Category Archives: reminiscences

131. STEVE ‘LOOPY’ NEWHOUSE’s “LOOPYWORLD: THE IRON MAIDEN YEARS” (2016). + A trip down Memory Lane for The Quill.

Loopy's book coverBook review.  When Steve ‘Loopy’ Newhouse told me he was writing a book about his time as a roadie for Heavy Metal maestros, Iron Maiden; I was very keen to have a read. So he sent me a pre-publication PDF of his work, Loopyworld: The Iron Maiden Years, from which I could write a review. I was keen because I was a big fan of Maiden long before they had achieved their international mega success; and I saw them innumerable times – mostly at The Ruskin Arms PH in East London, throughout 1979.

I know Loopy; so when I read the book, I could hear him narrating it in my head. It is written really well and flows easily, like a mate telling you a long but fascinating series of anecdotes down the pub! Its an easy read. He writes just as he speaks – in a relaxed London / Cockney accent. Fine for me because I’m of the same stock; but English speakers outside the UK may have a bit of a problem with some of the colloquialisms contained in it. At the end of the day though, its a book about a Rock band from the East End of London, so what could be a more appropriate lingo to use?

The book sets out Loopy’s time with Iron Maiden from September ’78 to July ’84 – with a break of two years in the middle when he got sacked, then later reinstated. The band were of course one of the leading lights of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM); a serious back-lash against the New Wave/Punk aberration of the mid-70s. By using his old diaries, Loopy describes the highs and lows of his career as a roadie/drum tech for Maiden (and other bands). It is not just a memoir, but a valuable history of Maiden in their earliest years; and an eye-opener for life on the road. He is refreshingly honest, and undoubtedly accurate; and has brought to light many anecdotes and observations about Maiden – and the Rock scene in general – that may have otherwise been long forgotten. It is a fascinating read.

(Pic: Loopy)

Loopy with his magnum opus!(Photo: Loopy)

The book comes as a paperback of 200+ pages. It has a very clear format and typesetting. It contains some great photos, although unfortunately without captions which I think would have been very useful (but that’s the only, minor, complaint that I’ve already mentioned to Loopy). The flyers, ads and posters shown from the time are interesting too; as they mention other artists that I’d seen and forgotten (For example: Zaine Griff, who I saw at Reading ’79; and Lea Hart, supporting Judas Priest at Hammersmith in October ’78).

The cover illustration is by none other than Derek Riggs – the man responsible for bringing ‘Eddie’ to life on numerous Maiden album covers. Loopy also tells me that there is a secret code contained in the book – but I’ve yet to suss it out! The book is out now and is available from Loopy’s website. If you’re a Maiden / NWOBHM fan; or you were a London gig-goer in the late ’70s; it is definitely a must have. Put it on your Christmas stocking list! Highly recommended. PTMQ

Link to Loopy’s website where you can order a copy of the book

Link to Loopy’s Facebook page

(Photo: PTMQ)

Loopy kindly signed the book for me. (Photo: PTMQ)

My own memories of Iron Maiden.  Reading Loopy’s book initiated a trip down Memory Lane for me. I found the earlier chapters particularly interesting because Loopy mentions many of my old haunts: The Ruskin Arms, East Ham of course (which is now an hotel); The Rabbits, Manor Park (now a chemist); The Green Gate, Newbury Park (now a MacDonalds); The Green Man, Leytonstone (now an Irish theme bar); and The Red Lion, Leytonstone (still a pub!). All good Rock venues of the time. He even talks about Bonzers Farm, where I used to go to pick up bags of spuds for my Mum – precariously strapping them on the pillion seat of my motor bike!

Apart from the dozens of times I saw Maiden at the Ruskins, I also saw them in other places that Loopy mentions: I was at Neal Kay’s Bandwagon HM Soundhouse, a Rock club in Kingsbury, North London a couple of times; at the Reading Rock Festival (August 1980); the long gone Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park where Maiden played as part of that venue’s anniversary celebrations (With Praying Mantis support, June ’80); at The Music Machine, Camden Town (also August ’79; supported by Angel Witch and Toad The Wet Sprocket); their famous charity gig at the Ruskins (April ’80) – which is the only time I remember having to buy a ticket in advance for the venue (and boy it was packed that night!); and their gig at Hammersmith Odeon supporting Judas Priest (March ’80).

(Pic: PTMQ)

Some old IM tickets I sold on Ebay a few years ago. Top: Music Machine, Aug 79. Middle: Ruskin Arms, April 80. Bottom: Rainbow Theatre, June 80.  (Pic: PTMQ)

But it was the Ruskin Arms that will be forever synonymous with Maiden. I first saw them in April ’79, and I must have been present at almost every gig they played there throughout the rest of that year. A couple of mates and I would always be seen doing the ‘Transylvania Boogie’ (as we called it) at the front of the low stage. Occasionally we’d help shift the band’s gear too. I seem to remember they played three consecutive nights there at Easter, and I went to all three. Before and after these gigs, we would have a chat to the band and got to know them quite well – especially Steve HarrisDave Murray and Paul Di’Anno I also remember being pulled up and searched by the Old Bill on the way home from a Maiden gig at the Ruskins – I remember because it was my birthday in January ’80! But the last time I spoke to any of them was at a Radio Caroline Roadshow in April ’80 when I bumped into singer Paul (I mentioned this in an earlier article #41).

There was one particularly good gig at the Ruskins, when the band (and I think I’m right in saying this, not having kept a diary like Loopy!) debuted ‘Running Free’, and it went down a storm. Then it was ‘Remember Tomorrow’s debut, and after rapturous applause, I recall Steve Harris saying from the stage with a big grin on his face, that he didn’t know how the crowd would like it – he needn’t have worried; because for my mates and I it was the best thing we’d heard Maiden do! It may have been at this same gig that the band played a blinding cover of Van Halen‘s ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ as a second encore.

I’d say I’m not so much a Maiden fan these days, although I have a great deal of respect and affection for them, and always keep an eye on what they’re up to. They are certainly responsible for providing me with a great deal of good memories, and I met lots of interesting people at their gigs. Back in ’79 I always said they’d hit the big time. It was obvious right from the start – although I don’t think anyone (even the band themselves) were prepared for just how far and how quickly their career took off. Long may they continue! Cheers Loopy! PTMQ

Advertisements

112. LASTING PERCEPTIONS OF THE GREAT WAR DISCUSSED IN FOUR RECENT SONGS: By Larry Miller; Amy Goddard; Reg Meuross, and Del Bromham.

Introduction  We are currently living through the one-hundredth anniversaries of the battles of the Great War (1914-18). A century ago, Battles such as Mons and Loos had finished in stale-mate, leaving thousands dead in their wake; and the horrors of The Somme were in full flight. Passchendaele, and The Kaiserschlacht were yet to happen, and so the killing continued. Those names still send a shudder down the spine of many of us living in the 21st Century – in spite of the fact that very few people alive today are actually old enough to remember the conflict – and no one alive who actually fought in it.

Yet still it lives on in our cultural memory; and many of us have family stories handed down about the living Hell of the Great War. My own family were fairly typical in that we provided four young men for the British Army – Len was killed in action on the Somme (and I am writing this article now in commemoration of his sacrifice in July 1916); his brother Frank was wounded; Jim was captured (but escaped); and my Grandfather Albert came through unscathed (at least physically). Jim and Albert were musicians – the former played banjo and sax in at least two early Jazz bands after the war (See the photo above; and my article #8); and my Grandad Albert was an accomplished amateur violinist with musical interests that ranged from the Classical to the popular. (Look out for an article about his violin and a Waltz that he wrote, on this website at some time in the future).

Many musicians fought in the war of course. Many bandsmen acted as medics and stretcher-bearers even if they were not directly involved in the fighting. In the days before multi-media entertainment, many young soldiers were adept at some form of musical instrument or other, and would entertain their mates to raise their spirits or just to relieve the boredom.

Given that The Great War is still a lurking spectre in the national psyche, it is not then surprising to find that it still inspires the writing of songs to this day – as every new generation has its take of the conflict. There is apparently still plenty to say about it from many points of view. I have chosen just four very moving songs that illustrate modern perceptions of three very different aspects of the Great War – yet all are aspects with which we can sympathise. They are all based on true stories.

Larry Miller 'Soldier Of The Line' album cover

Larry Miller ‘Soldier Of The Line’ (2014) album cover

Larry Miller: ‘Soldier Of The Line’:  My first example is by this remarkable Blues-Rock guitarist; and is the title track from his excellent album – arguably his best – Soldier Of The Line (2014). The song is a world away from his usual Blues-Rock repertoire. I have described it before as being a kind of ‘Progressive-Folk lament’. It is skillfully played on acoustic guitar in DADGAD tuning; and has a very hauntingly appropriate melancholic vibe about it. The album version is also enhanced by a sympathetic cello. (For my interview with Larry and a review of a gig he played in Essex, last year, see my article #61).

Larry’s song is based on the experiences of his Grandfather and Grand Uncle – brothers and musicians who – like millions of others – served at the sharp end in the Great War. It is written from the point of view of a Tommy actually serving in the trenches at the Front. Within the lyric, Larry skillfully explores the things that would be going through the mind of the young soldier, far from home and loved ones; asking himself what he is doing there (yet resolutely determined to do his duty nonetheless); and eager for letters from home – and desperately hoping that his lady-love is still waiting for his return. It is a poignant song which Larry has thoughtfully crafted both musically and lyrically.

Unfortunately, soon after I interviewed Larry last year, he suffered a stroke; but I’ve heard from his Bassist Derek White, that he is slowly recovering and has played a little guitar lately. I’m sure all of his fans and all of my readers will join me in wishing him a speedy return to full health. He also told me during the interview, that he was working on a new double album – something of a magnum opus from the way he described it to me – so let’s all hope and pray that he is able to complete it soon.

Here is a video of Larry performing ‘Soldier Of The Line’ (With thanks to Sarah Reeve)

Amy Goddard: 'Gladdie' single cover.

Amy Goddard: ‘Gladdie’ (2015) single cover.

Amy Goddard: ‘Gladdie’:   My second example is a song that was deservedly a semi-finalist at the 2015 Song-Writer Awards; and features on Amy’s wonderful second album, Secret Garden. (See my album review #94).  It was also available as a single (See my review #79).

The song looks at the war from the perspective of one of those loved ones left behind to ‘keep the home fires burning’. In this case the protagonist Gladdie (Amy’s Great Grand Mother) is missing her sweetheart who is away at the Front. It is a beautifully tragic song of three verses and three choruses. In the first verse Gladdie is remembering her dates ‘walking out’ with her beau before he is sent to the Front. In the second they correspond by letter; and she is frustrated by the lack of information. Of course, in the final tragic verse, she receives the news that her beloved has unfortunately died. How many such stories – sadly mostly now long forgotten – could once have been told about the Great War? They say that every family endured the loss of a loved one during the conflict, so this song serves to remember them all.

Amy has crafted a wonderful song in ‘Gladdie’. Her skillful guitar work (in Open-C tuning) coupled with her emotional – almost ethereal – vocal make this a haunting and poignant song that I know has reduced listeners to tears. The album version also features a sympathetic violin too, which enhances the sadness within the song.

Here is Amy’s official video of ‘Gladdie’

Reg Meuross: 'Dragonfly' (2008) album cover.

Reg Meuross: ‘Dragonfly’ (2008) album cover.

Reg Meuross: ‘And Jesus Wept’:   I first heard this remarkable song covered by Nigel Dee of The Acoustic Warehouse, Kingsteighton, Devon (See my review #29); and  I am told that Reg has played at the venue himself). From this cover, I was inspired to investigate the original. It appears on Reg’s Dragonfly album of 2008, but I first heard it only a couple of years ago – and I’m very glad that I did.

The song deals with an aspect of the war that has at last received widespread recognition: the unjust execution of young soldiers for ‘Cowardice’. Reg was moved to write the song after reading of the plight of Private Harry Farr; executed by firing squad in 1916. This is one of the brutal travesties of the Great War that only comparatively recently has been given voice in the national conscience – that is, the ignorance of the Top Brass to accept, understand, and deal with the phenomenon of ‘Shell-Shock’ (which is now far better understood; and these days described as Combat Fatigue). Pte. Farr was posthumously pardoned in 2006.

Reg plays this haunting song on acoustic guitar in Drop-D Tuning. Again, a beautifully sad song entirely appropriate for the subject matter; and it is thoughtfully written (as is typical of Reg’s work).

Here is a video of Reg performing ‘And Jesus Wept’ from the Songs From The Shed Sessions 

(Pic: Stray)

Stray’s Valhalla (2010) album cover

Del Bromham: ‘Harry Farr’:  The same subject has also inspired the writing of ‘Harry Farr’ by Del Bromham of London-based heavy rock band Stray (of which Del is the only surviving member from the original group of the late ’60s). It appears on their album Valhalla (2010); and couldn’t be more different to Reg’s take on the subject; for whereas Reg emphasises the sad tragedy of Harry’s unjust execution, Del’s contains that sadness plus large portions of darkness and anger too.

Del’s interest in Harry’s story is far more personal than Reg’s too, in that Del’s Grandfather was actually diagnosed with ‘shell-shock’, after being injured at the Battle of Ypres, and spent his whole life after that in a mental hospital until he passed away in 1969. It was whilst watching a TV programme on Harry Farr and others who were executed, that it struck Del that his Grandfather too could have been condemned if he’d been sent back to the Front after being wounded at Ypres. ‘The song just had to come out’ Del told me ‘I remember the song was written very quickly, almost like an invisible hand was assisting me writing the lyrics.’ Its clear too that Del has done his homework on the historical facts of the case.

This song by Del has been described by other writers as ‘recalling Iron Maiden’ in essence; and that is fair comment (although Maiden have cited Stray as an early influence on their music), yet to me it primarily has the feel of a typical Stray/Bromham number (especially in the rhythm guitar part) – yet not merely a rehash of their earlier work. Its a great rocker that is popular in the band’s live set, and has an important message to impart – ie, making us aware of the plight of not just Harry Farr, but of the 300 or so other poor souls who were executed for ‘cowardice’ during the Great War. Del has always been known for writing deeper stuff than your average rock musician at times, that’s for sure.

Here is the video of Del Bromham’s Stray’s ‘Harry Farr

For more information about Harry Farr, here is a link to the Wikipedia page

It is a century or so since the events that inspired these four songs have passed; yet still they live on – and so they should, as I think it is important to remember that hideous conflict of 1914-18. Each is a very personal tale; yet can be seen as representative of many millions of similar true stories which are probably mostly forgotten by their families; so I applaud these writers for keeping the memories alive, each in their own way. There are no doubt other songs on the subject of the Great War (and it is a subject that interests me greatly), so if any of my readers would like to suggest others, I’d be pleased to hear about them. Finally, I’d like to thank all four of these remarkably talented and thoughtful song-writers for keeping these diverse and important aspects of the Great War alive through their wonderfully moving music and lyrics. They prove that although the war is long over, its dark shadow still haunts us to this day – and still inspires great songs. Long may that be the case. PTMQ

 

103. BAD COMPANY “Live 1977 & 1979” (2016) + a trip down Memory Lane!

Bad Co: "Live 1977 & 1979"

The cover of the new Bad Co album: “Live 1977 & 1979”

If you had asked me at any time during the last 37 years, to name a handful of the most memorable gigs that I’ve had the pleasure of attending in all that time; then one of those on that select list would surely have been Bad Company at London’s Empire Pool Wembley, (now called Wembley Arena) on Saturday 10th March 1979.

This memorable show was part of the band’s highly successful Desolation Angels Tour, and they played three nights at Wembley: 9th, 10th and 11th March ’79. There was no support band. You weren’t allowed to take photos at gigs back then (on pain of being thrown out or having your camera confiscated); and I didn’t need or want to make notes (at the age of 19 all I was interested in was birds, bikes, beer and Blues-Rock – in no particular order!); but I wish I had, as only a few snippets of recollection remain in my mind. I remember that they inevitably played ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’; ‘Can’t Get Enough’; ‘Rock’n’Roll Fantasy’ (off their new Desolation Angels album); and, I’m glad to say, my particular favourite ‘Honey Child’; but apart from that, the show has faded into the mists of time – other than to say that I recall it as a superb night. But I can still see Paul Rodgers in my mind’s eye – the ultimate Rock front-man; the epitome of cool – swinging that mic stand around, and sometimes playing a Strat – and that voice!  I remember too, Micky Ralphs casually pacing the stage, playing with an ease and confidence that was spell-binding – and only surpassed in impressiveness, by the sounds he was getting out of his Strat. Wonderful.

(Pic: PTMQ collection)

A scan of my original ticket which I sold on Ebay a few years ago! (Pic: PTMQ collection)

I went with a couple of other blokes: my main gig-mate Gary (whatever happened to him, I wonder?), and another geezer whose name I don’t recall; and we had seats reasonably near the front.  It seems ridiculous now, but at £4.50 for a ticket, it was a bit pricey compared to £3.50 to see Whitesnake (at Hammersmith Odeon); £3.00 for Rush (ditto); and a mere £2.80 to see Van Halen (at the old Rainbow Theatre) at around the same ’78-’79 period. At the time, I worked for British Electric Traction (BET) which was a holding company – ie, they didn’t do or make anything, they just owned other companies who did. One of the other companies that they had their greedy mitts on, was the Wembley Complex (Stadium; Arena and Conference Centre); and I sometimes managed to get discounted tickets – and yes it was worth getting a quid or so off for my mates and myself, because I was only on about £40 a week before tax in those days! I also managed to see Blackmore’s Rainbow and Status Quo at the same venue at around the same time. (That Rainbow gig was infamous; but that’s a story for another time!)

So imagine my delight then, when recently I heard that Bad Co’s record label Swan Song were to release a double live album featuring recordings made at one of those nights back in March ’79 (the 9th – sadly not the 10th that I went to. Still; its near enough!)

(Pic: PTMQ)

Part of the album’s inner sleeve. The right-hand part shows the cover of the Desolation Angels Tour programme. I sold my original copy on Ebay, along with the ticket, a few years ago. (Pic: PTMQ)

The album is a two CD set that comes in a deluxe four-gate-fold sleeve; plus a booklet tucked into one side that contains lots of info and photos from both of the gigs covered in the collection. Disc One is a recording of the Bad Co gig at The Summit, Houston, Texas, USA, on 23rd May 1977. Disc Two is the Wembley show, recorded on the ‘…Rolling Stones Truck-thing just outside’ (to quote another famous ’70s Rock band!) Presumably some tracks have been omitted from both sessions to avoid too much duplication; although two songs appear on both discs (‘Shooting Star’ and ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’).

An oddity is the inclusion of a superb and rare Bad Co cover of Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’ amongst the songs on the Wembley disc. It is a recording made at The Capitol Centre, Washington DC in June ’79;  so it would arguably have been better placed at the end of the first disc; but certainly shouldn’t be in the midst of the Wembley show. Its bloody good though!

The tightness; quality musicianship; and professionalism of Bad Co’s legendary live performances comes through well on these recordings. And the recordings themselves are very well done indeed. There is perhaps a little disappointment in the mixing of Ralphs’ rhythm guitar work on some of the tracks on the Wembley disc, but its not too much of a problem.

If you are in any way, shape, or form a Bad Co fan, then I’d say that you need to own this excellent double album. PTMQ

41. “RADIO CAROLINE: THE TRUE STORY OF THE BOAT THAT ROCKED” by Ray Clark. Plus, a personal voyage down the piratical sea-lanes of my memory!

I’ve just finished reading the book Radio Caroline: The True Story Of The Boat That Rocked (History Press, 2014) by Ray Clark. My copy is the paperback version, with 256 pages; and it is a bit larger than a standard-sized paperback.  There is a Foreword by EMPEROR ROSKO and KEITH SKUES. It tells the history of the pirate station in great detail, from its inception in 1964; to its current on-line format. It details the planning; the ships; the equipment; the legal and financial wrangles; as well as the less savoury shenanigans that went on –  the plots, the back-stabbing, and even a murder! And there are some fantastic photographs throughout; including a magnificent colour section in the middle. This is a very good book indeed; and I really enjoyed reading it. I’d recommend it to anyone who has an interest in pirate radio; in broadcasting in general; or in the history of British pop music. At all times it is easy to read and interesting. It is extraordinarily well researched. The author is to be congratulated on a fine piece of writing.

'Radio Carolin: The True Story Of The Boat That Rocked' by Ray Clark. (Photo: PTMQ)

‘Radio Carolin: The True Story Of The Boat That Rocked’ by Ray Clark. (Photo: PTMQ)

My only complaints about this book are: (1) That I think an appendix containing a definitive list of all the Caroline DJs who ever broadcast, and their dates of service would have been very useful. (2) That some sample play-lists from the various periods of the station’s history could have been shown to illustrate the varied and changing styles of music played – there were so many DJs that I’d bet some of them kept some play-lists as mementos, and would have been only too pleased to lend them to the author. There is one play-list shown but it is from a Radio Atlanta programme from the early 60s. And finally (3) one or two maps showing the positions of the various transmitter ships that Caroline used could have been included; showing broadcasting positions, wreck sites and the three-mile limit.

Personally, my first memory of the pirate radio station is from c.1967. It seems ridiculous now, but as a family, we’d often go on holiday to Felixstowe in Suffolk – only an hour’s drive from where we lived at the time; but it seemed like another world to we kids then!  I remember my Dad saying that there was a pirate ship just off the coast and if they came ashore they’d be arrested. As a seven year-old I didn’t have a clue what pirate radio was; but I knew what pirates were! So I imagined the Old Bill fighting it out with a lot of cutlass-wielding thugs in tri-corn hats! Sadly that was a spectacle that I was never to see!

Then in my mid-teens (mid-70s), searching for more interesting music than that which I was hearing on Radio One and TOTP, I discovered this station playing exactly what I wanted to find out about – album tracks from bands that I’d maybe heard of, but knew nothing about. This was for me, totally new and musically stimulating, and opened my mind to a new world – particularly of Prog-Rock;  with some meaningful Folky stuff there too.  I can still hear the jingle ‘Three One Ni-ine Caroline!’; and the oft-played narrated excerpt from the MOODY BLUES album On The Threshold Of A Dream (1969)  – ‘There you go man; keep as cool as you can….’ They also plugged the concept of what they termed ‘L.A.’  (‘Loving Awareness’ – but I was never really sure exactly what that meant!)

I particularly liked listening to the personal Top 30’s that the listeners sent in to the Caroline HQ based in Spain. Two of these were broadcast each Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings between (I think) 6pm and Midnight. Many of these Personal Top 30’s would culminate in Led Zep’s ‘Stairway…’ which I never seemed to tire of; and was always surprised if it didn’t reach their respective No.1 spots!  Other very commonly played tracks I remember, were BJH’s ‘Mocking Bird’ and LONE STAR’s ‘Bells Of Berlin’. I recall scribbling out my own Top 30 with a view to sending it off; but never got round to it because I couldn’t decide the best 30 from hundreds of new songs I’d heard in the previous few years. I think RUSH’s ‘Xanadu’ was my No.1 from early ’78 though; with maybe STRIFE’s ‘Sky’ at No.2.

When I first started listening to Caroline; both it, and Dutch language Radio Mi Amigo, were both broadcasting from the ship MV Mi Amigo simultaneously. But then they merged due to financial woes and began to share the same wavelength – R.Caroline by night; and Mi Amigo by day. Even though I couldn’t speak Dutch, it was still worth listening to during the daylight hours, as they played similar sounds that I could relate to.

In order to publicise themselves and make a little dough, there were also the Radio Caroline Road-shows. These took the form of a rock disco.  I remember attending several of these from about ’77 to ’80 in various locations across London and Essex (one in Southend-On-Sea, I recall – and more on this later). These were normally hosted by two or three of the well-known Caroline DJs who’d play everyone’s favourite up-beat rock songs; and sometimes a band would agree to play too. They’d normally finish with Led Zep’s ‘Stairway…’ or Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’.

I particularly recall one Road-show held upstairs at The Red Lion PH in Leytonstone, East London. This was hosted by three DJs – I think they were: Rob Eden; Robbie Day and ‘Harvey The Rabbit’  (now I need that appendix of DJs to be sure!) I remember the sprung wooden floor in this pub started bouncing alarmingly due to all the dancing about! And I can date this gig quite precisely because I remember one of the DJs playing a track from the latest BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW album, Long Live Rock And Roll, which had just been released; and he asked if anyone had it yet. I was one of only a few who’d got my hands on it at the time; and I know it went on sale in April ’78. I also remember my mate Mark (whatever happened to him, I wonder?) impressing some girls with a great impersonation of Leonard Rossiter’s character ‘Rigsby’ from the 70s TV sit-com Rising Damp – and it paid off for us too! Nice one Mark!

Something that regularly used to occur at these road-shows, was when one of the DJs would ask for a volunteer among the young ladies present, to come up on stage, and change into a Radio Caroline T-shirt  – rendering her topless for a few seconds whilst she changed in public. This would bring about great cheers of approval from all the blokes in the audience!  At the Southend gig that I attended, I remember a certain young lady who willingly climbed on stage, but bottled out of getting changed at the last minute (to great Boos from all the libidinous teenage boys in the crowd); but she was given the T-shirt anyway. I remember because I knew her (and no, I never did get to see them either!)

Then in 1980, the rusting Mi Amigo sank in shallow waters in the English Channel; taking Radio Caroline with her, and leaving only her mast above the waves. A campaign was started to raise money to re-float her – or buy a new ship. Part of this campaign was a new road-show. I went to one of these new series of gigs at Ilford Palais, in late April 1980. I seem to remember that the NWOBHM band, TYGERS OF PAN TANG were on the bill. They and some other bands had agreed to help get Caroline on-air again, and I heard they were playing for free. Incidentally, whilst I was there, I bumped into Paul Di’anno – original singer of Iron Maiden; who I knew from The Ruskin Arms, East Ham – and we talked about their debut album Iron Maiden which had just been released.

I think the biggest name that Caroline had on board for this fund-raising tour, was GILLAN. They too had agreed to help out and were booked for a show somewhere. I remember this because I bought a Radio Caroline sweat-shirt at the Ilford gig, with all the other dates printed on the back of it; but I never saw Gillan at that particular road-show unfortunately.

Then, when they finally got their new ship fitted out and started transmissions once again in ’83, I eagerly tuned in; but they seemed to be playing stuff that I really didn’t want to listen to, so I gave it up for yonks and never gave it another thought. Circumstances in my life changed my priorities at around that time too, and I found less time to go to gigs or listen to the radio anyway. From reading the book though, I realised that there was a show on the new Caroline that would have suited me – Caroline Overdrive. But, sorry to say, that passed me by!

Well, that’s about it. Radio Caroline is now on-line of course; and I listen in occasionally. Their website has a lot of interesting info on it. They have a 50th anniversary 500 albums list, as voted by the listeners. Floyd’s Dark Side… is No1; with The Beatles at 2 & 3. I was disappointed to see Wishbone Ash’s Argus (my personal No1 album) at a lowly 68 though! They also have listeners’ personal top 15 album tracks listed.  – a bit like the old days! I’m listening to Caroline as I write this, and they’ve just played Led Zep’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’ followed by The Moody’s ‘The Actor’ – I could be back in the 70s again!  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose! PTMQ

Here is a link to Caroline’s website…..

http://www.radiocaroline.co.uk/#home.html

Here is an excellent compilation of Radio Caroline jingles…..

‘Climb aboard the Love Ship and sail away!’ PTMQ

40. FOCUS (+ THE STEVE EGGS BAND) at the BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton. Friday, 20th March, 2015.

Menno and Thijs watching the support act from the wings! (Photo: PTMQ)

Menno and Thijs of FOCUS, watching the support act from the wings. (Photo: PTMQ)

Anyone who has been reading my Blog since the New Year will soon realise that it has been very much dominated by a variety of Dutch bands of late. First a review of Mariëlla Tirotto’s wonderful new album: Live In Concert (See my Blog #34). Then a review of the excellent debut album by Blueshaker: Handle With Care. (See my Blog #36). Now, I am writing a review of a fantastic gig by – perhaps the most well-known band from The Netherlands – the mighty FOCUS.

One of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve been to in recent years, was Focus at the BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton, back in October 2013 (just a few months before I started my blog).  That was the tour to promote their tenth album – simply entitled Focus X. Of course, when I heard that these Dutch Prog-Rock veterans were due to play the same venue again this year, I jumped at the chance of seeing them in action once more. This time they were also promoting their Golden Oldies compilation album (see my blog #3: ‘Prog-Rock Revisited’). Cousin Charlie got the tickets sorted with promoter PETE FEENSTRA, and we were ready to go.

Now, I first became aware of Focus as a 13 year-old, back in ’73 when the wonderful instrumental ‘Sylvia’ became a hit single in the UK. A school-mate of mine had the live album Focus At The Rainbow  which I liked straight away; and which introduced me to more of their unique sounds. Sometime after that, another mate lent me Moving Waves – again, a good album. And so since those musically formative teenage years back in the 70s, I’ve considered myself to be something of a Focus fan; so I was very much looking forward to the gig.

As regular readers of my Blog will already know, I like the Boom Boom Club; its one of my favourite venues. Its a fair drive from my home in Essex, and crossing the Thames at Dartford on Friday afternoons can be a pain in the arse; so when I go to this venue I normally set off early and stay with Charlie (who lives just ten minutes walk from the club), and take the opportunity to sink one or three pints – a rare pleasure for me these days as I’m usually driving home from gigs completely sober! We arrived at the venue in good time, and said hello to Pete Feenstra and a couple of others that we knew.

THE STEVE EGGS BAND (Photo: PTMQ)

Support act: THE STEVE EGGS BAND (Photo: PTMQ)

First on the bill was the support act, THE STEVE EGGS BAND – who describe themselves as a ‘Country/Rock/pop’ group. They hail from South London; and were founded in 2011. Charlie had seen them before and said they were good. I’d heard the name, but I’d never seen them; so I was interested to find out all about them. They are a four-piece outfit  led by Mr.Eggs himself (lead vocal/rhythm guitar); and ably assisted by JON KERSHAW (lead guitar/vocals); PETE WASS (bass/vocals); and MARK TAYLOR (drums/vocals).

Now I like a bit of Country-Rock and I was looking forward to it.  This band did not disappoint. They began with their Eagles-esque song ‘Going To California’ – I liked the trans-Atlantic lyric about ‘a London boy’ travelling to the USA in this song.  Good start. They then continued their short set of eight original Rock / Country-Rock songs,  which included: ‘Here Comes The Rain’ penned by bassist Pete; ‘Heartbreaker’ from the new album; ‘Good Intentions’ which reminded me of Molly Hatchet; and the rockin’  ‘Roll Over’.  They are obviously influenced by some of the Rock and Country-Rock greats, yet they do have an originality that clearly shines through. I liked them.

As a musical unit, these boys were tight and competent. Steve, equipped with a Gibson acoustic, strummed a steady rhythm throughout, and sang confidently. Lead guitarist Jon, sporting a red Strat, showed himself to be very useful, very early on; and impressed with his wah-wah pedal. Pete played a Hofner bass guitar (don’t often see them), and made very good use of it, I must say. Drummer Mark looked precarious, parked on the edge of the crowded stage; but produced a fine exhibition of the percussive art.  They’re a good band to watch too; quite lively. They look like they thoroughly enjoy playing their music, and appreciate the applause they are awarded at the end of each song. I got hold of a copy of their latest album Hometown Skyline, and may write a review on this Blog soon.

Here is a link to The Steve Eggs Band website:

http://www.steveeggsband.co.uk/

Focus At The Boom Boom Club! (Photo:PTMQ)

Focus At The Rainbow Boom Boom Club! (Photo:PTMQ)

And now to the main event. The last time I saw Focus, as I’ve said, was in October ’13 at this same venue. That occasion was a mid-week gig, and the club was far from full up (we even sat at tables like a trendy music café – unusual for the Boom Boom). This time though, the punters were rammed in from the stage-front to the exit! As soon as the support act had cleared their kit from the stage, the indifatigable Mr.Feenstra was up there introducing the band we’d all come to see – the  inimitable Prog-Rock legends, Focus.

The line-up that climbed on stage to great applause at the Boom Boom Club have been together since 2011. Yet all of them have had a lengthy association with the group over the years. They currently consist of: THIJS VAN LEER (hammond organ, flute, scat-vocals, yodels); MENNO GOOTJES (guitar); BOBBY JACOBS (bass); and PIERRE VAN DER LINDEN (drums). Excellent musicians, all.

Thijs started the proceedings with a majestic flute intro to the first track from their debut album of 1970 Focus Plays Focus – the self-titled piece, ‘Focus’. What better way to begin? Before the cheers had finished the band were straight into their first European hit single: ‘House Of The King’. Their classic piece ‘Eruption’ followed to great approval. Thijs took centre stage during this for a flute solo – and some remarkable scat-singing! This rendition also show-cased Menno’s guitar skills; showing him to be well worthy of standing in JAN AKKERMAN’s shoes!

Hocus Pocus, its Focus! (Photo: PTMQ)

Hocus Pocus, its Focus! (Photo: PTMQ)

After Thijs reminded us that his Mrs was manning the merch desk, they gave us the iconic ‘Sylvia’ – arguably their most popular work – and a fine execution of the piece it was too. From Focus X they then gave us the manic ‘All Hens On Deck’. The apparently seldom played ‘Peace March’ was played next; followed by the beautiful ‘Focus II’.

From the Hamburger Concerto they then played two pieces, including ‘Harem Scarem’ –  which is about the joys and the dangers of alcohol. This was extended into a sequence of remarkable solos by all the band members in turn. Each excelling in his chosen field. Menno was particularly noticeable in this – his Gibson Les Paul being an extension of his mind! Yet all were exceptional.  Then we were plunged into the finale of the show – it was, of course, the iconic ‘Hocus Pocus’.

After the gig, Charlie and I had a brief chat with Thijs, Bobby and Menno. We complemented them on a remarkable performance. ‘We were in good form’  Jacobs said. They certainly were.

Thanks to Pete F and all the hard workers at the Boom Boom for making this gig happen.

PTMQ

19. RUSH: “A Farewell To Kings”; and memories of 1977!

RUSH's 'A Farewell To Kings' - classic album

‘A Farewell To Kings’ – classic RUSH album

Apparently, it was 37 years ago this September that Canadian prog-rock supremos RUSH, released what many (myself included) consider to be their finest album: the epic ‘A FAREWELL TO KINGS’. Reading this recently on Face Book, I stepped back in time to 1977; and my first encounter with this classic work. Here’s the story….

Those readers old enough to remember the 70s will know that it was a fantastic era for rock music of all types. But apart from word-of-mouth, in those pre-internet days, there were precious little ways to hear about, or find out about new music. The chief source of information was BBC 2’s ‘THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST’, hosted by ‘Whispering Bob’ Harris; who we teenage rockers considered to be the most musically knowledgeable bloke on Earth!

Now, the OGWT was aired late on a Tuesday night, and never repeated; and there were no means to record it back then; so if you missed it, you missed it for ever! This wasn’t a problem if you were home on a Tuesday evening, of course. The problem was that three stops down the line from where I lived was a pub called ‘The Green Gate’ (now, sadly, a McDonalds!) which held a ‘Heavy Rock Night’ (you’ve guessed it!), every Tuesday evening! This was an event that I rarely missed for years, in spite of the necessary evil of missing the OGWT and all the exposure to new sounds that it proffered.

So, one Tuesday evening in late ’77, there I was at ‘The Green Gate’ watching the regular house band (who I think were called Tonix) covering ‘Smoke On The Water’, ‘Whole Lotta Love’, or some such classic, when in walks the girl I was going out with at the time (who’s name I honestly don’t recall), and within a few minutes we were rowing about something or other. Well, whatever it was about, I got so annoyed with her that I buggered off home thinking ‘Well, at least I’ll catch the end of the Whistle Test’.

And sure enough I did. I put the telly on, tuned it to BBC 2, and ‘Whispering Bob’ was just saying (in his inimitable way) something like ‘Here is Rush on stage in Toronto performing ‘Xanadu’ from their new album ‘A Farewell To Kings”. Who the hell are Rush?’ I thought. There they were – a band unknown to me at the time – a drummer almost invisible behind the biggest drum/percussion kit I’d ever seen; a guitarist playing weird, mysterious-sounding chords on a twin necked Gibson; and most remarkable of all, a bassist playing a twin necked Rickenbacker whilst singing AND playing keyboards! Well after a few seconds of ‘Xanadu’ I was a Rush fan!

It was just what I wanted to hear at just the right time. I was sick of the New Wave/Punk Rock thing; and radio DJs and the music press telling us that the old ‘dinosaur’ Prog-Rock and heavy Rock bands were a thing of the past – even though venues like ‘The Green Gate’ were packed with punters every Tuesday, listening to classic rock, and eschewing the Punk/New Wave thing with a vengeance! The problem was that there was precious little new Prog or Heavy Rock being recorded because the record companies believed the out of touch DJs and music press; And then there was this Canadian band called Rush!

Rush’s albums had only been available as imports up until ‘A Farewell To Kings’ was released in Britain. A 12-inch EP was released by Mercury Records, showcasing 4 Rush songs: ‘Closer To The Heart’ from the new album; along with ‘Anthem’ from ‘Fly By Night’ (1974); ‘Bastille Day’ from ‘Caress Of Steel’ (1975); and ‘The Temples Of Syrinx’ from ‘2112’ (1976). Well I bought the 12-inch, and the new album; then over the next couple of weeks got my hands on the whole Rush back-catalogue which had all now been released in the UK. But I had to wait until May ’79 before I first saw the band live (at Hammersmith Odeon). That was a gig to remember!

After all these years, ‘Xanadu’ by Rush remains my favourite Prog-Rock track (beating STRIFE’s ‘Sky’ into 2nd place; and MMEB’s ‘Blinded By The Light’ into 3rd). But most of the early Rush material is deeply ingrained in my mind – their work (especially ‘A Farewell To Kings’) is to a large extent, the soundtrack to my late-teens! My thanks to ‘Whispering Bob’ and a nameless ex-girlfriend for a sequence of events that introduced me to a band who have given me a great deal of pleasure for many years! PTMQ.