Interview with Norman Beaker: An ambassador of British blues around the Europe: Video, Photos


Interview with UK guitarist, Norman Beaker: An ambassador of British blues around the Europe with new album on his belt.

How has the Blues n’ Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I think it has certainly helped me to understand and appreciate other cultures and the need for different genres of music, and I think it has helped me to be tolerant of the differences betwwen the cultures.

Norman, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues?

I first started to listen to blues music when I was about 12 years old , my brother w, who is 3 years older than me a,d now owns a record shop, used to go and see Howling Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson and tell me about them. I had been playing guitar since I was 7 years old, after a road accident I had to stay in bed for over a year and my Father bought me a guitar to pass the time, and I loved it. At the time there were not too many guitarist to learn from so you had to use your imagination. I was a normal young kid, into pop music etc, but when I played the guitar my brother told me I sounded like a blues guitarist, and then so did everyone else. My Mother entered me in a guitar competition and I won, and the prize was 10 shillings and a spot on the Lonnie Donegan Show, he was the King of Skiffle in the UK, and I went on a few shows with him after thet, in fact we always kept in touch right up to his death, so I suppose it was Lonnie who got me started really.

Are there any memories from “Running Down the Clock” sessions which you’d like to share with us?

When we are recording, we work very fast and hard, but aleays there are funny moments, a nice one one was when a few of our friends from Croatia dropped in the studio and we got them doing backing vocals. Another thing that made me laugh was after doing the vocal on Long before you came along, I sang really hard, and when I asked Leo if I could here it back he told me he did not recorded it, but he had thank god, when I asked him seriously what it was like he shouted BAM ! When we arrived at the studio late on a Sunday evening we decided we would just set all the amps and drums up so we could start straight away on the Monday morning, but we were having so much fun we put four tracks down as well. We realised the speed we were recording was going to leave lots of time for beer.

What were the reasons that made the UK in 1960s to be the center of Skiffle & Blues experiments?

I think the skiffle thing came about as we had many ports in London, Manchester Liverpool etc so people used to bring in American records we would never have got to hear in to the country, and Skiffle was very accesible to every one home made tea chest basses, washboards and acousitc guitars.Then later people discovered the Blues in very much the same way, and soon went from acoustic to electric following people like Muddy Waters, from there of course Chuck Berry influenced a lot of musicians such as the Beatles and Rolling Stones, who both took it to another level of popularity.

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

Well all of it really, in the 70’s trying to get yourself notice and working really hard, then making a name for your self and justifying keeping yourself up there as time changes around you

How was your relationship with Alexis Korner?

We were very close and I mentioned before he was godfather to my eldest child, he taught me more about the business side than the music side, obviously he had a wealth of knowledge, and was a great raconteur, a great champion of the blues . If Alexis is the Father of UK Blues Chris Barber has to be the Grandfather he paid money out of his own pocket to bring over people like Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy, at a time when it was a big gamble.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I think I would like to see more education in history of popular music in schools, and on TV it would give young musicians a perspective in whats important, now if you ask people on X Factor what they want they say to be Famous, well that is nothing compared to what you can get from music for your soul.

What is the impact of Blues music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I would like to think that played properly its cathartic for both the musician and the audience, the whole point of the music we play is to have an effect on people, just like a film or a book, perfection is not important emotion is. But I like to speak to an audience with some humorous stuff too so it has an entertainment value too.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

So many best ones and not too many bad one’s (yet) I suppose playing at the Royal Albert Hall with Van Morrison was up there, also the first gig I did with Jack Bruce, who is really my mentor, his attitude to musical intensity is far greater than anyone else I know. I don’t really have any bad memories, but there are a lot of people I miss who are no longer with us, Tony Ashton, a great friend and musician, Dick Heckstall- Smith who I palyed with for many years, Tim Rose I also miss a lot, but its inevitably going to happen, so I just try to enjoy everyone while they are with us.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Salzburg, I have played there many times and love the city, I love Berlin, Athens, Rome, Kelheim in Bavaria the list is endless, but I am lucky I get to see so many wonderful and beautiful places, and I hope it will stay that way for a long time to come on…

Interview by Michael Limnios / Photos by Achim Woebke

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