Bell + Arc Sunderland Locarno 1971

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Now this recollection has a story about it. This took place in the early days of my starting to attend gigs at the local Mecca, the Sunderland Locarno ballroom. Now every Friday they had a great band on, and I with many friends, would congregate to see the latest and best live music. This particular band was not well-known, but nonetheless, were absolutely excellent live. But first to the story.

I was walking over the bridge on my way to the Mecca when I ran into a semi-familiar face, who will remain nameless (in order to protect the (perhaps not so) innocent). “Are you not going to the Mecca tonight?” I said to the person. “No” they replied, “I have already been and I have pinched the band’s wah wah pedal, so I am going home with it in case I get caught!” At this point, they opened their Levi denim jacket to reveal a Cry Baby wah wah pedal; which were state-of-the-art and very cool at the time. “Wow” (or something equivalent) was my response. They made me promise not to say anything, and I continued my way over the bridge and into the Mecca.

Sure enough, shortly after I arrived in the ballroom, I heard announcement over the PA speakers “someone has stolen the band’s wah wah pedal and they will not perform until it is returned!” Well of course, I knew it wasn’t going to be returned as it was hidden under their jacket and on its way back to their house. I told all my mates this, of course, and we all had a good laugh about it; wondering if the band would actually appear that night. After a significant wait, by which time they would be safely home with said pedal, and the band had obviously realised that it was not going to be returned, they finally took to the stage very late in the evening.

My recollection of the performance was Graham Bell’s powerful and soulful vocals soaring over a mix of rock, blues, pop and psychedelia. The backing band itself, were tremendous. John Turnbull and Nicky Gallagher were both already becoming local heroes and went on to provide the unforgettable rhythm and blues which is still The Blockheads. An excellent band, and a memorable evening, for several reasons!

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“Bell & Arc was a British pop group that existed from 1970 to 1972. It was formed when singer Graham Bell teamed up with the group Arc, whose original lineup was John Turnbull (guitar, vocals), Mickey Gallagher (keyboards, vocals), Tommy Duffy (bass), and Dave Trudex (drums). (Trudex was replaced by Rob Tait, who was then replaced by Alan White.) Arc made an album, Arc at This (1970), before joining with Bell and recording Bell and Arc (1971). The group then split. Turnbull and Gallagher later joined Ian Dury and the Blockheads.” (Artist Biography by William Ruhlmann)

I decided to treat myself to a copy of the Bell + Arc album, courtesy of eBay. The photographs are of the album which I bought and arrived the other day. Now I really must get round to playing it and see if I can remember any of the songs from that night (which, given my memory, is extremely unlikely).

2 responses to this post.

  1. Great story, great memory. The Mecca defined so many of us who grew up in Sunderland and the relationships we built have stayed with us. My thoughts to you 😊

    Reply

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