Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Si Hayden - Coventry Virtuoso Guitarist's Growing International Reputation

This time Pete Clemons looks at the growing international reputation of  a Coventry virtuoso guitarist - Si Hayden, who plays anything from Classical, flamenco, fret-less, Jazz and folk and of course is a member of Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla. All for his latest article for the Coventry Telegraph....

Another for One Si's Albums.
Pete Clemons 

DESCRIBED by Acoustic Guitar Magazine as a guitar virtuoso there cannot be many music lovers in the Coventry, and surrounding area, who have never heard or come across Si Hayden.

Si, of course, has written over 500 songs, appeared on over 60 albums, and released 28 albums during a career that now spans well over 15 years. He has also written music for film, TV and radio. He has even featured on an EP that also involved comedian Rik Mayall.

Talking to Si you soon realise that being able to play an instrument is one thing but, for him, creativity and bringing something new to that instrument is everything. His enthusiasm and love for what he does also quickly rises to the surface. And guitar is not his only weapon of choice. He is at home on most stringed instruments.

Si is also very versatile and can easily adapt to play guitar in a variety of styles ranging from Jazz to Spanish and anything inbetween.

Well, for Si and label mate Paul Whitehead, a remarkable chain of events happened during 2013 which will hopefully ensure that their creativity and music will receive greater exposure during 2014 and beyond.

Alejandro Clavijo, founder of Spanish website 'Reviews New Age', released a compilation album during 2012 titled 'Best of Reviews New Age: The Piano'. The album was a tremendous success worldwide. A dedicated website was created for it on facebook that has since attracted in excess of 20,000 followers. 'The Piano' has also received critical acclaim and received several awards in various 'best of 2012' categories.

Having listened to his work and with a follow-up album in mind, which this time would feature the guitar, Alejandro Clavijo contacted Si completely out of the blue. Alejandro was keen on Si's track 'Time Out'. So much so that he wanted it to open his second album.

The intention was that the album would, again, be a compilation and would contain 16 tracks by 16 of the best current exponents of their craft. These would include Will Akerman and Alex de Grassi who were already well known to Si as they are favourites of his.

Due to the fact that Alejandro was extremely keen to sign Si up for the project meant that Si knew that he had a position of leverage. He decided to push things a little and put forward, for consideration by Alejandro, an album titled 'Inversions' released by long time friend, Paul Whitehead, who also happens to be an amazing guitarist and composer.

During the early 1990s Paul Whitehead played original tunes around the Midlands folk clubs and, over time, has put together a collection of songs that covered a 20-year period. In 2008 Paul finally put these beautifully crafted tunes on to tape. The result was 'Inversions' a guitar instrumental album recorded solo and with no overdubs.

But despite being the accomplished player that he is, and is also a hard act to follow in a live environment, Paul would much prefer to record rather than gig. Recently, other commitments meant Paul had put music on the back burner. He was also completely unaware of what Si was setting up in the background.

It turned out that Alejandro and his team loved Paul's work and selected a track from 'Inversions' for the album. A deal was signed for the proposed album and, after Si's recommendation, the album was increased to a 17 track release by 17 different artists. The CD was produced in Spain and has been mastered in USA by Grammy Award winning engineer Corin Nelson as well as being manufactured in the States.

The final finished product, titled 'Best of Reviews New Age: The Guitar', was made available to buy on December 1, 2013 and within the first ten days of its release it had achieved incredible success by reaching the top 10 of both of the Spanish Amazon charts in each of the instrumental and new age genres it had been listed in. It peaked at number four and number seven, respectively, on each of those different charts.

The results of this album are quite compelling. As the title suggests, it primarily focus on the guitar, but it also comprises a mix of solo finger picked guitar as well as blends in ambient infused tracks. It does draw the listener into a quite pleasant and relaxed state of mind. Just the thing you need after a day's work.

The album's success has since been revealed to Paul. According to Si, "When I broke the news to Paul he didn't quite know what to say. He was blown away and has since retrieved his Martin acoustic guitar from the loft. I knew this would inspire him again."

The knock-on effect is also having an effect on the artist led Silvery Records label which releases and sells the music of both Si Hayden and Paul Whitehead. As listeners buy the compilation album it is only natural that they will begin to investigate the individual performers involved in it and delve deeper into their back catalogues. And Si has noticed increased activity on sales to the USA of both physical CDs and downloads.

Not one to rest on his laurels Si is already looking to the future. He is already planning that his 29th album release will be his version and interpretation of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'.

This will be uncharted territory for Si as this will be the first time he will have covered anybody else's music.

And for his 30th album Si's intention is to put together and release his own personal compilation CD. It will feature 30 different tunes taken from all his previous albums which will be released while he is still in his 30s. In fact Si's achievements, so far, are quite remarkable by any standards.

With two of them coming from Coventry, I think you will agree with me, that it is quite uplifting for our downtrodden city that an album consisting of guitarists, considered to be some of the most talented in the world today, chooses two of our own and, along with others from around the globe, come together on one CD release. 


Si Hayden - Timeout - Solo Guitar - (Original).

Si Hayden - Spanish Guitar Solo Beginning (Original) 

Visit Si Hayden's website for more http://www.sihayden.com/

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tangerine Dream - Coventry Cathedral 1975

Tangerine Dream played in Coventry Cathedral in 1975. Pete Clemons takes up the story for the Coventry Telegraph -

Dream-y Gig in the Cathedral
Pete Clemons 

FORMERD in Berlin, Germany during 1967 by keyboard player Edgar Froese, Tangerine Dream is an electronic music group. If you include studio, live and compilation releases their total output numbers in excess of 200 albums. This includes an incredible 60 plus film soundtracks. They do not gig so often nowadays but on the rare occasions that they do then they can still perform to sell-out audiences.

Tangerine Dream can only be described as a Marmite type band - you either love them or hate them. But there is little doubt that they were certainly an influence on the 1990s, early 2000s trance and dance music scene with its lush soundscapes and repetitive sequences. And I must admit that, when the mood is right, I really do enjoy listening to their atmospheric music. During 1974 Tangerine Dream embarked on a unique tour. It began when they had been invited to play both Munich and Rheims Cathedral. At the time these events were seen as groundbreaking. What was essentially a form of rock music was rarely associated with such buildings.

And because of the success of the 1974 gigs Tangerine Dream were then invited to perform in the cathedrals of York, Liverpool and Coventry as a part their next UK tour. The visit attracted unprecedented coverage in the media, especially as how the new Coventry Cathedral had been built from the ruins of the old cathedral which, of course, had been destroyed by the Germans in 1940. However, despite the controversy, the gig went ahead on October 4, 1975 and was seen as a celebration of peace and reconciliation.

Edgar Froese mentioned at the time that he was not sure how well the band would be received in Coventry because of the devastation caused to the city during World War II. He went on that he had left his hotel during the morning of the concert and went for a walk around town. He had passed a news stand and could clearly read a headline that said '35 years ago they came with bombs - today they're coming with synthesisers'.

It was a unique and unconventional occasion for many reasons. Throughout the performance the band never uttered a word. Amid banks of keyboards and flickering computerised devices the three musicians, Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Christophe Franke, performed several, apparently, improvised pieces. They neither introduced themselves nor announced the music and as such the three pieces played have always remained untitled.

The performance was incredibly atmospheric. The band at that time was well known for not using guitar or drums, instead, they used taped loops, layers and textures. The three pieces were approximately 32, 40 and 18 minutes long respectively and the sell-out audience seemed spellbound by the whole thing. The band was surrounded by several dozen candles and they used the backdrop of Graham Sutherland's amazing tapestry to great effect.

Although at that time I was young and impressionable I think that, as far as the Coventry Telegraph were concerned, they were less than convinced and saw it all very differently as their reporter at the time noted the following: 'An accurate description and an intelligent definition eluded them. The sound soaked quadrophonically into every pore from the speakers that surrounded the 1,800 listeners and wrenched the senses into pleasant and unpleasant responses. The ultimate chemical reaction they try so hard to achieve just didn't happen'.

On the night it had been unreserved seating at the Cathedral and from memory I was sat a few rows from the front and, looking towards the altar, on the right hand side. I had been aware of camera booms floating around overhead but did not realise until sometime later that the whole event had been filmed by Thames television and directed by Tony Palmer for later broadcast on the BBC.

On October 3, 1976, almost a year to the day after the original concert, Tony Palmer's 30-minute film of the event was broadcast on BBC2. It soon became apparent though that, although the visuals were clearly from the Cathedral, the accompanying music was from something totally different altogether.

It turned out that Tony Palmer had put together the film and then mixed the footage together with excerpts from Tangerine Dream's then latest album 'Ricochet'.

From what I understand it seems that, unfortunately, the original soundtrack was lost along with a lot of the footage of the concert. So sadly we only have a few snippets from the band's sound check to view which had happened earlier in the day. It is also highly unlikely that we will ever get to see the whole event ever again.

'Ricochet' had been the band's first live album and consisted of just two long tracks mixed from recordings of that 1975 European tour. It was long rumoured that it was actually taken from the Coventry gig. But in fact much of the material for the album, in particular side two of the album, was recorded at Fairfield Halls in Croydon during Tangerine Dream's concert there on October 23, 1975. I suspect that very little, if any, of the Coventry Cathedral gig was used on the album.

Palmer's movie has now been made available on DVD and as hardly any film of the band from that period exists then, for me personally, it is still of historical interest. The movie attempted to combine psychedelic effects alongside the Cathedral's impressive architecture. It also gives some great shots of the massive amount of gear that was required to create the band's sounds. Nowadays of course it can be done with a lot less kit.

Tangerine Dream went on to perform in Coventry and the Midlands several more times, most notably at the Coventry Theatre during 1976, but it was that first visit that has remained imprinted in my memory ever since. It was one of those gigs that I had looked forward to with a great deal of excitement, it lived up to those expectations, but then it was all over far too quickly.

The original footage of the 1975 Tangerine Dream gig at the Coventry Cathedral. This is NOT the 2007 DVD where BBC added some extras, but unfortunately also dubbed the Ricochet album over the video. This is an original VHS recording from TV as broadcast on BBC on 16/10/76, so the quality is not at all brilliant.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Flamingoes c 1963 - 66

The Flamingoes

c 1964-66 Pop/Beat group. 

Hard gigging pop/beat outfit.

2017 - NEW additions to this page from Pete Clemons below his original article for Coventry Telegraph

Possible recordings exist from August 1966. Winters was "...booked for 6 weeks of cabaret in Leeds.." in September 1969." 

A while back Murray McKenzie (AKA Murray Winters and Scott McKenzie) got in contact with Hobo. I passed the contact to Pete Clemons who interviewed him about his 60's band The Flamingoes and his subsequent career as a promoter. Very interesting and the result was published in The Coventry Telegraph recently. Rob Woodward of Lieutenant Pigeon was also in the Flamingoes.

Line upAlan Payne on lead guitar, Ollie Warner on bass guitar, Rob Woodward on keyboards, Bill Gates on drums and on lead vocals the above mentioned Murray Winters (Mackenzie)

For the Coventry Telegraph 2014

I WAS recently, pleasantly pleased, to be reminded by Murray Mackenzie about another popular beat band who existed within Coventry during the early 1960s and who played all the same local venues as The Sorrows, The Matadors and The Echo Four. And this band went by the name of The Flamingoes and Murray had once been a member of them.

The Flamingoes featured the following personnel - Alan Payne on lead guitar, Ollie Warner on bass guitar, Rob Woodward on keyboards, Bill Gates on drums and on lead vocals the above mentioned Murray Winters (Mackenzie). The band came together during mid-1963. Murray explained that he got the name Murray Winters because, before joining The Flamingoes, he had had a spell as the lead singer with The Vampires. At that time The Vampires also had a female singer called Helen Summers. So they took his first name of Murray and added Winters to it so the group was always advertised at that time as The Vampires with 'Murray Winters & Helen Summers.

Early dates for The Flamingoes would include venues such as the New Inn at Longford and The Navigation Pub on Stoney Stanton Road. And their set would include all of current chart hits from the bands of the day that included a lot of Tamla Motown material. Lead guitarist Alan Payne used to buy imports so the band were able to do few numbers from Motown acts that were not known at the time, but who would became household names a couple of years later, such as Otis Redding, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and Sam & Dave.

The Flamingoes would eventually get work through agent Reg Calvert who operated his rock 'n' roll school at nearby Clifton Hall Rugby. Reg would get the band playing gigs all over the country and also at his own local venue of the Co-op Hall in Nuneaton.

At the Co-op Hall The Flamingoes would be the main support act to bands such as Johnnie Kidd & the Pirates, Them, The Who, The Fortunes, The Brook Brothers, Brian Poole & The Tremeloes and Pinkertons Assorted Colours.

For that support slot the band would earn around PS18 per night. If, however, the band had to travel for example to Wisbech Town Hall where they supported Dave Berry and the Cruisers then their earnings would go up by an extra PS4 to PS22.

Murray Winters recalls a story of those travels : "We were appearing with Johnnie Kidd and the Pirates at Banbury Winter Gardens. He was a really great guy and we were doing quite a few gigs with him at that time and we all became really friendly. Girls were at the front of the stage screaming and shouting when Johnnie Kidd came on, and one girl grabbed the bottom of his feet, and one of his slip on shoes came off, to show a great big hole in his sock with his big toe sticking out. Looking on from the side of the stage, we were all in bits."

By the end of 1966 the band, who by now were known locally as The Pretty Flamingoes, were due to sign up for a record deal with producer Shel Talmy.

Shel, of course, had already produced hit records with bands like The Who. Just two days before the band were due to go down and record for Shel, they suffered a catastrophe.

Rob Woodward, who had been instrumental in getting the deal with Shel in the first place, had borrowed the group's van. During the night the van was stolen from outside his house. With it went all of the group's equipment which had been stored within it. Not being insured that was just about the end of the group. They tried to carry on, borrowing gear from here and there, but it only lasted another six months before they decided to call it a day.

After the split Rob Woodward would go on to put together, firstly Stavely Makepeace and then Lieutenant Pigeon along with Nigel Fletcher on drums, bass player Steve Johnson and Rob's mother Hilda on piano.

Murray Winters however, although remaining in the entertainments business, took a totally different route. Murray went on to form his own band called Murray Winters and the Late Nite Set. Between 1968 and 1970 they played a lot of local venues, and we used to pack the Old Ball Hotel on Ball Hill every Sunday lunch time when they appeared there. The lunchtime shows became so busy, with so many people being turned away, the band moved to The Walsgrave pub in order to accommodate everybody.

During 1970, and at the age of 25, Murray formed an agency business called Scott Mackenzie Associates. The business was named after his son, Robert Scott Mackenzie, who was born the same year as the hit single 'San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)'.

The experience gained working around the country with The Flamingoes stood in good stead as he had met various club owners who, when he got into conversation with them, would always ask if he knew of any other good bands or acts that he could suggest to them to appear at their venues.

From those beginnings Murray, now known as Scott, started fixing up bands and acts to appear at some of these venues and they would, in turn, pay him commission. As this was a more attractive proposition than working at the Chrysler, Scott gave up the day job and concentrated on his agency full time.

And as Scott Mackenzie Associates he also brought many American touring acts to Coventry in the 1970s which many people will remember such as Johnnie Ray, Neil Sedaka, Del Shannon (who Smackee backed worldwide for three years between 1975 and 1978), Bobby Vee, The Crickets and Bill Haley and the Comets to name but a few.

In fact for the Bill Haley gigs the support act was Shakin Stevens and Pete Waterman was compere for the shows. Pete did the shows for free as he just wanted to meet Bill Haley. Scott also brought The Sex Pistols to Coventry when they appeared as Mr George's Club as he was the sole booking agent of the venue for several years.

Today Scott lives in Somerset and still specialises in supplying top quality live acts for your events and functions. Not only that but for over 35 years Scott has been the agent for Barry Walker & Smackee for whom his son Rob Mackenzie plays guitar.

The following article is from the Coventry Evening Telegraph, sourced via the Broadgate Gnome site and Paul Connew, later of Daily Mirror, mistakenly referred to them as The Pretty Flamingoes in the article. However the band was called The Flamingoes.

Memories and Comments from Lead Guitarist Alan Payne.

"I was in a local band called "The Flamingoes" which included the best drummer / vocalist I've ever heard, a guy called Bill Gates, no not that one! Equally on a par with the likes of Roger Taylor, Keith Moon etc.We had a residency at the Walsgrave on Tuesday nights and every week there would be a local guest band too.

This one week the guest band was one called "Listen" which had a 16 year old Robert Plant and John Bonham which eventually lead to Led Zeppelin. They were both phenomenal even at that age!

There was another Coventry band called "The Beat Preachers" who had another great drummer (can't remember his name sadly).

If we both played a gig together people would come from miles just to hear an amazing double drum solo from Bill Gates and the other drummer, it was like listening to a duet by Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa - breathtaking!!

When the Flamingoes split I joined a Birmingham duo called: "Double Feature" who had voices like Stevie Winwood and we recorded the first ever version of "Handbags and Gladrags!! We used to do gigs with the likes of Roy Wood, The Moody Blues, Jeff Lynne etc. We were quite well known on the Bham scene at the time."



Bill Gates and the Flamingoes Part 1

I was amazed at how, fairly recently, a random post on Facebook that started with normal chatter developed into a rather touching story that had a cracking ending.

It began with Coventry born bass player, Ade Taylor, linking a Coventry Telegraph article to his wall. The article, which was about The Walsgrave pub, contained a picture of a Coventry band that Ade was a member of called Wandering John. And Ade’s accompanying comment was ‘The Coventry scene back in the day. Me top left, far left’.

Additional comments to Ade’s original post widened the conversation around the local music scene during the 1960s and 1970s.

Then one of Ade’s FB friends - another Coventry born musician, Alan Payne, responded with this comment ‘Talking about the Walsgrave, that was a pub near me, I lived in Wyken. I was in a local band called "The Flamingoes" which included the best drummer/vocalist I've ever heard, a guy called Bill Gates, no not that one! Equally on a par with the likes of Roger Taylor, Keith Moon etc. We had a residency at the Walsgrave on Tuesday nights and every week there would be a local guest band too. This one week the guest band was one called "Listen" which had a 16 year old Robert Plant and John Bonham which eventually lead to Led Zeppelin. They were both phenomenal even at that age!’

The conversation continued……………..

Ade Taylor: ‘Great story Alan, from great times. I bet your band weren’t half bad either!’

Alan Payne: ‘They were mate, we used to do gigs with the likes of Roy Wood, The Moody Blues, Jeff Lynne etc. We were quite well known on the Birmingham scene at the time. It was those days that made me the musician I am now’.

Then I joined in the conversation by posting a different article up which was more specific to The Flamingoes.

Alan Payne: ‘Thanks Pete, I'm amazed!. Even more so cos that's the only photo now have of my dad!’

Even Roger Lomas joined in the chatter: ‘Good ol’ Arthur’

To which Alan Payne replied: ‘I’m stunned you even remember my Dad, he sure was one of the world’s larger than life figures and oh that laugh!!’

Roger Lomas: ‘Remember him well Alan’

Alan Payne: ‘Oh I do Roger, EVERYDAY, it’s good to know he’s not forgotten

Alan Payne: ‘And a great thank you to you Ade, had you not done your posting about The Walsgrave pub I would never found the picture of my dad and the info on Google about my band!’

What a fantastic conversation to read and to have gotten involved with. And it didn’t end there………..

Part 2 – Bill Gates

After I wrote my article about The Flamingoes, I remember I had a lovely chat with a lady called Gill who had been the partner of Flamingoes drummer Bill Gates, who Alan had praised so highly in the earlier conversation. Gill had read the article and added more meat to the bone about the band and Bill Gate’s musical activities.

I clearly remember Gill mentioning the fact that Bill had had a brush with The Beatles. And that meeting could have changed the whole Beatles history. But it was that huge a comment that I admit to brushing it under the carpet. It was not that I didn’t believe Gill, it was more a case she had embellished the story.

But while chatting to Alan Payne off line, he mentioned the very same story at which I immediately felt remorse towards Gill for ever doubting her. Not only that, but Alan revealed some more startling facts. I have penned a brief resume of our chat below………………

Alan: ‘Did you know that Bill met Gill while in Spain?. She was doing film extra work there and did the horse riding scenes for Sophia Loren in El Cid. She had beautiful dark hair like Sophia’

Alan: ‘The strange thing was that many years later I had dinner with Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti at Thames Television Studios in Teddington where I worked and Sophia remembered all about it’.

Me: I mentioned to Alan that I never realised any of that but what I did remember was that Gill clearly missed her Bill who had passed away during 1993.

Alan: ‘I do too!. Nearly everything I know about music and life itself came from him. Like my Dad he was a larger than life character and extremely talented. Whilst doing his national service in Germany he played drums a few times with The Beatles. Apparently Paul McCartney wanted him for the band because of his great vocals but he couldn’t get out of his national service. He had some acetates of their time together in Germany. Can’t imagine what they’d be worth if they had survived. Also, Bill’s mother was my music teacher at King Henry VIII school. Bill should have been a huge star!’

It was at this point I admitted to Alan that Gill had mentioned the Beatles connection and that I had just nodded my head, not taking it too seriously.

Alan signed off with the following throw away comment. ‘You might also like to know that not long after moving to London in 1980 I became close friends with Freddie Mercury till his death’.

To complete the story, here are some final pieces of information, from notes I made at the time I was talking to Gill……….

When The Flamingoes infamously had their van was stolen towards the end of 1966, amongst other items, Bill lost his drum kit. It was a Slingerland and was only one of seven in the country at that time. He replaced it with a Ludwig kit.

Bill would practise his drumming every day, to records by gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

Bill’s brush with The Beatles came, as mentioned, when he was stationed in Germany. The Beatles, at that time, were playing in Hamburg while Bill was stationed in Monchengladbach with The Royal Signals.

Pete Best was The Beatles drummer between August 1960 and August 1962. And it seems that Bill stepped in for Pete Best, in Germany, on more than one occasion. Of course it has been well documented how Pete was eventually replaced by Ringo Starr.

But it now appears that the course of Beatles history could have taken a completely different path had the rest of the band been agreeable and Bill Gates had been able to join them. Makes you wonder doesn’t it.

Alan Payne with Freddie Mercury - they were close friends