Four Years of Music in Manchester

Year Three: September 1966 to June 1976

I’m excited to be back in Manchester. The Student Council has asked me to be the Social Secretary. It normally requires standing for the Student Council but I explain that I’m not interested in student politics and doubt I’d win a seat anyway.  I’d be happy to be responsible for booking the artists and organizing the music events. They agree, and provide me with an office to work from in the Union building. I commit to keep the President of the Council Anna Ford up to date on my plans.  Meeting the Permanent Staff who are employed to run everything in the Union building I notice they all have been in their jobs a long time. The schedule is to have ten Saturday night shows each term in the Main Debating Hall (MDH) and ten Wednesday night free shows in the Lower Debating Hall (LDH). I’ve watched Chris Wright managing all this during the previous year and discussed his choices, prices and how to do the contracts so I’ve learned a lot. I hope it’s enough.

Unfortunately the Ian Hamilton Agency won’t let me make my bookings through Chris even though he’s working there. They claim the university would book through them anyway and they don’t want Chris to be taking half of the 10% commission they earn. Unfortunately Ian Hamilton is creating a rift between Chris and me which doesn’t help me. Chris offers me a date on Eric Clapton’s new group Cream in the summer but I can’t take it. John Knowles a friend of ours and one of the bookers at the Ian Hamilton Organisation, offers me a room in his new flat in Didsbury and I’ll take it. It’s a longer journey into the university and the town centre but I’m in the office at the union and the drama department most of the time.

Saturday night is the most expensive for booking bands but the new university circuit that’s building up around the country has good budgets and can spend more than local promoters. I begin by booking a band for the first week who are not expensive as most students turn up to see old friends and meet new arrivals whichever artist is playing. I’ve booked ‘Herbie Goins & The Night-Timers’ for my first night. He’s an American soul singer who has joined up with the Night-Timers in a seven-piece band. They aren’t as famous as ‘Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band’ or ‘Jimmy James and the Vagabonds featuring Count Prince Miller’ who are two of the biggest live bands around but Herbie isn’t expensive and he does an amazing show. It’s a really good night.

Herby Goins and the Nighttimers

Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band

Geno is an ex-US airman and a soul singer who joined a seven-piece band in England and Jimmy James and the Vagabonds have come over from Kingston Jamaica. I hope I can get bookings with both of them. Soul music is enormously popular in Manchester mainly because of the Abadi’s brothers’ Twisted Wheel club and their DJ Roger Eagle who is always getting the latest imports from record shops in America. I think another reason is Otis Redding whose new LP ‘Otis Blue’ is so great everyone’s playing it constantly. No chance of booking him but I’ll phone the agents to see which American bands are touring.

It’s obvious I’m obsessed with music but I don’t want to neglect my second year in the Drama Department. I’m enjoying it and it’s important to me. I’ve always been told I can’t sing and I don’t have an ear for music so I never think about working in music but drama might offer me some more opportunities. We’re dealing with a wide range of subjects, playwriting, play direction, theatre design, theatre administration, television and sound broadcasting and drama in education. Included in this year’s subjects is ‘Coronation Street’ which is a big part of Manchester life. Granada TV is based here and makes the TV show here. They have financially supported the drama department including the new University Theatre so there’s a close connection. The production we’re going to play in the University Theatre this year is to be ‘The Flies’ by Jean-Paul Sartre. I know who Jean-Paul Sartre is but I didn’t know he wrote plays. I look forward to it.

Looking for American bands I’ve been offered the “Dixie Cups”, who used to be “Little Miss and the Muffets”, two sisters and a cousin from New Orleans. They’ve just had a big hit with ‘Iko Iko’. They’re billed on the posters as “The Original Dixie Cups” because other musicians are using the name. I hope I’ve got the right one. They turn out to be really good and very popular thank goodness.

My next booking is a band called “The Creation” who are just releasing their new single “Painter Man”. Their manager Tony Stratton-Smith has convinced me it’s going to be a hit. They arrive for their sound check in MDH with a lot of middle-aged men in raincoats and trilbys, some with cameras. Apparently they’re from the press to get some publicity for the new record. They haven’t mentioned this to me. On stage the band are going well and getting a good response when suddenly a naked woman appears on the stage and the road manager brings out a palette of paints and starts painting her whilst she dances and the group play the new single ‘Painter Man’. They get a mixed reaction from the audience. The band get plenty of attention in the Sunday papers with lots of photos but it’s not the sort of publicity the university likes. I need to be more careful around agents.

The Dixie Cups

The Creation

Rahsaan Roland Kirk

My other booking at the moment is another American artist, “Roland Kirk”. He’s a blind multi-instrumentalist who plays three horns at once creating extraordinary avant-garde jazz based on a mixture of influences including blues and classical music. He’s in the UK to play at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London and I’m really keen to put him on.  I don’t have the right venue in the students union for such a concert but I  persuade the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology UMIST to let me put the concert on in their hall which is the right size and has seating. Roland Kirk isn’t well known so I asked the Abadis to make a black and white screenprint from a black and white photo of Roland Kirk as our poster in the hope it will draw attention. It looks dramatic and I think it helps as we sell a good number of tickets on the night. The band appear on stage and start playing. There’s no sign of Roland Kirk and I begin to wonder where he is when he appears from the back of the room and marches towards the stage loudly playing three instruments at once. He’s a storm of sound blasting through the hall. We haven’t experienced anything like this or the rest of the concert. He plays his horns and a flute, he talks, blows whistles and bangs a gong. I’ve heard nothing like it before and I was elated and drained. I was so impressed I didn’t have the confidence go back stage after the show as I usually do.

We’ve started our preparations for the production of ‘The Flies’. It’s based on a Greek drama, ‘Electra’, and made into an existentialist drama. It’s a big and complex show so it’s going to take a lot of work. I’m one of the Flies which is the usual small part for me. I don’t have much acting experience yet but I’m happy just to be involved. My costumes and makeup are really weird which is a first for me. I’m made up to look as though I have no eyes just sockets. Not having to spend the endless hours of rehearsal the big parts require is actually helpful as getting the bands together is proving to be demanding. I need to find good local bands for the free show every Wednesday in LDH and the Saturday night shows are a world of their own. I’ve had a chest infection called bronchiolitis and fallen out with John Knowles who I’ve been living with so I’ve moved out and I’m moving in with my girlfriend Monica in her flat in Furness Road Fallowfield. My tutor has come to look for me in the Students Union. He’s found me in my office calling agents in London. He’s worrying that I’m not putting enough time into my drama course and has come to discuss the situation. Fortunately he’s a nice man and we have a good relationship so we can discuss everything including my recent ill health, the move to a new flat and how much time the music bookings are taking. We agree I need to spend more time with the department.

The Small Faces

Nevertheless, I’ve got more of my bookings done. I’ve got the Small Faces whose album “Small Faces” is doing really well. They have hits “Watcha Gonna Do About It” and “Sha La La La Lee”. I’m booking it directly with Don Arden, their agent and manager, as they don’t like dealing with other agents and losing some commission. I go down to London to agree a deal. At their office in Carnaby Street I meet Bill Corbett and Peter Grant and we agree a fee and make the contract. Their boss Don Arden marches in excitedly. He’s just closed a deal to bring Jayne Mansfield the film star to tour cabaret clubs in the UK. Whilst I’m in London I visit a couple of other agencies. One of the agents at NEMS Brian Epstein’s company has invited me to the Cromwellian Club in Cromwell Road. It’s a VIP club for artists, managers and agents. It’s full of stars the Beatles and the Walker Brothers and many others are there. I see Chas Chandler the bass player of The Animals sitting with a guy with a big afro-hairstyle and an old military dress uniform. He gets up picks up a guitar and jams with the house band. His opening chords are like having a hurricane suddenly bursting through the club. He played a couple of songs and when he stepped down everyone is blown away. This is the best guitarist in the world. He’s called Jimi Hendrix and has just arrived from America. I’m screamingly anxious to get a booking but he doesn’t  have a band yet. I pressed and pressed and got one of the early dates when they begin touring. I pay their £75 asking price and return to Manchester glowing.

After Christmas at home in Hull I’m back in Manchester basking in the success of Jimi Hendrix’s first single “Hey Joe” which is in the Top 10. Everything is going well until I read in the Melody Maker that Jimi Hendrix is playing on Feb 18th at York University. I feel faint. This is my booking. I call the agents concerned and point out I have a contract. They claim that whilst I’d signed it they hadn’t and since York University are paying £500 they aren’t prepared to change the booking. I feel worse. This is awful. We haven’t put up any posters or sold any tickets but everyone knows the gig is on the cards. I have to inform the Students Council. I’ve decided to threaten to sue the agents as we do have a longstanding agreement. After a lot of haggling their best offer is to give us another date at slightly less than the current price. It’s going to have to be later in the year. The Students Council agree but I can see they’re edgy and have decided they must have a Social Secretary on the Council.  I’m to share the responsibility with a new member. They pick Louis Jacobs, a really nice guy, easy to get on with but a million miles from music business knowledge or experience. We get a date of Nov 8th for our Jimi Hendrix gig.

After Roland Kirk I’m tempted to put on Eric Burdon and the New Jazz Orchestra. I’ve found we can use the Whitworth Hall in the University which is a bit grand. Strangely they arrive for the gig with their booker Colin Richardson from Rik Gunnell’s agency who explains The Animals have come along as well. He suggests Eric and the NJO orchestra play the first half of the set and the rest of the Animals join in for the second half. I agree and the fee is still £350, not The Animals’ normal £500. Colin seems happy so off we go for a drink in the bar. The show is a bit of a mix but it goes well.

Every Thursday lunchtime lots of us congregate in the Union canteen to read the Melody Maker cover to cover. We’re all keen on the interviews, reviews and particularly the news. The discussions we have are some of the most important moments of the week.  One of my friends Nicky Blatchley is highly informed. He’s helped by his friend Nick Goodman who works at One Stop Records in South Molton Street off Oxford Street in London. They specialize in getting imports from America as soon as they’re released in the US. It’s a very different music coming from the West Coast of America it’s rock but weird. There are quite a lot of new artists like Frank Zappa’s “Mothers of  Invention” and “Captain Beefheart.” There’s an American group called the “Paul Butterfield Blues Band” coming to UK for a tour and, having heard their album “East West”, I’m keen to put them on. I’ve persuaded Louis Jacobs we must do it but it’s a risk as no one has heard of them. I’ve asked the Abadi’s to print a special poster based on the USA Stars and Stripes and making it with big lettering.

The Butterfield Blues Band

Eric Clapton

I turn up at the Union early on Saturdays to meet the bands when they arrive. I enjoy it but it’s also necessary. I’ll never recover from standing in the entrance to the Union at Rag Ball when a student ran up to me and said he’d just seen the stewards refusing entry to Eric Clapton as he didn’t have a student pass. I ran frantically down Oxford Road calling out ‘Eric, Eric’ as loud as I could. I managed to get him into the building thankfully. Cream were headlining. The Paul Butterfield Band arrive pretty early. I show them MDH, the backstage area and the dressing room set up for them. They look really impressive, tall with long hair and lots of leather and suede. They’re friendly and after sound-check we sit around in the dressing room. They ask lots of questions about Manchester and Liverpool and all the different music scenes. It’s their first trip to the UK and they find quite a lot of what they’ve encountered to be pretty odd but they’re fascinated by the music scene.  I ask about America, especially Bob Dylan. One of the guitarists, Elvin Bishop, points at Mike Bloomfield, the other guitarist, and says ‘Ask him, he’s been playing with Dylan’. Mike Bloomfield tells me about the recording of “Highway 61 Revisited”. I find it strange to be sitting in a room with someone who was in a room with Bob Dylan. It feels like entering another world. He goes on to talk about something called the psychedelic scene in San Francisco which he loves with the ‘Freak Outs’ the wild explorations of music, film and drugs. The band get on stage and plays a great gig which goes well with the crowd. Paul Butterfield’s vocals and harp playing are really good and the twin lead guitars of Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield are fantastic. As they leave I decide  I must put on a ‘Freak Out’ next weekend in the Union.

The Richard Kent Style is booked for the next Saturday. They’re a Manchester band who are not as yet a hit group but very popular in the city. I call their manager and tell him what the Butterfield Blues band have told me about the psychedelic scene and explain I’d like to put one on at the

Student Union. The manager phones back to say the band have agreed. I arrange some flashing lights and strobes for a lightshow, some make-up and fake blood for the band and an experimental film from the Film Society to be running against the back wall. The group throw themselves into it and make a night of it. Nobody knows whether we like it or not but I’m glad it happened.

Richard Kent Style

The academic year is ending with exams. Most students are working away especially the ones doing Finals. The attendance for gigs is low and it’s not worthwhile putting them on. It’s fortunate as we have no budget left. Monica and I moved to a flat in Wilmslow Road in Withington. It’s an easy bus ride to University and straight on into town. The flat is nice with windows at the front overlooking the well-known pub The Red Lion. There’s a chip shop two doors along as well. We decide to keep the flat for next year. In the summer I’m going to Hull to work and then visit Monica at her home in Bovey Tracy in Devon. It’s been a hectic year.