Welcome to the latest JK Newsletter, those of you who have joined this year probably think I forgot to put you on the list as this is the first Newsletter you have received, well don’t worry, you haven’t missed any, this is the only newsletter there has been this year. As some of you are aware, I have been suffering poor health these past few years and this one has been difficult for me and as a result I haven’t been able to do most of the things I should like including updating the JK website.
By the time you receive this Jonathan should be back from his holiday in Portugal with his wife Lexi, hopefully he will feel rested and refreshed, thought rested isn’t really a word that suits him as he is always on the go and doesn’t sleep well. Apparently on Holiday, Lexi goes to bed and sleeps soundly but Jonathan can be found on the veranda at Dawn, guitar in hand writing songs, some he remembers, many just float in and float out again. He may not be touring or recording but music is in his blood and he can’t help but write songs.
Thinking back over a year I’m trying to remember all that has occurred, not easy as I get older and the grey matter doesn’t work as well. But here goes.
As you will know, this may this year saw the death of Robin Gibb. Robin was a supporter of Jonathan and it was sad to hear the news. The connection between him and Jonathan goes back to when Jonathan first came to England. Jonathan was playing in a restaurant when Colin Petersen who was the Bee Gees drummer, heard him playing and became his manager. Robin would help in various ways and I have heard that some of Robin’s Acetates have surfaced with Jonathan on the B Side because he would share facilities with him, I am presuming that the studio time and acetate fees probably went down as a Bee Gees expense, thought I can’t be certain. When Jonathan recorded his single ‘Make A Stranger your friend’€¯ Robin was at the session helping out, however he was allegedly forbidden to take part in the recording by the Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood. In newspaper photographs of the recording session which can be seen on the JK site, there is one person with their back to the camera with his hand over his ear, it is said this is Robin & several sources have conformed this. I had always hoped to interview Robin at some point to ask him about his recollections of working with Jonathan, but I never did get to speak to him.
As I have mentioned in previous Newsletters Jonathan & Brain worked together in the past. A quick search on Google will show results for a song called ‘Fork In The road’ that they recorded together in the 1980’s. I’m afraid that’s rubbish. The song was recorded back in the early 1970’s. The connection between them is that before they changed their name to Queen they were called SMILE and their lead vocalist was Tim Staffell who left them to Join Jonathan and Freddie Mercury replaced him, it would be easy to say that in light of their later success Tim made a mistake, but I’m sure much of their success was down to Freddie Mercury. This year I managed to contact Brian who thought that we had the original tapes for the session with Jonathan, I informed him we didn’t and it’s location is unknown. However I researched the studio where it is said to have been recorded and there was mention of a skip being seen outside full of hundreds of tape that were dumped, so it’s highly likely that these tapes were among them, though of course I live in hope that they might surface. However Brian does have acetate copies, two discs that I understand contains four tracks, which includes Fork In The Road.
For those who don’t know, acetates were recordings made at the studio on a machine, they look like normal records, but they are soft and wear out quickly when played and the sound quality isn’t perfect. They were produced so that the artist could take home a copy to review his days work. Strictly speaking these acetates should I suppose belong to Jonathan because he will have paid for the studio time, all fees and for the acetates to be produced, but as they say, possession is 9/10ths of the law and of course they would be of great interest to Queen collectors and as they may be worth between £10,000 and £30,000 Brian does not wish to part with them, although why he would not accept the £10 I offered him is a mystery, I mean cash in hand, some people have no sense. Brian has offered to get the Acetates transferred and restored as much as possible and to let Jonathan have copies on CD. The last I heard was that he had sent them to his own boffins to work on, I’ll let you know of any developments. Whether they ever get released is something I can’t say, Jonathan feels any release should come from Brian as they are of more interest to Queen Collectors. However Brian has indicated that he would be happy for Jonathan to do whatever he wanted with them, but of course he has not heard them for years, so more negotiations would need to take place to ensure that everybody was happy. My own view is that getting any record companies interested in Jonathan has been impossible so far apart from BGO who are only interested in his back catalogue of RCA recordings, so the Brian May recordings would be a nice lever to help obtain a new Jonathan Kelly release, I don’t know about you, but a Jonathan Kelly Anthology Box Set seems long overdue?
The Brian May acetate is not the only Jonathan Kelly Acetate that came to my attention this year. I was contacted by a fan who had located a Jonathan Kelly Acetate that was for sale online and purchased it, he was king enough to offer to send it to me so that I could obtain a copy from it, when he told me what the acetate was my ears pricked up. Apart from one or two acetates we have which are not that different to the final release, these were of two of Jonathan’s classic songs and the first time any stuff from Twice Around The Houses has surfaced in Acetate form. Not only that but the Acetates were from IBC studios, I knew that the acetates that have surfaced so far from this studio date to around the 1969/70 period. Twice Around the houses was 1972, so there was a possibility that these were early versions. My expectation was that like the Wild Horses Acetate we already have that the versions would be acoustic. Colin Petersen, would often ask Jonathan to play a new song in the studio, then he would run off an Acetate to take around other artists managers to see if they might like to record it. However when I first listened to this Acetate I was in for a surprise. The two songs were ‘I USED TO KNOW YOU’ and ‘ROCK YOU TO SLEEP’ both of these are different versions and I’m certain are earlier, they are more in the style of Jonathan’s first album on Parlophone recorded in 1969. I discussed them with Jonathan who could throw no light on when they were recorded. My best guess would be that they were recorded around 1970 and were intended for his next album but were abandoned when he spilt from Parlophone and signed with RCA and then recorded again during the Twice around the houses sessions. They appear to be finished versions which include full orchestrations and they are very pleasant to listen to, are they as good as the TATH versions, well that is of course a matter of personal opinion, but although I feel the later versions are better, they are still very enjoyable to listen to. Sadly the Quality isn’t great and so releasing them would be difficult. But it is my intention to try to find some way of making them available for people to listen to in the not too distant future.
Part one EMI
The discovery of this acetate started me thinking of what survives of Jonathan’s original sessions, were there any unreleased songs languishing in the archives. Or early versions, demos and other such gems. So I started investigating and after a long search and quite a few emails I managed to get I touch with people who could help me answer some of these questions. Firstly Simon Robinson who I know from years ago when he produced my first business card, as able to advise me. He runs the Deep Purple fan club and has contacts at EMI, He was able to put me in touch with a researcher who looked into the EMI vaults to see what they still held of Jonathan’s tapes from his First album and singles. The results shocked me. They have a final mix for the album, no original session tapes and the tapes for the singles are missing with the exception of ‘Make a stranger your friend’ and ‘Billy’ and one other very interesting item, a rejected mix for the track ‘Tom Bodey’ which was on Jonathan’s first album. After contacting EMI I discovered that obtaining copies was not going to be cheap. After discussion with Abbey Road, Yep! I got to talk to Abbey Road, I discussed it with my great friend and JK supporter Dave Mead who offered to help me finance copies and so I’m pleased to say that I know have copies of these for the archives. My intention is that at some point I may be able to organise the release of Jonathan’s first album on CD and that these extra tracks will be added as extras and then I can give Dave’s investment back to him. This first album has had a very limited release on CD in Japan. Jonathan & Myself were approached a few years ago by a Japanese record dealer who asked if we objected to him releasing it on CD, Jonathan replied that as long as everything was done legally and correctly that he had no objections. I have no idea how many copies were printed but it apparently sold out quickly but no further discs were produced and it’s now rarer than the original vinyl album.
Part Two SONY
My next port of call was the archives for Jonathan’s albums released on RCA, these are now owned by Sony Music. I contacted BGO who currently hold the rights to Jonathan’s four RCA albums and they were kind enough to give me the contact details of the person I needed to speak to at Sony, a gentleman by the name of Grant McLennan. I contacted him and he was kind enough to send me a list of the tapes of Jonathan’s that were held in the archives. There are the master tapes for the albums, plus several original 16 track 2 inch masters. What I was looking for was anything unusual, such as unreleased songs, alternate versions, demo versions etc and as luck would have it there were several tapes which suggested they may be worth further investigation, however knowing what EMI had charged for the three tracks we obtained from them I knew that if Sony was working on the same basis I would have to sell my car at the very least to finance it. As luck would have it, Sony were far more helpful. They offered me the chance to listen to some of these 2 inch tapes, however they no longer have their own studios in which to play the tapes, but offered me the chance to have them taken to a studio were I could play them. Due to my ill health and cost I had to pass on this opportunity. There were also several 1/4inch tapes that looked interesting and they also offered me the chance to listen to these. As it happens I own an old Tascam 1/4inch tape machine, unlike many domestic Reel to Reel machines of the time, such as the Akai machines, these stereo Reel to Reels only play one side instead of both. I decided to ask if I could borrow them, to my surprise they agreed. So out came the Tascam and I immediately realised the years had not been kind, so I had to perform a full service and source new drive belts on the Internet. Then came the day I had longed for. A Courier arrived with a large brown box, inside stacked neatly were the tapes I had requested from Sony, tapes unheard for almost 40 years. There is often a problem with old tapes, called ‘Sticky Tape Syndrome’ caused by the backing of the tape decomposing. The only cure is to bake the tapes in an oven, it’s a specialised job, get it wrong and you end up with no tapes at all and these belonged to Sony so I could not take that risk. To my utter joy, none of the tapes had this problem. I’ll admit my hands were shaking as I put on the first reel to listen to what it contained, it was a early mix of Godas, minus effects such as the echo when Jonathan sings ‘Menfolk Dead’€¯ not only was I listening to something nobody else had heard all these years but the quality from the tapes was just stunning.
All the material on the tapes I listened to came from the ‘Wait Till They Change The Backdrop’¯ Sessions. I’m afraid all there is of the ‘Twice Around The Houses’€¯ sessions are the completed production master tapes, no original tapes which might include alternate versions etc are in the archives so where are they?
Of the tapes I was fortunate enough to listen to there were a selection of different mixes, early mixes etc, the tracks include, ‘I wish I could’ (three versions) ‘All in a new light’ ‘Beautiful eyes’ (three versions) ‘Godas’ ‘Hold On’ (two versions) ‘Turn your eyes on me’ (three versions) & ‘Chains’. These differ only slightly, longer intros and outro’s but they are still fascinating to hear. The most interesting items and the things I was most thrilled to find were both sides of one of Jonathan’s singles and one of my favourites as well, namely ‘Let the people stay’ and ‘Mother Moon’ the latter was a song Jonathan often played in concert but never appeared on album and it’s a cracking track, but being rather long the version on single is lacking definition and is crackly even when played for the first time. Neither of these tracks have appeared on albums and are not available on CD, so to discover the original mixes was a true joy, for the first time I was able to hear ‘Mother moon’ as it should be heard. ‘Let the people stay’ is also a great song and there are three versions on the tape and one has no vocals just the backing track, so it gives the opportunity for a Karaoke Jonathan Kelly song. It is my earnest hope that in the future we can organise for these two tracks to be released, perhaps as extras to a future release of ‘Wait Till They Change The Backdrop’ My hands are so often tied by all the copyright restrictions that are placed upon me, I assure you that if it was up to me every JK fan could hear everything there is.
Many of you know me as Jonathan’s Manager, but I started out as a JK fan just like everybody else so just think if it was you receiving these tapes and listening for the first time, you can then have some idea how I felt, privileged, thrilled excited and very very lucky, Oh go on then, I was like a kid in a sweetshop!
Lastly as the year comes to a close I was contacted by Martin Bliss to inform me that he had requested that Johnnie Walker play one of Jonathan’s songs on his Sounds of the Seventies show on BBC Radio 2, shortly afterwards I had that Johnnie had played ‘Alright Till Then’ on Sunday November 25th This as far as I know is the first time one of Jonathan’s songs as been played on NATIONAL radio since the early seventies, it was just a shame that he played a crackly version from LP and not CD, but then I suppose they obtain tracks via download these days and as not one of Jonathan’s tracks are available for download it was the best he could do.
NEW RADIO SHOW
An old mate of mine and fellow JK fan Jonti Willis has been invited to host a new radio show on local radio in Doncaster. Jonti will be playing plenty of Roots & Acoustic music including some Jonathan Kelly and to help him get the show off and running I am going to try to supply him with a few rare Jonathan Kelly bits & pieces, so if you get chance pop along and have a listen. You can hear his show live on Sunday afternoons between 3 & 4 o’clock in the afternoon or you can listen throughout the week on the stations catch-up service. The station is available on the Internet at:www.sinefm.com/a_z_of_shows/jonti_s_roots_and_acoustic_music_show
Well that’s all I guess, another year over, still didn’t get the Demo Album released, but it is finished as far as I’m concerned, I have completed the cover artwork and I now need Jonathan’s final approval and get it all listed with the relevant authorities such as the PRS/MCPS alliance so that Jonathan will get all his copyright. The intention is still to make it a budget priced release.
So once again, please forgive me for the long wait between newsletters, I hope that in the coming year my health will improve and I will be able to get more done. Lastly if any of you spotted a man with a beard who owned an empty bag of crisps on Watchdog one morning in November, then yes I confess it was me, only I could be so unlucky as to buy an empty bag of crisps, still sealed, still full of air, probably hot air like myself.
I know Jonathan wishes me to thank you for all your support, for caring and for still listening to his music after all these years.
I would like to wish Love & peace to all of you and hope that Good Health and Prosperity will be yours in the coming year.
Keep tuned Gerald
Manager & Agent for Jonathan Kelly (and very lucky and proud to be so.)