Monday, 1 February 2021

Bulls Head Bob Feb 2021 - THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN. Playing in Europe. NEVER GIVE UP ..DAVE HYNDS

 Hello Brummies and 60s Beat Fans

I left school in the Spring of 64, I had been 15 for 3 months so should have really  completed another term but they were glad to see the back of me, I held the record for truancy and when I did attend, I would do anything other than be studious apart from art and English.   I had spent my bouts of truancy well, reading any book I could get my hands on and learning more and more songs on the guitar, developing my "ear" for music to the point where I could hear something once and play it straight away in the right key.    There were songs that were a "must" to learn and master, Shakin all Over, Johnny B Goode and one of the best opening chord sequences to a song and that was The House of the Rising Sun.  


The Animals, a group from Newcastle had spent a few years playing the clubs and dance halls in various guises but finally found the right formula of musicians and one of those was guitarist Hilton Valentine who sadly passed away yesterday.   In 1964 The House of the Rising Sun was the song that gained them instant success around the world.  I saw them live that same year and they were awesome.  

When I first heard the opening staccato chord sequence it set the scene for what was about to come, it was pure drama,  ominous and dark.  I was hooked and in a trice I was at it like a hairy bear, 5 minutes later I had the riff and most of the organ solo transposed to guitar.  The group practiced it the day after and we played it on that night.  We had a singer who could not only sing it very well but had a definite " touch of Eric Burdon" about him so it suited us down to the ground and became one of our star numbers in the set.


The song has never lost its popularity.  The Animals had in its ranks the brilliant organist Alan Price whose solo on the song was and still remains to be brilliantly constructed and was probably the first epic solo on the legendary VOX continental organ.   The band were on the road every night wallowing in their new found fame and popularity and it was during this initial success that they found that Alan Price had claimed the copyright for royalties as the composer for the whole song and was receiving all the money.   There was, naturally, much animosity in the band as the song had been a joint adaptation by the whole group but Price stated it was his organ solo that sold the record.     The Animals continued recording and had 4 other hits but found themselves disliking Price while at the same time knowing that their sound was largely based around the organ sound.  Price left the band in 65 and Hilton Valentine in 66.  The Animals reformed on a couple of occasions but they really flexed their R&B muscles during the short 2 year period of their existence.  

The song was based on an old American folk song that had never been published before Prices claim.  Some say it's about hard times but most likely is in reference to a Womens Prison house for prostitutes in New Orleans where the inmates would serve out their sentences "working" for the Govt.


Everyone has recorded their own versions of this classic rock song and I imagine there will be many more versions, much like Shakin all Over and Johnny B Goode they are like a rite of passage for up and coming musicians.   Its disappointing that Eric Burdon and Alan Price got the lions share of the glory from those who love the song but Hilton Valentine was a MASSIVE contributor to the dynamics that made it one of the biggest  selling songs of all time.

HILTON VALENTINE  1943 - 2021

The song has recently been tarnished by the American No 1 Clown that was Trump who played it at all his rallies.    

The Trump family made their money from prostitution. 

PLAYING IN EUROPE.

I am reading about bands not being able to play in Europe unless they apply for a Visa, what do they think happened before the EU?   Most small bands dont have the luxury of a sound and lighting rig with a host of techies.   It may have a detrimental effect on the larger bands who will have to pay out more for a large crew and I'm genuinely sorry for road crews, on minimum wages.  I take the positive view that we wont have to put up with all those crap Spanish groups and Romanian street buskers coming to the UK.

NEVER GIVE UP.  DAVE HYNDS AND

FAIRFIELD SKI

People become musicians at their own risk, it is and has always been the riskiest choice of career ever and it comes without preconditions or guarantees.  For every success story there are thousands of broken hearts, bands and dreams, it is the way of things.     There are only two ways to cope with the distress of failure in the biz and that is to pack up completely before your head gets bogged down with flashbacks or to sit down and rethink your strategy, keep playing and looking for opportunities but above all....  Never Give Up.     


That attitude is shared by ex Brumbeat Drummer and songwriter Dave Hynds.  Dave has earned his dues going back to the early sixties playing with The Cheetahs, Fairfield Ski and other bands in between and after.   Just recently Dave has announced that Fairfield Ski have signed a new record contract with the bands average age of 72!!   Dave is a great guy with grit and determination which never bends to the dark side of being a musician, I wish him and the other members of Ski great success and applaud their ever lasting belief.    


FINALLY

This covid is still a worry but the UK are far in front of other nations in carrying out their vaccination scheme at a rapid pace.    It's not an easy thing to achieve but they get my support all day, every day.


Take care and Keep Indoors 

Bob

Copyright: Bullsheadbob

Contact:  Bobsbullocks@Gmail.com 











Friday, 1 January 2021

Bulls Head Bob Jan 2021. Happy New Year. SLIDING. HARLEY BENTON, DAVID LINDLEY..

Hello Brummies, Brummie musos of the 60's now in their 70's, all of those around the world who check in to the blog and all the girls I've loved before.

Happy New Year!  Well 2020 was the year of high drama when everything could have gone "tits up" very quickly.  As if the Covid situation wasn't bad enough we had a would-be Hitler in the White house, lieing, cheating, setting families and races against each other whilst guiding pension funds into his own family coffers.   It felt good to be British, even though half the UK hated the other half who didn't want to be a part of the EU and some Jocks who don't want to be in the UK even though more than half of them voted to stay in the UK.  So, for the sake of equality and my own peace of mind I decided to hate everyone,  apart from Big Al and a few close friends, problem solved.  I hope that this year will see some resolve to get back on our feet again and return to some normality.     I had a wonderful fun Christmas despite not being able to hug and kiss my family. 

Santa delivered my Tascam 24 track SD recorder and I have been fathoming my way through its intricacies and many digital delights.  Strongly recommended purchase if you have some spare dosh.  For me, a much better option than some computer software.

On the run-up to Christmas I was pondering, as you do, what I could

give to certain folk and one problem was what to buy for my daughters partner who is a good guitarist and has a luthier built Telecaster plus a couple more tasty guitars plus a wondrous amount of expensive pedals and such.   The good thing was that, like me, he is a whole music lover and is happy to switch from jazz, to blues and rock and country so that broadened my options.    I opted to take a bit of a risk and buy him something moderately cheap, which is a word that doesn't feature in his vocabulary, so he might not like it.

I bought him a lap steel guitar and once again it is a Harley Benton.  I bought the HB Slider II from Thomann which came with a soft cover, lead and Steel for under a hundred pounds!     I can tell you now that he Loves it!    I'm not surprised either, when it arrived at home I checked it over and was amazed by its fabulous appearance, attention to detail and overall finish.  It's not at all what I expected for comparatively little money and after hearing him play it I am more than happy with its sound.   Back in the day you would have heard it only on things like "Sleepwalk" and it was regarded as some kind of novelty instrument however with guitarists like Dave Gilmour using one with Pink Floyd it gave it a touch more credibility and furthermore its sound featured heavily during the Jackson Browne and Crosby and Nash years.    

The person who provided that sound for our American cousins was the magnificent David Lindley who could be as hard and dirty as you like or soft and ethereal such as on Crosby and Nashs "Out of the Darkness". 

If you want to see one of these at its rockin' best watch Mr Lindley playing "Mercury Blues" on YouTube and any misgivings you may have about it being a seriously good instrument will be cast to the wind.    Remember this too, the Stratocaster with its tremelo arm was designed to mimic the sound of an Hawaian lap steel guitar.

RETURN OF LIVE GIGS

I have been offered a lot of gigs during this virus riddled year and turned them all down, I play, to play "live" and to fully engage with the audience, not to have people seated 6 feet apart in a sterile environment or waiting to be told the gig has been cancelled.    We are all prisoners of the virus and although I feel for all the technical and sound crews who have been shelved until things improve, they are not the only ones to suffer....its most people.  Being a musician is the hardest of professions as it is with heavy financial investment for little or no return for the majority, even in the best of times, but earning or not, it doesn't remove the passion and love of making music so I live in hope that once we get playing again, that all you musos out there who have been honing your skills during this period of inactivity will come out refreshed, inventive and busting a gut to perform.  

FINALLY

I conclude this piece of frippery with a wish for peace, love, tolerance and understanding for all.  Thankyou to the NHS for everything they have done to try and improve peoples lives whilst putting themselves in danger on a daily basis.   I am exceptionally pleased that we have left the snake pit that was the EU but it struck me that the majority of younger Brits have never known what life was like before we were all institutionalised so I understand their fears.  Perhaps now as we forge ahead with our own destiny safely back in British hands they might even come to enjoy the pride of being British with all our technical and scientific knowledge and expertise in every field and let's not forget......world leaders in the music field and especially Brummie musicians and bands.    

Take Care of the Ones you Love,

 Bob


  

 


 


Tuesday, 1 December 2020

BULLS HEAD BOB DEC 2020. CHRISTMAS COVID EDITION

Hello Brummies, Chums, Brummies Abroad, the lads in Thailand and Hong Kong everyone else around the world who pop in to the blog on the 1st of the month with a special Hello for my first reader in Benin!!

The world has been in a shocking state this year, Covid has well and truly shagged everything but it's Christmas time here in the bloggery, the door to soft twats who think the word should be replaced with something else to appease the multi cultural array of races in Birmingham is firmly closed.  

  


Christmas in the second city, as always, holds a soft spot in my past from queueing to see Father Christmas at John Lewis' as a 5 year old, as a 10 year old reading and devouring every page of the Bells of Surbiton music catalogue hoping that my Christmas gift might be an electric guitar, to eventually playing in a couple of great bands in the city on many Christmas Eve's when the largest dance halls would be packed to the gunnels with party goers and we would be paid a bit more dosh.  Those dance hall days were fantastic. 

This year there will be no dance halls throbbing to the sound of live music and even the Birmingham Christmas lights were switched on with next to no-one to see them.  I haven't played a single gig since last Feb or even met up with the rest of the band but we wont give in to this virus and getting back together will be a joyous moment for sure.

Mrs Bob and I are having our own Christmas Bubble, just the two of us and will be chatting on Facetime with the Bobettes throughout the day.    As announced last month, my TASCAM portastudio Christmas present is still under the bed awaiting Mrs Bob's lavish wrapping attention. She has been happy as Larry lately and has been singing so, quite unselfishly, as well as buying her a new dress, I have bought her a new condenser microphone, studio earphones and a set of balanced patch cables, I imagine she will be thrilled with them, Happy wife, Happy Life. 

If however she feels that that particular combo gift is not exactly what she expected I have a crowd pleaser as a second present which I was going to save for her birthday in January but I want to spoil her rotten this year so am giving her this little beauty......in Ferrari Yellow.


I know you might think I have been a bit predictable and maybe even a little free with my spending, after all she already has a perfectly good barrow but I wanted her to have something to show off to the neighbours.  My mate, Fat Stan is coming round to do a bit of pinstriping just like Pimp my Ride, don't  you just love that low profile tyre?? 

OGGIES CARD
Oggie has been a part of my life since the age of 11 and we started our electric guitar journey together,  first as Wannabe Hank Marvin's right through to the rise of the Liverpool bands and I can almost picture us learning "Sweets for my Sweet" in his front room on Kedleston Drive, such happy times.  He moved out to the USA where he lived for the next 40 years before returning to Brum some years ago.

Now he has never been a lover of the Christmas Festivities apart from going to the pub on Christmas day for a couple of bevvies but he always phones to wish me a Happy Christmas because he knows how I love it so much and I always send him a card via the blog so

HAPPY CHRISTMAS OGGIE
The thing is, this year he might not even make it to the pub if things are locked down again so I have bought a special Christmas treat for him from America, for him to nibble on whilst watching The African Queen.  


Happy Christmas Oggie..

Happy Christmas to everyone who visits the blog, I'm sure we will all find different ways to celebrate, that is everyone except my lovely mate who has decided that no way is Santa getting in down his chimney without a covid check. 

I'm sure that he will join me in hoping for a quick resolution to this years woes when he can get out his Santa outfit again and we can ALL have a better year in 2021.  Starting with getting that racist Turkey out of the White House.

With the current restrictions life is difficult and even more precious so, do what you can to lessen the covid dread by keeping to small gatherings, we can't relax until the Injection arrives. 

Above all else please be tolerant and kind to each other, love is the key.



Bob








Copyright Bulls headbob
Contact: Bobsbullocks@Gmail.com 





Sunday, 1 November 2020

BULLS HEAD BOB Nov 2020. SPENCER DAVIS. LICORICE LOCKING. How to get what you want for Christmas. TASCAM DP24 SD.

Hello Brummies, Pals and chums, readers in Vietnam, Khazakstan, Argentina and of course Pluki the Japanese loft-boy.

Well we continue to be in the grip of this Covid thing but I'm not going to linger on that subject because it serves no purpose.    Mrs Bob and I have repainted the house, the garden is immaculate and now we are on the run up to Christmas to cheer us up.  You gotta do what you gotta do whilst you're alive and be wise to be alive longer.

SPENCER DAVIS RIP

It has been a pretty disastrous end to October, the great Spencer Davis hung up his Stratocaster and departed the world at 81 years of age. 

Although I saw the band a few times, I met him only once in 1964 but I was 15 and he was a full 10 years older than I and a teacher!! it wasn't the done thing then to speak much to proper adults.  The Spencer Davis group were the best band by far of any group operating in Birmingham and the West Midlands at any given time, there was just no contest and Spencer Davis was their creator and mentor.  The groups success lacked one thing though, money.  Their Royalties had been siphoned off by manager Chris Blackwell.    With the departure of Steve Winwood to Traffic the Spencer Davis group continued but it was a downhill slide from their previous level of stardom.  In the later years Spencer came out of retirement and hit the stage again but it was never the same, playing mostly for those who wished to remember the 60's but he was the person that saw the potential of those individuals and bought them together to play the music he adored and Steve Winwood was the icing on the cake. 


I have featured them throughout the lifetime of this blog and really can't add anymore than I have already written so, if I may,  I would like to redirect you to the special I wrote on them rather than repeat myself.  Click here SPENCER DAVIS GROUP
............."what a great read Bob" I can hear you say to yourself, "thanks" said I.

He was Welsh but was the leader of the best live Blues R/B band to exist in Birmingham and probably the whole of the UK at the time.  It was a real privilege to see loads of great bands in those small Birmingham venues but this group blew me away, and every other band too!!!!!!


LICORICE LOCKING


Us early Brumbeaters were brought up listening to The Shadows and learned by copying, note-for-note, the music they played.  Jet Harris was their most famous Bassist having been the initial member of the band and I think the public think of any replacement as second class to the original which is wierd.  However Locking had as good a pedigree as Harris having been the bassist with Marty Wilde and The Wildcats and was a regular at the famous 2i's.  He was a multi instrumentalist and got his nickname playing the clarinet.   He was recommended to the band by Brian Bennett who had just replaced Tony Meehan on Drums.

He was in The Shadows for one year and during that time made the film of Summer Holiday, Cliff and The Shads biggest film.  Always had a smile on his face he was the complete antithesis of the guy he replaced and was a committed christian.  He was replaced by Birminghams own John Rostill who became their longest serving bassist.

CHRISTMAS IS COMING.            

HINTS FOR GIFTS.

Because we have been staying inside since March, we have been able to save up some dosh that we would have spent socially so I said to Mrs Bob,  "Darling, how slim you look in that dress, is it new? Well you make it look new! I would like to buy you a nice new dress for Christmas!! and she said "Oh Mr Bob you have'nt lost your romantic touch, thankyou!!" and gave me the sort of look that could only end up in some physical contortions.  3.5 minutes later, oh alright 2.5 and feeling slightly out of breath she said "I want to buy you a nice big present too!!......"Well if you really want to...pause...smile and ACTION.... "I'd really like a new 24 multi-track digital recorder but thats out of reach so I'll write to Santa as usual Ho ho ho."

After lunch whilst sipping a nice glass of port, we wrote together, a letter to Santa asking for a new recording device and where it might be obtainable from and then how we laughed as we stuck it up the chimney.  

I have been using an AKAI Pro DPS16 forabout 20 years and it is a fabulous piece of kit but is

now beginning to show its age with a sticking fader and a couple of other minor irritating problems so before it starts to conk out completely a replacement is necessary and instead of taking the normal computer interface-thing route, I have continued to opt for "something a little more comfortable", which is essential if you are a hands-on fader freak like me!   I sent Santa (Mrs Bob) that note 2 months ago saying I specifically wanted a......... 

TASCAM DP24 SD PORTASTUDIO

This machine is 5 star rated and is now the best of its kind on the market, the main step up in tech terms, is the ability to record direct to a digital 32G card in place of a CD-RW which saves a lot of storage space both digitally and physically, no more racks of CD's with bits of compositions on waiting for a second spark of inspiration.


It is almost a copy of the AKAI in that the controls are practically the same for recording but now it is bang up to date technically and its extensive 24 track recording abilities, along with its impressive inbuilt effects suite has everything you could want for in a dedicated, stand alone, recording package.  I think of it as an analogue recorder more than a computer recording option.  It is totally portable and can be used for live performances too, thanks to its robust and solid construction, mighty impressive guys!!   Having a smaller control screen is not too much of a trade off for its portability, it can be used in any room of the house, or dog house if the lady in your life tells you pipe down when she's watching something crap like X Factor!    

You can record straight away and listen to the playback via headphones or get yourself a pair of monitors preferably, active monitors if you wish to listen to a studio quality loud playback, add a condensor microphone and you're away.  In true Bob techno-speak it has "oodles of inputs" so you can record your band too, at the same time.   More importantly, it will give you continued free recording time.  So now you will be able to knock out all those tunes you play and/or concentrate on writing and recording your own material with the ability to record something "on the spur of the moment" at the push of a button.   We currently have time on our hands and it would be good to use the time wisely being creative.  If you are not familiar with using one of these stand alone devices there is a brilliant range of tutorials on Youtube that will have you up and running in next to no time.   Around 400 to 500 quid and there you are. It is in demand and in some places you will have to preorder.  Mrs Bob already has mine and its under the bed in its box and being a Santa believer I'm sure the box is empty right now and will magically fill itself on Christmas night and I hope that he has had a hand in giving it a touch of magic when I make my first recording with it.

I shall continue to use the brilliant AKAI DPS16 along-side the new kid in town until it fizzles out some grey day.

So I'm pleased to have passed onto you the phrase to get what you want for Christmas, a shag and a glass of port too!  It only works once so use it sparingly and if over a certain age loosen belt, apply blue pill and lean forward!  REMEMBER...

" Oh Darling, how slim you look in that dress, Is it new? well you make it look new!...... I'd like to buy you a new dress for Christmas?

I dont know if the phrase works with the panoply of gender neutral, left side trouser wearers or straight up gays and lesbians but for the average older man/woman situation its DYNAMITE!!

FINALLY

My heart goes out to anyone who or whose family has been affected by this vile virus, it is a timely and recurring reminder to humanity of exactly how fragile we truly are and are not the kings of our own destiny.   Please be kind and thoughtful to each other

FINALLY, finally

7-2 ...7-2.....7-2    UTV...Super Jack 

Bob 

Copyright: Bullsheadbob

Contact:  Bobsbullocks@GMail.com 



Thursday, 1 October 2020

BULLS HEAD BOB - OCT 2020. Lilly Winwood. HAGSTROM Guitars. The Day the Music Died.

Hello chums, Brummies, my friends around the world with a special mention this month for Sweden, thanks for dropping in and supporting the blog.  We all find ourselves in various stages of lockdown around the world and lately, moreso in good old Brum but us Brummies are made of sterner stuff and "we ain't gonna tek it lying down", although, to be honest, I've enjoyed the lying down bit a little too much and am yearning to be back up on my feet.

LILLY WINWOOD

I have made no reservations about my respect and admiration for the incredible talents of Steve Winwood from the first time I met him in 63/64 to right now.     I dont believe he has any areas of weakness at all in his field of music and has been instrumental in influencing many aspirants to the cause of music as a fluid, ever changing form, by not being a rigid bluesman for example, he has dipped freely into the cauldron of change and endeared himself to many.  It will come as no surprise that some of his creative genes must have been passed on to his children.   If nothing else, this virus lockdown has made me listen to the radio more and just last week I found myself listening to a lady singing a slowed down version of Steve Winwoods "Higher Love".  "She sounds good" I thought, then in the chorus I recognised Steve's voice doing the harmony.   

When I looked at the play list I saw that the lovely voice belonged to none other than LILLY WINWOOD and this is the first time I have heard her.  It would appear that back in 2016 this recording was used in the USA as the background music for a HERSHEY bar advert and bought her to the publics attention.  She has since released an EP "Silver Stage" and a new Album release is planned for 2021.   There can be a disadvantage to being an offspring of a famous musician and particularly if the offspring too wishes to make their mark in the music field.    I dont believe Lilley will have any difficulty in establishing herself as a solo force in her own right after having paid her dues with local bands in bars for some years and does not need the recording paraphanelia, predominantly Autotune, that other daughters of Brummie rock stars need.   So spend some time on the lookout for her new year release "Time Well Spent".    It shall be gracing my collection. Good one Lilly!

HAGSTROM GUITARS

As a result of this months Swedish support, it is timely to remind you that Sweden played it's part in the early beginnings of 60's Rock music courtesy of HAGSTROM guitars.  They made some pretty awful guitars at first, as did most of the post WW2 firms and traded under the Goya badge in the USA.  Hagstrom as a Brand started with three consecutive models from 1958, the first being the hideous sparkly Standard 80, followed by the absolutely terrible plastic monstrosity that was the Kent or Futurama 2 as it was known and the third being their first foray into something that was more of a serious instrument than a toy, the Hagstrom standard 1, 11 and 111 loosely based on the Les Paul. As per photo below.


The company then made some serious guitars and made one of the nicest 335 style guitars in the form of the excellent Super Swede.   They are worth a look at if you ignore the wall hangar rubbish they made to start with.

I take this opportunity to remind you that not all old guitars are collectible, some are best deposited into a skip. 

RUSSIAN CRAP

Here is a prime example of crap Russian stuff on sale currently on EBay, they are all awful but this one is probably the worst of them all.  Manufactured from aluminium, absolutely no expense or effort has been made to produce this shitpile.  It was probably made out of an old MIG fighter fuselage, although to be fair, there are no rivets showing, absolutely dreadful.  I think someone's asking 600 quid for it.  Hahahahahaha!!!! come on, let's grow up.


 The Day the Music Died 

I think we all know the Don McLean song American Pie and one of its hooks "the day the music died".  This was a reference to the death of Buddy Holly.  However I got a call from old mate Oggie the other day and we were discussing the lack of gigs or any kind of live performance owing to the Covid restrictions and we both thought that this could be the death knell for a lot of artists who have been going forever and whose names are known only to their age generation.

There are some who have been trading themselves as stars but in reality only had a small hit with a cover of someone else's song and are well past their sell by date with nothing new to offer.  Everything changes and music and style transcend the standard norms that have been around for far too long  and have become too predictable and boring.  We could be at that point now, during lockdown where, like me, people have started to listen to new artists and have started to forget some of those self appointed "stars" of old. In truth there are some I'd gladly see the back of.  It will be interesting to see what happens when the entertainment industry gets back into action.  Maybe its not the day the music died but the Day we forgot to remember.

FINALLY

Above all remember that our frustrations and bad moods at being trapped inside or in constant close quarters can lead to a bad day for all those around us.  We have an obligation to support our families and it is better to find ways of keeping our relationships safe, secure and loving.   So before you go complaining about little irritations, take a breath and think "do I really need to react badly to a trifling annoyance".  It could be the difference to a good day turning bad.

Love the ones you're with and keep safe.

Bob

Copyright: Bullsheadbob

Contact: Bobsbullocks@Gmail.com 











Monday, 31 August 2020

Bulls Head Bob - Sep 2020. BEAT group days in Birmingham. Electrify your Acoustic Guitar

 Watcha you Brummies, 

Another month bites the dust and what a month it was!! Hot as anything followed by the lightning storms that filled the heavens for a couple of days.  Followed by more storms and fierce wind.  I've had fierce wind more than a few times mind you and recommend a bowl of  stewed plums for a couple of days...... The live gig situation is terrible and the forecast doesn't look too good either,  nonetheless we need to keep our spirit alive and what better way than a touch of reminiscing back to the early 60's when there was live music in the form of pop groups in every pub in the City of "Brummagem by the Cole". What a fantastic era.


As some of you will know, we lost the great Chuck Botfield, lead guitarist and founder member of The Rockin Berries on the last day of June.  Due to a commitment I only had time to make a passing comment so please read the article by John Woodhouse at Brumbeat.Net by clicking HHERE.   Chuck was a lovely guy and inspired a whole generation of Brummy guitarists including me.  As a passionate learner I would go and see him occasionally and take my little pocket note book to jot down things I could work on or chord runs and things.  He played Chuck Berry songs just like his hero!!  He had fire in his belly in those days. 

As can plainly be identified The Rockin Berries were formed at the height of Chuck Berry mania when BRUMBEAT was at its zenith for Beat Groups and in Birmingham, Chuck Botfield was one of its leaders. 

BEAT GROUP DAYS

Johnny B Goode was the first thing we all had learned and the Chuck Berry rhythm suited the guitar like no other for Rock music, pulsating staccato half notes stabbing away over, four to the bar, bass runs in line with a four on the floor bass drum  BEAT music.  It opened the flood gates for groups to take any song and "Berrify it" by playing it faster and adding the rhythm.   A famous example would be "My Bonnie"  by Tony Sheridan and The Beatles.   The singer would be equipped with marracas and tambourine as extra percussion for those Bo Diddley moments!  With the arrival of the guitar solo the hi-hats would be opened to crash away, increasing the madness and during the "Screaming Times" the girls would go crazy, the whole band encouraged by the response would be elevated to greater heights and I, for one, would be dripping with sweat, head down, really really, playing my heart out.   

All those hours of constant practice were paying off and the excitement generated by the music filled me like nothing else could, I hadn't even heard of adrenalin but I was swimming in it and the group were always so enthusiastic it almost took your breath away.  There were stages we, the first wave of electric guitar groups, wanted to achieve, first paid gig, getting suits, getting a van and then getting it covered with lipstick messages from the fans then more gigs supporting bigger bands, getting a fan base, being top of the bill,  improving all the time, better equipment, getting a record contract and then being "Screamed at" and.....getting pulled off stage by eager females.   We had seen other bands like the Stones and Beatles etc being mobbed by hordes of teenage girls and wanted to experience the thrill of it all....adoration!!    

It was a crazy, exciting time for groups and although I'm glad I experienced the thrill of live performances from basic Rock, through the psychedelic phase and up until the end of that wonderful decade the BEAT phase was by far the most enjoyable.  

Through it all, the Chuck Berry riff, intros and solos appeared in differing forms and have done ever since although, these days, it lacks the excitement and emotion of having been through its creation and played it first 

Electrify your Acoustic.

I have a Tanglewood Electro acoustic which I have owned for 22 years, it has a beautiful warm tone and anyone who plays it loves it.  Its pre-installed Fishman pre-amp passed away peacefully recently and no amount of battery changing, swearing at or tapping it with a screwdriver would revive it.    I contacted Tanglewood asking if there was any replacement available, sadly no, not for old guitars.  I love the guitar and use it with a Marshall acoustic amp.  Now, I live in a remote neck of the woods so, owing to this lock down malarkey,  the normal supplier wasn't available so I looked on Ebay to see what I could do to "solucion-ize the problem" and saw a Fishman that was about the same dimensions as the one that needed changing.

I purchased a Fishman Presys blend Preamp, I was impressed by it having a microphone inside the guitar body as well as the normal bridge piezo pick-up strip which you can blend together to get a greater range of sensitivity and tone.   


There is always a danger of forgeries on sale and indeed there were a deal of suppliers advertising the same preamp all at different prices starting at around £12.  Buying the most expensive doesn't guarantee you are getting the genuine article either,  so how much of a risk did I want to take?   


I went for £25 plus post thinking if it blows up I will have to suck it up and say I'll never do that again.   So, anyway within a week of paying it was at my door.  No luxury packaging, ziplock bag with Fishman tag inside a padded envelope.   The contents were all there minus the 9v battery.  

The build is good, everything clips together nicely, there are some pictorial fitting instructions but I found some better installation videos on Youtube.   Taking out the broken one was easy.  The refitting process was just a question of sanding the opening to accommodate the slightly wider Presys and from then on it went smoothly enough for someone who is used to doing fiddly things, it would have gone a lot smoother had I purchased a new set of strings to replace the ones I had removed!!    3 days later with new strings attached, I slipped in the battery, attached a guitar lead and turned it on, there was a bit of a squeal from my bedside mini Laney amp that sounded "mistake like" but was resolved by me tightening the newly installed Jack plug connection, then it came to life.   It sounded a whole lot better when I connected the guitar to the Marshall however I will have to get accustomed to regulating the balance between mic and piezo till I find the "sweet spot".


I would have to say that this system, whether a knock-off or not, does the job fine, of course I don't have another example to judge it by.    It is a comparatively easy job to do and well within the grasp of someone with a bit of common sense and pacience, so if you have an old acoustic that you would like to use in your stage act or for recording without taking the expensive route of buying a new electro acoustic guitar you may find this a much cheaper option.   A Stanley knife, a drill and drill bit, Phillip's head screw driver and some masking tape is all you need, plus of course the pre-amp.    It's the cheapest way to electrify your acoustic guitar for stage or recording use and you get the satisfaction of having done it yourself.    Good luck!!!!  I should add that you might want to think twice about doing this to some rare or expensive instrument!!!  

FINALLY

Please be careful out there, do wear a mask, do use sanitizer, we have to live with this awful virus so please try not to pass it on.  That aside, be as happy as you can and love the ones you're with.


Bob

Copyright: Bullsheadbob

Contact:  bobsbullocks@gmail.com






 

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Bulls Head Bob Aug 2020. BULLS HEAD BOB...HOW TO WRITE A SONG. The Incomparable PETER GREEN. WATKINS RAPIER. CHUCK BOTFIELD RIP.

Hello Brummies, lockdown compatriots, Musos, Rockers and Rockettes,
you Loft Boys of Japan, psychedelic funksters and drifters. 

A special hello to my new freinds in Romania and the UAE!! Welcome.

1964, 15 years of age but looked 12, Hall Green, Birmingham.  Left school, worked for the CO-OP at Tysley and had my first Pint of Brown and Mild, I had a couple more and was as sick as a dog all the way home from Moseley.   

Later that same week, ........having listened to a Huddy Leadbetter LP we, our group, decided that we could do better than that and prepared ourselves to write our soon-to-be hit.  We sat around a dining table and looked at each other for a few minutes.  I, as the lead guitarist took the mantle and commenced a chugging blues rythmn with an added 7th every 4th beat.   The Bass player looked at me in a knowing manner and added a one note plod-a-long, the guaranteed escape route for the 4 stringers in the world.  Although the rhythm guitarist was there we left him to his own devices as he lived in his own space-time-continuum, never playing the same thing twice and spending more time cavorting around on the stage floor during gigs than actually adding a musical element " It's all about art man" he would be writhing about the base of the mic stand screaming at me when I was doing a solo.     So apart from him,  we were solid, in the groove, to use the music parlance of the 80's.    Kerchunk, kerchunk, kerchunk, we could have gone on forever, looking at each other that is! 

Now, if the whole band had pooled our lifes experiences there wouldn't have been enough to cover a Cream Cracker.   Being drunk and told off by your Mum, Truancy, Three fumbles, 12 love bites and being sick in someone's record player at a party hardly constituted a joint life of pain and suffering that we could translate in the form of a biting lyric.   I stared at the singer, waiting for him to put sense to all our experiences but even he, at the ripe old age of 16, with a grammar school education, hadn't been allowed to parties where there had been girls, "Unnecessary distractions from algebra"  his Mother said.   Three hours later he had written,  " I went down to the station"  ....we stopped right there, not even making it to the platform, because he had to go home for his Sunday dinner.  

We never talked about writing a song again because I think we all subconsciously agreed that it was a far too difficult thing to do and we maybe better off revisiting that particular scenario anew once one of us had had a shag at least!  We further discovered that nearly everybody had already been "Down to the Station", had "Woken Up this Mornin" and found "My Woman Done Gone".   

BULLS HEAD BOB
HOW TO WRITE A SONG
There is a truth and that is you have to write a hundred crappy songs before you learn to discern what it good and what is poo.   However, you have to start somewhere and writing a basic melody for you to put your words to is as good a way to start as any other, anyone can do it, its guaranteed to work so you have halved the difficulty straight away and you dont need to know how to write music notation!! 

EQUIPMENT
An exercise book with lined pages, a blue pen and a red one. 

1.   Write down the numbers 1 to 5 horizontally on a page of lined paper with a blue pen.  
These numbers represent the five BLACK notes of a piano keyboard starting from the left as Number 1 through to 5 as the last black key on the right, in the group of 3.  Only the black keys are played.

  
2.  Now, with the red pen, write on the next line down, a selection of the numbers 1 to 5, in any order, even repeating some of them.   Let's say you chose to write down 12 numbers as below but it could be any amount or back to front.  These numbers are totally random I assure you.

143522134321

We now need to decide if the tune is going to be slow or fast and set our tempo speed.  
Congratulations you have just written your first tune.  That's it.........and you havent played a note
Yet......

MAKING THE BASIC MUSIC
If you have a keyboard of any type available, but preferably with a metronome, start from the middle of the keyboard using the 5 black keys only, play the first four numbers of your own random choice, one note for each beat in this case 1 4 3 5.    It's just four notes but will be a short melody, try repeating this four note group for the next four beats or......play the next four notes of your random number selection, 2 2 1 3 to have an eight note melody. 

PUTTING WORDS TO MUSIC 
If you have written words already you can apply this same formula to the verses, words and syllables.  Using syllables as note changes as well as the words if you wish "Re-mem-ber" for example.

Use tricks to form melodies.   John Lennons melody for  the opening lines of "I am the walrus"
Is made up of two notes, in fact the two notes he heard from a police siren passing by....Dee dah Dee dah Dee dah Dee dah = I am/ he as/ you are /he as...etc   and remember too that you can use one note for several words

Other melodies have been formed using Morse code. The music for the popular comedy show "Some Mothers Do Ave Em" was written by converting the individual letters of the title into Morse code so S = dot dot dot, O = dash dash dash, M = dash E = dot and so on.  All these groups of dots and dashes can then be manipulated into our 5 black note conversion melody maker above.

This is really nothing new and was a trick of the trade in the great songwriting days of the Brill Building and Tin Pan Alley here in the UK but is something you may not have come across before to aid you to achieve your wishes to write a song.  This is straw for you to build bricks with.   I would love to be the claimant of this method but learned this trick through chatting with the great Alex Wharton one of the pioneers of Rock and Roll (The Most Brothers, creative element of the musical "Oliver", film star and producer of "Go Now" to name just a few of the million things he has been involved with, so if like me, you find this useful he's the guy to thank.   

It is interesting to note that during world war 2, musicians were used for code and cypher breaking work at Bletchley Park and for the Battle of Midway because we work in mysterious ways with 5 number groups which is the way codes are generally transmitted.



PETER GREEN........RIP
I first saw Peter Green at the Carlton Club, Erdington after he stepped into the breach with John Mayalls Bluesbreakers after EC had split the scene to form Cream.  I wasn't impressed one bit, I listened to Mayalls LP 'A Hard Road' with P Green and wasn't impressed and it wasn't because of any wrongdoing on his part either.  There are moments in Rock History that cant be bettered, the moments that encapsulate a feeling of greatness and that moment had occurred with The Bluesbreakers Beano LP with Eric at his thundering best, every note in every solo was the right one, there was more effort on Mayalls part too.   It was predictable that any sort of follow up to that would be incredibly hard to judge either as an LP or especially as the new featured guitarist in the J Mayall group.    
 
Within the year Peter Green left Mayall and with Mick Fleetwood persuaded John McVie, a staunch Mayall bassist to join with them and call themselves Fleetwood Mac after Mick and John's surnames respectively.   Released from Mayalls business-like grip on his musicians was like a blessing and now Peter Green bloomed with a hard rocking blues band aided on slide guitar by Jeremy Spencer.   Although he and Spencer "Went down to the Station" in the bands formative months, Green developed his own melodic approach to his song writing and wrote the first of his 'world beating' songs "Black Magic Woman", it was, his 'moment', his awakening of blues in another form, his songs were now the perfect platform to display his unique guitar style and sound which was mature and oozed emotion.   If I had written Black Magic Woman I would have been happy for the rest of my life, this song though was just the first of his incredible catalogue including The Green Manalishi, Man of the World and Oh Well.   Every single one of those songs is a genuine world classic, two rockers and the beautifully written Man of the World with its soul touching lyrics, guitar fills and a solo that didnt just come along, he dug every note of that from his very being, superb!!
 
"I need your love so bad" which, although not written by him (Little Willie John 1955) contains some of his finest "touch" guitar work ever but even above that his vocal interpretation was incredible and one that ranks with the highest of any blues singer in my humble opinion.

"Albatross", their only instrumental hit was nothing more than a stocking filler, for me.  Middle of the road slush.

In 1968 Fleetwwod Mac swelled their ranks by the addition of third guitarist Danny Kerwan because Green thought they could go further and also said he didn't want to be responsible for everything, this was a bit of a chink in his emotional make up.   At their height they did a gig in Berlin and upon arrival at the airport Peter and Danny got whisked off to a commune in a forest where they were given too much/took too much or were fed some hyper-LSD that had a devastating effect on them and Green came out of it a lot worse off than Kirwan.  His mind had been fried.

He left the band shortly after and made two dreadful LPs, I bought them both and played them once, it appeared that his time was up.   He lived in a small house and was getting robbed by a variety of ne'er do wells and could be seen wandering around Twickenham looking like a tramp, dreadfully unkempt, carrying around a couple of plastic bags with nicotine stained fingernails that had overgrown and were curled.   He had sold his Les Paul guitar to Gary Moore for a song.   

By a stroke of luck, a girl got the feeling the tramp was following her, then thought that she knew him and went and asked "Is that you Peter?"    She was the person who saved his life and got him some help and got him cleaned up.  After a lot of time and care by his friends and some persuasion he made a comeback with The Splinter Group including Cozy Powell.    Eric Clapton showed up for the gig too giving Peter some encouragement.  Whispering Bob Harris was the compere of the festival where the band were performing, he walked onto the stage and said   "How many years have we all waited for this moment??" the crowd were up for it.

Greeny took to the stage to the roars of the eager and opened with "I'm going Down", nice classic blues.  It was evident from the off that the great Peter Green was no longer available and we were left with just a bit of his echo.   Both his voice and guitar playing were weak,  nonetheless the crowd knew he was damaged goods and although they probably hoped for more, all got behind him in the knowledge of just how difficult it must have been for him to do that. 
A rush of love for him was overwhelming and it would be fair to say that that love has been undying by his many who knew him "back then".  

That initial concert was a long time ago and The band have been on the circuit a lot.
I think we have all lived in hope that maybe, just for a moment, we could have seen a true touch of his previous genius come sneaking through. His past greatness has been recorded for all to hear.  There is some marvellous footage of the original Fleetwood Mac on Youtube playing live in France and at The Playboy Mansion that pays testament to what a fantastic live band they were with their leader at the top of his game.
The Fleetwood Mac that emerged from that band are a completely different animal and although a bigger band on the world stage, have no relation to their brilliant, dynamic, beginings.   
We British have a knack of producing the worlds best guitarists but none of them had or have  the "touch" of Peter Green.

God Bless you Peter Green guitar hero and lovely man.

WATKINS RAPIER
This may come as a bit of a shock but when Danny Kirwan joined Fleetwood Mac in 1968 he was still playing his Watkins Rapier 33.


Now I haven't played one since around 62 but it struck me that if Kirwan was making music that impressed P Green he must have sounded really good as there were no foot pedals available then.    Why then are people not using them for years and years?  Its a bit of a mystery, there must be thousand in attics and wardrobes all eager to be played.   Perhaps you should dust it off and put it through a Watkins Dominator.

I mean why would people buy shit Russian Jolana crap when there is a British guitar of some repute, just a wardrobe away? Just a thought.  Dont get fooled into paying too much on EBay though.   It ain't that good.




STOP PRESS
CHUCK BOTFIELD RIP
News has just come in of the passing of Rockin Berries lead guitarist Chuck Botfield.
He has been in my life as someone to look up to from when I was learning not to write songs.
My condolences go out to his family and friends

FINALLY 
Summer is here and though people may have thought that COVID has stopped everything, it hasnt.   Life and fun is what you make for yourself.



Take Care my Friends
till next time

Bob

Copyright:  BullsHeadBob
Contact:   Bobsbullocks@GMail.com