BOURNE TO BE WILD – THE GLITTER YEARS
I wonder if newcomers to Bourne realise that our town was once a place visited by many of the chart-topping bands of the Seventies. Bourne Corn Exchange was then Pop-Central, attracting people from all over the district to its stage made out of real wood and its bar stocked with such exotic delights as keg Double Diamond, Watney's Red Barrel, Carling Black Label (for the sophisticates) … and bottles of Babycham for the ladies.
The Corn Exchange still
had its main entrance on Abbey Road at that time and had been a popular
venue for dances at least as far back as World War II, when dance and
swing bands would help to facilitate the intermingling of local girls
with the numerous soldiers from overseas on leave.
So who were the stars who graced the Corn Exchange stage? I can remember seeing a poster on the wall of a form room at Bourne Grammar School, announcing an appearance by Thin Lizzy and describing them as "the No.1 band in Ireland". This was well before their appearance on October 20th 1972 so was most likely have been at around the time that they recorded their first single, The Farmer, in July 1970.
Also appearing in 1970 was a band going by the name of T2, little known nationally, but which has acquired cult status through their album, It'll All Work Out In Boomland, which has because a classic example of British psychedelic progressive rock. Later in that same year, December 5th saw the arrival of progressive blues band Killing Floor, which included the drummer Rod de'Ath, shortly afterwards to become the drummer for legendary Irish guitarist, Rory Gallagher. In 1974, local promoter Ken Cox brought soul superstar Major Lance to the Corn Exchange; as far as we know it was the man himself, but the American agents were notorious for slipping doppelgangers onto the tours.
Of course, it is the pop bands which drew the biggest crowds and for a short period, some of pop royalty's minor members seemed quite happy to make a backwater diversion during their countrywide tours. One of the biggest groups to appear in Bourne was The Bay City Rollers, with a rather fortuitous booking that was timed to perfection. Although attracting plenty of media attention they hadn't yet had any real hits. Fading memories have made the exact date slight guesswork, but it seems likely that it was in late 1973, just before vocalist Gordon Clark was replaced by Les McKeown, who re-recorded the vocals on their soon-to-be hit single, Remember (Sha La La). Those who attended the Corn Exchange gig would soon have the pleasure of seeing the band they had seen only a few weeks earlier, appearing on Top Of The Pops.
An equally famous (if now rather notorious) visitor was Gary Glitter, who appeared with The Glittermen as their first hit single, Rock & Roll (Parts 1 & 2) was beginning to climb the charts in 1972. After a quick succession of hits Gary's appeal began to fade, although without him, The Glitter Band had a hit of their own (with Angel Face in 1974) and were to return to Bourne for two further appearances. Booking Suzi Quatro was another stroke of luck: she was booked before Can The Can was released and when it topped the charts her management tried to back out; fortunately, the contract was tight enough to secure her appearance.
Other chart bands appearing in the early 1970s included Blackfoot Sue (with their hit single, Standing In The Road - 1972), Smokey (Living Next Door To Alice- 1973), Kenny (the Bump) and Hot Chocolate (at the time of their Brother Louie single in 1973). Another chart band making an appearance was Geordie, who had two Top 20 hits in 1972 and 1973, also making several appearances on Top Of The Pops. Although now largely forgotten, their singer, Brian Johnson, was catapulted into the spotlight after replacing the late Bon Scott as vocalist with AC/DC in 1976. Black Lace, performers of such classics as Agadoo and We're Having A Gang Bang, also appeared at the Corn Exchange. Apparently, about twenty people turned up to see them.
Also worthy of note was an appearance by Mud (or more likely, Les Gray's Mud), who were almost the Top Of The Pops house bands during much of the 1970s. Again, establishing an exact date has proved difficult, but I remember standing next to a rather frail looking Les Gray in the Nag's Head lounge and it was several years after the last of the major hits, probably in the early 1980s.
Possibly forgotten by many is an appearance by Chicory Tip, whose greatest hit came with Son Of My Father, in 1972. Unusually, this appearance was in Wherry's Warehouse, which was on the east side of North Street opposite Wherry's Lane. It took place a year or two after the biggest hit single, but they were still sufficiently well known for it to have been regarded as a bit of a coup at the time.
In recent years, one of the very few well-known bands to play here was 1970s mega-band Wishbone Ash, although with only one of the original members. With few modern teen-appeal bands playing their own instruments of making appearances, it is the nostalgic, tribute acts or rock cover bands that make up the bulk of live music at a local level. Recent live tribute bands have mimicked Queen, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzie, AC/DC, Oasis and Abba, but it seems that local music lovers are now forced to travel well out of town to see bands playing original music.