Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Caludon Castle School's music heritage stretches far and wide Part 1 and 2

And another article for the Coventry Telegraph by Pete Clemons - 

Caludon Castle School's music heritage stretches far and wide

By Pete Clemons, on the talents who have walked through the doors at the school.

(Blog editor's note - I have embued the original articles with material and links from the Hobo sites in this version.)

Pete Waterman is auctioning some of his model trains worth more than £1 million pounds

Walking to Caludon Castle School you take a path off Axholme Road which is on the left if approaching from the Belgrave Road end - several other entrances to the school did exist though.

Follow this path down its slope and in front of you, you are met by a bridge created within a long multi-storey single structure building.

The head masters office and other facility rooms are on the left hand side of the building, the school assembly hall to the right. The ‘bridge’ which spans between the single structures is the library.

As you pass under a bridge the space seems to open out into a huge paved area that fans out and slopes down to five large multi storey buildings.

Each of these buildings was known as a block and was sub divided into class rooms, common room etc. Each block contained two ‘houses’. You spent three years in one ‘house’ then two years in another ‘house’.

Beyond the blocks, the tennis courts and the indoor swimming pool the River Sowe meanders through the school playing fields. It was traversed by several bridges which led to even more playing fields.

Well at least, those are my memories of the school I attended. However I left more than 40 years ago. I understand that, during the intervening period, it has been demolished and rebuilt into a more modern facility. Nowadays, as I understand it, it is a mixed academy. During my time there it had been an ‘all boys’ school.

As I remember, sport was a big thing within the school. You were encouraged to take part in a variety of sports. Rugby, football, hockey and other activities were on offer.

Corporal punishment such as detention and the cane was also on the curriculum if you stepped out of line.

When I attended Caludon much was made of the sports stars who had graduated from there. And rightly so. Both Bobby and Trevor Gould signed up for Coventry City Football Club. Bobby, in fact, would go on to be transferred to Arsenal for £90,000.

Back in 1968 this was a huge sum of money. Since I left Olympians like Rachel Smith, Marlon Devonish and the highly rated Coventry City football player James Maddison, have also passed through the ranks at Caludon Castle. Even author and Singers FC historian Lionel Bird attended the school.

But what about those who left Caludon Castle School and who were drawn towards the arts? In particular, within music. Here, I have attempted to gather together some of the names of those who attended the school and took that path.

So in no particular order:

Pete Waterman OBE . I am sure that the guy needs no introduction. However Pete has had an illustrious past that includes being a record collector, producer , songwriter , radio and club DJ and television presenter . He also managed The Specials for a brief period. While a member of the Stock Aitken Waterman songwriting team he wrote and produced many hit singles for the likes of Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley.

Paul King at the King exhibition at Coventry Music Museum

Paul King . Joined Coventry band The Reluctant Stereotypes. Went on to form Raw Screens and then in 1983 re-launched the group as the highly successful ‘King’. After the demise of  King, Paul then moved into television, where he presented MTV.

Tony Wall. Tony took a similar musical path, in the early days, as classmate Paul King. Tony became bass player for The Reluctant Stereotypes / King and others.

Al Docker . Al’s first band was as far back as 1970 joining rock band Tsar as drummer. In 1971 he formed Love Zeus who played the Belgrade Theatre and other venues. Al also played in a short lived band called Zoastra alongside another notable Coventry musician Kevin Harrison. Al Docker was involved also with the Coventry Arts Umbrella Band nights, a songwriter and went on to play keyboards with a reggae band he formed in Cornwall - The IS. Check their music out on Reverbnation - Al was also a main songwriter with the band.

Al Docker in the late 60's as a young man.

Al Docker in the 1990's playing keyboards with The IS (a reggae band he formed when he moved to Cornwall).

(Note additional to the article) - In 1972 Al Docker, who sadly passed away in the late 1990's, wrote one of his lyrics - Castle Stones - in Trev Teasdel's Communication Book (a communal book for writing and art work). In 2013, Trev sent the lyric to Al's younger brother John Docker, who wrote his own music to it and recorded it with his band Lies - Here

John Docker . John is the younger brother of Al Docker. Continues to serve with Coventry band Lies (a link to their music on Soundcloud ) where he plays bass guitar. Lies were formed back in 1991 and classify themselves as an alternative rock band. An album by Lies titled History can be found. John is also a stalwart in the Coventry music scene regularly updating people of events and other such information via various media sites. He has also been a sound engineer and a promoter predominantly during the 1990s. John was also in a band called Dubotion and put on bands at the Golden Cross in the 1990's.
John Docker


John Docker's Band nights at the Golden Cross.

Rod Felton. (The Link is to a page about Rod Felton, with some of his tracks and other material) Fondly remembered by anyone who knew him, Rod will always be associated for his work on the local folk circuit. Whether it is playing or hosting gigs. Rod was also a member of  The New Modern Idiot Grunt Band alongside Rob Armstrong. At the turn of the century he teamed up with Dave Bennett and performed under the name Im ‘n’ Im.

Folk group Black Parrot Seaside

Geoff Veasey / Arnold Chave / Mick Harris / Graham Caldicot. All served with rock band Black Parrot Seaside during the 1970’s although by 1978 the band had drifted into folk music. BPS released a couple of albums and a single. One of their tunes ‘I am a Vacuum cleaner’ was even played on a John Peel late night show. Geoff Veasey currently runs Nuneaton Folk Club.

Nigel Ward. Took the folk music route and was a member of  The Oddsods along with Pete Willow and others. Now a member of  Sly Old Dogs who are essentially The Oddsods under a different name.

John Gravenor / Al Walder . John (vocals) and Al, later replaced by Jim Pryal (drums), met up with John Alderson and Ade Taylor lead guitar and bass respectively during the late 1960’s and formed the well-respected blues band Wandering John. Even today, when I read or hear a conversation about the Lady Godiva bar (the dive), the comment ‘who remembers that guy with the huge shock of red hair who used to frequent the place’ always seems to pop up. Listen to their 2010 reunion gig at the Sphinx in Coventry, over several youtube videos. Excellent footage - Part One here

From The Broadgate Gnome 1970

Roy Wall. Roy is the elder brother of King’s bass player Tony Wall. He was a cool saxophonist and appeared in bands such as Team 23 who toured with The Specials during 1980. Team 23 had a single released on Race Records.
Team 23

Peter Thompson. Drummer for Homicide whose track, Armageddon, is featured on Sent From Coventry LP. Also, the Homicide track ‘This is Then’ can be easily found on youtube.

Brendan Paul Thompson. Brother to Homicide drummer Peter, Brendan, in his spare time, is a very popular Elvis Presley tribute act appearing at many venues around the city.

Byron Curry. A lifelong Rockabilly fan and stand up drummer with the Eager Beavers who he was a member of for 20 years. Sadly Byron passed away during 2012 but is fondly remembered by all who knew and heard him.

Loz Netto. (Link to Loz's full website). Loz was in bands with Al Docker. He also played guitar for Coventry bands such as Nack-ed-en, Tzar and Love Zeus that were all active during the 1970s. Towards the end of the 70s he became a founding member of Sniff ‘n’ the Tears who had a minor chart hit. Most recently The Loz Netto band has released the critically acclaimed ‘Bridge of Dreams’ album.

Phil Morley. Guitarist Phil joined Russian Gun Dogs alongside vocalist and guitar player Paul Watters and bass player Dean Bourne during in 2007. Drummer Sean McNulty completed an early line-up of this acclaimed band.

Neil O’Connor. Brother of Hazel. Neil was a member of  Midnight Circus along with Dave Freeman and Joe Hughes. Midnight Circus played live at the after carnival gig at the Memorial Park and the Hobo Workshop at the Lower Holyhead Road Youth Centre mid 1974. With the addition of  Pete King the band evolved into The Flys who gained chart success with the album Waikiki Beach Refugees during 1978. neil went on to play guitar with his sister's band Hazel O'Connor's Megahype and has produced some fine solo tracks in recent years.

Hazel's version of Neil O'Connor's song for the Flys.
Neil plays Synth on this track.

And Neil's version of Hazel's song.

One of Neil's  more recent solo tracks

Midnight Circus at the Hobo Workshop, Lower Holyhead Youth Centre 1974.

Craig Ward - Craig began as a DJ in Coventry alongside some of the other Top DJ's in Coventry, Pete Waterman, Mark Brown, Tilly Rutherford etc. In 1974 he formed the Sunshine Music Agency, based in Gulson Road, with other Coventry luminaries - songwriter Bob Young, DJ Graham Wood (Ex Silk Disco), Monty Bird of  Bird Studios, and Stu Bell. They promoted local and regional bands like A Band Called George, who made a single for the Bell Label - NCB Man and others (see the blog post). They supported bands and artists with bookings, venues, studios, songwriting and promotion.

Craig Ward as he is now

Of course there were other schools in Coventry who could boast similar ‘successes’ stories if not better - Provide me with the names and I will happily put an article together.

The above is not an exhaustive list so apologies to those I missed. I am just using Caludon as a point in case as, I myself, am a ‘Cally’ old boy.

Pete Clemons


The above is not an exhaustive list so apologies to those I missed’ - This was written within the final line that I wrote on my previous article about Caludon Castle School.

And what a get out of jail card that statement proved to be.

I indeed missed quite a few other names that, since leaving Caludon Castle, have left their mark in both sport and the arts.

Some I must admit that I kicked myself for missing, some I just didn’t realise attended the school, but none were intentionally omitted.

The purpose of the original article was to promote those who had made a substantial contribution to the arts.

But as my introduction to the article mentioned sports people then I feel it only fair to include them in this mop up exercise.

So, again in no particular order - except that it begins with sport and works through to the arts………..

Bobby Parker: Was once described as the new Bobby Moore after he had captained the victorious England Youth team to victory in the Little World Cup during the very early 1970s.

Bobby played for Coventry City, Carlisle and Queen of the South.

Grant Ward and Chesterfield's Ian Evatt

Ian Evatt: Ian currently plays for Chesterfield and I think it is fair to say that he is now in the autumn of his career.

But what an illustrious career he has had as he played for QPR, Blackpool and Derby.

For the latter two clubs Ian played at the highest level of English football, the Premier League.

Ian Muir: A Tranmere Rovers legend.

Ian was once described as the best forward never to have played in the top tier of English football.

Peter Hormantschuk: A Coventry City defender who, will long be remembered, for his 30 yard goal against Manchester United.

Knee problems curtailed what should have been a longer career in the game.

John Burkitt: Another ex-pupil who made the grade at Coventry City FC.

John and who played a total of 5 games.

He also turned out for Nuneaton Borough and Rugby Town.

Ian Darnell: Ian represented the Coventry Rugby team during their days at Coundon Road.

Ron Cook: He has become an actor of considerable note.

Ron starred as Parker in the film version of Thunderbirds.

Parker, of course, was the butler to Lady Penelope.

He has also appeared in Dr. Who, Sharpe and Mr Selfridge amongst other TV programmes.

Neil O’Connor: Brother of Hazel.

Neil was a member of Midnight Circus along with Dave Freeman and Joe Hughes.

Midnight Circus played live at the after carnival gig at the Memorial Park and the Lower Holyhead Road Youth Centre during the mid-1970s.

With the addition of  Pete King the band evolved into The Fly’s who gained chart success with the album Waikiki Beach Refugees during 1978.

Neil Richardson: During the 1970s Neil played alongside Ray Harte, Iain MacDonald, Ted Duggan and John Duggan as bass player in the incredibly busy Coventry band Drops of Brandy.

Along with other work they picked up, Drops of Brandy had residencies at Bloomers Club in Birmingham and Tiffany’s in Liverpool.

Before all this though Neil had played bass for another Coventry band Nak-ed-en along with guitarist Loz Netto and drummer John Bradbury.

Craig Ward: Began as a DJ alongside the likes of Pete Waterman, Graham ‘Tilly’ Rutherford and Mark Brown.

During 1974 Craig, along with Graham Wood, became co-director of the Sunshine music Agency based in Gulson Road.

Sunshine Agency specialised in management, publicity and promotions. Bands they managed and promoted included Smack; Walrus Gumboot; A Band Called George and many more.

John Walker / Tez Tehergee / Dave Blundy: When you have had a forty year plus musical career as a mainly ‘local’ band, who perform for the love of performing, and who have changed style from rock to folk then I guess change is inevitable.

And change Black Parrot Seaside certainly did during their four decades.

The band amassed a considerable amount of ex-members.

And it turns out that the four names mentioned in the previous article were not the only band members who passed through Caludon Castle.

Dave and Tez were involved with the first ever rehearsal of the band in 1975.

All three names mentioned here were guitarists with John Walker being involved with the band slightly later on during their evolvement.

While on the subject of BPS, former member Arnold Chave – who I mentioned previously – is now involved in a duo that goes under the name of Blues Division.

Brian Price: Brian is a member of the four piece acoustic group Driftwood who are based in Southampton.

He has a new album due in March 2016 titled ‘Like A River’.

Lieutenant Pigeon

Rob Woodward: A founding member of Lieutenant Pigeon who will undoubtedly be remembered for their chart topping single Mouldy Old Douhh released in 1972.

But there has been so much more to this accomplished piano player’s career in music.

Rob began life as a solo singer under the moniker of Shel Naylor and in 1964 recorded a single for Decca Records titled ‘One Fine Day’ which had been written by Dave Davies of The Kinks.

Steve Johnson: Bass player Steve replaced Pete Fisher in Stavely Makepeace who would also release records under the instrumental side project name of Lieutenant Pigeon.

Steve, with the blessing of the rest of the band, continued to tour under the Lieutenant Pigeon name long after that initial success.

Nigel Fletcher: Nigel is actually the third member of Lieutenant Pigeon to have attended Caludon Castle.

In fact the only member of the band not to attend the school was Rob Woodward’s Mother, Hilda, who also happened to be an accomplished piano player.

Nigel was the drummer, and with Rob Woodward, had also been a member of Stavely Makepeace whose career encircled that of Lieutenant Pigeon.

So once again I will sign off with - The above is not an exhaustive list and apologies to anyone else I happened to have missed.

When The Kinks came to Coventry

Yet another article for the Coventry Telegraph from the pen of  Pete Clemons -

When The Kinks came to Coventry

By Pete Clemons who remembers two early appearances from Ray Davies and co

The Kinks: Dedicated followers of fashion

Thumbing through a recently published glossy rock magazine my attention was grabbed by an article relating to North London favourites The Kinks.

The article mentioned the fact that on 1 February 1964 The Kinks had played their debut gig with the classic line-up of Ray Davies guitar and vocals, Dave Davies on lead guitar, Pete Quaife on bass and drummer Mick Avory.

This, in turn, led to me being reminded about a gig during the very early part of January 1964 that featured both The Kinks and the incredibly hard-working Warwickshire band The Matadors. Immediately my curiosity got the better of me.

If The Kinks debut gig was on 1 February, what then was going on during early January?

This Kinks / Matadors event happened at The Orchid Ballroom, now known as The Kasbah. The Orchid Ballroom at that time was being run by Larry Page who, by early 1964, was also part of the management team running the affairs of the Kinks. So here was an obvious link. Larry had clearly brought the group up to Coventry for some experience away from London.

But then that begs another question. If  Larry Page was managing The Kinks then why did they sign up to Pye Records and not Decca. After all Larry Page had secured recording contracts for Coventry bands and artists such as Johnny B Great and the Goodmen, The Orchids and Shel Naylor (aka Rob Woodward of Lieutenant Pigeon) on Decca Records. I guess the answer to that though is not really relevant here.

Anyhow, returning to the article that initially took my interest, it all had me wondering that if this was not the classic line-up who debuted on the 1 February then who was in the band at that time and what might they have played on that January night in Coventry.

Well without doubt both Ray and Dave Davies along with Pete Quaife would have been present. They had been members of the band that had been known as The Ravens from around October/November 1963 till the end of that year and maybe just slightly into 1964. In fact legend has it that Larry Page had been very instrumental in encouraging The Ravens to change their name to The Kinks.

So that just leaves the drummer. Mick Avory joined The Kinks during the last week or so of January, after an advert he had placed in Melody Maker was answered by the band and their management. I have also read that the bands management, Boscobel Productions, had also placed an advert for a drummer. Maybe both had taken out adverts but, either way, Mick Avory would not have drummed for The Kinks on this particular occasion.

The Ravens had had a drummer by the name of Mickey Willet. And it may well have been Mickey who sat in on the drums that night.

However it seems that Mickey, although a very good drummer, had been slightly older than the rest of the band and his image did not fit the great scheme of things going forward. Also, Mickey apparently did not see eye to eye with the management. At some point Mickey Willet was asked to leave the band.

Further research in the Ray Davies book, X-Ray, revealed that a replacement drummer needed to be found to cover the bands schedule while a permanent drummer was found. That drummers name was Johnny Green and my gut feeling is that he is the guy who filled in for The Kinks that night. But here I am trying to micro manage the days in a chain of events that happened during a ten week period some 50 plus years ago.

The Kinks had been scheduled for some recording time at Pye number 1 studios round about the week commencing 20 January 1964. Still without a permanent drummer they drafted in session player Bobby Graham.

They recorded several songs that included what would turn out to be their first two singles. The tracks included ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘I Took My Baby Home’, ‘You still Want Me’, ‘You Do Something To Me’, ‘I Don’t Need You Anymore’. The Ravens had recorded songs such as ‘Revenge’ and ‘Oooba Dioba’.

Another song from the days of The Ravens ‘One Fine Day’ written by Dave Davies was actually recorded by Shel Naylor (Coventry’s own Rob Woodward). So I am guessing that these are the tunes that would have greeted the audience at The Orchid Ballroom.

Ray Davies

Within a week of Mick Avory joining The Kinks they found themselves on the iconic TV programme ‘Ready, Steady Go!’ They appeared alongside the likes of Manfred Mann, Ben E King, John Leyton and Kiki Dee.

The Kinks returned to Coventry during March 1964. This time they were part of a package tour that featured The Dave Clark 5 and The Hollies that called into The Coventry Theatre.

But even then this was still a fledgling version of the band and the set list would have been similar to their January visit. It was not until August 1964 that The Kinks really hit their stride when they got to number 1 with their third single ‘You Really Got Me’. This was followed by ‘All Day and All of the Night’ in the October and ‘Tired of Waiting For You’ released during January 1965.

Larry Page, who moved on from The Orchid Ballroom, remained with The Kinks until around September 1965. By then he was involved with another band who would also reach legendary status, The Troggs.

There have been many hints over the last few years, in fact I only heard Ray Davies mention it on the TV recently, that there may be a possibility that The Kinks could well yet tour again.

Time will tell I guess but I wouldn’t hold my breath. However today, Ray Davies still tours occasionally and has been added to the songwriter’s hall of fame. Dave Davies appears to have recovered well from a stroke and has begun playing again.

Pete Quaife sadly passed away during 2010 and Mick Avory leads a band called the Kast Off Kinks which features past members of the band.
Additional and related infromation from the Hobo site:

Ron Lawrence, former bass players with the Coventry Folk Rock band April (c 1969 - 71) went on to play bass with Sniff and the Tears (along with Cov guitarist Loz Netto) and had a minor hit with Drivers Seat c 1978. Ron went on to session for many artists but became a friend of  Ray Davies and played bass with the Kinks live in the late 70's and featured on recorded songs such as Come Dancing.

April 1970 - Ron Lawrence is 2nd from right.

Drivers Seat - Sniff and the Tears

Come Dancing  - The Kinks

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Remembering The Specials' John Bradbury

Remembering The Specials' John Bradbury

Trev Teasdel and Pete Clemons reminisce on memories of one of Coventry's most talented musicians

The Specials perform to 2000 fans in Coventry for the group's last concert of a 48-venue tour of Britain - 29th November 1979

By Trev Teasdel and Pete Clemons

We were both quite sad to hear of the passing of John ‘Brad’ Bradbury, drummer for The Specials. Not just
Pete Clemons and Trev Teasdel
because of his work with the band, but Trev knew him some ten years before he joined.

I on the other hand, got to know him when he worked at Virgin Records in the arcade. He introduced me to many bands from across a wide spectrum of genres and as many on the ‘Cov’ scene will remember, he really was a nice guy as well as a great drummer. Many Coventrians who were around in the 70s will have their own memories of him, but these are Trev’s and it’s quite a shock for both of us to think that he has gone at the age of 62.


I met Brad in May 1970 when my mate, Coventry drummer Steve Harrison who went on to play with L’homme de Terre in the 80s, asked me to turn up at the Queens Hotel on Primrose Hill St with my book of lyrics. Steve had joined a new three-piece rock band called Nak-ed-en and when I turned up, the band was in full swing but Steve wasn't in the drum seat. After the practice, the band explained that Brad was now the new drummer and we adjourned to The Dive bar (The Lady Godiva), where Brad looked through my lyrics and there was some talk of band member Loz Netto meeting up with me to try some out. It never came to fruition but we still became good friends.

The in The Parson's Nose chip shop in Bishop Street, Coventry - March 1980

Coventry Arts Umbrella Club
The main topic of conversation at The Dive, was how much the Queens Hotel charged Nack-ed-en to practice. I was putting on the bands at the Umbrella Club with Al Docker at the time and suggested they join the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club, as they would then be able to practice free of charge. They took up the offer and I got to watch Nak-ed-en practice on a regular basis in the Umbrella coffee bar, before and we put them on at the Umbrella Club.

I don’t know how Brad worked with The Specials, but back then he was very into Northern Soul and was a very tight and skillful drummer, not at all showy. Back in 1970, it was the trend for drummers to imitate Ginger Baker with 15 minute-long drum solos which, except where the drummer was really good, often caused the audience to head for the bar. Brad never did that, his drum breaks were short, sharp and to the point, as demonstrated by the drum break in Gangsters. He used to get the band to take the songs apart and work on the transitions between the verse and chorus or bridge. He had a good sense of song structure and his drumming seemed to play an important part in signalling the transitions.

Pete Waterman and Special's drummer John Bradbury unveil the final 2-Tone plaque in Coventry's Heritage Trail

Umbrella Club Jam Session 1970
In August 1970, Brad and Loz Netto took part in an Umbrella Club jam session, called Vic’s Heavy Rock
Jam Session. This was actually organised by Al Docker, with me doing the door duty, but on the night, the all-night session was led by a very long-haired Neol Davies. This was the first time Neol and Brad had played together in seven years, when the pair played on the The Selecter track Kingston Affair. In 1979, it finally appeared on the B side of the Gangsters single and Nak-ed-en split up not long afterwards.

Loz Netto became lead guitarist in Tsar, a progressive band created by Al Docker and after that, Love Zeus, who once played a stunning set at the Belgrade Theatre.

Brad was always about town, you’d see him everywhere, walking between music pubs, or standing at the bar watching a band, when he wasn't playing himself. Always friendly, always smiling and always easy going. He’d always be in a band, you’d look and the drummer was Brad. That’s how it was then; bands formed, split and reformed or joined other outfits and that’s how you got your experience. Line-ups weren't precious, unless you got famous and had fans that would be upset by the change.

Transposed Men

In the late 70s, Brad reunited with Neol Davies in a forerunner of The Selecter, called Transposed Men,
where they played some of the Neol Davies songs that would soon be given the Ska treatment via The Selecter. The band consisted of Neol Davies, Desmond Brown, Kevin Harrison (later of Urge), Steve Wynne and John Bradbury and they band split when Jerry Dammers bagged John Bradbury for The Specials after Silverton left. Much of the rest is history that everyone knows, more or less.

Brad took the drum seat of the Specials for the famous leg of their journey and Neol reformed Transposed Men with new members from Charley Anderson’s Chapter 5 and former folk Coventry singer, Pauline Black as lead singer. After The Specials broke up, I remember I was backstage at the Dog and Trumpet with Tony Morgan’s own Ska band EMF. We were taking out amps to the van, along with Brad, and we laughed when Brad turned to Tony and called him Two Tony. Brad was always really witty and made us laugh. He was just a boy from Coventry who played an important role one of Coventry’s greatest moments, so hats off to Brad!

Charley Anderson's first Band in Coventry Live in Woodend for the first Reggae Festival in Ska City, Charley Redlax bass Desmond Brown organ, Sylverton Hutchinson drums, Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson guitar vocals, Joy Evering vocals, Neol Davis guest on guitar.

(Link to Kevin Harrison's biography site  - audio of demo of  On My Radio - the earlier Transposed men version before Selecter. )

Pete Clemons and  John Bradbury

Sniff and the Tears with Loz Netto (lead) and Ron Lawrence (bass) of  Coventry

JB's Allstars

Hard Top 22  - Charley Anderson - Bass, Amos Anderson - Compton Amanor - Rhythm guitar
Charles "H" Bembridge drums , Chris Christy -
"Somewhere around 1979 Neol Davies combined Hardtop 22 with his latest band Transposed Men to give the classic first line up of The Selecter."

Fleetwood Mac guitarist titled solo album 'Coventry Blue'

Another Coventry Telegraph article by Pete Clemons -

Fleetwood Mac guitarist titled solo album 'Coventry Blue'

By Pete Clemons

Pete Clemons sheds some light on the Coventry influence behind guitarist Jeremy Spencer's latest album

Coventry Blue by Jeremy Spencer.

Despite Fleetwood Mac having had their greatest commercial success during the second half of the 1970s and 1980s, for many, their favourite version of the band was the one that existed from its inception and through to the early part of 1970s.

During 1967, before Fleetwood Mac had formed as a band, Peter Green, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and John Mayall, were known as The Bluesbreakers. This version of the Bluesbreakers only existed together for a very brief period of around three months.

The name ‘Fleetwood Mac’ actually began life as an instrumental jam recorded during a session. The Bluesbreakers were given some studio time and put together a total of five songs.

Peter Green (Guitar) and Mick Fleetwood (Drums) then set their sights on a new project. The original intention was to draft in John McVie on bass and by way of a carrot to lure in McVie, the band was named ‘Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’, which incorporated all the musician’s names. But John McVie was not ready to commit due to the steady income he was receiving as a member of The Bluesbreakers, so for the short term, another bass player Bob Brunning, was drafted in.

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac decided that their music would require a second guitar player to fill out and add to the sound, so they recruited the talents of slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer, who had been fronting a band called The Levi Set Blues Band.

The Fleetwood Mac line up of Green, Fleetwood, Spencer and Brunning made its debut on August 13 1967 at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival. Soon after that, the band’s original choice for bass, John McVie, also teamed up with the group and Bob Brunning moved on.

Jeremy Spencer

Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled debut album was released on the Blue Horizon label in February 1968. A second album, Mr. Wonderful, followed in August 1968. That same month, the band was further enhanced by the introduction of a third guitarist, Danny Kirwan.

Immediately, Kirwan made an impact as it was this version of the band that recorded and released their first number one single Albatross. They would also release the third studio album, Then Play On during September 1969. A compilation album, titled The Pious Bird of Good Omen was released in August 1969.

It is worth noting that each of the above versions of Fleetwood Mac, apart from that which contained Bob Brunning, played in the Coventry and Warwickshire region between 1967 and 1970.

Those familiar with the Fleetwood Mac’s first self-titled album will be more than aware that the opening number on that album is a Jeremy Spencer composition titled My Heart Beat Like a Hammer. Fast forward 45 years or so and Jeremy Spencer is still writing songs and releasing the odd album, which led to a recent online discussion between a group of my Facebook friends who were ‘chatting’ curiously about a 2014 release of his, titled ‘Coventry Blue’. Between us we were only aware of the album and I don’t think any of us had actually heard it, let alone read the CD liner notes, although this has all since been rectified.

We suspected from the album’s title that it must be connected to our city but given that Jeremy Spencer’s roots are in the north east of England, as far as we knew he had no connection with Coventry.

So I decided to ask the question ‘Where and how did the inspiration for the title of this album come from?’ Here is the reply from Jeremy himself:

“I wrote the lyrics to ‘Coventry Blue’ a few years ago back in Mexico. Being as I like to write stories, I am fascinated with the origin of terms and I wondered where ‘true blue’ came from. I looked it up and found the definition I used in my album’s liner notes. I thought it would make a good theme for a gospel blues song dedicated to the love of Jesus Christ that never fails.

“As far as titling the album goes, many ideas were on the table but when I suggested ‘Coventry Blue’ all those involved agreed. It does inspire curiosity as evidenced by your interest.

“When one refers to someone as being ‘true blue’, it means he or she is steadfast and loyal. This term comes from a special dye that was manufactured in Coventry several centuries ago.”

The official definition of  True Blue, means loyal and unwavering and is supposed to derive from the blue cloth that was made at Coventry, England in the late Middle Ages. The town’s dyers had a reputation for producing material that didn't fade with washing, so it remained ‘fast’ or ‘true’. The phrase ‘as true as Coventry blue’ originated then and is still used (in Coventry at least). The town’s standing was recorded in 1670 by John Ray in the first edition of ‘A Complete Collection of English Proverbs’.

“I played on these words in the last verse: ‘Of all the blues that I could try, there’s no question what I’ll choose when it comes my time to dye.’

So there it is, with a little history lesson!”

The Coventry Blue album itself is in a country blues style and is very laid back and relaxing. It contains an abundance of Jeremy’s trademark slide guitar playing along with some delightful moments. It also gives the feel of a man at peace and writing and playing for the love.

Coventry Blue is not Jeremy’s only album of late, an album titled Precious Little saw his return to music during 2006. A few years later, he produced the equally delightful Bend in the Road album, which was released in vinyl format on Record Store Day 2012, with the CD release a little time after.

John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with Peter Green - Out of Reach

Love Revisited comes to the Empire in Coventry this July

Pete Clemons with more treats wriiten for and published by the Coventry Telegraph -

Love Revisited comes to the Empire in Coventry this July

Original post

Pete Clemons previews a concert 'not to be missed' in the city
Empire nightclub on Far Gosford St, Coventry.

August 2016 will, incredibly, mark the 10th anniversary since the world lost the enigmatic Arthur Lee.

Arthur, of course, shall always be remembered as the frontman and guitar player for the Los Angeles based band ‘Love’.

But to simply call Arthur the frontman is doing him a gross injustice. He was oh so much more than that. And mentioning that Arthur was just a songwriter and visionary does not really tell the whole story of his extraordinary life.

But I will not be attempting to revisit his life story as such. The purpose of this article is to inform you that Arthur’s music is being brought back to the UK. And it will be celebrated by a band of musicians that were at Arthur’s side for more years than any of the others who played their part in the ‘Love’ story.

Baby Lemonade performed with Arthur from 1993 until 2006. Typically, it was not always a smooth ride but they were alongside him at a time when there was a resurgence of interest in Love’s music. And this combination of Baby Lemonade and Arthur played at many sold out concerts which culminated in the unforgettable tour during 2003, complete with string and brass ensemble, which celebrated the groundbreaking Forever Changes album which was originally released in the winter of 1967.

For those who remember Baby Lemonade, they are still the same line up as that which appeared on those gigs at the turn of the century. For those who did not attend, Baby Lemonade was formed in 1992 and is made up of Mike Randle on guitar, Rusty Squeezebox on rhythm guitar, David ‘Daddy-O’ Green on drums and Dave Chapple on bass.

Baby Lemonade will be joined on this tour by Love’s original lead guitar player and founding member of the band, Johnny Echols. Johnny, who first met Arthur at school aged 15, was also a part of the ‘classic’ Love line up and appeared on the band’s first three studio albums. Together they will be known as ‘Love Revisited’. Other band members who appeared of those early albums were songwriter and rhythm guitar player Bryan MacLean, Ken Forssi on bass, organ player Alban Pfisterer, drummer Michael Stuart and Tjay Cantrelli on percussion.

And for this tour ‘Love Revisited’ will be concentrating on those first three albums namely the self-titled ‘Love’ originally released March 1966, ‘Da Capo’ from November 1966 and ‘Forever Changes’ November 1967.

The band name ‘Love’ came about after the name of Arthur’s previous band ‘The Grass Routes’ had been ripped off (Arthur’s words) by another band. Rather than hate he decided that the most positive thing would be to rename his band Love. And that was the philosophy Arthur Lee tried to use with regard to song writing. His energies simply went into writing after anything unpleasant happened to him.

For many reasons Love imploded after ‘Forever Changes’. But this was far from the end of the Love journey. Arthur Lee set about rebuilding the band by bringing in the talents of Jay Donnellan on lead guitar, Frank Fayed on bass and George Suranovich on drums. A fourth Love album ‘Four Sail’ was released during August 1969. Stylistically different ‘Four Sail’ was, for me at least, up there with any other of the bands previous releases. In retrospect I guess this album highlighted a turning point in Arthur’s extraordinary abilities in terms of shifting between genres and still being able to create music of great quality. Versatile was a word that Arthur enjoyed being described as.

At some point during the period after ‘Forever Changes’ Arthur worked with Jimi Hendrix who he had known for some time. I do know of at least one track they recorded together but according to Arthur they did a whole album together. The whereabouts of that album, as far as I understand, is unknown. There was also talk of Jimi and Arthur forming a band along with Stevie Winwood and percussionist Remi Kabaka. The story also goes that Jimi had even chose the name ‘Band Aid’ for this venture.

1970 saw ‘Love’ visit Europe and the U.K. for the first time. The tour included a gig at the Lanchester Polytechnic (Coventry University) during March. The touring band was that which recorded ‘Four Sail’ with the exception of Gary Rowles who had replaced Jay Donnellan. Songs played at the Lanch included Orange Skies, Stand Out, Andmoreagain, Good Times, Nothing, August, Gather 'Round, Always See Your Face, Signed D.C., Slick Dick, Doggone, Singing Cowboy, Love Is More Than Words.

A second tour of the UK followed in 1974. This was in support of an album project that, for many reasons, was consigned to the vaults for many years. The touring band for that tour was Arthur, Joey Blocker on drums, Melvan Whittingham on guitar, John Sterling playing lead guitar and Robert Rozelle on bass.

A final officially released studio album, titled ‘Reel to Real’, was released during December 1974. It had been produced on Robert Stigwood’s RSO label and yet again proved how adept Arthur was in putting a band together and producing some wonderful arrangements. Apparently Robert Stigwood was a huge admirer of Arthur’s work and wanted to give him the opportunity to continue with his creativity. So he gave Arthur a budget to use. Although ‘Reel to Real’ was so different in feel to previous Love releases I personally I thought it was money well spent.

UK dates followed in support of ‘Reel to Real’ with a band that featured Arthur along with John Sterling, George Suranovich on drums and Kim Kesterson on bass.

And then began a renaissance in Arthur’s music, which began during the early 1990s right through to Arthur’s premature death in 2006, and heavily featured Baby Lemonade. The culmination of this coming together was almost certainly the ‘Forever Changes’ tour during 2003. The tour was put together to celebrate the 35th anniversary of that particular Love album. The band was joined by an eight-piece string and horn section and the album was reproduced in all its glory.

A rare opportunity to hear the music of Love being played live in Coventry will soon be upon us as ‘Love Revisited’ will be appearing at The Empire, Gosford Street (on the site of the old Paris Cinema) on 1st July 2016. For anyone with a passing interest in this band then it really a is an opportunity not to be missed.