Thursday, September 24, 2015

Remembering Rico Rodriguez: The Specials tombonist who blew us all away

Pete Clemons Coventry Telegraph article - 

Remembering Rico Rodriguez: The Specials trombonist who blew us all away.

Rico Rodriguez

My introduction to Rico Rodriguez was, I guess, like many others of my age. It was during the mid to late 1970s.

I remember listening to an LP on the Island label and either the inner sleeve was covered in those ‘if you enjoy this, you will love these’ adverts, or the LP had an advertising insert within it.

Either way, it led my curiosity to an album called Man From Wareika.

I used to love, and still do to this day, listening to the Trojan Records label and those wonderful singles released during the late 1960s and 70s. But  Man From Wareika was very different.

For me personally, it was an early introduction to the kind of  reggae that had that incredibly distinctive rhythm section of heavy bass and highly tuned drums that would take the world of music by storm.

Man From Wareika, the first album recording for Rico Rodriguez, released in 1977

Also, what set Man From Wareika apart was that the lead was not taken by guitar, or a more traditional instrument. The lead instrument on this album was a trombone – but not played in a loud, brash, jazzy fashion. This trombone was blown in a more soulful, simmering and seductive way.

Wareika, as I understand, is a hilly area on the edge of Kingston, Jamaica. And it was where Rico grew up.

It was also where Rico had eked out a living as a session player, albeit though, on some very important records by some very influential artists and musicians.

In fact, between 1958 and 1961 he had been credited on around 100 songs.

Rico made his way to England in 1962. His mother had given him the money for the fare over. He had no family over here and only one friend when he arrived.

After settling he found a lot of work with producer Laurel Aitken.

Sometime later, during 1969, he released his first solo album, Reco in Reggae Land, which was effectively a tribute to Don Drummond, who had been a close friend and mentor back in Jamaica.

At around the age of 40, Rico was approached by Island Records with a view to becoming a session musician for them.

Recording duties led to his first visit back to Jamaica since arriving in England. Island Records put him in contact with a more diverse range of musicians and it was at this point, I guess, when Rico first crossed paths with Dick Cuthell, who was also working for the company as a recording engineer. Dick Cuthell was also very accomplished with brass instruments.

The association with Island Records would then, of course, lead to the creation of Rico’s own Man From Wareika album, mixed by Dick Cuthell, and released on that label. The release of his album lead to Rico and his band being asked to open for fellow countryman Bob Marley and his Wailers on their 1977  Exodus tour of Europe.
Rico Rodriguez (second left) with The Specials in 1979

To embellish a song, and fill it out, by adding the sound of extra instrumentation is down to pure vision. So the addition of brass instruments, by way of the introduction in 1979 of  Rico Rodriguez, and slightly later, Dick Cuthell, into The Specials' own brand of music was, in hindsight, not just visionary but also a decision of total genius.

Not only was it a good move for The Specials but it also marked the beginning of a bond between Rico himself and the many people of Coventry who embraced the whole 2-Tone and Ska music revival scene. And, of course, it also brought Rico a whole new audience.

Rico once said: “I really enjoyed playing with them (The Specials), especially going to America and Europe, all over, Dublin and Belfast and Ireland and Wales. It was good.”

In 1982, Rico returned to the Wareika Hills where he would stay for the next eight years. The following year however and more chart success followed. This time with a song that had been recorded before he left for Jamaica.

Paul Young had recorded a version of the song Love of the Common People but it failed to chart. It was only when Paul’s next single, Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home), hit the charts that the public at large revisited Common People.

Leaving Jamaica towards the end of the 1980s was not a straight-forward affair but one of the things that did happen was that Rico was invited, by Swiss musicians, to work on a reggae project in Europe. Around the same time he also met a Japanese musician called Kuubo, who specialized in reggae, and had been staying in Jamaica.

This was the beginning of huge affection for Rico in Japan. From all account the Japanese audience really took Rico to their hearts.

When, eventually, Rico returned to England work was now becoming more plentiful. He hooked up with a band called Jazz Jamaica.

Then from there, and from 1996 through to 2012, Rico became a member of  Jools Holland and his much loved Rhythm and Blues Orchestra.

For 16 years Rico had the time of his life performing on annual tours and playing at a host of spectacular gigs and venues. Included was several visits to Warwick Arts Centre.

During his lifetime, Rico Rodriguez appears to have touched an awful lot of people. That is clearly evident to see by the amount of moving tributes I have read from close friends and fellow musicians alike. He also touched his listeners who enjoyed hearing him play.

One such tribute, in the form of a poem, was penned by Coventry-born poet, Trev Teasdel.

Born in Rico’s Trombone

I was born in Rico’s trombone, a raw note, bold with vibrato, with a message for rude boys.

I was shaped by his breath and disciplined with melody.

I travelled light in his trombone case, from Kingston Jamaica across the world on an offbeat journey.

I, a mere note in his notoriety, feeling his passion, obeying his precision, lighting up with his inspiration.

I was blown, headlong into Prince Buster’s Rocksteady ear, as he hit the beat in the studio heat.

I was noted in a jam with Jeremy Dammers,

I split the atom for the Special AKA, where Two Tones are better than one.

I was a note in Rico’s trombone – bold with rasping melody, strung out and staccato, vamping on the dance floor, headstrong and moving, captured on vinyl, a musical particle of the legendary article.

I was born in Rico’s trombone!

Trev Teasdel

Pete Clemons on progressive Rock on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire.

Pete Clemons on progressive music, mentioning Coventry band Asgard. Here is a link to Pete's article on Asgard on this site -

Here is the the broadcast - and yes - Neol Davies later of  Selecter did guest with Asgard on sitar and Asgard were promoted by John Peel back in 1970

Shane O'Connor Show, BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire

Asgard were mention in John Peel's column for Disc and Music Echo in 1970.

Flashback: Ten years on from Ricoh Arena's first concert with Bryan Adams

Pete Clemons was featured in this article for Coventry Telegraph.

Flashback: Ten years on from Ricoh Arena's first concert with Bryan Adams
Can you believe that today marks the tenth anniversary of  the Ricoh Arena's first ever concert?

Not only is September 23 the Autumn Equinox this year, but it is a decade since the first musical event was held at the Coventry stadium.

On Friday, September 23, 2005, 7,000 fans watched Canadian rocker Bryan Adams at the newly built stadium.

Among the crowd was superfan Claudia Espinosa - who flew 15,000 miles from her home in Chile to see him in action.

During a two-hour set he ripped through all his greatest hits, from Run To You to (Everything I Do) I Do It For You.

Fan Peter Clemons, who was at the show, recalled memories of it to the Telegraph: "Bryan played for over two hours.
Peter Clemons' Bryan Adams ticket from the 2005 gig at the Ricoh Arena.

"His set began with an electric version of  Room Service and his second encore ended with an acoustic version of the same song.

"Sandwiched in-between were all the hits - from Run to You, The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You, Summer of ’69 and of course (Everything I Do) I Do For You."

Other bands to have played at the Ricoh Arena since the summer of 2005 have included Bon Jovi - who performed twice - Take That, Bruce Springsteen, and Take That.

In 2009, Oasis played one of their final ever UK tour dates at the Coventry stadium on their Dig Out Your Soul tour.

Supported by Coventry natives The Enemy, the Gallagher brothers' band would soon implode just weeks later after years of tension.

David Gilmour: The ups and downs of flying solo from Pink Floyd

Pete Clemons article from the Coventry Telegraph

David Gilmour: The ups and downs of flying solo from Pink Floyd.

David Gilmour at the start of his European tour in 2006 to promote On An Island.

This month sees the release of the fourth album from David Gilmour, best known for his work with Pink Floyd.

Rattle That Lock contains ten tracks and, like his previous album On An Island, David has enlisted the help of  Phil Manzanera, Polly Samson and Andy Jackson with its creation.

To support the album’s release, live dates have been scheduled in London and Brighton this autumn, with a US tour in 2016.

The forthcoming tour sold out almost instantly - but this was not always quite the case for David Gilmour concerts.

David Gilmour is, arguably, best known for being the lead guitarist and vocalist of  Pink Floyd.

Towards the mid-1980s Pink Floyd were in a state of flux.

As David said at the time: ‘We’re not splitting up or anything, officially or otherwise, but we just aren’t doing anything right now.”

This led to all four band members becoming involved in their own separate projects.

David Gilmour performing in Germany in 2006 and inset, a programme of the About Face tour in 1984 and CD artwork from the Remember That Night special edition CD.

And 1984 saw the release of David’s second solo album, About Face. This, in turn, led to David touring the album both in Europe and the UK and then across to Canada and the US.

At one point during the creation of the album, it seems that David was struggling.

He commented: “I was running out of time and lyrical inspiration so I was a bit stuck. And Pete (Townshend, of  The Who) had offered to help previously at one point, so I took him up on it.”

During the 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Pink Floyd were notoriously difficult to interview.

Music fans, in my opinion, seemed to know the band more as a unit rather than the individuals involved within it. This may, I think, have hampered them slightly whenever they did take on solo projects.

For example, when the David Gilmour tour visited Birmingham Odeon, it was far from a sell-out.

In fact when support act Dream Academy – who had replaced the TV Personalities at short notice – were on stage, the venue was practically empty.

This lack of interest was also reflected in the VHS video released shortly after the tour.

The film had been recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon the night before the Birmingham gig. It sold poorly and had not been released in Europe due to lack of commercial viability.

Pink Floyd in their early years

The gig itself was fairly low-key when compared to previous Pink Floyd gigs I attended. The set list included songs from David’s then current album, along with a few from his debut solo album from 1978.

Also included had been Run like Hell and Comfortably Numb from Pink Floyd’s epic The Wall album.

The next time I would see David Gilmour perform solo was at the Royal Festival Hall in January 2002.

I don’t say it lightly but this was indeed an incredible and jaw-dropping event that I, for one, was not prepared for.

The set included a Syd Barrett song Dominoes, as well as a tune from Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother LP, Fat Old Sun.

Those songs, along with some other Pink Floyd favourites, and many other surprises, had been sandwiched between the most incredible versions of Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Parts 1-5 had opened the show with the remainder of this epic closing it.

David’s band that night included Michael Kamen (piano), Nic France (drums), Dick Parry (sax), Neil MacColl (guitar) and a gospel choir which included Pink Floyd backing vocalists Durga McBroom and Sam Brown.

Pink Floyd keyboard player Richard Wright was present during the each of those very special gigs. But guest appearances throughout each of the three nights were made by Robert Wyatt, Bob Geldof, and for the night I attended, Kate Bush.

Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd performing on stage during the Live8 concert in Hyde Park, 2005.

When asked how he went about choosing the material for the shows, David replied: “I went through the entire Pink Floyd catalogue, and I picked the tunes I liked. Then, after I figured out which ones would work with the instrumentation I had in mind, I spent about three months fiddling around in my home studio mocking up the arrangements.”

David’s third solo album On An Island was released on March 6, 2006, his 60th birthday.

It entered the charts at No.1. His first ever chart topper away from Pink Floyd.

In support, a tour of Europe and the US was arranged which stopped off in the UK during May.

The gig was in two parts. The first half of the show showcased On An Island, while the second half of the gig was handed over entirely to the Pink Floyd back catalogue.

The almost customary guest list this time around included Mica Paris, David Crosby, Graham Nash and, for the night I attended, David Bowie, who helped out on a rendition of  Arnold Layne at the Royal Albert Hall.

David Gilmour and Mica Paris performing live at the Royal Albert Hall in 2004 in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Again, the whole thing was simply breath-taking.

Slightly later on the tour, the audience would see David add an impromptu version of a Syd Barrett song titled Dark Globe to the set list. This was in tribute to the memory of Syd who had passed away during July 2006.

The final gig of the tour, held at the Gdansk Shipyard in Poland before an estimated 50,000 people, was captured and released on both CD and DVD.

It is a significant release for many reasons. None more so than the fact it captures one of the last live performances by Richard Wright, who passed away during 2008.

The last time I saw David Gilmour perform live was at Leicester Square Odeon, where I went to see the premier of the above mentioned DVD. After the showing of the film, a question and answer session was held.

After that, and totally by surprise to me, the touring band performed live an extraordinarily good piece of music called Island Jam which, incidentally, was a bonus track on the live CD set.

It has been said many times that David Gilmour is not the most prolific of musicians. But when he does come out to play, expect memorable gigs that include exquisite guitar playing, warm vocal harmonies and richly velvet music performed by as skilled a set of musicians you are ever likely to come across.
David Gilmour’s fourth album, Rattle That Lock, is released worldwide on September 18.

Interview on youtube

Sent From Coventry: The album that charted city's hidden music scene

Pete Clemons with another Coventry Telegraph article -
Sent From Coventry: The album that charted city's hidden music scene.
The front cover of the Sent From Coventry LP. It featured the likes of The Wild Boys, The End, Machine, Urge, Squad, The Mix, V Babies and Riot Act

Coventry’s music scene will forever be associated with 2-Tone, thanks to the success of the genre during the 1970s and early 80s.

And rightly so – the movement dominated the charts back then and had a huge influence both in the UK and around the world. It continues to do so today.

But there was so much more going on at that time. Coventry played host to an incredibly vibrant independent music scene that, given a fair wind, could quite easily have been as successful.

This explosion in music during that period seemed to have been ignited when both The Sex Pistols and The Clash played a gig together in Coventry toward the end of 1976.

Coventry already had its fair share of talent and top class musicians. However, though the gig that November had been far from a sell-out, it still managed to attract a good few of the luminaires from the local music scene.

Perhaps these people had a some insight as to the importance of what they were about to witness? Even so, I don’t think even they would realise just how far their heads were to be turned.

By the end of the 1970s there were at least a dozen or more top class bands plying their talents around the city and beyond.

Martin Bowes, editor, writer and producer of the Alternative Sounds fanzine.

Coventry had its own independent music shops and fanzines – one of them being Alternative Sounds, the lifeblood for the discerning music fan back then. It ran for 18 issues from 1979 through to 1981 and Martin Bowes was its editor, writer and producer.

Early in 1980, Martin attempted to galvanise the whole Coventry scene outside of 2-Tone, with a compilation album of tracks created by those local bands.

He approached Cherry Red Records and suggested that an album of local bands would be well received. They agreed. He then asked local bands who were interested to submit tapes of their music. Then, along with Richard Jones of Cherry Red Records, they made their final selection.

The bands were then sent to Woodbine Studios in Leamington where they recorded the final versions of the songs for use on the album. The master tapes of those songs, produced by John Rivers, then went off to London where the album was cut.

It took a lot of hard work and effort to create the album, not only because of the large number of people involved – 11 bands in all – but because most had no previous recording experience.

Sent From Coventry was released May 1980 on the Kathedral Records label. Locally it flew off the shelves, apparently selling 8,000 in its first week of release. It also hit the top ten of several alternative music charts.

Sent From Coventry provided a good cross section of the kind of music being produced in the city at that time. It takes in many styles prevalent back then from the raw new wave of punk to the more conventional rock 'n' roll. It also included music that defied any category.

Groups featured on the album included The Wild Boys, The End, Machine, Urge, Squad, The Mix, V Babies and Riot Act.

A 22-track selection of some of the music Martin Bowes has produced, remixed or mastered at The Cage is being released to mark the studio's 22 years.

Martin also produced a special edition of his magazine, Alternative Sounds, included in the first 2,000 copies of the album. This was where you could find comments on each track.

Sent From Coventry did appear once again at the turn of the millennium. A limited amount of LPs were repressed by Data Records. But I am fairly certain that an official CD has never been released.

Apart from the Sent From Coventry project, 1980 also saw Martin begin to create his own music under the guise of a group called Attrition, which still continues to function and perform today.

Martin also founded The Cage studios in Coventry, which was primarily for his own Attrition-related projects.

The Cage studios were founded in 1993 as a vehicle for me to produce my own music,” Martin said.

“Originally used primarily for Attrition works and a few select remix, production and mastering projects, I opened The Cage doors to the world in 2011 and since then have been working with so many inspiring bands and labels, in genres as diverse as dark ambient, post punk, minimal wave, noise, folk, industrial, Goth, drum 'n' bass, neo-classical, punk and doom metal.”

To mark 22 years of  The Cage, a 22-track selection of just some of the music from all over the world that Martin Bowes has produced, remixed or mastered at the studios is being released.

The future of  The Cage looks very bright indeed.

Original article here

For an in depth interview with Martin Bowes, interviewed by Trev Teasdel. Here

Roddy Radiation's original band The Wild Boys from Sent from Coventry.

Terry Hall's original band - Squad from Sent from Coventry - written by Andy Dix.

Riot Act - Sirens from Sent From Coventry - Stu Knapper vocals.

Machine (later Hot Snacks) with Character Change from Sent from Coventry. Original drummer was Silverton Hutchinson - originally with The Specials (replaced later by Jim Pryal). Bass Doc Mustard.

Homicide - Armageddon from Sent from Coventry.

V Babies - Donna Blitzen from Sent from Coventry.

Urge - Nuclear Terrorist from Sent from Coventry. Kevin Harrison.

The Mix - With You - Sent from Coventry.

Just some of the many tracks.

When Coventry hosted Paul Weller's 1990 comeback

Another Pete Clemons article for the Coventry Telegraph - this time on Paul Weller.

When Coventry hosted Paul Weller's 1990 comeback.

Paul Weller performing last year

Hugely respected singer, lyricist and guitarist Paul Weller, often referred to as The Modfather, has been a well known figure within the UK music scene for almost 40 years.

He has consistently written and produced well received music for both his various bands, The Jam and The Style Council, and of course his own golden solo period.
He recently visited the area and appeared at Warwick Arts Centre. Prior to that, he starred at a large event at Warwick Castle. On the face of it, it does seem that Paul Weller has had a relatively smooth career, changing direction at will and often making song writing appear effortless. But this has not strictly been the case.

After a very successful period, fronting The Jam, Paul Weller shocked and astounded the UK music scene during the early 1980s when he broke up this incredibly popular band, who at that time, had been at the height of their success. It was huge news that he had kept close to his chest until he announced it during their final tour in 1982.

Paul Weller Movement

It seemed as though Paul had suddenly acquired an urge to explore the more soulful, jazz and R ‘n’ B side of his musical influences. To achieve this he formed a new group that he called The Style Council. The Style Council were seen as a radical departure from The Jam. They had also incorporated a brass section that had also been evident on the last Jam album.

Looking back, each Style Council album seemed to take on a new direction and push new boundaries to the point where I guess Paul became too avant-garde and experimental for his original fan base. With an interest in the political landscape at that time a lot of his songs were also covering current affairs.

In 1989 Paul suddenly found himself without a band and without a recording deal. ‘Confessions of a Pop Group’, his last album with The Style Council, had sold poorly. This then led to his record label, Polydor, rejecting a follow up Style Council album.

The already completed, and ready to go album, which was titled ‘Modernism: A New Decade’, had taken its influence from the house music scene which had sprung up in the UK around the same time. The rejection of that album effectively finished the band.

Into Tomorrow single

This had been the first time Paul Weller had been in this position since The Jam had signed to Polydor records in 1977. From all accounts he was low in confidence and had decided to take a break away from the music industry. It seems that, during that period of self-doubt, Weller had simply given up on writing songs and making music. But all that was all about to change.

After a period when it seemed as though Paul had turned his back on the music industry he was coaxed back into the game, by his closest of musical allies, and returned to the road during the tail end of 1990 touring as ‘The Paul Weller Movement’. One of the gigs on this short low key tour was a Thursday evening in November at the ‘Lanch’ or Coventry Polytechnic as it had, by then, been renamed.

This had not been Paul’s first visit to Coventry. He had visited the city before with both of his previous bands. The musicians that went out with him was made up of long-term drummer and friend Steve White, Henry Thomas on bass, Jaco Peake on sax and flute, Gerrard Pescencer on trumpet and flugel horn and Max Beesley on keyboards.

Initially, it seems as though Weller didn’t want to do the tour but was coaxed back into having a go at it. In a recent interview he commented that ‘I had no interest whatsoever, but I’m really glad I did it because if I hadn’t I think I would have just kept on sinking’.

During his year or so away from the business Paul had heavily immersed himself in bands from the late 1960s and early 1970s like Traffic and Spooky Tooth along with other Island Records recording artists such as Nick Drake.

Heavy Soul

Paul, himself, did eventually sign for that very same Island Record label a few years later. And that obsession in the record label was very evident when his ‘Heavy Soul’ album was released. The artwork on the physical CD disc was in the style of the classic pink Island records logo.

Going back to that 1990 concert though, the Coventry gig itself saw Paul moving back onto lead guitar. Musically, the gig was a mix of familiar and new and unfamiliar songs. But it was the latter which was the biggest surprise as it soon became apparent that a balance of soul and rock was being achieved as well the introduction of several other influences such as ‘Acid Jazz’ which, at that time, had been another recently introduced genre. In hindsight it seemed as though all these influences were coming together and a new found confidence was beginning to surface.

The Coventry gig introduced new songs such as ‘Around and Around’, ‘Strange Museum’ and ‘Kosmos’ which were released on his 1992 self-titled debut release and proved that he was well into the process of re-establishing himself as one of the leading British singer/songwriters of that time. Although the previously initiated had never doubted for a minute that Paul was anything less anyway.

A year on after the Coventry gig a single, ‘Into Tomorrow’, on Paul’s own Freedom High record label, was released during October 1991. It reached number 36 in the UK singles chart. Weller’s next series of gigs were incorporating even more new music and far less of the legacy, and legendary, back catalogue.

The success of the ‘Into Tomorrow’ single meant that Weller was offered a new record deal with the newly created Go! Discs. They, in turn, released the exceptional Paul Weller self-titled debut album during September 1992 which reached number eight on the album chart. This jazz funk masterpiece marked Paul’s remarkable return to the music scene.

Paul Weller performing at this year's Glastonbury Festival

What happened after those early solo gigs is now the stuff of legend as Paul’s career went from one success to another as he hit new heights. Bands such as Blur and The Ocean Colour Scene have often cited Weller as a major influence in their own careers as did the whole Brit Pop scene in general. Sold out concert tours and critically acclaimed albums have also followed. And in 2010 Paul received an Ivor Novello lifetime achievement award. Even today, with the release of his ‘Saturn’s Pattern’ album, Paul Weller’s song writing capabilities show no sign of diminishing.