Thursday, May 17, 2018

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

Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells

Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells
by Pete Clemons

One album that music lovers never seem to forget the release of was that of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. It was just one of those seminal moments that you never forgot. Once heard, it seemed to get under your skin. I personally cannot remember any major hype to it. It just seemed to appear in the shops, however, behind it all and known only to those closest to him at the time, was a story of sadness and despair that took years for Mike Oldfield to shake off…….if he ever did.

Mike Oldfield was born in Reading during 1953. He had 2 elder siblings, Terry and Sally. A fourth child was born after Mike but sadly he passed away at a young age and this, quite naturally, had a lasting effect on Mike’s mother.

Both Terry and Sally Oldfield were involved with music. Terry became a composer while Sally played the folk scene. Seeing Mike’s interest in guitar, Sally showed him the three basic chords. From then on Mike became self-taught and very quickly became a quite gifted player. Sally and Mike formed a duo called The Sallyangie who cut an album for the Transatlantic label in 1968. Mike then formed his own, short lived, band called Barefeet.

During 1970, and still aged only 16, Mike became a member of The Whole World who were Kevin Ayres backing group. They played in Coventry a couple of times. Initially Mike played bass but then moved to lead guitar. They produced two albums with Mike playing on the classic ‘May I’ during 1971. After Kevin Ayres disbanded The Whole World instability crept into Mike’s life and he retreated deeper into music. As they shared flats, Kevin had lent Mike his tape player and Farfisa keyboard. Experimenting with this kit Mike almost immediately came up with his minimalistic opening chord sequence for what would become Tubular Bells. He also created the framework for his future epic.

With sections of the ambitious fifty minute composition mapped out, Mike hawked his tapes to record companies like EMI and CBS who both promptly rejected them. In parallel Richard Branson was looking for business opportunities. He had already set up a mail order company that involved importing LP’s and selling them on for 10%-25% less than anywhere else. And he was ready to expand.

Mike Oldfield became a session player at The Manor recording studios in Oxfordshire. The studios were being run by producer Tom Newman, who had discovered the Manor in Oxfordshire that Richard Branson had invested in it, and fellow producer Simon Heyworth. Mike Oldfield practically forced Tom and Simon to listen to his tapes. The pair was instantly captivated. And in turn, took the tapes to Richard Branson’s business partner Simon Draper, who they knew had a better ear for music than Richard.

Simon Draper and Richard Branson invited Mike Oldfield to their houseboat and offered to give Mike a week of free reign to complete part one of the album in between any sessions he had been assigned to. So November 1972 saw Mike begin the process of completing the first phase of his project. Part two being completed slightly later.

To begin the process Mike ordered in a lot of instruments. Additionally, John Cale had just finished recording at the Manor and the instruments used for his sessions were due to be collected. John had used some tubular bells and just as they were about to be picked up Mike asked for them to remain. It was an inspired decision.

The albums sleeve was created by Trevor Key and Mike loved the artwork. So as not to spoil its effect Mike deliberately asked for his name to be kept in small script. Tubular Bells release was May 1973. It was the first of three simultaneous releases on the Virgin Record label but Tubular Bells was given the distinction of being the first official release with catalogue number V2001. Almost every instrument had been overdubbed by Oldfield. And his completed work had everything. Suspense, humour, tension but above all it kept your interest throughout.

After the albums completion and release Mike was a mental wreck and didn’t want to know about it. Despite this Richard Branson insisted that the album had to go out live. And Mike Oldfield agreed to just one concert. The QEH/Royal Festival Hall was booked for June 1973. Amongst others Virgin label mates and members of Hatfield and the North and Henry Cow were drafted into the live band. As was guitarist Mick Taylor and drummer Steve Broughton. Mike did not enjoy playing live and some pre gig nerves had set in. The concert itself received a huge standing ovation that Mike felt was underserved. He himself had felt that the gig was awful.

Back in 1973 records sold mainly through word of mouth, radio shows etc. So Tubular Bells was not an instant hit. Instead it was a slow grower. John Peel gave the LP a huge boost when he devoted a whole show to it playing the whole album. Bit by bit the album crept up the charts during July August and September 1973. Another boost, particularly for the American market came in late 1973 when segments of Tubular Bells was used by a cult film called The Exorcist. That exposure certainly helped Tubular Bells hit number one in America. By the end of 1973 sales of the record had far exceeding expectations. Richard Branson, it seemed, had had major reservations that the album, one track over two sides, contained few vocals. As it turned out, he need not have worried.

Mike Oldfield was now being pressurised for a follow up record despite the fact that he himself didn’t want to capitalise on the albums success. Mike didn’t want to do a follow up so quickly. During this period Mike became very low and remembers seeing his mother, and her saying something to him to the effect of, ‘you know what it’s like now don’t you’.

Despite all the difficulties Mike did create a follow up. Hergest Ridge was released during 1974 and was soon dubbed as ‘son of Tubular Bells’. This album didn’t capture the imagination of its predecessor. However Mike’s third album ‘Ommadawn’, released during October 1975, did go a long way to dispel feelings that Mike Oldfield had peaked with his debut release.

Fast forward to July 2012 and the memorable opening ceremony for the Olympic Games and Danny Boyle had the great vision to include Mike Oldfield’s masterpiece within it. For the first time, it seemed, Mike felt comfortable about his magnificent piece of work.

Published in Hobo (Coventry Music and Arts Magazine)

1   Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells
2   David Bowie - Hunky Dory
3   Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
4   Faust - Tapes
5   Santana - McLaughlin
6   George Harrison - Material World
7   David Bowie - Aladdin Sane
8   Genisis - Live
9   Clifford T Ward - Home Thoughts
10 Roy Wood - Boulders
11 David Bowie -  Ziggy Stardust
12 Cat Stevens - Foreigner
13 Terry Riley - Rainbow in C
14 David Bowie - Man Who Sold the World
15 Lindisfarne - Live
16 Alan Hull - Pipedream
17 Mott the Hoople - Mott
18 Genesis -  Foxtrot
19 Pink Floyd - Meddle
20 Beatles - 67-68

In October 1973, Tubular Bells was No2 to the Rolling Stones Goat's Head Soup in the Coventry Virgin Store Charts.

In February 1974, Tubular Bells was once again No1 in the Coventry Virgin store's album charts.
It fell out of the chart in March 1974 but was No2 again in June 1974, second to Gong.

Coventry Virgin Records Charts from Hobo (Coventry Music and Arts Magazine June 1974). The graphic was drawn by Wandering John guitarist - John Alderson.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

White Noise – St Johns Church (Delia Derbyshire)

White Noise – St Johns Church
 (Delia Derbyshire)
By Pete Clemons

The people who designed and built those wonderful medieval churches centuries ago, along with the relatively more modern structures, could never have imagined that, years later, what they built for worship would provide incredible acoustics for electrified music.

Not what they were intended for I agree, but I am certain that those who sometimes devoted their entire lives too, would somehow be pleased. In fact electricity had not even been discovered when St John’s Church, at the end of Spon Street, was built. Yet this 14th century marvel recently played host to an electronic music icon.

To get David Vorhaus, along with his musical partner Mike Painter, to play there was an incredible coup for Synthcurious who, in conjunction with The Tin Arts Centre, are staging a series of electronic music events in and around Coventry.

David Vorhaus was a member of the ‘band’ White Noise who he belonged to along with Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson. Together, and during some now well documented late night sessions undertaken at the BBC workshop in Maida Vale, they created the now legendary White Noise album ‘An Electric Storm’ released during June 1969.

David plays a Kaleidophon, an instrument that kind of looks like a slim guitar or bass guitar, the playing of it is similar, but is in fact an electronic bit of kit that he designed and developed himself……..from plastic drainpipe.

I remember David demonstrating his then new invention of the Kaleidophon on the Tomorrows World TV programme during the mid-1970s, several years after his initial involvement on the White Noise project. During the demonstration David described how the instrument was actually voltage was being played and how the idea was formed as a reaction to the keyboard. And how the ‘stings’ were made from ‘linear carbon resistance materials’. The Kaleidophon was fitted with different switches for different functions such as speed and pitch.

In David’s own words….
“I made the ribbons for the Kaleidophon using thermal paper which has a carbon underlay with a wax coating. I got hold of some of the material before they put the wax on and, amazingly, its resistance was quite linear. Obviously paper wasn’t robust enough so I got them to put it on plastic. Eventually these were made for me by the French Space Agency because the person who worked for Ozalid in the UK, who made the original strings for me,
died and took the manufacturing secret with him. The triggering is activated by pressing on the strings and the fingerboard is velocity-sensitive so you can hit it harder to get a louder note or a different effect. There are controllers at the bottom for the right hand and other devices such as chromatic switches to make it behave like a fretted instrument. It can also be semi-fretted, which corrects you if you’re close to the right note but still lets you do slides. The instrument itself generates voltage control, but I can feed it into my CV-to-MIDI converter and use it to control just about anything”.

Making up todays version of White Noise and accompanying David this evening, is Mike Painter on Theremin – an antenna which picks up your hand movement and, in turn, amplifies those movements and sends it to a speaker. And between them, and for just over an hour they created the most incredible sound that simply grabbed your attention.

They delivered, in an almost pitch black setting, a pre meditated but also improvised set of pieces of music. I didn’t notice a set list but one of the tunes was, I think, introduced as Picasso Rocks. There was also a unique version of ‘Love Without Sound’ (Thanks Ian Green for identifying that) which was fitting as it was a track from the Electric Storm album that David wrote together with Delia Derbyshire whose honour and birthday was being celebrated.
I am certain that she, and all those who built St Johns Church, would have approved.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Rolling Stones in Coventry

The Rolling Stones in Coventry
by Pete Clemons

Rock and roll is for the young people. The outpouring of musical creativeness and energy is, I agree, a factor of youth. Yet four men who, between them will have a collective age of 295 when they hit the city and play this gig, have created a real buzz in Coventry.

Having seen The Rolling Stones on several occasions, but never in my home city and certainly not within walking distance of where I live, I am as excited as anyone about the bands forthcoming visit to the Ricoh Arena on June 2 - which, by the way, coincides with drummer Charlie Watts’ 77th birthday.

Yes, I have read all the arguments and heard the comments as to why you should or shouldn’t bother with it all and, yes, they have not had a UK top ten single for getting on for forty years. And a part of me really does agree with those arguments. But for me at least, it’s not about what they do any more it is, in fact, all about what they are and what they represent. And having asked myself the question ‘would I regret not going?’ an almost instant message is returned ‘what a stupid fucking question, of course you would’.

It’s incredible really to think that what began as a chance meeting on the Southern Line almost 60 years ago combined with a shared love of the American R and B scene, a sound that would dominate their early releases which then moved onto their more eclectic period of the second half of the 1960s that also included experimentation through to country that then shifted through a rock period, the tax exiled years, the commercial highs and lows and the solo years remotely continues today. This is apart from all that early heavy touring and the incidents that arose out of all of that.

Having said that it’s easy to, not so much forget about, but to overlook the role guitarist Brian Jones played in the early success of the Rolling Stones. Brian grew up in a musical family and had the talent to play almost any instrument. When rock began to experiment in the 1960s Brian was one of the few who could shift with ease through those developments. He played marimbas on ‘Under My Thumb’, introduced the mellotron on a lot of ‘Satanic Majesties’. He was on the strings on ‘Two Thousand Light Years From Home’ and gave ‘We Love You’ that Arabic riff.

Based on those previous experiences of seeing The Rolling Stones live in a mix of cavernous buildings, sports stadiums and the fields of country estates, I expect to see Mick Jagger sporting a huge grin, dressed in his brightest finery prowling and exploring the width and breadth of the entire stage and giving very little outward indication as to his age. I will undoubtedly hear Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood bouncing off each other as they interact and weave their way through a set that will contain some spine chilling guitar riffs. And I will notice the normally calm and collected Charlie Watts sat behind his basic drum kit occasionally giving the impression he is actually enjoying it all. I will also get a huge sense of a band that care deeply for each in a way that only a family does. There will also be an abundance of insignia around the stadium that bears Mick Jagger’s mouth and tongue in that now worldwide familiar logo.

Of course, The Rolling Stones of today are more than just the core band. They will have exemplarily backing musicians and vocalists joining them on stage enhancing the sound. That said they may still play a few stripped back tunes. At least that was what happened on the Bridges to Babylon tour when part of the set went right back to basics and reminisced about days at the Marquee.

Whatever your thoughts, there is no escaping the fact that The Rolling Stones are just wonderful performers. They may not be as relevant and as fast as they once were but they are still as tight and as engaging. They interact with the audience, and the audience, which will no doubt span the generations, will respond. Coventry will love every second of them, of that I am confident.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Being Mark Rylance 2

Being Mark Rylance 2

by Pete Clemons

Artist Nicky Cure and musician annA rydeR, spelt as such to presumably distinguish herself from the interior designer and TV personality, are collectively known as Radar Birds.

Together, the Radar Birds have developed a penchant for Oscar winning actor Mark Rylance. And additionally, they have directed and produced a couple of short films that extenuates Mark’s non emotive style and acting personality.

The first episode of Being Mark Rylance has actually been viewed by the man himself. And at Marks own request he challenged the Radar Birds to come up with another spoof. This time though, using his character from the multi award winning film, Bridge of Spies.

With task accepted Radar Birds set about achieving it. And the resulting efforts were recently premiered at the incredibly comfortable Everyman Theatre, Stratford upon Avon. And I was honoured to be present.

To ease you into the theme of what was to come you are gently transported back in time by way of a public information film and a couple of adverts that brought the era of ‘Pearl and Dean’ to mind.

Hot on the heels of that opening sequence you are treated to the main event. Thirty minutes of pure escapism that, in addition to the Radar Birds, also features the talents of musicians Sally Barker and Marion Fleetwood. This silent film, set at the time of the 1960s cold war with the Soviet Union, is essentially the story of a spy swap and release. The plot here is an adaptation of the scene showing secret information being typed up and which is then carefully removed from a fake coin. With the vital information in hand it is exchanged on a bridge, suspiciously with a backdrop very similar to one of those in Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa. The film is also embellished by an avant-garde jazz soundtrack……….or so you think until you see the making of the soundtrack tagged on as an extra at the end.

After viewing MR2 - Bridge of Spies, Mark Rylance was compelled to reply again. ‘Once again I am undone. Both Steven Spielberg and I watched and enjoyed it immensely’.

On a personal note, I truly enjoyed it all, and at the end my immediate thought was that, the other Anna Ryder needs to watch out. She could be next. Would it help?

Radar Birds enjoy laughing a lot. It’s infectious and, presumably they enjoy making others laugh too. And with their brand of humour they certainly achieve this plentifully. The work Radar Birds produce may be light hearted, but both Nicky and annA are right to be proud of their achievements. For further information, a Radar Birds website exists and both films, as I understand, are up on YouTube and well worth checking out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

50 years of the Quo

50 years of the Quo
by Pete Clemons

I must admit to having a soft spot for the Status Quo. There early hits were a regularly played at our youth club. And the tunes just stuck in my mind. To the point where, whenever I hear them, they kind of transport me back in time. The sell-out concert they played at Coventry Theatre was a highlight. Another was when, the ‘frantic four’ as they were known, reunited for a reunion tour in 2013. They repeated it again in 2014. This after the Quo had split up, bitterly, during 1985. The cracks, however, had first begun to appear a few years earlier after drummer John Coghlan departed.

The Status Quo story began when Alan Lancaster and Francis Rossi, then known as Mike, first met during 1960 at school when both were aged 11. Francis has made no secret that he loved Alan’s family and in particular his Mother.

By 1962 and amongst other musical activities both Alan and Francis had a band going called The Scorpions. They met up with the slightly older John Coghlan while they were rehearsing at a T.A. barracks. John was over the road at the Air Training Corps centre rehearsing with his band. Having recruited John into their band The Scorpions became known as The Spectres. Alan Lancaster’s Mum became involved and oversaw the band and dealt with any issues and organised events.

About two years in and The Spectres were joined by keyboard player Roy Lynes.

Meanwhile, future Status Quo guitarist, Rick Parfitt, was winning local talent competitions that led to gigs at places like Butlins on Hayling Island. Rick also had a season with a trio called The Highlights at Minehead during 1965.

Coincidentally The Spectres also happened to be auditioned at Butlins in Minehead during the summer of 1965. And it was there that they met Rick Parfitt. It seemed that Rick had wandered across to The Spectres audition and was hugely impressed. Despite Ricks more cabaret background, The Spectres and Rick hit it off and became firm friends.

That same year the band The Spectres gained their first recording contract. They recorded three singles: ‘I Who Have Nothing’, ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ and ‘We Aint Got Nothing Yet’ under the directorship of John Shroeder. All three singles failed to touch the charts though.

1967 saw The Spectres change their name to The Traffic Jam. At the same time they decided that they also needed another singer and so offered Rick Parfitt the opportunity to join. After a brief spell as The Traffic Jam, the band became known as The Status Quo during August 1967.

With producer John Shroeder The Status Quo released their debut single, ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ during January 1968. Matchstick Men which became a huge hit both in the UK on the Pye label and also in the US where it was released on the Cadet Concept label. The Status Quo was also invited to play Top of the Pops which was an incredible experience in those days.

Strangely, Matchstick Men was to be the only major Status Quo hit in the States. After the follow up single bombed, the band returned to the charts later on during 1968 with ‘Ice in the Sun’. Although the Quo broke as a psychedelic band, Francis insists that this had been at the guidance of their management. ‘They even sent us to Carnaby Street to buy frilly shirts for photoshoots’.

Around this time the Status Quo management hired Bob Young as a roadie and tour manager. Almost immediately Bob began writing with the band. And over the years Young became one of the most important pieces in the Status Quo family. In addition he would also play harmonica with the band both on stage and on record.

But the hits dried up for a while and the group began to re-think their direction. On tour in Germany they heard ‘Roadhouse Blues’ by the Doors and they all suddenly had their heads turned to a certain sound. In addition, Status Quo came to the realisation that they were all about jeans, pumps and t-shirts.

After a short time away they returned to the charts in 1970 with a tune called ‘Down the Dustpipe’. It was the first record to feature their soon-to-be trademark boogie shuffle. Roadie, Bob Young, plays the distinctive harmonica on the single.

Soon after the ‘Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon’ album, also released during 1970, Roy Lynes left the band. Roy had appeared on three Status Quo albums before leaving and was, by all accounts, just a bit too easy going for the rest of the band. He was replaced, albeit not as a full time member, by Andy Bown.

Between 1970 and 1976 the Quo became hugely popular. Their easily distinctive sound was as clear on their albums as it was on stage. And this tended to set them apart from other rock bands. During that period Status Quo released 5 top 5 albums. The first of those was the ‘Piledriver’ album. Piledriver also contained the song that changed their fortunes ‘Roadhouse Blues’. 1972 culminated with a highly successful appearance at the Reading Festival. After that success sales of albums and singles grew with successive releases. The ‘On the Level’ album hit the number 1 spot at the same time as the single ‘Down Down’ topped the singles chart.

It wasn’t to last though. At the time of the Rockin all over the World album during 1977 Andy Bown became a full time member. At the same time Status Quo found themselves exiled in Jersey and the excesses of rock n roll were taking over. After the single of the same title drummer John Coghlan left the band to be replaced by Pete Kircher.

In the words of bass player Alan Lancaster ‘the band was never quite the same again’ and that they ‘suddenly made bad albums’. So the band embarked on an ‘End of the Road’ tour.

But it wasn’t quite the end for Status Quo. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure had organised the Live Aid concert in July 1985 and at their insistence The Quo regrouped to open up the event. They opened with ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ and finished with ‘Don’t Waste My Time’. This would be Alan Lancaster’s last gig with the band. It seemed that Alan and Francis just couldn’t work together any more.

That didn’t stop the band carrying on though. They recruited and added Jeff Rich and John ‘Rhino’ Edwards to their ranks and along with Alan Bown, Rossi and Parfitt embarked on a new phase. The first album in this new format was titled ‘In the Army Now’. And it was this version of this band that continued to tour until the untimely death of Rick Parfitt on Christmas Eve 2016.

The ‘classic’ line up of Parfitt, Rossi, Coghlan and Lancaster did, however, have a final and timely hurrah. Under the banner of the ‘Frantic Four’ they toured together during 2013 and 2014 simultaneously while Parfitt and Rossi kept the current Status Quo line up going. I remember hearing an interview on the radio with Francis during 2012 when rumours were rife of a reunion and where he recalled, fondly, his thoughts of Alan’s mother and how close he had been to that family. Coordinated by the bands manager, Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster got talking again, about the old days. Any bad blood was suddenly buried.

Status Quo is an institution of the British Rock scene. With Quo you got what you heard. No aires and graces. They were unfashionable among the more ‘thinking’ rock fan but their denim clad army of fans was fanatical about them. And that was all that bothered the Quo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

1968 – As I remember it - by Pete Clemons

1968 – As I remember it

by Pete Clemons.

1968 was a tumultuous year for news items. Amongst them, The Vietnam War was raging, Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated and Enoch Powell was making his controversial speeches. In sport, racing driver Jim Clark was killed, Manchester United became the first English football team to win the European Cup and West Brom won the F.A. Cup. I chose these happenings as they are things I can recall fairly easily. Despite that it is still hard to believe that these events happened fifty years ago.

On television we were watching such stuff as Magpie, Joe 90, Please Sir, Father Dear Father and The Champions. Mary Hopkin appeared, and won, Opportunity Knocks. Mary was then recommended to Paul McCartney who promptly signed her up on the newly formed Apple Records. Mary would then top the singles chart with ‘Those Were the Days’. Again, I chose these programmes as they are, simply, ones that came to mind.

The music charts during 1968 were equally eclectic as the TV stations were. The first few weeks, for example, still found The Beatles ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘The Sound of Music’ original soundtrack still battling it out at the top of the albums chart as they had done through a lot of 1967. But this was soon to change as February saw them over taken by the first Tamla Motown LPs to reach the top of the UK chart. And these records came by way of The Four Tops and Diana Ross and the Supremes.

And so it went throughout the year with the likes of Andy Williams, Otis Redding, Tom Jones, The Small Faces and Simon and Garfunkel all reaching that coveted number one position until, in December, The Beatles returned to number one with their double white album which grabbed attention from all corners. But the imaginative White Album came at the end of a year where popular music was already beginning to stretch itself with a good number of bands, throughout the year, both from the UK and US, challenging peoples listening habits.

Amongst the records I remember listening to, that fell into the ‘against the grain’ category back then, included albums by bands on both sides of the Atlantic such as Family, Spooky Tooth, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Canned Heat, The Soft Machine, The Pentangle, The Eclection, Spirit, Fleetwood Mac, The Steve Miller Band, The Gun, Love Sculpture and Jeff Beck. I’m sure there were others.

Even more remarkable was that for a lot of these bands, they were releasing their debut albums during 1968. Andin fact, Steve Miller, Canned Heat, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall and The Moody Blues each managed to release a couple of classic albums during this year while bands like Cream were releasing their final albums. This was also the year that Pink Floyd added guitarist David Gilmour and released ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’.

Donovan’s grand boxed release ‘A gift From a Flower to a Garden’ had its UK release during 1968 and, although released some years earlier, listeners caught up with John Lee Hooker’s classic ‘Burnin’ album after it was given its first official UK release on the Joy label. 1968 also saw the release of Jimi Hendrix’s incredible double LP ‘Electric Ladyland’ and the recording of The Rolling Stones concept show titled ‘Rock and Roll Circus’.

Finally on the LP front, and of more local interest, is that of The Ray King bands LP ‘Live at the Playboy Club. 2018 also sees this remarkable recording hitting the landmark of having been released 50 years ago.

Equally as diverse as the albums chart was its equivalent for singles. Number ones here included songs by Des O’Connor, Esther and Abi Ofarim, Tommy James and the Shondells, The Union Gap, The Rolling Stones, Hugh Montenegro, The Scaffold and The Equals.

Other notable singles success I remember from 1968 included releases by Herb Alpert, Status Quo, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Jose Feliciano, Aretha Franklin, John Fred and his Playboy Band, Judy Clay and William Bell, The Beach Boys, Mama Cass, OC Smith and Booker T and the MG’s.

So that is the way I remember 1968. Others will no doubt see it all so differently. And, as is the case, I am sure I will be kicking myself for failed to mention an obvious release.

Music charts and sales are a fact of life. It is how a lot of people judge a records success. However I personally feel that the benchmark of a good record is its longevity to the individual. By that I mean ‘do I still listen to it’. And after 50 years a lot of the above mentioned records, particularly those that were a part of ‘the underground scene’, still give me an awful lot of pleasure even today. To me, that says an awful lot about them.