Beggar’s Opera Interview
Beggars Opera was formed by Ricky Gardiner (guitarist). Martin Griffiths, singer and Marshall Erskine, bass had played with Ricky Gardiner in school band the System, and had worked with him through the blistering hot summer of the Moon landings 1969 on the M40 Motorway Beaconsfield Bypass, to earn some cash. With the proceeds from this and a loan of £1.000 from Ricky’s uncle, John Spence, they were able to purchase their famous cool white Marshall stacks…
Interview with Ricky Gardiner
Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. I have been a huge fan of your band for a very long time. What can you tell us about formation of the band?
Beggars Opera evolved from the school band The System. Our first session was when we auditioned drummers and found Raymond Wilson.
Were you in any other bands before forming Beggar’s Opera?
Virginia Scott and Ricky Gardiner met in the Vostoks in the early 60’s. Ricky Gardiner went on to play in the King Bees and The System. ( Martin Griffiths and Marshall Erskine were also in the System).
Why the name Beggar’s Opera?
Beggars Opera was a name chosen randomly from a dictionary.
In 1970 you released Act One. What are your strongest memories from the recording sessions and the production of the LP?
The artwork for Beggars Opera Act One was by the famous artist /photographer Marcus Keef, who invented many Vertigo album covers. Act One album was recorded at De Lane Lea Studios and engineered by Martin Birch. It was a recording of part of our live act at the time. We had very little time in the studio to record this. The songwriting was done by committee.
Waters of Change was musically more interesting. The mellotron opened out the sound . Our stage presence, with the 2 keyboard stations, was more impressive. Time Machine was the first piece to be initiated from the mellotron.
Pathfinder is your third album. Again I have to say it’s an excellent LP. It was released in 1972. Then you released Get Your Dog Off Me in 1973, which is a bit different. Sagittary was recorded in Germany.
Pathfinder was also interesting musically, as two musical teams emerged. 1/ Virginia Scott/ Ricky Gardiner original songs, words and guitar harmony compositions, and 2/ Alan Park / Martin Griffiths orchestral arrangements and poetry. There was always plenty of material to choose from. Martin Griffiths then left the band. Pete Scott ( ex Savoy Brown) took over on vocals, quickly followed by Linnie Paterson ( ex Writing on the Wall ). Basically Beggars Opera adjusted to their different singing styles. But in Get Your Dog Off Me though, Alan Park’s arrangement of Classical Gas and Ricky Gardiner ‘s Requiem are pureBeggars Opera classics. This album was recorded at Phonogram Studios London. The engineer was Roger Wake.
Ricky Gardiner: Phonogram studios Get Your Dog Off Me sessions.
In the end though our 4 album deal with Vertigo records was complete and Beggars Opera seemed to drift apart. Virginia Scott and Ricky Gardiner then worked on the Diana Demon concept project with a view to more live work. Meanwhile, Jupiter Records Germany / British Lion Music asked Ricky Gardiner to produce to 2 Beggars Opera albums. Ricky Gardiner asked Pete Scott/ Vocals and Virginia Scott/ Keys and drummers Mike Travis (ex Gilgamesh) and the legendary Clem Cattini respectively for the Sagittary and Beggars Can’t be Choosers sessions. These two albums were recorded at TW Studios Fulham Palace Rd, London and engineered by Alan Winstanley/produced by Ricky Gardiner. The songs for Sagittary were written by the Virginia Scott/ Colin McFarlane collaboration (Diana Demon Show project )
and Ricky Gardiner wrote the songs for Beggars Can’t be Choosers. The final track Death on Beggars Can’t be Choosers is very expressive of the feeling at the time. I think we really sensed we were at the end of one phase in our musical lives and at the beginning of another.
This was very quickly to prove to be true as Ricky Gardiner was soon to be playing and recording David Bowie and Iggy Pop!
You played very often…
INCOMPLETE Beggars Opera gig list so far 8/01/081969 December 03
Glasgow, Burns Howff ( First Gig )UK
1969 December 18 Glasgow, Clarkston Halls UK
1970 June 06 ? Glasgow, Hampden Park UK
1970 ? Glasgow, Electric Garden UK
1970 August ? Glasgow, Clydebank Town Hall UK
1971 January 20 Glasgow, Apollo (Green’s Playhouse) UK
1971 March 14 London, Lyceum UK
1971 March 16 Edinburgh, Empire UK
1971 March 17 Dundee, Caird Hall UK
1971 March 18 Newcastle, City Hall UK
1971 March 19 Glasgow, Apollo (Green’s Playhouse) UK
1971 ? Falkirk, Banknock Community Centre UK
1971 May 07 London, Temple Club UK
1971 May 25 Fraserburgh UK
1971 May 27 Dumfries, Oughtens UK
1971 May 28 Kirkcaldy UK
1971 May 29 Hartlepool, Football Ground UK
1971 June 02 Bellshill, YMCA UK
1971 June 03 Paisley, Watermill UK
1971 June 04 Edinburgh, Herriot Watt UK
1971 June 05 Glasgow, Flamingo UK
1971 June 06 down to London (gig ?) UK
1971 June 09 Record Command Studios London UK
1971 June 10 Record Command Studios London UK
1971 June 11 Ayr, Bobby Jones Ballroom UK
1971 June 12 Glasgow, Picasso UK
1971 June 13 Dunfermline, Kinema UK
1971 June 17 The Tartan Ball Glasgow, Albert Ballroom UK
1971 June 18 North Tour (gig ?) UK
1971 June 19 North Tour (gig ?) UK
1971 June 23 Troon, Concert Hall UK
1971 June 24 Glasgow, MVH UK
1971 June 25 Sanquar, Town Hall UK
1971 June 26 Aberdeen UK
1971 June 28 Redhurst UK
1971 July 02 York, Museum Rooms UK
1971 July 03 Hull, Brickhouse UK
1971 July 04 travel London UK
1971 July 05 Ian’s Birthday ! London UK
1971 July 07 London, Speakeasy UK
1971 July 08 York, Hypnotique UK
1971 July 09 London, Temple Club UK
1971 July 10 Liverpool, Cavern UK
1971 July 11 Fulham, Greyhound UK
1971 July 12 Leicester, El Rondo UK
1971 August 07 Rimini, L’Altro Mondo Italy
1971 August 09 Live performance in German TV
Beat Club (Beat Club no. 70) Bremen Germany
1971 August 13 Rimini, YeYe Club Italy
1971 August 15 Rimini, YeYe Club Italy
1971 August 17 Rimini, YeYe Club Italy
1971 September 04 1st British Rock Meeting Speyer,
1971 September 05 so called “The Sensational British
Superstar Festival” Vienna, Stadthalle
NOT PLAYING Austria
1971 September 19 London, Marquee Club UK
1971 November ? Linz Austria
1971 Dec. 02 – 04 BO Supporting Leon Russell
London, Rainbow UK
1971 December 09 London, Marquee Club UK
1971 December 17 London, Temple Club UK
1971 December 20 Hayes, Grapes Hotel UK
1972 January 31 Hamburg, Musikhalle grosser Saal
1972 February 01 Ayr, Bobby Jones Ballroom UK
1972 February 02 Glasgow, Terminal
Kew, Boathouse (2 gigs ???) UK
1972 February 03 London, Marquee Club UK
1972 February 04 Leicester, El Rondo UK
1972 February 08 Cleethorpes, Winter Gardens UK
1972 February 09 Liverpool, Mardi Gras UK
1972 February 12 Watford, Tech College UK
1972 February 15 Leytonstone, Chez Club UK
1972 February 17 London, Marquee Club UK
1972 February 18 Middlesex, College UK
1972 February 19 Sunderland, Top Rank UK
1972 February 20 Aberdeen, University UK
1972 February 21 Nairn, Ballerina UK
1972 February 22 Inverness, Rink UK
1972 February 27 Middlesbrough, Excel Bowl UK
1972 February 28 Chester, Quaintways UK
1972 March 05 Fulham, Greyhound UK
1972 March 11 Plymouth, Van Dykes UK
1972 ? Southampton UK
1972 April 18 Mannheim Germany
1972 May 02 Roma, Piper Club Italy
1972 May 05 Cardano Al Campo; Nautilus Club Italy
1972 May 20 2nd British Rock Meeting
Germersheim, Insel Grün Germany
1972 June ? Porto (Oporto) Portugal
1972 August 04 Midnight Court Session London,
Kings Cross Cinema UK
1972 August 13 Fulham, Greyhound UK
1972 August (from 16 ?) Switzerland
1972 September 23 The Great Western Express
Grangemouth, Stadium UK
1972 September 29 Grangemouth Rock Festival
Grangemouth, Stadium UK
1972 October 12 Beggars Opera and Guests
Crailsheim, Jahnhalle Germany
1972 October 19 Cardano Al Campo, Nautilus Club Italy
1972 October 27 Sunderland, Top Rank UK
1972 October 30 Chester, Quaintways UK
1972 October 31 Edinburgh, Clouds UK
1972 November 15 London, Marquee Club UK
1973 January 27 Ipswich, Baths Hall UK
1973 January 29 Lanchester Acts Festival UK
1973 January 31 Sheffield, University UK
1973 February 01 London, City University UK
1973 February 02 Aberystwyth, University UK
1973 February 03 Bristol, Poly UK
1973 February 07 London, Marquee Club UK
1973 February 08 High Wycombe, Chiltern Rooms UK
1973 February 09 North Gloucester, Poly UK
1973 February 10 Shoreditch, College UK
1973 February 12 Chester, Quaintways UK
1973 February 14 Manchester, University UK
1973 February 15 East Kilbride, Olympia UK
1973 February 16 Dundee, University UK
1973 February 17 Durham, University UK
1973 February 18 Dunfermline, Kinema UK
1973 February 19 Inverness, Rose St. Hall UK
1973 February 22 Motherwell, Civic Centre UK
1973 February 23 Stirling, University UK
1973 February 24 Glasgow, Queen Margaret Union UK
1973 February 28 Lancaster, University UK
1973 March 01 Leeds, Poly UK
1973 March 02 Sunderland, Poly UK
1973 March 03 Manchester, Stoneground UK
1973 March 04 Barnsley, Civic Centre UK
1973 April 26 Schweinfurt, Stadtparksaal Germany
1973 May 09 London, Marquee Club UK
1973 May 16 London, Marquee Club UK
1973 ? Zaragozza Spain
1973 September 8 Scheessel (Hurricane-Festival) Germany
1973 September 9 Scheessel (Hurricane-Festival) Germany
1973 September 27 London, Marquee Club UK
1973 November 02 London, Marquee Club UK
1973 November 26 London, Rainbow Restaurant,
Biba’s New York Christmas Ball UK
1973 November 27 London, Rainbow Restaurant,
Biba’s New York Christmas Ball UK
1974 ? London, Greyhound UK
1975 ? SWR (Südwestdeutscher Rundfunk) Germany
This list does not include details of the numerous German tours. From 1969/1974 Beggars Opera toured incessantly (UK and Europe see above) . Perhaps one of the many exciting an successful gigs was the Great British Rock Meeting at Speyer in Germany in 1971.
A wonderful show, amazing bands and HUGE crowds. There were 120,000 people there. But backstage ? … very few facilities ! Festivals in those days were all about Love and Peace !
Life Line followed in the 1980’s. What happened next?
Gordon Sellar , Alan Park and Linnie Paterson and others worked on Lifeline for Vertigo Germany. Next? Well -Gordon Sellar worked for Alex Harvey Band. Alan Park worked as musical director to Cliff Richards.
In 1996 The Final Curtain album was released. After that you released couple of albums. Close to My Heart in 2007, Touching the Edge in 2008, All Tomorrows Thinking in 2010. Suddenly Ahead Ahead in 2010 and also Lose a Life. What can you tell me about your latest albums?
The Final Curtain CD is not a new Beggars Opera album. The tracks are modified from out-takes of the previous Lifeline sessions. The NEW Beggars Opera albums Close to My Heart, Touching the Edge, Suddenly Ahead Ahead and All Tomorrows Thinking are NEW with all new material from the Virginia Scott / Ricky Gardiner team. Tom Gardiner plays drums on all these releases. The above are all released by RGS and now we are very happy that Close to My Heart and Lose a Life are now also available from Repertoire Records Germany. Lose a Life the nano opera composed solely by Virginia Scott, is the story of an Electrosensitive, based on Ricky Gardiner’s experience of this condition. If you want to read more about this album it is best to go to Chris Welch’s page on the Repertoire Records
website: http://www.repertoirerecords.com/aboutus/frameset_chriscorner.htm Chris Interviewed Ricky Gardiner extensively for the Repertoire Records release earlier this year.
What are some future plans for you?
A Beggars Opera album ‘Promise in Motion’ will be released later this year by RGS.
What about your project Kumara?
Kumara was a joining of more experimental energies, music built from keyboard sound-washes. This is experimental work as in Beggars Opera alt. Ricky Gardiner The Flood where here the sound-washes are from the guitar/ tape.
Virginia Scott and Ricky Gardiner were joined by Trevor Stainsby, who provided rhythm and synth tracks.
How do you feel about the fact, that young people from other parts of the world listen and enjoy your music?
It is absolutely great that young ears are appreciating our work!
Thank you very much for your time and effort.
You can also catch up with Beggars Opera on:
Love and Peace 🙂
– Klemen Breznikar