Spiggy Topes – Aberdeen band

 

Spiggy Topes were originally a Thurso band that formed in 1969 as Roger Niven, Graham Walker, and Johnny Gray were looking for new when Thurso vocalist Dennis Thompson was unable to tour with the group.  As Spiggy Topes was established, journalist Bill Mowat who became their manager [former bass guitarist for Blues Union] introduced them to Marek Kluczynski, a butcher in Inverness who was also an amateur musician, singing with local bands in his spare time. Recognizing his talent, Bill Mowat encouraged Marek to pursue music as the band were developing a unique style of progressive rock. Marek quickly became an asset to the newly formed group with his “strong and distinctive voice and his instrumental ability” that played a large part in the groups sound.   Marek went on to form a song writing partnership with Johnny Gray that was later employed for Chris Bennett’s “Revolution” album. Lead guitarist Roger Niven who later joined the Gullum Underdogs when Johnny Sutherland moved on as a soloist, said that after working with the Opium Trail [1967], Gail Force [1967-68], and The Thought Criminals [1968], he became part of Spiggy Topes before STopes relocated to Aberdeen [from Thurso] whilst Graham Walker began studies at University of Aberdeen.  Drummer Graham, busy with studies, soon left the STopes and the new line up became Marek Kluczynski, Johnny Gray, Arthur Farrel, and Korky Weir on drums.  Living together in small quarters in Aberdeen, the boys were performing regularly between the north of England and throughout Scotland. With manager Bill Mowat’s help, Spiggy Topes also went to London to record four demo records through Bill’s connections. Years later, three  of the songs materialized in the unauthorized collection called “Dustbin Full Of Rubbish” after they were found in a yard sale for 10 pence each. They wrote or arranged the tunes they covered and were innovative in creating their unique sound. Twenty five years after the band split up, three out of four of their songs were published in the compilation album “Dustbin Full Of Rubbish” of British “golden age of pop” acts. “The London studio which recorded them had a clear out” and American recording executive Dave Brown found them at a boot sale while visiting England. Two songs were taped in Grampian Records Studio in Wick [1969] and the others in London. “Songs recorded [1969] as I remember were My Sunday Feeling , Come away Melinda, Communication Breakdown and an original of Marek’s” Below are the three tunes included on the compilation album:
Come Away Melinda – Spiggy Topes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIYd0JtCtsY
Love Is In The Wind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNcmoqBs08g
My Only Chance Is You https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWbc_uqsc9A

 

Thought Criminals [1968] were before Spiggy Topes

Spiggy Topes with Dennis Thompson

 

Spiggy Topes gain popularity in Edinburgh

 

Spiggy Topes arranged and performed several cover tunes in performances besides original compositions

Spiggy Topes recording in London

 

 

Graham Walker, and Johnny Gray of Spiggy Topes got into the music scene performing with John Sutherland [JOHN GEORGE  ‘J Fats’ SUTHERLAND, b. 22.08.1944 Thurso, Caithness,  d. 08.12.11 Aberdeen]. Peter Innes, author of FIT LIKE, New York? [1997] refered to Johnny Sutherland as “the founding father of Northern rock music” and described Caithness where he earned his chops, as “the remotest community on the UK mainland”. Johnny Sutherland founded various bands in the area, including “The Jam” with Johnny Gray and Graham Walker”. John “J Fats” Sutherland w/Graham Walker on drums: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kq-5uiEHCkQ.  In 1968, Roger, Graham, and Johnny Gray of Thurso, formed Spiggy Topes along with vocalist Dennis Thomson. Because Dennis wasn’t able to travel with the band for gigs, he was soon replaced by Marek Kluczynski of Inverness through their manager Bill Mowat’s introduction.

In 1967, Roger and Graham played together as part of The Opium Trail” http://rgcgraphics.com/OPTrail2/Local%20Publish/BackGround/background.html before forming Spiggy Topes with Johnny Gray and Dennis Thomson.

Innes describes how the area the construction of Dounreay nuclear research facility became a catalyst for local rock music when 30,000 construction workers were set up to complete the job. The first local rock & roll band was The Rhythm Four with Johnny Curran who came up to make bread for the expanding populous. Dave and Bill Fehilly, site painters from Glasgow “abandoned their Dounreay work to establish Glasgow Dance Promotions” and promoted American rocker Gene Vincent, besides British acts including Alex Harvey Band and Nazareth.John Sutherland obituary: http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Caithness-musician-hailed-as-an-inspiration-and-a-living-legend-14122011.htm

In 1969, Graham  left Thurso to attend the University of Aberdeen so the rest of the band moved into a mobile home in Aberdeen to continue gigging. In 1971, the band was renamed “Rebellion” after they relocated to London to work on an LP with Cliff Bennett.

 

Transplant [Glasgow] was a popular Scottish music magazine by late 1960’s featuring various Scottish pop bands on the go. Their manager was Bill Mowat who helped them with London connections [including recording time in Tin Pan Alley] though AA Bonici offered them gigs around the north of Scotland. Transplant cover [June 1970] included an advert for Spiggy Topes as they were to perform in Glasgow with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and other popular bands in the UK. Unfortunately, the promoter canceled the program in the last moment.

Albert Bonici’s LCB Agency managed/promoted Spiggy Topes and My Dear Watson [aka CopyCats] in Transplant magazine.

The band played various gigs around Scotland and the north of England before they went to London to record with Cliff Bennett.

Roger Niven and Graham Walker had already left Spiggy Topes when they were living in Aberdeen and doing various gigs. Two vans were hired for the Christmas 1970 tour around the north of Scotland arranged by LCB Agency. They went as far north as Thurso where the original line-up was formed accompanied by My Dear Watson who were promoting new singles. In 1970, the band members consisted of Roger Niven (guitar), Johnny Gray (bass), Graham Walker on drums), Dennis Thomson (vocals), Marek Kluczynski (vocals, flute, harmonica), Derek “Corky” Weir (drums), Arthur Farrel (guitar). Bill Dalgarno worked in the offices of LCB Agency with Albert Bonici and John Ruggeri who went on tour with the bands to manage the gigs. Wick and Nairn were two of the locations that the agency supplied with a steady flow of performers.

 

Spiggy Topes were living in the north of England before settling in Aberdeen as a band in 1969. They were regionally popular among the beat fans and those heard their demo records aired BBC Radio 1. Years later the three songs were released on a compilation album, “Dustbin Full Of Rubbish” as recordings were purchased for pennies a yard sale.

In a recent phone conversation, Marek Kluczynski related that it was financially difficult trying to make it in the music business and took conventional work while living in London. Before the London recordings for Cliff Bennett’s Rebellion LP, Spiggy Topes members were living together in a mobile home in Aberdeen whilst performing regularly between Scotland and the north of England. The music scene was thriving and there were plenty of places to play to young fans out to dance and see the new bands on the go. Marek’s younger brother Mark came up from Dundee to help out as their roadie.

Spiggy Topes on stage [circa 1970?]

“The band’s big break was when they went down to London in 1971 to record as the back up band for Cliff Bennett who was under contract with American company CBS”  “Fit Like, New York?” [Peter Innes – 1997]  Arthur Farrel, not wanting to relocate to London, returned to his home in Glasgow when Spiggy Topes [whose name changed to Rebellion under Bennett] developed tracks for the Rebellion album. Marek and Johnny Gray worked fast to develop a set of tunes bouncing ideas off each other. After the LP was complete, Marek left the music scene as the new group was shifting away from the progressive style of Spiggy Topes favoring a bluesy one under Bennett.

Rebellion LP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7rO9X4rjeA  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01PNnons-vo Note: “The album is loaded with originals that are mostly the work of bassist John Gray and flautist Marek Kluczynski, who do a decent job of supplying generic soul-rock templates through with Bennett can show off his singing and elevate their work.”  http://bordeldorock.blogspot.com.br

Cliff Bennett’s Rebellion band including former members of Spiggy Topes [composers Johnny Gray and Marek Kluczynski left of Cliff Bennett] and Korky on far right

Smiggy, Johnny Gray, Derek Weir ( Korky ), Cliff Bennett and Marek Kluczynski [front row sitting].

Toe Fat was Cliff Bennett’s band before “Rebellion”.

 Cliff Bennett’s current band was Toe Fat but manager Clifford Davies suggested a new line-up. Bennett attempted to replace drummer Lee Kerslake with Spiggy Topes’ Derek “Korky” Weir but Korky’s answer was “No. way. You take us as a package, all or nothing”. Marek became second singer and the group was expected to relocate to London. Arthur Ferral quit as Spiggy Topes relocated to London as the Rebellion band was formed and bought himself a taxi-cab in Glasgow. He was replaced by lead guitarist Robert “Smiggy” Smith. Meanwhile, former guitarist Ken Hensley and drummer Kerslake [of Toe Fat] became part of Uriah Heep. Lead singer Cliff Bennett, was looking for a keyboardist for the changing line-up and added Belfast born keyboardist Lou Martin who was living in London as Marek left Rebellion.  Though the Rebellion album sold under 9,000 albums and members of Spiggy Topes  had disbanded, Mareks’s brother Mick stayed on under Clifford Davies management for seven years and went on to become road manager for The Pink Floyd through connections made.

Notes: After recording the Rebellion LP, band members including Marek and John Gray were invited to record under Dandylion Music who offering to buy off their contracts for £250. As fate would have it, secretaries for the record companies got in an argument during negotiations and the opportunity didn’t go forward. In summer of 1972, they formed a new band called “Summer” which only lasted about that long. *notes from a recent interview with Marek Kluczynski

Marek

Marek [Inverness, Scotland 2017]

Johnny Gray [2017]

Korky Weir on guitar

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“Spiggy Topes were originally guitarist Roger Niven, Thurso, who later co-founded ‘Wolfstone’; Johnny Gray, Thurso (brother of Caithness amateur football successful manager Duncan and Inverness’s current Lord Provost Councillor Jimmy; has a had life-time career in live music; and drummer Graham Walker, also Thurso, who subsequently played on stage with blues legends incl BB King and is a successful session-man in London of several decades experience and was/is also member of Gary Moore’s Midnight Blues Band, with record sales over 5 million. Gray also later played with an ex-Thin Lizzy musician; Brian Robertson.  Marek from Inverness replaced Dennis Thomson, Thurso, who did not want to turn full-time. As well as singing, Marek played flute, harmonica and sax on stage with band. http://forum.caithness.org/showthread.php?69697-More-On-Mick-Kluczynski-obituary  Note: following obituary is about Spiggy Topes/Pink Floyd road manager Mick who died suddenly in Feb/2009 from a heart attack. He was the brother of Marek.  http://www.brain-damage.co.uk/obituaries/marek-mick-kluczynski.html

Spiggy Topes tunes were part of a “boot-legged” American LP called ‘Dustbin Full of Rubbish’ and concept idea dating back to Alan Lomax’s search for American ‘blues roots’ performers in jails, slums in the Deep (still segregated) South in 1940s/50s (incl Robert Johnston as in ‘Crossroads’)”.

Graham Walker [drummer] later joined Blodwyn Pig and has collaborated with Roger Niven http://circusfm.com/ Roger Niven on guitar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkzFldHyBB8

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blodwyn_Pig https://www.spincds.com/the-basement-tapes-lies-2cd

 

Graham Walker and Roger Niven circa 1967 [below] 1967 photos from: http://rgcgraphics.com/OPTrail2/background.html [read more about the Opium Trail]

Graham Walker

Above: Roger Nivan with Opium Trail and a recent one with guitar

Graham Walker who continued his music career with Blodwyn Pig, was still working with Spiggy Topes during his university days. He was replaced by drummer Derek “Korky” Weir before manager Bill Mowat arranged recording time on Denmark Street “Tin Pan Alley”London.

“Graham was the drummer in The Web, The Fragments, The Opium Trail,  Gale Force 8, The Jam, Spiggy Topes and Gollum the Underdog from 1965 to 1970. He then went to London with A Million People and became a session man of note through the eighties. He achieved international recognition for his drumming with the Gary Moore Band in the nineties and has sessions for Mick Jagger, George Harrison and Whitesnake as well as many others of note.” http://forum.caithness.org/showthread.php?17099-Graham-Walker

Below, Peter Innes “Fit Like, New York” https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fit-Like-New-York-Irreverent/dp/1901300021 excerpt from his book:

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About

My research began in 2007 as a visitor to the north of Scotland. In the early 1950s, Albert Bonici began promoting dances though it had been an ambition since his teenage years. When he and Henry Robertson co-organized a string of jazz dances in the north Scotland, they could not have predicted the enormous success of the venture. Albert Bonici became one of the most respected promoters in the UK having arranged a high volumn of music venues throughout the north of Scotland which delighted music lovers during the height of the jazz and beat music era. Whilst known for booking the Beatles at the beginning of their 1963 tours, Albert Bonici brought most of the top British acts to north-east Scotland besides working with Scottish musicians to boost their careers. SCOTBEAT was created to share a bit of history about the BEAT years in Scotland and also a tribute to a man with a vision who, with the help of his family and staff, created a happening that is still fondly remembered by those who attended dances and concerts. Albert A Bonici hosted many up and coming bands who went on to gain international acclaim for their contributions. Besides other local resources and interviews, SCOTBEAT presents exclusive photos, adverts, and documents from the A Bonici Archives [circa 1960s]. Unless otherwise agreed, materials are not to be used for financial gain and ask that you respect the terms below. Materials presented are not to be used for financial gain without consent. © 2014-2019 SCOTBEAT.wordpress.com. All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be copied, redistributed, broadcast or published in any form without crediting this blog and/or copyright websites mentioned. All correspondence, flyers, programs, and photos from the Bonici Archives are not to appear in print other than through the propietor of SCOTBEAT. Use of the site signifies your agreement to all of these terms without condition. Please reference https://scotbeat.wordpress.com when sharing materials found here as the site is continuously updated to present the subject matter accurately and as a historical resource. Thank you.

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Posted in 1960's pop music

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