Writing a history of The John Barry Seven

JB7

Our book, Hit and Miss: The Story of The John Barry Seven, published next month, may have been a long time in the writing but it was always inevitable.  When Pete Walker and I wrote our first book about John Barry, John Barry: A Life in Music, the only input we had regarding The JB7 was provided by a handful of ex-members – and it was all rather vague, and not as accurate as it might have been.

During the writing and research for our second book, John Barry – The Man with the Midas Touch, more information came to light, yet because we had decided to place more emphasis on John’s film career, this was not the book in which to expand on the history of The JB7.

The growing influence of Facebook led to the formation of a John Barry Seven Appreciation page, which was subsequently joined by several ex-members of the band, all of whom were willing and eager to share details of their time with the band, and the challenge to write the definitive history of the band became irresistible.

We felt, as did several of them, that the band had never been given the credit to which they were due, because John Barry himself was virtually the sole focus of any press and publicity during its 8-year existence. Whereas this is perhaps understandable, in view of the success he enjoyed, nevertheless we considered that the story of The JB7 is a fascinating one that deserved to be shared.

1964_John Barry Seven_BMC_Mag 7 free

We decided on a methodical approach in which, if possible, information or stories from anybody would be confirmed by somebody or something else – an official source being the favoured method.  This involved visits to EMI Archives in Hayes, and the BBC Written Archives in Reading.

Both produced a wealth of information, though they also proved frustrating.  EMI, manned by volunteers, had to get permission from Warner Music for everything, even visits, and this was no easy undertaking. Following my one solo visit, during which I uncovered a mass of session information and also selected two photos we wanted to use in our book, we spent the next three years seeking the necessary permission from EMI for a return visit and the use of the photographs, only to be told that Warner simply ignored all their requests.

There was no such problems with the BBC, who were even more helpful, but here the frustration was their antiquated microfilm machines, via which one could view the essential “programmes as broadcast” material.  If I say that on one occasion it took us an hour to successfully thread one film onto the machine, only to find it was upside down, that should give a good idea of the way things usually went there!  I think we made three visits of several hours, but never managed to finish our tasks, simply because we spent so long loading the films.

However, despite these setbacks, we still managed to get all the information we needed in the end, thanks in no small measure to diaries maintained and kept by the likes of Vic Flick, Mike Peters and Dougie Wright, and Jeff Bannister’s book about Alan Bown.

JB72

Although, as mentioned, we were able to utilise The JB7 facebook group, not all ex-members knew about it, so an extra challenge was in tracking them down through searches on facebook or other websites – in some cases via their wives!  It all took time but eventually resulted in some very helpful phone conversations and email exchanges.

We had phone conversations with Keith Kelly, Ray Russell, Ray Stiles, Maureen Evans, Jackie Dennis, Ken Townsend, and Pete Varley, one of John Barry’s oldest friends, with whom we were put in touch by Peter Stanhope, another John Barry fan still resident in York.  We had previously spoken at length to the various leaders, John Barry himself, Vic Flick, Bobby Graham and Alan Bown.  Original drummer, Ken Golder, had also spoken at some length about his time with the band, and much later his widow kindly loaned us his memorabilia, which proved so useful.  Dave Richmond and Tony Ashton also contributed via phone, and on top of this, Jeff Bannister and Vic Flick generously allowed us to quote extensively from their own books.  BBC presenter Brian Matthew also recalled his time working extensively with The JB7 on programmes such as Easy Beat and Saturday Club.

1960_Brian Matthew (60s colour)

Various ex-members provided photographs and in a few cases programmes or handbills, while Pete and I spent a small fortune acquiring even more memorabilia via eBay!  Internet searches led to the discovery of more photos of the band, and although these mainly had to be hired, we felt their historical importance more than justified the cost.

The children of trumpeter Bobby Carr and keyboardist Kenny Salmon helped enormously with details of their fathers’ life and careers both before and after their time with the band.

Right up to our deadline we were uncovering more and more facts. For example, an email exchange with Rachel Bell, widow of keyboardist/singer Mike O’Neill, proved highly beneficial, while a chance remark to guitarist Ron Arghyrou solved the mystery of the band’s penultimate drummer, Dave Elvin, and led to email exchanges with him, too.

John Barry’s niece, Emma Lloyd-Jones, was another willing contributor who produced some fascinating information about her grandfather, Jack (JX) Prendergast’s businesses, including some valuable memorabilia.

Other unexpected bonuses included an opportunity to watch the band performing Farrago on a November 1958 edition of Oh Boy!, at the NFT in London. We were also extremely fortunate, thanks in no small measure to John Barry fan Alan More, to be able to listen to a lengthy extract of a Brenda Lee concert at The Olympia, Paris, during which she was backed by The JB7.

Naturally we had a few disappointments and setbacks.  A few people refused to help at all. EMI producer Norman Newell, who died several years ago, told us he was saving all his stories for his own book, which never happened. Engineer Malcolm Addey, who worked on many JB7 recordings at Abbey Road, was also unwilling to help in any way.

Paul Anka, who initially said he would be pleased to supply a few memories of his UK tour with the band, instead provided nothing and ignored all subsequent reminders.

We tried, and failed, to get in touch with Judith Durham, to talk about her late husband, keyboardist Ron Edgeworth. Vibes player John E. Aris, who we tracked down in India via YouTube, was unwilling to talk about his early life and career, and we were unable to trace saxophonist Dave Green, who apparently left the music scene after briefly joining The Alan Bown Set with other ex-JB7 members.

However, compared with those who were contacted and did help, this is very small beer indeed, and we don’t feel the book is any the worse for their non-participation.

Writing a book about a band which included approximately forty members during its eight-year life was not an easy task, but nevertheless an enjoyable one. Pete and I hope that you’ll enjoy reading it just as much.

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Myasthenia Gravis – my journey into the unknown.

NutritionHow did it all begin?   Well, a few years ago I was diagnosed with Ocular Myasthenia Gravis, which causes muscle weakness or fatigue in the eye, resulting in possible double vision and a drooping of the eye-lid. This can spread to both eyes, and later, in the majority of cases become full-blown Myasthenia Gravis, which can lead to swallowing and breathing complications; even walking difficulties.  Coincidentally, but totally unrelatedly, I also have long-standing symptoms of Horner Syndrome, which is why my right eye-lid droops.

A long and heavy dose of steroids eventually sorted out the one eye that had been affected, and in consultation with consultant Dr. Bennetto, the steroids were gradually reduced from 60mg a day to 5mg every other day.  A check-up 3 months ago came with a recommendation to carry on with this dose since it was clearly working well.

That is, until three or four weeks ago.  I’m not sure what I first noticed that was slightly different, though I do recall eating some fish and chips for lunch in Keynsham and thinking it was surprisingly hard  get it all down. A few days later, though, a visit to Temple Meads Station to film a steam train raised some concerns. I was placing my left (and best) eye to the viewfinder and occasionally seeing nothing.   However, I was looking in the direction of the sun, so wasn’t that concerned, and on returning home my eye looked OK.

Over the next few days I noticed I was finding it more difficult to swallow food.  It didn’t seem to be a problem with my throat, it was just that after chewing whatever it was, the physical act of swallowing seemed hard – almost as though I’d have to have a few gulps like swallowing a pill that won’t go down. Also one side of my mouth seemed almost dead – as though it had been anaesthetized – so I would find traces of food there that hadn’t gone any further.

The left eye had now started to droop so I followed Dr. Bennetto’s advice and began to gradually increase the steroids until I was on 5 mg a day.  It didn’t appear to help so I arranged an appointment with my local surgery to see if they would recommend further increases.

The crunch came before the appointment, when I attempted to lunch with my friend Dave Howell and the soup took me ages and I could barely manage a few mouthfuls of Shepherd’s Pie.  I also noticed that when showering I couldn’t seem to close my eyes completely, as I wanted to; rinsing out after teeth cleaning was awkward and smiling was becoming difficult – I just couldn’t form one.

My appointment was put back another day because of staff sickness, which didn’t help. The strong sunlight was making any kind of travelling a big problem because I could not look where I was going and focus properly.  Only one eye was functioning more-or-less normally but I was unable to shut the other one without holding it shut (I’ve never been able to open or shut one eye at a time) which was clearly not practical.

Doctor Charlie was quite alarmed at my symptoms and the possible breathing difficulty implications, and as he had no expertise at all in this specialist subject, arranged for immediate hospital admission. This in turn alarmed me a little, my last hospital stay having been about 50 years ago. It took him ages to get somebody at the Eye Hospital to answer the phone, and when they did it was never the right person, but he stuck to it, after warning his reception team he might be occupied for some time.

I was allowed to return home and prepare for a quick call back from Southmead Hospital which duly came as I was walking in the door. A bed was available and they’d expect me when ever I was ready.

A couple of hours later, having made several quick necessary arrangements and packing a bag of various items I hoped would be appropriate, I was on the no. 76 bus to Southmead.  It was a short walk from bus-stop to the hospital, a walk and a building with which I was already familiar because I had previously popped in occasionally while waiting to change buses at the terminal there.

I also knew it would be staffed by volunteers because I’d witnessed them in action. This was just as well because looking at the map there was almost impossible for me in the full glare of light. I took a lift to the 2nd floor and was directed to bed (actually room) 62 in Ward 6B, Neurology.

I was told by the ward manager that the nurses were all in a meeting but I’d be seen as soon as possible. In the meantime I inspected the room and inadvertently pulled the emergency cord in the bathroom, believing it to be the light switch!

Nurse Emily soon arrived and explained a few things to me. Checking-in was initially a problem due to them having an address I left 5 years ago – why?  Asking me to complete a long and complex form seemed a little harsh since I could barely see to write, but I struggled through gamely.  Emily was very nice but I foolishly (as it turned out) said I may have lost some weight recently because of the swallowing problem.  She related this to various other visitors I had; one of whom informed me this meant I would have to have a tube inserted!  Emily told me she wasn’t senior enough to perform this task (which I would not enjoy) but somebody else would. She had soon finished her shift, and was replaced by a night-nurse who was not a permanent member of the Neurology staff.

Next thing I knew a chap was knocking at the door with a wheel chair to take me for a chest X-Ray. I told him I was perfectly happy and able to walk, but he said H & S rules would not allow this “in case something happened to me.”

We had a long and exciting push and ride to X-Ray which seemed about half a mile away. It evoked fond memories of an edition of Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads, when Terry pushed Bob at great speed along some hospital wards, resulting in a collision with a tea urn and a leg in traction!  Nothing like that actually happened, nor was the result of the X-Ray ever disclosed, but I was soon back in my room.

Those of a nervous disposition or about to eat might like to skip a few lines at this juncture!

The night nurse explained a feeding or energy tube would be inserted into my stomach via my nose, and I would feel some discomfort at first. You bet I did, though it was nowhere near as bad as having an endoscopy.

She then had to “test the waters” via a syringe, further explaining that she had to make sure the tube was in my stomach not my lungs, and the way to do this was to draw up some “aspiration” via the syringe and tube.  It didn’t work.

She decided to have another go and withdrew the tube (slightly less discomfort) and re-inserted it (more discomfort).  Again she could get no aspiration or inspiration, so decided to ask X-Ray if they could “do the business” again to be certain it was in the right place. This is important because they couldn’t risk pouring nutrients and drugs into my lungs. However, X-Ray dept. weren’t too happy with this because it was now after midnight, so she decided they would postpone my overnight feed and reconsider in the morning. The nurse said she had rarely witnessed such calmness during the insertions of the tube, but in truth I was too petrified to speak!

I got very little sleep in the tiny bed, and feeling the tube inside me, but around 2 o’clock I became aware of a cold damp sensation in the area of my back and shoulders.  I struggled up and realized that somebody had “left the tap on” as regards my tube, and there was now no question of the final location of the tube since I was lying on my stomach contents.

I buzzed for room service (nurse) who changed the bed and got fresh pyjamas but said the hospital would not wash the ruined ones, because they were mine, not their’s!

The next morning I met Nurse Kelly who became my friend and guide over the next few days. She still needed to make sure about the tube, though, and after getting me to drink water, fruit juice and lying on my side, managed to get some aspiration, which tested OK. Apparently it has to be a certain score to qualify.

Kelly also asked me if I’d had a line put in (something I’d often heard on “Casualty” but never really understood); but when I said “what’s that?”, she replied, “that’ll be a no, then”!

I was then visited by a succession of staff, amongst who were my consultant, Dr. Bennetto, and his two assistants; a Speech & Language therapist; a Nutritionist, the ward Doctor; a Physiotherapist;; and, finally a posse of medical undergraduates – one of whom was allowed 6 minutes to examine me, after which they would all critique her.  This was a little harsh on me, I thought, since I was already exhausted, had this tube in my nose and I’d answered all these questions several times already, and no, I cannot raise my eyebrows!!

The speech therapist returned later and gave me an eating test — Weetabix with milk. I managed two or three swallows and that was that. Pre-Mashed Texture D diet for me. However, she also gave me a speaking test, complimented me on my voice and asked if I sang — that’s something that’s never happened before.

 

Lunch

All the various examinations were tricky because I had problems focusing on my examiner and they all seemed to stand in front of a window, which meant I was looking into the light.  When somebody’s talking to you, you want to be able to look at them. Not only that, try sneezing, or blowing a running nose with a tube up it. And try going to the bathroom, shaving, showering or undressing when you are connected to a feeding station.

Anyway, the HCAs (Health Care Assistants) were all very helpful and I coped.  Basically I was in a section of eight rooms looked after by a nurse and an HCA, but the ward had three other similar sections and staff.  The hospital is a huge place, consisting of at least three lengthy buildings on several floors.  My room looked out over a long walkway, with a constant flow of people of all kinds – some of whom appeared to be on outings.  It was like a busy shopping street, though shops were in short supply.  There was a couple of musical performances during the weekend, but the double glazing made it almost impossible to hear — looked good, though. One of the groups was the Gospel Generation Community Choir.

From my bed I could see various staff on the move up and down the ward all day long, and often patients were being wheeled in and out, either in chairs or on beds. The nurses push around some kind of cabinet containing various medical supplies, and there’s also a mobile blood pressure machine, which constantly beeps, horribly.  The other noise I soon became accustomed to came from the buzzer facility in each room via which one could summon assistance from a nurse or HCA.  Of course I rarely used it but it seemed everybody else did!

The catering team were marvellous and offered hot drinks in addition to the food, which had to be ordered a day in advance from the menu you were allowed at the time.

Doc Bennetto decided to double my steroids dosage and also prescribed Pyridostigmine Bromide several times a day. There were various other tablets and injections required daily; blood tests; breathing tests (every four hours), blood pressure tests, blood sugar level tests – you name it, I had them.

At one point during the various examinations, I was asked to shut my eyes as tightly as possible, and then prevent them from being opened. I failed this test utterly and it was at this stage I really began to appreciate something was badly wrong.

That evening, Ray, my neighbour, suddenly entered the room and approached me with his mobile and charger. I started to tell him I was no expert but he ignored me and plugged it into the socket behind my bed!  I explained that this wasn’t his room and although he was convinced he was sitting on my bed just a few minutes previously, luckily an HCA swooped and guided him back next door. Apparently he got confused occasionally.

On Friday I could only manage some kind of soft vanilla dessert, but on Saturday I was given my first (pre-mashed) meals especially chosen for easy swallowing. A little like baby food, I imagine  Unfortunately, because I was also getting the tube feed all night, I wasn’t really hungry, especially for three meals a day, which I rarely eat even at home. However, the tube was useful for the drugs which could be crushed and sent down with water on schedule, via Kelly or the night nurse.

Kelly, whose shift was from 7 a.m to 7.30 p.m., was an absolute legend, constantly on my case while also dealing with other apparently more complex cases; mostly bed-ridden patients.  Of those, I only ever really saw Ray, but I also heard Martin, who went berserk for four solid hours starting at 2 a.m. on Sunday. I later discovered he was a slightly-built man in his 50s or 60s, with a mobility problem, but at the time he was quite frightening.

Clearly with some kind of mental difficulty, he constantly shouted at the top of his voice; threats to kill, accusations of bullying and pleas for help, and vocally abused the staff in the worst possible way, keeping me awake all night. Night nurse found it quite amusing that he ended up being driven up and down the corridor by an HCA in a buggy, hoping to get to Brazil, but I did not. I had just dozed off around 7 when I was aware of somebody exiting my bathroom. It was roaming Ray!  He wished me good morning and said he wanted to get dressed. Seeing him heading in the direction of my own clothes, I managed to persuade him his room was next door.

Of course, I fully appreciate that patients like these are in a most unfortunate state and hardly responsible for their actions; neither can the nursing staff do much about it. However, at the time I admit I was only really selfishly concerned with my desperate need for sleep, and if I could have left the ward I would have done.

I was clearly out of my comfort zone in many respects, but especially as regards the bed and the tube.  I was being woken during the night for breathing tests which I found difficult at the best of times, with the tube proving an encumbrance. After another day of eating what I didn’t want to eat and actually being unable to finish my ice cream (definitely a first), Kelly said she would speak to her nutritionist friend with a view to me coming off the tube feed.

Vitalograph

The speech therapist returned, impressed by my consumption to date, and tested me with a bowl of mixed fruit and some biscuits. This time I performed quite impressively and was upgraded to Fork Mashable Texture E.  I was checked daily for any signs of muscle fatigue in my hands, arms, shoulders, head and legs, but was reassuringly fine on each occasion — almost pushing over a night nurse one morning!

Monday first thing I struggled to eat my porridge – it seemed liked the old problem again — but afterwards I realised night nurse had not given me the PB tablet beforehand. This was unfortunate as Kelly had left specific instructions, but the night staff are rarely based at Southmead and not necessarily familiar with MG. They have a difficult job coping with eight different patients they’ve probably never seen before. As for me, I was fed a cocktail of crushed drugs via my tube at around 7 a.m., so was in no position to judge what I had been given.

Anyway, the nutritionist agreed to release me from tube feeding if I agreed to drink three bottles of high energy drink a day. I was also weighed in a chair for the first time in my life (88 kilos), and Monday night was peaceful with only one brief outburst from Martin. My breathing tests readings improved markedly after the tube was removed. Kelly decided to claim this as an important new discovery for the Neurology ward!

Incidentally, any boredom from my stay was slightly alleviated by the presence of a TV. It was useful, but curiously seemed to have such an old setup that it only contained about 20 channels, just the very basics, including the long defunct BBC3. Interestingly, there seemed to be no kind of “time for bed” regime; it was left entirely up to me.

On Tuesday Dr. Bennetto came calling and found me greatly improved. I could swallow easily and my left eye, though not perfect, was clearly better.  He felt I could probably complete my recuperation at home, provided I was confident of managing on my own – which I was.

Kelly explained I would not be able to leave until all the medication I needed had been acquired and this would take several hours – it did.  In the meantime I was looking forward to lunch for the first and last time in hospital, and the indefatigable Kelly had already ensured I taken some PB an hour before. When it arrived it was Chicken in Gravy, with potatoes and various other veg. It disappeared rapidly, as did the two desserts, and it’s hard to describe the feeling of elation that eating was now back to normal, as far as I could tell.

An elderly woman visited and said she wanted to draw blood. I longed to say “How disgusting” in my best Cary Grant impression, but felt she might not appreciate it.  I did find a vein for her, though, since she was struggling a little.

Kelly talked me through the strict medication regime I must now adopt, which more-or-less means taking a PB tablet before doing anything, from getting up to going to bed. I also have to continue with steroids, calcium tablets, something to avoid possible side-effects, plus the 3 juices per day.  But at least I can see and swallow!

She also said MG is very rare but she had treated 5 cases herself. She admitted to having OCD, but kindly helped with a suggestion about the design of the cover of our John Barry Seven book – I could tell designer Ruud was thrilled with her assistance!   When I left she was already talking to a new admission, but she arranged for an HCA to help me down the stairs to the bus stop, and I was safely home in 30 minutes.

From start to finish the staff at Southmead Hospital could not have been kinder or more helpful. When I was commiserating with Kelly about her 12.5 hour shifts, she said “don’t feel sorry for me; I knew what I was in for when I signed up”!

The hardest part starts now, as I have nobody telling me it’s time to take this or that, but once I’ve done a few days I’m sure it will become a habit.

It was an interesting experience, to be sure, but hopefully one I will not have to repeat. Thanks again to all the wonderful staff at Southmead Hospital.

 

Choir

 

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How I nearly represented Gloucestershire CCC and won a race.

I was never a good enough cricketer to represent my county at any level. Except that I did. Well, sort of, almost ….

It was May 1973 and Don Stone was organising a Gloucestershire Club & Ground XI to take on the might of Cardiff University, away.  The Club & Ground was basically a mix of experienced professionals, fringe first teamers and promising youngsters. I was none of these things, but I was available to play, by kind permission of Vassall captain Mike Passmore, who thought I wouldn’t be missed by Vassall as much as his brother Nigel, the “promising young batsman” Don was really after.

Our team included Ron Nicholls, a wonderful batsman who was just beginning to wind down his career with Gloucestershire; Malcolm Dunstan, who had played the occasional first team match; plus Andy Brassington & Julian Shackleton who were just beginning their careers with the county.  Of more immediate interest to me on match day was Basil Hollington, because he was giving me and Shirehampton’s Kenny Earl (somebody who really was a promising youngster) a lift to the Cardiff University ground.

I admit I had not heard of him before our meeting and although he gave us a few details in the car, it wasn’t until several years later that I discovered he was a batsman of some note. He played minor counties cricket for Hertfordshire and was good enough to have represented the Minor Counties when they played the touring Australians the previous year.

I can’t remember the agreed format for the game, but we arrived in time for an 11.30 start, so it must have been 50 or 60 overs each or similar. We changed and practised a little while Don went to find the CU skipper. I distinguished myself by taking a couple of steepling catches and dropping another eighteen.  I also acquired a nice bruise on my shin from not being able to get down fast enough to field a drive off my own bowling.  The problems of being 6’ 2”.

Don eventually returned looking rather glum and informed us that the CU skipper had no knowledge of a game v. Glos Club & Ground today and in fact they were playing another University as part of a knock-out competition.  This was disappointing to say the least, but there was nothing more we could do. Basil drove us back to Bristol, dropping me off at Stoke Lodge where Vassall were due to play St. Michaels. Somebody sportingly agreed to let me play in their place and I took a few cheap wickets before rain caused abandonment.

So ended my Gloucestershire career, but at least I had got on the team-sheet and had bowled at Ron Nicholls, one of the nicest people you could hope to meet!

Our team was: Don Stone (capt.), Ron Nicholls, Basil Hollington, Malcolm Dunstan, Ken Earl, Geoff Leonard, Stuart Surridge, Julian Shackleton, Andy Brassington, Steve Jewel, John Badman.

The highlight of the Vassall season was the annual game against our President’s XI.  Reg Nott had good connections with Gloucestershire CCC and Bristol Rovers FC, so there was usually a smattering of famous names in his team.

I made my debut in this match in 1966, when Vassall played home games at Dundridge Farm, near Hanham, and surprised everybody, including myself, by clean-bowling Arthur Milton when he had only made 24.  I was told afterwards that Arthur usually made 50 or 60 and then either gave his wicket away or retired, so this was not part of the plan.  However, his team mate Tony Brown got a few runs and they ended up with a decent score which proved far too many for us.

My dismissal of Arthur had unexpected consequences. Somebody had a word in somebody else’s ear and from 1967 onwards the President’s match was played at the County Ground, the headquarters of Gloucestershire CCC. Suffice it to say, nobody ever got Arthur out there until he wanted to be out!

Naturally I always enjoyed playing at the County Ground, but often found myself uncertain how to treat these matches.   If you were bowling to professionals like Arthur, Tony Brown, David Sheppard, John Sullivan, etc., you could try as hard as you liked, safe in the knowledge that the best you could hope for was keeping them fairly quiet.  However, what about the footballers who also played for Reg?  Decent cricketers, but probably no better than average, and I didn’t want to be the one giving them easy runs.  I felt particularly bad dismissing George Petherbridge, who’d been something of a hero of mine when I started watching Bristol Rovers in the 50s, but I don’t suppose it bothered him.

Another tradition of these matches was a race around the ground after the game had finished, which was open to all present. The prize was a bottle of whisky provided by our Vice-President, John Langbridge.  The first time I’d seen this race, which I did not enter, was at Dundridge Farm, and Tony Brown had entered and led from start to finish. There was one faller, Mike Passmore, to nobody’s surprise!

In 1972, at The County Ground, I decided to run. Normally on these occasions I got “stitch”, especially if I’d recently eaten, but I was still OK as we reached the first bend, which was encouraging. I wasn’t really exerting myself but noticed I was passing quite a few contestants, and as we went down the back straight, where the old mound stand stood, I was third. I increased my pace and easily moved into second place just as we reached the finishing straight in front of the pavilion.  I didn’t know the lad in front, who might have been a spectator, but decided to test him with a sprint finish.  To my own surprise, I think, I raced past him, just catching a look of panic on his face, and won easily.  It was the only race I ever won in my life!

To be fair I might have been a shade fortunate that certain players didn’t take part, including the professional footballers, such as Bobby Brown. Perhaps they were in the showers at the time.  🙂

On the occasion of another President’s XI match, Dave Josham was playing for us as a guest. I don’t think we were short but for some reason, maybe because he had played a couple of times for us when we were short, it was decided he deserved a reward.  Anyway, Dave was a decent medium-pacer, never short of a word both on and off the field, but he was not accustomed to bowling against Arthur Milton.  After Arthur had dead-batted his very best delivery, and hit his next, even better one for 6, Dave, hands on hips, stood in the middle of the pitch and gave Arthur “one of his looks.”

Not to be phased by this, Arthur politely asked him where he would like the next delivery to go. “Over mid-wicket,” responded the brave Dave. He then trundled in, and, not wanting to lose this battle, did his best to make such a shot impossible by bowling full and outside the off-stump.

I was fielding at third man at the time, so I’m not sure quite how even Arthur managed it, but somehow he went back and across to the ball and still flicked it over mid-wicket for 6 more. At which point he retired and Dave Josham “had a rest”!  I suppose it showed the huge gulf between county cricketers and club players.

Talking of Dave, a couple of years later, after the split from Vassall, our new club, Bristol Venturers, were playing against Belmont, possibly at Muller Road Recreation ground. Dave was bowling for us and had a very strong appeal for lbw rejected by the umpire, who also happened to be Belmont’s founder and chairman.

A few balls later, Dave clean bowled the same batsman, and couldn’t resist adding “how was it that time,” in the hearing of the umpire. “There’s no need for that, bowler,” was the response, and Dave was asked to apologise, which he did.

During tea we told Dave that the umpire was Ted Phillips, chairman of the Bristol & District & Premier Combination football League, and a member of the GFA, etc.. This greatly alarmed Dave, who refereed at local level and aspired to greater things.  He approached Ted and apologised again. After the match, which we won easily, partly thanks to 5 wickets from Dave, I was leaving the ground and saw Dave in the car park, talking to Ted Phillips and apparently still apologising!

He was a useful medium-pace bowler but unfortunately very similar to myself, and not quite as good, if I’m honest. He proved very useful when I took most of a season off to umpire, but once I was available again he seldom got a look in, at least for league matches, and eventually moved to another club where he could get regular cricket.

Refereeing was his forte, though, and he did climb the ladder quite successfully. I last saw him on Temple Meads Station around 1990, and he told me he was on his way to Manchester where he was going to be linesman in a Division One game at Old Trafford. He died when only 60, I believe, and I noticed from his obituary that he was linesman in the first FA Cup semi-final to be shown on live TV, Crystal Palace v. Liverpool in 1990, a career highlight, I’m sure.

He was also treasurer of The Downs League and a dedicated and skilful skittler.

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It was Forty Years ago …..

As we get older there is a tendency to look back at events, and some people even write about them. I’ve never really been a blogger, as such, but approaching my 70th birthday I have decided to write about what was a big part of my life for decades — cricket.  An important reason for doing this now is because my memory is still reasonably good!

I realise many people won’t be very interested in what I have to say but hopefully the situations and humour which emanated from these games will provide some amusement, at least.

This is my first effort — I hope you enjoy it.

 

It was Forty years ago …….

This one is mainly about me, because for the only time in several years of playing cricket, what I’m about to describe is an occasion on which I was able to give an all-round performance.

Twyford House v. Soundwell Venturers, 2nd July 1977.

One Sunday almost 40 years ago, my team, Soundwell Venturers, were due to play an away game against Twyford House. In an earlier game on our own ground, we’d suffered a heavy and humiliating defeat.  Twyford had made almost 200 with John Jones hitting a century which included several big sixes. My figures of 3-41 were quite reasonable in the circumstances.  The Venturers then collapsed spectacularly from 41-0 to 61 all-out, with spinner Vernon Pope taking 7 for 20.  My own contribution was a very well put together 0 not out.

I should perhaps mention that we played Twyford House on Sundays because being a stronger side they played Bristol & District league cricket in a higher division than us on Saturdays.  Not that that was any excuse for our performance in this first encounter.

When we turned up for this return fixture at Penpole Lane, I was quite relieved to see Dave Alford, their left-arm fast bowler, who several of us knew from our connection with South Bristol Central AFC, was watching, rather than playing, as we’d hardly scored a run against him in the past.  He was a fine bowler who later played B & D Senior Division cricket for Shirehampton, performing well against the best local teams.

However, despite that bonus, plus the fact that we had a useful pace attack of our own, our batting looked a little suspect to say the least. In batting order, it was:

Clive Fowler (capt. & wk)

Pete Webber

Ian Mole

John Budd

Alan Cox

Geoff Leonard

Nick Walker

Nigel Hawkins

Emmett

Andy Ridler

Mike Kimber

 

Openers Clive Fowler & Pete Webber were good batsmen, with Clive in particular always likely to take heavy toil of the opposition’s fast and medium paced bowlers. At 3 was Ian “Chopper” Mole, another fine batsman who was also a decent bowler, but he often flattered only to deceive.

John Budd himself would probably agree that no. 4 was a few positions too high for him. An excellent opening left-arm bowler, he was a good man to bat at around 8 or 9, when with runs already on the board, he could often lashed tired bowlers to all parts of the ground. He could really only play one way, though, and a number of batting failures down the order meant he was never classed as an all-rounder in our team.   John was a valued colleague but his cricket-hating wife meant we rarely saw him for more than a few minutes after every game.

Alan Cox was also batting a little too high at 5, but he had turned himself into a capable batsman to go with his aggressive left-arm fast bowling, and was a genuine all-rounder.  When I first met him when we both played for Vassall, he was something of a rabbit and even batted below me on occasions! I remember bowling at the other end when Alan took all ten wickets against YMCA. After he took the first 7 or 8, I was praying I wouldn’t ruin everything.  Thankfully I didn’t, but it was fairly unusual for me to bowl for so long and be wicketless,

After Alan was where the problem began, with me due in at 6, followed by a succession of occasional players with limited or no ability at all in batting, bowling, and in some cases, fielding.  They could probably all drink quite well, to be fair. I was a regular 10 or 11 with no pretensions at all about my batting, though I was occasionally capable of sticking around without necessarily scoring many runs. In fact, that same season I batted for nearly an hour for 2 not out in a league game against Westlands Belevedere, together with Gary Goodfield, to help deny our opponents victory. One of their bowlers, Jim Clinton, or maybe it was Bill, bowled 25 overs and took 4 for 18. This must have made for scintillating watching, and in fact one of the spectators had a word with me as I left the field – I didn’t quite hear what he said but I imagine it was “well batted”.

I’ve no idea why we were so light on batting for the Twyford game (our regular wicket-keeper was also missing) but five of the team who had played the previous day in a tense league win against Cleeve, were not on the team-sheet. Incidentally, I had taken 6 for 40 in that game, and then paced up and down hoping we could scrape together the 71 we needed to win against the pace of mighty Les Thatcher.   We did, but only just.

Anyway, we batted first and hoped for the best. Things went well to begin with, and Clive & Pete put on 31 before Vernon Pope, our tormentor-in-chief from the earlier game, bowled Pete. Ian Mole came in and immediately asserted his authority over Pope by hitting him for four.  Ian had rather indiscreetly told me during a night out that a cover drive for four was much better than sex as far as he was concerned. I hadn’t had much experience of the former so I was unable to comment, but I knew a good batsman when I saw one.

Ian was a bit of an enigma. He should have been a great player; he had the talent but somehow or other often lacked the drive or concentration to go with it. You could never rely on him but when things went well, he really flowed. I think he suffered from nerves a little. He talked, smoked or sniffed constantly, and moved around the crease a lot when waiting for the next delivery. The latter didn’t bother me at all, but it clearly bothered Graham Wiltshire, then the coach of Gloucestershire CCC, who threatened to nail his feet to the ground. Harsh, but fair, I suppose.

Ian talked about cricket at social events, too.  This could annoy those who weren’t quite so interested, and on one memorable occasion during a meal at a restaurant in Whiteladies Road, a mutual friend said that if he didn’t shut up he would stab him with the cutlery. I can’t recall what happened next, but I think he stopped talking for a few seconds.

Ian was also a fiercely competitive footballer, playing full-back for South Bristol Central.  He was a tough tackler, often a bit late, and on one occasion so late he was almost late for the next tackle. As the opposing winger writhed on the ground, Ian stood over him with clenched fists, “just in case.”

Talking of football, Clive was another cricketer who also played for SBC; as centre-half, centre-forward and goal-keeper, though never at the same time.  He had a fairly short fuse, and I witnessed this during a league game – I think the opponents were Lawrence Rovers. Clive was incensed after the award of an extremely harsh penalty for handball (one of our players thought the ref had stopped play to allow treatment to our prone ‘keeper, and picked up the ball). When play recommenced after the ‘keeper had recovered and they had scored, Clive scythed down the nearest player, and as soon as he’d got to his feet shouted “Now start something”!  You really wouldn’t want to start anything like that with Clive.

I digress. Sadly this was not Ian’s day. He tried to demonstrate his authority over the other bowler, Alan Mathias, with another boundary, but missed and was bowled for 4. This brought in the over-promoted John Budd and he lived up to my fears in trying to get off the mark by hitting Vernon Pope out of the ground but instead getting caught.  This should have brought Alan Cox to the wicket, but Alan being Alan, he wasn’t quite ready to go in, so I had no option but to go in myself.

I think it’s accurate to say I had never batted at no. 5 before (or since) but my hope was that Clive would score all the runs while I watched safely from the other end.  This sort of worked, for a while. However, when I found myself facing Alan Mathias, it was soon clear to him (and everybody else) that I was clueless against certain kinds of quickish bowling. If he bowled outside the off-stump I could possibly snick it to third man for a single. If it was fairly straight I would try to block it. If he bowled it short on or around leg-stump it would hit me, usually on the arm, in the side or on my shoulder.  I think I had a blind-spot around middle or middle and leg. Looking back, whenever I was dismissed early it was usually bowled playing down that kind of line and missing – or at least the line I thought the ball was taking.

At any rate I could neither hit nor avoid short balls from Mathias. At the end of each over, Clive would meet me for a mid-pitch conference and give me a coaching lesson. He was right-handed and I was left, but I got the gist. After he had demonstrated the art perfectly during another over from a new bowler from which he took 18 runs, I resolved to give it a go next time.  A blow in the chest later, from a missed attempted pull, of which I tried to make light (though it did hurt a bit); I decided I was better off getting hit on the arm.  I was also conscious of a few barely suppressed sniggers from the close fielders – and possibly from Clive himself.

Mathias was getting frustrated because try as he might, and as hopeless as I was, he couldn’t get me out. He became quite cross when I snicked a boundary through the slips, and eventually came off. We had increased the score to 71 when Clive was most unexpectedly lbw to Pope, trying his prolific pull shot and missing. He had made 43 and any hope of a decent total had surely gone.  In came Alan Cox, who had taken advantage of the extra half-an-hour, and now had his gloves and pads on.

After Mathias came off, I thought my problems were over, but I had reckoned without Vernon Pope.  Slower he might have been but I had just as much difficulty playing him. I mistimed virtually every shot I played against him, but somehow stayed in. I’d heard it said that if you batted long enough eventually you could see the ball “like a football,” but this never happened to me.

To cut an already long story a little shorter, Alan and I batted for almost the rest of the afternoon. Alan, who characteristically went back to nearly everything, and cut or pulled, scored in mostly singles and boundaries, and by the time he was out for 34, just before tea, we had more than doubled the score to 150.

I was out in the last over before tea, also for 34, by some way the highest score I’d ever made, then, or since.  I was caught at cover when I mistimed a Pope full-toss – this summed up my entire innings rather well. Still, we finished with 156-7 and were in with a chance.  Pope had taken 5-35 to go with his 7-20 against us earlier!  I had batted for getting on for 2 hours while 120 runs were scored. An almost unbelievable situation for me, and I’m glad I still have the scorebook to prove it happened.

We knew that John Jones would be a threat after his century against us earlier, and Ian had told us that Dave Chard, with whom he worked, was another accomplished batsman who could be dangerous.  Normally I opened the bowling with either John Budd or Alan Cox (who were both left-handed) at the other end, but on this occasion Clive decided to open with John and Ian.  This looked a good move when Ian had Jones caught for only 15, but he and John were unusually expensive, and the other opener, Mathias and no. 3 Sperring made batting look easy.

The turning point came when the score reached 87 and Alan & I replaced Ian & John. Alan almost immediately had Sperring caught behind by Clive, and I had new batsman Pope caught for a duck – revenge tasted very sweet indeed!    This brought in “dangerous” Dave Chard, and he did indeed look good for a while, until a misunderstanding saw him run out for 15.  Ian was highly delighted with this, and although in those days it wasn’t the done thing to give a batsman a “send-off”, Ian did the next best thing and accompanied Chard almost back to the pavilion, explaining where he had gone wrong in his running and calling.

The score was now 108-4 and the run-out seemed to cause a certain amount of panic amongst our opponents. First Alan cleaned-bowled Mathias for 48, then he had the next two batsmen caught for 0 and 2 respectively. 112-7 became 116 all out as I swept away the tail (one of my strengths) to finish with 4-18 from 8 overs, with Alan taking 4-23 from ten overs. Astonishingly we had won by 40 runs!!

What of the rest of our side that day who got little action in the batting and bowling stakes? Nick Walker was a friend of mine from the bank. He was keen on sport generally and played occasionally for us on Sundays but with little success. Nigel Hawkins was the young son of a former colleague of Pete Webber’s and mine at Rolls Royce. He only played a few games for us, without distinction. Our no. 9 was Emmett. I don’t know his first name but it certainly wasn’t George!  I think he might have been a slow bowler, but, again, rarely played.

Nos. 10 and 11 were Andy Ridler and Mike Kimber.  They were basically non-cricketers who enjoyed the social life of the team. They played in emergencies and this was clearly one.  Andy had many talents but cricket was not one of them. He was pretty good at mending TV sets and fitting burglar alarms, though, and also liked the occasional glass of beer. Mike Kimber was an accountant at Rolls Royce, who played skittles with some of us. I *think* he later became an umpire, along with Dave Glover, another non-cricketer from Rolls Royce, who sometimes played for us.  I can always remember a game in which Dave played when a catch was hit in his direction off the bowling of John Budd. “Oh no!” shouted John, as he realised who was attempting the catch. His fears were justified; sadly, Dave was a good man but no cricketer.

These occasional cricketers fielded well as anybody on this occasion, and helped achieve a famous victory against all the odds. The only disappointing part from my point of view was that I was working in Bath in an office where the other employees had not the slightest interest in sport of any kind – so I had no one to bore with the story on Monday. Forty years later I trust I’m making up for it.

I’ve not seen any of my colleagues that day for many years. Clive sadly died far too early from a heart-attack – I think probably still in his forties. The aforementioned Dave Alford played a couple of games for us later that season, and I was very sorry to hear that he also died at a young age.

I’m still in touch with Pete Webber, also an excellent SBC footballer, via Facebook, etc., but that’s about it. Ian emigrated to South Africa; John Budd was a teacher at Filton High for many years but will have now retired. Alan Cox became a prison officer at Erlestoke, Wiltshire, I believe, and Nick Walker was working in America when I briefly met him about 20 years ago.

I’ve included the scorecard as an illustration to accompany my story but also just in case anybody doesn’t believe it!

Twyford1Twyford2

 

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The forgotten musicians of the 50s & 60s

When the EU decided to increase the term of music copyright from 50 to 70 years, the news was hailed by such as Sir Cliff Richard, major record companies and much of the music industry.

Much was made of the new opportunities this would give session musicians to benefit financially from the recordings on which they played back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, etc..  After the first 50 year term of copyright in a sound recording, the record company concerned will be required to set aside 20% of the revenue received by it from the exploitation of the recording for payment to these session musicians. This would be in addition to the royalties they already receive from airplay on radio & TV, etc..

However, since virtually no written records exist from this period, no thought appears to have been given as to how these musicians will be able to list these vintage recordings and then prove they were on the sessions in question.

One of the most famous pieces of film music ever written is unquestionably The James Bond Theme.  It has made a fortune for its composer, Monty Norman, and its success helped propel arranger/conductor John Barry into becoming perhaps the most successful British film music composer.

Two versions of the theme were recorded back in 1962, the first, at CTS Studios, Bayswater, was credited to The John Barry Orchestra and was used throughout the first Bond film, Dr. No, and appeared on the soundtrack album released in 1963.

The second version, recorded at Abbey Road Studios, a month later, was released as a single by Barry’s record company, Columbia, part of the EMI group.  It was credited to The John Barry Seven & Orchestra, made the top twenty, and is probably the version with which most people are familiar.

The John Barry Seven’s lead guitarist at the time was Vic Flick, and he played on both recordings. With the recent 50th anniversary of the James Bond films, he has started to receive deserved acclaim for his work on the theme, and from the mid-90s onwards has received some royalties from PPL, based on airplay of the theme.

However, what of his former colleagues in the John Barry Seven?  Until recently, at least two of them were completely unaware that they could benefit in this way, providing they could prove they were on the recordings. And even if they could provide proof, they had already lost out on several years royalties since PPL were only prepared to go back as far as 2004.

As far as they are concerned this is just the tip of the iceberg.  As members of the JB7 they played on countless sessions for John Barry, not only on instrumental records issued in the name of the group or The John Barry Orchestra, but also accompanying many other EMI artistes, with records by Adam Faith being particularly noteworthy.

It can’t be very pleasant or easy for musicians now in their 70s to prove they were on certain recordings made way back in the 60s.  As one of them said to me recently, “John Barry selected us to join The John Barry Seven because we were versatile musicians who were also great sight-readers. Why wouldn’t we have played on the records?”

In my view these talented players and doubtless many others have been let down by the various musical bodies concerned, particularly where large sums of money originally earmarked for musicians has remained undistributed. They must act now to right these wrongs, otherwise it makes a mockery of claims that the extension to the copyright term will benefit session musicians, when they can’t even get their just rewards under existing arrangements.ImageImage

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Cyclists of the World Unite

Of course some of my best friends are cyclists so it would be entirely unfair and wrong of me to tar them all with the same brush. However, this is my blog so I’m going to anyway. In fact I’ve written a little song about their selfish habits, though I should apologise to David & Jonathan (Roger Cook & Roger Greenaway) for any offence caused.

Cyclists of the world unite
You alone know wrong from right
Cyclists always act this way
Hogging pavements every day
Keep ignoring walkers’ plight
Cyclists of the world unite

All non-cyclists, hear my song
If you feel their world is wrong
Roads and pavements, nothing shared
Walkers died and no one cared
Seems that just cyclists know how
So I ask them, listen now

Cyclists of the world unite
You alone know what is right
Cyclists always think this way
Hounding walkers every day
Keep ignoring traffic lights
Cyclists of the world unite

Such a pity, such a shame
Speeding cyclists are to blame
Give them freedom give them life
They create chaos and strife
It seems that just cyclists know how
So I tell them, shape up now

Cyclists of the world unite
You never know wrong from right
Must you always act this way
Jumping red lights every day
Buses, cars and walkers say
Just get out the bloody way!

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Turn that music off!

I am a cricket fan. I first became a (junior) member of Gloucestershire County Cricket Club in 1959 and have been a life member for about 15 years. I also played cricket locally for more than thirty years.

I’m also a music fan. I like all kinds of music, though probably not heavy metal or rap. I’ve written magazine articles and even books about music.

I enjoy listening to music either at home via my CD player and occasionally on TV, or at the concert hall.

What I don’t enjoy is being forced to listen to music when attending cricket matches. I’m referring to the t20 competition, sponsored this year by Friends Life. For those who don’t know, spectators are treated to short bursts of music on virtually every occasion anything of note occurs. A four, a six, a wicket, a new bowler, a new batsman, and occasionally, an irritating trumpet solo to indicate nothing much is happening so please cheer anyway.

Why? Do spectators really need music to accompany the action? It’s almost as though some of them might not be watching so the music is to remind them to clap and cheer. I find it incredibly condescending and treats one and all as though they have a mental age of about 5 or 6.

I’ve heard it suggested that because we need to encourage more youngsters to attend cricket matches, the music will help to lure them in. Really? Are such youngsters going to ask their parents if they can return to the county ground because it’s great hearing a burst of “Heigh-Ho” played about a dozen times a night? I fancy it’s whether or not they see good and exciting cricket that will entice them back.

I’ve also heard it said that the music creates a good atmosphere. Well, I’ve attended plenty of limited-over matches which were entirely devoid of music, save some occasional singing from the crowd, and there was absolutely no problem with the atmosphere on those occasions. And that’s really my point. I do want to watch limited over cricket as part of an enthusiastic and excited crowd, but I don’t want the occasion destroyed by mindless bursts of music every few minutes.

Turn it off, please. You will find it makes absolutely no difference to crowd atmosphere or attendance – in fact, you might even find a few more turn up. As a member of Gloucestershire CCC I find it more than annoying that I am missing out on a great deal of cricket simply because my county are following the party line and inflicting this torture on everybody in the ground – there is no escape from it.

I like to think I’ve moved with the times in most respects, and certainly as regards cricket there have been many changes, all of which I’ve accepted without much question. Apart from the music. It’s gradually taking over sport, aided and abetted by the likes of BBC who seemingly cannot show highlights of any sport unless it’s accompanied by music.

Match of the Day these days is like listening to beat music accompanied by occasional bursts of football.

I’d love to know who was responsible for making this non-connection in the first place. Whoever it was, please note, music and sport don’t need to mix!!!

When the t/20 began in 2003, Jonathan Agnew wrote a piece for the Evening Standard. In it he talked about taking his step-son to a game at Leicester. The lad evidently enjoyed watching but asked Agnew “why do they keep playing that stupid music”? Clearly a wise head on very young shoulders.

It’s the dumbing-down of cricket that eight years on shows no sign of stopping and prevents otherwise loyal supporters of local county clubs like me from attending these matches.

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