry Telegraph

MUSIC historian Pete Clemons, from Keresley, looks back at how a change on the bill saw Coventry witness the shaping of one of rock music's iconic albums.

AS many will know the Pink Floyd album 'The Dark Side of the Moon' was released almost 40 years ago, on March 1, 1973, and became one of the best selling albums of all time.

It was recorded over two sessions at Abbey Road studios during June 1972 and January 1973 using the then most advanced recording equipment available at that time with reportedly 50 million copies being sold worldwide.

However, the finished product that most listeners are now familiar with was far from how it sounded at its conception some eighteen months earlier. And Coventry had a very early preview of that now iconic album twelve months before its final release.

On February 3, 1972 the band stopped off at The Locarno for a gig in support of the Lanchester Polytechnic arts festival where Chuck Berry and others had performed earlier in the evening/night. And when, eventually, Pink Floyd reached the stage at around 2.30am they played a complete new album under the working title of Eclipse. It quickly became apparent to those who had attended the gig that they had truly witnessed something incredibly special.

Two weeks after that Coventry gig, and by the time the band had reached London, the same album was given its first airing to the press and media at the Rainbow Theatre. The title had been changed to Dark Side of the Moon - A Piece For Assorted Lunatics.

The music's live debut had been at The Dome in Brighton on January 20 and the Coventry gig had been the seventh time Eclipse had been performed live. The Lanchester Arts festival date had been in the middle of a short British tour that culminated in several London dates. Comparing the 'bootleg' copy of the music that I have had for many years, and which I believe to be the Brighton gig, the main differences between those early outings and that of the album in its final form included: 

Tracks 1 and 2 - 'Speak to Me' and 'Breathe' barley existed. The introduction was altogether different. 

Track 3 - 'On the Run', whose working title was originally 'The Travel Sequence', was a guitar and drum jam and would remain that way for the rest of the year.

Track 4 - 'Time' was played at a slower speed and the first half of the verses were sung by David Gilmour and Richard Wright together. The line in the song 'Tired of lying in the sunshine' was sung as 'Lying supine in the sunshine' at those early performances.

Track 5 - 'The Great Gig in the Sky', whose working title was 'Religion' or 'The Mortality Sequence', consists of synthesized organ and various tapes of preachers either preaching, reading passages of the Bible and reciting The Lord's Prayer. Clare Torry's epic solo just did not exist at that time.

Track 6 - 'Money' began with a longer introduction on the bass, and the saxophone solo part was instead played on electric piano.

Track 7 - 'Us and Them' had no Dick Parry saxophone solos as heard on the album.

Track 10 - At early gigs, the song 'Eclipse' was devoid of any lyrics and nothing more than an extension of track 9 'Brain Damage'. The suite was developed during live performances and it was only later that the lyrics were introduced into these passages. None of the spoken word pieces as found on the final released album were performed at all during 1972.

Incredibly, and after the London Rainbow Theatre gigs, late February 1972 saw the band enter a French studio for the first of two sessions to record the Obscured by Clouds album which was saw release in June 1972.

In fact 1972, although amazingly productive, also saw a hectic work schedule for the band that in short looked like this: late February, first recording session in France, early March short tour of Japan, late March second recording session in France then from April onwards a tour of the U.S. then Europe and back to the U.S again.

During April, when the band arrived in the U.S, the music's title had reverted back to Eclipse (A Piece for Assorted Lunatics) only to change yet again to Dark Side of the Moon - A Piece for Assorted Lunatics in September for the second half of the U.S. tour. The band finally settled on the title of 'The Dark Side of the Moon' shortly before its release.

The recent 'immersion' box set editions of Pink Floyd albums have at long last given light of day to some of those embryonic tracks in the form of several live recordings from that Brighton gig being cleaned up and included on a disc of unreleased tracks along with a very early mix of the full album.

I don't think the scale of the albums success could ever have been foreseen during the 40 years since it was released. It has topped the album charts in the U.S. and several other countries, although never in the UK where it only managed to get to number 2. It remained in the American billboard charts for 741 consecutive weeks. And with every subsequent reissue the album, even today, is an occasional visitor to the charts.

And to think that the only reason Pink Floyd had appeared in the first place was because David Bowie, an original choice for the Lanchester Arts Festival, had pulled out.


Chuck Berry Live at Coventry Locarno 1972

Pete Clemons with his article from the  Coventry Telegraph on the Lanchester Arts Festival 1972. The Lanch Polytech, now known as Coventry University. 

Parts of the festival were held at the Locarno in Coventry and this article concerns the recording of  Chuck Berry's biggest selling record My Ding a Ling, recorded in Coventry at the concert.

Readable text below the graphics..

Chuck Berry owes his biggest selling hit to the Locarno; YOUR nostalgia ROCK fan Pete Clemons, from Keresley, looks back at the night at the Locarno in 1972 where Chuck Berry recorded his biggestselling hit, 'My Ding-a-Ling'.

CHUCK Berry was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1926 and was an early pioneer in the field of electric guitar-led rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll.

His major breakthrough came in 1955 with the release of Maybellene and his stage presence, humour, showmanship and duck walk became the stuff of legend. As were his notoriously short gigs.

Chuck is also an incredible lyricist, constantly full of double entendre, and so it was a little ironic that his best ever selling single and his only UK and US no 1 would be a cover version... of sorts. Not only that but, as hard as it is to imagine, it was actually recorded in Coventry in what is now Central Library. A headline article in the New Musical Express dated January 22, 1972 proclaimed the forthcoming gig as 'The Berry, Slade, Floyd sound scoop. It went on to report that 'In journalistic terms, the LAF committee have a first-class scoop. Not only do they present the only British appearance of Chuck Berry, one of the great influences of rock over 20 years, but the only college appearance of Pink Floyd, who are at present on a British tour. As if that isn't enough, they also have Billy Preston and Slade appearing at Coventry Locarno'.

And so it was on the February 3, 1972, as part of the Lanchester Arts Festival, Chuck Berry would perform the song 'My Ding-a-Ling', all 11 and a half minutes of it in front of almost 2000 fans. A few of the crowd were 'old style' Teddy Boys dressed in drainpipe trousers and bootlace ties. Chuck, dressed in multicoloured shirt and skin tight white trousers, introduced the song as 4th grade humour and the whole thing contains plenty of audience participation.

The full set list that night, as far as I can ascertain, was: Sweet Little Sixteen, Roll 'Em Pete, It Hurts Me Too, Around and Around, Promised Land, Reelin' and Rockin', My Dinga-Ling and Johnny B Goode. The performance lasted around an hour with Chuck Berry being on stage for about 50 minutes of it which would have been par for the course for his gigs back then. A few years later when he appeared at Coventry Theatre he was barely on stage for 40 minutes.

Chuck Berry was backed that night by The Roy Young Band although Roy himself was never credited on the album. Roy, also a wonderful performer, was famed for his boogie woogie piano playing. He first broke through on TV's 'Oh Boy' in 1958. By the 1970s his band was fluid and, depending on the kind of gig, he could pull a line up together from a pool of as many as 30 plus extraordinary musicians.

For the Coventry gig he used Owen 'Onnie' McIntyre on guitar and Robbie McIntosh on drums. On bass was one time Van der Graff Generator member Nic Potter and finally on keyboard was ex Rare Bird player Dave Kaffinetti. Onnie McIntyre and Robbie McIntosh would later that year become members of the newly formed Scottish funk outfit The Average White Band.

The whole Coventry gig was recorded on the Pye Mobile Unit by engineer Alan Perkins and it was rumoured on the night that an LP called 'Chuck Berry Live in Coventry' would be released but that never materialised.

However in July of that year a heavily edited 4 minute version of 'My Ding-a-Ling' was released as a single. It stormed the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in part due to an American disc jockey called Jim Connors who plugged it from his radio station in Boston USA. In fact Jim was credited with a gold record for his efforts. Mary Whitehouse who, at the time, was a staunch campaigner against the permissive society and social liberalism and who once led a crusade against the BBC, tried to get the song banned but to no avail.

Then, during October 1972, an album was released titled 'The London Chuck Berry Sessions'. The album was intended as a double but was finally released as a single LP.

Side 1 had been recorded in the studio while side 2 was 'live' and contained the last three songs from the set list below.

At the end of Chuck's performance the Coventry audience can be clearly heard chanting and shouting for more while the festival management struggled in vain to clear the Locarno so that the stage could be set up for Pink Floyd. And this is very evident on the album. 'The London Sessions' peaked at number 8 in the US charts.

My Ding-a-Ling had originally been recorded by Dave Bartholomew in 1952. When he changed record label Dave re-recorded it under the new title of Little Girl Sing Ding-a-Ling. In 1954 a band called The Bees released a version of the song called 'Toy Bell' and Chuck Berry's first stab at the song was in 1968 under the title 'My Tambourine'. He would call it his alma mater.

Despite the songs amazing success pop critics, at the time, disliked it. In fact a Coventry Telegraph reporter, on its release noted, "I thought it was easily the worst thing he's ever done. It seems rather sad, after all the great rock classics with those sly, perceptive lyrics he has recorded over the years, that the song which really established him should have been a rather dubious, rehashed nursery rhyme" which of course is a fair assessment.

But I must admit to it being a guilty pleasure and every time I hear 'My Ding-a-Ling' it still brings on a chuckle and a wry smile.

Although the recording of the single was from the Coventry gig, this footage is from the later London Concert.