Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Matadors

Pete Clemons looks at 60's Coventry band - The Matadors for his latest article for the Coventry Telegraph.
(Now includes new update from Sound Off.)



NEW ADDITION TO THIS ON DECEMBER 2017 BELOW THIS FIRST ARTICLE.

700 gigs but no LP from The Matadors

Pete Clemons


THE expression 'they were a hard working band' has been used many times before in numerous articles and not least of all within the subjects that I write about. But if the number of gigs played during a career equates to how hard working a band is seen to be then 'The Matadors' can rightly claim to be up there with the very best of them.

The Matadors were made up of Neil Tyson vocals, guitar, harmonica, Dave Finlay organ, vocals, Dave Colkin bass, vocals, Harry Heppingstall drums and were formed in 1962. Actually early dates had them down as Larry Spain and the Matadors but for whatever the reasons Larry left the band after a few gigs fairly early on in the bands career.

During almost six years in existence from when they first got together through to their eventual demise in 1967 The Matadors had played well in excess of an astonishing 700 gigs in the region. And this amount of live work did not include other dates and bookings away from Warwickshire.

Admittedly the earliest of those gigs were played at venues like St Georges Ballroom in their home town of Hinckley but nevertheless the 600, or so, gigs that this band played within the Coventry area is still an incredible and highly impressive number.

The band received an early break in 1964 when they were signed by Harold Davison who was also the manager of the Dave Clark Five and the Applejacks. He managed to get the band down to Decca Studios in London where they recorded six of their own songs along with another that Decca Records themselves had selected. 1964 also saw The Matadors tour Scotland where, according to their personal manager Mike James, they went like a bomb. The same year they also appeared with Billy J Kramer on a package tour down the south of the country.

The Matadors used to also go down a storm at the Coventry Flying and Country Club out at Baginton. So much so that, along with bands like Johnny B Great and Goodmen and The Echo Four they would be given pleasure flights out of the nearby airport.

Such was the band's popularity that during 1965 The Matadors won a poll organised through the Coventry Express newspaper. Thousands of music fans had filled in their printed forms and posted them off and the group found themselves as the clear winners. Runners-up being The Little Darlin's while actually the biggest surprise of that poll, which had been for beat groups, was that Coventry's own Irish show band had made it into third place - The Pat Gissane Show Band.

This is how The Matadors' victory was reported at the time: 'The winners of the Express poll, The Matadors, have themselves undergone a definite change. An organ has been added and much of their earlier material has been dropped. The Matadors now put a great deal of emphasis on stage work and their material ranges from hit-parade gear to ballads and modern arrangements of older "pop" hits. One of their most popular numbers is a rendition of the old Buddy Holly flipside "Everyday" - one of the rock numbers to have stood the test of time. The "Mats" do some of their own material and hope to have a record released which is mid-tempo and sung in falsetto harmony - on an Ivy League kick'.

1965 then saw the band sign up with top independent record producer Joe Meek, the man who had produced several million selling hit singles including 'Telstar' made world famous by The Tornadoes. All the signs were good as a clutch of songs were recorded. Enough in fact to make three singles. However, a year later not one record had been released.

The Matadors moved on after their personal manager, Mike James announced 'we can't wait around for ever'. The whole experience made the band and their management unhappy and totally disillusioned with the music industry.

After the well publicised delay and the band's response The Matadors first single was leased by Meek to the Columbia Records label and was at long last released during January 1966.

The 'A' side was titled 'A Man's Gotta Stand Tall' with the 'B' side titled 'Fast Cars and Money'. Its matrix number was Columbia DB7806 and the lead song can still be found even today. It is on a CD called Joe Meek - RGM Rarities Vol. 2: The Beat Group Era. 


The Matadors called it a day in 1967 and soon after Neil Tyson and Dave Colkin formed a band called Magazine along with lead guitarist Nick Mayne and drummer Steve Talbot.

In keeping with the blues and soul fashion of the late 1960s the band adventurously incorporated a brass section.

Magazine seemed to pick up where The Matadors had left off by way of many visits to venues such as The Walsgrave and The Red House pubs. Despite always being on the verge of recording I don't think it ever happened. Magazine remained active until the mid 1970s.

Meanwhile drummer Harry Heppingstall joined groups like A Band Called George and jazz rock band Wave who had a residency at the Earlsdon Cottage from 1972 through to 1973. Wave then evolved into Khayyam, another jazz rock/progressive band, who featured lead guitarist Chris Jones and appeared a number of times at The Golden Cross.

It has always been my understanding that Khayyam did go as far as recording an album, although I have never heard it and therefore cannot verify this story.

However it seems that, if the tale is true, then the band never got the right deal in order to release it offi-cially. Which seems to be a never ending trend for the band, and all those involved with them. Bad luck and wrong deals was the story of The Matadors' career really.


NEW ADDITION TO THIS POST DECEMBER 2017


The Matadors update

It was an absolute joy to attend a recent ‘Sounding Off’ event at the Coventry Music Museum. The talk, hosted by Pete Chambers, was with the remaining members of 1960s beat band The Matadors. And it really was fascinating to hear, at first hand, the memories of these guys.

The passage of time had clearly eroded away some of the detail, but it was like seeing the formation of a jigsaw puzzle, as each of the band members each had their own individual memory and by bouncing those pieces around themselves the more complete the story became.

Originating from Hinckley, The Matadors spoke initially of their influences such as Elvis Presley and The Shadows. Although drummer, Harry Heppingstall, emphasised that his background had been in jazz. After a short spell as being known as The Rapiers, by 1962, they had settled on The Matadors, namely Dave Colkin bass guitar and vocals, Dave Findley rhythm guitars and vocals, Harry Heppingstall on drums and the late Neil Tyson on lead guitar and vocals initially lined up in a similar fashion to that which The Beatles also adopted.

The band clearly remembered the night at the Orchid Ballroom when they were top of the bill to The Kinks. The Kinks, at that time were a fledgling band who had recently come to the attention of the then ballroom manager Larry Page. But The Matadors mentioned that they still felt uncomfortable at heading up a show that included a band from London and offered to reverse the rolls and let The Kinks headline.

Inevitably the Joe Meek story came into conversation. The band recalled how things appeared to be fine when they initially signed for the independent record producer. But a year later they found themselves still waiting for a single to be released. It got to the point where a spokesman for the band had threatened to ignore their contract with Joe and set about joining a major company direct. The band had cut three discs with Joe and as yet none had been released.

Talking about the experience ‘We went down to his flat come studio in London. Joe was very arrogant and not at all willing for suggestions. He had Dan Findley’s piano keys fixed a certain way in order to get a sound he wanted’. The Matadors even received one of Meek’s infamous a tongue lashings.

After much delay the single was leased by Meek to Columbia in 1966 and local sales were strong. The ‘A’ side was titled ‘A Man's Gotta Stand Tall’ with the ‘B’ side titled ‘Fast Cars and Money’ on the ‘B’ side. The Matadors themselves much preferred the ‘B’ side though. Soon after producers Tony Hatch and Andrew Loog Oldham both became interested in the band.

1965 saw the band expand itself musically and this is how it was reported in the Coventry Express ‘The winners of the Express poll, the Matadors, have themselves undergone a definite change. An organ has been added and much of their earlier material has been dropped. The Matadors now put a great deal of emphasis on stage work and their material ranges from hit-parade gear to ballads and modern arrangements of older ‘pop’ hits. One of their most popular numbers is a rendition of the old Buddy Holly flipside ‘Everyday’ - one of the rock numbers to have stood the test of time. The ‘Mats’ do some of their own material and hope to have a record released which is mid-tempo and sung in falsetto harmony- on an Ivy League kick’

Another memory the band touched on was playing The Walsgrave Pub one Christmas day evening. They hardly saw a soul on the journey between Hinckley and Coventry and had visions of an empty venue. That was until they arrived at The Walsgrave and saw the huge queue of people waiting to get in.

As the bands reputation grew, so did the travelling, and so did their connections. As such The Matadors were able to drop the names of some very famous performers who they had crossed paths with. Eric Burdon, for example, cited the band during a tour of Scotland with The Animals as being one of his favorites. They mentioned the genius of Stevie Wonders whose use of diminished notes and the black keys on a piano was something they had not seen or heard before. Along with Georgie Fame they even had an impromptu jam with him. Mike Pinder of Moody Blues fame however was a bit standoff ish.



It was a wonderful hour or so that had clearly been much enjoyed by both band and audience.
.........................................





















The MATADORS
circa 1962 - 1967 - Sources Broadgate Gnome / Rex Brough / Pete Chambers / Tim James

Beat group

Line up: Neil Tyson (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Dave Finlay (organ, vocals), Dave Colkin (bass, vocals), Harry


Heppingstall (drums).

Formed 1962 , they were a hard gigging and well respected band who were based in Coventry, but who actually came from Hinkley.

In 1964 they signed with Joe Meek as their recording manager and cut a number of sides with him.

"Joe twisted our sound up, he speeded us up so we sounded like chipmunks" said Dave Colkin recently.

After a delay Their first single was leased by Meek to Columbia in 1965 and local sales proved healthy. They released a second single, but dissaffection was setting in with Meek's techniques and they shopped around for another recording manager, and both Tony Hatch and Andrew Loog Oldham both showed interest around May 1966.

By 1967 they were being courted by Polydor, but as the label had a low profile in the UK then,but they never released any singles.

They became Magazine in 1967 with the addition of a brass section, a reflection of the tastes of the time.

Single:

As 'The Four Matadors'

A: A Man's Gotta Stand Tall/ B:Fast Cars And Money (Columbia DB7806 1966)

Their single A Man's Gotta Stand Tall can be found on the album Joe Meek - RGM Rarities Vol. 2: The Beat Group Era

Mentioned in NME 1966 as The Four Matadors http://www.skidmore.edu/~gthompso/britrock/NME/nme6601.html



" The winners of the Express poll, the Matadors, have themselves undergone a definite change. An organ has been added and much of their earlier material has been dropped. The Matadors now put a great deal of emphasis on stagework and their material ranges from hit-parade gear to ballads and modern arrangements of older "pop" hits. One of their most popular numbers is a rendition of the old Buddy Holly flipside "Everyday" - one of the rock numbers to have stood the test of time. The "Mats" do some of their own material and hope to have a record released which is mid-tempo and sung in falsetto harmony- on an Ivy League kick." Via Tim James Site From Coventry Express, Friday May 28th 1965

Citybeat by Paul Connew


From Rex Brough

"Stuart Colman tells me they were from Hinckley. from an article that Tim James posted up , Matadors had an organ player. The Matadors put a great deal of emphasis on stagework and their material ranged from hit-parade gear to ballads and modern arrangements of older "pop" hits. One of their most popular numbers was a rendition of the old Buddy Holly flipside "Everyday". The "Mats" did some of their own material and hoped to have a record released which is mid-tempo and sung in falsetto harmony- on an Ivy League kick.


Stuart also tells me The Matadors cut one single for Columbia entitled "A Man's Gotta Stand Tall". The record was issued in January 1966 and had an excellent band original on the flip called "Fast Cars & Money". The single was issued as being by The Four Matadors and is now highly collectable as it was produced independently by Joe Meek. He remembers another of their own songs they performed on stage called - "The Sun, The Sand & The Sea".


Memories from Tim James


"I always thought they were an ace band in the early 60s, they looked good and played hard biting rock & roll of the day at the youth club dances where I first saw them. But but by '64 they were old hat, hadn't changed with the times, and went on to look more like a cabaret act before they folded."

From Pete Chambers - Backbeat - Coventry Telegraph

" This fine "Coventry" band had a secret, they weren't from Coventry at all. They in fact hailed from Hinckley in
Leicestershire, formed out of the enter-level band the Rapiers in 1961, one of the first bands in the area.

Original drummer Graham Baker had the misfortune of working shifts, so missed various bookings. His temporary fill-in was Harry Heppingstall and after some soul searching Graham was asked to leave and Harry took over the "skins" on a permanent basis. By early 1962 they had re-branded themselves The Matadors.

"The Beatles came and changed everything," confesses Dave Colkin. "We had a vocalist Larry Spain, but he was asked to leave and we found ourselves as a four piece band. The line-up was that of The Beatles, bass (Dave Colkin), lead (Neil Tyson) and rhythm Dave Findlay (guitars) and a drummer (Harry Heppingstall). We also shared the vocals like the Beatles and would often indulge in three-part harmony again like the Fab-Four. "We even got called the Midlands Beatles. We were playing the same songs as them, but up to that point we hadn't heard them so it wasn't like we were copying them. Larry Spain's brother worked on the American Army bases and got hold of the latest stuff coming Stateside, records like Twist and Shout and Chains, so we used them in our act, as did the Beatles. We went to see them when they played at The Co-op Hall in Nuneaton October 1962 and we all turned to each other and declared that they were doing our act!"

Indeed, their choice of songs was of interest to some of the big acts they got to support. "We used to play Do You Wanna Dance," Harry Heppingstall told me. "We supported Brian Poole and The Tremeloes one night and they expressed an interest in it, next thing we know they had a number one with the song. To make matters worse we had thought about releasing it ourselves."

It's worth pointing out at this point that the Matadors (or the Mats), were not your average beat band. They were very professional unit that knew how to work an audience, they had a great stage presence and an exciting set-list that included Can I Get A Witness, Well Alright, Walk Like A Man, Fun, Fun, Fun, Mr Pitiful and Everything's Gonna Be Alright. As you can see an emphasis on good old R'n'B - but not so for their one and only single, A Man's Gotta Stand Tall.

By 1966 The Matadors had got a chance to record a single with the legendary Joe Meek, thanks to their manager Mick Tiernan. Meek was a loose cannon, a changeling producer who had an original approach to sound techniques. He had produced the first US number one by a British pop group - Telstar by The Tornadoes. He liked to experiment with sound' the easiest and most simple way was never an option for Meek.

We went down to his recording studio in London. I found him arrogant and not over-friendly," said Dave. "Instead of a normal mixing desk Meek had his in a stack and worked standing up, and he looked like a teddy boy. "He fixed Dan Findley piano keys with paper and drawing pins to get the sound he wanted, everything was very experimental."

I recall," injects Harry. "How very bossy he was, I put my drumsticks down at the end of a take, and he shouted at me to
pick my sticks up again, 'I'll tell you when you can stop'!"

The Matadors (or the Four Matadors as they were known at the time of this single), were not happy with Meek, the way he had delayed releasing the record and what he had done to it.

He had speeded up the whole thing, and the vocals just sounded far too high. That's a shame because at the correct pitch, the song has a great keyboard phrase, and is a fine sounding song.

After internal wranglings with Joe Meek, the single was finally released by Columbia, and sold tremendously well locally, selling out in Jill Hansons, Coventry, in a matter of hours.

Sadly Columbia never promoted it enough and the lads left to seek another recording contract. One was with the Walker Brothers' recording manager who wanted them to sound like The Walker Brothers, and even puppet master Gerry Anderson of Thunderbirds fame demoed the band in Birmingham, but never got back to them.

The lads continued doing what they did best, working as a jobbing band seven nights a week, supporting the likes of Matt Monro. They eventually split up, sadly Neil Tyson passed away. The two Daves formed the band Magazine for a time. Harry joined soul band Natural Gas and now drums in Lonnie Donegan tribute act Paul Leegan and The Legends. Dave Colkin still sings, and does a wicked Elvis impersonation in countries as diverse as Thailand and Tenerife. While Dave Findlay went on to play in the band The Old G's (The Old Gits).

PopTrivia - MATADORS

IN 1964 The Matadors played on ATV's TV show, For Teenagers Only alongside The Swinging Blue Jeans.

THEIR Colombia single A Man's Gotta Stand Tall/Fast Cars and Money is now worth around pounds 80 in mint condition, thanks mainly for its Joe Meek connection.

JOE MEEK lived a troubled life, particularly towards the end of it. Joe had a crush on Heinz, a member of The Tornadoes, and consequently he built a solo career for him where one was not obviously beckoning. When Heinz formed a close relationship with a woman Meek was livid and shot his housekeeper then turned the gun on himself. The gun belonged to Heinz but a verdict of suicide was later proved beyond doubt."

See Pete Chambers Pop into the Past article too http://www.bbc.co.uk/coventry/content/articles/2006/05/26/pop_into_the_past_28_matadors.shtml


From Pete Chambers - Godiva Rocked to a Backbeat

" The Matadors played so much in Coventry that most people thought they were from the town -( they were from Hinckley). They won the Best Coventry Band Contest. Dave Colkin - " We went down to Holloway Rd, London to the house Joe Meek used as his recording studio. I found him arrogant and not over friendly. Instead of a normal mixing desk, Meek had his in a stack and worked standing up. He looked like a Teddy boy. He fixed Dan Findlay's piano keys with paper and drawing pins to get the sound he wanted. Everything was very experimental."

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