A Portal to the Music of Chris Reeves
Welcome to the website of Chris Reeves’ Imaginary Beat Group. Please feel free to browse; look, touch and listen to all that is available here.
Chris Reeves is a singer-songwriter from Croydon.
1960’s was in The Dyaks, Psycho Daisies, Wayfarers.
1970’s was in Rock Candy.
1980’s in The Mystere Five.
Now – 2 Solo Albums on iTunes.
Born 1948. Croydon Surrey England World Solar System Orion Arm Milky Way CRO 123.
Looked round, grey, a drag. Curtains twitched.
Ah, 1960, bright red electric guitar. How do I get one of those.
It fits to say that in the mid sixties I played rhythm guitar in a church hall group called ‘The Dyaks’ and I was the one who got to sing Memphis Tennessee, Money, You Can’t Judge A Book etc, because I could shout loud… It turned out to be a bright black homemade electric guitar…
Ok down ya’ go, down the wormhole, or rabbit hole, black hole or plug‘ole… Whatever your personal transit medium of choice to arrive at noon on a Monday in… in 2015. Nothin’s changed. Folks’re still workin’ for the man…Fertile ground for songwriting then. So it’s now fitting to be fronting Johnny And The Birds on Flicknife Records.
Simon ‘Doc’ Milton was engineering at the remarkable rural recording retreat, ‘The House in the Woods’ when he met multi-instrumentalist musician Chris Ford. His keen foresight knew that Ford would be a good match for Reeves, who at that time had expressed a desire to collaborate. From the resulting evenings of creative wonderment ‘Ob’ came to life.
The sessions revolved around a PC loaded with a multitude of tools that allowed Reeves and Ford to realise their disparate yet synchronous visions; at last being able to make mischief and magic with mellotrons, string sections, samples, field recordings guitars and multitrack voices…
But, we aren’t here to TALK about music. We would really love you to listen to these songs.
Put on your headphones, turn it up.
Location: South Croydon
Chris Reeves: “Ah yes…where OB began. Agreed to meet at my flat in South Croydon and within 10 mins of listening to some samples I had, Mr Chris Ford got in there and a beautiful relationship began… recording water down plugholes…
Without Light we both knew we were going to enjoy this ride.”
Chris Ford: “What do I remember? Tea. Baccy. Dropping drawers full of cutlery from the ceiling. Recording traffic. Monday evenings. Lunches at the Psychiatric Hospital. Reeves turning musical parts upside down for the better. Magic curveballs. An incredible voice coming out of a fantastically silly man. No disagreements. Into the unknown. Nodding my head in bliss.”
Ford made a short promo video as part of his Design Degree in 2008. Here it is.
Location: South Croydon
Chris Reeves: “Written acoustically in the 1980s thinking about sweet earlier mad art and trying to clear my head of all the Thatcher music.
Chris Ford saw something in that song and using beautiful writing/arranging ability himself took the song to somewhere else way beyond my original idea. Way way further.”
Chris Ford: “Like many of Reeves’ ideas, ‘Pluto’ drew me into a parallel universe that was visual as well as musical. It led me on an exploration that felt familiar and comforting. I felt as through the string sections were already out there, we were just passing through in a silent satellite.”
Location: South Croydon
Chris always intended to sing this with tiny whimsy himself. But after Clara Reeves cut this angel version there was no longer any point. It was just up to Chris Ford once again to place the blocks and twigs in the right places to make the whole edifice stand up.
Down the Road
Location: South Croydon
Chris Reeves: “Way back in the 70’s I had a Chevrolet ambulance. And one day I dreamed of putting a V8 lump in it. Not many people then had Yank motors so a lot of us knew each other. Never did get that V8 powerplant together. This song is about hearing before seeing if ya get what I mean…”
Down the Road
‘Chris Reeves is a fantastic guitar player but mostly, he is a first class songwriter. I have worked with Chris through his days with The Chairs, The Mystere 5s and now Johnny & The Birds and not once I have thought ‘That’s average’. Chris comes up with quality every time. What is most striking is that his tracks are full of soul, insights. You can hear the influences (who isn’t influenced by music of their youth) but they have been well digested: his tracks are never a simple copy or a pastiche of some long forgotten classic. No, no, Chris is an original in the best tradition of the institution that is the British songwriter. Just listen to ‘Moving Train’: tons of soul, wonderful vocals…it’s like an old friend even on first listen.’Marco Frenchi Gloder
After moving to Oxfordshire for a while I really got consumed by making wooden music. There is something in the lost and found of sitting with a guitar grasping at wisps of ideas before they run away. For four years, twice a month, I attended a folk session which was very good discipline for me to try out songs. In October 2007 I got offered a spot in the Banbury folk festival and then with the help of my old mate Chris Ford hired a hall for an afternoon and recorded the tracks for an album. He brought his drum kit and we recorded some new songs and some older ones, then in Jan 2008 released the album Where’s That? On iTunes. Buy your own copy here.
And that was the wooden period.
Flower in the Forest
‘Mr Chris J. Reeves. Yes, I am one of the many and varied musicians lucky enough to have worked with the man. First impression was of a tall, gangly scarecrow of a brightly clad modernist with seemingly boundless energy and a very well-trimmed Barnet. Eighteen years old. White loafers and cutting wit. We proceeded to immediately stroll the concrete jingle jungle of Croydon’s mean streets and its suburban tree-lined yawndom together, bouncing ideas back and forth on folk (Dylan), rock, blues, Beethoven, jazz (Mingus), Mad magazine, clothes (the perfecting of same) and inventive ways of escaping where we were and being heard (loudly). The last here was achieved – at least for the first time that involved both of us – ten years down the line, and after Chris had garnered some road experience with Rock Candy and started writing with Wayfarer. We formed an aggregation called the Dyaks – named after an earlier bunch that Chris had led with better hair but fewer chords. The new Dyaks were our version of the ‘New Wave’ – which boiled down to two dozen of Reeves originals stripped of their original lengthier poetry and played at a faster pace, too fast for the cloth ears of the booking agents we were inviting to our gigs – and, yes, we were loud. Never more so than at an hotel in Bournemouth where the crowd were pressed against the back wall by shear sonic force. Of course, those late seventies days are remembered for their violence as well as invention, and a surfeit of the former at our concerts would force us to finally quit. Incidentally, this period forged Chris’s previous rep as a rhythm guitarist and harmony singer into a forceful singer/songwriter and verily, a lead guitarist of some note (albeit a loud note). The latter he has spurned largely to concentrate on the former – but just thought I’d mention it.
When we reconvened in the early eighties it was to pool our satchels of experience and lean on a few of the friends we had helped to push up in the firmament along the way, for instance Kirsty MacColl, who had been known to sit in and sing at Dyaks gigs. With the joining of Peter Jennings, long time cohort of Chris’s writing and demoing sabbaticals, and former Hammond demon from Cressida – and also part of Jabberwock, the recording group that released Chris’s cult classic Sneakin’ Snaky single – together with Ian Powling, a recent absentee member of Elvis Costello’s first band, we built a studio in a Hoxten loft – long before that area was trendy – once rented by Barney Bubbles, who left it to us, and called our production company Room At The Top, also forming a musical ‘group’ called The Hat Between, a name bestowed on Chris by Captain Beefheart himself backstage at a Magic Band concert that year. Oh sorry, I’ve dropped so many names there – would you believe me if I told you I left so many out? The power of Chris Reeves’s attraction, then and now.
Many months were spent at that studio, with much of Chris’s art being honed along the way. We had visits from men-with-big-jobs at CBS, Polydor, A&M, EMI and Phonogram. They all dithered, however, not to run anybody down, we were just working on material that no-one was quite ready for yet. One or two of the songs were recorded by groups of the day. A cult single, Dining At Dzerzhinsky’s, would emerge from those days released under Chris’s name, with a b-side by Peter Jennings that went on to become the soundtrack to a film. Time was unkind to all involved in Room At The Top, and the radio was less kind.
My own involvement with Chris’s music would continue through other scenes and other studios, with names like House In The Woods. What emerged from these working days was a determined Chris Reeves, aware of his need to work alone, and work ceaselessly despite knock-backs from an ever changing music business. We saw his stage musical, Cloud Cuckoo Land, produced and performed. We saw a new band, The Nearest Thing, playing Fairfield Hall. But mainly we made do with occasional recordings that Chris would release himself from time to time, with a little of what he’d like us to hear.
Which brings us to Johnny and the Birds. You will agree, a collection of songs with much much more to say than, Here’s a new collection of songs. Here’s a songwriter with more experience than your average new ‘soul’ singer, who cares about the world more than is good for him now, who… hey, give it a listen…’Brian Nevill
Johnny & The Birds