Friday, November 17, 2017

Welcome to Peter Clemon's Coventry Music Articles

This Post Remains on top as an introduction to the site. Scroll below for the latest posts.

This Blogspot is part of the Hobo (Coventry Music and Arts Magazine) archive run by Trev Teasdel.

Hobo was a Coventry music magazine c 1973 - 75 and the archives of the magazine and Hobo workshop and the general music scene of the 70's was originally on Vox blogs c 2007 until recently. Vox closed and the site is being redeveloped and rearranged here - it's still in progress so bear with us.

Photos of the Coventry Music Museum run by Pete Chambers
Do visit the museum if you are in Coventry - website

This Blog
This Hobo blogspot in particular  is for Peter Clemons Coventry music Scene articles for the Coventry Telegraph and beyond. Pete Clemons has a huge database of hundreds of gigs in Coventry from the 60's to the present. Both professional acts and local bands. He has had over 100 articles published in the Coventry Telegraph which, on his request, we've collated here and  have linked them with further material from the Hobo magazine archives.

NEW - Coventry Book Launch Documenting the Music and Entertainment Scene of 1970's by Ruth Cherrington. The Dirty Stop Outs Guide 1970's Coventry.
Available in Coventry from Waterstones and HMV or from Amazon UK here 

Hobo magazine and Workshop are well featured in the book as are many of the photos from the Hobo Archive pages here.Both Pete Chambers and Pete Clemons make a good contribution to the book as well.

  • Early posts on here - if you scroll right down - are Pete's Rock of Ages Posts - gigs in Cov through the ages since the early 60's to present.
  • Later posts are about important music venues in the city and their history.
  • Other posts are about Coventry bands from the 60's onwards.

Pete Clemons and Trev Teasdel at  BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire January 2016

Links to the other Hobo Coventry Music Archive sites 
Coventry Music Scene from Hobo - This is the Hub to all the sites below

Hobo - Coventry Music Archives This is the main Blogspot for the Coventry Music Archives from Hobo Magazine with archive material from HoboMagazine and other Coventry music magazines, feature articles and other documentation. This site is still in development.

Coventry Arts Umbrella Club
The archives of the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club which was opened in 1955 by the Goons and where some of the Two Tone musicians started out and literary figures like Phillip Larkin and much more. many Coventry bands played the Umbrella in the late 60's and early 70's. It also housed Coventry's first Folk Club.

Coventry Folk Club Scene 1970's  
This is the Hobo site for Coventry's longstanding and thriving Folk and Acoustic scene. It covers both folk archives from the 70's and features on some of the contemporary singer songwriters out there now along with Pete Willow's history of Coventry Folk Scene and pdf versions of  his 70's Folks Magazine 1979 / 80. Top names like Rod Felton, Dave Bennett, Kristy Gallacher, Pauline (Vickers) Black, Roger Williamson, Sean Cannon and many more.

Coventry Gigs 1960 to Present (This blogspot in fact!).

Coventry Discos, Venues, Music shops and Agencies / Studios etc.
A steadily progressing blog for a variety of other aspects of Coventry's music scene - the DJ's, Discos, Venues, Arts fests, record shops, studios, music agencies etc etc..

Coventry Musicians Who's Who 
This blog has an A to Z of Coventry musicians. It's not yet complete (if ever!) but there are many names and their bands on already. I will come back to it when the A to Z of bands is complete and add in names not on. Meanwhile if you are not on it - and you should be - or your friends and their bands or if your info is incorrect - do let us know at

Hobo A to Z of Coventry Bands and Artists
Meanwhile a huge A to Z of Coventry bands and artists can be found (again in development) here

Show of Hands – Coventry Cathedral

Show of Hands – Coventry Cathedral
By Pete Clemons

Concerts in cathedrals are usually extraordinary events. The acoustics, the lighting, the ambiance, you just sense in advance that the proceedings in hand are going to be very special indeed.

And this was certainly the case when one of the leading lights of the current British folk scene, Show of Hands, performed there recently. Singer song writer Steve Knightley, multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer and double bass player Miranda Sykes performed an impressive set that was both conducive and respectful of the surroundings. By that I mean there were none of the more raucous anthemic type tunes that Show of Hands are also capable of delivering.

Show of Hands was concluding a recent tour that has taken them into a mix of houses of sanctuary and other ancient buildings up and down the country. And this tour also took in the, relatively, more modern setting of Coventry’s ‘new’ cathedral.

The audience size, for what I saw beforehand as a weakly advertised gig, was quite impressive. There was a sizable crowd present to witness this performance.

The gig itself opened up in unique fashion as Steve Knightley slowly made his way up the centre aisle, toward the tapestry and stage, from the rear of the cathedral, with both Phil and Miranda approaching him from the direction of stage left and right respectively. Together, and acapella, they sang ‘The Old Lych Way’, a dark tale of Dartmoor. Their combined voices reverberated spectacularly around the cavernous building.

The band then took to the stage and went straight into a song about quarrymen followed called ‘The Preacher’. And this kind of set the theme for the evening. Set mainly in the corner of England that the band originates from you heard stories of lives and experiences, from a time when people lived and worked off the land and dug out the minerals.

But as always in folk music, there is also a time for compassion and love. And this came in the form of ‘Smile She Said’ and ‘No Secrets’ which also happens to be the title of a book the band have just released that celebrates the Show of Hands history.

During the concert song writer Steve Knightley clearly displayed an affinity with Coventry as he recalled his days of studying at the Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University) where he gained a degree. He touched on the days when he ran the folk club there, his rooms of residence being a ‘safe house’ for other musicians travelling through the area. And he remembered well the ‘Parsons Nose’ fish and chip shop and surrounding area where he recalled that it was best to beat yourself up first before you got beaten up anyway.

The band finished off their set in a similar way to which they had started. This time it was an acapello version of ‘Keep Hauling’ where, to be fair, they did encourage audience participation with the chorus. It was a fine ending to a very memorable gig.

Credit must also go to support artist Kirsty Merryn who possesses a delightful voice that, not only accompanied Steve Knightley on one of his songs, but had him doing likewise on one of hers. Kirsty was plugging her debut album ‘She and I’ which celebrates the past lives of prominent women. And she also took advantage of the wonderful acoustics that our wonderful cathedral possesses.

Buildings like these were designed for singing and musical performance. We can only hope that the cathedral continues to further open its doors to encourage the more popular variety to a wider audience.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Crokodile Tears

Crokodile Tears

by Pete Clemons

I recently spent a delightful hour or two in the company of a couple of Coventry musicians who, it is fair to say, have both been at the bedrock of a large part of the local music scene for almost forty years.

We chatted and reminisced about how and where the pair first came to meet up, the bands they have been associated with, and the music they have created from the late 1970s and through to the present day.

But as you will read, and as tends to happen in these situations, a web began to weave around interactions with other bands and other associations they made along the way.

I am talking, of course, about Christopher Sidwell and Alf Hardy – collectively known nowadays as Crokodile Tears. Christopher was born in Meriden but has lived in Coventry for the vast majority of his life while Alf is one hundred per cent Coventry born and bred.

Crokodile Tears could be considered a satirical band. But both Christopher and Alf are very serious musicians although they do enjoy injecting humour into their music. As such, the songs they create are a mixture of serious and tongue in cheek. Alf is a multi-instrumentalist including guitar and keyboard while Christopher plays guitar and, after many years, is now proficient on the Stylophone.

Christopher, for almost all of his life, has been into writing songs and this interest was shaped by his own enjoyment of bands like Pink Floyd, particularly their early sound, and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band who combined music with surreal humour. He formed his first band, The Digital Dinosaurs towards the end of the 1970s. Digital Dinosaurs entered a couple of battle of the bands at the ‘Lanch’ which, incidentally, were won by The X-Certs and The Swinging Cats. Although the Digital Dinosaurs were, not so much interested in winning, but more finishing last by creating the worse sound they could manage. John Bradbury, of the Specials fame, drummed on some Digital Dinosaurs album recordings as both Christopher and John had known each other at Binley Park School.

Meanwhile at around the same time one time King Henry VIII pupil, Alf Hardy, was with a band called Johnny Matthews and the Big Time Show Band. This was a performance art band that only played a couple of gigs at venues like Busters and General Wolfe. I did notice a wry smile appear on Alf’s face when he recalled this band.

Alf went onto a band called Evil Wind that tended to move within the club scene at venues like the Hope and Anchor and, later, the Colin Campbell. On one occasion the Digital Dinosaurs were supporting Evil Wind at the Hope and Anchor and toward the end of their set Christopher ended up getting custard pie’d by Alf. Evil Wind, it turned out, was way ahead of their time in terms of Vic Reeves style comedy. Now known as the custard pie incident, this is how Christopher and Alf met. In fact Christopher ended up joining Evil Wind for a short time.

During 1983 Christopher formed his first phase of Crocodile Tears. Initially this was a solo project but then it grew into a duo when Paul Sampson who as well as being a producer, already fronted his own band The Pink Umbrellas, teamed up. The band grew again as, basically, the rest of The Pink Umbrellas, namely Steve Edgson, Robin Hill and Barry Jones also worked with The Crocs. And it was with this extended line-up of Crocodile Tears that released their debut album during 1985. The album itself was recorded at Cabin Studios where Paul Sampson would become the house producer. And despite the Pink Umbrellas disbanding, this format of the Crocodile Tears line up would continue through to around 1986 when phase 3 of the band would begin.

Going back slightly in time to the very early 1980s there was a band around called Hot Snacks (or Snax). When they disbanded, towards the mid-80s, there emerged a song writer called ‘Ollie’ also known as Doc Mustard. You may recall seeing him busking in town with his dog Paxo. Ollie’s song writing led to a musical partnership with Jerry Richards who became known as Doc Mustard and the Colbalt Kid. Ollie (or ‘Doc Mustard’) released the single ‘Nuclear Boogie’. And it was through Doc Mustard and the Colbalt Kid that Alf Hardy first came across Jerry Richards who had arrived in Coventry via Wales at a very young age. Around 1998 Doc Mustard actually helped record and performed on an unreleased second Crocodile Tears album imaginatively called, ‘Crocodile Tears 2’.

The crossing of paths for Jerry and Alf would ultimately lead to the creation of Tubilah Dog who existed between 1985 and 1990. Apart from local gigs Tubilah Dog, who also included during their existence Steve Mills - Vocals, Tim Kelsall - Bass, Andy Copeland - Drums, Mark Bannister - Rhythm Guitar, John Oddy - Bass and Ashley Dreher – Bass, Steve Hands – Drums, quickly established themselves on the free festival circuit alongside bands like Spaceman 3, Suicide and Hawkwind. Tubilah Dog also produced their sole LP the ‘In Search of Plaice’ album. And for those who are familiar with Hawkwind will notice a play on words at work here.

The free festival scene, attended by Tubilah Dog, gave rise to many new alliances. Some of which would continue for years to come. Alf Hardy, for example, linked up with Peter Kember, also referred to as Sonic Boom and best known for being a founding member of the experimental rock band Spacemen 3. After the demise of Spaceman 3 Alf became a part of future Peter Kember projects like Spectrum and Experimental Audio Research (or EAR).

The early 1990s also saw Alf being invited to work as an engineer at Cabin Studios by its original creator Jon Lord, who would eventually take over its day to day running, after Paul Sampson decided to relocate to London. With all these overlapping musical projects it was a busy time for Alf who was also sound engineer at the Stoker on Binley Road. Alf would remain at Cabin till the studios demise during 2008.

During his time at Cabin there were many highlights and Alf remembers names like U.S. band Silver Apples and Black Sabbath lead guitarist Tony Iommi recording there. The lesser known 60’s band The Purple Gang also recorded there with Paul Sampson. As did Bad Manners, which by all accounts, was a great laugh. He even remembers (as does Chris) tripping over Cerys Matthews while she slept in her sleeping bag one morning just as Alf was arriving for work. Her band Catatonia had chosen to record at the venue and had lived in house during the sessions.

Another memorable session at Cabin occurred during 2003 when a band Jerry Richards was associated with, DanMingo chose to record there. Together with Jerry were Steve Swindells, Jon Moss and Winston Blissett each being members of Hawklords, Culture Club and Massive Attack respectively. ‘Shabba Ranks (‘Shabba’) was also present along with an un-named girl singer.

Jerry Richards had met Hawkwind’s Dave Brock at the previously mentioned festivals during 1987 and this meeting led to a collaboration of the two bands known as HawkDog. That initial meeting would prove to be significant and lead to Tubilah Dog supporting Hawkwind on several tours. Later on Jerry was invited by Dave Brock to join Hawkwind as lead guitarist in 1995. This, again, would lead to extensive touring through to 2002. And so the associations continued as Jerry would play bass in Nik Turners band, Space Ritual, following the departure of Dave Anderson. In parallel to a lot of the Hawkwind based activities Jerry also run other ongoing projects such as Earthlab and Paradogs that can be dated back as far as 1992.

And continuing the Hawkwind theme, during 2008, Jerry Richards was instrumental in resurrecting a band closely associated to Hawkwind called Hawklords. Hawklords, a loose collective, were originally active during 1978/79, released an album called ‘25 years On’, and was the last time poet and lyricist Bob Calvert was involved with the band. Joining Jerry in this reformation were Steve Swindells, Harvey Bainbridge, Ron Tree and Dave Pearse. And to this day Hawklords continue to tour and release new music.

But back to Crokodile Tears, and phase 3 of its history. And, for those following this tale then you will have already noticed the, by now, incorrect spelling of the word Crocodile. Christopher, by now, had reinvented the band and his musical partner from the Evil Wind days, Alf Hardy, teamed up with him once more in 1992. To differentiate the phase 1 identity of the band from the phase 2 version, Christopher removed the second ‘C’ and introduced the letter ‘K’ in the word Crocodile. In fact, for the purposes of related artwork the ‘K’ was actually the ‘K’ used on the Special ‘K’ breakfast cereal. Not only that, but for phase 3, ex Digital Dinosaurs guitarist Gordon Francis (The Amazing Gordoni’) and singer Elspeth Whisten (Elli Bongo) began to hook up with the band, further enhancing the bands the bands versatility. Eventually, that difficult second album, titled ‘Dodoism’ emerged for the Croks during 1997. Afterwards, a privately released third album,'Peacrok', was issued to be followed by an album called 'Go for the Jugular' in 2005. This album phase 4 for the band saw them finally hooking up with Jerry Richards when commitments allowed him to.

Since then, things have picked up a pace in terms of recorded releases as The Croks released an album in 2007 called ‘Gullibles travels’, three years later 'Words of Wisdom?' (featuring phase 5 singer Amy McGuigan) followed by ‘If Hippies Ruled the World’ and finally, and most recently, ‘Made in Meriden’.

Mingled within those albums are several Croks songs that even relate to Coventry. These include 'Under the elephant', 'The Merry-Go-Round', 'Gullibles Travels’, 'Cathedral Lanes' and 'Much too good for Foleshill' along with many more. Another song titled ‘My Favourite Weathergirl’ was written about Central TV weather girl Charlie Neil. And what’s more, Charlie was well aware of it – check out her Wiki page. Charlie dropped it into many a conversation.

Alf amusingly describes the style of Croks music as ‘Coventry and Western’. And all in all, The Croks have recorded and released an impressive total of eight albums. Nearly all are still out there in physical format or available to download. And to this day Christopher Sidwell and Alf Hardy continue to play live acoustically as a duo or as a trio with long-time contributor guitarist Jerry Richards.

Christopher always writing and currently and are currently recording as you read this. New songs to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world include ‘Erwin’ and ‘Bobby’. ‘Erwin’ is a song described by Christopher as one ‘I wrote with Alf that shows our softer, more thoughtful side’. He continued ‘I write very differently with Alf’. ‘Bobby’ is a typically daft song that I tend to write on my own, it is a protest song of sorts about ‘comb overs’.

Funnily enough both of these new songs are about fame – something the Croks have yet to experience! Christopher is now retired and spends his time as an artist and as a grandfather. Alf is also retired and in his spare time he creates jingles. But both are still devoted to the Croks, maybe more so now that more time allows. Male crocodiles are, apparently, especially vociferous in their bellowing so who knows what the future holds for this pair of free spirits. A couple of new albums planned for the future ‘Old Skool’ and ‘The End of an Error’ are already in the advanced planning stages……….


Massive thanks to both Christopher and Alf for both their time and contributions in completing this article.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Cavern Club and the Belgrade Theatre

The Cavern Club and the Belgrade Theatre
by Pete Clemons

Hands up. Of all the gigs I attend, I really do enjoy the 1960s package tours. And, judging by their audience sizes, I am not alone. These shows are so popular and I guess that the folk who attend them revisit a period of their younger days listening to the music. I know I certainly do.

A tour recently pulled in at The Belgrade Theatre. And once again it was an absolute delight as the years flooded back. The show titled ‘Rocking and Rolling with Laughter’ had a Liverpool theme to it as it featured original artistes who had performed during the early days of The Cavern Club.

The Dakotas, Billy J Kramer’s original backing group, began the proceedings with songs such as ‘Bad to me’, ‘Do you want to know a secret’ and ‘Little children’. They then backed Victoria Jones who very impressively covered Cilla Black favourites: ‘Alfie’, ‘You’re my world’, ‘Anyone who had a heart’.

One time Opportunity Knocks winner Bernie Flint then took to the stage recounting numerous stories and performing several songs that included his huge seller ‘I don’t want to put a hold on you’.

The Dakotas returned to do the honours as they supported Tony Crane and Billy Kinsley of The Mersey’s as they performed hits like ‘Sorrow’ and ‘So sad about us’.

After a short break The Dakotas opened up once more but this time they performed their own tune, an instrumental called, ‘The Cruel Sea’. They were followed by comedian Mick Miller who certainly entertained the audience for twenty minutes or so.

Finally it was the turn of The Merseybeats to take you back in time as they included their huge sellers ‘I think of you’ and ‘Wishin’ and Hopin’ along with others within their set. Joining them on stage during their set was special guest Beryl Marsden who floored you with songs such as ‘Boys’ and ‘Baby it’s you’. In between songs at one point Beryl, who once supported The Beatles, was trying to remember if she had ever sung in Coventry before. She concluded that she didn’t think she had. But, if you ever read this Beryl, I am sure you once did and that was with Rod Stewart in the band Shotgun Express.

All in all it was a wonderful and well-presented evening. These musicians best days in terms of chart success may have been decades ago but they still know how to entertain.

But what was mystifying was the size of the audience which was a lot less than I had expected given how these gigs are normally attended. As I mentioned earlier, these events tend to sell really well but I couldn’t help thinking about the advertising.

Where normally, with 1960s package tours, the names of the bands appearing are the first thing you see on advertising posters etc. But in the case of this tour the artistes names are buried under a host of words explaining what the show is trying to recreate.

A real pity and an opportunity missed, in my opinion. It was a slight blemish on what had been a hugely enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

YES - at 50

Yes - at 50

By Pete Clemons

Rock band ‘Yes’ have recently entered their 50th year in existence. And to celebrate this remarkable achievement a major tour has been planned for 2018 that, as is normally the case for a Yes tour, will be pulling into Birmingham during March 2018. 

And to be clear, this tour will be the current Yes line up of guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, Geoff Downes on keyboards, Billy Sherwood on bass and vocalist Jon Davison. And not that which is also currently active and includes founder Yes member Jon Anderson along with Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin who toured recently under the moniker of ARW.

I mentioned that it is a remarkable achievement, and the above paragraph, is an indicator as to why. Because, as I recall it all and for as long as I have followed Yes, the whole history of the band has been a succession of change. Tour after tour, particularly highlighted in the more recent years, it has been a story of recrimination and change.

That said and putting all of the instability aside, there is no denying, that the one common denominator with Yes is that they have created some of the most ambitious, imaginative and ingeniously memorable music ever produced. And despite all the infighting the band itself has the most incredibly loyal fan base that turn out gig after gig regardless of the personnel involved.

The actual 50th anniversary for Yes will be during August 2018 as it was during August 1968 that Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Peter Banks, Tony Kaye and Bill Bruford first took to the stage under the name of Yes.

Their debut album was released just over a year later and immediately the signs of complex tunes were evident. July 1970 saw the release of the bands second album ‘Time and a Word’. But this time it was clear that the talents of the, by now, primary song writer, Jon Anderson were surfacing. However, no sooner had ‘Time and a Word’ been released than Peter Banks had left to be replaced by Steve Howe.

A trio of albums followed that would define Yes for the rest of their career. ‘The Yes Album’, ‘Fragile’ and ‘Close to the Edge’. For the latter two releases the flamboyant Rick Wakeman had replaced Tony Kaye who had left the band during August 1971. And by the time ‘Close to the Edge’ was completed Bill Bruford had left to join King Crimson and was replaced by Alan White.

From the late 1960s the touring schedule for Yes was relentless. Especially, after they had broken into America. And what made their albums all the more remarkable was that they were recorded in between huge tours. A good proportion of these tours in support of ‘Fragile’ and ‘Close to the Edge’ were recorded and this was marked by the release, in May 1973, of the epic triple album ‘Yessongs’.

The hectic touring continued over the course of the next two studio albums, the grandiose ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ a double album of just four tracks and ‘Relayer’. Between these albums and after the ‘Topographic Oceans’ tour Rick Wakeman famously quit the band after apparently deciding that it wasn’t going in the direction he would have liked it to. His replacement on ‘Relayer’ was Patrick Moraz.

There then followed a relative period of calm for the band, as far as Yes albums were concerned. Despite the band still touring, the individual members effectively went their own separate ways in order to complete solo albums. A compilation of early work called ‘Yesterdays’ was released during 1975 though.

Late 1976 saw Yes, with Rick Wakeman back in the fold; regroup for the recording of the ‘Going for the One’ album released during 1977. The same line up also completed the ‘Tormato’ in 1978. And the time taken to tour both of these albums wrapped up the 1970s for the band. These two albums also saw the Yes gain their first real single successes in the UK with ‘Wondrous Stories’ and ‘Don’t Kill the Whale’.

The beginning of the 1980s did not fare well for Yes as a major split appeared that resulted in Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman leaving the band. They were replaced by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes who had just had a hit of their own via a song called ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ by a band called Buggles. Yes disbanded soon after this period with Steve Howe and Geoff Downes moving on to form rock band Asia.

In the meantime Chris Squire had resumed work with Alan White and had hooked up with South African guitarist Trevor Rabin and original Yes keyboard player Tony Kaye. With songs written for a band called Cinema the band realised that they had not got a distinctive enough vocalist. So in came Jon Anderson, who had been back in contact with Chris Squire. A new album ‘90125’ was released in 1983 along with the unveiling of a whole new Yes. A second album with this line up followed in 1987 called ‘The Big Generator’ and both releases were huge, particularly in the U.S.

1988 saw Jon Anderson leave Yes once more, this time to form Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford and Howe. AWBH along with bass player Tony Levin released an album of new material and toured the world with ‘An Evening of Yes Music plus’. With Yes still a working band the use of the Yes name was causing legal issues. During sessions for a second AWBH album, and despite misgivings from various band members, both camps merged. A resulting album ‘Union’ and a huge tour was set for 1991/92 that involved eight prominent members of Yes playing concerts ‘in the round’ where the stage was set up centrally in the auditorium with the audience surrounding it.

A Trevor Rabin dominated Yes album ‘Talk’ followed in 1994 soon after which Rabin himself left the band. 1996 saw Yes relocate to California where the line-up of Anderson, Squire, Howe, Wakeman and White performed several shows. From these gigs and along with additional studio sessions of new material a double album ‘Keys to Ascension’ was released. It had been the first time that this quintet had performed together since 1979 and it came with much public approval. So popular, in fact, that a second volume appeared during 1997.

The decade finished with a couple of studio album that included long-time Yes collaborator and producer Billy Sherwood and introduced the Yes world to Russian keyboard player Igor Khoroshev.

The new millennium opened with the line-up of Anderson, Squire, Howe, White and Khoroshev completing a masterworks tour. The tour, however, concluded with Khoroshev being dismissed from the band. The remaining quartet recorded the album ‘Magnification’ during 2001 and supported it with a symphonic tour of North America and Europe.

2004 saw the band begin a five year hiatus. However during that time Jon Anderson suffered a severe asthma attack during 2008 which resulted in him effectively being left behind when the rest of the band were eager to get Yes up and running again. Since ‘Magnification’ Yes have recorded just two studios albums. ‘Fly From Home’ featuring vocalist Benoit David released 2011 and ‘Heaven and Hell’ in 2014 with Jon Davison on vocals. And sadly, Chris Squire passed away during June 2015.

Written above is a fairly concise and brief overview of the history of Yes and who knows what the future holds for this amazing band. Various band members did regroup, albeit briefly, earlier this year when Yes were inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame. Whether or not they will do so on stage together again remains to be seen. But at least the music can be celebrated on their separate tours. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Stan Webb and Chicken Shack

Stan Webb and Chicken Shack

by Pete Clemons

One of the most prized 7 inch singles I own is titled ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ by blues band Chicken Shack released on the Blue Horizon label during 1969. When I say prized, I don’t mean its value - it’s not really worth that much - but I value it for the music upon it. It is getting on for 50 years old now and it’s a record that I just never tire of hearing. Incidentally, Blue Horizon was a label created by Mike Vernon and Neil Slaven specifically for the blues at a period in time when we were truly blessed with copious amounts of outstanding music.

Formed by guitarist Stan Webb in Birmingham around 1965 with Andy Sylvester on bass and Alan Morley on drums Chicken Shack were initially a trio. They then became a quartet with Christine Perfect taking over on vocals during 1967.

The band had a residency at Star Club, Hamburg and during this stay an American drummer, Alvin Sykes, replaced Alan Morley who had returned home. But the period of Chicken Shack with Alvin was short lived and he, in turn, left to be replaced ultimately by Dave Bidwell.

Chicken Shack, at their peak, was a leading light during the British Blues boom of the late 1960s. And they really were right up there with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Savoy Brown, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and many others.

Christine Perfect was, back then, considered as one of Britain’s leading female vocalists and it was during that period that the band made the charts with their interpretation of a song made immortal by Etta James’ called ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’. Of course Chicken Shack was so much more than one single as the four albums they released on the Blue Horizon label will testify.

At the same time ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ charted Christine would quit Chicken Shack to join husband John McVie in the reshaped Fleetwood Mac line-up of 1969 and was replaced by organist Paul Raymond. In fact Christine had announced her decision before ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ had hit the charts. The recruitment of Paul Raymond brought with it a whole new dimension to the Chicken Shack sound as Stan took on the primary vocal duties.

August 1970 saw Chicken Shack tour the U.S. and U.K. with Savoy Brown, another band that has a list of associated musicians as long as your arm. By the end of that year Paul Raymond became a member of Savoy Brown. Early 1971 and Stan Webb announced he was disbanding the group and both Andy Sylvester and Dave Bidwell also teamed up with Savoy Brown.

A year or so later Stan had reformed and reinvented Chicken Shack. During this period Stan’s song writing talents emerged. And as a trio, Chicken Shack secured a deal with Decca Records. During 1972 and 1973 Chicken Shack staged something of resurgence on the club circuit. And with a beefier and more powerful sound two albums, including the stunning ‘Imagination Lady’, were released on the Deram imprint. But the two albums came with two versions of the band and Stan Webb split the Chicken Shack once again during the winter of 1973.

At the end of 1973 guitarist Kim Simmonds had also disbanded his band Savoy Brown. But with the mouth-watering prospect of uniting with Stan Webb he changed his mind. During 1974 Kim Simmonds rebuilt Savoy Brown and Stan would feature on the Boogie Brothers album with them. Completing this all new Savoy Brown line-up were guitarist Miller Anderson, bass player Jimmy Leverton and Eric Dillon on drums.

Despite Kim Simmonds predictions that this would be the definitive Savoy Brown line-up it soon dissolved leaving Kim to rebuild again. And after leaving them, Stan Webb formed Broken Glass during 1975 with both Robbie Blunt and Miller Anderson on guitar, Rob Rawlinson on bass and Mac Poole on drums.

1976/77 saw Stan Webb revive and front a whole new version of Chicken Shack once more. And for the last forty years has continued to keep the band going with a succession of line-ups. And, particularly in places like Germany, they found that they still had a large and devoted following.

A typical set list from the mid-1990s was captured on a CD called ‘Stan the Man live’. Recorded at the Robin club, Bilston where he was a regular visitor for years. It is a great moment in his long and illustrious career captured for all time.

An album simply titled ‘Webb’ appeared in the early 2000s and this came with Stan appearing to go back in time and playing the blues again in a more relaxed fashion. A lovely album, indeed.

Stan is an amazing talent and his devotion to his craft has been extraordinary as, I think it is fair to say, that it has not been an easy ride for him. He puts enormous energy into his gigs but also mixes in humour and anecdotes. Stan also has great stage presence. His last major tour was alongside John Mayall and Mick Taylor. Sadly though his gigs are becoming rarer and rarer. I think it is also fair to say that Stan is one of a kind.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

No-Man – Returning Jesus

No-Man – Returning Jesus
By Pete Clemons

No-Man are: Steven Wilson Tim Bowness

No-Man – Returning Jesus

I guess we could all make that great claim for a great band yet to be discovered. One that has been around for a while, that’s totally gotten into your soul, while all around nobody but nobody seems to bring them up in conversation.

Well for me that band is No-Man. And their splendid release from 2001 ‘Returning Jesus’, is getting a whole new makeover. In addition the original album will be accompanied by a host of other tracks recorded during the ‘Returning Jesus’ sessions.

Formed in the early part of 1990, eclectic art rock trio No-Man - previously known as ‘No Man Is an Island (Except the Isle Of Man)’. At the core of the band was vocalist Tim Bowness, Ben Coleman on Violin and Steven Wilson on guitars and keyboards.

No-Man released their first self-financed single ‘Colours’ in August of the same year. A sensuous reworking of a Donovan original, it quickly achieved the attention of the music press.

A second single ‘Days in the Trees’ described as ‘an ambitious attempt at fusing timeless classical grandeur and modern dance momentum’ achieved similar critical success and set the musical agenda for what was to follow.

The albums, ‘Lovesighs – An Entertainment’ released April 1992 and ‘Loveblows and Lovecries – A confession’ released May 1993, confirmed the promise of No-Man’s early singles and solidified their reputation as a creative entity and an ability for combining the extremes of pop and added experimentalism.

Among those who recognised the bands potential were ex-Japan members Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri and Mick Karn, who toured as No-Man’s backing band in October 1992 and contributed to the ‘Loveblows and Lovecries’ album.

During 1994 No-Man released their next album ‘Flowermouth’. During the sessions for the album the band lost violinist Ben Coleman who had made significant contributions towards it. No-Man would also stop performing live in 1994 and would not return to the live stage again until 2006.

‘Flowermouth’ featured significant contributions from Robert Fripp, Mel Collins, Steve Jansen and Lisa Gerard and further enhancing No-Man’s growing reputation.

And understandably, I guess, as the profile and workload of Steven Wilson’s other band ‘Porcupine Tree’ grew the less you began to hear of No-Man. Despite that new releases did continue to appear. During 1996 the album ‘Wild Opera’ was released soon to be followed by a companion release ‘Dry Cleaning Ray’ in 1997. A clear change of direction was noticeable with these releases. Gone had the more ‘danceable’ rhythms and in came darker, more powerful, jazzier tempos.

I personally cannot remember the initial release of ‘Returning Jesus’ as being heralded in in any great fashion. It had kind of evolved over four years or so after an EP of new material titled ‘Carolina Skeletons’ appeared in 1998. In an old newsletter released by the band during September 1999 mentioned that the much delayed new album, formerly titled ‘Lighthouse’ had been completed. It featured Steve Jansen, Colin Edwin, Ian Carr, Theo Travis, Ben Christophers and Ian Dixon and would be released early 2000. And then another newsletter from April 2000 simply mentioned that the new album would be available later that year. And then I remember at a Porcupine Tree gig I attended in Northampton during the early part of 2001, there it was on the ‘merch desk’.

A shimmering introduction soon to be followed by Ian Carr’s unmistakeable trumpet opens up ‘returning Jesus’ on a track called ‘Only Rain’. And through to its finale, the stunningly beautiful ‘All That you Are’ this is indeed as fine an album that I have ever heard.

‘Returning Jesus’ is as powerful and intense as it is delicate. And upon re-release it will be out there once again, just waiting to be discovered by a whole new generation of listeners. And its re-release date just happens to coincide with Steven Wilson’s 50th birthday.