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A celebration of Friars

March 1, 2014

The town of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire was the focus of my life after my family moved from London when I was 14. I was 17 when I first met Currencies Direct client, John Otway, when I was going our with the Revered Jeff’s sister, the luscious Liz Potter. The good Reverend was an even earlier champion of the immensely gifted performer with no musical ability, both of whom were born in what was then a pretty market town.

Mr Otway was the single most important influence in my choosing a career path in the music business. I began promoting gigs whilst earning a living as a dust man, which usually involved booking him and erstwhile partner Wild Willy Barrett, and gradually, I developed a network of pub gigs during the mid to late 1970’s. This was all beneath the radar of the big gig in the town, the iconic Friars club, run by promotor Dave Stopps, which has played host to Genesis, Marrillion, David Bowie, Black Sabbath and hundreds of other acts over more a period of more than four decades.

friars exhibition

A text from David Bowie

With the help of respected local journalist Pete Frame, I and some others set up a local rock magazine called the Aylesbury Roxette. Pete was the legendary creator of cult magazine Zig Zag, and went on to draw rock music family trees, depicting pictorially which personnel had played in which bands. These made such an impact they were turned into a book and then the BBC made several TV series based in them called, not unnaturally, Rock Family Trees, I and another soon to be famous rock journalist called Kris Needs (with whom, incidentally I went to Aylesbury Grammar School) and several others conspired to create this local rock music magazine. Pete was also writing for various music publications such as NME and Melody Maker and between us, based around Friars, we created a vibe (you see I can swing back into music biz talk at the drop of a hat) that had a lasting effect on the town.

Last night then, the music scene centred on Friars and its main organiser David Stopps, which many of my contemporaries and I had helped to create, was celebrated at an opening of the Friars Club exhibition at the Aylesbury Museum, and I was lucky enough to be invited to its press launch. A number of luminaires were in attendance. Some members of Marillion, Otway, Pete Frame, Dave Stopps and Howard Jones were all there and special filmed tributes were shown from the likes of Genesis and many more besides. The highlight for me was when David Stopps revealed that he had received a text from David Bowie, whom he had championed in the early seventies at Friars, which is the subject of my picture today. David Stopps was chocked up by this and I can quite understand why. Friars was focal point of it all.

So many old friends were in the same room at the same time, celebrating a great time in our collective youth that the evening passed in a blur. I saw no irony at all that the exhibition with a number of rock dinosaurs such as myself in attendance, was staged at the Aylesbury Museum.  Even dinosaurs need to eat so, having  consumed a rake of prosecco, a plate full of nibbles and relived many a childhood dream, the decision was made to go for a curry, undoing much of the hard work I had done to ensure I am at my Adonis like self when I set foot in Barbados on Wednesday.

Chris France

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Eva March permalink
    March 1, 2014 11:54 am

    I’m so pleased that my teenage years were spent in Aylesbury with it’s wonderful music scene. Loved going to see Willy Barrett in Tunbridge Wells last week – over 40 years since I’d heard some of his music!


    • March 1, 2014 12:13 pm

      The exhibition is fantastic! It’s on until July 5th, so if you go back, you should definitely go and see it. I went back today and took loads of pics and will set up a page for them over the weekend.



  2. Rev. Jeff permalink
    March 1, 2014 1:37 pm

    The luscious Liz tells me it was a great evening and how good it was to see you both. Happy days indeed!


  3. Paul Day permalink
    March 1, 2014 2:20 pm

    Great atmosphere and a fitting tribute to a fantastic club that meant so much to me and many others in the seventies. Good to see you last night as well as several others whom I bump into too rarely. If anyone else is anywhere nearly Aylesbury in the next few months, don’t miss this exhibition.


  4. Rev. Jeff permalink
    March 1, 2014 8:09 pm

    How sad are the ageing effects,
    Of drug abuse,music and sex,
    But you’ll still hear the roars,
    Of these old dinosaurs,
    At the opening bars of T.REX.

    Or any bars that happen to be opening come to that !!


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