When the Climax Blues Band Got it Right

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Our friends at CultureSonar “help grownups find cool music, film, TV, books, events, activities and other worthy things.” The website has allowed us to share its story on the Climax Blues Band. Enjoy!

Some bands spend their entire careers on the road, playing an endless number of gigs, and despite having a loyal following, never have a hit. Climax Blues Band, a British group that started out as a blues revivalist outfit, found themselves reaching the charts not once, but twice, with songs in genres that were a bit outside of their original musical style. The band was founded in England in 1967. The original lineup included Pete Haycock on guitar, bass and vocals, Derek Holt on guitar and vocals, Colin Cooper on vocals, saxophone and harmonica, Arthur Wood on keyboards, and George Newsome on drums.

The trio of Haycock, Holt, and Cooper was the backbone of the group through the early 1980s, along with later members John Cuffley on drums and Peter Filleul on keyboards. The band was originally called The Climax Chicago Blues Band, and their self-titled debut, released in 1969, featured blues classics such as Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Don’t Start Me Talkin” and Big Bill Broonzy’s “Mean Old World” mixed with originals penned by the band like “You’ve Been Drinking” and “Looking For My Baby.” The group later shortened its name to the Climax Blues Band, in order to avoid confusion with the popular U.S. band Chicago. Thanks to constant touring and excellent musical chops, Climax Blues Band built a strong reputation as a solid blues-based live act.

While working on their 1976 album Gold Plated, the group’s management advised them they “didn’t hear a hit” on the record. According to Pete Haycock, he came up with the basic idea for “Couldn’t Get It Right,” which was about the travails of traveling on the road while on tour in America. Haycock brought it to the band, and they worked on the track in the studio, crafting the arrangement and punching up the lyrics. The result was an infectious song with a memorable chorus, anchored by saxophonist Cooper’s low range vocal with Holt, Haycock, and Cuffley chiming in as well, while also providing some deep grooves and a touch of cowbell.

When it was released in the U.K. [on the BTM label], “Couldn’t Get It Right” went to number 10 on the charts. The band performed the song on two separate occasions on the popular series Top of The Pops. When it was released as a single in the U.S. [first by RCA Records, then by Sire], “Couldn’t Get It Right” rocketed up to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977, becoming one of those ubiquitous tunes you’d hear all over the place.

After the success of “Couldn’t Get It Right” the band continued to tour and provide high-energy live shows, featuring an eclectic mix of rock, blues, funk, and jazz. At this point, the band had strayed quite a ways from their blues-based roots.

Their next successful single would go even further afield. Guitarist Derek Holt had written the ballad “I Love You” about his wife and the positive feelings she inspired in him. When he presented the song to the band while they were working on their 1980 album Flying The Flag, the group felt it was a little too pop-oriented, and was reluctant to record it. The album’s producer, John Ryan, liked the song and encouraged the band to include it on the album, so Holt played bass and sang lead on the session, while John Cuffley provided drums and Pete Haycock added the distinctive guitar solo. Keyboard work was handled by the legendary Nicky Hopkins, who had played with The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and The Who, among other rock and roll notables.

While “I Love You” was very popular, and made it all the way to number 12 in the U.S. in 1981, the song ended up causing tensions within the band. Enjoying the story? We urge you to click here to finish reading it on CultureSonar.

Related: 10 1970s Classic Rock Songs You Won’t Forget

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  1. Baybluesman
    #1 Baybluesman 12 August, 2022, 17:31

    Climax Blues Band’s “F..M./Live” is (IMHO) is a classic L.P., that every true music fan should listen to (on a quality audio system).
    Even 50 years later, is still one of the most energetic and tightest live albums of all of blues/blues-rock ever released. (Pick up a copy, if you have any doubts).

    Their classic line-up of the mid-70s (Colin Cooper, Derek Holt, Peter Haycock, and John Cuffley; and Richard Jones, briefly) were all amazing musicians, as well as supporting vocals (listen to the harmonization on “I Am Constant”) put out a great run of albums (“F.M./Live”, “Sense of Direction”, “Stamp Album”, “Gold-Plated”, and “Shine On”) that meshed blues, rhythm and blues, rock, some ballads, and jazz influences, into the fiber of those albums.

    Peter Haycock was an extremely talented and innovative guitarist, under-appreciated by the general listening audience, but revered by his peers and guitar critics, along the same lines of another under-appreciated guitarist from that era, Jan Akkerman (Focus, and solo).

    Thanks for sharing this article – It is time, and long overdue, that the Climax Blues Band got some of the press they rightfully deserved, which they should have received many years ago.

    Support Live Music.

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