By Dean Pedley
Welcome back to Sleep When I’m Dead, the column that mixes nostalgia with news on the current activities of veteran bands and artists.
Well what a busy month June turned out to be. Donington came and went without weather interference and Villa Park and the Ricoh both played host to New Jersey’s finest, one of the gigs including a complete Born To Run and the other a tired set list by a frontman who has clearly forgotten what being in a band means – no prizes for guessing which one came out on top. The long distance voyage of The Moody Blues also continued with yet another homecoming show. Back in 1969 the Moodies were invited to play at Woodstock and in fact, several Woodstock posters show them as appearing. They actually cancelled their appearance at the festival and their performance timeline indicates they played at a rally in Paris instead. One veteran of Woodstock who will be arriving at the LG Arena shortly is Carlos Santana. The mercurial guitarist is on record as remembering Woodstock as “a bad acid trip” but their 45 minute set of Latin rock fusion is said to have been one of the highlights. ‘An Evening with Santana’ arrives in Birmingham on 17th July.
Talk of mercurial guitarists naturally leads us to Michael Schenker, who brings his ‘Temple of Rock’ show to The Robin 2 in Bilston on 20th July. My first sighting of Schenker for many years was back in the summer of 2011 at ‘High Voltage’ when he was absolutely at the top of his game. Last years show at the Wulfrun proved this return to form was not merely a one-off and with the band still including the former Scorpions rhythm section of Herman ‘Ze German’ Rarebell and Francis Buchholz this promises to be another great night.
A few days after Schenker on 25th July the same venue welcomes perennial favourites Magnum. A band that seems to have been around forever and with a rich history that began back in the 1960’s when Tony Clarkin, Bob Catley and original drummer the late Kex Gorin did their time in bands of the ‘Brum beat’ era, Magnum never disappoint. There is so much more than can be said about Magnum and their links to some of Birmingham’s musical landmarks such as The Rum Runner and The Railway that I will be taking a nostalgic look back at their long and illustrious career in the next instalment of this column. A couple more upcoming gigs at The Robin worthy of a mention are The Andy Fraser Band on 1st August and Joe Brown later the same month on the 26th. Fraser, of course, was one of the founding members of Free when he was just fifteen years old. After his departure from the influential rockers Fraser teamed up with guitarist Chris Spedding in the relatively short lived band known as Sharks and 40 years later Spedding is currently a member of Fraser’s touring band. Now in his early 70’s rock and roll veteran Brown started out back in the late 50’s as the guitarist for the likes of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent when the US stars would come over and tour on this side of the Atlantic.
There seems to have been a real upsurge in melodic rock gigs around the region this year and over at The River Rooms in Stourbridge are another couple of appealing shows. FM reformed a few years back and really seem to be enjoying themselves second time around – catch them at the venue on 28th July when they will be supported by Little Angels / Fastway / Gun frontman Toby Jepson. Sadly the gig by Graham Bonnet with his ‘Catch the Rainbow’ show has now been cancelled. Who remembers seeing Graham (plus the much missed Cozy Powell) on Top of the Pops back in 1981 with ‘Night Games’?
The mid 1980’s saw a growing number of clubs up and down the UK that catered specifically for the hard rock and heavy metal community and the ‘Home of Metal’ was no exception. The weekends were all about going out, socialising and just enjoying the music with like-minded folk. This was back in an era when you didn’t update your Facebook status to tell your mates what you were doing – you were out WITH your mates.
April 1987 saw launch of Edward’s No. 8, located on John Bright Street in the heart of the city, that would go on to attract punters from far and wide during its heyday. Located on three floors each one concentrated on a different form of rock and metal. If classic rock was your thing then you could expect to hear ‘Paranoid’, ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Living after Midnight’ on heavy rotation on the first floor. Fancied something contemporary? The second floor was all about ‘ParadiseCity’, ’18 & Life’, ‘Crazy, Crazy Nights’ and ‘Still of the Night’. And if you wanted to go a bit alternative or thrash was more to your liking then you could venture up to the dark corners of the top floor for ‘She Sells Sanctuary’, ‘From Out of Nowhere’ and ‘Master of Puppets’.
Just like specific songs and bands, memories of venues are linked to special times in our lives and many will remember Edward’s as being synonymous with all that was great about rock music back in the day when it ruled the airwaves. Packed to the rafter’s week in week out and pulling in coach trips from further afield based on word of mouth alone. From hair sprayed glammed up Hair Metal devotees to Goths, Bikers and the Denim and Leather clad hordes – all were assured of a warm welcome at Edward’s seven nights a week.
Edward’s No. 8 also developed as something of a niche live venue, attracting the likes of Nirvana, Faith No More and Pearl Jam who all played there on their early tours of the UK. It would also be the venue for an after show party by the latter after they had played a storming gig at the Hummingbird in late ’89. The Nirvana gig survives as a bootleg and features original drummer Chad Channing.
The change in ownership from local entrepreneur and multiple club owner Eddie Fewtrell to Ansells brewery in the early 90’s marked the beginning of the end for Edward’s, coinciding with what was a tough decade all around for rock music and particularly the established names. The club continued, although some might say in name only, until it was gutted by fire in the early hours of Sunday 12th November 2006.
Hopefully the above has brought back some fond memories for all of you who rocked at Edward’s over the years. And here is something else to raise a smile… none other than our esteemed Editor-in-Chief Mr. Peter Keevil once strutted his stuff at the venue as a member of the once seen never forgotten Felony! Described in the hallowed pages of Kerrang back in May 1990 as “Axl Rose with a smile” some might say he has aged much better than Sunset Strips finest! If you ever saw Felony in action please get in touch!!
Sleep When I’m Dead will return at the end of September.