Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Celebrating 50 years of The Moody Blues

Celebrating 50 years of The Moody Blues

Pete Clemons recalls the formation of the classic West Midlands band

Incredibly 2016 marks 50 years since Justin Hayward and John Lodge joined up with The Moody Blues.

The band would then transform itself from, what was already a very good R ‘n’ B group, into a band that would shape and influence the future of rock music forever.

The version of the band to include Justin Hayward and John Lodge first came together during late 1966.

Legend has it that guitarist Justin was actually answering an advert placed in Melody Maker by Eric Burdon of The Animals. Burdon then passed Justin’s details onto the Moody Blues flautist Ray Thomas.

John Lodge was already known to the group having been band mates of Ray Thomas and keyboard player Mike Pinder in the early 1960s Birmingham beat group El Riot and the Rebels.

Drummer Graeme Edge, formerly of Gerry Levene and the Avengers, is now the only remaining original member of The Moody Blues, from their early R‘n’B days who is still performing with the band.

Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues.

The Moody Blues have already completed an American tour this year to mark this momentous achievement. And, throughout the rest of 2016, various other events featuring the pair at their own gigs will ensure that this celebration of their achievements continues.

The first single to include Hayward and Lodge was titled ‘Fly Me High’ and was released during May 1967 and in a recent Moody Blues press release the band recall those early days:

“And one of the first things we did together that year (1967) was record ‘Fly Me High’ at our own expense at Regent Sound Studios in Denmark Street. The suits at Decca liked it but thought it could be recorded better. So we turned up at the Decca studios on the appointed day where we met Tony Clarke for the first time. He was assigned to us as in-house producer and we recorded the song again. Decca released the new version and it was picked up by the BBC who used it as a jingle for a while. It was all absolutely great and ‘Fly Me High’ was the start of our new sound and direction. The Decca engineer on ‘Fly Me High’ was Gus Dudgeon who went on to produce mega-hits for Elton John. He did a great job!”

At the time Tony Clarke was a junior producer with Decca Records who had been assigned to the Moody Blues to produce the demonstration record. Unknown to the record company the Moody Blues gave Tony an insight as to the ambitious direction that they wanted to go. Tony bought into it all and to all intents and purposes went against his masters and aborted the task in hand. Instead Tony and the band recorded what became known as ‘Days of Future Passed’. The record was also released November 1967 on Decca’s subsidiary label Deram.

It needs to be mentioned however that the albums engineer, Derek Varnals, take of the story is slightly different. Derek who, at the time, kept diaries mentions "At some point, Decca decided to liven up the label by having a pop group record with an orchestra,” The Moody Blues project was simply described to me as an album with recurring themes, and for the orchestration they'd be using Peter Knight.

Coventry born Tony Clarke had incredible vision when it came to recording processes and would eventually become known as the sixth Moody Blue, so much so that some albums carried a photo of him.

‘Days of Future Past’ was indeed a whole group effort with each band member contributing. And, arguably, it was this album that brought the Mellotron (an electro mechanical tape relay keyboard) to the world’s attention. Mike Pinder, who played this particular instrument on the album, once worked for the manufacturer of the Mellotron - Streetly Electronics in Birmingham – and has long been associated with the instrument ever since.

The music that followed, six breathtaking and ground breaking albums between 1968 and 1972, stunned the music world with their endeavor and dynamics. They were orchestral landscapes.

The lyrics were a mix of easy going, love and just general thoughtfulness. But most of all they were incredibly thought provoking as they posed questions on the subject of our very existence, they made us examine our own consciousness, and to think of our place within the great scheme of things. This was indeed cutting edge stuff. And, for me at least, those records still thrill after all this time.

Following the album ‘Seventh Sojourn’ the band just had to take a break. Continuous recording followed by extensive touring had taken its toll. According to one band member, they had been living in each other’s pockets for too long. A period of calm followed for the band and a selection of live, compilation and solo albums followed.

Then, after a five year hiatus the band reformed in 1978. Despite the musical climate at that time the resulting album ‘Octave’ received the warmest of receptions. It was as if the whole music world was just so pleased to see the return of The Moody Blues. Again, each of the band members contributed to the song writing. Sadly though, and due to personal reasons, this was to be Mike Pinder’s swansong album. ‘Octave’ was also Tony Clarke’s final involvement with the band. Maybe the album sleeve, where the band is pictured disappearing through a door, was prophetic.

Despite these setbacks the band readjusted accordingly and produced another decent, if not prolific, series of albums. These were particularly successful in Canada and America. In fact The Moody Blues were so popular over in the North Americas that, amongst the many tours, they performed at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre complete with a full orchestra.

The Moody Blues then had another hurdle to clear when founder member Ray Thomas retired from the band toward the end of 2002. Ray has great website full of archive photos. He also gives some heartfelt advice to those of a certain age.

Some years ago The Moody Blues released an album called ‘Sur La Mer’. Well even that has become a reality as the band, for the last few years, have organised a music cruise.

More recently Mike Pinder released a filmed interview that, amongst other things, gave an insight into the reasons as to why he left the band. He also gives a poignant recital of Graeme Edge’s ‘Late Lament’ poem.

And now another new dawn beckons by way of solo and intimate performances. As mentioned earlier, there will be plenty of activity in the region over the coming months. I, for one, have recently bought tickets for forthcoming concerts by both Justin Hayward and John Lodge who will be in and around the area during the next month or so.

It is testimony to the enduring quality of their music that The Moody Blues have achieved top 20 album releases over four consecutive decades beginning in the 1960s. Their output seems to transcend so many generations and does not feel that it sits in any particular era. And I am convinced that The Moody Blues will continue to give pleasure to generations to come.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pete Clemons on Pete Waterman's Show, BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire.

Pete Clemons recently went over to Pebble Mill, Birmingham to be interviewed for Pete Waterman's new programme 'Back to my Roots' on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire and West Midlands.

This is Pete's interview, talking about bands that played Coventry or local bands.

'Godiva Festival showcases Coventry's wonderful talent'

'Godiva Festival showcases Coventry's wonderful talent'

Pete Clemons on what was memorable to him at the 2016 three-day event

Godiva Festival 2016 at War Memorial Park

Godiva Festival means so many things to so many different people. It is so vast and varied that no one can take it all in.

Yet those who attended will have had a great experience and will have our own special memories of it all.

Pete Clemons, a regular Coventry Telegraph contributor, found the whole event inspiring.

So in no particular order, other than when they appeared, Pete has put together a brief snapshot of what was memorable to him on the first and third days, having been unable to attend on Saturday.

The Ellipsis: The opening act for the whole event on Friday evening. What a task to be given and how well they took it.

Luna Kiss: By the time Luna Kiss appeared on stage the ever growing crowd were soaking wet after a horrible downpour.

However this excellent performance proved to be very popular. At the heart of the set Luna Kiss showcased the title track from their recent EP ‘Gravity’. By the end of their performance the sun had returned and the audience had been well and truly warmed up sufficiently for the headline acts.

Luna Kiss

JLR Brass Band: What an enjoyable way to begin the proceedings for Sunday. In the vast expanse of the ‘This is Coventry’ tent I was pleasantly surprised as to how much I enjoyed hearing tunes by the likes of Queen and Jimmy Webb played in this fashion.

To fill the space between bands we were treated, in the middle of the giant tent, to some performance art. This involved some amazing high wire acrobatics. Initially I thought that the accompanying music had been pre-recorded. I was staggered to notice that the vocals at least were live.

The Moonbears: One of Coventry’s finest and a joy to listen to. They try to make the best pop music they can with what they have. I personally think they undersell themselves. The Moonbears are incredibly skilled at their craft and play complex arrangements with exciting rhythms. Their set included the very popular tune ‘Catnip’, which given the reaction of the audience, was very welcome.

Callum Pickard and the Third Look: Not only has this band grown in size, they are now a six piece, they have grown in reputation. And that reputation has, from all accounts, spread far and wide. And on this evidence it is easy to understand why.

Tunes included ‘Hoard the Pieces’, ‘Driving Through, Empty Skies’ and the wonderful ‘Lonely Boy and Girl’.

Emma McGann: Back to the main stage and despite having heard so much about her, this was my first introduction to Emma.

Her very energetic set really wowed the sun drenched crowd. And her equally effervescent backing band was also hugely impressive.

Cliff Hands and his Band: Coventry’s very own super group. These are not my words, but those of other people far more knowing than I am. What a great year it has been so far for Cliff, culminated by this gig on the main stage. The set began with the very powerful and guitar driven ‘Going Down’ continued with ‘Liberty Ward’ and the band concluded with a tribute to David Bowie by way of a unique version of ‘Heroes’. This was great touch indeed, greatly appreciated by the by now visibly growing main stage crowd. You really must check out his recent CD release ‘Two Inches Down to Dust’.

Joe O’Donnell’s Shkayla: Joe and his band are perennial visitors to the festival. This year we were treated to the full five piece band and, wow, did they put a shift in. The tunes are fast and furious and a lot of the song titles are in Gaelic which I will not even attempt to name. And it is such a joy to see Joe and guitarist Si Hayden exchanging licks. But the band always throws in a ballad. And they did just that with ‘O’Neill’s Lament’. A beautiful tune that is simply sublime. Surly Joe and the band are overdue a shot on the main stage.

Pete says: "The thing about all the bands and artists I have mentioned above is that, in the main, music is not their full time career.

"What makes it all the more remarkable to me is that music is a passion that they fulfil in their spare time.

"And the music they are creating is their own. It is what burns inside them. Most weekends they can be found playing the pubs and clubs in the region. So please continue to give them your invaluable support."

Pete continues: "Godiva Festival is without doubt the jewel in the council’s crown. It is a showcase for much of the city’s wonderful talent.

"And it is quite possibly the biggest stage they appear on. And this may even lead to greater things for them.

"With almost 15,000 people attending over the course of the weekend, long may it continue to grow."

Monday, July 4, 2016

Pete Clemons talking on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire 2015

Pete Clemons on the Radio 2015 talking about Coventry music.

Vince of Vince Martin and the Vampires on the Radio

The first broadcast from 2015 on BBC Radio Coventry and warwickshire. Vince talks about his memories of playing in Coventry's first Rock n Roll band and his role in Friars Promotions that put some many bands, artists and discos into Coventry's M & B pubs.

And Vince on the Pete Waterman Show 2016