Why a Lower Holyhead Road building is crucial to Coventry's music heritage.
Pete Clemons on how seeds of 2-Tone were planted in the city.
Charlie Anderson, guitarist with The Selector, joined children on a Two-Tone float during Coventry carnival. 14th June 1980
When it comes to historic archive material, relating to important music related events, between the end of the 1960s and up until the mid-1970s, then that collected and preserved by Trev Teasdel is amongst the most impressive.
Amongst other things, Trev had been an active member of the Umbrella Club when it was based in Queen Victoria Road and instigated the creation of the Hobo Workshop. For a short while, during 1974, the workshop was based at the Lower Holyhead Road Youth Centre and, while there, Trev possibly witnessed the early seeds of development of what became the 2-Tone movement.
He was present at many different events within the Hobo Workshop building which, when combined together, would ultimately gravitate towards each other and create the band who would eventually become known as The Selecter.
The Hobo Workshop came about via a link-up between Hobo - Coventry Music and Arts Magazine and the City Centre Project via Coventry City Voluntary Service (CCVS) after an executive meeting of the Coventry Arts Umbrella (known to users as The Umbrella Club or The Brolly) in May 1974 at the premises of CCVS at Tudor House, Spon Street.
‘We wanted to make the Hobo Workshop a place where people could participate in events and not just consume the arts. Jam sessions were part of this and also provide a situation whereby musicians could get to know each other musically with the possibility of new musically collaborations or bands’.
The building itself, according to a Coventry planning document, began life as a Quaker Meeting House around 1896. And as far back as 1965, and possibly before that, it was a youth centre where bands such as The Smokestacks would be welcome to play.
There was a ground floor area complete with concert hall and a high stage that the Belgrade Theatre once used for rehearsals.
Also on the ground floor there was a small room which would be used for a music workshop and also a cloak room. Upstairs there were various rooms, some of which were used on Tuesday evenings, also by Hobo, for alternative film shows or the street theatre group. He is unsure as to what else the other upstairs areas were used for. Finally, and underneath the main hall, there was a basement area, which when Hobo moved in, was already being used by the Afro-Caribbean community for their rehearsals.
This was 1974 and Trev was running Coventry music magazine Hobo. At that time Hobo was looking for a place to put on new bands who were struggling to get gigs. The Local Education Authority ran the building then but Hobo were given use of the Ground Floor theatre on Monday evenings through a guy called Bob Rhodes, a detached youth worker, who along with research worker Kevin Buckley were both with the Coventry Voluntary service council. This was the same organisation that Charley Anderson (future bass player for The Selecter) worked for at the time.
Original Selecter bassist Charley Anderson (left) with drummer Aitch Bembridge
In parallel to his voluntary work Charley Anderson was also a youth worker at the Lower Holyhead Road centre where he and Ray King, of The Ray King Soul Band, set up and offered activities around music. And it was in the basement area that they facilitated and encouraged creative activities. And when Hobo moved into the youth centre during July 1974 Trev clearly remember Charley’s project was already established there.
And there were plenty of musicians in the basement at that time also including Charley Anderson himself, Desmond Brown and drummer Silverton Hutchinson.
July 1974 saw a Hobo arranged gig at the venue by local band Midnight Circus led by Neil O’Connor (Hazel’s brother) on guitar. Trev had also booked guitarist Neol Davies to organise a jam session as part of the night’s entertainment. Trev had noted Neol’s organisational skills from a previous jam session.
The same evening, Charley Anderson and other musicians were, once again, practising down in the cellar. As people were coming in for the Hobo event, Charley Anderson came up from the basement and asked if he could get some cables from behind the stage. Trev, who was on the door at the time, recalls ‘it was an opportunity for me to ask him if the guys downstairs would like to join in for an informal jam session with Neol later on. Charley went down to talk to the guys and returned to say something to the effect that guys were just getting started and didn't feel ready to play in public’. When Neol arrived at the venue, Trev mentioned to him what was happening down stairs. Rather than the promised jam session after the Midnight Circus gig, Neol said ‘leave it to me’ and went down to the basement and apparently spent the evening in the cellar jamming with Charley’s guys. Now whether or not Neol was already aware of these these guys is unclear but it did later turn out that Silverton and Neol both lived in the same street.
From there, and quite often on a Monday evening, Neol could be found at the Lower Holyhead Road youth centre joining in with the Hobo meetings and going into the basement to jam. Neol has since given plenty of insight into who taught him what with regard to playing reggae properly.
2-Tone heroes Neville Staple,Pauline Black,Arthur 'Gaps'Hendrickson, Roddy 'Radiation' Byers.
Soon after came the formation of Charley Anderson’s band ‘Chapter 5’ a Reggae and Soul Band featuring Charley, Neol, Desmond, Silverton, Joy Evering and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson.
With Ray King also heavily involved the whole basement project extended to include a sound system, a football team and a netball team all under the collective name of Jah Baddis.
Around November 1974 Hobo had moved out of Lower Holyhead Road and relocated at The Golden Cross. Ray King and Charley managed to get some funding for the cellar and possibly other areas of the building to be decorated.
As time went on a number of other bands were either formed at, or were at least associated with, the Lower Holyhead Road centre. These included Pharaohs Kingdom, Earthbound, Nite Train, Hardtop 22 and Transposed Men. There was a lot of inter-changeability between the members of these bands before the ‘classic’ 2 Tone line ups settled.
So it is true to say that the basement under that building was the place where the seeds of 2Tone were formed and from where history was created.
Thanks to Trev Teasdel for his memories.
Holyhead Youth Centre, Coventry
Analog at the Hobo Workshop Holyhead Youth Centre September 1974
Analog spawned Ens and eventually Two Tone band The Reluctant Stereotypes.
Chapter 5 with Charley Anderson and Neol Davies c 1977
Hard Top 22