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

Chris Phipps

Chris Phipps trails Look! Hear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Phipps died suddenly on Friday 23rd August, 2019. Chris was a reporter on BBC Birmingham/ Radio WM and co-presented on Look!Hear! with Toyah Willcox in the 1980s, before becoming a presenter on The Tube.

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

Conal O’Donnell: ‘Chris was a wonderful erudite popular culture man who could literally turn his hand to anything.I have very fond memories of him at Pebble Mill in the late 70s.The kind of colleague who made one proud to work for the Beeb.’

Kate Boston Williams: ‘Chris was my first colleague when I made the move to Newcastle in 1998. He remained a loyal friend. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things musical and his anecdotes were legendary. I’ll miss our meetings at the Tyneside cinema, his wit and kindness.’

Michael Fisher: ‘Chris was a great colleague at Pebble Mill who gave me an interest in the Black Country and encouraged my occasional forays into the world of music.’

Photo from Janice Rider, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janice Rider: ‘It was only a short while ago in Sept 2017 , that I met up with Chris again after many years , when he gave a talk at Birmingham City Uni about his career & books he had written.’

Mick Murphy: ‘Thank you for tickets to see The Heavy Metal Kids at the Odeon New Street, in the 70s. My ears are still ringing, but it was a musical turning point for me. So sorry you’ve left the stage.’

Janice Rider: ‘A wonderful memory Mick . I have one too when Chris took me for a surprise lunch and it turned out to be with David Essex ! I was so overwhelmed I just sat transfixed & hardly ate a thing !!’

Pete Simpkin: ‘Worked a lot with Chris at BBC Birmingham and Radio WM and eventually took over his post at Wolverhampton in the late 80s.’

Chris Phipps and Look Hear event from Kaleidoscope, 2nd Sept 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

11.50 Intermission

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.

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Forget Carter – Chris Phipps

Copyright Mark Pinder photography, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Phipps, who used to present on Look! Hear! at Pebble Mill in the early 1980s, and was the BBC’s Black Country correspondent in the 1970s, has written a book about the films and television of Newcastle.

Here is the publicity material from Chris:


We associate Newcastle with TV and Film icons Get Carter, Byker Grove, The Tube and Our Friends in the North. However, do you know where Ralph Richardson stole money from in 1939? Why a den of spies were living in Jesmond in 1951? Who met Tommy Lee Jones on the High Level Bridge in 1988? Why Gateshead High Street was under siege in 2009? and which Newcastle flats seem to appear in every programme or film made in Newcastle?

In his new book, media historian Chris Phipps takes us on his tour of Newcastle’s film and TV covering old favourites like Payroll and Auf Wiedersehen Pet and shining light on some hidden gems such as The One and Only, Unconditional and The Clouded Yellow. Newcastle continues to be the perfect film set, seeing filming for Vera and Transformers: The Black Knight in 2016. Forget Carter! What could be next for this photogenic city?
With contributions from directors Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake, Kes) and Bryn Higgins (Unconditional), writers Peter Flannery (Our Friends in the North, George Gently), Ian La Frenais (The Likely Lads, Porridge, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet) and Lee Hall (Billy Elliot)and actors Melanie Hill (Bread, Coronation Street), Victoria Elliot (Hebburn , Emmerdale, The Kennedys, 55 Degrees North, Get Carter stage play), Charlie Hardwick (Amber Films, Emmerdale, Byker Grove) and Dave Johns (I, Daniel Blake), this book explores the background to the filming of many television programmes and films in Newcastle.”
 
The book is now available from AMAZON, The Tyneside Cinema and www.tinyurl.com/toonbooks but will be available from Tyne Bridge Publishing:
 
Tyne Bridge Publishing
Newcastle Libraries
33 New Bridge Street West
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 8AX
Phone +44 (0)191 2774174

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Andy Frizzell: ‘Co-presented look hear with Toyah Wilcox. One of the first things I worked on and the first time I met Barry Chatfield. A long, long time ago.’

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Children in Need – Allo Allo

CIN Vicki Michelle of Allo Allo MM CIN Allo Allo MM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

These photos are from a Children in Need evening show. There is a definite French theme, with ‘Allo ‘Allo actress, Vicki Mitchell, accompanied by Floor Manager, Mick Murphy, sporting beret and garlic!

Thanks to Mick Murphy for sharing the photos.

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Page:

Rachel Broomfield: ‘Was it around1989? [Actually the photos are from 1990]. I think this was one of the ones I worked on as a humble studio assistant for Radio WM. If I remember rightly Toyah Willcox also topped the bill and Sue Beardsmore fronted for Midlands Today.’