Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dave Swarbrick - The Fiddler from Fairport

Peter Clemons zooms in on one of Coventry's most celebrated musicians - Dave Swarbrick who began with The Ian Campbell Folk Group, played in bands with ex members of Coventry's Dando Shaft but is best known for his work with Fairport Convention. Here's Pete's article from the Coventry Telegraph...

Spanish Ladies - Dave Swarbrick with Martin Carthy and Diz Disley

Ian Campbell Folk Group

Whippersnapper - Dave Swarbrick with Coventry's Martin Jenkins and Kevin Dempsey (Ex Dando Shaft) 1984, consisting of Dave Swarbrick (fiddlemandolinvocals), Chris Leslie (fiddle, mandolin, vocals), Kevin Dempsey (guitar, vocals) and Martin Jenkins (mando-cello, flute, vocals). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whippersnapper_(band)

Crazy Man Michael - Fairport Convention

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Trane - Coventry Band Named After John Coltrane.

Pete Clemons looks at the tragic history of a promising 60's Coventry band named after John Coltrane for his latest article in the Coventry Telegraph - The Trane...

Promising band's tragedy.
Pete Clemons 

THE year 1967 was in many ways a special one for the UK.

England was basking in the glory of the football World Cup win of the previous year, Radio 1 was launched at 7am on Saturday September 30 with The Move's 'Flowers in The Rain' being the first record played and the first transmissions of colour TV pictures were being broadcast. This remarkable year also saw The Beatles release their iconic Sgt Pepper's album, Pink Floyd released their debut LP and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were both jailed for possession of drugs. Locally, Coventry City was promoted to the old First Division (nowadays known as The Premier) and later that same year Jimmy Hill announced that he was standing down as manager.

What was happening nationally was being felt locally particularly by the youth at that time. It was a time of hope, inspiration and expression.

Many beat bands had sprung up in and around Coventry during the mid 1960s. But for one Kenilworth based band 1967 would have a tragic outcome with far reaching consequences and, for some, life would always be tinged with sadness.

The previous year, 1966, had seen the formation of 'The 'Trane' named after jazz saxophonist John Coltrane who, along with Miles Davis and others, was a pioneer of 'free jazz' that inspired many a musician back then and continues to do so today.

The 'Trane were John Green on lead guitar, Nigel Maltby rhythm guitar, Laurie French drums, Geoff Timms bass and John 'Ned' Foyle vocals. John, Nigel and 'Ned' had all been school friends at Kenilworth Grammar. Laurie had met John Green through John's brother while Geoff was a friend and near neighbour of Ned's.

After this coming together through their shared passion for music they practised hard as a unit and eventually felt confident enough to perform live. Stratford Rugby Club was the venue for their first gig and by spring 1967 they had secured their first paid gig at the nearby Chesford Grange Hotel as support to Coventry band 'From the Sun'.

However, just when things had been looking good for the band and everything was beginning to come together, tragedy struck. On August 10, 1967 both Ned and Geoff, aged 18 and 19 respectively, were killed after the Bedford van they had been travelling in crashed head on with a lorry. The pair had been on their way to Hampton in Arden for band discussions and the accident happened just outside of Balsall Common.

According to a police statement at that time: "For some reason the van veered to the offside of the road while travelling toward Stonebridge'. It collided head-on with the seven ton lorry which was un-laden'. This was a very bad accident on a bad stretch of road."

And had it not been for the fact that he had made an on the spur of the moment decision to take a holiday down in Cornwall then John Green may very well have been on that fateful trip.

The band decided to regroup and later the same year recruited the services of Bill Fielding on bass while John Green took over vocal duties.

During their short career The 'Trane played a total of 55 gigs at venues like The Cheylesmore Pub (who once advertised them as The Train), The Navigation, The Plough on London Road and The Hotel Leofric.

Their set, typically, included songs by The Yardbirds, The Troggs, The Kinks and The Small Faces along with the more bluesy music of Chuck Berry, Howlin Wolf and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers whose tune 'Lookin Back' contains John Green's favourite guitar solo.

The 'Trane even secured a support slot to The Jeff Beck Group who appeared in Rugby on December 30, 1967. Later that same evening The Jeff Beck Group who included Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart also appeared at The Matrix Hall in Coventry.

But after the accident things were never quite the same again. The original spirit of the band had been lost and in 1968, shortly after gigs at the Co-op Hall in Nuneaton and further gigs at The Cheylesmore, The 'Trane split up.

John Green, after a break from music, took up guitar again and performed with bands like Flat Stanley and Sugarcane. Nigel Maltby moved to the peace and tranquility of Cornwall while Laurie French trained to be a teacher. However the last few years have seen both Laurie and John strike up their musical partnership in The Skyline Band and both are now writing and recording their own song compositions in John's state of the art home recording studio.

John Green himself leaves us with these last wonderful words: "What we all thought at the time to be a passing fad was actually a bug whose bite would last a lifetime. There is a whole generation of us 60s muso's out there who still get a huge kick out of the music of that era and some of us are lucky enough to be still making and performing it."

Oh, and one last fact of an event that also happened during the year 1967 - the world lost John Coltrane.

The Trane

Nigel Maltby / Laurie French / Geoff Timms / John Green / Ned Foyle / Based in Kenilworth

John Green's music website


Here are some soundbites from this website about the Cov 60's band Trane and later developments, You can read the full story and hear a track on this site http://www.skylinesongs.com/music_journey.htm 

In a few months I’d mastered a few chords and was starting to understand my way around the fretboard. There wasn’t a wide choice of tutorial books then. In fact there were none as I recall, except ‘Play In A Day’ by Bert Weedon, a popular guitar instrumentalist of the 1950s. Bert is 85 now and has a web site here where it seems 'Play In A Day' is still going strong, with over 2 million sold! It helped me a little, but I wanted to learn how to play the hits of the day not old standards like "Whispering". But I found after a while I could listen to records and gradually figure out the chords being used, and then I discovered how the same chord patterns were used in lots of different songs. I either sold or swapped that first guitar and bought a new acoustic which was still only of 'entry level' quality. Necessity being the mother of invention I was going to sing folk music, which at the time was undergoing a big revival with the likes of Bob Dylan and Donovan. Anyway, I didn’t need an amp for folk music.

So in the Summer of 1966 we form a band with myself on lead guitar; Nigel Maltby, a school pal on rhythm guitar; Ned Foyle on vocals; Laurie French on drums and Geoff Timms on (home made) bass. We call ourselves "The ‘Trane" after John Coltrane the jazz saxophonist, emulating the Yardbirds who took their name from the sobriquet of another jazz saxophonist, Charlie Parker.

We practice hard, and place some ads: "Good beat group available for all kinds of bookings. Versatile and above all musical", and print some cards: "The Beat Group for All Occasions" and start gigging in November. Our first gig is a dance at Stratford On Avon Rugby Club and our Dads ferry us and our meagre equipment to and from the venue. At our very first outing we manage to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. My amplifier expires after the first couple of songs – we grossly underestimate the volume required at a real gig – and I have to plug in to Geoff’s Vox AC30, the sound of bass and lead guitars through the same small amp not sounding good. The spring on Laurie’s snare drum breaks so the snare sound fails but he manages to do a running repair with string. But by the end of the evening with the audience liquored up and determined to enjoy themselves, we finish triumphantly on the Beatles’ sing-along "Yellow Submarine" which we’d never played before and hadn’t a clue how the chords went.

Spring 1967 and we play our largest gig so far at the Chesford Grange Hotel where we’re the support act on a double bill. Our fee: a princely £12.50 for two one-hour sets, £2.50 each. We come a poor second to the other band "From The Sun" and Ned and I lose our voices from not having a loud enough PA. It was as they say, a learning experience. The lead guitarist of the main band kindly points out to me after the gig that I need to use thinner strings in place of the ‘steel hawser’ tape wound variety I was using. I didn’t know that it was the judicious bending of light gauge strings that was enabling Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck et al to get those sweet bluesy sounds I liked. Not only was there a paucity of guitar tutorial books, there was no such thing as guitar magazines so we all lived in our own bubble of knowledge and didn’t know how others got their sounds.

I’ve finished school now and some non-band friends ask me to join them on a short camping holiday in Cornwall. On the spur of the moment I decide to go. The band had been thinking of approaching a girl we knew who we’d thought might make a good lead singer in the band and whilst I'm away Ned and Geoff decide to drive over to see her and discuss it. Together they set off towards Hampton In Arden on 10th August 1967 and just outside Balsall Common crash head-on into a lorry and both are killed outright. Ned was 18 and Geoff 19.

If I hadn’t decided to go to Cornwall on a whim I would have been with Ned and Geoff. There but for fortune. The condition of the van may have been a factor. A month earlier Ned and Geoff had holidayed together in Wales and Geoff had sent me a prescient postcard saying “..van’s OK (touch wood)..”

We reform the band in the autumn, bringing in Bill Fielding from Coventry on bass, but things aren’t the same and the line-up folds a year later in mid-1968. There's a highlight in the last months however, when we play support to the Jeff Beck Group in Rugby on 30th December 1967. Jeff Beck is my favourite guitarist and I can't believe our luck.

It's 1973, I'm 25 and a qualified Chartered Accountant. I own a nice Les Paul Deluxe gold top and it’s the best guitar I’ve ever had, although one day I drop it and it suffers catastrophic damage of the headstock. But I send it off to Rosetti, the Gibson importers, and thanks to an insurance claim I get it back faultlessly repaired and re-sprayed in a beautiful sunburst. I then wish I'd kept the gold top finish.

The band, at first called "Flat Stanley" after a character in a children's book, and then "Sugarcane" plays on and off for the next thirteen years during which time we endure at least five different drummers, until Laurie returns from his Halifax exile in 1977; five bass players and three different second guitarists.

Bob Sharp plays bass with us for about two years before getting married and going to America. His successor is John Rushton who stays for four years or so before moving away from the area. In 1974 we recruit Ian Boycott to take on lead vocals and he also invests in a percussion setup comprising congas, bongos and timbales. Ian stays for a about eight years and also becomes a close friend. Unfortunately Tony Lloyd leaves after nearly two years to join another local band "Vehicle" that has a more attractive line-up for him that includes brass and keyboards, and we then have an unsettled few months with different guitarists and drummers, none of whom are right for us.

In October 1975 the above lineup records 'Pickup Queen' at Bird Sound Studios in Snitterfield, Warwickshire. Written by Ian and myself, we had only an evening to set up and record it, including some rushed overdubs. Dave plays some great drums, which on reflection should have been higher in the mix, and John's bass guitar lines are magnificent; driving the whole thing along nicely. Ian performs the lead vocal, but being a heavy smoker and asthmatic he runs out of breath a couple of times in the song! I wanted the guitar harmonies to sound like Thin Lizzy's but there wasn't time to get the right tones organised. Click on the button to have a listen:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rugby rag Blues festival 1969 with Pink Floyd Free and King Crimson

Pete Clemons, with his Rock-Blues pen, hits newsprint again with his latest article for the Coventry Telegraph. This time up he takes us back in time and over to Rugby for the 3 day Rugby Rag Blues Festival featuring Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Free and so many more rock, blues and folk artists.

The £2 ticket for 3-day festival featuring Free and Pink Floyd; Your memories By Pete Clemons.

YOU would be forgiven for thinking I had completely lost it if I told you that bands such as Free, The Pink Floyd, Taste, King Crimson and a whole host of others had once starred at a major music festival off Ashlawn Road, Rugby. But it is all true.

On the weekend of Friday 12th through to Sunday 14th September 1969 the Rainsbrook area of Rugby hosted a festival that can only be described, due to the constant rain, as a washout. And over time the event has largely been forgotten about. But in hindsight it had the potential to have been of epic proportions.

The weekend had been slap bang between two infamous events. The Rolling Stones Hyde Park concert held in July of that year and another Stones gig held during December at the Altamont speedway track in northern California.

I only mention The Rolling Stones because the event had been organised by the Rugby students RAG (Raising and Giving) charities appeal in conjunction with Sam Cutler, the band's then tour manager. Sam had also been instrumental with, and had played a major part in, the organisation of both of the above mentioned events. He had also been master of ceremonies at the Hyde Park gig.

The festival itself ran over three days and featured a different form of music on each day, a similar format used on the early National Jazz and Blues festivals. The Friday, headlined by Alexis Korner and also included The Groundhogs, was the blues day. Saturday was progressive rock day and included The Pink Floyd, The Nice, Free, Taste, King Crimson and The Edgar Broughton Band. Sunday saw folk rock bands like The Eclection and The Strawbs and also included Roy Harper and Coventry's own New Modern Idiot Grunt Band.

Cost of entry was 12 shillings and sixpence (65p) for day one, a pound for day two and 17 shillings and sixpence (87.5p) for day three. Alternatively, a weekend ticket was available for £2. Among the ticket outlets were Disci on the High Street in Rugby and Fennells on the Lower Precinct in Coventry.

However, to put the whole thing into a little perspective this was late 1969 and some of these bands were still in their infancy. The Nice were fairly well established having just released their third album during September. The Pink Floyd's then current release was 'Ummagumma' and I am guessing that their set list would have been similar to the live disc from that set. King Crimson had yet to release their eponymous debut album. In fact they had been playing live since April.

Rory Gallagher and his band Taste were certainly in demand. After their Rugby gig they played at Mothers Club in Erdington later that evening. And Free, although on the verge of releasing their second album, were still a year or so from releasing their magnificent 'Fire and Water' album which would get them onto 1970s Isle of Wight festival, perform in front of an estimated 600,000 people, and propel them to worldwide success.

Seemingly it cost the RAG committee £3,000 to stage the event and the target was to make a £4,000 profit for charities. At its height on the Saturday evening there were around 2,000 people in attendance but at its lowest on the Sunday afternoon there were fewer than 200. But in the end, after the sums were calculated the event had broken even.

The revellers were described as parading in frills and furs, buckskins and blankets. Some were even bare-footed. However, regardless of how they looked the weekend was totally trouble free. Even the local police described it all as humorous and good natured.

Coventry Telegraph reporter Alan Poole remembers the weekend well though. At the time he had been working for the Leamington Courier and a friend of his, who was at sister paper The Rugby Advertiser, played quite a big role in organising it.

Alan saw an awful lot of live music back then but, as they do, thoughts have tended to blur over the intervening years. However, his most abiding memory was seeing King Crimson's then bass player, Greg Lake, wearing a very eyecatching white suede coat with a white fur collar. He also recalls the dismal weather and the fact that it rained all weekend and the park being like a quagmire. No doubt because of the weather, the crowd was incredibly small bearing in mind how many great bands were there. But, says Alan, what a bill for two quid, eh? After Rugby's extravaganza, Sam Cutler's career went from strength to strength as he organised some of the largest rock and roll events in history. After the Rolling Stones had left him to sort out the aftermath of Altamont, Sam went on to tour manage The Grateful Dead and organised a number of their huge tours and festivals.

Plans to stage a second weekend event for the beginning of the festival season in May 1970 failed to materialise.