Tonite Let’s All Make Love in Leicester: Peter Whitehead and the Long 1960s (March 2017 De Montfort University)

Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th of March 2017 I attended a conference at DMU, Leicester about film maker Peter Whitehead, and celebrating the donation of his archive to the University.

I found out about it late but am really glad I went. There were some excellent talks that brought new light to the meaning and relevance of the 1960s Counterculture, and other aspects of the Swinging 60s, and also a sublime showing of Whitehead’s Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London on the big screen at Phoenix Square Cinema, Leicester. It was almost like watching a different film to the one I have only previously seen on YouTube.

This is a fascinating view of what was happening at the height of what is now seen as the first great flowering of the Counterculture. It is not uncritical though and the seeds of it’s decline can be seen in the interviews of contemporary stars like Julie Christie, Michael Caine and David Hockney. There is almost a sense of impending loss, and also a critique of it’s superficiality and materialism.

The film is really a response to Time Magazine’s famous article about Swinging London that shifted American’s ‘must visit’ tourist location from Paris to London. After a brilliant start with footage from the UFO Club accompanied by a great version of Interstellar Overdrive by Pink Floyd, Michael Caine bizarrely announces that “…it all started with the loss of the British Empire….”

There is no narrative as such but a series of Chapters that are linked by the time and place, and a general sense of bewilderment by the participants. Following some amazing footage of the Rolling Stones live in Ireland Mick Jagger comes across as a slightly lost , petulant school boy trying to make sense of it all “… they don’t like violence but they themselves are violent which doesn’t seem to make sense…”. Yes okay Mick, thanks for that, you sound just like my mother. Julie Christie, who looks absolutely stunning, bemoans the fact that she is totally superficial and has nothing to say “… everything’s happening to me and I’m not happening to anything…am I allowed to talk?…”. David Hockney is not impressed by ‘Swinging London’ at all and prefers New York and California. The bars stay open til 2 a.m. and the drinks are cheaper and he can meet ordinary people in the clubs, unlike London which is overpriced and exclusive. To be fair though, David Hockney has been moaning about something for most of his life, quite often about not being allowed to smoke cigarettes wherever he wants! He is very amusing though. When Julie Christie smokes a cigarette in the film she doesn’t look like she quite knows what to do with it. Vanessa Redgrave, on the other hand, exudes confidence and political commitment and sings a capella and lectures the audience, a bit like an over-confident trainee teacher.

Andrew Loog Oldham is the stereotype of a cynical, Svengali-like pop manager who talks about how he ‘invented’ the Rolling Stones image as the ‘bad boys’ of pop, which, in fact, they quite obviously are not. He revels in his lack of knowledge but obviously believes he can do anything he wants “… I might get into politics someday..or films” he says. In some ways, this is quite a refreshing and confident attitude. Nevertheless, he never did get into either politics or films which is probably just as well as I am sure he would have joined the ranks of the Thatcherites and done something really terrible like close down the NHS or sell the whole of England to Disneyworld. The film ends where it began with some amazing footage of dancers at the UFO Club and the music of Pink Floyd. A truly remarkable film! There is a real sense of dynamism and change. The way the music accompanies the live performances of the Stones is inspired especially with the song Lady Jane. Whitehead doesn’t bother about synchronicity and blends unrelated recordings with live footage. Have You Seen Your Mother Baby (Standing in the Shadows), a surprisingly dark and seemingly uncommercial recording (even though it was a top ten hit), it’s not unlike the Velvet Underground, plays while the band and audience go wild and Lady Jane introduces a strange and eerie sense of calm.

The rest of the conference passed quickly. It took place over two days but the papers delivered were so fascinating that I never lost interest the whole time I was there. This has got to be a first for me, my attention can easily wander! I usually have alternative activities at hand in case I get bored! Didn’t need them this time! There were a wide range of themes that dealt with the 60s with some, but not all, relating to the work of Peter Whitehead

Adrian Smith discussed the interesting sub genre The Love Business: European Prostitution Drama as British Popular Entertainment. This dealt with the film distributors who were showing European films, many of which had a serious sub-text, as soft porn films to a British audience. There are some echoes of this theme in a recent Channel 4 series Magnifica 70 that deals with film and censorship in Brazil in 1970. Worryingly, this is about a right wing dictatorship in Brazil but could just as easily be about censorship and social control in Britain in the 1960s.  Definitely worth a look.

The Love Business: European Prostitution Drama as British Popular Entertainment

Richard Farmar looked at the bizarre film The Touchables and Melanie Williams gave an interesting account of the film maker David Hart. She talked about the “Right-wing Counterculture” which to some would be a contradiction in terms. The majority of  countercultural participants were either “left wing” or perhaps “apolitical” but she made a very good argument about how many issues, like women’s lib or gay rights, could belong to either the left or right.  She pointed out how politician and journalist Jonathon Aitken started as a countercultural figure in the 1960s but ended up as a cabinet minister in the Conservative Government of the 1980s (before he ended up in jail, that is!). I have investigated elements of right wing attitudes in my essay The Decline of the 1960s Counterculture and the Rise of Thatcherism in which I look at libertarianism and other aspects of the counterculture in the 1980s such as sexual freedom, drug taking and “alternative” businesses such as Virgin and Gap.

David Hart and Right-wing Counterculture

Caroline Langhorst gave an interesting talk on three lesser known films of the 1960s all of which are critical of the optimism and the joie de vivre of the period. These are Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London, Privilege (starring Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones) and Herostratus (featuring a young Helen Mirren).

1960s Dystopian Tendecies

Both Privilege and, especially, Herostratus are relatively unknown films. Privilege had a cinema release in the 1960s (I actually saw it) but I believe Herostratus was virtually lost, although there is a copy now on Blu-ray (which I have yet to see). There are some clips of it on YouTube which are quite intriguing. Personally, I feel that the films that really define and critique the era, especially in terms of pop music and the counterculture, are Easy Rider, Performance (featuring Mick Jagger) and, of course, Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London. What becomes generally apparent is the mainstream media’s inability to really understand what is going on during this period. Their attempt to commercialise the movement in films of the time often produced a cliched view of pop culture and society that, for some, defines what the 1960s are about but is actually a ridiculous fiction.

Niki de Sainte Phalle with her trademark targets. An influence on Mod fashion?

There were some interesting talks about feminism in the 1960s. Alissa Clark investigated Peter Whitehead and Niki de Saint-Phalle’s collaberation Daddy. In 1972, Saint Phalle shot footage for this surreal horror film about a deeply troubled father-daughter, love-hate relationship. She was an artist, sculptor and film maker who made quite an impact on the avant garde scene from the 1940s onwards.

Jane Arden “The Other Side of Underneath”

There was also a passionate and forceful account of radical filmmaker and theatremaker Jane Arden who I had actually not heard of before. In 1970, Arden formed the radical feminist theatre group Holocaust and then wrote the play A New Communion for Freaks, Prophets and Witches. The play would later be adapted for the screen as The Other Side of the Underneath (1972). Arden directed the film and appeared in it uncredited; screenings at film festivals, including the 1972 London Film Festival, caused a considerable stir. The film depicts a woman’s mental breakdown and rebirth in scenes at times violent and highly shocking; the writer and critic George Melly described it as “a most illuminating season in Hell”, while the BBC Radio journalist David Will declared the film to be “a major breakthrough for the British cinema”. Interesting stuff!

Stephen Glynn gave an entertaining look at Whitehead’s films of the Rolling Stones including the iconic promotional film for the song We Love You and Steve Chibnall showed us what the 1960s Counterculture was like in a provincial city, namely Leicester! Well, I should know because I was there, but he managed to come out with facts that I knew nothing about. For example, how the local paper The Leicester Mercury led a campaign to close down the late night clubs and coffee bars that proliferated at the time. Do You Know What Your Children Are Up To While You Sleep? screamed the headlines. My favourite band Legay complained that they had hardly anywhere left to play and were moving to London! I am shocked and stunned by these revelations!

Jimi Hendrix at the Leicester Art College Hawthorn Building. Local rock and roll band Warlock ended up doing the support spot.

Richard Dacre gave an entertaining account of the Counterculture and Peter Whitehead at the Royal Albert Hall. Apparently, after Wholly Communion, poetry performances were banned at the hall for more than 20 years! Hilarious. I am looking forward to the Whitehead inspired festival at the RAH later on this year!

Counterculture at the Royal Albert Hall

 

 

 

 

The ‘Hungry I’ Pancake House.

Blog about one of the great Leicester places. I used to go there often with friends in the late 60s/early 70s. The pancakes were good and the atmosphere was fantastic. Candle light and Jazz. You can’t beat it.

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During the 1960’s one of the places to go, in Leicester was a pancake house called the ‘Hungry I’.  A great place for an evening out, good food, and great music.  The’ Hungry I’ was owned by The Monk brothers, and the music was provided by The Monk Brothers Quartet.  They advertised it as, ‘ muted jazz by candlelight’. 

The whole place was very atmospheric, and to us then,  full of excitement.  We usually went in the late evenings, and I only ever remember approaching it through the lamp lit streets.  Down a very narrow Lane  behind the main shops, and in at a small doorway, then up the winding stairs and as you climbed the smell of food, cigarette smoke and the  sound of lovely drifty jazz came down to meet you.  It sounds rather prosaic and un- pc by todays standards, but really you had to be a teenager in the 1960’s to appreciate it. 

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The Beatles Live at De Montfort Hall in Leicester, U.K. 1st December 1963

This is a re-post of Catherine Turnell’s blog about the Beatles in Leicester U.K. The original can be found here http://leicestershirelalala.com/the-beatles-at-de-montfort-hall-in-leicester/

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The Beatles played at De Montfort Hall three times. Sunday, March 31, 1963, December 1, 1963 and October 10, 1964.

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It was as if time at De Montfort Hall had gone into some kind of gloopy slow motion. From the back of the stage, John, Paul, George and Ringo confidently strode towards the crowd – and into a deafening wall of hysterical screaming.

It was Sunday, December 1, 1963, and Beatlemania had touched down in Leicester.

Popular music, here and the world over, was already in a state of shock.

For the 3,000 children, teenagers and adults who got tickets at 3/6d each, the concert had been feverishly anticipated for weeks.

In the village of Burbage, brothers Paul and Roy Wheatcroft had fed their Beatles hunger by poring over every scrap of inky newspaper they could find. On discovering the band were playing in Leicester, the 12 and 10 year old knew they had to be there.

Tickets were going on sale at the Rugby Road offices of Hinckley’s Mr Showbiz – Arthur Kimbrell – at 9am on a midweek morning. Mr Kimbrell, praise his name, was the concert’s promoter.

De Montfort Hall Concert promoter Arthur Kimbrell, (1961) gave thousands of people the best nights out of their lives. Mr Kinmbrell arranged appearances at De Montfort Hall by such stars as the Beatles, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole and Engelbert Humperdinck

However, The Beatles had actually been to Leicester before, the March previous, but without fanfare.

“Roy and I went to bed early so we could be at the office – a mile’s walk away – before 2am. We arrived to find six people before us, but we were the youngest.

“At about 6am a policeman turned up to keep his eye on the growing crowd. He spoke to Mr Kimbrell and we were allowed into the inner sanctum an hour early to pick up our tickets.”

As it turned out, they managed to get prime seats on the front row and brought friend Nigel Dawson, 13, with them.

“The Fab Four,” remembers Paul, “had given an interview shortly before the performance saying that their favourite sweets were jelly babies. And so, during the journey to Leicester, my dad stopped his Ford Escort and my little brother bought a box.”

As it turns out later, they weren’t the only ones to stop off for the jellied sweets.

However, getting Beatles tickets in Leicester was a little more fraught.

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George Harrison fan Jennifer Fivaz (nee Woods) from Melton, was a schoolgirl living in West Knighton.

“The main thing I remember was queuing all night for the tickets. I must have been 16 and we must have been right at the beginning of the queue.

“We started queuing at 9pm and we were getting the tickets the following morning.

“I remember being wrapped in a sleeping bag. In the early hours there were a lot of people in front of us.

“Police were doing crowd control and they had Alsatian dogs, pushing us up against the wall and the dogs were snapping at our ankles. It was quite frightening.

“Of course,” she remembers, “the biggest and strongest pushed straight to the front.”

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On the night of the performance, the gloom had set in for WPc Frances Harris (nee Edginton) who was working at Charles Street police station.

She was vexed to discover she wasn’t going to keep an eye on The Beatles during her shift – three hundred officers had already been chosen for duty.

Back then, WPcs were allowed to go backstage at the hall and with that, the biggest band in Britain had been within tantalising grasp of the 20 year old fan.

Frances was given messages to take to CID men in the traffic office and stomped out into the police station’s cobbled yard, and into the traffic room.

On the return journey she half noticed a dark car in the quad, and marched back to the control room still fuming.

Sensing her displeasure, the traffic sergeant started asking her about The Beatles, and if she liked them.

Of course she did, was her response. Although she didn’t let slip that John Lennon was her favourite.

“He said ‘they are in our enclosure, in the quad’,” recalls Frances.

“They’d brought them in the side door and just left them in the car, to keep them safe from the fans. I didn’t even think to look in.

“He went on to say they looked as if they needed a good shave.”

Squashed in the van, the lads kept themselves to themselves and passed the time listening to a radio.

Sadly, the car had gone by the time the WPc had learned the truth. “I probably got nearer to them than anybody,” says Frances, who lives in Leicester’s Narborough Road South.

“I was so annoyed I didn’t even think. It was evening and it was dark in there. It taught me a lesson: You keep your eyes open.

“I don’t mind telling you, I hope they thought ‘that’s a good looking WPc’.”

The screams and heat inside De Montfort Hall were escalating as The Beatles, the biggest band in England, arrived ignominiously in the back of a Leicestershire Constabulary dog van.

All night, no-one had heard a note from support acts the Vernon Girls or Peter Jay and the Jay Walkers.

And then, the time had come.

The Beatles, entering from the back and middle of the stage, took up their positions. The crowd went wild.

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“It was absolute bedlam,” remembers Geoffrey Freeman, a semi-retired warehouseman from Evington. “When they came on stage you couldn’t hear a thing.

“It was fantastic. I could see the stage and I could see John and Paul and George. There was a post, and so I couldn’t see Ringo or his drum kit.

“I think there was just one song they played I could actually hear. I think it was Please Please Me and most of the time all I could see was people jumping up and down in front of me.

“I’d always been a Beatles fan, right from the start,” says Geoffrey, who was 19. “I’d picked up on it early.

“I’ve been to various other concerts since and I’ve never seen an atmosphere like that ever.”

It wasn’t long before the heat and hysteria took its toll. Within minutes, girl after girl started fainting, and the police, along with St John Ambulance, had a fight on their hands.

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Janice Benfield (nee Barnwell), was 18, and working at Frears and Black bakery, where Abbey Park’s B&Q is today. She went with three other girls from work.

It was steaming inside De Montfort and very, very loud, she recalls.

“Some girl who fainted was passed over our heads, nearly knocking our hair off!” she says. “It was very, very noisy and very hot. God was it hot.

“Girls were crying ‘Oh John! Oh Paul!’

“Oh God,” she sniggers, “I was one of them girls. I loved John. I loved him. I had my eyes on him all night. I couldn’t hear the music; they only had to move and the screams went up. It didn’t spoil the show, though. They only had to open their mouths and the girls would go bonkers.

“It was a brilliant night, I’ve never forgotten what it was like.

“The Beatles was my first big gig and it really opened my eyes.”

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Eric Bridding, a pensioner from Lincolnshire, was six rows from the front and “never heard a sound all night”. “But,” he says, “I did see their mouths move. Mind you, I was old even then,” he laughs.

Fourteen year old Jo Harrison (nee Meadows) spent most of the evening stood on a chair in Row Y, seat 39.

The mum of two from Oadby was with friend Sheila Angrave and the pair were schoolgirls at Oadby’s Beauchamp College.

“It was quite scary, just the sheer hysteria. You were there and everyone around you was screaming. I wasn’t very big and I’m not very tall now.

“We stood on chairs rather than sit down. I remember the screaming starting fairly early. Although, when they came on stage, it went so loud that it went into a hiss.

“This is really embarrassing,” says Jo with a dry chuckle, “there was a Beatles song Til There Was You and it had one line about ‘sweet fragrant meadows’. When they played it my friend looked at me and said “he said your name”. I was a Meadows then and I knew it was coming.”

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Jo, a retired children’s speech therapist, still has the gold brochure from the gig and priceless memories.

“You couldn’t believe you were seeing them, it was just amazing to see them. At the time I just adored Paul McCartney.”

Of course, the room wasn’t just full of hysterical screaming fans. It was also full of hysterical screaming fans with bags of Jelly Babies. The Beatles had told a radio presenter they were the band’s favourite confectionery.

Teenagers Carole Digby and cousin Sandra Boyer were among the numbers at De Montfort.

“We’d heard that Paul McCartney liked Jelly Babies, so we went to Woolworths and bought a 1lb bag,” says Carole, a teaching assistant at English Martyrs.

“The security guards had threatened to throw people out if any more were thrown on stage, but we carried on.

“My cousin’s father worked at De Montfort Hall and he got me all their photographs and autographs. I wish I still had them now.”

It was raining Jelly Babies a few seats forward on the front row, remembers Paul Wheatcroft.

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“Within minutes of The Beatles being on stage, one or two people started to throw the occasional jelly baby but soon it was a barrage. My brother opened his box and threw one or two and a policeman in front of the stage pointed at him and shook his head. So my brother had to continue throwing cautiously.

“It was during a duet with Paul and John singing into the same microphone when my brother launched a jelly baby which sailed through the air and hit John Lennon squarely on the neck. The pair burst out laughing and stopped playing for a short time. To this day, that’s my brother’s claim to fame.”

Forklift truck driver Nigel Dawson was sat next to Paul and his brother Roy.

For all three, The Beatles were the first band they ever saw live.

“Yes, I suppose it is quite something,” says Nigel, from Burbage. “That’s not bad, is it?”

“I remember at the end of the concert there was a chap who jumped over from the right hand side of the balcony. He lowered himself down so far and jumped the final distance onto the stage, walked over to them and they all walked off together to the right. I wonder who he was?”

Teresa Ashton (nee Richardson) was 14 and living on Eyres Monsell estate with her family. She was a fan of blond boy wonder Adam Faith at the time and The Beatles meant nothing to her.

ENTERTAINMENT.The Beatles at De Montfort Hall, December 1, 1963PICTURE WILL JOHNSTON

If it wasn’t for her good friend Ann Lawrence’s convincing entreaties, she would never have gone.

But, lucky for her, she did: “It was the most wonderful experience ever,” she says, reminiscing from her home in Barrow on Soar. “It was very noisy and happy; I made several new friends that night. I particularly remember coming out with a sore throat with all the screaming and shouting.

“I also got into a lot of trouble when I got home late.

“From that concert, several of us off the estate never missed a pop concert there again,” she says, happily, “and I’ve been a Beatles fan ever since.”

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(Written by Catherine Turnell. A similar version to this story was first published in the Leicestershire Chronicle. Images copyright the Leicester Mercury)

Leicester legacies: The life and times of The Charlotte

This is taken from Catherine Turnell’s excellent blog (link given below) about the Charlotte in Leicester where I used to do a regular gig in the late 70s/early 80s when Stuart Parry ran the pub, before it became an important rock venue.

Leicester legacies: The life and times of The Charlotte by Catherine Turnell

http://leicestershirelalala.com/leicester-legacies-the-life-and-times-of-the-charlotte/

GV of what was The Charlotte pub and music venue near Newarke Street in Leicester city centre, now lying demolished, but will be reopening. Reporter - Lee Marlow PICTURE WILL JOHNSTON

 

It was the sort of place where it was okay to spill your pint, ruminates Andy Wright. “It was what it was – stage, bogs, bar. Some called The Charlotte a toilet stop,” he shrugs, “I don’t have a problem with that.”

For many, The Charlotte needs no introduction. For 20 years it was the leading cause of tinnitus in the county’s youth. Simply said, it brought the likes of Radiohead, Oasis and Coldplay to a part of Leicester, which, on a hot day, rained yellow condensation and smelt like a biker’s armpit.

If your feet ever crossed the sticky threshold of 8 Oxford Street, you too will have your own eulogy; your own treasured memories of seeing bands at a venue now part of city folklore.

These days, scaffolding surrounds the building as it begins its lamented transformation into student flats.

Yet long, long before it became known as an international cradle for live music, it was just the Princess Charlotte, a simple Victorian boozer named after an English princess who died after 50 anguished hours in labour. Its first steps on music’s bumpy road began in the 1970s with a man called Stuart Parry. While serving pub grub to a mixed bag of lawyers and students, Stuart was the man who oversaw the first trickle of bands who played in the open air “out the back”.

mister lee in concert during the Leicester Mercury Showcase 2002 at the charlotte

Stu left in February 1985 and in came Garry Warren. Garry began upping the number of free gigs in the pub’s back room. Local bands such as Rockin’ Ronnie and the Bendy Ruperts were a regular fixture.

That September, a young lad from Leeds called Andy Wright started work behind the bar and began offering a few suggestions on who should be playing. But it was Garry who booked the Stone Roses.

“They played to nearly nobody,” remembers Andy, quashing many an assertion of “I was there”.

“I worked at the bar, I wasn’t really interested. Apparently, they weren’t very good.”

In February 1989, Andy took over the tenancy and bought the pub its own PA. A year later Princess was dropped from the name and the venue found itself at the heart of a vibrant music scene with Madchester, then grunge and Britpop breaking through.

Leicestershire’s music-buying public now had a regular place of worship. But it wasn’t just the county faithful; people poured in through the doors from across the Midlands.

“It was a very exciting time,” says Andy. “Those were the days when I was open seven days a week, there weren’t enough days in the week to book bands. There was that time The Offspring supported NOFX in the early 1990s. There were queues around the block, turning more people away than we could let in.”

Manager and owner of The Charlotte, Andy Wright, inside the venue that has been open for 20 years.

In 1998, the Charlotte ceased to be just a pub with a busy backroom. An extension saw builders knock through the bar to create a stand-alone music venue.

“The buzz for me was getting loads of people in the same room together having a good time. It still is,” says Andy,

“To me, getting people together in one room for a common cause always had a revolutionary feel about it.”

Conracts held by Andy Wright, former boss of The Charlotte, with bands such as Blur, Radiohed and Supergrass. Photographer : Chris Gordon Features Reporter : Cat Turnell

Soundman Phil Hudson, aka Feedback Phil, has the dubious honour of seeing more Charlotte gigs than anyone. It was the mid-1970s when Phil first lugged gear for a mate’s band who performed in the dust bowl out the back.

Rick Grech, he of John Lennon’s favourite band Family, was guesting on fiddle. Over the years, one thing led to another, and by the end of the 1980s Phil had more or less become a permanent fixture.

If you were good, bad or indifferent, Phil prided himself on treating you the same at the mixing desk.

As for the several thousand gigs he oversaw, there are perhaps only a handful which really stand out.

For Teenage Fanclub in 1995, he recalls a perfect symbiosis between band and soundman.

“They were really nice and Norman Blake shook my hand at the end of the night. ‘That was a great night we had there’, he said.”

There was also Wotever, the one-time vehicle of Mark Reid, now beatkeeper with Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

And then there was Oasis.

“Oasis obviously had what other bands hadn’t, never mind the musical style or the attitude. I did the sound for them probably four or five times, when they were middle of the bill and then top of the bill.”

There was one particularly memorable f-splattered stand-off with Liam Gallagher over a stage monitor.

“What are you %^&*ing talking about, mate? Are you %^&*ing asking us to turn it down, mate?”

As for the best gig of all … the band’s name escapes him.

It was the mid-1990s, they were a four-piece of local teenage lads with a Velvet Underground-Stooges-New York Dolls vibe, playing to an audience of 15 to 20 people.

“The guy, mid-set, started explaining how he got into music and writing music – because of abuse in the family – and it stopped the night dead.

“Then he started playing this song, it was just kind of stunning, even I think if he hadn’t said that…the song, the chords he chose, whatever that was, it was so impressive. It was a stunning moment. I’ve often thought since ‘I wonder what happened to that guy’.”

PICTURE MATT SHORT STORY BUSINESS + NEWS Story about possible closure of The Charlotte in Leicester. Owner, Andy Wright

Andy’s favourite gig is for deeply personal reasons. “The Clash were the first band I ever saw and my favourite band ever of all time.”

So when Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros played in August 2000, as a warm-up for their Reading/Leeds festival dates, it was as if many a birthday and Christmas had come at once.

Andy ended up drinking cider with Strummer until 4am.

But there were other bands, too, which left their mark: The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Snow Patrol, Arctic Monkeys and The Zutons, they all deserve a mention, he says.

Leicester’s Kasabian were among several fresh bands that showed promise cutting their teeth on the Charlotte stage.

“I saw them when they were dead young. You could tell then they had something. It’s obvious when you see real talent at a young age, they’ve not just learned it or contrived it.

“Supergrass played The Charlotte when they were 14, when they were called The Jennifers. We were in awe of these kids banging the tunes out. Real talent just smacks you in the teeth.”

There are so many tales, says Andy, so many unprintable. But few people know that Muse played their first Leicester gig at a Mercury Showcase in January 1999. It was £2 to get in or free with a token.

Coldplay were paid £30 for their gig in 2000.

The Fall were booked and cancelled more times than they actually played.

One tour manager wanted his money in heroin.

A stranger request came from the singer of indie nearly-rans Strangelove who asked to be locked in a cupboard until it was time to go on stage. Andy obliged.

Jim Robinson had the unenviable job of cleaning The Charlotte from 1993 to 2006.

While the English lit graduate endured the aftermath of many a messy gig, few left as indelible a memory as that of psychobilly favourites King Kurt in 1993.

Well, how would you feel sweeping up flour and rabbit heads? (A bizarre fan tradition of throwing “food”).
Generally, though, the bigger the band or musician, the nicer they were to deal with, recalls Rob Dobson.

When Peter Buck of REM, one of the world’s largest bands, played with Robyn Hitchcock in 2006, he turned out to be a lovely bloke.

“Snow Patrol were a really good bunch of blokes, too. They took The Charlotte for what it was.”

And what was it?

“A 400-capacity venue with bogs, bar and a stage,” he says. “Some people turn up … and perhaps they have higher expectations.”

Rob assistant managed the venue for six-and-a-bit years after joining the ranks in 2001. Elbow were the first act he took door money for and he cites gigs by Guided By Voices, Granddaddy, Pitman and Brian Jonestown Massacre as the best he saw.

One of the things The Charlotte had over other venues was its tantalising proximity between band and fan, believes Rob.

“You’d feel like everyone was there together. There was no barrier and there wasn’t a load of security holding the audience back.”

Oasis and The Libertines loved Leicester. From the stage, they saw a sea of sweaty faces stretching right to the door.

Musicians, though, are a funny breed. Over the years, countless riders – that peculiar set of demands from the artist or band – have been doled out to visiting acts. Some were more memorable than others.

Canny Glenn Tilbrook, of Squeeze fame, wanted speciality beers, then used them as Christmas presents.

Pitman wanted bars of soap, teabags, Co-op own-brand biscuits and cans of bitter. Regina Spektor asked for organic salsa, while punk outfit Leftover Crack simply desired two cooked chickens.

Veteran punks The Buzzcocks once told Andy: “No Moët, no showy” then drank the pricey champers out of pint glasses.

“We never got asked for the proverbial dustbin of red Smarties,” adds Andy.

Digital D1 | 19 Mar 2004 | 142411-20 | Darren Cresswell | Mercury Media | Leicester, The Charlotte, NME Brit Pack Tour : The Zutons

Emelie Madel-Toner was a bar manager from 1991 to 2002 and met Lee, her future spouse, at the venue.

Now living in North Carolina, Emelie admits it was the punk bands at The Charlotte she loved the most.

The Damned were always excellent. Rancid even stopped at her house.

She recalls asking Frank Black, post-Pixies, for an autograph when he played. He bluntly declined.

She remembers seeing Coldplay when they were supporting a band with a female singer.

The 50 people in the crowd were really there to see Chris Martin and co and the singer had spent her time beforehand getting very drunk.

So drunk, in fact, that she fell over on stage. The punters got their money back.

“Coldplay were very upset about it. It wasn’t their fault.”

And if it wasn’t the bands that gave you goosebumps, there was always the ghosts.

“Yeah, it was haunted,” says Andy.

“People told me it was haunted where the glass wash area was; people reckon they heard this that and the other, people whispering at high speed.

“I keep an open mind on such subjects … I would definitely say there was a presence in the cellar. The hairs on your neck would stand on end.

“If you turned round you would see movement of space. Whatever it was, it felt like it was running away. ”
In 1998, during the building’s alterations, the contractors dug through Roman footings, and found what is believed to be a Roman tombstone, pottery and the remains of a medieval cesspit.

Former cleaner Tom Finlay also told Andy the old pub’s bar area was used as a makeshift mortuary during the Second World War. Tom revealed the story after his son Dean, a bar manager at The Charlotte, saw the bodies laid out in the pub in a dream…

But if all good things must come to an end, the writing had been on the wall at The Charlotte for a long time.

“The main problem I faced at the end was the lack of infrastructure in Leicester.

“There was no Poly arena, Leicester Uni wasn’t putting bands on, De Montfort Hall – they would do their two token rock events a year.”

Gone too was the scene at The Magazine and The Phoenix Arts Centre. There was also a seismic shift in record industry boardrooms. Bands weren’t getting the financial support to tour.

Ticket prices went up to cover costs. Young fans and students were priced out of the market.

“There’s no Top of the Pops, no proper chart, people don’t know what’s what.

“Things will change,” says Andy. “The bands are out there and music’s cyclical, like anything else.”

Andy’s reign ended in January 2009 and in the months before he booked the acts he’d loved as a kid: Bad Manners, Spear of Destiny, Diesel Park West.

“I got a bit nostalgic towards the end,” he explains.

These days, Andy is still putting on as many gigs as he used to but under the Live In Leicester banner.

“It’s just now they’re at other people’s venues and I’m not paying Punch £35,000 a year in rent.

“I know it’s gone now, but it will always be The Charlotte.

“It’s a major part of Leicester’s history.

“Without a doubt it’s the most well known venue in Leicester, behind City’s ground and the Tigers stadium.

“I think it was one of the most important venues on the toilet tour.”

A poll on Radio 1 put it as the second most important launch pad venue behind King Tut’s in Glasgow.

“A lot of bands are superstitious and they took The Charlotte as a rite of passage.”

And while Andy never took a single photograph during his time in charge, he does have many of the contracts for the acts who appeared on stage.

“They might be worth something, who knows?”

Now, as Andy drains the last of his white wine and soda, he has just one more thing to add.

“I’d like to say thanks to everyone who came and supported the gigs.

“That made my life, doing that. It was awesome.”

 

Written by Catherine Turnell and published in the Leicester Chronicle in 2010. All text and pictures courtesy of The Leicester Mercury.

 

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That’s right – Kasabian and Biffy Clyro on the same bill. For, I think, £2.

 

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Copy picture from The Leicester Mercury, Tuesday February 15th 2000. Caption : TUNEFUL: Saracuse perform at the Charlotte Showcase. Photographer : Chris Gordon Features Reporter :

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PICTURE MATT SHORT STORY BUSINESS + NEWS Story about possible closure of The Charlotte in Leicester. Owner, Andy Wright

Picture by Mike Sewell. Copy from the Leicester Mercury 17th October, 1986. Pictured is a Princess Charlotte advert. (Jeremy Clay)

Conracts held by Andy Wright, former boss of The Charlotte, with bands such as Blur, Radiohed and Supergrass. Photographer : Chris Gordon Features Reporter : Cat Turnell

don's mobile barbers live at the ' get it on '  charlotte shocase

My Thoughts on Bob Dylan and “Highway 61 Revisited”

Highway+61+Revisited+Bob+Dylan++Highway+61+Revisite

Next Sunday (27th September 2015) I am organising a night commemorating the 50th anniversary of the song “Like a Rolling Stone” and the album it is from “Highway 61 Revisited”, at the Musician Pub in Leicester. I’ve got a few days to go and I’m beginning to get a bit nervous now. Some of Leicester’s best are coming to perform their favourite tracks from the album and other songs from the other great mid 60s records, when Dylan decided to “plug in” (“Bringing It All Back Home” and “Blonde on Blonde”). 50 years is a long time but the songs and music have not lost their power. In fact, to my ears, they seem even more startling and profoundly modern. Not only have they stood the test of time but they are in the pantheon of great 20th Century Art along with T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”, Jackson Pollock’s evocative splatterings and Charlie Parker’s mindbending improvisations. It had never been done before and it will never be done again. It stands alone!

Of the three great “electric” records “Highway 61 Revisited” is the pinnacle. It is the first Dylan album that he was part of a real band rather than a soloist with backing musicians. “Bringing It All Back Home” paved the way with some really exciting performances, especially “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” but half of it was acoustic although the songs were like nothing heard before. Dylan had rejected political protest and replaced it with a kind of explosive, image laden, nihilistic stream of consciousness. Popular music had never experienced anything like it. “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” takes an Everly Brothers lick and creates a blast of vitriolic energy which is mindblowing: ” Old lady judges watch people in pairs, limited in sex they dare, to push fake morals insult and stare, while money doesn’t talk, it swears, obscenity who really cares, propaganda all is phony”. But, in this record he is still making sense. “Highway 61″ moves the song writing into a different realm. This is a world in which the songs seem to mean something but you can’t quite place what it is. ” Ballad of a Thin Man” epitomises this: “Something is happening but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?”. A series of bizarre incidents follow involving sword swallowers, professors and geeks and how your imagination is being attacked! This is the ultimate statement of the Hip/Straight divide that was emerging in the growing counterculture of the 1960s. Most of the songs on “Highway 61” defy logic. They are absurdist and mysterious and yet seem to pertain to a deeper meaning that washes over us and draws us in. “They’re selling post cards of the hanging, they’re painting the passports brown, the beauty parlour is full of sailors, the circus is in town” and all through the song we learn that “Desolation Row” is either the place to be or the place you are prevented from going. “Right now I can’t read too good, don’t send me no more letters no, not unless you mail them from Desolation Row”.

Perhaps the ultimate Dylan song is “Like a Rolling Stone”. Bruce Springsteen described the beginning of this, the opening song on “Highway 61 Revisited”, as the “snare shot that sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind.” Folk singer Phil Ochs was even more rhapsodic about the LP: “It’s impossibly good… How can a human mind do this?” When I first heard this song I moved from being a fan of Pop Music to someone who wanted to play and write songs and that desire has never left me. That’s why I’m looking forward to the gig next Sunday and am also quite nervous about it. It is commemorating something that changed my life!!