EMBASSY CLUB 1980s (A TURNS TALE)
After 5 summer seasons interspersed with dance band gigs, working men’s club residences, A spell touring and recording with Jazz Rock legend Gary Boyle, and some 12 months with Manchester Cabaret Band Zoot and The Fruit, I decided to change tack.
In order to stay home and work on my own music I became a club turn, this meant I could work 3 nights, along with writing arrangements , creating backing tracks and a bit of teaching I had enough income.
Maxwell, Keyboard Vocalist was born (see pic.) Yes I was first, although other Maxwell’s are now available. I worked self-contained for a while but always preferred to work with live musicians. I will discuss this further in a later post.
I quite enjoyed the “double”, where you played two clubs in one evening, it meant you didn’t have to spend too long in one place, particularly if the one place was not so nice.
One double was supplied by Manchester agents, Cream Entertainments. The first venue was the World-Famous Embassy club on Rochdale road Manchester, owned and hosted by the infamous Bernard Manning. My equipment for these gigs comprised of a monitor speaker and amp + a Korg Poly 800 keyboard I wore “keytar style” (see pic.)
As I recall, you had to pull the car up on the pavement at the front of the club, then carry any equipment through the front bar into the dressing room then onto the stage via a small door on the right. At the far end of the small stage was a booth, maybe a DJ/ or concert chairman. The back of the stage was taken up by the resident trio. Dave Green on piano, the piano being a very battered Fender Rhodes. The drum kit and a bass rig. I plugged in pressed a couple of keys and along with a quick 1,2 to check the house P.A. system that was the end of sound check.
I had a brief encounter with Bernard when I first entered the dressing room “through there cock” he instructed. As I re-entered from the stage, I spied Bernard sat in an armchair to my right, watching the telly, his dressing room was a mock-up of a typical northern man’s living room. Arm chair, Lamp standard, and telly. “have you got any cigs cock?” I handed him one from my pack and introduced myself “Ok Maxwell” he replied” Just 20minuites, keep it moving” Dave Green, the pianist came in with the bass player and drummer I handed out the music, I had keyboards and drum parts I apologised for the lack of bass parts, bass players in club land where very rare.
Everyone was very accommodating, Bernard stood up and rattled off a couple of new gags. He would pay punters for any usable material.
“Right Maxwell, I will be doing a set then I will introduce you”
On he went. I finished up working at Embassy on several occasions, so got to know his material quite well, it never varied much. The comic timing was as you would expect, first class, the material sharp and his abuse of the audience relentless. Unfortunately, the racist material was there as well.
“Your first artist this evening, making his debut at Embassy club, MAXWELL” as we passed onstage Bernard whispered” keep it moving cock” With my back to the audience I slipped the keyboard strap over my head, and with an “ok lads” counted off my first song. This was a bouncy version of Sam Cookes “Wonderful World “I turned around and approached the microphone. In front of me was a sea of white shirted men, club land ladies in all their finery, probably around 200, all looking at me. “Don’t know much about History” I warbled…. To my relief the last strains where greeted with warm applause. My next song was a solo take on “Only You” by Yazoo. Me accompanying myself, it usually went down well. But then the echo of Bernard’s voice began to resonate “keep it moving cock” The audience chatter quickly rose in volume, just as I was about to bring an early end to Only you by Yazoo Bernard’s voice got louder “Hang on a minute cock!” There he was stood beside me. Fully expecting to be humiliated, I was surprised when he said, “Right you bunch of c**** we have a fine singer and musician here and if you’re not prepared to pay him some attention, you can F*** O**!!” “Carry on cock “keep it moving” and left me to it.....