Birmingham and the West Midlands has always been a major centre for great music. But for every ELO, Ocean Colour Scene, Lady Leshurr or Laura Mvula, there’s dozens of other great artists who played packed gigs and released some bostin’ tunes, yet are now largely forgotten or overlooked.
Coinciding with the release of a new 3x CD boxset collection - Once Upon A Time In The West Midlands: The Bostin Sounds of Brumrock 1966-1974 - we delve into the archives to dig out half-a-dozen acts from the period who caused a stir at the time, but are now rarely mentioned.
Yet they were around at the same time as The Moody Blues, The Spencer Davis Group, ELO, and Judas Priest.
How many do you remember?
Nigel Wright (guitar, lead vocals), Matt Bridger (bass, vocals), Bill Bonham (keyboards, vocals) and Dave Hynds (drums, vocals) came together in the early 1970s when Bonham, who had played with Robert Plant, Terry Reid and The Move’s Ace Kefford joined mid-60s Brumbeat combo The Cheetahs, whose new line-up featured Bridger, Hynds and original member Wright.
Renamed Fairfield Ski after their financial backer’s girlfriend (Ski, from Fairfield, USA!), they recorded at the famed Abbey Road, and several other major London studios. Sadly, business hassles led to their album being unreleased, and members left for the US. However, bootleg copies started to circulate in the 1990s, eventually leading to a belated official release and reformation.
Today, although Bonham passed away in 2015, Wright, Hynds and Bridger continue to write and record. Their most recent single is Hashtag Do One, released in October 2021.
Find out more: www.fairfieldski.biz
Richard Pannell and Geoff Brown had a long history of playing together. As members of The King Bees, they shared a residency with The Spencer Davis Group at The Whiskey A Go-Go in John Bright Street, but split after being signed by The Kinks’ manager Larry Page (who’d renamed the band Craig).
Brown and Pannell went on to play with Irish showband The Castaways, and by 1968, the Stax/ Southern Soul-inspired Immediate Pleasure, who morphed into the more progressive Galliard. Embracing folk, ancient and world music influences, Galliard released two albums - Strange Pleasure and New Dawn.
Incidentally, Pannell went on to become ELO’s sound engineer.
When World Of Oz collapsed, vocalist/ guitarist Chris ‘Robin’ Evans and drummer Rob Moore formed Kansas Hook with members from Paradox and the backing band of Coventry’s Don Fardon. Represented by Inner City Artists, based on Brum’s Stratford Road, they released two singles - Echo Park and Nervous Shakin’ - before calling it a day after Evans joined Lincolnshire’s The Casuals.
Here’s a clip of them wandering through Cannon Hill Park circa 1969: https://vimeo.com/130076516
Formed in Barbados, Luv Machine swapped the Caribbean for Wolverhampton in 1969 with Cannock-based John Jeavons joining on bass for their debut album, 1971’s self-titled rockin’ Luv Machine - their only LP. Though chiming with the times – perfect for fans of Vanilla Fudge, Hendrix and Cream - poor promotion meant it flopped. Now heralded as a lost classic, the album was reissued as Turns You On in 2006.
A Kings Heath five-piece who took their moniker from a Schweppes TV advert that ended with the line “schhh... you know who.” After being spotted by Handsworth recording studio owner John Taylor, they were approached by Karel Beer - an aspiring producer/ songwriter from Sutton Coldfield who’d also been a DJ and NME writer.
The publishing branch of The Beatles’ Apple dug their 1968 track An Apple A Day, but the band failed to find fame, and soon renamed themselves Bachdenkel. Associated with Birmingham Arts Lab, Bachdenkel hijacked a marketing stunt by department store Rackhams before relocating to France and recording two albums.Although the band long vanished, Karel Beer remained in France and has been promoting comedy and music gigs in Paris since the mid-90s.
Coming together from members of Wolverhampton’s The Montanas and Finders Keepers, Trapeze formed in 1969. Releasing their debut album the following year, the band were part of a harder rock sound that was starting to emerge.
Although they continued on/off until the 1990s, Trapeze are perhaps best known for launching the career of Cannock-born bassist Glenn Hughes, who went on to join Deep Purple as well as Black Sabbath and supergroup Black Country Communion. But other members of the band also went on to play with other acts too, including Whitesnake (guitarist Mel Galley) and Judas Priest (drummer Dave Holland).
Incidentally, Finders Keepers and The Montanas also included one Ian ‘Sludge’ Lees in their line-up, who later found fame as a comic and member of the Tiswas cast. Ian’s nickname was given to him by Hughes.
Find out more about Glenn Hughes via: www.glennhughes.com
* Once Upon A Time In The West Midlands: The Bostin Sounds of Brumrock 1966-1974 is out now via Grapefruit - Find out more and buy your over version here
Images courtesy of Cherry Red.
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