Sunday, 1 March 2020

Bulls Head Bob Mar 2020 - GROUP INSTRUMENTALS OF THE 60's, not adapted by Jeff Lynne.

Howdeedoo Maties,

Well we've had some weather haven't we?   you watch, in a couple of months they'll announce a hose pipe ban.   Of course if the water companies hadn't stolen all the natural water to make more money then the old rivers wouldn't have silted and dried up everywhere which, in turn would have permitted the massive downpours we have suffered to flow through the river systems and out to sea.    It's not simply climate change, its unending greed and million pound bonuses for the fat cats who have created a lot of the damage.  When I was a kid you could swim in the River Cole now you'd be lucky to see any water in it at all.   But those were better, honest times.

Once in a while there are instrumental records that get into your head and then the charts and don't leave for a while, however, in the 60's there were more instrumentals in the charts than at any other decade.  It's probably because of the electrification of guitars which had become the instrument of the youth of the day.  The Shadows had their first hit with Apache in 1960, I read recently that they were the first "proto-surf rock band" whatever that means.  I would argue that, as we Brits didn't surf in the 60's let alone swim in the freezing cold waters of GB except for the last week of July and first week of August,
that assumption is a tad wide of the mark.    Nonetheless The Shads were our "go to" band for instrumentals. The surf assumption is probably based on the fact that US act Santo and Johnny's "Sleepwalk" (1959) was played on the pedal steel guitar which of course had that Hawaian feel and Hank was the master of  the tremelo making his Strat sound like a hawaian guitar.

There were many orchestral instrumentals from films and TV series that I wont count in this blog and I'm only counting hits by Groups here and although there were many more, these are the ones that really stood out for me.

Newly formed groups were beginning to widen their horizons musically and of course every group had their own version of Hank Marvin who would be busting at the gills to show how good he was and attract a few of the girls in the audience, so there was a hunt to find your own piece of music to transform into an instrumental with a beat. 

One of the first of those that attracted my and many others attention was a record by Nero and The Gladiators called "Entry of The Gladiators".  This band had been formed in London just after returning to the UK from Italy where two of them had been members of The Cabin Boys, backing Tommy Steeles brother Colin Hicks.  They wore gladiator clothing that they had bought from a sale of stage wear from the film Quo Vadis.

There was a follow up 45 too "Hall of the Mountain King" and Joe Moretti was bought in as lead guitarist, Moretti would later go on to play the solo on British rock anthem Shakin All Over.    I think we all played this instrumental, and not too long ago some guy wrote in announcing that it had been a young Jeff Lynne who had adapted it, that of course is plain Bollocks although Jeff probably believes he did. 

American guitarist Duane Eddy had preceded these bands by having an instrumental in the British charts as far back as 1958 with Rebel Rouser followed by The Peter Gunn Theme and specialised his tunes to be played on the lower strings of his guitar, normally a Gretsch Country Gent or something big and horrible.  I was not a fan.
They called him The Rebel Rouser but when I saw him live at The Cedar Club I said to myself that I shouldn't be predjudiced because he could be stupendous, after all he'd been around a long time but I thought he was average at best, he didn't Rouse any Rebel in me and was never one of my guitar heroes, his sax player was incredible though.   Eddy wasn't a guitarists guitarist by any means but I did realise his great value a little later in that because of the simplicity of the tunes he played a major role in encouraging those who were learning because of, at the end of a couple of hours practice, you couldn't play his tunes you were never gonna learn!  

Having said all that The Peter Gunn Theme written by Henry Mancini is still played by bands today including Mr Jeff Beck and occasionally me too when I'm playing to Bikers.  It is a dramatic tune to play and hypnotically heavy for a band to get into so perhaps I've been wrong about him all these years...well maybe just for this one tune, so thanks Duane.   He is still performing today!!

The Surfaris 1962
Now this was definitely "proto plasm surf dudeastic rock at its surfiest man"
I just loved this and so did every drummer on the scene as they featured so heavily in it with its surftastic pounding floor tom-tom throb.  The track opens with someone laughing and shouting "Wipe Out" then they let the drummer out of the cage and..whoosh! bedlam for 2.30 minutes.   The guitarists would have worked out a stage routine of holding their guitars at certain angles at the many breaks in the tune as was the way we did things then without a hint of embarrassment at all, after all, the girls would think you looked the part, Percy the Perfect Pop Star.

It became the opening song for the iconic Friday night rock show "Ready Steady Go", the weekend starts here, great stuff, full of youthful vitality.  The Surfaris looked like nerds.

Joe Meek became a household name along with The Tornadoes after releasing this Instrumental worldwide hit starting with whirling special sound effects and then feeding in the music through the whooshing and gurgling.  Written, imagined and recorded by Joe Meek this record flew up the charts both in the UK and the USA both reaching No1.   The clavioline was the featured instrument throughout the tune with a short bridge break on guitar.   It was considered something dynamically new in the sound field but the 1961 hit Runaway by Del Shannon had a clavioline playing the instrumental solo and no-one mentioned how revolutionary it was then.    

The Tornadoes were, in effect, Joe Meeks studio session musicians and included Clem Cattini and Alan Caddy, both original members of The Pirates.   The bass player Heinz was Meeks love interest and he promoted him as a solo act with the song "Just Like Eddy" he was replaced by Brian Gregg who was the third member of the original Pirates to hop on the Tornadoes satellite.

The Tornadoes made a good living for many years from this record.  Sadly Joe Meek killed himself.

1962 could be considered the zenith of Instrumental hits and this one was a
blast to play especially with the run down sequence on the guitar neck where you could pose like a local hero.   This hit had a great sound to it, rich and warm with hints of mechanical tremelo pulsating through the entire track as supplied by a Fender Rhodes piano. The middle eight bars were filled with brash guitar which changed the whole atmosphere before returning to the half note, two string riff.  I recall learning this at a practice with one of my early groups, we loved it.

It was a hit for American band, The Chantays who had the all-american boy appearance that made them all look around 30 years of age.   

I believe this band is still functioning at functions!!

B Bumble and The Stingers got us all rocking with this amazingly good instrumental "Nut Rocker" which was an adaptation of "Flight of the Bumble Bee" by Rimsky Korsakov.   Once again it was recorded by a trio of session men in Louisiana.  

It was a boogie woogie adaptation through and through.  It has been a real evergreen piece of music and was latterly recorded by Emerson Lake and Palmer.    They must have felt "In the Moog" for that hohoho.

It wasn't adapted by Jeff Lynne.

Not to be outdone, Birmingham group Second City Sound had a piano based minor hit with "Tchaikovsky One" in 1966. yet another reworking of a classical piece of work.
In 65 we were all playing a different style of music and I for one had no interest and never saw them live but they did have a couple of follow up singles.  This wasnt written by Jeff Lynne either.

There were many, many instrumental groups around, both in the UK and American with The Ventures being their big band.  However, they never reached the worldwide success of The Shadows, during the early sixties, during 61 to 63 they had 13 singles chart successes and two number one LPs. By far the best instrumental band of all time.   What finished that instrumental phenomenon was the arrival The Beatles in September 1962, once they arrived everything changed and instrumentals went out of the window, although the Fabs did record one instrumental for Magical Mystery Tour themselves and that was "Flying", a bit of a throw away tune really and not anything I rate.

I really believe that the amount of instrumentals through those early 60's years were the basis for the mammoth British guitarists who followed in the later 60's but had all been raised on a healthy diet of instrumentals with which they could hone their skills and Hank Marvin, the best of the best.   I was in the Shadows fan club and went to see them anytime I could.  It upsets me when Hank is berated by some pimply youth these days.  It all had to start somewhere and Hank was the man who did it, bearing in mind he was only 17 at the time of Apache, the worlds greatest group instrumental.

FINALLY...Not Adapted by Jeff Lynne
On the ELO website there is an article about Jeff Lynne suggesting that he adapted Tchaikovskys Swan Lake to a beat tune when in his teenage band The Andicaps in the 60's......once again absolute bollocks.  "Saturday Night at the Duckpond" was an instrumental by Bristol band The Cougars who adapted swan lake, the record was actually banned because music critics said it was "a travesty of a major classical work".  Jeff has indeed written some great songs but Mozart he aint.  Just to keep the record straight you understand?

OK guys, have a lovely weekend and hopefully March will be a beautiful month of spring flowers and the like, well, after the current storm has passed!
Take Care

Copyright:  Bullsheadbob

Saturday, 1 February 2020


Good Grief!

Hello world!!  

It would appear that I have upset some people around the world by not including them in my salutations from the opening paragraph of the last blog.  So as well as the other countries I mentioned already, I would like to say "hello maties" to New Zealand, Finland, Spain, France, Russia and Ukraine (Zdravstvuyte druz'ya), and lastly Argentina...Hola!  

A couple of months back I did a piece on a chance discovery by a friend, of a CD copy of Moody Blues R&B powerhouse bassist, Clint Walker's biography,"My Life, The Waltz", written under his real name of Albert Eccles. I asked if anyone could give it a good home and I would try to pass it on. 

So I'm pleased to say that my recent contact with Argentina was through an email from Joaquin Jovier, a fan of the blog, The Moody Blues and Brumbeat saying he has a collection of memorabilia and was in contact by email with Clint shortly before Clint's death... but never managed to get a copy of the autobiography.  He asked if I could send him a copy of the CD.   

I am not the owner of the disc in question and I don't want to get into into sending copies of anything out but
have contacted Bob Styler, all round good guy and Brumbeat musician who is currently performing with The Transporters, who has the disc and he has very kindly sent it to me to pass on to you. 

However, Joaquin, I have tried replying to your email but it appears that your email address doesn't accept replies so please try again with an address I can post this off to.  

I'm so pleased that this will be going to a fan of probably the best R&B group that came out of Birmingham in the 60's alongside The Spencer Davies Group. We were blessed in the Gritty City with hard music and soulful singers like Denny Laine and Steve Winwood who were just head and shoulders above the other vocalists of the day.  It was a fantastic music environment, bands in every pub and success waiting on every doorstep....or so we all thought.

More on that in the next blog maybe.
I bought myself a Christmas gift back in October, the incredibly affordable 12 string electric guitar from Harley Benton but, as it was for Christmas, I left it in its box unplayed till Christmas day.   

Harley Benton, the store brand of musical instrument mega store Thomann Germany, launched their budget guitars on the
market a couple of years back and no-one really took much notice of them, including me, after all its just a budget guitar for starters right?    Not quite, is my answer to that.   In certain cases they are more "creators of opportunity" for those who don't have thousands of pounds to spend.  In my case I wanted to own and play, if only for a couple of songs, an electric 12 String but other options start from around 450 up to 5000 pounds and I didn't feel comfortable with paying a lot for it but naturally wanted some quality for my money to boot!  My eyes first alighted on this particular Harley Benton whilst surfing the net one day and when I saw the price of 200 pounds I thought it was a misprint or probably the guitar would be unplayable and you got what you paid for.
However, I thought it was worth taking a gamble to buy this budget 12 string because after all, if it was no good for the stage I could use it just for recording purposes 
where the distinctive sound of an electric 12 string was needed.

I was mega pleased when I first opened the guitar box (which was not packed particularly well I have to add) because the guitar itself was immediately pleasing to the eye.  There is no hiding the fact that it looks very much like a Rickenbacker, a hollow body guitar, very light and although the headstock appears gigantic, in comparison to the small body, my fears of it being a "neck diver" were quickly diminished.   It is nicely balanced, has a neck action that was really beyond my expectations and was in tune and playable directly out of the box.   The overall finish was impressive with nice bindings around the body and the F sound hole too.  I played a solid Fender 12 string a couple of times in the 60's and this felt just the same.  This has a wider neck that a Ricky, thank goodness.

I had been prepared to be disappointed with making a cheap choice but found myself breaking into a nice smile as I started playing it.   The pick ups are good
and there is a reasonable tonal range from the tone pots themselves.   It doesn't have the exact Ricky Ring to it but enough to fulfil all my needs.  I shall be changing the cheap strings but nothing more.     

It did have a couple of tiny cosmetic blemishes but none that make any difference.  One particular cosmetic deficiency is that, if you look inside the F hole you can see traces of the varnish spray inside the guitar body, this recognised blemish features in most of the on line reviews so maybe in the future, if it becomes a trendy guitar one day, it will be a sign of authenticity.....stranger things have happened at sea!!

I don't have an answer to that because my precise need was catered for by this guitar which happened to be massive value for money, and it's a far better choice than buying direct from China, even though these guitars are made there, they are under licence to Thomann so at least there is some level of product control.   I wouldn't have looked at this brand of guitar to buy a principal instrument for stage use I have to say, but neither would I have looked for an Epiphone or a Squier Affinity.  I'm not "dissing" the brands, it's personal choice but it's really the beginners market that HB are at right now, however, they are producing better instruments further up the price range but essentially giving the beginners a good product for the price and that can't be bad can it?  They are the 60's Watkins Rapier of the day.

I think I have got a great deal for little money, the guitar does what it says for next to nothing in real terms.   So if you are a Beatles fan you could get so much enjoyment from duplicating the George Harrison sound without breaking the bank.   If you were willing to pay the extra Four Thousand Pounds to get a real Ricky I doubt you would be able to distinguish a big difference in a live band setting between the two guitars so you could protect your bank account and have some fun at the same time.

Now then The Byrds, "All I really Wanna Do".....
My mate said that playing a 12 string was the quickest way to empty a room!
another said "I bet you play "Stairway" in secret......Not a Chance!

VALENTINES DAY OK Its Valentine Day this month and being an old romantic I am taking Mrs Bob for a 46th wedding anniversary ROCK weekend break to Gibraltar!, "Oh you old softie Bob"....not really, its a lot cheaper than buying concert tickets these days.   I thought it would be interesting to be there on BREXIT Day.   So if you are reading this on publishing day, I will be "Your Brummie at the BREXIT Front".  

Be nice to the one you're with.....


Copyright Bulls Head Bob


Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Bulls Head Bob Jan 2020 . Happy New Year. The tale of two Bobs, Bob on BOB WATKINS The Wild Cherries

Woo Hoo, Its 2020!

So firstly a Happy New Year to all you Brummies around the world, the regular readers of the Blog in the UK, USA, Japan, Australia, Germany, Holland, Canada, Africa and to my overseas Brumbeat mates and other friends too.

I played my first gig in 1960, I never thought I would be alive to see this year when I was a teenager.  Swingin Sixties, Die young and have a good looking corpse was my phrase of the day.  Live fast, explore the unknown, put yourself in bad company to see the other side of life.
So uninformed were we, it never occurred to me at all during my youth that in the music biz everyone around you wanted a piece of the action, to get a slice of the pie whether it be as a "friend" or whatever.  I guess that was the beauty of youth when musical ambition was greater than anything else at all....the top of the pile was to have a recording contract and see your name on a piece of vinyl "Where do I sign?".

It was a HUGE step up the ladder when you were in competition with so many good bands about in Birmingham during the 60's, the zenith in quantities of groups.

Well here I am now, turned 70.  That idea of a dead but good looking corpse
all disappeared and I now fully embrace the gargoyle look.   I've done all the recording stuff and tolerated unmerited egos which now are things that amuse me.  Gladly though, I am still playing and probably enjoying it all as much without having to go through all that teen angst, these days the punters marvel at how someone who should be in a grave is still stomping across the stage, outplaying most of the youthful musicians around.    Its a paradise, a dream I never knew could exist but am thankful for the privilege.   I doubt if I will be still at it at the beginning of the next decade but you never know.

Being in a band in a large city like Birmingham always started out with playing with people from your own school or area, in my case Hall Green.    Across the other side of the city were other like minded musical aspirants were struggling through the hours of practising The Shadows instrumentals, honing their skills on the new fangled electric guitars.    One of those people was:

Bob, a little older than I, was born in 45 and largely raised in "West Smethwick" as his mother insisted on calling it.  His musical journey started after seeing a skiffle group playing for the 6th form school Christmas party. 
He and some mates formed their own Skiffle Group and he was hooked. It didn't take long before electric guitars got into their hands and they gave themselves the name of The Sabres, and like hundreds of other kids would listen to The Shadows new instrumental, learn it in the afternoon and play it the same night in front of some youth club audience. 
Although young, us pioneers became adept at navigating the fretboard copying Hanks or Bruce or Jet Harris individual parts, learning and remembering melody lines and chord patterns and generally honing our craft.  I wouldn't like to guess how many "The Sabres"
there were in Birmingham either but you can bet there were a few in those early days, most not making it out of the front room of their house.  This one did and got bookings 

As happens, one of The Sabres decided he didn't want to do that any longer but on leaving recommended a replacement...........and it was a Girl!!!  Girls playing guitars? unheard of in my part of Brum although it was later on I heard about Meghan Davis(Applejacks) in Solihull.  
The female replacement for his area was

Christine Hill, who was a local guitar whizz and knew all the chords including Barre chords and gladly passed on her knowledge to him.   What a stroke of luck.
The photo of The Sabres with Christine is so reminiscent of the dance halls we played in the 60's. Christine was not only a great replacement, she had the look, a Burns sonic, a wealth of musical knowledge and also got the band gigs.!  That was like striking the mother lode.

During the following months, with growing confidence and ability Bob persuaded his Mum to buy him a Fender Stratocaster, (Now I know why she insisted coming from West Smethwick.. it was obviously the more affluent area of Smethwick).   Bob was now fully kitted out with a beautiful Strat, watkins copycat, selmer amp, winklepicker shoes and stage dress, everything was in a forward motion. However, good luck doesn't always last though and his mentor Christine left the band for fresher fields.  

The band carried on and did all the usual gigs in Brum for the next 2 years then split up which was "devastating" for him.  In those days being in a band had a different set of rules than today.  You had grown up musically together, had some hilarious times and many bad times, experienced playing on stage together for the first time.  It was an emotional, passionate thing, a bit like losing your girlfriend.

THE WILD CHERRIES Bob played on half-heartedly with a few other groups,as you could do in the day, and was on the verge of giving it all up when he got a call from great bassist Tiny Tim, ex Starliners, a mountain of a man whose playing was unequalled, as was his size.
He asked Bob if he was interested in joining The Wild Cherries as lead guitarist, a group fronted by Nicky James.  Also in the line up was Bev Bevan, Phil Akrill and Tony Lewis.   Nicky James had an incredible voice, fabulous stage presence and the women loved him but anyone who knew him would and could tell you many stories about anything he got involved with, including me.    Bob Watkins thought he had made it at last, in a great band with good players getting good gigs, it was living the life he dreamed of but with Nicky at the helm you could almost guarantee that it would go "tits up" at some time or other and of course the band folded and Nicky moved on.   Its the cruelest of businesses that takes all your aspirations away in a heartbeat.   Last week I was speaking with a well respected musician who knew Nicky in his later life and he had asked him about The Wild Cherries, Nicky said he couldn't remember them.  I think that's selective memory rather than loss of memory.

Bob however had the good fortune to come across ex Brumbeats vocalist, Graham Ashford or, as he was known then, Buddy Ash and continued playing with him on the circuit in the Buddy Ash Sound till making money for a living or "getting a job" became more important.   

The most opportune time to have made it, in a band in the music biz was during the 60's, Bob nearly did, as so many others nearly did but disco had started to rear its ugly head and gigs were disappearing faster than you could think.   The group game was up.

"To everything there is a season"

Bob and this Bob too were the most fortunate of people because we both experienced the best time of all to have been playing, it was all new, undiscovered ways to play the electric guitar, to extract sounds that had never been heard before.  Everytime something new happened it was a FIRST and we were the inventors.  We have something to be proud of, all us musicians of the early days, even drummers! hoho........  

We lived in the best times ever, as musicians experienced the thrill of the pop generation surging forward and we were the tip of the spear.   We might have gathered a few years but have a lot to be proud of and of course, quite a few are still playing and........if you're interested

Bob still has his gear!!

My thumb has now recovered sufficiently for me to getting back to the music.
Thanks for your emails.

Take Care


Copyright Bullsheadbob