John Ford of the Strawbs
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John Ford of the Strawbs

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Oct
15
John Ford of the Strawbs @ Port Washington Public Library - Lapham Meeting Ro

Port Washington, New York, USA

Port Washington, New York, USA

Aug
11
John Ford of the Strawbs @ The Keswick Theatre

Glenside, Pennsylvania, USA

Glenside, Pennsylvania, USA

Aug
01
John Ford of the Strawbs @ ROCK CON 2010 - The National Rock & Roll Celebrity Show @ Meadowlands Hotel & Conference Center

East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA

East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA

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Former Strawbs bassist John Ford, now residing in the states, has been quietly releasing home-made records for some time now. Having never lost the ability to write a memorable hook, Ford opens the flood gates on his latest offering serving up 12 slices of tasty treats that run the gamut of Pop-Rock. From the 60s styled Brit Pop of the fab “Still Waiting,” the Soft-Rock sway of “And I Love the Way,” to the neo-Rock-a-Billy of “We Always Rock and Roll,” every track on Big Hit in India demands repeat listening. This is a well thought out record having the flow of classic albums from yesteryear with production and sound quality to match (something that has been inconsistent on past recordings). On the arena-ready title track Ford bemoans I can’t get on the radio/Or on TV/They tell me I’m much too old/For this music scene only to suppress his laughter as he sings But I’m a big hit in India/That’s why they call out my name/Get out the mini skirts and the flowered shirts/San Francisco, G I Jane! If some programmers got savvy and started playing some of these infectious tunes Big Hit in India would be a big hit everywhere. - Michael A. Cimino - Senior Editor @ www.CottageViews.com


Sometimes it seems as though classic rock musicians come in only two varieties: Those who ride the coattails of their long-ago accomplishments, and those who dismiss their past successes entirely, insisting we focus exclusively upon what they’ve coaxed out of their creative stores in the past half hour.

John Ford falls into neither camp and, after my first few listens to his new album, Big Hit In India, I think I know why.

John certainly needs not look to the past to find musical sources of pride but, instead, his mastery of the classics allows him to bring us material that magically casts us back to the very best days of rock & roll. On this disc, you’ll find no remakes of Nice Legs or Part of the Union or covers of popular songs by other artists. What you will find is a CD filled with new and original compositions that somehow feel as comfortable from the first play as your tattered-covered copy of Dark Side of the Moon or The Beatles’ White Album. You’ll be tempted to sing along right from the start, until you realize you’ve never heard the song before.

This is an album for all three elements of the John Ford audience: The obsessed Strawbs fan who follows every path of every member in the band’s history, the John Ford fan who’s enjoyed his previous solo releases, or caught a rockin’ live performance and maybe, most of all, the basic classic rock fan.

Live or on record, it’s rare that you won’t find John paying homage to the British Rock Invasion in sound or song. Pop this CD into your player and you’ll hear the tongue-in-cheek title track, the story of an aging British rocker who suddenly finds himself a “big hit in India,” despite being unable to get on the radio or TV in his own country. Eastern musical influences, a stadium crowd cheering, and lyrics that catapult us back to the days of flower children and the maharishi leave the listener swaying and grinning simultaneously.

Poor Boy Running might just be my favorite song this year. Whether it’s because it’s a classic John Ford tune with an irresistible bouncy melody and vocals or because its lyrics eerily echo the feelings I had following my recent job loss after 29 years, I’m not sure, but I’ve been singing it now for 9 days.

Another classic Ford tune, Weird, is a haunting track, a sad tale of a dying love that would depress the hell out of me if it weren’t followed by the Barry Gibbesque And I Love the Way which is bursting with images of love, optimism and hope.

And I Love the Way marks the point on Big Hit in India when John’s love of classic British rock comes to the forefront. Suddenly it seems we’re visited by the aforementioned Barry Gibb, John Lennon, David Bowie, the Beatles and, in a nod to this side of the Pond, some good ol’ 50’s rock and roll.

Close your eyes, and John Lennon (joined by David Bowie), could be crooning Everybody Knows. Roy Orbison could have written Still Waiting and Dead in the Water and David Bowie might be singing lead on Paper Trail. You’ll swear it’s the Beatles on If I Wanted To.

It probably isn’t fair to John to praise Big Hit In India for bringing us songs that feel like some of our favorite rock legends have sent wonderful new music down from their infrequently-used studios or the heavens. We should be showering Ford, himself, with the credit for giving us a third decade of memorable music and lyrics, rather than comparing him to Lennon, Bowie and the Beatles.

Then again, knowing Ford’s love of rock & roll and its masters, he might even be flattered.
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Big Hit in India inspired me to talk to John about the album, to see what he’s been up to and to hear what other surprises he might have up his sleeve. He also spoke a bit about Strawbs, casting his mind back to reveal a few rather humorous stories from his days with the band:

JUDI: You seem to be having a good time, writing and recording your own music, as well as performing classic rock tunes and bringing unexpected excitement to acoustic versions of songs like Whiter Shade of Pale. What do you say to the purists who feel you're making a mistake performing other people's songs?

JOHN: Except for the Christmas albums, I generally only record my own stuff. In the case of Whiter Shade of Pale that was live. I do like having a go at other people’s songs at my shows, and I hope that I can bring some of my originality to them.

JUDI: Hot on the heels of "Big Hit in India," the title track of your newest album,
which appears to be about a rock musician generating interest in a far-away land, you've been invited to play a music festival in Norway. Was there any connection between that invitation and the song?

JOHN: No, not at all. The title came from a Korg Triton keyboard I was messing around with after my band had gone home one night. The sound was called Big Hit in India and almost immediately as I was playing, out popped the chorus. I mapped out the basic arrangement, did a quick demo and wrote the lyrics over a couple of weeks and refined the tune. The idea for the throwback to the sixties came during the writing. I was trying to fit in all these clichés without sounding corny.

JUDI: How did Flabby Road (John’s Beatles tribute duo) come about? Do you have plans to do further Flabby Road performances?

JOHN: There is a local singer that has McCartney’s range and plays a good bass. I tend to sing Lennon stuff, so the two of us worked well together without too much rehearsal for the first show some time ago. Much as I love the Beatles, and I do throw in one or two songs in my own shows, I felt uncomfortable by the end of the night doing just that so at the moment I am less than enthusiastic about following it up.

JUDI: You have plans to do a few shows with Ian Lloyd, formerly of Stories, who's best known in the U.S. for Brother Louie, a hit from the 70s. The first gig was on New Year’s Day at The Cutting Room, a New York City venue where Cousins/Cutler played in March. Why do you think the two of you are a good match and how did this double-bill develop?

JOHN: My manager, Jill Morrison, has been dealing with Ian for awhile now, I hadn’t heard his stuff before. I think he has a great voice and to do a double bill, we would complement each other’s work. He has a full band and I have the acoustic line up so it should be a good contrast.

JUDI: You rarely play New York City and seem to prefer venues on Long Island. Why is that?

JOHN: I don’t prefer the Island, it’s just what comes up. I have done solo, the Bottom Line, the Bitter End, the Lone Star and a slew of other clubs over the years.

JUDI: How is playing with your band different from your time with Strawbs?

JOHN: Well, in my band I am the leader. In the Strawbs, Dave Cousins is the leader. “There always has to be a leader,” as George Harrison wryly remarked, “and it was John Lennon in The Beatles--even though he was not there anymore he probably still was the leader,” which I thought was funny. The other big difference is I strum a guitar in my band and play the bass in the Strawbs, which I really enjoy doing in these reunions. My fondest memory with them is the first show I ever did comprising of Dave Cousins, Tony, Rick and myself. Hud couldn’t make it for that first show. I called Hud the next day and raved about how the audience applauded after every song, which was a total change from the Elmer Gantry band being total chaos and nobody really listening.

JUDI: Tell us about what's been inspiring you lately, in terms of songwriting. Does the dismal state of the world seep into your lyrics or are you an optimist?

JOHN: I am not an optimist; I tend to fear the worst. For this album, my main inspiration has been my manager Jill and my messy divorce.

JUDI: You have a beautiful fiancée who also happens to be your manager. Is it difficult to juggle a personal relationship and a business one?

JOHN: Yes!!!

JUDI: You've done two Christmas albums. You obviously love Christmastime. Describe this past Christmas morning at the Ford house.

JOHN: Still make the same old cup of tea. Stick on the telly and watch the Yule log. This year I was hoping for a TC Electronics Mastering machine for my studio, and of course my usual chocolate Santa. Cadbury’s of course. I got the chocolate Santa, but not the mastering machine.

JUDI: Tell us a bit about your son John. It must be a comfort, having experienced such tragedy in your life, to also experience such great joy with John not only being a lovely young man but also a talented musician. You and John almost seem like friends yet you are still dad! How do you balance that?

JOHN: He is a complete professional when on stage, and I worry more about whether myself or the other guys will mess up more than him, but at home he is a teenager who is messy, playing the guitar at four in the morning and constantly removing stuff from my recording studio, although any problems at home are forgotten on the night of the gig.

JUDI: You list New York and London on your MySpace site as being home. Give us some examples of what you like about each.

JOHN: I like Manhattan to visit, but I prefer suburbia, so Long Island suits me fine. When I lived in England I lived in Surrey which is southern England. I am a wherever-I-lay-my-hat sort of guy, even though I don’t wear one.

I do remember that Los Angeles made a great impression on me the first time we played there. Unlike British venues at the time where the dressing rooms might have had curly cheese sandwiches and a couple of beers if you were lucky, at the Whisky A Go Go we had plastic garbage cans full of Kentucky Fried Chicken and cold beers covered in ice. I thought this is the life for me!


JUDI: For the longest time, it seemed as if Strawbs almost "blamed" their lack of recognition on Part of the Union. In recent years, that seems to have changed with them actually performing it in certain situations, or joining in when you were performing with them. How did you feel about them singling out that song as a negative aspect of their history and what do you think accounts for the seeming change in attitude?

JOHN: I don’t know if there has been a change in attitude, but I don’t take offense either after all this time. I see where Dave is coming from on this and I said I understood why on the Bilston DVD interview. He was the main writer and my song ends up being the one everybody remembers by the masses and me singing it to boot. I know there is a legion of Part of the Union haters out there within the Strawbs fan base, but I can see where they are coming from too, considering Dave’s amazing songwriting output over the years. I personally think he is still doing some great stuff but Part of the Union is thirty years old and it is what it is and Dave has only himself to blame for picking it for Bursting at the Seams after hearing the demo!

JUDI: With you and John Hawken both living fairly close to each other (Long Island, NY vs. New Jersey), do you ever socialize or go to see each other's shows?

JOHN: Not really. We live too far away from each other, although he did sit in on piano with myself and my son a couple of years back for a Christmas show. He also came to my other son’s funeral some years ago for which I was very grateful.

JUDI: How do you feel about John's departure from the band?

JOHN: Considering he just had an operation, I thought he played amazingly at BB King’s club. Not being a current member of the band, I don’t feel I can comment about his departure, but I feel every keyboard player Dave Cousins has recruited has had their own important part in the history of the band.

JUDI: Among Witchwooders, almost as well known as Strawbs songs, are humorous Strawbs stories. Could you share with us an account of any lesser-known incident that occurred while you were a member of the band, on stage or off?

JOHN: In the early days, Dave Cousins used to own a British Morris Minor car with not much room inside. On the way to a show we strapped my Fender bass to the roof. Traveling at seventy miles an hour on the motorway, it blew off the roof, which Dave saw in his rear view mirror, and I ran back about a quarter of a mile to retrieve it. To our amazement it was undamaged and still in tune which it has been to this very day. Another time, whilst driving down to Brighton to a show with my girlfriend at the time, somebody rear-ended my Mini. I had to miss the show. Just for a laugh to compensate for the lack of a bass player they carried Richard Hudson on to the stage inside the sitar case which was as big as a coffin. When he got out, the audience didn’t even raise an eyebrow!!!

Other Strawbs stories…. On the ride home one night in our limousine (those were the days), we had a smash up. We had to wait around while we were picked up by a replacement, but none of us were hurt. When I got back to my girlfriend’s apartment I said “We’ve been in a big accident, I could have been killed.” She looked up and said “oh yeah?” and rolled over and went back to sleep.

In San Diego at the end of the tour, the band was breaking up. After much heated debate, Dave Cousins at some point afterwards got mad and threw a load of potted plants into the hotel swimming pool, creating a big mess with dirt and leaves floating around in the water. He told me afterwards that the hotel staff were all talking about this madman who did all this damage. Dave, obviously, kept a low profile for the rest of his stay.

We stayed at the same hotel as Led Zeppelin once, and they decided to have a party in my room. I remember being outside on the balcony with some girl and a lamp came whizzing through the open window down to street below. She said “What was that?” I said “It’s nothing!”

JUDI: If money, time and distance were no object, describe your idea of the ideal Strawbs celebration.

JOHN: You will have to ask Dave Cousins himself that one!

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- Interenet sies; including STRAWBS WEBSITE


Those of you unfortunate souls who weren't able to attend the John Ford show
at the Satalla on Wednesday night, really missed out!

John, as usual, performed a fabulous set with the help of his son, John Jr.,
on bass and Joe Cesare on guitar. I never saw John perform anything other
than solo sets, so to see John with accompaniment was a real treat!

The set performed was made up of both original songs and covers. Some of the original songs included "Love Is A Highway," "Kissed By The Sun," and the crowd favorite, "Nice Legs, Shame About The Face." The Beatles' "Rain" and John
Lennon's "Sometimes I Feel Like Going Down" were among the covers. John also performed two songs off his new CD "Whatever Happened to Christmas." One of
the songs being the Christmas classic, "I"ll Be Home for Christmas," and the other song, "Christmas Rendezvous," which is a John Ford original and a new favorite of mine! (It's just too good!!!)

John also performed some Strawbs' classics. Among them were "Witchwood,"
"Heavy Disguise," "New World," and "Part of the Union." Much to his surprise, John was joined on stage with Dave Cousins and Dave Lambert during the "Part Of The Union" finale. It was the perfect ending to such a fantastic evening!

Amanda Baughn - Internet sites


Discography

John Ford can be found on many Strawbs albums/compilations and Hudson Ford, The Monks, Elmer's Gantry's Velvet Opera, High Society, Herman's Hermits, Jaymes Fender & the Vulcans albums. Also, appearing on various DVDs and other projects not listed here.

John Ford Solo Discography:
1998 - Love Is A Highway (Whole Shot Records)
1999 – Blackmore’s Night Under A Violet Moon – on 'Wind In The Willows'
2000 - Heading For A High (Whole Shot Records)
2002 - Natural High (Whole Shot Records)
2005 - Backtracking (Whole Shot Records)
2005 - New World - Maxi-Single EP (Whole Shot Records)
2005 - What Ever Happened to Christmas (Whole Shot Records)
2006 - A Christmas Trilogy (Whole Shot Records)
2008 - Big Hit In India (Whole Shot Records)
2010 - Resurrected (post-production (Whole Shot Records)

Compilations:
1998 - Fox Lies Down: A Tribute To Genesis –“Carpet Crawlers” (Cleopatra Records)
2004 & 2008 - Rock 4 Xmas (Rock4Xmas Foundation)
2006 – The Witchwood Project – “All The Songs I Never Heard You Sing” from Heading for a High: Wholeshot Records (Witchwood Media)
2009 – Progressive Rock Hall of Fame: Soundscapes Vol 1 - “Big Hit In India” (PRHoF)
2009 – Timazine Fanzine Issue #4 w/Comp CD– “Big Hit In India” (Whole Shot Records)
and others

Photos

Bio

Originally known as a bass player, Ford joined the Strawbs his percussive bass style influence gave the British Folk/Bluegrass group new definition into the Rock genre, along with addition of Keyboard Mellotron extraordinaire, Rick Wakeman, who later joined YES. John Ford quickly became involved in songwriting which produced the bands #2 Chart hit - “Part of the Union,” lasting 59 weeks, Gold and Platinum Records and an Ivor Novello Award for songwriting. As well, Ford’s “Heavy Disguise,” and music for “Tears and Pavan,” written by Strawbs founding member Dave Cousins, brought the band more success and worldwide recognition, evolving into an Progressive Art Rock Arena band with many appearances on Top Of the Pops and other shows which can be found on YouTube. Ford eventually went on to form other projects, including Hudson Ford, High Society – a 30s style band; Pop-punk band, The Monks, with more Platinum hits, “Nice Legs Shame About The Face,” off Bad Habits and Suspended Animation. Ford went on to his own Solo Project, also working and recording with Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night in Blackmore’s Night after relocating to the US, and now a Long Island, NY resident. With his various projects, Ford has toured, headlined and shared the stage with legendary acts Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Ritchie Blackmore, Dave Mason, Ian Lloyd of Stories, Marc Bolan/T. Rex, Steppenwolf, The Eagles to name just a few.

John Ford has appeared on and recorded numerous albums and DVDs. Ford was voted 2009 Best Indie Rock Artist, and Strawbs are 2010 Inductees into Progressive Rock Hall of Fame. Ford’s ninth Solo release, Big Hit In India has gained critical acclaim. Currently, he is recording tracks for 2010 release, Resurrected, as well as, working on a new album release with Ian Lloyd of Stories.

John Ford is represented by Whole Shot Records & Mgmt - wholeshotrecords@gmail.com

www.myspace.com/johnfordofthestrawbs