The Music of Portsmouth in 1969

The old year ended and the new emerged with Gold Dust and Chalk Farm at the Grove Club, Paulsgrove. 1969 began with Tangerine Slyde splitting but they joined with former members of Speakeasy and others to form two new local acts, Rosemary and Tayles while Keith Shilcock and Phil Jones would eventually join Image. The former would enjoy considerable local popularity during 1969 and 1970. Rikki Farr's first Sunday night Blues Club at Kimbells featured Ten Years After and a live TV broadcast of Cream's farewell gig at the Albert Hall. Alvin Lee described the club as having the "best atmosphere in the country". Another British blues act Savoy Brown appeared there in the following week. Farr who ran the Apache boutique on the corner of Marmion Road, also advertised a new Saturday Progressive Club at Kimbells offering "mad movies, light shows & full stereophonic sounds". He opened with Fairport Convention for 7/6d. The week after came Keef Hartley then Terry Reid and Chicken Shack. Elsewhere, the Pretty Things, the Alan Bown! and local groups Concrete Parachute and Halcyon Order played at the Locarno.
Spinner reported "Pompey progressive favourites Heaven going to London on Tuesday to record an LP possibly for release on CBS...the songs are originals written mainly by bass player Brian Kemp". They did record, but this is not the material that was eventually released on CBS (1970) as Brass Rock. The term 'progressive' was now more common than 'west coast' although the music still owed more to the experimental spirit of late 1960s psychedelia than to what became known in the next decade as 'Prog'. Jon Isherwood released a single "Old Time Movies" and "Apple Pie" on Parlophone. It was a light pop item and sold very few copies but in the early 1970s he received a royalty cheque for a tiny amount, which was worth more because George Harrison had signed it for the production company! Free, Blonde on Blonde, Glass Menagerie and DJ John Peel appeared at the South Parade Pier. In this lively start to the year, Spinner observed that Terry Reid was "well received" despite a "low attendance" at Kimbells, adding "Portsmouth could well be witnessing the death throes of progressive beat". Parlour promoter Linn Harris suggested the scene was "played out", suggesting "many progressive outfits are brilliant instrumentally but the youngsters cannot dance to them".
The stylistic difference at Rikki Farr's Kimbells between 'progressive' Saturdays and 'blue' Sundays was not always obvious with Keef Hartley on a Saturday and the less bluesy Pete Bardens with his new band Village at the Blues Club. St Margaret's Youth Club presented Heaven and the first appearance of Rosemary (5/-). Spinner reported that Rosemary were "very well received" on opening dates but the Saturday progressive nights at Kimbells were abandoned although "the Blues club (was) still doing well" and Blodwyn Pig led by former Jethro Tull guitarist Mick Abrahams "went down a storm". EXP were renamed In Grandma's Absence, planning to play "driving progressive music" while the locally popular Inspiration were "reforming" under new name Wanted. They retained their saxophone-led sound but moved from soul towards the influence of Blood, Sweat & Tears and Electric Flag.
Despite the pessimistic stories, Amen Corner drew a crowd of over 2000 to the Locarno. Spinner predicted that summer of 1969 would "start with a bang with the arrival of the Mothers of Invention" adding "with the closure of the Middle Earth, London, it looks like the entire light show is shifting to Pompey". It did not happen but Portsmouth had its own good lightshows. In late February, South Parade Pier featured the return of the Gun, with the Deviants and Canadian blues band McKenna Mendleson. Rosemary played the Oasis and there were also nine days of the Student Rag Week including 'Stweek' gigs every day in a disused Guildhall Square shop featuring Portsmouth groups.
Some local bands were affected by problems. Mushroom's singer Colin Carter was "injured" at a gig in Midhurst and they cancelled three gigs before continuing temporarily as a four-piece. Vandals damaged Lace's gear at a cost of £75 but the group released their second single "I'm a Gambler". State Penitentiary split and former members recruited "progressive" drummer Paul Sevier to form Riverside. Cabaret at the Tricorn included Spanish trio Los Zafiros with the Mel Douglas Set for dinner and dancing. John Mayall came to the Guildhall. In North End, the Oasis seemed to have as many different names as had once been the case at the Hampshire Terrace Club and Ricky's in Goldsmith Avenue. An advertisement announced 'officially' that the Parlour had "ceased to exist" and had been replaced by a club called the Yeti. It opened with the Grand Union Blues Band and Light Emporium but would not last long as the Yeti.
Free and Rosemary played Sunday together at Kimbells; on the next night Rosemary played at London's Marquee Club, then on Tuesday 25th March 1969 Apache Promotions presented Country Joe & the Fish, Eclection, DJ Jeff Dexter, and Explosive Spectrum Lights at South Parade Pier (8-12pm). The Fish line-up included Barry Melton (who taped interviews with members of the audience) but it was otherwise different from the classic line-up of the early albums. Within six months the band would play at Woodstock where Country Joe's impromptu solo performance gained most attention. This exciting week ended the following Sunday at the King's Theatre with Apache's "experimental concert" featuring Roland Kirk & Soft Machine. Rikki Farr also enjoyed a major coup with Led Zeppelin appearing at the Kimbells Sunday club.
One week later, Al Stewart, Alexis Korner, and Champion Jack Dupree offered an interesting mixture at South Parade Pier. Blues acts BB King, Fleetwood Mac, Duster Bennett and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee came to the Guildhall followed in mid-May by Jethro Tull, Ten Years After and Clouds, followed by John Mayall. Rory Gallagher and Taste appeared at Kimbells blues club. The second British blues boom had arrived, alongside the taste for experimentation and novelty.
The split of Cherry Smash surprised as their new single "Fade Away Maureen" was issued. Rosemary were "well received" at the Oasis - the Yeti being difficult to spot - Wanted made their first appearance at Gosport's Thorngate, and Virgin Circle St Nicholas's Youth Club. Heaven's LP was "taking longer than expected" but the Spark label was hoping to release a "commercial single" first. A new group, Frost, included Mick Eveleigh from the Storms who had spent time in Germany, and Stuart Ward from Soul Society. Locally, Paper were newly formed, and Wanted were described by their manager Mick Dillon as "aggressive, driving & stimulating". Bass guitarist Graham Barnes left Coconut Mushroom and was replaced by Mick McGuigan from England. On 15 May, Spinner previewed an "experimental" evening with Rosemary at the Oasis, "augmented by lights, verse and mime...musical content will comprise entirely original content". Elsewhere, there were appearances by local bands Gold Dust (Oasis), In Grandma's Absence (Thorngate and St Nicholas YC - 4/-), Heaven (Kimbells), Image and DJ Pete Cross (Tricorn Club).
Outdoor gigs were becoming more popular and in late May, Spinner announced "tentative plans for a free concert in one of Portsmouth's parks featuring Rosemary, Rivendell and others". Another big pop festival was planned for the Isle of Wight but Polydor recording band Blossom Toes played at the Oasis "to under 100 people". Spinner reported "poor audiences also for Steamhammer and Beggar's Farm" although at Kimbells' Sunday Blues Club, Liverpool Scene & Gary Farr "packed the place", and the following Sunday the Pretty Things appeared successfully. In early June, Spinner's main story was about "Concert Experiments for Beat Fans", including reports of the Mothers of Invention's two shows at the Guildhall, which "astounded everyone" despite a near-empty first house.
Kimbells Blues Club presented John Hiseman's Colosseum, and Pink Floyd appeared at the Guildhall. Spinner described their film soundtrack album More as "weird space-age" and reported that local band Dragonfly (age 14-16) were playing in the style of Pink Floyd, Dylan and the Moody Blues. Spinner had championed Love previously and the band influenced Rosemary, Heaven and Coconut Mushroom, so on the unsuccessful reissue of "Alone Again Or" he asked in his column "how could we ever let such an artistic group as Love vanish from the scene?" Unlike the early 1960s, Spinner wrote about live gigs and local bands but with the 1970s looming, the Marina Discotheque with DJ Gary Buck was attracting customers for its record shows from Friday-Sunday, 9-1 pm. The Tricorn Club featured mainly cabaret acts including local folk group Weavers Green but Kippington Lodge (including Nick Lowe & Brinsley Schwarz) played there with DJ Pete Cross, while chart act Ohio Express ("Yummy, Yummy, Yummy") were on a Beat Cruise at the end of June.
The Sunshine Inn, Farlington, offered jazz and folk, which was also to be found in Osborne Road, Southsea at the Pop Inn. On 26 June, Spinner announced "Free Pop Concerts Please Fans" with more news about plans for the Southsea event. Led Zeppelin appeared at the Guildhall with the Liverpool Scene and Blodwyn Pig and on the following day, St Margaret's Youth Club hosted a "Galactic Implosion" with Rosemary, Rivendell & Parallax Theorem attempting "to create a complete environmental light show rather than just a way of glorifying a pop group". In July, Mushroom - increasingly omitting the 'Coconut' - signed a song writing contract with Sparta Music, Heaven appeared at Manor Court Youth Club and returned to London for three days recording plus a gig at Blaises Club. The Edmundo Ros Orchestra were at the Guildhall and the Triads ("Scotland's Bachelors") on South Parade Pier.
The Woodstock Music & Arts Fair, took place in New York State over three days in mid-August 1969. Two weeks later, the Evening News carried a front-page photograph and page 5 interview with Bob Dylan for the next Isle of Wight Festival. The Festival began on 29 August at Wootton and featured Bob Dylan & the Band, the Who, Joe Cocker, Tom Paxton, Richie Havens, the Nice, Pretty Things, Family and others - including Heaven. Over following days, the newspaper carried a range of stories including a photograph and tale of a chip van burning out. A byline described "Dylan's Pilgrims in Slow Progress" as the "strange shuffling mass" returns home with photographs of John Lennon and Yoko Ono who were in the audience. Spinner declared that Dylan was "still the tops".
Rosemary invited £40 sponsorship to run the local free concert. It was not forthcoming so the bands raised the money principally through another "Galactic Implosion" at St James' Church Hall, Milton with Rosemary, Riverside, Kimberley Dawson & Florescent Fantasy Lights (4/-). The free concert took place on Southsea Common on Sunday 28 September 1969, opposite the Queen's Hotel, and featured Rosemary, Gary Farr, Riverside, Internal Combustion, In Grandma's Absence, and Steve Kray. The London edition of Rolling Stone ran a report and in the Evening News, the following day's front page reported "Skinheads run riot at Southsea Pop Concert". The police had intervened, after which the concert continued and a later story reported that Paul Sevier, Richard Thomas and others hoped to repeat the experiment with a Council spokesman saying "it was an orderly crowd (and) we would be quite happy about the holding of another concert".
In September, Internal Combustion, Wanted and Dragonfly appeared at the Oasis, while Manor Court Youth Club presented Paper. In October Spinner described Wanted at the Oasis as "impressive but could vary material more".
Pentangle returned to the Guildhall in October, while Virgin Circle played at the Marina, Goldsmith Avenue. Mushroom had returned from a northern tour where they played at the Cavern Club, they were now doing lots of "recording session work" and had a delightful story of meeting John Lennon after his Rolls Royce suffered a puncture. Colin Carter and Mick McGuigan helped him change the tyre and were invited back for coffee with Colin confessing to being "completely starstruck". They made a rare Portsmouth appearance at the Oasis in November which Spinner called "as slick as ever". At the same venue on the last day of October, Rosemary "broke the house record", while Image and DJ Pete Cross were offering soul sounds at the Tricorn Club. Perhaps the local Portsmouth scene was still alive, although there were fewer visiting acts in the clubs than a few months earlier. There was increasing mention of country music at Boarhunt, including the Tumbleweeds, Cody Nash Outfit, Phil Brady as well as the Cumberland Echoes at the Sunshine Inn, Farlington.
In early November, the Evening News changed design and the pop page became smaller. The only local item news announced "Rosemary's scheduled appearance in the Oasis Club tomorrow cancelled because of London recording commitment". They had signed with the publishers Chappells and recorded two original songs ("If" and "One Hand Clapping") for a single on the Major Minor label. In Portsmouth, they played for students at the College of Technology in Park Building. The Pack, formerly Birdcage/Brave New World, was now advertising cabaret with the Tim Lane Show, the 4 Debs, and drag act Lana.
November opened with Paper and Lace at the Tricorn Club and, a decade after their first visit, Cliff Richard & the Shadows appeared at the Guildhall with tickets from 25/- to 13/-. With Rikki Farr less active locally, students presented Alan Price, Eclection and Shy Limbs at South Parade Pier. American bluesmen Albert King and John Lee Hooker appeared at the Guildhall in November and there was an acoustic night at the King's Theatre a week later entitled "Folk Blues & Beyond", starring Al Stewart, Ralph McTell, Michael Chapman, Diz Disley, Wizz Jones & local guitarist/singer Pete Quinn. On 18 November John Mayall appeared at the Guildhall.
Local bands Time Dynasty & Dirty Pig played at the Oasis and in mid-November there was a feature on the new Simon Dupree single "The Eagle Flies Tonight" which was not a hit record. Spinner announced Heaven's LP was completed "but the company insist on releasing a commercial single first" and nothing emerged. DJ Pete Cross launched a "brighten up Portsmouth campaign" and students moved regular gigs with local bands to the Drill Hall, St Paul's Road. On 19 November they presented Coconut Mushroom, Wanted, Internal Combustion and Mirrors of the Way.
Internal Combustion and Track appeared at the Oasis and Virgin Circle and Image at the Tricorn Club. Riverside split and Pete Bugg emulated John Mayall in creating a drummer-less three-piece group, Mirkwood. The last month of the 1960s opened with the promise of "something special" at the Oasis with them and Rosemary and Spinner reported that Mirkwood were "well received" as the two bands established another "new house record". Other bands mentioned included Mushroom, Internal Combustion, Shy Limbs, Paper and Dragonfly who had "stopped playing Pink Floyd-influenced sounds".
The more experimental local bands continued playing in the city with Heaven, Rosemary and Shy Limbs appearing at the old Rock Gardens on 10 December. On the following evening, Spinner interviewed former Polytechnic student Roger Chapman - now a Promotions Manager with Middle Earth Records. He expressed an interest in local bands Mushroom and Rosemary. On 12 December, Granddad & Dragonfly appeared at the Southern Grammar School and Mushroom, now a four-piece, had just won a Southern Area "Search for a Group" contest with the Finals at London's Lyceum in January. Sadly, Heaven's LP was "still not released" and would not be and local guitarist and singer-songwriter Steve Cray was recording with Transatlantic although again nothing was released. Rosemary played at the Art College in Hyde Park Road. On Boxing Night, Wanted appeared at the Oasis.
The Tricorn Club ran record sessions including lunchtimes with DJ Pete Cross, while the resident group Mood Indigo entertained those who preferred cabaret. Before their Christmas break, students presented the Bonzos, Idle Race and Heaven at South Parade Pier. Rosemary and other rock bands were downstairs at Kimbells while upstairs the dancing was just as it might have been ten years before and it was much the same at Dorothy Whitbread's Dancing School in the city centre. The Oasis offered a quartet and insisted "collar and tie essential". Lace appeared at the Tricorn Club while Ron Bennett, his band and Bill Cole were playing the dinner dances at the Queen's Hotel.
As the year drew to a close there were a number of review features including "Spinner looks at 1969 - the Year when it all happened". He also suggested the next major impact would come from "an original big band" and published his latest poll:
Local: 1-Heaven, 2-Mushroom, 3-Wanted, 4-Rosemary, 5-Dragonfly/ Virgin Circle.
Visitors 1-Pink Floyd, 2-Family/Jethro Tull, 4-Amen Corner, 5- Bonzo Dog.

NOTE: This is an edited version of Dave Allen's research. The full version can be found at Mick Cooper's website