Yorkshire Coast Gigs - A Community Interest Company

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In the land of 1969 and a bit before...

I have a great many people to thank for my love of all types of music - my Dad, Peter Adams / Rahim, my Mum, Johnnie Walker and John Peel, plus all the assorted Radio Luxembourg odds and sods DJs who could scarcely be heard by another soul in our house, at least not through the pillow I stuffed my transistor radio under. Dad made it for me from a kit of parts when it was clear as a 10 year old at Northstead Junior school I might not yet have acquired the skills. This remains true even today; I am not technically adept. I grew up on a diet of cover versions of chart hits, available each month from Boots The Chemist, on the corner of St. Nicholas Street, from the record department upstairs, next to Boots' library. I was never under any illusion that the Top Six tunes covered by The Ghost Squad (as Fabulous 208 named the copy artists) were the real thing. Indeed, some were so piss poor they were embarrassing. It's unfair to pick on anyone who has a stab at reggae but the cover of Millie Small's 'My Boy Lollipop' kind of took the biscuit.

I was still at school, thinking of reasons not to have my hair cut, when I began to make the weekly trip to Scarborough Folk Club, sporting a green corduroy jacket and some fine green and red bun-toed shoes, courtesy of my Mum, Tuesdays at The Durham Hotel on North Marine Road. In that packed pub, lit by candles pushed into the necks of empty straw-wrapped chianti bottles I first came across some of the artists who would later become regulars at The Penthouse Sunday Folk Nights. Jon Betmead, the intense (and rightly so) Mike Cooper, bluesman extraordinary and whose 'Oh, Really?' album is as good today as it was in 1968, a fine introduction to the work of this (now 72 year old) lap steel guitar player/ film maker and artist, and Michael Chapman - Chappo to some, Mike Chapman then, albeit briefly. Michael, from Hull out of Leeds, had been a photography lecturer and was then, even as he is now aged 73, an extraordinary guitarist, picking his trademark intricate tunes with a heavy bass drone that matched his foot tap or slap on the guitar soundboard, to accompany his songs, some wry, some poignant and one which would later become a prerequisite for Sheila Ravenscroft's travelling music cassette when she and her husband, John Peel, went on their jollies. That was 'Postcards Of Scarborough' - from Michael's 'Fully Qualified Survivor' album, but more of that later.

The first time I saw him play the pub on a wet Monday night, he told his spellbound audience his first album would be released out later in the year and I don't doubt for a minute I wasn't the only person who could hardly wait for 'Rainmaker'. True to form and with his unequalled knack of spotting a talent, Peel featured Michael Chapman regularly on his Radio One show. Years later, when I guested on Peel's never less than unmissable Radio 4 show, Home Truths, I passed on Michael's regards and the Great Man duly recounted the tale of his wife's holiday must-have track. "I did loads of his shows but I never met him," Michael told me, his contributions recorded in advance but not by Peel.

Where am I going with this? I'd become a fan of Barclay James Harvest, another Peel discovery, a band of soaring, gorgeous songs formed in Oldham, in the North West. Their first single, 'Early Morning', was released on Parlophone, the same label as The Beatles, in 1968, but it was 'Brother Thrush' the following year that knocked me over. Prog rock of a different sort, beautiful and considered, sweet verging on twee, I loved it as much for EMI's new progressive music label, Harvest, with its distinctive Yin and Yang style yellow and green logo as I did for the music itself. Michael Chapman stayed with the label for four years, producing some of his best work - though in all honesty, he's yet to release a bum album.

Harvest became one of those labels you could trust - in much the same way as you could trust Rahim to give you a quality band or artist for the whole of his tenure at The Penthouse, backed by some good promoters and agents who shared his passion. In 1969, then, we were treated to just about every artist in the Harvest records roster - Shirley Collins, Greatest Show On Earth, Roy Harper, Bakerloo and Pete Brown & His Battered Ornaments - the latter, the performance poet, Pete Brown, was a staple lyricist for Cream, for whom he wrote, with the late Jack Bruce: 'White Room', 'I Feel Free', 'SWLABR' and 'Sunshine Of Your Love' with Eric Clapton. Barclay James Harvest played, Third Ear Band and the redoubtable Edgar Broughton Band, and though Harvest's superstar signing, Pink Floyd, didn't play, Roy Harper would later sing with them and Ron Geesin, the Scots composer and performance artist who also played for us in 1969, would throw his hat into the Floyd's ring when he agreed to work with them on 'Atom Heart Mother' the following year. There's a tale to tell there but we're only a wee way into 1969, so you'll have to hang on a bit.

Up to this point, we'd also had (bizarrely) The Bedrocks, who scored a hit with The Beatles' 'Ob-La-Di', Free (for the first time round), another magical guitarist and mighty guitarist and composer of the much-loved instrumental, Anji, Davey Graham, folk singer and promoter, Ian - later to be Ian A. Anderson, Eire Apparent (whose only album, 'Sunrise', features Jimi Hendrix), folk superstars The Young Tradition, Junior's Eyes ( including John Cambridge, who would work with Bowie on several occasions) Strawbs and another fine and mischievous soul who's remained a dear friend to this day, Mike Absalom; buy his paintings!

Next Time: Robert Palmer, more Bowie's future band, a Liverpool poet, more superstars than you can shake a stick at... including Elton John's guitarist. Thanks for reading and feel free to add your memories here and on Facebook  where you can join the group conversations. 

Click to catch up with Part One.  Have your own memories and memorabilia from music eras past?  Get involved with Coastival's Reverberation project.

Click here for 'Rainmaker': Michael Chapman

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