The Specials drummer John Bradbury has died at the age of 62, the ska group announces.
As the 70s began back in my home town of Coventry I used to frequent one of the most magical pubs ever known – the Golden Cross, euphemistically known as just – the Cross. I met all sorts of people there and was introduced to a whole range of music thanks to the upstairs. It was here that I met and so briefly knew Brad. He invited me to audition for a project he had on then. So I travelled up to his place then in and around Wyken/Walsgrave and attempted to sing and play – I was crap! What I saw and heard there, though, was incredible. Here was a musician, essentially a drummer, but then I saw him turn his hand to guitar as well, who could seriously play almost any genre of music known to any young chap. In later years I was surprised to see him with the Specials on Top of the Pops and so my love of 2 tone began, having had a previous liking for original ska and rocksteady from my time spent up in Foleshill and with various of the groups of mod youth who also had a taste for such (in addition to soul, northern and various forms of rock cum pop). Everybody knows Brad for his work with the Specials but he was also at the very heart of the beginnings of Selecter being their driving force and the major force behind the writing of their first song after which they were named.
Bradbury, the multi-instrumentalist and key component of the 2 Tone sound, was drumming ‘powerhouse’ who played with the Specials for more than four decades
Any town or city has its own particular life. Its heart is made up of a number of things – there is its working life, its history, but partiuclarly there is its social life, its nightlife. It may be the case that a city has its very own stars. It may have its glittery big clubs and bars. What sits at the back of all such is the little place. I have a great fondness for small venues and all that they give. So often they are the birth places of much grander things but more importantly they are the life of the interesting. There is a particular review of the Golden Cross in Coventry, it states that it was the birth place of the Specials. I can remember meeting John Bradbury there and subsequently did a really, really bad audition at his place, Wyken cum Walsgrave. That place has a history going back to 1581 – I just remeber it in the 70s and the upstairs bar cum club. Downstairs it was a place I spent time with old mates such as Nigel Osgood, Tim Hill, Dave Wicks and more from my Bablake school days.
Later in life I had an association with the Earl in Sheffield. It was once a pound house – where livestock was lodged as people came into the town (before it was a true city) to trade. It became the home of a great clubnight – Spannered, with breaks at its core. Before that I had spent a lot of time at the East House – once dubbed the Dodge City Saloon because of the shooting there many, many years before. I djed at the place and loved my time there. These have now ceased being venues/pubs.
Latterly I did a lot of work with the Redhouse, itself roughly 300 years old. This was a place that gave life to a whole raft of small club nights, began the careers of bands and saw visitors from all over the world. In that place I have spoken more languages than I can remember. I surprised those coming down to the Botswana day celebrations one year – they were not expecting a white guy to speak to them in Sesotho. Otheres have heard me practice my few words of Malay, Greek, Poruguese, French, Dutch, German, Serbo-Croat, Swahili, Turkish, to name a few (and no I am not boasting, as I say, ‘if you stand still long enough, you will be surprised who walks past’).
Here is a breaks mix – it became something very dear to me – dance music I loved more than …
Here are a couple of mixes taking me back to my Coventry youth, the Cross, various parties, the attempt at a band that we probably all go through …
And here – a mix which is definitive of me as a Cov lad …
Coventry, the city in which I grew up, is definitely for me a city of contrasts. During my youth I grew up in an area called Tile Hill – in particular the village, separated off from the newer housing developments by the woods. In our house I had such objects as this grandmother clock and so many other well aged things – athree quarter sized snooker table, bought for my uncle when he was young and ill – he later became a champion cyclist, nearly going off to the Olympics and he was also once one of the most skilled toolmakers in the area working for many years at Coventry Gauge and Tool. On the other corner of our street was the farm, known to us as Bourne’s Farm but properly named Tanyard Farm, originally a tanners yard built in the 18th century. But close by were the factories – Massey Ferguson, the tractor manufacturers, the Standard Triumph works and many more.
This is more of the nature of Coventry now. Part of a city centre shopping centre that is somewhat impressive – if that is your sort of thing. My memories are rather more of the older buildings sat beside more modern efforts in terms of work, industry and music.
The Golden Cross was a major part of my youth – built in 1583 and still standing, perhaps still open. I remember it as the place where I met John Bradbury, later to become drummer with the Specials and Selecter. I tried very hard to impress him playing sax and singing – I was seriously not very good and also quite shy. I failed miserably. I retain my love of the music of that era and beyond. I still create ska and 2 tone mixes and occasionally listen to the music I enjoyed in those days. It was somewhat later that me and friends went off to see a certain Noel Redding, bassist with Jimi Hendrix – he was very good – gave him a Picadilly because he was out of fags.
There are still a whole variety of medieval buildings still standing and still in use.
In a recent visit back home I had the chance to relate some old stories of my old school – Bablake, 670 years old – the stories are a little risque and so I will not repeat them here. Suffice it to say, the old boys had a somewhat lively approach to things and got up to all sorts.
Coventry is quite a city. It is my home town, I now live in Sheffield and have been based there for many, many years. It was good to see the place again. It is certainly a city of contrasts – contrasts that are still present. In recent history renowned for its engineering, car production and at times really high tech indutrial foundation – it has a very long history indeed. I had travelled down for a family event – the day after we had a chance to have a little look around. The history is there in front of you. There is the modern cathedral, of course, a place most have heard of – the past sits resolutely at its side.
The Golden Cross was a pub that had real meaning for me. I met so many people there and made friends. It was in this pub I made friends with a certain John Bradbury, ten years or so later to become the drummer of the Specials and also to be there at the beginning of the Selecter. I must admit I failed in my vocal and saxophonic renditions for him and so the friendship was short but still memorable for me. I have retained a huge love of ska and 2 tone.
I was down in Coventry over the bank holiday weekend for a family event – my great niece’s christening. After the ceremony there was a bit of a bash and this band performed. Not everyone has a taste for covers bands – this band were tremendous – what a range of funk, soul, ska, reggae, disco, recent charts stuff. The Amy Winehouse covers were unbelievable – this band is worth a visit to Cov just for the sake of …