The Golden Oldies II:
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
“Concerto” The Yorkshire Imperial Band
Conductors: John Pryce–Jones and Peter Kitson
Soloist: Maurice Murphy
Polyphonic Recordings: 1982 – PRL 015
There have been many fine players to move from the ranks of the
amateur brass band to the professional orchestral world, but none
has ever made the move so spectacularly or successfully as Maurice
In 1982 he made this recording with the Yorkshire Imperial Band,
and in his mid 40’s he was perhaps at the very zenith of his ability
as a player - for these were the years when he could be heard in
his glory not only in classical orchestral works with the London
Symphony Orchestra but as the imperious trumpet lead in film music
of “Star Wars”, “Superman” and the like.
Yorkshire Imps were also a top class outfit at the time and were
coming to an end of a period that had seen them become National
Champions in 1978, British Open Champions in 1980, BBC Band of the
Year in 1981 and Yorkshire Area Champions in the same year. This
was a band that featured players of the calibre of Nicholas Childs
on euphonium, Ian Bousfield on trombone, David Carder on soprano,
Sandy Blair on Eb bass and Philip Denton on top man. This was a
seriously good band.
The recording took place at the Civic Hall, Castleford in January
1982 and featured the band playing the easy type of listening items
that were really just fillers for the main meat of the record -
however, this did include a young Ian Bousfield giving a cracker
of a performance of “Autumn Leaves”. However, it was Murphy’s playing
that was sensational.
In 1974 he had given the first performance at the Albert Hall of
the seriously difficult Ernest Tomlinson “Cornet Concerto”, a piece
of such technical difficulty that even today it’s performances are
rarities. It’s a “Tour de Force” of such magnitude that you have
to listen to it three or four times to try and understand how on
earth Murphy makes it sound so easy. It is the playing of a man
on a different planet to the rest of us.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better up he pops
and gives an amazing display of artistry on the beautiful and sadly
neglected “Mattheson’s Air” by Gilbert Vinter – a gem of a piece.
This was a man who made playing seem so easy that you felt that
however hard you practised you would never in a million years get
even close to his standard, but it didn’t stop you from admiring
what you heard. Sheer genius.
North East Fantasy (Smith) Cornet Concerto (Tomlinson)
Side Two: Barnard Castle (Richards) Mattheson’s Air (Vinter) Go
For Gold (Barry) Autumn Leaves (Prevert)
Soloist: Ian Bousfield Swing Low (Nestico) Double Top (Newsome)
Soloists : Maurice Murphy and Philip Denton
“Festival of Championship Brass”
Triple LP Box Set
Decca Record Company – 1976 – STBC 7-9
Black Dyke Mills, Fairey Engineering, CWS Manchester, Cory, Rochdale,
Stanshawe, Brighouse and Rastrick, Grimethorpe, Yorkshire Imperial,
City of Coventry, Tredegar Juniors, Hampshire Youth Concert, Ransomes
Band, GUS (Footwear).
Remember the good ol’ 1970’s? The three-day week, Edward Heath
and the Unions, Welsh rugby and the infamous Watney “Party 7” (beer
in an exploding keg! – oh! What fun they were).
Well, before the advent of being able to put 3 hours of music on
two CD’s, record companies sold box sets of LP’s the size and weight
of a Ford Transit van. On them were usually a motley selection of
greatest hits, easy listening and tunes for the over 80’s and they
were usually called “Spectacular Brass” or “Brass Bonanza” or something
totally mindless. It was a cheap trick to buy the same stuff a second
time and you found them in “Woolies” for £1.99 behind the Andy Williams
Christmas Selection and they were all bloody rubbish. Except this
Decca had been producing brass LP’s for some time and had a series
around about 1976 that included some of the best bands giving some
damn good shows on their popular “Sounds of Brass” recordings. Dyke
had done a couple, CWS Manchester and Brighouse had a few under
their belt and each of the bands mentioned above had released at
least one LP of note, and that usually included a release from that
years National Champion Band.
Decca therefore put together the best 24 tracks from 23 of these
LP’s and boxed them together under the natty headline “Festival
of Championship Brass”. All for £3.99 you got 2 hours of some of
the best bands playing some pretty good music, and if like 4BRs
Iwan Fox and brother Hywel, (both played for Tredegar Junior Band
on “Ceramic City Festival” – just before Jim Shepherd playing “Cleopatra”)
you also got that extra frisson of knowing that you were deemed
good enough to play on the same LP as the legend himself.
The 3 LP’s give some real treats along the way, what with CWS Manchester
under Alex Mortimer playing “Night on the Bare Mountain”, Maurice
Murphy playing the Denis Wright “Concerto for Cornet” and Fairey’s
giving a great show of “A Moorside Suite”.
There’s also Stanshawe and the “Wee Professor” giving a stormer
of the “Polka from the Bartered Bride”, Brighouse whipping through
“The Corsair” and a massed band account of “Radetsky March” that’s
so out of tune and togetherness that you feel the record has gone
The highlight however is perhaps one of the greatest “live” performances
from the stage of the Albert Hall you are ever likely to hear in
your life. Black Dyke circa 1972 and under Roy Newsome giving a
blinder of a performance of “La Forza Del Destino” that has some
truly unbelievable bass playing in the fast bits and Jim “The God”
Shepherd doing the triplet bit as if he’s shelling peas.
They don’t make records like this anymore. Perhaps it was because
you usually caused yourself a hernia trying to lug it home form
the shops, but a box set of brass band music was perhaps seen as
the musical highpoint of our movement in 1976. Nothing could improve
on it – if only someone could have seen that the future was a world
of everything getting smaller. CD’s, mobile phones and the replacement
of the “Party 7” by a four pack of crap tasting Budweiser beer.
These truly were great, great days.
“Flourish for Brass” – Massed Bands: “The President” – City of Coventry:
“Saltarello” – Fairey’s: “Fugue from the Severn Suite” – Yorkshire
Imperial: “La Forza Del Destino” – Black Dyke.
“Radetsky March” – Massed Bands: “The Corsair” – Brighouse and Rastrick”:
“Ceramic City Festival” – Tredegar Juniors: “Cleopatra” – Jim Shepherd
and Black Dyke.
“Festival Overture” – Fairey’s: “The Tops” – Yorkshire Imperial:
“Concerto for Cornet” – Maurice Murphy and City of Coventry.
“Joyeuse Marche” – Massed Bands: “A Cotswold Lullaby” – Cory: “Alpine
Echoes” – Phillip McCann and Fairey’s: “The Shipbuilders” – Black
“Theme form Exodus” – Hampshire Youth Concert: “Duo for Euphoniums”
– Ronnie Kershaw, Bryan Warrington and Rochdale Band: “A Moorside
Suite” – Fairey’s: “Casino Dances” – The Ransome Band.
“Queensbury” – Black Dyke: “Scherzo” – Brighouse and Rastrick: “Night
on a Bare Mountain” – CWS Manchester: “Polka from The Bartered Bride”
“Brass Band Classics”
BMC Concert Band, The Fairey Band and Fodens Motor Works Band
Conductors: Harry Mortimer, Leonard Lamb and Rex Mortimer
Starline Records for EMI – 1972 – SRS 5105
Just when we’ve been telling you how good a bargain the Decca box
set was, we came across this beauty at the very back of the attic,
hidden like a well thumbed copy of Penthouse magazine.
For this is surely one of the worst examples of someone thinking
they could make brass bands sound and look sexy in 1972 by fixing
together, like John Noakes out of “Blue Peter” with sticky back
plastic, glue and glitter, a record that you could give to your
nice old grandad for Christmas for just a weeks pocket money.
Whoever at EMI thought that it made sense to cobble together the
remnants of recordings from three bands in the vain hope of flogging
it off as a new LP to the public, out to have been taken outside
and publicly humiliated to such an extent, even their own children
would have disowned them.
Side one of this 1972 record is made up of Fairey’s – recorded
off and on it appears in the four years previous playing they type
of stuff last heard on the seafront at Brighton in 1938. The saving
grace is a young P. McCann showing off his stuff as the 1968 and
1969 British solo champion on “Jenny Wren”. Even giving latitude
for the age of the recording, the band playing is not good even
by the standards of the day.
Side Two however is worse. Fodens circa 1967/68 on this form under
Rex Mortimer sound terrible – out of tune and untidy (and that’s
taking into account the scratchy nature of the LP), whilst the BMC
Concert Band, recorded in 1968 sound like a poor second section
band by today’s levels. Three pieces from them are enough to wonder
how on earth Harry Mortimer let this rubbish be recorded. It’s simply
In the top right hand corner of the LP it says “File under Standard”
– it should read “File under sub standard” for this is the type
of record that set brass bands back twenty years – and not just
for the content, which is awful enough (Parade of the Tin Soldiers
– for heaven’s sake) but for the way in which it’s so obviously
cheaply out together. Even Gerald Ratner would have had trouble
flogging off this crap.
The reason why we think this record should be held in the Hall
of Shame is the cover. Who on earth though it would be a good idea
to flog a brass band record featuring the BMC Concert Band nonetheless,
with a picture of bikini clad nymphet strolling along a Bahamas
beach under a sexy golden sky? What’s that all about eh? Sun, sea,
sand, sex and Harry Mortimer conducting “The Padstow Lifeboat”?
It would have been more accurate with a picture of two old pensioners
with a bag of fish and chips on a windswept Blackpool seafront.
Truly and brilliantly bloody awful.
The Fairey Band – conducted by Harry Mortimer and Leonard Lamb “Introduction
to Act III Lohengrin” (Wagner) “Slavonic Rhapsody” (Friedman) “Jenny
Wren” – soloist P. McCann “Parade of the Tin Soldiers” (Jessel)
“The Boulevardier” (Curzon) “Zampa” (Herold)
Fodens Motor Works Band – Rex Mortimer “Radetzky March” (Strauss)
“March of the Bowman” (Curzon) “Raymond Overture” (Thomas) BMC Concert
Band “The Bronze Horse” (Auber) “Rondo” from Horn Concerto (Mozart)
– soloist D. Williams “Padstow Lifeboat” (Arnold)