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.
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
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
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?
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!
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
for your time.
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.