Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Dawn of Fruupp


To celebrate the release of Maid in Ireland, a new Fruupp compilation released on 24.07.20 by those good people at Esoteric Records, I include below a piece I did on the origins of Fruupp as part of the sleeve notes for the new CD. This is the first Fruupp complication to feature the remastered versions of the songs which were undertaken for the 2010 re-releases of the original four albums. The Dawn of Fruupp is included here by kind permission of Esoteric Records.

I met Vince McCusker in September 1964 when I moved from the Intermediate School in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, fifty yards back towards the town centre, to the Technical College. Vince was from the neighbouring village of Maghera and he played guitar. At that point I was into Ray Charles, Hank William, Otis Redding, Beatles, Kinks, Them and Dylan. Vince was more of a Rolling Stones fan and into RnB. I imagine through our shared interest of both music and the beautiful girls of the Tech College we became mates and good friends. 

For the annual college Christmas concert, in 1965, we formed a wee group called Goggles Anonymous – we all wore glasses and Hedgehoppers Anonymous were enjoying the first and only flush of UK chart success at that time. I still can’t remember exactly my (non-performing) involvement in the group bar the fact that I owned a copy of the Beach Boys Sloop John B, the song Goggles Anonymous performed at the concert. Anyway, on the appointed night, I do remember a lot of screaming from the audience. Either the audience were screaming as they had seen people do on TV to the Beatles, or, they were screaming in horror at the harmonies. I’m prepared to give GA the benefit of the doubt on that one. 

Christmas over, Vince and three of his mates from Maghera and one of their mates from The Rainey School, formed a group called the Blues by Five. There were five of them and they played their version of the Blues.

Things were so simple in those days.

The Blues by Five’s material was based on the Them Again album, Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, Ray Charles and songs from a compilation called, Ireland’s Greatest Sounds. I went to hear the group. They were excellent musicians, had a great sound, and they had Paddy Shaw, one of the best singers I’ve ever witnessed live. The remaining Northern Irish singers in my Top 4 would have been: Paul DiVito (The Interns) Billy Brown (The Freshmen) and Van Morrison (Them).

The Blues by Five rehearsed a lot but didn’t play many gigs. Luckily enough a fine gentleman by the name Dixie Kerr lived two doors down from me. Dixie played saxophone in The Breakaways showband. So, I knocked on his door and asked if he could give the Blues by Five the relief spot at some of the dances The Breakaways were playing. Dixie being Dixie said, “Why of course.” 

The Blues by Five were delighted at the several bookings I’d secured for them and immediately appointed me as their manager. I was 15 years old at the time. The Blues by Five were to be Vince and my first steps in the music business. 

I left Magherafelt in Sept 1967 (quite literally) to head to London so that I’d be able to see the Beatles live on a weekly basis.

Or so I thought.

In those days it took a long while for the buzz on the biz to reach Ulster. I arrived at Euston Station only to discover the Beatles had stopped touring a few months previously. 

Not to worry, sure weren’t there lots of other groups to see and hear. Pretty soon I was a regular at the Marquee Club and writing a weekly music column for Belfast’s City Week which eventually became Thursday Magazine. 

Vince started to visit London and would always crash at my flat in Wimbledon. He’d work late into the night on a bunch of songs he was writing for a group he was thinking of forming back in Belfast.  

I thought these songs, Decision, Garden Lady, and Olde Tyme Future, were brilliant. Vince’s main concern was he felt that they might be a wee bit too progressive for the Irish Market.  

So, we hatched our plan. Vince would return to Belfast and form his new group. I would set up a few gigs for them in London and I would bring some managers and record companies down to see them. They, Fruupp, would get signed up, go on to fame and fortune and I’d happily continue with my writing. Sadly, it didn’t really happen that way and so, by default, I became the manager, the agent, the roadie, the sound engineer, the lyricist, the writer of the stories that linked the songs on stage, and… the last one to be paid.  

Fifty years later they’re selling more CDs than they ever did back in the day! (a clue to this phenomenon might just be that CDs didn’t come along until the mid-1980s!) 

Which all brings us nicely to our latest collection, Maid In Ireland. Maid in Ireland was a title we had picked and reserved for a live album, should we ever do one. And we did.  Well at least we recorded one. We recorded the band at the legendary Friars Aylesbury, on Sat 6th December 1975. Sadly, the tapes, along with all my worldly possessions, were destroyed by a fire in my flat in Peckham the follow year.

I believe the title also covers this selection perfectly. Peter Farrelly’s wonderful Fruupp’s Face on the cover was ever present in everything we did. As it was when I was listening to the songs for this collection. 

Prince of Heaven is unique for two reasons in that this song, a synopsis if you will, of the story I wrote to be the basis for our third album, The Prince of Heaven’s Eyes, didn’t appear on the actual album. It is also the only Fruupp song written and composed by the four original members of the group. 

The idea for Sheba’s Song came from a news story I read in The Daily Mirror about a wild cat’s escape from a zoo. I just love what the band did with the chase and capture sections of the song. Musically it’s always been so visual to me. I’ve often wondered what rap artist Talib Kweli heard when he first came upon the track and decided to sample it for Soon the New Day, a line (taken from the original lyric) he used for his title. I found it very refreshing that Talib and his people were very generous to us with credits and publishing.    

“Another day begins the same 

The things you do you’ll do again.”  

Two lines from Ivan “Touche” Valley’s beautiful poem, which was the inspiration behind Vince’s song, Decision. I always found Vince’s music to be passionately visual and that he should have been writing music for films. Decision has to be included in any Fruupp collection as it really is the best of Fruupp 

Until the next time, 

stay safe. 



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