Posts Tagged ‘pop’

Tony Christie Whitley Bay Playhouse 4 June 2022

tony tixNow this is a guilty pleasure. After the wonderful guitar work of Jeff Beck and the excitement of seeing Johnny Depp, two days later I am in Whitley Bay Playhouse to see none other than the great Yorkshire man Tony Christie. I have harboured a secret desire to see Tony for some time and a few weeks ago I finally took the plunge and bought tickets. I was encouraged by my carer Jan who is also a fan and accompanied me to the concert. Tony Christie was on stage sharp at 7:30 PM and played two sets with an interval, finishing at 9:30 PM. An early night for once, which suits me just fine at my age. Talking about age Tony Christie is 79 years old and still looks and sings great. He was accompanied by an excellent band all of whom are great musicians in their own right.

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Tony started the evening with a single written for him by Jarvis Cocker who also comes from Sheffield, Tony’s home town. I didn’t recognise the song but it sounded great. This was followed by his first hit from 1971, “Las Vegas”. He then went on to sing a mixture of ballads including covers of well-known songs by the likes of Frank Sinatra. Tony was very much the smart guy about town wearing a natty three-piece whistle complete with smart tie and top pocket hanky. His voice is strong and he clearly enjoys singing to a crowd. I had in my mind that he would be like a club singer, but he is so much more than that. Tony told us about his many successes including singing in the West End and his worldwide tours. The first set also included Tony’s great smash hit record “I Did What I Did For Maria”. Nuff said. Lots of fun!

tony2During the second set we were treated to more ballads including Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me”. This time Tony’s suit was even more impressive, glistening, nice and shiny. I would love to wear one like that! We all sang along to “Avenues and Alleyways”, the theme tune from TV show The Protectors. Of course the closing song had to be “Is This the Way to Amarillo?” and we all sang along again. Tony explained that Neil Sedaka had offered him two songs: “Amarillo”and “Solitaire”. Tony’s manager did not like the latter of those two songs and persuaded Tony not to record it. Of course Andy Williams went on to have a worldwide smash with the song. An opportunity missed. Such is life. A great evening with some great songs. Not your classic rock, but lots of fun delivered by a real professional who has entertained crowds around the world for many years and I’m sure will do for many years to come.

The Animals and Friends Whitley Bay Playhouse 12 March 2022

animals 4So my question for today is: When Is a Band No Longer a Band? In the case of The Animals and Friends, the only original member is long-standing drummer, John Steel, who at the age of 81 has assembled a band of fine musicians around him to play all The Animals hits. “Though the band has changed, the songs remain eternal… alongside covers of Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker classics, they ensure that the nostalgic element comes with an enjoyably abrasive edge”. (From the bands website).

This tour is billed as their farewell concert tour, and if so, this may be the last time that John and his friends have performed in a local “home” venue. Support was provided by another legend from the 60s, Zoot Money.

Now I have to admit to being a massive fan of Eric Burdon; I think he is one of the greatest vocalists ever and have been to see him every chance I can including a performance at Newcastle City Hall a few years ago. Eric performs with his own band, sometimes called The Animals, which has changed over the years. He remains a fine blues singer and his performances are always excellent. He does not grace these shores very often, which is a shame. So I was interested to see this performance by John Steel and his “friends”.

animals 3I was perched at the back of the hall again, as I was for Fairport Convention a week or so ago. The view is great and the venue was around ¾ full. First up, at around 7:30 PM, was Zoot Money who performed a fine set of rhythm and blues, solo on keyboards and vocals. His set was short, but warmed up the crowd well. He finished shortly after 8 PM which gave me time to have a swift pint of Guinness during the interval.

The Animals and Friends took to the stage around 8:30 PM and treated us to just over one hour of classic songs from back in the 60s.

animals 2I can’t quite recall the full set, but I seem to remember that they started with “Don’t Bring Me Down” and played a set of Animals hits and other R&B classics including “I’m Crying”, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “It’s My Life” and “Club A Go Go”(written about the legendary 60s Newcastle club where all the greats played including Cream, Jimi Hendrix and, of course, The Animals). They closed the set with “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”. John Steel then came to front of stage and explained how he had been in the band since it first formed in 1957! He then introduced the encore which was, of course, “House of the Rising Sun”. Finally, he welcomed Zoot Money back on stage to join the band to play Zoot’s 1960s hit “Big Time Operator”, which reached number 25 in the UK charts in 1966.

animals1The concert finished around 9:40 PM. Quite an early finish time these days. The band played well. John has assembled a fine set of musicians around him who do full justice to The Animals classic 60s tracks. The front man, Danny Handley , is to be applauded for both playing excellent guitar and singing strong vocals on all the songs. I can’t quite bring myself to say that his vocals matched Eric Burdon but, hey, he came pretty damn close. So it was a very pleasant evening spent listening to some of my all-time favourite songs. After the show the band and Zoot Money were signing CDs in the foyer. I decided to purchase a fine pair of John Steel drumsticks which he kindly signed personally and in front of me; one dedicated to me and the other dedicated to my friend John in the USA who came to see so many shows with me in the 1970s.

animals 5So, returning to my original question: When Is a Band No Longer a Band? My answer is thus. Does it matter? As long as they play good versions of great songs and I have an enjoyable evening, then it is certainly worthwhile going to see them. John and his friends have managed to retain the gritty Newcastle soul of The Animals and in doing so present a show that lives up to the bands legend. A great night.

Interestingly, I found the following on Wikipedia: “In 2008, an adjudicator determined that original Animals drummer John Steel owned “the Animals” name in the UK because of a trademark registration that Steel had filed. Eric Burdon had objected to the trademark registration, arguing that he personally embodied any goodwill associated with “the Animals” name. Burdon’s argument was rejected, in part because he had billed himself as “Eric Burdon and the Animals” as early as 1967, thus separating the goodwill associated with his own name from that of the band. On 9 September 2013, Burdon’s appeal was allowed, and he is now permitted to use the name “the Animals.””

Many thanks to Vikki my carer and photographer for the evening and Chris for once again helping put me back to bed.

60s Gold Tour Sage Gateshead 17 November 2021

60s tixSome time ago I promised myself I would never again go to a 60s show. Too cheesy. Too embarrassing. Too many people dancing around in an unbecoming manner! However this one tempted me for several reasons. Firstly it featured my hero PJ Proby. Secondly I always fancied seeing Marmalade. I have a vague memory of seeing them at Sunderland Top Rank in the early 70s when they were out of the charts and the place was empty. But it is very vague and I can’t be certain I was actually there! And yes I realise there is no original member in the band from their heyday when they had their big hits such as “Reflections of My Life” and “Lovin’ Things” but Sandy Newman has been a member of Marmalade since the mid-70s and featured on their last big hit “Falling Apart at the Seams”. And thirdly the show featured another hero of mine, Steve Ellis. Now Steve Ellis has sadly had to pull out of the tour due to ill-health. I hope he’s soon better. Still the line-up remained strong.

60s progWhen I was a kid, around 11 or 12 years old I would go to the Saturday morning disco at Sunderland Top Rank. It was 1967 or 1968 and my heroes were Steve Marriott, Steve Ellis and Barry Ryan. I had a pair of black checky hipster trousers and a black plastic belt which was very wide and had two metal prongs as a fastener. You bought the belts at Woolworths as I recall. The hipster trousers were made of very rough material and were quite itchy to the skin. I also wore a Paisley shirt with button-down collar made by “Rave” which was the make of the day and you bought them at Binns. Of course, I also wore a vintage kipper tie. I felt I was a young mod and would parade around the walkway which circled the ballroom eating my iced drink, called a Slush. I would even dance sometimes! I often think those were some of my happiest days. One of the records I loved was “Lovin’ Things” by Marmalade. I used to gaze at young girls my own age but didn’t dare talk to any!

And so I went along to the 60s show with mixed feelings. Would I enjoy it? Or was it going to be a cheesy letdown? And I also had in my mind the question “when is a band no longer a band?” After all, some of the bands (I should call them groups, as we did in the 60s) featured only one, or in some cases no, original members.

Introduction: 7.30pm. The compere for the evening was DJ Ally Pally, whom I have seen before fulfilling a similar role in another 60s Gold concert at Newcastle Tyne Theatre a few years ago. His job was to introduce each of the acts, and he did so well. I was accompanied by carer Jackie and my sister-in-lawjerrys p 1 Elaine who was, for the evening, my guest rather than a carer. She was sitting separately from us as we bought her ticket later. However, she was able to come over and join us later on. 

Gerry’s Pacemakers: 7.33pm. First up was Gerry’s Pacemakers. This consisted of the late Gerry Marsden’s backing band, including his musical director for the last 25 years, and a new singer. They sang a number of Gerry’s hits including “How Do You Do”, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” (one of my favourite songs of all time), “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Good versions of great songs and a nice introduction to the evening.

Dave Berry: 7.45pm. Next, a white glove appeared from behind the curtain and the legend that is Dave Berry shuffled onto the stage, his hands shielding his face. He was, of course, famous for those strange spooky hand mannerisms dave ber 1which continued throughout his set. He sang a few of his hits including “Memphis Tennessee”, “Mama” and my favourite “The Crying Game” with its wonderful Wah Wah guitar. The guitarist did a reasonable version of the original guitar sounds and solos, which were performed by either Jimmy Page or Big Jim Sullivan (great session man who went on to become Tom Jones guitarist on his TV show). The truth of who played on the single seems to be lost in the depths of time. Whoever it was they did a wonderful job. Dave Berry is 80 years old and looks, and sounds, just fine. Excellent.

Mamas & Papas UK: 7.57pm. The Mamas and Papas UK are simply a cover band who did fair versions of the band’s greatest hits including “Creeque Alley”, “Monday Monday” and “California Dreaming”. Greatmamas 1 songs which still sound good today. Strangely the band also included the singer from Gerry’s Pacemakers! Then came my hero!

PJ Proby: 8.10pm. Now this is THE MAN. The uncompromising, unflinching, outspoken, politically incorrect, but great, legend that is the 83-year-old PJ Proby. Still in strong voice and looking very healthypj 1 and stylish with longish white hair and full beard, he belted out his hits including “Somewhere”, “Hold Me” and “Maria”. PJ sat down for some of the performance but also managed some dancing with his saxophone player! The man is a hero of mine and continues to astound with his vocal histrionics and his melodramatic, but wonderful, rendition of classic ballads from musicals. Proby, and all the other acts before him, were backed by Gerry’s Pacemakers. Then things moved up a gear.

Marmalade: 8.23pm.  This version of Marmalade is fronted by Sandy Newman who has taken on the lead role that was formally Dean Ford’s. Sandy has been in the band since the mid-marm 170s and featured on their last big hit record “Falling Apart at the Seams”. I first saw Sandy at the Grangemouth pop festival in 1972. He was second on the bill, after Billy Connolly, and fronting the Chris McLure Section. The stage cleared for Marmalade who are a truly professional act and moved the whole show up a notch. Great versions of classic songs followed: “Wait for Me Marianne”, “Lovin’ Things” (in my mind I was 12 again and back in the Top Rank Suite in my hipsters), “Rainbow”, “Reflections of My Life” and their cover of the Beatles song, which got them a big hit and up to number one in the charts “Ob La Di, Ob La Da”. An excellent close to the first half of the show, and a long time wish of mine fulfilled; to see Marmalade!

Interval: 8.45pm. Time for a nice cool gin and tonic. Elaine came across and had a chat, taking up an empty seat beside Jackie and me. We all agreed the show so far was just great!

Vanity Fare: 9.05pm. Vanity Fare opened the second half of the show with the hits “Hitchin’ a Ride”, vanity 1“Early in the Morning” (their biggest hit) and “I Live for the Sun”. This is an example of a band which doesn’t include any original members; however it does include some long-standing members who have been with the band for many years). They reopened the proceedings well and were good fun.

Herman’s Hermits: 9.20pm. Herman’s Hermits contain the original drummer, hermans 1Barry Whitwam, who has been in the band since its inception. The band members have gradually retired over the years and Peter Noone left in the early 70s. Now the musicians who surround Barry have been with him for many years and did great versions of wonderful pop classics including “No Milk Today”, “Sunshine Girl” and “There’s a Kind of Hush”. Barry Whitwam came to the front and explained how the band had sold 80 million records and told the tale of how they once had the great privilege of meeting Elvis Presley. I have seen this version of the Hermits before and they always put on a great performance. You can’t go wrong with hits like that.

The Tremeloes: 9.42pm. And now a big surprise. This version of the Tremeloes was to be fronted by none other than bass player and singer Chip Hawkes. However we were told by Ally Pally that Chip had been taken unwell at the start of the tour and had to drop out. I hope you are soon better, Chip. He was chesney 1replaced by none other than his son, the “One and Only” Chesney Hawkes. Fantastic! Chesney is a consummate performer and took the show up a level again. He led the band, which also features his brother on drums and Chip’s 15-year-old grandson on guitar plus a couple of other members (one of whom was from Vanity Fare!) through all those classics good time hits: “Even the Bad Times Are Good”, “Here Comes My Baby”, and “My Little Lady”. In the case of the latter song, Chesney explained how his dad met his mum on the Golden Shot TV show in the 60s (his mum was one of the lovely girl presenters on the show) and that he wrote the song about her; they have been married for 54 years! The “Tremeloes” continued with more hits closing with an a cappella version of the smash “Silence Is Golden”. Just wonderful. Was this really the Tremeloes? Or Chesney Hawkes and family singing the Tremeloes? Who cares. It was just great. We all agreed it had been a wonderful night.

 Concert finish: 10.20pm. Our taxi driver was waiting for us and we were soon on our way home, still excited about the appearance of Chesney Hawkes (who was now our hero) and we told the taxi driver all about it. A great night reliving some wonderful memories with some classic pop songs from the 60s. When is a band no longer a band? Who cares?!

An audience with Paul McCartney live stream from Southbank Centre 5 November 2021

paul4 - Copy (2)Paul McCartney has recently written a wonderful book entitled The Lyrics, which is a beautifully presented, two-volume (in a presentation box) selection of 154 of his lyrics. The book was edited by the poet, Paul Muldoon, who  helped Paul choose the lyrics to be included. This live stream was from a question-and-answer/audience with event which saw the two Pauls interviewed by Samira Ahmed in the Southbank Centre, London. I would have loved to attend the actual event in London but, given my circumstances, it was more practical to settle for the live streaming. Having said that the live stream was excellently done, and I really enjoyed it. It was actually almost “like being there”!

“More often than I can count, I’ve been asked if I would write an autobiography, but the time has never been right. The one thing I’ve always managed to do, whether at home or on the road, is to write new songs. I know that some people, when they get to a certain age, like to go to a diary to recall day-to-day events from the past, but I have no such notebooks. What I do have are my songs, hundreds of them, which I’ve learned serve much the same purpose. And these songs span my entire life.” – Paul McCartney, The Lyrics

“In this extraordinary book, with unparalleled candour, Paul McCartney recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career – from his earliest boyhood compositions through the legendary decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his solo albums to the present.” (From Paul McCartney website)

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I have just received my own copy of the book and haven’t had time to go through it properly yet. However I can confirm that it is a beautiful artefact, well presented, and provides fascinating insights into the lyrics of one of our true musical geniuses, and one of my heroes. I look forward to going through the book in more detail in the weeks to come.

Paul McCartney’s collaborator and editor in this venture comes with an incredible pedigree and background, which makes him an excellent choice for working on The Lyrics. Apparently the two Paul’s worked together for five years, carefully selecting which songs to include, spanning Paul McCartney’s entire career: “Paul Muldoon is an Irish poet. He has published more than thirty collections and won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T. S. Eliot Prize. At Princeton University he is currently both the Howard G. B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities and Founding Chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts. He held the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1999 to 2004 and has also served as president of the Poetry Society (UK) and Poetry Editor at The New Yorker.” (From Wikipedia).

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Chair and chief questioner Samira also comes with impeccable credentials: “On TV I present Newswatch on BBC1 and the BBC News channel. I was named the British Broadcasting Press Guild Audio Presenter of the Year 2020. On radio I present Front Row on Radio 4 and the Intelligence Squared podcast How I Found My Voice.” (In her own words, from her website).

The event was fascinating and well presented. Samira did an excellent job, questioning the two Paul’s. It was very clear that Paul and Paul have built up a very close working relationship. Paul Muldoon clearly has a deep understanding of Paul McCartney’s lyrics and throughout the evening it became very clear the very careful and almost forensic way in which they had approached the selection of the lyrics. They felt that the final collection represents the entirety of Paul’s career and includes important lyrics each of which tell their own story. The lyrics are presented alphabetically, rather than chronologically (which is what I for some reason expected), as they explain: “Arranged alphabetically to provide a kaleidoscopic rather than chronological account, it establishes definitive texts of the songs’ lyrics for the first time and describes the circumstances in which they were written, the people and places that inspired them, and what he thinks of them now.” (From Paul McCartney website).

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The first thing that came over to me very clearly was just how natural Paul McCartney sounded and behaved. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I saw was an ordinarily guy, without any big ego, chatting about his work and his life. It was a pleasure to see and hear him talk so naturally about songs which have become parts of all of our lives and which mean so much to many of us. There were many little snippets which came out and revealed aspects of the songs and their lyrics of which I was not aware. A few I remember, I will recount below.

“Ticket to Ride”. Paul revealed that there was a double meaning to this song. Apparently, he and John Lennon wrote the song during a trip to a family home on the Isle of Wight and “Ride” has a double meaning, referring to “Ryde”, the town on the Isle of Wight where they were heading.

“Eight Days a Week”. Paul was travelling in a taxi and he asked the driver what sort of week he had had. The taxidriver replied “It has been really busy. I have full on working eight days a week!” Paul rushed to see John and said “I have a great title for our next song!” The rest is history. I wonder if that taxidriver ever clicked on.

“Let It Be”. This iconic song came to Paul in a dream where his mother appeared to him and, as Paul appeared worried about something, she gave him a piece of advice. She simply said to Paul “Let It Be”. He said she seemed completely real in the dream. I think we all have such dreams which seem real to us. I often wonder if they do have a deeper meaning and represent some alternative reality.

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Paul also discussed how the fact that he is left-handed and John was right-handed helped them when writing songs together. Instead of the necks of their guitars getting in the way and hitting each other, they would point in opposite directions, enabling the two to watch each other as they played and sang. Paul said he could watch John’s guitar playing and this would help him complement it with his own guitar or bass playing. He also said it brought the two young men closer together which helped with their singing, harmonies and songwriting. A fascinating insight which, in some ways, is obvious yet reveals a lot.

The evening concluded with Samira selecting a small number of questions from the audience within the Southbank Centre and from those sent in online.

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A fascinating event, which complements a wonderful book, and gave some unique insights into the thought processes behind the lyrics and songs of one of our musical geniuses.

It is not often that we get an opportunity to gain intimate insights into the mind and thoughts of a musical genius. One thing I forgot. Paul also spoke lovingly of his education at school. He admitted that, although he did not realise it at the time, he learnt a lot from one particular teacher, who taught him English Literature. He said that he particularly enjoyed Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales (“very rude, filthy!”) He also admitted that all four Beatles gained a lot from school and that influenced their songwriting, perhaps without them realising.

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.