Friday, September 28, 2012

Nuneaton's Co-op Hall Venue

Yet more from the man Peter Clemons - this time focusing on the Co-op Hall  Venue Nuneaton...from the Coventry Telegraph.

Thirty years of music at Nuneaton's Co-op hall; ROCK fan and regular contributor Pete Clemons, from Keresley, this week charts the musical history of Nuneaton Co-op's dance hall, which played host to Midlands' bands and famous groups on tour.

ERECTED during 1938 and open for business by September 1939 the Nuneaton Co-op along with its associated dance hall was, both inside and out, an incredible looking building.

It was period art deco and was one of the finest examples of its type in the Midlands.

It was built during a time before motorways were created. The A5 was still a major trunk road with Nuneaton on its path and, as such, the town became a stop-off point for touring artists.

For the first twenty or so years it played host to the big bands led by the likes of Ken Macintosh and Ronnie Aldrich. The local orchestras of both Bert Lucas and Frank Proctor were also regulars and that trend continued through to the early 1960s when jazz bands were also introduced.

Then, during 1961, teenage dance nights began to be held there by Reg Calvert. Initially they were low key Friday night events. One of the earliest of these happenings I have recorded was during April and was headlined by Tex Roburg supported by Buddy Brittain and the Regents and Glen Dale. The following weekend saw The Rebel Rousers and The Grasshoppers and then soon after it was the turn of Danny Storm.

A refit of the venue took place during July and August. Then a gig was staged on September 1 by Joe Brown and the Bruvvers for its reopening. Over the next 18 months several other one-off gigs quickly followed by Eden Kane, Jackie Lynton, The Brooke Brothers and The Beatles (The Beatles were actually second on the bill, that night, to Buddy Brittain).

These dances took off very quickly and became incredibly popular. But the mainstays of these events were Buddy, Glen and Danny. They would go on to appear at the venue countless times during this period along with the likes of Roy Young, Robbie Hood, Mike Everest, Baby Bubbles and Tanya Day. Collectively these artists were known as the Clifton Hall All Stars.

By the beginning of 1963 the venue was completely dominated by teen dances. Even the jazz bands that had gradually replaced the orchestras on the Saturday night slots were now being squeezed out.

The music scene was changing and so did the bands that appeared. Along with the regulars bands like The Hollies, The Who, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, The Fourmost, Gene Vincent and The Rolling Stones were now visiting Nuneaton's premier venue.

And so it continued from 1963 through to mid 1966 when Reg Calvert was shot and killed. Through this period the dances were being handled by Reg's daughter Susan. An impressive array of bands appeared in the town that read like a who's who of chart acts from that time.

But despite the regular big names there was still room for local and popular Midlands's bands such as The Jones, The Cataracts and The Cardinal Sins. During this time several other venues sprang up in Nuneaton such as The Holly Bush Hotel, The Chase, The Nags Head and The Weddington.

These venues all began to stage their own regular dance nights putting on the cream of local bands. None of these would have the longevity of the Co-op Hall though. But it wasn't all good as tragedy was to strike the venue on New Year's Eve 1965 when a gig by Pinkertons Assorted Colours and The Tea Set went horribly wrong.

Nine hundred people had packed into the venue and at around 11.30pm an awful crush happened. This resulted in the loss of life for four people and several others were badly injured.

Tom Long, guitarist for the Pinkertons will, unsurprisingly, never forget the incident and easily recalls how difficult it was for the entire band as they had known at least two of the casualties personally.

After this terrible incident the hall had to be closed for a short time while another stairway was installed and other modifications implemented.

It seemed as though the 'great' years had slipped away for the Coop Hall after Reg died, and to an extent they had, but the venue did resume holding dances as the Calverts continued running them until sometime in 1967.

In fact, at the height of the summer of love in 1967 there were several groovy events such as 'Fab Flower Groups' nights and 'Flower Freak Outs' as up to three bands would appear and revellers tuned in.

The last couple of years saw the Friday dance disappear. Musical styles were changing but the Saturday still attracted popular Midlands bands the calibre of April, The Reason, Trip to the Sun, Buttercup Jelly and The Power and the Glory.

The whole thing came to an end in June 1970 which saw the last advertised gigs at the venue. One of the last major groups to appear at the venue was Rugby's Black Widow.

At about this time the motorway network grew and Nuneaton, like many towns, fell off the touring schedules. The hall was then used for bingo which, from all accounts, was very popular. Then, at some point, the ground floor became a supermarket.

Attempts to revive and breathe life back into the hall were made but none lasted. Sad times, I guess, for what had been such a vibrant building.

Sadly, after the supermarket pulled out, the Co-op ballroom remained for many years unused and derelict and it fell into a state of disrepair.

It was controversially demolished in November 2008.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pinkerton's Assorted Colours

Yet another from the Pete Clemons camp for the Coventry Telegraph, charting the history Pinkerton's Assorted Colours, whose biggest hit - Mirror Mirror, charted in 1966.

Unique sound of Pinkerton's was right on hue; YOUR nostalgia ROCK fan and regular contributor Pete Clemons this week looks back on the musical career of Rugby band Pinkerton's Assorted Colours, whose pioneering sound led to chart success and TV appearances.

FURTHER to my article on the Nuneaton Co-op Hall another band who were quite prominent at that venue and had strong connections with Reg Calvert's management were Rugby's 1960s chart toppers Pinkertons Assorted Colours.

Originally though the band began life as The Solitaires and had played gigs under that name from 1963 until early May 1964. But by the end of May they had settled for The Liberators and were gigging under that name.

The Liberators line up back then was Samuel ("Pinkerton") Kemp , autoharp and vocals, Tony Newman, rhythm guitar, Tom Long, lead guitar, John Wallbank, drums and Coventry born Barrie Bernard, bass. After recording a single, for producer Shel Talmy on the Stateside label and titled 'It Hurts So Much', John Wallbank left the band and was replaced by Dave Holland.

The band had a unique sound compared to other beat bands of the day and that uniqueness was highlighted by the use of an amplified autoharp which was essentially a hand held chorded zither.

They became Pinkerton's Assorted Colours during November / December 1965, and scored a massive top 10 hit with their first single 'Mirror, Mirror' written by Tony Newman and released on the Decca label.

'Mirror, Mirror' was the first record to be produced by the late Tony Clarke who went on to produce the classic albums by The Moody Blues and is even today remembered and listed in a top 10 of worldwide chart singles that used autoharp. It sits within the company of releases by Golden Earring and The Electric Prunes.

The single led to the bands first Top Of The Pops studio appearance on January 27, 1966 along with other TV studio work including a slot on popular children's programme Blue Peter. 

Reg Calvert always seemed to favour The Pinkertons and he was able to get them to do stunts for him like taking donkeys to gigs for use of floor prizes and putting coloured dye into the fountains at Trafalgar Square for a photo opportunity. In turn he gave them their own rehearsal rooms at Clifton Hall. And the band had been very much involved behind the scenes at Reg's Radio City venture.

I was recently talking to band member Tom Long who shared with me an insight into a typical week in The Pinkerton's schedule back then: * Wednesday - The Severn Club, Shrewsbury.

Left after lunch plenty of time. Good gig, stayed in B&B in Shrewsbury.

PUBLICITY Re* Thursday morning - Got up and spent the morning by the river. Then up to Blackburn for the next gig. Thursday night - King Georges Hall Blackburn finished and loaded up by 1 am. Drove steadily down the M1, * Friday morning - got to our regular B&B at Kings Cross London at 7am and knocked up the owner and begged a spare room for a wash and brush up. 8.30am photo shoot in Carnaby Street.

10am BBC for the Joe Loss pop show. Finished at the Playhouse at 2pm and set out for Ross-On Wye for the next gig. Played Ross gig, loaded up and set off straight back to London. Drove in shifts slept on the way.

* Saturday morning - back in London rested at Kings Cross for a while, went to the agency in Denmark Street for something or other that I can't remember, then set out for Margate Saturday evening - Margate Dreamland. Good gig we liked that place. After the gig took some friends back home to Canterbury.

Got back to Margate digs at 6am.

Sunday morning - Up at 8am and left shortly after. 10am back in London STUNTS: Calvert to Decca no 3 studio to record a flipside called 'Will Ya'. We were so tired it took just about all day to do that one on its own. We left London early Sunday evening for home and slept for a few days having not had a proper night sleep since the previous Wednesday.

After their second single, 'Don't Stop Loving Me', Barrie Bernard left Pinkerton's Assorted Colours, to join Jigsaw during their own early days in late 1966, and was replaced on bass by Stuart Colman. And then after the third single the band shortened their name to Pinkerton's Colours and signed to the Pye record label where they recorded another single 'Kentucky Woman'. 

By now Steve Jones had joined on lead guitar and during 1968 the band's name had shortened even further to just Pinkerton's. Drummer Dave Holland had also left to form the incredibly popular band Trapeze.

By 1969 the name Pinkerton's Assorted Colours began to gig once more but the nucleus of the original band had formed their own group called Flying Machine.

And this is where a minor miracle was about to take place.

Flying Machine consisted of Tony Newman, guitar and vocals and Stewart Colman, bass and piano who were joined by Coventry's Steve Jones, guitar and vocal, and Paul Wilkinson, drums who had both played together in bands like The Peeps and The Sabres.

Sounding completely different to The Pinkerton's they were now playing in a more psychedelic pop style. They had teamed up during early 1969 and by June of that year they had recorded a single called 'Smile a Little Smile For Me'.

Four months after the single was recorded, and after selling relatively few copies in the UK, it suddenly appeared in the American charts at number 16. It peaked at number 5 selling in excess of a million copies.

'Five months ago we were unknown and now everyone wants to know' said Paul Wilkinson while being interviewed by the Coventry Telegraph at the time. 'It sounds quite unbelievable but everything has been happening so fast that I can only just take it in' he continued.

The band went on to record several more singles and two albums before, with the original line up, finally splitting up for good in 1971.

And the B side She Don't Care

Don't stop me Loving Me

Magic Rocking Horse

Flying Machine 1969 - Smile and Little Smile 

The Matrix Ballroom - Coventry

Pete Clemons with one of his latest offerings to the Coventry Telegraph maps the history of the Matrix Ballroom which was a major Coventry beat group venue in the 60's.