Sunday, 1 March 2020

Bulls Head Bob Mar 2020 - GROUP INSTRUMENTALS OF THE 60's, not adapted by Jeff Lynne.

Howdeedoo Maties,

Well we've had some weather haven't we?   you watch, in a couple of months they'll announce a hose pipe ban.   Of course if the water companies hadn't stolen all the natural water to make more money then the old rivers wouldn't have silted and dried up everywhere which, in turn would have permitted the massive downpours we have suffered to flow through the river systems and out to sea.    It's not simply climate change, its unending greed and million pound bonuses for the fat cats who have created a lot of the damage.  When I was a kid you could swim in the River Cole now you'd be lucky to see any water in it at all.   But those were better, honest times.

Once in a while there are instrumental records that get into your head and then the charts and don't leave for a while, however, in the 60's there were more instrumentals in the charts than at any other decade.  It's probably because of the electrification of guitars which had become the instrument of the youth of the day.  The Shadows had their first hit with Apache in 1960, I read recently that they were the first "proto-surf rock band" whatever that means.  I would argue that, as we Brits didn't surf in the 60's let alone swim in the freezing cold waters of GB except for the last week of July and first week of August,
that assumption is a tad wide of the mark.    Nonetheless The Shads were our "go to" band for instrumentals. The surf assumption is probably based on the fact that US act Santo and Johnny's "Sleepwalk" (1959) was played on the pedal steel guitar which of course had that Hawaian feel and Hank was the master of  the tremelo making his Strat sound like a hawaian guitar.

There were many orchestral instrumentals from films and TV series that I wont count in this blog and I'm only counting hits by Groups here and although there were many more, these are the ones that really stood out for me.

Newly formed groups were beginning to widen their horizons musically and of course every group had their own version of Hank Marvin who would be busting at the gills to show how good he was and attract a few of the girls in the audience, so there was a hunt to find your own piece of music to transform into an instrumental with a beat. 

One of the first of those that attracted my and many others attention was a record by Nero and The Gladiators called "Entry of The Gladiators".  This band had been formed in London just after returning to the UK from Italy where two of them had been members of The Cabin Boys, backing Tommy Steeles brother Colin Hicks.  They wore gladiator clothing that they had bought from a sale of stage wear from the film Quo Vadis.

There was a follow up 45 too "Hall of the Mountain King" and Joe Moretti was bought in as lead guitarist, Moretti would later go on to play the solo on British rock anthem Shakin All Over.    I think we all played this instrumental, and not too long ago some guy wrote in announcing that it had been a young Jeff Lynne who had adapted it, that of course is plain Bollocks although Jeff probably believes he did. 

American guitarist Duane Eddy had preceded these bands by having an instrumental in the British charts as far back as 1958 with Rebel Rouser followed by The Peter Gunn Theme and specialised his tunes to be played on the lower strings of his guitar, normally a Gretsch Country Gent or something big and horrible.  I was not a fan.
They called him The Rebel Rouser but when I saw him live at The Cedar Club I said to myself that I shouldn't be predjudiced because he could be stupendous, after all he'd been around a long time but I thought he was average at best, he didn't Rouse any Rebel in me and was never one of my guitar heroes, his sax player was incredible though.   Eddy wasn't a guitarists guitarist by any means but I did realise his great value a little later in that because of the simplicity of the tunes he played a major role in encouraging those who were learning because of, at the end of a couple of hours practice, you couldn't play his tunes you were never gonna learn!  

Having said all that The Peter Gunn Theme written by Henry Mancini is still played by bands today including Mr Jeff Beck and occasionally me too when I'm playing to Bikers.  It is a dramatic tune to play and hypnotically heavy for a band to get into so perhaps I've been wrong about him all these years...well maybe just for this one tune, so thanks Duane.   He is still performing today!!

The Surfaris 1962
Now this was definitely "proto plasm surf dudeastic rock at its surfiest man"
I just loved this and so did every drummer on the scene as they featured so heavily in it with its surftastic pounding floor tom-tom throb.  The track opens with someone laughing and shouting "Wipe Out" then they let the drummer out of the cage and..whoosh! bedlam for 2.30 minutes.   The guitarists would have worked out a stage routine of holding their guitars at certain angles at the many breaks in the tune as was the way we did things then without a hint of embarrassment at all, after all, the girls would think you looked the part, Percy the Perfect Pop Star.

It became the opening song for the iconic Friday night rock show "Ready Steady Go", the weekend starts here, great stuff, full of youthful vitality.  The Surfaris looked like nerds.

Joe Meek became a household name along with The Tornadoes after releasing this Instrumental worldwide hit starting with whirling special sound effects and then feeding in the music through the whooshing and gurgling.  Written, imagined and recorded by Joe Meek this record flew up the charts both in the UK and the USA both reaching No1.   The clavioline was the featured instrument throughout the tune with a short bridge break on guitar.   It was considered something dynamically new in the sound field but the 1961 hit Runaway by Del Shannon had a clavioline playing the instrumental solo and no-one mentioned how revolutionary it was then.    

The Tornadoes were, in effect, Joe Meeks studio session musicians and included Clem Cattini and Alan Caddy, both original members of The Pirates.   The bass player Heinz was Meeks love interest and he promoted him as a solo act with the song "Just Like Eddy" he was replaced by Brian Gregg who was the third member of the original Pirates to hop on the Tornadoes satellite.

The Tornadoes made a good living for many years from this record.  Sadly Joe Meek killed himself.

1962 could be considered the zenith of Instrumental hits and this one was a
blast to play especially with the run down sequence on the guitar neck where you could pose like a local hero.   This hit had a great sound to it, rich and warm with hints of mechanical tremelo pulsating through the entire track as supplied by a Fender Rhodes piano. The middle eight bars were filled with brash guitar which changed the whole atmosphere before returning to the half note, two string riff.  I recall learning this at a practice with one of my early groups, we loved it.

It was a hit for American band, The Chantays who had the all-american boy appearance that made them all look around 30 years of age.   

I believe this band is still functioning at functions!!

B Bumble and The Stingers got us all rocking with this amazingly good instrumental "Nut Rocker" which was an adaptation of "Flight of the Bumble Bee" by Rimsky Korsakov.   Once again it was recorded by a trio of session men in Louisiana.  

It was a boogie woogie adaptation through and through.  It has been a real evergreen piece of music and was latterly recorded by Emerson Lake and Palmer.    They must have felt "In the Moog" for that hohoho.

It wasn't adapted by Jeff Lynne.

Not to be outdone, Birmingham group Second City Sound had a piano based minor hit with "Tchaikovsky One" in 1966. yet another reworking of a classical piece of work.
In 65 we were all playing a different style of music and I for one had no interest and never saw them live but they did have a couple of follow up singles.  This wasnt written by Jeff Lynne either.

There were many, many instrumental groups around, both in the UK and American with The Ventures being their big band.  However, they never reached the worldwide success of The Shadows, during the early sixties, during 61 to 63 they had 13 singles chart successes and two number one LPs. By far the best instrumental band of all time.   What finished that instrumental phenomenon was the arrival The Beatles in September 1962, once they arrived everything changed and instrumentals went out of the window, although the Fabs did record one instrumental for Magical Mystery Tour themselves and that was "Flying", a bit of a throw away tune really and not anything I rate.

I really believe that the amount of instrumentals through those early 60's years were the basis for the mammoth British guitarists who followed in the later 60's but had all been raised on a healthy diet of instrumentals with which they could hone their skills and Hank Marvin, the best of the best.   I was in the Shadows fan club and went to see them anytime I could.  It upsets me when Hank is berated by some pimply youth these days.  It all had to start somewhere and Hank was the man who did it, bearing in mind he was only 17 at the time of Apache, the worlds greatest group instrumental.

FINALLY...Not Adapted by Jeff Lynne
On the ELO website there is an article about Jeff Lynne suggesting that he adapted Tchaikovskys Swan Lake to a beat tune when in his teenage band The Andicaps in the 60's......once again absolute bollocks.  "Saturday Night at the Duckpond" was an instrumental by Bristol band The Cougars who adapted swan lake, the record was actually banned because music critics said it was "a travesty of a major classical work".  Jeff has indeed written some great songs but Mozart he aint.  Just to keep the record straight you understand?

OK guys, have a lovely weekend and hopefully March will be a beautiful month of spring flowers and the like, well, after the current storm has passed!
Take Care

Copyright:  Bullsheadbob

Saturday, 1 February 2020


Good Grief!

Hello world!!  

It would appear that I have upset some people around the world by not including them in my salutations from the opening paragraph of the last blog.  So as well as the other countries I mentioned already, I would like to say "hello maties" to New Zealand, Finland, Spain, France, Russia and Ukraine (Zdravstvuyte druz'ya), and lastly Argentina...Hola!  

A couple of months back I did a piece on a chance discovery by a friend, of a CD copy of Moody Blues R&B powerhouse bassist, Clint Walker's biography,"My Life, The Waltz", written under his real name of Albert Eccles. I asked if anyone could give it a good home and I would try to pass it on. 

So I'm pleased to say that my recent contact with Argentina was through an email from Joaquin Jovier, a fan of the blog, The Moody Blues and Brumbeat saying he has a collection of memorabilia and was in contact by email with Clint shortly before Clint's death... but never managed to get a copy of the autobiography.  He asked if I could send him a copy of the CD.   

I am not the owner of the disc in question and I don't want to get into into sending copies of anything out but
have contacted Bob Styler, all round good guy and Brumbeat musician who is currently performing with The Transporters, who has the disc and he has very kindly sent it to me to pass on to you. 

However, Joaquin, I have tried replying to your email but it appears that your email address doesn't accept replies so please try again with an address I can post this off to.  

I'm so pleased that this will be going to a fan of probably the best R&B group that came out of Birmingham in the 60's alongside The Spencer Davies Group. We were blessed in the Gritty City with hard music and soulful singers like Denny Laine and Steve Winwood who were just head and shoulders above the other vocalists of the day.  It was a fantastic music environment, bands in every pub and success waiting on every doorstep....or so we all thought.

More on that in the next blog maybe.
I bought myself a Christmas gift back in October, the incredibly affordable 12 string electric guitar from Harley Benton but, as it was for Christmas, I left it in its box unplayed till Christmas day.   

Harley Benton, the store brand of musical instrument mega store Thomann Germany, launched their budget guitars on the
market a couple of years back and no-one really took much notice of them, including me, after all its just a budget guitar for starters right?    Not quite, is my answer to that.   In certain cases they are more "creators of opportunity" for those who don't have thousands of pounds to spend.  In my case I wanted to own and play, if only for a couple of songs, an electric 12 String but other options start from around 450 up to 5000 pounds and I didn't feel comfortable with paying a lot for it but naturally wanted some quality for my money to boot!  My eyes first alighted on this particular Harley Benton whilst surfing the net one day and when I saw the price of 200 pounds I thought it was a misprint or probably the guitar would be unplayable and you got what you paid for.
However, I thought it was worth taking a gamble to buy this budget 12 string because after all, if it was no good for the stage I could use it just for recording purposes 
where the distinctive sound of an electric 12 string was needed.

I was mega pleased when I first opened the guitar box (which was not packed particularly well I have to add) because the guitar itself was immediately pleasing to the eye.  There is no hiding the fact that it looks very much like a Rickenbacker, a hollow body guitar, very light and although the headstock appears gigantic, in comparison to the small body, my fears of it being a "neck diver" were quickly diminished.   It is nicely balanced, has a neck action that was really beyond my expectations and was in tune and playable directly out of the box.   The overall finish was impressive with nice bindings around the body and the F sound hole too.  I played a solid Fender 12 string a couple of times in the 60's and this felt just the same.  This has a wider neck that a Ricky, thank goodness.

I had been prepared to be disappointed with making a cheap choice but found myself breaking into a nice smile as I started playing it.   The pick ups are good
and there is a reasonable tonal range from the tone pots themselves.   It doesn't have the exact Ricky Ring to it but enough to fulfil all my needs.  I shall be changing the cheap strings but nothing more.     

It did have a couple of tiny cosmetic blemishes but none that make any difference.  One particular cosmetic deficiency is that, if you look inside the F hole you can see traces of the varnish spray inside the guitar body, this recognised blemish features in most of the on line reviews so maybe in the future, if it becomes a trendy guitar one day, it will be a sign of authenticity.....stranger things have happened at sea!!

I don't have an answer to that because my precise need was catered for by this guitar which happened to be massive value for money, and it's a far better choice than buying direct from China, even though these guitars are made there, they are under licence to Thomann so at least there is some level of product control.   I wouldn't have looked at this brand of guitar to buy a principal instrument for stage use I have to say, but neither would I have looked for an Epiphone or a Squier Affinity.  I'm not "dissing" the brands, it's personal choice but it's really the beginners market that HB are at right now, however, they are producing better instruments further up the price range but essentially giving the beginners a good product for the price and that can't be bad can it?  They are the 60's Watkins Rapier of the day.

I think I have got a great deal for little money, the guitar does what it says for next to nothing in real terms.   So if you are a Beatles fan you could get so much enjoyment from duplicating the George Harrison sound without breaking the bank.   If you were willing to pay the extra Four Thousand Pounds to get a real Ricky I doubt you would be able to distinguish a big difference in a live band setting between the two guitars so you could protect your bank account and have some fun at the same time.

Now then The Byrds, "All I really Wanna Do".....
My mate said that playing a 12 string was the quickest way to empty a room!
another said "I bet you play "Stairway" in secret......Not a Chance!

VALENTINES DAY OK Its Valentine Day this month and being an old romantic I am taking Mrs Bob for a 46th wedding anniversary ROCK weekend break to Gibraltar!, "Oh you old softie Bob"....not really, its a lot cheaper than buying concert tickets these days.   I thought it would be interesting to be there on BREXIT Day.   So if you are reading this on publishing day, I will be "Your Brummie at the BREXIT Front".  

Be nice to the one you're with.....


Copyright Bulls Head Bob


Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Bulls Head Bob Jan 2020 . Happy New Year. The tale of two Bobs, Bob on BOB WATKINS The Wild Cherries

Woo Hoo, Its 2020!

So firstly a Happy New Year to all you Brummies around the world, the regular readers of the Blog in the UK, USA, Japan, Australia, Germany, Holland, Canada, Africa and to my overseas Brumbeat mates and other friends too.

I played my first gig in 1960, I never thought I would be alive to see this year when I was a teenager.  Swingin Sixties, Die young and have a good looking corpse was my phrase of the day.  Live fast, explore the unknown, put yourself in bad company to see the other side of life.
So uninformed were we, it never occurred to me at all during my youth that in the music biz everyone around you wanted a piece of the action, to get a slice of the pie whether it be as a "friend" or whatever.  I guess that was the beauty of youth when musical ambition was greater than anything else at all....the top of the pile was to have a recording contract and see your name on a piece of vinyl "Where do I sign?".

It was a HUGE step up the ladder when you were in competition with so many good bands about in Birmingham during the 60's, the zenith in quantities of groups.

Well here I am now, turned 70.  That idea of a dead but good looking corpse
all disappeared and I now fully embrace the gargoyle look.   I've done all the recording stuff and tolerated unmerited egos which now are things that amuse me.  Gladly though, I am still playing and probably enjoying it all as much without having to go through all that teen angst, these days the punters marvel at how someone who should be in a grave is still stomping across the stage, outplaying most of the youthful musicians around.    Its a paradise, a dream I never knew could exist but am thankful for the privilege.   I doubt if I will be still at it at the beginning of the next decade but you never know.

Being in a band in a large city like Birmingham always started out with playing with people from your own school or area, in my case Hall Green.    Across the other side of the city were other like minded musical aspirants were struggling through the hours of practising The Shadows instrumentals, honing their skills on the new fangled electric guitars.    One of those people was:

Bob, a little older than I, was born in 45 and largely raised in "West Smethwick" as his mother insisted on calling it.  His musical journey started after seeing a skiffle group playing for the 6th form school Christmas party. 
He and some mates formed their own Skiffle Group and he was hooked. It didn't take long before electric guitars got into their hands and they gave themselves the name of The Sabres, and like hundreds of other kids would listen to The Shadows new instrumental, learn it in the afternoon and play it the same night in front of some youth club audience. 
Although young, us pioneers became adept at navigating the fretboard copying Hanks or Bruce or Jet Harris individual parts, learning and remembering melody lines and chord patterns and generally honing our craft.  I wouldn't like to guess how many "The Sabres"
there were in Birmingham either but you can bet there were a few in those early days, most not making it out of the front room of their house.  This one did and got bookings 

As happens, one of The Sabres decided he didn't want to do that any longer but on leaving recommended a replacement...........and it was a Girl!!!  Girls playing guitars? unheard of in my part of Brum although it was later on I heard about Meghan Davis(Applejacks) in Solihull.  
The female replacement for his area was

Christine Hill, who was a local guitar whizz and knew all the chords including Barre chords and gladly passed on her knowledge to him.   What a stroke of luck.
The photo of The Sabres with Christine is so reminiscent of the dance halls we played in the 60's. Christine was not only a great replacement, she had the look, a Burns sonic, a wealth of musical knowledge and also got the band gigs.!  That was like striking the mother lode.

During the following months, with growing confidence and ability Bob persuaded his Mum to buy him a Fender Stratocaster, (Now I know why she insisted coming from West Smethwick.. it was obviously the more affluent area of Smethwick).   Bob was now fully kitted out with a beautiful Strat, watkins copycat, selmer amp, winklepicker shoes and stage dress, everything was in a forward motion. However, good luck doesn't always last though and his mentor Christine left the band for fresher fields.  

The band carried on and did all the usual gigs in Brum for the next 2 years then split up which was "devastating" for him.  In those days being in a band had a different set of rules than today.  You had grown up musically together, had some hilarious times and many bad times, experienced playing on stage together for the first time.  It was an emotional, passionate thing, a bit like losing your girlfriend.

THE WILD CHERRIES Bob played on half-heartedly with a few other groups,as you could do in the day, and was on the verge of giving it all up when he got a call from great bassist Tiny Tim, ex Starliners, a mountain of a man whose playing was unequalled, as was his size.
He asked Bob if he was interested in joining The Wild Cherries as lead guitarist, a group fronted by Nicky James.  Also in the line up was Bev Bevan, Phil Akrill and Tony Lewis.   Nicky James had an incredible voice, fabulous stage presence and the women loved him but anyone who knew him would and could tell you many stories about anything he got involved with, including me.    Bob Watkins thought he had made it at last, in a great band with good players getting good gigs, it was living the life he dreamed of but with Nicky at the helm you could almost guarantee that it would go "tits up" at some time or other and of course the band folded and Nicky moved on.   Its the cruelest of businesses that takes all your aspirations away in a heartbeat.   Last week I was speaking with a well respected musician who knew Nicky in his later life and he had asked him about The Wild Cherries, Nicky said he couldn't remember them.  I think that's selective memory rather than loss of memory.

Bob however had the good fortune to come across ex Brumbeats vocalist, Graham Ashford or, as he was known then, Buddy Ash and continued playing with him on the circuit in the Buddy Ash Sound till making money for a living or "getting a job" became more important.   

The most opportune time to have made it, in a band in the music biz was during the 60's, Bob nearly did, as so many others nearly did but disco had started to rear its ugly head and gigs were disappearing faster than you could think.   The group game was up.

"To everything there is a season"

Bob and this Bob too were the most fortunate of people because we both experienced the best time of all to have been playing, it was all new, undiscovered ways to play the electric guitar, to extract sounds that had never been heard before.  Everytime something new happened it was a FIRST and we were the inventors.  We have something to be proud of, all us musicians of the early days, even drummers! hoho........  

We lived in the best times ever, as musicians experienced the thrill of the pop generation surging forward and we were the tip of the spear.   We might have gathered a few years but have a lot to be proud of and of course, quite a few are still playing and........if you're interested

Bob still has his gear!!

My thumb has now recovered sufficiently for me to getting back to the music.
Thanks for your emails.

Take Care


Copyright Bullsheadbob

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Bulls Head Bob 2019. Bobs Thumb. Christmas Party time in Birmingham.

Ho Ho Ho,   

Happy Christmas you Brummies, mates, amigos, amici, freunde, Japanese loft boys and lastly Feminists against Femininity.  Such is the diverse readership of this blog.    Happy Christmas to John at Brumbeat.Net for letting me lodge in his
Brumbeat Towers.  AND... a last christmas greeting to the Accident and Emergency ward who, last week, encased my left hand in a cast as I stupidly broke my thumb!!   I never realised what you can't do with a strapped up left hand although I do know its put a stop to my guitar activities for a while.  The band aren't too happy about the loss of potential earnings over Christmas but a Happy Christmas to them too, even the bass player who thinks I should cast off my cast and suffer for my art but bass players are always the least compassionate and the first who want to be paid, or is that the drummer?  sometimes they morph into each other.

It has also curtailed my typing abilities quite severely so this unfortunately isn't going to be a rambling Christmas issue which is a shame as I have a nice piece about a couple of Brummies who featured on the Brumbeat scene that I will now have to delay to the new year, hand permitting.  So sorry about that but I will start typing it from tomorrow so should be ready for the Jan 2020 first blog of the year.

Its a bit of a sorry Christmas story in the City this year too.   As a kid in the 50's the arrival of Father Christmas to Lewis' Department store was a great event and was probably the biggest draw.   Moreover it was the start of Christmas for many families, the line to see Santa in his grotto was enormous.    The House of Fraser store took over from them 8 years ago and the grotto was fabulous, however this year it too has fallen foul of of a cash shortfall and the grotto has been cancelled.   The question that enters my head is whats going to happen to all those Christmas elves in the North Pole who've been making toys all year long?     Its all a bit like Miracle on 34th Street.    

I don't like the German Christmas Market either, overpriced food and novelties.  So you might want to get yourself down to the underpass on Suffolk Street where the Birmingham City Social Christmas market is situated, and has a nice family feel to it, there are many events there featuring Brummie musicians and live bands.  It is open now and will be there until Dec21.  Every Friday there is a "Buskers Battle" featuring Brums finest buskers against each other to be crowned Brums Best Busker, I suggested that my bass player could participate.

The former Jamies Italian Restaurant overlooking the Bull Ring will have its doors open anew as a winter wonderland of quirky Christmas foods and 80.000 christmas lights known as "Once Upon a Time in Birmingham" and will feature a host of Christmas activities and "Carol-Oke" sing-a-longs etc.  Check the Birmingham Mail for details about the opening date.

Christmas time was always a big earner for Brumbeat bands in the 60's with so many places to play at, I loved it although it meant we only got Christmas Day off and would be solidly booked up for the rest of the month.  It was great to see the audiences fully into the spirit of things.

I shall certainly be enjoying being with all the family, some will be there courtesy of the wonders of the internet which is marvellous for us all.

Oggies Christmas Card.
It has been a bit of a tradition to send a Christmas card to my old mate Oggie who hates Christmas and who sometimes resides in California for the Christmas
season, the cards have normally featured ladies with little Christmas Apparel about their bodies which he doesn't hate.   My fiends at Feminists against Feminism have submitted their photo suggesting I should make a stand for equality so, just for you cuties.....Happy Christmas Oggie.!

and a Happy Christmas to everyone who have wasted some of their lives reading the Bulls Head Bob blog.   I sincerely hope that you and yours have a great Christmas season.   

copyright:  Bullsheadbob

Friday, 1 November 2019

Bulls Head Bob Nov 2019. Me and Mrs Bob at the Movies "YESTERDAY". 60's Major Influences ERIC CLAPTON IS GOD... "No he's Not!"

Gooooooooooooodness me!!

Hello people, Brummies, Chummies and Mummies and of course you Musicians dipping your toes into the pool of nostalgia.

Being an old romantic, I recently took Mrs Bob out to the Movies or "Gooin to the Picture House" as we still refer to it because it sounds great in a Brummie accent......  "Taking her out? You old softie Bob" I can hear you say, well maybe I am but for the past three months she's been busy digging out the cellar to install an indoor pool like Bonio from U2.   
for the lady in your life

She's made full use of that wheelbarrow she got for her birthday a few years back too, so money well spent there.  To make her task easier I invested in a new Spear and Jackson "ladies spade" in blue to go with her eyes and, on top of that, borrowed a sturdy piece of rope and a plank so she could haul the barrow loads of earth up the steps from the cellar, through the kitchen and up to the neighbours house who want the never hurts to help out a neighbour does it? 

Being a guitarist means I can't use my own delicate hands and am excused from doing any manual work and I was naturally concerned she might be overdoing it, so in a thoughtful and supportive gesture I repositioned my rather comfy oak chair closer to the kettle, from where I could see the cellar door, to give her encouraging instructions as she emerged from the darkness every so often.  You know what, I never knew one person could sweat that much! it must be doing wonders for her health, eliminating the toxins, so I imagine she will be thanking me when she sees how much weight she's lost.  However, the real advantage of moving my chair of course is the added bonus that she wouldn't have to pause to make me a cuppa?  A ladies spade doesn't hold as much earth as the proper sized one so she has to dig twice as much and it would be unfair of me to break her stride wouldn't it?

So anyway, I hosed her down in the backyard and off we went to the local multiplex to see:

I am the very model of a grumpy old man when exposed to something I don't like and my full arsenal of discouraging words were locked, loaded and ready for use when Mrs Bob and I entered the cupboard sized cinema to watch the film "Yesterday".  With its story line revolving around an event where the world, with the exception of the odd person, forgot about The Beatles and their music.   

One person who didn't was an Asian singer/songwriter struggling for success.

I had visions of that crappy Mama Mia stuff being thrown at me but have to report that the film was FABBO!    Written by the brilliant Richard Curtis of Blackadder fame and with some great acting by the whole cast including a cameo for Ed Sheeran, the film was very funny, entertaining and kind of relived the rise of The Beatles music anew.  I laughed out loud in places.

It is great in that it renews your interest and introduces the music of, the best band that ever there was, to a whole new audience who sadly, may never have heard Beatles music if not for this.   I loved it, and I think you would too.

Bobs Christmas gift tip Number3.
Its a cracking family film too so check it out or buy it for someone for Christmas.  Its perfect for us who still use DVD players.

"No he's not, Yes he is, no he's not Jimi Hendrix is better, Jeff Beck is better than both of them"  and I won't even go into the amount of note twiddling scale expressway, speed guitarists who some say are better than all of them, "no they're not, yes they are no they're not"  say another faction of guitar addicts
ad infinitum.   It's healthy for music and diversity and it opens pathways to creativity, however it can negatively downgrade and degrade the music that was the root cause for that creativity in the first place and Eric Clapton finds himself in that invidious situation a lot of the time.  On the one hand we have the commercial Clapton with the dreadful Cream debut "Wrapping Paper" or "Wonderful Tonight" which may have been written with great sentiment and love but for me, would have been better if he had just made it a private recording and given it to Patti Harrison as a love token and not inflicted it on the world.  It ranks alongside "Lady in Red" for slushy, middle of the road pop sentiment.

The other side of that equation is as Eric Clapton the ballsyiest blues and R n' B guitarist and innovator of guitar style in the 60's that continues as the base of all rock songs.  There was no-one to touch him and with the release of the famous John Mayal "Beano" LP he single handedly changed and/or massively improved the playing of a generation of British guitar players who learned all his solos note for note and wore out a few copies of the LP doing it.    On that recording he insisted that he played at the volume he played at in the clubs and it was the technicians problem to sort it out, he did every guitarist a favour that day, although the producer has claimed total credit for that sound.   The Gibson Les Paul became the 'must have' instrument and 50 watt Marshall amps flew off the shelves.  The only person who had done that before in the new age of electric instruments was Hank Marvin with his stratocaster and VOX amp.   
I can't think of a British guitarist since then who has had that impact.  None.
These two icons of British music were 'Pioneers', laying the foundations for generations to copy and copy they did!
Eric Clapton wasn't just a blues player either. 

The depth of the mans quality doesn't shine any brighter that his playing and solo on The Beatles "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".   Without being given any prior warning was asked by George Harrison who was giving him a lift into London if he would come into the studio then and there and play on the track.
George had a red sunburst Les Paul in the boot of his Rolls that he gave to Eric to use for the session and its sound coupled with the capture of Eric's moment of creative feeling, urgency and immediacy was a spot of magic and don't you forget it.  

The style of song George had written wasn't in Clapton's style, written in a descending A minor rundown Harrison wanted the sound of a weeping guitar
and Clapton nailed it straight away.  For sure it is one of the most enduring and recognisable pieces of guitar work in The Beatles catalogue and Eric's selection of notes and phrasing truly conveyed a feeling of sadness.  As a teen I spent hours lying on my back listening to it at some volume absorbing and copying his touch as he swooped from note to note, truly amazing piece of work.  Add that to his reworking of Dylan's "Don't think twice, its Alright" as performed at the Tribute to Bob Dylan Concert which was a moment of listening bliss, his guitar work was immense and the look on Steve Croppers face as he was playing said it all.

I wanted to write about him because he is not getting any younger and is suffering from ailments that don't make playing comfortable.   I recall with disgust that BB King was booed in Chicago towards the end of his life, I guess he just didn't know when to stop.  Eric has mentioned or threatened to stop touring a couple of times and I'm sure he will pick his moment to bow out gracefully.

We all know this famous picture from the 60's.   I went to see him play the same night that this photo came to the press and you know what? I was right at his feet at some club and I could swear there was some spots of black paint on his fingers?  Self promotion is the best way forward.    Thank you Eric for a million hours of listening pleasure.   

My recent 12 string aquisition is still it is case waiting for Christmas morning when I shall free it from its cardbox box.  

World mania is alive and well and going strong it would appear to me.
Dangerous Idiot in the good ol" USA walking away from the Kurds
after opening a Trump Tower in Izmir, Turkey.   Absolutely no conflict of interest there. 
Here in  Blighty we have Toffee nosed Dopes or Completely Untrustworthy oppositionists with the Devil and deep blue sea occasionally getting together to extend Brexit and when they do get a chance to talk to each other they are told that they can't talk by part time children's entertainer, Bingo Bongo Bercow, clown extraordinary under a ruling from 1604!  I'm glad he didn't have to delve too hard to find that precedent eh??     So the Brexit circus rolls on and now to divert attention from gross incompetency they are going to have another Election.  Someone will win and then put their Brexit plan forward which will be rejected by the side that lost the election
.......sleep well tonight it could get worse tomorrow.

Next months Christmas Blog promises to be GREAT!!!!

Lovings and huggings

Copyright: Bullsheadbob

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Bulls Head Bob Oct 2019. Being a guitar hero on the Cheap. Fender Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster. Harley Benton.

Hello Brummies, mates, Guitarists, music lovers, my Japanese loft-boy, ex girlfriends (well some of them).

  Well welcome to this months dollop of Brummie custard with a touch of tart rhubarb.   Isn't it great to be alive, what stories people will be telling in the years to come about this BREXIT stuff that we have been living through for the past 3 years.  The end of the month was listed as "shit or bust" but is now cancelled through lack of enthusiasm.   Watching all those clowns in Parliament is like The Mad Hatters Tea Party all shouting at the same time, Boris the Bluffer, head bullshitter in Chief,  Bercow - Celebrity wannabee and bully boy who is
paid to shout "LOUDER THAN ANYBODY ELSE", 

and no guessing who the sleepy mouse is, Jeremy Al Khoorbin, has changed his whole dialogue, only a couple of weeks back everything he said was terminated by the phrase "We demand an Election" which he doesn't want now to "Under me everything is going to be free, the NHS, prescriptions, unemployment pay to rise, free this, more that, free housing for the world.  
Till all the money has gone.   Mind you he said that about Free University last time then denied saying it at all.  I know two things, none of them are acting in our interest or wishes and none of em gives a shit.  I'm not sure if, like the Author CS Lewis, they have all been taking LSD for dessert at the heavily subsidised house restaurant menu but they're all acting like it.

So the big thing for us musos Brexit-wise is that, if we buy anything from Europe it will now be more expensive without any form of deal.  Thomann, the super, mega music European store, is German so maybe you should buy yourself something you may be watching on their site whilst you can.   I did that thing this month to be a step ahead.  More later.

I have always been a fan of shopping about for cheaper instruments and kit and one the recommendations I made in 2008 was to buy the Fender Squire Telecaster Classic Vibe for 200 quid.   It is one of the models rated to be better than Fender equivalent, I don't know about today's models of the Classic vibe as being in the same category as the first run but can say that after changing the cheap electrics, it is still a great guitar with a brilliant neck that I use frequently.  Today the price for this guitar is 350 pounds and about the same in Europe, 385 at Thomann. I was given the tip on this guitar from blog reader Tony Russell and was happy to share it with the BHB readers so thanks Tony.

The whole trick about buying and using, good, cheap guitars is NOT to be obsessed about the name on the headstock if they sound good and fill a requirement   It is certainly not necessary to pay high hundreds or thousands of pounds for a guitar if you are not planning to be a Guitar Hero, however you can become a guitar hero playing a cheap, brilliant sounding and playing guitar and this fits that bill perfectly, no-one has laughed at me whilst I play it but they are amazed by its playability.   I am not a guitar hero, I play at good venues, I own Gibsons and a Fender Strat but choose to play the Tele at times for the joy of it and have never been tempted to remove the Squier decal.  A great guitar.

Just last week, from Thomann, I bought another guitar, a the type of guitar that I have wanted to own for some time but never had a sufficient amount of cash to throw at something I would play rarely on stage or not at all and if so, only for a couple of songs. 
I wanted the brand image but wasn't too worried about the logo and I wanted a Rickenbacker 12 string to satisfy my lust to play George Harrison riffs and Byrds songs or selected other numbers that fitted this iconic electric 12 string. I am not a fan of the large bodied 330/12 variety but the 620/12 would fit my bill, however, the 620/12 is 2000 pounds or more and that is the problem.  

Because of the massive cost I was tempted to go the Aliexpress chinese guitar copying sites to buy one but knew that I would be going against all my principles on this thorny issue.   I am now pleased to say, it is now a problem solved for me.
The guitar I bought from Thomann is this:

    It is the Harley Benton C612C 12 string semi acoustic electric guitar.  It is similar in shape and image of the Rickenbacker and features a nice tear drop scratch plate.  Although it has an "in line" tuner set up and, therefore, a larger headstock than its famous counterpart it doesn't detract from the overall aesthetic.   I had seen a video of a guy previewing the guitar and importantly testing the centre of balance point and it wasn't a "neck Diver" which can oft be the problem of larger headstock.  It comes in three colours, the normal Rickenbacker red sunburst, a Paisley finish with a black scratch plate and plain black with white binding which is my preference and is a real "looker" in my opinion.   It has a solid piece of wood through the body with acoustic wings. It has two pickups with independent controls and 3 way selector switch.  Jack socket on the side of the guitar.  It doesn't have the Rick "chime" as such but it certainly has the electric sound, nice and warm from the neck pickup.

It's in the post as I write.

It costs 220 pounds!!!!!!

I have no misgivings or illusions that what I have bought is a cheap guitar and there will probably a couple of cosmetic issues with it, I have had cosmetic issues with a Gibson too so will certainly not be expecting to get anything other than what I've paid for.  It is made in China but I haven't had to go through the internet to get it, Harley Benton is Thomanns own brand. so at least there is some level of their own standards and expectations for their brand guitars.   

There are always tuning issues with 12 strings but as I only intend to use it for recording or maybe even include some tunes in the set where it is likely to be OK for 2 or 3 songs and if it does start "going south" I luckily have someone who will run it through a tuner.    I have actually bought this for my Christmas present without telling Mrs Bob, as such Im not going to open it till Christmas a risk worth taking I think?

I'm so happy about this right now, if there are issues that are worth pointing out I shall certainly do so after Christmas.  Could be a good Xmas gift for someone else too!!  

So with the two models above you could have two guitars for 500 quid that are playable and stylish, why spend more when you dont have to?  Now then, Pete Townsend used 12 strings on loads of Who tracks....yummy.  I can't wait.

THE MOVE 12 String Hits.
On a Brumbeat note, a Fender 12 string electric guitar featured quite a lot in The Move's show and their records "Night of Fear""Fire Brigade" and "Blackberry Way" particularly rang with the sound of the electric 12 string. 

The Move also featured a couple of Byrds songs in their show which the 12 string came out again "Rock and Roll Star" and they normally finished their set with "8 Miles High", amid the TV smashing and Pyrotechnic explosions.   

Off to Harry Potter world with the Bobettes this weekend, it will be magic!! 

Take Care out there you guys.

Love Bob

Copyright: Bullsheadbob

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Bulls Head Bob Sep 2019. DAVE BALL. Bob Dylans Rolling Thunder Review. Mrs Bob willing to be Temporary Prime Minister - Shocker!

Greetings Brummies, Brumbeaters, Muso's and Mates. 

Back in 2010 I had been speaking to
Dave Ball, former Brummie guitarist who had featured in Big Bertha, The Ace Kefford Stand and most famously Procol Harum and although Dave's tenure with the latter band was no more than a year he had toured the States many times and moreover, got himself on the list of great guitar solos, one that has stood the test of time in the annals of musos brains.  That solo was on Procol Harums "Conquistador" recorded live with the Edmonton Philharmonic Orchestra.  Dave quit the band during the recording of Grand Hotel as he didn't see a way forward for himself immersed in all that grandiose scoring.

The following years saw him have a short career in the Army followed by a long one as a business whizz.

He was living in Switzerland at the time and said during our chat he was thinking about getting back to playing again.   He moved back to the UK in the same year and indeed formed a couple of groups with an association to Procol. The Palers being one of them.  At the same time he started on his autobiography Half Hippie Half Man, now finished and available as an E book.  During the writing he discovered he had bowel cancer and after some lengthy and painful treatment he was declared cancer free in 2014.   Energised by this he moved to Australia where he recorded his solo album "Don't Forget Your Alligator".

Going well, I thought.

Only about a week ago did I find out that, sadly, Dave had died in 2015 from recurring cancer that he thought he'd beaten.   You fight and fight and think you won and then its back which must have been a double blow, not only for Dave but all his family too.
I can't understand how I didn't know sooner. 

You couldn't miss Dave, he was really tall, a good head and shoulders above everyone else in stature.   Like the guitarists of the 60's he had immersed himself in the blues and was one of the best. He was a really nice guy too.
He had worked at Yardley's Guitar Shop in Birmingham and was well known amongst the music community.  He related an amusing short story about working there which I now republish below.   Sad thing, great guy.  If you are not familiar with the recording of Conquistador you should give it a hearing.   

You don't get tonal qualities like that with an effects pedal young man.  
God Bless You Dave.

"I was working at Yardleys at Snow Hill in 1965 - actually in the drum department with Barry Clements and later Johnny Haynes when the guy from Kay Westworths tried to get me to leave and work at his shop for the sum of Three pounds four shillings and sixpence a week but I said no because I was already getting Four Pounds and Ten Shillings working for that annoying bugger Charlie Hewitt at Yardleys. Should have taken it really because Charlie sacked me soon afterwards because I wouldn't go home and change into a suit 'I'm not having you here looking like an imitation cowboy, go home and change or pick up your cards" which I did, pick up my cards that is..............."


Martin Scorcese is the best music film director ever and now the netflix film of Bob Dylans 1975 Rolling Thunder Review Tour is added to those previous and precious triumphs.   The biggest surprise for me was Dylan himself and the way he threw himself into a theatrical manner with such enthusiasm he adopted for this tour.  His musicianship is superb and his knowledge of music outstanding.   The quality of his band wasn't too shabby either as it had Mick Ronson (Spiders from Mars) Roger McGuinn (The Byrds) and even Joni Mitchell as part of the line up too.   It didn't appear that Mick Ronson was "at home" with this style of music and seemed, to me, to be a bit of a one trick pony playing wise.   It maybe explains one short clip where someway through the tour, Ronson says in answer to a question about Bobs thoughts on something,  "Mmm I dont know, Bob hasn't spoken to me".    

Scorceses docu-filming style is excellent and the editing fantastic.   It is interspersed with clips from the 1978 Dylan film Renaldo and Clara.   As a typical Dylan mystery teaser there are some celebrity interviews included and some of them are fictional and it leaves you to guess which is real and not which is nicely inventive.    The music is the real star and Dylans aggressive handling of his past songs was fantastic to watch.  I found it a tad slow to get into but its well worth the watch, highly recommended.  I shall be watching it again.  It would make a great Christmas gift for the Dylan lover in your life.


Mrs Bob has announced on local radio that to solve the country's woeful problem with its spineless politicians that she would be willing to take on the role of Temporary Prime Minister.  She's rushed upstairs to her "Lady Room" to get ready for the Press to make contact.   The thing is, it was a cookery show she was on when she announced it, she told me "I meant to say "and then add a stick of cinammon" but the lure of high level politics loomed out of nowhere and the PM thing came blurting out".   I don't hold out that any Press will be calling her but I set up a couple of spotlights and mic'd her up and positioned her laptop so it shows her best side.   I've asked some mates from the boozer to give her a few phone calls pretending to be the Press, asking about her manifesto, that'll keep her in a good mood and should give me plenty of time to watch replays of the mighty Villa against Everton and Crewe.

Maybe it would be a good idea to elect her though.

Keep Hall Green, Green!


Copyright.  Bullsheadbob