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Friars Interviews

brian godding
Blossom Toes  B B Blunder

         friars appearances blossom toes 23/06/69   22/09/69  b b blunder 27/11/71

 

The wonderfully named Blossom Toes proved a hit with Friars audiences in 1969 with their brand of psychedelia and rock. The band consisted of two Brians, "little Brian" Godding and "big Brian" Belshaw along with Jim Cregan and Barry Reeves. Sadly Blossom Toes disbanded late in 1969. Jim Cregan went on to become part of Steve Harley's new Cockney Rebel in 1974 (that's his acoustic guitar solo on Make Me Smile) and became Rod Stewart's guitarist co-writing Hot Legs. The remaining three Blossoms did play Friars again in 1973 as BB Blunder a moniker devised in the studio whereby a reference was made to both of the Brians' Blunders.

Brian Godding has remained musically active all these years turning his Fender up and in February 2009, we caught up with him.

Hello Brian, thanks for talking to us. From the Gravediggers to The Ingoes to Blossom Toes. I interviewed Mick Abrahams recently and his band (Blodwyn Pig)'s name came from someone who was as high as a kite. It seems that Blossom Toes were  named by someone with a 'creative' bent? Mind you, it's more memorable than The Ingoes!

Yeah, there was another band about at the time with a really daft name ...what was it.... umm ? Oh yes,, the  'Beatles ' - bloody awful !!

From the 1969 period, what do you remember from those gigs specially the Aylesbury ones? I know that some people who turned up at every Friars gig regardless thought Blossom Toes was a stripper! Did this confusion/misunderstanding happen anywhere else?

No..well I hope not but it may account for some really strange looks we used to attract! I don't remember any body shouting "Get em off" ! at Friars but, they were a pretty polite bunch. As I'm sure most bands will tell you, gigs in Britain were very much a lottery, some more terrifying than others but there were pleasant surprises as well like a youth club on a new housing estate up north in the town of Peterlee (Co Durham). We nearly drove on past that place but we ended going back there quite a few times - very very deprived area and I think the kids really appreciated us slapping all that way to play for them.

In terms of English psychedelia, who did you regard as your peers at the time?

As I've said many times before, 'psychedelia', to me personally, was about fashion and not music. Flowers in your hair and idiotic bell bottom trousers made of old velvet curtains, but some of the better light shows were fun..!! Quite honestly, all the bands on the road at the time just started looking different and playing everything in E minor! The Big guns like The Who, Cream, Jimi Hendrix adopted the persona but in reality, their musical stances were very much as they were before and after the Flower Power period.

What influenced the rockier sounds with the second album? Was the twin guitar harmonies the direction you wanted to go in?

We were in fact, simply reverting back to being a rock band as before the flower power episode but with more ideas and scope. As far as the 'twin guitar' tag, Jim (Cregan) and I were composing pieces specifically for the band to perform live as that was what we really felt happiest doing. We didn't sit down at any time and say, "now what can we do that nobody else is doing". It evolved through the compositions and as I said, we wanted everything we did to be 'performable' So it was a natural and comfortable step to remove the restrictions of role playing, i.e. lead guitar, rhythm guitar.

What was the reason for Blossom Toes relatively short period of activity? Was it commercial reasons?

The band actually had a life span of about 5-6 years from the beginning to the end but when we eventually called that project a day at the end of 1969 it was a culmination of reasons and circumstances and no one thing in particular. I personally wanted to get off the merry-go-round as I was being drawn to other areas of music, the company (Marmalade) was going down the pan and to cap it all we had a pretty bad car crash coming home from some gig ..It was time .

When you and the 'other' Brian teamed up again with Kevin Westlake in BB Blunder (who also played Friars Aylesbury), were you ever tempted to re-brand yourselves as Blossom Toes or was it that the music as very different so you wanted the name to reflect totally that it was a new band? What were your hopes and aspirations with BB Blunder? Were you doing any Blossom Toes material in your set?

No, we were not tempted to call ourselves the Toes'  mainly because we had no idea where that project would be going if anywhere at all. Blunder was born out of a series of recording sessions that, initially, were to be a film score which never happened but we did end up with enough material to form an album so we really just thought we may as well  do some gigs as well! Reggie King joined us for a while but in reality we were all seeing past Blunder and I, for instance, was moving much more into the Jazz Rock arena and Brian and Kevin would soon be playing with Ronnie Lane. But I still maintain that the Blunder album is (at least for me ) the most complete and accomplished  we had achieved in that genre. Oh and no, we didn't play any Blossom Toes numbers!

Going back, before Blossom Toes, you (and band) spent a lot of time in France, seemingly at management instigation - what did this do for you creatively and personally? Seemed you were in France for a fair while.

Yes, I suppose we were the first 'Euro Band'! Bearing in mind we were pretty young and full of it...!!, it was really just one big adventure living in Paris (I love the French 'attitude' to life in general ). Over there we built up some form of 'status' but in a very relaxed sort of way, and musically we could and did play anything we fancied decimating..!! Musically, again, we probably created the 'blueprint' for the future of the band (anything goes!) and from a personal point of view we all learnt how to wash our own clothes! I think you call this period in ones life as the 'wonder years'

It would be true to say that whilst you played a variety of gigs in France, the French weren't really on the money as far as understanding English rock music went?

I have to say that, all in all, the French audiences and people were extremely kind to us; there was a very large and thriving music scene over there back then but it was very diverse. All the young guys (like us) wanted to play rock and make no mistake, there were plenty of 'shit hot' players! I think there was a problem interpreting, for instance, Chuck  Berry lyrics into French so sometimes... the vocal phrasing could 'sound' all out of kilter and awkward. But....don't forget, they had one of the biggest 'rock stars' of all time back then (and now apparently!) - Johnny Halliday !

Apart from your episode with John Entwhistle and a bottle of neat Pernod (ouch!), any other scrapes whilst in exile?

Thousands!

Making that first Blossom Toes album, it seems strange (well actually probably not that strange, more par for the course in the industry) that the record company went to great lengths to piss you off making you play with session musicians and arrangers?

Well, I don't think they were doing it deliberately, it was par for the course then to be 'produced' (still i ). It took us out of our 'comfort zone' and was pretty stressful but in hindsight was not a bad thing as we needed a kick up the arse !

When you did start English gigs in earnest, I recall you saying for the Friars website that Friars was effectively a safe haven after experiences in northern clubs. Were they really that bad in that they didn't understand what was coming out of London? You indicate that you got everything but the kitchen sink thrown at you!

Well, let's put it this way, nobody understood anything back then (including us!) it wasn't just in the UK that bands were targets of the 'unconverted' just read the biographies of many west coast bands who ended up in 'Redneck' territory !

Making the second album where you told the record company to not mess with it must have been creatively more satisfying? You and Jim Cregan were starting to find a  lot of self expression?

Well we always had be self expressive (in more ways than just musically!!) but apart from anything else, we needed to 'get real' for the sake of the band's main function which was to play live ! The second album is not about 'self expression ' but more about group therapy and trust!

Seems BB Blunder, despite lots of gigging didn't last as well as hoped. How disillusioned were you by this and was it an easy decision to just go back to being a musician? Did you find this less stressful or did you miss the buzz of gigging with them?

This is a bit of an odd question, the whole object, for me, was to BE a MUSICIAN and everything else was, to be quite honest, bollocks. In the case of both the Toes and Blunder, they both reached the limit of potential under the circumstances they operated within, there is no going back to being anything, one just keeps moving forward.

You then turned to jazz, in your own words, a natural progression because of working with technically good musicians - this kept you in the business throughout the remainder of the 1970s and some of the 1980s - was this a good time? From what I can make out you seemed to be happy with the musical direction you took? This took in playing with Kevin Coyne (who also played Friars) and Zoot Money (who played Friars with Kevin Ayers)

Um, maybe I didn't make my feelings clear...technically 'good' musicians do not inspire me one bit!! I was taken by their approach to playing and the freedoms of expression that their approach to music evoked. I've never been a jazz player and never will be! But the Jazz 'attitude' is something i find very comfortable to live with. It's all about the moment, not the plan, the strategy, the sales figures...just the music.

How did you get to work with Eric Burdon? Burdon leaving you in the soup during a US tour couldn't have been much fun?! It comes across as totally unprofessional.

I got the Burdon gig through Zoot Money (he couldn't get who he wanted so he phoned me) As for Eric doing a runner in Canada, dat's da blues man !

To bring us up to date, are you gigging? Seems like you're having lots of fun with technology and guitar pedals?

Yes, I'm still able to pick up my Fender and crank it up! Still gigging..it's all about the sound, so as an 'electric' guitarist I will always  be fascinated by the tonal possibilities of 'add ons' like guitar synths and such. They all take you down another road,, it's an adventure for God's sake!

Finally, with regards the guys in Blossom Toes, are you still in touch with any of them, and did Jim Cregan's future success surprise you?

As you may be aware. Kevin Westlake left the stage (sadly) about four years ago but I've always kept in touch with Big Bry (Belshaw) over the years and have met up with Jim recently due mainly to the re-issues of the Albums on Sunbeam. No, I was not surprised that Jim would get on in the biz, that's where he wanted to go and to be and he was ( is!) a nice guy and good musician

Thanks for your time.

All the best.

Official Brian Godding website

This interview and its content are 2009 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not be used in whole or in part without permission.

 
 
 

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