Thursday, 1 December 2011


"What Ho" Merrymakers, 

I'm in the Christmas mood again!!  I love it..... even muggers give you a friendly smile before pummeling you onto the ground, who could ask for more?

Once again, Birmingham City Council didn't let us down with their 'unique' choice of Christmas parade   celebrities. Darth Vader, that well known symbol of Christmas accompanied by Alvin and the Chipmunks were there to remind us of just what Christmas is all about.....

Honestly, I sometimes feel like I've landed on Mars??

I just love the tradition of Christmas and feel happy in calling it  CHRISTMAS without being put on the 'Politically Correct Gang' Wanted List for being "Christmasist".....
however, as it is Christmas I, like all others, should show extra tolerance at this festive time, so to you lovely PC'ers......

"Happy Non-Suggestive, In any Manner Whatsoever, Time of the Season that all Faiths Subscribe to (even those who think it happened in March and not December)". 

Have a great 'Seasonal Event' and make sure that Timmy and Tabitha get NO sweets or cake, I'm sure they will love you all the more for your thoughtfulness as they crunch their way through a raw parsnip.  

This is a true PC Christmas story.......I knew a 'non-female person' called Graham from this brigade, I called at his house for him one Boxing Day and his WIFE, who I had interrupted plaiting her leg hair, ordered me into the kitchen saying "He'll be with you in a moment, do sit on the floor" I sat down and waited, as instructed.   Right in front of me, the door to one of the kitchen units (a very slim but tall utility cupboard) opened and out stepped Graham, red faced.

"What the heck are you doing in that cupboard Graham" I said, with open mouthed surprise.

"I've been eating a biscuit in there so the children can't see me doing it" ......??

"Mummy? I do love the carrots hanging from our "Completely Organic Transplantion Symbol". 

Now, it goes without saying that I get inundated with Christmas gifts and greetings from the blog readers, well that is apart from everyone in Wolverhampton and ex-agents like John Singer who expect you to design and buy the card, give it to him for nothing and then have to wait for him to send it back with 30 percent ripped off.

"Happy Christmas" to my my new friend Paul Mlynarz.  Paul is a musician but
more importantly, is the main man for   I'm sure you guys remember some of those Manchester gigs and this site is worth a visit.    He generously gave me a Christmas present and, it being the season of goodwill, I wish to unselfishly share my good fortune with YOU, my cyber Brummie mates. This gift could transport you back to your early beginnings. It's........................

I can almost hear the cheering!!

I think this one is around 1963.  How we young sproggy guitarists poured over this catalogue! This particular one is the more modern version of the one I first looked at but nonetheless, there are some vintage guitars, prices and other old equipment featured in this version which I know you'll enjoy.

click here: Bobs Present (pdf format, may take a while to upload)
Hap, Happ, Happy Christmas to you all.

So, last month, without telling me, John brazenly walked into a Moody Blues concert.    Happy Christmas to you John and I know that you actually seemed to enjoy seeing them so I've bought you a special gift for when you go to see them again..... actually I've kinda spoiled you and bought one for the wife too........."Oh Bob, you shouldn't have"....blush,blush

Here's your Gifts:

Yes folks, it's:
"The Moody Snoozer"
The perfect Christmas Gift.   No more carrying your bulky camping bed with you to those Moody Blues gigs, buy your ticket, sit yourself down and 'get comatose" in your personal Moody Snoozer, you'll be asleep in no time and you'll be nice and warm.  You can even treat the kids to one each, can you imagine how jealous their friends will be on Christmas Day?  Here's a picture of some very
lucky kids doing the See Saw.

Rugged green maggot for him, vibrant yellow with leg storage flaps for her - you'll never be the odd one's out at a Moodies gig again. 

Let's try them out shall we?  Rustle, rustle Ziiiiiiiiiiip ...............

"Nights in White....."ZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz"......
perfect, worked first time.

Just need to correct something John said though - "the three original members" he mentioned should perhaps have said ONE original member. 
I mean, in those days there just weren't any Brummies who were brave enough to be called Justin?

"Yes OK", I know I started off with the right Christmas spirit and look at me now.......I've sunk to taking the Christmas 'Mick' out of the Moodies, that's not very fair is it?   Ooo all right then,

I haven't got any pictures of them so here's a nice one of the
Sally Anne..........give generously. 

FINALLY......Well there you have it, I have adopted a more 'inclusive' approach to this Christmas blog in an effort to win over minority groups who I may have neglected in the past. I wish a Happy Christmas to you Feminists, here's a feminist card I received which, if I may venture one slight criticism, appears to miss the whole Christmas 'feel' completely!! (Is it the Fem Fraternity(or is it Maternity?) oooh I dare'nt really choose one but I feel a little safer now that I've mentioned both!!)...I really like Doc Martens y'know? and those tie-dyed skirts are just so cool and fantastically original and one thing more "Aren't lentils Fun??"..........


So that's my duty done to my new feminist mates..........but of course it's Christmas and every Christmas I send Oggie a card at the end of the blog so to be 'equality minded' and taking into consideration the things that Oggie wants to see on his Christmas Card 

...Happy Christmas Oggie.

Christmas just wouldn't be the same here without it.

Yes Oggie, it's the Mk IV, high pressure 'Green Stripe' lager dispenser!!
well held by my new roadie, Stan............Happy Christmas.

So there it is.  An emotional rollercoaster of a blog for Christmas - Nice Bob, Not so Nice Bob and topped off with Nice Bob again.

Thanks to all you guys and one irate feminist for making my time in the bloggery a happy one.  It's my emotional 'shed'. Take care, keep in touch and do have a peaceful 2012.


Copyright: Bullsheadbob
or simply leave a comment if you wish.


Thursday, 10 November 2011


Roger Hill passed away this week at the age of 66.  A major part of Brumbeat history passed with him. 

A history rich in the stories of Brummie guitarists, Roger had played with many significant bands during his lifetime and NEVER STOPPED playing the guitar.   Not for him the "I've had enough of this game".  He was still playing at 65 and playing well, if anything, he had improved in certain areas but I guess that is what comes with maturity, no matter what your age is.

The Brumbeats, The Uglys, Exception, Mongrel, Fairport Convention, Chris Barber Jazz Band and lately The Old Horns were some of the bands that had featured Roger's talents.   He could be found doing gigs with his own band at gigs like the Actress and Bishop on occasional Sundays in the City centre, always drawing an appreciative crowd.

Roger had always been one of those guitarists who had a leaning to jazz, right from the very beginning.  If you wanted to know a chord, he was the guy and it came as no surprise to see him move so easily and willingly from the pop music field to jazz where he spent many years playing with Chris Barber and the great Otilie Paterson.

He got back to where he started his Rythmn and Blues days though and formed The Roger Hill Band playing occasional gigs in Birmingham.   Throughout all of his career there has always been one thing certain about Roger. He was just the nicest and most unassuming of guys.I saw Roger last play at The Roadhouse.  His show was just great and featured all the R&B and Blues standards that had been the bread and butter for groups during the Beat Group era, laced with older memories of the instrumental classic "3.30 Blues" which sounded as authentic as when he first learned it.  The highlight on that particular night for me was his interpretation of the Ray Charles classic, 'Evening" where he excelled himself.  As an old friend and fellow guitarist I found myself smiling, and at one point laughing out loud, so thrilled was I at some of his playing.

He could really lay it on when he was 'up'.

I'm sure that he's 'up' right now.  God Bless Rog.....

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Owdoo Brummies!

Firstly, thanks to the Birmingham BBBCGLM Club for the award and my induction into their Shed of Fame. It's a thrill packed blog this month, so without further ado:-      

I remember the rush of excitement at holding in my hands, the very first 7 inch vinyl single with my band's name emblazoned across it and thinking myself so lucky to now be a 'recording star', however, the feeling of first hearing that recording was hugely disappointing. I was shocked at the way the producer had made us sound - scared of overloading the UV meters we sounded nothing like we did live.  No dirty or loud sounds allowed.  There was just no emotion.

Some of those early producers really didn't give a shit and many a bands careers were shattered by bad production.  Record labels were more interested in squeezing in as many acts as possible in one day, what did they care? there were plenty of bands hungry for success.  If that wasn't bad enough, by the time you got it to this.................................................

the sound was all but a tinkle.

I could feel people in the room eye-ing me quizzicaly,  "It sounded much louder in the recording studio" I thought, not wanting to look disappointed myself. The funny thing about it was, as time wore on and it got played more, the better it sounded - now covered in scratches, the sound developed its own dirtiness and made a shit recording sound atmospheric!! what a soddin' miracle, Dansette had got it right, basic science plus time and neglect.  

Dansette owners would say things like "I've got the one with the automatic changer, two tone body and spare storage in the lid" - Almost immediately, we'd invented hi-fi bores before hi-fi was available!  - "I say, hold hard with the volume old chap"

Anyway, the music sounded like it was being played through a cheap, 3 inch eliptical speaker -and the clever thing was? we were so ignorant of 'things electrical', (unless you were a bass player), that we didn't know what a 3 inch eliptical speaker was!   Now we do, we think it's shit? which confirms my theory that - the further away you move from the purity 'of the moment' the more boring life gets. (taken from: The Useless Thoughts of Bulls Head Bob).


claimed the advertising for RCA, announcing the stereo generation was upon us...... and at my house, we had a 'Stereogram' - 3 and a half watts of Hi-Fidelity, cream coloured turntable with sliding front doors.  The 4 inch speakers were strategically placed right at the bottom of the unit, aimed at the 'lovely fitted carpet' to lessen the amount of speaker power that might physically blow us out of our armchairs.  I think that's where the word 'subwoofer' came from, because the speakers were below the level of our dog.  Tweeters were not in evidence back then unless you had a budgie on top of your stereogram.... - I thought I'd  include that incredibly original funny joke as a token of my affection to one of the countries funniest men - in fact, I announce here exclusively!!. I publicly donate it to
Ian 'Sludge' Lees....  the face of 60's Wolverhampton Groups.
 "Use it at your discretion 'Sludge, you deserve it mate".... "I'm a real fan" - Bulls Head Bob
you can use that as a quote too, how much nicer can I get? 

"BACK TO THE STORY"...(The Idle Race "The Lady who said she could Fly")
A bit like a huge pair of wooden headphones, I would lie with my head jammed below the stereo unit, or "Nice piece of Furniture" as it was also known, to try and absorb the best stereo experience, never knowing if I was actually hearing anything in stereo or not to be honest?  My sister bought me 'Axis Bold as Love" in Mono? I still stuck my head under the thing though, as I doubt whether my Stereogram would have actually made a discernable difference.  My Dad used to listen to Winston Churchill's Speeches on his set of Long Playing Records - Once he put one of them on, there was no getting out of the room.  There were four of us kids, we had formed an escape committee and started to dig a tunnel behind the settee.

Of course in the 60's we thought we were on the cutting edge of Great British modernity and we were......... gone were the days when the likes of Johnny Neal and Pat Wayne might gather around a crystal set at Christmas, learning the words to 'I Really Like your Trousers Senor"" by the "The Whistling Matador", thinking to themselves, "Mmmm, hope someone invents Rock n Roll soon!! 

It was rumoured that DK or Ol' Big Nose (name withheld in case he has to admit he's a Brummie) had the biggest collection of crystals in Brum.  If that rumour was put about these days, the boys in blue will be bashing their way through his front doors as we speak, ready to plant confiscate his stash.
'O-o-oH yes, I'm the great prete-ender"......"Ooo oo, Ooo oo" replied gritty lick boy.

Nowadays everyone has a stereo that actually works but you know what?
There is a school of thought that says if you want to hear it like it was - best get yourself a Dansette my friend and strap yourself in for an unequalled Monofest of 60's beat.

Little Known Brumbeat Facts:
  1.  Steve Gibbons used to repair 'steam radios' when he was a plumbers apprentice and has a large private collection of Copper Valves at his Birmingham home.
2.  Tony Iommi - Did you know that Iommi is NOT a 'made up' name and he can only turn his head in one direction? - Strange but True.
3.  Geezer Butler -   Ever wondered why Black Sabbath aren't a massive success in Malawi?  Well GB might have been better advised to change his nickname.  'Geezer' is regional Swahili for Shit Bass Player.   
4.  Mickey Walker - Once bit the head off his brother Dave during a 'discussion'.
5. The Elbow Roomused to be a storeroom for false limbs before becoming a "Groovy scene Man".  The Leg Room was the store next door!
I hate effects pedals!!  
Thankfully, in the early to mid 60's we had only one foot pedal which was the:
Bigsby Volume and Tone Pedal, which had been first manufactured in 1956 and used extensively by pedal steel guitarists.
This pedal simply raised or lowered the volume and changed the tone setting from Bass through to Treble by either moving the pedal from left to right or up and down.  The insides consisted of a volume control and a tone control rotated by a pulley system. There were no electrics that altered the sound of the guitar artificially.  The pedal had been used to great effect by Big Jim Sullivan on the Dave Berry classic 'The Crying Game'.
I don't know of anyone who actually bought a Bigsby but remember chatting to Steve Winwood at Ringway Music one day whilst he was messing about with one.
My investigative nose has sniffed out some evidence of the very first foot pedal.   Well, it's more of a 'sit-on' pedal and interestingly, it was considered so dangerous that the players feet needed to be strapped down to use it.   
My mate Nobber believes that it was going to be known, inappropriately, as 'The Honky'.  

Eric Von Thruster, shown here with a heavy cold, used to have the women at his feet with his horny stage antics, the Jimi Hendrix of his day.  "I WANT TO BLOW ERIC'S HONKER" emblazoned across his van in pink lipstick by some adoring fan. 

So thats it, the end of the mid 60's Foot Pedal Special.  Hope you found it mind numbing.  If you want to be really, really bored, listen to Velvet Fogg playing 'Telstar", probably using a guitar pedal or two by this time (69) but, 'Amazingly' managing to sound like it was coming through a Dansette.  Crap and 'Retro' all at the same time. 

If that doesn't send you off to la-la land then listen to 'The Edge's' guitar playing - who do you think suggested that name to him? 
It was the elusive fifth member of U2, "Deafo".

He uses all this equipment to help him sound less than average?

What? only 36 rack mounted or foot pedal effects, surely that's not enough!
Where's the Watkins Copicat?  What a joke.

Although not of the Brumbeat era, it's always sad to see a band go under and the news that UB40 are now bankrupt is a real shame, particularly as it was announced on the very same week that they played their first gig since 2006.  I can't help thinking that there is a certain sense of irony here.........
AND FINALLY...Well the 21st of October came and went and the world didn't  go up in smoke as predicted.  I'm sat here in the bloggery, big smile on my face while Lucy is putting a shine on my award - all is well with the world.

"No Pedals" Bob

Copyright: Bullsheadbob

Saturday, 1 October 2011


Watcha Brummies!!

Well it's late afternoon on the 30th September......f******g **** I haven't done the blog!!  "Oh come on" says Lucy you said we were gonna have an afternoon listening to "The Best of Middle of the Road"......We sometimes like to piss ourselves laughing for a couple of hours and they're always a safe bet when we've run out of drugs.

So anyway....I'm now sacrificing my afternoon in the sun, being topical weatherise, -  "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" blasting out, envious of those opening lyrics, I snap my fragile pencil asunder with a shattering snip.

Miraculously, at that very same moment, The Wolverhampton Cabaret Groups Association are having an 'Open Afternoon" (where you can safely bring along the grandkids in the knowledge that there will be pie stalls and plenty of rib tickling rejoinders) They too are playing the same CD which they refer to as their set list.   The opening words "Where's yer Momma Bin".......limp out of their 28 watt PA Home entertainment System "Tekkin um tu lirricul eaven" "Aaar, it'd be bostin' in harmony"  "We can do that old step routine, but spice it up a bit when we get to the 'Ooee Chirpy" bit with an occasional "wedding tackle thrust", it's guranteed to get a scream from the bingo crazed crowd they play to - even if you're a bass player.   Anyway I digress, let's get right on with paying homage to someone quite magnificent!!

Charlie Watkins doesn't have the ring to his name that say's "Rock God", his name lends itself more to images of a man who might work for Birmingham Parks Department maintaining flower beds somewhere or other, but rock god he certainly was and still is.  Speaking mainly for the British scene, he was the man who gave us all the things we needed to achieve our dreams as guitarists, bassists and vocalists.  

Charlie Watkins wasn't alone in this quest, he was partnered by his two brothers Reg and Syd.   Reg had launched the second ever British solid body guitar, the first being the dreadful Dallas Tuxedo.  Reg and Syd would go on to design and build the massively popular Watkins Rapier range of guitars that sold by the boatload during the mid sixties priced between 20 and 50 pounds and which gave every Hank Marvin wannabe a chance to become a rock and roller.  I had one because I couldn't afford a Hofner. 

The Rapier line was a 'niche filler' but Watkins Guitars faded away all too rapidly, probably due to the fact that they were known as a budget guitar maker and never really taken that seriously.  The real Watkins 'name' was gained from it's amplification arm of the business and that was Charlie's area of expertise.  Starting with the Watkins Westminster.

This amplifier was a lovely thing and had a very nice tone.  Incorporated was a tremelo input as standard which was a nice extra.  Four inputs, around 10 watts of output, it was the perfect first amplifier to use at a dance hall and this amp was very popular amongst the many, many bands that were around then.  The magnificent Dominator came along and Everyone wanted one, it was so stylish.  Charlie thought that the V fronted cabinet would help with sound dispersal although he said that he didn't really know of it would actually work.  

However, the real jewel in the crown of Watkins amplification was not an amplifier at all but - the Watkins Copicat echo chamber. 

This is still an amazing piece of kit, unbelievable really since it was first made in 1958.  Charlie had cleverly placed a Copicat demonstration model in his Music shop before the unit had been brought into production and the day they went on sale he sold all 100 units that had been made.  Johnny Kidd and The Pirates being the first outfit to buy one.

During the early Beatles years 64-66, VOX and Selmer ruled the roost in the amplification stakes with Fender coming in 3rd.   In 1966 Charlie started to make W.E.M PA Slave Amps and never looked back.  There had been a gaping hole in the PA market and W.E.M became the market leaders.  There wasn't a big band who didn't use W.E.M equipment, Hendrix, Rolling Stones, The Move, Pink Floyd....the list is really endless.  A trip to any of the UK's largest festivals would have found you hearing the sound through a W.E.M PA sound system.  Probably the first to have a mixer too.

WEM brought out a whole new range of amplifiers that reinvigorated the brand name and they sold well.

There are a couple of specialist sites on the internet about the Amps and Guitars respectively that are really worth a visit and I have only scratched the surface of this remarkable story of success of Charlie Reg and Syd.  

Harold Camping, had predicted that the world would end in 1994, he was wrong.   Sensationally, he predicted once again that the world would definitely end in May of this year.  Stuff my old boots, it didn't end then either!!

Harold Camping hurriedly de-camped from his pad and took to the hills, to some hideout, however he has said in explanation, that he had made a slight 6 month miscalculation in his prediction and that the end will now come in October, the 21st to be precise. 

Just in case he is right this time, I'll say "Thanks for reading the blog and thanks to all those muso's whose paths I crossed that made my life a more colourful place to exist in".  Will this be the last blog? I doubt it. 

Harold has a record of being completely wrong but amazingly, his personal wealth for constantly being wrong during this period of hoodwinking has reached over 100 Million dollars!!   It doesn't make sense, I've been talking bollocks all my life and I'm still poor as a church mouse.

Take Care out there....

Copyright Bullsheadbob

Thursday, 1 September 2011


Watcha Brummies!

I've just got back from the boozer where me and the rest of the gang met up to discuss what we did on our holidays, the state of Brummie football and to enjoy the general wishy-washy bullshit and camaraderie that seems to come so naturally after a few pints.   As previously reported last month, myself and Lucy didn't go away, which was more of a holiday than a holiday in fact!!

One of the joy's of doing nothing is that I had some time to re-read some of my music books.  As now is the time to start dropping hints for Christmas presents you might like, I thought I'd share with you a couple of book titles that I highly recommend as essential reading about the greatest musical force of the 60's, The Beatles.


If you were to only read one book about The Beatles this should be the one -First published in 1994, the book has been updated to include the Free as a Bird release and it's always best to get the hardback version (above) too if you can, a much easier read than the paperback.  From the masses of books about The Beatles this shines as an outstanding work that I doubt could ever be bettered and Ian McDonald is to be congratulated for the incredible amount of research that must have been undertaken, it is simply staggering.  I find myself in conflict with some of his judgements as to the quality of certain songs, "Across the Universe' to name one, but his observations are thought provoking and we all have our favourites.

It is not a light hearted mop-top romp by any means and there are no pages of photos.  It is a serious reference work that can be read again and again or just in parts.  I thought that the Beatles Anthology book would have been the defining article but of course there was, and still are, obstacles of unnecessary interference from outside of the four members of the group that have prevented the whole truth being printed. Although it is still a great book, you need the muscles of Conan the Librarian to manhandle it's massive size. 

One could argue that there is too much detail in Revolution in The Head in some respects but, as with all great books, it is a book to educate and captivate those who may only have a passing knowledge and now wish to delve deeper into the recording sessions, edits etc

From a musicians and songwriters point of view, it describes in detail each and every track recorded by the band and I have spent many an hour listening to the tracks, including the bad edits that I never seem to have heard before, whilst reading the information about its construction and recording.  One might think that it's a bit nerdy to get that interested in small detail but what fascinates me is that EMI would actually release tracks that were imperfect, given that The Beatles were the biggest band ever to have existed.  It also describes what pressure everybody in The Beatles inner circle came under and that was only half of what the band themselves had to endure. 

Absolutely Brilliant, I can't recommend it enough.


Written from McCartney's viewpoint with the aid of Barry Miles this is a treasure trove of information about The Beatles, the London scene, PM's involvement in that and its influences that he brought to the Beatles music.

Apart from being simply the best melodic bass player ever and a truly great songwriter, I am in awe of Paul McCartneys imagination, dedication and drive throughout his Beatles career to do his best but often feel that, following the demise of the band, his insistence at trying to convince the public and specifically John Lennon fans that he was as important to the band, has worked against him.  

For me, his role and place in history needs no explanation, "You are what you are" and he is Paul McCartney end of story.   Apart from a few opening paragraphs where he, once again, says he and John were the best of mates and how much he admired and loved him, this book centres itself on some fascinating insights into their songwriting adventures without the need to apologise or justify his rightful place in history.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recently recommended it to my musician son-in-law, Sean, who considered it to be the finest Beatles book he'd read.  In fact, thinking about it, Paul gives us a narrative that reads like you might be having a conversation with him in the pub. I find it riveting and so will you.  Naturally he talks about the writing of his songs as well as Lennon's and their collaborations. Of course John Lennon was a massive force and in 'Glass Onion", the lyrics referring to the "Cast Iron Shore' and "Bent back Tulips" that some might just think of as an LSD fuelled, psychedelic collection of words becomes a concise revelation of the massive changes that The Beatles lives had taken, from humble beginnings to unbelievable stardom and exclusivity.

There were only two people who knew about Lennon and McCartney.  One is dead and the other is the fantastic Paul McCartney and I think there is more truth in this book than any other.  One has to remember that most of Lennon's rants, spoken in  anger, pouring scorn on PM's contribution to The Beatles came after their collapse. 

He and Paul had been closer than it is possible to imagine, both emotionally and physically, and had been through the mill of public scrutiny on an unimagineable scale every single day from the moment they woke up so it came as no surprise that their parting of the ways was a divorce of bitterness probably mixed with some regret.  We all handle breakdowns in different ways.  Paul retreated to the wilderness whilst JL went on a round of TV grabbing headlines and stunts to promote himself and Yoko Ono and it is to Paul McCartney's credit that he had the dignity not to retaliate too much to his jibes.  

We all have the same human frailties so possibly, I can even forgive Paul McCartney for Maxwells Silver Hammer - a naive judgement in the extreme and probably the final nail to be driven into the coffin of the greatest band that ever was but hey! nobody's perfect, I still love the guy.

Buy this book.  It is a brilliant read.

In the July 2010 blog I wrote a piece about a couple of the venues in Brum which attracted quite a bit of interest so here we go again but this time a little further afield.
Birmingham bands played all around the midlands and I thought I'd give some space to some of the nicer venues some of us bands played at around the midlands that don't get mentioned much but deserve to be, the first being:

As a young sprog playing the normal round of pubs, village halls and youth clubs in Birmingham and it's environs, I never dreamed that I would play at some of those larger places but the band started to get better and better and with the help of a good manager, we became more professional and started to attract the promoters running good venues.   I was lucky enough to play at some of the best Midlands places outside of the confines of Birmingham, the first being the fantastic Walsall Town Hall.

It was the first 'Big' gig we did and was such a beautiful building to play in too. We were bubbling with nervous excitement and determined to put on a good act.  We were announced, exploded into the first song and within seconds, our amps went off! - some quick thinking by our vocalist, running to check the power supply saved the night and slightly red faced, we re-started and did a brilliant show.    Looking at these photos now it's hard to believe that this place used to be packed with Saturday Night revellers. The audience's at Walsall were always fantastic.  I played here several times with a couple of different bands but that first big show always sticks in mind.  It was run by Astra Agency and I truly loved that gig.
We headed into the heartland of The Potteries to Stoke-on-Trent and as well as playing the Top Rank and other smaller gigs like The Pittshill Victory Club, we were lucky enough to play a few times at Stokes three premier venues, the first being:
I couldn't believe my eyes as we pulled up outside the Kings Hall for the first time, it was massive and the interior was gorgeous, a bit like playing inside a heavily decorated birthday cake.  There would always be two or three bands playing.  It was amazing to think that we did this type of place with our little 30 watt Selmers and un-mic'd drums but the sound was always good.

Here is a Youtube clip of the place during some recent-ish rockabilly gig, with the hall quite empty in this clip but, this was a place that would be full on a Saturday night.

A great picture taken from the stage.  This place was a real gem and we played here to hordes of screaming girls.  You got a real lift when playing this sort of venue - a long way from playing little village halls and pubs.  Stoke on Trent was a great place to play too.  Barmy Barry was always the DJ at these places, a nice bloke.

It is quite remarkable that a city the size of Stoke should have three huge venues of such quality and the third of those was The Queens Hall, in the suburb of Burslem.  Unfortunately I don't have an image of the interior but it was practically identical to the Victoria Hall and also a joy to play at.  These days it is the Queens Hall Theatre and stages many successful productions. Aah, happy days.  I hope this has brought back some good memories for those of you who also gigged at these great places.   


Well it all started with this man and his parter Mike Stoller

These two guys were influenced by the sound of early R&B and in the fifties they bucked the trend in the USA by writing songs for black artists.   It would be impossible to list the incredible catalogue of songs they produced but their first biggie and probably their best known was 'Hound Dog' written for, and recorded by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton in 1954, she was just fantastic and personified the blues and R&B.  Of course the world knows the song better for Elvis Presley's 1956 rendition of it but Jerry Lieber always said that she had the best version and I wouldn't disagree with that statement one bit.  The real deal. 

Elvis' version was dynamite, of that there can be no doubt, sung in the faster Rock and Roll style and whose visual interpretation would shock audiences world wide and give Rock and Roll music to the youth. Lieber and Stoller also provided him with Jailhouse Rock, Dont' Be Cruel, King Creole and others. 
(Big Mama Thornton with Buddy Guy)

The duo wrote so many great Rock and Roll hits for a whole bunch of artists and practically each one has survived the test of time and none moreso than the incredible 'Stand By Me".   On a topical note, Lieber and Stoller also wrote Kansas City, The Beatles closing number for their live shows, and what band during the early sixties didn't play Poison Ivy?

The music world and Rock and Roll in particular, owes a great debt to these two guys and it is a sad day indeed now this great lyricist has left us.  Thanks for everything Jerry.  Rock and Awe!!


"Nice weather, I think I'll give the dogs a bath". I thought to myself. 

Funny isn't it, that dogs know exactly what you're thinking before you say anything and go skulking off to hide?   After retrieving one dog from under a bush and the other from under the car, I got them into the large washing container we keep in the garage for such occasions.  "Dogs need to know who the master is" is my advice to you. I got the job done and met only minimal resistance.  I managed to get a bit of a soaking in the process but that's a small price to pay for their recognition of my superiority. 

So they both got their baths from 'The Boss' and shot off afterwards to shake themselves dry whilst I cleaned up the soaking wet area and stowed away the materials. I turned round and they were obediently sat together behind me:

(Charlie and Marty)
My carefully maintained compost heap was now totally destroyed and they looked like they had been mud surfing at Glastonbury.

Funny isn't it that I know exactly what they're thinking without a bark being uttered??  Next month, how to take a cat's temperature!!

Take Care you guys,



Monday, 1 August 2011


Far Out Man!!

Like everywhere else in the Western world of 1967 the youth of Birmingham immersed themselves in peace and love for that one long, hot summer and   just how cosmic was I?  I had enough bells around my neck to emulate a herd of goats clanking through some pasture or other and if gaily coloured beads and conch shells had still been a form of legal currency I'd have been loaded.  As it was, I was just as broke (ever the life of a muso) but was maintaining a much happier attitude about it than before. 

Adorned with my new diamond shaped sunglasses with their pink lenses, girls on each arm dressed in vibrant swirls of colour (or color for our North American cousins) the good life of a musician escalated beyond imagination.  Men were now dressed as colourful as peacocks, all trying to outdo each other with the width of their bell-bottomed trousers and long hair saw it's rebirth, not witnessed since the days of Charles II. Mens Barber shops and Gentlemens Outfitters were going out of business like they had the plague. I had some hand painted shoes made for me and a girl fan of the band knitted me a jacket out of all different colours of string which was not only a great jacket but could be used to tie up parcels with, if ever the need arose.    

American bands had come into their own with innovative groups like The Electric Prunes, Spirit, Love and Moby Grape releasing great LP's.  Donovan was telling us to 'smoke a banana' - well I tried a whole bunch full and I can tell you, they're impossible to inhale, but give you plenty of energy if you do the sensible thing and eat them. We all seemed to develop an interest in gardening and growing plants.  Mmmm!!

"Money's such a drag man, all we need is each other and music".  I hadn't factored into that equation that I still had to buy strings and eat!  I have to say though, that for that short time there was some incredible music made.   Pink Floyd were playing with Emily, Hendrix was in a 'Purple Haze' and The Move were flying the psychedelic flag for Birmingham, Roy Wood was on a roll writing three great consecutive singles 'Night of Fear', 'I can Hear the Grass Grow' and 'Flowers in the Rain' which captured the mood of the time perfectly and, all three of those bands were on probably the very best theatre tour line up that ever was which was without doubt The Move's finest moment, getting equal billing with Jimi Hendrix.  

Other Brummie bands were doing great too, Traffic under a 'Paper Sun', The Ivy League changed their name to the Flowerpot Men to write Lets Go to San Francisco and The Moody Blues had just recorded Nights in White Satin.   Amongst the many great bands playing in Birmingham during that summer there was one who I liked more than some others. 

(later to be Yellow Rainbow)

This band was formed by brothers Ed and Brian Pilling who were born in Brum but had moved to Canada when very young and had subsequently returned to Birmingham to try their luck at 'making it' in the UK.  They were two really likeable guys and lived in a flat over a shop on the Stratford Road, next door to The Mermaid, one of the very early Brumbeat venues, sadly destroyed by fire.

Their stage act was good with ex drummer Ed Pilling fronting the band as vocalist and he really found his niche, projecting a really energetic personality.  They were joined by Sprike Hopkins (Guitar), Jim Skidmore (Drums) and Tony Clarkson (Bass). 

I didn't get too many opportunities to see them play as I was on the road most of the time but I did see them one night at the Rum Runner where they created a real party atmosphere with streamers and balloons festooning the stage for their final song which I recall that night being The Beatles 'All You Need is Love'

They were recruited as Cat Stevens backing band, changing their name to 'Zeus' for a while and whilst it was a good thing for them to play at large venues with a star name, they were just regarded as his backing group and there was no independent future for them there.  A Youtube clip of the band with Cat Stevens performing 'First Cut is the Deepest' has recently come to light:

There were so many good bands about then, a lot of great talent got overlooked and this band was one of those.   They had recorded a single in Germany though whilst doing a normal German stint on a very small label, which was a cover of 'Hey Joe'.   A little disillusioned with the business they returned to Canada where they later 'made it' in their adopted country having changed their name once again to FLUDD.  Sadly Brian Pilling died at a very young age in 1977. (Ed and Brian centre front row)

The psychedelic music scene continued for more than one hot summer but it's heyday had been and gone, the bright new music of 67 had sort of curled up at the corners and had become overplayed and commercial and by 69 with the scene on it's last legs, Velvett Fog were picked up by Pye and made an LP, the sleeve featuring a couple of bare breasted girls that caught peoples attention but in honesty, the music inside the cover was lacklustre and outdated. The record company chose the best track off the LP for a single release - an instrumental cover of 'Telstar' - just how 'trippy' was that?    In reality is was just a straight copy of the original Tornadoes instrumental with a heavily compressed guitar melody line.  Unremarkable at best. 

One Wednesday summers evening, I being a nice caring son, took my Mum to see The Fortunes, who were musically a great band but really, a cabaret act and definitely not psychedelic, at the Crown and Cushion, and Velvet Fogg were their support band.   Didn't appear very psychedelic to me. 

Following last months blog I have been speaking to ace drummer, Pete York of the Spencer Davis Group, Hardin and York etc etc.  Pete lives in Germany these days, so for the German readers, thought you'd like to know that Pete will be appearing near Stuttgart with a big band and singers performing The Gene Krupa Story in early November, a date for your diaries for sure.

Even better news is that I and Pete met for a Brown and Mild "In the Snug' where he recounted the writing and recording of the simply incredible classic "Gimme Some Lovin", anthemic to say the least and a story that will be appearing in the coming months once I can get my head around writing it. Fascinating stuff in the history of 60's Brummie Bands - not available anywhere else but HERE...beware of imitations. 

Sad news indeed to report the death of Eric Delaney, master drummer of the 50's/60's.

I did a gig with him at Wolverhampton Civic Hall once upon a time and he was a truly great showman, internally lighted kettle drums for his performance of Manhattan Spiritual years before lighting rigs had even been considered. He continued for many years performing and conducting workshops and drummers conventions. Thanks to Tom Lane for the info.

Well, Lucy and I have been gadding about hither and thither enjoying our Summer and though I am a couple of years older now I still have the hippy ethic of the summer of love except my bell-bottomed trousers don't seem to fit me these days, it's probably because now I can afford to eat. 

Peace on you Brothers and Sisters,

Copyright: Bullsheadbob