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Blues

I found myself in Aberdeen last night, in the middle of a blizzard of snow, wondering if it were possible to be further away from the Canvey Island of Dr. Feelgood. Not that odd a thought, as I was there to see “Oil City Confidential” at one of only four cinemas in Scotland showing this hybrid rock/cinema event.

Sitting at the start of the second decade of the 21st Century, watching a paean to proto punk, pub rock is probably pretty weird as evidenced by the almost embarrassing smattering of people that left probably 90% of the seats vacant. Director, Julian Temple had melded a strange amalgam of home movies, film noir clips, reconstructions, live footage and talking heads into a fatally flawed film. That isn’t to say it wasn’t a good film, or an interesting one. It was, but it didn’t gel as a film about Dr. Feelgood. Far more, it seemed to be an homage to Wilko Johnson.

If Wilko was dead, not Lee Brilleaux, I could see the point and how it would work; friends and band-mates recounting anecdotes and tall tales but this didn’t work for me – because of Wilko. His stage persona was lithe, frenetic, focussed but as narrator of his own story he seemed largely lost. It didn’t help that I seemed incapable of accepting that the old shambling figure before me seemed nothing more than a detached observer of his own life. This really couldn’t be Wilko.

From time to time, we’d see this narrator play something to illustrate part of the story but the playing, like his words, was all over the place. I met him once. Dr. Feelgood were in the middle of their first U.S. tour but during a few days off, Wilko flew back to London. I was at United Artists offices in the city, sitting in reception when he walked in. The exact details are somewhat clouded by the passage of time but the trip home had been prompted by the non-appearance of a bag of white powder in The States.

The receptionist greeted him warmly and having ascertained why he wasn’t on the other side of the pond, found the missing bag. Wilko then asked for a room with a typewriter and disappeared. On my way out from seeing the press officer, I was walking past an open door when the, by then wired, guitarist called out to me. He’d been busy battering out lyrics on a portable and asked me if I’d listen to some of them and give my opinion. I remember being impressed both with the occasion and words but that’s all the information I’ve retained.

That’s the crux of my problem. I remember the Wilko that I met and yet I seem unprepared to accept that I have aged as much as he has. Somehow, the juxtaposition of the 1970’s high-energy performances seen in the captured live footage, with the guitarist as he is now seemed all the sadder. I wanted an unsullied celebration of this all too English amphetamine fuelled, electric, delta blues. I wanted the snapshot in time.

Canvey Island was itself a major player in the film. The faded fifties glamour of the casinos and holiday camp were a powerful backdrop to the evolution of the band. Even seeing it now, it offered far less pathos than inspiration as we followed one of the regular 2 hour tours that takes fans round all the important Feelgood landmarks.

The fact that fans still take those tours is testament to something hugely important that was sidestepped to a large degree: there was a Dr. Feelgood after Wilko left the band. It might not have been as exciting an era as when he was part of it but it saw the band continue to grow as a group of musicians and Lee Brilleaux take his rightful place as one of Britain’s best blues men. They may never again have had the startling effect that their early years made on the music industry but it can easily be argued that without Feelgood, there would never have been Punk. Unlike Punk, of course, Feelgood weathered the changing musical tastes of several decades and stayed true to their roots. They also remained in the hearts and minds of fans of basic rhythm and blues.

For me, the most poignant part of the film was Wilko sitting with his life in cuttings and pictures spread out before him. I had a deep sense of intruding on a private moment, watching someone access personal memories that should never be lightly shared. That, more than anything else troubled me. It seemed that he had lost his own connection with those events; was seeing them as a third party and yet I understand the reasoning (if there is one).

Despite that pathos there was one real sense of emotion in the film. It came from Shirley Brilleaux, Lee’s widow. She was filled with such feeling for this man that saw her smile, laugh and cry whilst thinking of him. Such simple emotions that were obviously heartfelt left me hungering for more knowledge of her husband. In many ways, Shirley was the unexpected star of this film. She did Lee proud.

When the film petered out there was a break before the video feed was turned on again. It was just enough time to hit the bar and hope for better things to come. I wasn’t expecting much, based on what I’d seen of Wilko and the announcement that Alison Moyet was going to be a guest did not bode well for me. “Alf” from Yazoo with Wilko Johnson? No way!

Strangely, that was the unexpected highlight of the evening. She looked great and sounded amazing! As for the shambolic narrator, a simple truth became self evident – all he needed was an audience. Not a film crew but a real audience that he could strut his stuff in front of – and boy, did he strut! The moves, the energy and, of course, the licks were all there. I just wanted someone to put a “Wilko” wig on him and take me back 35 years. The video feed was stunning. To see every chop of his fingers on those strings, every chord change, was incredible. I just didn’t want to see the bushiness of his eyebrows or the lines on his face that the high definition picked out in minute detail.

Playing counterpoint to Wilko’s machine-gun like guitar was Norman Watt-Roy on bass. Watt-Roy goes back to 1968 with The Greatest Show On Earth, an early signing to the Harvest label. From there he joined Glencoe, then Loving Awareness and finally Ian Dury & The Blockheads. It was an odd sight. He seemed unaware of his guitarist but somehow, as is the case with all great bass players, totally attuned to him. Odd isn’t really the word. More outlandish. Part gargoyle let loose; part Orang Utang; part octopus. A figure dancing to his own tune yet producing the most incredible runs far beyond the reach of many. His dexterity on the fretboard and his obvious skill with picking and slapping the strings between the bridge and first pick-up was totally breathtaking.

There was one other guest onstage. A leather-jacketed harmonica player that looked totally familiar and yet I couldn’t believe I was seeing. Charles Shaar Murray, one of the greatest music journalists ever, showed he really knew how to blow a blues harp and paid a fine tribute to the one man missing from the stage – Lee Brilleaux. Somehow, that tied it all together. Wilko’s guitar was as good as it ever was but his singing was weak and reedy.

Alison Moyet lifted the event, as did C S M but really all it did was point out that Dr. Feelgood was at its best when the original line-up was together. A stunning guitarist capable of great lyrics and a wonderful vocalist who could make a harmonica wail unlike anyone outside the American blues elite. One thing is certain, Lee and the Feelgoods are missing from today’s music and that’s sad.

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From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Saturday 8th November):

Birth

1944. Bonnie Bramlett (Delaney And Bonnie) born Bonnie Lynn O’Farrell in Acton, Illinois.

On Tour

1969. The Rolling Stones set a new world record for the highest grossing one-night stand in pop history. Tonight’s two shows at the Inglewood Forum in Los Angeles raised $260,000 of which the band receives $ 108,000 (£ 71,000). The first of the evening’s two performances was two hours late in starting due to the over-run of an ice-hockey match. The 7 o’clock show started at 9 p.m. and the 10 o’clock show began at 1 a.m. The Stones didn’t leave the arena until 5 a.m.

In Custody

1988. Ranking Dread (real name Errol Codling) is escorted by police to Heathrow airport outside London and deported from the U.K. The expulsion is officially as a result of immigration offences but he is returning to Jamaica to face questioning over the death of a policeman. Codling was arrested earlier this year after a raid on an illegal drinking club when he was found in possession of drugs but no action was taken by the Crown Prosecution Service. The singer, who had a UK Top 10 hit in 1980 with “Fatty Bum Bum”, is reported to have been on Scotland Yard’s list of most wanted Yaries for some time. The Yardies, a Mafia-style organisation, are said to be heavily involved in drugs and prostitution in London.

In Court

1968. At the Court Of Session in Edinburgh, The Small Faces are ordered to pay £ 2,000 in damages for breach of contract. Lord Thompson, presiding, granted a decree in absence to promoter Albert Bonici of Elgin. Bonici claimed the group breached a contract to appear in Aberdeen, Nairn, Montrose and Perth during August of last year. None of the Small Faces were in court and they were not represented by counsel. No defences were lodged against the action.

On Television

1974. The Midnight Special (NBC, U.S.A.) 90. Guests: Golden Earring; Little Anthony and the Imperials; Orphan. Here are Golden Earring with “Radar Love”. The camp introduction by Little Richard is quite amusing.

Death

1968. Blues singer and bottleneck guitarist James “Kokomo” Arnold dies in Chicago, Illinois aged 67.

 

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© Copyright 1995 – 2008 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Sunday 2nd November):

Birth

1941. Bruce Welch (The Shadows) born Bruce Cripps in Bognor Regis, Sussex.

On The Street

2003. P. Diddy spent today pounding the pavement and riased $ 2 million for New York children’s AIDS charities. The rapper entered the New York marathon under his real name of Sean Combs. He completed the 26 mile course in 4 hours 14 minutes and 54 seconds and came home in 11,359th place.

In Court

1998. Sarah McLachlan appears for the first day of a three week trial at court in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She is being sued by Darryl Neudorf, recording engineer on her first album, “Touch” who claims he provided parts of the songs “Vox”, “Streaming”, “Sad Clown” and “Strange World” without credit or payment. Neudorf, ex-drummer with Canadian rockers, 54-40 is playing tough. He’s scheduled witnesses from October Game a band McLachlan was in as a teenager who will testify that she has since claimed credits for songs that were written by other members of that band. Despite fans gathering for the event, proceedings are being held in closed court with no public access.

In Hospital

1998. Ska pioneer Roland Alphonso (The Skatalites) collapses onstage during a gig at the Key Club in West Hollywood. He is rushed to Cedars Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles. Despite being kept in hospital for tests and treatment, he will slip into a coma on November 17th and die on November 20th.

On Television

1998. Rockpalast (WDR, Germany) R.E.M. (Club Grünspan, Hamburg)

Death

1996. Bluesman William “W.C.” Clarke dies in a Fresno hospital after surgery for a bleeding ulcer. He had collapsed yesterday in his hotel room shower hours before he was due onstage for a club date in the city.

 

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© Copyright 1995 – 2008 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Tuesday 28th October):

Birth

1941. Hank B. Marvin (The Shadows) born Brian Rankin in Newcastle, Northumberland.

On Tour

1990. Six people are arrested and a number of fans injured when a riot breaks out after The High call a halt to their gig at Newcastle University. Singer John Matthews left the stage after almost collapsing during the second song. The rest of the band played a 15 minute instrumental version of “Bombay Mix” but Matthews wasn’t well enough to return and the crowd decided to make their own entertainment.

In Custody

1965. Eric Burdon (The Animals) is arrested by police at his Chelsea home for failing to appear in court to answer a summons elleging that he did not pay import duty on a camera. He is bailed to appear at Uxbridge Magistrates Court on November 1st.

In Business

1997. David Bowie is named Britain’s richest rock star with a fortune of $ 917 million according to “Business Age”. A $ 55 million Wall Street bond issue secured on the star’s back catalogue helped push Bowie past Paul McCartney for the first time.

On Television

1972. Beat Club (WDR, West Germany) 81: Ike & Tina Turner, Everly Brothers, Grease Band, Byrds, Mick Abrahams, Manassas, Heads Hands & Feet, James Taylor, Three Dog Night. Here are Manassas with “Hide It So Deep”

Death

1991. R&B vocalist Billy Wright (“The Prince Of Blues”) dies from a pulmonary embolism in Atlanta, Georgia aged 73.

Babble

First of all, I have to point out that the Newcastle connection in three of today’s entries was totally unintentional. If you noticed it, I’m sorry, there are no prizes!

Having done a slightly longer rant than normal in babble I pressed the publish button about 20 minutes ago and lost everything. I have taken the added precaution of saving this one a couple of times. 

As if I haven’t got enough blogs, I am seriously considering another. This time concentrating on memorabilia; both my own and other interesting items I come across. Partly, it’s as a result of listing some new additions to Rockmine’s main site and still not finding them on the search engines. Whether this was down to the spiders giving up on me while I was having a major sulk and not posting remains to be seen. Anyway, those days are behind me and I’m full of positive thinking now!

One thing I am surprised by is the lack of interest in the Fillmore blog. I know I’ve only got one year up but it’s one of the most famous venues in the world with an array of astonishing bands. maybe that’s also down to the spiders.

To try and get a handle on what is happening with the spiders, I’m going to do another of my blatant plugs. If you don’t want to see it, look away now.

Here are three of the most interesting items for sale on Rockmine just now:

Kate Bush – Cathy. Privately published in 1986 by Kate’s brother John Carder Bush. This really is a beautiful book and almost impossible to find. Back in 2001, Future Publishing, the magazine group were keen to buy me and the archive. It even got to the point of me being flown down to meet the board and have a formal offer made but the day of the meeting their share price fell 25% and it never happened. I digress, as usual. Mick Wall, who was then editor of Classic Rock had come to see the archive. When he was browsing through it, he saw this book and was very keen that the magazine reprint some of it. Unfortunately, that never happened. It’s a pity as many fans will never get the chance to see these wonderful shots.

George Harrison – Konnichiwa. The rarest Beatle related book EVER made? George Harrison commissioned 30 to give as personal gifts on a concert tour of Japan.

Derek Taylor – Fifty Years Adrift. Probably the best Beatles-related book ever written. 23 years after it was published, normal copies of this are extremely hard to find and always very expensive. This is not part of the limited edition and is neither numbered nor signed. A real rarity!

For more on the collectable rock books available for sale on Rockmine, click here.
 
Finally, on the subject of collectable books, I’ll be adding a true gem to Rockmine in the next day or so. A copy of Pink Floyd‘s “Shine On” signed on the title page in three different pens by David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright.

 

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© Copyright 1995 – 2008 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Tuesday, 7th October):

Birth

1943. Dino Valenti (Quicksilver Messenger Service) born in New York.

On Tour

1969. 2,000 East German Rolling Stones fans clash with police near the Berlin Wall. The fans gathered expecting to see The Stones play a concert on top of a building at the western-most section of the Wall but there was no performance. 200 police chase the fans into the centre of the city where they clash with some of the 250,000 members of the Free German Youth organisation who had gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the communist state. More than 50 of the fans are detained in custody by police.

In Court

1975. The U.S. Court Of Appeals overturns the Immigration Departments deportation order on John Lennon. This opens the way for him to apply for resident status.

In Hospital

1995. Simon Gilbert (Suede) is knocked unconscious when he and a friend are attacked by 12 queer-bashers after leaving a pub in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Both men are taken to Warwick Hospital where they are treated before being discharged. The un-named friend has six stiches for a head wound and later returns to the hospital suffering from concussion.

On Television

1970. The Johnny Cash Show (ABC, U.S.A.) Johnny with George Lindsey & June Carter, The Statler Brothers, The Carter Family. Here are Johnny and Joni Mitchell dueting on “Girl From The North County”.

Death

1966. Overton Amos Lemons, better known as R+B singer Smiley Lewis, dies of cancer in New Orleans.

Babble

Well, here I am once again in the north. I was told yesterday that the memorabilia exhibition couldn’t go ahead and yet everyone seems to want it to be staged. Just how and when are the two big questions. I’m going to give it until tomorrow and then I’ll have to make the decision to consign it to the fantasy world within the wardrobe and just imagine I’ve staged the show or get it sorted once and for all.

I was offered a date in November but that’s meant to tie in with a book launch that should have been held on June 21st. The book, on growing up in Liverpool in the sixties, was seemingly available back in May so I’m not sure why a launch is being held six months on. My biggest worry is that the launch is meant to be run by Waterstone’s local branch but the company’s web site has no information regarding ANY events in Elgin or Inverness in either October or November. I have found one book that fits the description but it was launched at the Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre back in April. Its author, Nicholas Murray is giving a poetry reading on October 13th in Venice. Maybe it’s just me but I can’t then see what he’d be doing in Elgin. Obviously it may not be him and as there’s nothing on the Elgin venue’s website mentioning anything that fits the bill.

I hope from this you’ll get some sense of my frustration. I know I’m dealing with a theatre but it surely doesn’t need to involve suspending all disbelief. I found a fascinating description of the concept here. The world of Narnia really has been moved to Moray. I just hope that I can find my way back out of the wardrobe. Despite the frustration, I’m going to give it one last shot. If I can’t get an agreement to use the venue we’d agreed on (which I’ve decided not to name because it will just give them free publicity) from Thursday to Saturday or another space to stage it, then I give up. 

Strangely, the link to my Two Red Shoes Ballroom blog from the Northern Scot is proving nowhere near as successful as flyers were in Nairn back in August. 1,400 flyers and a dozen A4 posters pulled in 180 people a day and all this one’s getting is 55! Before I leave here, I think I’ll get flyers into the local library and other places. Then I’ll just forget these eerily unreal place.

 

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© Copyright 1995 – 2008 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Thursday, 2nd October):

Birth

1949. Richard Hell (Voidoids/Dim Stars) born Richard Myers in Lexington, Kentucky.

On Stage

1998. Michael Stipe, Patti Smith and composer Philip Glass stage a one-off performance in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. The event, seen by a crowd of 4,000, honoured the memory of poet Allen Ginsberg and raised funds for Jewel Heart, the Tibetan Buddhist organization.

In Custody

1967. Narcotics agents raid the Grateful Dead‘s communal house in San Francisco, arresting eleven people including Bob Weir and Pigpen. They then had to let everyone go as no-one had thought to get a warrant before smashing the front door in!

In Court

2000. The inspiration for Paul Anka‘s 1970’s hit, “Having My Baby” filed for separation from the singer. Anne Anka’s petition cited irreconcilable differences for the decision to leave the man she married in 1963.

Paul Bloch, a spokesman for Paul Anka said the couple are slitting on amicable terms and remain the best of friends. He said the couple would be together for Thanksgiving with their five daughters.

On Television

1978. Disco (ZDF, West Germany) Boomtown Rats; Andrea Jurgens; Clout; Klaus Zufall; Melanie; Suzi Quatro; Peter Orloff and Smokie, seen here with “Mexican Girl”

Death

1990. Blues saxophonist Evelyn Young dies in Memphis’ Methodist Hospital from heart failure.

Babble

It’s been an odd couple of weeks. The blog, as you’ll has seen, hasn’t been up. This is mainly due to problems that I’m not going to go into. Suffice it to say that I think these are now over. 

I’ve used some of that time to concentrate on another blog, this time for the Two Red Shoes Ballroom in Elgin. I’m in Elgin as I type this although I’m starting to feel that it’s rather like Narnia (as someone else described it). I’m hoping to complete my research on the bands that played there today but I’m almost wondering why.

Although I’ve never finished my Ballerina Ballroom blog, it had (and still seems to have) a buzz about it that is sadly missing with Elgin’s venue. The local Nairn blog, the “Gurn From Nurn” described my Ballerina blog as an “exciting project” but there seems to be none of that here. There seems to be a real apathy about the concept. Maybe as an archivist and compulsive list maker, I assumed that others would share my interest but by and large that doesn’t seem to have happened.

It was pointed out to me that with my Nairn blog I had undertaken a fairly impressive but very cheap publicity campaign that saw flyers distributed around the town and posters put in most of the shops. While that was done at the time of the “Ballerina ballroom Cinema Of Dreams Festival” and the Highland Games, it still brought people flocking to the site. 

Maybe with Elgin, the struggle is that there are no other things happening, that the audience is much larger and more sophisticated and the financial woes of the country have given people something more important to think about that the history of one of Scotland’s old ballrooms.

I suppose only time will tell how wrong I got this.

One other thing, I am in part here to decide on whether or not to stage my memorabilia exhibition. The last agreed date for it was next week but there seems to be no response to my press releases and my desire to do it seems to fade with the last warmth of summer. Part of me refuses to give up on an idea that was great but what is the point of flogging a dead horse?

Who knows, things may improve before the end of the day.

 

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© Copyright 1995 – 2008 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Wednesday 10th September):

Birth

1957. Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama, Shakespeare’s Sister) born.

On Tour

1997. Master P is number one in the U.S. album chart with “Ghetto D”, so it’s no surprise that his show at the Doraville International Ballroom in Atlanta will be popular. Unfortunately 12,000 people manage to squeeze into the club which only holds 5,000. The police get a report of overcrowding and head down for a look. First, they try to evacuate the building. Then they spot some fans trying to get in through a side door and hit them with pepper sprays. Police plan number 2: clear half the fans and run two shows. Master P agrees. The first gig starts. The support act finishes its set and just before the rapper hits the stage, a fight breaks out. A shot is heard and Master P cancels the show instantly. The fans, left with nothing else to do trash the stage and P.A. before heading outside to clash with police. Only five arrests are made but thousands of dollars worth of damage is caused to the venue.

In Court

2002. Sean “P. Diddy” Combs is ordered to pay $ 2.45 million to a limo driver who alleges he was injured by the rapper’s bodyguards during a concert in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1995. Judge William Z. Wood, presiding, ordered the payment after Combs failed to answer the lawsuit brought by driver Cedric Bobby Lemon within 30 days as laid down in state law.

Records of the Civil Superior Court for Forsyth County, North Carolina show that Combs refused to accept a summons from a County deputy when the rap star appeared in concert in Greensboro Coliseum on June 21. In a brief statement to the media a spokesperson for Combs later announced they would be seeking to dismiss the judgment.

In Hospital

1966. French pop star, Johnny Halliday, is taken to hospital after suffering an overdose of sleeping pills. The 23 year old singer was visited later in the day by his estranged wife, singer Sylvie Vartan. She was described as looking stunned by those who saw her leave after a short while

On Television

1993. Late Show With David Letterman (CBS, U.S.A.) David Sanborn becomes the first musician to sit in with The CBS Orchestra. Musical guest: Robert Plant with “29 Palms” plus brief interview. 6m 40s.

Death

2005. Blues guitarist and singer Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown dies of cancer in Vinton, Louisiana, U.S.A.

Babble

The never ending saga continues and I’m heading back up to Elgin with hopes of putting this exhibition to rest or on display this month. As ever, publicity is being left to the last minute but that may be no bad thing. Who can tell how it will go ahead, if it does! It would have been great to try and link in with Bootstock the intimate little rock festival being held just a short distance along the coast this weekend but no-one ever thinks of these things.

The only good thing (if there is one) is it gives me a chance to get all the listings for The Two Red Shoes Ballroom. I should have them by now but lost three whole years when I left the papers in the footwell of the car. they got soaked, either by a leak or rainwater, and when I went to get them the ink had all run. There’s a moral in there somewhere.

My plan is simple: to put a Two Red Shoes blog up with complete listings of everyone who played, YouTube clips of the major bands, adverts, photos and cuttings. It’s what I’ve done with The Ballerina Ballroom in Nairn, the sister venue also run by promoter Albert Bonici. While the new blog does exist at the moment, I’m not going to link to it until all the years are online. I think it will have far more impact and certainly get local publicity if it’s complete.

Talking of The Ballerina, I put an advert in the Nairnshire Telegraph which came out yesterday but as yet have had no response. I was looking for paper items and photographs relating to the bands that played there. I know that when the ballroom was being painted prior to the “Cinema Of Dreams” festival someone walked in and told John Byrne they’d found a Syd Barrett autograph they’d obtained in 1967. Why don’t people like that contact me?

 

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