Friday, 25 April 2014

Bert Jansch (1943 – 2011) (Pentangle)

Herbert Jansch was born in 1943 in Glasgow. He grew up in Edinburgh and learned to play the guitar as a teenager. His first guitar was made from a kit but he later got a "Lonnie Donegan guitar" (Zenith). Influenced by the blossoming folk music boom he hung around the Edinburgh folk clubs. Bert’s early influences were Anne Briggs, Clive Palmer, and Davey Graham.

He started playing one-night stands around the UK during which times he was exposed to a range of influences including Brownie McGhee and Big Bill Broonzy.

Between 1963 and 1965, he hitched around Europe earning a living by busking and casual musical performances in bars and cafes. When he came back to London in the mid 60s he had developed his own guitar style. This included a claw hammer style of right-hand playing combined with distinguished chord voicings. Another characteristic was his ability to hold a chord in the lower strings whilst bending an upper string.

In his songs he also fitted the accompaniment to the natural rhythm of the words of his songs, rather than playing a consistent rhythm throughout. Bert signed for Transatlantic Records, and had his first album released in 1965.

It sold 150,000 copies and included Jansch's "Do You Hear Me Now." Later Donovan included his version of the song on his Universal Soldier EP, which reached No. 1 in the UK EP chart.

In quick succession Bert brought out another two albums: It Don't Bother Me and Jack Orion.

The latter contained his first recording of "Blackwaterside."

Bert mixed with many gifted musicians and played at the main folk club venues in London. There he rubbed shoulders with Paul Simon, Davey Graham and John Renbourn. Renbourn and Jansch frequently played together and developed a style of intricate interplay which became known as the 'Folk baroque'. They recorded the Bert and John album in 1966 and became the resident musicians at The Horseshoe pub, 264-267 Tottenham Court Road.

This was a popular haunt for folkies in the UK and many would jam with the duo on stage. Eventually in 1968 the nucleus became Pentangle. The line up consisted of Jacqui McShee (singer), John Renbourn (guitar), Bert Jansch (guitar), Danny Thompson (string bass) and Terry Cox (drums). The group played jazz folk fusion and signed to Transatlantic Records.

The album, Basket of Light (1969) was a huge commercial success with Light Flight released as a single. The song was made popular after it was used as theme music for a TV drama series Take Three Girls (BBC). A year later, at the peak of their popularity, they recorded a soundtrack for the film Tam Lin, but their fourth album, Cruel Sister, was a commercial disaster and their popularity began dwindle.

Tired from touring and of working together the band fell out with Transatlantic, in a bitter dispute regarding royalties. They moved to Warner Brothers/Reprise for their final album, Solomon's Seal.

Pentangle broke up in 1972 after which Bert took a few years' break from music before returning in the late 1970s to work on a series of projects with other musicians.

He toured Australia, Japan and the US with a band called The Bert Jansch Conundrum and after the group broke up he recorded Heartbreak album with Albert Lee.

He also toured Scandinavia with Martin Jenkins before opening his own guitar shop in Fulham. Pentangle reformed in the early 1980s and Bert Jansch remained with them until 1995. The original band again reformed in 2008 and in 2011 to play concerts.

Bert continued as a solo artist until his death from cancer in 2011. Bert remains one of the more influential UK musicians who inspired many, many others including Donovan, Paul Simon and Neil Young.

Worth a listen
Do You Hear Me Now (1965)
Needle of Death (1965)
Angie (1965)
Blackwaterside (1966)
Birthday blues (1969)
Reynardine (1971)
Magdalina’s dance (2006)
Blues run the game

Sweet Child (1969)
Haitian Flight Song (1968)
Basket of light (1969)

Friday, 18 April 2014

Peter and Gordon (1945 - 2009)

Peter Asher was born in 1944 in Willesden, London and son of a doctor. He was a child actor and appeared in films, stage and radio as well as on The Adventures of Robin Hood (ITV). Gordon Trueman Riviere Waller was born in 1945 in Braemar Scotland and his father was a surgeon. Both boys attended Westminster School, London and became friends. They both had been choir boys and loved music. Peter was studious and liked jazz and blues until Gordon encouraged him to listen to pop and rock’n’roll. Both played guitar and soon formed a singing duo to entertain their fellow students. Once they developed an Everly Brothers style, Gordon convinced Peter to dog school and they earned pocket money playing in pubs and small clubs as Gordon and Peter. In 1964, they were offered a recording contract by EMI and as Peter’s younger sister was Jane Asher, girlfriend to Paul McCartney he badgered the Beatle to give them a song to record. McCartney obliged with an unrecorded Beatle song called, A world without love (written by McCartney and credited to Lennon and McCartney). The single did well in the UK but became the first of the British Invasion to top the American charts displacing the Beatles' own Can't Buy Me Love.

For the next couple of years Peter and Gordon (very much a Lennon look-a-like) was very busy appearing on numerous television programs in the US as well as touring Japan, Australia and North America. Like Chad and Jeremy their appeal was their well bred English look and accent. American audiences in particular were in love with anything from Swinging England. Both duos sang low key ballads with clear enunciation which had massive appeal to both parents and their teenagers.

Peter and Gordon had two main advantages over Chad and Jeremy, they recorded Beatle songs and were more popular in the UK and Commonwealth as well as the US. As a consequence Asher and Waller enjoyed relatively greater longevity. More chart success followed with Lennon and McCartney songs like Nobody I Know and I don’t want to see you again.

I Go to Pieces was written by Del Shannon and Buddy Holly’s True Love ways saw Peter and Gordon riding high.

By 1966 however the bubble was beginning to burst and although Woman written by "Bernard Webb" a pseudonym used by Paul McCartney did well their last chart hit was Lady Godiva in 1967.

The duo disbanded in 1968. Peter became an A&R man with Apple and Gordon tried unsuccessfully to promote himself as a solo singer. Eventually Gordon left showbusiness to run a landscape gardening business in Northamptonshire. In 1971 he was invited to take part in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat and later returned to the music business as a music publisher in America before his untimely death in 2009.

When Peter Asher left Apple he became the manager of James Talyor producing several of his albums. Now based in the US he founded the successful Peter Asher Management agency and went on to handle artists such as Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Carole King and Linda Ronstadt. Peter Asher continues to keep busy as a producer working with many artists including Diana Ross, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr, Cher, Morrissey, Robbie Williams, Elvis Costello, The Dixie Chicks and Billy Joel, among many others.

Peter and Gordon did reunited onstage in 2005 in New York as part of two tribute concerts for Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five. They also appeared in 2006 and 2007 at various venues with their last perfomance in 2008 at a free concert on the pier in Santa Monica, California. Gordon died on 17 July 2009 at the age of 64 from cardiac arrest.

Worth a listen
A World Without Love (1964)
Nobody I Know (1964)
I Go to Pieces (1964)
To know you is to love you (1965)
(remake of the Teddy Bear’s To Know Him Is To Love Him)
True Love Ways (1965)
Woman (1966)
Lady Godiva (1966)

Saturday, 12 April 2014


Nazareth was formed in 1968 in Dunfermline, Scotland. The line-up consisted of Dan McCafferty (vocals), Manny Charlton (guitar), Pete Agnew (bass) and Darrell Sweet (drums). The band were previously called The Shadettes but changed their name to suit their style of progressive rock music. Nazareth refers to the Band’s opening line of The Weight.

At first the group felt constrained being limited to play covers of singles in the UK Top Thirty only by local ballroom managers. Ironically some of their most popular music included classic reinterpretations of the music of others. The group based in Scotland also felt alienated and estranged by a London-centric music industry. In 1970 they left the Belleville Hotel and Kinema Ballroom of Fife and moved to London and released their first album to general indifference.

Under the management of bingo magnate Bill Fehilly they released Exercises in 1972, and played support on the Deep Purple UK tour and Rory Gallagher on his European leg. Gradually their fan base grew and when they released Razzmatazz (1973), the album spawned two UK Top Ten hits, "Broken Down Angel" and "Bad Bad Boy".

Loud 'N' Proud followed soon after with their cover version of Joni Mitchell's song "This Flight Tonight," giving Naz another single success.

Their record company Mooncrest was eager for more singles’ sales but the band preferred albums as was the trend of all progressive rockers. Rampant, was release in 1974, but the single "Shanghai'd in Shanghai", failed to chart in the UK.

The band released My White Bicycle which became a Top 20 hit in the UK.

Hair of the Dog was released in April 1975 and was produced by Manny Charlton.

The title track of that album became a staple of 1970s rock radio. In the US the album contained a version of The Everly Brothers’, "Love Hurts", the US album went platinum and the single was a resounding international hit.

Throughout the next two decades the line-up changed several times as the band continued to record and tour. Manny left the band in 1990 as their popularity dwindled in the US and UK. Despite this the group maintained a strong following in Germany and Eastern Europe where they continued to have hits. In 1999 founding member and drummer Darrell Sweet tragically died suddenly from a major heart attack. Lead singer Dan McCafferty eventually retired in 2013 due to ill health leaving Pete Agnew as the only original member of the group. The band continues to perform and record with Linton Osborne as its front man.

Worth a listen

Dear John (1972)
Broken Down Angel (1973)
Bad Bad Boy (1973)
This Flight Tonight (1973 )
Shanghai'd in Shanghai (1974)
My White Bicycle (1975 )
Love Hurts (1975 )
Holly Roller (1975 )
I don’t want to go on without you (1976 )
Dream on (1982 )

Friday, 4 April 2014

Stuart Henry (1942 - 1995)

Stuart Henry was born in Edinburgh in 1942 and trained as an actor by chance one of his first roles as a professional actor was to play a DJ. He liked it so much he before he joined Radio Scotland as pirate jock. Chronic sea sickness prevented him from broadcasting from the ship (Comet) so many of his programs were pre-recorded or broadcast from the mainland.

Stuart’s show was immensely popular and he was selected to join the Radio 1 stable when private radio was made illegal. Stuart was the master of understatement and spoke with a gentle East Coast accent which endeared him to his audience. He presented 'Midday Spin' (1967 -1974) as well as the Saturday Morning show (1966 -1967).

When Stuart began to slur his words regularly on air his superiors thought he was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Somewhat controversially Stuart’s contract with BBC was not renewed and he left to join Radio Luxembourg in 1974. Soon after the DJ was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Throughout his career with Radio Luxembourg he battled with the progressive disease and continued to broadcast until the illness finally overtook.

By his side always in the studio was his wife Ollie. Stuart was always enthusiastic about the records he played and did much to introduce new acts to the listeners of Radio Luxembourg. He was a compassionate man and expressed his concern for ecological issues, as well as the plight of runaways living rough. Stuart died in 1995.