Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In Crowd of the month: Les Blackburds (1967)

Alternate title: 'Mick Jones and The Road to Arena Rock' (Not to be confused with 'The other Mick Jones and The Road to Rock The Casbah').

A ripping instrumental version this month, steeped in obscurity, some snaky roots of rock history, and many dues paid along the way.

Major thanks are extended to my old pal
Pink Frankenstein for his assistance in connecting the dots.

'Les Blackburds' was the name of a backing band for legendary French pop singer
Johnny Hallyday, circa 1966 - '68.

The band was basically a group of 'hired gun' session musicians who could provide the
British-Beat elements that commerce dictated necessary to provide Hallyday with the sound of the day.

Leading the group was the team of guitarist Micky Jones and drummer Tommy Brown.

Brits Jones and Brown had worked together a few years earlier as they passed through the ever-changing ranks of the group Nero & The Gladiators, gaining some notice before moving on to their own partnership, later recording as the duo The State of Micky and Tommy.

They picked up a variety of session work as well, and in early 1964 were 'designated Brits' in French singer Sylvie Vartan's backing band for a series of performances in Paris.

A professional association with her husband Johnny Hallyday soon followed, and continued through the sixties.

Hallyday released new singles and EPs at a steady clip, and so the band was often traveling from their home in Paris back to London recording studios to capture 'the English sound' with
Glyn Johns or other producers.

In the photo, Johnny Hallyday with Les Blackburds ►

As 'Les Blackburds', the band's lineup typically included:

Micky Jones, guitar
Tommy Brown, drummer
Raymond Donnez
(aka Don Ray)
, keyboards
Gérard 'Papillon' Fournier, bass
Sam Kelly, percussion
Gérard Pisani, Pierre Ploquin, Jacques Ploquin, Gilles Pellegrini; trumpets
Jean Tosan, sax
Luis Fuentes, trombone

- - Though at this time it's uncertain if that was the exact line-up on their instrumental 'boogaloo' EP released (sans Hallyday) in '67.

From the EP 'The Blackburds play the Bugaloo'
(Phillips Records [France], 1967),
listen to:

Les Blackburds - The "In" Crowd
(click for audio)

- - and then for the next few years, things got interesting for Mick Jones.

His partnership with Tommy Brown began to wind down at the beginning of the 1970's, and eventually so did collaborations with Johnny Hallyday.

In 1970, he joined the line-up of
Gary Wright's new group, Wonderwheel, formed after the break-up of Spooky Tooth.

By 1972, Wright and Jones were members of a reformed Spooky Tooth, recording a couple of albums and changing personnel a few times before breaking up again in 1974.

During this general period Jones also played guitar on an album for Peter Frampton, on George Harrison's 'Dark Horse' LP, and on a few other artist's recording gigs as well.

After Spooky Tooth, he detoured to New York City for several months, working in the music industry as an A&R man for Nigel Thomas' short-lived Good Ear Records.

Heading back to performing, beginning in 1975 Jones did a relatively short stint in
The Leslie West Band, after the breakup of West's band, Mountain.

It appears that after working in A&R and working with the volatile West, Jones made the decision to start his own outfit.

The origins of Mick's career-defining group Foreigner quickly followed.

He met with multi-instrumentalist
Ian McDonald (a fellow Brit, formerly of
King Crimson) and recruited relatively unknown vocalist Lou Gramm, whom Jones had met a few years prior while touring with Spooky Tooth.

Filled out to a sextet and formed in New York in 1976, the band's name came from their 'hybrid' status as a blended Brit and American band.

If you lived through the end of the '70's and the '80's, you may recall that Foreigner did pretty well...

See also:

- A live appearance on 1960's French TV by
Johnny Hallyday and (quite possibly) Les Blackburds performing 'If I Was A Carpenter'.

- A video clip from The Dick Cavett Show circa 1971 shows Mick Jones as a member of Gary Wright's Wonderwheel, with guest George Harrison.

- A partial listing of Mick Jones' recording credits
at All Music.Com

- Click here to view the exhaustively detailed
'Mick Jones Panorama' biographical website
, including the anecdotes avoided here about paths crossed with The Beatles, Otis Redding, Jimmy Page, Ahmet Ertegun and other music industry luminaries.

- Click here for this entry and all the previous
'In Crowd of the month' posts together on one page.

1 comment:

Devil Dick said...

the devil loves some spooky tooth...

Freshly-stirred links