Cottage Views recommends the latest
© November 2003
As the record industry continues to crumble many savvy baby boomers are sitting comfortably with great new music in their possession. Long ago dismissing Adult Contemporary and Contemporary Hit Radio, and even Rock Radio, as effective outlets for music information or entertainment they are finding satisfaction from their intuitions, instincts, and the internet.
Heritage artists without major label contracts, like the Strawbs and Badfinger’s Joey Molland, have been racking up magnificent reviews and brisk sales promoting new product – that they own exclusively – through their own websites. Other artists with bankrolls behind them, like Peter Frampton and Steve Winwood, have opened their own record companies to debut their new music and are striking independent deals for major distribution.
Thirty-plus years on, the ‘underground’ – having little to do with what Pop Music is today - has returned to its roots underground.
Certainly, getting music-heads to surf to a particular site is a challenge but word is spreading and every now and then a real classic surfaces and can be extracted from the intricate weave of the worldwide web.
One such classic is the appropriately titled Once Upon A Time – the brand new disc from England’s Liverpool Express.
Liverpool Express was, and is once again, the band led by former Merseybeats singer Billy Kinsley and keyboard maestro Roger Scott Craig.
Once upon a time in the seventies Liverpool Express, or LEX as they were sometimes known, scored with “You Are My Love,” a song that none other than Sir Paul McCartney endears as one of his all time favorites. With major record sales all over the planet (except the US), and three #1’s in South America, the group garnered a massive following - and rave reviews -before breaking up at the end of the decade.
Even though it is twenty-five years since the group scored a major hit, and almost as long since they have worked together, the sound they generate is like a welcoming phone call from an old friend. From the tinkling intro of the opening cut “Chinatown” to the final track (the humorous self-parody “The Worst Band in the World”) it is obvious that this band has lost none of its Pop sensibility or edge.
The songwriting throughout Once Upon A Time is magnificent and Kinsley’s voice is in top form. Given a moment to drift you may even believe that you’ve discovered a long lost Harry Nilsson track in the soaring vocals of the title song, or unearthed an Alan Parsons gem in “The End of the Game.”
With a number of memorable numbers, Once Upon A Time is truly a remarkable recording - especially considering this is 2003. Very few contemporary recordings carry the quality of craft exuded in tracks like the tributes to their greatest success (“Sailing down to Rio”), their greatest influences (“John George Ringo & Paul”), or their own growing up (“Out of the Blue”).
you’ve surfed long enough to find this site don’t cut yourself short –
find Liverpool Express, order a copy, and listen long enough to find yourself
with a content smile on your face.
Order these discs from the Liverpool Express official website now!
Both Billy Kinsley and Roger Scott Craig have been so kind to speak to Cottage Views.
Following is a portion of those interviews that ran in our Spring issue of 2003.
Cottage Views: I can’t believe that Liverpool Express was never big here in the states. What happened?
Roger Scott Craig: We were in the European charts, and we were slated to do the US tour in ’77 with Rod Stewart and something happened with our manager. Somebody at Warner Brothers was sleeping with our manager’s wife and our manager went into Warner Brothers, threw a few tables, and tried to kill the guy. We were abruptly taken off the tour (laughs). At least, from my own memory, that’s what happened at the time. That incident was what ruined our chances of doing well in America.
Billy Kinsley: I think we got one record right down the bottom of the charts in the states, that was all. It’s been strange for me because with Liverpool Express we sold a lot more records than the Merseybeats. We had bigger hits all over the world and yet the Merseybeats is the one band, mainly, that I’m known for, and the Merseys as well, of course.
C. V.: I guess the big news is that you have been putting together some songs for a new Liverpool Express record?
Billy: Yeah. It’s quite exciting really. We haven’t written together for a long, long time. I’ve written with other people in the meantime and nothing was as good as with Roger. We just gel together.
C. V.: How did the LEX best of compilation come about?
Billy: We were after our record company to put it out for many, many years and they just totally ignored us. A friend of mine actually rang someone at Warners a couple of years back and asked for a particular track by Liverpool Express and the reply he got was, ‘Oh, I’ve never, ever, heard of them.’ That sums it all up, basically. We were pretty annoyed about that so we put it out ourselves. We had all the masters, but it did go through a production company in the meantime besides Warner Brothers, so it was totally illegal what we did. It doesn’t bother me saying that at all because I would love Warner Brothers to sue us. They would have to open up all the accounts for us.
We’ve had hits on it all over the world, and since the CD has come out, we found out that we were #1 all over South America. We had many #1’s all over South America in countries that we didn’t know about. We knew about Brazil and Argentina because we toured Brazil in the late seventies, and we absolutely loved the place, but we since found out that Paraguay and Uruguay we were really big as well.
C. V.: And you never got any royalties from those hits?
Billy: No, we didn’t get a penny of royalties from anywhere in South America at all. And we must have sold an awful lot of records, you know. It was pretty nasty, actually, to find out twenty five years later that you had three number ones in the country and the record company couldn’t even be bothered telling you.
C. V.: When did you get the inspiration for “John, George, Ringo & Paul?”
Roger: I actually wrote that way back in the Liverpool Express days. We did a version of it but at the time I didn’t have the tools to make a production of it. Now that I have my own studio I thought of it as a round about way of Billy and I getting back together again and doing some songs.
Billy: We recorded that about five years ago, actually. But Roger altered a lot of it. The original drum pattern was like a “Free As a Bird” type of thing. It was a heavy Ringo snare drum and high-hat, and Roger changed it to a more up to date pattern.
C. V.: Other groups, including Ringo himself, and to a certain degree George Harrison doing “When We Was Fab,” have done these type of things before but the way that Liverpool Express has approached it is really quite clever. Who came up with the idea for it?
Billy: It was all Roger’s idea. Basically, it’s his work of art. He worked on it a lot and I’d like to see it happen for him one day because he’s always believed in this song, and, as you say, it was very clever the way he put it together.
C. V.: I’ve been listening to the Best of disc non-stop and the material is just fantastic.
Roger: It’s very Beatle-ish, isn’t it? That is one of the strengths in Billy’s writing. A lot of people say he’s just like Paul McCartney. In fact McCartney said he’s more like McCartney then he is himself (laughs).
C. V.: Yeah. It reminds me of Wings.
Roger: Yeah. It was the Band on the Run era, actually. I have a good story about that. I was working in Liverpool with Mike McCartney, Paul’s brother, during the Band on the Run era. We did some tracks and Mike sent them down to London to a couple of companies, and the A&R guy at one of the companies said, ‘The tracks are pretty good, but if I were you I’d fire the drummer.’ And Mike says, ‘Funny. That drummer is the drummer who’s playing on the top selling album in the world this week.’ And the guy says, ‘Well, who’s that?’ and Mike says, ‘My brother Paul!’ (laughs).
Above: Billy Kinsley (left), Roger Scott Craig (right)
Many thanks to co-producer Kathy McCabe (pictured above with Roger and original LEX drummer Derek Cashin)
Above: The entire (almost) Liverpool Express family
(left to right) Roger Scott Craig, guitarist Kenny Parry, drummer Alex Watt, Billy Kinsley, Kathy McCabe, Derek Cashin, keyboardist Dave Goldberg, original guitarist Tony Coates.
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