SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Once Upon A Time In The West Midlands – The Bostin’ Sounds Of Brumrock 1966-1974, 3CD Box Set Various Artists

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST MIDLANDS  – THE BOSTIN’ SOUNDS OF BRUM ROCK 1966-1974   (3CD SET)  Various Artists
I’ve been looking forward to this release for some time. Whenever we start talking about the 60’s and the leading bands and artists its inevitable we will start talking about Liverpool, Merseybeat and The Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Cilla etc, followed by Manchester with The Hollies, The Dakotas, Georgie Fame, Hermans Hermits, Barclay James Harvest etc and of course London at the very heart of things which spawned 100’s if not 1000’s of bands. But as Merseybeat began to wane in the mid 60’s and the ‘beat’ scene in general, another city was on the way up bursting with talent and boasting some musicians destined to be at the forefront of the music scene, some to this present day. That city was Birmingham and this new 3CD box set is devoted as the title says to ‘Brum Rock’.  When you start to list just some of the main acts you can hear on this new compilation you begin to appreciate just how much influence these artists have had on the world. So who do we have in the main league? The 2 most obvious ones are a pair of guys who couldn’t work together eventually, but between them created some of the greatest and much loved music of all time. I speak of course of Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne. Roy as any rock fan knows came to prominence with his band The Move in 1966 which Jeff was to join briefly before the pair of them started the Electric Light Orchestra and then due to musical differences went their separate ways with Roy forming Wizzard and Jeff developing ELO into the monster success it became. When i think of Birmingham its Roy and Jeff that first enter my mind swiftly followed by a man who fronted another huge band from the city. The Moody Blues, with original lead singer (and old friend) of many years Denny Laine. Everybody is familiar with Denny’s lead vocal on ‘Go Now’ (not included here) but when he went solo he made a record that became the inspiration for a 15 year old schoolboy to get in the music business. That 15 year old was me and the record was ‘Say You Don’t Mind’ which is included on this compilation which i am so pleased to see, as the original version has been incredibly hard to find over the years since it was initially released in 1967. It became a bigger hit when Colin Blunstone recorded it a few years later and he did a great job, but Denny’s original is sublime. I could write pages on just Roy, Jeff & Denny but with space limited let’s have a peek disc by disc at some of the great music and artistes to be found. Disc1 contains tracks from the previously mentioned heavy hitter’s such as The Move ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ alongside Jeffy Lynne’s band The Idle Race with the catchy psyche pop ‘Imposters Of Life Magazine’. ‘Life’s Not Life’ from The Moody Blues and Denny’s ‘Say You Don’t Mind’. Other big names abound with The Spencer Davis Group ‘Moonshine’ their spin off band Traffic with one of my all time favourite numbers of theirs ‘No Face, No Name, No Number’. The Rockin Berries follow with the seldom heard ‘Yellow Rainbow’ and Chicken Shack weigh in with ‘When The Train Comes Back’. Notable mentions go to 2 more less familiar bands in the shape of Locomotive with the excellent ‘Mr Armageddon’ and The Uglys with ‘I’ve Seen The Light’. It’s also great to see tracks from The Move’s guitarist Ace Kefford after he left to go solo. Disc2 headliners include The Climax Chicago Blues Band, Medicine Head, Trapeze & Big Bertha who collectively may not have shifted records in the quantities that the main artists on Disc1 did but they all have loyal fans and followers. Scattered throughout the disc are also some previously unissued gems including the delightful ‘Dance In The Smoke’ from Kansas Hook, a band that arose from the ashes of The World of Oz, another favourite band of mine who released the psyche/pop near hit ‘The Muffin Man’, i recently wrote about elsewhere. The World of Oz also feature in their own right on the compilation with ‘Like A Tear’. Other tracks that stand out come from acts Tea And Symphony, The Californians, Bakerloo & Cathedral with the previously unreleased ‘Its A Hard Way’. Disc3 gives us the debut hit from Roy and Jeffs baby, ELO, with what would become the bands signature set closer, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, nestling alongside this is Roy’s undoubted homage to all things Phil Spector/Wall Of Sound with ‘Ball Park Incident’ which is nice to see, rather than the usually compiled ‘See My Baby Jive’.  Roy also features solo with his wistful rendition ‘Dear Elaine’. Slade crop up with a track i confess i’ve never heard before in ‘One Way Hotel’ which catches them in 1970 on the cusp of breaking through. The ever satisfying Steve Gibbons features with ‘Brown Girl’ & another favourite appears with Jim Capaldi and ‘Eve’. Proto metal rockers Judas Priest join the party with ‘Rocka Rolla’ a quite restrained rocker given their usual fare. The compilation climaxes with the aptly titled ‘Bye Bye Birmingham’ a rocker from Blackfoot Sue, best known for their hit ‘Standing In The Road’ but proving here they were a more than competent good time rock band. All told this 3CD set runs to over 4 hours, containing 69 tracks and i have only featured just some of my personal highlights. As ever, this release from the excellent Grapefruit Records, comes housed in a sturdy clamshell box complete with a 48 page booklet with a wealth of information and artwork. I’m sure the good folk from Birmingham and the West Midlands particularly will love this new package and look back lovingly on their local bands, but those local bands grew in many instances to be known all over the world and are right up there with anything Liverpool, Manchester & London produced. I’ll leave you with the record that started it all for me. Here’s Denny. Enjoy.

For more information contact… https://www.cherryred.co.uk

Til next time……stay safe…..Colin

Leigh Mitchell… as always, very interesting…..xx

Alan Esdaile… Look what I found! Colin and Denny Laine.

My 1:12 Scale Miniature Record Shop by Dan Large

© Dan Large

Dan Large… My 1:12 Scale Miniature Record Shop is now finished. A very enjoyable project and took about a year to do.

Mark Rodrigues… Very cool Dan.

Mike Guy… Love It Dan. superb work. Looking forward to your mini nuclear power station & the hotel from The Shining.

Bookham Ally… Send a pic to Danny Baker. He’s on Twitter

Alan Esdaile… Love that you got the Stallion sleeve on display

Tony Davis… That looks awesome!

Carole Prescott… Absolutely amazing. Love it.x

John Mcewen… That’s pretty amazing!!

Elaine Stock… Amazing.

Perri Ann Haste… That is fantastic!

Phil Gill… That’s fabulous Dan. Thank you so much for including our Stallion album in your shop, we’re honoured.

Dan Large… Many thanks Phil and no worries at all… my pleasure. Thank you for all your lovely comments everyone

Paul Cullen… Brilliant, well done

Alan Pepper… That’s impressive. Love the details especially the Seeburg . Wonder what’s A1 on that jukebox ! Just need a box of 45s in the corner.

Dave Nattress… That is a fabulous piece of art. Deserves national coverage!!

Kev Towner… OMG – that is SO cool!!

Andy Ives… Brilliant

 

The Breathers – Windsor Castle London 1980’s by Clive Pierce

photo supplied by Clive Pierce

Jim Bell (Red Ferrari), John Wilde (Izzi Peptone),  Clive Pierce and Ric Hool

Clive Pierce… I would just like to clear a few inaccuracies up In relation to my short spell with The Breathers. I was contacted quite out of the blue by Simon Davies, who had been one of the A&R managers at a subsidiary label of EMI called Cobra Records. I was in a group called CRAZE who were signed to Cobra. Everything was going well until for reasons unbeknownst to me, Simon and his co A&R partner Tony Squires decided to jump ship leaving all the artists signed to Cobra floundering. We were passed on to EMI Harvest but we weren’t anyone’s baby anymore so consequently were neglected and through this Craze split. I was asked by Simon if I would like to try out for the vacant drummer position in The Breathers so off to Hastings I went to meet the guys in the group and to see if we could click. I found them all very amicable and was made to feel part of the group almost immediately after my audition. It is true that I did consider at this stage to becoming a session drummer and had started to earn quite good money but I absolutely hated every minute of it. I was 18 years old and was playing sessions on tracks that I had no affinity with whatsoever, so The Breathers were a breath of fresh air ‘pun intended’. Even though I gave The Breathers my best shot I was still in love with CRAZE so just slipped slowly away but with no hard feelings. Lovely guys and Izzi was an absolute character. Rick was very accommodating and friendly. I stayed at his place in Hastings while we rehearsed for a mini tour of the North and even stayed at his parents house up in Newcastle….I love the folk from the North East. One thing i must say that did not sit for me very well concerns the single they released. I have no idea why their original drummer Steve Demetri left but I have to take this chance to say that it was him and not I who played the drums on Living In An Age Age even though I am credited on the sleeve as doing so. It was done without my consultation and it was too late to have my name removed after they had gone into production. That was just not right and embarrassing for me.I would have been livid if it was the other way round. If I had my way Steve’s name would have been on the sleeve and not mine. Anyway….thank you guys for the fun. Clive.

Phil Gill… That poor man has no shirt. I’d have given him back one of those he gave me in 1976 if I’d known.

Alan King… I lost mine on the 3:35 at Lingfield perhaps he did too

Ric Hool… Clive Pierce was a crisp drummer, sharp to The Breather’s material and if I never said so before, thanks Clive. Yes, Steve Demetri was the drummer on Livin In The Age Age. Once heard, you couldn’t mistake Steve’s unique style. It’s gracious of Clive to put the record straight. That tour Clive mentions, I think, went into Scotland – Edinburgh, Bathgate, Glasgow… Every gig outside of Hastings was virtually always north and most often a long, long drive so putting a tour together, though we never made money, put enough petrol in the van to keep us going. Friends were made along the way who put us up overnight and, as Clive mentions, when possible, staying with family was a luxury. Motorway eating was far too expensive but as soup was the cheapest item on the menu we got through a lot of it. John (Izzi) and I, in desperate times of hunger, used to scan the tables to see what other customers were leaving and make a dive for the scraps as soon as those tables were deserted. Typical of most groups trying to make it: Lords on stage; Beggars off stage. Best Ric

John Wilde… Hi Boys. Great to see posts from Clive and Ric.Thank you Clive for your keen presence all those years ago. They were great times. So, thank you Ric for inviting me on board. We were a tight unit, I wish I had paid better attention and focussed more on the music instead of preening my feathers. I wish both Ric and Jim (Red Ferrari) all the best and Clive, thank you for your graciousness.

Janie Watson… Would you by any chance be the Johnny Wilde who used to dance amazingly onstage at The Cobweb, c1969/70? Usually to Grooving With Mr Bloe? Apologies if not!

John Wilde… yep that was me. Great times.

Stuart Moir… They were the good times when the gear was perched on beer crates

Tony Davis… Strange to see this now. During my recent local music show on Hastings Rock Radio I decided to dig out some legacy tracks and was extremely grateful to Julian Deeprose for letting me have a copy of Age Age. It was great to here again and if anyone has any other Breathers tracks I would love to play them. Great days

Dave Allan… Hi, I also covered some gigs in the drum seat for the lads when they were working up’t North. I’d previously worked with Jim & Ric in a band called Telephone with Brendan Healey and Chris McPherson (don’t mention that Renault 4 🙂 )and then ultimately with Brendan in a band called The East Side Torpedoes. Sadly Brendan’s no longer with us, but it would be great to hear what Ric and Jim are up to these days. Take care everyone. Dave

Dee Hellier… (in reply to Dave Allan) Hi Dave, well I can tell you that Jim is well and living in London now.  He has never hung up his guitar and is as excited about music now as he was then. He has his own studio located a short walk up the garden, where he writes, records and develops loads of new artists. He also teaches at BIMM London! He is still very much living in the age age!  Dee x

Rumours Club – 1982/1983

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gig posters supplied by Mick Mempham, Expandis postes © John Alexander Wilde

Pete Fairless…Doing the boxer beat? I remember JoBoxers being fantastic! Thoroughly brilliant, in a dripping wet, hot and sweaty, rather loud, Crypt, kinda way!

rumourssupplied by Mark Richards The Crypt Archives . https://www.facebook.com/thecryptarchive

John Wilde… Ha! The Expandis fantasy Ball. What a great New Years Eve.

Peter Millington… ABADABS Friday 26th November – 1982

 

Sun Lounge St Leonards-on-Sea – deckchair fire 1978

Phil Gill… Didn’t think 1978 was that hot.

Wendy Weaver… When I first came down here in 1979 there were deckchairs lined up along the prom every morning. They were packed up every evening and many mornings I would get into the office to see a pile of burned deckchairs Yobbos used to pour lighter fuel onto the canvas and set light to it. They would be in their 50s now, I wonder if they still feel proud of what they did?

Kevin Carlyon… Days there were deckchairs

Dan Mcdonald… In all honesty I think The Conquest accident and emergency department of the day were a bit pleased as the times I’ve done myself an injury on those things in the past lol