Review from Thanet author and music historian Peter Checksfield
The Covid pandemic has been tough on everyone, not least the music artists and venues. I personally hadn’t been to a concert since early 2020, when I witnessed excellent performances by Joe Brown at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre and Fairport Convention at the same city’s more intimate Gulbenkian. The annual ‘Sixties Gold’ tour was originally scheduled for late 2020, but was of course postponed until now.
I worked at the wonderful Winter Gardens for a few years during 2007-2011, so it is always particularly poignant to return and catch up with old friends still working there – especially as the last time I saw them was at the recent funeral of someone who had worked at the venue since 1963 (R.I.P. Jean Cuckson, you are missed).
Before the show started, the compère made a couple of announcements: both Steve Ellis (ex-lead singer of Love Affair) and Liverpool legends The Merseybeats wouldn’t be playing due to illness. Besides being consistently great live acts, I have a personal connection to them both: Steve Ellis contributed to my most recent book, ‘Top Of The Pops: The Lost Years Rediscovered 1964-1975’ and had in fact already told me he wouldn’t be on the tour, while both Steve and The Merseybeats’ Tony Crane also contributed forewords to an older book, ‘Channelling The Beat!’.
The opening act was Gerry’s Pacemakers. In 2017 I saw a wonderful show by Gerry and The Pacemakers at Margate’s Theatre Royal, followed by a less impressive performance on the ‘Sixties Gold’ tour a few months later. Now, following Gerry Marsden’s retirement and subsequent passing, and led by long-term keyboardist Tony Young, the band are carrying on his legacy. Their new singer Tee Green vaguely sounds like Gerry, though has none of his on-stage charisma (and rather annoyingly wears a guitar which remains un-played throughout). All the hits were there – ‘How Do You Do It’, ‘I Like It’, ‘Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying’, ‘I’m The One’, ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ – but by the end of their set I was itching to see a genuine ‘60s legend or three.
Gerry’s Pacemakers remained on stage to back the next three acts, the first one being Sheffield’s unique Dave Berry. Dave is a rather sprightly 80 year old, and remains in strong voice, as well as coming across engaging, likeable and witty (after the first song he said “I bet you were expecting a much older man!”). His 4-song set consisting of ‘Memphis, Tennessee’, ‘Mama’, ‘Little Things’ and ‘The Crying Game’ was far too short, but nevertheless he remained one of the evening’s absolute highlights. From the sublime to the ridiculous, next on was Mamas and Papas UK. Neither looking or sounding like the US group they were supposedly paying tribute to (though the atrocious sound during their set probably didn’t help), I certainly wasn’t the only one glancing at my watch waiting for them to finish.
Back in 2018, one of ‘Sixties Gold’’s highlights was P.J. Proby (and another legend who kindly contributed to my latest book). Looking at least a decade younger than his (then) 80 years of age, he was agile, engaging, and in remarkably strong voice, while performing a nice selection of hits and misses. This time, he sadly looked a little lost (and rather portly), and whilst his voice remains powerful, the bizarre decision to perform half a dozen hits in one long rather confused medley didn’t help matters. Hopefully he’ll return to doing full versions of his hits next time.
Closing the first half were Scotland’s finest ever group, The Marmalade. Fronted by energetic vocalist and guitarist Sandy Newman (and also featuring his son John James Newman), they are always highly entertaining, though original members such as Junior Campbell and Alan Whitehead – who both sent me amusing anecdotes for my ‘Top Of The Pops’ book – left the band decades ago. The many highlight included ‘Rainbow’, ‘Cousin Norman’, the Glam-Rock of ‘Radancer’, ‘Reflections Of My Life’ and the inevitable 1969 chart-topper ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, though due to Covid restrictions there was no band reappearance at the merchandise table afterwards (and no repeat of Sandy kissing my other half Heather’s hand, as he did 2 years earlier!).
Usually during the interval I meet and chat to various musicians, but with none of that this year there was little more to do other than a quick dash to the loo and buy ice-creams – as well as people watch, with quite a few audience members making the effort to squeeze into the stylish outfits of yesteryear.
Originally scheduled to open the 2nd half were The Merseybeats, but as a last minute replacement, Vanity Fare were brought in. Regulars on the ‘Sixties Gold’ tours, they are always excellent, and didn’t disappoint with nice versions of ‘I Live For The Sun’, ‘Early In The Morning’ and ‘Hitchin’ A Ride’.
Peter Noone left Herman’s Hermits half a century ago (and now pursues a successful solo career in the USA), but original drummer Barry Whitwam still continues with the group to this day. There is no real front-man as such, but the other band members – Tony Hancox, Geoff Foot and Jamie Thurston – do a more than reasonable job between them. Opening with ‘Sunshine Girl’, the many hits performed include ‘I’m Into Something Good’, ‘No Milk Today’, ‘A Must To Avoid’, the US chart-topper ‘Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter’, ‘My Sentimental Friend’ and ‘Wonderful World’, finishing with ‘There’s A Kind Of Hush’.
Back in 2017, the ‘Sixties Gold’ highlight for me was Brian Poole and The Tremeloes. Consisting of Brian Poole, Dave Munden and Len ‘Chip’ Hawkes, there was a real chemistry between them, and they sounded like they were having the time of their lives performing their many hits. Since then, Brian Poole has retired (though I remain in touch with him – indeed, he also contributed to my last book), and Dave Munden has passed away, but Chip Hawkes still fronts a version of the band.
However, we were in for a shock: due to health issues, he has had to pull out of the tour (as his wife Carol told me, “He did try to do the tour but was not well enough to continue!”). So, quickly flying in from a beach in Portugal that day, was his son “The one and only” Chesney Hawkes, fronting The Tremeloes for the first time in his life! A confident and charismatic performer who looks a good 20 years younger than his half century, he slotted in surprisingly well. Ably backed by a great band that includes his younger brother Jodie Hawkes on drums and early Tremeloe and former Rubette Mick Clarke on bass, tight yet fun versions of ‘Here Comes My Baby’, ‘Call Me Number One’, ‘My Little Lady’, ‘Suddenly You Love Me’ and ‘Me and My Life’ were amongst the songs performed. Finishing with a semi-acapella ‘Silence Is Golden’, they were a fine closing act to yet another memorable ‘Sixties Gold’ night.
Yep it was a good night and I was surprised at how good Chesney was
I think he surprised a lot of people (certainly me).
You certaintly surprised me Peter, did you watch others over the urinal à la George Michael, then feel the need to write about it, “a quick dash to the loo and buy ice-creams – as well as people watch” Some kinda ice cream code/slang born from 60s cottaging misbehaviour perhaps?
Each to their own of course Peter.
Sadly, the interval wasn’t quite so exciting!
I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I couldn’t believe how strong all their voices were. Chesney Hawkes was amazing as was Dave Berry. Hurry on back again.
i think its best left where it was – in the sixties !, they aint got any better with age thats for sure
I used to think a bit more like that – and missed many great acts who are no longer with us. Perhaps seeing an 80 year old Dave Berry isn’t the same as seeing a 24 year old Dave Berry was, but I’m sure glad I saw (and enjoyed!) seeing him at least once.
The Marmalade, Scotland’s finest band ? Really ? You cannot be serious ! Each to their own but I think that more recent bands than that like Simple Minds ,Big Country ,and Deacon Blue to name but 3 excellent Scots bands who blow them completely out of the water !
Plus they at least write their own hits / material unlike Marmalade who are famous for one novelty hit of a Beatles song
Also Pete , As you are so familiar with Margate Winter Gardens,,you might want to add Texas to that list of finest band out of Scotland after they’ve played Margate Winter Gardens next year .?
Each to their own of course (some may even argue that The Bay City Rollers were Scotland’s finest band, though not me!), but, love ’em or hate ’em, you’re doing Marmalade a great disservice by claiming they’re only known for a Beatles cover. ‘Reflections of My Life’, ‘Rainbow’, ‘Cousin Norman’, ‘Radancer’… they were all top 6 hits, and were all written by band members.
…and we BOTH forgot to mention the mighty Middle Of The Road!
Peter, Your argument has no credibility or can be taken seriously when YOU mention either or both Bay City Rollers or Middle of the road .( or were you just teasing me ? )
It just reflects that your taste in music is indeed ….. Middle of the road ! And not very Rock n Roll. .
Btw. The only Marmalade that I like from Scotland is what I put on my toast . Lol
Sorry but it had to be said . Lol
And just for the record Peter , you might be a signed up member of “The Marmalade “ fan club but most people who are not members will only be able to name one Marmalade hit which was a Beatles cover .and even by The Beatles high standards it was a naff song . , I say that as a huge fan of The Beatles .
I’m not particularly a fan of Rock, period. My passion is for pre-Punk Pop (50s, 60s, early 70s)… and I LOVE Middle Of The Road! Very proud to have interviewed a band member for my recent ‘Top Of The Pops’ book.
As for Scottish ROCK, you’ll be hard pushed to beat the mighty Nazareth at their peak imo.
I have to say sounds like a good night was had Peter, I used to go to all the 60s nights back in the orchard Dartford but I’m unable to get to see them anymore, I remember seeing hundreds of the acts through the 60s and 70’s live nowadays I can have a 60s night when I want just get the 45s & lps out & play them, enjoyed reading your take on the night and was going to mention the middle of the road, so many though have passed on but the songs will never die.
Chris, I saw Jerry Lee Lewis perform a great show at The Orchard back in 1985 (he even played a couple of my rather obscure requests).
Peter, Jerry Lee was very enjoyable we possibly were not far apart I was in the Lower area near to the edge as I was allowed to stand in that area due to knees always same 3 rows when going, and marmalade nothing wrong with them we all have a varied taste in music if we all liked the same one how boring that would be, soley soley middle of the road excellent and Runrig they two are a very good rock band, it is down to the listening ear.
Pete , I didn’t say that I was only into Rock music…period .My taste is much broader and eclectic .
Just look at the 3 bands that I name checked to you as more worthy of Best band from Scotland .
As for Middle of the road . Please ! They’re a terrible naff band from Opportunity Knocks .
“ And I mean this most sincerely ! “. Lol
Opportunity Knocks wasn’t exactly a background to brag about even back in the day .
You’ll be telling me next that you love Lena Zaveronni and Neil Reid !
And that “ Mother of mine “ by Neil Reid is your favourite all time song. .Lol . I’m just teasing .
I’ve previously bought your book with photos of your young lady friends posing undressed around Thanet but I most certainly won’t be buying your book which hype is to quote or reference to some naff band from the very early 70’s with songs with titles like Chirpy Chirpy cheap cheap . .Chirp
They don’t write them like that anymore …. Thank goodness for that !
Oh dear ! They really are a guilty pleasure if you profess to LOVE them .worse than liking Steps ! Lol
Now onto Nazareth . Now Peter , you’ve slightly redeemed your credibility by naming them
They. In their 70’s heyday were a good band from Scotland, “This flight tonight “ is an excellent and different cover version of a original Joni Mitchell song
I’ve a lot of time too for “ Bad,Bad boy “which preceded it which must have influenced a early version of AC/ DC .
Nazareth of course are still going but unfortunately no longer with singer Dan Mc Cafferty .
If you’ve previously bought my photography books (thank you!), then you’ll at least appreciate the visual charms of Middle Of The Road’s Sally Carr. Just Google “The Best of Middle of The Road”… ; )
Peter , I did indeed buy that book by you from Westgate Galleria
Btw. Are suggesting that I look at the “ Middle of the road “album cover in which the singer is wearing Hot Pants ?Cripes , that ages it doesn’t it ? Lol
Younger readers won’t have clue about what we’re talking about .Lol
or are you referring to something else ?
That’s the one. If she wore those on Opportunity Knocks then it is little wonder that Hughie Green’s Clapometer went up!
“The clapometer “. Yes, Very funny if one is familiar with Opportunity Knocks and The legend that was ….. Hughie Green !
“ And I mean that most sincerely folks! “.
Btw. Peter I’ve out of interest done some research on Middle of the road and was sad to see that the female singer has had some sadness and tragedy in her life including losing her son in a Bike accident and her being unable to sing the lyrics to “ Where’s your Momma gone ? “ after her mother died .
Anyway Peter , I’ve enjoyed our earlier harmless banter .
I’m off to see The Boomtown Rats on Thursday… Are they on your approved list ? Lol
They’re of Ireland’s finest bands along with Thin Lizzy ,The Cranberries and U2 , I’m sure that you would agree …
Yes, poor Sally has really had a tough time in recent years (including a brain hemorrhage and a stroke), though she’s apparently quite well and performing again. Seems like a lovely person too.
Love the banter! Life is far too serious at times.
Though I’m not a huge fan of Punk, some of the bands that came out of it (Pretenders, Jam, Blondie) were brilliant. The Boomtown Rats belong on that list too.
Incidentally, someone who sent me a funny (and very un-PC) quote was Eric Bell – Thin Lizzy guitarist who of course played on ‘Whiskey In The Jar’!
Peter : Eric Bell was a fine Guitarist with Thin Lizzy and as you’ve mentioned has left his legacy with Whiskey in a jar but I think the band came on in leaps and bounds after he left and when guitar legend Gary Moore was in the band , but my favourite Thin Lizzy lineup featured Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on guitars .
Did you know that for a short time Midge Ure of Ultravox fame was a member of Thin Lizzy ?
“ Not a lot of people know that ! “ As Michael Caine might say ! Lol
That was a great “shout out” earlier for Runrig as a great Scottish band ( certainly much better than The Marmalade “ Lol )
Unfortunately Runrig never quite hit the very big heights down here in England like other Scots bands say like Simple Minds ,maybe because for some peoples taste ( not mine ) they were a bit too Scottish for an wider English audience.
Their last live double album which I have is well worth having and reminds us how good they were as they’ve since sadly disbanded
I thoroughly agree with your review of the ’60s tour. I saw this in Wimbledon and did not even return to my seat in the second half. The main reason for attending was to see a favourite of mine P.J.Proby. When he appeared in the first part and (as you say,rushed through his songs with no banter) I knew he would not be seen again after saying “Goodnight” The programme seller confirmed this at the interval. “They only get 15 mins each on stage.” Even he was aghast at the inclusion of Mama’s and Papa’s UK. I decided to cut my losses and return home. A bitter disappointment.
Mama’s and Papa’s UK were a very strange choice (the bill often previously included bands with few or no original members, but never actual tribute acts!).