Thursday, 1 January 2015

Bulls Head Bob Jan 2015 - BUMPER New Year Blog!!! Broad Street Walk of Stars. Mike Burney. Shane Fenton. Charlie Watkins. Freedom Field. The Magnificent Moody Blues.

Happy New Year Brummies and assorted friends from all over this Planet.
I'm very pleased to say this is the most globally popular I've been.

2015!!  Another year begins.  Mrs Bob and I had a wonderful bedlam of a Christmas and bathed in the warmth and togetherness of our family, who owing to work and living in various countries had not been together in the same room for Christmas for at least 10 years.   She clucked her way around the house bathing in the 'full brood experience' to such an extent that she even said she liked the headphones I had bought her, although I think I heard her refer to them as a saucepan set to one of the Bobettes?..   

A very happy new year from the Gang of Four at the boozer too .   We were discussing this recent picture on Tony Iommi's Facebook page of the Broad Street Walk of Stars Slab awardee, TREVOR FRANCIS, a football hero to some. Tony along with some previous "Slabees" was there as a reciprocal gesture as Francis had been to his own previous "Black Slabbing".  Tony looks particularly Black in this number and Sir Bev Bevan of Bevanville was also there with his hair.  
Jasper Carrot had a picture of his former self posted on the wall behind.
copyright Tony Iommi.

Reportedly, when it came time for Francis to be officially 
"Slabbed" by the Committee, he cleverly dummied 
Martin O'Neil, side-stepped Iommi and Bevan, easily 
outpacing the aged Carrot and got the slab in the back of it's 
crevice before you could say Billy Wright.......  
Time to say some farewells to four folk who were either a part of the Brumbeat history or had an effect on it.

The king of WEM amplifiers and Watkins Rapier budget guitars has wound up his final 'coil' (bit of an in joke for pick-up lovers) and departed to the great transistor in the sky.  

Charlie had enjoyed a long life and was 92 when he passed away, still working on new projects.  
A whole host, if not all, young musicians of the sixties owed him a great deal.  The first really good amplifier, The Watkins Dominator, the first echo chamber, a range of Watkins Rapier budget guitars that got the youth of the day, including me, playing music at an affordable price and, later as the real King of huge WEM amplifier stacks and PA systems used by many, many leading bands.  He did us all a real favour and he was a great unsung British hero and innovator.

Beautifully sexy names like Rudolf Valentino who was, in his day, the biggest star on the PLANET, get swallowed up and forgotten in the mists of time.   I sincerely hope Charlie's name isn't one of those that disappears too quickly because for a music legend he had the most British of British names that would not go amiss in Mary Poppins, "Thanks Charlie Watkins" you made this old man and a million other musicians lives very happy for a long while.

Shane Fenton of Shane Fenton and The Fentones, also passed away in late October.   One of the first batch of British rock acts alongside Billy Fury and Cliff Richards, to name but a couple, who were launched onto the British public.  Dyed blond hair tight lurex trousers, suggestive moves, made him one of those, hated by Dads and loved by daughters.   He never really achieved the fame of Fury and Richards but was an influence on the youth music scene of the day for a while.  

It was quite funny when he re-emerged as Alvin Stardust because in reality he was still doing the same act, but this time in black clothes......the music goes round and round.  I gigged with quite a few rockers but never came across him, reportedly a really, really nice guy. 

The wonderful photo on the LP cover shows Shane and The Fentones, not being suggestive at all, I mean don't all guys stand with their hands positioned like that??.  The Fentones all raising their, new on the market, Fender guitar necks in those days of music and sexual suggestion when even the bass player stood a good chance of getting a shag.    Sleep well my friend.

We say farewell to the Brummie Master of the Saxophone, Mike Burney who passed away in November after a long illness.

I know we all have to go sometime, it's inevitable, but when it's a musician
of such class that you have been to watch, absorb and enjoy him at his peak it seems it should just go on forever.   Mikes musical prowess and history is common knowledge amongst Brummie musicians but moreover, his name was known and admired internationally on the jazz scene and he had worked with the worlds biggest acts. 
He was great fun in Wizzard and played the part well so "Thanks a lot for your life Mike".   I'm sure we're all better for your part in our lives.

A couple of days before the Xmas celebrations began we were stunned by the news of Joe Cockers death.   I remember all too well seeing him playing at The Belfry when Little Help had just come out, I was chatting with him afterwards and have to say what a nice guy he was as well as being an individual talent of enormous proportions.   His on-stage presence was electrifying.  The papers have been full of statements from famous stars and I really have nothing to add the panoply of compliments showered on someone so deserving of every one of them. 

So, we march on and although we are saying goodbye to some of our heroes and friends we can still celebrate those of us who are still playing live music on stage and one of these bands is: 

Brummie Sixties musicians are still performing and around a year ago I featured the newly formed band Freedom Field whose line up includes two well known Brumbeat musicians, those being Bassist Danny Gallagher ex Frosty Moses and Traction and drummer Dave Hynds, The Cheetahs and Fairfield Ski. This bands line-up went through some initial personnel and name changes and now they seem to have found what they were looking for, here seen rehearsing recently:

The groups songs could be called politically confrontational in their stance and they have played at peace camps as well as some other Brummie haunts.   They have recently uploaded four tracks of original material, with the song DRONES featuring as their heaviest number so far.   If you would like to take a gander and listen to their material then please Click Here DRONES to see their Youtube clip.   

Love this photo, visually the band look right, great style, great kit well played. Michelle's striking looks are perfect to front a band.  Love the packet of biscuits holding up the words too, if I was there I'd have scoffed the lot!
For me there was only one Moody Blues line-up I loved and that was the original R&B band that graced the stages of Birmingham in the early sixties. They were the first Brummie band to experience a Number 1 in the charts with GO NOW a beautiful song driven by emotion and is one of the greatest pieces of music production.  This record deserves it's place in pop history alongside other eternal classic British greats like "Whiter Shade of Pale" or "She's Not There" by the Zombies.  
Well it's been fifty years since the recording of that track and in November Cherry Red Records re-released The Magnificent Moodies album in a deluxe package with re-mastered tapes, a host of bonus tracks and live BBC recordings that chart the bands beginnings as an out and out R&B act. 

Mrs Bob bought me the CD for Christmas and it makes interesting listening.   I have the original LP.  Click here  MAGNIFICENT MOODIES to visit Cherry Red records page which gives you all the details and track lists.   

What is clear is how much of the success and sound of 'Go Now' was down to it's producer Alex Wharton (who worked under the name of Alex Murray in those days) and who initially signed the band and provided them with the song.   There is one short track of control room chat between Wharton and Denny Laine where the producer is getting Denny to work on the opening line, it is here that we hear for the first time this original Moody Blues arrangement of the Bessie Banks song.   This Olympic recording session track was a bit of mish-mash of musical errors and bum notes, some unnecessary guitar riffs and a vocal that was a little on the weak side, the harmonies though were really developing.  It was a song in the making.   

The finished article on the other hand, which was re-recorded in a converted garage at the back of The Marquee Club is a simply brilliant piece of music.

The production was controversial in the recording industry in that it was considered not 'clean' enough. However, Alex Wharton had slaved at it to give it a thick sound which was clearly ahead of its time and copied by others later on.

I saw the band play Go Now at The Ritz in Birmingham, their No1 
homecoming gig, and it was an impressive performance of a live
R and B group whose set was just knock out with songs like James Browns 'I'll Go Crazy' and the Rufus Thomas classic 'Jump Back'...luckily for you guys these tracks are just a sample of whats on board this CD.   

I'm tired of reading that Denny Cordell produced Go Now, a rumour started by those who know very little.   Cordell at this time however was Alex Whartons office boy and shortly after went on to become a producer.

There are some fine R&B tracks on the CD and, in fact, I perform one of them today with the Boogie Band.  If you want a taste of how the Moody Blues sounded when they were a proper group buy this CD.   Also why not read the rare Interview between Alex Wharton and myself covering, in detail, the recording of Go here. THE RECORDING OF GO NOW.

So in short, go and buy 'The Magnificent Moodies Re-Mastered' if, like me, you were a fan of this early Brummie RandB band or even if you were a fan their later stages this is still a great recording and nice a piece of Birmingham's musical heritage and history.

By error Mrs Bob also bought me the DVD of The Moody Blues at The Isle of Wight festival because she didn't know better.  The band by that time were without Denny Laine and Clint Warwick.  They had recruited Justin Hayward and John Lodge as replacements and had gone off on their Orchestral Joss Stick Poetry phase or OJSPP, as it's known in The 'One Voice Feminist Sisters do Poetry Club' of Sparkhill, or TOVFS d PC Sisters.

The dvd starts with John Lodge flying in
for sale on ebay right now
a helicopter and landing in the middle of a large farmers field where, by chance, it appears he had left his Fender Bass. John, a tip here for you.  

Make sure the neck hasn't warped, all that rain and stuff would have played havoc with it stuck out there in the open air, what happened, did you accidentally leave it there??  I'm surprised it didn't get nicked during the past 44 years.    Anyway that was the exciting bit over.

The video lasts 1 hour and 19minutes and I only managed about 6 minutes 32 seconds 'give or take', including the helicopter landing/Bass guitar part, which was just up to the end of the poetry line "On the Threshold of a Dream" before I found myself heading towards slumberville.  

Included in the 6 Minutes 32 seconds was an interesting camera shot, panning across the sea of faces who were staring ahead listening to The Moodies starting up and the band certainly didn't mess about.

It was straight into the poetry and they had them in the palm of their hands then, like sheep, you can see everyone start to recline a little and their heads begin to get all loose and start to loll about a bit, looking at each other as if in a daze and then they all begin to lie back.  Which, co-incidentally is where I found myself dozing off too. On the Threshold of a Dream.

I am going to keep the DVD though, it'll be good for when Crazy Malc and Nobber come around and find myself running short of beer.  I can slip this on and they'll start looking for the car keys, "Oh my goodness, is it that time already?".   

Now this may not be true but I have heard through one my Chem Trail
and Lizard Conspiracy theory friends that on that very day there was an 'UMSE' or Unexplained Mass Sleep Event in scientific parlance, and apparently the huge snoring exhalation wave caused heavy turbulence in the skies.

There were 700,000 people there, can you imagine that? the largest audience EVER and The Moody Blues, a group from Birmingham were on the stage, that's really something and I'm really pleased that they experienced it, they were a huge band.  Their beginnings though were far more interesting and exciting for me during the heady days of The Beatles and Rhythm and Blues.

Well that's the year off to a flying start, blogwise.  Do have a peaceful and prosperous New Year and remember, it's the small things in life that give us the most pleasure.

Take Care

copyright Bullsheadbob