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20 April 2017 1,938 views No Comment


Thunder Over Morden in 1961: The beginnings of the London rhythm and blues scene…Chris Farlowe and The Thunderbirds The Beginning

So here it is, a genuine archive recording that takes us back to the pre Beatles days of 1961 – and it’s the vision of a young Jimmy Page that has made all this possible. His decision to record Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds in RG Jones Sound Studio in Morden near London some 56 years ago was an inspired one.

Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds The Beginning unlocks a previously undocumented remnant of the emerging London R & B scene. It’s a record of a fledgling singer and his band laying down the contents of their live act of the time.

The repertoire is a mix of then little known R & B songs and rock’n’roll standards. Had it have been released at the time, The Thunderbirds would have stolen a march on their fellow peers, as many versions of these songs would emerge on the UK charts a year or two later

The first thing that is apparent about this recording is the standard of musicianship. Bobby Taylor is a consummate guitarist – in the finger picking tradition of Scotty Moore, while drummer Johnny Wise is often the star of the show

His free form drumming was way ahead of the usual plodding style of say, a Pete Best. On the evidence of this recording, for sheer inventiveness, he rivals those other great early 60s drummers Tony Meehan and Bobby Graham.

Wise however would subsequently leave the group as Chris Farlowe revealed in Record Collector: ‘’ Johnny met a girl and she said the only way she would get married was if he gave up drumming I think he is a taxi driver in Basildon’’

Given the prowess of Wise, the drums on The Beginning are often the dominant feature of these performances.

The opening pair of instrumentals are prime examples. Entry of the Slaves is a 12 bar shuffle very much in the style of those early 60s instrumental specialists The Shadows. Spring is Near is a jazzy Django Reinhardt influenced affair with a big bass sound from Johnny Warne. There’s plenty of improvisation from the sidemen and it leads on into a Wise drum solo of rich dexterity. It all ends abruptly on a pleasing plangent chord.

This is followed by the entry of one John Henry Deighton aka Chris Farlowe. He   lays down his credentials right from the off with a very confident version of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say. That distinctive soulful rasp that would serve him so well is already present. ‘’Oh tell me what I say oh people’’ he ad- libs towards the close. Farlowe is a tower of strength vocally throughout the album with a singing voice that displays surprising maturity for a 21 year old from Islington.

Let the Good Times Roll adds a slight echo effect on the vocal and Bob Taylor lets’ rip with a twangy guitar solo. Sticks and Stones is loose and jazzy with a Cliff Richard Move It like intro. Both performances have a propulsive drive and swing.

Kansas City is performed in its original style, pre Little Richard’s version which The Beatles adapted for their cover. ‘’Now everybody’’ shouts Chris looking for audience participation. There’s also a slight country tinge to this arrangement.

Just a Dream originally recorded by Johnny Clanton on the Ace label, is a definite stand out track. A slight echo on the vocal adds an Elvis feel here. The do- wop arrangement is similar to Sea Of Love, the Phil Phillips & The Twilights 1959 US hit later covered by The Honeydrippers.

Farlowe and The Thunderbirds would later record another version of Just A Dream for release as a UK single on Columbia in 1964.

Carl Perkin’s Matchbox (also covered by The Beatles) follows – all up beat with more rumbling drums. Farlowe scat sings along with the guitar to great effect. They really sound like they are having a ball on this one.

Don Gibson’s Hurtin’ Inside is driven along by a military two step beat and is yet another Johnny Wise tour de force

Amongst the final three tracks to discuss, there are some subtle Zep connections to note.

Hank Snow’s I’m Moving On was performed live by Zep a handful of times as part of the Whole Lotta Love medley – notably at the LA Forum 1970, famously captured on Live On Blueberry Hill bootleg. Back in 1961 it was a perfect vehicle for the Thunderbirds. In fact, had it been released as a single at the time, it may well have challenged the likes of Adam Faith, Billy Fury etc.for chart supremacy. A shout out of ‘’keep moving, have mercy’’ brings it all to a close

Money is performed in a very different arrangement to that of later versions by The Beatles, Stones and Bern Elliot & The Fenmen. A rumble voodoo beat drives the song along. This Barrett Strong song was memorably performed on stage by Zep at their June 30 Frankfurt gig on their final Over Europe tour in 1980.

Finally, a version of Bobby Parker’s Watch Your Step. It isn’t hard to detect the basis of the Moby Dick riff pattern here – Zep rehearsed this song back in the early days though never performed it live. Wise is fantastic again and Farlowe is right on it vocally while Taylor’s playing is full of exuberance.

To summarise: The Beginning is a very welcome archive release. It showcases the formative steps of a vocalist who would go on to more than make his mark over the next four decades – and a young producer who also didn’t fare too badly.

It’s an important remnant of the early London rhythm and blues scene and a record that really does capture musical history in the making.

Dave Lewis April 17, 2017

Chris Farlowe and The Thunderbirds: The Beginning is now available for pre-order  in advance of its April 30 release date. The release is available in two editions: Standard and Deluxe. The 1-LP, 1-CD set is available signed and numbered by Chris Farlowe and Jimmy Page in a limited edition release bringing the signatures of two music legends together for the very first time.

Pre order the album here:


Led Zeppelin News Update:
In conjunction with the Led Zep news site, each week I will be re- producing highlights from their weekly email update news summary. This goes out every Sunday. Sign up details are below. Many thanks to James Cook.

Led Zeppelin

  • John Paul Jones was asked after his performance in Helsinki, Finland on April 5 about the rehearsals that took place following the 2007 Led Zeppelin reunion. “It wasn’t Zep rehearsals, it was rehearsals with Jimmy,” Jones reportedly told Led Zeppelin Official Forum member “In My Time of Kashmir.” The forum post said that “when I asked him did they write new songs, he said yes. When I asked how many, he didn’t answer at all. He told me that he is never going to use those songs.”
  • The latest edition of Luis Rey’s comprehensive book on live Led Zeppelin performances, “The Led Zeppelin Tape Documentary,” will soon be out of print. That’s according to publisher Julian Walker of Abbotsford Books. Walker said he has taken delivery of two new boxes of books, and the book remains on sale on Amazon for now.

Robert Plant

The message that has been displayed on Robert Plant’s website since April 11 (Robert Plant)

  • Promoter Peter Shapiro explained in an interview with Wired how he got Robert Plant to play a small show in New York in 2014. Shapiro said he showed up to a meeting with Plant carrying $50,000 in a brown bag, and that persuaded Plant to play his late-night Brooklyn Bowl show on October 9, 2014.

John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones and Helge Sten soundchecking in Paris earlier today (Twitter/Ina_audiovisuel)

  • John Paul Jones performed in Paris, France earlier tonight as one half of the electronic music group Minibus Pimps with Helge Sten. Jones performed as part of the Présences électronique festival.
  • Tight But Loose has published an English-language report of John Paul Jones’ show with Tres Coyotes in Helsinki, Finland on April 5. Ilkka Pesu, who attended the show, said that Jones played a solo piece on a grand piano that was “a long, fully coloured and cohesive sounding piece of music that seemed to be like a near perfect composition.” Read the full post here.

Jason Bonham

  • Glenn Hughes said in an interview with Loud Magazine that the next Black Country Communion album will be released in the middle of September. “It is coming out the middle of September,” Hughes said. “I’m meeting with Joe and Kevin (Shirley) tomorrow, we’re going to listen to the new mixes. It’s all done, it’s ready to go.” In case you were unaware of Black Country Communion, the drummer in the band is Jason Bonham.

Upcoming events:

April 22 – Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes’ “Live at Jones Beach” and Beverley Martyn’s “Picking Up The Sunshine” will be released on vinyl for Record Store Day.
April 30 – Jimmy Page Records will release “The Beginning…”, a 1961 Chris Farlowe studio session produced by Jimmy Page
May – The March 21, 1975 Seattle soundboard bootleg “Deus Ex Machina” is rumoured to be released this month.
May 19 – The new album by Darrel Higham, which features Robert Plant, will be released.
May 23 – A photo of Jimmy Page appears in the new photo book by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, which will be released today.
May 27 – Unrestored footage of Led Zeppelin performing at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970 will be screened there as part of an event about the director Peter Whitehead.
June 2 – Robert Plant will be interviewed on “Brian Johnson’s Life On The Road” on Sky Arts.
June 23 – John Paul Jones will perform at the Sun Station Vadsø festival in Norway.
June 24 – John Paul Jones will perform at the Sun Station Vadsø festival in Norway.
Mid-September – The new Black Country Communion album, which will feature Jason Bonham, is due to be released.

Many thanks to James Cook.

The complete Led Zeppelin News email goes out every weekend. To receive it each week sign up here:

Led Zeppelin News Website: Check out the Led Zeppelin news website at


John Paul Jones with Minibis Pimps in Paris:  

On April 16 John Paul Jones performed with Minibus Pimps with Helge Sten in Paris as part of the Présences électronique Festival. See YouTube clip below.


Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin Masters UK Tour: 

The  ‘Stairway To Heaven: Led Zeppelin Masters’ tour kicked off in Manchester on Tuesday.

Here’s my thoughts on the London Palladium gig on Wednesdays night:

Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin Masters- London Palladium April 19: 

When it comes to witnessing the performing of the Led Zeppelin catalogue, this overview written by the celebrated journalist and film director Cameron Crowe always springs to mind:

”To anybody who’s ever thrown a party, or any DJ who’s ever searched for the perfect music to galvanise an audience  – it’s no secret play Led Zeppelin. To any band who ever needed a sure-fire cover song, or any musician looking for clues how to mix textures, cross musical boundaries or just plain rock ,there’s no substitute -play Led Zeppelin…

In the case of the much anticipated  visit from Australia of Stairway To Heaven: Led Zeppelin Masters – it’s play Led Zeppelin  featuring a full band complete with a 35-piece Black Dog Orchestra.

An ambitious undertaking for sure…

Firstly the venue – steeped in history and absolute class. I have been here once before to see a Frank Sinatra tribute about ten years back. The place is well packed not quite full but I’d say a good 1,500 in – a very good result for what is fundamentally an unknown act.

The audience – predictably rather mature (like me!) with a fair few Zep T shirts on view – I got the feeling some of those in attendance may be regular tribute band attendees soaking up the the likes of the Australian Pink Floyd Show, Rumours of Fleetwood Mac etc.

The merchandise stall was doing brisk business – the official programme has a piece written by yours truly and a DL pic – while I was around the merchandise area a few people came up to me to request I sign their programmes – which of course I was only too pleased to do.

We had a great view to the left of the stage in the stalls – the sound was excellent.

So Stairway To Heaven Led Zeppelin Masters – what’s it all about?

Firstly it’s not about costumes or wigs – there’s no attempt to look or act like the real thing. This is all about the music.

I personally do not have a problem with the tribute bands that do look the part – and I’ve seen a fair few of them ie Boot Led Zeppelin, Hats Off To Led Zeppelin, Coda, etc they have all provided some great nights out. As have Fred Zeppelin, Letz Zep and Whole lotta Led who tend to play down the visual image.

The Zep Masters show is solely sold on the music – with the added ingredient of a 35 piece orchestra, The Black Dog Orchestra. There is little reverence given to following set list patterns etc – for instance they reverse the Song Remains/Rain Song sequence) and they are at pains to describe their show as a mere tribute act – We’re musicians, not actors” commented lead singer Vince. ” The music is what is important to us, not the clothes or fashion of a bygone era. The performance can only be honest if we are real and celebrate and communicate with the audience using the composition, not the alter-egos of Led Zeppelin themselves”

Such a staging is built for a bigger venue and that works very well for this presentation. Coupled with the light show, it’s quite spectacular and it brings a genuine  grandeur to the proceedings.

Lead singer Vince Contario is a very confident front man – what he lacks in Plant movements and finesse, he more than makes up with in bravado and sheer presence. The other band members on guitar Tzan Niko, bassist  Warwick Cheatle, drummer Bradley Polain and keyboard man Paul Gray are all consummate musicians and it’s evident they have played together for a considerable time in  perfecting their craft.

After a symphonic opening it’s no messing and straight in Achilles Last Stand. A bold and brave move and they just about pull it off – a little tentative here and there but generally pretty spot on. Then it’s straight into All My Love – not a song I’ve seen performed outside of Zep very often – in fact it did occur to me that Tom sitting next to me and I may well be the only ones in this audience that were lucky enough to witness the real thing perform this number on the Over Europe tour back in 1980.

The orchestra come into their own on numbers like this and it works very effectively though the horn part was a little shaky  There are times where the sheer bombast of the more rockier numbers tends to drown them out – this is apparent on Nobody’s Fault But Mine -credit here to guitarist Tzar who bends the riff in all the right places.

When the band and orchestra really merge effectively – the results are quite stunning. There’s no finer example of that than on their delivery of  The Rain Song. This was  superb and a rendering made all the more sensitive by the subtly of the strings. It was quite simply one of the best performances of a Zep song performed by a band that were not Led Zeppelin I’ve ever witnessed. A vibrant  Song Remains The Same and a rousing (and I mean rousing) Rock And Roll bought the first half to a close.

They were back to kick the second half off in style – Kashmir and again this is where the band and orchestra formula really impressed – a combination that did justice to the song’s swirling dynamism. Vince was really outstanding on this projecting the lyrics with thilling intent.

The orchestra also worked really well on a most impressive Over The Hills And Far Away -one of the highlights of the night for me. When guitarist Tzan went into that gorgeous revolving intro, I had an instant  mental flashback of Jimmy on stage at Knebworth  swathed in blue light -ahh the memories…

Back in the Palladium No Quarter was superbly performed, however the Moby Dick drum solo that followed was a little overlong and it might well have been more advisable to drop in another number such as Since I’ve Been Loving You. Dazed And Confused was also a notable setlist omission.

On the home straight, Going To California again aided by the strings set the scene for a reverential (can it be anything else?) Stairway To Heaven.

Black Dog had the audience on the feet as did a crunching encore of Immigrant Song (how good is that song?!) and a blistering Whole Lotta Love. The audience lapped it up.

A word about the song arrangements – they are played in very much in the vein of the official studio album versions –  this can bring a little sterility to the proceedings – for instance there was no theremin on Whole lotta Love or ”ah ah-  ah ah” audience participation in Black Dog. That said, there is a refreshing honesty about the approach to the songs that overall benefits the performance.


Stairway To Heaven Led Zeppelin Masters offer a hugely entertaining proposition. This is the Zep catalogue performed with a grandeur that befits the big stage surroundings. It’s like Cameron Crowe observed – it’s no secret play Led Zeppelin…and play Led Zeppelin they did -with a total lack of pretention and whole hearted  conviction.

It was an uplifting experience to be amongst so many like minded enthusiasts in the London Palladium who reveled in this ambitious celebration of the greatest rock catalogue of all time…

Dave Lewis April 20, 2017

After the show I had a quick chat with the boys who were on great form and are very much enjoying their UK experience. It was also great to see veteran journalist Hugh Fielder. Hugh wrote the first ever review of my book The Final Acclaim in Sounds back in 1984. He relayed the tale of how he saw Zep at their 1969 Lyceum gig. Memories indeed! Great too to meet PR man Dave Clarke.

Here are the rest of  the tour dates: Catch them if you can – it’s a hugely enjoyable show- see YouTube clips from their Sydney Opera House 2016 gig below.

Thursday April 20: Bristol Colston Hall

Saturday April 22: Newcastle City Hall

Sunday April 23: Edinbugh Usher Hall

Monday April 25 : Birmingham Symphony Hall

Tuesday April 26 Southend Cliffs Pavilion

Wednesday April 27: Plymouth Pavilions

Ticket details are available from their website see link at


TBL Archive: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Buxton Opera House 23 years gone..

 23 years ago on April 17 1994, I was lucky enough to attend the Alexis Korner benefit show at the Buxton Opera House – a very memorable occasion as it featured the onstage reunion of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. I was doing a bit of work for Kerrang magazine at the time and given the low key nature of the affair I covered the gig as an ‘’undercover Big K reporter’’. Crazy and exciting days as it kickstarted the whole Page/Plant Unledded era of which there were many highlights. This first night all of 23 years ago tonight was one of them

Here’s a look back to that memorable night:

23 years ago on Sunday April 17th 1994, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant performed together for the first time in four years at a special memorial concert for Alexis Korner. This was the first sighting of the newly reunited Page & Plant on stage -they were already rehearsing  for their MTV Unledded project which would eventually see them perform two special shows at the London TV Studios on August 25th and 26th. Robert Plant had initially been billed to appear but the rumour mill was soon in overdrive that he would be joined by Jimmy.

alexis 1

I had already cleared the way to attend when it was announced in early March Robert would be performing. Even up to the day it was uncertain to what was actually going to happen but when the TBL crew of Gary, Kam and I we arrived at the venue in the late afternoon there was no doubt that Jimmy Page was going to be in the house.

So it was in the unlikely setting of the Buxton Opera House we watched in some wonderment as Bob Harris introduced the pair and the long awaited reunion of the pair was on. They kicked off with a cover of Them’s Baby Please Don’t Go and then on to a very authentic I Can’t Quite You Baby ably assisted by Charlie Jones on bass and the late great Michael Lee on drums – my review of the time noting that he ‘’crashed and clattered in all the right places’’ –something he would do throughout the P & P re-alliance between now and 1998.

Ah the review…Alongside feeding back for TBL, I was reporting in it for Kerrang !then the main rock music paper and  given the low key nature of the event I was billed as an ‘’undercover Big K! reporter’ – ooerr!

My review went on to reveal they then played an up-tempo blues jam built around Don’t Stop Me Talkin’ and then a loose instrumental work out with definite Crunge like leanings.

Here’s some extracts from my review:

alexsis 3

And finally ’’At least two people haven’t played this song before’’joked Plant as Jimmy stepped on the wah wah pedal and teased out the intro to the classic Train Kept A Rollin’, a track Jimmy used to play with The Yardbirds before he formed Zeppelin and the same number that Zep used to open their set on their last tour in Europe 1980. Inevitably this one was met with a huge roar of appreciation and was performed with an irrepressible swagger that recalled so many past glories. And with that Page and Plant were gone..

This comeback proved conclusively that Page and Plant are more than happy to be back in each other’s company rekindling a partnership that was responsible for so much great music in the past. And judging from a delightful telling moment when Jimmy skipped around the stage chugging out a fierce blues riff against Robert’s incessant scat singing – the potential for this new alliance is awesome. Buxton might just have signalled a whole new beginning for the post –Zep era’.

Pleasingly that latter statement proved to be somewhat prophetic. By the end of August the pair had recorded in various locations and performed the memorable Unledded concerts which formed the contents of the No Quarter Unledded film aired on MTV in October and accompanied by the release of the soundtrack album.  The next year they hooked up with the Egyptian Ensemble and orchestra for an ambitious world tour that delighted audiences across the globe.

The initial spark of all this reunion activity occurred on this remarkable Sunday evening in the Derbyshire countryside all of 23 years ago. And yup…who knows where the time goes…

You can see a professionally filmed clip of I Can’t Quite You Baby from the Buxton show below.


Record Store Day April 22 2017:

Record Store Day is once more upon us  and once again, come early Saturday morning the TBL/RSD gang  will be be in the queue hoping to snap up some limited edition goodies.

The Zep related releases centre around the following gems:

Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes – Live At Jones Beach [10”] (150 Gram Marbled Black & White Vinyl, limited to 3000, indie-retail exclusive) 10″

Beverley Martyn – Picking Up The Sunshine [7”] (Feat. Jimmy Page & John Paul Jones, limited, indie-retail exclusive) 7″

I will be hoping to be able to snap up the above  – also on my wants list are two David Bowie releases  – the David Bowie Bowpro single sided acetate box set and the David Bowie Cracked Actor -Live In Los Angeles 1974 double album. However  those are going to be in some considerable demand and I will count my self very lucky if I get my hands on either of those. Still, that is all part of the thrill of the RSD chase.

There’s one or two other bits and pieces I’m eying up  – The Ian Hunter and the Rant Band single Dandy, ELP Brain Salad Surgery single, T. Rex Rock’n’ Roll EP and the Marianne Faithful Rich Kid Blues album .

I’ll be reporting back on the day on the TBL Facebook

We are aiming to be at the excellent David’s shop in Letchworth early on Saturday. We did pretty well last year at this location.

When Dec was here we used to meet him at the Rough Trade shop in West London – he will be in Ireland at a local record store in Wexford and no doubt we will be in touch with him on the mobile comparing what stock he has found.

Record Store Day remains a universal calling card for vinyl collectors to get in line and unite in their quest for those limited editions. It’s also a welcomed boom in business for countless independent record shops. I was talking to David the manager of the Empire Record shop in St Albans  – he expects to have some 200 people queuing outside the shop before 8am on Saturday and the days takings to uplift ten fold on their usual Saturday level.

All in all, it’s a great event that really does put firmly in the spotlight our love of records and record shops  – an excuse (as if I need one!) to revel in the buying of a music format that has inspired generations – and continues to do so…

See the full RSD listing here:

DL Diary Blog Update:

Another busy week here – I am wrapping this update on Thursday morning after a mere four hours sleep since returning from the excellent Stairway To Heaven Led Zeppelin Masters show at the London Palladium in the early hours. It was great to hook up with Michaela and Bob Tait at the gig. They had a real job to get into London from Milton Keynes as the Euston line was out. This actually prevented Phil from getting there at all which was  not good.   

As mentioned above – we will be out and about (with Phil hopefully!) early on Saturday for Record Store Day 2017. Aside from the quest for those limited editions at David’s in Letchworth, back in Bedford there’s the annual Bedford Pop Up record shop to check out   – and late in the afternoon there’s the not inconsequential matter of the FA Cup semi final between Spurs and Chelsea. That is going to be some contest. Here’s hoping Spurs can continue their recent form.

Last weekend it was good to see a copy of my book Feather In The Wind – Led Zeppelin Over Europe 1980 in the window of the always excellent Empire Records in St Albans. For once there were no purchases made …I’m saving it for Saturday…


On Easter Sunday morning  I had the usual morning bike ride – here’s a pic of Bedford Embankment in full bloom and looking rather beautiful.

It’s been back on the Evenings With LZ book design and we are well on the way with 1970. Once again Mike Trmaglio has come u with some incredible visual finds for the gigs during this era. Notably for the sixth US tour during August and September of that year.

All a long way to go yet but we are chipping away. I am also assessing content for the next TBL magazine issue 43 – plenty of good stuff coming though on this too – it’s going to be a busy few weeks here for sure.


Right, I’m off to get in the zone for Record Store Day…

As  Mr Wim Wenders  states:

My advice is don’t spend your money on therapy  – spend it in a record store..

Now that is my type of therapy – and I aim to be heeding that advise big time this weekend….

Dave Lewis – April 20, 2017

Until next time –  have a great  weekend…

TBL Website updates compiled by Dave Lewis

with thanks to Gary Foy and James Cook

Follow TBL/DL on Facebook:

The TBL/DL Facebook page has regular updates and photos – be sure to check it out.

And follow TBL/DL on Twitter.

YouTube clips:

Stairway To Heaven Led Zeppelin Masters – Sydney Opera House 2016 – Over The Hills And Far Away:


Stairway To Heaven Led Zeppelin Masters – Sydney Opera House 2016 – Immigrant Song:  

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Buxton Opera House 23 years gone…

John Paul Jones with Minibus Pimps in Paris :

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