For some reason been looking back again. I’ve been working recently with some of the funkiest folk that I’ve ever met in the shape of Jon Cleary and Earl Thomas and the musicians playing with them. Jon’s chaps are the finest sidemen from New Orleans and Earl’s for some years were Ike Turner’s backing band now resident in California.
Had the treat of driving Earl Thomas who’s song ‘Get Me Some’ was recorded by Tom Jones past Tom’s birthplace afer a gig at the delightful Mumbles Blues festival and chatted with Doug; Jon’s drummer about playing with Willie Nelson in the end credits shot of the Dukes of Hazard movie whilst gazing over the Tyne from The Sage. Good Criac.
But through the funk an image from ten years ago has kept recurring. One morning I was alone facing the lift on the ground floor in Polydor Records, thoughts quite elsewhere, stepped forward as the doors opened to be faced, from the lift, by Mr James Brown at the front of his large retinue. My immediate reaction was to take a step back and salute, not just any salute but the three fingured salute of the Boy Scouts where I’d last had occasion to salute anyone in 1964. Mr Brown nodded and gave me a “Huh” as he walked by. Perfect.
Here is a most strange version of “This Is A Man’s World”
Spring 76 and after five years in Brum I’d spent a couple of years as a roadie and a couple being a sales rep for the wonderfully niche Transatlantic Records. It was time to find a new music related challenge.
Since I’d seen 100’s of venues around the UK this agency business – finding gigs for artists – sounded interesting with less driving for sure.
There were 2 that caught my eye in town – Jim Simpson’s Big Bear agency for one but I didn’t fancy that since they’d recently booked my mate James Langstone’s band to play on the Isle of Man ferry. In the storm that they sailed through as the band were playing the power supply varied as the ship’s propeller came out of the water causing James’s vocals to vary in pitch an octave or so during just one vocal line. People subsequently paid a lot of money for this effect but it didn’t work when unplanned.
The other agency that I’d noted – Endale Associates didn’t really appeal as I knew of Dave Corke’s Juda Priest connections and I’d never bought into that bit of metal but the company had promoted some good gigs too so I called him anyway. I went to see him in an office up a few stairs in the Jewellrey Quarter on the afternoon of December 1st. An amaimable fellow, Corky figured that my experience was just the ticket to be a useful booker so it was quickly agreed that I’d start the next day. Corky explained that he was going to be out of the office in the morning so gave me a set of keys with instructions to “Answer the phone” until he arrived around lunch time.
I didn’t see the Grundy interview from Granada Studios that went out Nationally that night and caused the media furore led by the Daily Mirror but travelling on the No 9 into my new work place that morning and reading the Mirror I did wonder what the day might have in store.
I let myself in to the office at 9.00am and both phones were ringing. Neither stopped for the rest of the day. The first calls were from 2 of the Universities that had dates on the upcoming Sex Pistols tour which Endale had booked – cancelling the shows. Then the BBC looking for comments, then more cancellations followed by press from Europe as it’s press woke up to the story. Different people from the BBC and ITN called – no one could reach Mclaren or Corky’s mate Bernie Rhodes and most of the people calling from the media didn’t know the difference between an agent and a manager anyway so the calls just kept coming and by the time Corkey arrived in the office at 1.oo pm I had four sheets of A4 with numbers for him to call back and felt like I’d spoken to every journalist in Europe. Certainly the UK.
He hadn’t seen the TV the night before or read the morning’s press so a cheery “Alright. How are things?” from him led me to pass over a copy of the Mirror and explain that every date on the tour had been cancelled plus it seemed like every journalist in Europe had been on the phone. Corkey wasn’t phased and set about trying to find Mclaren or Rhodes. Failing at that he turned to getting the dates re-instated. “No problem Kid” he says. “Just watch this”
He called the first venue which I think was Stafford Uni and they weren’t having any of it. The date was cancelled and that was that. He called a couple more and got the same response. By the time he got to the fourth – Colchester Uni he took a different line and asked the Social Secretary who’d booked the date what the problem was. “It’s not us” says the Sec “It’s the Dean. He called up this morning and said we couldn’t do it after seeing the Grundy interview last night”. “Give me his number” says Corky. He calls The Dean. I could only hear one side of the conversation but that went something like this: “Good afternoon Dean I’m calling as the agent for the Sex Pistols who have a show contracted with your University later this month…. No hold on a minute you don’t understand they are really nice young men who’ve been misrepresented… Look they are lovely chaps, I know them well and this behaviour is totally out of character. I’ve met their Mums and Dads – lovely people. No! No! you are wrong, what you saw wasn’t really them…. Now will you listen to me or not? …. Look you f..king pillock”
… and the Dean was gone and so was the whole tour.
I left Corky with the 4 x A4 sheets of numbers and wondered out into the December chill musing on what I might do next. I didn’t see Corky again but I did hear from a friend a few years later who had seen him hiding behind a newspaper in the lounge of a Dublin hotel during a music biz conference when he realised that 2 a&r guys from 2 different record labels that he’d just signed the same band to were about to meet at the bar.
A couple of years later I had a quiet smile when working with the brilliant Mr John Dowie & The Big Girl’s Blouse and the NME described them as “Making the Sex Pistols look like babies farting in the bath water.”
(Picture by Pete Ashton)
Amazingly, the Digbeth O’lympics staggered into life again at the end of September. This time with added debauchery courtesy of Kent at the Rainbow. I was solely responsible for the aquatic events so all that carry on was nothing to do with me.
Typically it has taken 5 months to get the bit of filum below which I thought might be fun and capture some of the essence of the day hence the lateness of this post which has held up my blogging for months but i think some order is important.
Top fun on the Custard Factory lake in the Cardboard Coracle Challenge. I was in charge of that.
Doesn’t look like Digbeth does it?
(Pictures by katchooo)
Matt celebrates his coracle challenge victory with his usual understatement
(Picture by John McMahon)
You can feel the tension in the pits before the Go kart race down Bradford St.
(Picture by John McMahon)
Serious Welly throwing
(Picture by John McMahon)
Wellies featured this year – here is the Custard Filled Welly Race – just starting.
(Picture by Lynsey Turvey)
Kent Davies of The Rainbow and I – frightens me.
I did also however have the task of announcing the founding of The Free State of Digbeth at the end of the O’lympics Awards Ceremony. Now it had been a long day where under the nature of the games many pubs were visited so I might take this film down at any moment.
An unlikely combination some might think but last Saturday BCC and Rocket Science came together in a spectacular yet unpredicted fashion – well by BCC anyway.
These chaps are orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station:
Saturday night I’m in Centenary Square watching The CBSO as part of Artsfest when a fine chap in the crowd with an app on his iPhone that tells him where the I.S.S. is over Earth at any given time says ” In a few minutes the International Space Station will be visible as it crosses the sky over Birmingham from West to East”. So we carry on enjoying CBSO when the conductor announce that they are going to play a couple of great movie themes. Off they go into the theme from ‘Star Wars’ when lo and behold! Over the top of the Rep building, 200 miles high comes the Space Station! Only visible for a couple of minutes but very clear on a perfectly clear night. I told a couple of neighbours in the crowd but they thought I was barking. Six of us saw it though and I’m not going to forget that musical/technology interface for a long time. Now M.M. is Minister for Culture etc we can expect more breathtaking interfaces between BCC and Space?
Photo Star- One
From comments: here is Chris who introduced me to Matthew who showed us the way . Thank you Gentlemen.
Responses to “BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL & ROCKET SCIENCE!”
Dave Harte after reading my last post said that he “wouldn’t mind having my life for a while sometimes” Well he wouldn’t have wanted it on this weekend in August. Off with James Hunter and the chaps again to the Rhythm Festival Bedford. You haven’t heard of it? Keep it that way. We arrive at a disused Second World War airfield just north of Bedford where the event is held. Lots of original buildings still there including the control tower. The promoter shows me the control tower pointing out that “That’s the door Glenn Miller walked through to catch the flight that he disappeared on:
So that cheered me up.
The whole festival was themed around ….well camouflage I suppose, check the main stage:
Looking for some light relief from the Camouflage theme I ask him what the only modern building in sight is. “Oh that’s the Immigrant Detention Centre” he says, Here’s the front of it:
Photo by Dan Chung from The Guardian
Having my new phone with me I thought I’d see what went on there and found this in The Guardian.
Frankly a long time since I wanted to get out of a gig so fast.
Having whizzed around Europe in May I was thinking that England might be a little dull in June but – wrong.
I took James Hunter and his fine band to Glastonbury to play on the Park Stage on Friday afternoon. Great set as always and lovely to see Emily Eavis dancing along to them.
Whilst Glastonbury slept I took the boys back to London and got them checked in at Heathrow at 5.00am for Finland then dropped tour bus and caught train back to Glastonbury for 2 days r and r.
Worked there lots before but never had a couple of days to wander with no responsibilities.
Our tent was unbelievably placed almost on its own in a field of Clover – pure luck.
I enjoyed a couple of the main stage artists but by far most fun was had wondering the fringes from one gentle adventure and chance meeting to another.
I know it’s a pricey event but it really does sit as a great example of what can be done with a good heart and great production values.
Above is Robin Pecknold from the Fleet Foxes at Glastonbury.
I was lucky enough to catch them last year on their first UK tour when the played in Space 2 next to the Custard Factory in Digbeth.
Coming back from Glastonbury I got stuck back in with the Rainbow Supporters – just a few of them here below and everyone else who can see what Digbeth might be to this city.
The noise abatement row rumbles on but the City is really missing a major opportunity here. Digbeth is currently the home to more than 20 venues, it’s full of galleries, creatives of all sorts and some fine engineers and metal bashers – a unique environment.
People shouldn’t have to wait a year for for the chance of a festival to share good music and good company – in a city as big as this there should be somewhere where you can do that anytime and Digbeth is the place. It has buildings and space that aren’t going to be used for anything else in the next decade or so. We should have all the creatives and promoters in the area working with the City Council and land owners to plan a quarter mile wide party zone for the people of taste of the West Midlands and further afield – now.
Let’s not build more apartments that lead to everything being quietened down, let’s build budget hotels to house the people that would come from around Europe to this cultural quarter. When Supersonic is on later this month look at where their audience comes from and what they bring into the City as an example of what can be done – currently against the odds.
Digbeth – Could be the jewel in the City’s crown said Professor Michael Parkinson. Could be an Urban Glastonbury all year round say I.
Click ‘larger map’ for tour route – back May 22 but checking mails along the way.
Yep, I’m off with the wonderful Mr James Hunter and his very fine band for a little Spring time jaunt around quite a lot of Mainland Europe. That’s May sorted then.