I’m always interested in stories of big bands and artists that played in more humble environments in the early stages of their career – particularly intrigued if they had already earned a degree of fame and popularity at the time. As an example, way back, I was fortunate enough to see The Specials, Madness and The Selector in the perhaps surprising surroundings of Kimberley Leisure Centre in Nottinghamshire. Another memorable night in a similar era was of The Police appearing at Rushcliffe Leisure Centre in the same county. They were pretty big at the time too.
The greatest band of them all, The Beatles, played Nottingham on four occasions in 1963/64, earlier in their recording career. Once at a banqueting suite above the main Co-op store in the city and three times at the Odeon cinema, cinema gigs being popular in that era. My own sister was at a couple of the Odeon performances where nobody heard much apart from a crescendo of screaming girls. Nobody cared.
The building that housed the Elizabethan Rooms still exists these days as a casino on the main thoroughfare, Upper Parliament Street. The Odeon, which had the distinction of becoming Nottingham’s first multi-screen cinema is sadly, no longer, having been demolished in 2012. Flats now stand on this hallowed and very centrally situated site in the city,
At the beginning of their career The Beatles played more than two-hundred times in Hamburg in Germany, including a ninety-two day residency at the Top Ten Club. It’s estimated that they spent over five-hundred hours entertaining the crowds in Hamburg alone, polishing their skills, musicianship and stagecraft.
Kids, this is how you get good.
THE LEGENDARY Cecil Bustamente Campbell, aka Prince Buster, the ‘King of Ska’ has died on the 8th of September 2016 at the age of 78. The Prince was a great pioneer of Jamaican music and bequeathed a legacy of the music to the many that he influenced.
Buster was born on the famed Orange Street, the main thoroughfare in Kingston, Jamaica and gained the name ‘Prince’ due to his boxing ability with his early singing being in church and private family faith meetings.
Campbell became involved in the operational side of running Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd’s sound system in Kingston in a variety of roles, one as security in which he put his boxing ability to good use. Before long, using his experience to create his own sound system, the ‘Voice of the People’.
The singer’s career took off in the sixties with appearances such as on Ready Steady Go! and his first top twenty UK hit, ‘Al Capone’ in 1967.
He is widely credited as the foundation of ska’s revival vanguard in the late 1970s – the 2-Tone movement. With Madness naming themselves after a Buster song and their first single, ‘The Prince’, recorded as a tribute to him. Contemporaries, The Specials, also recorded a Buster track in ‘Enjoy Yourself’ in 1980.
I’m going to resist the temptation to link ‘The Ten Commandments of Man’ or ‘Big Five’ (uncensored version) here and go for perhaps the most obvious one, ‘Al Capone’. Happy memories for me as it was one of the early Ska songs that I first heard and that me and my friends danced to in local youth clubs. Happy days.
(Dedicated to Frankie Allan. Rest in Peace, buddy)