Friday, December 27, 2013

Cliff Richard's Wild Concerts in Coventry

From the prolific pen of Pete Clemons - his latest article for Coventry Telegraph - Cliff's Wild Concerts in Coventry.

Cliff's Wild Concerts in Coventry 
Pete Clemons 

CLIFF Richard has just released his latest album 'The Fabulous Rock 'n' Roll Songbook' where, as the title suggests, he has gone full circle and has revisited his musical roots from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

By all accounts this is Cliff's 100th album release which, by any stretch of the imagination is a remarkable achievement, and the songs on it see him pay tribute to the greats of rock 'n' roll who inspired and influenced him, such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly.

During his early days Cliff and backing group the Shadows, who before that had been known as The Drifters, were regular visitors to Coventry.

Cliff, it seems, has always been a local favourite.

In 1959 it was reported that a 500 strong mob of screaming teenage girls stormed a Coventry cinema when Cliff performed one of his early concerts there. Staff at the Gaumont Cinema - later to become the Odeon and nowadays known as the Ellen Terry Centre - had their uniforms torn and ripped from their backs as they struggled to stop fans getting backstage.

Another story from the late 1950s involved Cliff and the band having to be smuggled out of the Granada Cinema in Rugby to avoid being mobbed by young fans.

Cliff also used to perform regularly at the Coventry Theatre, both solo and with his backing group The Shadows. Each and every one of those gigs would be sell outs. Tickets for all of those visits would be snapped up very quickly. In fact The Shadows have, several times, sold out the venue while touring in their own right.

He would quite often use those gigs at the theatre as an opportunity to drop in at various schools and sports centres around Coventry. Such as the time in 1976 when he even paid a surprise visit to pupils at Binley Park School and took part in a question and answer session.

Other visits have seen Cliff play tennis at the AT7 Centre and give a talk at Finham Park School about his beliefs and has always been ready to help local charities and good causes.

His Christian life has seen Cliff deliver a service and attend a mission at Coventry Cathedral during 1968 where, apparently, upwards of 15,000 saw him perform. He also performed gospel music at both Queens Road Baptist Church during 1971 and Central Methodist Hall during 1973 and also at St Paul's Church, Leamington, in 1974.

Needless to say the congregation, at each of these events, was huge. More than 1,400 people attended the Queens Road service. A thousand people had packed into the main church and 400 sat in overflow seating and watched the event on closed circuit television.

By coincidence this was held during the same weekend that The Rolling Stones were appearing at Coventry Theatre. At the Central Methodist Hall concerts Cliff played two shows to more than 2,000 people.

Proceeds from the concerts went to the TEAR fund who bought a Land Rover for missionary agriculturalists in Tanzania. And, along with 299 others, Cliff has had his name etched into the ornate millennium screen housed within the Cathedral. This honour was paid for by his official fan club who pledged the money to mark his sixtieth birthday back in the year 2000.

The following review, from April 1960, was written when Cliff and The Shadows starred during a week's residency at the Coventry Theatre. This had not been Cliff's first visit to the city but it was the first time he had appeared since his backing group had changed their name to The Shadows: 'The Coventry Theatre is the home of mass hysteria for a week for 'Mr Cliff Richard', complete with white suit, black shirt and his musical group 'The Shadows' is performing before a seething, writhing, shrieking audience of teenagers.

Monday night saw my initiation into the bewildering world of inaudible word, crashing chords and body movements that so easily transform normal healthy youngsters into hysterical hero worshippers. I am still in a state of mild shock by it all.

Cliff Richard is top of the bill in a show that caters for the young. He is the man who gives them what they really want and, judging by the reception he received, he must give it to them well. It isn't often you get flowers thrown on stage.

It doesn't really matter that words are unintelligible in the fast numbers.

Just let him stab out his white shoed foot in the general direction of the audience and, judging by the screams, they react in much the same way as if they had been kicked in the seat of their pants.

Mr Richard is a rock 'n' roll general who skilfully marshalls his stage army around him and he pays great attention to the battle campaign in hand. His act opens with a string of fast bouncy numbers that whip the audience up into the required state of semi-consciousness.

His musical group, three guitars and drums, never keep still going through simple semi-dance routines that keep the performance at ecstatic level. They are a well drilled squad.

All the acts that precede the entry of the idol into the ritualistic arena play very minor parts in the nights proceedings but two are worthy of mention - one particularly so.

The Four Jones Boys give a polished punchy display presenting themselves as a singing group who are different. Good harmony, nice touches of humour and a friendly manner make them well worth their number two billing. And in Roger Mistin, the Coventry Theatre have introduced us to one of the best xylophonists I have heard for a long time.

If you are a Cliff Richard fan and, let's face it - who under the age of twenty isn't, then this is a show for you.' Who would ever have guessed after reading that review that Cliff Richard would go on to be knighted for his services to music and would still be very much around, more than fifty years later, in 2013.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Coventry Music Museum (The Coventry Sound)

The latest from Pete Clemons - his article on the Coventry Music Museum for the Coventry Telegraph.

Pete Chambers at the More than Two Tones Exhibition 2009

Pete Chambers and Horace Panter

Two Tone Gold Discs displayed as part of More than Two Tone Exhibition in 2009 at the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery

Coventry Music Museum - Photo (and the one above) is, I think either by Paul Kennelly or Mark Rider.

In 1969 John and Yoko planted Acorns for peace in the grounds of Coventry Cathedral - which is covered by a special display and information in Coventry Music Museum.

After the More Than Two Tones Exhibition, Pete Chambers created the 2-Tone Central Museum at Coventry University, moving to the present location on Ball Hill, Walsgrave. Then the focus was mainly on 2 Tone but now the museum has widened to embrace the wider Coventry Sound from the 60's to the present.


An early proposal for a Coventry Music Museum that circulated c2003 / 4 from Trev Teasdel and used
as idea material for the More Than Two Tones Exhibition 2009 - on which Trev was a committee member with Pete Chambers and others.
Read more here

A forerunner of the Coventry Music Museum which provided a lot of ground work for the museum creation
was done between 2007 and 2009 at the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery. Initiated by Pete Chambers in negotiation with the Herbert team, a steering committee was formed comprising Herbert staff via Roger Vaughan, representatives from CV1, Radio Mercia and BBC Coventry, Pete Chambers, Trev Teasdel, and musicians Neol Davies, Roger Lomas. Richard Elms and many more as can be seen in the minutes on this site below.
Read the Minutes and more on this site below

And read the review of the launch of the More than Two Tones
Exhibition here -

At the launch both Kristy Gallacher and The Primitives played at the Herbert - this is one of the songs filmed at the Herbert -

Kristy Gallacher performing at the Launch of  More than Two Tones.

MORE THAN TWO TONES VIDEOS - Local Artists talking about the Coventry Scene.

Find the full series of these More than Two Tones Videos here

Pete Chambers - Two Tone Trail / Plaques / Walk of Fame / Books / Music Museum

On this page, linked here, you can see photos of the fuller range of work done by Pete Chambers, from his Coventry Music books, the Walk of Fame, Two Tone Trail and plaques to the Music Museum.

Pete Waterman and John Bradbury at the launch of the Two Tone plaque at the former Coventry Virgin records store - with Pete Chambers in the foreground.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Brian Matthew

Pete Clemons takes a look at BBC presenter Brian Matthew - born in Coventry in 1928, for his latest Coventry Telegraph article.

Brian on Air with the Beatles.
Pete Clemons 

LAST month has seen Brian Matthew back in the spotlight yet again with the release of the latest Beatles double CD titled 'On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2'.

Volume 1 was first released back in 1994, apparently selling five million copies in the first six weeks of release. Volume 2 is another delve back into the BBC archives and contains 63 tracks of which several are previously unreleased recordings along with studio chatter of The Beatles talking to the various radio presenters where Brian is quite prominent throughout in particular on disc 2. Brian Matthew was born in Coventry on September, 17 1928 and attended Bablake School. He began his broadcasting career for forces radio in Germany during 1948.

After that Brian worked for Dutch Radio in Hilversum which was once known as the centre for radio and broadcasting in The Netherlands. He then moved back to Coventry where he worked for a short while in a dairy.

And it was while at the dairy that Brian wrote to the BBC asking them if he could present a programme on Dutch Jazz through a programme of theirs called 'World of Jazz'. After an audition his offer was taken up.

And that was the start that Brian had at the BBC where for well over 50 years his slightly deep yet silky smooth voice has graced the airwaves as he went on to present radio shows such as Saturday Club, Easy Beat, My Top 12 and the arts programme Round Midnight.

Almost all the big names of the era appeared on Brian's shows, many of them live on air, and one of the biggest and most popular at that time were The Beatles who he developed a friendly relationship with. He even spent a week in the US touring with the mop tops.

Saturday Club was a prestigious radio show, originally launched in 1957, and was a showcase for up and coming talent. Brian was presenter of this show when, for example, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran appeared on it.

The Beatles also gave their first performance on Saturday Club during January 1963. And Brian Matthew was also host for the Easy Beat programme when The Beatles first appeared on that show later the same year.

It has been documented that The Beatles appeared on 275 live performances at the BBC between March 1962 and June 1965. They appeared on 39 radio shows in 1963 alone and, on one single day, recorded upward of 18 different songs. In fact during 1963 they had their own radio programme titled 'Pop Goes the Beatles' which went out on a Tuesday tea time.

Despite working with The Beatles many times Brian has admitted that, although friendly, he was never that close to them on a personal level.

He did admit though that he was close to Brian Epstein and did count him as a personal friend. In fact at one point Brian Matthew and Brian Epstein had plans to build and own their own theatre in the Orpington area of Kent but the project never materialised.

Another, more recent radio show Brian has been involved with is 'Sounds of the Sixties'. This iconic BBC show has been running since 1983 and, for a while, each episode was presented by a different artist from that decade.

Brian Matthew took over during March 1990 and, for two hours each Saturday morning he has made the show his own as he has presented it with his own unique style.

He divided the programme into one hour of 'A' sides and an hour of 'B' sides which even involves the listeners who sometimes introduce the song they requested. 1990 also saw Brian receive a Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Outstanding Contribution to Radio.

Brian has not been confined to the radio either. Between 1961 and 1966, and in addition to his radio commitments, Brian was travelling from his London base to Birmingham's ITV studios to be one of the presenters of 'Thank Your Lucky Stars'.

The format for this show was that each band played two songs although on this show the acts usually mimed to their hits.

And back in the days when radio was as popular then as TV is today Brian's shows would attract the biggest and greatest of pop acts for on air coverage.

During his early days there was very little pop music played on radio and his pioneering shows regularly attracted young audiences that were numbered in the millions.

Today it is very difficult to imagine just how gruelling life was for the bands during those formative years of beat and pop.

But to get an indication of how just one day's life was like for The Beatles, George Harrison once recalled, 'We used to drive 200 miles in an old van down the M1, come into London, try and find the BBC and then set up and do the programme.

Then we'd probably drive back up to Newcastle for a gig in the evening'.

Apart from a final gig on the rooftops of the Apple studios in London during January 1969 the Beatles retired from playing live after a tour of the US in August 1966.

The Beatles 'On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2' is clearly aimed at the Christmas market. And due to the fact that, essentially, there is little new in these releases then, yes I agree, this CD will not be for everyone.

Having said that there are some previously unreleased recordings and studio chatter by The Beatles are to be made available for the first time. These include covers of Chuck Berry's 'Too Much Monkey Business', a Frank Pingatore song called 'Clarabella' and an unreleased Lennon and McCartney tune called 'I'll Be on My Way'.

But one thing I am certain of is that this release is sure to interest those who enjoyed the ritual of tuning into those old radio programmes.

It will also revive many memories of an exciting time for those fortunate to have grown up during the 1960s.

Bablake School - Coventry - where Brian Matthew attended.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Noel Nouvelet - Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla - Celtic Christmas Charity Single

Pete Clemon's (in his latest Coventry Telegraph article) treats us to a special report on a new Celtic Christmas single by Coventry based Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla Noel Nouvelet - which has a long and interesting history as Pete explains and is offered as part of a free EP download but with the hope that people will pay for it as the money is to go a Children's charity to fund an innovative Music Therepy programme at the Rainbow Children's Hospice. The EP on Silvery Records can be downloaded here

Joe O'Donnell has a page on Facebook -

The single features Shkayla - Joe O'Donnell, Si Hayden, Martin Barter, Adrian Litvinoff, Brendan J. Rayner and additionally the vocals of Coventry singer songwriter and acoustic music promoter Justine Watson, Coventry Bhangra percussionist Juggy Rihal and London based Asian Vocalist Shaheen.

Over to Pete Clemons -

Joe bows out for charity.
Pete Clemons 

IF you happen to be on the lookout for some Christmassy music with a difference and, at the same time, would like to help a great cause then can I direct you to the latest single by Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla and friends titled 'Noel Nouvelet'.

'Noel Nouvelet' is actually a traditional French Christmas carol which originally contained thirteen verses and translates roughly as 'Sing We Now of Christmas'.

It was apparently intended as a New Year's carol, as opposed to a Christmas carol, with versions of it dating back to the early 1500s. The traditional version that is used nowadays dates back to one from the 1720s.

However, Joe's interpretation of this carol is very different from the original. For a start he has also managed to incorporate the famous 'Coventry Carol' which can be heard at the beginning and at the middle eight section within the tune.

And not only does the single include members of Shkayla but it also features the talents of Coventry bhangra percussionist Juggy Rihal, indie vocalist Justine Watson and London-based Asian vocalist Shaheen.

The combination of all these influences creates a potion of incredible melodies and rhythms that originate from both the East and the West.

The 'Coventry Carol' is, of course, a Christmas carol that dates from the 16th century. It was named after and was performed within Coventry during those days as part of a mystery play titled The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors.

In fact performances of the Coventry Mystery Plays, or Coventry Corpus Christi Pageants, have been recorded as being performed as far back as 1312/13 and continued for almost two centuries. I believe that there were ten in total.

The carol itself refers to the Massacre of the Innocents, as told in the gospel of Matthew, in which Herod ordered all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed.

The lyrics of this haunting carol represent a mother's lament for her doomed child and apparently it is the only known piece of music that has survived from this particular play. The original author of the tune is unknown.

It is said that the only original copy of the play was always kept by the council for safe keeping. And when a copy was required the copyist had to go to the council and pay a hefty fee in order to stage the play on. But apparently the council copy of the Coventry plays has long been lost.

The only manuscript copy, from those originals, to have survived into recent times was destroyed by fire during the late 1870s and it had been held at the Birmingham Free Reference Library. Fortunately though Coventry antiquarian, Thomas Sharp, had preserved copies in two volumes and it is from these that we know about, and interpret, the mystery plays today.

And the same biblical story which inspired the Coventry Carol has also been the inspiration of some wonderful, but quite graphic, paintings and artwork from artists of all nationalities over the centuries.

All proceeds of the single, which is available as a download only, will be passed onto the Music Therapy department of Loughborough based Rainbows Hospice that helps terminally ill children.

The power of music has, over the years, been well documented. Studies have shown that music can influence heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, pain perception, physical health and all round well-being. At University Hospital's Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, music therapy helps children and families discover new ways to effectively cope, both physically and emotionally, with hospitalisation.

Says Joe, "I'm very keen to support Rainbows Hospice with this project. Music has been my life and I was fascinated to find out how music has been used to help improve the quality of life for the young people in its care - and for their families.

"My hope for Christmas is that as many people as possible download the single and I would be absolutely delighted if 'Noel Nouvelet' can help to build up Rainbows' resources for this fantastic support and therapy."

Time in hospital can disrupt normal living patterns, school and important social activities for children.

The Music Therapy Program at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital attempts to minimise this disruption by providing sensitive and creative interventions that includes the playing of instruments and the writing of songs.

These interventions also offer acute and chronically ill children the chance to learn, express themselves, interact with family and friends and simply relax and just enjoy themselves.

Even parents, brother and sisters can join the fun and experience the benefits that music creation can bring. Music therapy interventions take place individually, during group sessions, and during Rainbow Channel TV programming which is available on the Rainbow Hospice website.

Rainbows Hospice music therapist, Neil Eaves says, "We care for around 250 families every year, and facilities like our music room help our dedicated to team relieve symptoms, improve quality of life, and support parents and siblings.

"The truth is that we can't do our work without public support and we're excited that Joe O'Donnell's fantastic music may go a long way to supporting this very important and valuable work."

All three mixes of the single are available from the Silvery Records website for a suggested donation of PS1 per download and are available from the link below. I hope you agree that this is the perfect opportunity of being able to offer a chance to make a difference to young people's lives through the power of music.

And while there why not take the time to look at all the other delight that are available at