Press Cuttings

Coventry Evening Telegraph, Saturday July 17th 1993.
by Martin Neeves

Time was when your authentic down-home blues man had to be American, black, poor and preferably blind. On that criteria Tim James would make a good accountant. Which is what he is in the daytime.

Come the evening though he unpacks his sax and metamorphasises into a horn-blowing, mouth harp wailing, blues singer. And pretty good he is too. White, middle-aged and comfortably off he may be, but he can put across those old blues standards. Got a good voice as well.

He's been doing it now for 30 years. A couple of years more than he's been sorting people's tax returns, in fact. It's an unlikely double life which, far from showing signs of waning, has Tim waxing lyrical. "While I can carry on playing like this I will. I love it," he says in between sets at the Dive bar.

The subterranean half of the Lady Godiva pub was the birthplace of his one man show. An unusual venue given that traditionally the Dive takes its music heavy and hairy. A place where you are underdressed if your forearm isn't tattooed. But then Tim James is an unusual blues player. In the Dive's own way - which includes the pool game carrying on and an occasional heckle - he's well received and clearly held in affection. "I used to come down here and do half an hour every day. I didn't think you could function up against black boxes and get away with it!" he says with a nod toward his backing track machines.

He plays all his own music on a computerized synthesizer, records it and, hey presto, instant backing band. Well not quite. It took him a year to turn himself into a passable multi-instrumentalist and record "an hour and a bit's worth of music.

It's a far cry from the raw sound of blues harp that mesmerised him as a 15-year-old Henry VIII schoolboy listening to the radio. "It was a guy from London named Cyril Davies playing blues harp on Countryline Special, introduced by John Lennon on the Pop Go The Beatles," he recalls. "Inspired, I dug out an old mouth organ that I had never been able to play, tried again - and succeeded. "Two weeks later I was harp player and vocalist in the Bo Weevils - first gig at Willenhall youth club. Over the next 3 years the band played all over the country."

It was an experience that could have served as the script for last year's hit film The Commitments. Living out of a beat-up van, sleeping on amplifiers, motorway caffs, no food, dodgy promoters, Northern clubs ... He met a lot of musicians too, some of them famous names in later years. "Robert Plant, I used to know him as Rob. He had very short hair and was a mod. He owes me a lot of harmonicas."

But eventually the bad times outweighed the good. Ripped off and disillusioned he quit. He decided music was something he would do for love not money and got a job in accountancy. Fast forward 27 years and he's a partner in the Coventry firm Luckmans. Happy with his lot and no regrets. He's played with an awful lot of bands in that time. The rounds of working men's clubs soon whittled away his musical snobbery and he learned to enjoy playing music he didn't much like, he admits.

Then came Perfumed Garden in 1967 (inevitably), avant garde jazz in Ra-Ho-Tep, rock & roll revival with Danny & the Heartthrobs ... the list continued until the late 70s when he was diagnosed diabetic. When the gigs came to an end in the nearest hospital's casualty department he decided to ease up.

DJ stints at the Dive, odd gigs and recording sessions sustained his musical appetite until he discovered computers and a new lease of life as a one man band. Away from the stage and office he enjoys taking off with his Thai-born wife, Nat, and the two boys for a camping weekend in the New Forest. While he's away the saxophone is sent to Brum for a service. It's got many years to do yet before it's hung up.

*


Coventry Evening Telegraph, Monday 31st August 1970

More than 200 young people sat or stood around in the Cathedral ruins for Coventry's own "mini pop festival on Saturday evening. Fifteen minutes after the festival - called "A Digger's feast" - started, there were 200 youngsters in the ruins, and more were coming in.

"It's more than we imagined possible - it's quite fantastic," said one of the organisers.

The festival was organised by the Coventry Diggers to raise funds for their financially ailing art gallery in Bayley Lane, Coventry, which closed prematurely when it was flooded out a fortnight ago.

Dave Fowkes, secretary of the Diggers said "I think the Cathedral is the best place we could have had for the festival, both from the physical point of view - it's so central - and from the religious aspect. There are young people here obviously enjoying themselves in a consecrated church. That must be a good thing."

It was purely by chance that the Diggers Feast coincided with the Isle of Wight pop festival. "The Cathedral authorities suggested this date" said Mr.Fowkes. "At first we were worried when we found out that it was the same date as the Isle of Wight festival, but then we discovered that few people were going to the Isle of Wight from this area so we thought it was quite nice that it was happening on the same weekend."

With tickets at 5s each and the 3 groups giving their services free, the Coventry Diggers stand to make over £50 when expenses have been met. "We are quite worried by the amount of money we are going to have," said Mr.Fowkes. "We don't know what we are going to do with it."

"We found we could not make ends meet at the art gallery, so we decided to do this to help pay for it. now we shall more than cover our debts. We have got to have a lot of discussion as to whether we open up the art gallery in Bayley Lane again. We have had a lot of support from the public, but either we made a mistake about the number of artists in Coventry, or they haven't heard about us.

Picture captions:

  1. Shades of the Isle of Wight ...? pop fans listen to the first group, Ra Ho Tep, among the ruins of the old cathedral. [click here for a better picture]
  2. A couple sit deep in thought as the sounds of pop pervade the air
  3. Interlude: "If music be the food of love ..."

So OK, I know what you're thinking, whose write-up is this?! The point is that, of the 3 bands that played this memorable gig, we were the only one that got a picture or our name mentioned, and we were playing avant-garde jazz at a pop festival. Wandering John, arch rivals, good friends and one of the other bands, were not amused ...TJ


Coventry Evening Telegraph, 25th August 1993

Well, it is a press cutting, there's just no journalism ... and that cuts out all the cr*p doesn't it?

An advert for the opening of Brian Stafford's new City Centre pub.

I think he lasted about 18 months until he remembered why he had previously got out of the City Centre. Soon after the place was boarded up again.

But it was a great opening night, a memorable gig, and my old friend Greg Taylor turned up, sampled the beer, and played tenor sax for the first time in 27 years


Coventry Express, Friday May 28th 1965

Citybeat by Paul Connew
A cockney friend of mine told me, "The Coventry pop scene? There isn't one, really. It is just a gutless reflection of the national scene and hit parade trends." That was just a few months ago. If he came back today, he would probably not be so unkind with his words. As a pop music city, Coventry is beginning to "find its soul."

To the Cockney, bred on the sounds of the "Mingo" - the Flamingo - and the Wardour Street belt, until a few months ago Coventry might never have had anything to offer. Certainly there wasn't a "workable scene" or an "in-crowd fringe. Everything seemed to be the same, churned out by the same machine for the same market. There weren't the fierce loyalties of London or Liverpool. There was nothing remotely resembling the distinctive scene of Manchester or the highly individual "pop" trends that drifted onto the scene from Tyneside way.

Everyone was a Beatle or a Stone. The length of their hair and the numbers they played all stemmed from from the same limited sources. You could confidently expect to go to a pub session and hear two groups duplicating at least four of each other's numbers. Originality didn't seem to have much place. material went in pretty strict ratios and cycles. Beatles, Stones, a few Chuck Berry and the odd touch of Bo Diddley - invariably it would be "Pretty Thing" or "Roadrunner". If you were lucky, you might even get "Bring it to Jerome."

Now for the first time since the Beatles busrt onto the scene, the hit parade is strangely unpredictable. No smart-guy agents or even top recording managers really know what will make it. The entire record-buying public seems to have developed a new highly-critical outlook. Much that is regarded as certain chart material fails to sell at all. While material that regarded as "uncommercial" and would hardly have covered expenses a few months ago, bursts right into the top ten.

All this seems to have reflected very favourably on the Coventry scene. The scene is dying in many parts of the country but, in Coventry, it seems to be thriving. The results of the Coventry Express "pop poll" would seem to confirm this. But there is a marked breakdown in the way fans are going. The scene is now more varied than it has been before. Styles have changed. New groups with completely different attitudes have shot to the forefront. Even line-ups have altered. Organs and saxes have begun to cut down the number of "3 guitars and drums" line-ups.

The winners of the Express poll, the Matadors, have themselves undergone a definite change. An organ has been added and much of their earlier material has been dropped. The Matadors now put a great deal of emphasis on stagework and their material ranges from hit-parade gear to ballads and modern arrangements of older "pop" hits. One of their most popular numbers is a rendition of the old Buddy Holly flipside "Everyday" - one of the rock numbers to have stood the test of time. The "Mats" do some of their own material and hope to have a record released which is mid-tempo and sung in falsetto harmony- on an Ivy League kick.

Second on the Express poll were the Little Darlins - without doubt the most outrageous looking of all the Coventry groups.No drift back toward short hair for these boys.[rest of this paragraph illegible but it's only about their haircuts- Ed]

The scene in Coventry, although becoming more popular, hardly bears comparison with London or Newcastle. Birmingham has the atmospheric all-nighter, the Crawdaddy, which attracts quite a few of Coventry's mod set. One of the groups who frequently play there are Coventry's Boll Weevils ( a surprising 5th in the Express poll).They are also regulars at the Leofric Jazz Club, probably the nearest we have to the London scene. And the Boll Weevils illustrate, more aptly than anyone else in the poll, the shift in the pop music business. They are jazz-based, short haired and very mod. An alto-saxophonist, Fred Liggins, is the often frighteningly proficient lead instrumental voice. Vocalist-harmonica player, Tim Jamesfrequently throws pop music convention to the wind and begins skat-singing.

The Irish are, of course, great club-goers and thios no doubt explains the success of the Pat Gissane Showband (3rd in the poll with 833 votes). Ironically enough, however, only 3 of the 8-piece outfit are Irish. They work more in London, perhaps, than they do in Coventry itself and have a big following in both.

Very different are the Beat Preachers. They have changed as drastically as any local group. Not so long ago, they sported shoulder-length hair and were very much on a Stones kick in their music. Now the barber has done his work and they all sport well-groomed manes. Their sound has changed too. They now have a distinct "surfin sound" - although manager Colin Maskell assures me the sound is unintentional. The most successful Coventry group on the national scene are, without doubt, The Mighty Avengers. They were a diappointing 6th in our poll. Once again the emergence of a group onto the national scene has meant that many of their less fanatical fans had drifted away. The Sorrows finished 7th in the poll. They are a Coventry group who have never really stayed put. They were whisked smartly away onto the London scene before they even had a record released.

As yet no Coventry group has risen to the heights of the Mersey, London and Tyneside outfits. But until now Coventry has never had such a varied, partisan and individual pop scene of its own. Perhaps, as the national scene sorts itself out a bit more, there might be a place for the "Coventry Sound" - right at the top of the pops.

So I was very grateful to Paul for this write-up but, as I said to him at the time, what a load of pretentious crap! In the opening paragraphs he gives you the impression that Coventry is leading the way off into the stratosphere, then goes on to explain that the Matadors (Coventry's top voted band) have "undergone a definite change" to now include " hit parade gear and ... modern arrangements of older pop hits ..."

So what the hell were they playing before - Max Bygraves numbers?

However, please remember that Paul was all of 18 years old at the time, had his own weekly page, and had to guard his remarkable career progress by keeping the editor happy . Journalism hasn't changed much in the last 35 years!  TJ


1mbb website by Tim James