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Circle Plantagenet

We have an interesting history and we are currently writing and making new music.

   
       

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Circle Plantagenet History

We also have a selection of photos and press clippings you can view here.

 


Circle Plantagenet - The Beginning, 1965

This could be said to be a story of how A and B became C! Yes the detritus of two bands, The Abdo-Men and The Blythe Spirits merged (or congealed?) to become initially The Tartan Quarter then the Circle Plantagenet (CP). The Abdo-Men (maybe we gave people the stomach ache!) comprised David Laws*, Dave Southcott, Mick Young, Glenn Lee and Geoff Baker. Blythe Spirits were Ken Starks, Colin Allaway and two others from the Harefield area.

We came together around mid 1965 when of course the charts were dominated by the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, the Who and a whole list of creative and exciting British bands. They were all influenced by music from the US and by R&B and Soul in particular; Bobby Vee and Chubby Checker etc were now very passé! By the mid 60s the sounds of Memphis, New York and Detroit and in Britain Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Woolston (in Southampton) were competing as well as complementing.

The band was originally 4 members, and then became 3 for quite a while, and then other lead guitars came and went – Rex, Rob, and then Chris who stayed and brought in another Ken (Wheeler, in 69) - the keyboard man.

Memory recalls that it was Ken and Colin who placed an ad in the local paper in about spring 1965, looking for a drummer and bass to form a new band. Glenn and I followed up the ad – don’t recall any short listing or process beyond going to Ken’s address and we agreed to meet the following day to have a bash – can’t remember where – there will be lots of `can’t quite remember where/when’! But I do remember, vaguely, that on the way to Ken’s we realised that he was in the same road as Dave Dinnage (2) who was for a while in the Abdo-Men some time previously. We stopped to say hello and to enquire about Ken and Dave said `oh yeh - he’s OK he’s got a voice and a half!’

Ken later wove our initial contact into a song (3) with the line:

`two guys came knocking, one with no pockets (4), at my yellow front door, come on out we wanna join you man, so we can play some more’; and we did join and we did play some more, and we soon began to write some more too.

 


Circle Plantagenet - 1965

Like everyone else we did familiar covers of r&b and soul numbers as already mentioned, but we soon were playing original numbers written mainly by Ken. Ken has often described himself as a poet who wanted to have another medium for his work and I think the rest of us were happy to evolve that way and found it `cool’ (can I really use that word) to be doing it a little differently. Of course other bands were writing songs too and the best of them obviously became famous and rich so were and are by definition better and more successful than us. Nevertheless we were motivated by what we were playing -- still in 1965/6/7 a mixture of covers and originals, but from 1968 onwards almost entirely original – though it surprised us just recently to look back at a set list from 1969 to see we also covered `Where have All The Flowers Gone’ – perhaps we were subconsciously wondering what had happened to the `spirit of 1967!’

Indeed when we began to discuss writing this history we looked at one or two sources of info, apart from our faded and jaded memories; those sources included song lists from a few gigs in the late 60s, and we realised we could not remember how they went at all and in some cases there was no record of the lyrics either! Well perhaps those songs were not very memorable but it is a pity and by and large we did not play anything too unreasonable – in our view! Similarly we found song titles that meant nothing at all – and now clearly never will; but this could be seen – by a generous mind- of a sign of a creative and restless passion that was seeking to make music (and history) rather than worrying about recording it!

But let’s not get carried away though (just a bit of fun) -, and there is arguably a reasonable body of work that is representative of who we were (and are?), some of which would bear re-recording and all of which we stand by – notwithstanding that some lyrics have been adjusted and supplemented. In fact one song which will not appear on any website was potentially libellous and not at all politically correct about a certain entrepreneur/impresario who graced our presence momentarily in the cramped basement beneath the stage at Bassett school, flirted with our drummer (without reciprocation I must add) then went home early to watch the Untouchables on television; our loss was Elliot Ness’s gain I’m sure! The offending verse remained unperformed in public as we had no particular reason to feel aggrieved really and it was `just a bit of fun’ (there I’ve said it again – or as the great Hampshire cricketer Barry Richards once said of team mate and slow arm bowler Peter Sainsbury in mid July, `that’s his second boundary of the season – one more to go!!). Anyway we also could not afford to offend a potential source of gigs nor risk a libel summons. The verse will not be repeated here; however it is less libellously rewritten and on our CD `Long Hard Road’ – if you can spot it and want to enquire we may respond!

We were initially called the Tartan Quarter (after a nice scarf Ken had I think?). The CP name arrived around the flower power era and was not knowingly pretentious but was from one of many reflective lyrics written by Ken around that time, (which mused over a `Circle of kings – Plantagenet rings – That’s what happiness brings!). Well the band brought us some happiness if not fame and fortune. Perhaps the narrative is best served by a chronological approach from here onwards?

This short history is not intended to stray into the huge social and political changes of the 60s but there were the odd references to issues and news of the time and Orange Blossom Blues addressed the Vietnam war and commented that `it’s easy to read the black and white from the breakfast chair- but we’re not involved so we don’t really care’; the rather casual link here being that such great technological changes have occurred in the past decade or so that it is now possible for almost anybody to write their views/story/music and post it on the web. So this will be a short read, due to the fact there is such much `out there’ and we don’t want to be self-indulgent or important and don’t expect this to be of more than a passing interest to wee small hours surfers, while to friends and family it may be of more interest. To anybody that listens to the music we hope that if you enjoy it you will share it and play it yourselves if you are so moved – while we hope acknowledging and respecting the intellectual and copyright ownership. The music comes in a variety of compilations and we genuinely cannot remember where most of it was recorded and the recording personnel vary from 2 to 5 persons and cover different eras of the band.


 


Circle Plantagenet - Summer in the City, 1965

As already mentioned we formed around mid 65 and our first gig was about 5 days later and was really to help out an acquaintance involved in the old Casbah café in Southampton to provide a `fill in’ slot at a gig at the Bure Club in Mudeford (long since demolished we understand). We did a short `around midnight filler’ of around 30 minutes between the main acts which were Unit Four Plus two, who were charting with `Concrete and Clay’ and Dave Dee, Dozy etc who were charting with all sorts of stuff at that time. After the gig we collected our £6 or so and drove down to Bournemouth (everything was closed of course) and slept in the van at the top of the cliff road, Colin was the only driver then and transport was a problem throughout the life of the band in its various combinations. For the gig we had rehearsed 5 or 6 songs and pretended to have requests to repeat 2 of them – so we filled the half hour I think!

We quickly found a regular rehearsal venue in the basement of the stage at Bassett junior school in Honeysuckle Rd and we left our equipment there between rehearsals, which were generally Mon/Weds/Friday – though Friday quickly became a short, sometimes non event as social events and other distractions competed.

 


Circle Plantagenet - 1966

The availability of the Bassett school venue was due to the support of the youth club leader, who was also a special constable most weekends though we never saw him in uniform – honest! He would organise social events every so often and we would usually provide some music – he used to promise us a share in the coke bottle returns (3d per bottle) as a bonus – so things had to get better we hoped and luckily we all had day jobs (which we had to keep throughout unfortunately!) and supportive parents. We also had a few wedding reception gigs that year and would possibly have had a lot more from word of mouth referrals if we had included Cliff Richard and Jim reeves numbers in our repertoire – which was diverging in a different direction. After one such reception I recall we left our gear at the Conservative Club venue in St. Denys (now lovingly renamed St. Denise by the gentler professional classes who have moved in and patronise the lovely real ale pubs in the area), while we headed off to see perhaps the first ever midnight film showing in Southampton. It was a James Bond film and amazingly the event seemed very avant garden at that time. I expect we were still expected to stand while the national anthem was played after the film credits although by that time nobody did of course – and some people even spoke over it as they left the auditorium. Terrible people put them in the tower!

World Cup fever, Beatles release Revolver, national anthem changed to `Wild Thing’ (you made my ring sting!) and CP are resident at the Warrens.  Not anywhere in the chic suburb of Shirley Warren but the large hostelry behind Woolies in town (now known as the Firehouse).

We played in the upstairs bar, the main bar at that time, on Tuesdays, Friday and Saturday and we had to play a wider variety of popular stuff there (not Cliff or Jim though) like Spencer Davis and Who numbers, which we really enjoyed ourselves.  We remember a particular barman who always requested `Keep on running’, which we usually opened with anyway and it was always nice to be able to genuinely announce a request which was physically possible, legal and did not insult our parents!  Often on a Tuesday our 4 piece was only 3 because Colin either had to do (or preferred to do) overtime at the aircraft works or else just couldn’t be bothered to join us.  Colin played rhythm and we were able to get away with his absence and the good news was that the £6 nightly fee was only split 3 ways and you could buy a Ben Sherman shirt then for about £2 – so at least the wardrobe was enhanced if the art suffered. On a Saturday night we had to wait patiently, sometimes nervously with a free half pint and a cheese roll while the landlord cashed up and eventually got round to paying us.  We were rather callow I think and he had an enormous Alsatian, and generally about midnight a police sergeant and his constable would pop in to reassure themselves all was well – have their own half and continue their rounds- on foot of course.  Coppers were all tall and substantial figures of authority in those years – they seem so much younger now don’t they!

The residency at the Warrens was sort of passed on to us by the popular Earth Angels band who played mod/soul music and also had connections with the Bassett and Swaythling area of Southampton. The Warrens was a popular venue with merchant sailors and in mid 66 the long seaman’s strike hit trade badly in pubs in the area and we had to cut the Tuesday nights and then the rest.  Rushing home from work then out again to perform was quite hectic and we had to use buses to get around (walking home at weekends usually as last buses had gone by 11) and our gear was left again at the venue by arrangement.   It was a good few months though and when it ended we were free to concentrate on rehearsing again and able to focus our minds on the World Cup – after moving our gear back to Bassett school.  The Saints were also newly resident in the old football league first division and our terrace anthems included `..Give it to Ron (Davies), Give it to Ron, On ‘is head. On ‘is head’ – to the tune of the Troggs `Give it to me’.

 


Circle Plantagenet - The flower (truth) is inside us!? (Para. Donovan), 1967

Never quite understood whether Donovan was punched or bored and he certainly didn’t undersell the significance of 1967 in a recent documentary (circa. 2006). But it was a memorable year for music generally and a strange one for the CP in some ways. Again the old memory is letting me (and us) down – and they say that the long term memory should be the most reliable so perhaps we are not regressing quite yet? Anyway for the most memorable gig that year we were in the audience not on stage - at the Guildhall in Southampton when the newly charting Jimi Hendrix came to town. I remember they started about 45 minutes late and the road manager gave a rather arrogantly delivered excuse (I thought) about the traffic not being their fault and they didn’t have a helicopter. Still the performance was great and many readers of this will have seen footage of Jimi alternately in suggestive embrace with his guitar or else trying to destroy it – and also playing it held behind his head. Quite a performance and quite a strange atmosphere as I recall. Jimi had just broken with Hey Joe and his reputation and mystique was developing – and the standing only arrangements meant a lot of milling about with awe struck or just curious punters vying to be at the front to see `what the **** was going on with the guy in the waistcoat and bandana’! Don’t think any of our gigs achieved the same level of interest that year (or any other!) and in fact it is difficult to think where we even played in 1967. However it certainly was a good year socially and at a personal level my capacity to move beyond toleration of watneys red barrel and whitbread tankard to barley wine and johnnie walker whisky seemed a significant rite of passage at the time – along with the`manly pride’ of the gestation of a beer gut at last (aged 17!) During this period we were certainly rehearsing quite regularly and Ken was really coming up with a lot of songs – so we were covering less and less of the old R&B/soul numbers – but still being influenced by it and loving hearing it on the jukeboxes and various live venues- particularly the old Concorde Club which was then still at the Bassett Hotel in Burgess Rd. Colin had drifted away by this time and for a while we were joined by Rex on lead guitar - but his stay was short lived due mainly I think to shift work and being recently married and unable to give it much time. Rex was replaced by Rob Lipscombe who also went on to be our main recording guru. Perhaps our shortest ever gig happened when we played a wedding reception in Sholing (The Spring pub skittle room) and after about 10 minutes the bride’s father suffered some sort of heart attack or stroke and so they paid us up and continued in quieter mode – he was a near neighbour of Glenn’s I think and thankfully he was OK. Sometime around late summer/early autumn in 67 we recorded a few songs at the home of Rob Lipscombs dad in Thornhill Park; including `You’ve been Told before’ and `Lost Lonely Minstrel’; I think it was these that were sent away and put on an acetate demo disc which was intended to be used to promote the original material. The part of the day I remember more clearly was that Ken and I went to the Dell in the afternoon and saw Saints defeated by Spurs 1-0, to an Alan Gilzean glancing header. Spurs front duo were often referred to as the G Men (Gilzean and Jimmy Greaves), while the Saints were around that time memorably labelled `alehouse footballers’ by Liverpool boss Bill Shankly; Saints revelled in the infamy as that particular team was never likely to be famous. And fame seemed a long way off for us at the time but nevertheless a memorable and enjoyable year.

 


Circle Plantagenet - 1968

We made at least two trips to recording studios in London, Decca and Island records. Can’t remember who arranged them but have memories of Chris’s future brother in law driving us there and also of being `sort of’ promised a contract by Island but a change of personnel there scuppered the offer. Following one of these trips we were `latched onto’ by a local paper reporter, Tim Glover, who wrote us up as `…a folk/rock group with a distinctive and effective style … awaiting the result of an audition with a national recording company’. The piece was quite prominent and really led on the efforts of the ` recording boffin’ behind the band (Rob Lipscomb); who had for a while been our lead guitarist before swapping his plectrum for a recording dial. Rob was a bit embarrassed that the piece focussed on his role but the rest of us were fine with it and thanks are due to Rob for making those recordings and for unearthing what he could recently, after nearly 40 years. Rob had been succeeded as lead guitarist by the classically trained and Woolston wonder that was, and is, Chris Godden – who should have heeded his father’s advice not to leave his equipment in the cellar at our rehearsal venue in Bassett School!, Because 68 was also a bit of a watershed due to having most of our equipment stolen from there. This happened at the beginning of July and of course we were never re-united with it – the police were very sympathetic but had much more important fish to fry as they say. Of course we were not insured! However like the phoenix we rose from the ashes in the sense that just a few days later we were asked to play 3 gigs at the Swan in Portsmouth Rd, From memory I think it was to cover at short notice for another band(s) who had received better offers? Anyway we borrowed and hire purchased the means to fulfil 3 evenings in a week. The landlord seemed to like us but was not over impressed with our lack of enthusiasm (and professionalism) when he exercised his `droit de seigneur’ to end the evening with his renditions of the likes of `Please Release Me’ and `Can’t Help falling in Love’ – upturned collar, curled lip and lady killer leer inclusive. I think we played in the key of C major and he sang in Yale – or maybe it was the other way about. The locals seemed used to this sort of shambolic send off and nobody seemed too put out - and it delayed last orders for a while! It caused me a little amusement to witness similar scenes on a few subsequent visits to the pub and the landlord was a bit of a character and very friendly – just rated his talent too highly perhaps.

 


Circle Plantagenet - On the road Again (as were Canned Heat), 1969

This year we were joined by a close friend of Chris, Ken Wheeler, on keyboard; memorably deployed on `In the Morning’ and a few other new songs which seemed to reflect the development of the band, including `I Shall Not Be Moved’ and `Wait till The Morning Comes’. Around Southampton we played various places including the old Woolston pub (now the New Bridge Inn) and the Banister ballroom and Stoneham Youth Club, and during the summer we also played a few gigs for an agency (possibly Avenue Artistes) in rather further flung places. Again Chris’s future brother-in-law and his van were very helpful – and it’s perhaps worth remembering that at this time learning to drive was nowhere near the radar for either of us in the band, or the means to buy a car even if we could drive. Anyway we were able to get to venues at the likes of Shipton Bellinger, Ludgershall and even Chard in Somerset. In those sort of places and in Shipton especially the welcome was very warm and appreciative - and expectant too so that when we arrived a bit late there our equipment was halfway to the stage before we could close the van doors! I think we tuned up after the first few numbers had satiated the immediate excitement of the hundreds of young kids for whom a visit from a city band was a big event then. We really enjoyed it too and felt for the first time the thrill of having an army of `roadies’ to lump the equipment around! We had arrived at last – in Shipton Bellinger!

Anyway we were able to get to venues at the likes of Shipton Bellinger, Ludgershall and even Chard in Somerset. In those sort of places and in Shipton especially the welcome was very warm and appreciative - and expectant too so that when we arrived a bit late there our equipment was halfway to the stage before we could close the van doors! I think we tuned up after the first few numbers had satiated the immediate excitement of the hundreds of young kids for whom a visit from a city band was a big event then. We really enjoyed it too and felt for the first time the thrill of having an army of `roadies’ to lump the equipment around! We had arrived at last – in Shipton Bellinger!

 


Circle Plantagenet - and opportunity knocks! 1970

In April we arrived about 9am at Portsmouth Guildhall for an audition for opportunity Knocks (yes folks most sincerely we did!) It was Tim Glover at the local paper again using connections; motive not totally clear as we cannot recall him ever being at either a gig or a rehearsal! We were unsure what the routine was but were unceremoniously told to get our gear into the passageway outside the rehearsal auditorium and `wait your turn’. So we stood in line shuffling ourselves and our gear further along as various acts went in and quickly exited by another door. We remember a Bachelors tribute act being stopped after about 8 bars and another rock band after about 20. Also a precocious 8 year old girl (with pushy mother in the wings) murdering the Sandie Shaw hit `Monsieur Dupont’. She wasn’t really cute enough to compensate for her awful screech and probably should have been allowed to play with her friends that morning; but of course she may be famous now? Anyway we waited and shuffled and finally – just about to go for a third leak – we were on. We played an original song entitled `In the morning’ and Hughie came right up to us and looked us over, sniffed and asked if we could play a higher tempo number. We obliged with ` (That’s a) Fine Thing to Do’ and we were relieved and gob smacked to be allowed to finish it without interruption. At the end Hughie Green’s pianist and `musical director’ who had played along with every musical act sought clarification on some of the chords being used. He was obviously a little frustrated and bemused not to be able to recognise everything immediately; probably because our music followed Ken’s 12 string guitar being tuned to C instead of E – Chris recalls that the `Green Monster ‘stood right in front of us during the second number – causing Ken to start picking his ear nervously during the guitar break – didn’t see where he flicked the wax though! Tim Glover had driven us down in a van and he talked to HG for quite a while afterwards and felt confident we would be offered a slot on the show – so much so that he talked about the Jensen Interceptor (sports car) that would be his first luxury purchase – having leapt several stages ahead it seemed. He took us to the Jolly Sailor in Hamble on the way back and we were at the bar at midday and pickled quite quickly. Not sure how we would have welcomed an offer from Opportunity Knocks with all that went with it and still not sure how the audition suddenly came our way – anyway it wasn’t offered and we never saw or heard of Tim again bless him.

 


Circle Plantagenet - The Last Gig, 1970

Was at the old daily Echo Social Club in Castle Way in September. I’m sure the reason there were only about 12 people there (half of those behind the bar) was that Hendrix and Dylan were featuring at the Isle of Wight festival that September weekend. I’m sure that was the case and hopefully nobody will be able (or bothered) to challenge the history of that. Why anybody would choose that gig against ours I can’t imagine but perhaps if they had known it was to be our last public performance the hordes would not have made the short but expensive ferry trip and Jimi and Bob may have helicoptered over for our second set! Anyway we had no problem getting a drink during the interval and nobody left before we finished our set – we would have seen them! The band comprised Ken, Glenn, Chris and I (Geoff) for this occasion and we probably rehearsed a few more times before I think deciding not to get together again after the Xmas break 1970.

Endings

It’s difficult to know exactly what to say about our demise as I don’t recall any particular disagreements or decisions to call it a day. The Circle Plantagenet had probably run its course and we were probably not committed enough as a unit to supplement our repertoire of mainly original songs with covers and there were enough people doing that anyway. We were never driven to promote ourselves to either agents or venues to get the sort of work which bands arguably needed to develop their skills, confidence and following. The music we played usually went down quite well (or perhaps we were just received politely?), but our gigs were really not that frequent and we weren’t really that bothered about that, and perhaps that indicates why we drifted a little and did not progress as we should have done.

With a little luck and perhaps with more focussed rehearsal, guidance and logistical support (a van and/or other means of mobility), and some attention to `stagecraft’ the outcome would have been different. Some of the band continued their musical careers though and perhaps the most `famous’ association was from Glenn who drummed with Mungo Jerry for a while, and also went on to do a little singing while in other combinations – with the CP, during rehearsal, Glenn would often treat us to pretty good impersonations of Louis Armstrong and The Supremes, (what a range he had then!). Chris developed his own mini agency putting musicians together for various gigs while himself playing mainly with a covers band for about 20 years, Ken Wheeler also continued, but more as a double bass player than with his keyboard.

However back to the Circle Plantagenet and to conclude by saying that we all enjoyed the experience and fortunately we have recordings of some songs, some of which we will put on the website, and some of which we may re-record; some have been rewritten somewhat and some of which we have the titles, lyrics or chord sequences for – but not the whole! As mentioned earlier maybe those weren’t so memorable therefore and can be forgotten. This exercise has however given some motivation and a few new songs are emerging (as of Sep 08) and who knows the sounds of Woolston may yet reverberate again – and escape over the bridge to St. Marys and beyond!