Disc And Music Echo ~May 1, 1971~




The brains walkin' behind CCS


Alexis Korner, Mickie Most, John Cameron and Peter Thorup are the brains behind the new big sound sensation CCS. Three of them talk to Disc about the problems of the big band in 1970.


... the biggest band blowing in the land!  By Roy Shipston


 Mickie Most, Alexis Korner, John Cameron, three of the brains behind CCS, are talking about the band. Vocalist Peter Thorup, the other main force, is abroad. Perhaps it is just as well because the other three are all talking at once as it is, bounding with enthusiasm about their exciting venture.

 And although they are cutting up each other's sentences like rival politicians in a heated debate, they are generally in agreement with each other, which is an advantage when two or more are running a band.

 "When was the last time a band this size was in the charts?" asks Mickie, shouting above the others. "It must have been Ted Heath with 'Swinging Shepherd's Blues'," says arranger Cameron. "And that was 15 years ago," Alexis cuts in: "No, what about Joe Loss's 'March Of The Mods'?"

"'March Of The Mods' never really happened," someone says. They all agree. "It must have been Ted Heath," says Mickie, "and that was at least 15 years ago"

 "The sad part about 'Swinging Shepherd's Blues' is that we all remember it," growls Led Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant who happens to be present.

 So, as CCS has had two hits, "Whole Lotta Love" and "Walkin'," you could say that they are something of a success. But they've hardly done any gigs and there aren't any planned, although they've had lots of enquiries about bookings.

 It's just like an occasional band, got together in a studio now and again to make a hit. One of those business tricks, you might say, like the Archies or the Monkees. But CCS isn't really a con.

 "It's not just the economics of putting a band this size on the road," says Mickie, "but all the musicians are top session men earning a lot of money. So it's a question of when they are available. They'd all love to be on the road with CCS but, at the moment it's just not feasible. We could put out a band called CCS with whoever was available and make up the number with other session men. But we don't want to do that.


New sound

 "I don't want a band with bits of music in front of them. I want the to know the material. And I think it's wrong to make records and then put out a different band under the same name."

 "You see," says John, "we've tried it with different musicians and it doesn't happen. It's got to be those 21 hand-picked musicians. It's like a big party when we got together."

 Most: "We've really got to make it before we can consider going out. And two hits isn't making it. We've got to have at least two more."

 The original conception of the band wasn't particularly to create a new traveling big band. The minds involved were, separately, looking for something new. They all had their own ideas and Britain's prolific producer, Most, channeled them all into one.

"We wanted a new sound, something more than two guitars and drums." Says Cameron: "Other people are using Moog synthesizers – we're using 21 musicians. And each member is as important as the next one; they play their part to the best of their ability. They are all hardened professionals, with experience in all forms of music ...",

Most: "So we don't want them to be seen unless they are good. And that means a lot of rehearsing which means a lot of time and money."

As far as ability is concerned they could hardly have found a better line-up. The trumpet section is made up from Greg Bowen, Lee Condon, Harry Beckett, Tony Fisher, Henry Lowther and Kenny Wheeler. Fighting for a place in the trombones are Don Lusher, John Marshall, Brian Perrin and Bill Geldard. Neil Sanders is on French Horn. The sax men used are Tony Coe, Ron Ross, Bob Efford, Danny Moss and Pete King.

Guitarist is Alan Parker, Herbie Flowers plays bass guitar, drummers are Barry Morgan and Tony Carr with extra percussion from John Lawless and Bill Le Sage. Korner and Thorup are vocalists and conductor Cameron plays electric piano.

The late Harold McNair was featured on the album "CCS" and it was his benefit at Ronnie Scotts Club which provided a rare chance to see the band in action. "It was pretty chaotic that night," says Alexis, "because we kept overloading the fuses. We had to start one song four times!"

"The brass section was so loud there that people were being blasted against the walls," says John.

Equipment is another major problem with an outfit of this size. Alexis reckons they could do with three p.a. systems. You'd need a Jumbo jet to get all the musicians, instruments and amplification from one gig to the next.

And it's not just the non-availability of the musicians that makes live appearances out of the question at the moment. CCS isn't Most's only project; Korner and Thorup have their own things going, jointly and separately, and Cameron is at present involved in writing two film scores and the music for a West End musical.

They feel that CCS could easily make quite an impact on the music scene generally and point out that Count Basie is already doing a similar sounding "Green Onions." Talking of Basie, he and Duke Ellinton manage to keep big bands on the road. How do they do it?


Third single

 "They started on the road," says John. "That was all there was to do with a band then. There was just the occasional 78 to make and no session work. With their musicians the band comes first and they do sessions in their time off. And they can play Las Vegas for a month then move on the next big city and keep traveling expenses down. Anyway there's only ever been about 15 or 16 in their line-ups. The last big band anything like our size to tour Britain was Stan Kenton, five or six years ago."

 "Yeah," says Alexis, "and he did a concert in Glasgow to 12 people."

 It's been a survival of the fittest in the big band world for some years now, to such an extent that only the greats have kept going and faithful fans have even had to fall back on the memories of Glen Miller. "I'm sure he'd be very surprised to discover the stuff he wrote thirty years ago was still being churned out. If he was writing now he'd be doing something like CCS."

 To have a hit with a song that was on over 300,000 Led Zeppelin 2nd LPs sold in Britain (and it's still selling 3,000 a week) was quite an achievement. Their version of "Whole Lotta Love" offered something different, appealed to people Zeppelin didn't appeal to, in most cases.

 CCS's second single is a far more obviously commercial product. For single number 3 they again want to provide a contrast. "We want to come up with something really amazing next time," says Most.

 Over Alexis: "We can tackle anything because there are so many different kind of musicians in the band. We could split it up into several small bands. We certainly wouldn't want to do a concert with anyone else – we'd want to do a two-hour show of our own."

 "At the moment though," (Cameron) "we need another 30 minutes of material." For a band that has only played about nine times, including recording sessions, they have certainly made their presence felt.

 But Most wants CCS to have its own following before it risks appearances. And that's difficult to achieve without playing live. "I think the type of people who would be CCS fans are the people that read 'Playboy' magazine," says Most.

 "I don't agree," Alexis says shaking his head. "There's an eight-year-old boy in Bradford whose got our album and both the singles. And I shouldn't think he reads Playboy."