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.
THE WAGES OF SIN
(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: http://youtu.be/cwZ1y5WxtOk
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.
LET THERE BE DRUMS
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,