Strange as it may be, I came into playing the guitar (and later the bass) through my interest in electronics. In 1963, I was simply curious to know how an electric guitar worked. I experimented with a couple of strings tensioned across a strip of wood which passed over a bridge made from a matchstick resting on top of a carbon microphone insert from an old telephone, I proved that you could make a noise when the microphone was plugged into the gramophone input socket of the family radio set, but the awful sound was far from musical. To get more volume, I built a 3 watt amplifier kit which I bought from Henry's Radio in the Edgware Road. As I recall, this was the first piece of electronics gear I had put together that... ACTUALLY WORKED!
This led me on to greater experiments when a school friend gave me his old Spanish guitar. I obtained one of those pickups that mounts across the sound hole, but when I plugged that into the radio, I heard nothing. That was the time when I made another great discovery? Nylon strings don't work with a magnetic pickup... They have to be metal ones. Finally having got to this stage of the learning curve, I thought perhaps it might be a good idea... IF I LEARNED HOW TO PLAY THE THING!
During the summer of 1963, I had learnt the basic root chords. A school friend had shown me how to play E, A and D and another mate C, F and G. I recall it took me ages to master B7. I purchased a chord book and gradually taught myself the minors, sevenths, diminished, etc, but found learning the inversions (bar chords) was very difficult due to the high action and wide neck of the Spanish guitar. To progress, I knew I would have to buy a proper electric guitar sometime.
Without doubt, in early 1960's THE SHADOWS were THE BAND in the UK and their instrumentals influenced many would be musicians to take up the guitar as a pastime or a profession... Me included. Click HERE to see a signed photograph to me from Jet Harris (The Shadows original bassist) which I received from a friend who knew him well. Playing bass in a cover band in the Canary Islands many years later, we still play 'APACHE' as a tribute to The Shadows. It was with sadness I heard that Jet had passed away on the 18th March 2011 aged 71.
By the winter of 1963, I was rehearsing with a Shadows style school group to play a couple of their instrumentals, 'APACHE' and 'DANCE ON' at the school's (William Penn in North Dulwich, London) CHRISTMAS CONCERT. Although in the beginning I was learning the chords for these songs to play as rhythm guitarist in the group, another pupil, Georges Pascal who owned a HOFNER CLUB guitar and who was considerably better than me in rhythm playing was offered the job. It was requested by the other band members that I should learn the bass lines of those numbers. I remember I was none too pleased about this after all the work I'd put into learning the chords, but the drummer (Clive Kirby) who was also an excellent all round musician and could play several instruments taught me the bass lines albeit on my Spanish guitar. By this time I could also play some of the lead parts to a few Shadows numbers as I would often go around to the lead guitarist's house (John Millen) and practise my chord playing with him. As a self taught lead guitarist; certainly for Shadows numbers, John was excellent and could play ALL the Shadows songs at that time note perfect. His guitar (similar to Jet's in the photo) was a Burns.
As the time for the concert approached, it was really imperative that I got hold of a bass guitar to use for the gig. Fortunately a friend (of a friend) owned one and loaned me his bass for the concert. After so many years I can't recall what model it was, certainly nothing exotic. I wasn't that interested to be honest as becoming a lead guitarist was my ambition at the time. The concert itself was a hoot! Playing in front of a large sitting audience of parents and families in the school hall. I made an error in doing a bass run-up during a section of 'Dance On' and got a grim look from Clive, but I don't think the audience noticed. They loved it and gave us a loud applause. Even recall signing a few autographs afterwards! My first taste of playing to an audience and that great vibe one gets when performing on stage.
Once the concert was over, I returned to improving my chord playing and learning some lead stuff. In 1964, I decided that I really needed a better guitar and saw a red HOFNER GALAXIE (or was it) displayed in the window of my local music shop, MELBOURNE PIANOS in East Dulwich, which took my fancy. It cost 43 guineas (£45.15). I would loved to have owned a Fender Stratocaster, but at £150 in those days, it was well outside my budget. So I took out a hire purchase agreement and was paying off the debt for the best part of two years for the guitar. The Galaxie was a treat to play. With its narrow neck and low action, I soon mastered those bar chords and the blues scales.
My first guitar amplifier (30W output) I also built myself from a kit obtained from Henry's Radio. I made the wooden case, fitted two 12" Goodman speakers and I was in business. However, I just didn't like the sound; there was no brilliance, so after a while I managed to put it in part exchange (plus another heavy hire purchase commitment) for a VOX AC30 TOP BOOST amplifier. For the next 4 years, the Vox and the Galaxie became the tools of my trade. I later added a WATKINS COPICAT echo chamber to my collection and remember only too well how often the tape loop would snap during a gig... A pain in the arse! I found it more economical to make my own tapes using old reel to reel tape and a splicing kit rather than buying the expensive Watkins replacements. During this time, I built effects units like a fuzz box and a wah-wah pedal; my first transistor electronics projects and incredibly they worked also!
After leaving school in the summer of 1964, I joined up with some school mates and was in a couple of bands with them. One band was with Georges Pascal and members of his family. The only gig I recall with them was playing to a Bingo audience in the Clapham Hippodrome one weekend. I recall we had to wear these blue lamè stage suits which I didn't like. I felt like a dickhead! The other memorable recollection from that gig was the journey home. I had to get a taxi and the fare cost me a fiver which was my gig fee for that night. Once I got home and reluctantly paid the cabbie my gig earnings, he then asked me for a tip. I told him in no uncertain terms, "To f'ing shove the tip up his arse!" to which his reply was equally as basic... Huh, what memories eh :-)
Another band I was in had Clive Kirby on drums, John Carrington on keyboards and another guy from school who's name I can't remember on bass. The only gigs I recall playing with them was the Rivoli ballroom in Crofton Park and the Grafton ballroom in Herne Hill. Both in SE London. For reasons I have long forgotten we parted company and I drifted around for a while auditioning for various local bands. Either I didn't like them or vice versa then in 1966, I answered an ad in the Melody Maker. A band in Manor Park, NE London were looking for a lead guitarist.
The audition was held at Dave's parents flat in Manor Park. The group consisted of Barry on keyboards, Laurence on bass, Dave on drums, all Jewish lads and Lincoln Appleton a black guy who was the vocalist. They told me that a lead guitarist they had recently auditioned had left the group shortly afterwards. They said his musical ability was well above the rest of the band and that he was looking for a professional outfit. They said his name was Peter Frampton. If indeed it was THE Peter Frampton, he went on to greater things and the rest is history.
I was accepted into the band and for a year or two had a great time with these guys. I remember well getting on the bus in East Dulwich with my Galaxie and Watkins CopiCat, going up to the Elephant and Castle then jumping on the tube (metro) up to Manor Park. Looking back, we didn't seem to do much in the way of gigs. Just spent a lot of time rehearsing, going out to clubs, getting pissed and generally socialising. One weekend we all went down to Brighton and had a great time. Getting totally wrecked and finally crashing out in the front room of a guest house. It was during this period when I saw some great bands in the RAM JAM CLUB in Brixton (probably long gone). Acts such as the JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE and CREAM are those who I remember. I was a great fan of THE WHO also and saw them perform several times at different venues.
Our driver and 'Roadie' was Louie. He was learning guitar and had recently bought a white Fender Telecaster to practice on. This was considerably better than my Galaxie and he would always lend it to me when we played a gig. Louie was a great character with all the typical Jewish traits and mannerisms. I remember on one occasion we had managed to secure a school hall for a rehearsal room and I asked Louie if he knew how to get there. His answer was along the lines that there wasn't a Jewish geezer living in NE London who didn't know where Dalston Market was :-)
I've heard it said that Jewish communities are very insular and don't like to mix socially with people outside of their own culture, but speaking from experience I found this to be the opposite. These guys and their families were very friendly and I was often invited over for traditional Jewish meals. Really great people.
The only gig I can recall doing with the RODEBLOK was at some dive in north London. This gig is very memorable for me and was the highlight of my time as a lead guitarist. That night a life long friend (Pete Barnard) came down to hear us and sat in on drums for a couple of numbers. He was pretty good I recall. I was using Louie's Telecaster and the song was Booker T's instrumental, 'Green Onions'. Whether it was the ambience of the place, the acoustics or my state of mind at the time I'll never know, but that night I put down a lead solo that Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Joe Satriani, et al would have been proud of... The 'Tele' just sang and the solo went on for ages. Beautiful sustain with hardly any added distortion. I couldn't believe I was doing this. It sounded awesome :-) The next time we rehearsed I tried to do it again, but it just didn't happen for me. In fact it never did.
Quite why I left the band I can't remember. Perhaps the journey via bus and train to north east London was getting me down, the lack of gigs or my inability to play as well as I did on that one occasion. I kept in touch with the guys for a while, but eventually we lost contact.
This additional section was added in August 2011. A period in my musical history with just a few vague memories (now 44 years ago) that I could never piece together. My thanks go to Mick Hart for the information and especially for the three photos who I recently met up with on the net after losing contact with when he emigrated to Australia in 1975.
As luck would have it, Mick had kept a diary for THE SHAPES which included the dates of when the band played and when I joined them! This is truely remarkable as I had forgotten completely that I had played in this band when I wrote these web pages in 2005. It also clears up a few misconceptions I had? For example, the time I remember rehearsing in the famous Chislehurst Caves was with THE SHAPES and not with my later band BEAT ROUTE as I thought. It just goes to show how one's memory can play tricks over many years, but a diary written at the time tells it as it was and you can't argue with that :-)
During my apprenticeship in electronics (at Muirhead & Co, Elmers End, Kent), for a time I worked in a small engineering group with a great bunch of guys. One was Mickey Hart who played bass in a local band called THE SHAPES. On the 21st April 1967 I went to see his band play at the Savoy Rooms (aka. The Witchdoctor Club) in Catford, SE London and they were very good. Mick mentions they got paid £12 that night! The band's lead guitarist was Kevin Brennan who also worked at Muirhead. Kevin along with Johnny and Dave had written eight songs, but they mainly played covers. One original number I do remember was called THE LOST CHORD and they played it at the Catford gig. Could well have been for the finale. They had made a demo record of this song, but due to lack of promotion it never got anywhere. A great pity as from what I recall it was a good number. Mick remembers it also, but said his demo record probably got thrown away when his parents cleared out junk from the attic when they moved house and long after Mick had emigrated to Australia! What a shame - Sod's Law working :-(
THE SHAPES (original lineup) - L to R: Kevin Brennan (lead guitar), Tim Galvin (drums),
Mick Hart (bass), Johnny Johnson
(rhythm guitar) and Dave Clements (vocals). Photo taken outside the "The Maple Tree" in Maple Road, Penge.
Photo probably taken outside Dave's place in Norwood. L to R: Tim, Mick and Dave
I do remember Tim Galvin now, but strangely not Dave Clements. I have this vague memory that Tim may have worked as a chef in some posh London hotel. Mick mentioned that after the band split up, Tim went professional and played drums with BARRY RYAN in his European tour band after his big 1968 chart topper hit 'Eloise'. Something else 'new' for me or I'd forgotten!
THE SHAPES were active between April 1966 and February 1968 and played 41 gigs during the period. The last 13 gigs with me as their lead guitarist. Kevin left the band on the 28th June 1967 and Johnny Johnson (the rhythm guitarist) shortly afterwards. Mick tells me I stood in as a substitute lead guitarist for Kevin on the 19th July at the WDC in Peckham and that was also the last time Johnny played with the band. Johnny had decided to leave THE SHAPES before I joined, but I have this vague recollection that we never got on too well. Probably because he was accustomed to playing along with Kevin and as a lead guitarist, I was no way as good a player as him. Kevin was simply brilliant and a very talented musician. I stayed on as Kevin's replacement until the band finally broke up in February 1968 after the last gig. All this info is bloody incredible as I remember very little about this period, only vague memories :-)
This is all very interesting as when I first wrote my UK music pages, I recalled playing lead guitar with a band in a place near to where I lived in East Dulwich, but couldn't for the life of me remember who it was with or where it was. For that reason, I never included it in my original article. It now all falls into place as I remember a girlfriend (Liz Corcoran) who I knocked around with in the summer of 1967 lived close by to the day centre and saw me playing in 'some band' a couple of times. I was a bit of a 'poser' in those days. Had a moddy image and played wearing a Union Jack neck tie. However, I don't think Liz was that impressed as she 'blew me out' a month or so later! Ahhh, how it all floods back again, but glad that mystery is solved now :-)
The ONLY PHOTO I have (Thanks Mick) showing me playing in the UK. L to R: Mick, Dave and me with my old red Hofner
This photo was taken at Mick's 21st birthday gig at the Bickley Arms on the 30th September 1967. Blimey, just a month before my 20th birthday - Wish I looked liked THAT now! I see also there's a microphone in front of me. I was never much of a singer. Just used to 'Ooh and Ahh' in a few songs, but haven't done any backing vocals for years. Must say though, Mick and Dave looked very smart but I rolled up wearing a shitty sweat shirt - Whatever happened to my 'Union Jack' tie and button downed collar :-)
Here's a few of the numbers I played with THE SHAPES. I'd have a job playing lead guitar on those songs now!
Out of that list, the only song I play with MANIFOLD occasionally is 'Mustang Sally' although we have done 'Wild Thing', 'Louie Louie' and 'Satisfaction' in the past.
Here's the list of gigs I played with THE SHAPES:
Out of those, the only gigs I now remember were at the Welfare Day Centre in Peckham, SE London and final gig at the Law Society in the City of London. This was a grandiose/palatial venue, high walls with tapestries and portraits hanging, a vaulted ceiling, etc. Mick tells me we had a good turn out that night and many photos were taken. Perhaps someone seeing this webpage was there and may have some old photos from this gig collecting dust in their loft. Would be great to see one!
Mick also mentioned the band had some girls (Groupies ! ) who followed us around. Blimey - I don't remember that either and not the sort of thing I would have easily forgotten. Perhaps they ALL LEFT when I joined the band - What a pisser :-)
For rehearsing, THE SHAPES had what was probably one of the best (and certainly the most unique) places in the UK. The CHISLEHURST CAVES near Bromley in Kent. Mick was friendly with Jim Gardner, now the current owner of the caves since his father passed on.
Mick mentions that Jim was a keen pot holer and that him and another guy would go exploring the caves for new passages and chambers when the band were rehearsing. They felt more secure if they heard a bit of noise whilst doing their exploring! I can't say I blame them as it was a spooky place, but perhaps this was before I joined the band as I don't remember Jim or his caving exploits.
These man made caves date back to Roman times and over the centuries have served many purposes. During the 1960's they hosted rock concerts and I remember seeing JIMI HENDRIX and THE ANIMALS performing there. Mick said on one occasion (after a friday rehearsal in another part of the caves) seeing THEM perform when VAN MORRISON was still the vocalist in that group and after the gig the band managed to speak with 'Them' ;-) This must have been in 1966 as Van Morrison left that band and started his solo career in September of that year. This was well before I joined THE SHAPES and I never recall rehearsing in the caves on the same night when a professional band was playing there.
However, for me there was something 'spiritual' about rehearsing on the same stage where Jimi had performed. The acoustics were excellent and the caves maintained a constant temperature all year round. Cool in the summer and warm in winter. No problems with noise levels either upsetting the neighbours... A great place all round. As the stage areas were quite a way into the caves, we would load the gear onto a trolley and wheel it through the caverns. It was quite an eerie place and supposedly haunted! On the way out it was not uncommon for someone to lurk off into the shadows, jump out screaming and scaring the shit out of those pushing the trolley! A good laugh and great memories :-)
I can't remember exactly when this was, but probably a few months after THE SHAPES had disbanded and during the summer of 1968. I knew Kevin had started another band, but what happened next was remarkable! I knew Kevin well from the time he played in THE SHAPES and also because we both worked at the same company. We would often meet up in the morning rushing through the factory gates as he like me was a terrible time keeper!
One weekend, Kevin turned up at my place in East Dulwich with Jim Fitzpatrick who played a keyboard and also rhythm guitar. Jim was a tall thin geezer with long curly hair fashioned in the Afro style. I remember my mother coming into the front room to introduce herself and when her eyes caught sight of Jim, the words, "Jesus Christ" came un-controllably out of her mouth! Can't say I blamed her as Jim certainly looked the part ;-)
I sort of half guessed Kevin wanted me to join his group, but as a lead guitarist and several orders of magnitude better than me, I was curious to know why then the penny dropped. He asked me if I was interested in joining his band as the bassist. This took me somewhat by surprise, but after a few seconds of deliberation I accepted his offer. I had nothing to lose. He also knew Len Stiles who ran a music shop and gig booking agency in Lewisham who could find the band gigs. So started my bass playing career which although after a 23 year hiatus, I still enjoy doing to this day.
My first point of business was to acquire a bass guitar. As I was pretty 'brassic' in those days, Mick sold me his EKO 1150 VIOLIN BASS for a few quid. I used this bass up to 1972 until it got nicked after a gig! More of that tale later. I needed to get a bass amp also and put the Vox AC30 in part exchange for a VOX T-60 BASS unit. Without doubt, one of the worst things I've ever done? The Vox AC30 is now a collectable item and worth a fortune whereas the T-60 amp was in my opinion the biggest piece of crap that Jennings Musical Industries (JMI/Vox) had ever produced. It was forever breaking down!
Jim used a VOX CONTINENTAL) keyboard and a Fender Telecaster when playing rhythm guitar in some numbers. The BEAT ROUTE line up was: Kevin Brennan, lead guitar, Jim Fitzpatrick, Danny Cernan, vocals and harmonica, Colin Hawkes, drums and me on bass. Colin was quite a character and who didn't suffer fools gladly. If someone annoyed him, he would 'floor them' without a second thought and very reminiscent of the drummer in the 1990's Irish film, 'THE COMMITMENTS' as you'll read a bit later.
On one occasion we dropped into the Wimpy Bar in Penge high street for a meal. The hamburger buns were as black as 'Newgate's Knocker' and almost inedible so we refused to pay. An argument then started between Colin and the Cypriot guy behind the counter. It didn't take Colin long to haul him over the counter threatening to 'hang one on him' if he didn't stop complaining. With this, the guy went crazy and started throwing un-toasted buns at us saying it wasn't his fault the buns were black as the batch delivered from 'Joe Lyons' that day were all the same, hehe! More amusing tales of Colin's antics later :-)
Unfortunately, this band never had a great place to rehearse like as with THE SHAPES in the Chislehurst Caves. One place I do recall was a large room above the Freemasons Arms pub in South Norwood. I still recall the aggro we had in carrying the speaker cabs up a steep flight of stairs and the wretched back pain that I've suffered with for years are probably part due to that. The room was also used as a lodge by the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes; the poor man's Freemasons as I call them :-) During a rehearsal break (and after a few beers) one of us decides to take down this shield from the wall with these two large horns attached and is chasing the rest us around the room making mooing sounds! Suddenly in walks one of the members from the lodge and goes berserk saying that we are committing a sacrilege by demeaning their sacred insignia. What a pile of 'bullshit' (pun intended)! We gave him a lot of abuse and told him to piss off, but in retrospect that was a bad move as this geezer complained to the landlord and that was the last time we rehearsed there.
After that we gave up trying to find a rehearsal room and for many years we practiced every saturday afternoon at Kevin's parents house in Wordsworth Road, Penge. This was very convenient as we stored the gear in the back of the lounge which was partitioned off and it was quick to set up. During practices, the local kids would stand at the front garden wall and listen. Our fan club :-)
This was certainly my most prolific musical era, even more so than with Manifold on La Palma where our gigs are very few and far between. For 7 years and mostly on saturday nights we were out playing. We played at pubs both local and around London at weddings and private functions and a couple of small clubs in the West End.
Most of our gigs at this time were arranged through Len Stiles our agent. He ran a music shop in Lewisham and was where I'd purchased my Vox AC30 amplifier some years earlier. We would occasionally go down to Len's shop on a saturday morning to try out some new guitars or effects boxes and it was not uncommon to end up having an impromptu 'jam session' with other prospective customers. Len enjoyed this and never complained about having his shop taken over for a rehearsal room. I'm sure he considered it was good for trade! Looking on the web, I see the shop is still there in name at least.
One of our regular gigs in the early days was playing in a couple of clubs in Wardour Street, but unfortunately we never got to play at the famous 'Marquee Club'. I recall seeing the SMALL FACES perform there once, but Beat Route was never quite THAT famous. I recall these clubs were adjacent to each other on the left hand side of Wardour Street (up from Leicester Square) where the road kinks. I never knew the names of these clubs. We just called them the 'Continental clubs' as many who went there were from Germany, Holland, etc. One club had a low stage and in the other we played on a raised platform looking down on the dance floor.
An amusing story that comes to mind in that club was during our set breaks, we would sit on a bench in a narrow corridor opposite the stage entrance (to keep an eye on the gear) which lead to the women's toilets. The girls had to almost squeeze past us to pay a visit. On one occasion Colin decided to have some fun. He reached out putting his hand up the mini-skirt of a young lady and grabbed her crutch... I can still see her flinch! In an instant, she turned aside and slapped the face whilst shouting a load of abuse to the person closest to her, but it wasn't Colin! I bet this geezer never knew what hit him. We all rolled up laughing of course :-)
In the club next door with the low stage, I can also recall a memorable night. We were playing the CREAM song 'Spoonful' when this hairy foreign geezer comes up to the stage and starting giving us a load of verbal. Saying that we were a load of crap and not as good as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. I took a glance at Colin and his eyes were bulging... I could see shit was about to hit the fan! 'Bang' went his drum sticks then he jumped off the stage grabbing hold of the guy by the collar and lifting him of the ground, but just stopping short of flooring him. We continued playing of course. He then jumped back on stage, picked up his sticks and continued right on the beat! Even more bizarre was during our break this guy brought us a tray of beers, apologizing for pissing us off and was actually down on his knees begging for forgiveness. Colin's action had obviously freaked him out!
Another night in the same club, we were filmed by a German TV crew. I think they were making a documentary on German student life in London. This was a great ego boost, but unfortunately we never got to see the film. Perhaps somewhere locked away in a dusty film archive in Germany is the ONLY video recording of 'Beat Route'. I don't possess any photos whatsoever playing with this band. A great pity as I'm sure there must have been many taken.
Without doubt, our most INFAMOUS gig was in a dance hall annexed to a pub in Golders Green in north London sometime during 1970. Even after all these years its still a memorable experience. How could I ever forget this!
Len, our agent, had contacted Kevin during the week and told him where our next gig would be. We were told to be at this dance hall by 5pm on saturday. We packed the gear into our van and made our way up to Golders Green with the help of a London A to Z street map. After arrival, we met the organiser who directed us into the hall and then left us to set up the gear. By 6pm it was done with the guitars tuned and the sound balanced. We then asked this guy at what time would we be expected to start. We were all very surprised when he said at 10pm. He said for the first session he ran a disco and that we would come on after that. As most of our gigs usually started around 7:30 or 8pm, we were at a loose end and needed to kill about four hours. Somewhat annoyed with this, we said to this guy what he expected us to do in the meantime? He replied somewhat abruptly, "Well, there's a pub next door. Go and have a few beers!" He then went on to say we could play any type of music we desired provided - "It WASN'T REGGAE".
As a cover band, most of our material consisted of a lot of rock 'n roll, soul, motown and blues numbers plus a few Beatles and Rolling Stones songs. We had a repertoire of around seventy numbers from what I can remember. I think the only number we played in Reggae tempo was the Beatles song, 'OBLA DI OBLA DA' so not playing Reggae was no real problem for us, but we did consider the request a bit strange. With four hours to kill, we took up the suggestion of the organiser and went into the pub. In retrospect, this was the WORSE thing we could have done. Although we often had a pint of beer during our gigs for refreshment, we had never arrived on stage TOTALLY PISSED before! Colin was well under the influence with Jim and Danny following close behind. Kevin and myself were not quite so drunk, but I was certainly feeling the effects! To make things worse, when we arrived back in the dance hall, the sight before us was formidable... Indeed terrifying!
In Golders Green we had expected to have been confronted with a crowd of your average 'saturday nighters', but to our horror, the dance hall was filled wall to wall with Skin Heads... Boot Boys with their rolled up jeans, braces and Doc Martins. Now it all clicked into place? The reason we were asked NOT to play Reggae was simply that was THE ONLY genre of music the audience wanted to hear. The D.J. had been playing Reggae all night (probably with the fear of getting his head kicked in if he didn't) and wanted to hear something different. This didn't bode at all well with us and what followed next was disastrous.
We always opened our first set with a Motown song, I think it was called 'Get Ready', but because we were so pissed, we all came in at different times during the intro. Jim was also playing in the wrong key and this threw me completely and Danny came in with his vocals too early. How we got through the song I'll never know, it was bloody terrible! As time passed we started to sober up. However, what sounded reasonable to us under the influence of four hours of continuous drinking wasn't going down at all well with the audience! During the final set we sensed a 'bad vibe' going through the crowd. It wasn't long before chairs and bottles started to fly; the flying objects being targeted towards the stage. What followed next I'll never forget.
Danny being at the front of the stage and directly in the firing line must have decided that to get through the gig unscathed, we needed to get the crowd on to OUR side. During the instrumental solo of a blues number, he lowered his microphone and faced the band. He shouted so we all could hear more or less the words, "I don't give a f'ing shit what the D.J. wants us to play. On the count of three, change the beat to Reggae tempo and lets hope we all live through this night!" It was flawless, Colin changed the tempo and we all came in perfectly. It was as if it was part of the number. The Skins loved it too, pogo'n up and down much to our relief so we finished off the final set PLAYING EVERYTHING in Reggae tempo, hehe :-)
This certainly annoyed the D.J., but at least we came through the gig in one piece. I remember at the end of the night he announced sarcastically to the crowd that Beat Route would be appearing live at the London Palladium next weekend. Totally out of order we thought. It was he who was partly to blame for our condition and who recommended us to pass the time in the pub which we duly did! Although we got our usual £25 fee, I felt guilty at picking up my share after such a disastrous performance. Still, it did teach us all a lesson? Heavy drinking and performing live music just DON'T GO WELL together. We never got 'rat arsed' before (or during) a gig again, huh :-)
In the early 1970's, the band's line-up changed when Colin left. Our new drummer was Rob Vicelli. A completely different personality to Colin (i.e. not forever hitting geezers who annoyed him!) but he did have the bad habit of practicing drum solos whilst we were trying to tune up!
I recall we spent more time gigging in pubs by then. Perhaps Len Stiles was no longer our agent. In ALL THE YEARS that I played in the UK, I never got more than a fiver accept at my last ever gig. The band always got paid £25 no matter where we played. We never found out what Len's agency cut was, but probably a lot more than we made.
We played in many pubs; so many I can't remember the names after all these years, but the 'Uplands Tavern' near Peckham Rye I recall. Another gig we done was in a pub on the supposedly rough Thamesmead Estate (and we survived)! A venue I do recall well was 'The Addington Hotel' in New Addington, Surrey. We seemed to play there for years and got to know the locals well. As we played a lot of good 'ol rock n' roll and many of the regulars were ex-Teddy Boys from the 1950's our music was well appreciated. No chairs or bottles flying there. Danny the vocalist was a great front man as well as a good singer and harmonica player. He would often jump off the stage and dance with the crowd. A real showman.
Sometime in 1972, we played at a wedding reception in the Crystal Palace Hotel. The gig went down fine, we loaded up our van, collected our fee and thought that was that. That night, a friend Glenn Priestley had come to see us play, but was well pissed off when he discovered that his car; a 3.8L S-type Jaguar had been stolen from the hotel car park. I drove him down to the local police station to report the incident. Much to my disbelief, the coppers then proceeded to give him the 'first degree' probably curious to know how a person who worked as a tyre fitter could afford to run an expensive car like a Jaguar. Neither Glenn nor me ever expected to see the car again.
The following saturday when I went to Kevin's house for a rehearsal I was in for another shock... My bass was missing! Although the EKO bass wasn't that valuable, without it I was completely stuffed. I asked the guys if they remembered it going into the van and no one could recall. There would always be one of us beside the van when the gear was loaded, but perhaps the guitar went missing from inside the hotel. On the off chance, I returned with Kevin to the venue hoping that my bass may have still been lying near the stage, but nothing was there. However, much to my surprise sitting in the front car park was Glenn's Jaguar. To prevent whoever had stolen the car driving it off again, we let down two tyres and I phoned Glenn to say that we had found his car. He was delighted to say the least. I drove over to Croydon and picked him up, but on our return and much to our dismay, the car had disappeared again!
We returned to the police station and told them we had found the car an hour ago and had let down two tyres, but the vehicle had disappeared. The desk officer said he'd recently received a call that the police had recovered a stolen vehicle from the Crystal Palace Hotel and had taken it to the car pound at Norbury police station. If that was his car, he would need to go there with the vehicle's documentation for proof of ownership. Trying to convince the police that the car was really his proved to be even more difficult than reporting the robbery a week earlier! Although Glenn had taken the vehicle's documentation to Norbury, the coppers thought he had stolen these and wanted more proof of identity. I could understand the police wanting to be certain that Glenn was REALLY the owner, but the enquiry dragged on for ages and we both were getting well pissed off with all this questioning. Eventually the coppers condescended and allowed Glenn to collect his vehicle, but only after paying £25 to release the car from the pound... Bloody incredible :-(
So, Glenn was happy at least, but I was still without my bass. I recall a friend of Jim kindly loaning me his semi-acoustic EPIPHONE RIVOLI BASS. This was a bulky instrument and I didn't get on with it at all well, but it would serve me until I could buy a replacement. I told the band that I would buy another bass within a few weeks, perhaps a Japanese Fender copy, but not the real thing as I couldn't afford it. However, what transpired next was more than I could have imagined.
During my trip to Norbury with Glenn to collect his Jag from the police station, I discovered there was an excellent music shop a few yards down the road. The shop had a good selection of instruments, but my eye caught the Fender guitars and basses hanging up on the wall. Although I always wanted to own a Fender Stratocaster during my lead guitar playing era, the thought now occurred to me how great it would be to own a Fender bass. At that time, a new FENDER PRECISION BASS bass cost £150, interestingly the same price that I had seen back in the mid 1960's in the Selmer catalogue when I first started playing guitar. Although some seven years had passed and I had moved on to a better paying job, I considered a Fender was financially still out of my reach.
I spoke to my mother trying to convince her how good the guitar was and that it would be a good investment. I said that I would pay her back with monthly instalments and she finally agreed to lend me the money. The following saturday I went over to the music shop and selected my instrument. There was a Sunburst model for £125, but I much preferred the one with a natural maple wood body at £150, so that was the one I purchased. I couldn't afford to buy a hard case for it, so came away with the bass in its original cardboard packing box.
At the next rehearsal I rolled up with the new bass. I told the guys I'd managed to get another, but that it wasn't anything special. The cardboard box looked none too impressive either, but when I pulled out the Fender, their jaws dropped! In fact they were so impressed that Kevin shortly put his Rickenbacker (model unknown) which was an excellent guitar in any case in part exchange for a GIBSON LES PAUL CUSTOM. Big money even back in those days.
Like any quality musical instrument, the Fender Precision bass was a dream to play. It had a tonal range far greater than the EKO violin bass. The problem now was the T-60 Bass amp just didn't do the Fender justice. It was very unreliable also and I was forever having to replace the power transistors. As I have always worked in electronics, this was no big deal, but a pain in the arse all the same!
To save money, I decided to build a new amplifier, but to keep the original speaker cabinet. The original enclosure was fitted with two loudspeakers, a 12 inch Celestion the other a 15 inch model. The smaller speaker had started to rattle over time and I discovered that I could just squeeze another 15 inch speaker into the enclosure. To do this was quite a job. I carefully removed the distinctive Vox diamond pattern grill cloth and opened up the 12 inch aperture with a saw to accommodate the 15 inch speaker. When finished, you couldn't tell the cabinet had been modified, but it sure sounded cool. It sounded even sweeter than the old Marshall twin 12 inch bass reflex cabinet that I use today.
Regarding a replacement amplifier, I made a VERY BAD choice and decided to build a solid state 100W guitar amplifier from a design that I found in an electronics magazine. I spent weeks on the project, building it at work during quiet periods and lunch times. I designed the chassis and control panel so that it fitted into the space in the Vox case occupied by the T-60. It certainly looked good, but sound wise it was far from my expectations. It was very flat with no depth. I soon found this amplifier was unreliable and also prone to the output transistors breaking down. After a few months, I sold it off to a student (Steve Walker) at the technical college where I worked, but before I did that I had to come up with something better.
During the time I was building the transistor amp, Kevin decided to upgrade his equipment. He purchased a 100W valve amplifier chassis (without a case) for 75 quid. It may have been a HIWATT. Out of curiosity, I connected it to my bass cabinet and plugged in the Fender. The sound quality and tonal range was incredible. I just had to get one... or better still, take the cheap option and build a copy of Kevin's amplifier.
Kevin loaned me his amplifier over a weekend and I carefully drew out the wiring connections, noted down the component values and later switching it on to measure the voltages around the circuit. Without doubt, this job was definitely a 'Labour of Love'. Looking back now, how I had the patience to do this I will never know. I guess I must have been more enthusiastic in those days. By sunday evening after collating all my notes and drawings together, I finally produced the overall schematic diagram for this amplifier. Now to build it...
A BIT OF TECHNICAL STUFF
First I needed to get hold of suitable case. A friend had an old empty VOX FOUNDATION BASS amp cabinet that he used as an 'occasional seat' in his bedsit which he gave me. Construction then went ahead at full pace. Kevin's amplifier was a single box chassis unit with the controls mounted along one edge, but as the Vox case had a cut-out at the top for the controls, I built my amplifier as two units. The heavy chassis with the bulky mains and speaker transformers, the four EL34 power valves and the ECC83 phase splitter stage sat on the bottom. The pre-amplifier I made on an 'L' shaped piece of aluminium which mounted at the top; the controls coming up in the case cut-out and the valves (think there were three ECC83's) looking into the case. The interconnecting cables between the pre-amp and power stages could be separated via an 'octal plug' which I fitted into the lower chassis.
Looking back, the amazing thing was that I BUILT THE AMPLIFIER FOR ONLY £25! Most of the components and the small valves I cadged from work or my junk box at home and the metalwork I did in the college workshops. One of the items I had to buy were the mains and speaker transformers which I had specially made in TRS Radio in Thornton Heath near Croydon. The shop ran a custom transformer winding section headed by Mr Livesey. I could hardly believe it when he quoted me £15... FOR THE PAIR! A few years later, when needing a special transformer made for a job at work I contacted the shop, but sadly learnt that Mr Livesey had died and the transformer business had ceased. The shop was not long to follow.
The other items I purchased were the four EL34 power valves which in 1972 cost me £10. To put this in perspective, in 2003 to re-valve my Marshall Super Bass 100 (4 x EL34 and 3 x ECC83) it cost me 150 euros (just over £100).
Once the amplifier was working, I later spray painted the control panel a light brown colour, 'Letrasetted' the legends on to the panel and fitted brushed aluminium knobs. It looked and sounded great.
By the mid 1970's, our gigs were starting to thin out. Rob had left the band and a friend, Bernie Misquita (Moss) became our new drummer. Without doubt, Moss was technically the best drummer we had played with. He had been taking drumming lessons for many years and it certainly showed. His kit was awesome... A double bass drum TAMA kit and surrounded with so many cymbals it was sometimes difficult to see him as he was short in stature. He was heavily into Billy Cobham and the Jazz/Funk genre as I remember.
At some point point Danny left the band and Moss introduced us to two female singers he knew. One was West Indian and they complemented each other perfectly. Ironically, the only gig I recall playing with them was my last ever in the UK. This was at the 'Rose of Lee' pub in Lee Green, Lewisham on New Years Eve 1974. That night (for reasons long forgotten) we played with a another keyboardist who used a Hammond with a Leslie cabinet. A great sound. We had been working on a jazzy quick time version of the well known Gershwin song, 'Summertime' and we played that for the finale. It certainly went down well. The other notable recollection of that final gig was my share of the fee. I got £50... The largest 'wedge' (and unfortunately the last) I earn't in the UK as a semi-pro musician.
In 1975 the band gradually fell apart after that gig and its members moved on. Kevin was a very talented musician and as well as being an excellent guitarist could play the clarinet, the 5 string banjo (which he taught me to play and I still have) and the violin. He was getting into traditional Irish music and the last I saw of him he was fiddling in a Ceilis band and doing the rounds of the local pubs. He soon got married and we lost contact.
Moss joined another band and for a time left his job as a Telecomm engineer to go professional with them touring the military bases in West Germany. After a few months he returned to the UK somewhat pissed off by the whole affair telling me the band never got paid! He eventually managed to get his old job back. Such is the risky business of turning professional as a musician. A FEW make it, but MANY don't and was the reason I turned down a couple of offers to go professional during my days as a lead guitarist when answering ads in the music papers. I needed a regular income albeit if it was a low one.
After being a part of BEAT ROUTE for almost 8 years, I was at a loose end and really missed playing. I recall going to an audition with a band called LITTLE JOE in a hall up on Plumstead Common, but nothing came from that. Although I had no intention to stop playing, I just got fed up with all the aggro of trying to find another band and got into other activities believing that my bass playing days were over. I loaned my bass to a friend of Moss who used it for years. About 1982 I was hard up for money and decided to sell my gear to a student at the college who was looking for bass gear. I sold him the Fender Precision, my custom Vox 2 x 15 inch speaker cabinet and my professional looking home made 100W valve amp for £300. I must have been bloody crazy! A 1972 Fender Precision bass is worth a lot of money now and as for my bass rig considering all the love and effort I put into building it... Who knows! Even more so in that 23 years after I considered my bass playing days were over, I got back into playing again with some mates from work forming the band MANIFOLD here on La Palma where I now live and had to re-equip myself once again. As the saying goes, "Shit Happens!" and it certainly did with me.
If anyone reading this owns a Vox T-60 bass cabinet with two 15" speakers and a professional looking home built amplifier (and perhaps a 1972 Fender Precision Bass also) I'd love to hear from you :-)
Unfortunately I lost contact with the guys in the bands I played in all those years ago and would love to hear from them again.
The bottom line being if Bernard Misquita (Moss), Kevin Brennan (there are dozens on the net, but not the Kevin I knew) or any other of you guys whose names I've mentioned in my story happen to come across these web pages, please drop me an email. I'd REALLY love to hear from you again. I have GOOGLED the web, looked in FRIENDS REUNITED, but found nothing. Here's hoping... Emails to: ejmills [at] telefonica [dot] net
Footnote added: I've since found Moss and Mick Hart on the net. Great to be able to share memories with those guys again.
My thanks to Steve Russell's website www.vintagehofner.co.uk where I found the Hofner guitar and Watkins Copicat images. To www.voxshowroom.com for the Vox AC30, T-60 bass and Vox Continental keyboard images and to www.rumbleseatmusic.com the 1972 Fender Precision Bass and Gibson Les Paul Custom images. Its great to see photos again after all these years of the gear I once owned.