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Mickey Jupp back in town for Legend gig at Riga
2:28pm Friday 16th March 2012 in Sound Check
A BAND named Legend risks failing to live up to its own hype.
But in the case of Mickey Jupp’s Sixties and Seventies sensations, the name is fully deserved, with the songwriter, frontman and band holding a seminal place in Southend’s music history.
Listed as an influence by names including Wilko Johnson and Will Birch of the Kursaal Flyers, Jupp’s songs have been covered by the likes of Elkie Brooks, the Searchers and Nick Lowe.
So when Legend reunite for two special gigs at their old stomping ground Riga this weekend, it’s no surprise that they’ve got fans flying in as well as a host of local music lovers, eager to hear their heroes back in action.
Bass player John Bobin was recruited along with guitarist Mo Witham and drummer Bill Fifield – who went on to join T Rex and was replaced by Bob Clouter – to join Legend to develop their signature electric sound on the classic self-titled second album, widely known as the Red Boot album.
“It’s going to be very good,” says John. “A bit challenging because Mo lives in Burton-in-Kendal in Lancashire and Mickey’s lived in Cumbria for about 30 years, so I think we can guarantee it will be pretty unrehearsed.
“Mo sat next to Dudley Moore’s wife Suzy Kendall and he said he wasn’t going to wash for a while.bassist John Bobin
“We’ll play things to have a run through on Friday afternoon then hit the stage running on Friday evening.
“Obviously music is about spontaneity and immediate response and we’ve had such a fantastic response from people all over the place, we’ve got people coming from Sweden and Holland – and some of the people are coming over for a few days and seeing both the gigs – they’re gluttons for punishment really.”
He adds: “We are lucky that we go out there and we’ve got an audience that really, really wants to see Legend.”
It’s the first time that the lineup of Mickey, Mo, John and Bob have been onstage together in around 40 years, and playing at the Westcliff venue will bring back some memories – especially from the early days when the same lineup played in another Sixties incarnation, the Orioles.
“Riga’s a comfortable venue for us,” says John. “When we were in the Orioles we used to play there four nights a week in about 1964. It was just a dance hall then for the Cricketers.
“Mickey used to play an old upright piano with an old concert mic stuck on the back with insulation tape – which of course always fell off.
“Life’s a little bit easier now with a digital piano. We used to carry a piano around with us as well, it would always go out of tune – Mickey used to try and tune them up with pliars sometimes but it wasn’t always successful.”
John says that touring in the Sixties and Seventies was an amazing time to be in a band as they cut your teeth on the circuit – and eventually played college gigs alongside the like of acts including Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Dudley Moore.
“We supported Monty Python’s Flying Circus – John Cleese, Michael Palin and Terry Jones – and Dudley Moore,” says John.
“Mo sat next to Dudley Moore’s wife Suzy Kendall and he said he wasn’t going to wash for a while. As well as an actor Dudley was also a fantastic jazz player.
“It was just a nice time playing in the Sixties and early Seveties. At a time when everywhere we went clubs, dance halls, restaurants, everywhere had live music.”
It’s been said that if there was any justice in the fickle music world, Mickey Jupp would be a lot more famous than he is, but part of the reason is down to his on reticence – he’s known to be a private person and doesn’t often give interviews.
“For someone so talented it’s surprising that he’s a bit self conscious sometimes,” admits John.
“I think that’s why he probably likes it up in Cumbria because it’s wild and lonely and empty – he’s written some great songs up there.”
His fans will get to hear some of the songs as they’ll be playing a whole range of tunes.
“Mickey’s written lots of really good songs over the years and we’ve persuaded him to do a lot more of his songs this time round,” says John.
“He’s also very good at the old rock’n’roll and R&B but we thought it’d be nice for people to hear his stuff.
“There’ll be some old Legend songs from some old Legend albums and some he has done since then, things they might not even have heard.”
It’s difficult for John to pick out a highlight, but he admits that working on the two albums, the famous Red Boot one and it’s follow up, Moonshine – which featured string arrangements by Procol Harem organist Matthew Fisher –were times he’ll treasure.
“The Red Boot Album was produced by Tony Visconti who worked with David Bowie, Thin Lizzy and T Rex and that was a great time,” he says.
“With our second album we wanted to do something completely different.
“We had the London Symphony Orchestra come in, about 12 of them, and they played and it sounded beautiful and I just thought ‘this is fantastic, it’s so different,’ then the engineer said ‘would you mind doing that again?”
“I said ‘what was wrong with that? And he said ‘nothing, but we don’t want to pay them twice do we?’”
John can’t wait to get back onstage on Friday, despite slight nerves after so long.
“I’m very pleased,” he says. “Everybody’s very pleased, we’re all really looking forward to it.
“Whenever we do something like this there’s always a slight element of ‘I hope this is going to be alright,’ but when we get onstage and look around and it’s our mates and were playing songs we really love, I’m sure its going to be good fun.
“To be honest, it makes me feel a bit humble, I’m only a bass player after all.”
Legend play at Riga, London Road, Westcliff on Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are £10 advance/£12 on the door, call: 08444 771000.