Saturday, January 21, 2017

Dark - Round the Edges - Review by Pete Clemons

Dark - Round the Edges - Review by Pete Clemons


A Kenilworth record shop recently acquired a copy of one of the rarest pieces of vinyl currently out there. I must stress however that the 12 inch L.P. in question is not being stored in the shop. And I assume it will be up for sale at a specialised auction house.

The L.P. in question was originally titled ‘Dark Round the Edges’ and was recorded at SIS Studios Northampton by a local rock band called Dark between July 9th and 13th 1972. It was released slightly later that same year.

Dark Round the Edges’ was never actually released officially. It was produced as a private pressing which was recorded by a band that had been trying to get that all important deal for around 4 years but to no avail. Such was the quality of the music around at the time a lot of extraordinary talent went under the radar.

But Dark were a very good band and all involved knew it. They had a large local following and rather than run the risk of splitting with nothing to show for it they wanted something to remember for all their efforts.

The original LP was issued as limited pressing of around 32 copies. A further run of 32 copies was pressed and released early 1973. Breaking those numbers down I believe that 12 copies came with gatefold colour sleeve and booklet, 8 copies with black & white gatefold sleeve and the remainder with single black & white sleeve. They were handed out to band members and their then girlfriends. Any remaining records were sent on to record companies or sold on for around £3 per copy.

Putting to one side for a while, the value of an original copy of what is today referred to as ‘Round the Edges’, the album itself is a genuinely glorious example of the adventurous style of rock music that was freely available during the early 1970s. And, given the status of the record, I think makes the Dark story a curious one.

Dark were formed by guitarist Steve Giles and school friend Bruce Duncan who also played guitar. As the band formed they settled on Charlie Hiams as the drummer with Bruce moving to bass and vocals. This would have been around 1968.

1970 saw Dark introduce keyboard player Martin Moloney. Soon after, Bruce Duncan left, and Steve Giles took on the vocals. Carl Bush was brought in on bass.

Sometime later drummer Charlie Hiams left and he was replaced by Clive Thorneycroft. Soon after that both Martin Moloney and Carl Bush left Ron Johnson came in on bass and band reverted back to a three piece once more. And that’s how it remained till mid-1972.

Martin Weaver, who appears on the album, only joined Dark in May 1972 just prior to the recording sessions. Martin had previously been with another Northampton band called Wicked Lady. Dark would eventually split during November 1972

Apart from the ‘Round the Edges’ album, studio recordings exist of most of the various line up’s mentioned above. The results vary dramatically in quality but a lot of what is listenable is very good and gives the listener a real taste of what Dark were all about,

After going their own ways and getting involved in other projects the ‘Round the Edges’ line up would reconvene when, out of the blue, interest in their album started kicking off during the 1990s.

A specialist record company got in touch with the Dark in 1991 to tell them that their 1972 private release was now worth a small fortune to collectors of rare vinyl. After negotiations, the record company subsequently reissued ‘Round the Edges’ on vinyl and CD. All of a sudden a new generation of music listeners, including myself, were introduced to the band.
Buoyed on by the records relative new found success the band members decided to get back together to see if they could still play. Not only could they still play but they found themselves writing new material. And this activity gave rise to a second album.

Casting his mind back to the early 1990s Steve Giles remembers ‘We had amassed a tidy sum from licensing the rights to several entrepreneurs around the world to release ‘Round the Edges’ in various formats, so the obvious thing to do with the proceeds was to record another album. Some of the tracks for this new project were recorded first at Outrider Studios in Northampton, but it closed down before we got any further, so we then went too Far Heath in Guilsborough to do the rest’.

The songs themselves, for the second album, titled ‘Anonymous Days’, had, as mentioned, been written specifically for the new album. Some were written during the intervening years between the first and second albums. And some of them actually dated right back to just after the ‘Round the Edges’ sessions.

The band was, understandably and justifiably, proud of ‘Anonymous Days’. It was yet another fantastic release. Particularly when you consider that there is 20 years between these albums.

Live gigs, during the last 40 odd years, have been less common than coming across an original copy of the album. Dark did gig around the Northamptonshire area, and sometimes beyond, in the very early days but over the last 40 years there has only been a handful of dates.

If I was to attempt to describe the music of Dark I would say it is like a patchwork quilt of guitar playing. A single Dark track does not contain just one guitar piece. You quite often get several all different and all tastefully woven together into the fabric of the song. It really is unique stuff.

For those who cannot afford to bid on the original L.P. excellent CD copies of both ‘Round the Edges’ which contains some extra tracks and a re-mastered version of ‘Anonymous Days’ can be purchased for the more modest sum of almost £7 each, which includes postage, via the following website:
http://www.darkedges.net/

Dark's Steve Giles talking about the sale....

The £25,000 Album A little over 44 years ago, I was sitting at the dining table in my parents' lounge, gluing a 12"x12" piece of white card to the inside of the back of a plain white record sleeve. These had mounted on to them 4 photographs - 2 colour and 2 black & white - which I had printed myself. I had also printed 9 8"x8" black and white photos on to Lightweight paper that I had copied from photographs I had printed previously and hand written on them the lyrics to 6 of my compositions. The copied photos each had a ½" white strip down the left hand side, except the last one which was back to front compared to the rest. This one had its white strip on the right hand side. The white strips gave me space to staple all 9 photos together to create a booklet. I then took my pride and joy, a 12" black vinyl LP, which contained recordings of those songs - 3 per side, not banded - on which were red labels with black type, and carefully, with it in its polylined inner sleeve, placed it into the card sleeve along with the booklet. I closed the gatefold cover and gazed, with not an insignificant amount of pride, at the package I had created. My Band DARK's first album - Dark Round The Edges. I had absolutely no inkling that some 44 years later that same album would sell for £25,000. Over this weekend, Peter Hassan of Kenilworth Records, who had acquired that album about 2 months ago, messaged me to tell me it had been sold. Ever since it had been announced that it was for sale, Peter would wake up each morning to dozens of emails from all over the World asking for details of the album and how much it was selling for.

He hadn't put a price on it but very soon he was getting offers of over £20,000. I went to see the album and was not surprised at those offers. It was in immaculate condition with virtually no wear & tear on either the LP, Inner, Booklet or Sleeve. Apart from a little bit of ageing of the photos, it was very much as I had last seen it. I found it quite emotional! Peter had decided that he wasn't going to auction it until the New Year. Still the offers came in and started to approach £30,000. Then one day last week, a private collector with whom they had dealt in the past, came in to their shop having arranged for the record to be there so he could examine it. So impressed with the quality was he that he offered them £25,000 there and then. Peter had to discuss this with his business partners. With so much at stake it wasn't a decision he wanted to make on his own. He knew that, with time, he could send out countless emails to all the other interested parties and start some kind of auction. They all knew that if they did this the offers could rise much further. But here was a guy they knew and liked, who could pay for it immediately and take it away with him, making it a much easier transaction than Peter had anticipated, and so, as both he and his partners were desperate for the album to remain in the UK, without too much hesitation, they agreed the sale. Don't ask me who bought it - I don't know! The buyer wishes to remain anonymous - and I, for one, don't blame him! The photo is of this month's Record Collector magazine which includes an article about how I created the sleeves for this album. To see photos of the actual £25,000 album - click the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/darkedges/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1339445699407772


The original rear cover - now universally recognised as the fron cover — at Kenilworth Records.



Pink Floyd - The Early Years 1965-1972

PINK FLOYD - The Early Years 1965-1972
By Pete Clemons

Fans of Pink Floyd will, no doubt, already be aware that during July 2016 it was announced that a major new work. ‘The Early Years 1965-1972’ was being made available in the form of a box set. The collection will be made up of 27 CD’s and DVD that contain outtakes and live recordings.

They may have already noticed, with some dismay, how much this box set was going to set them back. But if, like me, you cannot justify stumping up a king’s ransom for this collection then all is not lost. 2017 will see the set broken down and sold in smaller chunks thus enabling fans, not able to afford the box set, of having the chance of getting to hear almost all the music being made available.


The comprehensive 27 disc box set appears to have been split into 7 individual book-style volumes, featuring much previously unreleased material. It contains rarely heard tracks, BBC Radio Sessions, remixes, outtakes and alternative versions spread over an incredible 11 hours, 45 minutes of music. There is also film made up of around 130 tracks along with live and TV performance in over 14 hours of audio-visual material.

The content also includes over 20 unreleased songs, more than 7 hours of previously unreleased live audio and over 5 hours of rare concert footage, along with 5 meticulously produced 7" singles in replica sleeves, collectible memorabilia, feature films and new sound mixes.

Previously unreleased tracks include 1967's ‘Vegetable Man’ and ‘In The Beechwoods’ which have been mixed for the first time specifically for this release.
Pink Floyd - Vegetable Man (BBC 6) from ThinkFloyd61 on Vimeo.

In The Beechwoods’ or ‘Down In The Beechwoods’ is a Syd Barrett original recorded by the Pink Floyd during the ‘Saucerful of Secrets’ sessions during October 1967. These are the same sessions that yielded ‘Jugband Blues’, ‘Remember a Day’ and ‘Vegetable Man’. They were all recorded at De Lane Lea studios and not the normal Abbey Road studios.

Although a great deal of Pink Floyd fans will already have poorly bootlegged copies of some of the material being made officially available, somebody somewhere has certainly delved deep into the bands vast music archive to produce this deluxe package.

Breaking the 7 individual books down further they are titled and themed as follows:

1965-1967 – CAMBRIDGE ST/ATION – includes unreleased material from pre-EMI contract like Vegetable Man and an unreleased concert performance from 1967 in Stockholm.

1968 – GERMIN/ATION – explores Pink Floyd following Syd Barrett’s departure at a time when the band are trying to find their feet and sound.

1969 – DRAMATIS/ATION – The Man and The Journey content is covered here.

1970 – DEVI/ATION – Zabriskie Point material covered here.

1971 – REVERBER/ATION – pre Dark Side of the Moon from Nothing to Return of the Son of Nothing.

1972 – OBFUSC/ATION – live at Pompeii and recording Obscured by Clouds in France covered here.

BONUS – CONTINU/ATION (Exclusive to ‘The Early Years 1965-1972’ box set) – material includes 3 feature films: ‘The Committee’, ‘More’ and ‘La Vallée’

So just to emphasise, each of the ‘/ation’ sets as listed above will be released separately at some point in 2017 all except for Contin/uation which is exclusive to the box set.

For those that can’t wait for the individual sets to be released there is a taster 2 CD set was released earlier in November. And judging by the fact that it has reached the top 20 albums, there is still considerable interest in Pink Floyd.

Titled CRE/ATION this set contains, not only re-mastered versions of tunes like See Emily Play and Arnold Lane, but also introduces fans to tracks like The Embryo which was only played live but never released officially. Studio recordings of this track only ever made available on compilation albums. It also introduces the listener to the music Pink Floyd was scored to write for the film Zabriskie Point.



The Early Years 1965-1972 will give fans of the band, new and old, the opportunity to hear the evolution of the band and witness their part in cultural revolutions from their earliest recordings and studio sessions to the years prior to the release of The Dark Side of the Moon, one of the biggest selling albums of all time.

The price of this lavish box set is in excess of £350 while the 2 CD taster set CRE/ATION is around £10. As for the individual sets due for release next year, I have no idea as to how much they will be. And the excitement doesn’t just end there. Oh no.

Following on from a recent and, very successful exhibition that centred on David Bowie, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London will play host to a spectacular exhibition of Pink Floyd’s history. It is called The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains.
Visitors will have the unique opportunity to experience never-before-seen classic Pink Floyd concert footage and a custom-designed laser light show and features contributions from all living members of the band.

Tickets for this, I understand, cost £20-£24 and the exhibition runs from 13th May 2017 to 1st October 2017.







European Bands by Pete Clemons

Pete Clemons - Owing to changes at the Coventry Telegraph, it's looking unlikely that the newspaper will be publishing anymore of Pete's articles,which is a shame but Pete has send a few that were earmarked for the paper - and this is the first - on European Bands.

EUROPEAN BANDS.
With the UK about to trigger article 50 please find for your enjoyment the 150th music related article I have fired at the Coventry Telegraph.

As Great Britain begins the process of saying goodbye to Europe it is, I think, worth reflecting on some of the wonderful music Europe has given us over recent years.

Of course everyone will have their own memories and examples from a plethora of musical genres that currently exist and that Europe has offered us. As such this list is far from definitive. Instead it is simply a selection of bands that I have been alerted to, or have stumbled across, during the last 25 years or so. And all of it has originated from different corners of Europe.

How Brexit affects visiting bands and artists in general, in terms of touring, remains to be seen. But a good few of those listed below have already graced our shores. Several of them have already appeared locally at the Assembly in Leamington among other venues up and down the country.

Music, by and large, tends to be internet led nowadays. Without the backing of labels, bands and artists now have to work incredibly hard to build an audience and to self-promote. As such many cottage industries have sprung up and continue to develop and flourish. But the internet has also given us the opportunity of making overseas music, thankfully, a lot easier to access. So feel free to stop by at these bands websites where, more often than not, samples are to be found.

What has Europe ever done for us?. Well, it has provided us with some amazing music. And whats more they have taken the trouble to sing in English. So in no particular order…………

Anekdoten are a band from Sweden, comprised of guitarist/vocalist Nicklas Barker, cellist/keyboardist Anna Sofi Dahlberg, bassist/vocalist Jan Erik Liljeström and drummer Peter Nordins. Anekdoten are notable for the use of the Mellotron and their heavy sound dominated by a pounding bass guitar. This band do not release albums prolifically, 6 studio albums in 25 years, but those they do issue are of a particularly high standard.







Nosound – Began as solo project by Giancarlo Erra who was born in Rome during 1978. Giancarlo was, and continues to be responsible for composing, playing, producing and engineering his own music. As the music began to become more popular the demand for live performance grew. And so a band was assembled. A high point for Giancarlo and Nosound was when they were invited to play at the prestigious Starmus Festival on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain. This performance was later released as an album titled ‘Teide 2390’. http://www.nosound.net/bio.html






Kingston Wall – was a rock group from Helsinki, Finland who formed in 1987 and who were heavily influenced by the best of what the 60s offered. They consisted of Petri Walli, guitars and lead vocals, Jukka Jvlli on bass and backing vocals and Sami Kuoppamaki on drums and percussion. Walli took the most active role in the band. He formed the group, composed most of the songs and wrote all the lyrics. He was also Kingston Wall's producer and manager and ran the band's record label. They released a superb trilogy of albums between 1992 and 1994 that were rock based but also contained eastern rhythms.








Airbag – are a four piece from Oslo, Norway. When hearing Airbag, the thing that hits you most is the tone of guitarist Bjorn Riis. His playing is, at times, simply off the scale. But that doesn’t mean that they are a one trick pony. In order to deliver his dynamics Bjorn needs to be equally supported by top class musicians. The bands lyrics are as diverse as focusing on the less glamorous aspects of humankind through to how we, as people, are programmed to perform. Airbag has recently released their fourth album which has been described as a sonic journey of lush soundscapes and arrangements.








My Brother the Wind – If you have an interest in improvised music then Sweden’s My Brother the Wind might just be for you. My Brother the Wind are effectively a collective, only coming together for meaningful sessions. The band is made up of members from the following Swedish bands: Anekdoten, Makajodama and Magnolia. They have released three albums of instrumental, improvised rock music of which at least two of the records entered the Swedish music charts.






Riverside – are from Warsaw, Poland and were formed in 2001. Riverside’s music is a more refined and atmospheric version of heavy rock. During this period they have released seven studio albums and a clutch of EP’s. And with each release their reputation has spread further around the globe. Disaster struck the band during February 2016 when guitarist Piotr Grudzinski suddenly passed away. Although recently announcing that the band will continue as a trio, such was Piotr’s presence, I can’t help thinking that the long term future of the band is uncertain.







Opeth – A far cry from the extreme metal band they began as. On Opeth’s more recent diverse music, lead singer Mikael Akerfeldt said ‘I don't see the point of playing in a band and going just one way when you can do everything. It would be impossible for us to play just death metal; that is our roots, but we are now a mishmash of everything, and not purists to any form of music’. The band has recently released its twelfth studio album.
Lunatic Soul – is, in essence, a solo project focused on the visions and talents of the bass player and vocalist from Riverside: Mariusz Duda. Rock music combines with soundscapes as Mariuz examines his alter ego. A fifth album from these highly original sessions is currently being worked on.








Gazpacho – are one of Norway’s premier art rock bands. They have released a series of critically acclaimed concept albums. The themes to these being as broad based as a book written by French author Antoine Saint-Exupéry's "Wind, Sand and Stars" to the ‘the mad ramblings left behind by an unknown tenant in an apartment in Prague’. The word ambitious doesn’t even come close when trying to describe Gazpacho.







The Black Noodle Project - were formed during 2001 in Paris by singer Jérémie Grima. Then, along with the help of a childhood friend, Bertrand Pinsac, Grima created the B-Smile Records label that will release the majority of the group's albums. The band became particular popular in Poland. And after a tour of this country several band members left. The bands last release came during 2013 and little has been heard of them since.








Iamthemorning – OK so this duo are not strictly from Europe. Pianist Gleb Kolyadin and Marjana Semkina hail from St Petersburg in Russia. Since bursting onto the music scene with their self-titled debut album in 2012 they have continued to impress. What is striking about their music are the distinctive vocals and the haunting way it is delivered. Iamthemorning have just recently been awarded ‘album of the year’ for their third album ‘Lighthouse’.








Katatonia – Another extreme Swedish metal band whose style, over time, has evolved into a more mellow sound. The band, formed in Stockholm during 1991, by Jonas Renske and Anders Nystrom have released ten studio albums. More recently Jonas collaborated with Bruce Soord to produce the wonderful ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ album.








Nine Stones Close – Not so much a band but rather the talents of guitarist Adrian Jones who surrounds himself with other talented musicians when the songs are there to be delivered. Adrian has relocated to the Netherlands and the project name refers to a ring of stones to be found in Derbyshire - although only four of the stones still exist. Adrian has been responsible for releasing several dramatic and attention grabbing albums.
I have read too many books to ever consider myself as being a writer, although if I try hard, who knows. But I do enjoy putting these articles together. And I hope you enjoy them too.







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Pete Clemons says:- My thanks, once more, goes to the Coventry Telegraph for allowing me the privilege of the space they allow me. And thanks to all the bands and artists whose talents have made my journey through life all the more enjoyable. Without you all there would be none of these articles and a lot less joy in the world. Editor's note (Actually this wasn't published by the Coventry Telegraph and only appears here! However, they have published so many of Pete 's articles,I've left his note as a thank you)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Pete Clemons on the enduring genius of Yes and Jon Anderson

Pete Clemons on the enduring genius of Yes and Jon Anderson

Telegraph contributor analyses an incredible turn of fortunes for iconic musician.



Jon Anderson has suffered his fair share of knocks and setbacks over recent years but the signs are, he is fit once more, he is rejovinated artistically, he is fired up and he is back on tour again that will showcase the music of the band he jointly formed, Yes.

Difficulties began during 2008 when Jon suffered an asthma attack that led a respiratory illness that, in turn, hampered his vocal abilities. Add to that, he later, had to undergo a procedure to correct a sinus issue.

This resulted in the band that he co-founded in 1968, Yes, leaving Jon Anderson behind. He was fired in 2008 and was replaced by a Canadian Benoit David who had been, amongst other things, vocalist of a Yes tribute band.

Benoit David, himself, then had to leave the band through illness and was subsequently replaced by American vocalist Jon Davison who, at one time, had also been a member of Yes tribute band.

As such, Jon Anderson’s last real association with Yes was when he appeared with them on their 35th anniversary tour of 2004. Soon after this tour though, I do remember him participating in a tour with formr Yes keyboard player Rick Wakeman during 2006. And since then, of course, Chris Squire, another of the co-founders of Yes, passed away during June 2015.

So it is fair to say that it has been a torrid few years for the band, which is now a shadow of its former self, and the one that achieved all of those past glories. Having said that though the band are still touring to packed houses.

The resurgence of Jon Anderson as I remember it, although I am sure that other significant events happened along the way, began during 2010 with another tour with Rick Wakeman. The pair, as they had done in 2006, performed stripped back versions of Yes songs and shared anecdotes. They also recorded an album of original material called ‘The Living Tree’.

Next up came an album and tour that began life as a crowd funded project. Anderson along with French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, during 2014, combined talent to create The AndersonPonty band. Even this wasn’t without its setbacks. However, the result was gigs in the U.S. followed by the 2015 album release, created from those gigs, titled ‘Better Late Than Never’.

The album itself was a resounding success. It contained rearrangements of classic Yes material such as ‘Wonderous Stories’ and ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ as well as original, jointly written, compositions.

And now in 2016 Jon Anderson, along with Swedish guitarist and one time member of The Flower Kings Ronnie Stolt have created a very special album titled ‘Invention of Knowledge’.

This record is so good and just harks beck to those glory days of Yes during the 1970s but with an up to date feel to it.

Jon Anderson had this to say: “Music is always the driving force in my life...working with such a wonderful musician as Roine Stolt made the creation of this album very unique, we are very excited with the release of 'Invention of Knowledge'."

Roine Stolt adds: “It is not aiming at being new Yes music; just new music, modern and classical, rock and ethno, tribal and orchestrated, grooving and floating. Hopefully in the true spirit of “progressive” - leaning forward, surprising and also comforting with familiar run-arounds. We’ve been “inventing” as we go along - Jon is an endless source of new ideas. We’ve been bouncing ideas back and forth for months and as a result there are probably dozens of versions of these songs. It’s been a very interesting and rewarding time and the result is just insanely detailed.”

The idea came to life swiftly off the back of a performance from Roine’s band Transatlantic, and Jon Anderson on the Progressive Nation At Sea Cruise in 2014, and was initially instigated by Inside Out Music label boss Thomas Waber. The duo set about crafting new music in the spirit of early epic works such as ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’, ‘Awaken’ & ‘Olias Of Sunhillow’, but giving it a modern twist.

On top of all this Anderson and Wakeman begin to tour again later this year. This time, however, they are joined by Trevor Rabin who appeared on Yes albums like ‘90125’, ‘Big Generator’ and ‘Union’. Together, they are promising an evening of Yes music and more.

The tour reaches the U.K. in 2017 and hits Birmingham in March. However it still remains to be seen if Anderson and Stolt are to tour ‘Invention of Knowledge’. I am guessing that the success of the album has even taken them by surprise.

It has to be said that the music of Yes is not for everyone. It tends to draw on classical influences to flesh out elaborate arrangements. As such it does require perseverance by the listener. I have read Yes music described as ‘technically dazzling but generally overblown and an often pretentious school of rock’.

Even Rick Wakeman had to leave the band, during 1974, after the release of the ‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’ album. Amongst the reasons cited for the departure was that he simply did not enjoy the album. But for those with the patience to listen to such music they will discover delights within it. And this latest release by Anderson and Stolt is sure to evoke similar feelings.

At the insistence and blessing of bass player Chris Squire, Yes continue to tour in his absence. The rest of the band certainly seems to be doing the business with regard to upholding his wishes. But will Jon Anderson ever return to the Yes family? Personally, and given the results of his recent work, I cannot think of a reason why. But I have read that Jon himself would have no problem burying the hatchet and let bygones be bygones if the moment was right, a special occasion, for example. But for now, all I foresee are great days ahead for Jon. This is indeed an incredible turn of fortunes for him.


Pete Clemons on how rock'n'roll impacted Coventry

Pete Clemons on how rock'n'roll impacted Coventry

Telegraph contributor delves into the history of the musical genre in our city.

Chloe Edwards-Wood and Michael Fletcher in Roll Over Beethoven


September sees the launch of ‘Roll over Beethoven’ musical at the Belgrade. I was asked to talk at the musicals launch night about the impact rock'n'roll had made in Coventry.

It was an honour indeed to speak in front of the musicals cast, its creator Bob Eaton, and the production team, Coventry’s wonderful 6120’s rockabilly band, the Lord Mayor and many of the city’s leading lights.

I had put together a few notes, however, the lighting caught me out and I had trouble reading from them. As such I had to ad-lib. So I have set out my notes below in the form of an article.

There is no doubt that rock'n'roll had its beginnings in America. But its impact in the UK was profound.

So much so that BBC radio would not initially play rock'n'roll. Instead you had to go searching around stations like Radio Luxembourg to hear it.

Elvis Presley: His star was on the wane in the 60s. Until he put on the black leather for the 68 Comeback Special.

Artists such as Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochran came to prominence during this period and had a tremendous influence on the music scene to come.

So much so that this influence inspired home grown acts such as Tommy Steele, Lonnie Donegan, Billy Fury and Cliff Richard and a whole host of others who produced their own versions of this new music.

It all began in the UK, I guess, with Elvis’s Heartbreak Hotel released during Jan/Feb 1956 on the previously ‘respectable’ HMV record label.

As for Coventry, the earliest reference, that I can find, for rock n roll dates back to mid to late 1956. The cutting I found made advertised the film ‘Rock Around the Clock’ that was being shown at the Plaza cinema. And this film featured the music of Bill Haley and the Comets.

Around the same time a double bill of James Dean films were playing at The Empire. These events possibly gave rise to the birth of the ‘teenager’ as we know them today.

It is also worth noting that at the Coventry Theatre a yearly variety show, also known as the ‘Birthday Show’ tipped the hat toward rock n roll in October 1956. The opening number, which normally had a topical theme, involved a group of youngsters dancing to ‘rock around the clock’. Topping the bill on that particular birthday show was Jimmy Jewel and Tommy Cooper.

Next up was the film ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’. Originally released during 1956 this appeared in Coventry cinema’s during January 1957. Ironically the storyline for this film is around the banning of rock n roll.

January 1957 also saw the UK release of the follow up to ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’. And this was titled ‘Don’t Knock the Rock’. Again it featured the music of Bill Haley.

These films led to reported commotion in the cinemas up and down the country and the prediction was that the forthcoming visit to the UK by Bill Haley and the Comets would provoke even more rock n roll related trouble.

Bill Haley and the Comets were actually formed during the early 1950s and was initially a country band. They would develop their music into the rock n roll sound. The band toured the UK during February 1957. And that tour would take in Coventry. The 2 shows sold out. And judging by the thousands who were kept outside the Gaumont at the time of the concerts, the shows could have sold out many times over.

Michael Fletcher in Roll Over Beethoven

Although Haley’s time at the top was relatively short (his main chart success came between 1954 and 1956) his influence was far-reaching and thanks to a handful of classic singles he still remains a significant figure in the development of rock and roll.

Such was Bill Haley’s visit anticipated that a week before the concerts at the Gaumont a band called the Sid Phillips Orchestra had played at Coventry Theatre and trumpeter Kenny Ball, who was at that time a member of the band, broke into a rendition of Rock Around The Clock to frenzied applause from the audience. This kind of thing was, apparently, unheard of at concerts of this nature.

A year after the Bill Haley visit reports suggested that rock n roll was on the way out. However I did find a report in the Coventry Telegraph that very much disputed this claim.

Other artists such as Marty Wilde, The Platters, Cliff Richard and the Drifters and Wee Willie Harris visited the city. Or more precisely, The Gaumont, which seemed to be at the epicentre for rock n roll in the city.

1956 had also the year that coffee bars began to spring up in abundance. Initially, they had opened in London some years earlier, but this new phenomena was also spreading nationally to cities like Coventry.

Coffee Bars were mainly independent which gave them that individual and unique touch. They were furnished with the cheapest Formica or plastic products available.

And these coffee bars began to give the teenagers of that time, who had grown out of youth clubs, an outlet and a meeting place. They had exotic names like The Sorrento, El Cabarna and La Tropicale.

Some of these coffee bars like The Milano on Radford Road, The Domino on Gosford Street and The Drumbeat on Holbrook Lane were also doubling up as music venues playing a mix of recorded music on the juke box and live music in the coffee bar itself.

And it was at the Drumbeat Club on Lockhurst Lane railway bridge that one of the earliest rock n roll bands formed in Coventry. They were called The Zodiacs and they first came together during 1959. They were formed by drummer Nigel Lomas and singer Maurice Redhead. The pair had met at the Drumbeat in 1958.

The Drumbeat was a cellar club beneath the coffee bar, Nigel used to get up and sing there and have an occasional go on the drums. Also in the Zodiacs in those early days were Terry Wyatt and Graham Peace. Other people from that time and who were associated with the Zodiacs were singer Mick Van de Stay and guitarist Jim Smith.

1959 also saw the formation of another Coventry rock n roll group. Called The Vampires they were fronted by Vince Martin.

The early 1960s saw the growth in popularity of rock n roll continued and so had the local scene in Coventry. And by now the genre seemed to centre, in the main, around seven bands. These were The Vampires, The Zodiacs, Johnny Ransom and the Rebels, The Atlantics, The Buccaneers, Jason and the Canonites and Ray Kelly and the Freemen.

And by now even the Coventry Theatre was getting in on the act as as they put on the likes of Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard.



But it was The Gaumont that continued to be the hub for rock ‘n’ roll activity. The venue hosted tours by American artists Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Vince Eager in January and also took in package tours featuring Craig Douglas, Freddie Cannon, Johnny Preston, Joe Brown, Lord Rockinghams XI and Billy Fury.

The Milano coffee bar had effectively become the 2I’s club of the Midlands. By 1960 The Milano had own band the Milano Rockers, The Zodiacs and bands like The Wild Cats regularly played there. But the venue was attracting bigger names as Vince Taylor, Johnny Kidd and Danny Storm and the Strollers all appeared.

The Milano (situated on the site of what is now Zorbaz) also played host to a band called Prince Dave Khan and the Babes. And drummer Nigel Lomas clearly remembers this event. ‘I was playing there regularly with the Zodiacs, I also stood in with a group touring the county with the fair at Hearsal Common called Prince Dave Khan and the Babes, they wanted me to join them but I turned them down.

By 1963 and groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were having an influence. The style of music being played was now Beat and R n B as opposed to rock n roll.

Vince Martin embraced the new sounds and saw the opportunity to become a promoter and was a part of the team that fashioned a new expression unique to Coventry - Twang.

Very few cultural phenomena’s have created such a wind of change. And almost 60 years on it still creates an impact as its legacy is in some of those great riffs than influenced, and continues to influence, many guitarists and other musicians.

Pete Clemons on the enduring legacy of The Ramones

Pete Clemons on the enduring legacy of The Ramones

Telegraph contributor discusses the legendary band 40 years on from their self-titled debut.




You seem to see them all over the place and if I am in company when I do see this particular item of clothing then the now anticipated and totally predictable comment is to be heard: ‘I bet they don’t even know who that band were’.

What am I talking about? Well it’s a tee shirt with the name of The Ramones emblazoned all over it. And I must admit that I do give the wearer of them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to knowing who The Ramones were. I mean, surly you wouldn’t go around wearing a bands tee shirt who you didn’t know anything about, would you?

2016 marks forty years since The Ramones released their self-titled debut album. And it is terribly sad to think that none of the four original members of the band, Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy, had lived long enough to be around at this time. Even Arturo Vega, the man who designed The Ramones legendary logo, that is found on all those previously mentioned tee shirts, is no longer with us.

Although it is forty years since their first album, The Ramones have been around for slightly longer. During 1974 bass player Dee Dee (Douglas Colvin), guitarist Johnny (John Cummings) along with manager and producer Tommy (Thomas Erdelyi) who had all been associated with previous groups met up with Joey (Jeffrey Hyman) and invited him to join them in a new band.

The initial line-up featured Dee Dee on lead vocals, rhythm and bass guitars, Johnny on guitar, and Joey on drums.


Realising that he could not keep up with the speed of guitar playing Joey was moved across to vocals while Tommy took over the drumming duties.

The debut album contained fourteen songs when, combined, lasted just shy of half hour long. Most of The Ramones songs barely lasted two and a half minutes in length. Their lyrics carried a certain element of humour despite almost always being on a downer about something or other.

The songs, though, were always given a huge lift by a constant and full on incessant rhythm guitar that lasted the duration of the song along with an accompanying pounding back beat. And it was this, for me that made The Ramones albums compulsive listening.

In a live situation, however, The Ramones were something else. The band was simply explosive. They were fast and exciting. They would dress alike in black leather jackets and ripped blue jeans. And their stage presence seemed to have that unexplainable magic. Lead guitarist Johnny Ramone, for example, had that unforgettable stance of standing legs astride while performing.

In a 1995 interview Joey Ramone was asked where the band name came from: In the days of the ‘Silver Beatles’, Paul McCartney would go to check into a hotel room, using the name Paul Ramone. Dee Dee was a big Paul McCartney fan, so he changed his name to Dee Dee Ramone. When I hooked up with Dee Dee, we decided to call the band the Ramones. All the then current and future Ramones band members would follow suit also by adopting the surname of Ramone.

Personally, I was a bit late in joining The Ramones party. I only became aware of the band late 1977 when they had just released their third album Rocket to Russia. In fact it was a single from that album ‘Sheena is a Punk Rocker’ that probably alerted me to them. And by the time I saw them play live, which was during 1980, they had by then replaced Tommy on drums with Marky Ramone (Marc Bell).

However The Ramones did play locally with their initial classic line up and that was when they appeared at Birmingham Barbarellas during 1977. In fact The Ramones had been down to tour with The Sex Pistols and The Clash on their November 1976 tour but, for whatever reason, had to pull out. So Coventry potentially missed out as that particular gig famously visited the city.

The band did play in Coventry and that was when they played Warwick University during 1978 with the revised line up. Now I do know that well known photographer and former Virgin Records employee John Coles was at the Warwick Uni gig. And I am also fairly sure he once mentioned to me that he had been at the earlier gig at Barbarellas in Birmingham too.

The bands chart history was nothing to really shout about either. They fared slightly better in the UK than their home country of the USA. But they never really had what could be classed as a major hit album in any of the territories that their music was released in.


Even the addition of Phil Spector as producer for their ‘End of the Century’ album failed to achieve that real chart success apart from a cover version of the song ‘Baby I Love You’ released as a single which did reasonably well.

The Ramones didn’t enjoy the Phil Spector experience. Studio wise they seemingly preferred to be in and out as quickly as possible. But producing ‘End of the Century’ kept them in the studio for longer than they had been used to. In a later interview though, Johnny conceded that the experience hadn’t been as bad as he had initially made it out to be.

I personally think that The Ramones left us with a more than half decent discography. And maybe, in that respect, their time is yet to come. What I also think is without question though is the influence The Ramones have had on so many bands that have come along since. But what has been the undoubted success is The Ramones tee shirt. If you listen to some folk it appears to be the most instantly recognisable thing about the band. One Two Three Four, Hey Ho Lets Go.