Friday, 25 September 2015

Dave Berry Joins The Solid Silver 60s Tour For 2016 - Interview

Few singers or musicians can turn their hand to a new set list five years into their career, but anyone witnessing 1960s pop star Dave Berry’s performances on stage whenever he tours five decades on from his initial chart success are frequently treat to a little more than just a run through of his hits.

Famed for songs Little Things, Mama and The Crying Game, Dave features a wide range in his act including Blues material and lesser known recordings. “It gives me the opportunity to play different sets when I'm on stage,” Dave recently told Andy Howells, “its nice people notice that I'm working on my show and not singing the same old songs. I do a couple of JJ Cale songs like Cajun Moon that suit my style.”

Dave is back on tour in 2016 for The Solid Silver 60s Show and will join Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, The Merseybeats, Brian Hyland and New Amen Corner for an evening of classic hits at St David’s Hall on April 29.

The announcement of the tour coincides with a recently released triple CD set of classic 60s tracks which features all the participating tour artists as well as The Searchers, Wayne Fontana, Gerry & the Pacemakers and the late Cilla Black.

Dave’s contribution to the collection is a rendition of his debut hit Memphis Tennessee, “That came about before the time of social media through the fans response,” says Dave, “I’d been signed with Decca for 6 or 7 months and they couldn’t find a song for me. We’d done Memphis Tennessee on (BBC Radio’s) Saturday Club and it was the producer who said “We’ve had a terrific response for Dave Berry’s version of Memphis Tennessee.” Chuck Berry’s version hadn’t been released at that stage and Chuck was virtually unknown apart from within the industry so we got in touch with Decca, went in to record it and that’s how it came about.”

Dave was also famed for his theatrical stage style; something he admits was owed to the influence of American pop stars such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Gene Vincent. Dave remembers “It developed from people like that, to looking at visual things in theatre, ballet and mime, sort of like what David Bowie did after me. I worked a lot with strippers and picked up a lot of ideas from them. There was one stripper who walked on naked and got dressed during her act, I've never tried that yet!”

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Ray Laidlaw Talks About His Show The Lindisfarne Story

A rare insight into legendary Tyneside group Lindisfarne comes to Newport tonight when two time served members of the group, drummer Ray Laidlaw and vocalist Billy Mitchell tell The Lindisfarne Story.

Founder members Alan Hull, Rod Clements, Ray Jackson, Simon Cowe & Ray Laidlaw - exploded onto the UK music scene in 1970 with a string of unforgettable songs including Lady Eleanor, Meet Me on the Corner and Fog on the Tyne quickly establishing the band as the standard-bearers for acoustic-based rock.

“We’ve incorporated acoustic versions of the songs,” Ray Laidlaw tells Andy Howells of The Lindisfarne Story, “because we always wrote songs in that traditional manner. One person always came along with a guitar and played it to everyone else and that’s how it worked. It’s a two hour show, it starts from when we were young teenagers dipping our feet in the water and basically it features lots of our photographs, bits of video, the album sleeves we didn't use that sort of stuff , we tell stories from behind the scenes and people seem to love it.”

Born in Tynemouth, Ray became interested in music from an early age, “Growing up in the 50s and 60s was a good time for music, I had a couple of girl cousins who lived across the road and were obsessed with Elvis Presley.  I got into those records when I was 9 or 10, then I got into all the early rock stuff. I was a big fan of The Shadows in the early days, but it was the mechanics of it that I was interested in, the drums, the guitars and how it all fitted in. Then when I was 13, I met someone down the street who had a guitar and that was Simon Cowe who I was in the band with for 40 years, it was an attractive and exciting prospect and there was also the possibility of girls!”

The success of Lindisfarne wasn’t overnight however. “I first met Simon when I was 13 and I was 22 when we had our first hit (Meet Me on the Corner) the band formed around myself, Simon and Rod Clements. It gradually came together over a period of years.”

The band went through several styles of music before settling on their folk- rock style, which brought them to prominence with the best selling albums Fog on the Tyne and Nicely Out Of Tune. “When Fog on the Tyne came out, sales for that album went through the roof,” says Ray, “It was astronomical it was the biggest selling British album of 1972.  A bit like Thriller or Tubular Bells it was one of those records everybody had. There used to be a saying in the premiership that Newcastle United was everyone’s second favourite team. If you were into metal music Lindisfarne was everybody’s second favourite band, if you were into Glam music Lindisfarne was everyone’s second favourite band, unless of course you were one of those people who really loved us! “

The bands success also saw Lindisfarne tour America in 1972, “It was the week Fog on the Tyne went to Number One in the UK. I remember waking up in a hotel bedroom, we’d arrived late at night and it was dark in the place. There was a knock on the door and a waiter came in with breakfast. He opened the ceiling to floor curtains that filled one side of the room and we were on about the 28th floor of the Holiday Inn in San Francisco overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. I remember Rod and I saying “not bad for two Geordies having breakfast in bed and this fantastic view!”

There will be further anecdotes when Rod along with Billy Mitchell take to the stage of The Riverfront this evening, “Some of the stuff that happened to us, the adventures were just wonderful ,” says Ray, “there’s a lot of great laughs, a lot of great music and a few tears but that’s what’s life’s about.”

  • The Lindisfarne Story plays Newport Riverfront on September 25. Call Newport Riverfront on 01633 656679 for ticket details.
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells appears in The South Wales Argus supplement The Guide on September 25, 2015
  • Visit The Lindisfarne Story Official Website

Nina Jones Talks About Her Third Single - Promises

Newport based singer Nina Jones has been somewhat busy since the release of her debut single Never Let You Go back in April. As well as taking her A Levels, Nina has been busy recording new material at Caerphilly’s Shabby Road studios, Andy Howells recently caught up with Nina to discuss her new single Promises.

What have you been up to since Never Let You Go was released?
I’ve been pretty busy! Firstly I had to finish my A level exams with juggling the music stuff too. After my first single release I then released 2 songs sorta simultaneously. I released Purple Rain by Prince straight after Never Let You Go (see more info below). To coincide with that release I also put out a dance remix of the debut single Never Let You Go too. I let Darren Parry (the co-writer of the original song) take charge of finding a re-mixer for the track. It took a while to find the right people but Darren chose ‘Adventurer’, a dance producer duo who have recently re-mixed for Pixie Lott, Pendulum, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly and Young Guns. Darren Parry was executive producer on the re-mix and between them they came up with a thumping Dance/Club/Ibiza vibe that has received much interest online and has been played in Clubs; some of the Cardiff Clubs especially, which was cool! Check out Never Let You Go (Adventurer Remix) on iTunes.

Were you pleased with the response to the single?
Yes. It was my first ever proper release out to the public on iTunes, Amazon etc. and to radio, so it was a big thrill for me. I was fortunate to get BBC Radio Wales airplay, much interest from bloggers, music websites, The Argus of course, Wales Online and radio all over the UK and abroad. Local radio such as BRFM, GTFM and Radio Cardiff were especially helpful with giving me airplay and in house interviews. I have learnt so much in the last 6 months or so about how the music industry works!

Your new single Promises is out soon, can you tell us more about that?
Promises is my third single release. It will be out to buy from October 1st. It’s a fantastic contemporary Pop/R&B/Ballad song written by the talented Darren Parry again. Darren also produced the track at Shabbey Road Studios in Caerphilly, where I record all my songs. The song also features the ultra-talented Al Steele (studio owner/engineer) and was brought to life even more with the guitar licks of the great Rob Devereux. I’m very, very excited about it. It’s a song about not trusting someone anymore, being tired of their lies and promises. It’s about being strong and moving on to better things. I think a lot of people can relate to this song so I hope that radio will embrace it so that as many people as possible can hear it! You can hear the song for now on my Soundcloud.

You recently did a fantastic version of Prince's Purple Rain on YouTube, why did you choose that particular song to record?
I recorded my own version of Purple Rain by Prince as I’ve always loved the song. I saw somebody perform it on X Factor a while ago and it brought the song to my attention again. I suppose it was a brave decision to record that song as it’s so iconic and part of the public consciousness. I like a challenge though and the vast majority of feedback I have had has been very positive indeed. We had to get permission from the Publisher and get a special licence to release it in the first place! It’s had over 47,000 views on YouTube however, which I’m thrilled about and had quite a lot of airplay all over the UK on radio as well as mentions in various blogs, music websites and journals. Some of the YouTube comments blew me away with their positivity; with some even saying it’s their favourite ever version of the song… which was very flattering!

Are you working on more material at the moment?
Always working on some new stuff. Just finished the new single Promises of course just 2 weeks ago and Darren Parry has some more songs up his sleeve for me to record soon! So watch this space.

Are there more live dates scheduled?
Yes indeed. The summer has been busy with gigs at The Celtic Manor, Merthyr Redhouse, Caldicot Castle (Dubs At The Castle) etc. I also just did two live appearances on TV up near Birmingham too for ‘Big Centre TV’ which was fun where I performed Never Let You Go and my own version of I Can’t Make You Love Me by the wonderful Bonnie Raitt. Check out my Facebook page for up to date info on live performances by me, as a solo act, and with me and our fantastic 9 piece band…’Sounds Familiar’.

Are there any current albums or singles you’re particularly enjoying at the moment?
Basically anything that Sam Smith puts out

To find out more about Nina Jones check out the following links:
A version of Andy Howells' Q&A with Nina Jones appeared in The South Wales Argus' entertainment supplement The Guide on September 18, 2015.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

In Concert: An Intimate Evening With Art Garfunkel, St David's Hall, Cardiff

“I wasn’t always this way,” joked Art Garfunkel as he took to the stage of St David’s Hall on Thursday evening, but the singing legend who suffered a severe voice paralysis attack four years ago, boldly promised his audience “The heart is still young, but the voice is back!”

Accompanied by guitarist Tad Lavin, the pair presented an intimate two hour show featuring a large selection of classics from the Simon & Garfunkel back catalogue as well as some of Garfunkel’s own solo material embellished with original poetry and anecdotes from his forthcoming autobiography.

Garfunkel’s voice might have seemed vulnerable in places but this improved with rapid speed after the first few numbers as he responded to the warmth and encouragement the Cardiff audience were giving him.

Highlights included the Paul Simon composition The Side of the Hill, a song that was later reworked by Garfunkel to accompany the vocal refrain for Scarborough Fair of which he also performed commenting “It’s taken me all my life to figure out what the words of Scarborough Fair mean. I think it’s about loss.”

The second half saw Garfunkel pay homage to his idols The Everly Brothers and was joined on stage by his son Art Jr to give a harmonious performance of Devoted to You before Art Jr captivated the audience with a solo rendition of Charles Chaplin’s Smile.

Following a beautiful performance of For Emily Wherever I May Find Her, there was an encore described by Garfunkel as “a workshop” which featured a poignant rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water. Indeed, Garfunkel had overcome a few hurdles on his journey back to live performances, as this show proved, he’s come a along way and still gives joy to many generations, long may that continue!

  • A version of this review by Andy Howells was also published in The South Wales Argus

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Tribute To Gene Pitney Will Play Cardiff - Tommy Carey Interview

Tommy Carey will be paying tribute to the late Gene Pitney at St David’s Hall this week with an evening of memorable hits including Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart and Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa.

As one of Ireland's top cabaret performers during the 1970s and 80s, Tommy regularly sang to packed houses across the greater Dublin area, drawing huge crowds of fans with his Music of Gene Pitney show.

“I started at about the age of 17 or 18 entering talent competitions in Dublin,” Tommy tells Andy Howells, “I was singing songs like The Bee Gees' I Started a Joke and kept getting to the finals of every competition. People kept coming back to me saying “Do you know who you sound like? – Gene Pitney!” So, I thought I’d better look into this and the song I latched onto was Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa and it all started from there!

Tommy’s successful impersonation of the 1960s star allowed him to play summer seasons in Spanish hotels and his show was the biggest draw in Ireland's booming Cabaret circuit. In 1980 Tommy's career peaked, when at the ill-fated Stardust Club he drew 1200 people to his most successful Pitney Celebration. “I was keeping his name going in-between concerts,” says Tommy, whose shows plugged gaps between Pitney’s own performances in Ireland during the 70s and 80s.

Ultimately Tommy and Gene’s paths eventually crossed when a shrewd club owner got the pair to share a car one evening on the way to a venue when Gene visited Dublin for a show.

Tommy Carey (Right) with
Gene Pitney in the 1980s
“We spoke for thirty minutes about the Gene Pitney songs I did in my show,” recalls Tommy, “I was singing songs he didn't have in his programme at the time. He said “Listen we’re going to have to rethink this!” Backstage was one of the biggest songs he ever recorded but he didn't think the Irish were into that particular song, yet that was the most requested song in my programme. He wrote me an autograph which I still treasure “To Tommy, keep singing those songs, they’ll do you good I hope, Gene Pitney.” It’s my most treasured possession!”

Following Tommy’s enormous success with his Gene Pitney shows in the early 1980s, he didn't perform any of the legends songs for three decades. He returned to the format last year for a special sell out show in Dublin’s Great Hall, “We sold every seat in the theatre. I discovered all those people over the years who were loyal Gene Pitney fans had identified what I was doing with his stuff and came back to see the show!”

Pitney himself died almost ten years ago at the age of 66, shortly after giving a performance at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall. Tommy will bring to life the legends music at the same venue once again this week as he performs 27 Pitney greats along with a big band and singers. “It’ll be very emotional” says Tommy of the Cardiff show “not only did he do my career good, but it does help if your singing songs of someone you’ve idolised for most of your life. I loved what he did with the songs and the way that he delivered them.”

  • Catch Tommy Carey performing the songs of Gene Pitney in 24 Hours from Tulsa – The Gene Pitney Story at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall on September 16. Visit for booking details.
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells  was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on September 11, 2015.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Meet John Otway

Singer/Songwriter John Otway has built a sizeable cult audience through extensive touring, a surreal sense of humour and a self-deprecating underdog persona. Followers of what he himself terms as “Rock and Roll's Greatest Failure” will get a chance to catch the man himself live when he plays Newport’s Le Pub as part of the John Otway Goes West tour on September 18. Andy Howells recently put questions to the man himself.

How did start your career?
Depending on how you would interpret the word "start" , it could be...
A nine year old Otway singing Lonnie Donegan songs in the school playground and, because of the sheer quantity of ridicule it attracted, I became stage-struck and never ever wanted to do anything else, or...
a fourteen year old Otway who discovered that a large audience of 100 would gather by the school gates to watch me down a complete bottle of ink in one, or...
Pete Townshend liking a single I had made with Wild Willy Barrett and producing some tracks that went on our first album, but probably...
It was an appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1977 when a daring leap on to Wild Willy’s guitar amplifier had me landing painfully on the most delicate parts of my anatomy live in front of 5.5 million TV viewers. As a result the single we had out, Cor Baby That’s Really Free shot straight in to the charts and I was a pop star overnight.

What’s been your best live experience?
There have been so many I’ve now done over 4,000 gigs and with very few exceptions really enjoyed them all - It’s been a wonderful way to make a living. If I had to pick one I think it would be Aylesbury Market Square in 1978. The Police sealed off the town Centre for traffic and 10,000 locals turned up for my homecoming gig after the hit and it was filmed for TV - It was everything I’d dreamt of for years. Of course it all went completely pear shaped after that, but that day was wonderful. If I had to pick another live experience headlining The Royal Albert Hall in 1998 wasn’t bad either.

What are you working on at the moment?
A Christmas TV advert to plug the crowd funding of the first new Otway album in a decade. - I’m busy designing an “Otway Advent Calendar” so the fans can have a chocolate with my head on it for the 24 days leading up to its transmission.

Tell us about your forthcoming appearance at Le Pub - what can people expect?
Two Hits - a few years ago they would have only one Hit to expect, but for my 50th birthday my fans ran a campaign and got me a Top Ten Hit Bunsen Burner and I was back on Top of The Pops - So the show is now twice as good.

Where can people hear your music?
Q Magazine once said “He’ll never make a record as good as his live show” which is possibly true, and if so then coming to one of the gigs to hear it is best. - All the albums are on Amazon and iTunes and there’s a lot of stuff on YouTube from over the years. Also, Rock and Roll’s Greatest Failure - Otway the Movie has done very well for something Otway. It was voted 2nd best movie of 2013 by The Guardian readers and had a 50 cinema theatre run - that’s now out on DVD and iTunes
  • Visit for further details on the tour and John’s music.
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide during September 2015.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

DVD Review: Angels One Five (U)

Restored to its crisp former glory to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Angels One Five is a documentary style drama which sees Jack Hawkins in the role of Squadron Leader Tiger Small who grounds volunteer reservist TB Septic Baird (John Gregson) to an operation centre after he crashes his Hurricane on the RAF centre runway in order to avoid a collision with another aircraft.

The film itself not only follows the tough decisions made by Small in the lead up to what would ultimately become 1940’s Battle of Britain, but also the struggle for Baird to get airborne as a pilot and do front line battle for his country.

There are many fabulous scenes in this film, from the air attack alert sequences to the bombing of the airbase, all acted out with painstaking precision. The fact that many of the featured events are based on director George More’s own WWII experiences evidently lends itself to the realism of the feature.

The DVD also includes image restoration comparisons, the original film trailer and a background into the events of The Battle Of Britain.

A timely commemoration of perhaps Britain’s greatest historical triumph in modern history and one of the best classic war movies of the 1950s, Angels One Five deserves a revisit for anyone with an interest in WWII or indeed the classic British movie genre.

  • Angels One Five is available from Studio Canal on DVD and BluRay now.
  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in the South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on September 4, 2015

Saturday, 5 September 2015

DVD Review: She's Funny That Way (12)

A million miles from rom-com, Peter Bogdanovich' famed for movies The Last Picture Show and What’s Up Doc makes his directional return with She’s Funny That Way, a film that hails a welcome comeback for a long-lost film genre.

Imogen Poots features as young Hollywood starlet, Isabella recalling how the actions of charming Broadway director, Arnold (Owen Wilson) have changed her life forever. The former escort reminisces to a reporter (Illeana Douglas) about her rags to riches fairy tale - a chain of events affecting the lives of everyone involved, including Arnold’s wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn), leading man Seth (Rhys Ifans), playwright Joshua (Will Forte) and even Isabella’s therapist, Jane (Jennifer Aniston).

The film maintains all the characteristics and fun of the farcical screwball features of the 1930s and 40s, transforming it into a modern day Hollywood farce. Owen Wilson is brilliant as a film director with a a mixed up private life, while Kathryn Hahn turns out a magnificent performance as his wife who goes from been wonderfully loyal to insanely jealous at rapid speed.

Imogen Poots gives an endearing comic performance as Isabella the former escort - come actress, who unwittingly becomes the centre of the ensemble characters attentions. There are also hilarious performances from Wales own Rhys Ifans as a womanising stage heart-throb and Friends actress Jennifer Aniston side-stepping her usual rom-com roles to play an unsympathetic and slightly unhinged therapist.

Some of the films finest comic moments also belong to Austin Pendleton as a Judge infatuated with Poots’ Isabella and George Morfogen the veteran PI whom Judge hires to spy on her. Look out particularly for a very funny restaurant scene involving much of the ensemble cast.

There are also a fun collection of cameo appearances from Joanna Lumley to Quentin Tarantino, all giving an indication that She’s Funny that Way was just as much fun to make as it is to watch.

She’s Funny That Way is available on DVD and Blu-Ray formats now.

  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on September 4, 2015

Meet The Band: Sweet Billy Pilgrim

Sweet Billy Pilgrim are currently on a UK tour following the release of their fourth album - the critically acclaimed masterpiece Motorcade Amnesiacs.

The new album sees the band stepping away from their previous electronic / acoustic experimentalism into a thriving accessible record.  Not ones to respect musical boundaries, the band have thrown every ounce of their belief and passion into the creative process resulting in the genre spanning excellence of  Motorcade Amnesiacs.

Front man Tim Elsenburg’s unique musical worldview has resulted in yet another masterpiece; an album of adventurously inspired melodies, intertwining riffs and eclectic rhythms, heavenly harmonies and thought-provoking lyrics.

Andy Howells chats to Jana Carpenter of the band

You've been together ten years as a band, how do you think you've progressed in that time?
It’s been a process of opening up, in many ways. We’ve learned to communicate better, and the songs have opened up sonically and lyrically as a result. We love the first two records, but they were the sound of a band always looking inwards, and shows were difficult because we just wanted to get the notes and the sounds right. Then Jana joined, and through her background in acting and improvising, showed us how to tell stories; how to look outwards and invite people in. Yes, the notes and words are important, but now we share them, where - in the early days at least - we might have just performed them.

Can you tell us more about how your new album Motorcade Amnesiacs came about?
There was a time, following the release of Crown and Treaty, when we were in a kind of no-man’s land, and there was a strong temptation to give in to cynicism and call it quits. We soon realised, however, that we weren't going to stop writing songs, and in fact, that process had already begun, almost without us realising it. But the writing was fuelled by an altered intention: the songs were written to be played live. And once we acknowledged that, the joy of it carried us through the rest of the process.

What was the inspiration behind your new single Just Above Midtown?
It began as a challenge to write something fun. And as it unfolded, it kind of became about how it feels to do a thing you love with people you love.

Do you get inspired by other artists and are there any particular favourites you are enjoying at the moment?
Oh yes, although we try to avoid listening to anything vaguely similar during the writing process, for fear of subliminal imprinting! Tim mostly listened to hip hop and angry metal throughout. But more recently we have been enjoying the new albums by Everything Everything, Field Music and Thumpermonkey.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Cardiff show?
Hopefully, a beautiful noise interspersed with soppy sentimentalism and plenty of dicking about.

  • Catch Sweet Billy Pilgrim at Clwb Ifor Bach on September 5. Visit for further news on the band.
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells, appeared in the South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on September 4, 2015