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.
The video cupboard runneth over with live glimpses of the show-stopping William Tell Overture "at the gallop". Here are the latest, seen through a sea of hands, boppin' heads and "We're with you!" raving at McCormacks Ballroom in Leipzig, German, last weekend.
Synchronised m-m-m-motorbikers sporting jackets stitched with Triumph logos, picture-perfected Teddy Boys kitted out in pink and blue drapes, line-dancing chicks twirling in flowing skirts, The Rapiers jack hammering singer Vince Taylor's Brand New Cadillac until it hurts so good.
This scene just ain't gettin' more black leather rock rock rock. Small wonder the camera spends so much time surveying the dance floor instead of Dave Lawes, Brad Dallaston, John Tuck and Colin Pryce-Jones, circa 1987-1992.
Were I gadabouting the Gloucestershire countryside on 15 November, I'd bop down to the 2nd Annual Joe Meek Festival in the late producer's Newent hometown for a tribute concert with one of his original Hit Parade stars—John Leyton backed by The Rapiers.
But then—Whoa!—I'm so single-minded about my pop music. I didn't grow up on pre-Beatles BritPop; therefore, I'm continually making up for lost listening by indulging in mega classics like Johnny Remember Me and Wild Wind. Truth be told, both were blaring from my car stereo this weekend on the hills of San Francisco.
How to Book
Meekdom happens at the Newent Community School on Watery Lane. Tickets are £10 from the Newent Tourist Information Centre (01531 822468) or Newent Initiative Trust (01531 820245).
Last year's inaugural festival saw The Tornados perform, talks and exhibitions.
Another dashing superhero turns 70 this year: London's venerable biker haven the Ace Cafe.
To sonically chop 'n' channel the milestone, owners Mark and Linda Wilsmore have released Bikes 'N' Leather: Rockin' at the Ace!, a Various Artists CD comp minted with 15 tunes "all related to bikers/motorcycles... some of the best sounds on two wheels". Says label Cherry Red Records: "It’s the ultimate biker compilation, but will also appeal to Rock 'n' Rollers, Rockabillies, Psychobillies and Easy Riders everwhere."
"The Ace itself is mentioned in many songs," adds Linda. Natch The Rapiers' boss original instrumental tribute Breakfast at the Ace, recorded in 1991 for Return of The Rapiers, makes the cut. Other artists inspired by the Ton-up lifestyle include John Leyton (Lone Rider), Twinkle (Terry), Mike Sarne (Just for Kicks), Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers (My Little Sister's Got a Motorbike) and Graham Fenton (Jet Black Machine).
Wisely, it looks an all-British affair; absent (thankfully) are tired warhorses like Born to Be Wild.
Bikes 'N' Leather, offered variously from £7.99-£10, includes a special souvenir booklet documenting the Ace legacy, plus personal memories of the cafe by good guy DJ Geoff Barker, who knows a thing or two or three about British rock 'n' roll.
Continental skymen Colin, Neil, John and Nathan missed the red-carpet whirl of the Telstar film premiere Saturday night at the London Film Festival because they were stomping at the Ballroom Bash in Leipzig, Germany.
"William Tell featured in our set," says Nathan, rhetorically wondering, "Is this becoming a standard encore for us?" I say take a Gallup Poll.
Rounding out other travel particulars: "Colin ate well; Neil never went to bed, instead opting to stay out and party with '60s beat music and other sounds (Motown, Northern Soul)... Our hosts were very nice. Andy, the driver for Colin and John, explained how in the years before the Berlin Wall came down he would have been 'taken away' for his punk hairstyle."
People Take Pictures
Before all the mach schauing, the lads posed for Nathan's camera on the Leipzig Airport tarmac ("Neil's proudly showing his priority boarding pass"), in front of the minikin terminal and near an appropriately dilapidated, abandoned bunker.
Went to see The Rapiers on the spur of the moment on Saturday, 4 October, at Hoburne Cotswold, which turned out to be an upmarket trailer park (that's what you Statesiders would call it), 65 miles from my home. I went on my own as my wife Val didn't fancy the drive back late at night.
It was really a very good night, different to what the guys expected before going on at 9:30 p.m. for an hour. It was supposed to be an end of season "Rock 'n' Roll"-themed night, but it was mainly families there with young children (Colin said it was the first time they had done anything like it).
There were only a few couples dressed for the occasion, but as soon as those first droning notes of Shadoogie rang out, folk were up on the floor dancing! Colin can really gauge an audience, can't he? A splendid set of Shads numbers, Good Golly Miss Molly, Roll Over Beethoven, Buckleshoe Stomp, That'll Be the Day and Wipe Out kept the dance floor busy. Rapturous applause following the last number, FBI, meant they had to do at least one more.
P.S. It was good to have the guys to myself for the couple of hours before they went on. I was able to give Colin a DVD that I had shot at Jack's Hill Cafe in July. It wasn't particularly good—I had to squat down in the cafe aisle and film through seemingly uninterested bikers, who, by the end, were applauding with everyone else. I also took some video at Hoburne. Colin, who seems a bit jittery about filming, came up to me afterwards and said, "You won't be putting this up, will you?" I assured him that I would always let him vet anything before I let anyone else have it!
[GO: Roger, thanks for the review. And, trust me, I prefer the more accurate British English term holiday park to the decidedly less appropriate American English term trailer park, rarely the site of such formal rock 'n' roll coolness.]
Danger lurks around every chord change for Rapiers running on a tight-turn stage while doing Rossini justice. Just ask Colin Pryce-Jones, who recently admitted how close he came to calamity during the band's opening set closer, William Tell Overture, at September's Shadowmania 2008 at the Lakeside Center, Frimley Green, Surrey.
"I hadn't really looked until we did the number how close I was to the edge of the stage, and of course it's pretty dark out there where the audience is," he says. "When I turned to the left and started to do our gallop, I naturally took off at full pace—only to spot that I was in great danger of running straight off the stage and into the audience!
"I don't know how I did it, but I just managed to pull up in time without wobbling; because of course with a number like that you have to keep a firm grip on the position of the guitar and what you are doing.
You be the judge whether Colin courted fate; frankly, from the comfy safety of my office, I don't see it. However, I've sourced three (!) differing angles of his near nightmare, courtesy Shadowmania attendees Richard, Gillian and Kitty. Two are YouTube-posted, the third a Windows Media Player file.
"It was a great Saturday night again, with a bit of variety," writes Bournemouth's Barry Gillam, describing an annual Rapiers night out this weekend at Totton's Empire Hall, near Southampton, organised by tireless Rapiers enthusiasts Ann and Colin Green, now old hands at packing out their favourite venue.
From the images provided, looks like local jivers had a ball, too.
Adds Barry: "Colin played his Burns 12-string for a couple of Searchers songs, including Love Potion No. 9. For something different, they also played a Ricky Nelson number after working out the chord progression during the break."
And to send everyone home? More rock 'n' roll aerobics.
"For the third time this year (and I've seen them all), they closed with the mighty William Tell Overture. What a great number to finish on!"
Believe it or not, original Man of Steel Superman turned 70 this year. In 2009, it's original Man of Twang Jet Harris—who boasted his own faster-than-a-speeding-bullet rep as a teen—entering the Septuagenarian Club, with The Rapiers serving the musical toast.
Feting the Kingsbury, North London native who introduced the electric bass guitar to British teens, Jet's Fan Club with support from Shadows music retailer Leo’s Den is throwing a 70th Birthday Celebration Party at the Winter Gardens Ballroom, Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset on Sunday, 5 July 2009 (technically the night before Jet hits the big 7-O).
The Rapiers open the shindig with their own set then (no surprise) back Jet, no doubt already preparing cracking, whip-smart one-liners for the occasion. Besides an expected menu of Diamonds, Scarlett O'Hara, Nivram and other delicacies, your £30 includes an awfully tempting "fork buffet", notes long-time Jet fan supreme Dave Holbrook.
On-the-scenester Rob Bradford posted this rave review overnight on various '60s boards:
I was able to see [Telstar The Movie] on Friday (Press screening) and today (Cast & Crew screening). IMHO it is outstanding. Gripping from the outset—the audience is completely drawn in and the pace of the film doesn't let up. Even though the ending is inevitable—it is still shocking. Con O'Neill reprises his stage role as Joe Meek in magnificent style. In the film he is surrounded by top class actors. Every performance is tremendous—meaning that Con had to raise his game even further—if that's possible.
As a film directing debut—a wonderful effort from Nick Moran. As a work of art and for dramatic content—this is a great film. [Moran] loves his subject but he also pulls no punches in heightening the personal demons which ultimately drove Meek to destruction. The film works on many levels and the music is great.
Rapiers-wise, Messrs. Pryce-Jones and Ainsby can certainly be seen in the presentation scene. Yours truly can also be glimpsed walking across shot (Heinz brawling with homophobic teens outside 304 Holloway Road ) and right in the opening credits! Yes, I think that I should be nominated for a BAFTA for "most convincing support artist in a non-speaking role" (Man Staring Into TV Shop Window).
Meek's relatives and several former RGM artists all gave the film (especially O'Neill's portrayal ) the "thumbs up". The film goes on general release next year... A great evocation of the '60s—go and see it!
General release? Hope that includes an engagement in the Meek-starved USofA. Meanwhile, the following Telstar stills come from the BFI London Film Festival site. More here.
Since I witnessed the chilling West End production of actor Nick Moran's Telstar in July 2005 (I came out emotionally wrenched after Con O'Neil's bravura performance), I've been anticipating the big screen version of the rise and fall of '60s producer Joe Meek.
After three years, a pop eternity any decade, it debuts next week at the 52nd London Film Festival, with showings on 25 (sold out) and 28 October.
Below is an edited trailer, uploaded on YouTube. A clearer, complete version is on the Telstar site itself. Watch carefully!
Specifically, I call your attention to the suave gentleman on the far left in the screen grab below celebrating with John Leyton and The Tornados. Why, I spy Rapier Neil Ainsby. And that's reportedly Nathan J. Hulse's head behind the camera!
Stop and pause the trailer and you might make out Colin Pryce-Jones sneaking into frame behind Neil. Hoping John Tuck gets his cameo, too.