This Thursday a collective of highly talented local musicians, who all share a love and respect for the songwriting and huge musical catalogue of rock icon Neil Young, are coming together for a one-night-only concert at the Byron Theatre.
Rick Fenn, Matt Bone, Tony Narvo and Pete Wilkins will be joined on vocals by Ted Tilbrook, Julie Shanto Oliver, Guy Kachel, Colin Germano, Deide Vine, Ginny Cook, Jamie Ashforth and Chris Aronsten. They will recreate musical gold from across Neil Young’s varied recording and performing career, while opening up fresh avenues for interpretation.
The Echo spoke with pedigree rocker Rick Fenn about his musical path.
Rick, how did you first get introduced to music, or develop a passion that has led you to following the creative path? When I was about ten, my brother, who’s a couple of years older than I am, started playing drums in a school band. I used to plonk about on his guitarist’s shabby old Futurama. He was right-handed so I had to learn that way even though I’m a lefty. I got an acoustic guitar and kept hitting up his guitarist for pointers and licks. Like most kids in the 60s I was obsessed with rock guitar and set my sights.
How did you get together with the boys from 10cc? What do you think it was about that particular musical collaboration that clicked? I went on to play in various amateur bands till in 1976 the touring drummer of 10cc, Paul Burgess, sat in with the prog rock band I was in then called Gentlemen. He loved the band and about three months down the line, 10cc, who were a huge band at the time, went through a major upheaval and were recruiting. Paul played the guys the recordings of my band and they took me on board. Gentlemen were in their death throes at the time. It was an incredible break for me. The album Deceptive Bends was just being finished and we toured the world with that album in 1977 – including the band’s first visit to Australia.
What for you personally were the major triumphs for 10cc? I guess the biggest highs for me were on the Look Hear tour, which was the only tour where we played a song that I’d written and sung on the album of the same name. We were playing arenas and it was a real buzz.
With such an illustrious career, Rick, why do you chose to live here in Byron? When we first toured here in 77 I really loved the country. Moving here then was obviously out of the question, but it always sat on the backburner. We toured again in 83 but I first came to Byron touring with Rick Wakeman in the mid-80s. But the first time I really got to know Byron Bay was when I came over with my wife Heather and our new baby as guest of fellow Feramones guitarist Alan Limbrick, who I had played with professionally in the UK and who had just built a house here. I fell in love with the place. 10cc were very quiet at the time, and I just went for it.
How have things changed for the band over the years? How do you sustain the musical appetites of the band, and fans, with such distances between you all? The band went through other upheavals. Not long after Dreadlock Holiday topped the charts pretty well everywhere, Eric, our main lead singer, had a car accident and cracked his skull. We were put out of action for nearly a year and Eric never really came back to his old self. The band was tripped up at full gallop and we started down a slippery slope. Band politics took a swerve and over the next fifteen years or so, though I was always there on tours and albums, my position in the band became more a session musician. Eric finally quit – it was soon after that that I moved to Byron – and the rest of us hibernated for a while. But it’s just too much fun playing 10cc music. So with some new blood we re-launched into the new millennium. The others live in the UK. I have to travel a lot!
What are the musicians who have most influenced you? My heroes, in my formative years, were Hendrix, Cream, Jeff Beck. But I developed a taste for jazz and jazz fusion in my 20s. Now I love country rock, such as Bonnie Raitt and Ry Cooder. Steely Dan of course. And Prince. I love Prince.
What have been your most memorable gigs? For me, playing to a home crowd is a special feeling. Assuming the gig goes well, that is. So some of the London gigs, and of course Byron Bay Bluesfest. I really loved that gig. A lot of people in Byron knew me as 10cc’s guitarist, and it was great to show the band off. I’m really very proud of the band.
Who are the players here that you have the best musical connections with? One of the things I love about Byron is the extraordinary magnetic attraction it has for exponents of the arts. Some of the musicians this area boasts are phenomenal. I’m fortunate enough to have two old pro colleagues and friends from the UK living right here: Alan Limbrick and Alan Park. Both very fine players who have carried on the tradition of the Feramones that started in the UK. Feramones season starts again later this month. Through Greg Lyon, the band’s supreme bass player, I’ve been introduced to an amazing stable of players in this area: Jim Kelly, Steve Russell, Scott Hills to name but a few; Lisa Hunt and all her band. Being part of this musical community is an honour.
How do you feel about the music of Neil Young – what is it about his approach do you think was unique? No-one can deny the influence Neil Young has had on modern music. Like Dylan, he has a host of timeless songs to his name. I have great respect for that heritage.
What should we expect for the show at the Community Centre? Paddy Raleigh asked me to play guitar in the show and I’m really looking forward to it. Col Germano from the Feramones is singing some songs, as is Chris Aronsten and Jamie Ashforth, and also Shanto (more great local talent I’ve been lucky enough to have played with many times). And many more artists that I think will make for a show of rich variety. If I weren’t playing I would be going. Not to be missed.
Thursday at 7pm. Byron Theatre. This is a fundraiser for the restoration of the Byron Community Centre’s Steinway piano. Tickets can be purchased at the venue or online at byroncentre.com.au.
Find this and many other great gigs in Echonetdaily’s North Coast Gig Guide.