Cult 'art-rock' band that
skirted the London 'pub-rock' and 'punk rock' scenes ( but
were definitely neither) co-led by BJ and Ian Trimmer.
Its five year existence gave BJ
a thorough exposure to the music industry and influenced
his attitudes towards music and business.
Sometime before the end of
the last century, Dick Ward wrote:
The summer of '72 had a poetic sounding ring
to it and it just so happened that it found the 22 y.o.
Trimmer scuffling from bar to cafe on the Cote De Azur,
blowing his soprano saxophone for whatever he could get,
sitting in and learning from the likes of Harvey Mandel and
picking up the jazz from local gypsy guitarists, whilst back
in foggy London Town a young rock guitarist had just left
school determined for success in the music world. Even at
sweet sixteen BJ had had enough of dance band residences,
riverside pubs and USAF bases.
A sixteen year old Jenkins directs an early Burlesque
rehearsal, late 1972.
Bass player Pete Pope on the right.
Later that year in Bromley, Kent, a mutual
horn playing friend bought the two together and Burlesque
was born, playing then what has been described as 'Chicago
meets Miles Davis meets Albert King meets Charles Lloyd'
whatever that means.....
In rehearsals, possibly early 1973. (l to r) BJ,
Pete Spice (alto saxophone), Trimme,.
Pete Pope (bass) and Ian Hamilton-Wargent (drumkit).
1973 Bromley Technical College
Eight hours at a time rehearsals, several
changes of personnel and direction and hundreds of exciting
performances including residences at the Tramshed, Woolwich,
the legendary Speakeasy, The Marquee, The Nashville, The
Brecknock, Camden; Dingwalls Dancehall; regular
sorties to South Yorkshire - The Staging Post and Fforde
Grene in Leeds being regular haunts;
South Wales; the college circuit and
several club tours of Holland eventually found Burlesque
signed to Ronnie Scotts Directions and the target of every
A&R man in London.
1975. (l to r) BJ,
Antonio Vivaldi Jnr (bass guitar) Trimmer, Steve Parr
and Steve Knight (drumkit).
Selected as the 'Band Most Likely To Succeed' in
both the tabloid 'Sun' and 'Melody Maker' at the end of '76,
it took a flying visit from America by music business legend
Clive Davis to sign the band to Arista Records.
Recordings taken from their '76 UK tours with
the Kursaal Flyers and Bill Nelson's Be Bop Deluxe resulted
in an unusual (for the rock/pop market) live début album,
'Acupuncture', (with a single with the same title) released
to mildly critical acclaim in February 1977.
The Arnold Benjamin Sextet
('Arnold wasn't available').
The band sat in the corner and played lounge background
music for the launch party of their first album in the
(then) trendy Zanzibar cocktail bar.
Most of the assembled media had no idea it was the same
'What a bunch of losers', was one noted aside...
(back row) BJ, Trimmer, Antonio Vivaldi Jnr. (front)
Paul Warren (drumkit) and Steve Parr (keyboards).
Non stop touring of the UK, Holland , two
long residences at the legendary PN Club in Munich,
appearances on the 'London Weekend Show' (ITV) and a video
of live footage on the 'Old Grey Whistle Test no doubt
slightly enhanced their reputation.
August '77 found the band in Finland for a successful tour
and the recording of the first album ever to be recorded in
that country by an English band. The resultant 'Burlesque'
was released in November of that year.
Having given over 700 performances and having
felt objectives had been achieved, the only way forward
being repetitious touring of the USA to promote old
recordings (Arista were scheduled to release the first album
there the following year), they gave their last ever
performance at the London School of Printing at the Elephant
and Castle, London, ironically on the day their longtime
friend, roadie and sound engineer Tony Williams was cremated
as a result of a fatal motorway crash en route to a gig in
Nottingham eight days previous.
Mainstays of the group were Steve Hughes
(el.bass), professionally known as Antonio Vivaldi Junior -
now a tenor jazz saxophonist; Steve Parr (keyboards) who
runs his own studio and ironically plays with The hKippers
who have a CD out on Eccentric, an associate label to Babel;
and various drummers including (in reverse order of usage):
Kevin Curry (who came to the band via
Supertramp and John Cale); Adrian Shephard (last heard
running a surf school in Portugal); Paul Warren (a Dave
Mattacks acolyte, last seen when dropped off at his
residence in Mayfair mid 1977); Steve Knight (1974-76; still
drumming in SE London and last heard running a video shop);
Ian Hamilton-Wargent (1973; keen light aircraft flyer and
British Telecom employee, presumed still playing) and
original 1972 drummer JohnWilliams, who despite a series of
debilitating and life threatening illnesses
that include throat cancer, continues to drum away in blues
bands and social clubs around Bromley and the South East.
Special mention also to original second
saxophonists ('72-'73)Dave Harries (a collapsed lung put
paid to his aspirations - helped no doubt by the salted
peanuts T & J bought him when recuperating in hospital);
Pete Spice (the first horn player BJ ever played with, last
heard of managing a record shop in Kent); top sound engineer
Chas Braithwaite (with Burlesque all the way, having first
been a drummer with BJ when they were fourteen year olds.
Now lives in Australia); 'always on hand' drummers Ken
Taylor and Andy Shuttleworth (now one of the top Steady Cam
operators in the world) roadies Robin Fox and Dave Prior and
bass players Howard Edgar (1972) and Peter Pope (1972-74),
who put in £50 towards a PA system in early '73 and never
got it back.
Peter, Billy wants you to know that he has
never forgotten and truly hopes one day to be able to afford
to pay the compounded interest.
T&J thought it time to come off the road
with the band when they realised they were looking more
finding the best eatery in the next town rather than that
Look out in boot fairs and jumble sales for
the following long deleted Burlesque albums and single:
'Acupuncture' - Arista ARTY 151
'Burlesque' - Arista SPARTY 1028
'Acupuncture' c/w 'Bananas' - Arista 87
and one track ('Bizz-Fizz') on
'Front Row Festival' - Warner Bros K66077
an interesting curio sort of documenting the London pub-rock
scene of '77.
Pop for a collection of Webzine readers Burlesque