Monday, January 4, 2016

Coventry gig that saw the start of T.Rex renaissance

Pete Clemons article for Coventry Telegraph 2nd November 2015.

Coventry gig that saw the start of T.Rex renaissance


Pete Clemons recalls the journey Marc Bolan made from folk to rock... and THAT gig at the Lanchester Polytechnic

Marc Bolan of T.Rex fame and inset, an advert for the Coventry gig

I have enjoyed listening to music for as long as I can remember but one particular single release sticks in my mind as much as any other.

This was the sudden, yet significant, appearance in 1970 of  Ride A White Swan by T.Rex.

The same year saw Marc Bolan announce that he was abbreviating Tyrannosaurus Rex and changing his musical direction from folk to rock.

T.Rex – Bolan on guitar and Mickey Finn on percussion – were a band I had been unaware of up until that time but that single, with its incredible lyrics, made a real impact on me.

When this record came out I was still at school and my only form of income was from a newspaper round and cleaning the neighbour’s cars and other such odd jobs. This meant that I could afford to buy singles and the occasional LP.

The other option, apart from the radio and TV programmes, was to visit the record lending library which at that time was based in Bayley Lane in a room within the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum building. But, in the main, I had to wait for a birthday or until Christmas came along, and hope that my wish list of records was answered.

Ride a White Swan

Ride A White Swan meant that Bolan was no longer confined to a single audience. Marc Bolan and T.Rex had now, suddenly, discovered a more commercial market.

The fans that had supported him since 1968 were upset and saw him as ‘selling out’. But, of course, at the time of its release I did not fully understand the furore.

The follow-up, Hot Love, was released during February 1971. The lyrics were more sensual than mythical. By now, Bolan had broadened out the band by bringing in Steve Currie on bass and Bill Legend on drums.

On March 19, 1971, T.Rex made their one and only appearance in Coventry in the Student’s Union Sports Hall at the Lanchester Polytechnic – now known as Coventry University. The timing by whoever had booked this gig was perfection.

This performance came just a month after the release of  Hot Love and the single was now riding high at No.1 in the UK charts.

Sadly, for whatever the reasons, little is remembered from this gig apart from the fact that it was 60p to get in and was billed as the last gig before a tour of the US – although that was not strictly true.

Marc Bolan performs on stage cross-legged at the Empire Pool, Wembley, on March 18, 1972

In addition to the singles, I am guessing that songs like Beltane Walk, One Inch Rock, King of the Rumbling Spires and By the Light of a Magical Moon would have been included in the set list as they had been favourites during 1970 and the early part of 1971.

One thing is for sure, this was new ground for T.Rex. This gig had been one of the earliest they had performed since they had changed their name and their direction by way of the introduction of electric lead guitar.

July 1971 saw the release of Get it On (Bang a Gong). It was a taster for what was to come. And it was another single which would top the UK singles chart.

Within the space of a year from that Coventry gig, T.Rex would be topping the Weeley (Clacton) Festival of progressive music in August 1971 and would be playing sell-out gigs at the Empire Pool (Wembley Arena).

Between those two events the album Electric Warrior was released. This album also contained the band's hit single of 1971, Jeepster.

The album’s title also give a tip of the hat towards the bands transgression from folk to rock, and became the biggest selling album of 1971.

January 1972 saw T.Rex’s next single, Telegram Sam, released on the band's own imprint through the EMI label. All previous releases by T.Rex had been on the independent Fly Records label.

Another single, Debora, followed during March 1972. It sounded very different. This was a bit more folky. It was then I discovered that Debora had been a re-release of a 1968 song by the band's previous name of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

I could be cynical and suppose that it may have been the Fly Record label cashing in. But what that record did do was to introduce a lot of people to their back catalogue prior to Ride A White Swan.

This phenomenal success, however, could not continue and by 1974, despite some still fine music, T.Rex’s success was beginning to slip.

Marc Bolan in concert at the Empire Pool, Wembley, on March 18, 1972

After a few years of not so much of being out of the limelight – more being out of fashion – 1977 began with high hopes as Marc returned to the greater public’s attention.

He released his Dandy in the Underworld album and this was supported by a UK tour that stopped at the Birmingham Odeon in March of that year.

The future then looked even brighter when Marc Bolan was given his own TV programme which went out later that year.

It was only a half-hour show but it crammed in at least three T.Rex performances per episode along with songs by the likes of Generation X, The Jam, Desmond Dekker, Eddie and the Hot Rods and The Boomtown Rats.

It was essential viewing. Of course this renaissance of his talents all came in the same year as his tragic early death.

Looking back now and the music, in my opinion, had basically remained unchanged. How much real difference was there between Desdamona and Ride A White Swan? Or between Woodland Bop and Get it On?

Breaking into the mass market meant that Marc Bolan had lost none of his charm. He was just such a unique artist in so many ways.

What did happen, however, was that Bolan became more of an extrovert on stage – and what’s more, he made the most of it.

Debora live on John Peel

T REX live Wembly 1972

Callum Pickard and the Third Look are the Coventry band making dream pop

Pete Clemons article from the Coventry Telegraph 13th November 2015.

Callum Pickard and the Third Look are the Coventry band making dream pop 


They made a big impression on Pete Clemons at this year's Godiva Festival. He chats to the young singer/songwriter about success and the future.

Callum Pickard of Callum Pickard and the Third Look

Of all the excellent bands and artists I saw perform at this year’s Godiva Festival, Callum Pickard and the Third Look made the biggest impression on me.

They were not one of the major headliners – as good as the headlines were. Rather, this was a band who took to the main stage quite early on during the final day and they totally took my attention for the 45 minutes they were on.

I was not totally unaware of this band – I had seen them a couple of times at The Tin and I had seen Callum perform solo in his formative years.

What really grabbed me was how much they had grown as a band. In addition to some really good music they had developed a style which, to these ears, seemed heavily influenced by the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Yet like a host of current bands who are also heading in this direction – such as Tame Impala – the Third Look are achieving it via today’s technology.

I spoke to Callum recently. It seems the band do utilise lots of effects by way of guitar pedals and synths but, at the same time, they are very careful to use the effects to enhance the sound rather than overpower the music.

Callum studied music performance at college.

He told me: ‘I have been writing and performing my own songs since I was 11 years old, initially as a solo singer/songwriter. I joined an existing Coventry band, Absent Friends, in 2013 where I met drummer Chris Lings and bass player Matty Wishart.

Absent Friends disbanded early in 2014. “Matty and Chris and I got together and guitarist Dan Murtagh joined us in March 2014.

And the Third Look was born.

Matt Donaldson was recruited in June 2015. Matty Wishart moved across to rhythm guitar and keys but has since left the band. He played his last show at the Kasbah in September.

Most recently however, the band recruited multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Loz Petite (Pretty Rascals, Malik and Petite, The Tones) to the Third Look family.

Callum Pickard and the cover of Blueprint, his solo EP, hard copies of which have sold out

Callum writes all his own material.

“I have a real passion for music and love writing and performing,” he said. “We don’t play covers.

My songs generally start with a riff and develop from there. The tune nearly always comes first and lyrics are added later. Then I take the foundation of the song to the band and we refine the arrangements.

“Inspiration comes from fantasy, nature, friends and family, love and heartbreak. Anything I feel passionate about, really.

Callum’s musical ambitions are simple: “I just want to share my music with anyone who is prepared to listen. In my mind, music is the best way to communicate.

My music transposes all ages. I hope it appeals to all. I don’t deliberately target anyone when I write my songs. It crosses many genres, a mixture of lots of things. It’s whatever the listeners/watchers want it to be.

“I don’t deliberately try to portray an image in the same way as I don’t think too much about the genre of the music I produce. I suppose it’s a bit laid back, non-political and a sunny vibe.

“But who knows? The inspiration for my next song may be something darker. There is a psychedelic twist at the moment but if I had to give it a general classification, I suppose it's dream pop.

Initially, the Third Look would like to secure some formal management and get signed to an indie record label. That would then give Callum and the band time to develop carefully and in a planned way.

I would rather longevity than short term successes.”
Callum Pickard & The Third Look - Lonely Boy and Girl (Official Music Video)

Callum Pickard and the Third Look have already supported Steve Gunn (ex Kurt Vile and the Violators), Boogarins, Quilt, Ryley Walker and had two dates, in Coventry and London, with Devon Sproule.

On perfoming, Callum revealed: “We concentrate on the music and plan our sets very carefully. You won't find us chatting to the audience too much.

“However, whilst we don’t prance around on stage, we like to think we give a really interesting show.

The band have just recorded six songs in readiness for their first EP, due for release early 2016.

Previous releases include a solo EP called Blueprint. This is still available online but all hard copies sold out long ago.

A single, called Lonely Boy and Girl, was also released in March.

Most of Callum’s music has been recorded at Abatis Studios in Warwickshire by a good friend Jon Priestley, although he has self-recorded some material and also collaborated with Syd Kemp in London.

Some of the more recent material has been mastered by Greg Calbi of  Sterling Sound in New York. Greg Calbi has mastered more than 7,500 albums including John Lennon, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Supertramp and Television in a career spanning over 40 years.

I asked Callum to define success.

He said: “Success is anything that I do that makes me happy.” That did make me smile.

Many Delights of Great Music Year - A Look back at 2015

The latest from Pete Clemons, from Coventry Telegraph -

MANY DELIGHTS OF A GREAT MUSIC YEAR - Pete Clemons 4th jan 2016
2015 highlights
My final paragraph in my round up of 2014 contained the line ‘2015 is already shaping up to be memorable’. And so it was to be, by the bucket full.

In terms of album releases for this year I have really enjoyed the latest albums by familiar names such as Keith Richards, David Gilmour and Jeff Lynne’s ELO.

But scratch slightly under the surface and a whole host of other aural delights exist. Album releases by Steven WilsonHand.Cannot.Erase.’, Bruce Soord self-titled debut album, Tim BownessStupid Things That Mean the World’ and Polish band RiversideLove Fear and the Time Machine’ have all certainly fallen into that category. But one particular album that I have almost worn out is that by Swedish rock band Anekdoten titled ‘Until All the Ghosts Are Gone’.

I have always had a soft spot for what I can only describe as folk rock. For those who are into that kind of sound then you may realise that the original vocalist for Fairport Convention, Judy Dyble, has recently made a triumphant return to recording. She also released an ‘album of stuff’ called ‘Gathering the Threads'. This was a 3 CD set that covers her music from the beginnings in 1964 and through to present date. A couple of tracks also feature a guitarist and songwriter called Sand Snowman who is well worth investigating in his own right.

On the gig front I also got to see several bands from the above list play live, in fact most of them. But the one gig that stood apart was that by King Crimson at the Symphony Hall. This had been their first gig in Birmingham since 1973. Not a word was spoken by the performers, which included 3 drummers, during the concert but the music spoke volumes. King Crimson was not pushing any new music. Instead, this was a unique celebration of all that had gone before.

Closer to home and I bought two outstanding albums by local artists. The first was by Stone Foundation and titled ‘A Life Unlimited’. The album is crammed full of the bands trademark soul and funk sound. In fact, as I understand it, a single from the album ‘Beverley’ has been highly acclaimed and is up for an award. Next up was Steve Walwyn’s debut album ‘Instinct to Survive’. Steve of course needs little introduction but, for those who are not familiar, Steve has been lead guitarist for a number of years with Dr.Feelgood and before that The DT’s. And for Steve, this completed a lifelong ambition to release a quality blues album in his name. Neither of these albums releases will disappoint.

In addition to the albums we had a wonderful EP release by Luna Kiss called ‘Gravity’. Luna Kiss are a rock band and their own create original music. They have created their own sound by drawing on influences across the spectrum. If good honest guitar riffs combined with a rockabilly sound are your thing then the Skabilly Rebels are just for you. Led by the enigmatic Roddy Radiation the Skabilly Rebels released a noteworthy EP titled ‘Fallen Angel’ earlier in the year which contained a set of new and more familiar songs.

The above is far from exhaustive. I do appreciate that there has been other album and EP releases that I have not covered or even heard as yet.

I think all who attended will agree that this year’s Godiva Festival was another triumph. I really enjoyed the parts of it that I got to see. On the main stage I found Coventry bands King Phoenix and Callum Pickard and the Third Look particularly memorable. Going forward I really hope that this festival continues in some form or other. For Coventry bands like those mentioned it really is an important fixture.

I am already looking forward to 2016 which, yet again, is shaping up to be an exciting year.

King Crimson Live - Court of the Crimson King