The Golden Oldies:
4BarsRest take a look at some great 'Long Players' from yesteryear.
Things are getting smaller and smaller. Policemen, mobile phones,
brass band contest audiences – you name it and they seem to have
shrunk in size. Some have been for the better (the odd hospital
waiting list), some have made no difference (the mobile phone is
still a pain the backside, even though it’s now the size of a credit
card) and some have been a disaster (British Steel workforce and
my bank balance etc). However the most sadly lamented piece of downsizing
has been the introduction of the CD.
Not that it has been a life threatening disaster or that it has
made things worse, but it has meant the end of one of life’s great
collecting treats –the Long Playing Record. A man was measured by
the length and scope of his LP collection, his vinyl 33’s, his shellac
78’s and specialised collection of his 10 and 7 inch special releases.
There was a profound joy in handling with care a black dinner plate
of musical mystery, a frisson of orgasmic pleasure as you cleaned
the surface with a special cloth and laid to rest your chosen LP
on a turntable to await the first crackle, jump and bump as the
needle sought it’s tempting groove. You cared and loved your collection
and you made sure no one else borrowed them or placed them next
to the radiator in your bedroom. This was the world of the LP.
Today however, things have changed and the CD has killed off the
LP to such an extent that you can only get them in the type of specialised
shops that require you to wear a dirty mac and exchange furtive
glances at the shop assistant. “Got a 1982 Black Dyke with Phil
McCann on top man?”. It’s all top shelf stuff.
Anyway – 4BR thought you may like a quick return to those great
old days when records were the size of – well records come to think
of it, and not the size of beer mats. When you could actually read
something about the bands on the back cover without having to out
on a special pair of reading glasses to find out who’s playing what
in the small print of the CD cover. Here are the first three of
our favourites – more to come in the next few weeks, and any suggestions
Black Dyke Mills Band
High Peak for Brass
Golden Guinea for Pye Records 1970
Conductors: Geoffrey Brand and Roy Newsome
One of the greatest ever LP’s for us. The Dyke of Shepherd, Clough,
Jackson, Slinger, Hardy, Berry, Turton, Ellis and Pogson. Brand
at the helm and Newsome doing all the spade work. Just five pieces
of sheer brilliance with Dyke producing the classic “sound”, even
when you played the LP on your own fairly awful record player.
“High Peak” by Eric Ball and “Four Little Maids” by John Carr make
up the first side of the disc. Who today would play “Four Little
Maids” eh? Neat, clean and with a rounded plum of a sound that is
never forced or hard – the type of sound that has fatally gone out
of fashion in the last ten years or so in fact.
“Elegy” from the popular Gilbert Vinter’s “Entertainments Suite”
and “Spectrum” form the core of the flip side, but it is the cornet
playing of one James Shepherd playing “Pandora” that makes this
priceless. The man at the time was at his peak; breathtaking technique
allied to the perfect “classic” cornet sound and a musicality that
only the true masters of their craft are born with. Triple tonguing
that fire like soft edged machine gun bullets, and not a hint of
rushing or unevenness – this is simply awe inspiring playing.
This was a band that was moving to it’s own High Peak in 1972
when they won the “Double”, but never before or since has one man
simply dominated the direction of a generation of players like Shepherd
did after this release.
Hands up how many young cornet players sat in front of the mirror,
cornet in left hand, wishing they were the “King” for just a moment
- and just like his picture on the front cover of the record. The
man was a bloody genius.
The Grimethorpe Colliery Band
Firebird Polyphonic Records – 1981
Conductor: Ray Farr
Up until the late 1970’s entertainment contests were for the most
part an extension of the type of concert programme a band would
put together for a concert, park job or radio recording. The formula
was simple and straightforward and left nothing to the imagination.
March, solo, quiet number, a piece with a bit of percussion and
the big finish from an old test piece.
This seemed perfectly fine until Grimethorpe and Ray Farr hit the
scene. Recorded at St George’s Hall, Bradford in August 1981, “Firebird”
hit the brass band scene with the force of a late tackle from an
Australian prop forward. After people heard what Grimey were doing,
nothing was the same again.
Out went the march and in came “Midnight Sleighride”, out went
the cornet solo and in stepped Peter Roberts with a coruscating
“On with the Motley”. Stan Lippeatt did the jazz stuff like a natural
and Elgar Howarth wrote the type of quirky entertainment bonbons
such as “Berne Patrol” that audiences wet themselves for.
All this and “Pictures at an Exhibition” and the finale from “The
Firebird”. Brass bands don’t play this type of thing we said. Cobblers!
This was brass band playing taken to the next level – a level that
no other band at the time was even remotely approaching.
Others took note (Fodens and Desford in particular) but perhaps
they all owed a debt to Grimethorpe and “Firebird”. Never has an
LP caused such debate or been as popular – even non brass band people
bought it for heaven’s sake. By the mid 80’s the entertainment contest
perhaps reached it’s peak, with Grimethorpe winning the Granada
Band of the Year Contest playing without a conductor. It wouldn’t
have been possible unless someone made the step to play music like
this. We have a lot to be thankful for and Polyphonic have even
released the LP on a CD for a new generation – that’s how important
Black Dyke Mills Band
Double Champions 1972
Decca Records SB 308 – 1973
Conductors: Geoffrey Brand and Roy Newsome
The last great brass band of the old age and the first great brass
band of the new. Just look at the picture opposite. A band made
up of men (this was 1972 remember) one percussionist and not a student
in sight. This was how the great bands were constructed 30 years
ago – maturity was everything and banding was a men only world.
These were players who had served their apprenticeships and had
finally made the grade at the most famous band in the world and
was the last hurrah for the type of post war banding that your grandfathers
knew and loved.
Entertainment contests had started to make a mark, youngsters and
females were starting to play in more and more bands and polytechnics
and colleges were starting to take brass band players as serious
students. Within a year Jim Shepherd had set up “Versatile Brass”
and the “Double Champions” were no more. Change and a new age had
finally reached Queensbury.
The LP is a brilliant reminder of how great these boys really
were. Brand takes them through a reprisal of their winning performances
of “Kensington Concerto” and “Sovereign Heritage” (both now rarely
heard), whilst Newsome gets to grips with the “Shipbuilders Suite”
and the Bliss “Antiphonal Fanfares”.
The highlights are perhaps the last reminder of an age past with
the “Queensbury” march played as only Dyke could with players like
those around the stand and Jim Shepherd giving the definitive account
of “Cleopatra”. No one has ever come close to this standard of playing.
It gives you goose pimples just listening to it and you sense that
you know that Shepherd and the rest of the Dyke knew it was the
end of an era. Unbelievable stuff.