Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Rumble at the Mungle Jungle, Redcar - the Edgar Broughton Band -v- Teesside's finest......



There is one thing I think that most readers of this blog will agree on, and that is that the present music scene is simply dire. Gone are the days of rebel rock, the spirit of 1978 and the sheer verve and commitment of the two-tone days, Rock against Racism or Red Wedge.   True, some from those times - like Hazel O'Connor or Pauline Black - are still out there and still kicking.  And others from a time even before that are still with us.   One such is Edgar Broughton, the eponymous lead of the 1960's band of the same name.  66 Year old Edgar is still on the road as a soloist, and at the moment is touring under the label of a 'A fairs days pay for a fair days work".  This is in the spirit of the days when they organised a series of free concerts across the country in the early 1970's.  These concerts were political to the core - aimed at the way that the suits had eaten rock n' roll and fury at the return of the Tories at the 1970 general election.  One of these concerts was to have been at Redcar, and that is where the fun starts.   

Earlier this year, the East Cleveland campaigning newspaper, Coastal View, ran a piece by their enigmatic columnist, Hollie Bush, about that concert and the aftermath, and which was picked up and linked to some music blogs.  

Coastal View is worth a look. Unlike some local papers we could name, this one does not pull its punches when needed and also covers the local political scene in depth.   See

So, with permission of Coastal View, here is that article (cut and pasted below), which gives us a break from reprises of Johnny Mathis from X Factor teenage semi-finalists whose only claim on our vote seems to be that they come from Saltburn,Nunthorpe or Coulby Newham, from Sir Mick Jagger, a man now at rest from street fighting in the calm of the Long Room at Lords or Billy Bragg instructing us on the finer arts of exercising tactical voting for the Lib Dems from a seaside mansion in Dorset...................


Last month I unearthed and brought to light the long-forgotten story of the area's first rock festival - Teespop 68 - on Eston Recreation ground.  New to the scene of Teesside in 1968, Teespop 68 was followed by another - and far more rebellious, sulphuroous and controversial - concert in 1971 - the Edgar Broughton Band's open air bash at Redcar.   

Only three years may have separated these concerts, but by contrast with the somnolent 'summer of love', the early 70's, with soaring unemployment, an authoritarian backlash to the permissive society and a new Government headed by a grumpy conservative grammar school boy - Ted Heath - had an atmosphere entirely different and far more threatening.

This concert was organised by a guy called Harry Coen, and it was the news of Harry's death a few weeks ago, that spurs this article.   Harry was one of the flamboyant characters on the local scene in those days.  He was a reporter for the Northern Echo and ran that paper's Redcar office.  He was a brave man.  A former Durham Uni student who settled in the area, he became an object of suspicion to many when he 'came out' as gay and set up a relationship with another local Saltburn trainee journo, David Thornton.  David was also an interesting man, as were his mum and dad who I knew well.  
 
Harry was a regular on the local music scene - such as it was - and when in late 1970 the Edgar Broughton Band advertised for possible summer venues for the band to play at for free, Harry responded, suggesting one at Redcar.
 
The Edgar Broughton Band was of its time. It was headed by Rob (Edgar) Broughton who played with his brother Steve (drums), 
bass player Arthur Grant, and guitarist Victor Unit.   It started off as a Warwickshire based blues outfit  but by the turn of the decade had migrated across to psychedelic rock - and rock with a heavy counter cultural underlay. The band's management team, Blackhill Enterprises, were from the same stable, founded as a partnership by the four original members of Pink Floyd (Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright), with Peter Jenner and Andrew King as business managers.   Blackhill were the organisers of the first Hyde Park free concerts, and the spirit of Hyde Park was now ready to be unleashed on Redcar.
The Edgar Broughton Band - then

Looking back at the meagre cuttings in the local press of the time and via talking to Steve Broughton, Peter Jenner and a contact of mine - Alastair Smith - who was there on the day, the story becomes clear - and shows how the backlash to the counter culture was very much in evidence in this part of Teesside.  
 
The first move was for Harry to identify a site, and he looked at Redcar beach and foreshore near to the Coatham Hotel and the paddling pool.  Contact was made with the local Teesside County Borough Council and a site visit to the beach by Blackhill, the council's entertainments manager and the police, appeared to give the green light for the concert, which was pencilled in for mid July.  
 
And this is where things started going wrong - horribly wrong. In the interim, the band played a gig at Keele University in Staffordshire.  But this was not a standard SU gig. The band played in a University under occupation by its students.  Put simply, things got interesting when the band distributed spray paint aerosols to the occupying horde, and this paint was put to liberal use on the walls of the Union building and the Senate block.  This led to the police being called, and 'shock horror' newspaper stories across the UK - even one fearing that the incident to could lead to more disturbances when Princess Margaret, as the Uni Chancellor, was due to visit the next fortnight.
Back on the road again
This led the council to order a total ban on the band coming anywhere near Redcar.  But the local worthies did not reckon with the spirit of rebellion that came with people like Harry and the Broughton Brothers, and this showed with an announcement by Blackhill's PR man to the local press that 'council ban or no council ban, there will be a free concert in Redcar on July 18th'.  This statement, incidentally, was made by a certain Max Clifford (for it was a younger he).   Over the next week posters went up across Teesside "advising every lover of music and freedom to be at the Promenade at Midday on Saturday 18th July"  Armed with this vital clue (no sweat Sherlock) the local police also began preparing for the confrontation.   
The band  - two years on

 
And confrontation duly occurred, hardly surprising with up to 4,000 people milling around.  Just before midday the lorry carrying the Broughton Band, their equipment, the PA and the generator system chugged into view.   The police, as anticipated, formed a cordon blocking any access to the beach or the grassed area by the boating pool.   As this was foreseen  the lorry then started up - and with shouts from the band of "fall and follow us for free music" -  set off for the Dormanstown Recreation Ground, after Alastair Smith told them that the gate off of the Trunk Road was open.  

Alastair told me " My crime was that I led the band from the original intended site for the free concert to the football fields on the trunk road after the police had decided to ban the concert. After a mass exodus of fans following the flatback wagon with the band and equipment on it, everyone sat down awaiting the start. The gennies were started up and it was then that the police decided to drag us all off the wagon by any means they could. Hair, clothes and guitars.". 

Steve Broughton continued "After Alastair showed us the way to that 'Plan B" site, we started up the equipment.  I only managed to get off a quick opening drum roll before the police rushed the wagon and the improvised stage.    We were all told we were arrested and were bundled into meat waggons for a trip to Redcar nick. And there we stayed for an entire night.  It was a really weird night too.   There were about forty of us - band members, roadies, PA guys and a lot of local kids. We were all in four separate cells and the noise was tremendous. Once we'd been searched and charged, and the 'hard cops' had left for the night, the custody sergeant - a kind guy who looked like someone off the set of Heatbeat - told us if we all quietened down a bit, he would open the cell doors, leaving us behind a main locked exit.  This agreement was made, and he even then went out for some takeaway food for us - 40 people was just too much for the station larder."

The next day everyone was hauled in front of two courts. The band and their co-workers were weighed off to Stockton Magistrates, whilst most of the local fans, including Alastair,  ended up at South Bank courtroom.  Alastair remembers the mutual bemusement of the fans in the dock and what he remembered as the blue-rinse brigade on the bench when they came together face to face.  The blue rinses, however much they would have liked to order a birching session, had to recognise that there had been no violence on the field (if you exempt the Teesside police who Steve Broughton remembers being pretty heavy handed)  and ended up weighing most of the local hairies off with binding over orders amid wishes that they would finally grow up to be worthy citizens.

But it was different over at Stockton. There the police were determined to teach the band a lesson and heavy charges of incitement to violence were being waved about in the front of the bench.  The one unarrested manager, Andrew King put to the court that there were - in fact - serious issues of free speech and expression at stake and, in an impassioned speech asked for an adjournment, which was granted.

The final courtroom drama took place some weeks later, where, despite the best efforts and arguments of Andrew King and the band's barrister, David Offenbach, who has come hot foot from defending the OZ editorial team in the famous obscenity trial, the band were found guilty as charged. They were all fined £40 each which Steve recalls as a bit heavy - "unlike the top ten bands, we weren't that well paid, £50 a week normally, not so unusual when you remember that a lot of our concerts were free ones for the kids".

So there ended the battle of Redcar.   So are are there lessons for today ?  Well, yes.
  
The band -  as now and still rockin'
 As Manager Peter Jenner, arrested also on the day and still actively involved in music, put it to me " Yes it was a revolutionary act, but a revolution of idealism, a naive belief that music could be free - but you can see that this after all wasn't so naive was it - what with Youtube and Spotify now open to everyone with a mobile or a laptop........."

Hollie Bush

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Edgar Broughton Band - terrific- always were, always will be...