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. "
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."
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.'
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
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."
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!"