What do Neo Soul, Psychedelic Folk, Dubstep, Blues, Jazz, Psychedelic Rock and Reggae have in common? Not much but we have recorded all that and more at Highbury Studio in January. Goodness knows what February has in store. If you know singers or musicians around the West Midlands who might appreciate our warm analogue sound please do everyone a favour and just send them a link to us: http://highburystudio.com
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.”
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.
Another couple of busy winter weeks some highlights being:
Michael Wolff workshop hosted by
Creative Republic at Fazeley St Studios
Michael Wolff gives a workshop in charm without trying before he starts on the subject at hand.
Mama Matrix at The Rainbow were a joy too. As above we can’t host the video on this version of WordPress but for a Gypsy punk folk psychedelic treat just click here
And not forgetting the Custard Factory team who lured those Fleet Foxes to their first ever Birmingham gig. It was a blinder and if you missed them here’s a hint via Letterman of what a top live show they do:
They have done it again! I went to the opening night on Tuesday and it is another masterful production. I know Mozart was only 24 years old when he wrote this but even so musically there are moments that I could live without but that’s made up for by the great musical moments – especially involving the chorus, with some accompanying moves that David Byrne would be proud of.
After the kerfuffle with Arts Council England at the beginning of the year it was a celebration just to see this taking place at all and once again anyone who works in the arts of any sort can’t help but come away from this inspired by the sheer imagination and quality of delivery shown by the Birmingham Opera team.
It’s running until the end of next week – dates are here
Sorry regular readers – it’s been a bad time for blogging but a good time for travelling. Drove up to Aberdeen with James Hunter and Willy Nelson. Then as the tour moved South I took a night off on our second night in Glasgow and flew to Birmingham to sing with The Nylons at the Newman University College 40th anniversary party at Edgaston’s Botanical Gardens: Excellent set from Marc Reck who took the snap.
Then flew back to Glasgow to pick up the tour for Manchester where the footy fans were happy as it was the night they won the something or other, however the following night we nearly had our own little riot with some of Manchester’s Hells Angels. On to a civilized night in Wolverhampton and then peaked at Hammersmith Appolo
Off now via Bristol to drive to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, then south to Scafel Pike and West to Snowdon and back to Bristol by Monday night so it’s going to be a quiet blogging weekend too. I am feeling the need to have a portable device these days. I’m driving my son H and some of his colleagues on the 3 peaks challenge and they’ll be going up and down these three whilst I sit and compare the view to that which I’ve had for 10 days of white lines and city centres and perhaps to think of the time I’ve just spent with two of the best singers and songwriters around today.
Clearly as a new blogger one sometimes hits a little non compliance techy moment. In my attempt to put up a picture below of Jo Hamilton I seem to have put up erm.. many and now I can’t figure how to take them down but I’ll come back to it later in the day. Oops now I’ve deleted the entire post – rats. Look the point is that Jo Hamilton and Jon Cotton her producer have made a stunning album and you can listen to some tracks on Jo’s myspaceIt’s a 100% made in Moseley affair and deserves the success that was met by the last major production that Jon did for Scott Matthews’s brilliant award winning album two years ago.
‘There It Is’ is on heavy rotation in the office at the moment -I can’t wait to hear the rest.