maandag 12 maart 2018

Hans Cleuver, Focus' first drummer, passed away. A conversation

In 2017 Gary, Mark and Wo. embarked on what turns out to be a series of conversation on music. Always jumping from topic to topic. One started on Focus (read on here: Yesterday (6-3) news came that Focus' first drummer passed away. You will find that this sad fact led to many other bands and occasions.

Gary, 7-3-2018
I was sent this by Focus:

"Hans Cleuver , the first drummer of Focus, passed away. We owe him a lot, concerning his inspiring work for the group, both musically and in organising the very first gigs in Amsterdam! Our thoughts are with his wife and children."

Thijs van Leer, on behalf of all members of Focus

Mark, 8-3-2018:
Thanks. He's not the drummer on Moving Waves so I looked up the Wikipedia history of the band. Hans Cleuver was a life-long close friend of Thijs but after the first album "In and Out of Focus" as we know it (have you got that, Wout?), Jan Akkerman wanted him out and his mate Peter Van Der Linden in on the skins. So a mighty prolonged rift in the band ensued with Jan's man winning out in the end - and hit the big time when Moving Waves took the world by storm (after Focus appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test music programme on British TV - the only one that took popular music seriously - all of Polydor's record plants had to switch their entire production to churning out round the clock enough Moving Waves to meet the demand).

So it seems Hans's life story is similar to that of the hapless Pete Best though cruelly no-one wanted to take Pete's side in the Beatles case, only his female fans at The Cavern one of whom legend has it gave George a black eye for sacking their handsome first drummer with the un-fab quiff (after his own band fizzled out in the mid-sixties Pete ended up being a civil servant for a Liverpool office of the Dept of Employment, Gary!). Only when the first Anthology album came out in 1995 with Pete on drums on the pre-EMI recordings did he make any significant money out of his association with the Fab Three. Hans, however, seems to have kept his hand more securely in the music business and later teamed up with Thijs again so I guess he never felt he was as big a loser as Pete.

I met up with Pete Best's brother in Liverpool a few years ago. He was doing tours of the Casbah Club (by appointment) which was run by their mother Mona Best and is where the Silver Beatles as they were then called first played regularly. John and Paul helped out with decorating some of the walls and miraculously their arty handiwork with paint brushes has survived after all these years. You could say the remarkable Beatles story started in that cramped suburban club rather than at the legendary Cavern and like Hans in the history of Focus, Pete was a key player in The Beatles' formative years. However, his fussy and noisy drumming on the earliest recording of Love Me Do is horrendous compared to Ringo's simpler style (even if George Martin didn't like the latter and got a session musician called Andy White to replace Ringo for the original Parlophone single version. White passed  away in 2015 by the way, aged 85).

(I know: hou je mond, shut up Mark, you're rambling on about the Fab Four again). Unlike last year's Strawberry Fields remaster, there are no Beatles records on this year's Record Store Day list just out: see  Nor any Focus - but hey guess what! There is a double album of Shocking Blue's singles! How about that for premonition on our part?! I think I might be tempted by the Curved Air pioneering picture disc re-issue of Air Conditioning. - and the 12" demo of Bowie's Let's Dance...and the "early mix" of Lazy Sunday Afternoon.  I see there is also a picture disc version of Tormato, Gary. 

I thought Led Zep didn't release singles! RSD is on 21 April so start saving the pennies.....and cents!
Close your eyes and drift away....... 

Gary: 8-3-2018
Fascinating story about Pete Best, most of which I did not know about…. I know only to well that feeling of leaving the music scene to get a job in a Dole Office, Pete has my deepest sympathies! In the drumming world you either like Ringo or (like George Martin) not… similar to whether you like Charlie Watts or not…. I was neither a fan of Ringo or Charlie’s style of drumming.

Yes, the personal dynamics within Focus were pretty volatile, especially between van Lear and Ackerman although the decision to replace Hans Cleuver with Pierre van der Linden (Peter Van Der Linden is I think the Dutch Technologist who I once saw at a conference in London some years ago?) was the right one as he is a truly amazing drummer! He, like Carl Palmer, was heavily influenced by Buddy Rich and so technique is of the highest importance….  Although van der Linden was Ackermans friend he still plays (as you say) for Thijs van Lear’s version of Focus to this day!

I saw Curved Air at the Mick Jagger Centre last year, Sonja Kristina looks and sounds absolutely amazing for her age (68)…. There seems to be something of a youthfulness for our generation that wasn’t there for our father's time at our age… not sure what it is? Most of the 70s bands are producing reissues (especially on vinyl) and seem to be making a good income from it to supplement the pension! I get e-mails from Yes advising me of reissues and remasters 6 months in advance although the price they ask is somewhat daunting at times. Prog magazine is also a good source of upcoming new and reissues:

Led Zeppelin on yellow vinyl!!!! Also maybe worth considering saving pennies for Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin which is the first and only official illustrated book to be produced in collaboration with the members of the band. Celebrating 50 years since their formation. Published by @ReelArtPress due October this year? And if you can afford it Zeppelin is releasing a 'Deluxe Box’ in March of the live ‘How The West Was Won’ which was recorded at the Forum in Los Angeles…. Not enough money to buy everything though on a Civil Service pension!!!! 

Wo., 8-3-2018
Good morning, gentlemen.

The news about Focus' first drummer has passed the Netherlands by it seems. To be honest I had never heard of the man. To me it seems like Pierre van der Linden was Focus' only drummer that mattered. He played with Akkerman before in Brainbox (and in the very early 60s in Johnny and his Cellar Rockers). You should listen to the band's first single 'Down Man' (listen here: Kaz Lux is the singer. He worked with Akkerman again in the mid-70s for a few duo albums. 'Down Man's lyrics may not be the best English, the song is fabulous. It even made the U.S. charts at the time.

BTW, I have got the two Focus albums second hand in the spring of last year. The second one an issue from before it got to be called 'Moving Waves', just 'Focus II'. Great records that I truly enjoy. I also got the greatest hits of Kayak (mach I), another sympho rock band from NL. The first band I got to see live at high school. Several of its singles still stand out. And, Shocking Blue? What can I say? At least Sweetwood is finally close to nailing 'Send Me A Postcard'. The drummer has got the break. The bass player may still be grumbling about the complexity of the verses but is getting there.

What our conversation on Focus has done for me, is that I have started to listen to several bands (again) and found that the quality of music coming from this country in the late 60s and early to mid 70s was extremely good.

After Focus Van der Linden played drums in a trio with Rick van der Linden, a second cousin, then ex-Ekseption and Jaap van Eik called Trace, a mix of jazz rock and classical. I haven't played that album for ages. So am about to do so soon.

Led Zeppelin released several singles here in NL. I think they charted four times. 'Good Times Bad Times', 'Whole Lotta Love', 'Immigrant Song' and 'Black Dog'. The second one was their biggest hit over here. One day in early 1970 I went out with my hard saved up nickels and dimes to buy 'Whole Lotta Love' in the little village we had recently moved to. They had never heard of the song, so I came home with 'Marie Jolie' by Aphrodite's Child instead. Talking about missing a piece of history. Although I really liked that band's singles at the time.

Personally I pass the RSD by most of the years. The prices are near horrendous and usually for something I already own in some form. So I decided to save up for something I do not have. I can't tell about the international origins of RSD, but I have read that the daughter of a local retailer, who since starting in Leiden in the 90s branched out over the country, yes, against all odds, started the initiative as a school assignment that got a bit out of hand. His shop in Leiden has only grown bigger through the years. No longer living there I noticed recently that both remaining record shops have had an overhaul making them look a lot better. So they must be making money.

On Ringo Starr. I know he is not rated highly as a drummer and wasn't even when he was at his Beatles heights. Yet, listening to the songs, many of his contributions stand out as something special. Nothing flashy, just setting a totally different sound than many other drummers would have come up with, I think. That is a very special place to be in. And Charlie? I think he's totally unimaginative and has no ego to speak of. So he plays just what needs to played without a single extra anything. Creating the tight sound the Stones usually have. All that it needs probably. I was at the Django Django show yesterday and Franz Ferdinand on Sunday. Here the drummers are fabulous, playing all these strange rhythms, keeping me wondering: how do you do that?

So here's a link to the present, gentlemen, where some fantastic music is being made by bands like this. Both bands' latest 2018 efforts, 'Marble Skies' and 'Always Ascending' are stellar records.

Wo., 8-3-2018
I checked up on Hans Cleuver on Wikipedia. He remained manager of Focus until 1980, and started a drum academy in Utrecht. His daughter Emilie was part of a 100% percussion outfit called Slagerij Van Kampen. The name is a pun on butcher (slager) and hitting (slag).

Cleuver was married to Bojoura, a Dutch hippie singer, who scored several hits in the late 60s and early 70s. George Kooymans of Golden Earring, then Golden Earrings, wrote several songs for her, but her hits were mostly covers, e.g. 'Frank Mills' from 'Hair' and 'The Letter'. Kooymans had received singing lessons from Bojoura's mother, who was a Bulgarian soprano. The song I remember best is 'If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium', a song I heard somewhere not too long ago.

Just a little background with thanks to Wikipedia.


Geen opmerkingen:

Een reactie posten