Posts Tagged ‘rock n roll’

Richard Hawley Fire Station Sunderland 12 December 2022

HAWLEY TIXNow this guy is a bit of an enigma. I guess you would say he has a very dedicated cult following. And rightly so. However, everyone I told I was going to see Richard Hawley, including some quite up-to-date music aficionados, said “Who Is he?” Yet this show sold out very quickly, even after the venue had removed all of the seats from the downstairs area in order to allow entry to more people.

HAWLEY3The last time I saw Richard Hawley was probably over 10 years ago when he was the support act for one of my personal heroes (and his apparently), Nancy Sinatra at the Sage Gateshead. I have missed the last few times he has been in the north-east and I thought it was about time that I picked up on him again, particularly when the show was local and in such an intimate, new, lovely, purpose-built concert venue. We arrived in time to catch the support act Katie Spencer who, not unlike Hawley, has her own individual style which is difficult to describe. On her website she describes herself as: 

HAWLEY2“Uk progressive folk singer-songwriter & guitarist. And using the words of others: ‘Katie’s guitar playing has echoes of my dear friend the late great Bert Jansch. Like a musical weaver she threads her poetic lyrics through the guitar’s strings and produces little tapestries of song.’ – Ralph McTell​. ‘Her articulate picking, with suggestions of folk and jazz, frames intelligently written songs and is the backbone to her music.’ – Guitarist Magazine. ‘One of the most satisfying and spellbinding singer-songwriter collections I’ve encountered in some time.’ – RnR Magazine”

HAWLEY4During the interval I managed to have a pint of Guinness and catch up with some friends who are also fans of Richard Hawley. Soon the guy took the stage. Richard has his own style. With his quiff hairstyle and American college boy cardigan, he looks every bit the 1950s rockabilly star. Indeed, his guitars, which he seems to change after each song, are also old 50s and 60s instruments, such as a Gretsch semiacoustic with large tremolo, a Burns (Hank) Marvin and various other lovely guitars.

HAWLEY BADGBut there is much, much more to this guy than a simple 50s/60s influenced singer. Sure you can hear those influences now and then, but Hawley has his own style transcends easy description and blends rockabilly, 60s music and blues, with more modern sounds. The Fire Station website describes his music, influence and collaborators thus: 

“In the two decades that have elapsed since Hawley jettisoned band life, first with The Longpigs and then as Pulp’s guitarist, the 52-year-old songwriter has forged one of the most singular and diverse careers in modern music…. Hawley has worked with a host of impressive collaborators – such as Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, Elbow, Texas and Paul Weller, alongside personal heroes that include U.S guitarist Duane Eddy, Shirley Bassey, Nancy Sinatra, Lisa Marie Presley and British folk royalty Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson.”

HAWLEY TOWLNow with collaborators like that, you really can’t go wrong, can you? The only song I really know is “Tonight the Streets Are Ours “, but the rest of the set is excellent. Hawley has surrounded himself with an excellent band including a second guitarist who complements Richard’s own style and a great blues harp player who emerges from the side of the stage at various times to add his rasping harmonica. Some of the songs are quite dark and the lighting in the venue is set up well to emphasise this. My carer for the evening, Jackie, sees some of Nick Cave in Hawley. I don’t disagree. Hawley, like his support act, is a true northern guy, wearing his Sheffield style and accent proudly on his chest.

HAWLEY BOXOn the way out I buy some merchandise which is also quite individual and quirky. As you can see, I get a tea towel, a couple of badges and a natty little musical box which, when turned, plays a Richard Hawley tune (you can choose which one). No programme or T-shirt for this guy. Too conventional, I guess! A great show by a wonderful artist whose cult following is no doubt growing and at one stage we may see him break through to the mainstream. But maybe Richard Hawley is just fine the way with things the way they are.

Setlist: Off My Mind; Alone; Further; Standing at the Sky’s Edge; I’m Looking for Someone to Find Me; Emilina Says; Tonight the Streets Are Ours; Coles Corner; Galley Girl; Don’t Stare at the Sun; Time Is; Open Up Your Door; Down in the Woods; Is There a Pill?

Encore: There’s a Storm Comin’; Heart of Oak

The Sweet The Boiler Shop Newcastle 24 November 2022

sweet tixAnother night of memories and revisiting a band I followed many years ago. The Sweet are a much maligned and misunderstood band. Behind the hits and all the glam rock glitter, hid a classic heavy rock band. Guitarist Andy Scott had been in a string of bands in the 60s and would always bring a heavier side to The Sweet particularly on their album such as the epic Sweet Fanny Adams, which I recently purchased again just to listen to some of their classic heavier tracks. If you listen to their hits such as “Blockbuster”, “Ballroom Blitz” and “Action” there was always a driving riff, emanating from both Andy Scott’s guitar and Steve Priest’s bass.

SWEET FANNY ADAMSI first saw The Sweet live back in 1973 or 1974 when they were at the height of their fame and success, at Newcastle City Hall along with a good friend, Dave, who I have lost touch with and a hall full of screaming teenage girls. It really was a “Teenage Rampage” and lots and lots of fun! A few years later, after the hits had started to fade away, I saw them with my friend Norm and a few others on a very cold, wet evening at Sunderland Locarno. The venue was far from full but the show was excellent, very loud and quite heavy. Next time I saw them I was with my late wife Marie in a very empty City Hall. This was around 1981, and singer Brian Connolly had left the band to pursue I think a solo career. The Sweet continued as a three-piece band with Steve Priest taking on vocal duties and fronting the band. They still sang all of the hits but it wasn’t quite the same.

sweet lpRoll-on 10 years or so and I saw Brian Connolly’s Sweet performing at Sunderland Polytechnic Students Union Wearmouth Hall at a packed Saturday night dance. This was Brian’s version of the band with a completely new set of musicians. Nevertheless, and of course, all the hits were performed well and the crowd went crazy. Then move forward another 20 years or so I saw Andy Scott’s Sweet performing as part of a 70s package tour alongside Slade (minus Noddy and fronted by guitarist Dave Hill alongside original drummer Don Powell).

sweet 5The Boiler Shop is exactly what the name suggests, an old warehouse which in the past was an industrial workplace, situated behind Newcastle train station. My carer Jackie and I had a great view of the proceedings, sitting on a wheelchair platform overlooking the crowd with a direct view of the stage. Well by now, Andy Scott has achieved his dream and transformed The Sweet into a heavy rock band with new musicians around him all of whom look like they could have come from a true Hard Rock heavy metal band. Andy is the only surviving member of The Sweet. Brian Connolly sadly passed away in his early 50s, from alcoholism. Drummer Mick Tucker sadly passed away recently as did bassist and he of the bright ginger hair and crazy voice Steve Priest, who fronted his own version of the band situated in the USA.

sweet 3 So, Andy remains out on his own, to fly The Sweet flag high, having rejuvenated the band as out and out rockers, no longer closet heavy metal contenders. I buy a T-shirt and a couple of signed posters, one for me and one for my friend John in the USA. Soon the band take the stage and they are loud, heavy and I mean very LOUD. Great! They crash into “Action” and then follow this with a couple of heavier tunes. And that is the format for the evening: a hit followed by one or two heavier album or new tracks followed by another hit and so it goes onward.

SWEET POSTER SIGNEDAndy Scott looks great. All the heavy-metal hero with a long mane of pure white hair. Respect. He bangs away at his red Fender Stratocaster. “The Sixteens “(my particular favourite) soon follows and then we are treated to hit after hit. “Wigwam Bam”, “Little Willy”, “Hellraiser” and another classic “Love Is like Oxygen”. Just fantastic. Each one delivered in a new heavier, louder manner. These are no longer pop classics they are heavy metal songs!

The encores are “Blockbuster” and finally “Ballroom Blitz”! It don’t get any better than this. Happy days.

Elkie Brooks Sunderland Fire Station 18 November 2022

elkie tixA night of memories and reminiscences once again. This time I am in the lovely new local venue the Sunderland Fire Station for an evening of music with none other than Elkie Brooks. As usual, I am going along to renew my acquaintance with a great performer who I have not seen for many years. I first saw Elkie Brooks when she was a member of the jazz/rock/blues fusion band Dada at Newcastle City Hall in 1971.

elkie2Dada were first on the bill below Yes and headliners Iron Butterfly. I decided to treat myself to a copy of their album (see image) to remind myself of their music. They were a large band (I think around 10 piece) with a brass section and Elkie singing as front person, alongside ultracool soul man Robert Palmer.I remember being very impressed by the overall power of the band and, in particular, by Elkie’s raucous blues/jazz vocals. I was very much a young gig goer of 14 and sat in awe, by myself, feeling I was part of a big adventurous journey into the realm and world of live music which was just beginning.

elkie 1The next time I ran into Elkie was in the band Vinegar Joe. She had become the wild, gypsy front person, again alongside Robert Palmer on vocals and her husband of the time Peter Gage on guitar (that is him, standing to the right of Elkie on the front cover of the album. Pretty cool guy, with great long hair and who played some wonderful slide guitar, as I recall). I was lucky enough to see Vinegar Joe several times during the early 70s at the Lincoln Festival, the Reading Festival, and local venues including (I think) Sunderland Locarno, Newcastle Mayfair and most notably supporting the legendary Free at Sunderland Top Rank. Vinegar Joe were quite a while raucous rock/blues band and we all sat in awe of the force of nature that was Elkie. Again, I bought a copy of one of their albums to remind myself of these Rock ‘n’ Roll Gypsies and their music. “They were an electrifying live act and quickly became a staple of the UK’s then-thriving university circuit.” (Louder than sound)

elkie3The next time I saw Elkie was headlining as a solo artist at Sunderland Empire Theatre. This was in the late 70s and Elkie had become more of a middle of the road (and very successful) rhythm and blues singer hitting the charts with “Pearl’s a Singer”, “Sunshine after the Rain” and many other successful singles.

So, roll forward around 40 years and Elkie is now 70 years old. There is no support act, Elkie chooses to perform the entire show herself with a short interval separating two sets which blend her chart hits with jazz and blues classics. Elkie Brooks was born Elaine Bookbinder in Manchester and began her career at the age of 15, performing jazz and blues and at one point supporting the Beatles. Elkie took the stage in a slinky silver lame long dress treating us to a selection of her hits and jazz and blues standards. She looks great and her voice is tremendous, powerful and soulful.

elkie4This is also another night of renewing friendships, through something of a coincidence. I was just telling my carer for the evening Jackie about when I saw Elkie in Vinegar Joe supporting Free at the aforementioned concert when along comes an old friend Paul, who I have not seen for many years and says “Do you remember seeing her in Vinegar Joe at the Rink? ” We chat about that great concert and how wonderful she was “back in the day”. Great to see him again.

elkie6Both sections of the show are impressive in their own way. The mix of classic soulful chart hits and raucous blues is fantastic. Elkie still has a very powerful voice. Although I can’t recall the entire set list, I do remember thinking how many hits she has had, some of which I had forgotten, such as “Don’t Cry out Loud “and “Lilac Wine”. During the first half she also does an excellent version of the Rod Stewart classic “Gasoline Alley”.

elkie7The second half of the concert comprises more hits including the Chris Rea song “Fool If You Think It’s Over” but, rather than finishing with her massive chart success “Pearl’s a Singer” she chooses to give us a great rendition of this song halfway through the second set. She closes the evening with a series of blues classics, belting them out in a powerful voice and showing what her true roots are. By the end everyone is up on their feet, lots of dancing, and a standing ovation for Elkie, which is well deserved. A great night full of many memories. Happy days.

 

The Rolling Stones Anfield Liverpool 9 June 2022

Stones tixSo this was a dream trip for me. Every time I think “This Could Be the Last Time”. But of course it never is. And I hope it never will be. These guys just go on and on for ever. And for me that is just great. The Stones are, without question, my favourite band and worthy of the title “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World”. This is my 15th Stones experience since I first saw them in 1971 at Newcastle City Hall for the princely sum of 15 shillings/75p (decimalisation was just coming in and they printed both prices on the ticket. I was 14 and went to the early 6:30 PM show (they played 2 shows a night back in the day) and paid £1 for the ticket outside. From that night on I became a massive Rolling Stones fan.

Frontage_of_Liverpool_Lime_Street_railway_stationSo we went down: me, Lisa, Elaine and Jan courtesy of Trans Pennine Express on Thursday afternoon and took a short walk to our hotel close to Lime Street station. After a couple of hours rest I was up again and we took a bus to Anfield where we were shown to a nice lounge with food and drink prior to taking our seats for the show, which we did to catch the last couple of songs of Echo and the Bunnymen, the support act. We had nice seats in the disabled area with a good view of the stage and Jan just in front of us.

stones charlieAfter a short wait, just before the Stones took to the stage the screens lit up and showed a lovely tribute to Charlie Watts, with video footage from throughout his career showing him, always dapper and cool, back in the 1960s through to his last days with the band. This received a well-deserved cheer from the Anfield crowd. RIP Charlie. Much missed. It was 9 PM and the Rolling Stones took to the stage, starting with “Street Fighting Man”. Jagger was as energetic as ever running up and down the walkway right out in the crowd. Flanked by Keith (as cool as ever and forever my hero) and Ronnie Wood; both looking and playing great. Mick Jagger’s vocals were as powerful as they ever have been. Like a fine wine these guys seem to get better with age. They never cease to astound me and always exceed my expectations. Mick announced “This is our 60th anniversary tour and the first one we have done without our drummer Charlie Watts. So we dedicate the show to Charlie”, followed by a massive cheer from the crowd.

stones5This was a perfect set list for me, drawing heavily from the 1960s: “19th Nervous Breakdown” followed. When I was a young kid I remember buying this single for a shilling or two (or maybe less) from the public house over the road from my home. It would sell ex-jukebox singles and we would go over every now and then to buy classic records from a little box which the barmaid would bring out to the off sales window. Then we were treated to “Get off of My Cloud” and “Tumbling Dice”. Then came the surprise: in tribute to the Beatles Mick introduced their early hit (of course written by the Fab Four) “I Wanna Be Your Man”. This was apparently the first time they had played the song since I saw them perform it at the O2 Arena in London in 2012.

stones4Then another great favourite of mine, which was a charttopping hit for the great Chris Farlowe “Out Of Time”. You can’t beat the old classics. Then another classic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” followed by the less familiar “Living in a Ghost Town” and then back to the 1960s for “Honky Tonk Women” (I told you this was a perfect set list!) Next, as always, Keith took front of stage for “You Got the Silver” and the less familiar “Connection”. Mick was soon back for a great singalong with “Miss You”, followed by another of my favourites “Midnight Rambler”. He no longer whips the stage with his belt, as he did in the 1970s, but uses his jacket instead. For this song he really turns it up a notch, running up and down the walkway into the crowd singing the chorus again and again. Next another great classic “Start Me Up”.

stones3The next song “Paint It Black” always gets me. For me, the perfect Stones song with Ronnie Wood playing electric sitar bringing back memories of seeing Brian Jones on TV sitting cross-legged with his own sitar. Now I knew we were on the home strait. The stage turns dark red and the familiar chants of “Sympathy for the Devil” start to fill the night air. Another great crowdpleaser. They close with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.

Next another magic moment. The Anfield crowd spontaneously sing their anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. The band seemed to allow them time to complete it before they return to play “Gimme Shelter” and finish the show, as always, with “Satisfaction”. The perfect end to another great concert by “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World”. After a short time queueing we are back on our bus and of to Lime Street. Till the next time.stones2

Setlist: Street Fighting Man; 19th Nervous Breakdown; Get Off of My Cloud; Tumbling Dice; I Wanna Be Your Man; Out of Time; You Can’t Always Get What You Want; Living in a Ghost Town; Honky Tonk Women; You Got the Silver (Keith vocals); Connection (Keith vocals); Miss You; Midnight Rambler; Start Me Up; Paint It Black; Sympathy for the Devil; Jumpin’ Jack Flash.

Encore: Gimme Shelter; (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Thanks to Lisa for the photographs and to Wikimedia Commons for the image of Lime Street Station.

Status Quo Stockton Globe Theatre 3 March 2022

Status Quo. A band I have a long, enduring history and friendship with. A night of nostalgia and emotionSTATUS TIX on many fronts. I will recount these below.

The Venue. Stockton Globe is a legendary theatre. I remember hearing of it in the late 60s and the early 70s. Many, many great bands played there before it closed: The Globe is a Grade II listed Art Deco theatre, in Stockton-on-Tees, England. From the 1950s to the 1970s the Globe was a premier venue hosting many famous acts, such as Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Cilla Black, Lonnie Donegan, Cliff Richard and Chuck Berry. The Beatles twice played at the Globe, the first on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. As late as the 1970s, bands such as Mud, Showaddywaddy and the Bay City Rollers played there. Whilst the theatre played host to these famous bands, it was also a cinema. One strange coincidence, the guy a few seats along mentioned to us: Status Quo were the final rock band to play there in December 1974, which is confirmed by Wikipedia. It is strange Francis didn’t mention this. Maybe he was not aware of the fact. The doors of the Globe closed only to re-open as a bingo venue for a few years until closing for good in 1997. However, it has recently undergone a £4 million renovation, maintaining its wonderful art decor features and reopening a few weeks ago. It holds around 3000 people. (Some of this courtesy of Wikipedia).

STATUS 3Status Quo. I must’ve seen Status Quo more than 50 or 60 times since the first time I was lucky enough to witness them close up in Sunderland Locarno in 1971. Since then I have seen them again in the Locarno, Sunderland Top Rank Suite, Sunderland Empire, graduating to Newcastle City Hall where I saw them many, many times on their annual tours, several festivals including Lincoln 1972, Reading many times (including at least one headline appearance), headlining Donington Monsters of Rock, opening Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, splitting up and reforming, and then seeing them at Whitley Bay ice Rink, the Sage Gateshead, back to the City Hall many times, open-air summer shows, Harrogate centre, the return of the frantic four at Manchester Apollo, Newcastle Arena, Birmingham NEC and so many other places over 50+ years. I love this band and their music and they never let me down. Some people view them as a “joke”. But they are a great rock ‘n’ roll band; the best UK boogie band there is.

Francis Rossi. This guy is one of my heroes. His banter with the crowd is well-known; the cheeky Cockney chappie comes through and he always has a bit crack on and joke with the audience, talking to us as if we are old friends (which of course, many of us are). Tonight is no different. He talks about being off the stage for the longest time ever because of that “dodgy cold” (his words, not mine). A few years ago, when STATUS 2Rick Parfitt sadly passed, I felt strongly that Francis should not continue without his old mate. Rick was simply the best rhythm guitarist and one man boogie machine that has ever lived. In many ways I felt the soul of the band was gone; after all it was always about those two friends together. However, I now believe he was right to continue. Francis has assembled a lineup with old and new members, which does continue the rocking soul of the band and plays tribute to Rick and his legacy. It is strange to see new people sing old favourites such as “Rain “, but somehow it works. So more power to your elbow Francis; please do keep this band going for as long as you can. The loud, rocking boogie machine which is Status Quo continues.

STATUS PROG 22Andy Bown. Andy joined Status Quo in the early 1970s and became a full member during the 1980s. He has been playing keyboards and sometimes guitar for the band for almost 50 years. As such, he is the longest serving member after Francis.It was great to see him coming up front alongside Francis and the others. He was up front more this time than usual, I think, which is a good thing; it felt right seeing him up and more in the spotlight. Andy was, of course, a member of the classic 60s band The Herd, alongside Peter Frampton; who produced a wonderful trio of singles; the quite strange, psychedelic, proto-Gothic “Paradise Lost” and “From the Underworld”, along with the much more pop oriented “I Don’t Want Our Loving to Die”. Now wouldn’t it be great if Andy sang one of those songs with Status Quo? What do you think Francis?

The Performance. It was as good as ever. The set list was predictable, but so what! Yes, they started with the usual “Drone” intro, followed by “Caroline” and finished with “Rockin’ All over the World”. In between they played the usual mix of old and new, four from the latest album, some very old tracks such as “Softer Ride”, a medley of greatest hits, “In the Army Now”, “Down Down”, and others. The place was packed, which I found quite surprising to be honest; the fan base continues to be strong, all decked in denim and STATUS 1Quo patches. And they were loud, very LOUD: great! Sadly, but understandably, everyone stood up. We were right down the front but I couldn’t see much from my wheelchair with everyone standing around me. But such is life. The encore was “Paper Plane”. Status Quo were simply first-class, as good as ever; everyone strolled out of the theatre into the cold, dark night; happy and satisfied. Another great night with an old friend and a great band. Happy days.

Oh, and a special mention for the excellent support act Laurence Jones, who performed a fine set of blues rock, finishing with an excellent version of Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”.

Setlist: Caroline; Rain; Little Lady; Softer Ride; Beginning of the End; Hold You Back; Backing Off; Get Out of My Head; What You’re Proposing / Down the Dustpipe / Wild Side of Life / Railroad / Again and Again; Mystery Song; The Oriental; Cut Me Some Slack; Liberty Lane; In the Army Now; Roll Over Lay Down; Down Down; Whatever You Want; Rockin’ All Over the World

Encore: Paper Plane

Many thanks to Jackie the photographer and Chris for turning out late to help get me into my bed for the evening, my ears still ringing and memories of Quo swirling through my head.

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.

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.

Bell + Arc Sunderland Locarno 1971

bell 1

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!

bell 2

“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).

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

Ducks Deluxe Marquee club London 20 June 1975

ducks marqueeI am now at the point of adding entries to my blog, when I suddenly remember a concert from many years ago that I have yet to write about. This comes about for two reasons. Firstly, I created the blog by working systematically through my tickets and programmes. Secondly, however, this means that I missed concerts along the way if I did not have a ticket or a programme or a strong memory of the gig. So every now and then one pops into my mind. This gig, is one such example. Some of these are already listed briefly in a post entitled “Other Memories”. But now is the time to write about those other memories!

This gig was the night before a group of us went to see Elton John (with strong support from the Beach Boys and Eagles, among others) at Wembley Stadium. I drove down to London early with a friend in my small red MG Midget sports car and we were staying at a friend’s flat in Acton. He had just moved to London and we were keen to go down and see how he was getting on in the big city. He would regularly go to the Marquee Club, which made us very jealous, as it was a legendary venue from the 1960s onward. The image above, courtesy of Picachord via Wikimedia Commons, shows the site of the original club in Wardour Street. 

“The Marquee Club was a music venue first located at 165 Oxford Street in London, when it opened in 1958 with a range of jazz and skiffle acts. Its most famous period was from 1964 to 1988 at 90 Wardour Street in Soho, and it finally closed when at 105 Charing Cross Road in 1996, though the name has been revived unsuccessfully three times in the 21st century. It was always a small and relatively cheap club, located in the heart of the music industry in London’s West End, and used to launch the careers of generations of rock acts. It was a key venue for early performances by bands who were to achieve worldwide fame in the 1960s and remained a venue for young bands in the following decades. It was the location of the first-ever live performance by the Rolling Stones on 12 July 1962.” (Wikipedia, accessed 28 June 2021)

ducks1And so it was that I, and two friends (who shall remain nameless for reasons which will become obvious); one from Sunderland who had come down to London with me, and another who had recently moved to Acton, went along to savour the delights of the Marquee Club and the pub rock band Ducks Deluxe. I had heard of Ducks Deluxe, although I had never seen them before and I had also heard of the developing pub rock scene, which saw new rock, blues and country based bands playing small clubs and pubs across the capital. This was offering a welcome alternative to seeing our heroes and idols in massive arenas, such as Earls Court (where I had recently seen Led Zeppelin) and Wembley Stadium (where I was about to see Elton John, the following day). The pub rock genre took music back to the basics, back into the pubs and clubs, and back to the people.

I was quite surprised how small the Marquee Club was and how ordinary the entrance appeared. It was a small door and frontage in Wardour Street, Soho. Nevertheless, it was exciting to become part of the London scene, even if only, for one night. I was also surprised that the venue was far from packed. We arrived early to catch the support band and waited for Ducks Deluxe to take the stage. 

“One of the first pub rock bands, the Ducks played basic American-style blues and boogie with remarkable panache and thorough disregard for convention. They were hugely popular but their records sales did not compare with their live success. Nevertheless, they had a heavy influence on the English punk scene that was right around the corner before their members went on to found other far more prominent bands like Graham Parker & the Rumour, the Motors and the Tyla Gang.” (Ducks Deluxe site, accessed 28 June 2021)

I recall Ducks Deluxe performance as being a mix of country rock and rock ‘n’ roll, led by the guitarist Martin Belmont, who had been a roadie for Brinsley Schwarz. This was at the time of their second album Taxi To The Terminal Zone. However, I was not to see the full performance by Ducks Deluxe that evening. As the evening progressed, my friend who had come down to London with me, disappeared into the toilets. He was later to reappear, telling us that he was not feeling well and that he had taken a tablet which later, he admitted, was probably some (presumably bad) acid (that is, LSD). He soon became very unwell to the extent that we were concerned enough to call for an ambulance. The ambulance soon arrived and we were taken to a nearby hospital (I don’t recall which one). The doctors soon recognised the problem, and told us not to worry and that he would soon be okay. However, we spent the whole night in the hospital while he shouted for me, asking for help. By the time the morning came he was okay, discharged from hospital, and we made our way back to Acton for a few hours sleep before leaving for Wembley ducks2Stadium and the Elton John concert (a story which I have already blogged on).

And so, that was my introduction to the Marquee Club, pub rock and London nightlife. Quite fun looking back, although quite worrying at the time. Ducks Deluxe were, from what I saw, excellent. This was, in a way, the start of things to come for me. The following year I would see the Sex Pistols for the first time and my eyes would be opened to a new form of rock music, born out of the likes of Ducks Deluxe and the pub rock scene. “Nostalgia for an age yet to come” (Buzzcocks, 1978). Happy days.