Leamington Spa, the quintessential home of Regency elegance. Picture if you will, the Parade on a Sunday afternoon, chaperoned ladies sartorially dressed in their best bonnets, casting a shy glance at a passing dandy. Hold on a moment though, the dandy hath something to impart, what could it be… (wait for it)…..”LEMMY BLOOMIN’ ROCKS” that’s what! Well goodness me, but do you know I believe he does have a point. For elegant or not this spa town has had more than it’s fair share of rockers, not quite “full metal racket” but a proud rock ‘n’ roll heritage all the same, don’t believe me then lets look at the evidence.
OK Leamington Rockology it is then, music on the heavier side. With apologies to some of the less rockin’ (but just as good) musicians the town has produced (like the great Jack Payne, Woody Allen and the Challengers, The Incas, the Swell Maps, The Shapes, The Joyce McKinney Experience and the sublime Mummy Calls). Some great names there, but not on the menu today. How about Chevy though? Well they certainly fit the bill, fronted by the great Martin Cure. His pedigree looks like a veritable who’s who of local bands. From The Sabres, The Peeps, Rainbows, Still Life to Cupids Inspiration joining them in 1971 after their hit, “Yesterday Has Gone”. He went on to form Chevy with Paul Shanahan who had been in the band Jalopy Ride along side Rhythm Studios mainman John Rivers. Forever living under the banner of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (or N.W.O.B.H.M). With Paul Shanahan and Stephen Walwyn’s twin guitar sound, the comparison with Wishbone Ash was inevitable. Chevy were always much more than that though. They wooed the rock fans and pulled off support slots to Space rockers Hawkwind (playing at Cov’s Tiffanys in 1980) and the worlds fastest axeman Alvin Lee. They were to gain a prize spot on the EMI Metal For Muthas Vol 2 album with the track Chevy, and the anticipation grew. Their first album “The Taker” however was a good debut but never really lived up to the promise of their live performances. After two singles, The Taker and Just Another Day and some personnel changes the band split in 1981. Over to front man Martin Cure to sum it up,” We released an Album and two singles, did two “In Concerts” for the BBC and toured constantly in the UK. Excellent Band, Played some fantastic gigs but with Naff Management it was bound to end in tears, that’s Rock & Roll Folks”.
The nucleus of the band became Red On Red along with Rob Jackson. Meanwhile Steve Walwyn and Andy Chaplin formed R n B band The DT’s, well they rocked, even backed the greatly missed Steve Marriott and Steve Walwyn went on to be the longest serving guitarist in the mighty Dr.Feelgood. Still not convinced? Well how about Black Sabbath playing at Jephson Pavillion in May 1970, then we have Arthur Grant bass player in The acerbic Edgar Broughton band, “Apache Dropout” was anything but subtle. Neither were Bolt Thrower the Birmingham based band that included Leamington’s Gavin Ward who was once part of The Varukers. You may also remember Lemmy’s progressive rockers Barnabus winners of the Melody Maker National folk/rock contest of 1972. I remember seeing them play at The Walsgrave in Coventry, I was so impressed because they had a mixing desk! Other rockers from the town included the 80’s band Hell’s Bells, and a certain Nicholas Charles Dingley. He was born in Leamington and was adopted and grew up in Coventry’. He took the name Razzle and joined Finnish Glam rockers Hanoi Rocks as their drummer, they charted in 1984 with a re-make of the Credence Clearwater Revival song Up Around The Bend and the album Two Steps From The Move . In 1981 they release the single “Dead By Christmas”. On December 8th 1984 Razzle tragically died in a car accident. The car was being driven by the very drunk Vince Neil of Mõtley Crûe. He was replaced incidentally by Terry Chimes the former Clash drummer who now days earns his money as a Chiropractor!
OK, you still have that sedate Georgian thing going on, well maybe this will convince you. The Satanist/author and teacher of the darkside Aleister Crowley was born in Leamington Spa on 12th October 1875. He referred to himself as The Beast (popularising the phrase 666, The number of The Beast) His influence is far and wide none more so in the world of rock music (especially with the ‘Goth’ movement). Led Zeppelin (and in particular) Jimmy Page had a deep interest in him. Page actually owned Crowley’s former house Bolskine on the banks of Loch Ness. Those reverse speech ‘freaks’ who play records backward claim “Stairway To Heaven” is riddled with Crowley inspired satanic messages. Ozzy Osbourne wrote and recorded the song Mr Crowley. Iron Maiden sang The Number of the Beast. Even the Beatles included Crowley on their Sgt Pepper cover (he’s the second one in from the Left top row) and local metal band Mithras is a name inspired by Crowley’s teachings.
I can see you are almost there, but need some big names to really convince you of Leamington’s rock pedigree. How about former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor who guested on Nikki Sudden’s album recorded at Leamington’s WSRS Studios in 2002. It’s not just former Rolling Stones who have come to the town, Oh no, top Stone Mick Jagger recorded the promo video for his solo single “Sweet Thing” at the Royal Pump Rooms Leamington on 10th& 11th December 1992. MTV attended and interviewed Jagger, producer Julian Temple and Saxophonist supreme Courtney Pine for a XPO feature of the single that aired on Jan 16th 1993. On 29th January 2002 the Mighty Jethro Tull played and indeed recorded three tracks for their 2002 reunion DVD Living With The Past at Kelly’s in Court Street. So there you have it, the case is proven but if you still don’t think Leamington Rocks, I would suggest you take a trip to Kelly’s and take it up with them. I rest my case.