In the late 70s I was rhythm guitarist in a band called Dilettante. I had been playing with a more RnB type band called A.K.A. Bats and was approached by two musicians, Dave Paillow and Mike Bannon, to see if was interested.
The band didn’t have a name then but we sat and talked about what their influences were. Mike was very keen on Captain Beefheart and dub reggae which immediately made me interested. Although I was enjoying playing with A.K.A. Bats and we had done some good gigs, including headlining at the Kulture Shock event in the Great Hall at Lancaster University, the music we were playing wasn’t really the sort of stuff I wanted to do. The band was popular and a lot of the material was good for dancing, but I really wanted to be involved in something more experimental.
This was around the end of the first wave of punk and a lot of the music I was listening to, apart from old favourites like Bowie, Zappa, and Genesis (alright, we all have our weakness, but only Peter Gabriel Genesis, not the Phil Collins stuff), was punk (Sex Pistols, X-Ray Specs) and post-punk (XTC, Magazine). Plus I was getting in to some of the new US bands, particularly Patti Smith whose ‘Horses’ album had really made an impression. And of course there was always Beefheart.
So I quit A.K.A. Bats and joined the newly named Dilettante. We started rehearsing at what was the Musician’s Co-op rehearsal room upstairs from Single Step. It’s now the Whale Tail cafe but then it was just a big, bare room with no heating, no carpets and bare stone walls. I’ve tried to find a photo of it as it was then but no luck. If anyone has any photos from the time I’d be most grateful. Continue reading
That’s Matthew suffering for my art!
I’ve just added a page where I will be posting examples of the music I’ve been doing over the years. Some I really like, some I’m not so sure of, and some I find a bit embarrassing.
Let me know if there are any songs you particularly like – or ones you can’t stand.
I’ll add to it as and when.
The guitar I’m playing is a Fender Telecaster Standard with a maple neck. Great guitar. Sold it to Tony Riden along with the Maine Stage Combo. Wish I still had the guitar. Ah well.
Lancaster in the 70s was very different from how it is now – less alternative, fewer students, more traditional. But it had one thing we don’t have now, a really good indoor market. And in the market was the best record shop around, Ear Ere.
That’s where I bought my copy of Lou Reed. As far as I can remember Ear Ere was originally up on the balcony overlooking the market. You could go in and browse the albums, listen on headphones, and buy whatever you wanted – and I wanted all of them!
This is when Christine and I lived on Havelock Street, before we moved to Golgotha Village. I can’t remember if it was before or after Matthew was born, but it was definitely around the time. So I took it home and listened to it…….. and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t like the Velvet Underground stuff and felt as though he didn’t really know where he was going without the band. And he had a strange assortment of backing musicians (Steve Howe! Rick Wakeman!). Not exactly cutting edge rock musicians. So I took it back, told them I didn’t like it, and they let me take something else. They were great like that at Ear Ere. I can’t remember what I swapped it for. Continue reading
Brian Wilson in the studio
This is the song I want played at my funeral. It is, to me, the most sublime, spiritual pop song ever recorded and, whenever I hear it, it takes me back to ‘that time’ – you know, the time when you are seventeen and everything is intense and overwhelming and, sometimes, almost unbearable.
A bit of serendipity. I was listening to my favourite podcast a couple of days ago, Kermode and Mayo’s film reviews on the BBC and they (or rather Mark Kermode) was talking about the new Brian Wilson biopic, Love and Mercy. One of the things he talked about was God Only Knows and how, after he had finished recording it, Brian took it to play to his dad, Murray Wilson who, on hearing it, said, according to Mark Kermode, that it sounded less like a love song and more like a suicide song – this is the man who thought he knew better than Brian how to arrange and record music!
So, the first time I can remember hearing this was in the Summer of 1966 on Morecambe fairground. Morecambe had two fairgrounds then, one on the prom, which eventually became Frontierland, and the other behind the Winter Gardens theatre, an area which is now mainly an open market and a carpark. Continue reading
I had always thought that when we went to see the Mothers of Invention (that’s Steve and I) in Manchester in 1969 it was at the Free Trade Hall. I’ve just discovered, through the delights of google, that they actually played at the Palace Theatre in 1969 and didn’t play the Free Trade Hall until 1970. I know it was 1969 because of the lineup – Frank Zappa, Jimmy Carl Black, Don Preston, Roy Estrada, Euclid James Motorhead Sherwood, “Bunk” and “Buzz” Gardner, Ian Underwood and Art Tripp.
It was my first ‘big’ concert (I was 20, a slow starter) and Steve smuggled a tape recorder in and recorded the concert – it’s okay, statute of limitations and all that; anyway the tape, sadly, is long lost. They were on tour to publicise Uncle Meat, which had come out earlier that year.
I had been a fan since buying their first album, Freak Out, in Morecambe in 1967. I’d never heard of them – who had in Morecambe in 1967 – but the title, the band name and the sleeve shouted New! Strange! Different! – all magnets to me at 18 when any music that was unlike any I had heard before was, by default, worth a listen (just as an aside I remember my sister Jackie, who had moved to London, telling me about a record she had by the Stan Kenton Orchestra that was ‘really weird’ and promising to bring it up to Heysham for me. She eventually did bring it and it was weird and I didn’t like it).
In the Nineteen Sixties Morecambe had two piers, West End Pier and Central Pier; now there are none. Central Pier was one of the two venues in Morecambe where young people went dancing – the other was the Floral Hall (The Beatles played here twice, in 1962 and 1963; sadly I didn’t know about it and anyway I was only 13 so probably wouldn’t have been able to go). The West End Pier was wrecked by storms in 1977 and Central Pier suffered several fires in the 1980s and was finally demolished in 1992 after a further fire destroyed the ballroom a year earlier.
So, to the music. I have a vague memory of going the Central Pier ballroom when I was about 16 to see The Undertakers, a sixties Liverpool band. I can’t remember much about it (this is a constant refrain, probably due to an excess of alcohol consumed over the years – but not for over 30 years and something I intend to blog about at some point), but I do know that I was very nervous being there, surrounded by older boys and men who were probably planning to beat me up. Just as an aside, I spend much of my adolescence and early adulthood afraid of violence; I had been bullied as a kid and tended to roll over and show my belly when threatened. There, mini-confession over and again, back to the music. Continue reading