Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Public launch of 'Queen in Cornwall' book

'Queen in Cornwall' was first made available at the Driftwood event in August - but as that was a ticketed affair I've been waiting for the right time to formally launch it to the general public, and particularly those in Cornwall. This date is now set for 19th November 2011, where it will be available at Waterstone's in Truro. I will be there too from about 11 o'clock and would be glad to chat with anyone who's interested!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

August 6th at The Driftwood: Cornish Queen Party!

I've been keeping this a little under wraps because Jacky from the Queen Fan Club was keen that members of the fan club should have the opportunity to buy tickets first. But now they're available to anyone who is interested. It's going to be a very special day, and I'm really looking forward to it.

The price of the tickets reflects the fact that The Driftwood is a very small venue. My understanding is, in fact, that there are only 30 or so tickets remaining available.

Please contact Jacky qfc@queenworld.com or phone 01483 281995

The guests will include Mike Grose, Queens first bass player, and members of The Reaction and The Jayfolk: the two bands Roger Taylor was most involved with when he lived in Truro. The event kicks off at 3.30 - though people will start gathering at The Driftwood before this.

UPDATE 2/8/11: Article in August's Cornwall Today

UPDATE 24/8/11

The event at The Driftwood was a great success...I ve put pictures on the Queen in Cornwall Facebook page. If you are a Queen fan reading this I urge you to 'like' the page as it will be the best way to keep updated with the Queen in Cornwall project (see link in column to the right). At the moment a limited number of signed copies of the book are available to buy from Ebay (see other link!)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Roger Taylor in Truro, June 2011

I was lucky to get a grandstand view of proceedings on Saturday 25th, June when Roger Taylor came to Truro to unveil Tim Shaw's sculpture called 'The Drummer'. In fact I had described the 'Queen in Cornwall' project to Tim at the beginning of the year when he was still trying to decide on who should preside over the event. He hadn't previously heard of Roger Taylor's connections to Truro. So this blog played a small but not insignificant part in the evening being such a success...Sorry about the camerawork in the video. I think I was so excited I forgot to point the camera in the right direction!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Denise Craddock postcard

Just after Smile's second recording session - and before the band's breakup - in February 1970 Roger Taylor and John Harris travelled down to Cornwall with Penny North of Jayfolk and Denise Craddock. Denise's postcard, which is mentioned but not reproduced in the book, is a record of this little holiday. It also mentions Pat and Sue Johnstone of the Queen Fan Club, who at that time were living with their father in Cornwall.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

John Snell's Reaction Story

Sorry no updates for a while...I 've essentially stopped doing research for the book, and I'm now proofreading the final manuscript and doing some test prints etc. I've decided on the cover art (see above) so you can see what the front cover will look like.

I 've got some interesting material that wasn't used - or was only part-used - in the book that I will put on this website in the next few weeks. The first is The Reaction Story by John Snell (see separate link).

John, who was nick-named Acker by the other members, was the founder of the Cornish group in which Roger Taylor learnt his trade. He managed to describe the early history of the band in remarkable detail - as you will see from the essay.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Queen Convention 2011

Was very excited to attend the Queen Convention on the weekend of the 26th and 27th March. I gave a talk about the Queen in Cornwall project on the Sunday. I also tried taking some photos but they didn't come out as well as these by Marco Mercury which include a couple of slides from my powerpoint presentation...

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Mike Grose

Mike Grose - Queen's first bassist and still living in Cornwall - was one of the first people I spoke to when I started this project nearly a year ago. We had another chat yesterday - and he recalled visiting Kensington and the King's Road with Freddie whilst preparing for his first gig playing as bassist for Queen. Freddie and he actually went shopping together for stage gear and Freddie had insisted that he buy the tightest possible black trousers...In the photo above Mike is on the far right.

see link to Mike Grose page above right...

Roger Taylor new interview for The West Briton

The West Briton is a Cornish local paper that, back in the sixties and seventies, featured articles and ads relating to The Reaction, Smile and early Queen. Last week Roger Taylor, forty years on, gave a new interview to Lee Trewhela - and Lee kindly let me add some historical context to the article.

Below are photos of the cover and two-page spread which should be legible if you download (and rotate) it...

Friday, 11 March 2011

Stormtroopers in Stillettoes

Went to London for the Queen exhibition in the old brewery buildings off Brick Lane on Wednesday. There was lots of very interesting stuff there including some of Freddie's sketchbooks and drawings. Although they were described as having all been done at Ealing - I wondered whether one or two (especially the one above) might have been done when he was younger and still at school.

There were some new photos of Smile  - inlcuding this one where theyre playing on a small stage that looks a bit like Imperial College Union...Roger is set up in front of another kit so they must have been the support act.

But my favourite photos were these ones of the band playing tennis whilst recording A Night at the Opera. Brian is wearing his white clogs and John Deacon is wearing 5 inch stack heels on the tennis court. Not quite Wimbledon is it!!!?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Q Magazine Reaction photo

There was a good interview with Brian and Roger in the March 2011 edition of Q magazine. This was the photograph that most interested me because it is one that hasnt' been published before...It's The Reaction somewhere in Cornwall - but the question is where (and when?)

Mike Dudley is playing the guitar slightly cropped out on the left of the picture, Roger is on the drums, Rick Penrose is on the right playing bass and hidden behind him is 'Acker' Snell...Although Acker isnt really visible but the bottom of his sax is...

UPDATE 5/2/11 I've e-mailed Rick Penrose and John Snell re this image and they reckon it was either taken in the Penmare Hotel (Hayle) or the Blue Lagoon (Newquay)

UPDATE 7/2/11 Here is a scan of the original image - its a bit kinder to Mike Dudley who has half his face missing in the magazine. His rather lovely white Stratocaster is more clearly visible....its easier to make out the details in the background too. Looks like what may be a covered fireplace behind Roger. Interesting too that the gear (guitar cases etc) are there on stage - rather suggests the venue had no dressing room etc therefore perhaps more likely to be the Penmare????

Friday, 18 February 2011

Roger Taylor in Norfolk

Roger spent his earliest years in Kings Lynn. The local paper ran a feature on him about 20 years ago and included this picture of him at a birthday party which I dont think is anywhere else on the web:

Thanks to Miklos Borbely who despite living in Hungary was able to obtain, and has kept, a copy of the paper...

The Count House, Botallack

Those of you who know Cornwall well will probably have heard of the Count House at Botallack near the cliffs at Lands End which was the first of many folk clubs to open in the county in the 60's. Roger Taylor would have visited, as would other members of The Reaction and The Jayfolk. This EP 'Folk Music at the Count House' was recorded and manufactured in 1964, and when I've found a suitable turntable I will put the audio on this blog...

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Mr Lucifer: Will Wright and Rufus Manning

Mr Lucifer played with Smile on at least two occasions in Cornwall. Last week Roger Kinsey kindly sent this picture to me by e-mail. Roger was then known as Rufus Manning and he was an agent for several bands in the Cambridge area. Today I got to speak to Will Wright, Mr Lucifer's drummer who explained that the other members of the band were Paddy Sargeant, Mick Sharpe and Dave Hirst. He remembers that on one of the nights they played at PJ's with Smile, that a large gang of bikers (we're talking at least 40 of them) turned up looking for trouble, but playing some Eddie Cochrane seemed to placate them...

Smile gigs have not been very well documented. This poster also from Roger is interesting. Ginger Baker (ex Cream and Blind Faith) started his own band in 1969 - but this gig was probably in 1970. I think we can only speculate as to what happened. Would Queen have played instead?

Friday, 11 February 2011

Roger Brokenshire in the 70s

This is a video put on line by my friend Richard who runs http://www.kernowbeat.co.uk/.

The Globetrotters was a band popular in Cornwall in the 70's, and their lead singer was Roger Brokenshire who sang with Roger Taylor's band The Reaction less than 10 years earlier. There are no known recordings of Roger B singing with The Reaction but this video gives an idea of how exhuberant and engaging he was back then as a frontman...The other thing to mention is that Roger B 's used the name 'The Reaction Showband' later in the decade, but as far as I know he was the only band-member to have played in the original group.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The March of the Black Queen

The best ever Queen song?

Pat Johnstone

I spoke with Pat Johnstone on the phone for more than two hours a couple of nights ago. She had some really fascinating memories of the years either side of Queen's first gig in Truro City Hall in 1970...From working in the Navy Arms, to seeing Freddie sing with Smile at PJ's, to putting Freddie and Brian up in her house in Truro the weekend of the gig, to working in Kensington Market, to setting up the Queen fan club. Thankyou Pat if you're reading this.

Thanks to http://www.kernowbeat.co.uk/ here is a recent picture of the City Hall. This facade has not changed since Queen played their first gig there....

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Early photos of Roger

Here are a couple of low res images of Roger Taylor which are on the internet. I'd be interested to know where they came from because as far as I know they are not in the biographies. The lower image looks like Cornwall - and I think Roger maybe the bigger boy on the left - but its hard to say....Can anyone help?

UPDATE 8/2/11 Miklos from Hungary has identified the source: Eastern Daily Press - magazine. March 20, 1999. 4 page article, Trevor Heaton speaks with rt about the solo tour. The text includes Roger's recollections of his early childhood in Norfolk. Miklos is hoping to send me a scan of his own copy of the magazine soon which will be good...

Batoum Gardens

This fairly well known early picture of Freddie was, according to Denise Craddock, taken in a flat at 6, Batoum Gardens. Denise hasn't spoken to biographers before, and nor has her close friend Pat McConnell, but as well as living with Roger and Freddie in Barnes, they knew Ibex - the band that Freddie sang with in 1969 - and also knew Celine Daley who lived at Batoum Gardens. Celine was guitarist Mike Bersin's girlfriend at the time and was the recipient of a long letter from Freddie describing his feelings about the band.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Imperial College Union

Immediately adjacent to The Albert Hall is Beit (pronounced Byatt) Quad: a big courtyard with an entrance from the road. Looking across the quad from the pavement Imperial College Student Union is just visible. The porter on the gate assured me that the internal layout of the Union has n't changed in 30 years. The main bar is still on the ground floor, with the concert hall (where Smile and Queen played regularly) on the second floor.

I was surprised and indeed thrilled to be able to simply walk straight in there this Sunday when I was in London. Here are some of the other photos I took...

Above is the main entrance hall (at ground level). The main bar is on the right going in (its door not visible in the photo). Below is the entrance to the Concert Hall on the second floor with the Concert Hall itself below that...

Back downstairs: this last picture is the bar as seen from the front entrance hall...It was here (or hereabouts), in October 1968, that Les Brown saw the 'drummer wanted' poster that Brian May had left.

UPDATE 25/1/11 Les Brown: Concerning the Union, the interior looks familiar, except that the bar I remember was much smaller: more like the snug of an old-fashioned pub (although, for gigs, I think they also opened a bar along the back wall of the hall). In my first year it was men-only, and mainly frequented by loud rugby drinkers. Then a woman got elected president of the student union so they had to let her in, so they cancelled the rule. Tough cookie, she was too. Probably knew all about the offside rule.

Kensington Market, The Greyhound, Maria Assumpta

Kensington Market on High Street Kensington is now a PC World. (Actually I went in there to buy a USB hub when I was in London last weekend). The striped brick effect in the building next door is clearly discernable in both photos. In the 2010 photo a scooter is about to disappear down a street that leads directly to Kensington Square, where The Greyhound pub is. (Freddie Mercury was a regular there together with others from the market like Alan Mair, Nigel Chappell and Sue Johnstone).

In the opposite corner of Kensington Square is the Maria Assumpta building: now Heslop College, once a teacher training college where the other members of Queen first met John Deacon and where Brian and John met their wives...The picture below is how it looks if approached from Kensington High Street. Maria Assumpta was an all women's college run by nuns.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Map of Kensington Market

Alan Mair, who employed Freddie Mercury to work at his stall upstairs at Kensington Market has drawn this map of the market that gives a really good sense of how the different shop units related to each other. The market closed several years ago and there are remarkably few photos of it as it was in the early 70s (or indeed later). If anyone has any please let me know!!

Freddie worked at the market between 1969 and 1974, most of that time working for Alan, but for a while running his own stall with Roger Taylor. Their stall was about 10ft by 10ft.

Pat and Sue Johnstone who were originally Rogers friends from Truro, have explained to me that they first set up the Queen fan club whilst working in their own shop-unit which I believe was near Alan's...will need to clarify this. (nb its a bit misrepresentative to call them stalls because they were rooms with fairly solid plaster walls between them - so more like an old fashioned arcade or modern mall)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Godolphin Hall

Thanks to Mary and her colleagues in Helston I've got hold of these nice old photos of the Godolphin Hall in the town centre: a fairly regular gig for The Reaction in '65-'68. The photos were taken in 1977, just before the interior was refurbished. I will ask if this is how it was when The Reaction played here, complete with octagonal stage. My guess is that it is.

This second photo is looking towards the main entrance doors which lead to steps leading downstairs to the front entrance. Looking at it from outside, the Godolphin Hall is a large, imposing granite civic building built, I would think in the 19th Century. 

UPDATE 11/1/11 comment from John Snell of The Reaction suggesting the venue changed in the 70s: I remember the Godolphin Hall as having a stage that projected forward into the hall but it did have curtains too – maybe everything had been cleared for refurbishment when the pictures were taken. The stage must have been fairly big because I think I played there with the Bobby Knight band and we took up a lot of space! I remember the big doors at the end leading to the granite entrance steps. It was the biggest hall on the Pascoe/Brokenshire West Cornwall dance circuit that Reaction played in their early days after the 1965 Rock & Rhythm Championship

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Dental School...the last piece of the jigsaw

I feel like I'm nearing the end of the Queen in Cornwall project now. I really want to express gratitude for everyone who has given their time to it.

One issue that has only come to light in the last few weeks concerns the uncertainty around the year that Roger Taylor actually left Truro School. It is looking, increasingly, like he didn't go up to London until Autumn '68, and that therefore he must have joined Smile within -literally - days of leaving Cornwall. In fact the London Hospital Alumni office have said to me that he commenced studies on 30 September 1968, withdrawing on 30 December 1969.

Smile are known to have played with Pink Floyd on 26th October 1968 and, according to keyboardist Chris Smith, probably played together at least a week or two before this, suggesting, remarkably, that Roger found Brian May within a few days days of arriving in London.

UPDATE: 5/1/11

There is also a yearbook from Truro School that confirms that Roger had three years in the sixth form there and therefore must have left in 1968....

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Denise Craddock

Various Queen biographies have mixed up Sinclair Road and Sinclair Gardens...So thanks to Denise, here is some more accurate information. Denise lived with Pat McConnell in 69, Sinclair Road. It was the flat where Freddie Mercury's first band Ibex stayed, and it was a flat a few hundred yards from Sinclair Gardens where Roger Taylor lived with Les Brown.

Towards the end of 1969 (10/10/69 to be precise) Denise moved to 40, Ferry Road with Roger, Pat and one of Roger's dentist friends...

UPDATE 24/1/11 I spoke to Denise again last night. In fact it was 36 Sinclair Road - though she lived briefly with Freddie in 69, Cunningham Road before moving to Barnes. For most of the time she was in Barnes she shared a room with Pat, whilst Freddie and Roger also shared a room.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Keith Harding and Vaughan Hankins

One of the first things I did when I started the 'Queen in Cornwall' research was to visit Park View in Truro where Roger Taylor lived as a boy. This weekend I returned and spoke to Keith Harding who moved there as a newly married man in 1962. He has lived with his wife in the same house ever since. During the 60's as their immediate neighbour, Keith got to know Roger's family. Later he went on to meet the members of Queen, when he helped them mend a puncture on their van which was parked in the street.

As an electrician Keith also used to help with the lighting at the City Hall in Truro (where Queen played their first concert) and he once provided Roger's first band, The Reaction, with a cable that provided power to their marquee on the cliffs in St Agnes...

Another close neighbour that I spoke to recently was Vaughan Hankins who is the same age as Roger Taylor and was a contemporary at Truro School. Those of you who know Truro may be surprised to see this building in High Cross opposite the main entrance to the Cathedral. The garage was owned by Vaughan's father who provided cars in which Vaughan drove Roger and friends around the county late in 1966...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Les Brown and Sinclair Gardens

Les Brown is well known to Queen fans as the man who originally brought Brian May and Roger Taylor together when he saw an advert for a drummer at Imperial College where he was studying Maths...I spoke to him in France last night, and he had some great memories of the Smile years in particular, both in London and Cornwall. He remembers for example cooking breakfast for 17 in Truro when Smile and their entourage descended on him one weekend!

There are some unanswered questions re Sinclair Gardens though which I will hope to get to the bottom of over the next few days mainly regarding who exactly lived there and when...

This picture is taken from Google maps...The black door level with the blue lorry was the entrance to their flat... You also have to imagine a Smile sticker - about a foot across - in the window...

UPDATE 3/12/10 All the Queen biographies say that Roger moved in with Les in 1967 - but actually Les and Geoff Daniel who lived at Sinclair Gardens say they were in Halls during academic year 67/68. Its possible Roger was too - but will need to try and clarify this. Certainly Roger and Les lived there during the academic year 68/69 and Brian and Freddie visited and slept over regularly but never lived there - at least whilst Les was there.

The Kensington was a regular haunt for the band  - especially before they moved to Barnes late in 1969. It was near Sinclair Gardens and it was where Freddie met Ibex for the first time...

UPDATE 12/12/10 There was a flat a few hundred yards away in Sinclair Road where Ibex stayed with the McConnell sisters. Roger also first met John Harris the Queen sound man via the McConnells in the same pub.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Penny North of the Jayfolk

Jill Johnson sent a copy of this photo of The Jayfolk to me a few months ago...and I wondered if there was a story behind it. Penny who joined Jayfolk at the beginning of 1967 was able to explain that this was the Jayfolk's Austin van which was written off after an accident only a few weeks after the accident that their friends The Reaction had had in February. (At the time Jill and Sue of Jayfolk were going out with Roger Taylor and Mike Dudley of The Reaction). Penny stayed in touch with Roger Taylor, and got to know Smile and Freddie Mercury. She stayed with them in Barnes, and they stayed with her in Grampound. She also helped secure one of Queen's first concerts at Balls Park College, which followed a Smile gig the previous year.

Very interesting. Thanks Penny!

UPDATE 29/11/10 Looked in the West Briton1967 March to June and Oct to December. Couldn't see record of accident which occurred travelling back from a second round audition for Opportunity Knocks...the X-Factor of the day.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

John 'Acker' Snell

I was really glad to finally speak to John Snell on Friday. He was the sax player and one of the founders of Roger Taylor's group in Cornwall: The Reaction, and he was able to explain lots of things about the history of the band that were not clear.

So, for example, the band used a Bedford van like the one above that was owned by the butcher and concert promoter, Jack Pascoe. This was the van he remembers driving most often, though prior to this they used his parent's Ford Thames. He confirmed that, on their trips to Devon organised by the promoter Lionel Digby, they often slept in the van. Digby himself was a very colourful character, and the first time John met him, he was wearing a cowboy outfit complete with six-guns which he would intermittently fire at the boys!

John saw Smile not in Cornwall but in London at the Albert Hall, and he remembers staying with Roger in his flat in London the night after the gig. He also went on a trip with Smile out of Truro, but only got as far as Playing Place because they had a puncture...Below is a fairly well known picture of him sharing the front of the stage with Graham Hankins at a dance at Truro School. Thanks John.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Bert Biscoe and a piece of very important and very rare memorabilia

Bert is well known in Truro as a musician, writer and City councillor. Although he saw quite a lot of them he is at least two years younger than Roger Taylor, Mike Dudley, Dick Halliwell and the other boys associated with The Reaction, and so has a different perspective on that time.

He remembers Roger and Dick at Truro School. During dinner Roger was head of the table he sat at, and Dick deputy head, and they had to supervise the younger kids as they ate their food. Bert also recalls sneaking into PJs after school where he listened to Smile rehearse on more than one occasion.

He also saw Queen play at Tregye and has an original ticket, which - and he probably does nt realise this yet - is probably the earliest printed ticket for a Queen concert in existence anywhere in the world. (I'll e-mail him in a sec to point this out!!!!). Here it is.

The gig he remembers most, though, is the Fantastics playing at the Rock and Rhythm Championship in 1968. This band was actually Roger Taylor's Cornish band The Reaction under another name, and  - for one night only- they had a French go-go dancer called Joelle...(who may have also danced with one of the other groups).

It should be said that Bert has a great knowledge of Truro, and of the Cornish folk scene as it was in the 60s...For example he remembers seeing Eric Clapton play with Maddy Prior at the Folk Cottage in Mitchell. But that's a story for another day...Thanks Bert.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Cornishman ads

These old ads from the sixties are so evocative...I've trawled through the West Briton and Cornish Guardian. That only leaves The Cornishman as the other paper that is probably worth looking at for gigs by The Reaction...

22nd April     Penmare Hotel 'Cornwalls champion group'
20th May     Penmare Hotel 'Cornwalls champion group'

11th June    The Old Barn Club Eastern Green Penzance
16th July     Winter Gardens, Penzance
23rd September   The Old Barn Club Eastern Green Penzance
8th October   The Guildhall St Ives  'By popular demand the return of the Reaction Cornwall's Big Sound'
14th October    Penmare Hotel   'Beat Night is back with the Reaction'
4th November     Penmare Hotel  'Beat Night.  The Reactions'
18th November     Penmare Hotel   Beat Beat Beat Night Reaction Reaction Reaction
11th December      Arlo Guthrie appears at the Tell-a-Tale folk club on Chapel Street, Penzance

6th January   The Penmare BEAT BEAT BEAT NIGHT
27th January   The Penmare
28th January   St Ives Guildhall With apologies to The Electric Prunes OAP 2/6
24th Feb   The Penmare The Fabulous Reaction
10th March   The Penmare The Fabulous Reaction
31st? March   The Penmare Reaction
9th? April    The Penmare
28th? April    The Penmare
4th August   Hayle Rugby Ground  Beat Dance Barbeque Open-Air Floodlit Dancing
30th Sept    Town Hall, St Just  St Just Cricket Club