The departure of Rick Wakeman from the band following the release of From The Witchwood left a gaping hole in the line up. The band had become known for its strong use of keyboards so a replacement needed to be located. I for one was amazed at how quickly this was seemingly achieved. The history books claim that Rick Wakeman left in July/71 and Blue Weaver joined in August/71. It was a very quick recruitment campaign.

Blue Weaver was a great choice for the job. He is a musicians musician, well schooled in the art he came with two great skills, adaptability, and craftsmanship. As his web site explains:

Born 11th March 1947 Cardiff, South Wales, took piano lessons from age 10-15 years, studied music theory at Cardiff’s Royal College of Music.

Clearly Blue Weaver is no self taught musical street ragamuffin. Conversely though, he never seemed particularly interested in the lime light preferring to leave that to others.

He was an integral part of  the Strawbs in the 1972-1973 ‘boom time’ and he agreed to sit down with me and share a little about himself and his very interesting career.

Simon Barrett: You joined the band during a tumultuous period. I have always wondered how you became part of The Strawbs. Did you know Dave Cousins already? Or what?

Blue Weaver: Actually I didn’t know any of them at that time. Laurie O’Leary who was the manager of The Speakeasy at that time knew that I had left Fairweather

and needed another gig. He told me to go for an audition with The Strawbs, I was a little confused at that time and mixed the name up and thought The Strawbs were The Fugs and wondered why Laurie would think a nice young pop keyboard player like me would want to play in a band that supposed to chit on stage:-) anyway I ignored the offer for a week or so until Laurie actually arranged an audition. This was held at Dave’s house. When I arrived they asked if I liked a curry, which I did and did I like a pint, which I did, so they said I’d got the job after the said curry and pint (pints) but they thought they had better here me play so I obliged with a rendition of Brubecks Raggy Waltz.

Darn! There goes my great conspiracy theory!  Had long held the belief that Dave Cousins smelling change in the air had been quietly lining up a replacement keyboard player.  Do however admire Dave Cousins interview technique, I think beer and curry should be employed more often.

Blue Weaver’s choice of a demo tune is also interesting. For those of you not familiar with Dave Brubeck and Raggy Waltz, this is the original version:

I don’t think many would argue that this is hardly the type of music that The Strawbs were doing at the time.

SB: It is a bit of an unfair question, but I will ask it anyway. A band has a form of DNA, a sound, a style, maybe even a look. Amen Corner was far different from the Strawbs, was it hard  to adapt styles?

BW: Not really, I loved the songs and never really tried to replace Rick, although we did think about stilts and a blond wig at one time. I just tried to ingrate into the band rather than stand out as any sort of soloist, I used to dread having to play any sort of improvised solo. The mellotron really helped paint a sound for Strawbs then.

That answer goes to the core of Blue Weaver, he was and always will be a team player. It is the team that wins, not the individual.

SB: After Bursting at the Seams you left the line up. Why? And where did you go to?

BW: We really did ‘Burst At The Seams‘ and split. I think it was a combination of things that caused that. I really went nowhere. The management screwed me and sold all my equipment so I couldn’t work. I drove a minicab for a year while trying to do sessions it was fun listening to the radio as I drove especially when tracks I played on were broadcast, everyone thought if you had hits in those days you made money, you did! but it didn’t go in your pocket. I did get some good sessions at that time, Berlin – Lou Reed was one as I had met Bob Ezrin and I just happened to be standing in the bar at Morgan studios

I have to admit that Bursting At The Seams was not one of my favorite albums. But for the record label it was a huge success. The money made from Part Of The Union and Lay Down was significant, yet, as was so common in the day, very little of it trickled down to the actual musicians.

SB: I guess this goes back to my earlier question about adapting to different styles. There is little (obvious at least) in common between The Strawbs and the BeeGee’s. To me they are about as similar as chalk and cheese. What made you take that fork in the road?

BW: It was a challenge, they hadn’t had a hit for quite a while and the brief was to get them one. Dennis Bryon who was the drummer in Amen Corner was now the drummer with them kept on to them to get rid of the orchestra and create more of a group sound. I was always as much, if not more interested in the sound and production of tracks than my actual performance so my aim was to try and create something new that people wouldn’t normally associate the Bee Gees with hence the heavy use of synths and the harder more groupy sound.

SB: You re-entered the Strawbs world 10 years later, 1983. I am assuming that was for the much talked about reunion, or am I wrong?

BW: I believe it was actually for the Cambridge Folk Festival and we carried on gigging.

For a decade I made my pilgrimage each year to Cambridge. It was my summer vacation. The festival ran Friday to Sunday, but hardened fans would arrive on Tuesday to get a choice camping spot! In a single weekend you would get to see live performances by the Who’s Who of the folk world.

SB: I have pondered at some length the question ‘who is Blue Weaver’? Or maybe I should ask ‘will the real Blue Weaver please stand up’? Do you have a favorite musical genre, a ‘comfort zone’ or is it more a case of every project is home?

BW: My aim is always to enhance what the artist/group does, my playing is always secondary to that and I always try to be sympathetic to the song. I am not a great keyboard player in the sense of Rick or Keith so I try and create and be part of a landscape where all is important rather than a portrait.

SB: What are you currently working on?

BW: I’m now a ‘Matron’ or something like (moved on to make room for young directors) that for the MPG (UK) Music Producers Guild and have been fighting for many years for more recognition and rights for producers. I’m in Worpswede close to Bremen at the moment and enjoying jamming at local sessions this is a great release for me as it is really helping to advance my playing. Imagine in nearly all the bands I ever played in once the song was recorded that’s the way it would have to be played every night. I’m also learning to play with jazz groups and develop more improvisational skills. I still have a relatively portable studio setup so still record with local musicians here and in Spain.

SB: Looking back at your career, and a very music rich career it has been, do you have any favorite period?

BW: All the bands I played with had special moments. Standouts most probably are First TOTP’s with Amen Corner, Mott On Broadway, Jive Talkin’ at No.1, SNF period obviously in fact it was hard to go wrong during my Bee Gees period.

SB: I am 56, and I have seen many changes in the music world. There is little doubt that my favorite decade was the 70’s. But the decade ended in a huge bust! Punk hit the scene, and to quote Dave Cousins “Overnight we were dinosaurs”. I have my own pet theory, the super groups had become too distant from the fans. Punk was more accessible, more approachable, even if it was totally bloody awful! Do you have any thoughts on this?

BW: At the time I thought most punk sounded awful but now I understand it a lot more and actually a lot of it sounds great especially when the band had a good producer. At the moment I think there is a lack of excitement in music. There was a time when you turned on the radio and felt something for every track you heard now it’s difficult to say that a track was awful most are just boring…

I do love ‘most are just boring’. How right Blue Weaver is.

Blue, thank you so much for taking time to talk with me, you have filled in another piece of the Strawbs puzzle.

For more information about Blue Weaver please check out here and here.

And readers, yet another installment in this series is underway, the wonderful Bass player John Ford will be joining me next time.

Simon Barrett

 

 

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