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