BRASS & Scarborough Bands
On September 9th 1964 I took my first band pictures and this was to become the next stage in my evolution towards a career in photography which began with taking pictures of BRASS & Scarborough Bands. For a while before, I had forsaken the Railway Society meetings for the Friday Blues Night at the Condor Club on Ramshill Road in Scarborough. Music had attracted my curiosity for something new and girls had started to turn my head.
Still returning home from college at weekends, my older brother Mick and I began to make friends with a group of punters who gathered on Friday nights in an alcove in front of the stage at the Condor. We became known as BRASS, an acronym for ‘Scarborough Sect for the Appreciation of Rhythm and Blues’. Original members L-R below – Nigel James, Rob Best, Mick Cooke, Rex (Boris) Barker and me. My brother Mick was still holding on to his Beatle look with a now overgrown moptop and Cuban heels and I was moving onto the beatnik stage, emulating one of our favourite bands of the time, The Downliners Sect. Having lost my original 1964 released LP, which was probably the first record I ever bought, the undated Charlie Records re-release shown below certainly got it wrong in describing the Downliners as Punk. They were out and out R&B, 1960’s Rhythm & Blues that is.
Now into my second year at college, access to better quality cameras had shown up the limitations in my Halina and this led to my trading it in at Crofts for a second hand medium format Rolleicord. This was the cheaper version of the Rolleiflex, which was the de-facto press camera at the time. This was a twin lens reflex design that used the upper lens for framing and focussing and the lower lens for exposing the image onto film. No more guessing the distance but I still had use for my Weston exposure meter. With a fabulous Schneider Xenar taking lens, the Rolleicord gave me negatives that were over three times the area of the Halina 35mm, with a manifest increase in quality which is readily seen in present day scans. As well as our now regular Friday night blues fest BRASS used to get together for our own photo sessions, for which the timer on my new camera came in very useful, as I could appear in my own pictures. Arranging these group shots, as with the pictures taken below in February 1965, gave me the grounding for what would become a regular part of the group photo session.
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From the BRASS corner I began to get to know the local bands and I started to knock about with a band called The Incas, helping a bit with the equipment. BRASS member Pete Little used to roadie for them, later joining on bass guitar. This was my ‘in’. The guitarist Brian Thompson lived in a pub at the end of our street and I got to know him first, probably because of the added benefit of under age drinking. We took this picture of me in the front bar, which was a set up as I did not smoke, and never have. The Incas are shown below in what were my first available light live group pictures.
However, back at the start of photographing local bands I took the pictures below of the Tennesseans from the BRASS corner at the Condor Club in September 1964. The Tennesseans were a popular local band who had been together for a few years and had a large following. Hutch, on the far left below, left Scarborough later on to join David Bowie And The Buzz and later still Feathers with Bowie, then played on Space Oddity and finally two years later toured America, Japan and the UK as guitarist on the Aladdin Sane tour. On this night I was experimenting with my brand new professional electronic flash, which had a large flash head and enormous heavy battery, which was akin to dragging about a sack of potatoes.
Five months later, on a freezing February evening in 1965, I was back at the Condor Club where I photographed another local band, The Mandrakes, who later on were to play a pivotable role in my story.