Advertising

Thank you for the music

Entertainment | Published:

Fretboard sorcery, rock reminiscences and cult classics - in the second part of his look back at Guernsey's live music scene, Mark Windsor provides a 'quick and limited' resume of some of its influences

Fretboard sorcery, rock reminiscences and cult classics - in the second part of his look back at Guernsey's live music scene, Mark Windsor provides a 'quick and limited' resume of some of its influences

FOR pure enjoyment or entertainment there's nothing quite like live music - it's the thing that brings people together.

As a teenager in the 1970s - before my discovery of photography - my introduction to local live music was with bands such as Ponders End, with Pete Frampton, Pete de Bertrand and Colin Hewlett playing at the former St Helene's Hotel.

Thirty-odd years later, you can still see these rockers, aka The Escape Committee - Guernsey branch, playing at The Doghouse. My brother Nick joins them when Mr Frampton occasionally takes time out from his UK career to revisit his musical roots.

It was at St Helene's where I saw, for the first time, the fretboard sorcery and musical sensitivity of Alan Palzeaird. Every inch the mould of a UK 'axe' hero, he was legendary among the small group of music lovers who followed his band around the local scene for years.

Alan was lead guitarist with Axis before playing later for a variety of differently named bands with Irish singer and rocker Beechy Colclough, among others. One of the common denominators of the bands they both played in over this period was drummer Colin Hewlett.

An unsung hero of local music, although highly respected by fellow musicians, Colin is still playing today and doesn't look a day over 40 (although he must be all of 110 years old).

In the mid-70s, a teenage Laurie Queripel was picking up his electric guitar and started out on a musical career under the influence of older brothers, rocksters Lyndon and Lester, who were performers in their own right. My younger brother Nick had similar aspirations. He and Laurie met, inevitably, and later played together in a band, with Ross Fossey on drums, Tim Chauvel on percussion and Lester as singer and bass player.

Advertising

The young band Limbo lived their dream for a couple of years in the late 70s early 80s, supporting Thin Lizzy at Beau Sejour and getting their picture and an honourable mention in Melody Maker after sending in one of their recordings.

Eventually, they all moved on to other things, as young bands do, and like so many musicians they have remained mates ever since, with many a story to tell from their formative years as would-be rock stars. When the Flying Queripels get together with the flying Windsor, their rock reminiscences are of the highest order. They continue to make music and mayhem.

Having a brother as a guitarist was the catalyst for me as a photographer to venture out occasionally to take photos of live music at venues around the island during the 80s and 90s. Musical equipment and stage lighting weren't so advanced then. Sound desks were a relatively unknown luxury and even the established bands could be dire on days when there was no one available to properly mix the sounds.

With scant available light, the picture-taking possibilities were also sometimes dire unless you used flash - which I preferred not to do. But when circumstances favoured the brave and the lucky, we were witness to some great live performances in folk music as well as rock. It was probably only around this time that the island's classical music scene was also beginning to develop more comprehensively, on its way to becoming the healthy beast it is today.By the 80s and 90s the Guernsey music scene was pretty lively for such a small community, with an array of talent performing or trying to break into the scene. From the 70s to the 80s a vibrant and peripatetic Guernsey Folk Club had set the stage for a hardy core of local acts and introduced islanders to top performers from the British circuit.

Advertising

On the rock scene there were quite a few pubs and hotels putting on live music. Les Douvres Hotel was a meeting place for a lot of young bands in their early days but after people's dad's sheds, the premier venue for rock music was probably the Fermain Tavern, then run by Jerry and Marion Root. As I mentioned in last week's article, during the 80s, gigs organised there by Alfie Barton, sound engineer for pop star Paul Young, enabled UK rock and blues acts to be showcased. It was there that lighting decent enough to photograph a band enabled me to start capturing some of the atmosphere of live music for the first time.

Many local bands put on great performances at the Tavern as they and others continue to do to this day. The likes of Chris Dean, Jim Delbridge and Nick Creed, performing singly or together, fronted several incarnations and would always pack in the crowds.

It wasn't until Screaming Jez Carvery came along that anyone could compare to Deano for energy in performance apart, probably, from Mark Le Gallez and Colin Leach, who sweated their hearts out with bands such as The Risk and later Sacred Hearts. Mark's energy and drive led to The Risk recording in the UK and having a loyal and sizeable following on the British Mod circuit.

The Tavern hosted many other acts over the years including Two Trumpets, who were one of the first local bands to pursue a more Indie tack in their choice and style of music. Meanwhile, bands such as Vengeance flew the flag for local heavy metal fans, providing entertaining performances wherever they could. Down at the Savoy Hotel, a leading live venue in the 80s, local spoof band Jumping Kevs satirised rock music heroics hilariously - well before the cult classic Spinal Tap ever saw the light of day. From the 70s until now there have been too many bands and influences on the local music scene for me to mention in their entirety.

Going full circuit in terms of covering many of the musical genres, one band currently stands out in its field as one of the most professional local outfits around. The members of City Limits, talented but unpretentious as ever, continue to plug away, providing live music to dance to at local family and corporate functions and social events.

As a social band with wide appeal there aren't many like them and they shouldn't be underestimated.

In the realms of genuine talent there aren't many people locally to compare to Paul Tongs and Dave Fuller. Quality musicians of huge but differing talents and personality, they have been equally instrumental in gathering round them and influencing other local musicians with the benefits of their professional performance experience and musicality.

The Guernsey Education Service has made its own contribution to local rock and jazz. During the period when classical musical education was on the up in local schools it bore fruit, with the crossover from classical to rock and jazz of a number of talented local brass men and women into bands. Taking their cue from films like The Blues Brothers and The Commitments some bands, notably those fronted by Chris Dean, were joined by brass men Andy Coleman and Nick Cleveland and immigrant talents such as Ged Kelly, who added the extra dimension of big brass to local performances.

Now the calibre of musicianship is getting higher still, with various incarnations of the band Dave being an example and with others to follow, all reaping the harvest of their classical training as they cross over to the local and UK rock and jazz circuit.

To do it justice, the local folk circuit, which flowered brightly at one time and which was nigh-on defunct the last I knew of it, deserves a piece in its own right. I don't have the space here. Sadly, I don't have the pictures either.One performer I would mention who appeared in various pubs around the island, bridging the gap between the folk and rock scene, is Sam McBride, front-man for Two Trumpets and as a soloist, the most authentic and, arguably, the best blues singer ever to grace this island.

If ever a singer could touch the core of human feeling, Sam's your man, a real gem of a singer who at times could sear the heart and soul with his mixture of pathos, fire and passion. Always self-deprecating, Sam remains a paradox - a quietly sensational performer.

Building many bridges over the years, musically and otherwise was and is the Vale Earth Fair, an outdoor event and annual showcase for 'people's' music' from home and abroad. The Collective's continuing success (it celebrated its 30th birthday last year) has enabled it to corner top acts from the Indie circuit from the UK, France and further afield. Embracing the local music scene fully, the Vale Earth Fair Collective stages money-raising gigs for the fair throughout the year and continually ups the ante for worthy causes, consistently raising substantial amounts of money for local and overseas' charities.

St James, Guernsey's main classical concert venue, has played host to a range of artists and, besides the classical variety, has included local and visiting musicians from the rock and folk genres. Last but not least, local musicians continue to rely on the open-mindedness of local publicans and proprietors to provide venues for live music. They know live music makes sense.

As I am not strictly speaking a 'muso' and haven't been in Guernsey for all of this period, I'm bound to have left a whole load of people out, particularly those side men and women performing just out of the glare of the spotlights, so apologies.

But some people do need to be mentioned: Arthur Pugh for his pioneering work as a DJ at the Tavern and Steve Free and George Crossan, core members of Blue Movies and later The Difference.

They brought a level of professionalism to live rock music that had rarely been seen in Guernsey. Before the ease of today's digital recording, Steve was a pioneer of local analogue recording and managed to get locals on vinyl when, until then, it had only ever been a dream. Steve and George were responsible for producing the Guernsey Rock album.

The accompanying pictures are a small selection taken over the years at a few of the venues and are clearly not a definitive record of all the fine bands and acts that played in Guernsey over the period.

Thanks to all those pictured for being there and - whether I photographed them or not - to all local and visiting musicians for the live music. Er, rock 'n folk on!

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Advertising

Top Stories

Advertising

More from the Guernsey Press

UK & International News