Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Remembering when Birmingham's best would travel to perform in Coventry

Remembering when Birmingham's best would travel to perform in Coventry

Pete Clemons remembers when Brummie bands of the 1960s would make the short trip down the A45

The Locarno Ballroom before it became Coventry Central Library

With the eventual breakup of Denny Laine and the Diplomats, the Vikings had now been joined by Bev Bevan.

And this version of Carl Wayne and the Vikings would visit Coventry many times performing at The Matrix, The Cheylesmore Pub and The Locarno.

Roy Wood left Gerry Levene’s Avengers and by late 1964 had joined Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders. And the 1964 / 65 period saw the Nightriders play venues such as the Walsgrave and the Sportsman’s Arms on the A45.

After both Mike Sheridan and Roy Wood had left the band The Nightriders then enlisted the talents of guitarist and future ELO leader Jeff Lynne. This would have been during 1966. And this version of The Nightriders played The Walsgrave, The Sportsman’s Arms and the Parkstone Club.

Going back in time briefly and Jeff Lynne had previously been with another Birmingham band, The Chads, early on in 1965. The Chads had an agent who was non-other than Coventry’s own Vince Martin. The Chads, at this time, played the Heath Hotel on the Foleshill Road.

Another Jeff Lynne connection is fully covered in John Davies excellent book that pulls together his memories as bass player of Coventry’s own The Mad Classix. Guitarist Ron Smith left the band during February 1966 and

Jeff Lynne attended a few rehearsals with a view to being his replacement. However the Classix came to an abrupt end after a gig on St Patricks Night 1966 when their van was broken into and all the gear stolen.

During 1966 and the music scene was changing rapidly. It was moving away from beat and was fast becoming more influenced by the rock and the more progressive style of music. This led to another crop of Birmingham bands including The Ugly’s, who were led by Steve Gibbons and The Way of Life who at one time boasted future Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham in their ranks, were also beginning to gig in and around the city.

The Nightriders had now become The Idle Race but the band was still playing dates at The Cheylesmore and The Walsgrave.

The Moody Blues.

The classic line up of The Moody Blues played the Leofric jazz club in 1967. The Move played the Locarno during 1968. I could mention the Spencer Davis Group and Spooky Tooth doing similar. But are these bands strictly classed as fully fledged ‘Brummie bands’?

And this trend continued through until the end of the 1960s. Even Bobby Davies, who by now was touring the as Jasper Carrott would find his way to the City Arms folk club in Earlsdon and the Biggin Hall pub on the Binley Road.

The above is not a definitive list. It is merely an indication of who I know played here. A notable exception that sprang to mind was The Rocking Berries. They were another prominent ‘Brummie’ band back in the 1960s but they did not seem to visit Coventry in their own right. Maybe it was because they had a few hit singles early on and became nationally known fairly quickly. They did however appear at Coventry Theatre on a package tour with Roy Orbison. And I am sure there were other notables who I have missed or simply did not realise.

The history of Birmingham legends ELO and their connections to Coventry

The history of Birmingham legends ELO and their connections to Coventry

In his 125th article for Coventry Telegraph, Pete Clemons discusses the Brummie icons


Roy Wood

In terms of gig going this year I have seen both Jeff Lynne and Trevor Burton. One of these great musicians you may have heard of the other you may not be quite so familiar with. But you will almost certainly have heard music that each of them has contributed to.

During the 1960s and 1970s Birmingham was awash with some great bands and some incredibly inventive musicians. And the music they produced has, over time, been heard in all corners of the globe. The motivation for some of these musicians, apparently, was an alternative lifestyle to that in the steel foundry or car factory.

The linkage between the two names above is a little tenuous but not just the fact that both were from the second city. For those who remember that fine rock band, The Move, then you may have already realised the connection.

The Move had formed in 1965 and scored a succession of hit singles including ‘Fire Brigade’ and ‘Flowers in the Rain’. The band initially comprised of Carl Wayne on vocals, Ace Kefford on bass, guitarists Trevor Burton and Roy Wood and Bev Bevan on drums.

All the band members had been with 60s beat bands and, with only twenty miles of the A45 separating us, there are loads of Coventry connections. Carl Wayne’s band The Vikings, for example, had been regular visitors to The Sportsman’s Arms and other pubs within the city.

Jeff Lynne who, at the time was with The Idle Race, received an offer to replace Trevor Burton in the Move during February 1969. He declined in the hope that The Idle Race would get the success they so richly deserved.

Story Link Flashback: Remembering Coventry band Jigsaw

A year or so later, however, Jeff Lynne did eventually join The Move. He was possibly enticed by the grand ideas of Roy Wood the bands charismatic multi-instrumentalist. These ideas involved introducing more orchestration into the music and these plans would eventually come into fruition by way of the Electric Light Orchestra or ELO as they later became more commonly known as. Both Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood were very keen on experimentation and production. And with Bev Bevan also making the move the ELO were born.

The Move and ELO actually overlapped each other for a period. ELO released their incredibly ambitious first album on the legendary Harvest Records label at the back end of 1971. The album contained the successful single ‘10538 Overture’. The Move released their final three track single during mid-1972 by way of the wonderful ‘California Man’.

However during the recording of the bands second album Roy Wood, with regret, left ELO later citing management issues. But you can’t keep a great songwriter down for long and Roy was soon back. This time with a rock ‘n’ roll band called ‘Wizzard’. In fact Roy Wood’s Wizzard soon found themselves at the forefront of the glam rock years.

Both ELO and Wizzard would appear at the National Jazz Blues and Rock Festival held at Reading during August 1972. ELO performed on the Saturday and Wizzard on Sunday. Toward the end of 1972 ELO played at the Lanchester Polytechnic (Coventry University). Around the same time Wizzard also played the Lanch with Coventry band Asgard as support.

After Roy Wood’s departure Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan had set about re-building ELO by enlisting an assortment of rock and classical musicians. By the time of the release of their second album the band had expanded to an eight piece that included multi-instrumentalist Richard Tandy who had also had an input to the first album.

Richard had been at school with Bev Bevan and was well known on the Birmingham circuit having been involved with various bands as well as appearing on The Move’s hit ‘Blackberry Way’. Richard has been an integral part of ELO ever since.

The album ELO2 was released during January 1972. This produced another hit single. A classical reworking of Chuck Berry’s ‘Roll over Beethoven’. Despite a succession of hit singles though ELO could still had not made an impact on the UK albums chart, although they were beginning to create waves in America. This all changed, however, during 1976 when the band went platinum with the release of the album ‘A New World Record’. From then on they could do no wrong. By the end of the 1970s ELO were one of the biggest selling bands in the UK.

As with all these massive bands, the creativity of the individuals involved took on different directions. Bev Bevan had a spell with Black Sabbath, then after ELO officially disbanded in 1986, Jeff Lynne would become a founding member of late 1980s super group The Traveling Wilburys. Bev Bevan would briefly revive the ELO name during the late 80s early 90s when he put together ELO part 2.

The 1990s saw Jeff Lynne in demand as a producer. He has never hid the fact that The Beatles were a huge influence so it must have been a massive high for him when he became involved with hugely successful Anthology collection. The then ‘new’ Beatles songs titled ‘Free as a Bird’ and ‘Real Love’ were produced by Jeff Lynne from mono demo tapes.
Gareth Malone and his Voices choir accompany Jeff Lynne for Mr Blue Sky at the Children In Need Rocks concert.

The majority of the various strands of The Move and other ‘Brummie’ bands have always remained close to their Birmingham roots. As such the Trevor Burton Band, for example, can be regularly found playing pubs such as The Broomfield Tavern. Of course you will need to check his website for gig dates. Similarly Roy Wood puts on his hugely popular gigs around Christmas time.

Up until recently you could hear Bev Bevan on his really enjoyable Sunday afternoon radio programme on BBC WM. And Bev recently toured with longtime friend Jasper Carrott and several other ‘Brummie’ musicians, including Trevor Burton, who put together a show that was a mixture of music and comedy.

And now, under the name of Jeff Lynne’s ELO a new album of original music is available. ‘Alone in the Universe’, was released last September to good reviews and, with it, came a supporting tour that was effectively a career spanning spectacular. The tour visited Birmingham and quite memorable it was too.


Note - Jeff Lynn also joined Coventry band The Mad Classix for a short while before joining The Nightriders who became Idle Race. he repleaced Ron Smith (lead guitar) in the Mad Classix. 

And from Hobo Coventry's Music and Arts Magazine February 1974

Flashback: Remembering Coventry band Jigsaw

Flashback: Remembering Coventry band Jigsaw

Pete Clemons on the sixties and seventies Coventry and Rugby musical outfit



If the success of a band is measured by its pure persistence and longevity then Jigsaw would actually have been up there with the very best of them, writes Pete Clemons.

Jigsaw, formed in 1966, were a group from whose band members came from both Coventry and Rugby. Essentially they were born out of the ashes of another Rugby group The Mighty Avengers but also included members of The Antarctic’s, The Beat Preachers and others. They were active continuously for almost the next twenty years.

Formed by guitar player Tony Campbell the band started life as a six piece and, later on in the bands life - and through the formidable song writing team of organist Clive Scott and drummer Des Dyer - Jigsaw scored a succession of worldwide hits.

Their discography runs to many singles and albums.

In addition to Campbell the original line up was Scott on keyboards and vocals, Barry Bernard on bass, Tony Britnell on saxophone, Kevin Mahon also on sax and Dave Beech on drums. Des Dyer joined a year or so after the initial formation of the band and, in addition to taking over on drums, he also took on the role as lead vocalist.

Soon after forming, Jigsaw without doubt became one of the hardest gigging bands in the region. They quickly secured regular slots at venues The Walsgrave, The Cheylesmore, The Baginton Oak and The Parkstone Club.

During this period it would be fair to say that Jigsaw were more in keeping with the other ‘underground’ bands of the day. They released their first single during 1968 and their music was blues based and incredibly ambitious. This was reflected in their debut concept album ‘Letherslade Farm’, released on the Philips label in 1970.

This incredibly rare album, named after the hide out used by the great train robber’s bears no resemblance at all to the music that they would later become renowned for. Essentially it is a satirical view of the music industry, at that time, and is one continuous story which tells the tale of a broken down pop singer. Arguably ahead of its time ‘Letherslade Farm’ did have its moments though in the form of ‘Diesel Blues’ and a version of  Bach’s ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’. Sadly none of the bands early releases charted.

Undeterred, the hard work and the regular round of local gigs continued for Jigsaw and during the very early 1970’s the band was given an opportunity to turn professional.

The security of day jobs needed to be considered so it must have been a huge decision for the band members to have to make.

It was at this point that Kevin Mahon decided to leave the band. However, the rest of them went for it and the band’s first major engagement was a European tour supporting soul legend Arthur Conley.

Jigsaw had, by now, gained a tremendous reputation for their stage presence. Wild and exciting was probably a more apt description. Explosions, fire eating, drum kit demolitions were quite common place. I can still clearly remember seeing them once damage a concert room. To be fair the hole left in the ceiling was totally unintentional – the band member leaping from the top of the organ was clearly unaware of the venue’s low headroom.

The next step change for Jigsaw came when sax player Tony Britnell left the band. He would however return to the music scene when he became a member of Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets.

During the early to mid 1970s the whole music scene was splintering in all directions and, like other bands, Jigsaw took on a whole new direction. Clive Scott and Des Dyer began writing and recording more mainstream music with the intention of appealing to a wider audience.

But a change of fortunes for Jigsaw was just around the corner. The success of Scott and Dyer as song writers was almost instant as their song ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ was a top 20 hit for Opportunity Knocks winners Candlewick Green in 1974.

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Although not released as a single Jigsaw’s own version of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ can be found on the 1974 album ‘I’ve Seen The Film, I’ve Read The Book’. Further singles were released at this time but without chart success. This meant them being dropped by their then recording label, BASF.

Then in November 1975 another Scott and Dyer composition, ‘Sky High’, became a huge worldwide smash for Jigsaw. The song became instantly recognisable. The single, their first for the Splash label, peaked at No.9 in the UK and No.3 in the U.S. It was also a huge hit, selling incredibly well, in Japan. An album of the same name also sold strongly.

1976 saw the band hit the U.S. top 30 again with “Love Fire” and then again in 1977 with “If I Have to Go Away” which charted in the UK as well. But it was in America where Jigsaw, arguably, gained most of their chart successes.

1978 saw bass player Barry Bernard leave the band. Various replacements came and went but by the early 1980s Jigsaw had split for good and ceased to be a live unit. It was not quite the end of the music though as, through the advent of the compact disc, the inevitable greatest hits albums and compilations followed.

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Post Jigsaw both Clive Scott and Des Dyer continued their song writing. They worked with artists such as Boyzone and Bad Boys Inc.. During 1983 and again in 1985 Scott and Dyer made attempts at representing the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest by entering the ‘A Song For Europe’ competitions. Their 1983 song ‘With Love’ performed by Casablanca finished a creditable third while their 1985 effort ‘Energy’, this time performed by Des himself, finished fourth out of the eight songs considered.

Clive Scott then moved into the world of production, and along with Ray Hedges, oversaw several recordings that The Nolan’s had produced for the Japanese market. The Nineties saw him team up with the Northern Soul DJ turned producer Ian Levine and worked with Blue, Billie Piper, Gloria Gaynor and the Italian artist Lorenz. Sadly Clive passed away aged just 64 during May 2009.

Whether you prefer their progressive rock style of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s or the lighter, more mainstream, pop of the mid 1970’s then Jigsaw’s considerable and varied legacy is well worth searching out.

From the Tic Toc to the Kasbah: A history of the Coventry nightclub

From the Tic Toc to the Kasbah: A history of the Coventry nightclub

Pete Clemons on the historic venue in Primrose Hill Street


Pauline Black performing at The Tic Toc Club in Coventry in July 1981

The venue that we currently know and love as The Kasbah is more than 100 years old and is one of the oldest and most enduring entertainment rooms in the city.

Situated at 51 Primrose Hill Street this incredibly proud looking building first opened as the Globe Picture Theatre in 1914. Quite incredible when you think about it now but at the time it was one of four cinemas in Hillfields alone. Movies were shown within it for more than 40 years until it closed in 1956. The venue was then re opened in 1957 as the Majestic Ballroom.

The Majestic, in the main, had resident big bands such as the Wylie Price Orchestra augmented with singer Jean Hudson. Friday’s and Saturday’s were advertised as evenings of modern dance. Although during the afternoons you could attend rock ‘n’ roll dances and learn to jive to band and disc. These sessions continued until July 1961.

The venue was then taken over by the Mecca organisation that spent the rest of the year rebuilding and redecorating. During early 1962 announcements began to appear that bookings were now being taken at the renovated building with its luxurious decor and modern amenities. March of that year the venue opened as The Orchid Ballroom.

Initially the venue held beat, gala nights and bingo but The Orchid quickly became the premier venue for Irish entertainment. The show bands had now arrived and they were led by the likes of Johnny Flynn, Hank Locklin, Maurice Lynch and Jack Ruane.

Early 1963 and the Orchid Ballroom had now come under the control of entertainer and entrepreneur Larry Page. Larry had actually been a pop star in his own right having toured with Cliff Richard and the Shadows and became known as the ‘teenage rage’.

Page retired from performing at the end of the 1950’s and joined Mecca as a consultant manager.
The Kasbah in Primrose Hill Street, Coventry

During his stay in Coventry he hosted many Sunday night talent contests and had even managed to get record deals for local artists Johnny B Great and the Goodmen, Shel Naylor and The Avengers.

He even discovered and created an all girl group, The Orchids, who legend has it, were named after the venue. The Orchids, along with the bands named above all signed to Decca records and all had several minor hits on that label, although The Avengers had, by then, become The Mighty Avengers when their singles were released.

His time in Coventry was relatively short. The Orchid ballroom had, by now, become a magnet for some of the most influential record producers and music publishers of the early sixties. Both Phil Solomon of Decca records and Edward Kassner of President records were both serious players in the music industry back then and their remit was to entice Larry back to London.

Of course they succeeded but the legacy he left us with was long lasting and continues to impress today. After he left Coventry during 1964 Larry then went on to manage The Troggs and The Kinks and, of course, set up his own Page One record label and later The Penny Farthing label.

From the mid sixties the emphasis switched from beat to ‘pop’ music but throughout all this change the Irish 32 club continued through till the end of the 1960’s when, as a music venue, the Orchid Ballroom closed its doors.

After that the venue became a bingo hall. And then some years later the venue closed for good and lay dormant.

That was until during the very late 1980’s when Jon Gaunt began to breathe new life into the building.

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Jon had founded a co-operative theatre company called Tic Toc. The theatre company, along with its other spin off’s had performed at other venues within the city such as the Coventry University and at Hertford Place but now wanted its own permanent home.

The company received funding from West Midlands Arts and the Arts Council of Britain. With this money they bought and renovated the disused and now derelict hall. It reopened in 1990 as The Tic Toc Club.

The Colosseum nightclub in Primrose Hill Street, Coventry, pictured in 2007

Looking back the Tic Toc Club had an illustrious history yet albeit short lived history. The Britpop scene was then in its infancy and the club captured the magic of those early days by playing host to Blur and the Ocean Colour Scene.

The Tic Toc also embraced the buildings earlier history by naming its two rooms the orchid suite and the majestic ballroom.

The Tic Toc club even teamed up with the Coventry Telegraph music column ‘Street Talk’ to bring some valuable exposure to the local scene at the time with performances by Splash With Sonya, The Giraffes, The Bonediggers and many others.

For a brief while in 1993 the venue became known as Antics and played host to future internationally important bands like Porcupine Tree and Ultramarine but by early 1994 it was all over.

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But it did not remain closed for too long as it soon re-opened as The Colosseum. The Colly, as it was fondly known as, opened in 1995 and initially concentrated on the dance scene holding regular themed nights such as Fundamental and the Groovy Garden which began at the Dog and Trumpet in the early 1980’s and still continued at The Kasbah till fairly recently.

However by the turn of the century it had established itself as an incredibly important live venue for local bands and also attracted future household names like The Libertines, The Arctic Monkeys and Keane as its fame widened.

During late 2007 and after around 12 years The Colosseum was refurbished and re-launched as its current incarnation The Kasbah. The Kasbah is very popular with Coventry’s strong student base and holds a weekly mix of club nights along with the regular live bands.

As a live venue the Kasbah has built on the successful foundations of the Colly and is also well established on the national touring map. Recent highlights include Cage the Elephant, La Roux and Noah and the Whale.

Upcoming gigs include The Cribs, and Gabrielle Aplin.

100 years of history is an astounding feat for any building nowadays. Let’s hope, after this future landmark birthday, that it continues to grow for years to come.