Posts Tagged ‘pop’

Cliff Richard 80th birthday tour Sage Gateshead 15 October 2021

cliff tixNow I can’t claim to be a massive Cliff Richard fan. However, having said that, he was quite an important part of my life during the 1960s. My dad used to love going to the pictures (or the cinema, as you know it now) and would take me several times a week to local cinemas such as the Plaza at Pallion, The Picture House, the Odeon, the ABC at Sunderland and further afield to cinemas like the ABC Haymarket, Newcastle and the Stoll Theatre (now the Tyne Theatre), Newcastle. We would go to see every new (and old) Disney cartoon including the Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Pinocchio and many others. We also went to see every James Bond film (Sean Connery is still the true authentic James Bond), the Beatles films, Mary Poppins, Born Free, and every Man from Uncle film. All classics and all important parts of my youth. But best of all was none other than Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday. I must’ve seen it five or six times during the 60s and my dad and I just loved that movie and the title track.

CLIFF4So it was with songs like “The Young Ones”, “Bachelor Boy” and “Summer Holiday” in my head that I went along to this show. I also remember having an old copy of “Travelling Light” and “Living Doll” on 78. All great songs and great memories. The last time I saw Cliff was 20 years or so ago at Newcastle Arena with The Shadows, which was an excellent concert. This time I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The concert was in two 45 minute segments with a short interval, around 20 minutes, in between. The audience was, how can I say it, quite mature. In fact Jackie my carer and I felt as if we were the youngest people there! That is, of course, an exaggeration but the majority of the audience was female and around 70 or 80 years old. But then I guess that was to be expected with an artist like Cliff Richard who is now 81 years old.

Cliff looks, and sounds, just great. He is unbelievably fit and young looking. Excellent! He has assembled a band of seven musicians including two vocalists who provide excellent backing throughout the evening. Cliff comes on stage dressed in a long white evening coat and starts with “Wired for Sound” which is okay, but not one of my favourite songs. The first set is a mix of songs from the 60s and later and some new tracks which I don’t recognise. A good mix of songs including some great old ones such as “Please Don’t Tease” and “Do you Wanna Dance?”; The latter two sound just great. One interesting fact. The guitarist in the band is excellent and takes on some of the Hank Marvin licks and does them full justice. Cliff explains that the Fender Stratocaster he is playing is the very same one which Hank brought over to the UK in the late 50s. Wow! I wonder how Cliff managed to gain this guitar from Hank? Anyway the new guitarist is left-handed so has to play Hank’s Fender upside CLIFF5down. They also do a pretty great version of the opening segment of “Apache” with Cliff tapping the mic to make the sound of a drum as, he explained, he did on the original version. Cliff changes jacket during the set to a great cheer from the crowd. One thing I forgot to mention. As Cliff came on stage, a large group of ladies close to the front sang “Happy Birthday” to him. It had been his 81st birthday the day before! They also threw a pile of birthday balloons onto the stage. A great start to the show. The first set closes with a song appropriately titled “Older”. During the short interval I finish my large glass of red and decide to have a gin and tonic. Big mistake.

The second set followed a similar format to the first: a mix of old 60s favourites, later hits and songs from Cliff’s new album. Apparently, the new album went into the charts at number 3, which makes Cliff the first artist to have a top 5 record in every one of 6 decades. A record unlikely to be beaten, I would suggest. The highlight for me is a medley of “The Young Ones”, “Summer Holiday” and “Congratulations”. I was surprised how emotional these songs were for me; the first two took me back to my dad and the love he had for the cinema. The latter took me back to sitting at home with my mam and dad watching Cliff come second on television, as I recall, in the Eurovision Song contest; the year after Sandie Shaw won with “Puppet on a String”. I still think Cliff was robbed! Wonderful.

cliff progThe gin and tonic went down well and I soon slithered into my taxi, away home and before I knew it Chris and Jackie were putting me back to bed, feeling a little sickly. But then if I can’t have a drink these days, when can I? An excellent evening spent with a consummate performer, a national treasure, and a legend of early rock ‘n’ roll and pop music. Some cheesy, some excellent, and some so, so emotional that they brought tears to my eyes. May you continue to entertain us for many years to come, Sir Cliff.

Set 1: Wired for Sound; Dreamin’; Move It!; Where Do We Go From Here; Hope, Faith and You; Apache (short segment); Do You Wanna Dance?; Gee Whiz It’s You; Please Don’t Tease; Ocean Deep; Older.  Interval.

Set 2: Green Light; Carrie / Devil Woman; Living Doll / Summer Holiday / The Young Ones / Congratulations; PS Please; Lost in a Lonely World; A Heart Will Break; Marmaduke; Miss You Nights; We Don’t Talk Anymore; Peace in Our Time; Golden.

The Rubettes Sunderland Locarno 1974?

 

rubettes 1Come on, we all know the song, even if we won’t admit it. And many of us secretly still like it, don’t we?

Sugar baby love, sugar baby love, I didn’t mean to make you blue, 
Sugar baby love, sugar baby love, I didn’t mean to hurt you

Bap Showaddy, Bap Showaddywaddy, Wah Wah Wah……” (The Rubettes, 1974)

And we all remember the white caps and white suits, don’t we? 

So there I am, perched in my usual spot in the upstairs bar looking down on the stage. I may be by myself (because everyone I knew thought it was so… uncool… to go and see The Rubettes) drinking a pint of lager. Anyway, the Locarno, or the Mecca as we knew it, was my usual haunt on a Friday in those days (unless there was someone good playing at Newcastle Mayfair) so I wasn’t put off by going to see incredibly cheesy band. I recall little of the evening (perhaps due to too much alcohol at the time or perhaps because my memory is going) but I do remember looking down at the band and they looked exactly the same as they did on Top of the Pops; same white caps, same white suits and exactly the same crazy, cheesy vocals, harmonies and falsetto voices. And you know what, although I can’t remember the rest of the set, when they sang “Sugar Baby Love”, for those few minutes, I have to admit that they were just great. Much much better and much more fun than I expected. In those few minutes I was a Rubettes fan. Then the song finished, I returned to the bar for another pint of lager, and I look for some friends to chat to (in the hope that someone else was there). So that’s it, that is my memory of another guilty pleasure.

The Rubettes went on to have a few more hits as I recall, but there will always be remembered for “Sugar Baby Love”. As I often do in a case like this, I purchased a copy of the Rubettes album of the time Wear It’s At (isn’t eBay a wonderful thing?) The album cover includes a large picture of the trademark cap (see image) and also includes the big hit “Sugar Baby Love”. I haven’t actually played the album but did take some images for this blog post. I have, however, listened to the aforementioned “Sugar Baby Love” via another wonderful thing, Alexa and Amazon Music. Happy days are here again.

RUB 2I checked the band out and found out that there are two versions of the Rubettes touring at the moment. One of these features three original members and holds the rights to the name (from their website):

“To ensure the safeguard of the brand name and continue to work as a group, Mick Clarke became the UK trademark owner of The Rubettes® / UK00003348207 in July 2019. For any band that has attained com­mer­cial suc­cess, Trademark law may not be very “Rock and Roll”, but it sure is important these days and is an essential part of legal protection. From a legal perspective, the issue of who owns a band name usually falls under trademark law… Today,… The Rubettes® now have three original founder members performing together for the first time since 1974. With this amazing alliance, The Rubettes® will be one of the only few 70s bands that has three of its original founder members performing to their audiences in the UK, Europe and Worldwide.”

The other version of the band features lead singer Alan Williams (from their website):

“In celebrating 45 years of continuing Rubettes line ups, 1974/2019/20, it’s significant that the common denominator Alan Williams having remained throughout has perpetuated and sustained the  authentic sound of the Rubettes well into the 21st century and continues to do so. With Alan being the Rubettes lead vocalist and frontman from the very beginning there can be no better ambassador for Rubettes music than the latest line up of the Rubettes featuring Alan Williams. “

So take your pick!

The Zombies live stream event on Veeps from Abbey Road studios 18 September 2021

VEEP ZOMBIES 1The concert had a few different segments, Including quite a few songs I knew well and others that I was hearing from the first time. The setting was the famous Abbey Road studios. It was great to see the band performing live in those legendary settings in front of a small audience which, I suspect, consisted of invited guests, relatives and friends. I am, of course, a great fan of both Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone and have seen them many times in various incarnations of their bands including the Zombies, Colin solo, Argent, Rod solo and Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone as a duo. Rod Argent is a fantastic organist and keyboard player and Colin Blunstone has a very distinctive voice: strong, yet soft at the same time.

In the current incarnation of the Zombies, Rod and Colin are joined by (I believe) Steve Rodford – drums, Tom Toomey – guitar and Søren Koch – this guitar. Steve Rodford is the son of the late, sadly missed, bass player Jim Romford who was a founding member of Argent and also a long-term member of The Kinks and of course, the Zombies.

veeps zombies 2The opening song, which I didn’t know was great, an excellent piece of British RnB, blues influenced music. British bands of the early sixties have such an honest approach to blues and rock and roll. Rod Argent’s electric piano was particularly good. The band then went on to play several songs that are great, but unfamiliar to me. They were a mixture of old and new. One song in particular was interesting. Although I didn’t recognise the song, they announced that Tom Petty had covered it and so they went on to play “their own cover of a Tom Petty cover of a Zombies song”. Colin Blunstone also performed the haunting hit song of his “so you don’t mind”; written by Denny Laine. This was followed by a few songs featuring a string quartet which added an additional dimensional and texture to the music.

This was followed by a short selection of songs from the Odyssey and Oracle album. Now I love this album so hearing four songs from it was just great. The final song of the four was, as you would expect, the wonderful US hit “Time of the Season”, which still amazes me to this day. The use of breathy vocals and clapping around the main song is unique and gets me every time.

veeps zombies 3The next segment contained new songs which featured excellent playing by Rod Argent and strong vocals from Colin Blunstone. We were then on the home strait and into Argent’s “Hold Your Head up”, which still gives me great memories of dancing on the tables when seeing Argent back in the early 1970s at Sunderland Top Rank. Finally, the best was, as it should be, kept to the last and we were treated to “She’s Not There” which still sounds fresh since I first heard it in the 1960s.

Many thanks to my old friend and colleague Ciaran, from Limerick, who also watched the event and allowed me to use some of his words in my review above. Ciaran summed up the last couple of songs well: “I know ‘Hold your Head Up’ of course, but the live version was terrific – I much preferred it to the record: the organ solos were great here. The band was in great form on this one, and again on ‘She’s Not There’ which worked really well too, more great instrumental breaks.”

The set closed with an encore; a moving duet of Colin and Rod which rounded off the evening well. I’m quite getting to like live streaming events. Of course, they are not the same as “the real thing”, but they have a unique attraction of their own. My next live streaming event is to watch Paul McCartney being veeps zombies4interviewed about his Lyrics book at the Southbank Centre, London. Now, in the past before my accident, I would have been tempted to travel to London for this event. This is now no longer very practical for me, so live streaming allows me to “be there” virtually, which is the next best thing. The other great thing about some live streaming events is that I can watch them the next day, or again, if I wish.

To summarise, a great performance by a classic 1960s band with two legendary and very accomplished musicians. The 1960s produced some unique, excellent music which lives on to this day.

Setlist: Moving On; I Want You Back Again; Edge of the Rainbow; I Love You; Say You Don’t Mind; Different Game; You Could Be My Love; I Want to Fly; Tell Her No; Care of Cell 44; This Will Be Our Year; I Want Her She Wants Me; Time of the Season; Merry Go Round; Run Away (For All My Life); Hold Your Head Up; She’s Not There. Encore: The Way I Feel Inside

Showaddywaddy Sunderland Locarno 15 November 1974

showad 2Now this really is a guilty pleasure! For a few weeks in 1973 and 1974, Friday night at Sunderland Locarno became a pop night, rather than the usual progressive rock night. During those times I remember seeing the Bay City Rollers, Mud, Hot Chocolate (I have previously written about these bands), and the Rubettes (I will write about them soon). There may have been others, I don’t remember. Many of my friends decided to pass on these events, however, I decided to go along, partly out of interest, to see what the bands were like, and secretly out of fun because I actually enjoyed many pop bands. One other band I saw around this time was Showaddywaddy.

From the band’s biography on their official website: “Showaddywaddy were formed in 1973 in Leicester, from two groups, Choise and Golden Hammers…. Choise and The Hammers played regularly far and wide across the UK… during early 1973, the bands got up on stage together to play a rock ‘n’ roll revue” which became Showaddywaddy.

In 1973, Showaddywaddy appeared on the TV programme New Faces, which, as many of us will recall was a sort of Opportunity Knocks – type show where various acts performed (often including solo vocalists, groups and comedians) and a winner was eventually selected. Showaddywaddy was successful in winning one episode, and then went on to be runners-up in the “All Winners Final”.

Showaddywaddy released their first single “Hey Rock ‘n’ Roll” in April 1974 and it reached number 2 in the UK charts. After that they went from success to success, hitting the UK charts another 22 times until late 1982, making them one of the most successful UK singles groups of all time. Their style was a mix of originals and covers, rock ‘n’ roll and doo-wop.

showad 2As I recall when I saw them, which was quite early in their career, there were a lot of members on stage with two vocalists, two bass players and two drummers. They wore full Teddy Boy gear with colourful drape jackets and crêpe sole shoes (I remember once buying a pair in the late 70s during the punk era) and were lots of fun. There was lots of dancing, both by the band and the audience, and lots of good old – time rock ‘n’ roll and doo-wop. Great stuff. Of course, I stood in the bar, playing it cool, peering down at this stage, secretly enjoying the whole proceedings. I would not admit this to my friends at the time. How silly it was to be so snobbish about certain bands/groups (when did groups become bands?). But that’s how it was at the time. My recollections are patchy but are of lots of colour, lots of dancing and great fun music by a fun band. After that Showaddywaddy went on to greater fame, no longer playing clubs and ballrooms, moving upward to filling concert halls such as Newcastle City Hall. I remember that they often performed at Sunderland Empire. But of course I was too “cool” to go along and see them again. What a silly boy I was!

“At their peak, they were doing 200 gigs a year, often gigging 7 days a week, and playing both matinee and evening performances on the same day.”

As usual, I just had to go onto eBay and buy a copy of their album Showaddywaddy to remind myself of the band and their singles (see images). It brought back memories of my youth and of all their hits and how they were always on Top of the Pops. Showaddywaddy continue to perform and tour to this day. There have been many line-up changes over the years; however the current version of the band consists of only one remaining original member, Romeo Challenger, the drummer. They continue to rock their way around the UK and Europe and will soon hit their 50th anniversary, in 2023.

Tom Jones Darlington Arena 29 August 2021

TOM TIXSo I finally made it! My first proper gig for a long, long time. And what a gig. None other than Sir Tom Jones himself. I last saw Tom at Newcastle Arena around 20 years ago with Marie. At that time he was still, at least in my mind, very much a pop star. Now, at 81 years old he has become “a national treasure”, and a veteran pop/soul/R&B star. His voice has deepened and become richer with age and his profile has, if anything, grown; partly due to his appearances on TV talent show The Voice.

Tom has matured gracefully, in my view. No longer the dyed hair, what stood before us a couple of days ago was a man proud of his own legend, his back catalogue and, on his new album, not frightened to explore the songs of his contemporaries, such as Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens and add his own deep, soulful, rich textured voice to transform them into his own unique Tom Jones style.

The venue for the concert was Darlington Arena, housed in what was the old Darlington football ground, built by local businessman (now disgraced) George Reynolds. The venue holds 25,000 people; on the night I would estimate that there was around 10,000 to 15,000 people in attendance; some on the pitch and some up in the stands. I took a taxi for the 45 minute journey to Darlington with my carer, and sister-in-law, Elaine.

The Darlington Arena website announced the concert thus: “Global superstar Tom Jones is set to perform at the Darlington Arena… in what promises to be an unforgettable evening of entertainment. Fans in the North East are certain to be delighted! Tom Jones’ 50+ year career has remarkably gone from strength to strength. Along with sustaining his popularity as a live performer and recording artist for five decades, he garnered at the age of 75, the best reviews of his career for his most recent albums Long Lost Suitcase, Spirit In The Room and Praise & Blame.”

TOM 2We arrived around 7 PM just in time to catch the support acts the Dunhills and Megan McKenna, star of reality TV shows The X Factor and The Only Way Is Essex. Both acts put on a good performance and warmed up the crowd for Sir Tom.

The disabled area was at the front of the terraces, to the side of the pitch. Our position wasn’t great so we moved up a little to get a better view of the stage and the screens. Tom Jones took to the stage around 9 PM, opening with his big hit “What’s New Pussycat?” This was followed by another trip back to the 60s with his first number one hit “It’s Not Unusual”. Great openers, sung with the usual powerful Jones voice. An excellent start to a great concert. What followed was a mixture of covers from his new album and some further trips down memory lane. “Windmills of My Mind” has always been a great favourite of mine and Tom’s treatment of the song didn’t let me down. Similarly, his rendition of Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup of Coffee” was also excellent. Soon we were back in the 60s again and, another favourite, “The Green Green Grass of Home”. It was quite emotional for me, seeing Tom Jones perform the songs again. Similarly, the epic “Delilah” was delivered with power and soul as always. Great.

Now can an 81-year-old sing “Sex Bomb” with any credibility? I thought not, and I really hoped that he would not attempt this song. However, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. He slowed the song down, and his deep voice somehow made it feel okay. The crowd certainly loved it and everyone in front of us was dancing away.

We were treated to other hits including Randy Newman’s “You Can Keep Your Hat on” and Prince’s “Kiss”. And soon it was over. After one hour 10 minutes Tom Jones left the stage. The reception from the crowd had been rapturous throughout. The people of the north-east certainly enjoyed the visit of Tom Jones. Soon he was back on stage and we were treated to a three song encore, closing with “Strange Things Happening Every Day”. A nice autumnal evening spent in the company of a true living legend.

TOM 1Getting out on the venue was a little bit of an adventure. The officials were not allowing any vehicles into the car parks. This was to enable the park-and-ride buses and people on foot to leave safely. However, it also blocked my taxi from getting in. The taxi was stuck in a massive queue of cars somewhere down the road. With some clever to-ing and fro-ing on our phones we managed to locate him and, once we were out of the long traffic jam we were safely up the A19 and on our way home, arriving safely around midnight.

Setlist: (something like) What’s New Pussycat?; It’s Not Unusual; Popstar (Cat Stevens); The Windmills of Your Mind (Noel Harrison); Green, Green Grass of Home; One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below) (Bob Dylan); Talking Reality Television Blues; I Won’t Crumble with You If You Fall; Tower of Song (Leonard Cohen); Delilah; Lazarus Man; You Can Leave Your Hat On (Randy Newman); Sex Bomb; If I Only Knew; Kiss (Prince)

Encore: I’m Growing Old; No Hole in My Head; Strange Things Happening Every Day

Many thanks to Elaine for the photographs (she also really enjoyed the concert).

Hot Chocolate various venues Sunderland early 1970s

hot 1

Now this really is a guilty pleasure! Hot Chocolate were playing the clubs and ballrooms throughout the early to mid 70s before they broke it really big. I recall seeing them several times at Sunderland Locarno, Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall and possibly Sunderland Top Rank in the period 1971 to 1974. They were already having hits by this stage such as “Love Is Life” and were a great live, fun band. I am sure that I saw them at one of the Fresher’s Balls at Sunderland Polytechnic at one stage.

I found the following biography on the official Hot Chocolate website: “Hot Chocolate formed in Brixton, London, England in 1968. Members of the group included Errol Brown, Tony Connor, Larry Ferguson, Harvey Hinsley, Patrick Olive and Tony Wilson.” Now one of the most fascinating things about writing this blog is that it encourages me to find out the history of the band I am writing about. I thought I knew quite a lot about the beginnings of Hot Chocolate. How wrong I was. The biography goes on to tell me:

“In 1969 the band started working on a reggae version of the John Lennon song “Give Peace A Chance”.  Errol Brown had changed the lyrics for their version but was informed that he could not do this without John Lennon’s permission, so a copy of the demo was sent to the Beatles Apple record label to see what they thought of it.   Fortunately, John loved the version and it was released on the Apple label.” Well, I never knew that and I have never heard Hot Chocolate’s version of “Give Peace a Chance”. So, I looked on eBay and tried to buy a copy, but they are pretty expensive. Then, courtesy of Alexa and Amazon Music, I was able to listen to the track in the comfort of my own home. In some ways, it is quite close to the original; however, it is very reggae oriented also. Listen to it if you get a chance.

The band was apparently named Hot Chocolate by a secretary at the record company and in 1970 they released their first hit single “Love is Life” which reached number 6 in the UK charts. They then went on to have at least one hit a year for the next 15 years, having over 30 singles in the UK charts including massive hits such as “So You Win Again” (which reached number 1 in the UK charts) and “You Sexy Thing” (which reached number 2).

hot 2In 1985, Errol Brown left the band and at that point they disbanded. Hot Chocolate reformed with a new singer in 1992 and continue to tour to this day. Errol Brown went on to have a successful solo career until he retired in 2009.

My favourite song was always “Emma”. I have vivid memories of standing at the front of the stage at Sunderland Locarno watching Errol Brown singing that song just after it had been released. That was probably the last time I got to see them. From then on they moved from playing ballrooms to headlining Newcastle City Hall. I guess, after that, I didn’t see them as a proper rock band and our paths never crossed again. Another thing about writing this blog, is that I am encouraged to buy old LPs of the band’s work and listen to their music again. I bought myself a copy of Hot Chocolate XIV Greatest Hits from eBay (pictured). I must admit I had forgotten just how successful the band was. Looking back, they gave me lots of fun nights in the early days.

Errol Brown sadly passed away from liver cancer at his home in the Bahamas on 6 May 2015. RIP Errol Brown.

The Nashville Teens and the Downliners Sect? Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall 1971?

The_nashville_teens

Now this one is something of a conundrum. I will explain why shortly.

Every week, on a Saturday night in the early 70s my friends and I would venture down to the Saturday night dance at Sunderland Polytechnic in Wearmouth Hall, which was the students union building. We would never know which bands to expect; all would be revealed written in chalk on a blackboard in the entrance. So every Saturday was something of a great surprise. We would come along and see famous names written on the board: Arthur Brown, Screaming Lord Sutch, Shaking Stevens and the Sunsets, the Wild Angels, and many more. Some of these I have already blogged on; some I will write about in the weeks to come.

Well one Saturday night we came along and the names on the board were “The Nashville Teens” (who I had heard of) and the “Downliners Sect” (who I had vaguely heard something about).

“We were quite influenced by the Downliners Sect” – David Bowie referring to David Bowie and the King Bees in Q Magazine. “The first British R&B I heard was the Downliners Sect. It was at the Ken Colyer Club, they were really doing it then. I heard the Pretty Things later but the Downliners Sect were IT “- Van Morrison (Official site)

Now The Nashville Teens were a band from the 60s who had been in the charts with their big hit “Tobacco Road“, so I was quite excited about seeing them. And the Downliners Sect were a legendary rhythm and blues band, also from the 60s. Now here comes the conundrum. Everything I’ve read about the Downliners Sect tells me that they split up in the late 60s, around 1968, and didn’t reappear until the later 70s, reforming off the back of the pub rock and punk movement. But my memory tells me that I definitely saw a band called the Downliners Sect that night. Whether I did or not, and who the personnel were, is, as they say, lost in the mists of time and in my failing memory.

I recall, the Downliners Sect played a set of rhythm and blues standards and were quite good. But the main attraction for me was witnessing the legendary Nashville Teens and seeing them play “Tobacco Road”. I do remember thinking that all of the members, other than the singer (who was presumably the original singer Ray Phillips) looked quite young, had long hair, and looked a little out of place in a 60s band. Nonetheless, they played a great version of “Tobacco Road”.

So there we go. A good night was, as they say, had by all. But the conundrum remains in my mind. Such things drive me crazy every now and then; but then I realise there is nothing I can do about it. Unless someone out there can enlighten me?

“I was born in a trunk.
Mama died and my daddy got drunk.
Left me here to die alone
In the middle of Tobacco Road.” (John D Loudermilk, 1959).

Picture of the Nashville Teens courtesy of Pop Weekly, via Wikimedia Commons

Brian Wilson Times Square Newcastle 6 August 2017

Support from: Seasick Steve and Martha Reeves

wilson tix

     I hate printed tickets

When I was growing up in the 1960s, there were three singles which stood out for me. Each one was a defining moment. When I heard each of these singles, I stopped doing whatever I was doing and listened intently to the music and the lyrics. Each of these three songs sounded completely new, completely different; as if they had come from another dimension, another planet, some other place. The sound, the lyrics, the music and the mood were all so special to me and remain so until this day. The records were: “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan, “Strawberry Fields” by the Beatles and “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys. “Good Vibrations” later became widely acclaimed as one of the finest and most important works of the rock era (Wikipedia). So going to see Brian Wilson, the genius behind the last of these three singles is always special.

The other thing that I think is worthy of mention here, and of consideration, is a question. There are, in effect, two versions of the Beach Boys touring. Which one is the genuine article? There is Brian Wilson, the driving force and genius behind the early Beach boys and all those great hitswho is touring with, original Beach Boys guitarist Al Jardine, and The Beach Boys touring band which is fronted by original member Mike Love and Bruce Johnston, who joined the band in 1965 when Brian Wilson stopped touring. Now Mike Love wrote the lyrics to “Good Vibrations” while Brian Wilson composed the music and they were both original members of the band. But many people believe without any of the Wilson brothers, there is no Beach Boys.

York_Racecourse

Source Wikimediacommons Dr Bertrande

Not too many years ago, I went to see the Mike Love touring version of The Beach Boys with Marie at York racecourse. The band played after the horseracing and Marie and I stayed in a lovely hotel directly opposite the racecourse. The Beach Boys played all the hits, and did a pretty good job of doing so, and it was a pleasurable evening (although we did lose on every race). But something was missing. Without Brian, and the true genius of the band, for me The Beach Boys are not complete. I also saw The Beach Boys in the 1970s when Carl and Dennis Wilson were both alive, and Brian was not touring at the time, and they were tremendous. So I think there is a place for both bands, but saying that Brian Wilson is something special; he is the genius behind this band and carries with him the soul and essence of The Beach Boys.

Anyway, to the concert. David, Shauna, Laura, my carer Alan and I all went along to this Brian Wilson concert which took place in Times Square Newcastle, an open-air venue at the Centre For Life. The support acts were pretty strong in the form of soul legend Martha Reeves, and country blues icon Seasick Steve. It was a very rainy day, so to our shame, we decided to miss out on the support acts, stayed dry, and turn up just in time for Brian Wilson’s set. When we did arrive, we were a little squashed on the disabled platform but managed to squeeze in. Brian Wilson’s set was in three segments. He started with some great Beach Boys classics: “California Girls” followed by another of my all-time favourites “I Get Around” and several other classics.

PetSoundsCoverThen we were treated to the album Pet Sounds in its entirety.  Promoted as “the most progressive pop album ever“, Pet Sounds attracted recognition for its ambitious recording and sophisticated music. “It is widely considered to be among the most influential albums in the history of music” (Abjorensen, 2017). The opening song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is a classic and great favourite of mine. Other standouts from the album are “Sloop John B”, “God Only Knows” and the closing song “Caroline, No”. Brian closed the set with another segment of Beach Boy hits including the aforementioned “Good Vibrations” (the theremin still gets me), “Barbara Ann” (which I remember being a big favourite of mine and my friends at the time it came out; we all sang it again and again in the play yard), “Help Me, Rhonda”, back to the very start and “Surfing USA”, another great favourite of mine “Fun, Fun, Fun” and they closed with “Love and Mercy”,  the opening track to Brian’s 1988 debut solo album.

wilson prog

My programme

Brian has assembled a great band around him and the songs sound as authentic as the originals. We all really enjoyed the concert, and had a great evening; although Laura was a little on edge and on the phone constantly to Dale as this was the first time she had left Phoebe’s side, as Phoebe was only four weeks old at the time. A lovely evening spent with family and in the presence of a true genius. We are looking forward to going to see Brian Wilson again at the Sage Gateshead in June 2021 post (we hope) coronavirus. Roll on “the new normal”.

Setlist: California Girls; Dance, Dance, Dance; I Get Around; Darlin’; Surfer Girl; Don’t Worry Baby;    Wild Honey; Sail On, Sailor.

Pet Sounds: Wouldn’t It Be Nice; You Still Believe in Me; That’s Not Me; Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder); I’m Waiting for the Day; Let’s Go Away for Awhile; Sloop John B; God Only Knows; I Know There’s an Answer; Here Today; I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times; Pet Sounds; Caroline, No.

Good Vibrations; Barbara Ann; Help Me, Rhonda; Surfin’ U.S.A.; Fun, Fun, Fun; Love and Mercy

Abjorensen, Norman (2017). Historical Dictionary of Popular Music. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-5381-0215-2.

 

 

 

The Hollies Sage Gateshead 14 April 2018

hollies tix 2018Okay. So they come around a lot, and the songs are always quite similar. But never quite the same. There are always a few small changes, which never cease to delight me. After all they have so many great hits to choose from. Sure, I was just a kid at the time, but that’s exactly the point. The Hollies were part of my childhood. A very important part. Every time I see them memories flood back; memories of Saturday mornings at the Top Rank Suite, choosing Paisley Rave shirts with button-down collars, plastic wide two pronged belts from Woolworths, buying cheap coarse hipsters that made you itch all the time, swapping bubblegum cards in the schoolyard, talking about the latest hit records and who we’d seen on Top of the Pops on Thursday night.

The Beatles, the Stones, The Who, and the Hollies. Yes to me this band were a very important part of the 60s music scene. The line-up may have changed over the years, and the singer is no longer the great Alan Clarke, but the soul, the ethos, the power, the choruses and those great harmonies, those voices remain. As the band often say themselves, the Hollies were always about voices and songs. Great songs.

Mars01

Mars Attacks! Trading bubblegum cards in the school yard

The Hollies current line-up is: Tony Hicks – lead guitar, backing vocals (1963–present); Bobby Elliott – drums (1963–present); Ray Stiles (ex Mud) – bass (1986–present); Ian Parker – keyboards (1991–present); Peter Howarth – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (2004–present); Steve Lauri – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2004–present).Tony Hicks still looks as young as ever (he surely must have a portrait in the attic) and Bobby Elliott is omnipresent in cool, black hat, proudly wearing the Hollies moniker on his drum kit. And singer Peter Howarth brings his own style to the songs, now so well-established in the band that he has the confidence to do so.

bus stopThis is no embarrassing 60s package show; rather it is a two-hour celebration of hits spread across two sets. They start off with “King Midas in Reverse”, the song that so disappointed Graham Nash when it wasn’t a hit, that it was one of the reasons for him eventually leaving the band. Still a great song today. Then off we go into a stream of hits; some sang individually, some mashed together as a medley: “I Can’t Let Go”, “Sorry Suzanne”, “Jennifer Eccles”, “On a Carousel”. This band really were great when at the top of their game in the 60s; and the hits still sound great today. The first set finished with one of my favourites, starting with a classic guitar intro from Tony Hicks: “Look through Any Window”.

In the second set we are treated to more classics and even more of my favourites: “Bus Stop”; I played and played that single until it was worn out; “I’m Alive” (their only number one hit); followed by the very underrated “The Baby”. Then then tell a story, which I have heard so many times now, of a crazy night in a club with Eric Burdon (the Egg Man: but that’s another story) and The Animals as an introduction to “Stop! Stop! Stop!”. When we reach the harmonica introduction to “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” and Tony’s great guitar intro to “The Air That I Breathe”, I know we are close to the end. The encore is the rock ‘n’ roll song “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress”; not a great favourite of mine, but still good to end on. And that’s it. Another evening of 60s classics. Until next time. “The road is long………”hollies prog 2018

Setlist. Set 1: King Midas in Reverse; I Can’t Let Go; Sorry Suzanne; Jennifer Eccles; On a Carousel;    Gasoline Alley Bred; Listen to Me; Magic Woman Touch; Weakness; We’re Through; Priceless;  I Can’t Tell the Bottom From the Top; Just One Look; Stay; Look Through Any Window. Set 2: Here I Go Again; The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee; Yes I Will; Bus Stop; I’m Alive; The Baby; 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy); Carrie Anne; Stop! Stop! Stop!; He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother; The Air That I Breathe. Encore: Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress

 

Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra Newcastle Arena 14th April 2016

ELO TICKETThis was one of the last concerts I attended before my accident and I am finally getting to report on it. I went along with my mate Norm and we were both looking forward to seeing (a new version of) the Electric Light Orchestra again. I’ve seen the ELO many times before, from the very early days when there were a spin-off band from the Move, initially set up by Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne. But I hadn’t seen them since the 1970s, as I recall, and to be honest this was something I thought I would never see again. But Jeff Lynne had decided to come out of retirement, reform the band and delight fans all over the world (to quote one of their songs).
They started their set with “Tightrope”, followed by one of my favourites “Evil Woman”. And then the hits started flowing. Jeff Lynne had assembled a band of excellent musicians who supported him in playing faultless versions of all their songs. Pure magic. “Telephone Line”, “Turn to Stone”, “Sweet Talking Woman” and many others. They even took us right back to “10538 Overture”, ELO PROGwhich transported me back to seeing them play it at the Reading Festival in 1972; such happy days and happy memories. They closed with “Mr Blue Sky”, another favourite of mine. The encore was (as it always had been, even back in the old days) “Roll over Beethoven”, their unique semi-orchestral version of Chuck Berry’s rock ‘n’ roll classic. The crowd were ecstatic; a night of nostalgia, happy memories, great fun and great music.

Setlist: Tightrope; Evil Woman; Showdown; All Over the World; When I Was a Boy;  Livin’ Thing; Ain’t It a Drag;  Can’t Get It Out of My Head; Rockaria!; 10538 Overture; Secret Messages; Steppin’ Out; Shine a Little Love; Wild West Hero; Telephone Line; Turn to Stone; Don’t Bring Me Down; Sweet Talkin’ Woman; Mr. Blue Sky. Encore: Roll Over Beethoven