It’s a while since we’ve made the trek to London, but as this was the only show we decided to make an effort. Finding the venue wasn’t too hard and as the drive down was done in good time despite the inclement weather up North we nipped in to the hotel to dump our gear and then set off for the hall. We got there around 3.00pm so decided to park up near the entrance and see what was happening. Half the fun these days of going to shows is meeting up with other fans and we passed the time chatting and getting the layout of the place.
Round about four thirty we saw Roger and Ian Gillan arrive, and they greeted a few old friends. Ian came by to say hello and we had a quick word with Roger, who had brought his wife and two kids along to enjoy the evening (the youngest certainly has a look of him in his youth!).
Ian said his wife had gone on ahead to their villa in Portugal and he would be joining her after the show. When Ann asked him about the 2016 tour dates he knew nothing about them, but suggested this wasn’t unusual!
Inside we met up with Tim who had travelled down from Hull and Tonny who had made an even longer journey up from Plymouth. Eventually the house lights went down to reveal a brightly lit stage and after a little while Roger Glover sort of ambled on stage to pick up a sunburst Fender bass. We hadn’t expected a support act, and there seemed to be some confusion over what key their first number was in, but after they’d sorted this out the guitarist came to the mic and asked us to put our hands together for … The Madisons.
Sat in our corner we all sort of blinked, were we really seeing Roger’s first band live? They did team up about five years ago for a get-together according to Roger so despite the lack of rehearsal tonight (6/- admission guys) they romped through a couple of rock and roll standards (My Baby and Put On Your Red Dress’) with ease and the room responded with applause. Harvey Shield on drums also handled the vocals and has clearly kept in trim – he lives in America these days, and has even done some acting for US TV. Tony Barham kept the lead guitar going and seemed as amazed as we all were at what was going on. As Deep Purple historians know, The Madisons were Roger’s first semi-pro group formed while he was still at school and led on to his first professional outfit.
After two songs there was a short break, before two more singers found their way on stage, Ian Gillan and Sheila Carter. It was time for the main event, Episode Six. While Roger had known about the evening for a while, Ian only realised it was happening the day before, and so rescheduled to be able to get along. Despite this last minuteness, as they launched into I Hear Trumpets Blow he managed to sing the words without a crib sheet, helped out by Sheila. At other times he had to busk it and help on the chorus, and at the end said a few heartfelt words to both the rest of the band and the audience. Considering he’d come off the back of a long Deep Purple tour and of course the big O2 Arena show two night before, it was good of him to juggle his schedule and his appearance was appreciated by everyone.
After a version of Morning Dew based on their single interpretation Ian left the stage and Roger then did Stand By Me with his daughter Gillian, who seems a natural.
We then had chance to see a guy called Pete Reglar. Pete was in at the very start of the Lightnings, working with Sheila and the others under the name Pete Jason and Shandy. He gamely tackled one of their stage faves, That’ll Be The Day. Incredibly Pete also brought along his old note book into which he kept details of all the songs they did live, and the dates of their shows, and who sang what.
It was now time for a proper break.
The reason for the event was to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Episode Six signing their original Pye recording contract, and their first Pye recording session (the single came out early in 1966). It’s not the first time they have met up like this, some will recall photos of an earlier reunion in Kerrang, but being such an important anniversary they decided to make this a bit special, hiring a hall and proper gear. Once that was arranged, they made efforts to track down as many musicians and people connected with the band as they could.
My invite came via the Episode Six CDs we helped collate and put together almost twenty years ago, and which got played to death during the evening. I have kept in touch with Sheila ever since and offered to provide an intermission slide show, which provided a lot of amusement for the audience. It was funny to see Ian’s reaction to a couple of particularly fey shots of him wearing just an open waistcoat and beads. We’d put the show together from our archives, with Tonny also supplying some interesting new images from a fans collection he picked up not long ago.
There was even a bit of film; Tony (he was known as Tony Lander while in the band) had managed to dig out the super 8mm silent film from the old Deep Purple family tree show, and we also had the Beat Beat Beat footage courtesy of Dave Browne. Although these are familiar to some fans, many in the audience were watching them for the first time. The band’s second guitarist Graham Carter (Sheila’s brother) now lives in America and couldn’t get across, but using skype he was able to see the hall and chat with the rest of the band.
Also there and enjoying it all was the band’s second drummer, John Kerrison. Although he couldn’t take part, he was pleased to be part of the occasion and it was good to meet up with him after so many years corresponding by email.
Tonny had the bright idea of getting all the band musicians together for an impromptu photo call and Sheila rounded everyone up. It was really funny to see what was a quite laid back and relaxed event suddenly turn into a mad frenzy of cameras, iPads and mobile phones as dozens of people made sure they got a souvenir image.
We made sure to spend some time going through all the photos and memorabilia which Sheila had collated, and admiring some wall panels full of new shots she has unearthed. We did discuss the idea of a limited production book of some sort in the new year.
Amazingly Sheila had managed to dig out her original WEM Telstar electric organ which was positioned in pride of place in front of the stage. She told me years ago that it was somewhere in the back of her garage, so it was great to see it has survived. Whether it can be got back to working condition is something we’ll have to see.
Eventually, despite the excellent running buffet, our energy levels began to flag. I’d been up until midnight the previous evening trying to sort glitches in the slide show (the software crashed after two hours processing!) and our friend Tim needed to get his transport connection, so we made our farewells. The musicians were made of stronger stuff and were persuaded back up for another short set towards the end of the evening. Tonny had also stayed put and can fill us in on the close of the evening; “Harvey turned ceremony master of sorts and various permutations of the musicians ended up running through some songs like Red House, sung by Gillian, Summertime by a young Claudia, Great Balls of Fire sung by Harvey, Roger singing ‘Too Much Monkey Business’, etc. They did about another half an hour.”
We would like to say a big thanks to Sheila and Tony for inviting us, and hello to Tom Joseph and Tonny Steenhagen for braving public transport to get there. The band have decided to open their own Facebook page to mark the occasion and act as a sort of gathering place for themselves and fans. This can be found here. The idea is to add a list of tour dates and material from their archives, and a new CD collection has also been set in motion about which more anon. Once the slide show from the event has had an audio track added it will also be uploaded to view.
Some people attending did take video enabled kit and I’m sure some of this will end up on the web (if it hasn’t already!). [I apologise that this has taken me a while to post but I stayed on in London for a couple of days of meetings (about which more anon) and when I got back had to clear a very full in-tray then get my print exhibition finished and hung at a local gallery…]