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.

(Readable text below the graphic)

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.

(Readable text below)

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.


(aka Pinkertons Colours)
Formed in Rugby in 1964- 1969
Sources - Rex Brough / Wikipedia / Dean Nelson

Barrie Bernard - Bass replaced by Ian "Stuart" Colman - Bass

Dave Holland - Drums replaced by Paul Wilkinson

Samuel 'Pinkerton' Kempe - Autoharp, Vocals

Tom Long - Lead Guitar replaced by Steve James - Lead Guitar

Tony Newman - Guitar


Mirror Mirror / She Don't Care - 1965

Don't Stop Loving Me Baby / Will Ya? - 1966

Magic Rocking Horse / It Ain't Right - 1966 (Link is a cover)

Mum And Dad / On A Street Car - 1967

There's Nobody I'd Sooner Love / Duke's Jetty - 1967

Kentucky Woman / Behind The Mirror - 1968

From Rex Brough

Reg Calvert, one of pop's legendary managers and manager of the Fortunes, was living in
Clifton Hall, and spotted them when they were called The Liberators in Rugby in 1964. Following a brief hook-up with producer Shel Talmy, which resulted in one single, Wallbank exited the line-up, to be replaced by Dave Holland.The name came from Kempe adoption of a "posh" sounding name, and the groups array of colourful jackets. Their first pop single, Mirror Mirror, featured the jangling sound of Kempe's autoharp and is a pop classic. Tony Newman wrote this and another psyche classic "Magic horse", though sadly none of the other single achieved the success they deserved. They changed the name to Pinkerton's Colours and eventually eventually became Flying Machine. Steve James and Paul Wilkinson who joined the band later previously had been in the Peeps. Barrie Bernard later joined Jigsaw.

Dean Nelson says -

"..the first line-up of this band -- originally known as The Liberators -- was -

Samuel ("Pinkerton") Kemp on autoharp and vocals,

Tony Newman on rhythm guitar,

Tom Long on lead guitar,

Barrie Bernard playing bass,

John Wallbank on the drums

Pinkerton's Assorted Colours adopted brightly colored costumes for their stage act. Their sound was an amalgam of folk and pop, highlighted by the use of an electric autoharp, which the band used in a manner somewhat similar to that of the Lovin' Spoonful. In late 1965, Pinkerton's Assorted Colours were signed to Decca Records, and they cut their debut single that year with future Moody Blues producer Tony Clarke. That record, "Mirror, Mirror," a band original written by Tony Newman, became a No. 8 British hit in 1966. They had one more minor chart entry, "Don't Stop Loving Me Baby," later in the year, but that was their last hit and after the failure of "Magic Rocking Horse," they left Decca to sign with Pye Records, and even a name change to "Pinkerton's Colours" didn't make their records more appealing."

Stuart Colman, Pinkerton’s one time bassist, went on to become a BBC Radio One DJ, and later a producer for Shakin' Stevens, Cliff Richard and Billy Fury.

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.

(Readable text below the graphics)

Magic dance hall nights rocking out at The Matrix; YOUR nostalgia ROCK fan Pete Clemons recalls the heyday of one of Coventry's favourite dance halls - The Matrix Ballroom. Pete, from Keresley, who is compiling a history of the city's music scene, charts the venue's history and the orchestras, famous bands and acts who played there over the years.

COVENTRY was once upon a time, and not so long ago, awash with factories that manufactured everything from cars to telephone equipment.

And almost every one of those factories came with its own social club that took care of the workers leisure time and gave them, and their family, entertainment and activities on many levels.

I myself worked, at one time, at the GEC which was typical of all the other factories that existed back then. It had several social clubs that catered for an entire range of bar games including snooker and dominoes as well as being the base for the football and rugby sections along with a variety of other sports and activities. And these clubs were not solely for the use of employees as guests were also very welcome into them.

Some of these social clubs also had large ballrooms that were the focal point for all manner of functions ranging from office parties and presentation evenings to dance orchestras.

Another such company, known as The Matrix, was born in 1953 out of Coventry Gauge and Tool which itself was formed at the end of the 1930s. At its peak the company employed more than 2,000 people and had a reputation of having one of the finest ballrooms in the area.

The Matrix Ballroom on the Fletchamstead Highway near the old Standard Cinema (now Maxim's casino) was one of the city's favourite dance halls. It boasted a large dance floor and seemed to attract the bigger and more popular dance bands. I am guessing that this was partly due to the fact that it was situated on the A45 which, back then, was a major trunk road through the city. Even today you can recognise the building as it is now used as the HSS tool hire store.

The bands started performing at the Matrix soon after the company was formed with, for the first couple of years, The Jack Owens Orchestra taking up a residency and followed then by The Paul Stanley Orchestra for the next few years.

But by the end of the 1950s the place was attracting bands and orchestras the calibre of those led by Johnny Dankworth, Ted Heath, Ken Mackintosh and Ronnie Aldrich and, such was the popularity, advance tickets were being made available from Jill Hansons record shop in the city centre.

The early part of the 1960s saw the dance bands becoming freer. Rock and roll had kicked in and the formalities of the orchestra, although not lost forever, were being left with the older generation. The needs of the younger workforce and music fan were being met and during 1961 and the early part of 1962 the traditional dance orchestras were being replaced by the likes of the accordion-led Pat Gissane Show Band and The Temperance Seven who specialiSed in 1920s style jazz and swing.

September 1, 1962 saw the hall reopen after the summer. The bands that night included Swedish instrumentalists The Spotnicks and suddenly there was a new feel to Saturday nights. The beat groups had arrived.

Incredible as it now seems but a band called The Beatles played the venue on November 17, 1962. This was only weeks after Ringo had taken over from Pete Best on drums, two days after returning to the UK after a two-week residency at the Star Club in Hamburg and just days before they recorded their second single Please Please Me. Famously the hitman Pete Waterman had been in attendance and recalled that around 80 people had been in attendance to see them.

Within a year The Beatles had been followed by groups like The Searchers, Freddie and the Dreamers and The Rolling Stones. Even American acts like Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard performed there.

After a brief refit the venue reopened as the New Matrix during mid-1965 and the previous successes continued by way of visits by Manfred Mann, Van Morrison's Them, The Small Faces and countless other bands. And these big name chart acts were quite often supported by a local band as happened when, for example, when The Beat Preachers supported The Who during August of that year.

November 1968 saw a regular Irish club move in, The Hibernia Club. For a year or so the atmosphere of the hall changed again as Saturday nights were alive to the sounds of The Skyliners and The Yankee Clippers Show Bands and their assortment of jigs and reels.

There was still room however for rock and pop as the late 1960s saw the likes of Joe Cocker, Desmond Dekker and The Equals all perform at The Matrix. The Hibernia Club continued to put on the show bands at the venue until it moved to the Foleshill Road during mid 1969.

The 1970s all but saw the rock and pop disappear. Occasionally a local band might play but not on the regular weekly basis that the venue had previously been used too. For several years throughout the 70s though the musicians union staged an annual big band competition at The Matrix. During the day up to a dozen youth orchestras would appear such as the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra.

It was a very popular event.

Another use of the hall during the 1970s and 1980s was that as a venue for an annual beer festival. But the Matrix Ballroom effectively ceased as a music venue during the mid 1980s and remained unused for many years.