‘I recall one night I left the stage during a keyboard solo in Argent and couldn’t find my way back! I was very popular with the band that night!!! ….but I did make it back in the end’.
Rod Argent and Russ Ballard formed rock band Argent in 1969 and are known for the hit singles Hold Your Head Up and God Gave Rock n Roll to You a song covered by American rock band Kiss in 1991. In 1973 John Verity joined Argent, I asked him where was the audition and how did you find out about it ?
‘There was no audition. I toured supporting Argent around the time of Russ Ballard deciding to quit. They asked me if I would consider replacing him and I said yes!
John has had a full career since then…’Right now I am just completing an 80 date tour of the UK promoting the My Religion album, with another busy year planned for 2018. My next album, Blue to My Soul is planned for release in November this year. We also released a live DVD earlier this year, shot at our show at the Jim Marshall Auditorium, The Stables Theatre, Wavendon, Milton Keynes’.
Since he first picked up a guitar in the early 60’s John has had a very prolific and distinguished career in music… ‘I was in various local bands in the 60’s around my home town of Bradford, West Yorkshire, playing pubs, clubs and youth clubs until I joined my first fully professional band in ’68. This was the Richard Kent Style from Manchester, a 6-piece with brass section. Pretty soon we were playing up to 14 gigs a week, twice a night, up and down the country and often abroad.
In ’69 we changed our name to Tunnel when we were offered a gig at a rock club in Freeport, Grand Bahama – close to the U.S coast and frequented by American college kids. During our time at the club we were approached by a U.S promoter and relocated to North Miami Beach to seek our fortune!
Tunnel opened for many major U.S acts as they passed through Florida, but unfortunately there were pressures developing in the band resulting in a split. Everyone left town, except me.
I felt that the opportunities were too good to waste and set about forming my own band using American musicians from the Miami area, with the aim of fulfilling the dates already planned for Tunnel. We had Teddy Napoleon on drums, and Mark Troisi on bass. The very first John Verity Band !
So, to the present JV Band – a revolving line-up depending on availability. Either Liam James Gray, Bob Henrit or Steve Rodford on drums. Either Bob Skeat, Jamie Mallender, John Gordon, Roger Inniss or Russell Rodford on bass. When it comes to recording, everyone features in some way or another, along with various guest musicians/singers’.
Who were your influences in music ? ‘My earliest influences were American blues and R&B artists but also the obvious ones for a young aspiring guitarist at the time – Chuck Berry, Hank B Marvin, Duane Eddy, Elvis. I loved and still do, the music of BB King, Aretha Franklin, Albert King, and Muddy Waters. The first Led Zep album was a major milestone’.
How did you get involved in playing music. Was there a defining moment when you said “I want to do that” ? ‘I can’t really remember how I first got started. Once I’d discovered the guitar I really wasn’t interested in anything else – except girls of course, but they seemed to come hand-in-hand with the guitarist thing. A defining moment for me was much later. Up until this I had always been the guitar player in the band, who would sing the occasional harmony’.
‘My voice has always been high and that didn’t seem to be very fashionable on the 60’s music scene here in the UK. Then we were booked to open a show in Redcar, at The Coatham. The headline band was The Who, and special guest was Terry Reid. There was a buzz in the industry about Terry Reid but I hadn’t seen him. He absolutely blew me away that night. His voice was out of this world but what really hit me was that he had a really high voice – sort of in the same ballpark as mine.
From that night onwards I was determined to be a singer. A guitarist/singer that is! A while later in Miami I got my chance, and took it’.
What were your experiences of recording ? ‘Probably far too much to mention everything, my earliest experience was EMI Studios in Manchester Square, London in the mid 60’s. Then various independent studios as they sprang up, including Advision, Olympic, Roundhouse. I started recording my own stuff early on. I wrote and demo’d all the songs for my first album in a cupboard in the apartment in Miami!
The demos for the first Saxon album were recorded in Chalk Farm, London. The album itself was recorded at Livingston Studios. I went on to record many projects there’.
(Nerd alert: Saxon was released in 1979 on the Carrere label. Clocking in at just under 30 mins it contained singles Big Teaser/Stallions of the Highway and Backs to the Wall/Militia Guard. The album helped put Saxon on the heavy metal map).
Was heavy metal a big departure from the music you had done ? ‘Not really a big departure. It wasn’t really ‘Metal’ yet – just heavy British rock. It was great fun working with the lads, though record company and management problems managed to screw it up in the end. Biff Byford and Paul Quinn had been in the very final John Verity Band before I joined Argent’.
After Argent split up John formed Phoenix and recorded 2 albums, the debut on CBS records in 1976 and ‘In Full View’ on Charisma in 1979.
‘There was some gigs with Phoenix. We did a few impromptu gigs in the UK before a European tour with Aerosmith to support our first album but from then on it became a studio project’.
A stint with London based band Charlie followed, they released an album ‘Good Morning America’ on RCA/Victor records.
‘There were no gigs with Charlie during my time’.
That lasted until 1982 when the lead vocal spot was taken up by South Shields musician, Terry Wilson-Slesser (pic.above). The music video for ‘It’s Inevitable’ with Slesser is worth checking out on You Tube – it ends in a pie fight. Next for John was a tour with former Sweet vocalist Brian Connolly where they supported American female rock singer Pat Benatar on her 1983 ‘Get Nervous’ tour.
Around this time Pat and her band played on the live TV music programme The Tube, the studio was in Newcastle. I was lucky to be in the audience for that show and witnessed a fantastic performance by Benatar. Again worth checking out on You Tube. But back to the story…‘Yes the Benatar tour was great and a sell out – but no crazy stories I’m afraid. All very well-organised and straight! The early 80’s I had been very busy recording in Livingston Studio’s in London with Brian Connolly, Russ Ballard, Charley, Phoenix, and my own album Interrupted Journey’.
That band, simply called Verity, had rubbed shoulders with AOR giants Journey/Foreigner. Included was the track ‘Rescue Me’ which was a regular on the early years of MTV.
‘I then built my own studio back in Yorkshire where I wrote and recorded with many people including The Searchers, Mike Rutherford and Steve Thompson. (Steve is featured in an earlier blog The Godfather of North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal June 27.)
‘Around the mid-80’s I recorded with the Rolling Stones mobile – there was some live Motorhead tracks with Brian Robertson and Pete Gill in the line-up. I recorded 4 gigs I think, and mixed a selection from those’.
Looking around on You Tube there is some good footage of your band Phoenix on Saturday morning UK TV show Supersonic. Did you record many TV appearances or music videos ? ‘Yep, there was lots of TV here in the UK including Old Grey Whistle Test, Top of the Pops and Supersonic. The Argent ‘Circus’ film was one of the first to feature on MTV. To arrange the appearances there were various management companies around that time, but usually the record labels arranged TV slots’.
Do you find the internet a help for musicians ? ’I used to be horrified when I spotted someone filming us with a ‘phone but now it’s just a regular occurrence that we put up with. Lots of poor quality stuff on the net but you could waste your life away getting it taken down. I just leave it. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity’.
What has music given you ? ‘Music has given me everything – but at times it has taken everything away too. It means everything to me. I have a very long-suffering wife, Carole. She lets me be what I am despite the faults and that’s amazing, the way she accepts my obsession with all things music related. Just amazing…’
Launch dates for the new album at Dreadnought Rock in Bathgate, Scotland are November 10th & Ripley Live in North Yorkshire on the 11th November.
For more info, tour dates, merchandise, photo’s and video contact the official website johnverity.com
Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2017.
Bernie Torme, The Dentist, 21st March 2017.
Steve Dawson (Animals), Long Live Rock n Roll, 2nd April 2017.
Steve Dawson (Saxon) Men at Work, 28th May 2017.
Trevor Sewell (The Revillos) Still Got the Blues, 21st June 2017.
Jon Dalton, California Dreaming, 18th October 2017.
Robb Weir, Doctor Rock, 5th November 2017.