Record store becomes hub for music lovers

May 11, 2013

 

It’s only rock n roll but I like it !

The year was 1969. I was 16 and had just landed a job as trainee recording engineer in London, England’s hot music industry

This was the land of the British Invasion, and I was wide-eyed at its bright lights, big city nerve centre.

Zoom forward 10 years and it’s 1979.                                         

I was with Polydor Records, finding and developing new artists, working with musicians such as Paul Weller and The Jam, Ian Dury, Billy Fury and my proudest signing of the time, the Comsat Angels, who have attained cult status over the years.

Those were heady times. In the midst of it, I decided to take a holiday to visit my uncle in Canada. He was living in Edmonton, which was . well. ‘nuf said.

But we took a side trip to Banff and Jasper and there I lost my heart – to those rocky mountains!

I returned to England and jumped back into that intoxicating world of the music business, but a little piece of me remained behind in Canada.

Some years later, I was at a crossroads in my career and wondered about rekindling that old romance – this time with commitment.

My uncle agreed to sponsor me and I immigrated to Canada in 1994. Trouble was, my uncle had since moved to Toronto and my mountain love was nowhere to be seen.

“If you want mountains, you have to go to the west coast,” he told me.

So, I packed my car and drove through the states until I was on the other side of the continent.

I was staying with a friend in Vancouver (loving the mountains, but still unsettled) who talked me into a fish ‘n’ chip supper in Steveston.

I didn’t want to go, but he insisted. Not only did I fall in love with what reminded me of an English seaside village (only surrounded by some awesome mountain), I saw a place where I could join that sense of home with the kind of work that makes me sing out loud – music.

I opened the Beatmerchant Record Store in Steveston in October 2005.

As the name implies, it’s all about music, but it’s not just about commerce. It’s a place to talk music, honour artists of the past and present, and have a face-to-face experience with music lovers.

Recently, a couple of kids came in asking about Jimi Hendrix – I love that.

So while HMV and other big record stores close and the world moves to digital and downloading, I’ll continue to stock vinyl albums of the Beatles to Billie Holliday, posters from Jimi Hendrix concerts – along side Carly Rae Jepsen and Josh Groban CDs.                   

It might sound corny, but I see myself as a keeper of rock and roll history.

That said, anything worth keeping is also worth sharing with others, which is why I’m excited about the opportunity to write this column, “Talking Tunes,” for the Richmond News.

It will be a blend of . comedy, drama, history and humour! And maybe one or two horror stories.

Frankie Neilson owns Beatmerchant Record Store in Steveston and is responsible for starting the summer music series, Music At The Cannery,

Richmond News ~ May 2013

 
 
 

Read more: http://www.richmond-news.com/entertainment/Record+store+becomes+music+lovers/8369766/story.html#ixzz2T0VshCcJ

Advertisements

A Taste for Rory Gallagher

May 10, 2012

Back in 1969 I was lucky to be working at the Marquee studio which was round the back of the Marquee club in Wardour Street, London. I would sneak in the back door of the club at the end of the work day after a drink at the Ship pub to sit and catch the best of the bands appearing at the club.                                              

In those days the club used to have about six to eight rows of chairs in front of the stage and one evening I got in real early and sat in front of a Vox AC 30 amp perched on top of a chair. Plugged into that amp was a Fender Stratocaster with most of the wood vanish rubbed off the body of the guitar with a treble booster with was used during the solos. By the end of the evening my ears didn’t stop ringing for a week, but what a special evening.

Rory Gallagher was appearing with his first  group from Ireland Taste a blues/rock  trio with John Wilson on Drums and Charlie McCracken on Bass. You have to go a long way to find a rhythm section as good as these two with Rory Gallagher on guitar and vocals and sometimes saxophone and harmonica this trio took some beating.

Like a lot of the European guitarists he was drawing heavily from the American  blues players of the 40’s and 50’s, but I must say the boy from Ballyshannon, County Donegal in Ireland could certainly play it well!                       

Their first release in 1969 was the self titled album Taste’  on the Polydor label. The album features tracks which would become live crowd pleasers like the blues classic ‘Sugar Mama’ a seven minute epic and ‘Catfish’ an eight minute epic along with originals ‘Blister on the Moon’ and ‘Same Old Story’. This album has a very raw sound with few overdubs. It is slightly jazzy in places but doesn’t stray to far from the  blues with Rory playing some great slide guitar and finishing off with a version of the Hank Snow country song I’m Moving On’.

After listening to the album you knew you had been listening to something special and live this was even more of a powerful experience seeing the band in action.

Night after night Rory and the boys would deliver on the live circuit with Gallagher acting very humble and thankful for the enthusiastic response from the audience. No superstar trip here this was a great live band delivering the goods. Rory would dress in his denim jeans and lumberjack shirt with his long hair hanging down in front of his face as he played and John & Charlie would not miss a beat whether they were appearing in a small club or at an open air festival across the countries of Europe.

In 1970 Taste released their second album on Polydor called ‘On The Boards’ which made the British charts. The album starts off where the previous one finishes off and the lead track What’s Going On’ shows a progressive maturity with all three players on top form.                                                          

The title track and ‘It’s Happened Before, It’ll Happen Again’ sees Rory playing a jazzy Alto Sax and the other two guys stretching out and showing their own capabilities on each track. Eat My Words ‘ allows Rory to attack his guitar with some vicious bottleneck playing then on other tracks you have the beauty of his acoustic guitar playing.

Both albums are worth seeking out.

I wonder what direction this band would have gone if they had stayed together….. maybe in a Van Morrison jazzier direction…. unfortunately Rory was to break up the band to head off into the world of  a solo performer while McCracken and Wilson were to form a new group called Stud with Jim Cregan (later guitarist of the Rod Stewart band). Rumour has it that dodgy management didn’t want Rory to spilt the earnings three ways with the other two and in future would keep his backing musicians on wages, anyway sad to say Rory Gallagher passed away in 1995 at the age of 47 but he did have a long and successful solo career.              

If you like your guitar players with a blues edge then add these albums to your collection and raise a pint of Guinness and remember Rory, John, Charlie and Taste the boys from Ireland.


The One and Only Billy Fury

November 4, 2011

In the 50’s the arrival of American Rock n Roll had a huge impact on the youth of Britain.

Ronald Wycherley was born in Liverpool on April 17th 1941 and he was one of those teenagers that loved the American rock n rollers! Records by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent stirred the blood of the young teenage Wycherley as their records raced up the British charts week after week! When it came to British rock n roll there wasn’t much out there and the British imitators were sometimes on the feeble side, but Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates did try and give it a good go!                                                                                              

A lot has been written about how Billy Fury was discovered which was a good bit of PR orchestrated by his manager Larry Parnes, the Brian Epstein of the 1950’s who had an eye for quasi ~ talented, good~looking boys and Billy Fury became the jewel in his pop crown. Billy was the boy pop star with the smoldering good looks and little boy lost look, slicked back hair cut, a cross between Elvis and Eddie Cochran. What teenage girl could resist him with his heavy~lidded vaseline eyes, singing the atmospheric ‘ Wondrous Place ‘. The girls went mad!

Billy’s first three top twenty hits were all written by him which is a remarkable achievement at a time when every singer did cover versions of the big USA hits,long before Lennon & McCartney era came along and made it commonplace for artists to record their own songs!

Billy Fury released the wonderfully authentic sounding 10″ album ” The Sound of Fury. ” A true British rock n roll statement, featuring tracks like ‘ That’s Love ‘ and ‘ Turn My Back On You ‘ which features the storming rockabilly twanulations of that cheeky cockney chappie Joe Brown on guitar.                               

What might have been if Billy Fury had stuck to his rock n roll path.

By the early 60’s in a Presley attempt to make him appeal to a wider audience, his management and Decca record company transformed him with huge success into a clean~cut ballad singer. Billy is best remembered for the song ‘ Halfway To Paradise ‘ with reached No. 4 in the UK chart and was quickly followed by the big melodramatic ‘ Jealousy ‘ and ‘ I’d Never Find Another You ‘. Whatever chance of continuing to write his own rock n roll songs has disappeared and fans of Billy’s brand of rock n roll were left to wonder ~ What if ~ as he was now on the conveyor belt of producing hit records ending up with 26 Top 50 hit singles in the 60’s which is pretty impressive.

At the peak of his career whirlwind tours, radio and TV appearances and his films like ‘ Play It Cool ‘ and  ‘ I’ve Gotta Horse ‘ kept him busy and a couple of his many backing bands were the Beatles who Billy thought would be trouble and the Tornadoes who went on to have an enormous worldwide hit with ‘ Telstar ‘ which was produced by the legendary British producer Joe Meek.

By 1964 with the onslaught of Beatlemania and the Merseybeat, solo singers were all struggling but Billy managed to keep the hits coming and by the end of the 60’s only Elvis, The Beatles and Cliff Richard could claim more UK hits than Billy Fury, but the time they were a changing and the hits started to dry up as Fury was starting to sound as old as his records.                                                                                                           

Lots of personal problems existed at this point but in 1973 Billy was offered a cameo role in the classic British rock n roll film ‘ That’ll Be The Day ‘ starring David Essex and Ringo Starr. Fury played Stormy Tempest a rock singer leading the Butlin’s style holiday camp band in the late 50’s which included Keith Moon and Dave Edmunds. Well worth seeing if you haven’t. With his voice and good looks still intact, Billy steals one particular scene by cradling the microphone in one hand close to his mouth while the other hand steadies the mike stand across his thigh all the time looking and performing to the pretty girls in the audience one by one.

Ronco released an LP for the soundtrack and also a 5 track EP of the songs Billy performs in the film and this EP has become very collectable. Rumour has it that during the filming the entire film crew was banned from every hotel on the Isle of Wight because of Ringo’s and Keith Moon’s high booze intake and the resulting mayhem that followed with everyone involved after the days hard shoot.

In 1981 while I was working for Polydor Records in London I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sign Billy Fury to a new recording contract and reach the lower reaches of the UK chart with the 45’s ‘Devil or Angel ‘ and ‘ Love or Money ‘ and we was recording an album with producer Stuart Coleman ( Shakin’ Stevens) and a great studio band which featured  Terry Williams (Rockpile and Dire Straits) on drums, Pete Wingfield on keyboards, Billy Bremner (Rockpile) on guitar, and Mick Green (Johnny Kidd & The Pirates) on guitar. The album was only released after Billy’s untimely death at the age of 42 in 1983.                                                                             

Two things I personally remember about Billy is one time being in the studio with him to record a vocal track and we had to turn down the lights in the studio very low because of his shyness but when he started singing out came this perfect voice which even after twenty years he had not lost! and also a Buddy Holly night at the Lyceum Ballroom in London which was put on by Paul McCartney which I attended with Billy’s manager Tony Read. When Billy Fury was introduced to the crowd he nearly brought the house down with his many fans that were there that evening. Fury also showed great respect to his excited  fans by taking the time to talk to them and to sign every last autograph for then. A true star!

I got really close to Billy Fury in his last years of his life and we became good friends. I remember him as a shy guy almost unsure of himself and his talent. A singer who had been totally ripped off and mismanaged in his career, but his time spent on his farm in Wales in his later years was where he was most contented, there he bred horses and spent a great deal of time bird watching of the feathered kind ~ two of the great loves of his life, far removed from the Fury and bright lights of the music business.                          

I still miss him ~ like many others.

If you visit Liverpool then don’t forget to see the beautiful bronze statue of Billy in the city.


Ian Dury and the Blockheads

March 3, 2011

Reasons To Be Cheerful

One of Britain’s most loved characters from the 70’s punk scene was the likable rogue Ian Dury. Despite being handicapped at an early age with polio, he would go on to give us a string of clever music hall/punk/disco hits which would become part of our everyday language. He coined the now familiar phrases “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” and “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” and was writing great songs right up until his death in 2000 and never complained.

A warm-hearted witty geezer, this guy was the real deal, no pop star make~up needed here! Ian was a barrow boy straight out of Romford market!

Signing to the brilliant London label Stiff Records and releasing New Boots & Panties in 1977, Ian with his Dickens street~urchin image along with the best jazz/funk band in London the Blockheads was to become one of the hottest acts on the live circuit during the early punk years.

Although Ian looked like he had just escaped from a local mental home the night before, he had a lovable if demonic warped sense of humour and was in his mid ~thirties when he hit the big time unexpectedly!

In his teens he attended the Royal College of Art in London before forming the band Kilburn & The High Roads who released their one and only album on Dawn Records in 1975 called ‘Handsome’. The album is well worth finding, but it was in Chas Jankel that Ian was to find a songwriter that would lead him in the right direction to forming the Blockheads.

Hello! I’m from Essex

Every song from  their first album New Boots & Panties is a classic! and listening to some of the lyrics you know that Ian was one of the boys who put the sex in Essex! even though he was originally born in Middlesex, still tracks like ‘Billiericay Dickie’ and  ‘Plastow Patricia’ conjure up life in the urban sprawl of the Essex towns east of  Mile End station on the London underground’s District  line.

Maybe Ian is one of the most important poets that England has produced in the last 40 years with lines like I could be the ticket collector at Fulham Broadway station” and “In the deserts of Sudan and the gardens of Japan from Milan to Yucatan every woman every man“. Now stick that on your ringtones!

Ian had a string of hits singles with ‘Rhythn Stick’  ‘What A Waste’ , ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’  and ‘I Wanna Be Straight’ but it was the spirited song ‘Spasticus Autisticus‘ released from the Polydor album ‘ Lord Upminster’ which should have been his biggest hit!. Written by Ian for the Year of the Disabled this was a war cry from Ian to all the disabled people in the world but the single was misunderstood and was banned by the BBC and received very little publicity or air~play and is an absolute gem with Sly & Robbie supplying the bass and drums on the record.

Ian’s last album ‘Mr. Love Pants’ released in 1998 and was a real return to form with the Blockheads providing the backing after some indifferent Dury releases but overall all of Ian’s seven albums are worth exploring and if you don’t explore Ian Dury’s work you will never know what a rhythm stick is!

Mind the Gap!


%d bloggers like this: