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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

No Occupation Road - Long Hot Summer

 Few could have forecast what was to come at the beginning of January when hurricane force winds of 105mph caused havoc across Britain. Twenty two people lost their lives in weather described as the worst since 1953. Structural damage occured all over the United Kingdom, railways were severely affected as overhead power supplies collapsed, high winds brought down a crane in central Manchester, one of the pinnacles of the main tower of Worcester Cathedral crashed through the roof. Nearer home two dozen families were evacuated from Counts Farm Road flats in Corby when gales ripped the roof off sending tons of debris crashing to ground. Makeshift emergency headquarters was set up in the Exeter Community Centre, bringing the Dunkirk spirit out of its residents with It's The Wrong Way to Tickle Mary and Ye Canny Shuv Yer Granny Aff A Bus resonating around the club as they drunk their woes away.

As is typical of British pessimism, summer was already being written off. How wrong could you be? The longest and most severe drought Britain had experienced in over 200 years during the summer months had the nation at panic stations, excessive heat virtually bringing the country to a standstill. As luck would have it, from a personal perspective, a camping expedition to the New Forest with friends Alan and Marion Murphy was spent cowering in the shelter of our tents from a persistent drizzle. Being Brits, we gritted our teeth, moaned like hell, but had a laugh...well you have to don't you? On the trek home after a week of dull grey skies, the weather changed!

Metaphorically, the winds of change were blowing through the steel industry, prompting a mass meeting by worried steelworkers at Corby Civic Festival Hall. Three years previously, the Labour government announced a ten year development strategy, the objective being to convert the BSC from a large number of small scale works using largely obsolete equipment, to a more compact organisation with highly competative plants. A closure programme was agreed in 1975 after a fourteen month review by the Minister of State for Industry, Lord Beswick. BSC was plunging into loss. A cutback of 44,000 jobs over the next two years was announced and parts of the investment programme was held back. Corby was on the frontline. More bad news followed with an end to the guaranteed working week arrangement and premium shifts and weekend working to be cut to the essential minimum.
The gloom wasn't confined to the steelworks; York Trailers and Golden Wonder had already made 200 workers redundant in December 75' and another long time employer in Corby, British Sealed Beams shocked everyone with the announcement of impending closure in April with the loss of 530 jobs.

The Sealed Beams Social Club, one of the most popular clubs in the town for live entertainment was saved from closure when a committee was formed to keep the club going under a new title of the Earlstrees Club. Musician Bip Wetherell recalled a riotous night at the club when he took along his young brother Iain, guitarist with a new band called Energy, on his Stag Night to see  Canned Rock. "Iain had never drunk alcohol in his life but seeing as this was his Stag Night he tried a few Pernod Shandies. Half way through the night during an excellent rendition of Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell Iain turned round from watching the band to inform us that his lips had gone 'All Rubbery!' We all cracked up! At the end of the night when Canned Rock was receiving a standing ovation Iain turned around again and said; 'I now know why bands in Corby always go down so well - the audiences are always drunk!'                                                                                                          

Canned Rock featured drummer Pete Buckby. Th ex Rising Son (Corby 60s band), started the 1970s with Sheffield group The Endeavours. When they split in 1975 Pete, then living in Hitchin, Herts formed Canned Rock with two guys from Hertford, Don Maxwell and Dougie Kenna. Tony Aherne, who controlled the affairs of the Barron Knights took them under his wing and arranged an audition for televisions' highly popular New Faces show at Dunstable. Pete; "Our first reaction to this was negative as the show had a terrible reputation for slagging off and demoralising acts, particularly Nina Miscow who seemed to revel in the squirming and the embarrassment of the artists but Tony Aherne insisted we should do it. It has to be said that New Faces was almost essential viewing, as being a peculiar trait of the British, watching people suffer to the amusement of others was very entertaining." Canned Rock impressed however and won their way through to the final where they faced stern opposition from an ‘up and coming’ comedian, and ultimate winner, Jim Davidson.
To his credit, Davidson acknowledged the threat posed by Canned Rock on the New Faces Show in his autobiography, stating that he genuinely feared he had no chance of winning because of them. ‘They were an excellent band, really professional, and I didn’t want to go on’. The judging and points were level at the end with only Arthur Askey’s vote remaining. His vote would decide who the victor was and unsurprisingly he went for his fellow comedian. The show still gave Canned Rock a terrific boost and they too had a successful career. Pete; "We had loads of work, right up until the Falklands War kicked off in 1982. We regularly played all three nights at the weekend at Army, Navy and RAF bases earning around £60 each when the average wage was around £30 to £40 a week. When the Task Force set sail, the gigs dried up and I feared the worst, I thought we'd be bankrupt in a month. When victory was won, we were inundated again. Eventually like all good things it came to an end, we grew tired of it, after twenty years of show biz, I wanted back in the real world, to settle down and have more time with my kids as I was away most of the time and felt that I wanted to do something else, just playing occasionally, filling in with local bands like New Horizon." 


One of the biggest hits of the year was Lost In France by Welsh girl Bonnie Tyler. Corby girl Liz Hill  was watching Top Of The Pops at home when Bonnie made her debut on the television show, nearly falling off her chair when she realised it was her old friend; "that's Gaynor Hopkins!" she exclaimed.
Liz, female vocalist in local 1960s folk bands Paula's Chessmen and later The Jacksons was born in Campbelltown and arrived in Corby with her family in the early sixties. She later carved out a career as a Big Band singer in London following a short stay in South Wales where she had teamed up with a then unknown singer called Gaynor. Liz; "The Jacksons split up in 1970 when Charlie Foote announced he was getting married; Charlie wanted to settle down. I joined a friend, Toni Carroll, with whom I had shared a cabin on the cruise ship Carmania, in going to Wales to audition for a band in Swansea. Gaynor was also at the audition. She was a quiet girl who we dropped off at her home on our way back to Toni's parents' house in Ystrad. I was astounded when I saw her on Top Of the Pops singing Lost In France four years later and now calling herself Bonnie Tyler!"

Liz's singing career began with the help of her brother John, a guitarist with The Carnations. John took her along to gigs and watching their vocalist Rena Grant fanned Liz's burning desire to sing. John was friends with Dave Dick and Ian Dixon who were in the process of forming a band. Liz; "It was arranged for me to go to Dave's house to sing for them. I was so shy and sang Summertime while looking out of the windows, with my back to Dave and Ian. On the strength of what they heard they invited me along for a rehearsal the following week and gave me a recording of a country and western song called Once a Day to learn, which was a good one for my range. They offered me the job. The band which also included guitarist Charlie Foote became known as Paula's Chessman." Two years of doing the rounds of Working Men's Clubs led to them turning professional in 1968. Liz; "At this point Dave left the group after contracting Meningitis and Charlie, Ian and I carried on as The Jacksons and worked around the country playing places as far apart as Sunderland and Middlesbrough to the Penguin Club in Birmingham where we were support to the Tremeloes and other top acts. Our agent then managed to get us fixed up on the cruise ships where we virtually worked non stop for the next two years.
The first stint was a three month trip going back and for from New York to Bermuda each week on the Franconia. During our first time in New York we were going for a stroll to get our land legs when we spotted this big dark handsome looking guy standing near a building and signing autographs. I had no idea who he was; the boys recognised him instantly, it was Muhammad Ali! Which I have to confess meant little to me at the time but all the same, I dashed into a shop and bought a New York postcard and joined the queue to get Ali's signature. I have it to this day."
Dave Dick famously once described Liz as 'a wee dumpy thing' in Its Steel Rock and Roll to Me ; following a three month stint on the Franconia, Liz lost a stone in weight from being sea sick!
"We had a break for a few weeks after that and then flew to Boston to meet up with the Carmania to do four and a half months cruising from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to the Bahamas and the West Indies. We did three shows and an Old Tyme Music Hall, with all the artists contributing for each cruise. Ian and Charlie did a dance routine, Me and My Shadow with me and Toni, my cabin mate, dancing behind them. I also did a sketch where I wore a white dress. On top of the dress I had a pillow by my tummy with a white table cloth draped over it. Clutching a bunch of flowers, I came out singing; There Was I, Waiting At The Church... One night, while I was singing, the safety pin holding up my table cloth gave way and I was left standing there with my little white mini dress and the pillow and table cloth by my feet. It brought the house down and I had a red face, but at the same time, it was great fun."

"At the time, The Stage magazine was essential for finding work; there'd be a list of numbers for agents, band leaders and clubs looking for artists. Not all were as good as they sounded. Shows you how naive I was. One time I phoned a number in a small town near Leeds and asked for a gentleman called Mick, as was specified. 'Mick' came to the phone, in which appeared to be a pub, and asked me to come up for an audition. I traveled all the way from London by train, on my own, changed trains for the connection and finally arrived exhausted in this place at the back of beyond. Leaving the station I noticed a car with its engine running and went straight over, asked if it was Mick sitting behind the wheel, he said it was and told me to jump in. I had a funny feeling about this somehow, he was a big fat bloke, didn't give me the impression he was an entertainer or anything, even if there was an accordion on the back seat. Before we moved off, he told me; 'we' were going to go to America, make a record, play in the big clubs. I began to feel uneasy. Suddenly felt vulnerable. When he then said we were going to pick up a friend of his, a guitarist, I immediately got out of the car and ran back to the station. Maybe my imagination was running wild but then I saw this little old lady sitting on the platform reading a paper. 'Terrible' she said, 'all these young girls getting murdered around here!' I returned to Corby disillusioned."
Liz was at home in Stanion when a visit from Jimmy McCahill led to another stage of her career. McCahill was a pianist with his own band which regularly played the Corby Welfare Club. "Jimmy told me a musician friend of his, living in London, was looking for a singer and he had told him about me. It was arranged for this guy called Joe to come and see me in Corby. He came with his guitar, auditioned me in my living room and offered me the job, which was to sing with himself and another guitarist called John. At the time I was engaged to Sam Curtis who had a cousin in London who knew a girl who had a flat in Maida Vale and was looking for another tenant. Sam took me to Maida Vale to move in and I remember how I felt. I loved him but I just had such a desire to sing and get on. We sat in his car outside the flat and he was about to leave when he gave me £5. I was broke. It's funny how you remember things like that. The love of my life was leaving me in London and I was going to get on with my dream. I couldn't see it at the time but he should have been the dream. With John and Joe, we played in and around London doing Mamas and Papas stuff, California Dreamin', Dedicated To The One I Love whilst I also managed to obtain a job working part time in Harrods to help pay the rent.
We had a residency at the Lyons Corner House by Trafalgar Square, a famous old place. The basement was where you could have a meal, dance and see a big cabaret show with someone famous topping the bill. When I was on there was also a speciality act, a magician called Colin Rose who later became my husband. Following this was a six week contract on the QE2 as band singer with the Mecca assigned Terry Reaney Showband, which was based in Stevenage. That was an experience in itself, gaining selection for the QE2 job. They used to hold auditions for everybody connected with a Big Band in a Leicester Square theatre. They didn't particularly pick the best trumpeter, trombonist, singer or what have you, but picked who they thought would compliment each other. Luckily I was picked out and was offered a permanent job with Terry Reaney on the return; it meant working six nights a week, learning three or four songs from the charts every week - hard work trying to remember the lyrics. There were two women and one guy singing and you got whatever suited your voice. I agreed to work with them but my dad died just a week later. Afterwards I went back to London instead of doing the residency in Stevenage and met up with Colin Rose who I had been going out with before the QE2 trip. We were married in 1973, had a daughter Natalie in 1974 and were living in South London. I gave up singing until 1983 when I returned as a function band singer with an outfit called The Nightbirds, performing with some excellent bands at prestigious events and venues such as the Cafe Royal in Regent Street, London, most of the top London hotels, the Heathrow and Gatwick Airport hotels, and golf clubs in and around London. Also did some BBC radio work for Mel House at the Maida Vale studios where we were paid the princely sum of £142. 80p. I eventually retired and returned to Stanion in 1996, making a brief return to record a CD in 2005 at Ian Wetherell's Premier Studio entitled Everything But The Band. "


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A political merry-go-round was set in motion when Sir Henry Chisholm, Chairman of Corby Development Corporation, retired after a quarter of century in office. Others to follow Henry's lead included the Prime Minister Harold Wilson who handed his resignation in during March after thirteen years as leader of the Labour Party. Refuting the suggestion that it was anything to do with his health, the 60 year old Premier revealed in later years that he had long decided to finish at the top when he reached the milestone of the big six oh! Jim Callaghan, described as 'big, relaxed and handsome' won the race to succeed him, staving off a challenge from the diminutive left wing campaigner but less photogenic Michael Foot. Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe was next through the departure gate, resigning in June after what he called a witch-hunt over homosexual allegations - which he vehemently denied. David Steel stepped into the breach. The comings and goings wasn't confined to the British Isles; Heads of government were rolling around the globe. Peanut farmer Jimmy Carter was the surprise victor in the U.S. presidential election during the celebrations to commemorate the nation's 200th birthday, defeating the residing incumbent of the White House, Gerard Ford. In a nutshell, 'Carter ran 'as an honest outsider and reformer', which many voters found attractive in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Ford was seen by many as being too close to the Nixon administration. During the campaign, Carter promised a 'blanket pardon for Vietnam draft dodgers' which went down well with many but then unforunately his cred took a battering when during an interview with Playboy magazine, he admitted to having 'lusted in his heart' for women other than his wife. Then again some probably saw it as a good crack, 'the boy's only human!' It was but a minor 'kick in the nuts' for the peanut farmer and in November, Carter bacame the 39th President of America.
China was plunged into turmoil and the 'thoughts of leader Chairman Mao' rendered irrelevant when Mr Mao died aged 82 following a number of strokes. Chaos ensued. Ideological cleansing began with attacks by young Red Guards on so-called 'intellectuals' to remove bourgeois' influences. Millions were forced into manual labour and tens of thousands were executed. Mao's successor Hua Guofeng, ordered the arrest of four leading radicals, including Mrs.Mao who was charmingly reviled as 'filthy and contemptible - like dog's dung!'

Revolution was in the air with Cuban forces, backed by the Russians fighting the anti Marxist UNITA nationalist movement in Angola, prompting a tirade from Margaret Thatcher during a speech in her capacity as opposition leader. Her diatribe slamming the Russians for their involvement was received with scorn in Moscow.  She was dubbed the Iron Lady, which appeared to delight her. Angola was in turmoil following it's independence from Portugal in 1975.
Civil War erupted when rival groups, MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) and Unita (the Total Independence of Angola) fought for the right to rule. British mercenaries joined the fight against the Marxist regime, tempted by the pay packet of £150 a week. Among them were Corby men Jimmy Rhinds and Peter McAleese, Carl Fortuin from Kettering who had served in the British Army and Tom Chambers from Wellingborough, an ex slaughterhouse worker who had served in Malaysia in the 1950s.
Chambers was one of the first to return home after witnessing the cold blooded murder of eight prisoners shot on his first day in action. He revealed he was in fear of his life, "we were worried because we demanded to come back we'd also be executed". Tom spoke out about the recruiting campaign; "many were not even trained soldiers and others, especially the SAS guys were 'kill hungry'." Reading like a page from a Len Deighton novel, those interested were told to meet a man wearing a brown suede coat under the clock at Paddington Station in London and ask him if his name was Frank. Tom; "About twenty others were also there, with police looking on obviously aware of what was going on." Once assembled, Frank whisked the group off to the Park Court Hotel where they were given a short back and sides haircut and an open briefing on what they could expect in Angola. They were also informed that 'no money was necessary as everything was free, including the women’. Their pay packets would be forwarded on to their wives or partners. This never happened. From Heathrow the band of mercenaries was flown to Brussels before moving on to Zaire where they were billeted in a palace in Kinshasa, supplied by President Mobuto. A few hours later they were flown by light aircraft to a camp near the Angolan border and a group, which included Tom Chambers, was selected for a rescue mission, a three hour journey by troop carrier fifty miles over the border. Ten of their 'comrades' were holed up by the MPLA. This is where the eight prisoners were captured and executed, prompting Tom Chambers to reconsider his future.     

Another drama unfolding was in neighboring Uganda, where a hi -jacked Air France plane, flying from Israel to Paris, had landed with 250 people on board. The hijackers, two from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and two from Germany's Baader-Meinhof gang, diverted the plane to Entebbe where they were joined by three more colleagues before demanding the release of 53 militants held in jails in Israel and four other countries. Uganda’s President, Idi Amin arrived at the airport to give a speech in support of the PFLP and supplied the hijackers with extra troops and weapons. A deadline was set for their demands to be met or they would blow up the airliner and its passengers. A large number of hostages were released but the hi jackers continued to hold the remaining 100 passengers. Their plan was foiled however by a dramatic raid by Israel's elite Sayeret Matkal to free the hostages on the night of July 3rd. Amin was humiliated by the surprise raid believing that Kenya had colluded with Israel in planning the raid and hundreds of Kenyans living in Uganda were massacred soon afterwards.

The raid and Adi Amin was immortalised in song by composer John Proctor, the former St Cecilia guitarist. John gave it to Corby band Honey to play in the finals of a talent contest and caused a storm when they were subsequently banned from appearing at the town's Labour Club because it was felt the song was racist and unpatriotic. Club officials objected to the chorus

Idi Amin, Idi Amin, he wants to become our Queen.
So everybody, stand up and shout, we love Big Daddy because he knocks us about.

Proctor was unrepentant and called the Labour Club officials 'silly'. "If only they listened to the words of the song they would know I'm not ridiculing Amin. It is meant to be satirical. I am putting the Queen on a pedestal and making Amin look the fool he is. The song runs to three verses and talks about the Entebbe raid and how Amin hopes to save the world from the 'ultimate grave'. My Adi Amin song is very topical and I am hoping both the song and Honey do well."
Honey had been around for three or four years and well used to the whims of workingmen's club officials. Drummer Alex Henderson recalled the days when Honey were one of the sweetest bands on the circuit; "Originally the band consisted of Pat Lavin, Pete Dyne, Paul Cross, John McCormick and myself, plus two girl singers, Rita McCosker and Theresa Morgan. Later on, Corrie Gillies came in. We played lots of places in Corby including the usual haunts...Silver Band, Old Legion, Darleydale Legion, Labour Club, Catholic Club etc. but mostly it was out of town. We won a competition at the Civic when I think their were six acts/bands. We did three numbers...You Win Again by Hot Chocolate, I Only Wanna Be With You by Dusty Springfield, and the song written by John Proctor, about Adi Amin. The prize for winning the Civic talent contest was a gig to support Smokie at the Theatre Royal Norwich. They had just made it into the charts with If You Think You Know How To Love Me. I think we used their PA system; my drum kit was certainly miked up."
Pete Dyne has vivid memories of the Smokie gig; "It was the first time I'd ever played in front of such a big audience! I have to admit I froze for a moment but soon got over it and enjoyed the experience."
Alex; "We also played many RAF bases, once when we support to a band called Liverpool Express who were very popular at the time."
One of the weirdest gigs Honey played was at the Croft Club, Downham Market, which co-existed as a Nudist Club. The Downham Market Weekly was on hand to report;
'I wouldn't know if Honey are inhibited by a New Seekers image or not, but for me, Saturday didn't take off until the last spot when the boys took the show by the scruff of the neck and shook some life into it. Until then it had been pleasant enough but nothing to write home about. A five piece line up of two guitars, drums, with a guy and gal lead vocalists. When you have a young lady in a group she's invariably the centre of attraction so it follows that she should have enough charisma to charm the birds off the trees but this agreeably voiced lass had a most doleful look about her and was distinctly lacking in personality. Speaking to her afterwards I suggested that everything would look so much better if only she smiled a little. The answer I received was that she's not allowed to. Apparently where they normally operate, Corby way, folks go to see the boys in the band. Odd? Maybe, but then different parts of the country have their own ideas of what they want. Smart looking with music for listening to. Save Me, So You Win Again and Closer Closer, but I reiterate that for one at least, it was the last set that made it, four, five part harmony, bags of showmanship and driving numbers such as The Wild Side Of Life and Tell Her.'

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In April Carl Fortuin was believed to have been killed in Angola. Peter McAleese, a compatriot and member of the mercenaries had told Carl's parents John and Doris Fortuin that Carl had failed to return from a patrol engaged in heavy fighting. Relief for Carl's parents came when it was revealed he was still alive and one of twelve captured British mercenaries set to go on trial in Luanda. Mercenary manager John Banks, a former Para with Carl and who saw action in Borneo and Aden, gave the news. 'I left ninety six men in Kinshasa and went on patrol with Carl and nine others to Sao Salvador, a base camp for the FNLA movement. I left him at Sao Salvador and went back for the others. Carl went on to join Colonel Callan's mercenaries, and they attacked a Cuban armoured column near Damba, a small town with an airstrip. The raid was successful with mercenary casualties light, three dead and eight wounded. They rested next day and then attacked the Cubans again. On the way, Carl fell crossing a ditch. It was a presumed he had broken his ankle. He was left near a village, four kilometers from the attack and told he would be picked up on the mercenaries' return. But the patrol was badly mauled. Only three from twenty two escaped and Carl was taken prisoner by the Cubans. We could not take prisoners - and we didn't think the Cubans would either. I think they were taken prisoner because it was near the end of the war and they thought they could be useful for political purposes.'
Traveling to London to arrange legal help for the prisoners Banks added; 'These men are soldiers and were taken as prisoners of war. They deserve all the help they can get.'
Carl was a former altar server at the All Saints Church in Rushton from 1958 to 61. The Rector of Rushton, Reverent Brian Mathews spoke kindly of him; 'Carl was a very kind friendly boy who would do anything for anybody. He was also rather impulsive and sometimes this led him into wild things. He was a very reverent sort of server. Religion meant a lot to him. He talked about becoming a minister.' Meanwhile at the Gaiety pub in Kettering, where Carl was a former barman, a collection box was put on the bar to help raise funds to allow his parents to attend the trial. John Fortuin; 'Carl was unemployed when this kicked off. It was his sense of adventure and to get money to buy a pub that he went.'
As the June 8th trial drew ever nearer, with worldwide coverage from television companies, a campaign raged in Angola with the Angolans demanding the death penalty for all twelve, saying they were all guilty of murder. It was feared Carl was facing execution. Cypriot Costas Georgiou, known as Colonel Callan, was charged with murdering 'other mercenaries' as well as Angolan civilians. Carl admitted he was 'frightened of Callan's reputation for killing mercenaries who said they didn't want to go into battle'. Callan ordered the execution of fourteen British mercenaries at a place called Maquela for refusing to fight due to a lack of equipment and back up. In court Callan refused to answer questions, only saying that 'all the soldiers captured were under my command and I take full responsibility.'
The trial lasted a week. On June 28th Carl was jailed for 24 years. Callan and three others were sentenced to face the firing squad. The severity of the prison sentences provoked condemnation and an outcry 'that sentences were way over the top.' Carl's parents were told 'not to despair' by his barrister, and they would get to work immediately on an appeal to reduce his sentence. It would be seven and a half years, in February 1984 before Carl was released along with six others from Luanda Prison

                                                  
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John Grimley's next career move was to team up with Chris 'Ace' Kefford, original member of the Move who was putting together a new outfit called Rock Star.  Ace was now a drug councilor and looking to get back on the road with the help of Wilf Pine who had been involved in various capacities with the Move, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. He was also an associate of the London gangster fraternity and close friend of the Kray family. Wilf once invited the Rock Star boys to have dinner with Charlie Kray, which left an indelible imprint on John's memory, if not his palate. "We had L'Escargots for starters. Snails! I didn't know whether to eat them or race them!" Some thirty years later John, who described Pine with understatement as a 'Heavy!' claimed that Wilf Pine had 'ripped them off and disappeared with about 7K.'
"Ace lived in this tiny old cottage in Inkberrow, Worcestershire." said John, "We spent months rehearsing in that idyllic little sardine can, the ceilings were so low I constantly had lumps on the top of my head until I learnt to walk with a stoop. Even though we were skint most of the time, Chris's wife Jenny allowed us to stay at their cottage in-between times, cooking meals etc. I was getting around £5 a week off social security and she wouldn't take a thing off us. I used to say to Chris, 'let's go to the pub and spend it there then!' Jenny was a great girl with two lovely kids and I still remain in touch with them. The band was more of a recording venture than a gigging band. We released a single called Mummy and an album was to follow, but sadly it never got released."        
The music press were alert to the news of Rock Star's imminent arrival and Spectrum were first off the mark.
'Rock Star have been quietly 'getting it together' in a country cottage' in true rockbiz tradition. The sound that boomed from the cottage windows showed that they have - though I doubt if the neighbours are as pleased or impressed. Inkberrow is something of a quiet place. Rather twee in fact. Still the band seemed unconcerned as to the effect their bedenimed and long haired appearance might have as they sat down for a chat. Singer and guitarist Chris, along with bassman Terry Biddulph have been forming Rock Star for the past nine months or so. The band is signed to Rebel Records. Behind Rebel is none other than Michael Palin of Monty Python fame, so there is little danger of it being a fly by night outfit. The deal is for two singles and an album which the band hope to make a start on soon. "It is a tremendous break and we don't intend to blow it" said Chris.
Rock Star will be going into IBC Recording Studios, London and working on a selection of songs written by both Chris and guitarist Terry Ware. As yet there are no plans for live work. "This band is past the paying of dues stage. We have all done the pub circuit on a constant string of one nighters."
The band have been rehearsing solidly for several weeks and have an impressive selection of tough but melodic rock tunes with a tightness that belies their time as a working unit.'

Ace Kefford and Wilf Pine were interviewed before the band started recording in October.
'After a long lay off from music, Ace Kefford is overjoyed to be back in business. When he quit The Move in 1969, he never wanted to play again; "I felt so disillusioned. We'd worked our guts out for two years then when the Move made it there was so much back biting and bitching about us from other people in the music business that it pulled me to pieces."  Ace and his wife moved to Inkberrow and opened a Hairdressing Salon!  They had a couple of children, the business was ticking over nicely - but there was bug under his skin that wouldn't stop itching.  With time on his hands, he started writing songs with a friend, Tony Weir. They then called in Wilf Pine to ask his opinion on their work and he was very impressed. Pine, a big man whose tough appearance belies a slow talking gentle manner claims to know a winner when he sees one.

Pine suggested they got a band together to perform their own songs but Kefford refused outright. Pine always felt that Kefford's talent was too good to waste so he took him to a pub and used all his persuasive powers. That night Rock Star was born. Weir had two friends in Birmingham, Sean Toal, a drummer and John Grimley, a guitarist. Both were eager to join the band so the lads went down to London and went straight into the studio. Pine asked Steve Rowland, a producer who had been around for years to work with Rock Star. "I thought it was the hottest stuff I'd heard in London since 1967 when the Herd and the Move used to play the Marquee."
Everybody is working hard, doing straight eight hour stints in the studio, and they plan to continue until they have recorded enough for an album. Then Pine will set about finding a recording contract for them. "When we've recorded two hit singles" says Pine, who is gambling his life savings on the project, "we'll be ready to go on tour, but not until we're 100% perfect".
All was not a bed of roses however. John Grimley felt he was carrying Tony Weir and had grown weary of it; "he was a passenger, I spent hours in the studio re-doing his parts because he wasn't up to it. He did my head in eventually. Then one night in the Marquee I lost it. Weir had been watching this guitarist play and when he came into the bar I asked him who it was. 'A Canadian guitarist' he said, 'he's crap. Pat Travers is his name.' I couldn't believe it! I'd seen Pat Travers at Barberellas in Birmingham just a month previously and he absolutely blew me away. That showed me just what Weir knew. 'Listen' I said to him, 'I couldn't lick the boots of the guy who licks his boots! He's fantastic!'
Just then, Wilf Pine appeared. 'Alright boys?' he asked as he passed us. Well, I was stoned, we were all on the wacky backy. It was maybe why I went after Wilf and shouted at him, 'no we're not alright. I want you to get rid of Weir, he's a waste of space!' He looked at me, and said calmly; 'leave it until tomorrow.' I thought he was being dismissive and then made the mistake of shoving him in the shoulder against a wall and repeating my demand. Next thing I know, he's belted me right in the face and knocked me clean out! I woke up in the hotel room next morning with a sore and bloody nose. Chris Kefford phoned to see if I was alright, and then asked me to go down for breakfast, 'Wilf's here, he wants to see you.' Oh, no, I thought! I then realised I didn't have any shoes, or money and asked Chris what happened. 'We chucked you in the back of the van and took you back to the hotel. We took your shoes in case you pissed off.' I went down, a bit sheepish and before anybody could say anything I said, 'look Wilf, do me a favour, just give me enough money for my train fare and I'll get going,' feeling sure I was for the bullet. 'I've already handed out some train money this morning' he said. He'd sacked Weir. 'I told you to leave it until tomorrow, didn't I!'" 

Pine kept his word and a month later champagne corks were popping when they signed a three year worldwide recording contract with MCA Records and their first single Mummy (which Melody Maker promised would be a classic heart puller) was set for release on December 3rd. MM; 'Wilf Pine talked about the deal as Rock Star's Patrick McLachlan taxied down to the pressing plant just off Regent Street where acetates were being prepared. MCA were knocked out by the demo tapes and Pine liked their offer, so the deal was struck. At the same time he secured a publishing contract with Heathside Music and appointed David Apps of Evolution as Rockstars agent.  Apps plans to organise a tour to coincide with the debut album, tentatively scheduled for release in March.'
In the November 20th issue the newspaper hailed the new release. 'Kefford heartbreaker 'fantastic'. The continuing saga of Rockstar; after five weeks hard labour in the studio, Ace Kefford's new band Rockstar underwent the acid test recently. Peter Knight Junior, managing director of NEMS records, came to hear them. Verdict; "Fantastic". Wilf Pine, looked a picture of a worried man immediately before the great man's arrival. "I've listened to the boys so much that it's got to the point where I can't even trust my own ears. I was worried sick last night." His fears were soon assuaged by Peter Knight. While Pine sat with head bowed and fingers crossed Knight listened with obvious enjoyment to four completed album tracks. Three were straight rock numbers, the other a heartbreaker penned by Kefford, which sent shivers down the spine even after the fourth hearing. "It's just like the old Move stuff" only it's got more balls" said Knight. The only problem is, which one we are going to release for a single."

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By spring rivers and reservoirs were drying up across the country. Records were being broken. For fifteen consecutive days in southern England the temperature rose above 32 degrees centigrade. So serious was the situation with water running very short, Prime Minister Jim Callaghan appointed the Minister of Sport Denis Howell as Minister for Water to control the drought, emergency legislation, a powers bill to enable water authorities to redirect supplies.
A campaign was started to get the public to limit their use of water. Millions of stickers and leaflets were produced to publicise ways of saving water. Stickers to place above taps to remind you to turn it off and not leave it running unnecessarily. Suggestions like putting a brick in lavatory cisterns to reduce the amount of water used in a flush were encouraged. Short films were made for television and a cinema release. The public asked to bath with a friend! 'U Turn Me Off' slogan emblazoned on T Shirts molding the female breast, sold several thousand! Ideas to ease the situation included towing an iceberg from the North Atlantic and laying an emergency pipeline down the middle of motorways. Reversing the flow of rivers. Importing water in giant tankers from Norway.
In August, water companies were able to introduce draconian emergency measures they needed to prevent a national disaster. The South West Authority had 10,000 standpipes in anticipation of water rationing. Homes in South Wales had water turned off at 7pm. Public toilets in Corby Town Centre were put on a three day week in an attempt to save water. A flush restriction policy meant shoppers would be inconvenienced except on market days. Farmers saw their harvest ruined; agriculture suffered half a billion failed crops. The cost of a cauliflower soared to 45p; housewives were warned that Brussels sprouts would cost 5p each by Christmas, precipitating a surge in frozen food panic buying. Forest and heath fires raged throughout August. The Fire Service, stretched to breaking point, introduced the Green Goddesses to pump waste water and sewage to fight the blazes.

The introduction of the Minister of Drought, Denis Howell was a move later praised by MP for Sheffield. Roy Hattersley; 'Denis was a brilliant appointment. He used to go to drought ridden areas carrying an umbrella to demonstrate his confidence it would soon rain. A cheerful but blunt figure, his catchphrase was; 'Every bucket of household water saved will be less to carry from the standpipe later.'
There was even a folk song dedicated to the minister;   
    Save a bucket a day for Denis, keep industry on the move
    Its work and safety first and last is your thirst
    So you'll have to use the birdbath to flush the loo
    Throw away your hose for Denis; put your garden tools in to pawn
    Sit and watch your flowers die 'neath the blue and cloudless sky
    You’ll be beautifully rested and as brown as a lawn

Meteorologists tried to explain the phenomenon; 'In the 60s and early 70s there were very few warm summers. People were not used to the Mediterranean type heat wave. A blocking anti cyclone, the Water Boards' dread, parked itself above the British Isles.'
Rain eventually came at the end of August - bringing great relief. However, restrictions in places remained until October. With some irony, the autumn became one of the wettest on record and soon filled the reservoirs up!
The drought was also a cause of dismay for contestants at the World Conker Championships in Ashton, near Oundle. "It's a poor year for conkers" cried postman and favourite for the title, John Sandy. The horse chestnut fan annually selected his conkers from Kirby Hall's prize trees and nurtured them before the eagerly awaited contest. With the yield being down this year, hundreds of conkers were flown in from Jersey and the Roger Whittaker (Durham Town) look-alike had to settle for a random conker out of a basket. John was a disgraced figure in 1975 following an investigation which revealed he had 'roasted' his nuts, but he was back, unabashed, to do battle again against a worldwide field of conkermen. 2000 people were in attendance as the contest got under way under a sweltering sun. They were gleeful when John was eliminated in round one. "Serves the bounder right" commented his pal Fraser McNiell.
The eventual winner was a Mexican making his debut, Jorge Ramirez. Delighted with his success he stunned the organisers by refusing to return in 77' to defend his title and the trophy was Mexico bound, never to be seen again. "What a bandit!" they exclaimed

Roger 'Jonah' Johnson and his family were still enjoying their adventures in Australia. Jonah; "Driving across Australia took five days. We were nearly hijacked by Aborigines. They stood in the middle of the road and I thought, 'Right!', and drove straight at and through them. Sylvia and the kids were petrified. I wasn't really concerned, they leapt out of the way like skittles in an alley. My only concern was if I happened to snag a fat one under my motor! I was told to carry a gun with me next time I was going to perhaps encounter them. 'Shoot the bastards' they said.
I once bought a horse when I was drunk. Next morning I went down to the stables for a few riding lessons. The feller told me to climb on and walked me around the paddock a couple of times. After a while I was getting bored and said to this guy, 'open that effing gate and let me get outa here'. Off we flew like a bullet! I was riding the horse like I was a cowboy, one handed half the time. When we got back this guy looked at me and said, 'Never ridden a horse before? effing liar.' I told him I hadn't but he wouldn't believe me. Truth was, I'd always fancied myself as Roy Rogers ever since I saw him on at the Saturday morning pictures!
I went on a boat one time, a fishing expedition with my brother Alan and his mate. We headed for an island about fifteen miles off the coast of Western Australia, you could see it on the horizon, it was a lovely clear day, we were tanked up with fuel and beer and away we went. Half way there a mist came down and we couldn't see a thing. We didn't have a compass or anything and before long we were totally lost. With the fuel getting low Alan suddenly spotted land and I headed for it, not knowing where the hell it was. We were literally down to our last pint of fuel as we limped into the quay. And it was the island we were heading for! Alan and his pal were crapping themselves, thought we'd be lost or marooned forever! We refueled and headed back home while the weather was still in our favour."

DJ Dougie Martell, was now settled in Denmark after three years of traveling around Europe working in hotels, night clubs and discotheques. Doug was offered a residency in Denmark's leading discotheque, 'Daddy's Dance Hall', formerly the Hard Rock Cafe, in Copenhagen working alongside a vast array of artists, varying from the Sex Pistols to Muddy Waters.
  "What a brilliant guy he was. A real gentleman. I was given the job of being chaperone to Muddy and helped him up and down the stairs in the Club and sorting out anything he wanted. He sat perched on a stool right on the edge of the stage and he was brilliant. People go on about all these great blues guitarists, Eric Clapton and Robert Cray and the like. For me Muddy Waters was up there with the best of them. A great guitar player. His fingers were so nimble and the licks he produced were remarkable. He had the audience captivated. There was an aura about him, a glow, gave you a feeling of being in a great presence. I always felt that he appreciated people who were courteous and kind. He did in fact invite me and my wife Jonna over to his home in America, unfortunately we never got round to it and sadly he died before we could take up his offer. Shame, he was lovely man. Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy was another nice guy, although completely out of control! We used to have drinks together whenever we teamed up at gigs. Phil just didn't give a shit about anything. His father in law, Leslie Crowther was always trying to get him to ease off on the drink and other pleasantries but he didn’t give a toss. He had no responsibilities whatsoever. Probably explains how he turned up for a gig at the Nags in Corby without a drummer! That was the time when Big Dougie (King), press ganged Richard Oliff into stepping in. Looking out from the stage, Dougie pointed to Richard and shouted, 'he'll do it!' Unbelievable! This was about three weeks before Whisky In The Jar hit the top of the charts!
The Sex Pistols were completely opposite to anything a band should be. For a start off they couldn't play. They could play their instruments no better than what I could. And I can only manage two chords! Course they were egged on and manipulated by their manager Malcolm McLaren. The only gig they played in Denmark was a disaster. They started spitting and gobbing at the crowd which went down really well! The crowd erupted in fury throwing bottles and glasses at them on stage. Rotten and Co responded by throwing them back and effing and blinding, all the stuff you see on their videos. They were pathetic really. Only little shites as well! Their dressing room was supplied with trays of Danish sandwiches and stuff. They obviously thought it'd be good fun to decorate the room with them, splattering the walls and trashing the place. When the bouncers discovered the mess they wanted to kill them. In the end, twenty minutes before the end of their set, the whole crowd just walked out and left them to it. They played to a massive empty hall, snarling and making arses of themselves all on their own. Amusingly, the Melody Maker sent a reporter over for the gig and did his best to shift blame on to the Danes for a lacklustre and disappointing performance. He even had the nerve to call me a moron! Just because I was giving the support group Fumble, a 50s rock revival outfit a big push. Mr. MM slammed them as being passé', redundant, totally irrelevant! Mind you, I suppose when I told the punters - this was the last piece of good music you'll hear for the night - just prior to the Pistols stepping out, it wasn't appreciated!"

The Rolling Stones were back on the road for the first time in three years to promote their latest album Black and Blue, their first to feature new guitarist Ronnie Wood. The band's first gig was on May 14th at Leicester's Granby Halls, which drew a less than flattering comment concerning the 'new boy' from the Leicester News and Chronicle; 'Wood looked like a 40 fags a day brillo pad!' The Stones opened up with Honky Tonk Women  which immediately had the capacity crowd on their feet and stomping. Oblivious to anything else going on, they were clearly unaware of a brigade of St John's ambulance men mingling and shuffling amongst their midst. A bomb scare, which proved to be a hoax, had the St. John's people scouring for 'anything vaguely suspicious' in every row of the hall whilst the band played on! The NME hailed the return of the self styled 'world's greatest rock and roll band' as triumphant. '100 minutes of hot sweaty rock. Most impressive feature was the marvellous interplay between Keith Richards who looked like some rock and roll Richard III who had been through a greasy mangle, and new recruit Ronnie Wood who smiled like a mischievous chain smoking Disney cartoon crow.' The Stones Mark III was back in business. Strangely ironic how hings turn out though, their mentor Chuck Berry with No Particular Place to Go, was playing in Leicester the same month, in cabaret at Baileys Night Club.
The music press were delighted to have the original bad boys of British Rock back on the road, such was the blandness of the music scene. The Stones apart, a Beatles revival with the release of all their original singles in original covers saw them hog the headlines once more, six years after their demise. On the back of this, record companies joined the bandwagon and the 1976 charts saw the return of genuine rock classics like Dion's The Wanderer, Elvis's Girl of My Best Friend, The Who with Substitute. Though conversely, The Wurzel's Combined Harvester had rock fans scratching their heads at the depths of banality the charts had plummeted.
The scene was set for a change and a new genre would sweep away the cobwebs and dross by the end of the year. The Punk revolution would revitalise the nation's youth, and send shock waves through the Establishment, reminiscent of their predecessors from the Teddy Boy, Mods and Rockers and Skinhead eras. The Stones however would continue long after the latest fad, and others to follow, to prove if nothing else, that not only were they the 'greatest rock and roll band' - but the longest surviving!

                                            *

Kettering Town Football Club made the headlines with a move that shook the Football Association heirachy to the core. It's hard to believe that all these years later sponsorship that is common practice on such as a scale today was first introduced by a nondescript football club nicknamed the Poppies. Kettering were managed by Derek Dougan, the former Northern Ireland international footballer, television pundit, PFA Chairman and cult hero at all the clubs he played for in a colourful career spanning over twenty years.
'Doog's' eccentricity can be seen by his transfer request on the eve of Blackburn's 1960 F.A.Cup Final against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Doog was a big favourite of Blackburn fans who nicknamed him Cheyenne because of his resemblance to the popular televison cowboy. Declaring himself fit to play following a late fitness test on the day before the Final, he pulled up with a muscle injury just minutes into the game and became an ineffective passenger on the wing. Blackburn's captain Ronnie Clayton was scathing about Dougan in his autobiograhpy published that year. Inevitably, Dougan moved on and signed for Aston Villa where he astounded everyone at Villa Park by running out to play with a completely shaven head. Long before a 'baw heed' became fashionable. It wasn't a gimmick he claimed, it was done to make him feel fresh.
Derek Dougan had retired from football in the summer of 1975 and joined Southern League Kettering Town as chief executive. Within a month of his appointment, he brokered a "four-figure" deal with local firm Kettering Tyres, and in a SL game against Bath City on January 24 1976, Kettering became the first British club to run out with a company's name emblazoned on their shirts. Dougan stated; "We have checked carefully and there's nothing in the Southern League's rules to say we shouldn't be doing this. If there's going to be any objections we'll have to face up to them when they come. Football is a business and has to be conducted as such."
Southern League Secretary Bill Dellow gave his backing, "It's a good idea, if Kettering are getting well paid, good luck to them." Director of Kettering Tyres, Mike Hopkins admitted " We'd be hypocritical if we claimed we weren't in it for the commercial spin off. We've been looking for a different approach in the advertising scene and this is an ideal opportunity."
Sadly, the groundbreaking new strip would not get another run-out. Four days after the Bath City game, the FA predictably ordered the club to remove the slogan, despite Dougan's claim that the ruling body's 1972 ban on sponsorship had not been put down in writing.
Ever the innovator, the Doog shortened the offending words to read "Kettering T", which he claimed stood for Town and had nothing whatsoever to do with Tyres, and the team played on under the new slogan. The FA were frothing at the mouth at this and once again Kettering were ordered to "remove the words Kettering T from their strip". Dougan responded, "There is no question with the club backing down. I can't see anything in the F.A's rules to state we can't have sponsorship. It's just a few old fogeys who have already shown their mentality by trying to bring legislation to stop players showing emotion after scoring."
Dougan was charged by the F.A. for bringing the game into disrepute. "Don't be surprised if I end up in Sing Sing or Strangeways by the end of the week. I still find it inconceivable that petty minded bureacrats have only this to bother about," Dougan told reporters. However, the threat of a £1,000 fine was too much for such a small club, and the words were reluctantly removed.
There would be one final irony. Kettering didn't let the matter lie - after all, clubs like Bayern Munich had been coining it in on the continent for years - and along with Derby County and Bolton Wanderers, they put forward a proposal to the FA regarding shirt sponsorship. The proposal was accepted on June 3 1977 but Kettering couldn't find a sponsor for the upcoming season. Meanwhile, Derby players began that season running around in Saab shirts and Saab cars.

Tired of the ineptitude and lack of interest shown by the Civic Centre and Corby Council towards the youth of the town prompted Aivors Zaks, Rob Purdie, Chris Johnstone and Franny Lagan to go into business to try and put Corby on the touring circuit of established bands. Under the banner of Sidewinder Promotions they were intent on showing both parties how to run and organise events. Franny; "A civic centre with possibly the finest acoustics in the East Midlands is wasting away." Aivors added; "our aim is to provide the town’s young people with live events, something the Corby District Council has failed to do."
Sidewinders' inaugural promotion at the Raven Hall with Corby band Hard Road and Northampton's Scenery during the Christmas period was hailed a great success by Aivors Zakss with over 700 punters turning out. A series of  Spring gigs followed, Cisco, an eight piece band with a cult following in Nottingham, played a 'vigorous selection of brassy Afro Rock' at Corby Youth Centre on February 28th. A refreshing change to the town's music scene. 300 people attend Cisco gig promoted by Sidewinder' reported the Evening Telegraph.  Fumble, the band who upstaged the Sex Pistols in Copenhagen appeared at the Raven on March 6 to great acclaim; 'Fumble fervour rocks Raven Hall. The key to the success of Fumble must be their knack of dressing up old rock and roll numbers in a fresh and exciting way without losing the spirit of the original. The zeal of their act and excellent sound and equipment made the rock show a winner. Sheer rock and roll is the sort of music you either like or don't but it was still a pity more people didn't turn up to see the band.' Though below the capacity, Aivors Zakss was still well pleased; "The 250 paying customers enjoyed it."
Sidewinders' ambition had been proven when they booked a London band called The Stranglers for the Raven Hall. Franny; "We booked the Stranglers a year before they hit the big-time. They cost us around £70. Punk hadn't really taken off at this point and Corby certainly wasn't ready for it. When singer Hugh Cornwell started his mimicking masturbation act, spitting over the crowd, the punters were shocked, and many left the building, calling them sick bastards. Twelve months later this became common place with most of the punk bands."


Hard Road morphed into Bumper following the departure of Ned McGuigan and Barry Monk and recruitment of Thrapston's Nigel 'Nidge' Hart on drums and guitarist Bob Grimley. They entered a National Folk/Rock contest sponsored by the Melody Maker and EMI Records and won through to the finals held at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, North London in July.
Bumper were given plenty of support in their quest to win £2000 worth of equipment and recording time. Their brand of aggresive rock music built them up a good following in Corby, coachloads of supporters travelled to see Stuart Irving 24, Jimmy Irving 23, Mick Haselip 25, Bob Grimley 25 and Nigel Hart 21 do battle.
Attired in matching 'Godfather' gear, "the Prohibition era dress seems to pull in the fans" said singer Stuart, "we always try to play to our audience, this is why we have such a good following in the town. We go out there and grab them by the neck. That's the way they want it so that's the way we play to them."
Bob Grimley; "We were a bit concerned at first, all the other bands were greeted with loud cheers and shouting from their followers when they took the stage. When it was our turn it was more a mooted silence. We couldn't understand it. Then all of a sudden a crescendo of noise resonated around the arena when the hordes of Corby fans made their entrances! Turns out the coaches had been late getting away from Corby Rugby Club where Colin Porter, Joel Jacklin and co. had been organising the trip. They were well oiled by the time they arrived at the Roundhouse - and didn't the rest of the crowd know it!"
Judged by a panel which included Whistle Test DJ, 'Whispering' Bob Harris and Jimi Hendrix bass player Noel Redding, Bumper played two of their own numbers as well as their arrangement of Paul McCartney's Norwegian Wood/Rock Show. They came in a respectable third, to collect a prize of £150 plus a voucher for musical equipment, behind second place Please Y'Self Skiffle Band from Matlock and the winners Stallion, who, said the Melody Maker wit, 'galloped through'!
Afterwards Bob Grimley was magmanimous; "It was  great day and the group was very happy with what we got. We would like to thank everyone who followed us throughout the competition."
Bob's brother John was witness to the event, recalling; "The Roundhouse, that does bring back memories. We all left the Nags, I think it was a Sunday afternoon, in a coach to travel down. Franny Lagan was on the bus as well. Stinking hot day so the beer (cans) for the journey were not quite as cold as they should have been. I remember we all had a bloody good time in the Roundhouse even though Bumper failed to win the day."

Also present at the Roundhouse was Gavin Dare of Rebel Records. Nidge Hart; "Gavin signed us up for a record deal after watching us rehearse. We were taken out to a flash restaraunt in Covent Garden for lunch to celebrate. Felt like the bigtime had arrived! With hindsight we maybe should have hung on a little longer. After the Roundhouse gig, Bob Harris came back stage and whispered in that inimitable style of his, that he'd like to record us. Bob was presenter of TV's biggest rock programme Old Grey Whistle Test and it's fair to say we could have been down for an appearance which would have been a real thrill and opportunity. We had to tell him though that we were tied up with Rebel."
Under the eyes of engineer Andre Jackeman, composer of Python's Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, Bumper cut enough demos, all compositions written by the Irving brothers, to record an album which would include a single, Ballerina.
Gavin Dare was supremely confident in the band's chances; "Bumpers agreement with Rebel Records will last three years if both parties are happy after an intial six month period. They play the kind of music that will sell records all over the world. Over the last six months we have seen around 300 bands and none of them are up to the same standard as Bumper. We are just sure they are going to make it. They are all talented individuals who can get together and make the most incredible sound. With our contacts overseas we can almost guarantee releases all over the world."  Announcing that he is planning to take the band to the international MIDEN festival in Cannes, France in 1977, Dare added, "I can see Bumper emerging in the same image as 10cc and Queen."

All seemed to be going rosy, Bumper gave their home fans a rousing performance during the Corby's Annual Arts Festival week. ‘Bumper stole the show' the Evening Telegraph reported, 'a packed Festival Hall erupted with enthusiasm when the boys gave what was probably their best performance in Corby yet. Sassafras had a hard job to follow the Corby band. About 800 people turned out for the concert, though until Bumper went on stage to the usual infectious acclaim, a large part of the audience was crammed into the bar downstairs. The band's show reached new heights with a phenomenol performance of their piece de resistance Norwegian Wood/RockShow. And drummer Nigel Hart stunned the audience with a superb drum solo in another number.'

                                            *

Nobody could complain of a lack of effort by Civic Centre officials to provide top class theatre for the town. Coronation Street stars Pat Phoenix and husband Alan Browning starred in Marriage Go Round in February. Pat also appeared in Liptons, the supermarket in Corporation Street, looking completely flustered when shoppers in the queue behind her at the till realised who she was! 'Nudge nudge, that's Elsie Tanner!'  "She doesn't look so hot in the flesh" remarked snide postman Craig Douglas.
Theatre was never high on the list of priorities for Corby folk but for all that, it didn't deter the Civic management from trying! Pyjama Tops, directed by Alexander Dore and described as 'a sex comedy' commenced a five day run on March 22nd. Starring Bob Grant (On The Buses), Joyce Blair, Simon Merrick and Derek Roy, the play centred around the amorous capers of a group of people at the Villa Clare de Lune and the involvement of three pupils from a convent next door. The show, including nude swimming scenes in a glass fronted tank holding 17 tons of water, was greeted enthusiastically by a half full house. Tittilating it may have been but for the majority of Corby folk; they were more excited about three in a bed on a dartboard than on the stage!
A disappointed Ross Jones, theatre manager, was getting despondent. My Fat Friend another comedy followed, featuring more TV stars, James Ellis (Z Cars) and Ann Stallybrass (Onedin Line). "Part of the current series of professional plays being brought to Corby over the next few months", Ross explained, adding; "This could be the last chance for townspeople to show they appreciate such entertainment. There's a strange feeling around the civic complex that if the top names lined up to appear in plays can't attract an audience - then no one can. The next play scheduled is Murder With Love starring Peter Byrne (Andy Crawford in Dixon Of Dock Green). These are all West End plays with West End actors. If they don't sell, the whole future of live theatre on the Corby stage will have to be looked into. We only need an audience of 3000 from a population of 40,000. If we can't sell these plays, what can we sell?"

Part of the problem could have been the alternative entertainment across the road at the Stardust Centre where they were expanding their horizons with cabaret interspersing bingo sessions. Top radio disc jockey David 'Diddy' Hamilton was booked for the ceremonial opening of the newly vamped Stardust Social Club. Del Shannon, Sandie Shaw and the Searchers would all grace the Stardust stage this year. Pipefitter John Kenrick was a regular with his wife Marilyn. John recalled; "The Stardust was always packed out. It was great to see artists we grew up with and whose records we once bought, up on the stage in George Street. Those people were on around a grand a week, it was a lucrative circuit to be on, the bingo circuit. The artists would play for about an hour and that was it, they were off. It was back to 'Eyes down!'"


Housewives were dealt massive blows and a furious row loomed after a Common Market farm deal made in Brussels hit dairy products. Butter went up 8p a pound to 45p. Cheese up 4p a pound and milk a 1p a pint. Agricultural Minister Fred Peart seemed oblivious to the concerns; 'I'm confident 1976 will be a very good year for farmers'. William Molloy, Labour MP for North Ealing responded; 'The Brussels dagger is pointing straight at the heart of British inflationary recovery.'
Better news for shoppers came when clothing magnate Frank Brierley set up shop in Corby town centre market square. After watching his supermarket business collapse like a 'precarious stack of baked bean tins', Frank announced; 'I shall sell my last pair of tights only when St. Peter calls me'. Frank ran a string of self service supermarkets at Northampton, Wellingborough, Peterborough, Leicester and Birmingham. Following several years of success as the pirate of town centres he left the helm by giving up his managing directorship to become life president. Then the new Brierley helmsman tried to change the indoor market image. The tills stopped singing, the Brierley fortune was lost. Corby was where he began to build his empire, selling socks from an old furniture van parked in the White Horse pub car park with posters adorning messages like 'Welcome to the madhouse!' and 'Don't stand there looking - buy something!'  Frank was a master of market stall patter with 'hello darling, you're looking wonderful' and knocking off a few bob here and there. Returning with new vigour after a humiliating and degrading trial in a London court which saw him acquitted of all charges of conspiracy and handling stolen goods, he was ebullient; 'I'm not posh, never have been. I'll never make any money. I sell everything as cheaply as I can. I want to help the poorer people so that they know if they want a jumper and can't afford one, they'll get one at Frank Brierleys.'
Frank was clearly unperturbed by a ????? comment from Chamber of Commerce member Bert Cripps that the town was 'tatty and untidy'. The remark prompted an angry response from Jimmy Kane, Chairman of Corby Environmental Services, "This is absolute rubbish, Mr. Cripps should visit other towns and compare them to Corby. I have traveled the length and breadth of the country and every time I am in another town I deliberately visit the town centre to see how the cleanliness, facilities and amenities compare with ours. We are among the best."
In contrast, district councilor Kelvin Glendenning told a planning committee that houses backing onto the Blast Furnaces in Stephenson's Way should be demolished. "The whole area should be leveled off and made into an amenity. Not many people want to live near Blast furnaces." Did Kelvin know something others did not? Or was it irony with what was to come?

The Sex Pistols released their first single in November, Anarchy In The UK and were due to promote the disc co headlining a 19 date UK Tour with rival punk bands The Damned and The Clash. It all went pear shaped following a notorious TV appearance on the Bill Grundy Today chat show in December. All but six gigs were cancelled by local councils and venue managers as their notoriety spread. 
The Pistols, at their most obnoxious and nauseating best sitting on Grundy's television sofa, sent tremors through the music business and Establishment with their obscene language which had headlines screaming outrage. For manager Malcolm McLaren, it was manna from heaven! For Bill Grundy, it cost him his job.
The Pistols maintained that they were goaded into their burst of vitriol, Grundy was drunk and ignorant. Grundy was unrepentant; 'The object of the exercise was to prove that these louts were a foul mouthed set of yobs. That is what it proved. I had never heard of them before in my life. I didn't mind their dress. It is how they behaved. They did not endear themselves to me before the programme started, but I only saw them for a few minutes, literally. I ended the programme by saying, "I don't ever want to see you again, and I meant it."'
Watching the tea time show was Kelvin Woods who proudly claims to have been one of Corby's first punks; "That show was what got me hooked! I thought it was unbelievable. Until then I had been an avid Hot Chocolate and Sailor fan, long hair down my back. I went out, had my hair shorn, spiked up. Tore a big hole in a tea shirt and wrote on the back of it, 'Destroy Corby'. Then I went out dressed like that for the first time, and got set upon by a bunch of lads who kicked the shit out of me! It didn't put me off though. My brother Clive and a few mates started going to London to hang out around the Kings Road and McLaren's shop Sex. We used to have a laugh pretending to spew up in the street when bus loads of tourists would go by. They always wanted to take photographs of this new craze, all these freaks hanging out with spiky hair, ripped attire, chains and safety pins pierced into their faces. The trick was to get a tub of yoghurt, then take a mouth full and spew it out just as another bus went by! It was hilarious. One of the first gigs I went to was to see The Buzzcocks at Coventry Locarno on Franny Lagan's bus. Memorable for the Flanagans coach breaking down en route! I was also wearing a pair of new PVC trousers and by the time we got to Coventry my bollocks were sweating and I jumped straight into a fountain in the City Centre to cool off! It was agony, my nuts were chapped! Later on I was beaten up in Greenhill Rise when I was wearing bondage trousers and a short tartan kilt! These jocks coming out of the Hazel Tree took umbrage. Thought I was taking the piss!"

Monday, 21 October 2013

No Occupation Road - Rock 'n' Roll Circus


    1975                      Wish You Were Here    
"You'll be back!” The words of foreman Andy Sneddon back in 1970 returned to haunt me and my pal Ted Foster in January 1975. I was back in the 'Works', not the C.W. Mills this time but the EWSR. It felt like I'd been re-captured after five years on the run. This January morning I found myself trudging depressingly down the familiar trek of Occupation Road. The gravitational pull of the steelworks was dragging me back in.
‘Occy’ Road is one of the oldest streets in Corby, named after a farm of the same name that was situated around the Tanfields Road area. In the early 1950s it was alive with a buzz of activity, an abundance of shops and amenities. Perks Grocers, the Co-Op, Cory’s newsagents, Allan’s the bakers, a cobblers, coal merchant, the Mobil Garage, hairdressers, Charles' Off Licence. Three schools; Our Lady’s Catholic, Rockingham Road Juniors and Samuel Lloyds Seniors. Corby Town Football Club took up residence in 1948 opposite the Corby Sea Cadets Hall. Stewarts and Lloyds Welfare Club was the entertainment centre for decades. McCartney could have based his Penny Lane on Occy Road! By the mid 1970s little had changed. The cobblers and coal merchant had long gone but it was pretty much the same, how many times had thousands travelled down this route on their way to the steelworks? The pungent stench of dirt, dust and steam invading the nostrils with every step.

Occy Road has been like a bloodline throughout my life. Since my earliest memory of being dragged down there to start school at Rockingham Road Infants. My formative years spent going back and for to the Corby Boys School, a brief affair with the 3rd Corby Cubs in the old St Columba Church, taking this route to the steelworks and tubeworks in my teens, not to mention the twenty years or so traipsing down this avenue as a dedicated Corby Town supporter. Now as I looked up there was a huge lighthouse type chimney stack at the very end of Occy Road. At least that was what it looked like. In fact it was an ugly big concrete tower overlooking the Stephenson’s Way estate from the steelworks Sinter Plant beyond. Beckoning one forth. It seemed to be saying; ‘this way!’
Thought I’d seen the last of all this.
Occupation Road. An aorta feeding the steelworks. What I didn't realise was that it was heading for a coronary.

The intervening five years had been fun, working on building sites, and best of all, working behind the bar of the Open Hearth. The pubs in Corby were busy back then, all had their characters and the Hearth was no different. Landlord Alan Smith asked me to become full time bar and cellar man in 1972, I had already been working part time there since I'd left the CW in 1970 and was well acquainted with the 'regulars', the 'bread and butter' merchants of the trade, the bar crowd. Insults and complaints were part and parcel of the job. Serving pints of beer and 'a hof and a hof' to ageing and miserable domino players during lunch time sessions and being told 'you wouldn't last five minutes in Aberdeen' by 75 year old Willie McHattie was all part of the experience. I took it all with a pinch of salt and gave as good as I got back. Thick skin was an advantage. Craggy Glaswegian John Ogilvie scowled with a look that would drop you down dead if the head on his pint was too big. "You could put a whiskey in that!" he'd rasp, refusing to move until it was topped up to the brim. Joe Gallagher, a diminutive veteran with a dry sense of humour would look at his similarly laden pint with equal disdain, "have you got a tie to go with the collar?" Appeasing others by serving up a pint with no head received equal abuse, "put a head on that big yin! It looks likes maiden's water!" I enjoyed every minute of it though, the banter and crack was brilliant.                                                                                                                                                                            
The times they were a-changing though. The previous eighteen months had become a struggle in the Hearth. Punters had grown bored with the weekend cabaret and had moved elsewhere for their entertainment. The Shire Horse, Nags Head, Maple Leaf, Candle, Raven had all jumped on the bandwagon and started live music and discos to challenge the Hearth for it's status as number one venue in town. Alan had been forced down the soul-destroying road of the 'Free and Easy' night. The death knell sounding with the Saturday Night offering; ‘Singalong with Tam on the organ’. The final nail in the coffin.  Alan called it a day and finished in June, later admitting; "the time was right to get out, I was flogging a dead horse in the end."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Truth was, I too had grown bored with the routine of bar work and was looking to 'settle down' and move on with my girlfriend Sue Beaver. Moving into our first home in Steyning Close a 'steady and reliable job' was the requisite. An uncomfortable thought that held little desire. Factory life had no appeal, nor did the uncertainty of a building site. So it was that the EWSR was my next port. A 'plum job', apparently, as a tube inspector, thanks to 'a word in the right ear' from former tube works manager and fellow barman at the Hearth, Barry Priddy to the Inspection manager Mr. Pell. ‘Plum’ or not, the prospect of returning to the grime, noise and 'double decker egg and bacon toasties' in the far from salubrious canteens, not to mention working three shifts again, filled me with remorse. The thought gnawed away at me - 'is this it?', 'for the next 25 years?'
Ted Foster and I had since gone our different ways after a spell on the sites, last I heard he was working for contractors steel fixing. Hunched over a mug of tea and newspaper early one dayshift, a voice interrupted my train of thought; "excuse me pal, can you point me in the direction of the foreman’s office?” There was something unerringly familiar about that voice. Looking up from page three of The Sun, I was astonished to see Ted looking down on me. “Aw no!” Ted blurted in disbelief. Both of us cracked up, shared a few expletives even though it was good to see each other again. It turned out that he too was rather less than enamoured at being back in the 'works'. Five years of touring the building sites, spells with Shanks' and Pearce's contractors in the steelworks and a brief stint working in Holland - and Ted was back with his old mate in the Tubeworks!                                 Pink Floyd released their classic album Wish You Were Here! in 1975. The irony was not lost on either of us! Contemplating a future of 25 years in the EWSR inspired as much enthusiasm in Ted as it did for me. As it transpired though, by the end of the decade, both of us would be out of the 'Works'. And so would around 5,000 others.
                                                                                                                                 
                                            *

Police reported one of the busiest Hogmanys on record in Corby, the worst incident being a brawl which ended with two shop windows in the town centre smashed. Several people were arrested and spent the night in the cells. One was a yuletide regular as Police Constable Taff Skinner explained; "Davy Collins was a character who was often found sleeping on the bus station benches. He threw a brick through the Co-op window every Christmas, then wait to be lifted and taken to Bedford nick. Davy liked his Christmas pud as much as the next man. One year when he didn't show up at Bedford, they actually phoned Corby Police Station to find out where he was!"

Davy once thanked Corby magistrates for giving him a three month prison sentence when he was charged with malicious damage to a police station window. It was reported that Davy had entered the police station at 11.20pm on a Friday night and laid down on the floor. He was thrown out after refusing to leave but returned and was ejected a second time, kicking a large plate glass window in as he left. Inspector Corner in attendance added that Collins had a 'formidable record' including convictions for begging, larceny and drunkenness.
Pleading guilty, the Magistrates Chairman Mr. W.T.Montgomery told him "You'll have to spend the next three months in prison", to which Collins replied; "Thank you sir, thank you very much."

Corby's New Year shenanigans were received with curled eyebrows around the county. Judge Nancy Wilkins at Northampton Crown Court condemned Corby as a town 'not conducive to respectable living,' adding, 'Corby has the biggest beer consumption in the country I am told.'
This assumption followed the prosecution of a man for assault on another youth in the town and had revealed, "I don't feel I've had a good time unless I've spent half my weeks wages in a night's drinking," He was fined £110 for his trouble. In defence of the town, Civic leader Kelvin Glendenning retorted; "I can't believe Miss Wilkins has any first hand knowledge of Corby. We would be delighted to welcome her as a guest for a day and let her judge for herself what the town has to offer. Corby has the best living environment in the county in terms of quality housing, cultural and recreational facilities. No other town in the country can match our modern town centre, festival halls complex and sport amenities."


The New Year was greeted with news of TV license fees going up. The cost of watching colour TV increased from £6 to £18 whilst those still with a black and white set, the increase was slightly more moderate, £1 to £7. This despite many complaining, was value for money if only for watching Motel Chief Meg Richardson getting married to John Bentley in Crossroads this year. Two classic shows to debut this year were The Sweeney and Fawlty Towers.
The cost of posting a letter also went up; First class from 4 1/2p to 7p, second class from 3 1/2p to 5p. The 'sweeping increases' explained apologetically by the Post Office Chairman, Sir William Ryland, 'they still fall short of what is necessary to get us out of the red.'
Pay rises of 74% for hospital workers, 35% for the miners - prompting the Coal Board to announce that the price of coal would also rise by 30% - saw inflation reaching 21%, Electricity followed on the upward spiral, rising by a record 33%. When rail workers demanded an increase of 33% it confirmed Chancellor Denis Healey’s forecast that 'higher wage claims would see higher unemployment' prove to be correct.
In the light of the financial crisis consuming the country it came as no surprise when the Labour government announced its intentions to abandon plans to build the Channel tunnel, 'due to rising world oil prices'. The tunnel had been talked about as far back as the 1880s when construction had actually begun in France, near Calais and in between Dover and Folkestone on Britain's side. At the time British Generals didn't trust the French and feared an invasion which prompted the construction company to suggest they have a soldier permanently on guard to 'pull the plug and blow the tunnel up' if the invasion came to fruition. At that point the French pulled their plug on the operation. Nearly a century later, the umbilical chord between Britain and the rest of Europe was still a quarter of a century away from completion.
The Conservative Party meantime was in a state of transition following two disastrous election campaigns. The emergence of 50 year old Finchley MP Margaret Thatcher forced Ted Heath to resign as leader when she trounced him in the first round of the leadership race with 130 votes to his 119. She became the first woman to head a British political party after a landslide victory over the other four male candidates. Mrs Thatcher - who served as Secretary of State for Science and Education in Heath's Government - was exultant, proclaiming "It's like a dream."
Edward du Cann, Chairman of the 1922 Backbench Committee told BBC Television: "We have a new and rather exciting leader. Mrs Thatcher will make the Tory Party distinctive."

Escaping the uncertainty in the country was Roger 'Jonah' Johnson and his family who decided to embark on a new life in Australia.  Jonah recalled the reception and their first impressions when home in Corby during 2009; "We arrived in Sydney and made our way with a host of others to a place called Narellan. We were given directions to find the housing office, a medical centre to have x-rays done etc and then the dole office. If you were Greek, a Yugoslav or Italian or something, they arranged for a bus to take you around. Because we Brits could read the language we had to make our own way to these establishments. We were promised a council house when we got there, yet to my amazement, there was still some grumbling, 'putting us on an effing council estate!' I couldn't believe it. The guy behind the desk at the dole office asked me what I could do and I told him I was a plasterer. 'Can you plaster swimming pools?' he asked me. 'I'll plaster anything' I said.
I later moved from Sydney to Perth, packing most of our gear into a motor and telling my wife Sylvia that when I had a house sorted she should follow me over by train, which I figured would be less hazardous and more scenic if nothing else. The Indian Pacific Railway advertised; 'gives you two oceans on one of the worlds longest and greatest train journeys. Most of your cruising will be across the vast continent of Australia. From the spectacular Blue Mountains to the treeless plains of The Nullarbor, where the train travels the world's longest straight stretch of railway track (478 kilometres), see unique landscapes unfold and spot a fascinating array of wildlife from the comfort of the lounge or your cabin.'  When the time came for Sylvia and the boys Darren and Gary, to leave, Sylvia ordered a taxi and started to take out the suitcases. 'Whoa!' the driver said, 'I can't take that lot'. 'You'll have to' Sylvia said. After some arguing, he took her to the station, which was about fifty miles away, in the middle of nowhere! The station was like something out of the Wild West. They were dumped, at an outpost which was basically a railway line and a tiny wooden platform, to wait for the train. It was pitch black. Sylvia said she could hardly see the ground they were standing on. The two kids were tethered together by a belt and hung on to her while she lit a cigarette lighter to see if she could find the rails! The train eventually turned up, a distant light emerging out of the darkness, and they all had to jump up and down to catch the driver's attention. It must have been a nightmare! As was the journey I guess - it took 75 hours!' 
'My first job was working alongside a gang of Australians who were building a swimming pool at a private house in Perth. The heat was unbelievable. I hadn't experienced temperatures like that before. By dinnertime it had become so hot we stopped working and took a break sitting beneath a window in the shade. I was so exhausted I just lay prostrate on the ground listening to these Aussie blokes talking amongst themselves. The first thing that struck me was that their conversation was liberally sprinkled with bad language; it just seemed natural to them! Suddenly, and I was quick to learn, rudely in their opinion, they were interrupted by a banging on the window just above our heads. Next thing, a guy comes out of the house and informs us that his wife has complained to him about our abuse of the Queen's English, 'she can hear every word you're saying, can you please tone the language down?' Momentarily stunned, the Aussies looked at one another as if to say 'women complaining about bad language?' Shortly afterwards the gaffer returned and an indignant worker informed him; 'gaffer, the Sheila in this house has been complaining about our language.' He went straight over to the door and banged it. The feller opened it and was told in no uncertain terms, 'will you tell that Sheila of yours to stop eavesdropping on my boys' conversation!' I thought to myself, 'welcome to Australia!"

                                                                                                                               *




Corby's nomadic sax man Ricky Dodd was back in town after a two year stint with the Kevin Coyne Band, the highlight arguably a Free Hyde Park Concert during the summer of 1974. Coyne had a reputation for being 'an uncompromising and unorthodox artist blessed with one of the most individual voices in rock'. His 1973 album  Marjory Razorblade won critical acclaim for its variety of ‘disturbingly accurate character studies, delivered with a voice of astonishing range and volume.’
Rick joined the band after Coyne had advertised in the music press for a sax player to fill out his sound for a forthcoming European tour with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Rick recalled: “I turned up at a rehearsal room in Chelsea which was booked from 8pm till 1am to find that no one was around, except the roadie.’Where is everybody?' I asked. 'In the pub' came the reply. That was my introduction to Kevin Coyne. I went over, and found the rest of the band well into a drinking session. Kevin greeted me and bought me a pint, then introduced me to the rest of the band. We concentrated on getting blotto before managing to get in about an hour of rehearsal at the end of the night."
John Mayall had a reputation for being a renowned hard taskmaster but Rick's main memory of Mayall was that he couldn’t speak a word of French, "watching him trying to order food when we were in Paris was very funny. John was very articulate and thought the locals would understand his efforts with both tongue and sign language no bother. He eventually gave up and asked me if I could help him out.”
Life on the road with Coyne and Dodd was often lively, as keyboard player Tim Penn revealed during a conversation following Ricky Dodd's demise in 2007; 'I played with Kevin from about May 1974 - Sept 74 and then again Nov 74-Dec 74, at which point Rick, Terry Slade, and Tony Cousins were unceremoniously sacked as Virgin (Coyne's Record Label) wanted to 'commercialise' the band. Rick was a really good sax player and had a bizarre sense of humour. I remember two things in particular. On tour in Holland or Belgium, sitting in a restaurant and Rick placing a pizza on his head like a beret, with one little olive sitting in the middle. He had us in stitches. I also remember him telling a story about the soul band he used to play in. How all the musicians had invented a catheter like apparatus, using a condom and plastic tubing, going down to a bag strapped to the leg, so that they could drink and urinate without having to leave the stage - whether that was true or just a musician's 'urban tale' I'm not sure. Rick was a heavy stoner in those days and he would nearly always be rolling one in the back of the touring van - a box top transit with a row of aircraft seats. It never affected his playing though which was always passionate and full of fire.
The Coyne fan club page on the web contains a list of the sessions etc that Rick played on, and there are bootlegs floating around of Hyde Park and various BBC sessions. I completely lost contact after Dec 74. I sort of understand that Rick gave up the life of the professional musician after Coyne - I think he was quite a bit older than some of us (I was 22) he was about 30 and the break up of the band was pretty upsetting to him - but I'm not sure."
Steps
Bass player Tony Cousins; 'Rick took that Virgin rebuff worse than everyone else, and as far as I know quit the music business in disgust. In a way it was understandable because he was bitter about the way he had been treated before he joined the band. You probably know more of the details than I do but it would have consisted of the usual hazards involved in trying to be a musician - failed promises, rip offs and sordid living conditions. I considered myself reasonably close to Kevin Coyne partly because I had worked for Virgin before joining the band and consequently had a bit of insider knowledge. I cannot remember how or when Rick came to join the band. I suspect it was because he had been to the Manor to make a solo album and met some of the people who had been involved in the making of the Coyne records which were also done there. I always thought the combination of sax and slide guitar was very effective. Rick could be very inspiring to play with. My main memories are to do with his extraordinary appetite for drink and drugs. I saw him more than once, vomit before he went on stage and then play as if nothing had happened. He was not a big man but his constitution must have been iron. I suppose he was more used to it than anyone else because of being schooled from an early age, playing in Germany etc. I also think that these excesses were the only way he could deal with his own sense of isolation. When his wife came on the road or to local gigs he would never leave her side, hold her continuously. Rick used to call Kevin 'Ken' which he didn't like. Coyne tried very hard to like Rick and make him welcome him into the band, he did this with everybody for the reasons you might expect but he always found it difficult with Rick. I don't mean to say that he gave up but that there was competitiveness between them which Rick would not let lie. Because Kevin was the leader he granted himself certain airs. For example if he should say something outrageous or behave badly he did not expect everyone else to immediately do the same. However Rick often rose to the apparent challenge. Initially this might have aroused Kevin's curiosity but eventually it became tiring and then downright annoying to the point where it appeared that he did not know when to stop. Rick would probably have said in his own defence that Kevin encouraged this which was true but one had to learn the boundaries. For example it was Rick who had us thrown off the bus on the John Mayall tour because he was winding up their bass player Larry Taylor. I cannot remember the exact circumstances but Rick just didn't know when to stop and Taylor, who was a well respected musician, formerly of Canned Heat, refused to put up with it. The Mayall tour was not very long, possibly ten days or even a week but it was certainly eventful. In Rome we were booed because the audience couldn't hear us properly, this was in the days before everything was fed through a mixing desk. In Naples there was a riot and the glass front of the club was demolished. I remember sitting in the dressing room after our set and three guys walked in, turned a table upside down, broke the legs off and went off to battle. The worst gig was Bari, in the Opera House, we were all so drunk we couldn't tune up let alone play and were booed off the stage, very ignominious. Even though Kevin had obviously quaffed a few he always managed to hold himself together, so he was livid and rightly so. The band played a lot in Europe, always short tours of a week or two. Outside the gigging, the band didn't socialise that much, possibly because our encounters were intense but I am only guessing. The band was often busy so it would be normal to recuperate and see our friends etc. Kevin had a huge appetite for life and was as demanding as he was compassionate, he had his demons too. Our slide guitarist Gordon Smith was in some ways as bad as Rick except that he kept quiet. Gordon says he has virtually no memory of any of it because he was perpetually drunk."
Rick; "Gordon Smith was a bit of an oddball. He was a familiar face around the jaunts of London as a busker before he joined Kevin Coyne. At times he would go two days without speaking to anyone. He was all right though, it wasn't because he'd fell out with someone or he was in a mood. You could ask him if he was okay and he would just sit there and nod his head with a big grin across his face! I think a lot of it was the boredom when we were driving miles sitting in the back of a bus - that used to get to me too. People think that life in a rock band is glamorous and to a certain extent it is but when you consider that most of the time is spent traveling miles in the back of a van and hanging about, it does your head in."
In April 1975 Rick teamed up with some old buddies from his Roy Young days to play a benefit gig at the Marquee for the Average White Band's deceased drummer Ronnie McIntosh. Rick, who declined the opportunity to join the blues band, "I'd had enough of the road" recalled meeting Elton John there. "I was surprised how small he was, and I'm only a wee feller. I was talking to him in the dressing room which was tiny and jam packed with musicians and asked him if he'd give me a hand to get my horn out, which with hindsight wasn't the brightest thing to say!"

Rick's old friend from the New Formula days, singer Mick Harper was fronting Corby's popular band, Auction and breaking all audience records during a summer season at Pontins Holiday Village, Southsea. Mick’s first solo record I’m Crying, on the EMI label was released simultaneously, prompting the band's manager Gordon Varley to espouse; ‘I'm very pleased for Mick. This is a big step for both him and the band and I hope it will mean more top class bookings for them’. A bright future was predicted but unfortunately for Mick and the boys, the summer was to end in acrimony, as revealed by rhythm guitarist Derek Cowie; "Joining up with Mick to form Auction was probably the best time of my life music wise. We supported top line acts like American country star Waylon Jennings at a U.S.Air Base. Conversely, a six week weekend residency at the Heathrow Hotel where we had to doss in a dressing room wasn't so great. By the third week we were really tired of it and then one night a security guard with the name tag Crosby pinned to his lapel knocked on our door at 3am, and asked us gruffly what we were doing there! Before telling us to get out. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. Mick jumped up and startled the guy; "Look Bing, either give us a song or f--- off!" Next morning Bing was back again and Billy Mathieson gave him some verbal. That was it. We got the sack!
The Pontins gig was scheduled to run for around five months but came to a premature end when Mick's record I'm Crying was due for release. We had already agreed beforehand that if opportunities came along for television or radio work, we were all in this together, we would go as a band but Mick told us he didn't agree and intimated that we were surplus to requirements if such an occasion should arrive. It did cause an upset and talk of unrest within the band was soon resounding around the camp. There was a buzz that something was going on. Pre-empting Mick's departure, and no one could deny him the opportunity to make a go of something he had craved for longer than the rest of us, we decided to recruit a Bluecoat called Perry, who was also a great impressionist, to replace him. Mick was stunned. Our hand had been forced, we had to do something as there was the possibility that our contract might have been cancelled and we'd have lost out on everything! Perry was a scouser, a right wag as you'd expect from Liverpool. He came back to Corby with us and we rolled on with a name change to Steps. This originated from the Pontins camp when we used to watch Perry carrying arm fulls of trays up the steps into the Ballroom and inevitably, when he reached the top, he always managed to stumble and come crashing back down with the trays spilling everywhere. It was hilarious. We'd be waiting for it to happen and crease up every time. All the old dears sitting around their tables very nearly had heart attacks at the noise!"

Former Size Seven drummer Ian Murray had joined an outfit called Big John’s Rock ‘n Roll Circus; "The band started a little uncertainly in July 1975, the brainchild of Johnny Goodison who had risen to prominence with The Brotherhood of Man and written hits for Mud and Bay City Rollers. He selected six musicians, all of whom were previously known to him with the exception of me.
John Tebb from Lincoln had left the Casuals to pursue a solo singer-songwriter career and had spent a lot of time in the studio with John recording jingles and voice-overs for other bands. Gordon Smith from Edinburgh had been in London since the mid sixties and worked for several bands including a spell with a young Phil Collins in a group called Flaming Youth. Howie Casey from Liverpool was already a veteran sax player and a member of the ‘A’ list musicians on the London studio circuit. Mike Gregory from Liverpool had helped form the 60’s group The Escorts and then joined the Swinging Blue Jeans before working for Big John on the original Circus concept album in 1974. Geoff Workman, also from Liverpool was B. J’s resident studio engineer as well as being an accomplished pianist.
The Circus very much reflected B. J’s sense of humour – the laughs we had during the two week rehearsal to put the show together persisted right to the end… fifteen years later – and his high standards of musicianship. Basically, it was a cabaret-review of Rock & Roll from Elvis to the Beach Boys packed into two one-hour shows complete with fireworks, smoke bombs and dancing ‘girls’.  The aforementioned uncertainty was caused by the last-minute cancellation of a six-week tour of South Africa which was actually the raison d’etre of putting the whole thing together. However, Johnny contacted the Baileys organisation and secured a series of one-week-stands around the UK starting at Baileys Leicester.  We brought the house down on our first night (almost literally as a firework gag went dangerously wrong) and had a standing ovation from an audience that on the final Saturday night, included the members of Showaddywaddy who came in to see the show and stole half our repertoire.
It was the mid-seventies and the Baileys circuit, along with several other night clubs up and down the country, spoiled us with the luxury of  one-week residencies; one week in a Hotel, one set-up and break-down of equipment per week, playing late and sleeping late – it was a luxury that couldn’t last ! While playing at Baileys in Liverpool, Howie got the call from Paul McCartney and left to join Wings for their World Tour. It wasn’t totally unexpected because he had done all the sessions for the ‘Band on the Run’ album and Macca’s solo star was in the ascendant.
We had already experimented with trips to ‘The Continent’ as it was laughingly known then; Amsterdam was a favourite gig, again, one week residencies at a club deep in the red-light-district. The hotel, well within “staggering distance” was open all hours and round the bar at three in the morning one could always get a joint, a beer and a good laugh with the working girls who had just come off duty.
We were, at the time, using an agent from Newcastle to organise our gigs in the UK and he had connections to an agent in Germany who could line up some work for the American Bases there. They were planned as strategically as any military operation; start in the Eiffel area of North West Germany (reached easily from Oostend, through Brussels and Luxembourg), there were the three fighter bases Bitburg, Spangdahlem and Hahn that took care of the first weekend.  Mid-week gigs were usually for the officers clubs and were mostly bereft of audience and uninspiring but again, they paid well.  So we travelled around what was then West Germany entertaining ‘The Cousins’. Bitburg and Spang’ got us to Hahn then Rhein-Main Air Base and Wiesbaden, from there we went south to Zweibrucken, Sembach, Ramstein and then down into deepest Bavaria; Bad Tölz and even as far as Bad Aibligen almost on the Austrian border. On the return trip we could always pick up an NCO club or two that we hadn’t played on the way down.
Apart from being stopped on the Autobahn by nervous German police and lined up for passport checks while being covered by a semi-automatic pistol (this was in the middle of the Red Army Faction terrorist movement in Germany at the time), we began to meet with German civilians who enjoyed our music and wanted to book us into local clubs around the Frankfurt area.  Now this gave us the possibility to work during the week for Discos and Night Clubs while still retaining the Military gigs on the weekend. The down side of all this was of course, that we ended up working a six-week tour of Europe almost without a break, which began to take it’s toll.  In August of 1978, during just such a hectic tour, Big John Goodison had a heart attack which meant a six-week stay in a Frankfurt hospital and put and end to his live performances. Overnight we were reduced to a five-piece and Murray’s singing career began (!).


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British Steel chief Monty Finniston, who only a matter of months before had professed that 'the future of Corby is safe and exciting' appeared to backtrack with the release of a statement; 'Britain's six major steel centres are to be concentrated in Scotland, Port Talbot, Llanwern, Scunthorpe, Teeside and Sheffield.'                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Union official Frank Smyth, chairman of Joint Branches committee of the Iron and Steel Corporation said that though the statement failed to differentiate between steel production and other sections of the industry, it was hopeful that the Corby steelworks was still going to be a viable project at the turn of the century. He admitted that though the steel production into the 1980s was not secure, the future of the Corby Tubes division in the long term is bright. It is the biggest in Britain and could be the biggest in Europe.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Reaction to Finniston's statement that the BSC were losing £3 million a week and the workforce should ideally be trimmed to 50,000 and Bob Scholey's, (BSC Chief Executive), prediction that 'losses could reach £375 million a year unless stringent economies were made' was swift. John Cowling, member of National Executive of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation warned, "Fears for job safety could lead to the first national steel strike since 1926. In the past we have believed in the force of argument, not argument with force. But if BSC want to pursue the issue we will have no alternative but to use every means of persuasion possible."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      With the steel industry running at £1million losses day, drastic solutions to reduce the following years' wages bill of £145 million had to be found. Bob Scholey; 'To prevent BSC borrowing to pay its workers, decisions are bound to mean redundancies, virtually no overtime, and the probability of stopping the guaranteed working week. But although the national position is bleak, the position at Corby's giant iron and steel tube making plant is distinctly brighter despite a fall in orders from the building industry'.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
But union leaders were warned; 'Co-operate in a £45 million expansion scheme or the local industry will die.' Failure to meet the proposal of the enlargement of No 1 Furnace to the same size as No 3 was outlined, 'as this would jeopardize the future of Corby.' The caution referred to the crisis situation which developed at Corby Works in 1973 over the rebuilding of the No 3 Furnace. At the time, work was stopped at a critical stage when management ran into trouble with craft unions over a bonus dispute. Trouble escalated and almost ended with the closure of the Works.
Sir Geoffrey DeFreitas attempted to allay fears by adding; 'Corby is bedeviled by people who cry havoc when in fact we are extremely fortunate in the workers, the work and the BSC product.'                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Life continued as normal as could be in the steelworks despite the continual threat to its future. George Bradshaw worked on the steelside in one of the most unwelcome environments, the Soaking Pits, underground coke oven gas heated chambers where ingots were left to soak to ensure their temperature would be uniform throughout before they were rolled in the 'Big' Mill. George; "You had to be 21 before you did that job. It was man's work! The pits were cleaned maybe twice a week; they were left to cool for two days but were still white hot. You’d descend into the twelve feet deep pits by ladder, armed with jackhammers to drill and gouge away the hardened scale from the floor and walls. It was heavy work in uncompromising conditions. The heat was intense, after ten minutes the wooden planks you stood on caught fire while you were working and you had to get out! Health and Safety? No such thing then. No helmet or hard hat, no goggles. Your work boots and overalls was the only protection. It was a filthy horrible job but the money was good!"
Whilst the future of steel was topical, the prospect of an oil boom for Britain was slowly unfolding. Giant oil and gas fields discovered under the North Sea off the northern coast of Scotland in 1969 promised to 'have a dramatic impact on both the British economy and the culture of North East Scotland'. By the mid-Seventies, Scotland and the Shetland Islands were gripped with oil fever. Aberdeen was becoming a 'boom' town. Everyone wanted a slice of the action. The government sought to make the most of the oil rush and on June 18, 1975, energy minister Tony Benn stepped aboard a hydrofoil at Tower Pier in the heart of London to be whisked down river to BP’s Isle of Grain refinery in the Thames Estuary. The occasion was the arrival of the first North Sea oil ashore, the first taste of the black gold that was to raise so many hopes and change the way of life for so many. It came from the Argyll field in the North Sea, 290km east of the Farne Islands, Northumberland. As he witnessed the first oil being pumped ashore, Benn held up a bottle of crude oil and declared, “I hold the future of Britain in my hand.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                             During the previous year’s two General Elections, the Scottish National Party coined the slogan “It’s Scotland’s oil” and in 1975 secured its best ever representation, with eleven MPs. Harold Wilson's government realised the oil being pumped from the Argyll field represented a huge turning point in the nation’s economic fortunes. The oil boom brought new jobs, new money, new opportunities and oil workers from around the world. The lure of big money working for the rapidly expanding oil industry in the north east of Scotland proved an irresistible temptation for Scottish expatriates, many of whom had left their homeland in search for work south of the border in years gone by. In many cases it was the second generation of Scots who returned to Scotland. Offshore operators were looking for craftsmen and skilled oilrig workers who could be expected to earn at least £100 a week. But the men would have to sweat for their money, working shifts on the basis of seven days on and seven days off and being on call 24 hours a day.                                                                                                                                                                                                               However, the oil boom was not a fairy tale story of instant jobs and instant housing. Like Corby in the immediate post war years there was a chronic shortage of housing in the Aberdeen area. Not surprisingly, the number of inquiries for jobs in the oil business from Corby was well above the national average as an employment officer from Aberdeen revealed; "At one time when there were no jobs here we used to export people to Corby, but now the work's here they want to come back."
                                   
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Festival starved rock fans in Corby were given a treat in September with a marquee event up at the headquarters of Corby Rugby Club on the Rockingham Triangle. Instigated by the club's resident DJ and rugby player Alan Wetherell and aided by club members Aivors Zakss, Roger Clark and Rob Purdie, the weekend was a huge success. Rob pulled of a coup by enlisting his friend Franny Lagan to help with the organisation. Franny was on his way to becoming one of the town's leading entrepreneurs over the next decade, organising gigs and trips to festivals all over Britain. Born in Coleraine N. Ireland, 1952, Fran left School (Pope John) in 1969 with 4 O Levels and confessed; "I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do. I was supposed to be doing my A levels but I just got more and more bored with it which didn't go unnoticed by my teacher. That's when I decided to jack it in and look for a job. I wasn’t interested in being a welder or fitter, more a white collar worker. I tried for three, one of which was a trainee manager at the Fine Fare supermarket in Corporation Street. Somehow though that didn't feel right, I thought I’d probably spend half my time as a glorified shelf stacker. I ended up taking an office job at the Cold Draw Plant (CDS), in the Tubeworks. That was a good little number and became even better when my gaffer, a Welshman called Ron Lyden, called me and said 'I've got just the job for you.' He realised I was good with figures and thus gave me a job sorting out percentage sheets and such things. It also gave me plenty of free time and inadvertently led me to a career path I hadn't visualised. Coming up to that Christmas, Ron asked me if I would be interested in organizing a festive bash for everybody in the CDS. I thought I’d give it a go and the first person I contacted was my friend Tom Howarth who apart from being a DJ with his own disco was also involved with the Hamblin’s set up at Corby Bowl, which obviously incorporated the Exclusive Club, the forerunner to Shafts. 'Do you think you’ll get enough people to fill the club?' Tom asked. I was confident, 'watch me,' I told him. Back at work, I began to phone up everybody I knew who worked in offices all around the works. Tickets were a modest 10p and leading up to the big night, the phone was red hot as more and more people heard about it and wanted to go. It was a great success and sparked off my interest in an entrepreneurial career.
I was asked to help in the ‘marquee’ gig at Corby Rugby Club by Rob Purdie and Aivors Zakss, both keen and enthusiastic members of the rugby team. Rob asked me if I could sort the tickets out, which were priced at the princely sum of 30p, and I printed them off on a cheap printing machine, which with hindsight, anybody could have copied with ease. Rob couldn't believe it when I showed them to him. 'Is that it?’ They were good enough though. The marquee itself was organised by the club's entertainments chief, a guy called Roger Clark. No idea how much or how, but apparently he was known affectionately at the club as Roger the Dodger!"
A fact that club captain Bob Smith concurred with. "We also called him the silver fox. He'd done the rounds at Rugby Clubs, involved at various times with Kettering RFC and Kibworth RFC, as a player and entertainments manager. An effervescent character, Roger liked to emit he was in control and at the hub of all that was happening off the pitch. Sadly, for whatever reason, he left the club under a cloud."
Searching for a good title for the Bank Holiday gig, Franny later admitted he stole the name, Midsummer from the Wembley Stadium gig of same name featuring the Beach Boys and Elton John on June 21st. "Though the local bands, Stutz, Auction, Harry Garter and so on could hardly replicate Elton John and the Beach Boys, interest in the gig intensified once we got our teeth into the promotion. I spent days handing out flyers to everybody that happened to be passing through the Town Centre. 'Give one to your friends, take them to work', that was besides me telephoning everybody at work and sticking flyers all round the Works and the town. It worked. I sold around 330 on my own. They reckon that nearly a thousand turned up!"
Bob Smith helped out on the day; "What I remember is that we worked our socks off behind the bar, it was bedlam. Tenant’s lager, we sold them by the sleeve, 24 cans in a pack. It was crazy! Next day during the clean up, the hedgerow along Rocky Road was awash with empty yellow and blue cans, millions of them!"
Franny; "There was only one scuffle as well. Surprising for Corby! Danny Quinn, a well known likable character with a disposition for enjoying a scrap, stuck one on a guy called Dave Green for no apparent reason. Dave was clean out but nobody made a fuss about it. That was Danny! Thing was he always had a smile on his face, though that was the sign to beware of him I guess!"

The festival was recalled by singer Pat Lavin of  Harry Garter's Elastic Band; "It was a hot day and I'd suggested to the rest of the band that we should wear shorts, just to be different. We decided to start with Ian Hunter's Once Bitten Twice Shy and I walked up to the mic and said 'Ello!' which was Hunter's  trademark. The crowd, who'd been drinking all afternoon, instantly pelted us with beer cans and took the piss! We had to take cover. It was all a bit of fun, nobody got hurt. In fact, everybody thought it was a great laugh! I dived off the stage at the end, right into the crowd. Years later everybody was doing it!"
Pat and his band were often courting controversy and they were in the headlines again following a Lodge Park School Leaving Party. Headmaster Mr. Rumbelow thought they were disgusting, lurid and promoting sex. Years later Pat met a girl up the town centre who reminded him about the dance, 'I remember that night,' she said, 'it was brilliant!'
Pat;" We played regularly at The Flying Fox in Lutterworth, a bikers pub. This was arranged by our keyboard player Pete Dyne. They thought we were a right bunch of queers! We had all the mod gear on. They always gave us a good shout though."
Pete, a self confessed 'rocker'; "I was right into that scene, had the bike, the gear. The Fox was great hang out which our gang used to frequent regular. I booked the band in and Pat nearly wet himself when he saw the punters. There was a hall up these narrow stairs and once you were up there, there was no other way out. Never thought of the fire hazard when I think about it! A ritual these Lutterworth rockers had was at the end of the night they formed a circle, like a huddle, and started jumping up and down on the dance floor, which would vibrate and looked as if it was ready to cave in at any moment. Course it never did but the first time you experienced it, it was pretty scary. The people in the bar underneath must have been sceptical though!"

Harry Garter and His Elastic Band apart, a report by the Clothing Manufacturers Federation of Britain was scathing on the attitudes of the male half of the population.  'Our sloppy dress styles make the British the worst dressed men in Europe. The British male once prided himself as the Peacock of Europe but is now falling way behind his rivals in the world sartorial league.' The extensive Federation report concluded that on average, a British male spent 74p a week on suits, jackets, slacks etc. whilst the average German spent six times as much and as a result, 'is usually immaculately turned out.' This probably explains the decline and disappearance of so many men’s outfitters from the High Street down the years. In Corby, the Town Centre once boasted an array of shops, which included George Allan, Heyworth’s, Burtons, Abington’s, Roadnights, Millets and John Collier. Only Allan's remained into the millennium. If this was typical of the average urban town, the Federation could have had a point!

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Clive Smith was now well ensconced in the EWSR, working alongside recognisable faces including the former Southampton and Cardiff City footballer Norman 'Dixie' Dean, ex Leofric drummer Charlie MacFadyen and John Shaw, a character affectionately nicknamed Jaws after the infamous shark from this year's biggest blockbusting film of the same name. However, starting on the bottom rung, measuring tailpieces of steel strip cut off from the coils at the back end of Number One Mill with a micrometer and recording them for posterity on a sheet of paper was the most tortuous and mundane job imaginable. 'Does anyone look at these reams of figures?' I constantly wondered. 'Doubt it' I answered himself. Left adrift with a micrometer and a pen for doodling gave plenty of time for deep thought. The production men on the Mill kept themselves to themselves, not that there was much time and peace to strike up a conversation. The din didn't allow it anyway. I found myself daydreaming, tales of horrific accidents and fatalities in the Works were legion, even if some were grossly exaggerated. One that grew into mythical proportions was the story about a worker who fell into a ladle of molten metal, and his dad, who was also on site, did the merciful act by pushing his head under! This was a tale vehemently disputed by brickie John Crawley who remembers an incident whilst working 'on the front side’ in the Blast Furnaces. "That story was a right load of cobblers." John said, "I worked with a Kettering bloke called Tony Ventura, who was a real nutter! We were talking one day about all the accidents in the Works and I told Tony this tale about the poor lad who fell into a ladle. He laughed out loud. Then repeated what I had said, 'what a load of bollocks!' Tony then said to me, 'watch this' and picked up a cat that just happened to be wandering by, there were millions of cats in the Works, all dirty, mangy looking things. Tony threw the cat towards a nearby ladle - and before it got anywhere near it, the moggy exploded!"  Myth or not, many men died in the Works. Run down by trains, falling off chimneystacks, electrocuted, burnt. Many died of boredom.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Looking at a long stretch ahead of him, a nice pun he mused, stretch as in Electric Weld Stretch Resistant (EWSR), Clive was already looking for a way out. Irritated by a diminutive foreman nicknamed Budgie: "He was always flitting around, flapping", respite to a degree came when he was transferred to a job on the 6" Mill, with a regular working two shift pattern which meant he escaped Budgie every other week. "That was a good crack while it lasted, around two years, working with a squad of great characters. Crane driver Alex Frew, who greeted everybody at the start of a shift with 'Hows yer baws!' On the last nightshift, Alex would come in straight from the Rangers Club, half canned and climb the ladder to his crane - and sleep all night! All you could see were his feet sticking out over the edge of the cab. Weird thing was the foreman and chargehand would just leave him alone!

 Ian Eccles, vice chairman of the the Lodge Park Tenants Association quit his post in August with a blistering attack on Corby Council and the public, calling them gutless and ingrained with apathy. Ian's outburst followed the association’s victory in the High Court over the council concerning the Lands Compensation Act. "You must think of the national importance of what we have done,” said Eccles, "We have set a precedent right across the country. We won compensation for a lot of people on the estate. The Association spent over £2,500 in taking the case to court but were not getting anything for it. It was only the pigheadedness of the Council that meant ratepayers in Corby were going to foot the bill for what we had done. I spent a lot of time and money working for those people. There were only ever a handful of us doing all the work. I've had enough. Corby councillors were just not in touch with the ordinary working class people of Corby."
Talking in 2009 Eccles was still aggrieved; "The Land Compensation Act concerned all those little white bungalows around Studfall School. Temporary housing after the war. The Government gave money to Councils to build new properties for old folk and factored in a proportion for compensation of upheaval, moving etc. The moving/relocating of the home was compulsory as they were going to be demolished! The monetary factor was known as The Land Compensation Act. Our Council, notably Jimmy Kane, said it didn't apply in this case - which of course was rubbish. So the only way to move forward was to issue a high court writ against the Council and to get a judicial solution. The council obviously were using local taxpayer’s money to fund their court expenses; we had to raise funds from raffles, fetes etc and donations. The prime movers in this were a great guy called Albert Greer and myself. The response we got from other members of the tenants association was that they didn't benefit personally so what was the hassle? They assumed we wouldn't win against the council. But the people who would benefit were all the OAPs forced to move to Shire Lodge. Eventually, with our fund-raising, Albert personally guaranteeing the solicitors fees and, after a while, getting a degree of Legal Aid, we went to the High Court and won. The Judge said it was plain that the Government had provided for compensatory payments for people displaced. Local taxpayers lost out as the council had to pay costs and compensation. They had the money, but God only knows where it went. After that I was disillusioned with the whole shower, Albert accepted, but even he resigned. But at the time I had a very famous journalist from the Daily Mail - Jean Rook - in my house for a cup of tea and a chat. I couldn't believe it when there was a knock at our door and when my wife Pam opened it, there was this group from the Daily Mail! I was embarrassed because I couldn't give her a biscuit or a sandwich though because I was skint! Pam sneaked out and 'borrowed' some off our neighbours! We also had TV News people round interviewing Albert and myself. They were heady days but showed me what a bastard environment politics is. We all assume Politics is about helping others, but the reality, with few exceptions, it’s about lining pockets and progressing one's own career/life-style”


Corby Council were scrutinising the running of Corby Civic Centre which was reported to be costing £73,500 a year. Of thirteen shows in a six month period up until the 31st of March, only three made a profit. The overall loss stood at £2,119. Most profitable evening was the performance of Ballet for All by the Royal Ballet Touring Company, which made £214. A gig by the rock and roll group Mud, (Tiger Feet) made a profit of £52.
By contrast, American star Tim Rose (Hey Joe, Morning Dew), played the Civic Theatre in January. Organised by Ned McGuigan and Kenny Payne, formerly of Sasperella and Wolfrilla. They confessed before the show, "We need 275 people to break even. We lost £200 on our last promotion, folk singer Bridget St. John." Sadly, the hall was again half full for what was 'a faultless performance from the Virginian folk singer.'
A boost came when jazz violin legend Stephane Grappelli arrived in May for a concert in the Festival Hall, which was recorded. The CD, eventually released in 2003 on the Storyville Label is described in Grappelli's biography.
'Stephane recorded frequently during the last three decades of his life and previously unissued recordings like this 1975 concert at Corby Festival Hall have continued to turn up. On this occasion lead guitarist Diz Dizley, rhythm guitarist Ike Isaacs and bassist David Moses accompany the violinist. The set is fairly typical, concentrating on standards from the 1920s through the 1940s, starting with a chugging but brisk take of I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me. The marvelous duet by Grappelli and Dizley of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Grappelli's inventive treatment of (Back Home Again In) Indiana and the crowd pleasing Sweet Georgia Brown are among the highlights. It is simply amazing that Stephane Grappelli never seemed to go on autopilot as he played a song for the hundredth (or possibly thousandth) time; this CD is a valuable addition to his already vast discography.'
In spite of the council's concerns Trevor Wright, supremo of the Corby Arts Festival, was still buoyant regarding the 9th Arts Festival in July. "This festival will be as good, if not better, than those in past years. Beer gardens and late bars are an added attraction and the very idea of a week long orgy of music and entertainment and fun seems to bring out the best in Corby people. High spots must be George Melly but a dose of Slavonic tonic in the form of Ivan Stepenov's Balalaikas, providing a couple of hours of colour, gaiety and folk song are bound to cause some interest."                                                                                                                                                               An afternoon of Morris Dancing kicked the week off. The troupe embarking on a tour of the local villages, East Carlton, Middleton, Rockingham and Gretton before heading back for the Town Centre where they vied for attention with the German Velbert Fire Brigade Band. Late night events began on the Monday with the Kursaal Flyers, tipped as the new 10cc, plus Neil Innes and Fatso in the Willow room. Tuesday saw late night Jazz with George Melly and John Chiltern's Feetwarmers. Melly was described in the Melody Maker as 'Britain’s number one jazz singer, a major British discovery of 1970s’. Even though he had been around since the 1950s! "Fame, that dangerous bird, has brushed my cheek once more!" George proclaimed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
Trevor's enthusiasm for Slavonic music failed to ignite the interest he hoped for but apparently; 'the small audience went overboard as the nationally costumed band put on a fine show in true Russian style.' John Sandy was most impressed; "By closing your eyes you could almost visualise a trainload of peasants trundling across Siberian wastes to the strain of balalaikas and other instruments. Coupled with the Russian humour and charm, the night was terrific." Similarly received was the return of 66 year old Cousin Joe, sustained by white wine and menthol cigarettes, and billed by Trevor as a 'gospel wailing, jazz playing, rock and rolling, soul shouting, tap dancing bluesman from New Orleans.' Two disappointments came with the late withdrawals of jazzman Ronnie Scott, due to ill health and the Chapman Whitney Streetwalkers who were down for the Saturday Night Rockshow. Tony Coe, (Pink Panther theme with Henry Mancini and one time member with the Humphrey Lyttleton and Johnny Dankworth bands) covered the Scott spot whilst ex Faces bass player Ronnie Lane filled in with his new band Slim Chance. The week was finished off with a performance from the Halle Orchestra, conducted by Owain Arwell Hughes. Despite accruing debts of around £700, the Arts Festival was given the go ahead for 1976, albeit in a more refined and limited form, after some considerable debate in which a number of councilors were in favour it was time to call a halt. Trevor Wright wasn't convinced and remained determined to keep the Festival week up to the standards it had set itself since its conception in 1968.
One time British Rock and Roll star Cliff Richard came to Corby in October, part of a whistle stop gospel tour of the country on behalf of TEAR, an Organisation helping people in poorer countries. The concert in the Festival Hall was attended by Sue Smith with Jean Tuton, mother in law of Cliff's backing group the Shadows drummer Brian Bennett. This was the first opportunity Sue had had since a disappointing Golden Wonder outing to the London Palladium in 1969 when Cliff called off with laryngitis and was replaced by Rolf Harris. "Jean arranged for us to meet Cliff backstage and we joined a queue which consisted mainly of people who were infirm. I felt a right divvy. Cliff spotted Jean and shouted 'Hiya Jean, how's the family?' We stepped forward and Jean in that brash way of hers introduced me, 'this is Sue, Cliff, she's a bit shy!' I went scarlet, my throat went dry. It was awful, talk about embarrassed. Cliff then gave me a wink and a peck on the cheek! The show itself wasn't bad, gospel singers on stage and all that, it was good but really all I wanted to hear was his hits!' This was contrary to what Cliff had in mind; “When I give a gospel concert the last thing the audience want is for me to stand up and sing Congratulations."                                                                                                                                            Cliff may have been a changed man since his wild days as a rocker but according to one local press reporter, 'it was obvious that show biz has taken its toll on the superstar.' For all that, Cliff admitted; "all I've got to grumble about is a few more wrinkles around the eyes than my mum!"

An unusual crime wave, claimed to be sparked off by the high price of potatoes, occurred in Wellingborough during August with a spud thief doing the rounds. Allotment holders were beside themselves. Horace Newbury, secretary of the Wellingborough Allotments Society was livid. Horace, who also had half his onions pilfered, raged; "It could be because of the rising prices of vegetables but it's more likely people who are just too lazy to grow their own!" Two women were eventually summoned to appear at Wellingborough Court for pinching three rows of spuds. They were caught unawares by a gardener spying with his binoculars and then attempted to apprehend them. The women sped off in their car, forcing him to leap out of the way. He nearly had his chips! Horace managed to get the registration number and reported the incident to the police. Both were fined £10 with £6.70p costs. Which was a considerable amount to pay when potatoes were being advertised as 2p a pound at Cransley, 'If you pick your own and the weather is permitting. Please bring your own buckets.' 
The spud crisis also affected the production at Golden Wonder Crisp factory who shed 200 jobs in December.