I.M. looks at two bands from the Essex area.
Each month, I.M. goes out to talk to bands after the buzz is on them, but before they take off. This month took Carroll Moore to Essex, to see The Mick Jupp Band and Burglar Bill.
Southend has long been a hotbed of rock activity, producing such giants as Robin Trower and Gary Brooker, and the Mick Jupp band follow firmly in that vigorous tradition. Mick Jupp used to play with Trower in a band called Jam and together with the other two senior members of the band, drummer Bob Clouter and bassist Phil Mitchell, played in another locally acclaimed band, Legend, in the late sixties.
That band broke up in 1972, and Mick went to work as the manager of Southend's Chris Stevens Music, a position he still holds. "I still played in a band, just to keep my hand in," he told I.M., "but it was mostly waltzes and fox trots". The initial impetus to form another rock band came this spring, with the success of another Southend success story, the Kursaal Flyers. The Kursaals had been doing a couple of Mick's songs, and released one, "Cross Country", on their first album.
"There was a bit of a buzz on, and the NME did a piece on me. People were saying 'Why not get a band together,' so we did." Bob Clouter, who first played with Mick 12 years ago in a band called the Orioles, and Phil Mitchell were the obvious candidates for two saxophonists, John Pugh and Frank Mead, were added, and Pete Zear joined as a guitarist. In addition, the band boasts three backing singers: Bob Fish, Colin Maxwell and Pete "the hat".
Such a large line-up obviously offers both advantages and disadvantages. Despite the obvious problems of making the money go nine ways, and fitting nine on to stages often designed for four (if not less), Mick Jupp reckons that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
An added bonus is the sheer confidence nine people can give each other. "With nine people," Bob Clouter told I.M., "you can bring even a dead-pan audience to life.
"Cool" audiences are a problem in Southend, according to Mick and Bob, but that generally doesn't affect the Mick Jupp Band. "Our people come to hear us and have a good time. The only time we had any trouble was in June, when we first started playing. We played a local place, the Queens, and there were about 400 people there. Most of them were our people, but the others swayed them — they were just too cool to enjoy themselves".
Quite surprisingly, the band are in no hurry for a recording contract. "We're not bothered," said Mick. "We could probably get a deal tomorrow, but there's no real hurry. We'd rather wait and get ourselves together a bit better.
Mick Jupp plays a Kay guitar with three pick-ups; Pete Zear plays a Fender Stratocaster; Phil Mitchell plays a Fender Precision bass; John Pugh and Frank Mead play Selmer Mark VI saxophones; Bob Clouter plays a Ludwig kit with Zildjian cymbals and a Paiste hi-hat; the group use HH, Hi-Watt and Roost amplification.
Burglar Bill have been bouncing higher and higher, first in the Essex area and more recently around the country at large, since their formation late last year. A five-piece vocal harmony band — "We watched Capability Brown and saw their mistakes" — formed initially by Bill Starling, the band have leapt into the nervous ranks of bands who are close to really taking off. They have been negotiating a publishing contract with ATV, a recording contract with GTO, and their agents are Chrysalis.
And yet they remain semi-pro. "We rehearse three nights a week and gig three nights a week". A schedule like that has given them enough material of their own to begin to think about an album. As of yet they don't have an obvious, strong single, and that may come either from the band or from producer Brian Wade.
One of Burglar Bill's many strengths is their experience — Bill Starling describes them as "A mature band. We've all known each other for a while. We've played together, we knew each other socially, and we knew it would work."
Gigging spots in Essex are in short supply, but Bill Starling told I.M. that the band had managed to slip into the London pub circuit fairly early on. "We played the Queen's Motel, and the Basildon Arts Centre, Thameside Theatre — just the local prestige gigs, really.
"We managed to work fairly often at the Nelson, the Golden Lion in Fulham, and we'll play the colleges, once they start again." The lack of gigs, generally a problem for heavier bands in all parts of the country, is a product of many things, discos among them. "They're a fact of life," Bill continued, "you can't avoid it. But there's no reason why people can do what they want, dance, sit down and listen, or anything else for that matter. Discos are just another market to conquer, as far as we're concerned".
With four writers in the band, coming up with new material is not one of the band's problems. "We usually come in with a song 85% finished and rehearse it. Of course, if everyone else hates it, out it goes!"
Gear is no problem, either. Burglar Bill are well served by Ice Cream Management, who are guiding them carefully. "Anyone who has anything to do with us must believe in what we're doing, they have to go along with us," and Ice Cream are doing just that.
They've also supplied the band with equipment, but quite unexpectedly, equipment also turned up from another source. "Rocky Morgan of E.L.P.'s road crew used to drink in the Golden Lion, and they were looking for a P.A. with Gauss speakers. He said that ours was the best he'd ever heard for bass response, and we loaned it to them. In return, they let us use a load of their gear.
Burglar Bill, growing (as they say) slowly but surely, represent one of the two kinds of Essex rock. "There are the Feelgoods, and the Mick Jupps, who are basically rock and roll, and there are bands like the Kursaals and us, who come more from a kind of vocal harmony tradition, which bands going back to the Symbols have come from".
Bill Starling plays a Gibson 335; Mick Newton sings; Peter Ottley plays a Rickenbacker bass; Eric Sullivan plays a Hayman drum kit; Ian Pierce plays a Gold Top Les Paul.
News by Carroll Moore
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