The CARNABY : From birth to reincarnation.
( Written by Dave Andrews ( Andy )
How it all started :
Having left school in 1960, I went to art college, and apart from art and sex, I became interested in folk music and particularly American blues.
Inspired by Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny boy Williamson and the like, I got hooked on blues harmonica, and together with my cousin Kip Smith (Acoustic guitar ) started to play blues music at parties etc.
Kip was at college with Steve Minors, who played ( & even owned ) an electric guitar who joined us. This was the start of an embryonic band that had no name. To be a proper band we needed a drummer and bass and expanded the group accordingly. We found a young drummer ( Johnny Cahillane ), but a bass player was hard to find. To overcome the problem, I decided to learn to play. At this time ( around 63 ) we let loose on the public as an R&B group. We were playing Muddy Walters, Chuck Berry, type material, and called ourselves the "Stateside Souls".
We got established on the South London R&B circuit ( The Craw Daddy circuit ) along with the Stones, Yardbirds, Mayall etc. They were almost as unknown as us in those days.
We started to get noticed when Long John Baldry asked us to back him at various gigs. Although at that time we were still semi-pro. John our drummer, worked in Carnaby Street for John Stephens along with an entrepreneurial colleague Robert Orbach. Robert wanted to act as our manager, and since he was well known in the London Carnaby street fashion scene, it seemed that his array of contacts in the music scene could help our cause. Robert became our manager. As a result we started to get bookings in West End clubs that promoted R&B music and we had sufficient work to consider turning professional. We were an odd bunch of young Mod kids playing heavy R&B music.
During this period, Robert introduced Gordon Mills (Tom Jones manager) to the delights of our band, and after seeing us perform at "The Establishment" offered to promote us via his media company MAM. Gordon Mills was primarily interested in our creation of original material and promptly signed us up in copyright to his " Valley Music Co." His links with the record companies, resulted in a contract with PYE Piccadilly. But he didn't see us as a blues band, but was more interested in our mod image, our link to Carnaby Street, and our ability to create new original material. He and our manager decided that we needed a change of image which was more in sync with the swinging London fashion scene. This prompted a change in the band's line up, with John the drummer moving up front as lead singer, and the addition of Ronnie Ross on drums.
The line up was established as :- John Cahillane ( Lead singer ), Steve Minors ( Lead Guitar ), Kip Smith ( Rhythm Guitar ), Myself Andy Andrews ( Bass guitar ) & Ronnie Ross ( Drums ). PYE Piccadilly's producer at that time was John Schroder. It was he and Gordon Mills that picked out " Jump & Dance " from our original numbers to release as a single, since it was typical of the new mod style at that time. John Schroder produced " Jump & Dance ", which was recorded at the Regent Sound Studio in London. It was released in Oct 1965. It was heavily promoted on pirate radio. Radio Caroline in particular. The only transmitters of pop music ( other than radio Luxemburg ) at that time. We can't remember where it got to in the charts. We enjoyed the success of having a minor hit with our first record, but
it was noted by Pye that the sales were almost totally from inner London where we were known. This prompted our agent Bryan Morrison to concentrate on promoting us outside of London. As a result we spent most of our time travelling up and down the country in our old trusty J2 van in all winter weathers. We missed our comfortable London " In scene" and found ourselves in a time of mods & rocker street fights in some pretty hostile venues where being young London mods was downright dangerous.
By the spring of 66, we wanted to release a follow up single, but those who financed our promotion wanted us to keep on the road to establish a following outside of London, particularly in the North, before considering this.
We were far from happy with this, since apart from endless travel, we were not able to find the time to write new material. Things were becoming critical and disagreements with our manager didn't help. But disaster was averted by a contract being offered by a South of France consortium for us to play all summer in their top clubs on the French Riviera. We jumped at this, ignored our manager ( a big mistake ) and headed south to St Tropez.
1966 was a wonderful time for us. We played all the top clubs in Nice, Cannes etc to packed venues. We were well paid and life was good. It seemed that a high proportion of our audience were made up from the London "in crowd" who spent their summers on the Med.
How it all finished :
This good life was ultimately the kiss of death to our band. While we were living it up, we were not releasing a 2nd record, we were not promoting ourselves in the UK. To counter this our agent had lined up an even more extensive winter schedule for us to return to. This was something that none of us wanted. After a summer on the Med, the prospect of snow, fog & rain up and down the M1 was something we were not prepared to consider. We decided that rather than that, we would on our return to the UK, go our separate ways. Only John had the sense to see that this might be a mistake, but even John didn't want to face another winter on the road.
We got back to the UK and followed our own chosen directions. At that time, the Carnaby was no more, and we all moved on. The original band members had been together for 4 years. we had had a great time together and so there were no real regrets. Steve and I were the only 2 that stayed together musically, since although Kip wrote material, it was myself and Steve that produced most of the original songs. Our song writing partnership stayed operational for many years ( up until the mid 70's ). We wrote and recorded for MAM & Valley music under contract, producing a total of 33 songs for the Gordon Mills empire. Together ( with other session musicians ) we released in the USA through UK Records in the early 70's in the name of " Sparky", Kip had moved to California, something he'd always said he wanted to do. But we had lost track of John & Ron until an amazing coming together again in 2007
How it restarted :
Ron ( Drums ), in the intervening years, had produced offspring who worked within the music industry.
One of them had found the Carnaby listed on a compilation album of the 60's entitled " Jump & Dance " ( The title track ). Inspired & amused by this, Ron decided that he would try to track down the original Carnaby members and let them know ( just for fun. It was quite a surprise to get a call one night from Ron ( after 40+ ) years. I of course knew of Steve's whereabouts, and via Kip's family established a contact with him in California. John was harder to locate, but was found in the end via his nephew's band, where on a blog it mentioned his uncle John of the Carnaby. We decided to have a reunion in the Autumn of 2007. It was quite an event. Kip flew in from LA to join the other resident UK members. We had also tracked down our manager Robert Orbach, Our roady Ivan Hicks ( later from Gardeners world fame ) and even the girls (now in their 60's) who ran our fan club (around 40 people altogether). It was a great event. A total surprise that firstly we were all still alive, Secondly, how successful we had all been in our chosen directions, and finally, how we had changed physically since the 60's (Improved with age). It was a great reunion celebration, and as a result, the suggestion was made that we should record and release once again. After sobering up, the idea still seemed to have some merit since all of us were still active musically, we had a complete stockpile of material written in the 60's, and the time and money to make all of this a reality. We decided to do it, but to do it properly. This meant having to become familiar with digital recording. We employed professionals to bring us into the new age. We needed our own studio, engineers, mixing & mastering experts, technicians etc.
We went ahead and had our own state of the art recording studio built, which we lovingly refer to as " Shabbey Road".
This was completed in early 2010, when tracks started to be laid down.
The Future and beyond :
Our reunion created considerable interest, and as a result we discovered that our band was more popular than we realised. It was a surprise to discover that we feature on at least 15 compilation albums of 60's music. Also that various bands (Particularly in the USA) have covered our records. Also, acetates, and old tapes of recording sessions long forgotten have emerged to allow us to rework. It was these discoveries that spurred us into recent action.
We have decided to turn out an eleven track album. Work continues, and is expected to be completed soon. On the day of release, the Carnaby will have risen from the dead, although it seems that we have never really died.
In reality it can be interpreted as a minor delay between " Jump & Dance " and our follow up record. A minor delay of 49 years.
The intention ( advice from our music lawyers ) is to initially put out a one or two minute video of the band in our "Shabbey Road" studio, recording a couple of the album tracks. This will be screened on U tube to allow us to gauge the impact.
The new album is tentatively entitled "All that I can raise is my guitar". It is a heavy mod rock compilation with a blues bias, exactly as we were in the mid 60's. All of the numbers are virginal Carnaby written songs which have never been previously released. All tracks are recorded only by genuine Carnaby members, without any imported session musicians. It should have quite an impact since the majority are powerful rock numbers.
And so our public awaits us ! They won't have to wait for too much longer !