Monday, April 24, 2017

Welcome to Peter Clemon's Coventry Music Articles

This Post Remain's 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.

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.

This Blog
This Hobo blog spot in particular  is for Peter Clemon's Coventry music Scene articles for the Coventry Telegraph. 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 publish in the Coventry Telegraph which, on his request, we've collated here and  have linked them with further material from the Hobo magazine archives.


  • 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


Tim Bowness, vocalist.

Tim Bowness, vocalist.

By Pete Clemons

There are vocalists who belt out the songs. And there are vocalists whose voice you hear uppermost and the music is incidental. And, for me, Tim Bowness is definitely in the latter category. 

Tim’s voice has warmth and richness to it. It carries an unusual breathiness. It is an instrument in itself. And his pronunciation can be quite exquisite. Dare I say that I find his voice is quite seductive in the way he draws you into his songs.

Amongst other releases Tim’s debut solo album, ‘My Hotel Year’ was released 2004. Contributing to the music was the likes of ambient music creator Roger Eno and Soft Machine’s bassist Hugh Hopper.

In 2009 Tim heavily contributed to an album titled ‘Talking with Strangers’ released by former Fairport Convention vocalist Judy Dyble.

But prior to all this Tim was a founding member, along with Steven Wilson, of the band No-Man. And No-Man are no strangers to Coventry.

On Saturday October 17 1992 No-Man, who by now also included Ben Coleman on violin, appeared at the Tic Toc club, latterly known as The Colosseum and more lately Kasbah. They had not long released a mini album / EP called ‘Lovesighs – An Entertainment’ that contained a track which immediately caught my attention ‘Days in the Trees’.

Unfortunately the band got slaughtered by a critic who happened to be present that night and in Tim’s own words during a recent conversation as he recalled the gig. ‘Sadly, the Coventry Tic Toc performance/experience wasn’t No-Man’s finest hour! ‘

As memorable as the gig though was the fact No-Man were accompanied on stage by JBK namely drummer Steve Jansen, fretless bass player Mick Karn and keyboard player Richard Barbieri who had all previously been in the band Japan.

And these musicians would go on to become collaborators in a wide variety of future projects. As for No-Man, well gigs performed during 1993 would prove to be their last together for the foreseeable future. 

However both Tim and Steven Wilson would continue, albeit in the shadow of Steven’s other emerging band Porcupine Tree, to release music as No-Man. And the music/lyrics were becoming more powerful in terms of subject matter.

As such it was an incredible surprise when, seemingly out of the blue during 2008, a gig was announced for Bush Hall in London. With a complete new band, this new version of No-Man put on a memorable performance. And it was saved for posterity by way of DVD package entitled ‘Mixtaped’ which was later released.

A few years later and yet another gig was announced, this time closer to home, at The Assembly Rooms in Leamington Spa during 2011. Again this performance was recorded, this time on CD, and made available under the title ‘Love and Endings’.

More recently and bringing things right up to date Tim Bowness has released a trio of wonderful studio albums. The first of these ‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams’ was, as I understand, intended as a No-Man album, and released during 2014. The songs are very melancholic and reflective yet, at the same time, the music creates an uplifting atmosphere. It received some very positive reviews.

This was quickly followed up during 2015 by ‘Stupid Things That Mean the World’ another emotionally charged record, packed with nostalgia. Tim loves books and reads poetry and I suspect a lot of the imagery gained from that has surfaced in his songs.

For the third album of this trilogy Tim is attempting to look through the eyes of a classic rock artist who is in the twilight of his career and realises that time has simply moved on.

It is an incredible piece of work and rather that attempt to describe it all myself I have unashamedly dipped into Tim’s website and grabbed the following……

‘Lyrically, the album addresses how the era of streaming and ageing audiences affects creativity, how a life devoted to music impacts on real / family life, and how idealistic beginnings can become compromised by complacency and the fear of being replaced by younger, more vital artists’.

‘As mentioned on the Album Notes for Lost in the Ghost Light, the album revolves around the contemporary musings of Moonshot leader Jeff Harrison, though the events in the songs take place between 1967 and 2017. 

Jeff’s career was of interest to me because he came from my home town and was born on the same date as me in exactly the same place (Victoria Park Maternity Home in Warrington as I’m sure you’re eager to know). Admittedly, it was 16 years earlier, but how could I not be curious?

In the 1970s and 1980s, there were no local musicians of any note from the area, so (in both a good and a bad way) Jeff became something of a home town legend regularly played by DJs such as The Longford Lover.

I was fascinated by the fact that Jeff and Moonshot had been passionately idealistic during a musically revolutionary time (1967-1975), but seemed completely exhausted for a decade or more after. Where did the inspiration / drive go? How was all relevance and credibility lost? Why did Jeff make the career choices he did?

Although some critics still rate the band’s early albums (as do I), it’s fair to say that Moonshot’s reputation has been sullied by years of playing ‘golden oldies’ to diminishing audiences. Jeff’s 1980s penchant for wearing leopard skin outfits and his dismissive remarks about contemporary music (post Punk) have also had an impact on his critical standing. In recent years, Jeff’s vocal aversion to downloading and streaming have come across as bitter rather than insightful (I think he sometimes makes a good point, but feel there’s no moderation in the way he expresses his views). His current obsessions with President Putin t-shirts and the falling standards of rice pudding production are a little (endearingly?) odd by any standards’.

Ian Bourne, Nuneaton Singer Songwriter.

Ian Bourne, Nuneaton Singer Songwriter

By Pete Clemons

I don’t know Ian Bourne, as such, but I do know of him. And I wouldn’t mind betting that a great deal more people also do without actually realising it.

For several years now Ian has hosted, and performed at, a great number of acoustic open mic sessions. Not just in Coventry but county wide and beyond.

The energy and enthusiasm that he put into these events appeared to be endless. And if you have ever attended one of these sessions then the chances are that it was hosted by Ian.

Ian, himself, has been playing guitar since almost before he can remember, and regularly teaches guitar in his spare time. He has an impressive theoretical knowledge and uses interesting and challenging strumming patterns and finger style in his playing.

He learns songs with ease and boasts an extensive repertoire of songs and he regularly performs an eclectic mix of distinctive original material and quirky covers both as a solo artist and also as a duo with a number of other performers.

Ian is also a talented songwriter and enjoys writing and playing a wide range of musical styles such as folk, jazz, jazz and pop. He incorporates a mixture of acoustic and electric during his gigs and can also play keyboards.

He has recently released some of his music via bandcamp. A mini album titled ‘All of your hate and other lies’ are available to download at a very reasonable price. In Ian’s own words ‘I've been gigging these original songs for some while now, time to make definitive versions, and move on’.

Sadly Ian recently took a turn for the worse. His Facebook page carries an account of what happened and his progress so far. It is positive in as much that he will make a full recovery, although it will take time.

Hey, I'm finally home. Well, have been for a bit and feeling pretty crap. I have some bad news, I am afraid. I had a pretty hefty seizure last week (hence why I have been in hospital for the last week). It is the only one I have ever had, but there are some nasty consequences:

I will probably not be able to drive for the next year, which is going to be a bit of a pain

I feel pretty terrible at the moment. I am on some really strong anti-seizure medication and also on rat poison as I have a blood clot left in my head. It might take quite a while to get rid of even if it is possible to get rid of it

It is very unlikely that I will be fit to perform or host for some time although I do have a few gigs booked. Chances are I will probably spend much of the next year writing and recording and possibly doing some non-music projects.

Ian, you will be a huge loss but the main thing is that you are going to make a full recovery. Your efforts in keeping the music scene alive and kicking in Coventry is nothing short of legendary, and will always be appreciated for that.

Ian Bourne on Facebook

Monday, April 17, 2017

Led Zeppelin – Locarno 1971

Led Zeppelin – Locarno 1971
Pete Clemons

Rock band, Led Zeppelin, are considered to have been one of the most innovative, influential and successful rock groups in the history of modern day popular music. 

They came together during 1968 and the band consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. They had been born out of another British blues band, The Yardbirds, where Jimmy Page had been lead guitarist for a short while. 

Yardbirds with Jimmy Page

Led Zeppelin were essentially a blues band who, with their distinctive guitar driven sound, took that particular genre to a whole new level. Their totally unique style was also able to incorporate other influences such as folk music.

And, as a band, they were just pure class in all departments. Not one of the band members was picked out solely as being the person most ‘out there’. This was not a band with a front man and bit players behind him. As musicians they were an incredibly tight unit and each band member playing a vital part.

With the demise of The Yardbirds during 1968 Jimmy Page and bass player, Chris Dreja, took it as an opportunity to create a whole new band. After much auditioning the band eventually settled on the classic line up described above after Dreja stepped aside when he decided he would rather move into photography.

Fast forward a few year and Led Zeppelins fourth album was being released on November 8th 1971. This particular record was actually untitled but quickly became known as Led Zeppelin IV amongst other pseudonyms it adopted. The album contained some of the bands most recognisable songs such as ‘Black Dog’, ‘Rock and Roll’ and arguably the bands most iconic song ‘Stairway to Heaven’.

A winter tour had already been publicised during early November 1971 aimed at promoting the new album. Initially eight dates were announced which included a couple of extravaganzas at the Empire Pool Wembley. Then seemingly out of the blue a few extra dates were added to the tour and one had been organised for 9 December at the Locarno Coventry.

Tickets went on sale from outlets such as Jill Hanson record shop and each were priced a one pound. A bit steep seeing how the ticket prices for the earlier announced dates had been set at 75p. Maybe this is why tickets were still on sale on the day of the gig.

The bands fourth album had barely been in the shops a month when the Coventry took place and, as such, a lot of the tunes were getting early outings in the U.K. although they had been road tested on the U.S. tour that the band completed the previous August and an earlier spring U.K. tour.

Nick Buxton a student at the time, then living in Chester Street, remembers the gig well. ‘Stairway to Heaven, for example, barely got a ripple of applause as the audience were unfamiliar with this then’. And given the passage of time, understandably, a lot of the fine detail is hazy with Nick.

The set list for the gig, however, almost certainly went close to this: Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, That’s the Way, Tangerine, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, Dazed and Confused, What Is and What Should Never Be, Rock and Roll, Whole Lotta Love and Communication Breakdown.

The four symbols that each of the band members had chosen for the Led Zeppelin IV album sleeve were placed on each of their onstage equipment set ups. John Bonham’s three circles, for example, were placed on his bass drum.

The gig was also notable for being disrupted by an IRA bomb scare. After the third song, resident DJ Pete Waterman, leapt to the stage and advised everyone to clear the building.

Fairport Convention bass player, Dave Pegg, had been in attendance and recalled the gig in a 2001 interview: "Went to see Zeppelin at the Locarno Coventry when there was a bomb scare, everyone left the building except Robert who was saying 'what's the matter with you all?' Although, it appears now though, that not everyone evacuated.

After some time the gig restarted and the evening’s interruptions were still not over. During Dazed and Confused it seems that Jimmy Page lost grip of his violin bow and it launched itself into the crowd. 

Although individuals from the band have appeared in Coventry before and since, Led Zeppelin's visit to the Locarno during 1971, was the one and only time that they played together as a band in the city. However, exactly five years later, a Led Zeppelin film that documented concerts at Madison Square Gardens and titled ‘The Song Remains the Same’ was shown for a week at the ABC cinema in Hertford Street.

Led Zeppelin IV went on to become one of the most iconic albums of all time in particular in the U.S. where it was at one time the third best ever selling album ever. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Joe O’Donnell's Gaodhal’s Vision

Joe O’Donnell's Gaodhal’s Vision

by Pete Clemons

To celebrate its 40th anniversary Coventry resident Joe O’Donnell is giving his 1977 concept album, Gaodhal’s Vision, a complete makeover and a whole new lease of life.

Joe, of course, leads the powerful Celtic rock band Shkayla who also include Martin Barber on keyboard, Si Hayden on guitar, Adrian Litvinoff on bass, Karen Milne on drums and Ben Haines on percussion.

Gaodhal’s Vision is a concept album that tells the mythological story about the Milesians, a race of people who eventually settled in Ireland and who, legend has it, gave rise to the Celts.
The Milesians or Gaels, as prophesised eons earlier by Gaodhal a Scythian nobleman and who had been a military adviser to the Pharaohs, left Egypt and travelled through North Africa, Southern Europe and through to Iberia , now known as Spain.

The Milesians then built boats that took them across the Bay of Biscay and onward to Eire (Ireland). On reaching Eire they then defeated a local tribe of magicians who would then live alongside their conquerors. Ultimately the Milesians influence would spread across the whole of Ireland.

The album itself is a musical of that journey about their exodus from Egypt and onward to the Emerald Isle. And the story is the stuff of folklore but one that has been discussed for many centuries as to its validity. Being Limerick born it is a subject that has been close to Joe’s heart for many years.

And Joe has recently acquired the master tapes to Gaodhals Vision and is currently in the process of re-mixing and re-mastering them. In addition to that the album will be getting a more modern feel as it is being enhanced by way of fresh guitar parts and additional percussion.

So with this new improved release you can expect an album that is longer than the original, extended and tonally polished lead guitar on the Rory Gallagher parts, enriched orchestral passages and powerful new contributions by Shkayla.

A couple of shows were recently performed at the Belgrade B2 Theatre under the title of ‘From Egypt to Eire’ and featured Joe along with his full band who gave a complete performance of Gaodhal’s Vision. And it was clear to see they all enjoyed the experience.

Having attended one of the performances I can confirm that the band, as can be imagined, was fierce and lively. The live performances were both exciting and, where required, sympathetic to the storyline.

Without picking on individuals there really were some fine individual playing all round. And the performance was enhanced by fusion dancers, traditional Irish dancers and an appearance by Uilleann pipes.

The show was filmed with the intention that a DVD of the production will be included in the 40th anniversary album package due for release later in the year.

The album package will also feature an illustrated souvenir insert with insights to the album and images relating to the legend of the Milesian people.

For further details relating to the purchase of the album follow the link below.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Sorrows in Europe October 2016

The Sorrows in Europe October 2016 
By Pete Clemons

They say you can’t keep a good band down. And that is true for Coventry band The Sorrows who incredibly, and after more than 50 years, are still packing in the audiences.

As has happened in previous years, October 2016, saw The Sorrows once more invited across to Europe. This time, to perform at two sell out gigs.

The Sorrows line-up included local legend, Dave Gedney, on guitar alongside Mark Mortimer on 5 string bass guitar, Nigel Lomas on drums, Brian Wilkins on lead guitar and harmonica and, of course, vocalist and frontman Don Fardon.

German band Beat Revolver supported The Sorrows on each of the nights and the itinerary for the weekend went something like this:

Friday 7th - The guys flew from Birmingham to Dussledorf, Germany. At Dusseldorf airport they were picked up from airport. From there they were then given a tour of Dusseldorf old town that included a trip down the Rhine. Lunch at the Golden Einhorn followed. Then it was onward to the first gig of the weekend. This meant crossing the border and into in Belgium for the evening performance at a club called La Zone in Liege.

Saturday 8th – And yet another full day had been arranged. After lunch the band were treated to a sight-seeing tour of Liege. They were then driven, back across the German border to Cologne. After dinner The Sorrows then played their second gig of the weekend. This time the venue was the Sonic Ballroom, Cologne.

Sunday 9th – After a sightseeing tour of Cologne which included the cathedral the band were treated to their final touch of hospitality when they had a lunch at the Fruh Brewery, Cologne. Then it was back to Dusseldorf airport for their return onward flight back to Birmingham.

The Sorrows returned home with far less baggage than they went out with as they totally sold out of merchandise and souvenirs.

The following weekend the band was on stage once again, this time at The Albany Club, giving their time and full support to a charity event.

Sorrows at the Albany Club 2016

As 2017 kicks off The Sorrows are still receiving plenty of offers of work. Early in February they were back on stage at the Prince of Wales hotel in Southport alongside Merseybeat bands The Fourmost and The Undertakers for yet another sold out event.

The Sorrows set list today still includes classic tunes such as No No No, You Got What I Want, Teenage Letter, Find a Cave and of course Take a Heart. But the band will also find the time to let Don cut loose with songs he had success with as a solo performer such as I’m Alive.

And The Sorrows are not just a band turning out the songs for the sake of nostalgia. This current version of the band, are certainly fired up, and deadly serious about what they do. And that is to tear up the stage and create a great sound.

And the audiences, particularly it seems in Europe, are just lapping it up.

Honky Tonk Rose

Honky Tonk Rose 

by Pete Clemons

Honky Tonk Rose

Buried within the bleakness of a country album called ‘Deguello Motel’, is a more upbeat song called ‘Honky Tonk Rose’. The album is written and produced by American singer songwriter Roger Alan Wade who is from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Although I am guessing that Roger Alan Wade is relatively unheard of over here in the U.K. he does however have a pedigree of note. It sees that Roger has written songs for country legends such as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Hank Williams Jr. amongst many others.

A verse from his song ‘Honky Tonk Rose’ goes like this……..

On the crazy side of town there is a bar room

Where the music's loud and beer and whiskey flows

There's a girl there breakin' hearts and waitin' tables

I love that girl, my honky tonk Rose

And maybe, it was, just that track, which may have been the catalyst for one of Coventry and Warwickshire’s newest, and most unlikely bands. Namely: Honky Tonk Rose. Who knows?

But regardless of whether or not the song inspired the band, I do think that it sets the scene for what HTR are all about. They are certainly upbeat and they are certainly uplifting.

I mentioned the word unlikely. Not in a derisory way at all but more with surprise. Folk who know the Coventry and Warwickshire music scene will be familiar and know the background to some or all of the names that make up HTR. And maybe they share my surprise.

However for those who don’t the band are Holly Hewitt - vocals, Dave Page - guitar, Horace Panter - bass, Rick Medlock - drums, Jim Widdop – steel guitar and Malc Evans guitar.

Having witnessed HTR in action several times during 2016 this 6 piece appears to specialise in delving into the American songbook in search of obscure, the not so obscure and long heard country rock based songs and bringing them to life once more.

The project was brought together by Horace Panter who had the dream of playing the classic country songs he remembered as a youngster. And HTR simply came together to enable that dream to reach fruition.

2016 was a very productive year for the band. Their debut was at the Broomfield Tavern back in February and they continued to play some top venues and events throughout the year.

To quote one of the band members ‘Honky Tonk Rose is a dream of a project and I feel very lucky to be part of it’. ‘Every gig has been received with great enthusiasm’.

And it is absolutely right to say that this is a serious band. Each of those involved in this project are seasoned and experienced musicians who are equally enthusiastic.

All the elements for country rock are there including trucking, beer, the dispossessed and God. This all sounds very dull maybe but, dour in its execution of the music, it certainly is not. This band really does whip up an exciting atmosphere.

And with concerts performed well beyond Coventry’s boundaries, including prestigious venues such as the Jam House in Birmingham, Honk Tonk Rose is raising a few eyelids.

So there you have it. Honk Tonk Rose, creating their take on country music and delivering it passionately and with sincerity. So maybe, it shouldn’t have been so much of a surprise to me after all.

Honky Tonk Rose - give it up or let me go - broomfield tavern,coventry - 27/02/16

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


STYLUSBOY by Pete Clemons

Ploughing his own furrow for a good number of years on the local circuit, and beyond, has been Steve Stylusboy.

Gradually, and over time, Stylusboy has built up a devoted following. Once heard you do tend to stick by him.

Steve songs cover love, family even mishaps. They can be melancholic yet they do not contain a hint of malice or anger. They are heartfelt and real and the type that you can quite easily connect with.

Not only that but they have a positive feel. Escapism maybe, but they do leave you with a feeling of hope.

In terms of gigging Stylusboy has headlined his own shows, supported major artists, a regular at the Godiva festival and, if you provide the refreshments for the evening, will even play in your own front room.

Hearing acoustic music, played well and performed in an intimate venue with an appreciative audience really is a delight and Stylusboy is no exception to this.

Stylusboy began his career in music playing guitar and bass for a variety of bands. Eventually though he settled on the stripped down sound of just him and his guitar and began to create his own blend of folk music.

During 2009 he released his self-produced debut EP – Fingerprint, which was mostly recorded and mixed in his lounge and a local community centre.

His second EP, ‘Blue Whale Session’, was recorded at Birmingham’s Blue Whale studios and released during 2010.

There then appeared a 6 track EP, ‘The Whole Picture’, released by Lazy Acre Records during 2011.

Since then Stylusboy has now settled in at Wild Sound Recordings. And Wild Sound has released his debut album ‘Hospitality for Hope’ along with an EP titled ‘Lantern’.

In the time since its release ‘Hospitality for Hope’ has received great acclaim.

In December 2015 Stylusboy released the ‘Christmas Light’ EP, where he added his own take to traditional carols, and a live album ‘Tales from Home’,

Most releases are usually accompanied by unique handmade sleeves created and put together by Steve himself.

Now you would think that Steve was a lover of vinyl to settle on a name such as Stylusboy. Well he is but that is of no relevance here. 

It all came about when Steve was creating an email address a number of years ago. The inspiration for the name actually came when he was sat in front of an Epson Colour Stylus printer. And the moniker just seemed to fit well when he went out to perform.

Stylusboy recently described 2016 as ‘a great musical year’. He has been busy songwriting and developing his sound and how he wants to sound as an artist. New projects are planned for 2017 and I suspect gigs are inevitable. You could do worse with your time if you didn’t pay him a visit.


Website -

Barnabus - A Charity Gig 2017

Barnabus Charity Gig by Pete Clemons

On the same evening that Black Sabbath were saying au revoir, by way of their hugely publicised gigs at the LG arena, another band from the region, were doing similar.

This, more low key affair, was taking place at the Nelson Club in Warwick. It featured rock group Barnabus who, strangely enough, I heard being compared to Sabbath by some lads who had been standing behind me at the packed out venue.

Apart from the odd reformation there has effectively been a hiatus of over 40 years for Barnabus. But on the rare occasion that this 3 piece do get together they retain the exact same line up whom once graced venues such as The Walsgrave and The Plough up on the London Road. And the time apart hardly shows.

Barnabus, originally formed in Leamington Spa, were and still are John Storer on lead guitar, Keith Hancock bass guitar and Tony Cox on drums. They initially came together in 1970 when John and Keith who both had, then, recently split from covers group The Jay Bee Kay Pees aka The JBKP’s, and joined forces with Tony who himself had just left The Rockin’ Chair Blues Band.

The Rockin’ Chair Blues Band who last performed during the late 1960’s, were themselves a popular act back then, and regularly seen at venues such as the Drumbeat Club at the Globe Hotel in Warwick. They were also on the bill for the 1969 weekend music marathon staged at the Umbrella Club in Queen Victoria Road, Coventry alongside bands such as The Chris Jones Aggression, Wandering John, Dando Shaft and many others.

This latest event itself did have a serious side as it was put together as a charity gig in order to raise money and awareness for Leukemia Care.

First up, and opening the proceedings on the night, were drummer Tony Cox’s current group The Hoochmongers Blues Band who have been touring the Coventry and Warwickshire pub scene for a number of years now.

Barnabus followed with their brand of guitar led heavy rock that was quite prevalent at the time they first formed. From initially being a rock and blues covers band Barnabus began to write some very good original material. This was done with the help of a young lyricist and poet named Les Bates whose work was once described as being articulate, and, a lot better than some of the ‘name’ bands around at the time.

During 1971 Barnabus recorded an album at Monty Bird’s studios, in Snitterfield near Stratford upon Avon (aka Bird Sound Studios). And a great deal of the music performed by Barnabus at the Nelson Club featured on their album.

Then, in 1972, the band had a major breakthrough. Barnabus went on to win the Midlands heat of the Melody Maker Rock & Folk contest. The judges at the competition, incidentally, included Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi. This success led to the band furthering their growing reputation resulting in them breaking away from the gigging circuit around Coventry and Warwickshire. Support slots for bands such as Man, Trapeze, Hawkwind and the Edgar Broughton Band followed.

But, despite being so close to making it into the big league, it was all short lived and Barnabus split up a year or so later during 1973.

Back to the charity night and, as the wise one who accompanied me to the gig quickly pointed out, it was like stepping back to the 1970s. And he was right. Even the Nelson Club’s concert room had kept its charm and character from those days.

Last up on the night were The Jaykays Sixties Band, featuring John Storer and Keith Hancock who lightened the atmosphere and had the audience on their feet dancing and singing along for the remainder of the evening.

The gig itself was a sell-out and the club was packed. This resulted in the Leukemia Care charity itself being better off by over £1000 so a huge well done must go to the organisers. The whole event was memorable to say the least.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Otis Redding by Pete Clemons

Otis Redding by Pete Clemons

Another article by Pete that was originally earmarked for the Coventry Telegraph.

Growing up during my formative years the ‘Live in Europe’ LP by Otis Redding was a
huge fave of mine. But of course, at that tender age, it was just a bit of plastic with some songs on that you just took for granted. I just enjoyed it for what it was to me at that time. An exciting L.P. of an exuberant singer, surrounded by lots of horns, and who also threw in more familiar Rolling Stones and Beatles songs into the mix. But of course, it was a lot more than that.

It was only when I got older, and more interested in the background to such albums, that I discovered more about Otis Redding the person. I still remember hearing the news that Otis had been killed but it did not resonate that much to me at the time. However as time went on I slowly began to learn where he had gotten to in his career up to the point of his death. And now I feel compelled to remember the guy who gave so much, and continues to give, immense pleasure 50 years after his untimely loss.

Born in the American south Otis, from all accounts, was a big man. Not just physically but he was very confident and very single minded. He was also an incredibly likeable man and a good people person. According to his promoter Alan Walden he could have been a boxer. Problem was though it took an awful lot to provoke Otis. But when the he was cornered he could, and would, come out fighting.

Otis’s wife Zelma, whom he married during August 1961, described Otis as having a
strong religious background. He sang in the church as a youngster. And Otis was once quoted as saying ‘in order to sing the blues you have to have it in your heart in the first place’.

Otis Redding enjoyed listening to singers like Little Richard and Sam Cooke and these people clearly influenced his own style of singing. His first hit record came in 1962 with a self-penned song titled ‘These Arms of Mine’. The song became a ‘live’ favourite which with the mainly black R ‘n’ B audiences he was performing to. Through acquaintances the song was brought to the attention of Stax Records who took him into the studio to record and release it on their sister label Volt. Stax and Volt would become known as the Memphis Sound.

By 1965 and on this side of ‘the pond’ U.K. youngsters also known as the Mods, and who would have been mainly white listeners, had by now picked up on the recorded output of Stax, Volt and their distribution label Atlantic Records. Otis and the Memphis Sound who back home, were still playing to mainly black audiences, were completely unaware that their music had been picked up in the United Kingdom.

Otis Redding’s first trip to Europe was during 1965. This also included a series of shows in the UK when he headlined a tour that included Alan Price on the bill. It was only then that Stax Records became fully aware of the fact that the U.K. was already embracing their sounds. Apart from the Mods, audience members during that tour also included Tom Jones, Rod Stewart and Brian Ferry who were all left inspired.

A further visit to the U.K. in September 1966 was marked by an Otis Redding ‘special’ when he took over a whole episode of the popular music T.V. programme ‘Ready Steady Go’. For this Otis was accompanied on stage by established British artists like Eric Burdon and Chris Farlowe.

As the Memphis Sound became even more popular in the U.K. Stax Records promotions manager Al Bell, in trying to cover all angles, would send new single releases from all their artists direct to the growing pirate radio station scene.
As his celebrity grew Otis also ensured that his family and his parents were well provided for. Yet despite his new found trappings of his success, and according to those who really knew him, Otis remained a grounded person.

As the number of gigs grew so did the studio-work. Otis Redding was also now recording old classics. One such song ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ caused some controversy. This 1930s song had been covered previously by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. But Otis approached the song from a totally different angle as he performed it with a fast hot soul style as opposed to the slow smoother style that it had been sung in on previous versions.

Building on Europe and the U.K.’s keen interest in the Memphis Sound, and also sensing a commercial success, it was Al Bell who came up with the idea of sending Stax/Volt Records, house band and all, across ‘the pond’ by way of a concert tour.

A tour was arranged and Booker T and the MGs, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, The Mar-Keys, Arthur Conley and all the touring party arrived at Heathrow airport early in the morning on a drab March day in 1967. Unsure by their surroundings they were amazed to find that The Beatles very own limousines had turned up to escort them on the initial part of their journey.

This was the first time out of America for the MG’s studio band and they were blown away by the fact that their music was already being embraced over here. Although Otis Redding must have mentioned it, they were now seeing at first hand, just how popular they were in England.

At each of the dozen or so dates on the tour they were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd
who would chant out Otis’s name. And Otis Redding would, in turn, react to the wild adulation. His confidence soared even higher and, between them they created an electric atmosphere. This energy also fed into The MGs who also stepped up their game as their musical prowess soared.

But the European tour changed everyone who had been a part of it. In the words of guitarist Steve Cropper ‘everyone returned home thinking that they were superstars……in their heads’. They went to Europe as struggling musicians and returned home as heroes. Otis Redding returned to his 400 acre ranch.

Suspicion, money and paranoia then came into the equation. Shortly afterwards ‘the Stax team’ began to split up and Stax records started to implode to the point of almost disintegration. Atlantic Records, who had, up until then, had partnered up with and distributed Stax records, would eventually sever its contract. Al Bell took full control of the label and went after radio stations in the U.S. attempting to get more airplay in America.

Quite by surprise Otis Redding and the MG’s played prestigious Monterey Festival in June 1967. At short notice he headlined the Saturday night after The Beach Boys had dropped out late on. Otis told the MG’s to just play the gig the way they had done in England. They triumphed. Even musicians like Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead were in awe as Otis as he and the MGs reached a whole new audience.
A live record produced from the earlier tour of Europe was released in July 1967. It was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

But 1967 also saw Otis develop a vocal condition due to polyps. For weeks he couldn’t sing, and for a part of that time, he couldn’t even talk. But he could still write. And during this period Otis wrote upward of 30 new songs including ‘(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay’. His musical creativity poured out during this period. Toward the end of 1967, and after his had voice recovered, Otis set to work again and with the help of MG’s guitarist, Steve Cropper, recorded ‘Dock of the Bay’.

At the height of his career Otis was cruelly killed while flying to a gig in Wisconsin during December 1967. Released as a single during January 1968, ‘Dock of the Bay’ reached number 1 in the U.S. and number 3 in the UK selling over 4 million copies worldwide.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by Pete Clemons

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 

by Pete Clemons

(This article by Pete Clemons was originally written for the Coventry Telegraph but as the association seems to have finished,we publish it here along with Pete's many other articles.I should point out though that this article is about coventry music as is evident from the title.)

Toward the end of 1966 The Beatles desperately wanted to get away from the old image of just being a beat band. They had recently announced that they were finished with touring and, effectively, they were going to draw a line under past.
Locked in a recording studio for several months they recorded what would become known as ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ a record that was arguably the first even concept album. 

The theme of the album represented a touring brass band in the mind of the listener. The laughter you hear on certain tracks represents the sound of the virtual audience.

Recordings began at Abbey Road during November 1966. And unlike previous Beatles albums each of the band members could be seen entering Abbey Road studios with reams of A4 paper brimming full of notes and ideas.

The technology at hand during that time was pushed to the limit. Every conceivable sound that you could get out of a guitar, for example, was touched upon. 

It was as though the band were attempting to split the atom
Producer George Martin allowed and encouraged every musical whim to surface during the sessions. He allowed complete artistic freedom.

Even the final tracks destined for the album, recorded during April 1967, found room for innovation. The final run off groove for example played back on itself thereby, I guess, representing that the album was an infinite piece of music.
Despite the recording of the ‘Sgt Peppers’ title track not appearing till mid-way through the sessions, the idea to create an album about this fictitious band, apparently formed quite early on. The whole album was infused with sights and sounds of the times.

The album’s title came about; it seems, from inspiration gained from the bunch of elongated band names that were cropping, up during the mid-1960s, in the San Francisco area of the United States.

Sgt Pepper’s release had been preceded, in February 1967, by the single ‘Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever’ giving the listener clear warning for what was about to come.

After a couple of revised release dates the completed record saw day of light on 1st June 1967. The initial pressings were in two formats. A Mono version serial number PMC 7027 and a Stereo version serial number PCS 7027.

In stark contrast to today’s music scene, no singles were released from the album. That still didn’t stop the Sgt Pepper’s going straight to number one in the UK albums charts after it sold in excess of 250,000 copies during the first 7 days of release.

From a listener point of view the complete album didn’t really sink in during the first listen. Or at least it didn’t with me at least. In fact it took several listens to even begin to understand it. Like all concept albums they are designed to sink in gradually. Each listen peeling back another layer until at some point the full beauty of it is revealed.

Sgt Pepper’s didn’t escape the ears of the censors either. One song in particular came under extreme scrutiny of the various monitoring committees and other authorities, that existed back then, who would carefully categorise and, if they deemed necessary, censored material destined for the airwaves.

And that song was ‘A Day in the Life’. The lyric to the song was as if the band were singing ‘of life’ as being the polar opposite to ‘actual life’ back then. And one particular line on ‘A Day in the Life’- ‘I’d love to turn you on’ - found itself under intense scrutiny. The song was eventually banned by the BBC authorities who deemed it ‘a step to far’. That ban was eventually lifted during 1972.
A Day in the Life’ ends with an orchestra seemingly going mad as it plays itself out with a cacophony of sound that ends with the infinite groove.

The censors however did appear to miss or overlook other songs, on the album, that did have dubious references. But it certainly didn’t take long for listeners to point out that track 3 on side one ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, when abbreviated, could well be referring to the mood changing LSD or acid. However John Lennon soon scotched the rumours as he explained that the lyric came about when his son Julian had one day come home from school with a letter from classmate Lucy.

The continuous thread that binds the album together didn’t just apply to the twelve inch vinyl record. It also continued with the album sleeve itself. Designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth the gatefold sleeve of the L.P. opens out to reveal The Beatles in the robes that represented their alter egos. The front cover was a collage of famous and influential people from that time all posing behind the band. Early copies of the record also came with a host of freebies and cut-outs.

Sgt Peppers was also the springboard, and acted as a catalyst, to the production of some future fine music. It acted as an innovator. But it clearly didn’t sit well with some as the record was also lampooned. And I am thinking The Mothers of Invention and their album ‘Were Only in it For the Money’ album. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Big Big Train

Big Big Train
By Pete Clemons - another article written for but unpublished by the Coventry Telegraph.

The mid to late 1960s brought with it a genre of music that stretched, challenged and pushed, the then, existing music boundaries. Somehow, it became known as progressive rock and, amongst other things, it opened up a whole new world of musical invention and exploration.

Quite how, when and where progressive rock began is subject to much conjecture and debate. And this debate has been particularly prevalent since the dawn of the internet.

You could point to the time in July 1966 when Melody Maker proclaimed during a review of Pet Sounds when they posed the question ‘is this the most progressive album ever?’

You could even argue that it evolved when The Beatles began spending more time in the recording studio. And there are those who point to bands like The Moody Blues, Family and The Nice as the starting point.

And then there is a theory that all the previously mentioned strands came together as a kind of big bang effect that gave birth to King Crimson and their debut album ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’.

One thing that is for sure is that the term ‘progressive’ was frequently applied to music that was left of centre from the mid-1960s. It is also fair to mention that, back then, many differing bands were lumped into the progressive rock genre.

So big a beast progressive rock, or whatever you want to call it, became that, a few years’ later, bands such as Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes had taken the genre to a whole different level.

40 odd years on and with the benefit of hindsight, scholars of today, have I think tried to re-define the boundaries of what was, and what was not, progressive rock. But the above was how I saw it all through these eyes and heard it all through these ears.

The mid to late 1970s saw punk rock all but kill the genre off. But it never quite put the final stake through its heart and the very late 1970s and early 1980s saw the genre make a resurgence of sorts.

Having lapped up as much progressive rock as I could during the 1970s I was curious by this new wave of bands. I can still clearly see myself at the General Wolfe and Busters Nightclub attending gigs by Twelfth Night, IQ and Marillion. Sadly they were only memorable to me for the reasons around how totally unimpressed it all left me.

Maybe I was still hung over from the punk rock era which had just passed us by but to me this music, which clearly tried to hanker onto the past, had little or no bearing to those glorious days that had gone before. The reason being that, for me, it simply didn’t bring us anything that was new. Not to these ears at least.

For me, rather than reinvent and build it-self, this new incarnation of progressive rock made what I consider to be the fatal error of trying to somehow attach itself by creating some kind of a derivative.

Worse still and the truncated word ‘Prog’ began to enter the psyche. I had certainly never heard the term before. Maybe it had come across from the U.S. who knows. But with the clue being in the name ‘Progressive’, for me, it failed to.

As time went on, and for a variety of reasons, prog/progressive became a term of folly. So maligned did the genre become that by the 1990s bands that played ambitious rock music began to distance themselves away from this more modern take of progressive rock. Preferring instead to refer to the genre of music they were trying to perform as anything other than progressive.

However, prog lumbered on and, decades later, it appears to be in vogue once more. And one band that has hung their hat on the ‘prog’ label and, appears to be more than happy to be associated with it all, is called Big Big Train.

Big Big Train’s musical influences are from the past. And that cannot be denied. That said they are very very good at what they do. Their playing and their vocal harmonies are, at times, simply breath taking.

The band has been around for a quarter of a century and it has not been a straightforward and easy ride for them. But their fortunes have grown noticeably since 2009.

Big Big Train do not write music that is an exploration of life and death or parts of our world being transported to other galaxies or even adaptations of trips to the centre of the world. No, the subject matter is much more grounded than that. But the music is just as grand and majestic.

Instead the band create albums are made of mini period dramas from a bygone age. Stories passed from generation to generation. The songs are history lessons or field studies set out on vinyl or polycarbonate plastic depending on your mode of listening.

BBT are also adept at rediscovering old English words and create a song around them. And for their fans a new language develops.

And I must admit that after initially being indifferent with them at first I am finding myself more and more drawn to them to the point where I am actually enjoying their more recent output without actually being totally blown away by it all.

To their credit Big Big Train does have modern sensibilities. Away from their recorded output they appear to be very prudent in all they do. They do not tour the country, as tradition would see other bands. They tend, instead, to take over plush London venues for a weekend. They have threatened to tour nationally but that remains to be seen. To be fair though, over time, BBT have grown into an 8 piece, and with not all of the band members being resident in the UK, precise logistical planning would be required.

They are not frightened to make hay out of past recordings either. Rather than simply reissue albums due to a growing demand they will repackage them and throw in bonus tracks as the lure.

But at the end of it all it’s all down to the listener as to how much they want to be involved. The important thing is that Big Big Train is very enjoyable to listen to.

And it has taken me up to the hearing Big Big Train’s latest release, ‘Folklore’ to convince me that maybe now the shackles associated with being tagged as ‘prog’ have finally been removed. The genre does seem to be hip once more.

The band is currently working on a new album titled ‘Grimspound’, due for release later in 2017, and I freely admit to looking forward to hearing it.

Big Big Train website

Syd Arthur

Syd Arthur

by Pete Clemons (another recent article earmarked for the Coventry Telegraph but unpublished by them)
syd Arthur

Not a Coventry band but one of Pete Clemon's many articles for the Coventry paper.

Having had a long day at work I felt lethargic. I knew that one of my favourite bands of the moment ‘Syd Arthur’ were playing in Birmingham but it was difficult to get myself going again on this dark and damp November evening.

But drag myself out of the house I did and off and set off for Mama Roux’s. This was a new venue to me situated in the network of narrow roads set within the Digbeth area and where the railway line network looms large overhead. The layout inside Mama Roux’s was particularly impressive.

By way of introduction Syd Arthur were named after a character of a book but the spelling was amended slightly so that it became a sort of nod towards Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee. They are also based in the Kent area of the UK where, historically, many a fine band has been produced.

Having said all that I wouldn’t even begin to compare Syd Arthur with any of those previously mentioned luminaries. This band is unique in that they have created and ploughed their own musical furrow.

Syd Arthur is made up of Liam Magill - guitar and vocals, Joel Magill – bass, Josh Magill – drums and Raven Bush – violin, keyboards and guitar. Previous drummer, Fred Rother who was present at my two previous Syd experiences, has sadly had to leave the band due to health issues relating to the ear.

A change of drummer, to most bands, would have been a big deal. But the beating heart of the Syd’s appearing to have adapted well. And, after all, the new drummer Josh is the brother to the bass player Joel.

The gig itself was a showcase for the bands wonderful new album ‘Apricity’ – the yearning for April – which was appropriate given how I felt earlier in the evening. They performed tracks such as ‘No Peace’, ‘Coal Mine’, ‘Portal’ and of course the album’s title track.

The Syd’s also find the time to delve back in time to their back catalogue by way of ‘Hometown Blues’, ‘Ode to the Summer’, ‘Autograph’ and many others.

Previous albums have seen Syd Arthur being completely self-produced. At their record labels suggestion ‘Apricity’ is the first album where the band have worked with a nominated producer.

It was a strange new experience for them. The whole thing was totally alien. But they were totally open to it and it seems to have paid off as Apricity has been a total success.

On almost every song the Syd’s get the opportunity to cut loose and display their dexterity of instrumentation. The rhythms being played are almost jazz like at times. Very free form, but all within a rock music framework.

On record the Syd’s sound composed and structured. No such thing in a live environment as they cut loose. One of the things I enjoy most about this band is that they do not perform their songs verbatim. There is certainly room for expression and improvisation. And that does indeed bring a smile to the face.

You get very little chat from the stage, the band preferring instead, to let their music do the talking for them. Liam Magill certainly comes across as a pleasant but modest front man. I did notice that Raven Bush flits constantly between guitar and keyboard occasionally appearing from beneath his huge mop of hair sporting a broad smile. And it was the kind of knowing smile that you only produce when you are on top of your game. Clearly the band was really enjoying things.

Like a breath of fresh air, Syd Arthur write elaborate tunes in a very unique style when viewed against what the mass market has to offer today. And from initially feeling lethargic at the beginning of the evening my spirits had certainly been lifted by the end of it.

By the end of it all I was so glad I made the effort to get to this gig.

The Syd’s music is incredibly refreshing. They band are tight, the sound they create is soulful and it is very swayable. Simply, they put in an absolutely tremendous shift this particular evening and I felt all the better for it.

Pete Clemons