Fill-in for Paul McCartney with two Rolling Stones and Elvis guitarist Scotty Moore as accompanying musician (2004)

Four songs for Steve Gibbons, but  Ringo Starr and Ozzy Osborne are turned

Scotty Moore, the legendary guitarist of Elvis, was to be honoured in 2004 with an exclusive concert at Abbey Road Studios.

Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits had agreed to attend, as had David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, the Fairport Convention and Bill Wyman Rhytm Kings, who were supported by Ron Wood.

It’s understandable that not everyone who would have liked to be there was able to attend on such an occasion. In the DVD documentary „A Tribute to the King by Scooty Moore & Friends Featuring Songs Made famous By Elvis Presley Live at Abbey Road Studios“ Tony Pacino, the tour manager of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, tells there that Ron Wood would have loved to invite Ringo Starr and Ozzy Ozborne, who were recording at Abbey Studio at the same time. But that failed because the recording time for the concert was limited to 100 minutes.

Steve Gibbons, on the other hand, is represented at the concert with no less than four songs.

Wow! What an honour! But coincidence has also helped here. Not just once, but twice.

Elvis_and_Scotty_Moore_(cropped)
The man behind Elvis, Scotty Moore. Picture source: From Uncredited – https://archive.org/stream/radiotvmirro00mac#page/n247/mode/2up, Public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77530595

„Mr. Lovely“ has a lovely idea

Dave Pegg, who was the bass player of the Fairport Convention, reports on the background of the concert in his autobiography. According to that Ron Lovely, a dazzling figure (according to Dave Pegg „magician, children’s entertainer and semi-pro singer„) from Boston with best connections to rock groups like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton, had the idea for such a concert.

Lovely approached Pegg sometime in 2003 and told him that Scott Moore was very ill and that he wanted to organize a charity concert for him.  He had two list for preparation. One of Elvis songs to be played at the event and another with musicians to play.  The second list included the likes of Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler and Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings.

Dave Pegg was sceptical whether the whole thing would come true. He also wondered what the role of the Fairport Convention and especially his role as bass player at this concert would be if ex-Rolling Stone bass  player Bill Wyman was already in the band. So he forgot the matter quickly.

However, one year later Lovely contacted him and reported that he had found a German company that would finance the project, that Abbey Road Studio would be booked for two days and that Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Mark Knopfler, David Gilmour, Billy Wyman and Ron Wood and some other people had already confirmed their participation. Would Fairport Convention, especially Dave Pegg and their singer and guitarist Simon Nicole, also take part?

Pegg and Nicole obviously halfheartedly agreed, still without taking the matter really seriously. Another month went by and Lovely contacted again and announced that the thing would start ton very short notice, namely the following Monday. He also asked which song Pegg and Nicole would play.

Steve Gibbons moves up for Simon Nicole

Simon had a problem, not only because the preparation time was very short: Elvis songs were not necessarily what he could cover stylistically. So Dave Pegg emailed Ron Lovely that they would like to be there as accompanying musicians, but that Simon wouldn’t take over the vocal part. As a replacement he suggested Steve Gibbons in „Because he`d be great doing Elvis„.

Ron Lovely agreed and Steve Gibbons was in on it. So he belonged to the exclusive circle of the other performers who had written some big chapters of rock history. He should sing, accompanied by the Fairport Convention, „Don’t be Cruel“ and „I Don`t Care If The Sun Don`t Shine“.

Lovely had one more positive message: Scotty Moore had recovered and was to accompany the musicians.

Recording at Abbey Road Studios with Scotty Moore: What a thrill! Not only for someone who had won a singing competition three decades earlier, where the best Elvis interpreter was sought. Even if this gave Steve Gibbons a good reference as an artist for the event, the decisive factor was probably his still good connection to his former band mate Dave Pegg!

Mr. McCartney can’t – Who will do it?

And it got even better:

On the day of the event Bill Wyman approached Steve Gibbons:

We got a bit of a problem. McCartney can`t make it. Do you know „Heartbreak Hotel“?

Of all things „Heartbreak Hotel“, one of the central Elvis songs, which supposedly even made Keith Richards become a musician. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he said:

When I heard Heartbreak Hotel, I knew what I wanted to do in life. It was as plain as day. All I wanted to do in the world was to be able to play and sound like that. Everyone else wanted to be Elvis, I wanted to be Scotty Moore.

Also to some other of the people who took part in the concert at Abbey Road Studios, this song was the „gateway drug“ to rock ’n‘ roll, as Mark Knopfler, for example, tells on the DVD:

… and later this year 1956, when I was 10, Heartbreak Hotel came out, Elvis Presley. I mean that was just … absolutely … It absolutly blew me away, I couldn’t believe it! That record, it was so good, it still is today. It is so spare, there is so little on it. It starts with absolutely nothing, but it is so odd again. And brilliantly made!

So it was clear:  Many of the contributors from the crème de la crème of rock music would listen carefully to this song. It was a little bit like back then as support act of The Who: A great chance, but you  could also brilliantly fail.

How was it again with the lyrics?

On the other hand: Who would want to refuse to be a substitute for a Beatle  ?

There was only one problem: Of course Steve Gibbons knew „Heartbreak Hotel“ (Who doesn’t know it?), but he wasn’t sufficiently sure about the lyrics (Who would be that?).

Bill Wyman knew what to do: There was a teleprompter in the studio. So they went straight to the point. Wyman said:

„Let`s try a run Through!“

Two Stones and one Elvis buddy as an accompanying band

Since this rehearsal was also recorded, it`s further course can still be followed closely today:

  • Steve Gibbon begins with great concentration. A certain tension is noticeable in him.
  • How else: left of him stands and plays Scotty Moore and does not accompany Elvis but him, the Elvis fan from Brum.
  • And half right behind him, playing side by side, the two Rolling Stones Billy Wyman and Ron Wood, at first without a special facial expression.
  • During the song the mood changes.
  • Bill Wyman and Ron Wood become more relaxed and smile at each other. The ice seems to be broken and Steve Gibbons seems to have proved that he is the right man at the right place.
  • During a solo Steve Gibbons goes to the back. Now there are mischievous looks exchanged between him and Scotty Moore.

Eric Clapton told after the concert about how it was to take the role of Elvis next to Scotty Moore:

Today I played three of his songs. And I played acoustic like Elvis was playing. And Scotty was doing exactly what he was then. It was really strange. A fantasy moment. Incredible, like a dream come true!

We suppose Steve Gibbons ha similar feelings.

Dave Pegg describes the rest of the story this way:

Steve just goes for it – „Heartbreak Hotel“ and then „Jailhouse Rock“- gives it his full Elvis. Does the moves as well. … When he finishes, everyone in the room, all these legendary rock players burst into spontaneous applause.

Well done, you might say. The first try was so good that this version, which was actually intended as a rehearsal, and not the later performance with this song, was put on the DVD.

„Heartbreak Hotel“ revisited

But we don’t want to hide the fact that „Heartbreak Hotel“ was played a second time that evening, in a jazzy instrumental version with Martin Taylor on guitar.

Taylor belonged to Bill Wyman`s Rhythm Kings for a while, wrote a music school  and led a band called Spirit of Django, which is dedicated to the memory of Django Reinhard (who, by the way, also played in the Steve Gibbons song „Hot Club In Dreamland“ on the CD „Chasing Tales“).

This version of „Heartbreak Hotel“ is also worth listening to. Especially because it is so different.  It’s a pity that nobody came up with the idea to let Steve Gibbons and Martin Taylor play the song together. This would not only have gained time for another song (maybe with Ringo and Ozzy?), but the result would certainly have fitted the later album „Chasing Tales“ of the Steve Gibbons Band, reduced to the musical maximum, musically as well as from the „noir“ content.

No Jailhouse, but thumbs up

On „Jailhouse Rock“, Steve Gibbons was supported by the Rhythm Kings and Ron Wood, without Scotty Moore. Here the performance in front of the audience was selected for the DVD. Right from the beginning the musicians seemed to be much more relaxed than at the rehearsal of „Heartbreak Hotel“.

Bill_Wyman's_Rhythm_Kings
Bill Wyman`s Rhythm Kings. Picture source: From Jacco Barth – https://www.flickr.com/photos/34866561@N03/3237021044/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8195335

Ron Wood in particular makes side steps and goes with the shoulders. Once he even pokes the tongue to his fellow musicians.

Albert Lee dances during his solo. The saxophones give additional drive.

Only Bill Wyman, who plays his bass as if rooted to the ground and standing motionless, as if he wanted to apply for the succession of John Entwistle at The Who, hides behind his glasses with his head half lowered. (One doesn’t really know whether he reminds more of a reserved teacher or an overworked and shy student).

After the final chord, however, this changes abruptly and Wyman shows the thumbs up to Ron Wood standing next to him.

Piers Beagley describes on Elvisnetinfo.com, one of the first addresses for Elvis information on the net, the performance as

fabulous ‚Jailhouse Rock‘ by Steve Gibbons

Songs performed with Fairport Convention

Steve Gibbons also played two songs at the show, accompanied by Fairport Convention, Chris Stainton and Graham Broad.

So this accompanying formation also consisted of prominent musicians:

  • Chris Stainton was a long time member of Joe Cocker’s band, with whom he also wrote songs, and had such important performances as the concert at Woodstock and the Mad Dogs and English tour.
  • Graham Broad is said to have taught Phil Collins the basics of drumming. He has also worked with Roger Waters, Tina Turner, The Beach Boys, Procol Harum, Jeff Beck, Van Morrison, Bryan Adams and George Michael, among others.

One of the two songs accompanied by the Fairport Convention was „Don`t Be Cruel“. For very personal reasons we can’t comment on this one at this point. We got to know the song in the 1970s through the radio in Billy Swan’s version. Since then we regularly have ear canal closure when we hear the opening lines „You know I can be found/Sitting home all alone/If you can’t come around/At least please telephone. …„. Sorry for that!

We also had a distanced relationship to „I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine“, until we heard the uptempo version by Steve Gibbons, the gesture-rich moriate singer, in which the hands and hips are almost as active as the vocal chords.

At the end all participants supported Albert Lee on „Hound Dog“. For Steve Gibbons and his two friends Dave Pegg and Simon Nicole from Fairport Convention, this left only the second row. Without instruments and far away from any microphone they clapped along with the rhythm with visible fun.

AlbertLee
Albert Lee 2005. picture source: From Woffi in Wikipedia in German – transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons., Gemeinfrei, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2046222

Albert Lee’s performance is impressive when you see his physical effort as guitarist and singer. But hand on heart: The man has merits above all as a guitarist, less as a singer. That’s probably why this finale remains so strangely superficial. Especially with such a captivating finale song it would have been „a good idea“ to put up a few more microphones. Experienced singers, who could have given the chorus more drive, were present.

But this is only a side note. Years later, Steve Gibbons described this performance in an interview as the absolute highlight of his career. And he was probably right.

The songs of the concert and their performers at a glance

On the DVD you can hear the following Elvis songs:

1 -Mark Knopfler Blue Moon Of Kentucky

2 -Mike Sanchez My Baby Left Me

3 -Eric Clapton

3 -Eric Clapton That’s All Right

4 -Steve Gibbons Heartbreak Hotel

5 -Albert Lee Trying To Get You

6 -Mark Knopfler Baby Let’s Play House

7 -Paul Ansell Shake, Rattle & Roll

8 -Paul Ansell Mess Of Blues

9 -Paul Ansell One Night With You

10 -Steve Gibbons Don’t Be Cruel

11 -Eric Clapton Money Honey

12 -Mike Sanchez All Shook Up

13 -Mike Sanchez Lawdy Miss Cloudy

14 -Martin Taylor (10) Blue Moon

15 -Paul Ansell I Forgot To Remember To Forget

16 -Paul Ansell Reconsider Baby

17 -Paul Ansell Ready Teddy

18 -Martin Taylor (10) Heartbreak Hotel

19 -David Gilmour Don’t

20 -Steve Gibbons Jailhouse Rock

21 -Paul Ansell Good Rocking Tonight

22 -Steve Gibbons I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine

23 -Albert Lee (You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care

24 -Albert Lee Blue Suede Shoes

25 -Martin Taylor Tenessee Waltz

26 -Eric Clapton Mystery Train

27 -Albert Lee Hound Dog

Scotty_Moore_Elvis_2000
Scotty Moore in the year 2000. picture source: John Mathew Smith & http://www.celebrity-photos.com from Laurel Maryland, USA – Scotty Moore Elvis guitarist and recording engineer, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76122387

Backstage bonus

As a bonus, the DVD contains an interview with Scotty Moore and Elvis friend Jerry Schilling as well as a making-of, which gives a lively impression of the preparation and the atmosphere among the musicians. This is consistently relaxed and collegial. Here it becomes clear with what respect the musicians, many of whom are world stars themselves, met Scotty Moore, but also their not so well-known colleagues.

Eric Clapton, on the other hand, seems rather cooler. One viewer even noted on Amazon: „Eric Clapton’s self-indulgent performance was particularly annoying. The way he drives up in a Porsche Cayenne and has his guitar case carried behind him is pure vanity.

On the other hand, the scene where a rock great like Bill Wyman asks for an autograph of Scotty Moore on one of his Elvis records is very nice.

Too bad that the DVA was called „A Tribute To The King“ for marketing reasons, actually it should be called „A Tribute To Scotty Moore“.

Want to learn about „Chasing Tales“ an album thta can (at least) keep up with Dylans „Rough and rawdy Roads“?

Than klick here.

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