Having Africa as a memory was one thing – there are times and events that cause further change. I was persuaded to do a show at a local pub – the East House – because of my Coventry roots and my love of ska. This later developed into my fully returning to the world of the DJ (first times being in the early 70s). Thus, this became a time of new growth, new discovery. I soon acquired a partner in musical performance – Chris and later Matt (Ripparoots). The odd event at the East House became regular shows, carting a P.A. and playing gear from my home in the flats close by to the pub. It was then that new loves and interests were sparked, particularly deep house, trip hop and a lot more – eventually spanning liquid dnb, 2step garage, balearic beats, soul , northern, on towards breaks via big beat, even cajun, french hip hop and so on. These were days that took me and shows to the Tea Gardens another local, the Highway, mentioned elsewhere and various parties. Ultimately I spent a fair amount of time in places such as the Arches and a whole raft of other slightly and fully ‘underground’ venues, warehouses and the like.
It is a shame that most of these venues have now gone, either simply derelict, burned down, converted into shops. These were days of all sorts of music for me – classic deep house, the beginnings of my tastes trip hop wise, my ongoing love of ska, northern soul, classic soul, disco, original r&b, funk and then the later tastes in what was to become liquid dnb, big beat, later breaks.
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
It can be surprising what you see when you are wandering off to the pub. Making something of the place in which you live, work or do business makes more of the world in which you live. It also gives to those around you, reaching out to those you have not met. It is an instant opening of conversation.
Turning up to a warehouse for a party has other joys on top of the music and the company. Finding the art above was a joy, especially after providing the visuals for an event.
Even at the side of an ordinary set of shops – there can be something surprising, a discovery, an extra element to once quite plain surroundings.
Now lets add a little music to the mix –
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 …
I have written before about the joys of small venues. The Redhouse has been a key part of my life – at least these latter years. Dealing with business matters there, security, event planning, djing, vjing and so on. It will soon close – unfortunately such pub chains as Punch have little appreciation for the aesthetics of the matter, only the pounds, shillings and pence, no real humanity, just an adding machine.
This was a venue that gave us the widest range of music, certainly in South Yorkshire if not Yorkshire full stop. Here you could find bands, admittedly small, but still from all over the world. Personally I have played music here from every continent. Events such as the celebration of Che Guevara’s birthday, at one time an annual event, where I supplied visuals. I remember playing balkan to a particular crowd, african – from african zouk to kizomba and kudurro, at other times kwaito and afro-beat. Some of the biggest nights were ska events and here I would play not only english language ska, from the UK and regularly the USA, but also french and spanish, mexican and dutch, with odd bits of german thrown in.
There will be a goodbye party next weekend.
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.