Southend Rock. Spring 1970.
After a brief spell in New York I return to the U.K.I land the job as house drummer at the Park Lane Hylton under Mike Mortimer, lets just say that residencies don’t blow my skirt up, so pretty soon I’m on the move. A new band is coming together in Southend, It’s a revamp of sixties band Champaigne. They’re about to lose their drummer Gil Levison, later of Squeeze now of Jools Holland. I’m offered the gig and embark on my most intense period of recording/rehearsaing to date. Together with Tony Boynes, Hammond organ, Bob Heath,guitar and Spud Murphy, bass, we created an incredibly tight four part harmony rock band, later to beI re-launched as Forum.
Local singer|songwriter Chris East is brought on board to provide original material. The songs were fine but record companies were’nt impressed, so we hit the Southend residency circuit in a bid to keep eating. I guess you could say we really haunted the Esplanade in those days,with stints at the Criterion pub, Alpha 2 nightclub and Southend Pier. The Pier gig must have had a jinx on it, because during our residencies there, it burnt down, twice. It also turned out to be my swan song, the band fired me without reason or notice. Obviously, I was a bit miffed, but Tony Moynes searched me out a few days later and apologised, but gave no reason why I’d been fired.
Just around that time,another Southend band, Legend were about to lose their drummer,Bill Fyfield to T-Rex,so, I was about to meet the one true curmudgeon of Rock, Legends front man,Micky Jupp. Right from the go, I don’t think Micky was duly enamoured with me or my playing, I did however hit it off with guitarist Mo Witham, so I got the gig. Legend were essentially a blues band with a penchant for Chuck Berry flavoured material, and as such, did’nt provide me with much opportunity to break out of the “Shuffle” patterns vital to that kind of blues music, so I tried to impose a funkier, more open feel to the shows. Problem, Mo Witham and the bass player loved it, Micky hated it. This prompted him to say to Mo”I don’t know what it is that Barney’s playing, but it aint rock and roll”..
We did however, reach a compromise and our first gig at the Marquee club went down a storm. Legends manager, David Knight also ran the affairs of Procul Harum and Doctor Feelgood and on many gig’s, the Feelgoods would act as support band for Legend, after they had finished their set, the roadies would clear their equipment and install ours. It was during the changeovers that that I noticed a rather strange character on stage, a somewhat grubby, bedraggled figure, dirty raincoat,cloth cap and a battered suitcase, a conjurer comic who would produce something in a blues audience I had’nt heard before, hysterical laughter, it transpires that I was watching an icon in the making, it was Ian Dury in his transient period from performing artiste to rock star.
Around that time I had meeting with manager David Knight, who told that Micky Jupp had been approached by non other than Ry Cooder, on offer was a writing deal that involved Micky going to L.A. To write exclusively for Cooders next album. Both management and record company execs were aghast when Micky turned the deal down, saying that all he wanted to do was to hang with Legend, wear a gold lame suit and live without interruption in Southend. Needless to say, he got his wish, surely a dreadful career move given that not long after this Legend were involved in a head-on collision, which by some miracle nobody was hurt, so we proceeded on to the gig at a London club, which failed to provide us with a single audience member, I’ve never been in a band that actually broke up on stage, but we did that night. A Legend is dead….The choking irony hear is that Southend became the source of some truly great acts, Kursaal Flyers, Doctor Feelgood etc.However, I’ve heard recently, that Micky and co.re-unite often to keep the Legend alive.