Goodness me, the title of this blog is long, so it should be! it's a feature packed musical smorgasbord of love, hate, egoism, treachery, despair, glorious success or inglorious failure.....let's get on with it then.
There are some people from my musical past who I normally prefer not to discuss but I'm making an exception this month and am going to say this now in big letters about someone I knew and that is:
JOHN FINCHAM IS A TOSSER!!
"Whoa, come on on now Bob, that's not like you" I hear you say.
"Oh Yeah?" Well,
HIS MATES ARE TOSSERS TOO!
"Hold hard Bob, have you lost your mind?"
The short answer to that is "No" on two accounts, the first being that John is a Brummie Abroad and lives in California so he can't get his hands on me and secondly he definitely is a Tosser, but and an old friend too.
John was one of those who I admired and thought had real potential in every part of his 'trade craft' as a Brummie musician of the sixties. I emphasise 'Brummie musician' rather than musician because in those 60's days Birmingham had the grittiest bands and musicians not like those Southern Jessies and John had paid his dues with The Chantelles and other bands doing that sort of music, including a short spell with The Uglys during the hospitalisation of Steve Gibbons.
|The Chantelles (copyright J Fincham)|
Beatle boots, Burns Bass, Big voice, Big Bass speaker and Bad attitude..everything beginning with B! It's co-incidental but I played with all of these guys in this picture but at different times, such was the movement between bands in those days.
An ex "Biz" manager friend of some repute from London told me they always went to Brum to look for RandB bands, hence The Moody Blues, Spencer Davis Group etc two of the greatest exponents of sixties RandB on the planet during their day and that's what Brummie bands played in spadefulls and competition was fierce.
If you wanted to play a bit of cabaret music you could always go to Wolverhampton for a fix of blandness.
A great bass player, a beautiful voice and a really good stage presence and one other important thing, he was a fun guy to be with. We were from the same part of Birmingham and were schooled yards apart although he, unlike myself, actually attended.
At one stage we played together in a group for a short while and had some fun and shared some great harmonies and gigs.
After that brief musical encounter we only bumped into each other at The Cedar Club or one of those other nightclubs where all the musicians would go but it was always fun when we met.
John's story is enveloped in the ELO saga with his band Trickster so you can read all about that stuff at an ELO site should you want to. During this time John moved out to the USA permanently and continued to be a quality player with all the B's on bigger stages.
Anyway I don't want to dwell on the past, I want to get right down to today's Nitty Gritty and that is to say that John Fincham, the man with "Everything begining with B" is alive and well, living in the mountain air of Wrightwood California and still playing gigs with his Brit Rock band of mates,
It couldn't be a better name for a trio playing good ol' fashioned, in your face, Brit Rock and there's no-one in those parts who would be more at home with this music than John, thuddin' out those great bass lines and singing the songs that are second nature to him and almost printed on his psyche.
If you're on vacation from Birmingham or indeed if you now live in that part of the States. Get yourself down to AMIGO'S in Ventura California for a perfect Sunday afternoon of booze with some Hot Rock n'blues Brummie style.
When you get there, you can't mistake him, with his Rickenbacker slung down low, John 'B' Fincham and the other Tossers, Jerry Breiner and Pete Gallagher he will be giving it some!! Say Hello, he's a Brummie and a Villa supporter so you'll "always be welcome Bab".
|THE TOSSERS l-r Jerry Breiner, John Fincham, Pete Gallagher|
another couple of Brummies live in the States too...
Ex Applejacks vocalist Jon lives and still performs in the Glitz capital of the world, Las Vegas.
It's been a couple of years since I had some news from him I think but I said last time that he was a workaholic and he hasn't let me down.
As well as being in the completion stages of his
new solo CD and single release he has just published his first Novel, based on the life of four guys from Coventry, The Fabulous Brit Brothers....a Rock n Roll tragedy!
I'm already hooked. It must be about me? I'm tragic, oh no it can't be I'm not from Coventry but then again I played there more than several times so it could be me, or maybe it could be FAKE NEWS! the Russians call it Maskirova and Jon could be covering up the real hero/loser character The Fabulous Bob and it's really about me. I've got to read it quickly, fame at last!! ....Mmmm? best get back to reality.
Jon had already written and published three factual books about the 60's days so this novel will surely be based on facts from his experiences which always makes a better read for musicians. Getting the facts right is essential. Good Luck with this Jon.
Also for those who might know Jon from the past. He is now on Facebook so why not take the opportunity to get in touch with him through that medium and don't forget to like the page too. If you're not on Facebook then contact me and I will put you in touch.
Graham, ex Brumbeats vocalist continues living in either Hawaii or Washington State depending on the season but either way both locations are in beautiful parts of America. He is still playing gigs with his Hawaiian band and when not can be found painting pictures of the local scenes. Is there no end to his talent?
As you can see, not only do they all look pretty pleased that it's a part of their practise regimen but they've all come attired in shorts should the need arise for a quick insertion. Mmm, not a trace of nail varnish to be seen.
Moving now to Spain where our Brummie European contingent has been swelled by the arrival of drummer
I knew all the great drummers in Brum and played with several of them but for me Keith Smart was probably the best drummer around to be honest. Apart from Carl Palmer and Mac Poole, Keith was one of the few I knew who read drum music well, a real rarity for those days.
That trained music thing was mixed in with his tremendous natural talent and his ability at holding a band together was formidable, it was very easy to get into a groove with him. He could play any kind of music and brought a real tightness and force to any band he was with.
I guess that Keith is best known as being one of the two drummers in Wizzard but he featured heavily in the Golden Years of Birmingham and played with many bands like The Lemon Tree, Danny King and The Uglys of whom Keith said "Probably the best group I ever played with and certainly the best memories".
|The Uglys, Keith bottom Right|
When people talk about John Bonham in such glowing terms I think they should have listened to Keith a bit more because I knew them both and couldn't tell them apart, he could be as heavy as any of them. He played sessions with lots of diverse folk including the brilliant and very underrated Clifford T Ward. Keith then joined the Rockin Berries and remained there for more years than I'd care to remember. Always shrewd, he got on a good horse that ran and ran. From a pure music point of view I think that he could have been one of the real music greats had he taken a more adventurous musical challenge and I don't think we ever saw the best of Keith. Sadly he has given up playing but believes it was the right move on his part.
and I agree with that because whatever keeps you happy does you good and that's a fact.
Anyway these days Keith is living on the Spanish coast running his own business which is far removed from the drastic ups and downs of the music biz whilst, no doubt, honing his golf game.
He has a wonderful family life and from a Brumbeat point of view it's great that he's still with us but a shame that we won't be getting anymore performances from this fantastic drummer.
300 miles North from Keith we find his ex Uglys bandmate Will Hammond who lives in the deepest darkest depths of Extremadura, Spain and continues his round of Festivals and gigs including the prestigious Bejar, playing up-front R and B music.
|Will Hammond and his Band|
|Ugly Days - Will Hammond (Photo Copyright FCummins/A Lines)|
John Singer was one of the group of promoters who shared Carlton Johns Entertainment Agency who ran the majority of the best venues in Brum including Mothers at Erdington, previously known as The Carlton and even in those days it was a great venue and hosted some of the best bands of the day like John Mayalls Bluesbreakers and The Nice and Zoot Money etc etc. Mothers was voted by musicians as the best gig in the world at one stage.
John lives on the Spanish coast but no longer participates in the world of music apart from his annual trek back to the UK for the Mothers anniversary
|John Singer (right) with ex Carlton Johns partner Gary Surman|
Who's had to come back to the UK to get a gig then?!
Back in the UK for a round of shows with his version of ELO. Jeff, never one for denying he wanted to be a Beatle, must have felt he was re-living The Beatles famous flying arrival at Shea Stadium moment when he flew in by helicopter over his recent show at Wembley Stadium with its 70,000 strong crowd.
Living the dream is a phrase that comes to mind.
It was a time too for another of Brums greatest bands, The Idle Race to be reunited after the event, and I believe a reunion gig was discussed but Jeff said he wanted a bigger share of the normal 25 quid for a night at The Carlton. Sharp eyed sleuth, Mandy Scott-Morgan kindly captured the moment of the negotiations.
|The Idle Race 2017 (copyright: Mandy Scott Morgan)|
|The Idle Race 1969|
The majority of people on this page are linked to each other in some way but more of course by being a part of the Birmingham 60's music scene. On any given night of the week they all graced the stages of Birmingham or some other gig across the length and breadth of the UK together playing great music. They drank together, had fun together and in some cases suffered at the hands of each other. Such is the way of life in the world of music, the hardest job on the planet, but whether they are musically living the dream or perhaps regretting what greater stardom could have been, it is all consigned to the history vaults once it has occurred and in these days of rabid social media - by the minute.
I'm glad that my memories are much longer and more deeply rooted.
Long may they all Live because we shared a unique time together.
Onwards and upwards you Brummies.
Take Care you guys