Sunday, July 23, 2017

Badfinger at the Godiva Festival

Badfinger at the Godiva Festival
by Pete Clemons

And as the sun continued to beat down Coventry’s adopted band, Badfinger, took to the stage shortly before 3pm for their debut gig in the city. And what a fitting platform, this year’s triumphant Godiva Festival was, for Badfinger to perform that first gig from.

In 2015, former member of the original band, Bob Jackson, assembled his own version of Badfinger along with guitarist Andy Nixon, bass player Michael Healey and drummer Ted Duggan.

The intention, of these accomplished musicians, being to keep the memory of original members Pete Ham, Tom Evans, and Mike Gibbins alive and hopefully introduce their music to a whole new generation of listeners.

And since 2015 this version of Badfinger has performed on a nationwide package tour as well as headlining at their own concerts.

Bob sat down at his keyboard and declared ‘if you want it you better come and get it’ and with that they threw themselves into the opening number.

The audience, of which I had been one of the many participating voices, simply lapped it up. Badfinger truly generated a wonderful atmosphere.

The Paul McCartney penned ‘Come and Get it’ was followed by a new tune, which incidentally, is totally free to download from Badfinger’s website. This was titled ‘In a Different World’.

A brief story about how the producer of hit TV programme, Breaking Bad, had also been a Badfinger fan, and how the song had featured into the final episode, linked nicely into the next tune ‘Baby Blue’.

Then things got a little more serious when Bob explained the background for the next song ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Contract’ and how Badfinger had been one of, if not, the unluckiest band in music history when it came to the business side of the industry.

The set concluded with ‘Day After Day’, another song with a huge Beatles influence, ‘I Can’t Take it’ and ‘No Matter What’.

And that was it. The forty minutes or so seemed to pass far too quickly. The stage had just radiated almost as much energy as the sun had. It had just become one of those many memorable, and unforgettable, moments that the Godiva Festival has given us over the years.

Backstage at the Godiva Festival 2017 -photo by John Coles

(Below - Not found any footage from the Godiva Fest but here is some from their UK tour.)

If for whatever reason you missed that performance, or you were left wanting more, then the good news was that Badfinger were due to perform in Coventry once more.

On Sunday 16th July Badfinger were one of a host of bands and artists who performed at the Mercia Music Festival.

The event ran from 2pm till 11pm at The Empire on Far Gosford Street (the site of The Paris Cinema for those unsure). It was in aid of Myton Hospice and Motor Nuerone Disease. And the line-up also included: Hazel O'Connor with the Subterraneans, Cupids Inspiration, Vicki Jackson, The High Tones, The Whole Foot, Dark Horses and Spitfire.

For those lucky enough to have been there Badfinger performed an extended to that they had played at the Godiva Festival. And this included tunes like ‘Just a Chance’ ‘Lucky Guy’ and ‘Without You’ . It was indeed a joyous and memorable performance clearly enjoyed by band and audience alike.

Bob Jackson in 1982 when he was part of the original Badfinger.

If for whatever reason you missed that performance, or you were left wanting even more, then the good news is that Badfinger were due to appear in Coventry for a third consecutive Sunday………..but I’m afraid in my mind only.


Below the original Badfinger when they were the Iveys.

Badfinger at Godiva Fest.Photo by Dave Nellist.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

RiD (Rock in Defiance)

RiD (Rock in Defiance)

by Pete Clemons

Rid on Facebook

Ten years since their formation, Coventry band RiD, are the latest ‘local group’ to have a CD album release.

On first encountering this band I was intrigued by the significance of their name. Rock in Definition or maybe Rock in Defiance.

Neither. According to founder members Dave Cooke and Ricky Hogan, it was a protest against the stuff that was going on at the time the band was formed, MP’s expenses fiddling, and the banker’s enormous bonuses scandal that kind of thing. It was also a baulk at the X-factor pop culture. As in, ‘Let's get rid.’

RiD’s CD titled ‘No Way Back’ was launched at the Unicorn Club on Holbrook Lane on Friday 14th July. On first impression the Unicorn Club may appear to be a bit of a strange choice of venue.

But the roots of RiD can be traced back to the Coventry suburb of Holbrooks and so, in effect, the Unicorn Club was entirely the right option.

During their ten years RiD have grown into a band that pulls in its musicianship talents from across the county and beyond and have grown quite dramatically. As well as Coventry the band now come from as far as Birmingham, Kenilworth and Nuneaton.

Celebrating this album launch last Friday were the now settled line-up of Ricky Hogan (Vocals), Kathryn Marsh (Vocals), Jason Riggs (Bass), Tony Cox (Drums/Percussion), Dave Cooke (Rhythm Guitar) James D Nelson (Lead Guitar) and James Finn (Keyboards).

In addition the band were augmented at the gig, as they have been on the album, by the Holbrook’s Horns, namely Lee Taylor and Brian Clarke who between them provided sax and other brass instruments.

What immediately struck me at the Unicorn Club was the competency of the musicians. There was some tremendous soloing, very strong vocals, and a good amount of melody coming off that stage.

The songs are all original with the lyrics generally dealing with the harsh realities of modern life. They tend to leave you with no compromise other than things need to change.

Additionally, the song structures do not follow a single path. They vary in different styles from rock to funk and everything in between. Some of the songs are spearheaded by dual vocals. And on other songs Kathryn fly’s solo. So in that respect RiD are quite unique.

And the great thing about live performance is how differently you tend to interpret songs. For me personally I seemed to connect more with the album hearing it live than I had done listening to it straight off the CD.

The members of RiD are rightfully incredibly proud of their achievements so far. And so they should be. Let’s face it, making music these days, particularly for part time bands, is no mean feat and takes many hours of tim

e and devotion. A labour of love I think it is termed. And in the bands own words: ‘We have worked so hard to get this out there and are very proud of what we've achieved’.

Three singles ‘What You Are’, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Without You’, all from the album, preceded its digital and physical release.

All music can be found on all major download platforms as well as, I think, physical copies of the ‘No Way Back’ album still being available from the band.

The Stranglers at The Godiva Festival

The Stranglers at The Godiva Festival
by Pete Clemons

A reported 36,000 people attended the Godiva Festival on its opening day. With a maximum capacity of 3000 allowed in the Rhythm tent and a similar assumed capacity for the Paradise tent then, by my reckoning, that was an awful lot of people who had come to see Friday night’s headliners The Stranglers.

To be fair though, the steadily growing crowd had been suitably warmed up by some really good and appreciative performances by, firstly, local band The Institutes - who to their credit have not been together a year and yet put in a very impressive shift - and also Tom Williams and Cast completing the line-up.

The background sounds of Waltzinblack heralded the Stranglers onto the stage where they quickly broke into ‘Toiler on the Sea’ from the Black and White album. Next up came the band’s first ever single ‘Get a Grip on Yourself’ followed by another single released during the Black and White album era ‘Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’.

It was an incredible start. But the audience reaction seemed to hit fever pitch when they heard the first strains of the classic ‘Golden Brown’. On the back of that came another popular tune from The Stranglers 1980s period ‘Always the Sun’, a tune popularised by a film I was later informed.

The crowd settled down again when the Stranglers played a less familiar tune, the more recent ‘Norfolk Coast’. However the volume cranked up again at the sound of ‘Peaches’.

‘Walk on by’ proved to be a massive favourite as well as being, as I seem to remember, a free seven inch single given away with the Black and White LP when it was first released.

The band returned to their 1980s period with a rendition of ‘Skin Deep’. And then it was back to, arguably, their classic period when they rattled out tunes such as ‘Duchess’, ‘Hanging Around’, ‘Something Better Change’ and the anthemic ‘No More Heroes’.

It was a memorable performance. Even the weather was kind as the rain, which had been threatening for most of the evening, held off.

With their long history and a massive discography the size of what The Stranglers have in their locker, the band were never ever going to satisfy everyone. There is always going to be that certain song someone really enjoyed that didn’t get played. But I really don’t think the band could have picked a better set list that would have given something for everyone. It was an exceptional performance.

From their beginnings as being a pub rock band and then unwitting pioneers of the punk rock phenomenon of the mid 1970s, it is now fair to say I think, that The Stranglers are now accepted and a part of the fabric of the UK music scene.

And on a totally personal note, that I have just realised while typing these notes, it is just over forty years since I first saw The Stranglers play live at The Locarno in the city centre.

Where did that time go?. And who would have thought that they would still be delighting audiences in 2017?.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Joe O’Donnell's Shkayla at the Godiva Festival

Joe O’Donnell's Shkayla at the Godiva Festival.

by Pete Clemons

Coventry has just celebrated its 19th consecutive Godiva Festival. And what an absolute triumph it was with a reported 179,000 people attending this three day extravaganza.

And if there was a Guinness book of records entry for an artist who has appeared at the festival the most times then, and without checking facts in too much detail, Joe O’Donnell must surely be up there with one of the highest number of performances.

Over the years, his band, Shkayla, have appeared numerous times in many different formats generally performing on the smaller stages around the festival.

So what a marvellous gesture it was, by the event’s organisers, in giving Joe a shot on the main stage. And boy did Shkayla make the most of their moment in the sun with each of the band members given their chance to shine.

Alongside Joe in the band was vocalist and keyboard wizard Martin Barter, guitar virtuoso Si Hayden who now has over 40 albums to his credit, bassist Adrian Litvinoff who is equally at home on the jazz stand and fusion drummer Karen Milne.

And throughout the 40 minute set each musician was given an opportunity to flex their individual talents that certainly ‘wowed’ an audience that was visibly growing throughout the performance. In Joe’s words, seeing all those people was a wonderful sight from the stage.

They began with ‘Hostages’ followed by ‘The Battle’ both tracks off the Gaodhals Vision album. Next up was a Gaelic tune called ‘Ag Sugra’.

But I don’t think anything can prepare you for one of Joe’s Laments. O’Neills Lament complimented so beautifully by the guitar of Si Hayden was simply sensational. Among the captivated onlookers, on this sun drenched Sunday afternoon, a few jaws were certainly dropping at the Memorial Park venue.

And, as pointed out by someone so much more versed in this kind of thing than I am, ‘how Si’s incredible talents have not spread far wider than they currently have is a travesty. He is easily one of finest guitar players this city has ever produced’.

Even our current Lord Mayor, Tony Skipper, invited Si Hayden to play at his recent inauguration.

Shkayla’s set was concluded with a track called ‘Tribes’, also from the Gaodhals Vision album.

Despite his advancing years, Limerick born Joe, who has given so much joy over the year to his adopted city during the quarter century since he settled here, still carries an infectious enthusiasm.

Joe’s mind is always full of ideas and projects. He is in the process of giving a makeover to his solo album from 1977 ‘Gaodhals Vision’ which will be re-released later in the year as a package containing a DVD of a live performance recently filmed at the Belgrade Theatre as well as containing other unreleased and reworked music.

This maybe something to bear in mind nearer Xmas and you are stuck for an idea of what to buy a music loving partner.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Bard’d Wire – Time Has Come

Bard’d Wire – Time Has Come

by Pete Clemons

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Barb’d Wire have, over the last few years, developed into one of Coventry’s most popular and exciting bands on the local live circuit. You only have to be at one of their gigs to be left in no doubt of that and to appreciate the atmosphere that they create.

The band formed during 2013. They grew quickly and their reputation has, over time, spread widely. A promising EP, ‘Stayin In’, was released during 2015.

More recently however, personnel changes, has clearly forced Barb’d Wire to, slim down and review their style. 

As a result, and on the evidence of their first album, an inspirational decision appears to have totally transformed the band. 

The decision was possibly forced upon them, after being brought about by those circumstances, who knows. Either way it is a bold move that should clearly pay off.

This revised line-up has seen one time backing vocalist Cherelle Harding move to centre stage. And on this release she simply blossoms.

After listening to their debut album release ‘Time Has Come’ it is a move that has had a markedly positive effect. And the album certainly lives up to its title.

For me personally, the band has suddenly shifted up several gears from being a good and solid band to one that is more interesting and less one dimensional to listen to. And by doing so this album has instantly gained its own identity.

The songs contained within are based around social observations and, as a whole, is not overtly political. The album, however, is not all about life’s experiences as currently is. The CD also showcases songs of hope and aspirations.

‘Time Has Come’ is also so much more from revolving around one person within the band. In addition to Cherelle the credits on the album sleeve are Jon Pudge trumpet, Ryan Every guitar, Graham ‘Fingers’ Aitken bass, Trevor ‘ET’ Evans Drums and an un-credited keyboard player.

The instrumentation throughout the, almost 40 minutes and twelve tracks is simply excellent. So good in fact, that the album, kind of cries out for an instrumental interlude. And the listener is not disappointed as, at roughly mid-point on the album, the band cuts loose on Rockfort Rock.

Together they pound out a delightful rhythm of repetitive bass riffs with off-beat guitar. But added to that is a blend of lush sympathetic brass playing that spreads and offers an effective contrast.

Of course production plays a major part of making any record sound this impressive. And Roger Lomas has done a wonderful job of balancing the opposing sounding instruments as well as rounding off any sharp edges. Excellent use of reverb and echo also prevails throughout.

I am assuming that the album will be on sale at gigs but I bought my copy, a signed one at that, from Suky Singh’s emporium based at the 2 tone village on Ball Hill. These will not be around for long.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A chat with Gary Ramon – Sundial. Sometime during 1995

A chat with Gary Ramon – Sundial. Sometime during 1995.

by Pete Clemons

Gary Ramon has always been synonymous with Sundial (or Sun Dial). A band that, from the first moment I heard them during the early 1990s, just took my breath away and totally grabbed my attention.

For whatever reason this band, in my opinion, kind of flew under the radar when they were at their most productive. The music scene during the 1990s was very different to what Gary was offering. For want of better descriptions: Rave and acid house music being popular at the time. The Manchester scene was also prevalent. So maybe that had a bearing.

But each Sundial release was, I felt, a revelation. Yes they were 60s inspired; yes there was heavy presence of psychedelic fuzz guitar. But at the same time Sundial felt fresh.

Gary Ramon never seemed to rest on his laurels. With each new Sundial release he appeared to take the band on a different journey. But at the same time each album came across as very strong in its own way.

Through no fault of their own, circumstances dictated that live appearances were quite rare. But when they did venture out they were very good. The night I saw them in Hackney they had Pete Dunton, drummer from T2 standing in. Another T2 band member, Bernard Jinks, was also in attendance.

As I remember the gig, the support came from Quad, another of Gary’s projects. This instrumental/ambient band was hinted upon, as being a future idea, in the very last paragraph below.

Pre Sundial left hander Gary, along with school friend Anthony Clough, would produce music and cassette releases under the name of ADH. From there Gary created more music known as The Modern Art. It was after this point that Gary formed Sundial with Anthony Clough in the first of many line-ups.

In total, Sundial has released a dozen or so albums thus far over a twenty five year career. The latest album was released during 2016.

The chat with Gary, printed below, took place during 1995. Thanks once again to Deliverance who published this article late 1995 and also to Gary for his time in putting it all together.

The latest album ‘Acid Yantra’ sees yet another shift in the Sun Dial sound. It does not have the same hard edge to it as previous release ‘Libertine’. Are you pleased with it?

I’m really pleased with ‘Yantra’. The sound owes a lot to ‘Other Way Out’ but is also a new progression too. We recorded it just on 8 track which is the same as OWO, but is just better recorded, but I think has a character in a way that our first LP also has.

Do you feel that the acclaim given to ‘Other Way Out’ has become a mill stone?. Every release since then seems to be compared against it.

I think it would have been really easy to come up with OWO part 2 every time, but we’ve always tried to progress as we go along. Always an experiment with each record, but Yantra I think is a true definitive of our sound live and studio, because before this LP people would see us live and say, ‘that was fantastic, much better than the record’ and now I think it’s like us live, but in the studio. I think every bands first release is compared against the next, and often or not it is never as good as the first one, with a few exceptions. But I do feel that OWO stands up equally with ‘Acid Yantra’ and even perhaps ‘Return Journey’.

Do you prefer to do each album with a different band line up, or are these changes forced upon you?

The line-up changes on each LP are not planned at all. It just so happened that the line-up for OWO was not a live working band as such, more of a studio thing with friends helping out, and when we got a proper live band together it never worked properly live and studio. We have been a three piece since mid ’93 with Craig on drums and Jake on bass and myself on guitar and it’s a great line-up and it’s a great line-up with no reason to change it.

You hardly seem to play any live concerts, why is this?. Do you enjoy playing live?.

I like to do gigs, but were not just playing for the sake of it. We get offered a lot of gigs, but most are not always appropriate. I think if people could see Sundial all the time it would’nt be such an occasion.. I don’t know!. Instead I think it’s great that we concentrate just on burst of live activity, and people who come out really enjoy themselves. We’ve only done one UK tour so far, and in Europe three tours, some U.S. gigs and that’s all. Our last proper tour was the end of 93!. Our first gig in nearly two years was a one off in London and it looks like we are going to America for a tour this month.

What are your future plans for Sundial and in which direction will you go next?

We are taking our psychedelic rock and light show to places like Chicago and L.A. and there is a possibility of some gigs in South America and a live television broadcast on one of their MTV style channels. We are also looking at some live tapes from our gig in London earlier this year. We figured that if people couldn’t see us live in the UK this year then maybe a live record could be interesting………although we can’t create the light show on disc!!. I’ve also been working on an instrumental psychedelic ambient project for the past two years, on and off, maybe this’ll be issued one of these days.

A chat with Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) late 1994

A chat with Steven Wilson late 1994...

by Pete Clemons

With the impending visit of Steven Wilson to the Midlands I reminded myself of a chat I had with him back in 1994. At that time he led the then fledgling Porcupine Tree. It is totally mind blowing now to think back to when this piece was conducted and then to consider just how far he took Porcupine Tree. From struggling for an audience at venues like the Tic Toc Club and General Wolfe, to ending up at prestigious buildings like the Royal Albert Hall and gaining worldwide respect. And then of course there is Steven’s own solo project. This is becoming another amazing journey in its own right.

It then passed my mind that it kind of felt right to resurrect the results of that chat. As you will see I was not really a skilled interviewer. The questions are naïve. But that aside it was a fascinating set of answers that I really enjoyed reading back and reminding myself of.

To me, even then, Steven had a clear direction of where he wanted to go. He was incredibly articulate. I’m unsure he realised how successful and how far he would take Porcupine Tree. But any future plans mentioned here certainly came to fruition.

Many thanks to all involved in Coventry’s own long lamented Street Worm / Deliverance magazine and who published this article early in 1995. I would flood them anonymously with articles; live reviews etc. and they were always good enough to publish most of them at least. And thanks most of all to Steven Wilson who, given his very busy schedule nowadays, still finds the time to answer most emails.

How did you team up with Alan Duffy and why is Porcupine Tree on the Delerium label and not on Alan’s own Imaginary label?

Actually, all of Alan’s lyrics for the Porcupine Tree date from the period1983-85, long before I started recording Porcupine Tree music. We wrote the songs for an entirely different project that never came to much – I was very young – about 16 years old. Then in the late 80s when I started recording Porcupine Tree music, I had little confidence in my own lyrics so I went back to Alan’s and found they fitted very well. In one or two instances (Jupiter Island and Nine Cats spring to mind) I even used the original music that I had written for the words many years earlier.

When I started recording the cassettes I wasn’t really looking for a record deal at all. It was purely to satisfy my own musical whims. Porcupine Tree began entirely as a studio project without any CD/vinyl release in mind. I was not particularly interested in a record deal at that point and it was only after Delerium approached me and offered me the opportunity to record for them, that I finally began to see the possibilities of reaching a wider audience with CD releases. Although I briefly communicated with Alan to sort out the publishing rights for his lyrics, I still don’t know what he thinks of the Porcupine Tree or if he likes what I’ve done to his work. Having heard some of the material that he signed to Imaginary, I don’t think we would have fitted anyway.

Why do Porcupine Tree find it so hard to get gigs?

Ridiculous though it may seem, we have had to prove ourselves to promoters and agents, much more than any boring guitar indie band would have had to, simply because what we are doing is so different. We had to prove that we could attract good audiences and get good press playing the music that we do, which we have now done. It has been an up-hill struggle, but now we have an agent in the UK who is booking our first full blown UK tour for the spring.

Do you enjoy playing live and how did the recent gig go?

Funnily enough, although I have played live with many bands, Porcupine Tree are the first band that I really enjoy playing with in a live context. I think this is for a number of reasons. The material lends itself well to live performance, my fellow band members are incredibly gifted and pleasant people to work with and the audiences have been so appreciative. Also, we do a fair amount of improvisation in each show, which keeps it fresh regardless of how many times we have played the material.

Presumably the new album had major surgery before you were happy with it?

I’m not completely happy with it. Although I think production wise it is the best album yet. I think there are many areas for improvement. I wish I had used real drums all the way through the album and secondly, I wish I’d written a couple more songs to balance out the long instrumental sequences.

In answer to your question – the 35 minute title track was a lot of work and could have ended up being anything from 25-50 minutes in length, depending on how I edited it together. A piece as long and complex as that one had to be recorded in about 6 separate sections and then edited together for the album. The final edit you hear on the album was about the tenth attempt to cut things to the right length and in the right order and it’s still not perfect.

Do you prefer to record musically more consistent records as opposed to ‘On the Sunday of Life’ etc ?

I enjoy doing both. I love the idea of making a sprawling mess of an album and this is my favourite aspect of ‘On the Sunday of Life’ it covers a very wide range of moods and ideas. It is not always successful musically, or a constant listen, but it will always be one of my favourites. In making that album I discovered the direction I wanted to take, at least for a few years. If I was to make another album like ‘On the Sunday…..’ it would be because I was closing a musical chapter and searching for some new paths to take. I’m sure I will do this again at some point, though for now I am still happy with the current direction and sound.

What Porcupine Tree track has given you the greatest satisfaction?

‘Fadeaway’ – such a shame it doesn’t work live. I’m really satisfied with the ‘Moonloop’ E.P. too.

Do you have any more production plans?

I would really like to produce some other artists, but it would have to be something really special for me to divert time from my own projects. I enjoyed doing Dean Carter’s ‘Psychomusak’ album because it followed no rules at all – I think I’d find it pretty boring doing a ‘rock’ band.

What’s the next project for Steven Wilson?

I’m currently working on the next No-Man album ‘Wild Opera’. It should be finished by the end of March.

What plans for the future of Porcupine Tree?

In the immediate future, the new album ‘The Sky Moves Sideways’ is released on January 30th and we want to play as many concerts as possible to promote the album. It will also be the first of our albums to be given a release in the U.S.A., so it will be interesting to see how it is received there. There will probably be another single next Summer and we would like to release a live album sometime in the next two years. We also want to continue to develop the live show by using more lights and projections and creating a whole ‘environment’ for a live performance to take place in. This hopefully will extend to video and film. I’m also looking forward to working on the next L.P. (to be released in 1996) which I already have some rough ideas for. I want the next album to be the first in which the whole band are involved with from the beginning to end in both writing and performance.