Deacons Recordings - Sleeve notes
Here's the notes from the various Deacons recordings. Oh how we laughed....
For starters here is the original publicity I wrote for the Deacons back circa 1980 This sort of thing passed as publicity in those innocent days. (Note the environmentally friendly recycling of jokes in later sleeve notes):
MEET THE DEACONS
A relaxed stroll through the life and times of Stafford’s all – purpose folk band.....
Irwin ‘Rhumba Beat’ Bottomley
One of the finest voices in folk, or at least in Acton Trussell - the idyllic village setting of Deacon Cottage where the band go to get it together in the country without their wives finding out. The Bottomley voice cut its teeth in Derbyshire church choirs, was honed in the singing pubs of the Peak District and steeled in the white heat of The Electric Deacons, Nottingham’s answer to the Rolling Stones (who unfortunately had forgotten they’d asked a question and had turned off their hearing aids). He is equally at home singing traditional ballads or rhythm and blues and is one of that rare breed of singers who can raise a voice over a folk club audience singing the chorus of Pleasant and Delightful in eighty seven part harmony and twenty three keys and still make everybody feel they were singing in tune.
No slouch on the silver strings either, the appearance of Bott’s blonde Guild guitar is a signal for landlords all over the country to call time.
Viking Dave Clark
Who can forget those great sixties hits ‘Glad all Over’ and ‘Bits and Pieces’ – certainly not the Viking, who never tires of telling people in his tolerant and charming way that he’s not that Dave Clark.
The rhythmic foundation of the band, Dave’s supercharged twelve string guitar and banjo playing, his subtle lead guitar work and sensitive and emotional singing of contemporary and traditional material overawes us all, as does his capacity for accidental damage to himself and our equipment. Equally impressive is the sight of him once he has caught the scent of Marston’s Pedigree going into a fearsome ‘drinking frenzy’ from which no beer pump is safe. This ancient swallowing machine was discovered by the band in the depths of a Lincolnshire bog where they were drawn by travellers’ tales of blue water, white death, brown beer and white porcelain. He was captured and brought back alive for the amazement and delight of audiences all over the civilised world.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the folk club………
Tony Cave – The Man in Black
The throbbing motor behind the Deacons rear wheel drive, bass player Cave is the visual and musical ‘tower of power’ in the band’s line up. His hordes of frenzied female fans, or ‘droopies’ as they are known in the hip folk music world, would be surprised to learn that, away from the tinsel and glitter of the stage, the man in black leads a life of abstinence, self - denial and prayer, occasionally dipping into the works of Patience Strong or Godfrey Winn, or pottering in his immaculately maintained garden.
Before falling on hard times and his subsequent conversion to ‘born again’ folk music, Tony played with many of the great names in jazz and is still waiting for the cheque from several of them.
Between Deacons gigs Tony is house bassman for Stafford’s jazz and folk clubs, but he has still found no one except the Deacons who will pay him. Much to the band’s surprise Tony sings in a very high voice and always goes to the gents alone.
Graham ‘Blind Orange’ Bellinger
‘Wooo hoooo baby, my home is on the Delta’ sings The Orange, who does not have geography O level and actually lives in Doxey.
When you hear his stinging bottleneck guitar, his blues wailin’ mouth harp and his down home singing you too will really have the blues. Before long you will develop a longing for Dixie, the Robert E Lee, cotton fields and random lynching.
Most Deacons performances ring with bellowed requests for The Orange’s ‘Ragtime Millionaire’, but as a rule he is shouted down by the other band members.
The sight of this heavyweight musician (currently on slimline bitter lemon) laying down a hot guitar solo gives a new meaning to the term ‘video nasty’.
That’s the Deacons - truly a band for all tastes, mostly depraved, and who better to recommend them than that widely experienced jazzman Ornette ‘Shhhh - Don’t Call Me Tony’ Cave (‘We’ve never met before have we lads?’) - ‘ I’ve played with a lot of bands in my time and can honestly say that the Deacons is one of them. Can I have the money now?’
Happy as Saturday
Recorded live straight to tape by Dave ‘The Pulse’ Trueman over a couple of afternoons in August 1985.
Happy as Saturday is a phrase from Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood – I always felt I knew just what it meant………
Note from the 2007 reissue:
Things you didn’t often hear at Deacons gigs:
“Count us in Bott……..”
“Another lemonade Tony?…….”
I can carry that amplifier for you…..”
“A bit louder Dave…..”
“The girls were wondering if any of you were single….”
“Time for the Frank Zappa medley Graham…..”
“Here’s another twenty quid lads…..”
Well, we didn’t get rich and we didn’t get famous, but there were all those Tuesday evenings at Worston Mill and Saturdays at the Princess Royal. There were the folk clubs at Stafford, Brewood, Coleshill, all around the West Midlands and beyond. There were the benefits we played for Peace Action Stafford, Parent Teachers groups, striking miners, the local Youth Centre, anyone who’d have us really.
We met a lot of fine people and heard a lot of good music on our travels.
We recorded these songs for our first cassette – remember them? (and the machine in your car which ate them?) All done live with no overdubbing or anything so devious, with Dave Trueman turning the Knobs and pulling the levers. Being us of course we lost the master tape, so this transfer to CD has a few less than pristine sonic moments. Sorry, I did my best with the digital scrubbing brush but I couldn’t restore the glitches in ‘Fumblin’. You could look on the odd dodgy moment as a reminder of how we occasionally sounded live.
So many good friends and so many great nights. Thanks to everyone – happy memories.....................
We’d been playing regularly at Worston Mill and The Princess Royal in Stafford for nearly two years and recorded this in response to many requests from our regulars who picked out their favourite numbers for inclusion.
We borrowed Blakeways Youth Centre, Hednesford, where Graham was a Youth Worker, for the sessions and consequently spent most of the time trying to get curious teenagers to be quiet while the tape rolled.
When he wasn’t recording us or playing bass in the Lounge Lizard Ceilidh Band Dave Trueman ran Stafford’s only wholefood shop
We had 200 copies made by Andy Smith of Plus One tapes and they sold out by Christmas.
In 2007 we were asked to perform a fund raising gig for the Wheaton Aston Festival so I transferred a cassette copy to the computer and produced a limited run of CDs to sell at the gig. The only half decent copy of the tape which I could find had been under a bed in my sister’s house for 15 years or so that was the one I used.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Using That Thing
Original notes for 1987 issue:
A few words from Mr Monty Grasp
Was it really thirty years ago?
It seems like only yesterday I was at that youth club hop where I first saw Little Antonio and the Deaconnaires rocking through a set of skiffle classics in their unique style – I thought I detected an Ornette Coleman influence myself. Hard to credit I know, but the boys were young back then – Baby Face Clark dipped into a packet of Farleys Rusks between numbers, and Little Antonio was sinking National Health orange juice in the manner that has since become the trademark of this Grand Old Man of Bilston Boogie. But still, even with the boys fresh out of their prams, I had no doubt that these wildly abandoned rockers in their lurex matinee jackets winkle picker woolly bootees were the act I was looking for. I felt in my bones and my wallet that their future and that of the Grasp Talent Agency were somehow linked by fate. As I watched the boys on stage one word kept going round in my head to describe them – gullible I think it was.
As luck would have it, the chance to talk percentages didn’t arise that evening; artistic tension, so much a feature of the boys’ live performances, exploded into violence onstage when Wee Willie Bottomley helped himself to Jellybean Bellinger’s Ostermilk and within seconds one of Britain’s first ever rock n roll riots had left slashed seats and sharpened pennies all around the church hall. As the police weighed in with truncheons and Calpol I made my excuses and left, cursing my missed opportunity.
Happily good fortune, so often the handmaiden of successful superstar management, took my arm some years later. I was viewing some apparently derelict property in Upper Gornal with a view its conversion into multi-occupied multi-cultural bijou appartmentettes by Grasp Property Exploitation when I heard the unmistakable sound of rhythm and blues pounding from the cellar. Imagine my surprise delight and greed at finding those same four lovable moptops fighting on stage as a basement full of sweaty teenagers destroyed the fixtures and fittings. Only the style had changed; Litle Antonio had pulled out of the lead role and was putting all his energy into the rhythmic engine room of the band. The act was now fronted by the dishy mod looks of ‘Fabbo’ Dave and for material his band drew on the rich heritage of post war Chicago. Within a week the Dave Clark Four were signed to GUMS Enterprises (Grasp Unique Management – pick up a prospectus and priority share application form today) Within a fortnight their ‘jersey bleat’ sound was top of the pops in Uttoxeter and the far east and ready steady to go in Bishops Castle and the wild west. Within a month the boys were being sued by that Dave Clark and their dreams of stardom were fading fast. C’est le biz as we superstar managers say.
The rest of the sixties were a sad and bitter time for the band, who felt for some inexplicable reason that their best chance had been lost when I handled on their behalf a surprising offer from Marianne Faithfull. Drink and drugs took their toll; to feed his ever growing Lucky Bag habit ‘Roach End’ Bellinger was forced to sell the right to many of his finest songs – Doxeyfields Forever, Blowing in the Chetwynd and Stairway to Hixon among them. Rumours abounded that Tony ‘the Spectre’ Cave was nothing more than an embalmed body erratically propped up by his double bass. The Fantastic Fuzzy Freak Brothers, as Rolling Stone dubbed Bottomley and Clark, were shot dead in hotel rooms, lost in plane wrecks and beaten up by Hells Angels at Altamont for the rest of the decade and never noticed. - “Man,” said an older and wiser Bottomley in 1970, “We’ve had so many bad trips….last week we even went to Sedgley in a Vauxhall Cresta…But we all wanna get straight now. We’ve got this cottage in the country and we’re going down there to get it together without our wives finding out. I may well find Jesus or at least the meaning of life.”
And sure enough just six months later the now heavily bearded seekers returned as Deacon Bottomley’s Revival Show. Gone was the super ego tripping megawattage of the Woodstock era and instead came a laid back free and easy time; the boys played for free and the donations made Grasp the Lord Promotions easy money. But once again it wasn’t to last.
Throughout the seventies the boys indulged themselves in a bewildering array of zany schemes and styles. Glam rock and disco sat uneasily on their wide shoulders, though the boob tubes and slit skirts suited some members of the band. They dabbled without success in stadium oriented pomp rock with their epic ‘Dark Side of the Deacon’ concerts during which the band slept on stage and the audience crept out quietly so as not to wake them. They tried Satanism during their heavy metal Tone Def Deacon phase. They kicked over the traces of grey haired rock elitism with their new stance as Deacon Gob when ‘Gunner’ Bottomley lead the band through a series of punk rock concerts which they were forbidden to play by promoters and fans alike.
The eighties brought a more considered approach as the band considered why they still had to have day jobs whilst Grasp Transworld Multiconglomerates constantly moved into ever larger and more luxurious office blocks staffed by larger and ever more luxurious personal assistants. C’est le biz, as we globe spanning hyperstar mangers say. But despite my advice the boys refused to compromise on their musical and political commitment in an age that demanded bland sure-selling product from its idols. Flying in the face of my personal guarantee of a worldwide deal on my own Graspco record label with primetime TV advertising if only they would come up with 20 Golden Greats of Old Age and Post Mortality, the boys have insisted on going ‘indie’. Under the guidance of legendary rock Svengali Larry Rushton, they closeted themselves and some heavy friends – talents drawn from the furthest corners of the Globe Tavern and Wine Bar – in the Fort Knox like security of Media Music Studios, home of the Rushton partition wall of sound. They emerged bleary eyed and constipated with the groovy platter now on offer.
And so here it is at last – the fruit of four lives lived on the hard shoulder of rock. It’s all here – the smiles and tears, the pleasure and pain, the unpaid bills and sagging stomachs. Ladies and Gentlemen, are you ready to rock? Are you ready to roll? Are you ready to stand in a wet field on a cold night and watch somebody in the far distance who might be a rock star but could just as easily be Sooty for all you can actually see? Or would you rather take home a souvenir of an evening spent with a band you could actually see singing, playing, making mistakes, getting drunk and falling over? Ladies and Gentlemen, I have worked with many bands over the years and I can honestly say that this group is one of them. So I give you the ….er….what was the name again lads?
Manager and pal, December 1987
P. S. Can I have the cheque for this by return of post please boys. M.G.
Notes for the 2007 reissue
Ah……the 1980s…..big hair, Material Girls, shoulder pads, power breakfasts, shares in privatised industries, mega salaries….strangely they all seemed to bypass the Deacons as we travelled our way on the hard shoulder of folk…..
In 1987 we recorded our very own proper LP (you remember – black vinyl, 12 inches, all very fashionable again now). Making an LP was quite a challenge in those days and expensive too. As we were unable to trace our manager, Mr. Monty Grasp, we sought the more caring support of Pat and Graham Onions and their Taptag Records label, and a loan from our true friend Keith Harrison. We settled ourselves in Cannock’s Media Music Studio, home of the legendary Larry Rushton partition wall of sound (and until recently home of the Larry Rushton car and bike) and emerged some months later bleary eyed and constipated with the groovy platter you now hold. Larry was a real pal and did a great job with our music – a bit different from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal which he was used to recording. We called on a few of our heavy friends to bring a bit of extra spice to the recording – a million thanks to them all. Chris Gumbley played beautifully and put up with our musical ineptitude, Keith Harrison and Larry popped a couple of great guest guitar solos on Using That Thing, Alan Bishop played a remarkable keyboard part on High Germany with no rehearsal at all, and Martin Thompson played like a trouper all over the record – so much so that we had to keep him in the band for ever after. Occasional confusion over his name led to there being a few baffled Richard Thompson fans at our subsequent gigs…..
Once it was all on tape we were packed off to CCS Studios in London for the arcane ritual of ‘cutting the master’. No, we never knew what it meant either, but we had a great curry afterwards. With the usual Deacons knack for complications, we chose the day of the great 87 hurricane for this trip to London…..We took delivery of 1000 LPs just before Christmas 1987 and as I write this, just before Christmas 2006, we only have about 20 left – sadly the Deacons were denied the 1987 Christmas number one slot by the Pet Shop Boys.
Of course we never managed to get the master back from the pressing plant (too busy with the Pet Shop Boys to buy the stamps I suppose) so this CD is transferred from an LP, thus giving you the authentic analogue aural experience with a few vintage crackles and pops. In conclusion, as our friend and manager Mr Monty Grasp wrote in the LP sleeve notes: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, are you ready to rock? Are you ready to roll? Are you ready to stand in a wet field on a cold night and watch somebody in the far distance who might be a rock star but could just as easily be Sooty for all you can actually see? Or would you rather take home a souvenir of an evening spent with a band you could actually see singing, playing, making mistakes, getting drunk and falling over?’
And so here we are today – just hold your pension books aloft and surf that wave of nostalgia……Ladies and Gentlemen, I have worked with many bands over the years and I can honestly say that the Deacons is one of them.
* * * * * * * * * *
The Deacons at Worston Mill
Saturn Sound Recording SRS093
Very limited cassette issued 1985
Live recording at our club at Worston Mill
We ran a folk club at Worston Mill every week from 1983 to 1990. We were lucky that the Mill was close to the British Telecom Training College at Yarnfield where BT engineers and such would come from all over the country for short residential courses. So desperate were they for evening entertainment that the BT students would often come to our club. One such asked us if he could record an evening and arrived the next week (on September 24th 1985) with some very flash equipment. He sent us some copies of the finished tape which we gave away to friends and regulars. We may have been out of tune here and there and Bott and I showed an alarming tendency to launch into songs no one else in the band had ever played, but it’s probably the best record of what we got up to at the Mill for so long. We’re joined on a number of these songs by Cheryl York, a fine Stafford singer and Deaconette. Gosh, we did a lot of Dylan songs!
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
A Night Like This (2017)
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Matt Bishop, Inspire Music March 2017
with guests: Greg Russell, Cheryl York & Adrian Dear
Cover photographs by Dave Clarke (not that one) at Worston Mill 2017
We are particularly honoured to have a few more words from the band’s former manager Monty Grasp, who has found a few moments in his busy schedule to tweet:
‘Was it really thirty years ago?.........’
Well dear listener, in 1987 with those immortal words I began my sleeve notes to The Deacons’ LP ‘Using That Thing’ . In that humble eulogy I recalled the highs and lows of what was already a three decade long fruitful and friendly partnership with those lovable mop tops. (By the way boys, I’m still waiting for the writer’s royalties….and I can afford lawyers you know……)
Now it’s thirty years since those notes were written and I have to say that, judging by the photo on the cover of this CD, not to mention the so called ‘folk music’ within, time has been less than kind to my erstwhile musical proteges.
Could this sad decline be because they have never tried even a little cosmetic intervention such as I urged them to do when the first grey hairs appeared? Have they learned nothing?
Or could it be that they have never listened to my advice ‘Forget the music, just follow the money’? A waste of my breath I fear - The Deacons just turned a deaf ear to such wise words
If those boys had stuck with me they could have been playing a three month residency in The Grasp Casino in Las Vegas right now. They could have been whooping it up in the thirty third floor penthouse suite of Grasp Tower this very day. They could have been standing tall crowing ‘Look at me now Ma - Top of the World!’
Instead the boys have once again followed their lonely and financially irresponsible muse and come up with another entirely uncommercial platter of ‘folk’ music. Folk music! - I despair……things could have been so different……SO SAD!
(Don’t forget to send the royalty cheque this time boys)
President Montague J Grasp (former manager and pal)