18th Nov, 2017

MUSIC MATTERS by Pete Chambers BEM: Pete recalls 'Lanch' gigs on getting his honorary doctorate

It’s only Dr Chambers

Well I can now reveal that on November 20, I am to receive an Honorary Doctorate degree from Coventry University: a Doctor of Arts, “in recognition of my outstanding contribution to the musical heritage of Coventry”.

Yes, I am to be honoured alongside the likes of Jerry Dammers, Pauline Black, Stephen Sutton, Peter Waterman, Ray King, Tony Iommi and Coventry electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire who is also being honoured this time.

I want to thank our present and most hip Lord Mayor councillor Tony Skipper and the great Ray King for suggesting I should be so honoured. I’m now learning just how amazing these guys have been, Coventry is so lucky to have them, they do us proud. Massive thanks also to the governors at the university, who actually make the selections.

My connections with Coventry University/Lanch Poly go back to 1971, when for the first time ever, I went into town during my dinner hour from school to purchase a ticket for T. Rex.

I loved this band since I had ‘borrowed’ my sisters copy of ‘Beard of Stars’. At last I was going to see them; well sadly not. I arrived for the concert (March 19), asked where the gig was, someone pointed upstairs, I entered the Union Bar, only to be escorted from the premises. Not a great start, in fact I think the first band I actually did get to see was probably ELO, fresh from the departure of Roy Wood.

Many others gigs followed including Thin Lizzy, Medicine Head, Caravan, The Groundhogs, The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, Stone The Crows, and Spirit. I got to see some changeling bands playing outstanding gigs that were destined to change my musical life. Gigs like Roxy Music (and Eno getting cross with his synth), or watching the original Genesis perform the epic ‘Supper’s Ready’, that will always live with me.

During the Lanch festival of 1974, we arrived early to see our idols Cockney Rebel enter the building, (they were supporting Suzi Quatro). I still regret to this day that I didn’t pluck up the courage to speak to them. I did sneak a tape recorder into the gig though, I have the only copy of that concert in existence.

Of course 2-Tone had to come into my story, and in 1980, The Specials did two glorious nights at The Lanch, supported by The Swinging Cats (Suggs from Madness was also in attendance).

A few weeks prior to this gig I had found a backstage pass at a Madness gig at Tiffs. So I decided to see how far I could get with it. So camera in hand, to my amazement, waltzed through the backstage area, and took photos side stage all night. Those photos have come in very handy over the years.

I saw Pigbag there (when are they going to sing?), the Thompson Twins (subject of one of my earliest music reviews) and the Troggs (with students protesting around them).

In 1985 (now the Coventry reporter for Brum Beat) I was proud to be one of the event organisers of CovAid, Coventry’s answer to Live Aid. A concert took place at the Lanchester Polytechnic. We raised £4,425 for East Africa, with Terry Hall’s Colourfield headlining.

In 2011 with the help of Coventry University and CUSU staff, we created 2-Tone Central. The café was given a massive black and white makeover, and a museum area was built, plus a 300-capacity venue that brought live rock music back to the building.

It brings a smile to my face to think that back in 1971 I wasn’t allowed in the building, and never would I have thought in my wildest dreams that years later, I would end up receiving an Honorary Doctorate from them. But just for a laugh I’m still working for the rat race.

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