Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Why a Lower Holyhead Road building is crucial to Coventry's music heritage

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’.

From that perspective, the building situated in Lower Holyhead Road that once hosted various youth related events over the years is indeed very important.

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

Remembering Coventry folk legend Dave Swarbrick

Remembering Coventry folk legend Dave Swarbrick.

Pete Clemons celebrates the genius of Swarbrick's brilliant career

Dave Swarbrick

It was during the late 1960’s when I first began to listen to the kind of ‘alternative’ music that was not readily available via the top 20, Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewarts Junior Choice or other daytime radio programmes. Amongst the incredible range of excellent bands and different styles of music around at that time I remember being drawn to the likes of The Strawbs, The Pentangle, The Eclection and Fairport Convention. Despite a lot of their songs being based around ballads and tales from the 17th and 18th century, musically, they sounded so new and refreshing. And this was reflected in the many great festivals that existed back then. An electric folk rock would fit in very well amongst the many blues artists and the modern heavyweight rock bands of that time.

Some of the folk rock albums I remember very well from back then, and still listen to with regularity, are ‘Unhalfbricking’, ‘Liege and Lief’ and ‘Full House’ all by Fairport Convention. Nowadays they are regarded as classics and an essential listen for anyone just discovering the genre. Coincidentally these were the first three Fairport albums that involved the considerable talents of Coventry resident, mandolin and fiddle player, Dave Swarbrick.

Some years after I had first come across these albums and had settled into a life of reading album sleeves, music related books and generally becoming more interested in the music I was listening to I began to delve more into the musicians and their past achievements. I clearly remember discovering two facts regarding Dave Swarbrick that grabbed my full attention.

The first of these was, that of the three Fairport albums mentioned above, it was only at the release of ‘Full House’ that Dave became a fully fledged member of the band. Up until then he had been adding his talents to Fairports albums as a session player.

Dave had joined the Ian Campbell Folk Group in 1960 aged 19. He remained with them until 1966 when he then joined forces with Martin Carthy, Dave had already supported Martin on his debut album in 1965 but went on to appear with him on several others. During the 1960’s he also performed on several other landmark folk albums.

Which leads me to the second fact I mentioned regards his career. Up until he had become known for his work with Fairport Convention and previous to ‘Unhalfbricking’, (putting his other session work to one side), he had already been recorded on at least a dozen other LP’s. Seven of those albums had been with the Ian Campbell Folk Group and five with Martin Carthy.

After the ‘Full House’ album Dave was involved in a further eight Fairport Convention albums. One of those that I remember with particular fondness was titled ‘Rising for the Moon’. This album was significant for several reasons. One being that it marked a return to the band for Sandy Denny who had initially joined the band for their second LP release but then left after ‘Liege and Lief’. Another, more insignificant, reason being that I saw the band on the ‘Rising for the Moon’ tour when it reached Coventry Theatre during October 1975.

Fairport Convention split towards the end of the 1970’s and Dave recorded a couple of albums, for the Transatlantic label, under his own name.

His next significant band was Whippersnapper who formed during the mid 1980’s. This band was completed by Chris Leslie, Martin Jenkins and Kevin Dempsey. Martin and Kevin had of course been members of Coventry’s own folk rock band Dando Shaft back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. This formidable and popular quartet recorded several albums and appeared at some memorable gigs. Several appearances at the Burnt Post folk club, up on the A45, are remembered fondly.

Dave Swarbrick performing at Moseley Folk Festival in 2009

Since Whippersnapper, Dave has been involved in many projects. These have included the renewing of his partnership with Martin Carthy with whom two further albums were recorded during the early 1990’s.

The latter end of the 1990’s saw Dave’s health suffer seriously. So much so that at one point the Daily Telegraph wrote his obituary. The illness was well publicised illness and his family and musical friends and fans rallied around in support of events such as SwarbAid 1 and 2. One thing that all this made me realise was that the people involved in the folk scene are incredibly dedicated to the genre and remain one of the closest of all the ‘musical families’.

Thankfully Dave recovered sufficiently to, not only record again, but also perform. He began his full comeback in 2006 with a band called Swarb’s Lazarus which saw him team up with Maartin Allcock and Kevin Dempsey. The name of the band being, I guess, a reference to his obituary and to being raised from the dead. He also saw his services being required once more to add his own uniqueness to several albums.

Dave Swarbrick at home in Coventry in 1999

But more recently, and the most significant development, is that Dave Swarbrick and Martin Carthy have re-ignited their partnership. And together, for the last few years, the pair has regularly hit the road for what is fast becoming a customary autumn tour. In fact the 2011 tour celebrated their 70th birthdays. And one of Dave’s final gigs with Martin was at the Warwick Arts Centre during October 2015.

One of Dave’s enduring qualities, I think, was his indifference to awards. It was mentioned by his partner Jill in her touching eulogy that he did not like them and that he was very embarrassed by them. He believed that the music should stand as his testament and legacy.

I have only touched on what I consider to be the highlights of Dave’s career. A full in depth discography, that covers all the album releases Dave has had some sort of involvement with, spans around 100 albums and would be a huge task to document. In my books, though, that is an amazing statistic and an extraordinary achievement and will indeed stand as his legacy.

Flashback: Remembering when Cream played in Coventry

Flashback: Remembering when Cream played in Coventry

Pete Clemons recalls when the iconic musicians performed in our city


When Jack Bruce passed away during October 2014 I suddenly found myself reminiscing about those timely Cream reunions of 2005 at the Royal Albert Hall. The concert programme for those gigs contained a known ‘gigography’ and I noticed that Coventry had not been included in the listing. People only know what they know I guess, and it is difficult to trace events from 50 years ago, but I was certain in my mind that Cream had played the city. And so that set me on a quest.

To be fair, it was not too difficult a task. Over the years I had heard people mention a Cream gig in Coventry that they had attended. So it was just a case of following up on that really.

But settling on finding some evidence for a gig in the city by this wonderful trio, I knew, would not fully satisfy me. If I was going to write a few words about it then it needed to be a bit more interesting. After all, Cream, who left us with an incredible legacy are 50 years old come July 2016.

I was aware that Jack Bruce had been a member of Graham Bonds early bands. So I wanted to delve deeper into Jack’s illustrious and eventful career and how, if at all, that had touched Coventry. I would not be disappointed at what I dug up. Graham Bond was a leading figure in the British R ‘n’ B explosion of the 1960s. If Bond’s career had had greater longevity then he would have had as much claim to the title of ‘Father of British Blues’ as John Mayall has now.

Bond was at the beginning of it all and his various bands became instrumental in nurturing the early careers of many great musicians. And, in a sense, it could be argued that Bond was crucial in the formation of later bands like Cream and Colosseum.

Graham Bond’s first band, which came together in 1963, was formed as a splinter group to the Alexis Korner Blues Incorporated. Initially a trio it included Bond himself on keyboards, Ginger Baker on drums, and bass player Jack Bruce who back then was playing upright double bass. Quickly realising that this band had real potential he added guitarist John McLaughlin.

And it was with this incredible line up that I discovered had performed upstairs at the Wine Lodge (also remembered as the Tally Ho but now known as the Tudor Rose) as the Graham Bond Quartet during 1963.

By the early part of 1964 John McLaughlin had moved on. Saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith had been drafted in and the band was now known as the Graham Bond Organisation. By now, Jack Bruce has switched to the electric bass. This line up of the band remained stable till toward the end of 1965. And it was this line up that made several visits to The Mercers Arms Pub which stood close to the old Highfield Road football ground.

A fierce rivalry between Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, which dated back to the early days of the Graham Bond bands, was still simmering under the surface throughout this rhythm sections existence. Things had got so bad between Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker that this led to Jack leaving the band towards the end of 1965. Early 1966 saw the Organisation perform at The Walsgrave pub with the line-up that did not include Jack Bruce.

After the briefest of stays with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers Jack Bruce would team up with Manfred Mann and, ironically, this would lead to Jack’s first real commercial success as he appeared on their number 1 hit Pretty Flamingo.

It seems that the seeds of Cream were sown when Eric Clapton would turn up to gigs and even jam with Graham Bond’s band.

Ginger Baker and Eric seemed to get on really well. Ginger even went to watch Eric perform with his then band, the Bluesbreakers. However, with both starting to grow tired of their respective bands, the pair turned their thoughts towards putting a new band together themselves.

Eric Clapton had got to know Jack Bruce through Jacks brief stay with the Bluesbreakers. And Eric really wanted Jack to be a part of this new venture. Eric was, at that time, unaware of Jack and Gingers previous bad blood. However, for the good of the new band Ginger put Jack’s prowess before any personal differences and Jack agreed to join. In fact, in a recent interview, Eric Clapton, admitted how he had been in a confrontational situation twenty four hours a day during Cream’s few years together.

Cream was formed during July 1966 and played their first gig at the end of that month. It was toward the end of 1966 when Cream played in Coventry. They performed at the incredibly forward thinking Leofric Hotel Jazz Club. Incredibly, a few weeks later, they returned to play Coventry Polytechnic (now the university). A few weeks before Cream’s first visit the Leofric Hotel Jazz Club had put on the latest line-up of the Graham Bond Organisation which by then included drummer Jon Hiseman and bass player as replacements for Baker and Bruce.

Cream, in the main, was blues influenced. As a band they had two main facets. First they had their commercial and more song based material which was aimed at the singles charts. But as they progressed they added more and more improvisation to their live performance. This was quite an innovative thing to do at that time and this format soon spread and influenced other bands. Cream also established Jack Bruce and poet/lyricist Pete Brown as a writing team.

By late 1968, just two and a half years after they had formed, and after the release of their Wheels of Fire album Cream had gone their separate ways. Apparently they had just had enough of it all. They did however agree to complete one final album called ‘Goodbye’ which was released early 1969 and which contained the classic ‘Badge’

That’s not quite the end of this story though as there were several more visits to the city by the Graham Bond Organisation between 1967 and 1969 albeit with a variety of differing line-ups.

October 1969 also saw Jack Bruce perform at the Lanch (Coventry University) as part of the Mike Gibbs Jazz Orchestra. He was accompanied by other notables such as John Marshall, Henry Lowther and Chris Spedding.

The Lanchester Arts Festival of January 1970 saw Jack Bruce and Friends, Larry Coryell, Mike Mandel and Mitch Mitchell perform two shows.

Finally, November 1970 saw Jack Bruce perform with Tony Williams’s band, ‘Lifetime’, with Larry Young and John McLaughlin at the Chesford Grange Hotel.

And to celebrate the fact that Cream are 50 years old I noticed, in our now relocated HMV shop, that a box set that comprises all the bands classic albums is now available at a very reasonable price.

Flashback: When Motorhead played Coventry Theatre

Flashback: When Motorhead played Coventry Theatre

Pete Clemons recalls legendary show in 1980, as part of Ace of Spades tour


Regardless of his uncompromising lifestyle it was still such a shock when, toward the end of 2015, the world of music lost on of its most charismatic figures in Ian Kilmister otherwise known as Lemmy.

In fact 2015 was not a good year for the band Motörhead, who Lemmy was figurehead for, as drummer from the classic line-up, Phil Taylor, had also passed away just a few weeks previous.

Admittedly Lemmy became renowned for his hard living but I personally will remember him more for his distinctive vocals, his style of bass playing and his song writing abilities – the serious and the not so. Even the way he held himself on stage just gave him that unexplainable aura.

The early days of Lemmy’s career saw him in a beat band called The Rockin’ Vicars who covered rhythm and blues. He joined them as a rhythm guitar player in 1965 and remained till the bands demise a couple of years later.

Lemmy then joined a band called Sam Gopal. For a while he worked as a roadie for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I am guessing he got that gig as he shared a flat in London at some point with the Experience’s bass player Noel Redding for a while.

Rock band Hawkwind were artistically an innovative and a boundary pushing band. Despite their own modesty - synthesiser player Del Dettmar was quoted as saying that they were not trained musicians, just a jamming band - Hawkwind were one of the pioneers when it came to the audio, visual experience in live surroundings. They took their music very seriously. And they would go on to become an institution of the UK rock scene.

And fate played its part again during 1971 when Lemmy was invited to join the band. He joined as a guitar player but very quickly switched to bass guitar.

To quote Lemmy himself from that time ‘That was a great time, the summer of ’71. I can’t remember it, but I’ll never forget it’.

It is said that Lemmy had not played the bass guitar until he joined Hawkwind but he brought with him a very melodic style so maybe he must have drawn on his experience as a rhythm guitar player in order to develop that unique playing style.

Lemmy quite quickly became an integral band member providing lead vocals and writing the surprise hit single Silver Machine in June 1972.

The first Hawkwind album that Lemmy featured on was the bands third release ‘Doremi Fasol Latido’ in 1972. In fact the rear of the LP sleeve mentions Lemmy as 6 string guitarist and bass player.

By the time Hawkwind recorded ‘Doremi’ the rhythm section of Dave Anderson and Terry Ollis, who had featured on the bands second release ‘In Search of Space’, had been replaced by Lemmy and drummer Simon King.

The supporting ‘Space Ritual’ tour was an ambitious multi-media project conceived party by sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock. It told the story of spaceship Hawkwind and its part in a great galactic war. The music was captured on tape and released as a double LP in 1973. The tour did not visit Coventry but it did call in at the now defunct Birmingham Odeon.

The next Hawkwind release was the wonderful ‘Hall of the Mountain Grill’ and this time Lemmy and the band did play Coventry Theatre in support of the album during February 1975.

Lemmy was fired from Hawkwind in 1975 after being arrested on drug charges while the band was on tour in Canada. He was released without a charge being made.

Soon after returning home Lemmy put together a band who would later become known as Motörhead. The band name coming from the last song he had written for Hawkwind.

Motörhead visited Mr George’s club early in 1977. And given the attendance, which was sparse at best, the word had not really got out about this band. That or, with punk rock beginning to take a hold, any music connected with the likes of Hawkwind suddenly found themselves cast aside. Either way, I guess it must have been a struggle for Motörhead during the first few years.

I then went to see Hawkwind perform at Birmingham Town Hall during June 1977. At that time they were touring the excellent ‘Quark, Strangeness and Charm’ album. I seem to remember hearing that the scheduled support band, for this tour, had pulled out and that another had been drafted in as a fairly late replacement.

The venue plunged into darkness and the support band shuffled on stage. The stalls area of the Town Hall was all standing for a lot of bands back in 1976 and I managed to get quite close to the front. Which wasn’t difficult really as this was just ‘the support band’. Thinking back to those days, only a diehard minority watched the support band while the rest would chose to do whatever they did, until the main event.

I probably should have picked up on the on-stage clue which was the angled microphone with the mouth piece pointing down.
But a few notes into the first song it soon became clear who this vocalist was and who this band were. Motörhead, in my opinion, were quite sensational that night.

Soon after this gig I was down at virgin records in the arcade buying Motörhead’s self-titled 12” single and then shortly after that their debut album both released on Chiswick records.

I later discovered that the band had actually recorded an album soon after getting together albeit with a slightly different line-up.

The album had been intended for release during 1976. But the bands record label United Artists were apparently unsure of the album's commercial potential. That album, ‘On Parole’, would remain unreleased until several years later.

It was almost 2 years later, during March 1979 when the next album, ‘Overkill’, followed. Motörhead were now on the Bronze record label. ‘Overkill’ seemed to attract instant interest and fared much better. Subsequent releases ‘Bomber’ and ‘Ace of Spades’ saw the band at the peak of their success.

Motörhead, supported by Weapon, performed at Coventry Theatre during November 1980 on the infamous Ace of Spades tour.

By now Motörhead were huge. A resulting live album ‘No Sleep till Hammersmith’ peaked at number one in the album chart during June 1981.

Lemmy relocated to Los Angeles during 1990 but he still continued to record and tour regularly with Motörhead until December 2015. Fittingly one of the bands last UK appearances was when they performed on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury.

The line ‘We are Motorhead and we play rock and roll’ became the catch phrase Lemmy would use to introduce the band. He was always true to his word.

Review: 'Triumphant' - Elvis Costello, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry

Review: 'Triumphant' - Elvis Costello, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry.

Pete Clemons oversees concert at University of Warwick venue

Last night Elvis Costello made a triumphant return to Warwick University armed with a dozen or so semi-acoustic guitars, a baby grand piano, a support act called Larkin Poe and a ukulele.

The stage was set up to be reminiscent of a 1950s' living room within a Victorian terraced house. It was even complete with a 1950s' style television, albeit on a much grander scale, which ran videos from Elvis’s illustrious past to the awaiting audience as well as adding visuals to the evening’s events.

The atmosphere had all the hallmarks of an evening of reminiscence. And so it was to be as the set opened with ‘Lipstick Vogue’ a track from the classic ‘This Year’s Model’ album.

As a teenager Elvis Costello and the Attractions was, to me, simply another ‘punk’ band. Albeit a very good one and who produced a clutch of great albums

However, during the intervening years, Elvis has written with people the likes of Burt Bacharach and Allen Toussaint who Elvis paid a tribute to. And over a forty year plus career Elvis has amassed hundreds of songs to in his locker.

As such, this was not going to be a total return to those days with the Attractions. This was a career spanning gig, with songs from those glory days with the Attractions such as ‘Mystery Dance’ and ‘’Accidents Can Happen’, mixed in with other classics like ‘Shipbuilding’ and ‘Ascension Day’.

I mentioned the fact that this was a return to Warwick University. And Elvis himself was quick to touch on the dates he had played at the campus well over forty years ago with and early band of his, a duo called Rusty.

I did get the sense that, despite his songs still having that cutting edge, Elvis himself had mellowed slightly. There were also several poignant moments throughout the proceedings as if to prove that point.

One was when Elvis explained how his Father Ross MacManus, once a member of the Joe Loss Orchestra, would recreate the hits of the day for BBC radio.

Elvis went on to inform us that his Father, as part of the Joe Loss band, had also played at the 1963 Royal Variety performance attended by the Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret and had shared the same bill as The Beatles.

Ross MacManus had performed his version the Pete Seeger song ‘If I had a Hammer’. And footage of this performance was shown on the giant TV during the interval before Elvis returned to the stage for his encores – which almost turned out to be a set in their own right.

Elvis also reminded us that the 1963 Royal Variety Performance had been the same show where John Lennon, toward the end of The Beatles set, famously delivered the following request to the audience to end their set ‘For our last number, I’d like to ask for your help. Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands, and for the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewellery’.

A final touching moment was at the end of the main set. Elvis segued a rendition of ‘You’re Wondering Now’ into his final song as a tribute to The Specials drummer John Bradbury. Photos of John were also portrayed on the TV screen.

Coventry two tone fans will not need to be reminded that Costello co-produced an album by The Specials and, in the song ‘I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down’, has an ultra-rare release on the two tone label. A copy of this single can be viewed in the Coventry Music Museum.

Elvis Costello is now seen as one of the finest songwriters to have ever graced this country. And on this evidence it is easy to see why.

Independent record label providing 'kaleidoscope of music'

Independent record label providing 'kaleidoscope of music'

Pete Clemons celebrates the brilliance of K.Scope

The Harvest records label, created by the EMI group during 1969, was once a major record label set up for bands and artists who, back then, were considered as boundary pushing or progressive.

Famously, it became home for the likes Deep Purple, Roy Harper, The Electric Light Orchestra and Pink Floyd. Although towards the end of the 1970s it too had been touched by the punk rock phenomena and had signed up groups like Wire and The Saints.

By and large I felt the label was true to its initial aims which were to capitalise on Britain’s ever growing ‘underground’ scene.

But it is also fair to say that not all Harvest releases were a commercial success.

Fast forward forty odd years and the reason for mentioning Harvest Records is that there is, I feel, a new underground movement happening now and Harvest provides a close analogy to be used for another more recent label with similar aims.

Plus this label appears to be responsible for releasing an awful lot of albums that I have really enjoyed over the last ten years or so.

That label in question is K.Scope, and it began as an imprint to snapper records. And it seems like I am not alone in my judgement as one of the K.Scope’s more recent releases scooped the top prize for the album of the year at the 2013 progressive music awards.

K.Scope, now an independent company, was formed during the very late 1990s. It was Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree who thought up with the name which came from a play on the word Kaleidoscope. Plus, it reminded Steven of that old TV promoted budget label of the seventies, K-Tel, which also appealed to him.

Initially K.Scope was an outlet for the music of Steven Wilson’s own band Porcupine Tree. In fact the first release on the label was an album called ‘Stupid Dream’ by Porcupine Tree released during 1999. But the K.Scope label went dormant when Porcupine Tree signed up for Lava Records at the time of their 2002 album release ‘In Absentia’.

2008, however, saw the K.Scope name revived after Steven Wilson suggested that the label be opened up for new releases by new talent and allow the bands to develop musically. As such The Pineapple Thief became one of the first of that new talent to be signed up and the bands seventh album ‘Tightly Unwound’ became the first album released on the newly revived K.Scope label. The Pineapple Thief’s leader, Bruce Soord, was quoted as saying that ‘It was really Steven Wilson who got us the deal with K.Scope’.

Bands such as Anathema, Engineers and No-Man also signed up for K.Scope. And the label did not just restrict itself to U.K. based artists. Overseas bands like Anekdoten (Sweden), Lunatic Soul (Poland), Nosound (Italy) and Iamthemorning (Russia) have all had music released on the label over the last few years.

And K.Scope has continued to release what many would great quality music that others may consider as non-mainstream, or left field, music for want of a better phrase.

Going back once more to my Harvest records analogy, and particularly their ethos, the album when you think about it is so much more than just the music. The complete package including how the music is presented is just as important. Therefore, just as the artwork on those classic albums was revered back in the 1970s, K.Scope is also treating their releases with respect.

Their album releases are also lavishly housed with a great deal of care, attention and detail being taken over the product as a whole.

On early runs of some releases, for example, the album package may also include an extra disc such as a 5:1 surround sound version of the album or even an extra disc of bonus non album material. But at the very least, the CD is contained within a visually pleasing digipak.

Since 2008 K.Scope has released many critically received albums which, little by little, are beginning to have an impact on the album charts.

The last album release by The Pineapple Thief, ‘Magnolia’ peaked at number 55 on the official UK chart while Steven Wilson has had 4 top 40 success’s including his latest release ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase. which reached number 13. Even Anathema, who have had much success in just about every territory outside the UK have now achieved a top 40 album in the UK.

And it is hoped that the The Pineapple Thief’s forthcoming album ‘Your Wilderness’, due for release in August, does even better than its predecessor. The word from the record company itself is certainly encouraging. ‘It’s absolutely amazing!, a massive step up. The Pineapple Thief has arrived’, is the predicted forecast of one of my contacts in there.

Reading the early mail out’s promoting ‘Your Wilderness’ it appears that significant contributions have been made to the album by way of Supertramp’s John Helliwell, Caravan’s Geoff Richardson and, band leader Bruce Soord’s friend from Godsticks, Darran Charles.

K.Scope albums are available via an on-line distribution company called Burning Shed. Burning Shed is run by artists and musicians for artists and musicians. Given that, you are always guaranteed a first class service. In addition however, I have even noticed that our own relocated HMV has a good number of K.Scope products available on their shelves.

And then there are the remixes of classic albums that also involve Steven Wilson. Remixing music is a distinctly different process to that of simply re-mastering music. This is where the master tapes from a particular album can be broken right back down to the individual instruments and having those individual sounds reprocessed through the modern equipment of today’s digital age thus giving it a clarity that could only have been dreamed about all those years ago when the album was first released.

So far, the music of King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Yes, Tears for Fears and many others have benefited from this process. And it is a trend which is continuing to grow. These albums can also be found at the burning shed website.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Flashback: When The Who came to Coventry Theatre in 1967

Flashback: When The Who came to Coventry Theatre in 1967.

Pete Clemons recalls a frenetic live performance from the legendary rock band.

The Who, pictured in 1967

The Tremeloes were in top form, The Who’s Pete Townshend was having another ‘smashing’ time, The Herd’s Peter Frampton was a solo success, there were screams for Traffic’s Stevie Winwood, an impressive debut was made by The Marmalade, a nightmare for The Dream and compere, Ray Cameron, was trying to retain a level head while chaos reigned all around.

These were all quotes used in a review of another legendary package tour that once passed through Coventry Theatre for two shows on Sunday October 29th 1967 and which featured all of the above mentioned bands.

With the shows scheduled to start at 6pm and 8:30pm respectively there was little room for error. But, despite the best efforts of the bands involved, it seemed that a mix of backstage and equipment problems almost stole the day.

The review also went on to note that the six groups, along with their combined total of sixteen road managers and around ten square yards of equipment, were all trying to fight their way on and off the stage.

First up was The Dream a band who undertook the tour for the publicity rather than the financial reward. They blasted their way through three songs with fire and confidence and, despite equipment issues, found a lively audience to greet them.

But it was the arrival on stage of Peter Frampton and The Herd that the action really started as hysterical screams pierced the atmosphere. The quartet of Frampton, Andy Bown, Gary Taylor and Andy Steele began their set with what sounded like a gospel song. It was followed by another called ‘Que Sera’. And by the time they got to play their final song ‘From the Underworld’ the audience was out of their seats and dancing in the aisles.

Next up came Traffic who, according to the review from the show, ‘play music that must be way above the heads of most provincial audiences’. Traffic had been formed during March of that year after pin up boy Stevie Winwood had quit The Spencer Davies Group and teamed up with Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason. I guess, with the benefit of hindsight, Traffic were not a good fit amongst the other ‘pop’ type acts.

The Coventry Theatre

The review went on to say that ‘Traffic also give the impression of playing purely for their own enjoyment, and their music frequently verged on jazz. Their song ‘Feeling Good’ was a highlight but if any one tune in their set could be called the biggest success then it was ‘Hole in my Shoe’. That particular song had been composed by guitarist Dave Mason. Apparently ‘Hole in my Shoe’ was disliked by the other three members of the group, who felt that it did not represent the band's musical or lyrical style. Despite that it still managed to hit number two in the UK charts.

The second half of the show opened with The Marmalade a five piece group from Glasgow who were undertaking their first major package tour. The previous year this band had been known as The Gaylords but after being seen perform by The Tremeloes, who themselves had been touring Scotland, soon found themselves in London after being recommended to Starlite Artistes. Both The Marmalade and The Tremeloes were managed by Peter Walsh who, jointly with Kennedy Street Enterprises, organised the tour.

The Marmalade stuck to well known tunes like ‘Mister Tambourine Man’, ‘Summer in the City’ and ‘The Letter’ along with their own song ‘I See the Rain’. The band must have been really pleased with the reception that they got.

Next to hit the stage were The Tremeloes who were incredibly popular back in 1967. Since Brian Poole had left them they had had several top ten single, including a number one and that success continued for the rest of the sixties and into the 1970’s.

Their popularity was displayed by what seemed like half the auditorium storming down to the stage only to be met by a wall of bouncers.

The Tremeloes, made up of guitarist Rick Westwood, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Alan Blakley, drummer Dave Munden and Len ‘Chip’ Hawkes on bass really could sing and were an incredible harmony group. All four band members shared vocals and their set included ‘Silence is Golden’, ‘Be Mine’, ‘Hold on I’m Coming’, Here Comes My Baby’, and ‘Even the Bad Times are Good’. The feeling at the end of The Tremeloes set was - well follow that!.

And of course The Who could and did. Their set included twelve songs including the mini opera ‘A Quick One’. ‘Summertime Blues’ along with their then recent single releases ‘I Can See For Miles’ and ‘Pictures of Lily’ which Pete Townshend himself described as ‘power pop’ were also included.

1967 had been an incredibly busy year for the quartet of vocalist Roger Daltrey, lead guitarist Pete Townshend, bass player

John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. They had played Coventry earlier in the year as part of their first British tour of that year but the band also completed two tours of the U.S. that year. In total they played over 200 gigs, including the Monterey Pop Festival, and were on the road for well over half of that year.

Famously, during the first show at Coventry Theatre there were equipment failures and The Who had over run their allotted time schedule. This resulted in the curtain being dropped down while the band was still performing and Pete Townshend was not amused. This was the catalyst for one of his infamous meltdowns. A guitar was smashed, amplifiers pulled over, a mic stand was aimed at the lights and apparently the theatres own footlights were damaged as his frustrations boiled over.

The Who would go on to have unparalleled success and became known the world over. They were formed in Shepherd's Bush, West London, United Kingdom, in 1964 as ‘The High Numbers’. Total worldwide record sales are apparently in excess of one hundred million. Apart from Monterey they performed at other iconic festivals. In fact they have been described as "possibly the greatest live band ever". In addition to ‘A Quick One’ more rock operas were completed of which one, Quadrophenia, was successfully re-interpreted as a film for cinema.

And fifty years on The Who continue to tour, albeit sporadically, to this day.

Ed Sheeran in Coventry? Puzzling mystery of the pop star's 'lost' gig

Ed Sheeran in Coventry? Puzzling mystery of the pop star's 'lost' gig.

Pete Clemons attempts to solve reason for Ed Sheeran's short visit to Coventry in 2010.

Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran is a household name nowadays.

He is now in his mid-twenties and has been steadily releasing his music for just over ten years, and has two albums, a dozen EPs and more than 20 singles under his belt.

I admit to being at that age where to me a latest release is, in reality, at least 20 years old. As such, downloading and all that goes with getting music ‘out there’ is a complete dark art to me.

But Ed has managed to shift in excess of 16 million songs using this medium. And there are some other staggering figures to be read about him.

Ed Sheeran, it turns out, is nothing if not a determined character and appears to have cracked this modern age problem of music distribution.

I have always been curious as to whether Coventry or its surrounding area has ever played any part, no matter how small, into the career development of artists and musicians so I set about investigating Ed. And it did not take too long to find some results.

The first connection I came across was when, aged 14, Ed Sheeran sent Leamington Spa duo Nizlopi some recordings that he had made that happened to be his own version of some of their songs.

Nizlopi must have been impressed as this contact between them resulted in him being a guitar tech for the band. Ed even opened for Nizlopi at a gig in Norwich during 2008.

Nizlopi - JCB Song

Then on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 Coventry’s own Kristy Gallacher, along with Rob Reynolds, Moray McLaren, Al Lewis and Sarah Howells, played an event called ‘The Big Secret’.

Also on the bill was Ed Sheeran who, by then, was 18.

The big event was a regular evening, in a unique venue, for singer-songwriters both signed and unsigned and Kristy played it several times.

And this particular gig was well before Ed had released an album but, instead, tending to concentrate on shorter Extended Plays. This was also during the period when he had relocated to London and was playing live at every conceivable open mic event he could find.

The Big Secret event was held in the Shepherd’s Bush area of London. And it was not the nearby Empire either. No, this event was held in a former underground Victorian toilet and it was situated under Shepherd’s Bush Green.

The toilet block had been converted into a club intended for comedy. And the venue, called Ginglik, also put on acoustic type gigs.

Coventry singer Kristy Gallacher

Apparently Ginglik was a hot and stuffy venue with low ceilings and a lack of air. And it tended to get quite smelly very quickly.

Yet, despite this and during a fairly recent interview, Ed was asked to think of an unusual London venue and he immediately mentioned Ginglik. "It was wicked," he said.

Kristy Gallacher also has positive memories: "That venue was very good to me," she told me.

Maybe her experience of Ginglik was Kristy’s inspiration for opening her latest open mic venture at Drapers Bar in the city centre. For those with long memories will remember that the site of Drapers Bar, previously known as Browns, was once occupied by a public toilet block.

But Drapers Bar is an excellent bar, serving great food, and Kristy is doing a wonderful job of showcasing local talent there twice a month on Sunday’s.

This, of course, is something she has been doing for several years now at various venues in the region. Kristy is, by the way, writing songs in preparation for her fourth album. Something I greatly look forward to.

Another modern communications tool, twitter, is heavily used by people like Ed Sheeran to promote themselves and to let us know where they are at.

And a couple of tweets from 2010 have, I must confess, remained complete mysteries to me: Feb 13 – ‘On my way to Coventry, gig time’ and Feb 14 – ‘Still in Coventry, happy February 14th everyone’.

Now I have searched and searched but to no avail. I have checked out all the obvious local venues like the Kasbah, the Assembly and beyond.

But I just cannot find any reference to a gig that Ed Sheeran may have been appeared in the area at either headline level or as support. This was February 2010, just before he had made his quantum leap to the next level of his career when the greater world began to hear of him via a tour with Example and a self-financed trip to Los Angeles.

Quite by coincidence however, February 2010, was the same time when Nizlopi announced they had split after seven years together.

Nizlopi, the Leamington duo who had a hit with JCB Song

Luke Concannon said that he wanted to work on a solo album and to build a new life. Maybe Ed’s visit to Coventry had something to do with that announcement. A celebratory last private gig maybe, or something similar, who knows?

Thankfully though both Concannon and double bass player John Parker, despite still having their own separate careers, have since teamed up again and have even performed the occasional gig in the area delivering the poetic yet edgy folk tunes that they became well known for and very popular for.

Whether I will be ever able to solve the reason for Ed’s short visit to Coventry I have no idea I guess. But it is great to hear Ed Sheeran still proclaim that Nizlopi were one of his biggest influences:

"Everything I know about live performance I learned from them."

'Totally enthralling' - Trembling Bells wow Coventry at Old Grammar School

'Totally enthralling' - Trembling Bells wow Coventry at Old Grammar School.

Pete Clemons has his say on a brilliant gig in unusual surroundings

The Old Grammar School

On the evening of the day that the results of the European elections were being announced, then what better way to get away from it all there was, than to go and see a band play live in a great setting?

Ironically the band visiting Coventry, a city who voted to leave in numbers higher than the national average, was a group from Scotland, a country that voted to stay in.

And in the wonderful yet unusual surroundings of the old 12th century Grammar School, on the corner of Hales Street and Bishop Street in Coventry city centre, rock band Trembling Bells certainly lifted the spirits.

I had read that Trembling Bells were a folk rock band but I didn’t hear anything remotely traditional about them. They are electric, they are led by a drummer, the vocals are distinctive and haunting, the organ was dominant and they are heavy on improvisation.

That’s not to say that I was disappointed, far from it, this adventurous and, musically, tightly knitted band do make a great noise which I really enjoyed.

Trembling Bells opened the evening’s events with the attention grabbing ‘Wide Majestic Aire’. This was followed by equally absorbing tunes such as ‘My Father was a Collapsing Star’ ‘Killing Time in London Fields’ and ‘Christ’s Entry into Govan’.

For well over an hour I was totally enthralled and completely in the bands grip. Their frantic yet controlled energy just demanded attention.

I had noticed beforehand that the previous evening Trembling Bells had supported Belle and Sebastian at the Royal Albert Hall.

And effervescent drummer, Alex Neilson, made reference to it saying that it had been a warm up for the Coventry gig.

Trembling Bells are no strangers to Coventry as their latest CD release along with their previous effort ‘The Sovereign Self’ have both been released by Tin Angel Records.

And as if to capture the spirit of the unfolding events further, another thing that made me smile was the title of a track on the band’s latest CD release – ‘England was Aghast’.

Given the circumstances that surrounded the day, it just couldn’t be made up.

Finally the Tin Arts Centre, based at the Canal Basin, deserves a great deal of credit.

Over the years they have certainly had great vision in providing live music in a variety of buildings around the city that, I for one, would never normally had the opportunity of venturing into.

Flashback: Celebrating The Beatles' Revolver 50 years on

Flashback: Celebrating The Beatles' Revolver 50 years on.

Pete Clemons takes a look at a ground-breaking album for the Fab Four.

The spring and summer months of 1966 was a quite remarkable time.

May saw Liverpool crowned as First Division (now Premier League) champions, Everton would win the FA cup 3-2 after overturning a 2-0 deficit with just over quarter of an hour left to play and July saw England win the World Cup at Wembley Stadium, overcoming West Germany 4-2.

It was also a mixed year for Beatles fans.

This was the year that John Lennon claimed that the band were more popular than Jesus.

The double ‘A’ side single ‘Paperback Writer/Rain’ had topped the singles charts.

And, during August of that year, The Beatles announced that the concert played at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, in California, would be their last ever, except of course, if you do not include their infamous roof top gig.

At the time John Lennon claimed that The Beatles music was not being heard and that it had all become a freak show.

Also during August, just before that infamous American tour, The Beatles released their remarkable and ground breaking album ‘Revolver’.

This article may appear a little self-indulgent, with some of it written as I remember it through the eyes of a highly impressionable young lad who was not even ten years old at the time, but Revolver was the first LP that seemed to fully grab my attention.

Not that there was a lot wrong with the previous Beatles albums.

I do remember the bands previous releases ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Help’ being played in our family house on Hipswell Highway.

But up until ‘Revolver’, and for me personally, it had all been about the single and the songs I had heard on Brian Matthews and Ed Stewart's Saturday morning radio programmes.

For this next release though, John Lennon had promised something very different from what had gone before.

The Beatles were, by 1966, beginning to spend more time in the studio. From all accounts the band spent more than 350 hours at Abbey Road for this release.

This resulted in the band becoming more focused on the lyrics and along with producer George Martin and studio engineer Geoff Emerick their attention turned to experimenting more on the technical side of electronic sound production.

According to John Lennon, he wanted it all as one continuous piece. No space between the tracks.

"They wouldn’t wear it," he said.

Taking ‘Revolver’ at face value I was hearing music that contained, in addition to the normal instruments, tape loops, backwards guitar parts, sitar, tabla and much much more without actually knowing what these instruments were or the technology that had created these sounds.

For me personally, and I guess many others, this was the first time we were exposed to such sounds.

It was only a few years ago that we were celebrating 50 years since the very first Beatles single released during October 1962.

And now here we are looking at ‘Revolver’ 50 years on.

So this gives an indication just how far the band’s music had progressed in those four years.

Even the lyrics which made up ‘Revolver’ were also captivating. The songs spanned the spectrum from humorous to political. At times they were dreamy and almost childlike. But almost all had a deeper meaning. Yet at the same time, each of the songs on this a wonderful album, could conjure up visions and pictures of the situations being described to us in song.

As writers and band mates The Beatles were still very tight and close knit during 1966. And the ideas were bouncing off each other. ‘Taxman’ the opening track, for example, was credited as a George Harrison but it turned out that John added touches.

And so it continued. ‘Yellow Submarine’ was down to Paul McCartney and John Lennon but George helped finish it off. ‘Good Day Sunshine’ was another Paul song but John admitted to throwing a line or two in. ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ was a John Lennon song but the title came from an expression that Ringo Starr used a lot. And ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ was Paul’s completely but John mentioned that it was his favourite. So there was no sign yet of the bitterness that would eventually engulf the band.

Unusually, at around the same time ‘Revolver’ was released, the single ‘Yellow Submarine’ and its B side of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ was released. I say unusually because more often than not single releases by

The Beatles were, more than often, non-album tracks.

Many people will, I think, agree to the fact that this album was some kind of invisible stake in the ground for them. It sounds fanciful but I do think that this record affected the way, young people in particular, thought and how they saw life. It just seemed to open up all kinds of possibilities.

Particularly if you had an artistic leaning.

Not everyone was convinced by the album at the time of its release. This fascinating statement in the Disc and Echo magazine from August 1966 gave an insight into the views of Ray Davies of the Kinks.

After listening to each track on Revolver three or four times Ray gave this infamous verdict: "This is the first Beatles LP I've really listened to in its entirety but I must say there are better songs on 'Rubber Soul'.

"Still, 'I'm Only Sleeping' is a standout, 'Good Day Sunshine' is second best and I also like 'Here, There and Everywhere'.

"But I don't want to be harsh about the others.

"The balance and recording technique are as good as ever."

And for those who still needed convincing about the direction in which the music was heading then the next Beatles release, and arguably the greatest pop single of all time, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, would continue to turn more heads and open up a lot more minds.

The subsequent album release ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, released during mid-1967, would see the Beatles at the zenith of their career.