Saturday, April 29, 2017

David Bowie at the Kasbah, Coventry

David Bowie at the Kasbah, Coventry.

By Pete Clemons

Mention the fact that David Bowie had performed in Coventry and, quite rightly, a lot people will immediately cast their minds back to the June 1973 gig where David and his band, the Spiders from Mars, performed at Coventry Theatre as part of the Aladdin Sane tour.

Some may even be able to remember the Humble Pie gig at the Coventry Theatre, during October 1969, at which David Bowie appeared as the support act.

Incidentally, had it not been for the fact that the gig was postponed; there would have been a further visit to Coventry by David Bowie. It would have happened during February 1972 when he was replaced by Pink Floyd for the Lanchester arts festival.

I am guessing, though, that there will be very few reading this who will remember an earlier concert in Coventry by Davie Jones and the Manish Boys held at The Orchid Ballroom or the Kasbah / Colly as it is more popularly known as or remembered today. However, you never know, and hopefully I am wrong. But it does seem inconceivable that David Bowie once played what is now known as The Kasbah.

Those who have studied David’s early history between 1963 and early 1966 will know that Bowie, or Davie / Davy Jones as he was known back then, was involved with bands like The King Bees, Davie Jones and the Manish Boys and Davie Jones and the Lower Third.

The Manish Boys, named after a Muddy Waters song, were made up of Johnny Flux on lead guitar, John Watson bass and vocals Bob Solly on organ and Paul Rodriguez tenor sax and trumpet, Woolf Byrne on baritone sax and harmonica, Mike White on drums and David on vocals and sax.

The Coventry gig was advertised at The Orchid as ‘Davy Jones and the Manish Boys’ and was quite possibly one of his last with that particular band before David joined up with The Lower Third. It is documented that during the April 1965 David attended auditions, held in Soho London, with a view to joining the Lower Third. So this gig was possibly a case of David fulfilling his obligations with The Manish Boys.

I can only guess as to what music would have been performed at The Orchid that night. During January 1965 The Manish Boys had recorded the single ‘I Pity the Fool / Take my Tip’ produced by Shel Talmy. And this had been released just weeks before the Coventry gig. So maybe this had been promoted.

David’s next band, The Lower Third, were a beat band who first formed in Margate, Kent during 1963. Their line-up consisted of Denis Taylor on lead guitar, Graham Rivens on bass guitar and Les Mighall on drums. Les Mighall, however, was replaced during 1965 by Phil Lancaster.

As mentioned above, David had joined The Lower Third during April 1965. With the line-up that included Phil Lancaster the following songs were recorded: ‘You've Got A Habit Of Leaving’, ‘Baby Loves That Way’, ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’, ‘And I Say to Myself’. So who knows, some of these songs may have been performed in Coventry.

David remained with the Lower Third till the early part of 1966. And it was during those latter days with the Lower Third that David began to introduce the world to his new persona. Of course that was his new stage name of Bowie.

This new name first began to appear at gigs advertised toward the end of his time with the Lower Third and would continue throughout the existence of his next band called The Buzz.

The Buzz were formed during the first half of 1966 and were David Bowie on vocals, John Hutchinson on guitar, Dek Fearnley on bass, John Eager on drums and Derek Boyes on keyboard.

And it was this line up minus John Hutchinson that would record David’s very first album released during June 1967. There is nothing on that self-titled debut record to hint at the type of direction David’s work would ultimately take him.

Yet despite the music on that album not being anything remotely like what was to come it did, I think, certainly demonstrate David’s leaning for music hall and performance. So, in hindsight, maybe the signs of David’s future development were there - albeit very subtle.

The Buzz would continue for a year or so after which David became more involved in the mixed media format of theatre, performance and mime. And for the next couple of years he appeared in stage productions such as Pierrot in Turquoise.

During an interview about this period David said ‘I wanted to make a mark and it took me all of the 1960s to find myself through theatre and art’.

It was after this period that David then began to tour as a solo artist and to gather his personalities.

Early 1969 saw David support T.Rex on a few dates. David had been a friend to Marc Bolan for several years although, if you believe the books written, their friendship was fairly complicated.

Mid 1969, prior to the Humble Pie tour, David Bowie appeared on BBC2 with The Strawbs and mimed to their song ‘Poor Jimmy Wilson’. The Strawbs would then go on to play ‘The Man Who Called Himself Jesus’. Significantly Tony Visconti, who would become a very important figure in both the careers of David Bowie and Marc Bolan, was a backing musician for The Strawbs on that particular day.

Finally the autumn of 1969 would also see Bowie make his first TV appearance. It was at the Ivor Novello awards and David performed ‘Space Oddity’. The song earned David his own award that night which was for originality.

David mentioned on more than one occasion that he used rock and roll as a medium. With this in mind he created an alternative world. As the 1970s broke a concept artist and rock fantasy awaited. The rest of the story, as they say, is history.

‘I am only the person, the greatest number of people believe that I am. So little of it has anything to do with me’ – David Bowie

Monday, April 24, 2017

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.