Sounds,  January, 26 1974

By Ray Telford

MOST OF the faces who crammed the big room at the back of The Black Swan in Sheffield last Sunday knew pretty well what kind of night they were in for with Dick and The Firemen up on stage doing their stuff.

Patto during their time together were always one of the best loved bands at the pub and Mike Patto decided to respond to the warming Sheffield vibe by rounding up a few musical mates and making a return to the gig "just for the loon" as Patto himself put it.

It also happened to be one of Mike’s last appearances in this country for a while at least. In a week’s time Spooky Tooth, who he joined recently, move to semi-residence in New York where Spooky will record an album and base future operations.

In fact Dick and The Firemen had played the Black Swan once before shortly after Patto split and the buzz over that particular gig hadn’t died easily and the landlord, a big good humoured Sheffield native, tells endless bawdy tales about the Patto gigs and the times when Joe Cocker and The Grease Band were socking it to ‘em way before the first hit record.

Working behind Patto on Sunday were Mel Collins saxes, Tim Hinkley organ, Zoot Money piano, Neil Hubbard guitar, Alan Spenner and Clive Griffiths bass guitars, and John Halsey and Ian Wallace drums, all playing the date for no reason other than getting the chance to have an obligation-free jam and because they knew the people out front had come to have a good time. The difference between this and most other gigs, as Neil Hubbard cheerfully pointed out, was vast in terms of personal satisfaction.

A hastily scribbled out programme minutes before the band went on stage proved ultimately to be rather inadequate. Patto and Money who put together the running order of numbers had underestimated the enthusiasm of the crowd who would have kept on demanding encores all night if time and the patience of the pub cleaners hadn’t ultimately forced the show to an end.

Musically, the gig was a long way off being anything near perfect, due partly to the loose construction of most of the material and partly because of the huge amount of ale the lads supped before going on stage. There were, though, numerous flashes of brilliant musicianship such as on their reggaed up version of Billy Stewart’s old classic "Sitting In The Park" which featured some nice jabbing keyboard playing from Hinkley and the dual bass work of Spanner and Griffiths kept up an attractive criss-cross rhythm.

On stage Mike Patto is normally a huge bundle of uncontrollable energy and Sunday was no exception. He stalked around the stage during solos jerking furiously like he was wired to the nearest wall socket and grinned like a maniac whenever his eye met with Zoot Money who sat stonefaced behind his piano and delivered a couple of nice blues standards midway through the set. The best number of the entire set was Alan Spenner’s brilliant interpretation of Dylan’s "New Morning" on which the entire band tore into a hard, funky groove with Spanner’s effortless bass kicking things along nicely.

The object of the gig had been fulfilled and the audience had collected what they came for. In retrospect Dick and The Firemen score’ heavily through the fact that there’s no mock seriousness about them. It was all free, uninhibited music being played by the very best of mates. Nobody pretended any different. RAY TELFORD.


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