When Reading Really Rocked is a hugely well informed and entertaining account of live music in Reading between 1966 and 1976, from the emergence of psychedelia to the dawn of punk. Author Mike Warth has put together a fantastic playlist of some of the local bands and artists that feature in the book, which will be a trip down memory lane for many, or a great introduction to some of the music from the local area that you might not previously have heard.
You can find the playlist on YouTube, and the commentary below from Mike provides some background information about the artists and tracks. I hope you enjoy listening!
ALMA COGAN. Although born in London Alma Cogan moved to Reading with her family where her father set up a tailor’s shop in Kings Road. She was educated at St Joseph’s Convent and prompted by her mother began her singing career with a performance at The Palace Theatre in Cheapside (demolished in 1961). Her first record was released in 1952 and was the first of many. ‘Dreamboat‘ featured here was released in 1955 and became her only record to reach number 1 in the charts. Sadly she died of ovarian cancer in 1966 aged only 34.
THE GANGBUSTERS were fronted by Cal Vincent who in the week delivered bread and rolls and at the weekend delivered rock and roll. ‘The Memory Of Your Face‘ was their only record release. They were actually from Wallingford but played the Reading clubs and halls on a regular basis.
THE MOQUETTES. Formed in 1962 The Moquettes had become Reading’s top band by 1964 when they were snapped up by famed producer Mickie Most. ‘Right String But Wrong Yo-Yo‘ their sole record soon appeared and received plenty of tv and radio airplay but sadly sales were not enough to crack the charts and following a tour of Germany the band split up.
MARIANNE FAITHFULL moved to Milman Road, Reading in 1952 with her mother after her parents’ divorce and like Alma Cogan before her she attended St Joseph’s Convent School. Having made the acquaintance of The Rolling Stones she recorded ‘As Tears Go By‘ a Mick Jagger-Keith Richards song. It propelled her to number 9 in the charts and many records followed. Her mother apparently ran a cafe in Reading’s Harris Arcade adjacent to and incorporating part of what is now the wonderful Sound Machine record store.
PLATFORM SIX. This band was formed out of The Jellys, themselves a popular attraction in the town’s clubs and halls who had been formed by members of the REME staff band from nearby Arborfield. Dodgy management sadly led to the demise of Platform Six but not before they recorded the fine ‘Money Will Not Mean A Thing‘ and also another backing singer Billie Davis. Some members of the band then moved on to join The Amboy Dukes.
ARTHUR BROWN. A student at Reading University where he studied Philosophy and Law, Arthur Brown realised his passion was actually in music and could be heard singing in a number of the town’s pubs and halls with various bands, among them Dave Morgan’s Jazzband and The Dominoes. With the latter he recorded ‘You Don’t Know‘ for the 1965 Reading University Rag. It appeared on flexidisc and is now a sought after collector’s item. By 1967 he had formed his own band The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and in 1968 took the charts by storm with the brilliant ‘Fire’. He has been recording ever since.
MIKE COOPER AND DEREK HALL were mainstays of Reading’s folk clubs in the mid sixties especially that in the Shades Coffee Bar, Gun Street. In 1965 they produced the 4-track EP suitably titled Out Of The Shades from which the song ‘Livin’ With The Blues‘ is taken. Released in a tiny number it was the first record either had played on. Mike was a champion of the live music scene in the town and continued his career with a string of interesting and varied albums.
THE AMBOY DUKES. Formed in 1965 The Amboy Dukes were Reading’s finest appearing all over the town and before long all over the country after they were picked up by the prestigious Rik Gunnell Agency. A record deal with Polydor was secured and this delightfully titled single was the third of their six releases. Sadly, neither ‘High Life In Whitley Wood‘ a great piece of fun ska music, and a popular part of their live repertoire, nor any of their other releases cracked the charts and in 1970 this fine band called it a day.
THE SALLYANGIE. Brother and sister Mike and Sally Oldfield formed The Sallyangie in 1967 and secured a recording contract with the assistance of John Renbourn who played in Reading on numerous occasions. Their 1968 album ‘Children Of The Sun’ was followed by the single ‘Two Ships‘ featured here, in ’69. Sally was the elder by some six years and with her parents moved to Reading where Mike was born in 1953. Sally had been a scholar at St Josephs Convent (or Holy Joe’ s as it was affectionately known) where she struck up a friendship with Marianne Faithfull. Mike attended St Edward’s Primary School and Presentation College which was just over the road from their home in Monk’s Way (off Southcote Lane). They also lived at some point in Western Elms Avenue. Sally’s musical career took a backseat for a while after this LP but Mike pursued his with the extraordinary Tubular Bells appearing in 1973.
OEDIPUS COMPLEX. This Reading band could be found honing their skills around the town in 1968 and put out a couple of records on the Philips label in a pop/rock style. Unfortunately a hoped for album did not materialize and they disappeared. Included here is ‘Empty Highway‘ which was actually the B side of their second release.
MIKE COOPER. ‘Your Lovely Ways‘ appeared in 1970 at a time when his record label Dawn were releasing ‘maxi-singles’, basically 4-track EPs played at the same speed as an LP rather than the usual 45rpm. It didn’t catch on but allowed Mike to stretch out with two good songs followed by a couple of jazzy arrangements displaying more than a hint of the avant-garde.
HERON. ‘Take Me Back Home‘ was included on their second album Twice As Nice And Half The Price as well as being released as a single. This local band had strong association with Reading Technical College where they played countless times as well as other venues across the town. Their gentle folk/rock sound is a delight with both albums having been recorded outside in the country rather than a pukka studio, the first at a cottage the band lived and rehearsed in at Appleford, the second in Devon. Lead singer Gerald T. Moore had previously been a member of Reading band The Memphis Gents and would soon be fronting his own band G.T. Moore and The Reggae Guitars. He’s still at it to this day.
THE BOATMEN. Local folk singers Eric Blackburn and John Grace teamed up with a few others to produce an album’s worth of traditional songs relating to inland waterways entitled Straight From The Tunnel’s Mouth. ‘Waterways Lament‘ is from that album released in 1975. Eric could be found regularly around the town’s pubs at this time singing in The Tudor Tavern, Ye Boar’s Head and The Three Tuns amongst others. In fact he formed his own folk club in the latter called The Brick ‘n’ Fret.
TUDOR LODGE. Here’s another outfit with connections to The Tudor Tavern although they were perhaps more often seen (heard) in The White Horse, Caversham Road, spiritual home to Reading’s folk scene for a good few years in the 70’s. They released a delightful album of acoustic folk songs on the renowned Vertigo label which has become a major collectable and ‘The Lady’s Changing Home‘ is from that album. Founder member John Stannard continued playing with various blues and folk bands he put together until recently but sadly died earlier this year.
SHILLINGFORD MILL. Two Bulmershe College students Steve Hall and Chas Seward were the creators of this little known outfit. They released ‘Frightened‘ and one other single as Shillingford Mill and then changed name to Richmond (they had their own studio on Richmond Hill). ‘Frightened’ is a fine song which they re-recorded and included on their sole album. They even went as far as using it for the album’s title. Falling into the folk/pop category and being perfectly listenable it remains a total obscurity.
MIKE COOPER’S MACHINE GUN COMPANY. Not one to sit still and become typecast in any one genre Mike Cooper put together a band of local musicians and released two albums of tracks with a touch of blues, folk, jazz and country. ‘Song For Abigail‘ kicks off the second album simply entitled The Machine Gun Company with Mike Cooper. On both of these can be found Les Calvert (bass) who played in The Memphis Gents in the mid sixties.
GRAPHITE. Reading University was where this band were formed around 1969 and they continued gigging until 1973. If you headed off to see a known band at the Uni between those years there was a strong possibility Graphite would have been the support band. They managed just one single at the time but recent retrospective releases give a better idea of their laid back progressive rock sound – as exemplified by this track ‘Starflight Over The Skies‘.
G.T.MOORE AND THE REGGAE GUITARS. Following spells in the r’n’b styled Reading band The Memphis Gents and the nationally admired folk/rock outfit Heron, G.T.Moore veered off in a different direction yet again forming a white reggae band. Such a line-up was virtually unique in the UK but their ability to play with such authenticity brought them considerable respect both from the music press and music fans. Two albums resulted with ‘I’m Still Waiting‘ appearing on their eponymous first as well as on a 45. After they split in ’77 G.T.Moore pursued a successful solo career with a number of albums to his name.
THE DAVE MORGAN JAZZ BAND. Whilst Reading was something of a hot bed for trad jazz through the 60’s and 70s with the nation’s top musicians regularly appearing at The Upper Deck, the town had its own legend in the genre with Dave Morgan and his band. Trombonist Dave Morgan was inspired as a 16 year old having seen the great Chris Barber and put together his own outfit which played virtually every venue in the town for many years way beyond the period covered in When Reading Really Rocked. In the 70’s the band produced an album entitled Jazz Merchants which offers a real taste of the band’s sound.
AFT (AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING). Edgy progressive rock is on offer on this seasoned Reading band’s sole LP from 1976. ‘Queen Of The Night‘ which closes the album is more of a straightforward rock sound with vocals, largely absent elsewhere on the album. Some members had previously played in another local outfit, Glyder and were often to be seen at the (in)famous Target pub in town.
CLAYSON AND THE ARGONAUTS. Former Bulmershe College student Alan Clayson put together this wonderfully named band in 1976 and caught the eye of the music press resulting in plenty of publicity. A record deal with Virgin followed with ‘The Taster‘ their debut single. Alan has in more recent years become a respected rock biographer whilst continuing to gig with the band up to this day.
THE SHAMBLES. Patrick Wass and Brian Jefferson landed in Reading in 1970 after their time at Exeter University. They soon could be found playing the local folk circuit including being resident at The Red Cow, Southampton Street amongst others. This version of the traditional ‘John Barleycorn‘ appeared on a privately pressed EP released in small numbers and gives a clear indication of the duo’s talents. Patrick is still writing and performing to this day.