Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Smile memorabilia and gigs

Thankyou to Martin from QueenConcerts.com for photographing this excellent Smile memorabilia from his personal collection. The poster above was designed and printed by Freddie Mercury, whilst the Smile logo below is one that was made for Roger Taylors drum by Tim Staffell. Wonderful stuff.

Last night I managed to speak to Peter Gill-Carey who was a contemporary and close friend of The Reaction, and the person who was most badly injured in the accident on Goss Moor. He said lots of very interesting things, but one of them was that he clearly remembers a gig by Smile at a Church Hall in Truro. This is significant because it is an example of yet another Smile gig in Cornwall that has not been previously documented. 

Monday, 23 August 2010

Graphite and Queen at Tregye

Last night I spoke with David Hook, guitarist and founder of Graphite who played at Tregye in 1971 with Queen. Thanks David if you're reading this now. Here was part of his recollection of the day:

'I don't really remember much about Queen's set. Which is extraodinary given how successful they later came, and how amazing they were live later. But then they seemed rather ordinary. I remember thinking they were just another heavy rock band and there were loads of them around then. But I do remember them off stage.

The dressing room was a great big room in the hotel - one of the big lounges - and all the bands shared it. I'd met Arthur Brown and Hawkwind before as I was entertainments secretary at Reading (I'd also worked as a booker at Clearwater Productions and Hawkwind and Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come were 2 of our acts), and actually he had been at Reading as an undergraduate so we had lots in common. Anyway Arthur was the same off stage as he was on it. Larger than life. And he would do these amazing singing exercises. Scales and so on.

But in the dressing room Queen too had a real presence, a real aura. They weren't casual like the rest of us hippies. They seemed more arty. And they had hangers on, which perhaps helped give them aura too. I can't remember what they were wearing but they reminded me a bit of Roxy Music, who I met later. I remember thinking when I saw Roxy that this was the end of the hippy era'.

Reaction gigs

In '65 and '66 Roger Taylor's band The Reaction relied on others to promote their gigs, but in '67 and '68 as they became more experienced and confident they realised it was better - and certainly more lucrative - to do their own promotional work.

Rick Penrose, their bassist, has explained that one venue they used repeatedly for this purpose was Perranporth Memorial Hall. Perranporth is not far from Truro, and because of its enormous beach, gets busy in the Summer with holidaymakers.

The Memorial Hall was built in 1957 and is unchanged since it was first built: though the stage now has a little extension for a piano to sit on. It is still used today by the Perranporth Players, who in the photos below can be seen putting the chairs out for their evening performance.

UPDATE 31/8/10 Tonight I spoke to Pete Baron who was the drummer in the Reaction before Roger Taylor. Pete played guitar in many of the folk clubs in Cornwall in the mid-sixties, inspired largely by Lonnie Donnegan (not Bob Dylan as I had imagined!). He was actually a multi-intrumentalist and played with the Reaction on more than one occasion as bassist. He recalls Roger Taylor swapping his 'rather fine' leather jacket for his first Zildjan cymbal one night at the Perranporth Memorial Hall.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

More on skiffle

There were lots of skiffle bands in Cornwall in the late 50s. Roger Taylor's was called the Bubbling Over Boys. I cant think they looked as cute as the Blue Aces though...

Here they are, I think in St Austell, after winning a competition there. The T-shirts were matching yellow with a blue 'A' stitched into them. Thanks to Rick Penrose who's the kid with the guitar in the pic.

Theres a v interesting blog on the early days of British Rock n Roll.

What's nice about this blog is that its a reminder of how important place and places are to understanding how cultural ideas spread. In this case it seems a coffee shop in Soho became the meeting place of all the most important early players in British pop music (Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard etc etc). 

Friday, 20 August 2010

Skiffle 1958

Skiffle looks like it was a really big deal for a couple of years - in Cornwall as it was elsewhere in the country - and there were skiffle contests all over the county.

Not sure why they became so popular and what it was about skiffle that caught people's imagination, but it was something to do with the post-war love affair with all things American: most skiffle, as I understand it, was low-tech DIY jazz and blues.

Some members of The Reaction were in skiffle bands and would have taken part in contests in the City Hall that in the sixties were succeeded by the Rock and Rhythm Championships...

This one was in 1958 in July...It was successful enough to be a sell-out and warrant a rerun in October...that was also a sell-out.

For the record the winners were The Saints, second the Joy Boys and third The Imperials. The other highest ranking groups were Hi Jax, Live Jives, Deadbeats and Vikings. The last group featured a certain Jack Penrose who worked with Roger Brokenshire.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Roger Taylor, Mike Dudley and Dave Dowding shared the same classroom...

As someone who knows Truro School pretty well I was interested to hear that Roger Taylor, Mike Dudley and Dave Dowding of 'Cousin Jacks' (see July 20th post) shared a classroom on the quadrangle opposite what is now the 6th form centre. This is what it looks like now:

The classroom in question is in beige building on the ground floor to the left...I believe...

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Redevelopment of Truro

As I hoped Bob Acton's second book on Truro has saved me from having to read lots and lots of microfilmed local papers. It gives some important clues as to the redevelopment of Truro in the sixties. One of the things it says is that the greengrocers on Pydar Street that is now Easybet (just visible in top picture) was called GW Slater's. In the photo 'ater's is just visible. Connie Bawden said that it was still there when PJs was there. Also it looks very much as if this photo is from the 50s or even earlier (unlike the museum catalogue where it is dated 1968 I think). In May 1962 the junction of Moresk and Pydar was widened. It was one of the first bits of redevelopment in the area (see entry below) and I think there is the implication that the white building and the buildings on the right could have been 'razed' then - which is why Pete and Mike dont recognise the PJs building in the picture.

1953 City Hall was leased as a cinema in the early 50s. in '53 the lease came to an end.
1957 New science block opens at Truro School
1958 (july) The Saints beat 14 other groups in a skiffle contest at the City Hall. There is another contest in October.
1959 (feb) Another skiffle contest won by the Imperials.
1960 (sept) The Cathedral School moves from the Cathedral Close to Copeland Court in Kenwyn . This would be just after Roger Taylor had left to go to Truro School.
1962 (april) City Council Redevelopment Committee agree plan to redevelop Pydar Street area of Truro
1962 (may) Houses at the junction of Pydar Street and Moresk Road are demolished to 'make way for a wider sweep in the road'
1963 West of England Properties are awarded contract for redevelopment. Plans include car park and supermarket.
1966 New ring road (A39) is under construction.
1966 (november) Bulldozers are at work demolishing the cottages of Boscawen Row as the Pydar Street development gets underway.
1967 (november) Following a long period of inactivity by West of England Properties, the contract is ?renegotiated and given to Hearts of Oak. The building work is to be undertaken by Dudley Coles.
1968 (january) Work is under way on the inner circuit road. Most of Albion Place is being demolished along with buildings on the north side of St Clement street.
1968 (november) The developers announce that the scheme faces indefinite delay unless County Council grants compulsory purchase orders for several properties.
1969 (june) construction of the big roundabout at Trafalgar is underway (previously Trafalgar Square)
1970 (march) The last demolition work on St Clement Street is taking place as the inner circuit nears completion.
1970 (june) Tregolls Road dual carriage way is now ready for use
1971 (july) Developers proposals for multistorey carpark and new post office are agreed
1972 (january) Work starts on High Cross multistorey carpark
1974 (october) David Penhaligon is elected as MP
1976 (july) Tescos application to build Cornwalls biggest supermarket is approved.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Hayle Rugby Club

Visited Hayle RFC today. The clubhouse was built in 1969 so was pretty brand spanking new in 1971 when Queen played there twice. And it is still pretty much the same now. This is what it looks like inside. You'll have to imagine the view of the pitch from the big windows inside. Note the stage at the far end, which is quite a good size for a fourpiece rock band except there is nt much room to stand. Brian May would have had to stoop a little I'd have thought!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Queen in 1970 and 1971

These are the gigs that have corresponding adverts in the West Briton:

June 27th City Hall, Truro 'Smile' with disco Jeff Spence DJ lights. Queens first gig.
July 25th PJ's Truro

July 17th The Garden, Penzance
July 19th Hayle Rugby Club 'publicising their new LP soon for release'
July 29th The Garden, Penzance 'Warm Dust with Queen'
July 31st Truro City Hall 'Return to Truro of fantastic London band formerly known as 'Smile''
August 9th Driftwood Spars 'The Legendary Drummer of Cornwall'
August 9th Hayle Rugby Club ?? there is a very small advert that says 'Beats with Queen' but they cant have played both could they?
August 12th Tregye Hotel, Carnon Downs, Truro 'Special progressive attraction from London'
August 17th City Hall, Truro 'The Third Eye presents in concert East of Eden, Queen and Magicians Workshop sound and light show'
August 21st Tregye Festival...

No adverts found for Wadebridge Young Farmer's, Culdrose, or Tregye (inside hotel)...but Queen Concerts  lists Wadebridge 24/7/71, Hayle Rugby Club for 2/8/71 (not 9/8 like the advert...), Tregye (inside hotel) 12/8/71, and Culdrose 14/8/71...

Update 22/9/10: Advert for Tregye (inside hotel) now found. See posting 22/9/10 above. According to John Deacons diary the date on the 17th July was played with Caravan...

PJs pictures...if you ever visited PJs in Truro is this how you remember it?

Here are some marvelous pictures of Marvelous Kid at PJs...note the low stage that is to one side of the hall (something that a few people have remarked upon from memory) which was to leave space for people to get to the loos which were behind the ribbons...NB these images were taken using a flash: actually it would have been much darker than this, though there may have been primitive 'psychedelic' lighting that the flash has bleached out.

And some quick e-mail notes on Marvelous Kid by Tony Coxon the guitarist, who also remembers Mr Lucifer. If youre reading this thanks a lot Tony!!

MK started out as me, Paul Moon & Steve Betts (after the demise of Joseph when I came back from London with Mike). Later we were joined by Spike Hooper. We started writing our own music, won a West Country competition run by Laney. We won a new PA system and a recording test at Decca which came to nothing. in 1971 we drove up to Glastonbury and played - the 1st year it was called Glastonbury Fayre - We split up for a year when Steve went to London to sing for a band called Granny. We eventually decided to take the band to London and spent a few months writing & rehearsing material at a cottage in Lostwithiel with a new bass player from Exeter, and an Irish sax player. Got to London,changed the sax player, spent 2-3 years playing pubs, clubs Universities, trying to get a records contract... there are a fair amount of photos, newspaper articles from the time..... I've just condensed several years into a few lines.. it should be written up properly!!

Re Mr Lucifer - unfortunately I don't know anything useful. My only contact with them was soon after MK formed we sort of gate-crashed an open-air gig near Gorran - several bands with Mr Lucifer topping the bill. We played a set late afternoon as I recall. I kept the Guardian advert even tho our name wasn't on it!!!

People like Pete and Connie Bawden (Mr PJ himself) says the walls of PJs were plain wood panelling and not painted or patterned at all...but maybe they were painted later...any recollections of visitors to PJ's or other comments on decor or how the club looked from the outside gratefully received!!!!

UPDATE 12/8/10 Tony is 100% sure this is PJs and interestingly Pete Bawden talked of the club having wood paneling. In the first of Tony's pictures there is some moulding visible that would fit the bill. But also above his head in the third picture is some dark varnished wood panelling which may have been the remaining unpainted bit.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Bands who played at PJs (more than once)

Apart from Smile who played at PJs 14 times (including on Boxing day 1969)...there were a number of other bands who were regulars there: Mr Lucifer, Onyx, Constable Zippos, Marvelous Kid and a few others: mostly Cornwall-based acts. I 've traced a few of them...though I am very keen to find members of Mr Lucifer because they look like the only band to have shared the bill with Smile...

Meantime here are another band that would be nice to trace: Good Times attending the wedding of their manager in 1969...

Good times played in the Rock and Rhythm championship in 1970 when their line-up was Colin Hannah, guitar, Les Gill, Bass Guitar, Clive Jury, Drums, Louis Rushton, Vocals, Oggy Rigby Special effects, Paul Foster, Organ. The first four were all at the wedding, which was in Cubert.

UPDATE 11/8/10 Speaking to Richard Prest of Kernowbeat Good Times later (around 1970?) became Safron

UPDATE 12/8/10 Andy Brice recalls Constable Zippos Band:  Played guitar based stuff of the day - Crossroads (Cream), Amphetamine Annie (Canned Heat) and the like. Real gifted bassist (Nigel) who drove it along in combination with solid ultra simplistic drummer (a rare talent!) Wynn (guitar/vocs) probably certifiably insane. Unforgettable. I was dimly aware of Reaction as there was a photo of them (maybe from BCD entertainments) along with myriad other bands in foyer of our local hangout Blue shark Club in Looe - don't recall they ever played there. C Zippos played alongside Smile a number of times. Bassist Nigel Chappell ended up working for queen in some capacity - on the financial side I think.

Monday, 9 August 2010

The PJs problem. Pydar Street then and now...

PJ's is part of the legend of Queen. In 1970 it hosted their first billed gig (ie the first time they appeared in an advert as Queen). In addition their forerunner, Smile played there 13 times. The problem is that there are no pictures of it from the outside though Tony Coxon, previously of Marvelous Kid, says he has some images of his band performing inside it...

The image below almost certainly includes PJs. It's looking up Moresk Road (now St Clements Street - as if standing outside Hardy Carpets or Courts the furniture place looking towards Pydar St). The problem is that all the buildings on the right marked D had  - almost certainly  - been demolished by the late sixties hence why many that I have spoken to have said that going to PJs was like visiting a bomb site.

Up until a few days ago the most likely candidate for the club is the white building in the centre (marked C), though the main entrance in this picture is out of view.  Others who remember visiting PJ's think it may have been the building on the far left of the picture (marked A) - but there is no entrance from this side so this seems unlikely but it can't be ruled out.

However when you do a then and now comparison building B seems highly probable to have been PJs...

The building visible on Pydar Street in the 60's photograph is the one that is now Easy Bet - the betting shop (previously Opus Music). Theres no doubt about that. If you look at the picture below the drains are the same and the windows and roof all seem unchanged. In the sixties the shop was a grocers and the sign says ........ater & Sons PROVISIONS. Perhaps it was Drinkwater and Sons, or Linklater and Sons or something like that.

The white building (marked C) had to be demolished for the new road to be built, and this road would have been built whilst PJs was in operation...

So, for those that remember visiting, the question is was the entrance to PJs level with the entrance to this Grocers or was it lower down Pydar Street???? Also was the entrance to the grocers 10 or 12 paces away from PJs, or more like 70 or 80 paces away? Had this white building been demolished and possibly the one next to it when PJs was there?

It may be significant that behind the car is what looks like a little covered alley way: so its possible that the white building was demolished and the entrance to PJs was actually up that little alley way.

And lastly here is an aerial view of the junction as it was in the sixties before the demolition took place. Key:
A Cornwall Light Infantry Building    B Entrance to Moresk Rd from Pydar St   C Now a solicitors (unchanged)  D  Now EasyBet (then a Grocers)   E Building attaching to Cornwall Light Infantry. Could have been PJs but a) there is no entrance b) it may only be one storey   F The building most likely to be PJs with an entrance level with Easybet (the grocers)    G Some old Alms Houses much higher up on Pydar St

UPDATE 19/8/10 Not Drinkwater but the much more obvious Slater