Released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the ‘Summer of Love’ phenomenon, High Flying Around: Memories of the 1960’s Leicester Music Scene tells the story of this remarkable chapter of Leicester’s social history via the people that were there. The book includes previously unpublished photographs, offering a slice of social and music history that is still within living memory, most of which has never been told before.
The inspiration for writing the book was to record memories of the 1960’s music scene in Leicester before it was too late. “One hears about how great Manchester, Liverpool and London was but the music scene in Leicester during this period was fantastic”, said author, Shaun Knapp. “There were some great bands around and venues galore for them to play in. Some of the characters that were around during this time however have now sadly passed away and most of the venues have either disappeared or been converted into something completely different. The Il Rondo for example, which played host to The Who, Cream, King Crimson, Howlin’ Wolf and The Action to name but a few, is now a restaurant. It’s really quite sad, people walk past these innocuous looking buildings on a daily basis, completely oblivious to their history and the exciting, positive impact they had on young people’s lives during the 1960s.”
The book tells the story in two parts – firstly via Legay, a hugely popular Leicester mod/psychedelic band whose fan base encompassed the East Midlands. Including interviews with band members, roadies, agents, fans and fellow musicians, the book chronicles how Legay performed to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, supported The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van der Graaf Generator and The Moody Blues, played in Sweden and influenced other bands including Diesel Park West.
The second part of the book, Brief Encounters, offers the reader a nostalgic romp down memory lane as it tells the story of other Leicester bands including Pesky Gee!, Hal C Blake, The Farinas, and Family, all told by the band members themselves. Readers will discover the life of a Leicester mod, the intricacies of making your own clothes, the story behind Klock Agency and Circa Design and how the local 60’s music scene influenced two Leicester musicians, John Butler and Kenny Wilson. Finally, the book re-visits four of Leicester’s most iconic venues – The Il Rondo, The Palais, The White Cat Café and the Nite Owl.
The book’s foreword, by Dr Su Barton, offers a fascinating insight on the social DNA of Leicester during the 1960s and how it affected the young people of the day.
Colin Hyde, East Midlands Oral History Archive, University of Leicester, said: “The history of post-war popular music in Leicester covers a wide range of performers, organisers, venues, and musical styles and fashions. From the Dallas Boys to Kasabian, and everyone in between, groups and individuals from Leicester have made their mark on the world. In particular, the 1960s was a fascinating decade, and the story of this period is one that is only just beginning to be told. A few people have recorded their memories in autobiographies, online blogs or oral histories; one or two articles have appeared in history books about Leicester. An in-depth look at the 1960s has been long overdue. Until now. Shaun Knapp’s book is the first that looks at the life and times of a 1960s Leicester band, the group ‘Legay’, and also includes general memories of the Leicester music scene, including the many venues that sprang up specifically to cater for the new demands of young people. This book is a valuable addition to the literature about the recent history of Leicester. If it inspires people to record memories of the music scene in other periods it will prove to be even more important.”
Dr Su Barton said: “This book is about some of the young people of Leicester around half a century ago but it could be part of the story of any British town. Although none of them realised it at the time, they really were an amazing bunch. Their rebellion – in lifestyle, music, fashion, politics and aspiration – really did change not only Leicester but, together with others of their generation, the wider world forever. Life was fresh, exciting and different to that of earlier generations.”
Robin Pizer, Legay guitarist, said: “We just had so much fun we thought this is going to happen, regardless. We had no leader and were very insular, it was almost like a marriage. Maybe if one of us had been a leader, things might have been different. All in all, I look at it as a bit of a mixed blessing we didn’t make it because I think some of us wouldn’t be here now if we had been successful.”
Mick Pini, Leicester Blues guitarist, said: “This book really captures the essence of the music scene in the city during the 60s, both from a musician and fan perspective, and it’s fantastic that it’s finally been recorded for generations to come. I remember how sociable we were as a generation and the book clearly demonstrates that. There were no Apps to download in those days to organise a night out, we just used to talk to each other, it was all done via word of mouth. It was a lot more exciting than knowing where you were going, it was fun and so unpredictable.”
High Flying Around: Memories of the 1960’s Leicester Music Scene by Shaun Knapp is due to be published in August 2017 by JMD Media and will cost £14.99. Available from bookshops and the Visit Leicester Information Centre on Gallowtree Gate. For further information, please visit www.facebook.com/HighFlyingAround