ABOUT THE AUTHOR Tenor saxophonist John Barrow is one of the journeymen of pop music. His playing career kicked off in 1975 with Soul / Funk outfit Sister Big Stuff who played night clubs and discos across the U.K. supporting a number of chart acts in the process. In 1977 he joined funk band Black Gorilla who scored a top 30 hit which enabled him to make his debut Top of the Pops appearance. They toured extensively across Europe and headlined top prestige funk venues.
After the demise of the band in 1980, he featured on releases by the Newmatics and the Sinatras and recorded a John Peel session for the latter. Tracks on albums by theGodfather of Ska - Laurel Aitken followed.
Also in 1980 he co-founded the Swinging Laurels with college friend Gaz Birtles. They subsequentlysigned to Albion Records and watched their debut release Peace of Mind reach the No 1 slot inembryonic independent charts. By 1982 the outfit was gaining national musicpress attention andbuilding a solid reputation as session brass players. During a hectic 1982 they:
Recorded a Radio One session for John Peel.
Released a 4 track. EP - A Taste of …… on Dining Out Records
Signed to major label giant WEA Records
Played session brass on theFun Boy Three hit The Telephone Always Rings making several TV appearances including: Top of the Pops - Cheggers Plays Pop - Saturday Superstore - Something Else - Riverside - Generation 80 (Belgium) with Bananarama.
A video to promote the track was produced by Ultravox vocalist Midge Ure and featured cameo appearances by: Bananarama - Madness - Ultravox - Alexei Sayle and David "Kid" Jensen.
Other recorded brass sessions included:
A Jerry Dammers produced single for 2-Tone Records by the Apollinaires calledThe Feelings Gone
Tracks on an album by Worldbackwards for Illuminated Records
A session with teen chart toppers Musical Youth, produced by the Fun Boy Three
A single by Coventry band Splashdown
Work on the Fun Boy Three follow up hit Summertime.
Recordings with French chart act 24hrs
A live support slot with the Clash
Live work with Coventry band Team 23 who were managed by Specials drummer Brad (they later transformed into chart toppers King)
The debut Swinging Laurels WEA release, Rodeo hit the streets in September 1982 and featured the distinctive percussive influence ofScritti Politti drummer Tom Morley, but despite saturation Radio Oneairplay,was restricted to lower reaches of the national chart.
Culture Club producer Steve Levine lent hisexpertise to the second WEA single Lonely Boy which originally featured a fine vocalcontribution by Boy George but due to contractual objections by his record label Virgin Records was eventually released minus his efforts. 1983 saw John touring extensively with the Swinging Laurels, in their own right and as specialguests of Culture Club, at the request of Boy George, a self proclaimed fan.They were special guests on bothsell-out UK tours in March and December. A Janice Long Radio One session was followed by ahighly successful Dutch festival tour where they supported Nick Lowe and Osibisa as well as headlining dates of their own.
After parting company withWEA Records the Swinging Laurels formed their own label identity Happy Records based at their Leicester Studio Happy House.
Their first Happy Records offering Zoom (Take the Test) came in 1984 andachieved much critical acclaim andin their promotion drive they appeared on two Radio One road shows hostedby top DJs Peter Powell and Adrian John.
Throughout 1985/86 John worked with Happy House whofeatured ex-Specials AKA vocalist Rhoda Dakar in their ranks.1987 ushered in another Swinging Laurels platter - Push and Shove issued viatheir own Happy Records label. During a busy 1988/9 John played session sax with Food / Parlophone Records act Crazyhead - most notably on an eleven-nation tour of Europe and Scandinavia as special guests of godfather ofpunkicon Iggy Pop.
In 1989 there was a live TV slot on the Thames Television series The Concert and an appearance at theprestigious Reading Festival. A chance to audition for theBeautiful South along with the other Laurels brass men Gary Birtles and Tony Robinson, was passed over due to other commitments.In hindsightthis probably wasn’t the wisest decision as they went on to notch up over 30 hit singles and several No.1 albums. No Label Records reissued Push and Shove in 1990. Further brass sessions resulted in releases in the 1990s. One was in 1991 for Norman Beaton, star of Channel 4 world wide hit sit-com Desmonds, as well as tracks on an album by top ska exponents Ska-Boom on Extremely Nice Records in 1992.
Compilation CD albums featuring John’s earlier work surfaced throughout 1994/95/96/97.These included:
The 2-Tone Story and the No. 1 Ska Album (both featuring versions of the Apollinaires track The Feelings Gone) Fun Boy Three compilations also appeared - The Best of the Fun Boy Three - Really Saying Something (Featuring Bananarama) - The Best of the Fun Boy Threeand Colourfield (featuring various mixes of The Telephone Always Rings and Summer of 82.) A six track Swinging Laurels CD entitled Be Someone was released in 1997 thus signalling another collaboration with song writing partner and Beautiful South sax man Gaz Birtles 1996/97 heralded re-runs of Fun Boy Three, Top of the Pops appearances on UK Gold television.
2000 saw Be Someone released by Internet label peoplesound.com and in the same year Johncompleted a highly successful UK / Irish tour withBaby Genius as special guests of The Beautiful South. Baby Genius also scored a prime time TV appearance on the BBC ‘s Children in Need with Louise and Atomic Kitten. A 15 track Swinging Laurels compilation album Greatest Bits was issued in 2001and tracks were recorded for an album called Learning to Cope with Happiness by The Charmers in 2002. In November 2002 a re-run of an earlier Top of the Pops appearance with the Fun Boy Three was shown on BBC2 s Top of the Pops 2.
In 2003 he recorded tracks on an album called Rave Killed the Romance by Normal Position and tookto the road with them on a tour of the UK.
2004 saw the publication of his book How NOT to make it in the pop world which is published by Trafford Publishing.
Through 2005/6 John played live dates and recorded with Leicester band ist. Tracks were recorded on the highly acclaimed album King Martha. The Swinging Laurels also got special guest billing on the single Here we go again and made a cameo appearance in the promo video. Both the album and the single reached the No.1 slot in the Russian download charts. Work is currently in progress on the follow up album Toothpick Bridge under the watchful eye of ex Beastie Boys producer Jay Burnett and is due for release in late 2007.
2007 also saw the second edition of John’s book – “How NOT to make it in the pop world” - issued by Trafford – It was also made available in hard back and e book versions. www.myspace.com/johnbarrow