My memories of a fantastic era for the Choir in 1972/90's by Joe Jones - Bass
It is Autumn 1972 and the London Welsh Male Voice Choir are singing in the Cock Tavern, Great Portland Street which was the West End headquarters of London Welsh RFC and the main meeting point for players and supporters on a Saturday night in London after leaving Old Deer Park.
As the Choir were belting out Sloop John B, made famous by The Beach Boys in 1966 and of course was the tour song of the 1971 British and Irish Lions, three record producers walked in - Rod Edwards, Roger Miller and Roger Hand - and, being impressed with the sound and seeing a possible niche market, asked the choir if they would be prepared to make a recording. The answer was a resounding yes and it was another first for the London Welsh Male Voice Choir who broke the mold of traditional male voice singing and introduced ‘pop’ music into the genre.
‘Sloop John B’ was recorded at De Lane Lea Studios in Wembley in July 1973 and coupled with a ‘B’ side of ‘Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay’ . The moderate success of this prompted the producers to record a version of the rock and roll classic ‘Remember Then’ (a new line was added for the choir - Barry Barry John John, Do-Wap a Bom Bom!).
The success of these two singles led to a new project to record enough tracks to make an album. A brand new song called ‘Take Me Home’ was written by two of the record producers Rod Edwards and Roger Hand and this was chosen to be the title of the ground breaking album.
Phillips, the recording company were optimistic enough to market the recordings under the Phonogram label and a publicity shot for ‘Remember Then’ was organised at the London Welsh Centre on Gray’s Inn Road. Motor bikes were brought in and we were asked to dress as ‘Rockers’ for the photoshoot. (I am the idiot in dark glasses holding a club).
The Album was a success and introduced popular music into the male voice repertoire and the title track ‘Take Me Home’ became a theme song for the choir. We were the original ‘Boy Band’
Those recordings heralded a rich vein of opportunity for the choir and also in 1973 we were approached by a young band called Roxy Music who asked if we would record a track for their forthcoming Album called ‘Stranded’. We recorded the backing track for ‘Psalm’ and although all we did was sing a series of ‘Ahh’s’ that are barely distinguishable towards the end of the track, it gave us a taste of the highlife, and a few months later, in November 1973, when Roxy Music were on tour we appeared live with them at The Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park, one of the most iconic venues in pop music and it was a wonderful experience to rub shoulders with the likes of Brian Ferry, Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera, not only on stage but in the after show party too.
This song appeared on her first solo album Annie in Wonderland and was produced by well known rock musician Roy Wood, who sang with the groups Move, Electric Light Orchestra and latterly Wizzard. Roy also wrote some of the material, arranged all the songs and played nearly all of the instruments.
In the late 1980s, the Choir was invited to work with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir George Martin on a new recording of the Dylan Thomas classic ‘Under Milk Wood’; this enabled us to join with the late Sir Geraint Evans and record The Rev. Eli Jenkins Prayer, Troyte’s Chant, in a special arrangement by Sir George Martin. The Choir was thrilled when all three “Knights” accepted invitations to become Vice Presidents of the choir.
Sir Tom Jones also appeared on this recording and we were delighted to appear with him and the other artistes in a special performance in the presence of Prince Charles.
Other recordings during that era included a demo for Rick Wakeman and backing a very young Charlotte Church and Bryn Terfel.
Most memorable of all our ‘pop’ performances however was appearing live for 10 nights in August 1995 at Earls Court Arena, backing Take That in front of 16,000 fans at every concert. This was the first time that Take That appeared without Robbie Williams and produced huge media interest.
It was a wonderful experience, not only being on stage with the band, but I have great memories of singing in the pub after each performance just outside Earls Court as thousand of fans went by. The after-show party wasn’t too bad either as we were invited to join Take That in a club in Lots Road Chelsea until the early hours of the morning.