Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Interview: Bev Bevan (Village Times)

#351: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! The forthcoming appearance of Bev Bevan's The Move at the Brewood Music Festival in July has been preceded by an excellent interview series by Jason Bate with The MoveELO and Black Sabbath legend, published recently over four [4] weeks for The Village Times between 6th and 27th May respectively. Jason has kindly granted permission for ELO Beatles Forever [ELOBF] to publish his interview in its entirety. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as Yours Truly KJS has enjoyed pulling it together.

Bev Bevan was born in Sparkhill, Birmingham on Saturday 24th November 1945. He was educated at Moseley Grammar School, gaining two 'O' level passes before starting work as a trainee buyer at the Beehive department store in Birmingham with school friend Bob Davis [Jasper Carrott]. His professional music career began with Denny Laine & The Diplomats [Denny Laine later of Moody Blues & Wings fame] before a stint with Carl Wayne & The Vikings. Bev was a founder member of The Move in late 1965 along with Roy Wood, Trevor Burton, Ace Kefford and Carl Wayne. Bev was also a founder member of the Electric Light Orchestra [ELO] in 1971 and was also a member of Black Sabbath in the 1980’s. Village Times caught up with Bev recently ahead of his performance with Trevor Burton at this years’ Brewood Music Festival. Read our interview with Bev as he talks about The Move, ELO, touring and lots more!

JB: Do you see the current line-up as a continuation of The Move or a case revisiting the band?
Bev: I think revisiting is a nice expression. It’s born out of when ELO Part II finished in 1999, I took a bit of a sabbatical and started doing some radio station work, which I’m still doing, and got the urge to play and form my own band which was The Bev Bevan Band. I actually just bumped into Trevor Burton one day and we ended up doing a gig together and he said I wouldn’t mind doing more of the old Move stuff. So his band still exists and so does mine but from time to time we get together and do these Move shows and do some of the old Move tracks.
JB: Has Roy Wood ever been tempted to get involved?
Bev: He’s been asked! I don’t think he’s ever been tempted. He’s very reclusive, I last saw him in January at the funeral of an old rock singer, Gerry Levene. But Roy very rarely comes out to play, he did the Status Quo Christmas Tour, guested on that, but probably the next time you see him will be next December!
JB: What are the strengths of this incarnation of The Move that we’ll see at Brewood?
Bev: They’re great people to work with. Of course Trevor Burton was a founder member of The Move along with me so we’ve got two original members which in this day and age is pretty good. A lot of 60’s bands have only got one or even none in some cases. The rest of the guys are terrific players. Phil Tree, the bass player, has been with The Bev Bevan Band since the outset and spent around 12 years as Roy Wood’s bass player. Neil Lockwood on keyboards was with me in ELO Part II, again he’s been with me right from the start of the BB Band and he was lead singer with the Alan Parsons Project for some time. So, he’s a really talented keyboard player and singer. The lead guitarist, a guy called Tony Kelsey, right now he’s working with Steve Winwood and he’s a really terrific guitarist. We obviously do several Move tracks but we try and evoke, unlike many other 60’s bands I think, the rockier side of the time. A lot of the 60’s bands can be a bit cabaret but we do things like ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’ or we do versions of ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Hey Joe’. We do some Cream songs, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac songs so we’re trying to remind people of the rockier side of the 60’s. We did a 60’s weekend at Butlins recently and we were discussing what to put in the set and we actually said that Hey Joe might be a bit much for this crowd, but then thought oh no we’ll put it in anyway. It went down better than anything, standing ovations for Hey Joe, which just goes to show you that people are quite shocked to begin with because it’s quite loud and jammy but absolutely went down a storm with the Butlins crowd which speaks for itself really.
JB: Birmingham was a real hotbed of talent in the 60’s?
Bev: Yeah, it was an incredibly healthy time that. I started out with Denny Laine, and what a talented guy he is! We went to see The Spencer Davis Group at Birmingham University, when I was with Denny Laine & The Diplomats, and he just fell in love with what Steve Winwood was doing, found the blues and then went and formed The Moody Blues and went on to Wings after that. There’s so much talent around this area, Tony Iommi’s still my best friend in the music business, Robert Plant’s a good friend, Steve Winwood I’ve just mentioned, Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne, it really was a great place to be in the 60’s.
JB: Similarly to Liverpool I guess there were lots of great bands working who just never got discovered?
Bev: Oh yes, definitely. I also play in a little music revue that goes around the area usually once a year called “It’s only Rock n Roll”. It’s basically my band and we’re backing Geoff Turton, lead singer with The Rockin’ Berries, Raymond Froggatt, another very talented singer-songwriter, Trevor Burton, who comes on and does some bluesy type stuff and also a guy called Danny King. Danny was the original Birmingham rock ‘n’ roller going way back to the 50’s and what a talented guy he is. He goes down a storm every single night but he never really made it. Steve Gibbons is another one who never really made it but should have.
JB: Do you think the Move have been undervalued over the years?
Bev: I think they are, particularly with the record buying public but you can’t blame people for that because, people listen to the radio, and used to go and buy records, but if they hear things like Flowers in the Rain, Blackberry Rain, Fire Brigade they think yeah, good little pop group that. But really anyone who followed The Move from the start, when we used to work regularly with Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and The Who, we were very much in that mould really and very much a rock band. We were a progressive rock band when we started out and kinda turned into this singles band type thing. 
JB: Thought lost for over 30 years, the master tapes from The Move’s shows at the Fillmore West were saved by Carl Wayne but suffered technical problems and could not be released. Thanks to advances in studio technology, Carl began restoring the tapes in 2003. Sadly Carl died in 2004 and was never able to complete the live album he believed would show how incredible The Move were as a live band. Now, with the full cooperation and permission of his wife Sue Wayne, the tapes have been painstakingly restored, remastered and released in memory of The Move’s dynamic front man and lead singer. The new release of the USA tour in 1969 is a great listen and shows an incredibly versatile band?
Bev: Well, I know that’s ‘69 and it was really Carl Wayne’s last performances with the band, but that is a lot more like what we were when we started out really. We were very chameleon like, we were able to change direction at any given moment. We were forever changing our image. We had a manager who was publicity mad called Tony Secunda and he was forever changing our image. We were in gangster suits as hard men for the first single ‘Night of Fear’, by the time we got to the third one, ‘Flowers in the Rain’, we were all hippies and then by ‘Fire Brigade’ we were all on motorbikes and wearing black leather! I don’t think even we knew what we were supposed to be half the time!
JB: Tony Secunda was involved with the famous postcards featuring Harold Wilson too wasn’t he?
Bev: Oh yes! That was a step too far actually! He was really good for us to begin with, it was him who got us a residency at The Marquee club in London and which led inevitably to us being signed. I mean, we didn’t have to go knocking on record companies doors, they were queueing up to sign us! So, he was great at that and he did give this image that gave us great publicity, great photo’s and really put us in the public eye. But, just for the sake of publicity to upset the Prime Minister of Great Britain was just too barmy even for us! In fact, we still don’t get any royalties from ‘Flowers in the Rain’ or the B side, Roy Wood’s never had a penny in songwriting royalties which is really unfair. After that we did split with him [Secunda].
JB: Wilson sued The Move for libel and the group lost the subsequent court case. As a result they had to pay all costs and all future royalties were awarded to charities of Wilson’s choice. The ruling remains in place today, even after Wilson’s death in 1995. ‘Flowers in the Rain’ was the first chart single played on Radio 1 when it began broadcasting at 7am on 30th September 1967, introduced by Tony Blackburn. Do people focus too much on the Harold Wilson incident and Flowers in the Rain as first song on Radio 1 and forget the other things The Move achieved?
Bev: Probably. I think people within the industry realized just what a good band we were. I got to play on Paul Wellers’ ‘Wake up the Nation’ album, [Bev plays on ‘Moonshine’ and ‘Wake Up the Nation’] which was a massive hit, simply because he’s such a huge fan of The Move. And when you start talking to people there’s a lot who are big Move fans. They’re generally people who were in bands themselves around about that time, John Lennon liked The Move, McCartney did, Eric Clapton did, Pete Townshend was a fan but at the time we were a very ‘in’ group. Before we became darlings of Top of the Pops I suppose!
JB: Between 1971 and 1986 ELO released 11 studio albums enjoying huge success all over the world. The group achieved 20 Top 20 UK hit singles and also hold the record for having the most Billboard Hot 100, Top 40 hits in US chart history without ever having a number 1. They have sold over 50 million records worldwide. Would it be fair to say that there was a point in the 70’s with ELO where you were just about the biggest band on the planet?
Bev: I’m not sure about that but we were certainly one of the biggest. Fleetwood Mac were enormous at about the same time, and Abba of course, but we were certainly well up there.
JB: You used to double track drum parts for ELO didn’t you?
Bev: Yeah, it was a bit of a pain in the behind to be honest but we did get a big sound that way. We used quite old studio techniques and used to put down a basic track in the studio, probably with guitar, bass, drums and keyboards which would probably get wiped and be done all again, and then I used to go into the Musicland studios in Munich. They’d put me into the toilets area because it had got this tiling that gave a very live sound and then I’d have to copy exactly what I’d played before which is one of the reasons that none of the ELO drum parts are that over-complicated because I had to get them beat for beat so they could be double tracked.
JB: That must have been a real feat of concentration and endurance? 
Bev: More concentration really, it really was. We didn’t double track the bass drum,that would have been really difficult, it was basically just the top kit. If you were only a fraction of a second out it had to be done again so there were a lot of takes to get it spot on.
JB: Might ELO have been even bigger had Jeff not been quite a reluctant live performer?
Bev: It’s unfortunate I think that he was quite a reluctant live performer because we could have toured a lot more really. I do understand where he was coming from because we did tour an extraordinary amount during the 1970’s. We toured in 72, 3, 4, 5, and 6. 77 we were basically recording Out of The Blue, we did a massive tour in 78 and Jeff had by this time become very successful and to be fair to him he never liked the touring. Even going back to his time with the Idle Race he was a studio person and a lot of guys are. You’ve either got a love of being on stage or you haven’t. There’s no way Paul McCartney or Elton John need the money but they still tour all the time because they love it obviously.
JB: Do think Jeff might have been put off by an incident early on in his time with The Move?
Bev: I think it was his first ever gig with The Move and we were in Ireland and he did that routine where you check the mic by putting the guitar strings against it. As soon as he touched the guitar to the stand every string was broken and he was blown backwards. If he’d have done it with his lips on the mic at the same time he would have been electrocuted.
JB: What are the downsides to touring?
Bev: The last major ELO tour, the “Time” tour, I got kidney stones in Europe and was flown back to England and I was in hospital for about a week. But for several days I was trying to perform and I played drums with kidney stones which was not recommended. Then when I was with Black Sabbath on my second American tour, I actually got viral pneumonia but still carried on playing! I went to hospital in Boston and the guy said ‘well you’re a young fit guy, you just gotta rest for a couple of weeks and you’ll be fine’. I said sorry but I’ve several shows to do across America in the next couple of weeks! So, you just carry on but it’s a miserable experience to be on the road and feeling unwell. It can be enough to put you off touring.
JB: Was there ever a chance of you being involved with the Zoom album?
Bev: No.
JB: Was that from your perspective or choice?
Bev: Jeff and I haven’t spoken for about twenty odd years. Jeff has the rights to the ELO name now and it’s up to him what he does with it. There’s always rumours of a new album or tour and stuff but if it does happen I’m pretty sure it won’t involve me.
JB: You also had a spell with Black Sabbath in the 80’s?
Bev: Yeah, 83/84 went back again in 86, 87 just odd shows here and there. The initial tour, the ‘Born Again’ tour was terrific and they’ve just re-released it in the last year. They’ve re-released ‘Born Again’ and the bonus album was our performance live headlining at the Reading festival in 83 which sounds great. After all these years to hear it again was terrific. That bought back massive memories and with this Move 69 album that’s two very different but very good performances being released within 12 months of each other.
JB: You worked as a fundraiser for The Birmingham Children’s Hospital. You must be very proud of what you achieved with Heartbeat?
Bev: Yeah, we raised an incredible amount of money for the Birmingham Childrens Hospital and the concert was terrific actually. I think we raised close to £1 million by the time we finished. George Harrison even turned up at the end of the concert, as surprises go that was pretty damn good. It was virtually the last time ELO played, I think we only did 3 more shows after that.
JB: Are you a steering wheel drummer?
Bev: I never stop! There’s a tune going through my head all the time and I’m always tapping things and walking in time to music or a tune that’s in my head. But yeah, definitely a steering wheel tapper!
JB: Given your profession, it’s just in you isn’t it?
Bev: That’s the great thing about drummers, you’re either a drummer or you’re not actually. It’s almost impossible to teach anyone, if you don’t have a natural sense of rhythm then you can’t play. It’s as simple as that really.
JB: Maybe impossible to say but has there been a particular highlight in your career?
Bev: I suppose when we did the ‘Out of The Blue’ tour and we played Wembley and my Mum came to the show, my Dad had died when I was 10 so he never saw me become a drummer like he was actually. So that was a very proud moment and it was a charity concert, the Duke and Duchess of York were there and for my Mum to come to that, coming to Wembley to see the show, in front of 12,000 people, I suppose that would stand out as a highlight.
JB: Starting out at The Beehive you’ve been drummer, rock star, TV personality on Pop Quiz in the 80’s, author, DJ, fund raiser – is there anything left on the to do list?
Bev: Yes! My good friend Tony Iommi has just released a book called ‘Iron Man’, which is a terrific read actually, and came out in hardback just before Christmas. The paperback comes out I think in July or August but so does the talking book CD and you can download it from all sorts of places, and they’ve asked me to narrate the book. So, that’s a first – I’ve never been a narrator before!
JB: You’ve had an amazing career though so far?
Bev: I’ve been very fortunate, got to work with some great people and avoided having a proper job all these years!
JB: Village Times would like to place on record our sincere thanks to Bev Bevan for agreeing to participate in this interview.

ELO Beatles Forever [ELOBF] wish to thank Jason Bate and The Village Times for their kind permission to edit and publish the above interview with Bev Bevan. This interview remains the copyright of Jason Bate t/a The Village Times.

ELO Beatles Forever [ELOBF] recommends The Village Times and Brewood Music Festival to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO, Jeff LynneRoy WoodThe MoveThe Idle RaceThe Beatles'Brum Beat' and related artistes.

Until next "Time" in the ELO [and related] Universe ... KJS ... 29-May-2012

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