Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Backbeat: Rocking up at The Rocket pub in Coventry

Pete Chambers with another Backbeat Column for Coventry Telegraph..

Backbeat: Rocking up at The Rocket pub in Coventry

Bands who hung out at the ill-fated pub, Paul King and Steve Walwyn's new album all feature in this week's column.

The Rocket pub in its heyday

By the time you read this The Rocket pub will just be a memory amid the brick dust of redevelopment that we call progress.

Hundreds of pubs close every week of course, but this was The Rocket , a special place.

The pub was located right across the road to Horizon Studios, (yet another temple to 2-Tone music no longer standing.)

“It was basically the canteen for the studio,” as Grammy Award winning producer Roger Lomas puts it. “My most vivid memories of The Rocket were back in 1980 when I was recording the first two Bad Manners albums (‘Ska’n’B’ and ‘Loonee Tunes’) just over the road from the pub in Horizon Recording Studios. On a daily basis the pub would prepare the band’s food for them at the same time every day. They looked after us all really well and made food for us that wasn’t even on their menu.”

Nev Staples and Roddy Byers in The Rocket pub

Horace Panter and Lynval Golding in The Rocket

Not many pubs could boast they had been visited by The Specials , The Selecter , Bad Manners , The Beat, Madness , Chrissie Hynde (from The Pretenders), Rico Rodriguez, Dick Cuthell, Paul Heskett, Ian Dury and Blockhead Norman Watt Roy, Rhoda Dakar, Charlotte Caffey (who as a member of the Go-Go’s wrote their biggest US hit, “We Got The Beat”), Belinda Carlisle, (ex Go-Go’s who went on to have many hits including, “Heaven Is a Place on Earth”, “I Go Weak” and “Leave a Light On”), Jane Wiedlin (ex Go-Go’s who went on to have a hit with “Rush Hour”), and iconic photographers Chalkie Davies and Carol Starr.

None of that has helped save the pub of course, but it did receive a 2-Tone Trail plaque in 2009, unveiled by Buster Bloodvessel of Bad Manners and Neville Staple.

Roddy Byers, of The Skabilly Rebels, said of the demise of the pub: “Another part of our history gone! I spent more time in The Rocket pub than in Horizon Studios back in the day, lol”.

Selecter legend Neol Davies said of the pub: “Ian Dury and Norman Watt Roy came in The Rocket as guests of The Selecter. Norman came to play bass on two of my songs on Celebrate The Bullet in the studio across the street, Horizon Studios, now a useful verge for a car park. You can see how easily civilisations get lost.”

Maybe when the new development is finished there may be a place for a new 2-Tone plaque, so future generations will know that The Rocket pub and Horizon Studios helped play their part in the world of popular music.
I recently caught up with Paul King at the Music Museum, who gave me an hour-long candid interview for our up and coming King Exhibition that opens on July 10. Can I state for the record, contrary to other claims, Paul King will not be appearing at the Coventry Godiva Festival.

He said in the interview: “What I did then was the perfect time to do it, I was a young guy at my peak, I was proud of it and pleased with it, and everything I did is probably on You Tube if I, or anyone else wants to see it again.

“I’m more than happy for the guys to continue to do it with King Phoenix. It’s nice the songs are still being performed and people still want to hear them. I think it’s great, good luck to them to do it, but I’m somebody who doesn’t want to join in”. You can see the full interview at the exhibition in July.

So he is definitely not there, but King Phoenix definitely are there and will be rocking the main stage on Friday night. If you haven’t caught them yet, well you are in for a real treat. The new line-up takes the band’s material to another level, I for one can’t wait to see them on a big festival stage. Indeed Friday night looks something of wish list for me, I really wanted to see Rooted N Booted on the main stage, and now I will, it’s also been a long held wish to see King back as a band playing their home festival and that’s got a tick too.

Steve Walwyn

Steve Walwyn's album, 'Instinct To Survive'

Guitar ace Steve Walwyn has left his Dr. Feelgood duties aside for a while, and has just released a superb solo album entitled "Instinct To Survive". The album is crammed full with hook-laden songs, and lots of guitar licks that won't ever disappoint. Indeed I was playing it the other day, and my wife exclaimed: "Who is this, it's brilliant!" Praise indeed.

The album kicks off with some juicy slide into the title track "Instinct To Survive", and so the journey begins, rocking along at a blistering pace. One of my favourite tracks on the album is the tour de force ballad "Feel Like Breaking Down", this is rock music with a touch of elegance, where spot-on vocals combine with amazing guitar fills to create a classic track. Having just played this track three times in a row, I guess I must like it quite a lot, and the album is worth buying just for this track alone. It doesn't however stop there, there's "Toad in The Hole", a rocky instrumental but no worse for that.

"Sweet Louise" would make a great single, but hang on, so would the next track "Call on Me". This album is something Steve should be immensely proud of, as should fellow players, Chas Chaplin, Martin Cure, Ted Duggan and Craig Rhind. It's available on iTunes, Amazon and the Feelgood online shop. Be rude not to buy such a superbly executed album.

Pete Chambers for Coventry Telegraph.

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