Among the last guests of Marc Bolan: „Tulane“ now opens the doors to TV and radio studios (1977/II)

With „Tulane“ as a song in the Top Twenty of the charts, the Steve Gibbons Band had also en entrance ticket to various TV appearances and live performances on the radio in its hand.

John Peel Sessions at the beginning

However, even before this hit, the band was able to gain experience with radio appearances by performing at the John Peel Sessions.

This series had its background in the particularities of the British trade union system. In order to keep the percentage of music played live on the radio high, and thus to preserve performance opportunities for musicians, the strong musicians`union  had pressed for a limit on the so-called „needle time„, i.e. the time when music from records could be played on the radio.

Later, the principle that radio music should always be live was loosened a little bit. Now, pre-produced studio recordings that were not commercially available on records were to a certain extent also considered live performances in this sense.

Probably the most prominent show with such live recordings (which were subject to strict rules, including a selection process and limited time for the sound check) were the John Peel sessions.

These sessions allowed the Steve Gibbons Band to expand their popularity among radio listeners by three performances even before „Tulane“ entered the charts.

On the following days they played the following songs:

  • 30.7.1976 (recorded on 07.07.1976: „Rollin'“, „Tuepelo Mississippi Flash“, „Johnny Cool“, „Spark Of Love“
  • 03.03.1977 (ed. 21.02.1977): „Right Side of Heaven/Rollin`On“, „Please Don`t Say Goodbye“, „One of the Boys“
  • 04.07.1977 (26.06.1977) „Tulane“, „The Music Plays On“, „Gave His Life To Rock ’n Roll“, „Boppin‘ The Blues“

Crunchy biscuits on the radio

Among the radio broadcasts, a BBC-recorded performance at the Paris Theatre in 1976, featuring „Light Up Your Face“, „Spark Of Love“, „Johnny Cool“, „Right Side Of Heaven“, „Rollin‘ On“, „Tupelo Mississippi Flash“ and „Rollin'“, is worthy of mention.

In the spring of 1977, a one-hour performance was scheduled for the famous radio show „King Biscuit Flower Hour“ (in which the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, John Lennon, The Who, Santana, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and others had previously performed) during a tour to the USA.

At this gig at Lemoyne College in Syracuse, New York, they shared the show and the stage with Dickey Betts & The Southern Greats.

As usual, the Steve Gibbons Band made no compromises and played the songs down to the last detail, so that they lasted up to  ten minutes. They played standard songs from their own repertoire like „Take Me Home“, „Dick Malone“, „Tupelo Mississippi Flash“ and (of course) „Tulane“.

More rousing than the latter song, however, is the version of another Chuck Berry song, „Little Queenie“, which shows the power of the band’s line up at that time. (This gig is also found – probably illegally – to be found in the vastness of the internet).

On TV: Playback with a prominent host and a groovy live performance at the BBC

As far as television was concerned, there were both programmes where the bands had to pretend to play live and real live gigs during which the band could show their skills.

Among the last guests of Mac Bolan

The first category included a performance that, because of the host alone, might have led to the Steve Gibbons Band being heard by an audience that was otherwise less interested in earthy rock.

We are talking about the performance in the penultimate edition of the 25-minute music show „Marc“. This was the show of the T. Rex singer Marc Bolan, who mainly put himself and his band in the right light on the private channel ITV by miming new versions of his old hits and freshly recorded songs for full playback.

In between, however, there was still a bit of room for some of his hottest fellow musicians, including The Jam, Showaddywaddy, Desmond Dekker, the Bay City Rollers, Mud, The Boomtown Rats, Hawkwind, Thin Lizzy and David Bowie. Bolan did a duet with Bowie in which he fell off the stage.

Despite these illustrious names, the show was a low budget production.

The Steve Gibbons Band appeared with „Tulane“ in the penultimate show of this show.

Many of those who had seen the Steve Gibbons Band live before may have rubbed their eyes. Musically, this was unmistakably Steve Gibbons and the classic line-up of his self-titled band. But if you switched the TV to mute, it was hard to recognize the band. Bandleader and musicians had obviously been to the hairdresser, who had done a great job shaving and cutting hair. And after that the group seemed to have gone to the menswear shop to get a new wardrobe.

Gone were the days of the western and Chicago gangster look! What you saw here must have met with approval from a much larger audience than the previous outfit.

The play back gig was broadcast on 14 September 1977. Two days later, the host Marc Bolan was dead, dying in a small car that had gone off the road in the London district of Barnes on the driveway in front of a small bridge and crashed into a tree.


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„Sight & Sound“

The BBC series „Sight & Sound“ had a completely different format. As with the Rockpalast concerts of the WDR in Germany, the stereo sound of the concert was broadcasted parallel to the TV broadcast on the radio, so that the audience could enjoy the music in stereo.

Venerable music theatre

The Golders Green Hippodrome, built in 1913 in the north of London and with its 3,000 seats, was used in the 1970s by the BBC to record concerts (by Queen, Jethro Tull, AC/DC, Gentle Giant, AC/DC, ELO, Barclay James Harvest, The Kinks, UFO, Procol Harum and Roxy Music, among others). ( Meanwhile the building no longer serves musical purposes, but religious ones: From 2007 it was used as a protestant church, and since 2017 it houses an Islamic centre).

In November 1977 the Steve Gibbons Band recorded a concert in this venerable theatre with thirteen gripping songs, including five cover versions („Shopping For Clothes“, „Boppin`The Blues“, „Tulane“, „Git It“ and „Day Tripper“).

The setlist

The setlist of this gig (still to be found in the vastness of the internet) consisted of the following numbers:

  1. „One Of The Boys“
  2. „Johnny Cool“
  3. „Speed kills“
  4. „Shopping For Clothes“
  5. „Girl (sic!) in the Bunker“ (Steve announces this song with this title. Later on the record it should be called „Down In The Bunker“)
  6. „No Spittin`On The Bus“
  7. „Mr. Jones“
  8. „Boppin‘ The Blues“
  9. „Tulane“
  10. „Git It“
  11. „He Gave His Life For Rock ’n‘ Roll“
  12. „Rollin`“
  13. „Day Tripper“

These songs were performed by a band that was bursting with energy, even though they were at the end of a long tour.

Band and singer in top form

Band and lead singer are here again in their new „cultivated“ outfit and in top form. Gibbons, in a black leather suit and, unlike on the cover of the last LP, beardless, takes the microphone in his hand and leans on the stand to tell his stories with gestures and an expressive voice.

You think: An actor has been lost here!

Steve Gibbons a potential new singer for The Who?

Then again he dances, swings his hips, marches across the stage. When you see these recordings, you could imagine Steve Gibbons as the singer of The Who instead of Roger Daltrey.

This becomes especially clear with the first song „One of The Boys“, the title-giving number of Roger Daltrey’s just released solo LP, which is vocally equal to the Daltrey version. And also the gestures are similar in some places, especially when he pulls up both arms during the last drum beats of Bob Lamb.

By the way, „Singer of the Who“ was a position Gibbons – just like Led Zeppelin singer Roger Plant by the way – had ambitions for. Pete Townsend told Guitarist magazine about this in an interview in 1990:

… There were actually periods when Roger left the group for several weeks and I was The Who’s singer. Robert Plant talks about the fact that when he first saw us I was the singer. He came to see us three nights in a row and offered himself for the job, as did Steve Gibbons when he came to see us and Roger wasn’t there. „Obviously none of them thought I was any good!

Gibbons also takes his time announcing and introducing his songs at the concert at Golders Green Hippodrome. While the band lays out a rhythmic carpet for him in an endless loop, he sometimes seems to tell his tales in an aimless fashion. What is he trying to get at, one wonders? And then he links the seemingly meaningless with the beginning of the lyrics in one sentence. And suddenly everything makes sense!

A taste of Elvis

For example, in the Elvis homage „Tupelo Mississippi Flash“, where, dressed all in black, he swings his hips broad-legged, so you’d think he was taking tutoring at Grace Land.

Gibbons also takes his time announcing and introducing his songs at the concert at Golders Green Hippodrome. While the band lays out a rhythmic carpet for him in an endless loop, he sometimes seems to tell stories in an aimless fashion. What is he trying to get at, one wonders? And then he links the seemingly meaningless with the beginning of the lyrics in one sentence. And suddenly everything makes sense.

A lot of space for the band

The band also has a lot of space. This not only musically, but also concerning the outfit. A „dress code“ does not seem to have existed with the Steve Gibbons Band.

Trevor Burton for example wears black leather on his body, but also on his head. (So he could easily have passed as one of the Village People!)

Rather understatement is in order with the two guitarists. Bob Wilson in a T-shirt hanging over his pants looks like he just went to the supermarket to get cigarettes. And his colleague Dave Carrol in a white shirt with a very thin black tie could also be an office worker who has just taken off his jacket for the way to the kitchen.

Everyone has the opportunity to set accents and show what they can do on their instrument. Especially the two lead guitarists go to the point with the song „Rollin`“. What they deliver here could also have come from Wishbone Ash.

It’s a pity that this performance is not available on DVD.  This performance is more thrilling than that one three years later at Rockpalast of which there is a DVD available.

Everybody who sees or hears the recordings of these concerts will realize that the main focus of this band is the gigs. Many groups have difficulties to bring what they have recorded in the studio live on stage. The Steve Gibbons Band, on the other hand, has the problem of getting what they can do live out on their studio recordings.

So it was actually a logical step to bring out a live LP as a third long-playing record. But before we tell you about it, we have to tell you about Steve Gibbons` collaboration with Roger Daltrey from The Who, where he „played in the same league“ as Paul McCartney.

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