About Graham Beck

Musician/artist-Artist/musician. 'As-old-as-the-hills' keyboard player, singer-songwrter, audio artist/visual artist & synth enthusiast (how do I manage to have time to eat & sleep, let alone write a blog?!). I also 'dabble' in music production, so please let me know if I can help out.

It never rains, but it pours… (Idle chat online)

Hull can be a sleepy, back-of-the-water place (which is one reason why I like it). However, as starved of entertainment as we are, Saturday 9th March proved an exception to this rule. Not only were my good friends (Wreckless) Eric & Amy Rigby playing in Hull – I MC’d the evening at The Adelphi Club (& invited, took to the stage ‘helping out’ on keyboards for Whole Wide World, Take The Kash, Dancing With Joey Ramone, & lastly, Hit & Miss Judy) – but also on the same evening & playing in the city were The Pretty Things & John Otway!! Consequently, for some people, this caused a dilemma – which gig to go to?
The following appeared on the local football team’s ‘Football Plus’ pages (of all places!)…..

Hull City Forum chat site (‘City Independent – The Hull City Fanzine’ 9th March 20013).

theotherphantom: It seems Wreckless Eric is at the Adelphi that night. The place is being overrun with pop stars!
Ren: Saw Wreckless at Springhead a few years back. Bloody good gig.
That was before he hooked up with Amy Rigby though. I gather the two of them together are quite something, though I’ve not yet had the pleasure.
theotherphantom: I went to their Adelphi gig last year along with a mate who’s seen him several times. He was disappointed this time round. The best bits were when a friend of theirs played keyboard for a couple of tracks. The timing improved no end.
Ren: That would have been Graham Beck presumably (local chap)? AKA Big Spider Beck and various other musical guises.
He also played at the aforementioned Springhead gig; I think him and Eric go way back. He’s credited with keyboards on the “Bungalow Hi” album which I have on CD, not sure if he worked on any of the earlier stuff though.
theotherphantom: That would have been Graham Beck presumably (local chap)? AKA Big Spider Beck and various other musical guises.
He also played at the aforementioned Springhead gig; I think him and Eric go way back. He’s credited with keyboards on the “Bungalow Hi” album which I have on CD, not sure if he worked on any of the earlier stuff though. Rings a bell. Tall chap.
Ren: Yup, that’ll be him.

& the day after………..
theotherphantom: Did anyone get to either gig?
Ren: Not me.

Well, Eric’s gig saw a good 80+, The Pretty Things about 50, & John Otway (with Wild Willy Barrett)…..well, who knows?! You’d think this big city would generate greater attendance numbers, but there is a lethagy here (‘Gig, pub or stay in?’)…..Or maybe the choice was just too great for some!

PS Eric & Amy’s night was the best, of course. They played for two hours, & everybody went home happy. You can’t say that very often.

PPS It could be worse, but I will always be known as ‘the tall chap’!!


Eric & Amy ‘do their stuff’ at The Adelphi Club, Hull, with the tall chap on piano (please note: I am sitting down!).

snapshot_002 snapshot_012




The allure of vinyl (Part 2)…

I hadn’t intended to write a follow-up to my last blog, ‘The allure of vinyl’ (now a ‘Part one’, I suppose), but due to reading a paperback by the late great DJ, John Peel, ‘The Olivetti Chronicles’ (published by Corgi Books), there was a chapter, amongst others, that really resonated with me – & it was too much of a coincidence of interweaving facts within that chapter not to write a ‘Part 2’. What was it/were they? Read on to find out………….

Just this morning (it won’t be by the time I finish writing this, of course), I was reading the chapter entitled ‘Record Shops’ from the absorbing afore-mentioned book, . The particular piece was written back in 1980 for Punch magazine, & concerned John Peel’s earliest forays into his local record shop(s). Apparently, & it was something I’d forgotten about, most record shops were merely ‘departments’ within bigger stores. He bought a Columbia 78rpm in ‘Crane’s of Liverpool’ – a furniture & musical instrument shop. It was by Ray Martin & His Orchestra, & called ‘Blue Tango’. I was born much later than Mr. Peel, but I do remember quite well (& we’re talking late 60’s, early 70’s) the location of these ‘record depts.’ in furniture shops (why furniture shops?), large department stores & musical instrument shops – a bit more of that later….

Record departments were places where you could get lost in, browsing through records of bands with names no-one had heard of (& in some cases, were never, ever, heard of again). They were social areas that felt like ‘our world’, another world of sound & wonderful album covers. It somehow made you feel special. That’s all gone now, apart from a few, dwindling, independent, & second-hand record shops (see previous blog). It seems that this situation had already started back in 1980, according to the learned J. Peel Esq. He mentioned the lack of choice in W.H.Smith stores, which of course now, has nothing whatsoever to do with music, CDs or otherwise. However, back to the plot…

I also have a 78rpm in my collection by Ray Martin & his Orchestra, but this is called ‘Tango Waltz’ (I wonder if it was pre, or post, Blue Tango?). I bought it years ago when living in London, I think, from a jumble sale. Whenever I play it (as I am at this moment in time……You’ll have to believe me here), I get transported back to my early days of listening to the valve radio – which I, incidentally, have as well………& it still works! – hearing various dance bands/groups/solo artistes of the era. God, I’m beginning to sound old! The 78 is nothing to write home about, but it’s pleasant, & although I can’t associate it with any particular moment in time, or event, it does evoke the sound & warmth coming out of the radio & the coziness of life at home in my earlier days. It’s comforting – nothing wrong with that, I think?

Tango Waltz 78rpm

Now, further to connecting records & memories (once again, please see previous blog), there are three LPs that I can clearly remember buying. First up is/was:

‘Parachute’ by The Pretty Things. It’s a wonderful, melodic, tuneful, raucous & experimental ‘concept’ album. Bought during a lunch break from my school holiday job (in Marks & Spencer), from Wolsey & Wolsey’s electrical shop – they sold everything from televisions, transistor radios & record players – it was a revelation hearing the music in the listening booth (I really do miss those booths), with the stereo effects coming out of the tiny speakers located just above my head. I listened in wonder to side one, all the way through, & proceeded to march (in non-military style) to the counter with my hard-earned money. It all felt very subversive, & buying it made me feel soooooooo good! At last, I thought to myself, an album that filled that underground/progressive gap that was missing in my very, very minimal record collection at the time.

Pretty Things LP

Next up was……

Savoy Brown’s ‘Looking In’. Once again, this was yet another purchase made during a lunch break from my school holiday job. I found this LP in the section marked ‘Underground’. My two friends (both working in the same shop), & myself, settled into the dark, curtained listening booth, which was much more luxurious than Wolsey & Wolsey’s, in the basement (household & hardware items) of Arnauld’s Dept. Store. I remember there being a small sofa in there. We all agreed, crammed on that sofa, that there was something special about this album, even though it seemed ‘very bluesey’, & was certainly far better, to our progessive ears, than The Moody Blues album we’d all listened to on a previous lunchtime outing. Incidentally, I once copied the cover artwork, & entered it into an all-schools exhibition at the local library…..& it won first prize! I also managed to sell it, for a mere £5.00, which boosted my pocket money no end.

Savoy Brown LP

& finally….

Frank Zappa’s ‘The Grand Wazoo’. It was a couple of years later, when I walked from my art college, on a (you guessed it!) lunchtime break, but with my girlfriend of the time, into Allen’s Music Shop, through the highly-polished upright pianos & acoustic guitars hanging from the peg board-covered walls. I can’t remember how I knew about this album, although I do remember borrowing ‘Hot Rats’ from a friend at school, & was very impressed with it. So, maybe I thought it was in a similar vein. Anyway, I asked the assistant to play the record for me. Now, if you were listening to anything in Allen’s, the whole shop also heard it, as it was played through the main shop speakers (they didn’t have any separate booths for this purpose). We both listened to all of side one, as I stood amongst the pianos in the window to get the whole ‘stereo effect’. Customers, staff & my girlfriend all flinched during the first track, ‘For Calvin (& His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)’, & the shop was emptying fast for the next long track, ‘The Grand Wazoo’. When it finished, you could see everyone was feeling relieved & the atmosphere in the shop went back to normal. I was laughingly asked by the member of staff if I wanted to buy it, & my girlfriend also said something like, ‘Of course you don’t, do you?’. All present were totally surprised when I said, ‘Yes!’ When I got back to art college, the LP was the talk of my studio. My girlfriend didn’t talk to me for a couple of days………

Frank Zappa LP

If anyone’s interested, & I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seats with this one, the other side of Ray Martin’s ‘Tango Waltz’ is called, ‘Carnavalito (Festival Of Flowers)’. Now, that’s something to remember if it ever cropped-up in a pub trivia quiz!

The allure of vinyl

Last month, I watched a wonderful film/documentary entitled ‘Sound It Out’, made & directed by Jeanie Finlay in 2011 (on Glimmer Films). The subject in question was ‘the only surviving independent record store in Teeside’, in Stockton, UK, known as, strangely enough, Sound It Out. It was a brief look at, what used to be, a thriving record store – & indeed what were thriving independent record stores across the whole land. An interesting fact emerged out of the film-umentary (or should that be, docu-film?), comparing the number of these shops in America with those over here….& do you know what the difference in number is? There IS no difference! It appears that there are the same number on both sides of the Atlantic, which is incredible, considering how large the USA is compared to us (the little ‘ol UK). All I can assume is that independent record stores are fairing much better ‘over here’ than ‘over there’, although that isn’t saying much, as corporate giants HMV (& owner, Tom, from Sound It Out, says, ‘There’s HMV, but we don’t count them as record shops’) have limited the consumers’ choice by what THEY want to stock, which is mainly major record label music. There’s no chance of smaller, indie-type, labels getting a look in. But, I digress…….

The characters that patronised the shop were enthusiatic, obsessive, nerdy & just a bit……How can I put it kindly?…..Well, a bit/quite different.  Assistant David, says he likes working there because, ‘…..It’s not the ordinary people, it’s the random people…’ who inhabit this shop. Above all though, they are passionate about their music, & the fact that this record shop could supply all their ‘fixes’….& if they couldn’t, they’d have a damn good try at trying to track down a source that could supply their musical needs. Now, how many shops, could you say, would go out of their way to do that these days?! It’s the individual approach, character & friendliness of the small independent shops , that will hopefully keep them afloat in these turbulent times. They might be small on the outside, but on the inside, they are beautifully formed – full of hidden, unexpected treasures, just waiting for the right person to come along & find/buy the said item(s).

Apparently, record-collecting is a ‘male obsession’ (‘Well, it is here’, says Tom. He has about 50,000 albums/CDs/cassettes in stock – I do believe there is a collection in America that totals in excess of 1,000,000 (that’s ONE MILLION LPs!) & the owner is looking for a permanent home somewhere….I’m not sure if that’s for him, or the record collection!). This Tom is very insightful – & I suppose he has plenty of time to be, waiting for customers to find (it’s ‘out-of-the-way’, but next to the Job Centre), & then enter his shop – a world full of vinyl. Having vinyl records is akin to ‘…having the original link (to the artist), or something. Half the guys who buy these records probably don’t play them (…what??!), but you’ve got them in the hand, in the shelf…..’ – it’s the feeling of posession, I suppose. Anyway, he continues, ‘It’s all about emotions…& memories. I can tell you exactly what I was doing when I play a record – who I was going out with…..It’s all about memories. Records hold memories’. ‘With records’, Tom says, ‘it’s never-ending. You can go on…..& on…..& on…..’.

I occaisionally buy vinyl records, usually from second-hand record collector-type shops. I can identify with the sentiments expressed in the film, as records DO take me back to the time I heard/bought them. My first vinyl album was Jose Feliciano’s ‘Feliciano! ‘ (that includes his classic re-working of The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ – a chart-topper over here, I do believe, back in it’s time)…..& it’s this ‘time’ element that reminds me that I bought it in Liverpool, in a lovely old-fashoned record store – with listening booths – whilst visiting my Aunt & Uncle, there.


Of course, it was quite a while before I could play the LP, as I didn’t have a record player! Months later, I borrowed my cousins Dansette player, along with The Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’ & The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ albums. It was wonderful hearing the lush violins & orchestral arrangements set to the amazing guitar-playing of Jose….& the music/other-worldly sounds of the Beatle-Beach Boy minds, that have inspired me to this day with my song writing & musical arrangements. You see, all these memories & details have come flooding back to me – although I don’t think they ever really leave.

My record collection was boosted, quite significantly, recently, when a musician friend donated 300+ vinyl albums. It was quite an exciting moment when, having finally got them home (in a somewhat over-full car boot), I looked through them & saw several that I never really owned, only borrowed & played in my school boy & college boy era, & to suddenly have them ‘IN MY POSSESSION’, it just felt really good. More of my youth was coming back to me, in vinyl form!

So, it is all about capturing the past – a sort of vinyl archive specific to me. It describes me, & also hepled shape me. I always keep a written diary, & this record collection is fast becoming a ‘sound diary’. I shan’t go into the esthetics of 12″ x 12″ covers, gate-fold sleeves etc., but they were, & still are, great for artwork & reading all sorts of details, particularly without the aid of glasses. But, vinyl albums beat CDs & MP3s anyday!!

Long may the LP reign, & long may the independent record store keep going….& going…..& going….&…….

Wire - Pink Flag

‘Art punk’ band Wire‘s 1st. album – ‘Pink Flag’. Some classic, short & spikey numbers on here, & riffs/samples much-used by Elastica et al.

Keef Hartley Band -The Time Is Near

Keef Hartley Band – ‘The Time Is Near’ (I first heard this album being played on the John Peel Show – there was something special about it, & there still is).