Monday, November 24, 2014

The Enduring Privacy of Pink Floyd - Pete Clemons

The latest article by Pete Clemons for the Coventry Telegraph features Pink Floyd. not such a strong Coventry angle this time but interesting all the same.

The enduring privacy of Pink Floyd
by Pete Clemons for the Coventry Telegraph

Despite recording the most pre-ordered album in Amazon's history, rock group have always been reluctant rock stars.

To mark the release of Pink Floyd's new album, music writer Pete Clemons remembers when he bought the band members' solo albums and explains how they retained their privacy despite their fame...

It is a Saturday morning during September 1978 and I still remember hurrying into town to pick up an LP I had ordered from Virgin records in the arcade. The record I had bought that day was titled ‘Wet Dream’ and had been released by Richard Wright.

A similar thing had happened earlier in the year when I went to pick up the first solo release by Pink Floyd guitarist and fellow band mate David Gilmour.

I think at the time I expected to hear, within those two albums, extensions of the Pink Floyd sound. But solo albums were a different concept altogether and I had not really grasped that notion back then.

I suppose that this had been an opportunity to cut loose from the band and flex their individual talents in slightly different directions. David Gilmour’s album was more blues based whereas Richard Wright’s was a more laid back, easy going affair.

As it happened though, I was far from disappointed in those records. Both contain some brilliant songs and some very fine moments are to be found within them.
Pink Floyd in the early days

Wet Dream had been the first solo album by the late Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright and both this release and that of Gilmour’s slipped out very quietly and almost unnoticed at the time.

This, I am guessing, was down to the fact that, up until then, Pink Floyd had been a fairly private band. The individual band member’s names were only really known to those really keen fans who actively sought this kind of information out.

Check out the covers, or gatefold sleeves, on some of their early albums. At times these covers did not feature the band’s name. And the majority of the sleeves did not even contain any images of the group.

During the 1970s when the band was arguably at their peak interviews with them were, apparently, incredibly awkward affairs. This was particularly so when the questions veered away from the band’s current project or what the band was attempting to create musically. I personally, don’t think Pink Floyd were trying to be pretentious or anything like that. I just think it was a case of them wanting to keep their individual personalities out of their collective publicity.

In fact during an interview conducted in 1978 David Gilmour touched on this infamy: “This album was important to me in terms of self-respect. At first I didn't think my name was big enough to carry it. Being in a group for so long can be a bit claustrophobic, and I needed to step out from behind Pink Floyd’s shadow.”

And this privacy has, by and large, remained throughout the band’s existence. When Richard Wright passed away at the age of 65, during September 2008, the sparsest of information surrounding the incident was made available to the public.

In true Pink Floyd tradition and completely out of the blue a tweet appeared on July 5, 2014. It had been released by Polly Samson, the partner of David Gilmour, and simply mentioned that ‘Btw Pink Floyd album out in October is called ‘The Endless River’. Based on 1994 sessions is Rick Wright’s swansong and very beautiful.’

A day or so after that tweet the following statement appeared on Pink Floyd’s website: ‘Pink Floyd can confirm that they are releasing a new album The Endless River in October 2014. It is an album of mainly ambient and instrumental music based on the 1993/4 Division Bell sessions which feature David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. The album is produced by David Gilmour with Phil Manzanera, Youth and recording engineer Andy Jackson. Work is still in progress, but more details to come at the end of the summer.’ Of course, the album’s actual release date was set for November 10.

Durga McBroom, who is one of Pink Floyd’s long time backing vocalist and a touring member, went on to
reveal: “The recording did start during The Division Bell sessions which is why there are Richard Wright tracks on it. But David and Nick Mason (Pink Floyd’s drummer) have gone in and done a lot more since then. It was originally to be a completely instrumental recording, but I came in last December and sang on a few tracks. David then expanded on my backing vocals and has done a lead on at least one of them.”

The cover art, created by Ahmed Emad Eldin, is a vision of a man punting across an ocean of clouds and onwards towards a sunset. I do think that it has brilliantly captured the essence of what the album is about.

The Endless River will be Pink Floyd’s 15th and, apparently, final album. David Gilmour was very recently quoted on BBC Radio 6 as saying, “It’s a shame, but this is the end. The Endless River is a continuous flow of music that builds gradually over four separate pieces over the 55 odd minutes. There’s a sort of continuum from the Division Bell album to this, and the last phrase but one on The Division Bell is ‘the endless river’: the endless river forever and ever, at the end of the song High Hopes. The only concept is the concept of me, Rick and Nick and I, playing together in a way that we had done way way back in the past but had forgotten that we did, and was instantly familiar.”

Nick Mason continued, “I think Rick would be thrilled actually. I think this record is rather a good way of recognising a lot of what he does. I think the most significant element was really actually hearing what Rick did, because, having lost Rick, it was that thing of... it really brought home what a special player he was.”

Pink Floyd played gigs in the Coventry area several times, in particular, during their early years. In addition to the package tour of 1967 that stopped off at Coventry Theatre and also featured Jimi Hendrix they also played venues like Warwick University and the Locarno ballroom.

These venues, along with the Lanchester Polytechnic, were revisited by the band during 1969. And then of course they returned to the Locarno during 1972 where they performed an early version of what would become ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

During their time together it is estimated that Pink Floyd sold more than 250 million records worldwide. And that is before this latest release. During July 2005 the ‘classic’ line-up reformed for the Live 8 event at Hyde Park. Given the events that followed it was a rather timely reformation.

And it appears that the appetite for Pink Floyd music still exists. Apparently ‘The Endless River’ was the most pre-ordered album on Amazon of 2014. But as the saying goes, all good things come to an end sometime.

Monday, November 10, 2014

King - The Rise and Fall of this Coventry Band

Pete Clemons now has his articles published automatically on line as well as in the physical version of Coventry Telegraph. Pete still wants the collection of his articles kept together but we can now do it differently - the text will digital with a graphic of the physical page but with the usual addition of supportive material from the Hobo websites.

This time Pete focuses on Coventry band  King.

The rise and fall of Coventry band King
by Pete Clemons  from Coventry Telegraph
King's album, Steps In Time

Music writer Pete Clemons profiles the history of Coventry band King...the article is from Coventry Telegraph - here

With 1980s music being back in vogue recently it is worth remembering Coventry band King who were active between 1982 and 1986.

During their time together King certainly hit the heights as, at their peak, the band had a succession of hit singles and recorded two highly rated albums for CBS Records. However, it was how the band developed as a unit that I always found fascinating. Despite their eventual success it was not the smoothest of journeys.

The early 1980s were heady days for the Coventry music scene. There was an incredible amount of talent in
King's single, Soul On My Boots
the city and an abundance of bands sprang up during this period. One of them, The Reluctant Stereotypes, appeared on iconic TV programme The Old Grey Whistle Test, and had caught the eye of fashion designer Perry Haines.

Perry was also a stylist and magazine editor. In the past he had worked on videos with bands such as Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Visage. And now he wanted to add band management to his portfolio. Perry had been impressed by The Reluctant Stereotypes and in particular their flamboyant vocalist  Paul King . Sometime later Perry contacted Paul and invited him down to London for some modelling work. Perry also expressed a desire to manage Paul’s band. But by then The Stereotypes had disbanded. So Paul set about building a new group.

This led to the creation of Raw Screens who consisted of Paul on vocals along with fellow Stereotypes, Tony Wall on bass and drummer Colin Heanes. Completing the group were guitarist Jim Lantsbery, Lynn Thompson on trumpet and Mick Roberts on keyboards.

By early 1982  Raw Screens had taken over a floor of The General Wolfe pub on the Foleshill Road. The support of landlord, Ken Brown, toward local musicians was incredible. By the summer of 1982 Raw Screens had lost Lynn Thompson and changed their name to King. (Lynn Thompson is, nowadays, a member of the rather excellent Stone Foundation).

1983 began extremely well for King and they had an excellent week during January when they had a track
King's single, Love and Pride
played on Peter Powell’s Radio 1 show each evening for a week. They were also featured on BBC2’s Oxford Road Show on January 21 and the following night played a gig at the General Wolfe.

But there was disquiet in the camp and during Feb 1983 the band lost drummer Colin Heanes. In Colin’s own words he was ‘sacked for many reasons but mainly because he spoke his mind’. Colin was replaced by John Hewitt who had previously been with another local band Team 23.

1983 was a very busy year for King as they began the job of establishing themselves. They were given saw support slots for tours headlined by Wah!, Everything But The Girl and Jo Boxers. And towards the end of 1983 the band secured a recording deal with CBS records.

King quickly attracted a large following that included a number of skinheads. This was bound to happen, I guess, because of the way the band dressed in their Dr Martens boots which would go on to become their trademark attire. However vocalist Paul King was quick to play down the issue by emphasising the fact that the boots were not a symbol of aggression. The band was trying to turn all that on its head by painting the boots different colours and turning them into an enjoyment thing.

Part of a promotional pack put together by Perry Haines proclaimed ‘whereas Coventry was two tone,
Perry Haines
King now paint the town multi tone, embracing all the colours of the rainbow
’. To distance the band from what had been King was being promoted as multi tone as opposed to a 2-Tone band.

March 1984 found King and Richard Burgess, of electronic band Landscape, in various studios. Over a three day period the group recorded ‘Love and Pride’ along with two B-side tracks but the recording session didn’t run smoothly. It seems that there were drumming issues.

The long awaited debut single was released during April 1984. King was really pleased with ‘ Love and Pride ’ with Paul King saying at the time ‘it is the best we could have done. It has a lot of potential but whether it is going to be a hit depends on whether the people at Radio 1 play it’.

The following month, May 1984, King announced the departure of drummer John Hewitt due to musical differences. However, John himself disclosed a deeper reason for his departure and revealed a series of what he felt were snubs. Even though he played drums on Love and Pride John had his picture erased from the single’s picture sleeve.

John also claimed that the rest of the band were allowed to buy new leather jackets for the photo shoot while he had to make do with a pair of oversized dungarees. And that he was not allowed to join the video shoot to promote the single.

With the LP recorded Paul King defended the band and claimed that King were changing their style and that it was John who was not happy playing in that style and it was he who did not want to stay as a member of the band.

During the album’s recording it was reported that the band had used an American drummer called ‘X’ who
King's album, Bitter Sweet
had agreed to play on the LP but did not want to join the band permanently. It is also reported that Richard Burgess also played drums on the album.

King then enlisted the services of  former drummer with The Members, Adrian Lillywhite, who joined the band in order to fulfil a tour that had been set up to promote the album. Over the next two years Adrian would tour and record with King but would never feature as a member of the band in any promotional photo or videos.

The band’s second single ‘Soul on my Boots’ was released during the summer of 1984 and was heralded in by way of a new design of Doc Marten boot. The band were delighted to each receive a pair of the 20-hole boots which made their debut at a gig at the Dominion Theatre in London.

On September 10 1984 King provided the pre-match entertainment at a testimonial for Coventry City’s then skipper and stalwart Brian Roberts. The band played a 45-minute set precariously perched on the back of a lorry parked in the centre circle at Highfield Road. The set included a reworking of the Match of the Day theme tune.

During October 1984 King played a gig at the Lanchester Polytechnic. By now the band were getting a youthful  following. Paul King said at the time ‘so many young teenagers want to go and see bands but they are stopped from getting into the venues by the licensing laws’. So the band duly obliged by putting on a 3pm matinee and fixed the entrance fee to just 50p.

Those early singles had not had an impact on the charts. It was only after King made an appearance on the iconic TV programme ‘The Tube’ and toured with Culture Club toward the end of 1984 that the wider public begin to take notice of them. This resulted in a demand to have those singles rereleased.

January 1985 finally saw King take off and break onto the charts. A headline tour that included a gig at Coventry Theatre followed. The year continued with an appearance at Glastonbury, a successful tour of the America, the release of their second album ‘Bitter Sweet’, and ended with an infamous gig at the Glasgow Barrowland’s on New Year’s Eve which was filmed for an Old Grey Whistle Test special.

All had not been well though and cracks in the band had begun to show during 1985. King toured Japan during 1986 and there was even talk of a third album. But despite the band’s now worldwide’ popularity, a Paul King solo album was preferred by the record label. This effectively finished the band.

After the split Paul King, famously, went to work for the media where he became one of the faces of the MTV boom. Now living in his native Ireland Paul is still involved with the media. A compilation CD that pulls together all of King’s music, that includes Paul’s solo work, was released. And even today their hits can be heard on the radio. Particularly those that favour 1980s dance music.

The article as it looks in the physical copy of Coventry Telegraph

Reluctant Stereotypes

"Love & Pride" / Don't Stop (1984) UK #84
"Love & Pride" (re-release) (1985) US #55 UK #2
"Won't You Hold My Hand Now" (1985) UK #24
"Alone Without You" (1985) UK #8
"The Taste Of Your Tears" (1985) UK #11
"Torture" (1986) UK #23
"I Know" (1987) - Paul King solo UK #59
"Follow My Heart" (1987) - Paul King solo Failed to chartAlbums
Steps in Time (1984) - King
Bitter Sweet (1985) - King
Joy (1987) - Paul King

"Managed by Perry Haines, King had many hit singles, and were famous for their hideous mullet hairstyles, along with painted bovver boots. There was a lot of scoffing when this band started, but they worked bloody hard to get where they did, so well done to them. Once they hit, I remember not being able to walk around Coventry without seeing THAT haircut! They were working on a third album with Dan "instant replay" producing by split. Paul King made an Album "joy" produced by Hartman and appeared on the Ferry Aid single Let It Be, produced by our old friend Pete Waterman. He has been for many years a VJ on MTV, and very good at it he is too. Maybe all those years doing medieval banquets at Coombe Abbey paid off!"

The Raw Screens
From Pete Chambers
"Created from the remains of the ever-so-good Reluctant Stereotypes, The Raw Screens honed and perfected their act and then switched their name to King.

From a rather slow start the momentum increased and in January 1985 Coventry was back on the music map with the anthemic Love & Pride. It was a song designed to be instantly in your face, even beginning with its own chorus for maximum impact.

Although it would famously stay at number two in the charts throughout February, held back by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson of all people, it was a song that gave the overall scheme and intent of the band in just one record. All the meticulous planning was paying off and a support slot with Culture Club had done the band no harm at all. It wasn't all Paul King however, Jim Lantsbery also cut an interesting figure with his guitar hero dynamics and Mick Roberts with some nifty keyboard work, was the musical backbone of the band. Listen to King now and see just how underrated he actually was. Finally Tony Wall was always there, holding it all together on his trusty bass guitar. The whole King experience was to last a little over a year although in that time they would enter the charts again with four more powerpop songs (including Won’t You Hold My Hand Now and Alone Without You)."

Reluctant Stereotypes formed first out of 2 jazz / rock bands Analog and Trigon who played their first gigs at the Hobo Workshop, Holyhead Youth Centre september 1974. Offshoot bands were Bung and Ens and then came Reluctant Stereotypes mark 1 and 2 with Paul King. RS split up c 1981 - two bands formed - Pink Umbrellas with Paul Samson and Raw Screens with Paul King. Raw Screens became King - but with various changes to the drummer before and after success.

Roots of  King
Analog 1974 The first band with future members of Reluctant stereotypes in played at the Hobo Workshop, Holyhead Youth centre.

Trigon - Also played at the Hobo Workshop - Holyhead Youth Centre 1974 - Paul Samson was a member.

Raw Screens / King - Colin Heanes interview

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hobo Workshop - Concert that Led to 7 Day Protest

For the Coventry Telegraph, Pete Clemons tells the story of the 1974 Coventry precinct concert organised by the Hobo Workshop, an offshoot of Hobo Coventry Music and Arts Magazine, originally based at the Holyhead Youth Centre in Coventry c September 1974.

One of the aims of Hobo magazine had been to create a venue to help get new bands and artists started and for creative activities like Street theatre, alternative films, jam sessions and much. It was facilitated and supported by the City Centre Project - a youth project created by Coventry Voluntary Service Council to help young people with problems of homelessness, unemployment, alcohol or drug dependency etc. Bob Rhodes, the Detached Youth Worker needed to reach young people who maybe in need of help and Hobo magazine had identified a number of youth problems. Bob therefore worked with us and in doing so facilitated our wider aims to provide a venue and facilities for budding musicians in the city. In order to publicise the work and the gigs, we collectively organised a Saturday concert in the centre of Coventry with a number of bands and a couple of folk performers identified in the article. However the concert was closed down by the police and a 7 day protest in the press ensued - the cuttings are below and Pete Clemons tells the story. Below is a readable version, split into two parts so the small print can be read.

The Concert That Led To A 7 Day Protest
by Pete Clemons

The Coventry Ring Road or the A4053 as its less widely known as, which encompasses the old and new Cathedrals, the majority of the university, various shopping centres, the Skydome arena, and many other businesses, was finally completed and officially opened during September 1974.

Like it or loathe it there is no denying that it was fairly unique and innovative at the time. For a start it was the only complete ring road in the country.Other cities did create ring roads to alleviate town center traffic problems but none of them were fully completed.

Construction began in the late 1950's and the first phase was ready in 1962 but was not fully completed until 1974, 12 years after the first section of the ring road opened and some 20 years after the ring road had first been planned.

Jimmy Powell and the Dimensions were appearing at Mr Georges club and by coincidence the Belgrade Theatre was staging a musical titled "The Only True Story of Lady Godiva". Bill Glazier, Dennis Mortimer, Willie Carr, Mick McGuire, Jimmy Holmes and Les Cartwright were just some of the names in an injury hit at Coventry City Squad who were jointly managed at the time by Gordon Milne and Joe Mercer and were fighting against relegation from Division 1 (now the Premier League).

The now defunct Coventry sporting club had just beaten Moor Green (also now defunct) to secure a place in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup where they met Atherstone.

A striking headline in the Coventry Evening Telegraph from the Monday of the same week that the ring road fully opened, read "Switched Off Pop Group Claimed 'We Were Persecuted!".

The previous Saturday, The Hobo Workshop, based in the Holyhead Youth Centre, Lower Holyhead Road, held a concert in the precinct / Broadgate. You need to be able to picture how Broadgate was laid out but the stage was in front of the fountains facing up to Broadgate island and the then underground toilets. 

What had been intended as a promotional event for the Hobo Workshop / City Centre Project turned into a 7-day protest campaign with a petition, everyone writing letters to the local press and also interviews with journalists. Mostly with the Coventry Evening Telegraph but also with a rival newspaper The Coventry Journal based over the road from the Evening Telegraph and also in Corporation Road. 

Hobo Workshop had ideas about benefit concerts and festivals and discussions led to plans for putting on a concert in the Precinct that would publicise the work of the Hobo Workshop along with the City Centre Project run by Bob Rhodes and which was an informal area for young people who might need assistance with problems such as unemployment, drug or alcohol dependence, homelessness or just personal problems. 

The concert was also to be a showcase for local bands and singer songwriters. Bob Rhodes, in his official capacity, got all the necessary permissions from the Chambers of Commerce, Chief of Police etc. transport and a PS System had also been arranged and flyers were produced as well as a programme of all the bands that were due to appear.

These bands included Memories, a band led by Paul Ashfield on lead guitar, Tom Ryan on drums, Ray Barrie (Borkowskie) on bass. Memories played hits and were suitable for all ages and tastes. They also had a residency at the Smithford Arms, which was across the road from the Coventry Theatre. Phoenix was a band led by Dave Pepper and his first band. Dave would of course resurface with the X Certs who emerged out of the Punk scene and were very popular during the Two Tone era and he was also in the Blitzkrieg Zone.

Completing the bill were two of Coventry's best folk players, Rod Felton and Dave Bennett. Rod had been tipped in 1965 as Coventry's answer to Bob Dylan.He also ran the Rude Bear Folk Club at the Hand in Heart pub in Gosford Street and the City Arms Folk Club (now Wetherspoons) in Earlsdon.

Dave Bennett was Coventry's foremost Ragtime guitar player. He ran the Old Dyers Arms Folk Club in Spon End and along with Rod Felton, encouraged Pauline Black, then known as Pauline Vickers, along her path on the local folk circuit,prior to her becoming a member of The Selecter. Dave also gave lessons to Kristy Gallacher who is now of course one of the most popular acoustic artists.

The concert itself was scheduled to start at 10 am and run through until 1pm. The weather was good and the turn was brilliant. It was packed in the central area by the underground toilets and people were up on the balcony.

At one stage, Memories, who were playing all the hit songs of the day, had to stop to announce details of a child that had been lost in the crowd. The child was found very quickly and reunited with its parents.

Halfway through 'Memories' set, however, the police came along and told the organisers to turn off the amplifiers and when asked why, were threatened with seeing the inside of a police cell. Of course, the concert did come to a close but not without protest. Bob Rhodes produced all the permissions but his efforts and his status were to no avail!

People were then encouraged to sign a petition or write letters.The equipment had barely been cleared away when someone produced a lunch time edition of the Coventry Evening Telegraph - the concert was on the front page with the headline Concert Deafens Shoppers. Of course this came as a complete surprise to the organisers who had only noticed scores of people enjoying themselves.

Trev Teasdel, Editor of Hobo Magazine and co-organiser of the concert and who provided the event information for this article, recalls the irony of it all! "We organised the concert to draw attention to the work we were doing at the Hobo Workshop, and the police closing the event down resulted in 7 days of free press coverage, much more than we could otherwise have hoped for!

It was nonetheless a great disappointment having put all the work in and a shame for the bands and singers that never got to play! But ignoring Sunday, we had a piece in the Coventry Evening Telegraph for 7 consecutive days, including a whole editorial dedicated to us. there were letters,articles and we hit the front page! Bob Rhodes and I were also interviewed by the Coventry Journal, CET's rival, whose offices were over the road from the old Telegraph Office."

The Upper precinct in the 60's and 70's where the concert was held. The inner area and the balconies were packed with shoppers and their children watching the concert. The stage was by the fountains facing up towards the spire.

Front Page Coventry Evening Telegraph - This piece appeared Saturday Sept. 14th 1974 on the front page of the lunchtime edition  while we were packing up. The paper were quick off the mark to report that the concert had been closed down by the police.

This appeared in the Monday (16th Sept) edition of the Coventry Evening Telegraph. Youth Worker Bob Rhodes who had got the permissions for us in official capacity, went in to talk to the paper about the issue - this was the result.

Liz Scott - Hobo Workshop Secretary got her letter to the editor in on Tuesday 17th September 1974.
Meanwhile many wrote in to the paper.

By Weds 18th September 74, such was the response that the Editor of the Coventry Evening Telegraph was moved to dedicate a whole editoria to the Hobo Workshop, taking a balanced view.

Thursday 19th September 74 was the turn of  the city's rival paper - The Coventry Journal, based opposite the Coventry Telegraph office. Bob Rhodes and Trev Teasdel were interviewed in their offices and this was the dramatic result!

On october 3rd. 74 the Coventry Evening Telegraph published a letter to the editor by Trev Teasdel, editor of of hobo magazine and Co-organiser of the Hobo Workshop. Trev had sent a few quite long letters. One was composed of TS Eliot Wasteland quotes  and one in particular was suitable for publication although the editor asked for permission to edit it - which was granted.

Here is the letter from the editor asking for permission to edit the letter.

In the original letter I'd mentioned some our future ideas which included a Coventry Music Festival (long before the  Godiva festival was thought up), Trench Coat - a second magazine concentrating on more social issues than Hobo. Children's creative workshop with arts practitioners. The Coventry Voluntary service council at the time provided volunteers to work on playschemes during the summer.  We had also started a street theatre workshop and Alternative film night at the Holyhead. There were quite a few ideas we had some of which took off and some which didn;t see the light of day.

Memories - first left Paul Ashfield - lead guitar,
second left Tom Ryan drummer 
third back row Peter Hewins 
[ passed away peacefully at Derriford Hospital on August 19th 2010, aged 56 years. 
fourth back row Ray Borkowski bass [Ray Barry]
front row Peter Hughes vocals .

An earlier article in september 1974 on the Hobo Workshop, with Analog performing their first ever gig at the Holyhead Youth Centre. Analog had a number of members in the band who later formed the two tone band Reluctant Stereotypes - including Steve Edgson, Paul Brook, Mick Hartley. 

A few of the bands who played at the Hobo Workshop on a Monday night 1974. Fission was Johnny Adams's band - later in Squad - Terry Hall's first band.

Analog on stage at the Hobo Workshop - Holyhead Youth Centre. Appearing in the photo also Bob Rhodes, Liz Scott, Trev Teasdel, Phil Knapper (older brother of Stu Knapper - later of punk band Riot Act.).

Holyhead Youth Centre, Birth place of  Two Tone (Selecter and Specials) and also the Hobo Workshop.

Cover on Hobo Magazine featuring Mark Rider (now of Skawaddy) and Ray Barrie who appeared in Memories who played in the Shutdown Concert.

By November 1974, the Hobo Workshop had moved to upstairs at the Golden Cross and this is Trev's flyer for it. Horace Panter played for us in 1975 with a jazz rock band I knew as Rickie's band and later two Toners Neol Davies, Charley Anderson, Desmond Brown and John Bradbury came along to one of the sessions. 

Midnight Circus was Neil O'Connor's band in 1974 - they later became the Flys who made the single Molotov Cocktail in 1979. Neil later played with his sister's band Hazel o'Connor's Megahype.

Another early press cutting fromthe Coventry Journal in 1974 regarding the Hobo Workshop.

This one was from the Coventry Evening Telegraph.

Dave Pepper, later of the X Certs, was down to perform a the precinct concert with his first band Phoenix. Sadly the Police shut the concert down before they could play.

Rod Felton - Coventry's folk player extraordinaire, was also waiting in the wings to play - 

And Ragtime Guitarist Dave Bennett

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vince Martin and the Vampires

Pete Clemons with memories from Vince Martin of the Vampires, Coventry 1950's / early 60's for the Coventry Telegraph.

Fangs for the Fangs for the music Vince!
Pete Clemons
OVER the years much has been written about the swinging 60s scene in Coventry. It was a very special time and, I personally, think it is very important to document as much about it as possible for future generations to understand and maybe even learn from. The same of course can be said for the 1950s but, with the passing of time, it is that bit more difficult to gain first-hand information from that period.

For people who grew up during that era it might appear as though the 1950s scene has all but been forgotten about. As such it is great to be able to have the odd conversation with people like Reg Holliday and probe them for anecdotes from then.

So what was life like back then for a teenager growing up through that era and who had a keen interest on the music at that time? A recent conversation between Reg, and some of his old friends from that era, began to bring back a lot of memories.

He was reminded that upon leaving school he was able to walk straight into a reasonably paid job as a trimmer at the Humber car factory. Back then he would spend Saturday mornings in Jill Hanson's record shop listening to, and buying, the latest chart hits.

The Sunday night concerts at the Hippodrome, during the mid-1950s, always attracted a capacity audience and provided a good mixture of pop stars, jazz bands and large orchestras such as Billy Cotton, Count Basie, etc. The concerts would finish at around 9pm and the younger generation would then pour out of the theatre and onto the 'Bunny Run' which was the then way of meeting members of the opposite sex. 

The 'Bunny Run' circuit took in Trinity Street, Ironmonger Row, The Burges and Corporation Street. The lads, it seemed, would stroll around this square in a clockwise direction while the girls would walk anticlockwise. This square included a couple of coffee bars and a few late night cafes. When I say 'late night' you need to understand that closing times in those days were 10.30pm. Each one of these establishments had a juke box and at least one pin ball table and became meeting places for those walking around on the 'Bunny Run'.

Reg's own record collection included the likes of Pat Boone, Guy Mitchell, Dean Martin, Johnny Ray, Nat King Cole and Frankie Laine. However, all those records would find themselves placed in the attic to make way for the skiffle sounds of Lonnie Donegan, Chas McDevit and The Vipers that began to appear during the second half of the mid 1950s. So influenced, was Reg, by this music that he set about creating his own music related evening. During March 1957 he decided to organise a charity show and had over 100 applications from teenagers who wanted to take part.

Seventy were selected and three shows were given at the Cheylesmore Community Centre. Two of those shows were for the Coventry and District Spastics Society and one for the Canine Fund.

About a year later Reg formed a small group to hold charity dances. He became the vocalist and the others were guitarists Robin Bailey (whose skiffle group had taken part in those earlier shows), Geoff Baker, Phil Packham and drummer Ronnie Cooke.

This group played for two all-night marathons in aid of funds for local charities and things went from strength to strength as they were invited to play for dances at Transport House, youth clubs, working mens' clubs and many other venues. The result of a challenge by another group at The Rialto Casino gave the group a half hour slot on Tuesdays and Fridays for two and a half months. 

This course of events was actually the embryonic stage for the formation of The Vampires who came together during 1959. Reg Holliday also changed his name to Vince Martin just as the band had formed. There was no particular reason why it should be Vince Martin. It just seemed to fit with the image of The Vampires at that time.

The band's initial line-up was Vince Martin, Geoff Baker, Phil Pack-Packham and Barry Bernard. However, depending on who you talk to that initial line-up may or may not have included Keith Parsons. 

What is for sure though is that by the end of 1960 The Vampires had the more stable line-up of Vince, Robin Bailey, and Barry Bernard on bass, guitarist John Buggins, drummer Keith Parsons and a second vocalist John Hounslow.

Their advanced bookings had spread to Warwick, Rugby and Leicester. In addition, the band never refused a request to play for charity if they were requested too.

So busy were The Vampires that they enlisted the services of Keith Parsons' elder brother, Bryan, as assistant manager. The band's progress was also shown by way of matching suits and upgrades to equipment such as microphones, guitars and drums.

Where the group failed though was in the area of amplification and this was highlighted when they failed a BBC audition for that very reason during 1960. Despite that setback they went ahead and purchased a van for the purposes of a holiday tour which was planned for the summer of 1961. During the lifetime of the band other local musicians performed for The Vampires. Johnny Washington, Alan Palmer and later on during 1963 Murray Winters and Sherlee Scott all passed through the band's ranks. The last recorded date I have for a Vampires gig was during 1965.

Vince, as he was more widely known by now, actually left The Vampires during the early 1960s. He became more interested in, and felt he could make a greater impact, with the promoting of concerts. As a result he firstly created Vince Martin Beat Groups. Then later on, during the 1962/63 period, he also started up an entertainment agency called the Big Three Enterprise and based them in Whitefriars Street. Big Three handled bookings for artists like Cilla Black, Lulu and The Hollies. 

Apparently Vince was always on the go and secured a lot of work and opportunities for a lot of young up and coming musicians in the Coventry and beyond. In fact he also organised tours for bands across the UK, Wales, and Scotland and even in Europe. Big Three also promoted for venues like the Embassy Club in Skegness.

At the turn of 1962/63 Big Three and VM rock bands joined forces and then, toward the end of 1964, they in turn teamed up with Mick Tiernan and Jack Hardy at Friars Promotions who had also been based in Whitefriars Street.

Between then this new venture would become known as Friars Promotions and Agencies. At about the same time they left their respective offices in Whitefriars Street and moved to new premises on the corner of Albany Road and Broomfield Road in Earlsdon.

Music trends may have been changing toward the end of the 1960s but Vince moved along with them. He still worked for Friars who, by now were promoting nationally known bands around the Midlands, but this was combined with working at venues like The Walsgrave Pub where he became the house DJ for several years from around 1967. This would continue through to the early 1970s where he eventually moved on to The Mercers Arms and became that venue's DJ in 1971.

Vince Martin remained in the music business till 1972. As everyone by now knew him as Vince he remained as such when he began his next venture in the holiday business. For that though, he combined his stage name and the surname he was born with and, thus, became known as Vince Holliday.

Says Vince, "Other than those that were part of the rock 'n' roll heydays I don't think that anyone can truly imagine just how big the Coventry and district music scene was. Some of the more popular bands were, at times, coping with two engagements per night / seven nights per week. As office manager for Friars Promotions I was responsible for the majority of their gigs and being a DJ I also shared the stage with these guys on a regular basis. 

"In those days we were just a "In those days we were just a bunch of young people having a good time and never did we imagine that some 50 years down the line we would have tribute events and people writing about us."

Today, and in his late 70s, Vince may not be as active as he was but still organises and gets involved with a lot of charity work for causes such as 'The Myton Hospice Appeal.' .' He also keeps a keen eye and looks after the interests of The Phoenix Rock 'n' Roll Band who he arranges gigs for as well as posts out occasional newsletters.

And throughout the vast majority of Vince's journey he has been accompanied by his wife Sue who really deserves special mention and praise as she has been at his side for over 50 years.

circa 1959-65 - Sources Broadgate Gnome /Rex Brough

Beat group

Line up: Vince Martin (vocals), Johnny Washington (vocals), Graham Sutton (bass), Alan Palmer(drums), Johnny Buggins, Robin Bailey, Barry Bernard.

Keith Parsons also drummed at one point.

Managed by Vince Martin of JRD Entertainments in Whitefriars Street.

From Pete Clemons in Coventry Telegraph

"The VAMPIRES formed during 1959 and existed till 1965. The band’s initial line up was Vince Martin, Geoff Baker, Phil Packham and Barry Bernard. However, depending on who you talk to, that initial line up also included Keith Parsons.

Several line-up changes occurred during the bands existence although, yet again, I have several differing lists of who was with them and at what stage they were in.

Although they differ, the names remain constant and Johnny Washington, Johnny Buggins, Robin Bailey, Alan Palmer and Ronnie Cooke all passed through the band’s ranks.

The venues they played included: the Bantam pub, Hen Lane; The Milano coffee bar, Radford Road, the Transport and General Workers Union HQ and the Police Ballroom. They also had a residency at the Lutterworth Working Men’s Club for 12-18 months on a Wednesday evening.


Vince Martin (Aka Vince Holliday)

From Rex Brough Memories from Modie Albrighton

"The singer in the Vampires was Vince Holliday who changed his name to Vince Martin. In

every band there is one that stands out and Vince was the one. Showman, salesman, front man and always had time to help other bands. Later he started an Entertainment Agency called the Big Three Enterprise in Whitefriars street bookings for people like Cilla Black, Lulu, and the Hollies. He also handled other bands like the Sorrows, Matadors, and the Tears. He was always on the go. He became the manager of the Peppermint Kreem"

Pete Chambers from the Coventry Telegraph - It's back to the 60s when The Vampires ruled the music scene.
AS THE former frontman of "Coventry's first rock 'n roll band," Vince Martin and the Vampires, I was pleased to be reminded in a recent Telegraph article that the group actually appeared at The Hawthorn Tree, Tile Hill, way back on January 6, 1963.

The band was originally formed in 1959 to take part in a fundraising concert for the Baginton Fields School for special needs children.

We proved so popular that we eventually went on to appear at many of the country's major venues, including Blackpool Tower, various holiday parks and the famous Belle Vue Ballroom with Jimmy Saville.

The career spanned a period of 15 years until finally forced to disband in 1973 due to the majority of the popular venues converting to bingo and the disco craze.

Many of the band's previous followers will no doubt be surprised to hear that all the original members of The Vampires are still alive and kicking.

We occasionally meet up at local jam sessions and the annual "Call Up The Groups" reunion and despite being OAPs, some of us are still involved in the music scene. 

VINCE HOLLIDAY Jon Washington is a popular recording artist currently living in Las Vegas, Phil Packham is currently a member of Coventry's first supergroup "Rock-It" and Allan Palmer has been in Commanding Officer of the Coventry Corps of Drums for many years.

As for myself, I have been booking manager for the popular "Phoenix Rock 'n Roll Showband" for the past two years and enjoying every minute of it.

May I, on behalf of all the many former local musicians from the Rock 'n Roll heyday, thank both writers Peter Chambers and Peter Clemons for their interest and contributions in respect of keeping the city's music history alive.

It's greatly appreciated and brings back a lot of brilliant memories for numerous Telegraph readers.

Vince Holliday (aka Vince Martin) William and Mary Cottages, Earlsdon Avenue South, Styvechale.


And from Pete Clemons in Coventry Telegraph - an article on Johnny Washington 

Vince of Vince Martin and the Vampires on the Radio

The first broadcast from 2015 on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire. Vince talks about his memories of playing in Coventry's first Rock n Roll band and his role in Friars Promotions that put some many bands, artists and discos into Coventry's M & B pubs.

This is Vince Martin of the Vampires talking on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire about the band and Friars Promotions - March 2015

There more of Vince's broadcasts on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire to be found here 

Vince started Friars Promotions in Coventry - Read about it here

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Mosquitos are Back (Coventry RnB band)

Pete Clemons looks at the return of Coventry RnB band The Mosquitos in the Coventry Telegraph.

Featuring  Nick Robotham, Steve Wallwyn, Steve Aaron, Horace Panter, and Rick Medlock

Check them out on Facebook

Mosquitos are back buzzing!
By Pete Clemons

Rhythm and Blues, often abbrieviated to R&B or RnB, is a genre of popular music that originated in the early part of the last century. Over the years the term has had a number of shifts in meaning. One of those shifts, British rhythm and blues, was developed in the early - 1960s having been influenced heavily by its American counterparts. Successful early British bands which fell into that genre included the likes of e Rolling Stones, e Animals and e Yardbirds who, along with their own compositions, also covered songs by Chuck Berry, Bobby and Shirley Womack and many others.

Successful early British bands which fell into that genre included the likes of the Rolling Stones, thee Animals and the Yardbirds who, along with their own compositions, also covered songs by Chuck Berry, Bobby and Shirley Womack and the British Mod culture that sprang up during the mid 1960s was musically centred on rhythm and blues. The British R&B bands produced music which was very different from its roots with the emphasis on guitars and, arguably, played with a greater energy.

Many of those 1960s bands, toward the end of that decade, shifted style and created what became known as psychedelic, progressive and hard rock. But whatever music they produced those rhythm and blues structures and infuences would still be a major component within that sound. A Warwickshire based band currently doing the rounds and whose set list and performance is loyal to those heady days of the 1960s and 1970s are the Mosquitos. 

The Mosquitos are also unique for several reasons. Firstly they are a seasonal band. Due to geographical reasons they do not begin touring until around May and continue gigging through to July. Another reason for their uniqueness is that the band is pooled from a group of musicians as opposed to having one permanently fixed line-up. Finally, no band member has ever quit the Mosquitos.

The idea for the band came from vocalist and harmonica player Nick Rowbotham back in 1978. The original concept, which still works today, was to use musicians from differing musical backgrounds and experiences to work with him to perform original material and classic R 'n' B tunes. And, based around Nick, a selection of musicians would be put together based on who was available at the time.

Initially the Mosquitos, who were Leamington Spa based, was made up of Nick and his long time friend and bass player Keith Hancock together with guitarist Steve Walwyn, and drummer Andy Bentley. After a couple of years the band was expanded and included guitarist Steve Aaron and bass player Horace Panter. In fact during 1981, when the Specials single Ghost Town was at number one in the singles chart, Horace famously celebrated by performing with the Mosquitos at the Green Dragon In Stratford-Upon-Avon.

The Mosquitos recorded and released a single during 1982 that contained original songs 'Something out of Nothing' as the A side and 'How Could they Know' on the flip side. It was released on the Discovery Label who was also based in Leamington Spa. However, due to some of the band members having other commitments, the single was never properly promoted.

However the track 'Something out of Nothing' was not lost forever. Lee Brilleaux, the enigmatic leader of Dr Feelgood, got to hear the song and was well impressed. So much so that he used it on the B side of e Feelgood's 1983 single 'Crazy About Girls' released on the Chiswick label.

It was at this point that it became clear that the band needed to have an even more liquid membership. So the Mosquitos 'family' was extended further. is resulted in drummer Rick Medlock, fiddle player Martin Bell and guitarist Phil McWalter all being drafted in. The Mosquitos would continue to play many gigs in pubs, clubs and universities and built a loyal following.

Due to the liquidity of the band the various individuals who made up the group were more involved in other projects. As such the musicians were spending less and less time to devoted to the Mosquitos. And by 1985, with all the band members doing other things, the group simply faded out. Despite this the band members remained great friends and even during their hiatus, they still found the time to perform the very occasional Mosquitos gig.

Wind forward more than twenty years and, during 2007, Rick Medlock quite by chance met up with Nick Rowbotham. Rick had long since retired as a musician but, within months of this meeting, he had regained his old 'mojo' and was back behind a drum kit again. After several short stints with other bands Rick became the prime mover in motivating and re-energising the Mosquitos into action again by pulling together this liquid line-up.

The Mosquitos began gigging again in 2011. And, every year since, the call goes out to see who is available. Their first year back saw the band perform a handful of gigs over the course of a month. e following year saw them gigging for two months. And now, in 2014, it's certainly three months, and possibly four months worth of work, as the gigs continue to pour in.

Once again the Mosquitos are generating a tremendous amount of interest. And this is re ected by way of the spread of gigs across the region. And behind the scenes drummer Rick Medlock works hard to secure the gigs and maintain the website. The band are certainly beginning to regain their fan base again as word spreads and each gig seems to bring with it a growing and appreciative audience.

Largely the 'squad' gigging today, with the exception of a few notable additions, is much the same as it was thirty years ago. e additional musicians are guitarist Baz Eardley, bass player Chris Wright and guitarist Pete Gardner. And each of these musicians bring with them an outstanding pedigree. Dust My Broom, Bullfrog Blues, I'd Rather Go Blind, Walking Blues, Killing Floor, Shakin' All Over are just a selection of the band's songs which get covered. But their repertoire is quite extensive and, as such, no two gigs are the same.

These guys are no spring chickens. Yet despite their advancing ages The Mosquitos still play with passion and enthusiasm. They may be playing for fun but make no mistake about how serious they take their craft. Pride in what they deliver would not have it any other way.

The 2014 season is now over. Let's hope the 2015 season continues where the last one ended for the band. In their own words, next time you see an advert for a gig near you, then come and join the malarky that is e Mosquitos!