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Smokie Live

The City of Bradford in West Yorkshire rose to prominence during the 19th century as an international centre of textile manufacture, particularly wool. Coal, iron ore and soft water also facilitated its growth. The city has a number listed Victorian architecture including the grand Italianate City Hall. It is however, famous for something else. Their story started way back in October 1963 when a man called Ron Kelly met Alan Silson in Moore's Music Shop in North Parade, Bradford. Two days later, Chris Norman joined them and they continued for another year without a bass player until Terry Uttley joined in 1965. They called themselves, The Yen, and their first gig first gig was at Birkenshaw School in February 1965. A number of changes followed, in personnel and band name: The Sphynx and Essence to name but two.

It was 1968 before a smattering of success came with a very minor single release in 1970, Light of Love/Lindy Lou, when they were called The Elizabethans, Sadly, only 300 copies sold and RCA Victor terminated their contract. In the early 1970’s, the name finally changed to the one we all know, Smokie. Even then it wasn’t all plain sailing. The first song offered was a cracking rock number called Pass It Around, which was promptly banned by Radio 1 because – they claimed – it conjured up visions of drug taking. Smokie persevered and during the recording of their second album in Paris they heard that they suddenly had a hit single on their hands: If You Think You Know How To Love Me, eventually peaked at number 3 in the UK charts. The rest, they say, is history. From that point on, the Bradford based band never looked back. Hit after hit followed.

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On Friday 23rd March, Smokie stopped at The Barbican in York for a one-night only concert, and those hits they were so well known for came tumbling out one after another: I’ll Meet You At Midnight, Something’s Been Making Me Blue, Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone, It’s Your Life and the fabulous Changing All The Time. The near capacity crowd was being given exactly what it came to see, a group celebrating over forty years in the business doing what they know best, entertaining. The line-up is somewhat different these days but the longest serving member of Smokie, bass player Terry Uttley, is still with them and still enjoying his life of music. Joining Terry is Mike Craft on lead vocals, Steve Pinnell on drums, Mick McConnell on lead guitar and Martin Bullard on keyboards. The line up is impressive, as is the sound, which continued well into the night with standards like Don’t Play Your Rock ‘n’ Roll To Me, Mexican Girl, Oh Carol, a Searchers classic, Needles & Pins, and an Irish folk song Whiskey In The Jar all given the familiar Smokie treatment. And when you thought it was all over, the guys delighted an eager crowd with their biggest ever hit, a number 1 from 1976, Living Next Door To Alice, which brought a lot of audience interaction and proved a great way to end a superb night.

Ray Clark 2018