What's On May 2018'Our music dream has come true ... after half a century'

June 29 2018
'Our music dream has come true ... after half a century'

A BRISTOL band from the 1960s have finally achieved their dream of getting their music released by a record label thanks to a chance meeting in a pawn shop.

Ian Gane, 74, of Downend, sang and played guitar with rock and roll and surf music band The Cobras from 1962 until 1975.

It was always the band's dream to win a recording contract but, despite their natural talent and popularity, competition from other bands at the time was too strong.

But 50 years on the public has the chance to buy their distinctive and foot tapping music.

The story unfolded last year when Ian was in a pawn shop looking at second hand guitars and a man, called Mike Salter, approached him to ask if he played the instrument.

They got talking about music and Ian mentioned his old band The Cobras and said that he still had their recordings on original reel-to-reel tape.

The man turned out to be a friend of Mike Darby, the owner of Bristol Archive Records, a label specialising in releasing music by Bristol area bands from the past.

Mike had been told that no recordings of local 60s bands existed so when he was presented with a package of tapes along with photos and press articles he was flabbergasted and immediately said he wanted to release their music.

Now 14 tracks have been remastered from the original tapes, and a CD and digital download will be released at the end of June.

The CD boasts 10 covers, including Gene Pitney's Hello Mary-Lou, The Shadows' Theme for Young Lovers and Too Much Monkey Business by Chuck Berry as well as four original Cobras' songs including two surf-based instrumentals, Hanging Ten and Goulash.

The Cobras were named after the legendary Shelby Cobra racing car and the line 'Hey little cobra getting ready to strike' from The Rip Chords' US hit, Hey Little Cobra.

The band turned their back on the music their parents listened to such as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby and found something they, as teenagers, could identify with - rock and roll.

As well as performing covers of hits from the likes of Chuck Berry, Gene Pitney, Bruce Welch, Little Richard, Duane Eddy and Lee Hazelwood, The Cobras also performed their own music.

Luckily they had the foresight to record for posterity many of their practice sessions, live performances, and very limited self-financed studio time. 

The original band consisted of Ian on lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Paul Mitchell, lead guitar; Pete Relton, bass guitar and backing vocals, and John Williams on drums.

Apart from John, who came from Long Ashton, Ian, Paul and Pete all originally came from Shirehampton. Ian and Paul met at St Mary’s Church youth club in Shirehampton and struck up a friendship over their love of listening to American short wave radio stations. This got them hooked on instrumentals and artists like The Fireballs, Dick Dale, The Beach Boys and surf music in general. 

As they both played guitar they started to play and record their own versions of instrumental hits for their own amusement at Ian’s parents' flat. 

As they progressed they advertised locally for a bass player and Pete, a devout Shadows fan, joined in late 1962.

Rehearsals moved to St Peter’s youth club in Lawrence Weston and, as gigs were being offered, they advertised for a drummer and were joined by John Williams, then aged 14. 

The Cobras played many local gigs, with set lists mixing both instrumentals and vocals, until 1968 when Ian got married.

Ian, Paul and Pete got together again in 1975 for a session at Mafeking Hall in Pilning on the outskirts of Bristol. 

For the technically minded, Ian played a Watkins Rapier 44; Paul played a Hofner V3 – along with Ian through a Selmer  20 watt amp with spring reverb; Pete played a Vox Clubman single pick-up short scale bass with tape wound strings, through a Linear Concord 30 watt amp. John’s drums are unknown.

Sadly, not all the original line-up are alive to see their dreams realised - Paul died in 2012 after battling Alzheimer's disease.

Ian, a former quantity surveyor who also spent seven years working in the music industry for EMI and RCA, said: "Tracks 5,6,7,9 and 12 were recorded in 1962 when guitarist Paul Mitchell was still only 14 and when you listen to his playing you'll realise how good he was."

Ian, who is married with two children and five grandchildren, still meets up with Pete about once a month to play music, although the whereabouts of John is unknown.

"The Cobras were never going to topple The Shadows from their exalted position, but with a little bit of luck, encouragement and guidance who knows what we might have achieved.

"The CD should appeal to anyone who likes rock and roll and can remember going to see bands in church halls and youth clubs in Bristol in the 1960s.

"It should also go down well with anyone who likes guitar instrumental music like The Ventures or The Shadows. My favourite from the CD is 3.30 Blues, which is our version of the Duane Eddy track.

"As a band we had always hoped to get signed by a record label. In fact, the first two tracks on the CD were part of a demo tape that we sent to Pye Records but nothing materialised. We were never in the right place at the right time but fortunately, 50-odd years later, I was! It just goes to show that the dream The Cobras had as a young band has finally come true."

The Striking Sound of The Cobras is released on CD and digital download on June 29 via Bristol Archive Records and Amazon.

Visit www.bristolarchive