THE EIGHTH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL ROCK INSTRUMENTAL CONVENTION
Taking instrumentals into the 21st century!
by George Geddes
The first Pipeline Instrumental Convention of the 21st Century, and the eighth to be held. I have been fortunate to be at six out of those eight, but I looked forward to this one with a mixture of nostalgia, anticipation and curiousity. Nostalgia because I had fond memories of seeing The Falcons open the third Convention in 1995 which was the first I had been able to attend. Anticipation because I had missed seeing The Rapiers and The Hunters in 1994. Curiosity because The Centurions promised something a little different from the guitar and keyboards based bands which have tended to dominate Convention bills.
Although the basic format of the Convention has remained the same over the eight years, there have been some changes. Introduced in 1995, the informal Saturday night get-together in the bar of the International Students House is a good chance for those staying or living near London to have a chat over a glass of lemonade. Two years ago a couple of guitars and a Vox amp appeared. Last year Pipeline house band The Secrets played two sets, with guest appearances. This year the venue had shifted downstairs to the Portland Room, which had the advantage of offering more space for band and listeners but the disadvantage of being further from the refreshments! A good crowd saw The Secrets once again work their way through a variety of instrumentals including a couple of originals. The band were noticably tighter than last year, and their eclectic repertoire meant that there was some thing for everyone. And they didn’t invite everyone to sing along with Spanish Eyes!!
The interval spot attracted guests from as far apart as Brazil (Eliano D’Antoni), Scotland (George Geddes and Ken Irving) and Essex (Ross Edwards), not to mention probably the most expensive guitar of the weekend, Ross’s gorgeous blue PRS. Yes, I did say Brazil by the way. Sergio Haussmann do Nascimento and his party were this year’s furthest travelled Convention attendees.
The Secrets: Pipeline / For Your Love / Ginchy / Time Is Tight / Saturday Nite At The Duckpond / FBI / Tequila / Telstar / Rise And Fall Of Flingel Bunt / Scarlett O’Hara / Spanish Eyes / Tales Of A Raggy Tramline // Hit And Miss / Bird Rockers / Spy Society / Peter Gunn / El Cumbanchero / Man From Uncle / Saturday’s Child / Custer’s Last Stand / Secret Agent Man / The Chase / Because They’re Young / Theme One
Sunday afternoon kicked off with the Duane Eddy Convention, but once again no sighting of their main man. The Twang Gang rounded off that part of the day with their customary polished run through examples of Duane’s repertoire, then it was time for the Pipeliners to take centre stage. Running in parallel with the Duanefest, though, was the Guitar Room set up in the afore-mentioned Portland Room. Tony Hoffman was the man in charge this year, and as well as stalls selling echoboxes and other bits and pieces, there was plenty of live music. Joey Dee acted as Master of Ceremonies as well as wielding a mean Strat himself, a fact borne out by his CD. Well known faces taking part included David Martin, Dave Buckley, Nick Kellie, Zoe McCulloch and Richard Langstone who also had his new CD on sale. Martin and Hoss from Holland were persuaded on to the stage, but who let that other pair from Glasgow play Ventures stuff amidst all the Shadows numbers?! it was a busy afternoon, putting everyone in the mood for the main event.
The usual selection of stalls lined the walls of the theatre, with vinyl and CDs, sheet music and such like to tempt the purchaser. The familiar face of Davy Peckett was missing this year, but it was good to welcome Pat and John from Leo’s Den with their selection of Cliff and Shadows related merchandise.
The lights dimmed and it was down to the serious business. Opening the proceedings was a band with a new title, The Centurions, but one with some well-known names. I might be wrong, but I suspect that when Dave Gibbons and Martin Waller from the Twang Gang joined The Scorpions on stage on trumpet and sax at the Convention a couple of years ago, a little light bulb flashed above Mike O’Neill’s head. With Mike behind the keyboards, Dave on trumpet and guitar, and Martin on sax, they were joined on stage by Pete Godding (also on sax), Vic Cross on bass and Scorpions Ivor Knight (drums) and John Barber (guitar). They treated us to a short set of instrumentals which mingled Mancini and Mongo Santamaria with Justis and Markeys. The audience took to the big brassy sound and the set seemed all too short.
However, all was not as it seemed. As the curtains closed, Alan Taylor promised the audience a little surprise. While we were waiting, we were treated to a sneak preview of two tracks from the forthcoming Ventures album Acoustic Rock: The Rise And Fall Of Flingel Bunt and Man Of Mystery. Alan did hint that the surprise had a Roman connection, and sure enough the curtains re-opened to reveal Mike with Dave, Vic and Ivor in full Roman regalia as Nero & The Gladiators.
The Centurions: The Monkey Farm / Yeh Yeh / Raunchy / Beatnik / Last Night
Nero & The Gladiators: Trek To Rome / Bleak House / Czardas / Tovarich / Hall Of The Mountain King / Light Cavalry / Hoots Mon / Entry Of The Gladiators / Boots
With Dave on guitar, the quartet provided a selection from the Nero & The Gladiators repertoire, before the rest of The Centurions returned to close this first part of the show with another choice batch of brass-led numbers. Most enjoyable indeed.
It is perhaps wrong to single out any one musician from all the bands that Sunday, but if the Convention had had a Man of the Match award, Dave Gibbons would have been a strong contender. Having been a stalwart of the Twang Gang with Martin and Mike, he played both splendid trumpet and guitar in the Centurions set.
A break in the proceedings allowed legs to be stretched, glasses to be refilled, CDs to be browsed and friends to be greeted. Apparently, too, the Guitar Room was still in business. Back on stage, The Falcons were ready to supply their brand of music. This provided a link to my first Convention, although only Mike Beddoes of that 1995 line-up was on stage. Andre and Gary were now responsible for drums and rhythm guitar and, in the absence of Gord Kearney, none other than Bill Bonney of The Fentones stood in on bass. Again this was a reminder of that earlier Convention, as The Fentones had been on the same bill – and with Mike Beddoes filling in on rhythm guitar. With a new CD just about to be released, it was no surprise that several tracks were featured. Equally, at a Pipeline Convention it is expected that groups acknowledge their roots so the Falcons gave us their version of Apache.
With Bill on stage, The Fentones’ Mexican was also featured, but once again with The Falcons trademark sound and style. Gary was featured on lead guitar on Jokers Wild, and Andre paid homage to one ofhis influences in a drum feature Half Nelson. This is an instrumental group which remains aware of tradition but has a style and sound of its own, showcasing the guitar skills of Mike Beddoes. Queen Of Diamonds was popular with Pipeline readers, and Rebel Jukebox is eagerly awaited.
Hell’s Gate / Wake Up / Apache / Rebel Jukebox / Jokers Wild / Moonlight /Half Nelson / Highway 99 / The Mexican / Shadowland / Buccaneer / Cruel Sea
Another break, and I slipped back stage for a moment. What was this? A Gibson Les Paul and a Godin MIDI guitar in The Hunters line-up? With three original members plus Billy Kuy of the Outlaws on bass, a traditional sixties set was expected. The group kicked off with their own classics Teen Scene and How’s M’Chicks, as well as including The Storm later. However, Brian & Co. broke away from the sounds expected of a four-piece guitar and drums formation, with Brian coaxing brass and even accordian sounds out of the Godin. Another Pipeline first would be a Thelonius Monk offering, as Brian sat at the front of the stage to play ‘Round Midnight.
A brave attempt to do something different, and a contrast with both the real brass sound of the opening group and the pure guitar-based sets which preceded and followed their own show. A nice touch was the appearance of Dave Sampson to provide some extra percussion in Tequila.
Teen Scene / How’s M’Chicks / Swinging Shepherd Blues / The Storm / Golden Earrings / Petite Fleur / Medley: Moanin’ – Green Onions / ‘Round Midnight / Tequila / Runaway / Teen Scene
Last chance to raid the stalls, but most importantly, the traditional Pipeline quiz, with Big Al as the genial inquisitor. This year there was a four-way tie for first place, so it was down to a tie breaker with Ken Irving just pipping Nick Kellie to take the winner’s rosette. Well, a bundle of CDs actually. None of the four went home empty-handed in any case.
And so to the top of the bill. Although I had seen The Rapiers on a number of occasions, I had never seen them play an all-instrumental set, which they did for the first time ever on their previous Convention appearance. The Rapiers have an enviable reputation, but it is one which is completely justified. They manage to exhibit a high degree of professionalism, but at the same time display visible enthusiasm for the music. At this year’s Convention their set was built around Shadows numbers, but they incorporated enough material from elsewhere to keep most Shadophobes happy. After a brace of Shads numbers, a stylish Husky Team and the pre-Shadows Driftin’, the guys produced their first surprise in the form of Barney’s Blues, the jazz number which was the precursor of Nivram. For the second time in the evening, homage was paid to the legacy of Jerry Lordan in Apache before we heard the A-side of the Rapiers’ only 45, the gorgeous Closing Theme. Now that should have been a hit…
The mood changed with John Tuck’s solo on Wipe Out, and the surf influence continued with Pipeline. This produced a classic moment when Colin sneaked in a snatch of Hall Of The Mountain King. Neil responded with the James Bond Theme, so Colin played Riders In The Sky which was followed by Walk Don’t Run from Neil. Colin replied with Diamonds and so it went on! You’ve got to be good to do that,
Another change of pace with an instrumental reading of a Buddy Holly number which pre-dated Hank Marvin’s treatment of the same piece. To watch Colin’s subtle use of the Strat tremelo arm combined with ‘violining’ the volume knob was an education – no need for fancy foot pedals here! After a driving guitar version of the Tornados classic and a Latin flavoured Shads LP track – possibly the latest non-original instrumental the band play – it was time for the finale. Not William Tell this time, but a storming Saturday Night At The Duckpond. Even after encores of two Shadows classics, the audience were still shouting for more. Alas, the Convention witching hour had arrived and the music was over for another year.
The Rapiers: Shadoogie / Dance On / Husky Team / Driftin’ / Barney’s Blues / Apache / The Closing Theme / Wipeout / Pipeline / Raining In My Heart / Telstar / Bossa Roo /Saturday Nite At The Duckpond / FBI / Gonzales
It is always difficult to sum up the Convention experience in a few words. There’s live music of a high standard, played by enthusiasts. The Guitar Room proved attractive to players and non-players alike. There is an opportunity to stock up on CDs, vinyl and other goodies supplied by specialist dealers and fellow fans. You can mingle and chat to some of those who play your favourite music. As well as the featured groups, the audience included members of FBI, The Vickings, Husky & The Sandmen, The Silhouets, The Surf Rats, Counterpoint and Pipeline ’61. Mo Foster, bass player and author, is a regular attender and it was particularly good to see Bruce Welch in circulation again.
Those of us who attend the Convention owe a debt to the performers, and all the backstage and front-of-house volunteers who keep the whole thing going. If you were not there, the Convention video does give a flavour of the experience. However, if you are an instro fan within travelling distance of London at Easter, there’s only one place to be.….