The latest in the series of Tales From The Woods tributes to British rock and roll was dedicated to the memory of Joe Meek, the influential record producer and engineer who produced such early sixties hits as Telstar and Johnny Remember Me. The show featured a mixture of artists who had been on previous shows and those who had not appeared before and, after a distinctly shaky start, proved to be another excellent evening of music and nostalgia, with some imaginative set lists and good performances.
Of the established acts, the most interesting, I thought, was Chas Hodges
, whose much too short set veered away from his usual repertoire of cockney singalongs by focusing on songs by artists he has recorded with over the years which are featured on a new album called Together We Make Music. Chas recorded for Meek as a member of the Outlaws but most of his numbers had no direct connection with the magician of Holloway Road with the exception of My Baby Doll, a Mike Berry B side. Chas is always amusing with his memories of the time and had little anecdotes about each of his numbers, which included Crazy Arms (Jerry Lee), Don't You Just Know It (the Screamin' Lord Sutch version of the Huey Smith song), Cliff's Travellin' Light, Rocking Pneumonia And Boogie Woogie Flu, Bring A Little Water Sylvie and I Wonder Whose Arms You're In Tonight.
Also trying different material, with a Joe Meek connection, was Danny Rivers
, who usually sticks to Elvis style numbers. This time he began with his jazzy Top Rank debut single Hawk and continued with some early recordings of his, including I'm Waiting For Tomorrow, Can You Hear My Heart, My Baby's Gone Away, We're Gonna Dance and the excellent Movin' In. Great to hear him sing his original numbers which showed what potential he had in his early days and what a good voice he continues to possess.
Top of the bill was Cliff Bennett
, a man who has been on previous shows, who came on stage later than expected meaning that I didn't have time to see all his set. Cliff has a great voice and stage act but did not appear to vary his act much from previous shows from what little I heard of him, beginning with Bobby Bland's Turn On Your Lovelight and continuing with Slow Down, Mean Woman Blues and Watch Your Step.
Another star of a previous Borderline show was Robb Shenton
who worked with several Joe Meek bands. Robb's voice is a strong one and he was fine on I'm A Hog For You, Boppin' The Blues, Please Stay (the Joe Meek/Cryin' Shames version), Little Baby (one of Joe Meek's finest moments when recorded by the Blue Rondos) and Down The Line.
Of the new artists on the bill, the best by far was Billie Davis
, who is best known for her cover of the Exciters' Tell Him. Billie has a bubbly personality and stage presence and was a joy as she ran through Dreamin', Dream Lover, I Want You To Be My Baby, Mess Of Blues, the ballad Something On My Mind, which she recorded with Albert Lee, Back In The Rock And Roll Days, which she recorded with Jet Harris, and, of course, Tell Him. Great fun.
Less effective was Liverpudlian Lee Curtis
, who played with his band the All Stars over 3,000 times at the Star Club in Hamburg, we were told. Lee began rather shakily with Route 66 and his versions of Be Bop A Lula, Heartbreak Hotel, Jezebel, Skinny Minnie, Ben E King's Ecstasy (which he recorded in 1964) and Jailhouse Rock were rather unconvincing.
Probably the less said about the opening act, Dave Kaye
. who recorded a couple of obscure 45s with his band the Dykons for Decca, the better, as he was definitely in the pub singer league. His too long set included Paralysed, A Fool Such As I, Blue Suede Shows and a number of ballads that I couldn't identify. At least Dave performed, which is more than can be said for Ray Dexter
, who apparently threw a hissy fit when told that he would be the first act and refused to take the stage.
Once again the promoter of the show Keith Woods must be congratulated for putting on another successful show, although the audience numbers seemed to be down on other recent events, and the excellent Tales From The Woods House Band, including ace keyboardist Claire Hamlin, the great driving saxes of Alex Bland and Sid Phillips and guitarist Iain Terry, standing in for John Spencely, now thankfully on the road to recovery after his recent operation. John came on stage to introduce Charles Blackwell, who was involved in many of Joe Meek's finer recordings back in the day.
Altogether a highly enjoyable show and I look forward to the next one in January.
Words and photos by Nick Cobban