Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stuart Colman - Cataracts / Beat Preacher / Carribeans / author

Pete Clemons takes a look at the musical career of one of the early Coventry R & B  musicians, from his early days in the Beat Preachers to being an author and much more. Published recently in the Coventry Telegraph.

Preacher, author, producer.
Pete Clemons 

BORN in Harrogate during 1944 Ian Stuart Colman moved to Rugby after leaving school in 1961 where he gained an apprenticeship as a draughtsman with AEI (Associated Electrical Industries).

Stuart, as he became known, had been born into a strong musical background. His father had been a band leader and his mother sang in a choir. Despite this Stuart was influenced by rock 'n' roll and, so I have been told, amassed a tremendous record collection. That early influence would continue to be a feature throughout his career.

It was not long after he moved south that he met up with like colleagues who set about forming a band which they called The Cataracts who played many local gigs, in particular, at the Co-op Hall in Nuneaton.

The Beat Preachers were formed in 1963 with a line up of Geoff Parson (guitar), Stuart Colman (bass), Graham Rolaston (drums), Forbes Merrigan (lead guitar) and Jackie McCormick (vocals), having been created out of two other groups - The Cataracts and The Boot Hill Six. They would then go on to become one of the more popular and relatively successful beat bands on the Coventry circuit.

Despite Stuart having an early interest in rock 'n' roll, as a group, The Beat Preachers found their musical influences came from rhythm and blues while their style came from the newly emerging 'Mod' scene that was beginning to develop.

The above line-up continued for almost the entire existence of the band until Jackie McCormick left toward the end of 1965. His eventual replacement was saxophonist Tony Britnell, later of Jigsaw, but midway through 1966 the band split permanently when Forbes Merrigan quit and Stuart Colman joining Pinkerton's Assorted Colours.

The Beat Preachers, although popular in Coventry, were not con-fined here and they regularly visited places like Nottingham, Leicester and Northampton and picked up a reputation when they became known as the Midlands version of The Rolling Stones. But they also played many gigs in and around Coventry with The Parkstone Club being a particular favourite venue for them. They also supported The Who at the Matrix Hall in 1965.

The Beat Preachers did release a single on the Pye Record label (Pye 7N 15961) during September 1965, however it was under the pseudonym of The Caribbean. The disc received good reviews but apparent bad management and even worse promotion meant that the record failed to chart.

The songs that made up the single, titled 'Inside Out' with the B-side of 'Up My Street', were unusual at that time because they had an early reggae feel to them. The song writing sources were equally curious, and presumably tongue in cheek, as they were credited to 'Benn/Sherriff', I assume after the two notable people from Rugby's historic past, George Benn and Lawrence Sherriff.

After his stint with the Pinkerton's, Stuart Colman then joined forces with other band members to form Flying Machine. Flying Machine was, of course, the band that had formed after the Pinkertons originally split and who had a huge hit record in America. Following that venture Stuart returned to England during 1971. Soon after his return Stuart settled in London and joined rock 'n' roll revival band Hurricane as bass player.

This band was also made up of pianist Freddie 'Fingers' Lee, Dave Wendells on guitar and drummer Carlo Little who had all been with Screaming Lord Sutch's band The Savages at some time or other during the early 1960s.

In 1976, Stuart was involved with organising a march to the BBC. This was in protest about the lack of rock 'n' roll music on BBC Radio One. The outcome, to his own surprise, was in him being given his own weekly show on Radio 1. Part of the radio show's remit was to include live music and one of the early sessions was by Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets. Due to the unavailability of the show's usual 'live session' producer, Stuart was asked to cover this role as well.

It went down a storm and the popularity of that show and that particular live session led to Stuart being headhunted by Epic Records to act as producer for Shakin' Stevens who, by now, had assembled a new band.

The impact of this partnership was immediate as 'Shaky' secured hits with 'Hot Dog' and 'Marie, Marie' followed by a string of number ones that included 'This Old House' and 'Green Door'.

This was a tremendously busy period for Stuart. Not only was he working on various Radio 1 shows but his production skills were been used by a great deal of artists and this culminated when, during 1982, he was voted the top singles producer of the year by Music Week magazine.

He even managed to write an excellent book about rock 'n' roll and those that played an important role in it as well as who was keeping the flame burning at that time. It was titled 'They Kept on Rocking' and well worth seeking out.

The hectic schedule and the production successes continued throughout the 1980s with his involvement in releases by Billy Fury, The Crickets, Phil Everly and Little Richard.

Such was the regard Stuart was held as a producer that he was asked by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton to produce the very first Comic Relief record for The Young Ones, in 1986, which also featured Cliff Richard. The result being that a remake of the song 'Living Doll' rose to the top of the charts and raised an awful lot of money for charity.

1986 also saw Stuart open his own 'Master Rock' studios in London. Customers over the next few years included Jeff Beck, U2, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Soul II Soul.

Stuart was then invited to join Capital Radio when they re-launched their station in 1988. He remained there until 1995 playing rock 'n' roll oldies. In parallel, he was also running a similar show for the BBC at their Radio Solent station.

And then came the inevitable TV work as Stuart was invited to produce major music specials that involved the likes of Natalie Cole, T'Pau and Meat Loaf.

The mid-1990s took Stuart's love of American music to Nashville Tennessee where he produced for country rock artists such as Faith Hill, Nancy Griffith, Linda Gail Lewis and plenty of others.

However, life was not all good as in 2002 tragedy struck when Stuart was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus. It took a great deal of treatment and tremendous resolve to battle back from it. But recover he did and he is now completely clear of the disease.

Nowadays Stuart still produces, is still involved with rock 'n' roll in which he writes for magazines, works as a consultant for Ace records and shares his time between Manhattan in New York and the Forest of Dean.

More on the Beat Preachers (and some of the other bands) in hobo A to Z of Coventry Bands - here 

Ian Crawford adds -

When the Beat Preachers moved on with Stuart Coleman his old band, The Cataracts, comprising Roger Meakin - Guit/vocals, Mick Pearson - Guitar, Johnny Armitage - drums and Colin ? -bass played Woolpack Beat Club and other venues in the Rugby area.We were all AEI apprentices & contemporaries of Stuart Coleman c.1963-64

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Glam Rock Bands in Coventry 1970's

Pete Clemons takes a look at Glam Rock in Coventry for his latest Coventry Telegraph article -

Wham Bam Thank You Glam!

by Pete Clemons.

AS the embers of another Christmas and festive period smoulder away and the distinctive voices of Noddy Holder and Roy Wood are packed away into their CD cases for another 12 months it is at this time of year when I can't help but think back to those heady 'Glam Rock' days of the mid 1970s.

I was surprised to be reminded that, in actual fact, the lead up to Christmas 2013 just happened to be the fortieth anniversary of those particular songs. For it was at the tail end of 1973 when Slade's 'Merry Xmas Everybody' and Wizzard's 'I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday' fought it out for the top spot in the nation's top 10. Of course Slade came out on top in that instance but Wizzard did have their moments and had claimed a number one hit earlier in the year.

I must admit though that I, personally, must have been living in a bubble back then as I really cannot remember the term 'Glam Rock' being used at the time. But it certainly was a description applied to this form of rock music and was mentioned by David Bowie in a 1972 interview. In answer to a question about other artists who had adopted his lead he said, "I think glam rock is a lovely way to categorise me and it's even nicer to be one of the leaders of it.'" Wizzard's song came about as a result of their leader Roy Wood having spotted a gap in the market in as much that a full on rock 'n' roll Christmas song hadn't been released for years. He told Q Magazine in 1996, "There's nothing rock and roll about Christmas at all. The only song I can remember before ours was Brenda Lee's 'Rocking around the Christmas Tree'" which, incidentally, is still rolled out on all those Christmas compilations and TV adverts. The idea for Slade's song happened when bass player Jimmy Lea's mother-in-law had mentioned, tongue in cheek, that despite the band's huge success Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas' was still more popular than any of their hit records had ever been. Apparently it was only a coincidence that these two long remembered tunes were issued during the same year.

Another coincidence was that both bands had been products of the industrial Midlands with Wizzard being born out of Birmingham's Electric Light Orchestra while the members of Slade all originating from Walsall and Wolverhampton.

By the early 1970s rock had become a fairly serious business and that resulted in some pretty intense music. And, as if to counter that I guess, some musicians emerged during the same period and took it all a little light heartedly by keeping rock and roll at the heart of things. That's not to say the musicianship diminished in any way. Glam Rock did have its serious side and brought with it some very good music indeed.

Looking back though, it was arguably from when Marc Bolan and T. Rex released 'Ride a White Swan' that the seeds of Glam Rock were planted. And by the time T.Rex appeared at the Lanchester Polytechnic Arts Festival in 1971 those seeds had grown into roots.

This was certainly seen as the period when Glam Rock was developing and when bands and artists were positioning themselves as to which side of the rock music fence they fell on.

At the time this type of stage attire complete with makeup, platform boots and corkscrew hair was all seen as fairly outrageous. But it did not take long for other bands to follow suit and visual styles, for some, quickly became an intrinsic part of the overall performance.

'Glitter Rock' was how I do remember the music of Marc Bolan, for example, being described as when he and his band T.Rex performed their hit 'Hot Love' on Top of the Pops during March 1971. If you cast your mind back you may recall that Marc was adorned in sparkly teardrops on his cheeks while wearing flamboyant satin clothing.

And it was during 1974, at a time when Glam Rock had arguably reached its peak, both Slade and Wizzard along with a host of other huge bands and artists who had been involved in that whole scene visited and performed in Coventry. And they really did bring the houses down! 

The list included Roxy Music, Mud, Mott the Hoople, Alvin Stardust, Cockney Rebel, The Bay City Rollers, The Suzi Quatro Band, Sparks, and despite his fall from grace and subsequent downfall, Gary Glitter and the Glitter Band.

Of course, as it is not an exact science, it will be argued that not all those bands were actually 'glam' acts. But regardless of that, all those mentioned dominated the British single charts from about 1972 to 1976. And all those mentioned visited Coventry during that period.

One Glam Rock band who I was surprised to find absolutely no evidence that they ever played in Coventry was in fact one of the biggest of them all. And that was The Sweet. So if anyone out there knows different then please enlighten me.

Even established bands and artists, not usually considered to be central to the genre, took on and adopted a 'Glam' style.

It is acknowledged that performers including the likes of Queen, Rod Stewart and Elton John all embraced the whole scene.

During 1975 songs by bands associated with Glam Rock began to change. The songs seemed to move away from out and out rock 'n' roll to that of a more ballady nature. And by the end of that year, by way of chart successes at least, Glam Rock was effectively over. Well all apart from Noddy and Roy's Christmas anthems which are now as much a part of the festive season as mulled wine, turkey and tinsel.

I wouldn't have thought for a minute that when they created those tunes more than forty years ago that they would have had an inclination of the lasting impact they have since had. It simply would not be Christmas without those classic tunes... would it?

Early Rock n Roll Christmas songs

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Monty Python's First Live Performance - Belgrade Theatre Coventry 1971


The latest article by Pete Clemons for the Coventry Telegraph with some background notes by Trev Teasdel.

Back in 2007, I posted an article on the original Hobo - Coventry Music and Arts Magazine archive site on Vox, regarding the Lanch (Lanchester Poly tech now Coventry University) Arts Festivals. On the programme of the 1971 festival, in small print, was the name Colin Richardson - the London Bron Agency with who Ted Little (then Social Secretary of the Lanch student union) book his bands through. Colin came across my post and got in touch, offering more information for the site.
Colin Richardson with Paul McCartney

Colin proved to be a fascinating man and raconteur of hos own musical history. I promtly interviewed his for the Hobo site, starting from his jazz group background and venue management which included the Marquee club in London c 1965. Colin went on to manage Jon Hiseman's Colosseum and the New Jazz Orchestra and work for various music agencies like Bron, booking some of the top bands of the time into venues like Coventry's Lanchester Poly. Later he worked for Charisma records and then became a music journalist, interviewing the likes of Nilsson, Genesis and Paul McCartney.

The full Colin Richardson interview - in parts - can be viewed here -

Part 6 relates to the Monty Python scoop.
Colin Richardson's own site is

Colin was subsequently interviewed by BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire on the Python story - you can listen to the broadcast on part 6 of the above interview. On the recent announcement of Python's proposed return to the stage, BBC Coventry called him back for another brief interview end of 2013.

Pete Clemons also followed on with a great article on the story of Colin's historic Python scoop for the Coventry Telegraph which hit the press last Monday and is re-presented here for posterity and those who didn't see it. However, there is an oversite in that Pete inadvertently merged a eye witness account of the Python performance with an anacdote by myself. Although i went to most of the Lanch events and witness the Gumbies leaving the Lanch poly with knotted hankerchiefs on their heads, marching down priory street to the Belgrade Theatre, it was a Nuneaton Observer journalist (an old school pal) Chris Applebey who actually saw the performance and interviewed John Cleese. Pete forgot to attribute that bit to Chris, so we mention it here.

This is Chris Applebey's story -
"One of the most memorable weeks of my life! I was a reporter for the Nuneaton Observer and had press tickets for all events. The stand out moments for me were Elton John's performance in the Lanch Hall - he'd just switched from the Burn Down the Mission style stuff to the screaming up and down on top of his piano bit - and then his dressing room afterwards where he was very kind to my, then 17 year old, sister Sue. He was a sweetie to her. The same week I saw Monty Python's first live show at the Belgrade. I was in a press box, right next to the stage and Cleese stood in front of me, glaring and shouting "Albatross! Albatross! Gannet on a stick! Tern ripple." I was crying with laughter as he just stood po-faced in usherette uniform as I clung to the balcony legless with laughter. I interviewed him afterwards, I am tiny and he's huge and I was very star-struck and young. All I can remember was him saying how great it was to see so many people had come such a long way to see them, from somewhere up north, all dressed as "Gumby". It was an incredible coup for the Lanch to get so many big names that year, who were just hitting the big wave of their careers. I guess free tickets made it a very good deal."

Python's Historic Live Show in Coventry.
Pete Clemons 

IN case it escaped your notice, cult comedy group Monty Python, have announced a reunion by way of a return to the live stage. The event, scheduled for July 2014, will be held in London at the O2 arena. It seems as though they want to see if they 'were still funny'.

The show will be their first new project for three decades as it is more than 30 years since the Pythons last performed together at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles in September 1980, and 40 years since they last performed on stage in the UK.

However, the humble surroundings of the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry city centre can lay claim to being the place where the Monty Python team first played to a live audience. And this was indeed quite a coup.

It all came about through the efforts of booking consultant for London based Bron Agency, Colin Richardson, and student union event organiser Ted Little. Having put together a successful Lanchester Polytechnic Arts Festival in 1970 the pair was now planning for the 1971 festival. The 'Flying Circus' TV programme had been around for couple of years yet Monty Python was still cult viewing.

Ted asked if it would be possible to book one or two of the Monty Python team to perform a couple of sketches from the cult TV show, as they were immensely popular with the student fraternity. Colin expressed doubt, because, as far as he knew, none of the Python team had ever made any live appearances as Python characters.

Undeterred he said he would try to find out if any of them might be interested in doing something.

Colin modestly says that a slice of luck then followed. He had a band going at the time that included an American singer by the name of Jean Hart who happened to be the then partner of 'Goodie' Bill Oddie. This resulted in Bill offering to introduce Colin to 'Python' Eric Idle.

A meeting was set up and Eric Idle asked Colin about what dates he had in mind, the Festival organisation, its history, etc. Colin mentioned many of the artists that had already been booked along with some of those who had appeared during the previous two years and described how well-run the festival was.

Colin had been expecting Eric to indicate who, if anyone, from the Python team might be up for taking part when he said something that almost had him breathless with excitement. It was along the lines of: "Well, your timing couldn't be more perfect as we've been discussing the possibility of doing something live on stage and, if we did, it would defi-nitely be away from London in case it didn't work for us.

"Now, if you can find out whether the Belgrade Theatre is available for, say, a three-night run, that would certainly increase the odds of us agreeing to do it, as we've all worked at that venue before and know that it would be an ideal place for us'" The meeting concluded with Colin promising to get back in touch with Eric as soon as possible and he left to find a phone to call Ted Little and give him the astounding news. Ted didn't seem to take it in at first and kept asking which of the Pythons I was talking about.

Colin replied "'All of them, the 'tout ensemble', the whole damn Circus!'" After it had all sunk in Ted checked the Belgrade's availability and phoned him back to confirm that we could have Sunday 31st January, Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd of February 1971. Colin passed this information on to Eric and, soon after, the dates and the deal was agreed.

As quickly as the dates were announced to the public the tickets for the event, priced at PS1 each, were unsurprisingly snapped up in minutes for all three nights. The shows became a total sell-out. Unsurprisingly the shows were a fantastic success, as the student audience was a proven fan base which already knew most of the sketches, sometimes word-perfect. Colin Richardson even remembers that, on the first night, the entire front row was wearing 'Gumby' style knotted handkerchiefs to the astonishment of the Pythons onstage.

And recollections of the gigs have been recorded in Michael Palin's published diaries. He writes: "As Terry and I walked through Coventry at 11.45pm for the first ever Python stage show it was amazing to turn the corner and see the theatre seething with people. From behind the stage one could hear just how enthusiastic they were. There were ten men dressed as Gumbies in the front row of the circle."

He goes on to write: "We finished at about 1.30am but the audience refused to leave. After two or three minutes John went out and spoke to them, thanking them for being a wonderful audience and adding savagely 'Now will you please go home'. This they enjoyed even more.

"We walked back to the hotel at 2.30am with half a dozen grown men with knotted handkerchiefs over their heads."

In his next entry Palin goes on to mention that, when they arose, they all had breakfast in a cafe across from the hotel they had stayed in. Believe it or not it was called 'The Gay Gannet'.

The shows have long remained in the psyche of many of the Coventry attendees. Trev Teasdel remembers the event very well and here he recalls one of his many memories: "When we came out of the 'Lanch' on the Sunday at midnight after watching Curved Air, Ivor Cutler and Adrian Henri we watched the student Gumbies marching out of the union building with knotted handkerchiefs on their heads singing 'I'm a lumberjack' and marching off down Priory Street to Pool Meadow and then on to the Belgrade Theatre.

He continues 'I was sat in box next to the stage as John Cleese, in full usherette uniform, screamed 'Gannet on a Stick, Albatross, Tern Ripple' at me. I was helpless with laughter, slid off my seat and just clung to the cushioned wall in front of me as he continued yelling. He was almost nose to nose with me and remained so without a trace of laughing. I was 18 at the time and a huge fan.

Former Wandering John bass player Ade Taylor was also amongst the audience and recalls, "From the moment they walked on stage, they had the audience in stitches. Each sketch was warmly greeted and we were laughing so much that we missed the next funny bits.

"The Spam sketch, Parrot sketch, Bicycle Repair Man, Ministry Of Silly Walks - they were all included. It was great night. And, we knew it was an historic night."

Colin Richardson went on to work for Charisma Records' home at the time too such wonderful bands like Van der Graff Generator, Genesis and Lindisfarne' and where he was International Manager for label boss Tony Stratton-Smith. By pure coincidence Charisma records later became the home for future Monty Python albums.

After a successful spell as social secretary for the Lanchester Polytechnic would go on to become director of Northampton Arts Centre. Following serious injury he became active in the development of disability arts and, during 1993, he established the Arts Council of Great Britain's initiative to increase the employment of disabled people in the arts.

Ted sadly passed away in 1999 aged 56 but his influence on the Coventry and Birmingham arts along with his work in London and elsewhere, is still remembered.

With tickets for the current show selling out within one minute I guess it remains to be seen if the reunion will be seen as a success and that, in today's day and age, Monty Python are still seen as funny. I certainly hope they are as the country could do with a bit of silliness right now.

But if nothing else then one thing I did learn from them, and have always kept in mind, is that 'Krakatoa is east of Leamington'.

'' There were ten men dressed as Gumbies in the front row... we walked back to the hotel at 2.30am with half a dozen grown men with knotted handkerchiefs over their heads MICHAEL PALIN

Monday, January 6, 2014

Music Scene Still Buzzing

Not his usual Coventry music history page but Pete Clemon's appraisal of the music scene in 2013 appears in Alan Pool's column for the Coventry Telegraph this week.

The DT's