Mick Gawthorp was one of the top musicians on the early Coventry Music Scene, playing sax with one of the most popular Coventry groups of the early 70's - Whistler (3 of whose members later joined The Urge); he played in a rock band with Two Toner Neol Davies in Cat's Grave and Asgard, and later on the original version of Selecter's On My Radio. Unfortunately his sax playing never made it on to disc. Mick , who is also a photographer, now runs a college Dept. in South End on Sea and teaches photography. He has a Vox blog and continues to make music and take photos, examples of which can be found on his Vox site called Then..there..here and now.. Mick began by playing in the jazz club at the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club in the late 60's before joining Whistler. Mick will be featured on the Gnome Label's forthcoming Retro Coventry Podcast both with some of his recent work and with some Audio from his Whistler Days. I am hoping that Mick will finally get to release his own album / podcast on the Gnome label.
I must have seen Whistler many times c 1969 - 70 in Coventry and even booked them for the Coventry Arts Umbrella
Club. Whistler were one of the top Coventry bands of the early 70's, headed by Kevin Harrison, the Brian Eno of Coventry, who later headed Urge during the Two Tone period, producing the brilliant single Revolving Boy (see the You Tube on here). Unfortunately The Urge didn't make the big time but success would have been well deserved (hear some of their other work Here). Kevin has continued to produce exceptional and electronic music down the age - his latest CD Obsession - now available featuring Mick Gawthorp on Sax as well as Two Toners Neol Davies and Horace Panter of Selecter and the Specials respectively.
Whistler though were more of an experimental Jazz Rock band and Mick was their saxophonist. They played all the local venues of the time - Umbrella Club, Warwick University and Lanch Poly Arts Festivals, the Village, the Plough and many more and further afield. ( I expect Mick or Kevin will fill in details of that via the comments - hint hint!).
I always enjoyed listening to Whistler with their off beat time signatures and rhythms, having been pre-conditioned by listening to early King Crimson. I have discovered that Mick, who blogs on Vox, is a really nice and talented bloke and has supported this Hobo site with his insights and comments almost from the start - nearly a year ago. However, although I watched him play many times, I don't recall talking to him much back then. My main contact was their bass player who used to hang out at the Umbrella - John Westacott and later Kevin Harrison whom I later interviewed for Hobo Magazine in 1974. A fuller account of Whistler will be on here soon - with, hopefully, some further info - even pictures, Kevin and Mick (Hint Hint!) - maybe even some audio if they can find some (huge hint to get finding!).
But now I will let Mick speak for himself about his musical back ground in Coventry and his development since:-
MIck Gawthorp's Story -
"I was brought up in Coventry and spent my formative years there until leaving for Leeds in the mid 70’s. The first and last musical projects I was involved with in Coventry were with former school- friend Neol Davies. In the mid 70’s I told Neol that nothing good would ever happen in Coventry. Well, what do you know? Very soon after me saying this a number of good things happened in Coventry! I could have taken it personally and believed that Cov’s finest had actually waited for me to go! Soon after leaving Foxford School, the very first band that would have me (we spent more time practising than performing) was Neol’s, whose idea it was to call ourselves Cat’s Grave? Some time later, I hooked up with Kevin Harrison to form Whistler, a band specialising – or so we thought – in quirky time- signatures and tricky key-changes. Contemporaries of ours on the Coventry gig-circuit at that time included Indian Summer and Asgard (who I also played with on a few occasions) and Wandering John. One venue at this time was The Umbrella, an arts-club where we would also rehearse and where Trev was evidently working behind the scenes. People who remember Whistler comment with words to the effect of ‘being ahead of the times’. Whatever, it turned out that it wasn’t time for us then.
I now live in Southend-on-Sea and earn a living from education, endeavouring as best I can to run a department in a sixth-form college. I continue to make music, the digital revolution facilitating opportunities that would have been unthinkable all those years ago. Earlier this year I participated in Kevin’s Obsession Project at Woodbine Studios in Leamington Spa alongside a line-up including Neol, Horace Panter and Rick Medlock.
Peekaboo-bebop is the name given to my solo-efforts, all of which have been recorded at home by way of a G5 Apple Mac dual processor and software such as Ableton, Logic, Audition and Garage. I play keyboards, guitars and saxophones (but none of them very well). Percussion is provided by way of loops and samples. Panoptorama is my attempt at writing for an augmented line-up that might feature a phalanx of horn-players. The brass-section here is a combination of midi-based simulations of horns and my own playing. Peekaboom is an upbeat tune that some people might even be able to dance to.
I’m really pleased to have been invited to participate in this project and even though I left Coventry many years ago, I will always remember it fondly. Some eulogies to the place have been written up in my occasional blog."
Also says Mick -
"Just before leaving Cov, I had a bit of a disco period (ask Neol or Kev about the 'disco series') and Pete Waterman was obviously part of this on account of his DJ residency at Mr George's. I left Cov circa 75 I fancied my chances as a songwriter and this necessitated playing guitar (rather than sax/flute). I pretty much gave up on music-making, perhaps as a result of a couple of things not working out. These include playing alto-sax on the original version of On my Radio, but which ultimately featured tenor played by someone else (Joe Reynolds). (No hard feelings though!!!) and some recordings with Brad (Specials Drummer) as part of his JB's AllStars Specials' splinter/ spin-off. I also played a few gigs with Urge. What I know for sure is that - for a moment in the late 60's early 70s - Cov was a great place to be and it was just fantastic being connected with some of what was happening."
Harrison, along with Kevin's other guest musicians, Lynda Harrison, Neol Davis, Horace Panter and Charlie Bullen, Ritchie Medlock. You can listen to some of the tracks on Kevin's My Space Here
Of his new music Mick writes on his My Space blurb -
"Peekaboo-bebop is the name of Mick Gawthorp's current musical project. Drawing upon an eclectic mix of musical styles and approaches, Peekaboo-bebop comprises a number of sonic assemblages produced at home by way of Apple-Mac hardware (G5 Dual Processor), various software including Ableton Live. Logic Pro, Adobe Audition, Garage (particularly the double-bass voicing!) and various musical instruments including tenor and soprano saxophones, M-Audio Keystation midi-keyboard, Alesis USB guitar interface and guitars. The title for the latest compilation of tracks is 'Born to be filed' and shows that the weakness for puns and word-play is as bad as ever. Essentially it is based upon a notion that such efforts might be variously classified in terms of 'down-tempo', 'slow-burn', 'chill-out', 'lounge', 'trip-hop' (already something of an anachronism!), 'nu-jazz', 'electronica' etc etc. I have been playing - intermittently - for many years now, my first musical collaborations with people who became far better known than myself as part of the Coventry-scene. Indeed, more recent collaborations I have been involved with have included participating in Kevin Harrison's Real Life project with former schoolfriend Neol Davies of The Selecter and Horace Panter of The Specials. It was with Kevin and Neol that my first musical efforts and collaborations were formed and I continue to learn from their expertise. Ich bin ein dilettante. Peekaboo-bebop, however, is what I have been doing at home over the past couple of years."
His influences include -
"Gary Winogrand, Paul Citroen, William Burroughs, Art Pepper, Sid James, Henry Mancini, Delia Derbyshire, The Three Monarchs, William Klein, Coventry, Kevin Harrison, Neol Davies, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, David Stone-Martin, Don Martin, Henry Mancini, Herbie Hancock, Neal Hefti"
He sounds like -
"music from films - or sequences from films - that have yet to be made. Most of what you hear here is not bound by words or anchored by lyrics. In fact, in most cases the title comes last of all. Quite often, its a word-play or pun that only I will believe is funny or clever."