Jez Collins of the Birmingham Music Archive, provides an insight into the rich and rare birmingham scene. You can hear his Deep Dive Birmingham Spotify playlist, part of our OUTSIDELEFT NIGHTS IN series, here.
Born in Birmingham in 1930, Stanley Myers was only 63 when he died. He was one of the great contemporary British composers. Such were his gifts he was a twice recipient of the Ivor Novello Award and a Cannes Award for his work (The Deer Hunter, The Witches and Prick Up Your Ears respectively). Myers was a regular composer for directors Nicolas Roeg and Stephen Fears, composed the Question Time theme tune and most memorably he wrote Cavatina, one of the most recognisable movie theme tunes from the equally lauded The Deer Hunter. Barely known in his home city, Myers work should be sought out by soundtrack enthusiasts and music lovers alike.
Another extraordinary composer, Jocelyn Pook has played and appeared with such luminous artists as PJ Harvey, Massive Attack, Peter Gabriel and The Communards, composed music for dance companies DV8, Wayne MacGregor, Akram Khan Company and the English National Ballet. She was a founding member of the The Electra Quartet who played, arranged and recorded with the likes of Paul Weller, Nick Cave and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Oh and she’s composed for over 30 films including Eyes Wide Shut and Gangs of New York. And that’s before we get to her solo music. Red Shoes is taken off Pook’s 2001 album Untold Things and is an ethereal piece of music accompanied by haunting vocals. https://www.jocelynpook.com/albums
One of the giants of contemporary Bhangra and Indian music. Growing up in the Balsall Heath area exposed Sagoo to the Reggae, Soul and Disco sounds emanating from the neighbourhood. These influences would show up in his early mixtapes where he’d incorporate the Indian music he grew up listening to. Another musician with a number of soundtracks to his name, Sagoo is best known for his production across some thirty releases. Noiree is taken from 2000’s Bollywood Flashback II and is a great example of the Asian Underground that was so prevalent at the time.
A hugely underrated songwriter, Harvey Andrews released 19 albums during his active years.. Hey! Sandy is from the 1972 album Writer of Songs, a classic ‘lost’ lp. Full of political songs, Hey! Sandy was written about Sandy Scheuer who was killed by an Ohio National Guardsman during the Kent State Killings in 1970. Andrews voice retains just enough rage and passion as he describes the events that leading up to the shooting. I also love the bass guitar on this track!
Justin Haywood and John Lodge
This track is by two members of The Moody Blues, proponents of baroque, art and prog rock in the mid to late 60s. To me this sounds like it could have been recorded by Bob Iver produced by Joe Boyd. The harmonies are exquisite and it’s a perfect pastoral folk song.
Broadcast were at the forefront of the Birmingham’s electronic psych scene that included Plone (see below), Pram, L'augmentation, Magnetophone and others. Signed to Warp (at the time a Techno dominated label) they releasesd 5 albums before Trish Keenan sadly passed away at the age of 42. Much beloved by bands and musicians, Broadcast cut their own path, often rejecting notions of fame and success to continue exploring their sound through found samples and live instrumentation and Keenan’s vulnerable voice.
Another key part of the ‘Birmingham Electronic Scene’ Plone formed in 1994 and were also signed to Warp who released 1999’s For Beginners Piano. After a near 20 year hiatus, Plone are back with new album Puzzlewood released in April 2020.
Tea & Symphony
Described as a Progressive Folk band, Travellin Shoes is taken from their debut album An Asylum for the Musically Insane released on Harvest Records. A product of its time, the track still sounds fantastic and the album is waiting to be rediscovered.
Another 60s band but one that went from jazz to psychedelia to ska (check out very early Bluebeat/Ska track Rudi’s In Love), Locomotive had some serious musical chops. Trumpet player Jim Simpson would become Black Sabbath’s first manager guiding them through their first two albums, Traffic’s Chris Wood played flute and The Only One’s drummer Mike Kellie played drums. Mr Armageddon is a great slice of psych which builds and builds.
Sticking with the prog rock / jazz sounds, Galliard’s New Dawn Breaking taken from the much sought after New Dawn lp, introduces us to Geoff Brown who appears later in the playlist in a very different guise. Not much is known about Galliard but this track hints at what might have been as it reels of into hard almost be-bop jazz before coming back in for a thunderous funk like fueled ending.
Another member of The Moody Blues, Pinder’s You’ll Make It Through evokes Arthur Russell at his best. A much-maligned group, The Moody’s had some seriously talented musicians. This is one of the great lost Birmingham tracks. Gorgeous.
Reappearing again is Geoff Brown in this white disco-funk-Brummie band. It astounds me this music was being made in the city in 1976 by these guys. Seriously go check out what they looked like! Brown was also in 60s psychedelic group Craig. He deserves some of your attention!
More Brum based disco soul courtesy of Delegation who achieved a modicum of success in the 70s. Promised Love is a great dance floor track.
Just Another Lonely Night! Not much information on this band out there despite releasing three albums. People (Think Again) is a corker. A slower track than others on the album, the smooth vocals and the trumpet solo that closes out the song would not be out of place on a George Michael track. Another band that is well worth checking out.
A huge presence in Birmingham in the early 60s. Rod Stewart would briefly be in his band, Jimmy Powell and the Five Dimensions, and this track, I Can Go Down, shows why. Magnificent bluesy, rasping vocals, controlled as he really lets rip on ‘Come back to me…’ Classic performance from one of the best Birmingham singers ever!
Formed as Dexys Mark 1, imploded by original Dexys member, The Bureau picked up where they left off. Powerhouse vocals (reminiscent of Paul Heaton), stomping brass and crunching drums. They really should have been as successful as Dexys…
Another lost Birmingham band. Brother James and Patrick Roberts had been in The Sea Urchins, the band that launched Sarah Records, and formed Delta in 1993. Baggy, bluesy, psych and blissed out. A series of disastrous record label issues (not the bands fault) meant their music was never released or promoted properly denying them, and us, of watching them develop and becoming the band everyone in Brum at that time knew they could be. Still kills me!
Originally from Wolverhampton but in this list a) because he is so closely linked to loads of Birmingham bands b) this song had be in! Has there ever been a more danceable political song? Macka B is on top form and has one of the biggest discographies I’ve ever seen! Check out his Medical Monday series of fruit and vegetable-based songs for proof of his greatness!
CLIPZ, Ms Banks, Jaykae
I could have chosen any Jaykae song such is the quality of this Grime/Rap artist. However, this song by CLIPZ features a brilliant cameo by Jaykae that showcases his talents. Massive, and getting bigger!
Perhaps best known for appearances with Leftfield, Cheshire Cat began in the seminal Soundsystem Luv Injection and is an in demand MC in the Jungle scene. I love this track, bigging up Birmingham and taking the limelight that he deserves!
Krautrock/shoegaze magnificence from the heart of the country. Let yourself be taken for a ride on their autobahn.