Chris Phipps profile by Roger Shannon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Roger Shannon wrote this profile piece about Chris Phipps several years ago, but the article sums up the man very well)

Roger Shannon talks to Chris Phipps about Birmingham’s rich rock heritage.

Birmingham’s rich music heritage is at long last receiving serious attention, its profile further boosted by the screening of a legendary rock film – and an appearance by one of the city’s cultural torch-bearers.

International music industry consultant Chris Phipps is returning to his home city on Saturday to introduce and discuss a special showing of the Led Zeppelin movie The Song Remains The Same at the Flatpack Film Festival.

It follows hot on the heels of Phipps’ visit to the city’s Home of Metal event last month when he discussed the indigenous origins of heavy metal while also introducing a screening of the 1992 documentary, Motor City Music Years.

Phipps has ramped up a 35-year career in the music industry. Based in the United Kingdom, he has worked in the United States, Japan, Africa, Israel, Holland and throughout Europe.

His passion and enthusiasm for music remains as ebullient as it was in the mid-1970’s when, as a college disc jockey, he began promoting local bands.

He has worked with the best, from Bob Marley to Sting, the Pet Shop Boys and Dire Straits and as a television producer and interviewer, he has put many more bands and musicians on the world’s screens, including Joan Armatrading, Ozzy Osbourne, UB40, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Steel Pulse and the Fine Young Cannibals.

Born in Northfield, he attended King Edwards School, Camp Hill, and studied teacher training at West Midlands College of Education. 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 Lynne, who was later to form the Electric Light Orchestra and Jon Lord (later to form Deep Purple).

Phipps recalls: “Sixth form was great – Steve Winwood was playing in local jazz bands before the dawn of the Spencer Davis Group, Robert Plant was getting up to sing with Alexis Korner at the Midland Arts Centre, Gene Vincent was at St Francis Hall, Bournville, the Four Tops played 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; I booked Paul Simon for £6 for the Christian Club, Black Sabbath, the original Fleetwood Mac, Joe Cocker, Jethro Tull …”

The recent Home of Metal weekend summed up many good things about Birmingham’s popular musical heritage. An event organised by music industry entrepreneurs Capsule took the form of a unique walking tour visiting talismanic venues from the 1960s and ’70s, where heavy metal music was born, bred and bottle-fed. Leading the tour was Phipps, back in his home city, and oozing with enthusiasm.

The Metal Heritage Tour took in Hill Street, where the Golden Eagle pub stood and hosted a blues venue; the Whisky a Go Go, now gone, where Cream once performed; the Crown on Station Street, where Henry’s Blues House was resident; Hurst Street and the legendary El Sombrero, where the young Ozzy Osbourne dreamed up the name Black Sabbath; and close by, the Diskery, a place of vinyl heaven. Phipps wrote the tour guide and advised on its contents and cartography.

Phipps says: “I hope the Walk draws attention to the fact that heavy metal is as valid to the Midlands as Matthew Boulton and the Jewellery Quarter. It’s living cultural history, as valid as the Mystery Plays and Shakespeare.

“It’s industrial folk music and draws on the locality, as UB40 drew on their multi-cultural roots in the next decade. The founding dynasty of metal – Ozzy, Sabbs, Priest – are still touring and unerringly loyal to their fans.”

Phipps holds a unique place in the city’s popular music heritage. When I moved to the city in the late-1970s, people would point out this whippet of a young man, all hair and quips.

At Pebble Mill, he produced reggae and rock shows for BBC Radio Birmingham, now Radio WM, and for a time was their roving interviewer, chewing the fat with major singers and bands visiting the region – Joe Cocker, Rush, Whitesnake, Uriah Heap, Sting (for the BBC drama Artemis 81), Iggy Pop, Captain Beefheart (who threw Chris off his tour bus), the Sex Pistols and a trio of reggae giants in Gregory Isaacs, John Holt and Bob Marley and The Wailers.

He also scooped the occasional exclusive, as when he interviewed Dexys Midnight Runners frontman Kevin Rowlands for television at a time when the frequently verbose singer had refused to speak to the press.

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 a team to front the BBC Midlands pop show Look! Hear!, produced at BBC Pebble Mill.

The pairing of 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-born actress and singer, was hot-foot from her infamous appearance in the Derek Jarman movie, Jubilee (1978).

Look! Hear! showcased the region’s post-punk and 2-Tone scene – Duran Duran, The Specials, Selector, Dexys Midnight Runners – making the Pebble Mill a key location in the promotion of the city’s burgeoning musical pedigree.

Phipps was recruited to join Channel Four’s flagship pop programme The Tube as assistant producer, working alongside anarchic presenters Paula Yates and Jools Holland. He says: “The Tube gave you carte blanche to fight your corner and work with every idiom of music. I found myself all over the world – with Culture Club in Japan; Dire Straits in Israel; Malcolm McLaren in Los Angeles; Sly and Robbie in Jamaica.”

His proudest moments were closer to home, involving two Birmingham bands. Chris booked the Fine Young Cannibals and Hollywood Beyond for their first television appearances, shooting on two freezing days in Birmingham at Zella Studios and at the Grand Hotel.

His later career included many hours of television for ITV, via Tyne Tees, and for independent film and television companies, taking in African music, Bob Marley and Chris Rea amongst others.

The programme Motor City Music Years, made in 1992 for Channel 4 and Central TV, was a three-part series documenting popular music in Birmingham from the 1960s to the 1990s.

I worked with Phipps on the series and it benefited enormously from his contacts, enabling us to film previously inaccessible interviewees such as Joan Armatrading, Ozzy Osbourne, UB40 and Duran Duran.

One project involved the boss of Island Records, Chris Blackwell, plus the legendary Bill Graham, owner of the Fillmore in San Francisco. Phipps recalls: “When Bill died, Chris authorised me to search the Fillmore archives. Every band he promoted, he filmed – The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix Experience. Yet because of rights, almost of all of this classic material remains unseen.”

Phipps is looking forward to introducing The Song Remains The Same, at South Birmingham College, Digbeth.

“I saw Robert Plant play to 14 people in 1967 in the Black Horse, Northfield. The band remain an enigma even now.

“I look at the chemistry when two session musicians hired two loose cannons and the power they unleashed. You may leave with more questions than answers, but that’s Zeppelin.”

* Roger Shannon is professor of film at Liverpool’s Edge Hill University and film producer at Swish For more, go to www.flatpackfestival.org, www.homeofmetal.com or http://birminghammusic archive.co.uk

Brenda Jeffcoat

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brenda Jeffcoat passed away suddenly on Thursday 13th December, aged 89. She was in good spirits a few days before she died. There are several photos below of her from her Radio Birmingham days.

Here are a couple of memories of Brenda, one from Nick Owen who says he remembers Brenda well. “A lovely lady who was always friendly and chatty”.
Here is another memory from Bunny Hall of Brenda in the 1960s…….
“I was so sorry to hear about Brenda. Although I hadn’t seen her for many, many years she also played a large part in my BBC life. I knew her right from the early sixties when she used to stand in for Olive Burrows as the teleprinter operator in an office shared with myself and
Lily Such (we were the Duplicating office, but these days probably more pompously known as ‘Office Printing’) at Carpenter Road. We always got on very well and still kept in touch after I left in 1978.”

Thanks to Annie Gumbley-Williams for the information and photographs of Brenda.

Pete Simpkin oral history

This is a specially recorded oral history interview with radio producer and presenter, Pete Simpkin, who worked on both Radio Birmingham and Radio WM at BBC Pebble Mill.

Radio Producer, Pete Simpkin.

Alastair Yates obituary

alastair yates BBC Midlands TV news

Alastair Yates BBC Midlands TV News circa 1979

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following obituary for Alastair Yates, who died 26th July 2018,  is from his daughter Elspeth:

“Daddy. What do you say about a man who has graced our screens and our hearts for over 4 decades? Alastair (Yates) was a gentleman and a gentle man. Born in Burton upon Trent in 1952 he went on to be schooled at Manor House School, Ashby de la Zouch and the Burton Grammar School. His father instilled in him a love for ‘getting things done’ and a ‘lets have a go’ attitude, which permeated his whole life. He could often be found in the garden shed tinkering with broken equipment or making something. We often joked about his Heath Robinson contraptions and solutions.

Al didn’t enjoy school much but found his passion in DJ’ing for local clubs, and soon got himself a radio slot. His smooth tones and love for information however saw the newsroom make a beeline for him, and in 1978 he first appeared on television on the Midlands Today programme. He worked in regional news for 11 years before opening Sky News with Penny Smith in 1989. The BBC snapped him up in 1992 where he helped to launch the new BBC World Service before it changed ultimately to BBC News 24. With a sense of symmetry, Alastair finished his career back on the radio with Classic FM.

Alastair always enjoyed adventures and loved the outdoors. Family holidays were spent on activity breaks in Europe where he would wile away the days sailing and windsurfing while the children learnt to waterski, play tennis or explore local markets.

In his retirement Alastair could always be found on an evening with a glass of his favourite wine, Viognier or Stellenbosch. But he never really retired, he threw himself into charitable endeavours running communications for the Horse Rangers Association and later becoming Chair and communication lead of the ADHD Richmond charity. He spent all his retirement dedicated to expanding the knowledge and research around ADHD and ensuring parents had the tools they needed.

In the days since he has passed we have been in awe at the amount of people that have commented, tweeted and posted about him. There seem to be endless stories and amusing accounts from people around the world but the overriding sentiment is that he was a gentleman and a consummate professional that everyone loved to work with.

Alastair is survived by his long term partner Ginny, children Elspeth, James and Elyan and two grandchildren.”

Elspeth Yates

Radio Birmingham top

Photos by Jane Partridge, no reproduction without permission

Radio Birmingham top, belonging to Phil Partridge. This dates from the very late 1970s or early 1980s. Thanks to Jane Partridge for taking and sharing the photos.

The following comments were added on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Tim Manning: ‘These were produced while negotiations about changing the name were still going on with the BBC in London; “WM”, rather than a standard place name, was a big change for BBC local radio style. John Pickles, the manager, wanted to get on with a “soft” relaunch of the station in the meantime, and for a while there was less emphasis on Radio Birmingham and more on “206” and the broader West Midlands identify.’

Andy Walters: ‘I have a feeling that dates from 78. It later morphed into the Radio WM logo. To show you how old some of our OB gear is, this logo still adorns some of it.’

Radio WM sticker on OB kit still being used!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete Simpkin: ‘This one was the best of all the designs for the Radio Birmingham/WM shirts…..wore all mine till they fell to pieces!!’