Now in their 29th year as rock 'n' roll crusaders for all that's way, way cool about early '60s Britannia pop, Merseybeat and Shadows-styled instrumentals, The Rapiers—"the best '60s band since the '60s"—are truly worth flying 5,000 miles to see, hear and dig.
MEET THE RAPIERS! The line-up, left to right: Colin Pryce-Jones (lead guitar, vocals), Nathan J. Hulse (bass, vocals), Neil Ainsby (rhythm guitar, vocals), John Tuck (drums). Also: Dave Lawes (rhythm guitar, vocals).
Cheeky Nathan J. Hulse couldn't resist documenting fuzzy English "in event of fire" emergency instructions from The Rapiers' Hamina, Finland hotel stay a fortnight ago, then suggesting Colin Pryce-Jones rehearse the final point.
"The gig went well, 180 people in attendance, just short of capacity," says Nathan. "We did a whole mix of material, including a tribute to [the late] Jet Harris, 36-24-36, Apache and Scarlet O'Hara, a solid 90-minute performance, no break. Colin was suffering with his voice slightly but he managed."
On the way back to England, Nathan captured snowbound Finland in a new shade of blue from the Nordic air.
Terrence Jet Harris, co-founder of The Shadows, "James Dean with a guitar", MBE, the man who wielded the first electric bass in Britain, died of cancer last week in Winchester, England. He was 71. His funeral is Thursday in Basingstoke.
I have not spoken directly to The Rapiers, who supported Jet for nigh on 25 years in live performance, including Shadowmania upon Shadowmania, but I know they honoured him at their recent weekend gigs in Finland and Norway. Rapier bassist Nathan J. Hulse also paid his own respects on his Rapiers Sound blog.
For now, it's my turn.
Something Really Important
I will miss Jet's stage wit very much, so keen, so sharp, so self-deprecating ("I spent 20 minutes combing my hair, and left the bugger at home... Diamonds was No. 1 for six weeks, not six minutes like your boy bands today...").
But most of all I will miss hearing him perform on stage, entering to the strains of The Man With the Golden Arm, like God himself whacking the strings, sending an almighty rumble straight to your insides. You knew the whole thing was something special, no matter how many times you saw him, no matter how many times you heard Diamonds or Nivram.
Thankfully, the relevant obituaries from The Guardian, Daily Mail and BBC got the man's legacy right. From the BBC: "Sir Cliff paid tribute to his former bandmate, saying: 'Jet was exactly what The Shadows and I needed—a backbone holding our sound together. Jet will always be an integral part of British rock 'n' roll history. Losing him is sad—but the great memories will stay with me. Rock on, Jet.'"
For a limited time, you can replay a fine, hour-long radio tribute by presenter and rock 'n' roll historian Geoff Barker.
Jet Appears to Me
I have to laugh at the first time Andrea and I met Jet. We were in Epsom, I think, in the late '90s. Before the show, we were waiting in the canteen to meet up with The Rapiers, when through the doors comes Jet.
"Are you Greg? I've got a message from Colin. He'll be out soon!" I was gobsmacked, I suppose. Here's Jet Harris, founder of The Shadows, musician on Apache, The Savage and Wonderful Land, one of England's original bad boys of pop, hitmaker, bassman extraordinaire, co-architect of "That Sound", simply delivering a message like nobody's business. Talk about down to earth.
As I said, I haven't talked to Colin. I simply can't imagine his sadness, his heartbreak to learn of the passing of one of his absolute lifelong idols, indeed "the living legend", as he introduced Jet so many times on stage. (Lest we forget, Jet recorded Doing the Hully Gully with the lads on their 1991 longplayer Return of the Rapiers.)
The last time I saw Jet live was at The Rapiers' 25th anniversary show at the Amersham Rock 'n' Roll Club in 2008. Here's a clip of FBI from that night, taken with my camera—apologies for the out-of-focus zoom.
I remember Jet also came to a memorial in July 2005 at the Wyllyotts Theatre in Potters Bar to honor the late Wayne Nicholls, Rapiers rhythm guitarist, tragically killed in a traffic accident in June. (At right, that's Jet rehearsing during the soundcheck with Shadow Bruce Welch, Colin Pryce-Jones and John Tuck.)
Related, I recall hearing of a conversation between Wayne and Jet from a show they did together. Jet confessed stage fright or nerves to Wayne, who calmly said, "Don't worry about a thing. I'm right behind you, Jet!" to reassure the man, just before they hit the stage. Such a lovely thought, two musicians sharing a time, a place, a moment, a friendship.
End of an Era, Beginning of a Legend.
A gentleman named Mark Lundquist posted that, upon reading of Jet's passing. I like it.
I hope Jet is at peace, free from all pain and cares. And I hope he knows how much joy he brought so many people, not just in the UK, but all over the world. I'm glad I got the chance, or should I say privilege, to experience some of that joy.
On the way to work, the morning after Jet passed, while listening to The Tall Texan in my car, under rain gray cloudy skies in San Francisco, I shed a tear in memory of the man.
Truly, one of our Shadows is missing.
Above left: Jet backstage at Shadowmania, Lakeside, Frimley Green, September 2002. Photo by Colin Wood. Above: Cliff Hall, Wayne Nicholls, John Tuck, Nathan J. Hulse, Colin Pryce-Jones, Jet. Clacton-on-Sea, England, July 2005. Photo by Steve Terrell.
Making their fourth annual pilgrimage to Northamptonshire's Jacks Hill Cafe, The Rapiers join the "celebration of Ton-up, Coffee Bar Cowboys and Rockers at this historic A5 cafe" on Sunday, 17 July 2011, supporting dawn-of-British-Pop legend Wee Willie Harris, famous purveyor of Rockin' at the 2 I's.
"Established in 1957 and set in a beautiful old school house, the [Concorde Club] boasts an excellent restaurant, wine bar and hotel. Originally set up as a jazz club it now offers a diverse entertainment programme including live music five nights a week."
The Concorde is a private members club based in Eastleigh, near Southampton, Hampshire, real Heinz Burt territory. Not a Concorde VIP? I hear buying a meal gets you in the door. But confirm by ringing 023 8065 1478. Further contact details here.
Gleaned from various sources are odds 'n' sods views of our lads going Dutch. Clockwise, from top left: 1) Channeling early Shadows record sleeve iconography, 2) Colin Pryce-Jones and Nathan J. Hulse facing up to Hank Marvin and the late John Rostill, 3) Posing with singers Jimmy Jemain and (out of stage clobber) Ricky Aron, who stepped in for Jimmy on tour, 4) Casting a spell in black and white, 5) Cast and crew celebrating Tour's End.
After two months rocking rocking Holland theatres with their sold-out Tribute to Cliff Richard & The Shadows: The Golden Years stageshow accompanied by singer Jimmy Jemain and Shadmasters guitarist Rogier van den Oven depping on rhythm, The Rapiers are finally back home for the holidays.
Good news for the Netherlands: Insiders say the show returns for an encore in 2012.
That Look: I Photoshopped this evocative college by cherry picking live snaps from Rogier's Facebook profile. Best of the bunch? Easily the '62 Stratocaster confluence close-up.
Images from The Rapiers' Dutch sojourn include a photo call backstage with production manager Yvonne Hageman, mixing and stage gear, plus a dressing room shower doubling (take your sci-fi pick) as a Star Trek transporter or Dr. Who Dalek.
Alas, being away from England for eight solid weeks precludes either Neil Ainsby or Dave Lawes from handling rhythm guitar duties.
Solution? Call a Shadmaster!
Standing capably in is Rogier van den Oever, ex-member of Pipeline '61 and currently in The Shadmasters, based conveniently in Holland. Decked out in Rapier burgundy and black finery, he's third from left between Colin Pryce-Jones and John Tuck, courtesy this snap from Nathan J. Hulse.
The monochromatic flipside of yesterday's colour parade comes from guitar tech extraordinaire Geoffrey Strachan, who, on more than one occasion, has been Johnny-on-the-Spot, saving the day before the curtain went up on The Rapiers.
"Colin Pryce-Jones asked me to send these pics of their current stage setup," he says. "I converted the originals [snapped by Nathan J. Hulse] to black and white to look like The Shadows' old stage setup."
Begging the question: Doesn't a Vox front line look retro cooler in B&W?
Geoffrey also forwarded pix of Colin's latest hardware: Vox Phantom VI and Antoria guitars, lovingly restored with the aid of Mark Alderton, Terry Hume and Roberto Brandoni. But that's another note entirely, coming soon.