Archives for category: Welbeck Group

I have to say that of all the members of the Welbeck Group, Danny and I have the best relationship and understanding. Let’s not beat about the bush. Danny Welbeck is the reason the Welbeck Group started up, and became (and remains) successful. He is a man blooming with talent ambition and vision- particularly in his choice of manager (no no… that was a joke!). I remember our first row we had was about whether a particular venua stage was going to be suitable for the band in the late 1980’s- Danny was right- we tested the stage and it was riddled with woodworm and wouldn’t have taken the weight of the Welbeck Group’s equipment!

Unsuitable for the Welbeck Group!

It was Danny Welbeck’s passion for music, fired by Mr Brabantio, his school music teacher, that drove him to choose the music business as not just a career, but a calling. He has won a number of  music biz awards, and as you know from his short and pithy acceptance speeches, he is modest, concise, and eschews the excesses of the rock industry. His only real passion is collecting old guitars and amps- here is Danny’s Telecaster and Gibson Falcom amp from 1960 that he still uses!

1960 Fender telecaster custom sunburst

Danny Welbeck's Falcon Amp

I would actually say that in some ways, Danny Welbeck manages me, and therefore has main control of the Welbeck Group’s ventures, tours, recordings and guest appearances. If he has any ideas, he discusses them with me first, and vice-versa. We then present a united fron (some would say a dait-accompli) to the rest of the Welbeck Group. There is sometimes further discussion, even dissention, particularly from young Robby Welbeck, but it usually ends up with harmony and agreement. Danny is a very good persuader and could charm a bird out of tree. The word manipulative just doesn’t apply because he’s such a nice bloke! He will bide his time if something isn’t going his way and will come back at it later, from a different direction and with a new set of arguments.

Danny is also a shrewd businessman and we share responsibility for making sure we balance the finances and the musical direction. There’s no way either of us would want to “sell-out” to get a wad of freen-folding for something our hearts weren’t in.

An example of this is that Danny Welbeck was asked if the Welbeck Group would be interested in doing a concept album and tour based on Christian Rosencrantz and the Rosicrucian movement. Much as he is interested in spiritualism and the Order of the Rosy Cross, he didn’t want the Welbeck Group to be involved in things he found particularly personal.

The Hermetic Order of the Rosy Cross Badge

In conclusion, I sometimes think Danny Welbeck doesn’t need me to manage the Welbeck Group, I see him more as afriend and confidant, and of course we both have the best interests of the Welbeck Group at our core!

Managing the Welbeck Group (Part One: Alex)
People often ask me what it is like to co-manage the Welbeck Group.  Like all demanding jobs it has its rewards and its low points, but when I see how other groups have treated their managers, and vice versa, I consider myself to be lucky.
First of all, Alex “Animal”, the drummer, is just a showman, pure and simple. He’s a good time old style rock n roller, who needs a firm hand. However, once pointed in the right direction, he can be a real assest to the Welbeck Group, reducing tension at press conferences, and clowning around. I don’t think he uses any substanses, I just think he’s got a natural joi de vivre which occasionally spills over. His weak point is his mouth. IU always say to him “Alex, if you want to stay a member of the Welbeck Group, you must engage brain before you open lips!”  I think he takes what I say to heart, but he is prone to allowing himself to be led away and distracted by poor quality friends.  He’s not a young man, but does seem to sek out the company of the younger and wilder elkements in the music business and that can be a problem.
Alex is not the sort of person to vandalise property on purpose, like throwing TVs out of hotel rooms, but his anticvs can sometimes lead to problems, invariably requiring me to pay someone off, and dock his wages.  That’s one of the main thinghs about Alex, he is a paid employee of the Welbeck Group. That’s because he doesn’t contribute to songwriting, direction, or Welbeck Group discussions. That suits him, I think. He’s happy being given a song and told to do his trademark Keith Moon style syncopations on the tubs (drums). He has a set of drums that was actually played by Keith when he was in the pre-Who band, the High Numbers:

Once Keith Moon's now Alex Animal's!

When the Welbeck Group present Alex with a new song, he is very quick to see where he can fill in and where it’s best to just play percussion plain and simple.
Incidents? Yep there have been a few involving Alex. The last one I remember was when in Rio de Janeiro, he had a little too much local rum and with some roadies from another band, took some carnival queens and broke into a local swimming pool to have a midnight skinny dip. Unfortunately one of the locals thought it would be a good idea to tint the colour of the water, and tipped in a load of red dye. There were security cameras and of course they were caught. I managed to explain that Alex had not been the ringleader, and after a few thousand was paid to drain and refill the pool, and unruffle feathers, all was well. No court appearances or breaks in the Welbeck Group gigs in South America and Brazil that month.

Fancy a Dye-ve anyone??

As I said, Alex is no real trouble, just a fun-loving sould that needs a bit of guidance and direction from me now and then- a firm but friendly hand on the tiller!

Colin Cornell has an impressive pedigree; he played in a number of bands before he met Danny and Robby Welbeck on a European tour and came across to join the Welbeck Group. He has co-written songs for some of the best-known record producers and managers, and even giving vocal coaching to one of the recent X-Factor finalists!

Colin Cornell plays piano

“I met the Welbeck brothers in an airport terminal waiting for a flight to Madrid for a music festival there. We both were passengers on board an Air Nostrum jet and chatted during the journey.  Danny impressed me as a serious musician, who wanted to be respected, and take the Welbeck Group to musical respectability among both fans and fellow musicians and composers.  He had a vision of what he wanted the Welbeck Group to achieve, bith in terms of success and musical acceptability among those that he respected.

“We chatted about the finer points of musical composition, but as the free drinks flowed, we descended into just having a laugh and joking about writing a cheesy song together. We exchanged numbers and a few weeks later I got a call from Danny asking me to help him with a song he was having difficulty with. It was one that finally appeared on the Welbeck Group’s third album, and I got co-writing credits on the sleeve. The song was called simply “Flight” and was about a love-sick troubador who was going to be separated from his girlfriend for a few months while he and his band toured Asia. I helped Danny get the chorus right, and with some of the lyrics, although he had most of those down already when he contacted me.  It was then that I wondered whether I could become a part-time member of the Welbeck Group, but of course I wasn’t going to ask Danny Welbeck. I was far too proud and didn’t want to embarrass him!”

“The next time we met was in the studio- I was asked to come in and play some keyboard on their new album…”

As we know, Colin Cornell did join the band and is now part of the famour Welbeck/Cornell songwriting team that writes songs not just for the Welbeck Group, but for other bands and singers as well.

Danny Welbeck, guitarist, vocalist, composer and arranger of the infamous Welbeck Group, talked to me about those people who had influenced his guitar playing, and the Welbeck Group, during their career.

“I guess my father,  who I nicknamed Elvis Welbeck, got my interested in music. He played rock and roll in a band in Holiday Camps, and showed me my first chords. It was from him I learned “the three chord trick” and you’d be surprised at how many of the best songs are based on mainly three chords. I then progressed to the chorus, the bridge, the middle eight, the key-change and the hook. I haven’t got the longest of fingers and therefore initially I found playing the guitar not easy. It also didn’t help that my dad’s guitar had very high action, which is the distance from the strings to the fretboard. That meant that I had to use a lot of pressure to get a decent tone from a note or a chord. In fact even to this day I have to exercise my fingers before a Welbeck Group concert.”

“While I admire technical excellence in guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, and the like, it’s guitarists like Brian May of Queen, George Harrison, and composers like Thom Yorke, and ColdPlay that I really admire. To weave a song from just some shaped thrown on a neck of a guitar, plus lyrics never fails to amaze me. Many of the best songs are simple affairs- listen to the songs on Simon and Garfunkel’s early albums. They were a great influence on me and the Welbeck Group.”

I asked Danny Welbeck whether he considered that there were any aspiring guitarists or songwriters that had been influenced by him or the Welbeck Group. “I don’t know- I would be flattered if anyone named me as an influence, but to be frank, I think people should very quickly throw off early influences and develop their own guitar and songwriting style. I wish everyone good luck in that!”

 

During Robby Welbeck’s infamous “year off” from the Welbeck Group, he tried to do the the whole rock n roll thing. Drink, cars, women etc. However he just was too nice a guy to do it with any vengeance! Apart from his infamous wrecking of his Series One Modular Moog in Maida Vale Hight Street, the most he could do was put a modest dent in the front of his Alfa Romeo sports car (see picture above), and get as bit tipsy at parties.

He was the one member of the Welbeck Group that liked a drink- but even then, his excesses were far and few between. He once went to a party thrown by the Chief Roadie “Dirk” at Enfield, but got a train back to Central London- the wrong way! He ended up at Shoeburyness, one stop before Southend on Sea, totally lost, drunk, with no money (he left his wallet at the party) and cold.

Shoeburyness Station

He wandered around the town for a bit, but could find nowhere warm. He went to the local Police station, but they sent him off with a flea in his ear, saying he could “sleep on a bench on the front”.  They obviously hadn’t heard of the infamous Welbeck Group, let alone Danny’s wayward younger brother in the band, Robby Welbeck. He wandered around and found the abandoned Gunnery school there- but couldn’t get inside:

He ended up going back to Shoeburyness station where he found that there was a degree of warmth in the photo booth on the station. There he stayed until he heard a train come in at 4.30am.  This was a goods train, taking fish and milk into London, but the guard for that train took pity on young Robby. He said that his daughter was a fan of the Welbeck Group, and if Robby would give his  autograph, then he could travel back to Liverpool Street station in the guards van. Robby was a bit of a model railway freak in his younger days, so the chance to travel in one of the last operating Southern Railway Guard’s van was too good to be true!

The deal was struck, a signature was given, and Robby managed to get back to London by 6am, smelling of fish! The other band members were worried about him, but he gave his brother Dannt Welbeck a call from a phone booth, and all was well.

In fact, as a tribute to the wonderful place known as Shoeburyness, the band did a gig there a year later as part of the “Welbeck Group Back to Their Roots” tour.

It isn’t on record whether the daughter of the guard who gave Robby a lift back to london on the Fish Train was there, but he did mention the incident when introducing one of their songs “Thank You” which seemed appropriate!

As band biographer, it sometimes disappoints me the extent to which people want to dwell on the negative aspect of the Welbeck Group.  However it cannot be denied that people are drawn to “the dark side” and have a fascination with the more morbid and less attractive side of success and fame.

While Danny Welbeck was always the anchor in the band, the most creative and, if you like, “serious musician”, Robby Welbeck was always in the Welbeck Band for the crack. Here is a rare photo of the young Robby smashing up a hired bass guitar at a gig in his local school hall because he felt that his bass wasn’t loud enough.

Robby’s frustrations often exasperated his fellow members of the Welbeck Group especially when it brought the band into disrepute, and  took attention away from their songs, and the image that they were trying to create- one of serious musicians making musical and lyrical statements that had weight and grivitas. “The Welbeck Group is greater than the sum of its parts” Danny Welbeck would often say. Robby’s reply is well known: “You hold your part and I’ll hold mine!”

One of the more famous incidents came when Robby had trouble programming his amalogue Moog Series One synthesiser that he purchased from Peter Bauman, originally with Tangerine Dream. The Welbeck Group were in MaidaVale.

It was in the margins of a recording session for the “difficult” second album that the Welbeck Group experienced Robby’s frustration turning into expensive wrecking. As most people who use analogue retro modular synthesisers, they have to be kept cool, otherwise they go out of tune. The Welbeck Group chief roadie had forgotten to bring the battery of fans, and so just after the rehearsal for the first song of the new album, the other band members commented to Robby that he was out of tune.

Robby made an attempt to tune the synth, but it was unstable and wavering from minute to minute- hopeless when trying to lay down a bass synth track that the other bans members could play along with. Robby’s frustrations reached boiling point. Danny Welbeck made it worse by giving Robby a lecture about making sure that the Welbeck Group members were punctual, and brought all their equipment along with them, including peripherals such as electric fans!

Robby shouted and got the wheeled crate on which the Moog rested, and  pushed it out of the studio. Next there was a loud crash. Robby had pushed the crate and the synth out into the main road by the studio entrance and it had been struck by a passing taxi! A crowd began to form and fans started asking Robby Welbeck for his autograph- and getting a very rude response!

This was a little but different from smashing up his bass guitar in his schooldays- a lot more expensive! He calmed down, and they rescued from beneath the traffic what they could from the vintage synth.

Later, it was rebuilt by Bob Moog’s company and put into a new body- but even today Robby says that the synth is lacking something that  it has when it was totally  retro!

The rebuilt Moog: It was used on the second album and to this day has pride of place in Robby’s manor in Surrey! He calls the synth “The Beast”!

 

 

The Welbeck Group; a History: 1.Musical Origins

No matter what your age or musical taste, you will have heard of the Welbeck Group. In fact if you haven’t then you most probably have been on the dark side of the moon for the last 20 years. Either that or in a coma!

They were, and still are, a true phenomenon. A Group with two family members at their core, Danny Welbeck and Robby Welbeck, who managed to forge a career for themselves in sometimes difficult circumstances, and ride the vagaries of musical tastes and the fickle fancies of fashion.

But no discussion of the Group can really get going unless one delves into the musical past of the Welbeck family. It may be that the success of Danny and Robby lay in their genes, although it would be quite unfair to say that they didn’t have to work hard to learn their craft and earn their spurs.

It was music that brought Rachel Cross and her future husband,  Jess Welbeck together, in the late 1960s.  Rachel was a RedCoat at Butlins Holiday Camp at Clacton, and Jess used to play there on occasions with his Rockabilly Tribute Group, “Red Rebels Rising”. Among Rachel’s duties was to entertain, by singing the latest hits with the resident house Group, “The Clactonettes”, and being a Bingo Caller!

They met after one of Jess’s gigs, got on like a “House!” on fire (sorry about the pun) and in the space of a year were married and settled into a small home in Herne Bay, Kent, on the South England coast. Jess’s Group started to make a bit of a name for themselves as they started to try to move away from just rock n roll, and into soft rock, but the punk revolution towards the end of the 1970s saw the Group call it a day.

“I just couldn’t understand punk at the time” said Justin “instead of it being fresh and exciting, I saw it as atonal, aggressive and vulgar!”

They had two children, both boys, Danny being the first and Robert nearly two years later. Did they display any musical talent from the start I asked Rachel Welbeck-

“Danny used to love playing around with his Dad’s guitars and amplifiers, but preferred to pose with them rather than try to play them” she said “and when Robby came along he always seemed to have a thing for low sounds and noise, which I guess is the opposite of a dog- they like high pitched sounds!”

So the pieces were in place, two sons born of two people with music in their blood, one who liked the image of being a performer, and watched himself in the mirror as he held his Dad’s battered Fender Telecaster. The other, drawn to the lower end of the musical spectrum, was destined to play bass (and occasional keyboards).

All that was needed was some encouragement, and perhaps a sprinkle of luck!

The Welbeck Group; a History: 2. School Days and the Welbeck Brothers first Gig

Danny and Robby Welbeck went to the same school, just outside of Herne Bay;  Thanet School for Boys, now the Thanet Academy. With a little parental urging, both boys enrolled in extra-curricular music lessons on a Thursday afternoon and evening. Danny takes up the story:

“The music teacher was a dude called Elvis Brabantia, he was Italian, and a bit of an eccentric. He loved all types of music, both classical and contemporary, and dressed in similar style. The top half was like a Conductor at the Royal Albert Hall, white short, red bow-tie and a Tuxedo. The bottom half was tattered jeans and sneakers. Awesomely bad!”

“He was really interested when I told him about my Dad’s old Group, and asked me if ever fancied making a career out of music”.  I was surprised because while I was competent at music, and had learnt to read quite quickly, I didn’t think I possessed any phenomenal talent or was a ‘wunderkind’.  I was 14 and Robby was 13, and I asked if Robby could be included in the extra lessons.”

Mr Brabantia had access to some musical instruments, including a battered electric bass that seemed to have no name on the headstock, but looked like a Paul McCartney Style Hofner Violin bass.

Robby Welbeck's reconditioned Hofner Vioin bass

Robby later acquired a Hofner badge for it and glued it to the end! No instrument was needed for Danny Wellback. He was going to use his Dad’s old Telecaster.

Encouraged by the music teacher and now with equipment and a place to practice, the brothers began to copy hit songs of the day. By now the new romantic movement was in full swing, and the Welbeck brothers found that they had to be quite inventive in their musical arrangements in trying to simulate such things as synthesisers and orchestral “stabs”.

Elvis Brabantia said that nothing would hone their musical ability like playing live, and he said that he would give them a ten minute slot at the end of the Spring Term concerts, in late June.

Danny and Robby buckled down to their task and came up with four songs; three covers and one of their own, that they practised until they were note-perfect. They didn’t have a drummer, but Danny had bought a cheap Korg second-hand electronic drum machine. Together the Welbeck brothers programmed it for their four songs, and were all set to go.

Come the day of the concert the Welbeck boys had their first taste of butterflies before going on stage. It would always continue to be a problem for Robby Welbeck.  The lights dimmed, and the drum machine thudded out the intro to their first song, a Human league cover. Robby played the synthesiser riff on the bass, while Danny played rhythm with some adept fills here and there. They both sung. They went down a storm;

“There were kids dancing at the front of the stage!” recalled Robby. “And I really liked playing bass- I saved up and got a new better one!”

Robby Welbeck and Furry Friend

In a subsequent interview, Mr Brabantio, the music teacher said that their performance was very good, although they struggled a little with the timing, as the drum machine had developed a nasty habit of dropping a beat here and there and even speeding up towards the end of a song as the batteries faded!

The performance was also witnessed by the Welbeck brothers’ Mum and Dad, who were justifiably proud.

“What are you going to call yourself?” asked Jess Welbeck when they got home  “The Welbeck  Group?”.

“No Way!” said Robby.  “That’s so naff and boring!”

The Welbeck Group; a History: 3. Local Touring, Gaining Reputation

Following that initial gig at their school, the Welbeck Brothers spent the next year polishing up their act, writing some of their own songs, and doing small local clubs, pubs and halls in Kent.

Home Town: Herne Bay, Kent

They spent a long time trying to think of band name that would encapsulate what their original music was trying to say. The style of music was definitely in the “pop” region, but Danny Welbeck’s lyrics were not flimsy throwaway tales with banal chorus lines. Jess Welbeck, his Father, suggested that they were a combination on old traditional family values such as loyalty and solidarity, with more modern concepts such as embracing “green” values such as encouraging wind, wave and solar power, and new technology to eradicate poverty and starvation. They came up with “Old Futures”, “Grasp it or Lose it” or the slightly cringe-making “The New Changers”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people talked about Danny and Robert Welbeck as “The Welbeck Brothers”. That started to be put on flyers, but then Danny said that he really didn’t want to be a duo- he wanted a Group, because that would add versatility and allow some others to shoulder the musicianship, while he could concentrate on the songwriting. But could a duo be a Group? If he wanted The Welbeck Group, they needed new personnel!

They advertised in the New Musical Express (the edition shown here), and had a hilarious month of auditions where they met some talented and crazy people. Eventually they settled upon a drummer, Alex “Animal” Cooper, a tub-thumper with jazzy leanings, who was liked because he wasn’t “busy”. He kept the beat going nicely with occasional well-thought-out syncopations, while putting in clever fills, but only where it enhanced to overall song.

The final member of the four-piece was keyboardist Colin Cornell, who was older than the Welbeck Brothers, and had been in many Groups, but wanted to play with young up-and coming talent.

As a temporary measure they called themselves “The Welbeck Group”, and spent the next year practicing, writing, and playing gigs in the London and South England areas.

The Welbeck brothers’ father began ferrying them to gigs in his rec-conditioned Ford Transit, but as his health was beginning to show signs of failing, they recruited a roadie/driver and general dogs-body Mr Fixit. Lionel Parfitt was his name. He had long hair, didn’t particularly like their music, but was reliable, and didn’t drink- essential for a reliable roadie/driver!

The Welbeck Group began to build up a following of fans in their native Kent, but also further afield in other South Coast counties, and in certain parts of London. They got a very favourable review in local Kent papers, and even a few lines in a national paper. But that was mainly because one of their songs “Listen to Her” was about a Shi’ite girl whose brother was a hard-liner, and who tried to dictate how to live her life to her. While performing the song as a support Group in a small Camden Town venue, the main act, a group of “world Music” musicians from the Middle East, took offence, and they and their supporters stormed the stage, damaging the Welbeck’s equipment and prematurely ending the gig. It just happened that an arts reporter for the Daily Telegraph was there, and did a short piece on it. Sadly he got the name of the Group wrong- calling them “The Welbecks Group” rather than The Welbeck Group! That venue changed hands a few times and eventually is now the infamous Camden Underworld venue, home to many goth, indistrial and metal Groups.

But fate was going to be kinder to the Welbeck Group. Someone else at the gig liked them and soon they received an e-mail with an offer they couldn’t refuse…

It was the late 1980s and the Welbeck Group’s reputation was continuing to grow, but there were no signs of a record deal, and the Group were becoming a little impatient waiting for success, particularly Danny Welbeck. Robby Welbeck was “all loved up” and although he continued to play well, he didn’t contribute much at all to hammering out a golden future for the four boys in the Group.

Suddenly they got an invitation to play a major outdoor venue on one of the peripheral stages: Glastonbury! It was at this point that the Welbeck Group realised they should have a manager. While they would have been willing to play for free for the gig, Colin Cornell argues that as the paying public would be there, the Welbeck Group should get a share. Because time was short before this window of opportunity closed, Jess Welbeck, Danny’s dad, got a friend to step in. This was Rick “Rocket” Stein. Lter, the band were to quip that he should have been called Frank N Stein.

The Group continued to polish their existing numbers and Danny wrote a few new ones, including a homage to Glastonbury Tor, called “Tor of Thor” linking the ley-lines and the (alleged) astrophysical phenomena of  Glastonbury with the Norse Gods.

The Group’s manager made a deal which meant that each of the Group members would gain £500 for a 40 minute slot on the “Newcomers” stage. Robby Welbeck argued that the original Group founder members should be paid more.. they were, after all, the original Welbeck Brothers! But that got short shrift from their new manager, Rick. It was a four-way split. Or Rather five-way with him getting a fifth share plus money for overheads…

The day of the gig came and the Welbeck Group were in high spirits, but more than a little nervous.  Typically there had been heavy rain on the first day of the concert and the landscape was a mud bath. After the sound check, the Group mingled with some of their musical heroes; Gary Numan was doing a set, and Elton John and David Bowie were there.

The Group were announced and the Welbeck Group came on stage right on cue. They launched into “Time is no healer” one of their best songs, and they were met with a very good response. After 30 minutes word of mouth had spread across the Glastonbury site that there was a new four-piece Group called the Welbeck Group, that was going down a storm. By their last two songs, the initially small crowd had swollen it ranks to rival the main stage. People were crowding and pushing to try and get a glimpse of the Group that was likely to be “making it” anytime soon. The crowning glory was “Tor of Thor” which seemed to strike a chord with the audience, and by the last chorus people were singing along:

Sword in Hand..

I die in seconds

But I die happy-

Tor of Thor beckons!

Everyone; Group, fans, music-press, their manager and the parents of the Welbeck Brothers all realised that they had reached a water-shed- from now on there would be no more dingy gigs above pubs or in second rate clubs.

Glastonbury- trekking through the mud to hear the new Group taking the side stage by storm!