There is a retrospective of Chris Phipps’s television career to be held on Sat 2nd September, at Birmingham City University, Curzon Street, Birmingham. The event is organised by the archive organisation, Kaleidoscope. Here is the link for tickets (which are free): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/k-2917-tickets-36551717170 . The whole event lasts from 10-18.00, with an episode of Look! Hear! showing at 11.20, followed by an interview with Chris, who was one of the show’s presenters, at 12.00.
Below are details of the event:
“11.20 Look! Hear! – BBC Pebble Mill, tx: 6.1.1978
Black Sabbath, The Coventry Mummers, John Holmes and Chris Phipps in a local magazine programme unseen nationally.
12.00 Our first guest of the day: Chris Phipps.
Chris Phipps has ramped up a 35 year long career in the music industry – primarily based in the UK, he has worked in the USA, Japan, Africa, Israel, Holland and Europe. His passion and enthusiasm for popular music remains today as ebullient and full on as it did in the mid 1970’s, when as a college disc jockey he began promoting local bands. He has worked with the biggest and the best – from Bob Marley, to Sting, to Pet Shop Boys, to Dire Straits, to Eric Clapton – and as television producer and interviewer has put many more bands and musicians on the world’s screens – Joan Armatrading, Ozzy Osbourne, UB 40, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Steel Pulse and Fine Young Cannibals.
Born and raised in Northfield, schooled at King Edwards Camp Hill, followed by Teacher Training at West Midlands College of Education, the teen aged Chris Phipps was already steeped in vinyl and music, booking local bands such as Carl Wayne and the Vikings (later The Move), The Idle Race with Jeff Lynn (later to form ELO), Jon Lord (later to form Deep Purple). As he recollects of this era : “Sixth form was great. Steve Winwood playing in local jazz bands before the dawn of Spencer Davis, Robert Plant getting up to sing with Alexis Corner at MAC , Gene Vincent at St Francis Hall, Bournville !!! The Four Tops at the Odeon. At College I booked Robert Plant’s Band of Joy; got sacked from the Ents Committee for booking Cream for £360. and then reinstated myself by getting The Scaffold to perform in the Common Room….booked Paul Simon for £6 for the Christian Club….booked Black Sabbath, the original Fleetwood Mac, Joe Cocker, Jethro Tull…”
At BBC Pebble Mill Chris Phipps produced reggae and rock shows for BBC Radio Birmingham, now Radio WM, and for a time was their roving interviewer, chewing the musical fat with all the major singers and bands visiting the region in that period – Joe Cocker, Rush, Whitesnake, Uriah Heap, Sting (for the BBC Drama ‘Artemis 81’), Iggy Pop, Captain Beefheart (who threw Chris off the tour bus), the Sex Pistols, reggae giants Gregory Isaacs, John Holt, Bob Marley and The Wailers. And scooping the occasional exclusive, as when he interviewed for television Dexys Midnight Runners front man, Kevin Rowlands, when the frequently verbose singer had refused to speak to any press at all.
From presenting and interviewing on radio, it was a small step to doing the same on television, and the opportunity arose when BBC producer Roger Casstles assembled the team to front the BBC Midlands pop show, ‘Look ! Hear !’, produced at BBC Pebble Mill. The pairing of Chris Phipps with Toyah Willcox is self effacingly described by Chris. ‘We were played off against each other as a punk versus a Keith Chegwin !’ Toyah, the Birmingham actress and singer, was hot foot from her infamous appearance in the Derek Jarman movie, JUBILEE (1978), which luxuriated in an ensemble of punk performers – Wayne County, Jordan, Adam Ant, Gene October, Siouxsie Sioux. ‘Look ! Hear !’ showcased the region’s emerging post punk and Two Tone scene – Duran Duran, The Specials, Selector, Dexys Midnight Runners – making the studios at BBC Pebble Mill a key location in the promotion of the city’s burgeoning musical pedigree.
The experience on ‘Look ! Hear !’ , and the contacts it brought, propelled the so far Birmingham based Chris Phipps into national and international broadcasting focussed on music and entertainment.
He was recruited to join as assistant producer a music show which in its five year span became to the 1980’s what READY STEADY GO !’ had been to the 1960’s. That ground breaking show was THE TUBE and, as with the ’60’s Cathy McGowan fronted programme, THE TUBE was definitely where the week end started.
Chris’s time on THE TUBE, the Newcastle based iconic 1980’s music show, saw him working alongside anarchic presenters Paula Yates and Jools Holland. Lasting five years from 1982 – 1987, Channel Four’s flagship pop programme was of its own time, much loved, and missed, and completely peerless in its finger on the pulse presentation of pop music. As Assistant Producer, Chris Phipps worked at an increasingly international level – ‘”THE TUBE gave you carte blanche to fight your corner and work with every idiom of music, from unsigned bands to superstars. I found myself all over the world : Culture Club in Japan; Dire Straits in Israel; Malcolm McLaren in Los Angeles; Sly and Robbie in Jamaica. The Tube was more of an attitude than a programme.’ “
His proudest moments on THE TUBE are, intriguingly, closer to home, involving two Birmingham bands. Chris booked Fine Young Cannibals and Hollywood Beyond for their first ever television appearances – “shooting on two freezing days in Birmingham at Zella Studios and at the Grand Hotel !.”
His career in music and entertainment since his days on The Tube includes many hours of television for ITV, via Tyne Tees, and for independent film and television companies, taking in African music; the music of Bob Marley; Chris Rea; the culture of the north east, where since THE TUBE he has lived; Birmingham pop music from the 1960’s to 1990’s (MOTOR CITY MUSIC YEARS, made in 1992 for Channel 4 and Central Tv, was a 3 part series documenting popular music from the city from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. This is when I worked with Chris Phipps. The series benefited enormously from Chris’s contacts, enabling us to film previously inaccessible interviewees such as Muff Winwood, Joan Armatrading, Ozzie Osbourne, UB 40, Duran Duran.).
Chris Phipps will be in Birmingham to talk about his long career with us and his latest project: Black Sabbath – The End. Kaleidoscope will be playing an exclusive trailer for this new cinematic venture.”
The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:
Pete Simpkin: ‘Great tribute to a talented man. He was also for a while Radio Birmingham/WM’s man in Wolverhampton where he brought great improvement to the station’s identity in the Black Country.‘