Fiery Bird

ARTHUR Billingsley was carving out a decent career for himself as the main man with country psychobilly act the Blubbery Hellbellies in The 1980s – before a chance meeting with a German musical legend led to him returning to his punk roots.

As Arturo Bassick, Arthur had played bass guitar with London outfit The Lurkers on their first two singles, Shadow and Freak Show, as well as contributing to their debut album, Fulham Fallout.

TOURING TIL HE DROPS – Arthur Billingsley (centre) with Dave Kemp (left) and Craig Casson

But when the Hellbellies were plying their songs like My Baby She’s as Fat as Me and I Don’t Wanna Be Thin at a festival in Dusseldorf, he met Campino, frontman of German legends Die Toten Hosen (The Dead Trousers) and they started talking about punk.

“I told him I used to be in The Lurkers and he said ‘You must be Arturo’,” recalls Arthur. “He seemed really impressed and said he would love to see us and could we play in Dusseldorf?

“By this time The Lurkers hadn’t played for ages, but I got in contact with the old members Pete Stride, Nigel Moore and the drummer Esso.”

Original singer Howard Wall was unable to rejoin but the gig went ahead – and was a huge success.

“The gig went so well that we carried on and Die Toten Hosen financed a comeback album in 1988,” says Arthur. “Then Pete left and shortly afterwards Nigel followed him – but I’d given up on a successful gigging band to start The Lurkers over again and I didn’t feel I should have to give up just because they didn’t want to do it. So I carried on.”

Stride and Moore later reformed another version of the band, The Lurkers: God’s Lonely Men and eventually recruited female singer Danie Centric to record new material – but Arthur carried on separately, relying on old hits like the early singles plus Love Story, Ain’t Got A Clue and Just Thirteen.

“Pete doesn’t like the fact that I carried it on but he hasn’t played a gig in years – he hates gigging,” he says. “I love it because I get drunk and have a good time.

“Anyway, I haven’t got enough money to stop. I won’t be able to retire, I also play bass for 999 these days and I’ll have to carry on until I drop down dead. I can’t get a proper job. Can you imagine the interview? ‘I haven’t had a job since 1982 and I have no discernible skills’…’Oh you’re just what we’re looking for’…”

Arthur, who now lives in Durham, explains that he left The Lurkers in November 1977 after about 40 gigs, saying: “I wanted to do my own thing and started playing guitar in Pinpoint, which was a lot more serious with political lyrics.

“I was 21 or 22 and I thought I had a lot to say about the state of things. The Lurkers liked the New York Dolls and The Ramones – and I did too – but they just wanted to play poppy rock and roll really, or bubblegum pop really.

“I was writing about the state of the world, anti-government sort of stuff, nuclear weapons, the human condition really – stuff that people still write about.”

Nowadays, his social conscience has led to him rescuing ex-racing greyhounds at his home in the North East.

“I love it up here, I don’t really like big cities, they’re expensive and full and dirty,” he says. “Also I have the space here for my greyhounds. I got into them maybe 30 years ago and they need a lot of rescuing.

“It’s so cruel, that game. Once they can no longer race people just hit them over the head with a shovel, people do awful things to them if they don’t make the grade or have finished racing. I feel sorry for them.

“I’ve only got four at the moment, but I’ve got a yard and I have four sofas – they have one each… I’m on the floor!”

Arturo Bassick brings the latest version of The Lurkers – with himself on lead vocals and bass, Dave Kemp on guitar and Craig Casson on drums – to the Fiery Bird in Woking, on Friday 18 October.

THE Small Fakers may be a tribute act, but they achieved something original band Small Faces never did – taking the classic album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake out on the road.

The 1968 concept album – much of which was narrated by comedian Stanley Unwin in his gobbledegook language Unwinese – was never toured by Steve Marriott and the original band, but the Fakers took it on a 16-date UK tour in 2011.


FACE THE MUSIC – The Small Fakers headline Wake Up Woking 10 at the Fiery Bird
 

Now regarded as a top tribute act, the band have also performed with original Small Face Jimmy Winston, who claimed the Fakers were “much better live than Small Faces were”, and original drummer Kenney Jones when he joined them for a rendition of All or Nothing at Hurtwood Park Polo Club in 2012.

Children, siblings and parents of the original band members have declared themselves Fakers fans too, with Ronnie Lane’s older brother Stan even claiming: “For those who never saw Small Faces live, the Fakers are as close as you’re gonna get.”

There’s a chance to see the band performing songs such as Itchycoo Park, Tin Soldier, Here Come The Nice, Lazy Sunday and Sha-La-La-La-Lee when they headline Wake Up Woking 10 on Saturday 12 October at the Fiery Bird.

They will be joined by The Special Guests Mod Band, fronted by Squire founder Enzo Esposito, at the annual event to raise money for Woking & Sam Beare Hospices. Tickets are available on the Fiery Bird or Wake Up Woking websites.

KENT singer-songwriter Katie Bradley came into the spotlight with her 2012 iTunes blues hit I Hear The River, which received a nomination for Best Original Song in the British Blues Awards, which came from her debut album She’s Ready.

PLAYING THE BLUES – Katie Bradley is one of the leading attractions at the Americana Festival, Fiery Bird, Woking, this weekend

Her success grew quickly as she supported and collaborated with the likes of Luther Allison, Suzanne Vega, Lucky Peterson, Taildragger, Georgie Fame and Geno Washington.

An accomplished blues harp player, her second album, Anchor Baby Sessions, has cemented her reputation to the point where she is a major attraction at the first Surrey Americana Festival in Woking this weekend.

Taking place at the Fiery Bird, the festival will run on Saturday (4pm-midnight) and Sunday  (2-10.30pm) and will also feature Dustbowl Sinners, Mantic Muddlers, Downtown Roundabout, Beth Keeping, the Will Purdue Band and many more.

LOCAL, national and touring US acts are heading to Woking this month for the Surrey Americana Festival.

IN THE GROOVE – The Mantic Muddlers are among the attractions at the Americana Festival

About 20 acts have been lined up for the event, which will take place at the Fiery Bird on Saturday and Sunday 21 and 22 September.

Among those confirmed are the Mantic Muddlers, Katie Bradley, Dustbowl Sinners, the Will Purdue Band, Phil Coleman, J Lee & The Hoodoo Skulls and Downtown Roundabout.

For tickets details and further information, please visit www.fierybirdvenue.org.uk.

For more details about acts appearing at the festival, see the 19 September edition of the News & Mail

WHEN a band’s touring van breaks down it could spell disaster, but for Zounds it turned out to be their biggest stroke of luck.

“By sheer chance we broke down at the end of the road where Crass lived,” explains frontman Steve Lake. “So we went to their house and it turned out we did get on really well.”

UNDERCOVER MISSION – Steve Lake fronts Zounds at the Fiery Bird on Saturday

At this time, in the late 1970s, anarcho punk band Crass had a massive cult following, which turned out to be good news for Reading outfit Zounds.

“It sounds like something from a made-up showbiz story, but it’s true,” explains Steve. “We had started playing in 1977 and we used to go to a lot of free festivals and play at a lot of them.

“Everywhere we were playing we saw posters for Crass and Poison Girls the week before or after, but we’d never met them.”

Following the fateful meeting after the van breakdown, Crass were quick to offer Zounds the chance to release a record on their label – and this flung them into the indie punk limelight.

The first release, an EP called Can’t Cheat Karma, went to number one in NME indie charts, although the singer admits: “That’s not because people knew who we were. Their devotion to Crass meant they thought it was the sort of thing they’d like.”

The band went on to release more records via Rough Trade, including The Curse of Zounds album, but their initial career was fairly shortlived.

Steve says: “In 1982 we stopped playing for a lot of reasons. It was getting to be less fun. There was a lot of trouble at gigs in those days, the late ’70s and early ’80s were pretty violent times.”

Steve continued to exist on the fringes of the DIY music scene, putting on gigs and playing occasionally, and eventually reformed Zounds in 2007, leading to the release of the album, The Redemption of Zounds, in 2011.

He is loving the band’s new lease of life, except for one thing.

“The songs I wrote came out of our experience, which happened to be a harsh experience. But the songs about ecology, consumerism, housing shortages are sadly still problems for people today.”

Zounds will play at the Undercover Festival at the Fiery Bird, Woking, this weekend, Friday and Saturday, 13 and 14 September.

Undercover Festival lineup

Tomorrow (Friday): Spear of Destiny (Kirk Brandon), 1919, The Satellites, The Blue Carpet Band, R.E.D. (Religion Equals Decay)

Saturday: Towers of London, Menace, Wonk Unit, Rubella Ballet, Zounds, The Fanzines, Actified UK, Wipes

For the full interview get the 12 September edition of the News & Mail

THE punk rock ethic that “anyone can do it” can rarely have had more resonance than for London four-piece Menace.

The band had spent most of 1976 on a gruelling tour of military bases in Germany, playing rock ’n’ roll and R&B covers to airmen and soldiers – and just about making ends meet.

The reformed Menace will appear at the Undercover Festival at Woking’s Fiery Bird

When the band returned to England, they discovered that punk was emerging as a major musical force… and an old school colleague was the major star.

“The Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten went to our school in London, St William of York, and we couldn’t get over it,” says Menace drummer Noel Martin, who is still with the band.

“He wasn’t ‘one of the lads’ at school, he was one of the ones that wasn’t a footballer or one of the tough kids, he was just ‘this kid’ and suddenly he was a rock star.

“We decided to get in on it. We wrote some songs like Screwed Up and Insane Society and then our second or third gig was at the Roxy.”

Menace became regulars at the legendary punk club in Covent Garden, playing with the likes of The Lurkers, Penetration, The Killjoys (with future Dexy’s Midnight Runners frontman Kevin Rowland on vocals), The Rezillos and Sham 69.

“Miles Copeland came to see us and signed us to Illegal Records straight away,” recalls Noel. “Because we could play reasonably well, we stood out I suppose.”

The initial result was the 1977 Screwed Up/Insane Society single, which is now a valuable commodity.

Other singles like GLC and Last Year’s Youth followed as Menace gained a big punk/skinhead following around London.

“We had a great time,” says the drummer. “Punk meant freedom for us. Before, you couldn’t get a gig for love nor money in London, you had to go cap in hand to some agent. It was hard work.

“When punk came along there was loads of shows, everybody could play because suddenly there were so many kids into it.

Menace in their early days

“We got quite a following. It was real – small but real –  people were singing our songs and we were playing three or four times a week in London.”

However, things petered out around the end of 1979 when frontman Morgan Webster left. The rest of the band became a backing band for Vermillion, as The Aces, for a while. Noel says: “Then, from 1981 I didn’t play for years. I started a wedding business, so I was busy every weekend.”

But in 1999 Noel and former bandmate Charlie joined a band called The Collection with John Lacey and played a few gigs. One night they decided to play the Menace classic GLC and Noel says: “The place went nuts!

“Afterwards, someone said ‘That’s the best Menace cover I’ve heard’ and I was like ‘Eh? I was in Menace!’ I started getting calls saying ‘Are you reforming?’, so we decided to do more of the old songs and eventually decided we might as well be Menace.

“It’s more enjoyable, but in a different way. Back then, we were kids and everything was completely insane. We didn’t have a care in the world. But now everyone knows our tunes, everyone knows us and we’re enjoying it to the max.

“We only had 11 songs back in 1977, so we’d often play them more than once! We lasted for three years with 11 songs.

“Now we have a much bigger set. We still play GLC, Screwed Up, Last Year’s Youth, I Need Nothing and we have new songs that sound very similar.”

Menace will play alongside Spear of Destiny, Towers of London, Rubella Ballet, Zounds, Wonk Unit and many others at the Undercover Festival at the Fiery Bird, Woking, on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 September.

THE organisers of a charity gig at the Fiery Bird in Woking have presented the Shooting Star Chase children’s hospice with a cheque for £2,490 and 46p.

DEDICATED FUNDRAISERS: Ellie Bennet of Shooting Star Chase, far left, with Christine and Andrew Mabbutt and his mum, Sue

The money was raised at the event last month when almost 150 people were entertained by acts including Argonaut, whose guitarist Nathan comes from Woking, local band Birdsworth, Dakka Skanks and The Sha La Las.

It was the third annual Jackfest held in honour of Knaphill resident Jack Bruce, who has muscular dystrophy and is regularly helped by Shooting Star Chase.

Christine said the staff at the Shooting Star Chase office in Addlestone were overwhelmed by the presentation of the money.

“They said they appreciated the great work we do to raise money for the charity. We will be doing another show next year, Jackfest 2020 but are still deciding on the date and venue,”

A calendar, organised by Christine for which she and ten friends and family stripped off for a Calendar Girls-style shoot, is on sale in aid of the charity.

The calendar, produced by Knaphill Print, is on sale at a discount of £5 and is available by emailing djmabbs@yahoo.co.uk and at the Knaphill Post Office shop.

For the full story get today’s edition of the News & Mail (14 February)

IN 1980 The Chords were leading lights of the British mod scene, hitting the Top 50 with a string of hit singles and touring the world, but they burnt out after just one Top 30 album, So Far Away.

Now the man who wrote songs like Now It’s Gone, Maybe Tomorrow and Something’s Missing is back with a new version of the band, The Chords UK, a clutch of new songs and a new attitude.

Chris Pope says the band fell out of favour because he refused to stick to the mod straitjacket, but the emergence of internet has allowed his music to gain a new lease of life.

The Chords UK

“The first album, So Far Away, was kind of crash bang wallop and it did really well, put us on the map, but do you just want to repeat that?” he asks.

“People didn’t accept the way I wanted to go with it, but by mid-1981 I wanted to move on and do other stuff. People weren’t listening because they thought we were of a certain genre and should stick with it. For me, it was first and foremost about the music, not fashion.

“In any case, fashion-wise things moved on to new romantic scene and I didn’t fancy that.”

The Chords limped on for a while with former Vibrators frontman Kip Herring replacing original singer Billy Hassett, but success eluded them and there was no second album.

Chris formed a band called Agent Orange but any fledgeling promise was killed off when it had to change the name because it was the same as that of an existing American band. By the 1990s he had to get “a proper job” but saw his chance to get back to what he loved via the internet after the turn of the millennium.

“Thirty years ago it was all corporate and without a major label you just couldn’t do it,” Chris explains. “But now you can get music out there without a record company, which is great for me.

“In the 1980s, if you made a demo, it just sat in your drawer because once you’d sent it to the major record companies there was nowhere else to go. It’s healthier now – it doesn’t sell like it used to and it’s a struggle and frustrating when people just stream it, but you can get it out there for people to hear.

“I’d love to still be in the NME and on Top of the Pops but things have moved on.”

The Chords UK now play around 40 gigs a year, mixing and matching Chords originals with Chris’ newer songs which feature on recent albums like Take On Life and last year’s Nowhere Land.

“The Chords did seven singles in 18 months and I still like playing them because people want to hear them and I wrote them, but I love playing the new stuff too.

“It’s quite weird playing stuff you wrote 40 years ago alongside something you wrote three minutes ago but I like it all. I’m not really tempted to just go down the purely nostalgic route like so many others do these days. I’d rather do what I do, making new music.

“Instead of selling 10,000 albums, people just download it or stream it but I’m still able to go out and play and enjoy it.”

The Chords UK will headline the 12-hour Punk Valentine event at the Fiery Bird in Woking, which kicks off at lunchtime on Saturday 16 February. Also on the bill will be Finn Panton’s Seeds of 77, Phoenix Chroi, Stone Heroes, Jellly, Kilter, Holy Faction, The Anoraks, The Glorias, Plague UK, Rage DC, Nancy Boy and Broken Idols.