Popular & Rock Music of Manchester & the North-West
Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy)
(1949-1986) Philip Lynott, guitarist and singer of the famed pop group “Thin Lizzy” , though actually born in Birmingham, England on 20th August 1949, of an Irish mother and a black Brazilian father, moved with his mother to live in Manchester while he was still a baby. They then went to live in the Crumlin district of Dublin when he was four years old, and he always regarded himself as Irish. Lynott was raised by his grandmother in Crumlin after his mother moved back to Manchester to work (and earn enough to support her son’s upbringing). She opened a hotel (known as ‘ The Showbiz’ ). Lynott later celebrated his mother, daughter and grandmother in his songs – ‘Sarah’ (his daughter) and ‘Philomena’ (his mother) . He attended Princess Road Junior School, where he gradually became interested in music. His first band was named “The Black Eagles” and included school friend Brian Downey on drums. Later Lynott joined Gary Moore’s band “Skid Row” , then later in “Sugar Shack” and “Orphanage” . In 1969 Lynott, Downey and guitarist Eric Bell formed “Thin Lizzy”, with whom he is most popularly associated, and in 1971 they had released their first album, which was met with a very cool reception, selling just 2,000 copies. However, on release of their EP record, “New Day” , they moved to London. Their second album, “Shades Of A Blue Orphanage” was also received indifferently. However, the 1973 hit single, “Whiskey In The Jar” found favour and would become a rock classic. There followed several records, including “Randolph’s Tango”, ‘Vagabonds Of The Western World” and the single “The Rocker” . Financially, the band struggled top pay its debts and the line-up changed several times. Bell left, Gary Moore joined and then left, and eventually even Downey quit, leaving Lynott on his own. Albums and singles followed, including “Nightlife” , (1973) and “Fighting” , which included the singles “Wild One” and “Rosalie” . Eventually, Downey returned to rejoin the band. Gradually success began to happen – in 1976 “Jailbreak” reached number 10 in the UK charts, which included the famous hit, “The Boys Are Back In Town” . As much as any other song, this thrust them into the forefront of international rock. Even the American music market responded favourably, despite Lynott’s broken US Tour due to an attack of hepatitis. His illness continued to worsen. Doctors warned him about his drugs, sex and alcohol lifestyle and recommended a radical turnaround – this he refused to do. In 1977 the band supported Freddy Mercury and “Queen” in the USA, which was followed by the album “Bad Reputation” and the single, “Dancing In The Moonlight” . Thin Lizzy continued to tour and the subsequent number two chart-topping album “Live And Dangerous” was a massive success in the United Kingdom in 1978. Brian Downey and Gary Moore were to be largely responsible for the “Black Rose” Album of 1979 – Thin Lizzy’s biggest hit album to date. However, all was not happy in the band line-up and Gary Moore left the band for good. Lynott, however, not to be beaten continued with a series of successful songs – “Yellow Pearl” , was actually used for the theme tune to the cult BBC TV show “Top Of The Pops” . Lynott was to collaborate with Gary Moore once again in 1985, on the single “Out In The Fields” , which was a huge hit, reaching Number 5 in the UK charts. However, Thin Lizzy was on the rocks, and after the break-up Lynott took to even heavier drug usage. Tragically, he died in Salisbury General Infirmary of heart, liver and kidney failure and blood poisoning – all resulting from a drug overdose on 4th January 1986.
(b. 1971) Gary Barlow was born on the 20th January 1971 in Frodsham in Cheshire and attended Weaver Vale Junior School and then Frodsham High School. From a very early age he worked every Saturday night as a musician in Connah’s Quay Labour Club. At the age of fifteen he entered the BBC’s “Pebble Mill” Took part in the Competition, ‘A Song For Christmas’, and was runner up. Part of the prize included an invitation to 10cc’s Strawberry Recording Studios in Stockport. It was here that he was to meet Mark Owen. After six years as the creative leader of the group Take That, despite a somewhat fallow period, Barlow enjoyed some success as a solo artist. His 1996 debut single, ‘Forever Love’ , went straight to number one position in the UK charts and firmly established him as a serious singer/songwriter. In 1997 he followed up with ‘Love Won’t Wait’ and later that year the number one UK chart-topping album ‘Open Road’ album was released. Later, singles like ‘So Help Me Girl’ followed. 1998 saw Barlow on a world tour to promote his album with many fine live performances before returning home to record his second album. Continuing friction between Barlow and ex-Take That singer Robbie Williams continued to hit the media and Barlow’s image and fortunes suffered as a result, while Williams’ career was in the ascendancy. Barlow’s 1999 single ‘Stronger’ flopped, as did the next, ‘For All That You Want’. Continued poor media image saw the ‘Twelve Months, Eleven Days’ album also fail to sell, only reaching the UK’s number 35 position in the music charts. Barlow’s fortunes had reached an all-time low. Live shows had to be cancelled and recording commitments were aborted. In March 2000, BMG/RCA released Gary Barlow from his recording contract. That year he also married his dancer girlfriend, Dawn and they became parents to two children, Daniel and Emily. In 2001, he and his family moved to live Santa Monica, California, and he has been working with Gloria Estefan, and commuting regularly between Manchester and Los Angeles. He has recently worked on albums with Elton John, Blue, Donny Osmond, Hear’say, Monica Naranjo, Vanessa Amorosi and Atomic Kitten. In recent times, Take That have reformed, reached number 1 position more than once in the music charts again and seem to have regained their fan base – Barlow’s fortunes have re-emerged with the band. In June 2012 he was instrumental in the organisation of the music festival in celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in London. See also: “Take That”.
(b. 1968) David Gray was born in Sale, Manchester in 1968, where his family ran a chain of bakery shops. As a result of a serious family dispute in 1995, he and his parents moved to live in Wales. Later, he returned to the Northwest region to attend Liverpool University, where his interest in music grew. His major influenced were The Smiths, The Waterboys, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. While at university, he formed a series of college bands, including “Waiting For Deffo”. A demo tape of this band was sent to the Manchester Evening News, and thence on to Rob Holden, head of A&R at Polydor, who invited David to London, (without the rest of the band), to record a further demo tape under better conditions. The demo was, however, unsuccessful, and Holden failed to convince Polydor of Gray’s potential. Subsequently, Gray moved to live in London and recorded his first EP “Birds Without Wings” , which was to be later included on his 1993 debut album ‘A Century Ends’. Gray’s music somehow failed to fire popular support despite the release of a second single, ‘ Shine’ , which also failed in the UK. A third single, “Wisdom”, was released in 1993. Gray’s band at this stage included guitarist, Neill MacColl, (the son of Salford folk singer, Ewan MacColl). Virgin Records took over Gray’s recording contract in 1994. Craig ‘Clunne’ McClune joined the duo as a drummer, and their subsequent album, “Sell, Sell, Sell” , met with rave reviews. Virgin, inexplicably, decided not to promote it. Virgin were to eventually release Gray when the next album, “Flesh” , failed to achieve chart success. However, Gray’s music had, meantime, been widely liked in Ireland, and providentially, RTE presenter Donal Dineen invited him over to Ireland, where the newly released ‘Shine’ single, saw Irish audiences raving over Gray’s music and sell out shows in Dublin, Galway and Belfast. While in Ireland, Gray wrote tracks for local singers, including, ‘Almost Gone, ‘Trespass Shoes’ and ‘What Does It Matter’. On the strength of the Irish successes, EMI offered him a new contract and he accompanied Radiohead on their 1995 US tour and 1996 European tours. Unfortunately, Gray’s EMI experience was not good, and within a year he had to buy himself out of the contract. His career had hit a low point – he turned to alcohol and cocaine. Fortunately, work and money arrived in the form of the UK film “This Year’s Love” starring Kathy Burke. Other film work followed, including the theme tune, ‘Sail Away’, ‘Crazy’, and ‘Shine’ (for the movie of the same name). He appeared at almost every UK music festival in 1998 and 1999, and toured Ireland where he still had a loyal fan base. In November 1998 he released ‘White Ladder’ in Ireland on his own IHT label though the album was also released in the UK with little success. Gradually, his fortunes turned and the single “This Years Love” gained a great deal of air time on radio; meantime, Irish radio was playing the track “Babylon” which ensured its release as a single. The album, which followed, went on to reach the Irish Top Five. In January 2000, over a year after its release, ‘White Ladder’ topped the Irish charts where it remained for 5 weeks. David Gray was filling massive venues in Ireland, although back home in Britain he was still playing small stand-up gigs. Dave Matthews, an influential USA fan, went on to distribute ‘White Ladder’ in the USA on his own ATO label. By May 2000 the album had gone three times platinum in Ireland, whilst in the UK East West had re-released ‘White Ladder’ sold over 30,000 copies a week, lifting it to Number 13 in the charts. EMI soon regained an interest in Gray and they re-released the abortive “Sell, Sell, Sell” album in 2000. ‘White Ladder’ remained in the UK Top 10 until November 2000, 2 years after its original release, selling over 600,000 copies in the process. The song ‘Sail Away’ was to be included in Robert De Niro’s film “15 Minutes”.
(1931-1998) Karl Denver is probably best remembered as the yodelling pop singer of the 1961 recording of the Zulu folk song “Wimoweh” . Born Angus McKenzie in 1931 in Glasgow he was a familiar figure on radio and the concert stage in the 1960s. Denver left school at 15 to join the Norwegian merchant navy and in 1951 he enlisted in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to fight in the Korean War. During this conflict he was wounded and practised playing the guitar during his convalescence. During this time he developed a taste for country and folk music and had decided on a singing career. While in the US, he took the stage name Karl Denver, (a suitably American name), appeared on radio and television, and at the Grand Ole Opry show. However, Denver had arrived illegally in America, and it was not long before the immigration department caught up with him and he was deported in 1959. In Britain he settled to live in Manchester, and formed the Karl Denver Trio with Gerry Cottrell and Kevin Neill. For a time they toured Northern clubs and appeared on Granada Television’s “Band Stand” show. In 1961 the impresario Jack Good, featured the trio on his television series “Wham!” , followed by national tour in support of Jess Conrad and Billy Fury. Jack Good also secured a record deal for Denver with Decca and produced a series of their hit singles over the next few years. During this time the American yodelling star Slim Whitman had become a major record success, and Karl Denver decided to emulate this style of singing. As a testament to his success, the New Musical Express declared Denver to be ‘an artist with a totally different and distinctive approach’. Denver’s hits included “Marcheta”, “A Little Love A Little Kiss”, “Mexicali Rose” and the classic “Wimoweh”. Denver claimed to have actually discovered the song in South Africa but this is doubtful as other bands had already recorded the song. In 1962 the Karl Denver Trio appeared in summer season at Great Yarmouth and the following year were given their own Light Programme radio show, entitled “Side by Side” . Among their guests were The Beatles . These were to go on to dominate the world of popular music for the next two decades, and in no small measure contributed thus to the decline of Denver’s popularity. By comparison, their music sounded decidedly old-fashioned. Although The Karl Denver Trio largely disappeared from public attention, they did continue to work in cabaret at the UK and abroad. That other Manchester group, the Happy Mondays also produced their own version of “Wimoweh” later on the fashionable Factory label. Karl Denver lived for many of his later years in Reddish, Stockport, and died on the 21st of December 1998.
Ben Gerrard – Chairmen of the Bored
Chairmen of the Bored is a Pop-Punk Band which was established in June 2002, and is headed by Ben Gerrard from Littleborough, Rochdale. Ben was born in 1984 and was a professional model for a time before joining Channel 4 TV’s soap series “Hollyoaks” in late 2002. He plays the role of Cameron, who is his first acting role. Ben originally auditioned for the role of Jake Dean, (which, needless to say, he failed to get), before being called back to play the part of Cameron. Ben is a keen musician who plays both guitar and drums, and is accompanied in Chairmen of the Bored by a current line-up which includes himself on vocals and guitar, as well as James Robinson (Bass, Vocals) and Owen Beard (Drums)